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Balancing the Dangers of Pandemic & Isolation
July 13, 2020
For those over the age of 60, the COVID-19 pandemic is especially concerning. Older adults are considered a high-risk category, and to compound the risk, many older adults have pre-existing health conditions that are also considered high-risk. The results can be catastrophic. As of the writing of this blog, according to SCDHEC those over the age of 60 are only 19% of total cases but unfortunately comprise of 87% of all fatal cases of COVID-19. It is critical that seniors, those who care for them, and the general public remain vigilant in efforts to prevent virus spread. The dangers of the virus are serious and they are very real.
As this crisis lingers and with no end in sight, it is important to also recognize the dangers of prolonged isolation and take steps to mitigate those dangers in the face of the pandemic. Studies have shown for years that seniors who report feeling lonely have a 45% increase of mortality, more dangerous than obesity and as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The negative health consequences of isolation are serious and they are very real.
At Senior Resources, we have seen this first hand. When the outbreak first spread in our community in mid-March 2020, we had almost no PPE, testing was unavailable, and we experienced a shutdown of all communal activities. We correctly suspended or significantly altered every program we offer and added emergency services. As safeguards became more available and our community began to show signs of safely reopening, one of the first programs we returned to near-normal service was our aides entering homes of homebound seniors. While nearly all of these seniors received a weekly delivery of meals to their doorsteps, our aides were the first in-home visitors or help they had in nearly 3 months.
What we discovered is that the most isolated seniors and their homes were in unhealthy condition. Seniors were lonely in their mental health and were in need of companionship and feeling self-worth again. Their linens and clothes were soiled, kitchens and bathrooms were unsanitary, and clutter and trash in the home created trip hazards and other dangers. Our aides went to work visiting with these seniors, arranged for laundry service with a local dry cleaner, and began putting the home back in order. And just as important, our weekly visit gave the senior something to look forward to and a familiar (although masked) face to greet them regularly and make them feel alive again.
It is our responsibility to safely aid in this delicate balance between protecting older adults from a dangerous virus and protecting those same individuals from dangerous isolation. As we resume a more “normal” schedule of operations this summer at Senior Resources to help seniors in need of our support, we are taking every precaution possible to prevent spread to our seniors, staff, and volunteers. We remain flexible in our programs to allow alterations, and to allow those who are most at-risk to receive the appropriate level of support as they balance the risks at hand.
For the sake of our seniors that we serve and for all of those in our community, wash your hands, wear a mask, and keep your distance from others to battle the dangers of the pandemic. And when you have the opportunity, call your elderly neighbor, offer to take out their trash, pick-up their groceries, or any safe act of kindness to battle the dangers of isolation.Back to All News & Blog