By Pam Canty, Screening and Intake Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan
During the early part of March 2020, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines to help protect people until a medical vaccine or effective treatment is found. The most important guidelines are wearing a facial mask, social distancing, and washing hands.
However, there are no pandemic guidelines issued to help seniors who live alone. Many organizations such as senior centers and community centers have closed their doors. These organizations were frequently visited daily by seniors for socialization, congregate meals, exercise programs, crafting, etc. These organizations are lifelines for many seniors who are alone because their spouse and/or friends have died. Also, most children of seniors may live out of town and either cannot visit on a regular basis or are afraid to visit because they may spread COVID-19.
Most senior citizen apartment complexes closed their community spaces. This has added to no socialization opportunities for residents. Closing community spaces is understandable, to not spread the virus, but causes problems for seniors who rely on the services these community spaces provide.
It is very easy to tell a senior who lives alone to use social media to stay in touch with people. Well, we fail to realize that a lot of the senior population does not have internet and/or cannot afford to pay for it. Their basic means of communication is the telephone which is the most reliable safety tool for them.
The holiday season is approaching, please make sure you reach out to the older population, especially the ones that live alone and in nursing homes. There are simple ways this can be done such as by calling on the telephone, leaving a care package, sending “thinking of you” cards, contacting community organizations and churches in your or their area to reach out to seniors that live alone and in nursing homes.
COVID-19 has mobilized many of us but please do not let it make us forget about the most vulnerable population we have, seniors. Please reach out to help this group of people and let them know we care.
Pam Canty is an Intake and Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since 2005. As an Intake and Screening Coordinator, Pam helps seniors in Michigan apply for food assistance and other benefits.