Editor’s note: The interview done for this story was held prior to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office issuing an amended health order for adult day care and senior centers late Friday evening. A potential change in requirements through this order could possibly affect decisions made locally as more information becomes available from the Ohio Department on Aging and Ohio Department of Health.
There’s no opening date planned yet for the Henry County Senior Center as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Penni Bostelman, executive director of the senior center, noted while the state has announced senior centers could re-open, they must follow guidelines included in the health order issued by the state. Bostelman and Henry County Commissioner Glenn Miller said there is still needed clarification of items included in that order, specifically regarding testing.
Bostelman added that testing is not a one-time event and would be ongoing, including staff, volunteers and some participants. The questions that remain include who’s administering the tests and who’s paying for the tests.
“Of course, insurance comes right out of the gate, and I have issues with that,” Miller said, “For someone’s personal insurance to pay for something that they’re already paying for — like the senior center paid out of their taxes — and now we’re going to force either Medicare or your health insurance (to pay) so you can have this COVID test.”
Bostelman explained the original order said all staff and all volunteers should be tested every other week, as well as selected participants — those showing any of symptoms of COVID-19 and those who are most vulnerable.
“That’s the part that bothers me — we’re going to randomly pick seniors based on their vulnerability when they’re all vulnerable,” Bostelman said, adding the testing would go through a participant’s insurance first and, if it’s not covered, then the state would pay for it, until the end of this year or until CARES Act money is depleted.
Individuals who are elderly and have underlying medical conditions have been identified as those most vulnerable to the virus.
Bostelman added senior center directors were also told they were not permitted to open if their county was anything other than yellow in the state’s public health advisory system.
“We haven’t been yellow in awhile,” Bostelman said, adding even if the county were to decrease to yellow, it’s unclear what happens if the center opens but then cases increase again and the advisory level changes.
Bostelman added senior center staff are frequently asked about reopening.
“We need these answers before reopening,” Bostelman said. “We want to open as much as they want us to open.
“Our staff is as devastated as anyone,” she continued, adding there are not currently any senior centers open in northwest Ohio. “We’re not alone.”
“We have to keep our seniors and employees safe,” added Henry County Commissioner Jeff Mires.
Bostelman also cautioned that when the center does reopen, it won’t look like it did previously as there will be a limited number of participants and limited number of services available.
Bostelman stressed seniors should call the center (419-599-5515) if they need any assistance, adding if the center can’t provide that service, they can help connect seniors with other resources.
With Medicare open enrollment underway, Bostelman said they are adjusting how they can assist. As requested, forms can be sent to seniors for them to fill out and then be mailed back or dropped off at the senior center so staff can research the best options. She added seniors should call the center before they drop the forms off that way staff can be prepared.
Staff are making and taking approximately 80-100 phone calls per week, including Meals on Wheels checks. The center is continuing to provide both Meals on Wheels and carryout meals to seniors, and Bostelman said requests for meals continue to rise.
Bostelman added the Henry County Transportation Network can help arrange trips for seniors and she noted that senior center staff can also help with grocery shopping if needed.
“There can be a mentality that ‘I don’t want to bother anyone,’” Bostelman said. “That’s what we’re here for. We can give advice and help when we can.”
She also emphasized seniors should not be afraid to contact their doctor if they have a medical concern.
Bostelman added they are continuously re-evaluating the status of the center and when, and how, it can reopen.
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