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Protecting Seniors: Safe at Home When It’s Needed Most

Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in Reading, Pennsylvania.

By Wendy Kerschner on Reading Eagle [June 14, 2020]

It’s not easy staying home, even when you’re told it’s the best thing for you.

For those over age 65, the “shelter in place” order was essential. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made it clear that older adults who have underlying medical conditions like lung/liver/kidney disease, heart conditions, diabetes and compromised immune systems, are vulnerable to illness and disease, and that is still true, even as Berks County moves to the “yellow” phase.

Home remains a safe place because the potential for exposure remains lowest for those who have limited outside contact. This means less trips to public places and limited visitors at the house.

While it might sound like a lot of work, or even be viewed as unnecessary, this truly is the time to develop a plan to keep those over 65 safe and protected.

Consider who can safely visit the home. Who in the circle of family, friends, neighbors and care providers are essential for their everyday living? Even though asking friends, family members and even beloved grandchildren not to visit feels more like a punishment than a cautionary tactic, it may continue to be necessary during this time of unknowns.

In order to limit trips outside the home, help may be needed to purchase and deliver essentials like groceries. This might be the perfect opportunity to experiment with grocery delivery services such as Instacart or Peapod.

A local resource, Berks Encore, offers a Grocery Delivery Program to Berks County seniors unable to manage driving, shopping or carrying their groceries. This program provides up to 25 grocery items purchased from Redner’s Markets, home delivered by a volunteer, for the cost of groceries plus $5 delivery. Contact Berks Encore at 610-374-3195, ext. 219 for more information about the grocery delivery program.

For folks who no longer cook meals, are accustomed to eating out or just need a change of menu options, many local restaurants are offering curbside pickup. For those who don’t drive, meals can also be delivered to the doorstep through services like GrubHub or Door Dash, or locally in Berks County, with the help of Delivery Dudes.

Those with limited family and meal support can also contact Berks Encore for information on enrolling in the Meals on Wheels program by calling 610-374-3195, ext. 220.

Other needs to consider streamlining are medications. Either arrange to have a few months’ supply of medications on hand or arrange to have them delivered right to the house, eliminating the need to visit the pharmacy.

Stock up on necessary supplies like protective briefs, cleaning items, laundry detergent and paper products. Consider setting up auto-deposit as well as auto-pay for re-occurring bills like electric, phone, cable and other utilities to eliminate visits to the post office and bank.

Clearly this is also the time to avoid non-essential travel and any outings or social gatherings that might include large groups of people congregating in close quarters. Even non-essential appointments should be reconsidered. Consider if telemedicine, the ability to communicate over video or a phone call, can take the place of a face-to-face visit.

Precautions must still be taken. For safety reasons, normal activities like haircuts, workouts at the gym and visits to the casino will just have to wait.

As we’ve been repeatedly instructed, the single most important step for infection control is to wash our hands frequently. Thanks to Ignaz Semmelweis of Austria back in the mid-1800s, the link between hand-washing and the decrease in the spread of disease was discovered. Be sure to do a thorough job, washing your hands for at least as long as it would take you to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol as a substitute if soap and water are not available.

Right now, keeping our distance, playing it smart and staying at home are still critical to protecting our most vulnerable population.