Central Vermont's Council On Aging......services with dignity and choice
By Cassie Horner
Best, Central Vermont Council on Aging, Cassie Horner
The Central Vermont Council on Aging is dedicated to healthy aging for central Vermonters. One of five similar agencies in the state, CVCOA covers 54 towns located in five counties. It offers services to people 60 and older, and to caregivers, partners and families, without discrimination or income limits.
“We support older Central Vermonters to age with dignity and choice,” says Mary Hayden, Director of Development and Communications. “Our services allow older people to be able to remain living at home if that is their preference. We offer community-based, not medically-based, services that allow people to stay in the communities they know and love.”
Programs available to meet this goal are extensive, and include transportation, mental health services, legal services, and delivery of meals contracted through Meals on Wheels.
Caregivers are an important part of people’s ability to remain at home. CVCOA offers support groups for caregivers. The organization also offers a six-week course, “Powerful Tools for Caregivers.” Respite programs are another option. Volunteers are an important part of the programs available through the agency. They participate in a wide variety of ways, from providing respite, delivering meals on wheels, leading wellness classes, and transporting people to the grocery store.
COVID-19 has brought significant changes to the services provided by CVCOA. “Our model is based on in-person,” Mary says. “The virus has been very disruptive. Older people are very susceptible to isolation and the social distancing has made this worse.” The financial impact of the virus is also significant for elders, many of whom were struggling financially before the pandemic. With the COVID-19 outbreak, people have lost part time jobs, and many have lost the support system of family and neighbors. On top of this, the cost of groceries has increased 20-25 percent. Another impact of the virus is the loss of respite care, an important safety net for caregivers.
CVCOA has been meeting these challenges head on with changes in how they deliver services. “We are still serving all of our clients but remotely,” Mary says. “We reach clients via email, phone and ZOOM. The case management team is calling clients at least weekly.” The Meals on Wheels program has grown, with volunteers still delivering but calling people to check in instead of visiting in person. Community meals have changed to a take-out system. The “Medicare and You” workshop via ZOOM has a very high participation rate.
“We are looking at a very incremental re-opening,” Mary says. “With the vulnerabilities of the population we serve we are doing careful planning.”
For information about how to access the CVCOA services, call the Help Line, 1-800-642-5119.To make a donation to help support the important services provided by CVCOA, visit cvcoa.org/donate.