By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Serving the elderly members of the Asian community during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a challenge for Kin On. In caring for a population that is susceptible to the coronavirus, the organization has made strides to persevere through this difficult time.
“It is disheartening to see our elderly community disproportionately impacted by this pandemic,” said Kin On spokesperson Lillian Young. The costs associated with providing health and safety for staff and residents rose dramatically. “Personal protective equipment costs skyrocketed and were hard to come by.” Young added, “Other related expenses, such as increased staffing and disinfecting, also stressed our budget.”
As a result of the pandemic, admissions of new residents to its Chinatown building were suspended in March. This included its residential care programs that consists of skilled nursing, assisted living, and adult family home units.
“Occupancy has been much lower than usual,” said Young. This has caused an impact on revenue. Despite the need, and the home care business down 50% in April, Kin On staff were concerned of outbreaks and determined not to admit new residents at the time.
Not only did Kin On deal with the pandemic, it was in a mode of transition as it is searching for a new CEO. “We seek a qualified and passionate leader to continue the strong legacy Kin On has built over the last 35 years,” said Young. Nigel Lo, Kin On’s current CEO, announced this past July that he would be retiring effective January 1, 2021.
Fortunately for Kin On, it did receive federal assistance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program granted was Provider Relief Fund to organizations cover lost revenue attributable to COVID-19 and health-related expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. It also received a “temporary emergency add-on through the state.
In addition, Young notes it has received funding through several charitable organizations as well as private donations.
However, the business suffered a blow when the Home Care and Social Services office at the Eng Suey Family Plaza burned down by fire on June 25.
The loss will mean that the organization will incur expenses in order to rebuild.
As a result of the shelter-in-place order, Kin On closed its community centers in Columbia City and Bellevue in early March. As with most organizations, it has used online platforms to reach out to its audience.
“Social isolation and loneliness are serious, yet underappreciated health risks that really affect the older adult population.” One of the ways to address this was the creation of the Healthy Living Program. The program serves older adults in a variety of social programs. including crafts, dancing, and staying sharp on the latest health information. It now has pivoted to online programs which serve over 100 seniors each month. Since this past August, it has at least one class per day for over 20 hours of virtual programs weekly.
In order to maintain a connection with its Chinese-speaking community, it has been doing check-in calls in Cantonese and Mandarin to ensure that those that may not have technical fluency can access services, food, and be connected. One of the silver linings during this pandemic is that more people are brushing up on their tech skills.
“Some said they are becoming more comfortable doing video calls, scheduling their appointments online, or ordering grocery and take-out.”
Also, the community is using their sewing skills to make homemade cloth masks a part of a donation drive.
In this unprecedented time, Kin On is doing its best to ensure safety for all it serves.
“Many of us experienced SARs 17 years ago in some way,” explained Young of the disease which ravaged parts of southeast Asia. “So, our care team members have been extra cautious and proactive, keeping track of the development of the virus in Asia. From early on, we followed the guidance from the CDC and local health agencies, and there were times we did more than the recommendations.” In addition to training, Kin On has surprised staff with small gifts, meals, and snacks “to keep folks in high spirits during this challenging time.”
Kin On provides residential living assistance, home care health, and social service programs for over 1,200 people, according to its latest annual report.
Young added that she was thankful for the flexibility of the staff and the help it has received during the pandemic.
“We are just grateful for our team’s ingenuity and resilience, and the support from the community and the government that helps us handle the increased financial burdens and operational challenges.”
“What we know is that it takes a village to care for our elders.”
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.