Public health measures, such as physical distancing and stay-at-home orders, that are necessary to protect against the spread of COVID-19 threaten access to health services and supports for older adults and people living with physical and developmental disabilities that have transitioned from institutions, like nursing homes, back to community settings.
As part of the Georgia Health Policy Center’s ongoing evaluation support for Georgia’s Money Follows the Person* (MFP) Program, the center conducts surveys to assess program participants’ experiences and outcomes. This series of briefs uses data collected from 127 MFP participants between October 2019 and August 2020 with comparisons made between those surveyed before and after the declaration of the public health emergency on March 13.
Impacts on Caregiving
The pandemic’s interruption of formal services (e.g., in-home care, adult day health care) required many family members and friends, who previously supported MFP participants part-time, to transition to the role of a full-time caregiver role. Relatedly, cutting back on use of public transportation and time in public places due to COVID-19 exposure risk restricted participants’ independence and increased their reliance on family caregivers for errands.
Impacts on Social Disconnection
While the risk of social disconnectedness, which includes loneliness and social isolation, has garnered significant public attention since the onset of the pandemic, particularly for older adults, MFP survey data suggests that many MFP participants experienced some level of social disconnectedness prior to the pandemic.
Yet, as might be expected, MFP participants reported less ability to see friends and family due to social distancing, as well as reduced opportunities for social interaction through adult day services and places of worship. People with sensory impairments (e.g., hearing loss) emerged as a subgroup with distinct barriers to social contact amid the pandemic.
Impacts on Accessing Health Care
Survey results show that during the pandemic, there was a 12.5 percentage point increase in participants who could not receive or could not get to medical care in the past month. Older adults and females were particularly impacted. Like the broader population, many MFP participants shared positive experiences with telehealth, while others experienced difficulties related to sensory impairments and access to technology or broadband.