On Tuesday, March 24, we convened a brainstorm between the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and seniors citizens in the community to understand their specific needs during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Top Three Takeaways:
We need to find a way to ensure that seniors have safe and affordable access to groceries, prepared meals, and medications. Seniors were eager for a combination of fresh groceries and hot meals to be delivered, as well as no-fee medication delivery. It is was critical that these deliveries come from trusted sources, and that each resident is comfortable with the person delivering the food to their door. Senior service staff should consider coordinating with nearby restaurants, non-profits, grocery stores, and pharmacies to find volunteers that could make regular deliveries of fresh, healthy food and medications to senior living spaces (example: Gabriel’s Place and Avondale senior residences). Each senior building would then have a pre-assigned person to safely deliver the items to each resident.
Seniors need to be provided with safety materials and antibacterial products to protect themselves during routine interactions. Most seniors are seriously concerned for their health and safety. Many receive home health aide services from multiple individuals, who they fear may unintentionally expose them to the virus. Supplying seniors with masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes etc. could help mitigate these concerns as well as limit their potential exposure to the virus.
Provide seniors with accurate and useful information. Up-to-date and accurate information is limited, especially for seniors who have limited interaction with people outside of their living situation. Landlords, home health aide agencies, and other senior organizations could create a handout that details specific information related to the virus itself, where and how to get groceries and more. It is important to start creating a regular and legitimate source of information as soon as possible, so that seniors can begin to trust it over the next few weeks.
Priorities and Key Concerns:
Access to food. Seniors options to get groceries are becoming more and more limited. Some individuals are only receiving food once every 14 days or once every month.
“I have an aide that comes 5 days a week, but they said she can only go shopping for me once a month.”
“I have over 300 people that I can use food for. This is the end of the month. A lot of people need food.”
Access to prescriptions and medicine. Many senior living spaces are now on “lockdown,” limiting their ability to go out and get what they need. Additionally, common prescription fulfillers like CVS may be charging for prescription delivery.
Feeling safe within one's own home due to interactions with health aides and social workers.
“My concern is that all these people are coming to my house. It’s necessary for my health but they can bring me anything. I’m not so sure about my health when all these people are in my house.”
Access to personal items beyond groceries including items like depends and other personal hygiene items, hand sanitizer, and other antibacterial products. These items are currently not being delivered regularly or delivered at all.
Food preparation for seniors who are not the position to cook themselves. With limited home aid, they are in need of prepared hot meals or someone to cook it for them.
Encourage seniors and health aides to coordinate shopping trips. Consider compiling a list of needs from each senior in the building while checking up on the person ( this could be done through phone calls). Each building or block would then have an ongoing list of needs for the senior residents, and could more accurately make sure everyone’s needs are being met.
“Everybody needs to stick together at this point. If you can find someone in your building that can say ‘hey I’m going to the grocery store or CVS, do you need something?’ That would be helpful.”
“If you can walk to the store and you know your neighbors need something, why don’t you just bring it back? Not everyone has excess money.”
Provide seniors with a mask and other antibacterial essential items since they are interacting with individuals who reside and interact outside their home and living spaces. This will provide them with a both mental and physical sense of security.
Organize regular delivery of large drops of food and essential personal items that come weekly or at least every other week to major senior living residences.
“The biggest need that I’m seeing right now is food and Depends. They are not getting them delivered regularly.”
“A lot of people are still having problem getting toilet paper and food. The whole building is locked down so it’s hard for people to get out. If people could meet them halfway for deliveries that would be good.”
Create a “Seniors’ Hotline” so that any senior can call with questions and needs and can be plugged in to available services.
Coordinate for medical prescription delivery services or coordinate pickup days for seniors that can’t get out of their home, and check these deliveries against the initial lists of needs that were developed.
Establish formal ways to check-in with seniors and ensure their medications are being delivered and that they have enough food, especially those who live in their own home/on their own.
“She hasn’t been able to get out but at the same time she’s afraid of someone coming to her house and opening the door for them. Seniors who live in their own homes are kind of the forgotten few. We need to find a way to make them feel safe while fulfilling the needs that they have.”
Leverage local, nearby organizations and food services to coordinate providing hot or frozen fresh meals for seniors. If foundations fund local restaurants to do delivery, it could be a win-win situation, supporting local businesses while ensuring that seniors get enough food.
“Gabriel's Place has been really consistent in sending us meals just about.”
Provide guidance to seniors on what they should be doing to keep safe and how to get delivery safely so that they feel anxious and feel comfortable ordering through food delivery services.
“I just feel isolated because I really don’t know what’s going on. If someone could be able to explain what's going on that would be great.”
Designate time and space for seniors to get some fresh air and interact with each other. This could mean cordoning off parks or even blocks to limit the space just for seniors, so there is enough space for them to be outside and maintain 6ft of distance.
“I feel trapped in my apartment. I have people who come but they might stay for half an hour, forty-five minutes…”