NESPELEM - As part of protecting the most vulnerable populations from COVID-19, the Colville Tribal Emergency Operations Center and Area Agency on Aging have focused on increased services to elderly residents of the Colville Indian Reservation.

As of June 1, the two entities had delivered over 30,000 meals to elders at home since the launch of the tribes’ effort against the spread of COVID-19.

The two entities have further increased their chore services to elders, logging in April 940 service hours. When the May service hours are tallied, they are expected to be even greater.

These services often include lawn care, chopping fire wood and hauling garbage.

“We have been servicing about 80 to 100 elders [in Inchelium alone] in the past couple months, with lawn care, mowing, weed eating, edging, etc.,” said Evonne Mackey, AAOA. “The chore service program also pruned some trees, picked up all branches and yard debris and took it to burning sites. They hauled elders garbage that were not able to do at this time, provided garden plants to get their gardens started, washed window’s on the outsides of home, cleaned carports and organized. We have tried very hard to accommodate any chore that an elder needed that was outside of their home to protect them and our Chore Service Crew. We cut and hauled wood for approximately six elders that were out of fire wood on an emergency basis. We filled wood boxes for about 16 elders on a regular twice a week basis. We have continued to pick up around 20 elders food supplies in Nespelem and transport them to our elders home once a month.”

By contrast, last year in April AAOA completed 296 hours and May AAOA completed 223 hours.

“Every year we want to up our numbers and we have,” said Marietta Grunlose, AAOA. “That’s how we get more grant money. That’s what we have to do. Every year we get more and more numbers. We continue to grow, and this year, we’re going to really grow with our numbers.”

Even if, after the EOC ends and the current COVID-19 pandemic ends, if the numbers drop by half it would still double the AAOA’s normal services, said program manager Larry Robinette.

“The tribe is committed to assisting the elders where they can as much as they can, and we’re the program that makes sure that happens,” said Robinette, who praised his staff. “It is the dedication of the staff, the ones who are there every day, that really drives what we do. They put the rubber to the road. They go out to the elders every day to see how they are doing and see how they can help.”

Normally, AAOA employs 36, according to Robinette. Working alongside EOC, the AAOA has 80 employees delivering meals and working in chore services.

“The elder assistants continue to reach out to the elders to find out what their needs are and get the information to the right source to meet that need,” said Mackey. “The staff has also continued to make booklets with word searches, puzzles and games, things that elders can work on in their homes for an activity. We also made homemade masks and distributed them to all our deliveries of home bound elders with their meals. We’ve provided masks and gloves when needed. We like to keep our elders updated with the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported, “COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Based on what we know now, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are people 65 years and older, people who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility and people of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled.”

The CDC recommends people in these categories stay home if possible, wash your hands often, keep space between yourself and others (stay 6 feet away, which is about two arm lengths), wear a mask in public if you have to travel and develop a care plan.

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If you are an elder, or if you know any elder, who is not currently receiving services and would like to, contact the tribal EOC at 509-634-7350.

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