ADvantage helps elderly, disabled get care, services

Older adults who wish to stay in their homes, such as Everta Lee Blom, instead of moving to a nursing facility may qualify for ADvantage Medicaid waiver program.

For those who qualify, the ADvantage program gives the elderly and adults with physical disabilities the opportunity to stay in their homes to receive care and services.

As with everything else, the program has been affected by the pandemic.

“ADvantage promotes individual choice and self-direction to the greatest extent possible,” according to the Department of Human Services website.

This program under the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Waiver ADvantage Program, and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Division of Aging Services provides an alternative to care in a nursing home or long-term care facility. It is available for adults over 65, including those with intellectual or developmental disabilities; and adults 21-64 who do not have intellectual disabilities or a cognitive impairment. Applicants must be eligible for Soonercare Medicaid.

Services normally offered, according to www.okdhs.org, may include: adult day health care, case management, home-delivered meals, environmental modification, hospice, personal care, prescription drugs, specialized equipment and supplies, and occupational, speech or physical therapy.

Case managers call the patients “members,” and many have been impacted by the coronavirus, according to Cherokee County resident Angela Lee, case manager. This may be due to lack of working caregivers, durable medical equipment shortages, or just fear.

“Home health, DME agencies, and case management has all been impacted. DME companies have been running out of supplies,” said Lee. “Home care agencies can't get people to be personal care assistants because of the unemployment checks. The elderly are afraid to get it, so they don't want people in their homes.”

Lee has been working from home, and she has heard of many patient care assistants getting COVID-19 or exposed, so they cannot work.

Heather Taylor of Tahlequah is an ADvantage case manager, and she said the pandemic has hit workers and their members hard mentally, physically, and emotionally.

“COVID has my elderly people in some bad situations without people wanting to work as providers, personal care aides, or certified nursing assistants, and no one to come help with housekeeping, errands and even hygiene. They just got left out in the cold,” said Taylor. “We were pulled from their homes as case managers and registered nurses, and work only via phone.”

Taylor has been working from home, but she used to go into her members’ homes to check on them.

“I had a few get so lonely that I’ve driven hours to see them and gotten lost in the middle of nowhere just to make sure they know someone is still caring about them,” she said. “Most of my people only see me, the registered nurse, skilled nurses, and PCAs that came to their homes to check in. Half of them don’t have families; this is why they are in the ADvantage program.”

Check it out

Those who would like more information on the ADvantage Program operated by the Department of Human Services, can visit www.okdhs.org, or call the ADvantage Careline at 800-435-4711.

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