Organizations providing resources, information for seniors during COVID-19 pandemic
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Local organizations are providing information, along with resources, to better help seniors during the current COVID-19 epidemic.
Dr. Ian Gemmill, Acting Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit, said the best suggestion he has is for seniors to separate themselves socially as much as possible to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.
“The best recommendation I could give is for most people who are seniors the more you can separate yourself socially, and see only people that you know who are doing the same thing, the better. One of the issues that I have in my mind that is really important are the seniors who are living in long-term care homes… There are a lot of older and vulnerable people there, so for people that are older stay home as much as you can… For the older group, it will be a very unpleasant infection, but it also may be an infection that has serious or fatal consequences attached to it,” said Dr. Gemmill.
“It depends on a lot of factors, for example how old that senior is, what their living circumstances are, how easy it is for them to be able to get things, or if they have somebody in their family that can go out and do that for them. We know one thing and that is the severity and the mortality from this infection increases with age, so somebody in their 60’s has an increased risk over somebody in their 40’s but they are better off then somebody who’s in their 90’s,” he said.
On April 3 the Government of Ontario announced, through a media release, further protection for seniors in retirement homes.
“As the province takes decisive action to safeguard the health and safety of Ontarians, we are taking immediate action to protect seniors living in retirement homes. A temporary order has been made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that will help retirement homes address emergency staffing needs as they respond to COVID-19. With this temporary action, retirement homes will have more flexibility to recruit and reassign staff to address the impacts of this new virus and will be able to focus more resources toward implementing the protocols and procedures put in place to keep residents safe,” the release states.
“To further safeguard the health of seniors living in retirement homes our government has also amended the Retirement Homes Act, 2010 requiring that all retirement homes follow the Chief Medical Officer of Health's guidance and recommendations regarding infection control and prevention. We are also investing $20 million in additional funding to support increased infection control and active screening measures.”
Staff from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Fort Frances Branch, Sioux Lookout office are encouraging seniors to take advantage of local delivery methods and service adjustments to ensure they have essential foods and fluids while also taking preventative cautions.
“Having food and fluids on board is key. Many of our local stores, businesses, and restaurants are offering take-out orders and making arrangements for delivery, so don’t hesitate to call and find out what is possible, so you can stay safe and keep your nutrition and hydration front and centre. Fresh Market is offering a senior’s time to shop on Tuesdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., if you are able to get out and about,” CMHA staff shared.
Other recommendations from CMHA staff include getting a good night’s sleep, staying on top of physical and mental health needs, and to be aware of current scams that are targeting people during this time.
“Make sure you stay on top of your healthcare needs, both mental and physical. If you aren’t sure about COVID-19 symptoms, or other health related concerns, please make sure you connect with your regular healthcare professionals, speak with trusted family members and friends, and don’t be afraid to reach out to identified counselling and support services you may already be involved with,” CMHA staff said.
“Unfortunately, there are phone and computer scams going around where people are taking advantage of the vulnerability we all face. If someone is calling you and you have no idea who they are and what they want, and especially if they are asking you for passwords, banking and personal health information, it is important to recognize that they may not be looking out for your best interests, but their own. If in doubt, you can refrain from sharing, hang up, and wait until you can check in with a credible contact, or a trusted family member or friend. They can help you review any calls or messages that may be suspect. At this time, many of your regular healthcare providers are staying in touch with you by phone, so they are the people you can continue to build and maintain those important relationships with,” they explained.
The Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre said they’ve been helping local seniors by continuing medical transportations to clients, completing weekly check in's with Elders, providing emergency hampers and supplies, and harvesting transitional medicines to distribute to Elders as requested.
In a media release on March 30, the Government of Ontario announced a major investment to help community organizations serve and support seniors.
“The government is investing $10 million to help community organizations with the coordination of subsidized deliveries of meals, medicines and other necessities to seniors. This investment doubles the government's initial commitment in Ontario's Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. The government is also working with grocers and pharmacists to prioritize seniors' delivery orders and establish senior-only shopping hours,” the release stated.
“The government is also working with province-wide organizations including Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and Older Adults Centres' Association of Ontario (OACAO) to identify and mobilize potential volunteer supports and expand the use of innovative technologies in the community to address social isolation and support daily living assistance.
“This $10 million delivery coordination program for seniors living at home is in addition to the $20 million over two years the province has invested to protect seniors in retirement homes through increased infection control and active screening procedures and $243 million for long-term care homes to support 24/7 screening, additional staffing, enhanced cleaning and sanitation, and additional surge capacity,” the release further explained.
Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health is strongly urging those over the age of 70, or those with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions, to stay at home.
"It's never been more important that all Ontarians heed the advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health by staying home and practicing physical distancing," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "This is especially true because it's the only way to protect our seniors and the most vulnerable people in our province. All of us need to do our part to stop the spread of this virus."
For more information, visit Ontario.ca or www.nwhu.on.ca.