As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a diverse Sunshine Coast group advocating for seniors’ needs is flagging critical issues many seniors and caregivers may be facing during these challenging times.
The Seniors Planning Table (SPT) – led by the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre and made up of more than 20 member organizations representing close to 100 individuals – met virtually on April 17 to address the consequences physical distancing measures are having on seniors in our community, as well as to discuss what can be done.
The concerns are linked to findings in the SPT’s 2019 Seniors Isolation Report, which looks into the issue of social isolation of older adults in Canada.
According to Michelle Bruecker, seniors initiatives manager and coordinator of the Caregivers Support Network Program, while technology has been a lifeline for so many in these times, many older seniors are not able to afford Internet costs or become familiar with the necessary digital tools to get the help they need. Bruecker said this is preventing seniors not only from connecting but from accessing potentially life-saving information.
Sue Elliott, a Resource Centre board member and SPT co-chair, said another issue is around sustaining a feeling of community. “The health crisis has led to closures of gathering places and other resources for seniors including community centres, support groups, coffee shops and parks,” Elliott said. “These were important links for many who felt isolated even before the health crisis.”
Although we can celebrate the variety of initiatives rapidly put into place on local, provincial and federal levels, she added, there is still much more that must be done to prevent further crises among our ageing population, particularly for those who already may have faced barriers on a day-to-day basis. Telephone tree programs, like those offered by Sunshine Coast Community Services’ Better at Home program (604-865-0114), Vancouver Coastal Health’s Home Care Services (604-741-0726) and the Pender Harbour Health Centre (604-883-2764), or simply taking the time to call or write a note, can help seniors stay connected to their communities.
The SPT meeting also discussed how many seniors often act as caregivers to their spouses, parents or friends, adding layers of complexity and stress to an already challenging situation. These areas can include but are not limited to household chores, financial responsibilities, work related to medical care and supervision, and palliative care management.
Bruecker explained that at the best of times, most caregivers – seniors or not – find themselves not only stressed to exhaustion but overwhelmed with emotions of grief, loss and guilt. She said this often leaves little energy or time for social connection outside the home or virtually. Now in the climate of COVID-19, this feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to recharge is exacerbated.
If you are a senior or a caregiver and need support, or know someone who does, the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre is here to help.
For the Resource Centre’s Caregivers Support Network and Seniors Planning Table, call 604-212-1441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any community member who needs help connecting with community, governmental, legal or social service programs and services on the Coast, but don’t know where to start, just ask. Staff can still be reached by phone or email at 604-885-4088 or email@example.com
For COVID-19-specific community information, visit the Sunshine Coast Community Task Force website at www.scctaskforce.com. Province-wide resources for seniors and caregivers include the Seniors Abuse and Information Line at 1-866-437-1940, the Family Caregivers of BC at 1-877-520-3267 or dial 211 for 24/7 information and referral services across the province.