Building Connections to Services and Programs for Older Adults in Jefferson County
Serving as a Regional Health Connector to Jefferson County, Cynthia Farrar’s work in Region 21 has focused on improving connections between older adults with services and programs that address social and physical isolation needs since 2019. Identifying that practices lacked familiarity with services focused on older adults and were less aware of how to screen for and connect older adult patients to resources for social determinants of health needs, Cynthia worked with the platform Aunt Bertha to determine how the service was mapping older adult resources for practices with a particular focus in social isolation.
Regional Health Connector Cynthia Farrar serving Region 21, hosted by Jefferson County Public Health.
Noting that communication and establishing connections with older adult populations continue to be a barrier to resource provision, the need to understand where and how to reach older adults is critical. Cynthia identified pharmacies as trusted neighborhood care settings that could serve as a touchpoint between providers and older adults for resource referral. In addition to pharmacies, Cynthia worked with Innovation Support Projects (ISP) practices to educate providers on how to use virtual support services such as Aunt Bertha and AARP’s Connect2Affect platform to identify local services that address social isolation needs of older adults.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, the challenge of reaching older adults experiencing social isolation became greater as many of the constructs that supported older adults in-person via clinical, community, and interpersonal care, shifted or paused all-together.
“All of the sudden everyone pivoted to, ‘We need to make sure our older adults are ok—those that we know how to reach out to.’ But those that were not already connected to a resource, how would we get to them? We know that we’re connecting with those people that we already have connections with, but those others that were also socially isolated before the pandemic, they don’t know how to outreach or where to go.” – Regional Health Connector, Cynthia Farrar
As the need for emergency response support increased, Cynthia’s focus within the older adult space shifted to support homebound COVID-19 vaccination and testing efforts. As the need for homebound testing and vaccination was identified by Jefferson County EMS partners, including the county’s Community Paramedic program, Cynthia served as a bridge between the homebound vaccination program and partners who serve older adults. In addition to getting the word out to community partners about Jefferson County’s homebound vaccination program, Cynthia also helped to define who is considered “homebound” and has been instrumental in developing the list of older adults who are eligible for at-home vaccination and testing by ensuring connections are made to community organizations that serve older adults.