Local News

Seniors isolated by COVID-19 vulnerable to running out of food, medicine

Posted April 8, 2020 7:24 a.m. EDT
Updated April 8, 2020 8:17 a.m. EDT

The threat of COVID-19 increases concerns for seniors in isolation, including running out of essentials like food or prescriptions.

Even in normal times, research shows that seniors ages 70 and older often live home alone and struggle with loneliness and depression.

"With the coronavirus, it now becomes even more of a problem," said Tom Arnold, owner of Right at Home in Wake County, an in-home senior care company.

Many clients have already begun cutting back or canceling services, for fear of contracting COVID-19 infection from an in-home caregiver visit.

"They have nobody coming in and out of their home. Even some of their family members are reluctant to go into their home because they don't want to spread something to them," said Arnold. "This creates a problem, obviously."

Ken Helmuth, owner of Right at Home in Durham County, said, "The average son or daughter typically lives about 200 miles from their parents."

That's part of the isolation risk for many seniors.

Creating a safe way to keep seniors connected

Seeing the unique struggles seniors would face during the pandemic, Right at Home chose to create a free service called Social Connection.

The service includes regular phone calls, open to anyone who signs up, at no charge. Arnold said they plan for volunteers to call seniors daily, asking key questions like "Do you have your medication?" and "Do you have an ample amount of food?"

The service can help arrange deliveries to the senior's home.

Residents will also provide an emergency contact, often one of their adult children, to help if needed.

The company is now hiring volunteers to make those check-in calls once their Social Connections system is in place.

These calls could be a lifeline for isolated seniors, providing access to food, medication, human connection and "other resources they can link up with during a time like this," said Helmuth.

A time when more people – young and old alike – need social connection.

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