The threat of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is impacting lives worldwide, and although it may not yet have reached your community, you can expect it to in the coming days or weeks.
One vulnerable group that cannot be ignored is the elderly in the community.
Many B.C. communities have higher-than-average population of seniors, based on the popularity of the province as a retirement destination.
BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said at times such as this, it’s important to ensure everyone has a strong support system – neighbours helping neighbours.
“When the provincial health officer calls on British Columbians to consider what we can we do, obviously taking care of ourselves is number one, but the other thing we can do is reach out to the seniors we know around us and see what extra help they might need right now,” said Mackenzie. “The impact of COVID-19 could mean that their care worker is under the weather and can’t provide help. It could mean that their adult children who would normally help them, aren’t feeling well and can’t help them. It may mean that they really shouldn’t be in crowded situations… somebody else could go do their grocery shopping for them.”
Mackenzie recommends exchanging phone numbers with your neighbours (if you don’t already have them) and keeping in contact with each other via phone or text.
Mackenzie said a crisis like this tends to galvanize communities, and she expects the most communities will take the time to rally around each other and get through this pandemic together.
“From my years in homecare, that is the kind of thing we would see. I was in homecare during the blizzard of ’96 here in Victoria, and the way people came together to help each other out at that time was phenomenal. Now that was a different issue, in terms of why there was a crisis. But the effect on seniors being shut in and not getting what they needed… there is the potential of that, today.
“We are going to see a lot more seniors needing help with things… so if we are healthy, we should help.”
The Office of the Seniors Advocate (OSA) has an information and referral line for seniors or others looking for community resources not related to health care.
“We have a toll-free number that people can call to find out about community resources that might be available, and we have just partnered with bc211 to expand our hours of operation,” said Mackenzie.
Seniors with non-medical related inquiries can phone the OSA’s toll-free number at 1-877-952-3181. For medical questions, please phone 8-1-1.