Op-Ed: Safely helping seniors during coronavirus pandemic
We have heard from many people over the past several days regarding concerns about the rapidly developing coronavirus situation in Connecticut.
Many of these concerns are about their older neighbors, family, and friends who may be living alone. Some of our older residents do not drive and others need regular assistance with household tasks and personal care.
We all want to make sure old adults in our community are doing well, but we also need to do our best to help vulnerable populations stay safe.
So how can we help older adults in a world of social distancing?
• First, be sure to talk to older family members about medication supplies, food, home care and back up plans if the virus threat is longer than anticipated.
• Remember that social distancing does not mean social isolation. Never underestimate the power of a phone call, video chat, social media or even old-fashioned snail mail. It’s important to call our loved ones to make sure they have everything they need and are doing well. It’s also just as important to let them know that you are thinking about them. A call just to say hello can do much to lift someone’s spirits in challenging times. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also recommending that communities create “buddy systems” to make sure vulnerable and hard-to-reach people stay connected. This can be done through email or by scheduling virtual family time with an older loved one. Talking with family members over Skype or FaceTime or scheduling a time to host a Google Hangout or Facebook Messenger conversation can help. Now more than ever people need to find smart ways to stay connected.
• Do what you can to make it easier for vulnerable individuals to remain at home. For example, if you are planning to go to the grocery store to pick up items for yourself, consider asking elderly neighbors if they need something while you are there. You can drop off groceries outside their home to avoid close contact. Also consider helping older family members set up grocery delivery services and prescription delivery when possible.
• Take a look at the resources on your regional Agency on Aging website, www.swcaa.org. Contact the Community Services line, 800-994-9422 if you or some senior you love needs assistance. Information specialists can help seniors connect to food, Medicare benefits, Social Security and other federal and state supports. Look for opportunities to volunteer with older adults when social distancing restrictions are removed.
We encourage everyone to join together in checking in on our family, friends and neighbors over the next few weeks. Continue letting vulnerable people know you are thinking of them even if you cannot be there in person.
Stay safe and take necessary precautions. The latest information from state officials is available at ct.gov/coronavirus
State Sen. Kevin Kelly represents the 21st Senate District including Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford. For more information, visit www.senatorkevinkelly.com. Marie Allen is the executive director of the Southwestern CT Agency on Aging. For more information, visit www.swcaa.org.