ADvantage Program works to provide independent living opportunties

The ADvantage Program is a home and community-based alternative for eligible adults who, under the ADvantage Waiver, are provided an alternative to care in a nursing facility.

This Oklahoma Human Services program aims to offer individuals who are medically and financially eligible the opportunity to choose between a nursing facility and staying in their home through a personalized plan of care with the assistance of a Community Service Worker.

Oxford HealthCare is a home healthcare agency serving northeastern Oklahoma. Patty Holderman, Director of Long Term Care at Oxford, said “Our goal is to help people understand the availability of the ADvantage program and it’s importance to those receiving these services.”

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It is a challenge to find dedicated workers to partner with, she said. This program helps participants with the daily activities they may no longer be able to complete safely on their own, such as light housekeeping, laundry, errands, meal preparation and/or personal care.

Currently Oxford serves 60+ residents in Sapulpa and Creek County area. One of those is Shirley Fitzgerald of Sapulpa. At 79, she enjoys living in her apartment with her dog Nomee.

Caregiver Sally McCall assists Shirley Fitzgerald in folding laundry in her Sapulpa apartment.

“I feel blessed to have my own place,” she said. “Without this program it would be pretty difficult.”

Due to several surgeries, she has limited mobility, but with assistance from her community service worker, Sally McCall, Fitzgerald is able to live independently.

McCall, who is retired from a Tulsa hospital, said she is drawn to this type of fulfilling work, despite the lower salary. Currently, she works with Fitzgerald three days a week for a total of10 hours. She assists in her daily needs, including laundry, dishes, groceries, and house cleaning.

“It is not just a job, it has to be more than a job,” McCall said. “It is not easy, but it is a compassionate and rewarding job.”

Oxford HealthCare and other agencies providing home care services are facing ongoing challenges of finding and retaining enough caregivers.

“As you can see, we have some employees like Sally who work well past standard retirement age who are still making a contribution to others who need assistance in the community,” said Holderman.

“There is an ongoing need for caregivers, but these issues have increased during COVID,” she added. “We appreciate Rep. Lawson’s receptivity, and our goal is to help he and other legislators to see first-hand how these services impact the quality of life of their constituents.”

State Representative Mark Lawson said he is working toward an expansion of services.

“The caregivers go into this work because they truly want to help, not get rich or make more money,” he said. “Legislators as a hole understand the cost, quality of life and a living wage to providers of care.”

Dignity, autonomy, and quality of life is very important to those participating in the ADvantage program instead of living in nursing homes, he said.

Lawson told Fitzgerald that the providers in the state are responsive to her needs and her desire to remain independent.

Holderman said Oxford wants to increase awareness of how funding impacts programing and their ability to pay a living wage to current and potential employees.

“There is a huge need for caregivers. As our older demographic is growing, those people who need assistance with their daily activities is also growing,” she said. “People who have a heart for caregiving are needed and could make a real difference in the lives of others.”

Oxford is a contracted provider with Oklahoma Human Services. For further information about available services, or if interested in job opportunities, contact them at (918) 258-1111 or www.oxford-healthcare.com.”

For more information about ADvantage CareLine call (800) 435-4711 or visit oklahoma.gov/okdhs/services/aging/advantageadmin.html.