During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oral Health Forum (OHF) launched a campaign to reach older adults in the Chicago who reside in assisted living facilities, and provide residents with oral health education resources, dental hygiene supplies specific to aging populations, and care coordination services. With the temporary closure of dental offices and the shelter in place orders across the Nation, older adults were particularly impacted with their ability to access dental care and resources. In an attempt to ensure Chicago’s aging population received the oral health education and dental hygiene resources needed to maintain good oral health while sheltering in place, OHF created direct partnerships with assisted living facilities to deliver education materials, virtual dental consultations, dental hygiene kits, and case management services.

To protect against COVID-19, OHF was unable to go in-person to facilitate education presentations to older adults and alternatively trained site facility coordinators on oral health for older adults, and provided 213 dental hygiene kits to residents. Additionally, in partnership with a community dental provider, OHF facilitated virtual dental consultations for 15 older adults residing in the partnering assisted living facilities.

As a result of these outreach efforts, OHF was contacted by older adults throughout 2020 for support with accessing dental care. A resident of one partnering facility connected with OHF and was assigned a case manager to help with completing dental treatment. The resident stated that they were in need of support with getting dentures fitted and was in need of emergency services. OHF’s case manager supported the resident by communicating with them about their dental needs and scheduling an appointment. To ensure this resident was able to access treatment, OHF provided funding for Lyft transportation to and from the dental appointments. The resident stated they were glad OHF was helping with transportation, sharing that public transportation was “a whole mess right there.”

After the resident’s first appointment, OHF’s case manager followed up to see how the overall experience was, to which the resident commented, “It was fabulous. I have a few fittings more to go to but it went wonderfully, and thank you so much for helping out with the ride.” The resident also reported having a great conversation with the Lyft drivers, “laughing so hard [with the first driver] who was very nice and polite.”

To date, OHF has paid for two round trips to dental appointments for this resident who is expected to need one or two more dental visits before treatment is completed. For more information on this innovative program, contact Alejandra Valencia, DDS and to learn more about the Oral Health Forum visit their website.