COVID vaccine: Homebound seniors face extra challenge getting vaccinated

LA GRANGE, Ill. (WLS) -- At 94, Gladys Palach should be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but that's not the case because she's homebound and cannot leave her condo.

"It's been an ongoing thing. It's like a full-time job already. I'm just exhausted from it all," said Alice Palach-Spera, her daughter who has worked tirelessly on the issue.

Gladys Palach, like so many seniors, is homebound, and can't leave her LaGrange condo because of her health conditions. Her family is trying to get her vaccinated at home, but they have not been successful so far.

"It's been such a struggle because we're so worried because she's at such high risk because of her age, and all her health conditions," Palach-Spera said.

In February, Gladys Palach spent six days in the hospital fighting pneumonia. When she was released, Palach-Spera said the doctor recommended her mom have palliative care, which includes a nurse practitioner and social worker. She also has two caregivers.

But family visits haven't happened since her 94th birthday in December 2020, and her daughter believes that's having a tremendous impact. "She can't hug us, we can't give her a kiss - none of those things. I think that's why she is getting more and more depressed," she said.

COOK COUNTY HOMEBOUND HOTLINE: 1-833-308-1988

Chicago Homebound Program Information:

Chicago Homebound Sign-Up

Cook County Health and AgeOptions are reaching vulnerable seniors through pop-up clinics in suburban Cook County, according to Diane Slezak, president and executive officer of AgeOptions, an organization that coordinates, advocates, and funds services for seniors in suburban Cook County.

Slezak said they have had five pop-up clinics so far, and seven more are scheduled soon in Franklin Park, Bartlett, Arlington Heights, Oak Forest, Bridgeview, Berwyn and Calumet City.

"We know the next step that we need to take is to get to the homebound, and that is a challenge," said Slezak.

As a priority, Slezak said caregivers must be vaccinated. If elderly loved one can get into a car, she said families should take their homebound loved one to a drive-through vaccination site. And, as a last resort, she said families could call the Cook County hotline for homebound residents to get on a waiting list.

"They are taking names of people to be vaccinated in their homes. We cannot tell you right now exactly when we are going to be able to start that because it depends on supplies," Slezak said.

Organizations that help older adults - like Aging Care Connections - have faced the challenge.

"It's been frustrating not only for us, but those people who really want to help their parents, their loved ones," said Debra Verschelde, executive director of Aging Care Connections. "

Gladys Palach's daughter has called the hotline, and still doesn't have a confirmed visit scheduled. She hopes her mom's experience will force health officials to find a solution soon. Her mom is waiting.

"I hope this will open the eyes to those scheduling the vaccines and come up with some kind of solutions for people who need it the most," she said.
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