The recent spread of COVID-19 has sparked a lot of fear and uncertainty in the United States, but it has also inspired many people to step up and care for the most vulnerable populations like senior citizens and the immunocompromised.
Viral stories and videos online are showing how people are helping seniors with groceries, assisting them with technology, and having phone chats through windows to practice “social distancing.” Even celebrities like Lady Gaga and Kristen Bell are urging their millions of followers on social media to stay home and self-quarantine to help flatten the curve.
At St. Paul’s Senior Services, caring for seniors is what we do day-in and day-out, but we know for the general population, reaching out to seniors hasn’t always been front-of-mind. It’s encouraging to see so many people step up and take action in tangible ways.
Whether you are a senior caregiver or not, there are plenty of ways you can help the most vulnerable population. Here are just a few things you can do to save a life:
1. Social Distance and Stay Home
While we recognize that staying home and social distancing will be uncomfortable and difficult for many of us, it’s currently the most proactive thing we can do to stop the spread of Coronavirus. The inconvenience of staying home to help “flatten the curve” is a very small sacrifice to make to save the lives of the Greatest Generation and those who are immunocompromised.
Staying home may not be possible for everyone in the work-force, but many companies are letting their employees work remotely. If you are one of these employees that gets to work from home, we hope you are taking “social distancing” seriously and not using this as a vacation or a time to gather with a group of friends or have play dates.
Use this as a time to spend with family, do work projects you’ve never been able to get to, read some books, clean your home, play board games, binge a new TV show, do online exercises, go for a walk or hike outside (away from others), learn to cook something new, etc. The possibilities are endless, you just have to get creative! You may just save a life.
2. Encourage Vulnerable Loved Ones to Self-Isolate
While we don’t want to cause our loved ones to panic, it is very important to reiterate to our senior parents, grandparents, and friends to stay in their homes at this time. We know this may be more difficult for some than others, but it needs to be taken seriously. See below for practical ways you can help seniors do this successfully.
Also, encourage young people and millennials who think they will be unaffected by Coronavirus to practice social distancing and take this seriously. They can be carriers and could potentially spread the virus to older adults.
3. Volunteer with Local Non-Profits that Serve Seniors
If you’re one of the millions of Americans currently out of work or with reduced hours and are looking for ways to help, there are organizations looking for volunteers to help reach seniors and low-income populations.*
Some of these organizations here in San Diego are Meals on Wheels and Jewish Family Service. You can sign-up online to be a volunteer for Meals on Wheels delivering food and household items to homebound seniors. If you can’t volunteer your time, you can still make monetary and item donations. Jewish Family Services is also accepting volunteers and donors to help with their Migrant Shelter and Safe Parking Program (email Nate Bieser, JFS Volunteer Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org).
*However, keep in mind that as developments change and as the State and CDC release new information every day, these organizations may change their policies on volunteering and accepting new volunteers.*
4. Donate Supplies
Here in San Diego, there are plenty of organizations looking for supplies like toilet paper, food, clothes, and cleaning supplies to distribute to those who are low-income or immunocompromised. These organizations have direct contact with San Diego’s most vulnerable:
- Alzheimer’s San Diego – Accepting hygiene supplies like toilet paper and cleaning products for Dementia caregivers and seniors.
- Meals on Wheels – Accepting hygiene supplies and household items.
- Jewish Family Service of San Diego — Accepting grocery items and household goods to deliver to seniors.
- Paul’s PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care of the Elderly) – Accepting food, household goods, hygiene supplies, incontinence products, and personal care items for homebound low-income seniors. Three drop-off locations in San Diego.
- San Diego Rescue Mission – Accepting clothing for men, women, and children as well as hygiene supplies.
5. Check in with the Seniors in Your Life
We challenge you to take a few moments right now to think of three seniors you know that you could reach out to today, whether it’s just a phone call to chat or if you can offer your services to them. Seniors should not leave their homes for any reason short of an emergency, so there’s plenty you can do to help them.
You can help seniors by offering to get their groceries, pick-up prescriptions, show them how to use Skype or Facetime, set them up with an in-home exercise routine, take their pets on a walk, call them daily to check-in, and even send them funny texts or mail to keep things light and encouraging.
This can be a scary time for many seniors, but there’s a lot we can do to minimize the risk and the fear. Now more than ever, you can help make a difference in the lives of the people who have given us so much. Take a moment to reach out; it could save a life.
For more information about St. Paul’s efforts related to the Coronavirus and resources, click here.
About the Author:
Kelly Lapadula is a Community Outreach Specialist at St. Paul’s Senior Services and the Co-Founder of Young Professionals Serving Seniors. She is also a freelance writer and spent several years as a magazine editor before returning to her true passion of working with seniors. Kelly has been with St. Paul’s for two years and enjoys educating seniors and caregivers while connecting them to community resources and programs.