April 27, 2020

In uncertain times, it falls to all of us to serve as caregivers — for our family, for ourselves, and for our communities. As the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to impact daily life here in Chicago and around the country, we have been moved by so many stories of everyday generosity and heroism, which all serve as a reminder that the little things we do for one another can have the biggest impact. 

Each day, we’re inspired by the many people and organizations that have made it a point to step up and help out the elderly and other vulnerable populations in this difficult time. In suburban Wheeling, Illinois, one sports equipment manufacturing company has shifted its focus to creating face masks, which it is distributing to residents and employees at assisted living facilities. Over in Maryland, one incredible little boy is creating and delivering care packages for elderly adults who have been shut in by coronavirus. 

Want to make a difference for the senior citizens in your life? Whether you’re hoping to take care of your loved ones or simply help out the elderly neighbors in your community, here are some simple steps you can take right now: 

Get In Touch

A simple “hello” can mean the world to someone who has to remain inside. To help brighten a senior’s day, get in touch however you can. Call up your loved ones who live around the country, or drop off a letter to your neighbor who lives down the street. Be friendly, and offer whatever support you feel comfortable giving. 

This little gesture can make an enormous difference. Even under normal circumstances, many older adults deal with the effects of loneliness and social isolation. These difficult feelings are being made even tougher by the social distancing orders in place right now. Taking a few minutes to reach out can help reassure seniors that they’re not alone. Over time, receiving these messages and having someone to talk to can help reduce feelings of stress, and drastically improve the senior’s mood and outlook. 

Drop Off Care Packages and Supplies

Remember that little boy from Maryland? His name is Cavanaugh Bell, and his care packages are simple, but wonderful. Each donation includes toilet paper, some flushable wipes, hygiene products, “and a bunch of food,” he explains. 

If you’re able, dropping off a similar care package for your elderly neighbors can help make sure they have the supplies they need to remain safe and healthy at home. When you check in, ask if there are any products that the senior needs, such as soap, paper towels, or hygiene products. You may be able to pick up products on your next shopping run, or send over extra supplies you have in your closet. You can also throw in handwritten notes, games, books, and other personal touches that can help the senior to feel special.

To help make things safer, try to make all of your deliveries “contactless,” by leaving the care package on the front steps or outside the senior’s door. You can learn more about properly disinfecting packages and supplies here. 

Help Out With “Non-Contact” Chores

Does your elderly neighbor need some help at home? If you feel up to it, you may offer to take on some tasks on their behalf. 

CNN recommends focusing on “non-contact chores,” like “putting the trash out, getting the mail, or mowing the lawn.” If you live in a condo or apartment building, you could also help out by cleaning floors and disinfecting handrails, mailboxes, and door knobs in common areas, as some helpful neighbors in New York have been doing in recent weeks. 

From helping out with yard work, to brushing the front steps, to cleaning the senior’s car, making even a little gesture can help make life easier and safer for the elderly in countless ways. 

Help With Food Shopping and Meal Prep

Across cultures and generations, food is fundamental to health and happiness. Yet even in the best of times, malnutrition is a common health concern for seniors. In fact, research suggests that about 20 percent of seniors who live alone “have at least four warning signs of poor nutritional health.” 

Food can be an even bigger source of stress during these trying and uncertain times. Fortunately, there are lots of ways that you can help! Here are a few ideas: 

  • Reach out to elderly neighbors with information and resources, such as the names of local supermarkets that are offering “senior shopping” hours
  • Help senior friends and neighbors get connected with a regular meal delivery service
  • When you cook dinner, prepare extra servings and drop them off on the senior’s doorstep
  • Bring over quick, easy-to-eat foods that the senior may enjoy, from cut produce to cans of healthy soup
  • Offer to pick up a few groceries for the senior, to save them a trip to the store; or offer a ride so they have safe, reliable transportation 
  • Call regularly to check and see if your senior loved ones are eating enough; host mealtime calls on Skype or over the phone, to recreate the sense of sharing a meal remotely

Donate or Volunteer In Your Community

If you can, give back to people who are working to make a difference in your community. You may be able to find out about senior-focused charities through your church or temple, or get connected through a local senior center.

Donating money or supplies can be a great way to make sure that organizations are able to continue their good work in these difficult times; if you are healthy, you might also consider offering up your time. Many organizations can quickly put in-person volunteers to work, while still enforcing strict social distancing guidelines. If you’re concerned about going out, there may also be remote opportunities that allow you to pitch in from home by answering the phone or responding to email requests, for example. 

Take Care of Yourself

Remember that health starts at home! This is a time when we all need to come together — and that means taking care of yourself, so you can be healthy and ready to help out in the days and weeks to come. 

The health experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine offer some important safety reminders for seniors and caregivers: 

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after providing care, preparing food, using the bathroom, or touching surfaces in public places.
  • Avoid crowds
  • Cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow or into a disposable tissue. 
  • Keep your hands away from your face as much as possible.
  • Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces in your home; for households with seniors, this may include “mobility and medical equipment used by your loved one, such as walkers, canes and handrails.”

At the same time, remember to look out for your mental health. Make time for activities that you enjoy and which help you relax; try to unplug from the news when you can; and find creative ways to keep up healthy habits, like exercising, eating right, and staying in touch with friends. 

Looking for Ideas or Inspiration? We’re Here to Help

Curious about the best way to provide care and support for the elderly adults in your community? Need some safety tips and guidelines? Looking to bring your senior loved one home from an assisted living facility, but not sure what you can do in this transition period? For all these matters and more, we are here and ready to help.

At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.

Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help seniors remain in the comfort of their own homes, including providing assistance with housekeeping, activities of daily living (ADLs), driving services, and more.

We’re here to offer guidance and provide support, in whatever way we can. Whether you are looking for ideas, day-to-day help, or a patient and understanding ear, we are here for you — now, more than ever. Get in touch online using our handy online portal, or give us a call at 866-910-9020 today.