BOISE — As Idaho starts reopening parts of the economy this Friday, senior living facilities will remain on lockdown for at least another month.
"All of the stages that the governor has spoken about, a top priority is going to be protecting those that are most vulnerable, particularly those in long term care and assisted living facilities," said director of IDHW Dave Jeppesen at Governor Little's press conference on Thursday.
For the past month, the Idaho Commission on Aging helped facilities change their methods of care for seniors. They closed their congregate meals and changed the meal sites to curbside delivery only. They are also offering at-home delivery for their community members who do not have transportation to get to the sites for the curbside service.
"We also, of course, are worried about the social isolation cause one of the reasons people come to congregate meals is for the socialization, and we acknowledge, of course, that right now, social isolation is necessary," said director Judy Taylor.
Now that visitation remains prohibited until Stage 4 of the governor's plan, the commission is working to ensure this self-isolation doesn't lead to loneliness. Taylor says the various agencies and senior centers have implemented a friendly caller program.
"People are getting called they're getting asked about necessities of life, medicines, food, utilities, that kind of thing, but they're also getting a friendly voice, they're getting some therapeutic communication some support, emotional support," said Taylor.
Taylor also said they have some social workers participating for people who might need to be screened for depression or the potential of self-harm.
The commission says it plans to standardize this friendly caller program throughout the state in the future. The commission wrote their intent to create and regulate the caller program throughout the state in the new four-year state plan, coming October 2020.
"If that happens, it will be a great silver lining coming out of this situation," said Taylor.
The state ombudsmen, who advocate for the rights of people in residential care, are still responding to complaints, but cannot do so in person.
"We're still receiving complaints, but we're investigating those through technological means, iPhones, iPads, luckily we have recently received some CARES act funding to purchase more technology," said Taylor.
The telecommunication and friendly caller programs seem to be here to stay after restrictions are lifted. Still, Taylor says she believes the congregate meals will instantly rebound when it's safe to do so.
"People will really value that coming together and the community feeling because they haven't had it for a while," said Taylor.
Stage 4 of the rollout plan, which allows for visitation to senior living facilities and congregate facilities, is set for June 13-June 26.