Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota

April 27, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and its Aging Life Care Program (ALC), which is adjusting its services to provide remote service delivery whenever possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aging Life Care connects older adults and individuals with chronic medical or mental health needs with a trusted care coordinator to help navigate the many complex issues that come with changes in health and/or living situations. ALC provides a sliding scale of fees based on income and ability to pay.

While the necessary in-person care continues, ALC care coordinators have transitioned to remote service delivery whenever possible. In addition to providing the same level of care, ALC is now providing a daily dial-in support group as well as an option to receive daily texts. “We are offering a daily support group for clients to call in for socialization, positive support and jokes, to answer questions, provide tips and dispel myths regarding safety and COVID-19,” said Carmel Froemke, the team lead for ALC. “We also send out daily texts to those who want them.” Participants have said that these daily calls make a world of difference in easing their anxieties and loneliness during social isolation.

Read more about ALC’s excellent work here.

Thank you to Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, and the Aging Life Care Program, in particular, for adjusting services to continue serving your community faithfully during the COVID-19 pandemic!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries

April 28, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries, which is working hard to provide compassionate care for the seniors in their residential communities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Like other senior living communities, the Lutheran Home at Hollidaysburg has restricted visitors to prevent the viral spread of COVID-19 and keep the senior residents safe and healthy. Despite these necessary safety precautions, seniors are in high spirits. They miss seeing their families, but feel hopeful and are grateful for the time they get to spend talking on the phone and video chatting with loved ones. The seniors say they are “burning up the phone lines” regularly communicating with families, and are enjoying the exercising and activities the Lutheran Home continues to provide, while respecting social distancing protocols.

The Lutheran Home at Hollidaysburg has taken all necessary safety precautions, including wearing face masks and ensuring social distancing, to protect the seniors they serve. The staff continue to be committed to providing love, care, and compassion to the residents, and regularly communicate with families so they know the residents are receiving exemplary care during COVID-19. The Lutheran Home at Hollidaysburg is grateful to their community for their support and prayers, and posted this video to help reassure the community that the senior residents are doing well and in high spirits.

Thank you to Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries for your compassion care at the Lutheran Home at Hollidaysburg, and for your commitment to protecting seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the recent video Lutheran Home at Hollidaysburg posted below.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Family Services of Virginia

April 29, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Family Services of Virginia, and all the Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who faithfully serve Virginians with disabilities on a daily basis, pandemic or not.

Direct Support Professionals work on the front lines, caring for the physical and emotional well-being of individuals with disabilities. LFS VA Group Home Supervisor Angela Quinn wrote in a recent newsletter that she worries about individuals with disabilities living in group homes because they are so routine-oriented. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly disrupts their routine, including how they perform their jobs, receive job-training, and experience community outings. However, DSPs are rising to address these new challenges in the group homes. In addition to making preparations and decisions that protect individuals in their care on a daily basis, they have become entertainers, teachers, professional Nintendo Wii players, and total socialization packages for the people they serve.

DSPs cannot work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Quinn says the DSPs at LFS VA are wonderfully committed to their work and in high spirits. Though they already have a full plate, they are demonstrating dedication and flexibility with the changing needs presented by the pandemic. Their positive attitudes translate to the people they serve, and any time Quinn calls a group home, she hears the familiar sounds of laughter and contentment.

Thank you to all the Direct Support Professionals at Lutheran Family Services of Virginia! Your work on the front lines supporting individuals with disabilities is so appreciated!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Village On The Isle

April 30, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Village On The Isle for their commitment to keeping residents safe and maintaining transparency with the community.

There has been increasing public pressure for transparency regarding COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities. In response, the Florida Department of Health recently published a list of facilities that had reported COVID-19 cases. Unfortunately, when people see a facility’s name on the list, they fear the worst. Some long-term care facilities that made the department’s COVID-19 list have only had one positive COVID-19 case in their facility, and are following all the appropriate protocols to keep their residents and staff safe.

Village On The Isle (VOTI) is a large retirement community in Venice, Florida, with 450 residents and 300 employees. VOTI quickly implemented CDC guidelines when the COVID-19 outbreak began, and welcomed the increased scrutiny of long-term care facilities. CEO Joel Anderson was confident in their efforts to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak within the community, and said the staff transitioned quickly to the necessary protocols. Their team has been delivering all meals to residents and helping with grocery and medication deliveries.

Recent COVID-19 surveillance efforts in Florida show a very small percentage of COVID-19 cases in all assisted living and nursing homes statewide, demonstrating how diligently staff have worked to keep residents safe from the virus.

Thank you to Village On The Isle for your commitment to keeping your residents safe!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Ecumen

May 1, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Ecumen, which quickly designed an innovative program called “Stay Connected” to help residents and family members remain in contact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ecumen provides senior housing and other services for thousands of residents at 40-plus communities across eight states. Ecumen has implemented necessary protocols to protect residents at every site during the COVID-19 outbreak, including visitor restrictions. In addition to keeping residents physically healthy, Ecumen wants to ensure that their social and emotional needs are also met, and crafted their Stay Connected program to keep the seniors in contact with their loved ones.

As part of the Stay Connected program, Ecumen distributed iPad tablets to any communities that did not already have them, and established sanitizing protocol for iPad use. The Ecumen staff also created a centralized chat schedule so families could easily select convenient times to connect with their loved ones online, freeing up staff to focus on care. The team announced the program by email and invited family members and social workers to participate, and included links to schedule their video chat.

The Stay Connected program was an immediate success, with 75 video chats scheduled in the first week, including family members from around the world who were excited to connect with their loved ones. The residents have loved seeing their family members! A face mask cannot hide the smiles, laughter, and joy being shared daily.

A big thank you to Ecumen for your focus on the needs of residents and families while also promoting health and safety!

Foster Care Providers Play Integral Role in Supporting Families

May 1, 2020

Today marks the beginning of National Foster Care Month 2020. For the second year in a row, the Children’s Bureau has selected the theme “Foster Care as a Support for Families, Not a Substitute for Parents.” The distinction is critical and this theme aptly articulates an ongoing mindset shift worth highlighting. Foster families (often referred to as resource families) are a critical resource and source of support for children and their families following times of crisis, when the circumstances leave no other option than to remove children from their family home for a period of time. At Lutheran Services in America, we have 30 member organizations in 25 states and territories across the U.S. serving approximately 12,000 children in foster care every day.

Foster Care providers and resource families play an integral role in supporting families and helping them heal. According to the most recent AFCARS data, nearly 50 percent of children exiting foster care return home to reunify with their parent(s) and 43 percent of children exit foster care in less than a year. This data highlights the need to overcome biases and beliefs that children in foster care must be “saved” from their families and be kept away from their families for months, if not years. This also highlights the critically important role of resource families and foster care providers in caring for and supporting children and families who have experienced trauma and difficult circumstances, along with the need to provide this support in a manner that recognizes and honors the goal of timely reunification whenever possible.

We applaud foster care providers and resource families who are working closely with children and families to support and engage everyone in the process of healing and reunification. The work of building relationships, supportive communication, and a collaborative parenting approach is certainly a more deliberative and effortful route — which is also why we should celebrate National Foster Care Month with an additional dose of gratitude in 2020.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Samaritas

May 4, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Samaritas and its committed staff who are working hard to meet the changing needs of those they serve during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Samaritas has more than 60 program sites in 40 cities in Michigan. The organization offers several vital services with robust programming, including adoption, foster care, senior and affordable living, and disabilities services. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly created challenges for these programs, but Samaritas is adapting to meet the community’s continued needs.

Samaritas purchased 160 iPads for seniors and children in foster care to stay in touch with their families during social distancing. Samaritas also received donated iPads from the community to contribute to this effort to keep families connected virtually. Acquiring adequate protective equipment continues to be a challenge for many health and human services agencies, so Samaritas commissioned a dedicated supply team to explore various avenues to purchase protective equipment for staff.Samaritas was grateful to have hundreds of hand-made masks donated by the community while they waited for supplies to arrive!

The direct support staff are truly committed to serve during this difficult time! The Samaritas administration reported that the staff in their senior living communities are seeing fewer call-offs and changes in schedules than they have ever seen. The staff at disabilities group homes are finding great ways to engage the residents, including making cards and sending them to hospitals to thank healthcare workers for their support in the community.

Thank you to Samaritas for your extraordinary service during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for your staff’s continued dedication to the community!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Church Charities

May 5, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Church Charities (LCC), and the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, which has adapted their services to offer virtual visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry is based in Northbrook, IL and includes 130 trained golden retrievers in 26 states. The LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs are typically dispatched in times of disaster to provide comfort to people who need it most.

The current stay-at-home orders in most states mean that unfortunately, the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs cannot do physical visits, but the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry continues their services through virtual visits. Many people are experiencing loneliness, isolation, and anxiety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs are available to help around the clock. People can request appointments with the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs online, and interact with them virtually from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

LCC President / CEO Tim Hetzner says that many of the scheduled visits right now are for healthcare workers, and iPads are getting passed around emergency rooms so doctors and nurses can interact virtually with the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs. The dogs bring joy and help lower stress for healthcare workers, and Hetzner says, “It’s been rewarding because a lot of hurting people right now just need to talk and have a friendly face and a friendly canine face.”

Thank you to Lutheran Church Charities for continuing the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry and bringing joy and comfort to people across the nation during this stressful time!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd

May 6, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd (LHGS), which has been working hard to meet the physical and spiritual needs of its residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd is a skilled nursing facility in New Rockford, North Dakota, focusing on high quality long-term care for residents. When the COVID-19 outbreak began, LHGS quickly took the necessary precautions by limiting visitors to keep residents and staff safe from the virus. LHGS has made great efforts to keep families up to date on happenings at the facility, link them to resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and encourages families to schedule time for virtual visits with the residents.

In addition to keeping residents physically healthy, Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd is also attuned to their spiritual needs. Paula Loewen, who provides pastoral care at LHGS, holds church services in each unit on Sundays in which residents can attend physically, but remain at least six feet apart. LHGS even purchased a portable sound system so all the residents can hear these services, since they are taking place in a larger space than usual. Paula also provides one-on-one spiritual care, and LHGS recognizes how important faith is for many residents, particularly in the midst of uncertainty that COVID-19 brings.

The Activities Department has been busy with more one-on-one activities and Intercom Bingo, to name one, to help with the isolation. Dietary is providing meals in rooms as well as dining rooms to safely provide for social distancing. Nursing is on the ball keeping residents’ families as involved as possible from a distance and providing outstanding care during a time that even doctor visits can be risky. A couple of residents are busy making masks or sewing buttons onto headbands for the masks. And all departments are trying to staying tuned into the possible rise in depression in staff as well as residents.

LHGS is in a unique situation in that they also offer staff childcare in the Childhood Development Center, managed by Ruth Braaten. The staff entrust their little ones to the outstanding daycare providers. With COVID-19, new responsibilities have been added including facilitating online schooling for some 12+ children who attend daycare in several different grades and two different schools. This has helped their employees rest assured that their child’s education has some continuity and allows for less stress when they get home after a strenuous day working.

In an effort to support the community of New Rockford that has for so long supported LHGS, they are purchasing on-site lunches from local establishments. The residents are really enjoying a lunch from the places that they frequented themselves through the years! It’s all about connection…even at a distance.

Thank you to Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd for the holistic and attentive care you provide to your residents!

Today’s Front Line Hero: Wellspring Lutheran Services

May 7, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Wellspring Lutheran Services, which is celebrating National Nurses Week, and honoring the hard work of front line nursing home staff.

Wellspring Lutheran Services supports members of its community in Michigan from childhood through end of life, and is committed to a “whole-person approach” to that care. Wellspring’s senior services include independent living, assisted living, memory care, long-term care, and affordable housing, and they aim to share hope and demonstrate respect for senior adults in all of those services.

This week, Wellspring is celebrating National Nurses Week, and especially honoring the hard work of the front line staff in senior services. Wellspring released this video to recognize the front line workers in senior services, and open a dialogue about the treatment of nursing home workers in the media and society. In addition to the video, Wellspring is launching a social media campaign to raise awareness of this issue, using #invisibleandessential.

The video reminds viewers of the Christian call to honor the elderly, and identifies front line nursing home workers as those who are faithfully serving the elderly in society. These workers are “holding a hand late at night,” and “praying at the bedside” when families are not allowed to visit due to COVID-19, and ensuring that no one is alone during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, these front line nursing home workers have little support. Wellspring calls on policy makers to support front line heroes in nursing homes with funding and resources, and calls on society to honor and respect elders by honoring those who serve them.

Thank you to Wellspring Lutheran Services for recognizing the importance of front line nursing home workers, and for your efforts to change the narrative so those workers can receive the support they need to continue faithfully caring for the elderly in society.