YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The pandemic exacerbated the inequities in society, including among older adults who care for their grandchildren.
Recognizing the lack of support for these caregivers, Direction Home of Eastern Ohio presented its inaugural Kinship Summer Camp in 2022.
The two-week camp provided a respite for these older residents while the campers enjoyed an experience that included educational programs. The children also interacted with adult day clients of Easterseals, providing an intergenerational element.
As the camp wound down, Easterseals had an end-of-summer celebration for the children. Direction Home staff donated school supplies, backpacks and new tennis shoes to each camper.
Direction Home is working to expand its Kinship program offerings, says Cassandra Valentini, director of outreach.
The agency plans to have another camp in 2023, add a coordinator and implement more services for elder caregivers.
In addition to Kinship, Direction Home added two other services last year.
It began assisting individuals in Columbiana County through the Save the Dream Ohio program, which helps eligible homeowners in paying delinquent utility bills, property taxes and other nonmortgage home expenses, Valentini says.
The program, which is administered by the Ohio Housing and Finance agency, assisted over 20 people.
Direction Home also began a partnership with the Mahoning County Health Department Pathways HUB to provide services to Mahoning County residents who have a chronic disease. As a result, the agency deployed community health workers to provide health education, assist with obtaining medical care, and remove social barriers through regular home visits.
The agency hopes to expand the service to the other three counties it serves – Columbiana, Trumbull and Ashtabula, Valentini says.
“We continue to look to our local communities to determine how we can assist individuals in need,” she says. “We want to be the answer for older adults and individuals with disability.”
The agency continued to guide area residents through Medicaid waiver programs in 2022. Through programs such as Passport, assisted living, caregiver support, Mahoning County senior levy and MyCare Ohio, it provided care coordination for over 3,000 people.
“We pride ourselves in offering person-centered care planning,” says Valentini. “By building relationships with our clients, we achieve quality of life in the place they call home.”
As the local Area Agency on Aging, Direction Home of Eastern Ohio is tasked with helping older adults and those with disabilities remain independent in their homes.
The agency, founded in 1965, has 145 employees. Its office is at 1030 N. Meridian Road, Youngstown.
Pictured at top: Kinship campers interact with adult day care clients of Easterseals.