March 26, 2021
When the COVID-19 vaccine became available to North Carolina residents, an opportunity to host clinics with the help of Alignment Medical was brought to Capital Towers. While the seniors living in the residences would have an easier time knowing about and getting to the clinics being held in their own communities, there were still seniors living in other DHIC communities that would have a harder time.
It became increasingly obvious to LaTonya Mckoy that this wouldn’t be a simple outreach effort. There were significant obstacles, and these seniors would need help navigating them in order to get their vaccinations.
LaTonya immediately recognized these barriers and began the hard work of combating each one as it presented itself.
Transportation: A lot of seniors didn’t have a means of transportation to get to the other DHIC properties where the clinics would be held. LaTonya helped those residents go through their list of friends and family to find someone who could take them to the clinics. She began to arrange for ride-shares or other paid methods of transportation for those seniors that didn’t have access to a support network.
Some seniors had access to transportation but didn’t have a cell phone or access to a GPS. In one instance, LaTonya read off step-by-step directions from a map service to an 80-year-old resident in Southeast Raleigh who needed to get to a clinic in Garner. She stayed on the phone, reciting the directions while he wrote them down word-for-word to ensure that he could get to the clinic.
Information or Resources: Many seniors were wary about getting vaccinated as they had little or no access to information about the vaccination process, or no access to resources that would answer their questions about the vaccine. Some residents said they spent four or more hours on hold with pharmacies or their doctors’ offices, only to be told to go online to get help. With no ability to access or navigate the internet, this left them at a dead-end.
LaTonya spent countless hours on the phone with not only the seniors themselves but with the senior’s loved ones, providing them with information and encouragement. In one case, she stayed on the phone with a resident’s daughter while she drove to a pharmacy to ask about any potential interactions with her loved one’s current medications. With LaTonya’s support, they were able to get the reassurance they needed to decide to get her vaccinated.
Communication: Tireless outreach and communication was key to successfully getting all interested seniors vaccinated. Seniors can be hard to reach by phone to begin with, and they also tend to be very hesitant to give out any information over the phone.
LaTonya called two or three times before some residents answered and once they realized she was there to support them, they used her as an outlet of communication throughout the entire process. She would call to remind them about the clinic, in addition to fielding calls from some seniors who needed extra reassurance before their appointment, and many who just wanted to let her know how it went after receiving the vaccine. Many days, LaTonya was on the phone from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., ensuring that every senior resident on this list of over 150 people had everything they needed to overcome the obstacles between them and their vaccination.
Another senior resident living with her husband who was also in his 80s told LaTonya that she noticed him going into depression after weeks and weeks of searching for a vaccine, a search that had started to feel hopeless. “She called me after they both got vaccinated at the Watergarden Park clinic to tell me that her husband was finally back to feeling like himself again. The fact that I was able to help her husband take back his lease on life is exactly why I did what I did.”
“When you know some of these senior residents only have small networks of loved ones, it makes it even more impactful when you help give them the ability to lean on that network again.” One woman told LaTonya that she had a list of five friends, all seniors themselves, who she was counting down until she could hug again. With this vaccine, she would finally be able to see them again. Because of the efforts to get her to the clinic, she’s one step closer to a sense of normalcy.
LaTonya’s tireless work to help the most vulnerable population in our communities overcome the barriers to getting the help they need is a shining example of going above and beyond. We’re proud to recognize her work today as a strong woman in our organization who has spent the last five-and-a-half years bringing positive impact to DHIC’s residents and communities.