Caregivers essential in COVID-19 crisis

Tami Ridley with dog in training for Canine Companions for Independence/Facebook

Feeling restless and useless isolated at home wondering what I could do to help others during this virus crisis. Not being able to work at a food bank or deliver items to seniors, I thought my knowledge with caregivers could be valuable somehow.

How San Diego County and the state of California can get access to more home care providers

Caregivers are essential to get through the COVID-19 virus. The individuals they serve in a home health setting are where our state’s most vulnerable citizens reside. Having adequate caregiving services provided in their home is necessary to be able to isolate and prevent them from the need to go to an ER, hospital setting or nursing home will reduce the strain and resources so precious right now.

The In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program provides in-home assistance to eligible aged, blind and disabled individuals as an alternative to out-of-home care and enables recipients to remain safely in their own homes. Over 520,000 IHSS providers currently serve over 600,500 recipients.

IHSS already has a large pool of caregiving Providers that could be a great resource. However, they are limited by having the amount of hours they work capped by 66 per month. They lack the oversight, training and protection they need to be serving the public safely and effectively.

There will be an increased demand for replacement Providers as the virus spreads and they have to stay away from their recipients.

Then there’s an even greater hiring issue when a Recipient has the virus symptoms and tries to find a caregiver.

What can IHSS do to prepare for the pool of providers that will be needed to get through? Here’s a couple ideas I have to increase the availability of Providers and to provide them the tools and knowledge to safely protect their Recipients and themselves.

1. Waive the lengthy application process for the EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES EXEMPTION that would allow caregivers willing and able to work more than 66 hours per week.

2. Ramp up the URGENT SERVICES to provide a higher level of care if needed in an emergency.

3. Actively recruit more caregivers.

4. Train them with online programming.

5. Make protective gear available to them.

6. Reach out to IHSS recipients to review their back-up plans and help ready them for this crisis.

A recent letter to IHSS Providers that have virus symptoms urged them to call their recipient right away so they can get assistance from their local county office in finding a replacement. Based on my recent experience as a recipient, the case-worker has limited resources to access a replacement Provider.

Tami Ridley is a longtime Escondido resident with experience as an attorney, founding team member of All Ability Yoga, owner of Friar’s Folly Wine Cellar and Restaurant with additional experience as a San Diego County Farm Bureau & San Diego County local agriculture promoter as well as participation in numerous disability advocacy activities and pro bono legal work.

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