As we celebrate Older Americans Month, VA is proud of its efforts in protecting one of its most vulnerable Veteran populations during the federal response to COVID-19 .
Like so many, VA started by shifting to communications online: the Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care refreshed its website and started posting information about COVID-19. Since guidance was constantly changing and VA wanted to keep Veterans updated, the department quickly pivoted to using online strategies and tools to keep Veterans safe and informed.
For Our national community of Veterans
VA led the way with telehealth innovation to ensure Veterans could access care when and where they need it, transforming how Veterans of all ages connect with their VA care team. This shift provided an additional level of protection for the 4.5 million Veterans aged 65 and up who receive care and services through VA by offering virtual appointments that reduced the chance of exposure to the virus.
The Gerofit exercise program that promotes health and wellness for older Veterans transitioned to convert their facility-based group exercise program for older Veterans to a virtual program within a week of the lockdown.
Strengthening connections in local communities
Other efforts were aimed at meeting the unique needs of older Veterans, their families and caregivers in their own communities. VA’s Veteran Community Partnerships (VCPs), an evidence-based and proven model of expanding service delivery to Veterans, sprang into action. Working in partnership with VHA Offices of Geriatrics and Extended Care, Rural Health, Mental Health, Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships, Caregiver Support and Center for Development and Civic Engagement, VCPs responded to needs identified in their communities by:
- Holding COVID-safe events like Distributing Veterans Appreciation in a Bag.
- Providing education about the effects of social support, social isolation and initiated programs to make regular calls to homebound Veterans.
- Offering webinars to providers to increase geriatrics expertise and how to address the needs of older Veterans during the pandemic.
- Using videoconferencing technology to place calls to Veterans in Community Living Centers to thank them for their service and remind them they weren’t alone during these difficult times.
All Veterans, their spouses and caregivers, and CHAMPVA recipients can now get a COVID-19 vaccine for free at VA. Find out how to get vaccine as well as vaccine updates and answers to common questions at www.va.gov/covidvaccine.