United HomeCare: Tag Teaming the Pandemic

About United HomeCare

United HomeCare® (UHC) is one of the largest 501 (C) (3) non-profit, home and community care organizations serving disabled, older adults in Miami-Dade.  

Since 1974, the Agency has grown to more than 850 employees and volunteers who provide approximately 21,000 hours of care each week to nearly 3,500 clients in the comfort of their home. Over 750 Home Health Aides (HHAs) comprise the bulk of the workforce.

United HomeCare® has pioneered an interdisciplinary approach to home health that fosters

team work and has served the Agency well during the Pandemic. Clients benefit from a wide range of health professionals who specialize in care for the elderly, including case managers, LCSWs, nurses, PT/OT therapists, nutritionist, personal care assistants, care coordinators and intergenerational volunteers.

Since the Centers for Disease Control sounded the COVID-19 alarm, United Home Care’s doors have remained open as an essential provider of home care service in Miami-Dade. To protect both employees and clients, Carlos L. Martinez, UHC’s President & CEO has diligently secured thousands of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment. 

By early March, as Miami residents began to quarantine, United HomeCare’s Interdisciplinary Team went into triage mode as the call volume spiked from community residents and clients seeking information, referrals and home care supports. 

By early July, C.A.R.E.S Funding allocated to UHC by the Alliance for Aging, Inc., enabled United HomeCare to quickly assemble a CARES Mental Health LCSW Program, which provides FREE mental health counseling services by telephone to individuals age 60 plus.  The Program serves UHC clients, as well as individuals on the Older Americans Act waitlist, and the community-at-large. 

Helping older adults in need is a priority, says CARES Mental Health LCSW, Guadalupe Rodriguez. Fellow LCSW, Glenda Taylor, who started her career at United HomeCare, as an FIU Social Work Intern and is now a UHC employee had this to say, “the experience of counseling seniors during COVID-19 is fulfilling, and is my way of giving back with the greatest empathy to a community that has given so much to me over the years.”

First hand, the Clinical Social Work Team has seen the detrimental impact of social isolation on older adults and their family caregivers. The services they provide help to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fears – all on the rise in Pandemic social isolation.  Sadly, some clients have lost their partners of 50 plus years, and have multiple painful chronic illnesses that impact their mental health.  

Since July 2020, over 50 individuals age 60 plus are benefiting from CARES Mental Health LCSW services, and many more will be helped through December 2020, when the grant comes to an end.

Interdisciplinary home care teamwork has made a difference in engaging seniors willing to accept help and participate in mental health counseling.    

Referrals to the Program started in May 2020, with UHC’s volunteer driven Telephone Reassurance Program staffed by Summer Interns. They were dedicated to making bi-weekly friendly telephone calls to seniors to check-in on them.  This helped to keep a pulse on clients with the greatest need for supports. Alina Palenzuela, Communications & Outreach Manager was instrumental in launching the Telephone Reassurance Program and directed the efforts led by Dolores Pollack and the Summer Interns. The Team continuously makes referrals for counseling to The CARES Mental Health LCSW Program.  

Referrals are also made by United HomeCare’s Case Managers, and the Customer Care Center also refers from the Older Americans Act client waitlist of 2,000 individuals.  Additionally, partnerorganizations like the Alliance for Aging, the United Way of Miami-Dade, where UHC serves as an Impact Partner, Miami-Dade County and various community organizations make community referrals.Self-referrals are also welcomed.

Boris Anoceto, UHC Director of Programs and Ileana Ferrera, Compliance Officer also played an instrumental role in identifying UHC clients needing counseling assistance.  “It takes advocating within the Agency for referrals, particularly for Case Managers to support the Interdisciplinary Home Care Team. This was key in the implementation phase of the Program, and now they are all engaged,” says Boris Anoceto.

Since CARES Mental Health LCSW services are grant funded, initially UHC had to operationalize data entry, billing and compliance with documentation of services rendered in a timely manner. With Finance and accounting support, the LCSW clinical team got the back office help and remained focused on delivering counseling services. 

Resiliency and resourcefulness have helped UHC’s Interdisciplinary Home Care Team to address all obstacles. A key factor for this success is collaboration through team work.

More than ever, United HomeCare’s tagline, “There’s just no place like home”, remains true.  Home is where seniors prefer to live in older age, and in times of duress we must strengthen our safety net services by working together to help them remain safe at home.

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