COA receives community champion award for vaccinating homebound older adults

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

C4 award logoFor the second year in a row, Council on Aging (COA) is the recipient of a Clinton County Community Champions (C4) Award. COA received the award for its leadership in developing a program to bring COVID-19 vaccinations to homebound old adults. 

The 2021 Clinton County Community Champions Awards are presented by the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce — along with 2021 Premium Sponsor the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) — to highlight the stories of the Clinton County citizens, employers and employees, and organizations who are making an impact in the community.  The awards will be presented at the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce's Annual Meeting and C4 Awards Ceremony on Sept. 22 at the Roberts Centre. 

Over 50 nominations were submitted for six categories: Business, Citizen, Education, Healthcare, Non-profit, and Youth.

Nominees exemplified one or more of the following, during the course of the current year:

  • Exceptional commitment to our community by helping with a special project and/or ongoing activities
  • Unselfish leadership, creativity, cooperation, and hard work in the service to others
  • Inspiration to others as a role model

COA was recognized in the award program's healthcare category.

Since January 2021, Council on Aging (COA), the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for Clinton County and four other counites in southwestern Ohio, has been helping older adults get vaccinated against COVID-19. COA staff have helped older adults find and schedule vaccine appointments, and when necessary, provided transportation to those appointments.

As COA staff helped older adults navigate this process, another need quickly emerged: vaccinating individuals who could not leave their homes. The need was especially great in the more rural parts of COA’s service area, including Clinton County where more than 900 individuals receive in-home care through programs administered by COA.

“We’ve been helping older adults get vaccinated from day one,” said Ken Wilson, COA’s vice president of programs and business operations. “Right away, we started working to find a way to vaccinate older adults who could not leave their homes. Because COA provides in-home care services to homebound older adults, we were in a good position to identify who in the community needed this service.”

COA raised concerns at the state level about vaccinating homebound individuals, but it was clear there was no statewide plan to meet this urgent need. Many questioned whether homebound individuals needed to be vaccinated at all. In fact, homebound older adults and people with disabilities are just as vulnerable – if not more – than other older adults in the community.

  • For many older individuals, leaving their home to get vaccinated could result in serious physical hardship or present a danger to their health.
  • Many homebound individuals have multiple care providers coming and going from their homes on a daily basis, increasing their risk of exposure.
  • Many homebound individuals have multiple chronic health conditions which put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and of developing severe complications from the virus.

As the need grew, AAAs like Council on Aging were directed to work with local providers to identify ways to vaccinate the homebound population.

The challenge, Wilson said, was identifying a partner and developing the procedures to get the shots into arms. “In Clinton County, we found a willing and enthusiastic partner in Pam Bauer and her team at the Clinton County Health District.” Wilson added.

COA conducted research to determine how other states were tackling this issue and discovered that in neighboring Indiana, local Fire/EMS teams were conducting in-home vaccinations for homebound individuals in their respective jurisdictions. 

COA modified this approach, leveraging the strong relationships it had built with local health departments during the pandemic, including the Clinton County Health District.

COA developed protocols and procedures to identify and track individuals who required in-home vaccinations. Eligible individuals were added to a tracking database that was shared weekly with the Clinton County Health District and other local health departments. The health departments then reached out to individuals on the list to schedule vaccination appointments. In many cases, unvaccinated caregivers and family members residing in the same home were also offered vaccinations.

“We have always addressed the homebound population for other vaccinations,” said Pamela Walker-Bauer, health commissioner for the Clinton County Health District. “It was helpful for COA to help us identify additional individuals beyond our more regular clients for the COVID vaccine. We appreciated the administrative support, and the [continued] weekly emails are great.”

For Clinton County resident and COA client, Susan, being able to get vaccinated in her home was a relief. The rural Martinsville resident has had several strokes and is paralyzed on the right side of her body, making it nearly impossible to leave her home.

“I’d been trying to get vaccinated since day one,” Susan said. “When they called me to schedule my appointment, I was so relieved.”

Susan’s Council on Aging care manager, Carla McCauley, ensured she was added to the homebound vaccination list. Then, staff at the Clinton County Health District followed up to schedule the vaccination.

Susan was nervous about getting a shot – and about having a stranger in her home. “The nurse did a beautiful job,” she said. “I felt comfortable. She talked to me for a few minutes before the shot which made me feel better.”

Another Clinton County resident and COA client, Shirley, had a similar experience. Shirley’s daughter, Lynn, had been looking into how to get her mom vaccinated when she had a stroke. While Shirley was recovering at home, COA care manager Carla McCauley contacted Lynn to let her know that Shirley had been placed on the homebound vaccination list.

“It was a great experience,” Lynn said. “My mom is in a wheelchair. She had just had a stroke and couldn’t go out.  Coming to her was everything.”

COA continues to work with the Clinton County Health District, and other local health departments, to coordinate in-home vaccinations for those who need them. To date, more than 1,000 individuals have been referred to or identified by COA as needing an in-home vaccination, including 25 in Clinton County.