By SEAN MORTIMER
Staff Reporter 

Worland Senior Center commits to growing home services

 

February 1, 2024



Worland Senior Center Executive Director Wendy Fredricks detailed what home services means to her organization and what they can look like in Worland soon in a recent interview.

She said, “What we find is that putting someone in an institution is going to be way more expensive than keeping them at home, especially if all they need is a shower, some meals, some rides, a button.”

“For many of our home clients, there’s just something they have trouble with now that’s interfering with their day. Let’s say you host friends for a card game once a week, but now you can’t vacuum. We see that a lot. Pretty soon, you’re not going to want to have those people come over anymore. We can take care of that so our clients can continue to live their lives.”

With one program in particular, the Community Choice Waiver, the senior center has been able to offer nursing, meal services, emergency response buttons, home cleaning, bathing, transportation and more to its low-income, at-home clients at minimal cost.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increased need for home services, especially to at-risk elderly people. Licensed under this program, the senior center could provide anything from transportation to nurse assessments to their clients with little restriction.

At the end of December, this program, which temporarily expanded the home service capabilities of the Worland Senior Center, came to an end.

With the program coming to an end, the senior center currently can’t offer services the way they were last month. Fredricks said, “A lot of the people who were using the Community Choices Waiver program are lower income, so they’re not always able to pay out of pocket for services. Some of those people have transferred over to our Wyoming Home Services program, which is based on a sliding fee scale. But, that budget is only so big, and we give services on a highest need basis. We want to use our money to the best of our ability to service the people in our community.”

Although there will be a lapse in services this month, Fredricks said that people can rest assured they have acquired a license and Community Choices Waiver services will resume next month. They’ve also obtained new tablets and software to aid in their home services.

In the meantime, they’re doing the best they can. Fredricks said, “We’re growing and learning. We’re trying to be proactive.”

She added, “Just because you’re licensed doesn’t mean you’re done. We’ve gotten a provisional license, and it will stay that way until we’re audited and they decide if we get a full license.”

On the topic of licenses, Fredricks noted that they would soon try to obtain licenses that would add support from Medicare and Medicaid to supplement their home service programs. On this expansion, Fredricks said, “We’ll be able to do more. For example, if we need to recommend physical therapy to a client, we can contract that out to someone locally.”

OTHER HOME SERVICES

The Worland Senior Center also offers two other home service programs.

Fredricks spoke about the Wyoming Home Services program, a state-funded home service program offered through the Worland Senior Center. She stated that the sliding-fee program is a good option for people who do not qualify for low-income assistance, and it offers most of the things offered by the Community Choices Waiver. Fredricks said, “It’s always up at legislative sessions, so we fight for that all the time; but that program is support service, we can’t provide skilled nursing with that, like we can’t change a Band-Aid.”

For those who have needs that can’t be met by the other programs, or if their income disqualifies them, there is private care. Fredricks said, “If someone qualifies for a Community Choices waiver, we’re going to put them over there first and utilize that program. If not, we’ll utilize the Wyoming Home Services program. If they can afford private pay we’re going to use that. This way, we can serve as many people as possible, and do it in a way that is fiscally responsible.”

Although the restrictions across different programs can be a problem, using multiple programs for a client is a common practice. Fredricks said, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a situation where we use just one program with someone, especially in Wyoming; we just don’t have the services that other places have. We use multiple programs to make sure all their needs are met.

Fredricks spoke about tentative future plans for an adult day center, where elderly clients could spend their time during the day while caretakers are busy, and return to their homes at night.

IMPORTANCE OF HOME

SERVICES

Having worked at the Worland Senior Center for 17 years, Fredricks said, “I think it’s [home services] huge; obviously I’m biased because I ran home services here before I was the director. It’s hard to explain until you’ve seen it; having to stay at home, having the mail be your highlight of the day, knowing how hard a weekend can be, I don’t think people will ever really understand how important it is.”

She said a common occurrence she has noticed in her clients; more often than not, their 60- or 70-year-old children would step in to fulfill the role of caretaker. She said, “Nobody wants their kid coming over, walking in the door and then taking care of everything. They want them to be their kid. We have patients whose kids have no idea we’re in there.”

Although she said that “Wyoming pride” can keep people apprehensive about letting her staff into their home to assist them, Fredricks said that patients are usually grateful for the help. She remembers one client telling her, “I wouldn’t still be home without you.”

Fredricks said, “If you’re on the fence, you can sign up for just an emergency button, or a meal plan. It’s not very invasive, and there’s still someone making sure you’re OK.

“Everyone wants to have a say in how they live and how they die. Our program allows that, and it allows them to make those choices with support,” said Fredricks.

 
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