October 25, 2020
More than seven months into what has become our “new normal” in the age of COVID-19, we continue to learn about the needs and challenges faced by seniors, their families, and essential workers across the region.
Older adults are taking necessary precautions to limit their exposure to the virus but are feeling the effects of increased social isolation and loneliness. To make matters worse, many seniors have also been impacted by the economic toll of COVID-19 that continues to affect hundreds of thousands of families here in the Commonwealth.
It is clear the services like those offered by Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore (ESMV-NS) have never been more in demand, and ensuring it has the financial support necessary to continue offering these truly vital services has likewise never been more important.
ESMV-NS is a private non-profit that serves thousands of older adults who need help to stay healthy and live independently. During this difficult time, Elder Services is working with seniors and their loved ones every day to ensure they have the right services, living arrangements, and access to good health care and benefits.
What ESMV-NS has discovered since March is that clients are often just grateful to have someone they can talk with – about their fears surrounding COVID-19, about what’s going on in their lives, and about anything else on their minds.
But more than that, care managers and nurses have found that many seniors are not comfortable with some services being provided over the phone or through remote meetings. Some people simply don’t have enough space for privacy in their homes, some are hard of hearing or have difficulty with cognitive processing, and many lack the necessary technology.
This is where ESMV-NS and similar organizations have been able to step in to fill the void with new and innovative tools to help those caring for older adults who are struggling with these challenges. Elder Services has ramped up virtual caregiver support groups, many of which are reaching younger caregivers in the “sandwich generation” who are finding themselves taking care of an aging parent or loved one for the first time.
As the days get shorter and temperature gets colder, we need to be prepared for surges in both COVID-19 cases and the flu that could keep older adults – who we know are most susceptible to these diseases – safe and independent in their homes.
That’s why we’ve been working together – as the head of ESMV-NS and the Congresswoman for the Third Congressional District – to not only make sure that these lifesaving services can continue to be offered, but also to make sure that as many seniors and families as possible know about their availability.
Just a few weeks ago, we announced the awarding of more than $850,000 in federal grant funding to support ESMV-NS’ efforts to bring innovative dementia-friendly programs to older adults, people with disabilities, and their caregivers across northeastern Massachusetts.
And we’ve also worked together to craft bipartisan legislation that delivers additional assistance to grandmothers and grandfathers who have stepped up – even during this pandemic – to care for grandchildren whose parents have either fallen victim to addiction or are seeking treatment for substance use disorder.
There’s a lot of work left to be done, and we’ll keep working to bring home critical federal investments in ESMV-NS. But we also need to ensure that people have access to the services they need to provide for their aging loved ones, and most importantly, know that those services exist.
So, regardless of your circumstances, remember to reach out this fall and winter if you or someone you know needs help. For older residents and caregivers in the Merrimack Valley, call ESMV-NS at 1-800-892-0890. If you live in other communities, find local resources at 1-800-AGE-INFO or www.MassOptions.org.
Adults can also access virtual health promotion programs covering topics such as depression, chronic disease management, and falls prevention. Contact the Healthy Living Center of Excellence at 978-946-1211 or www.healthyliving4me.org.
Finally, for seniors in need of assistance with a government agency or federal benefit, including Social Security, Medicare, the VA, or the IRS, you can always contact Congresswoman Lori Trahan’s district office at 978-459-0101 or www.Trahan.house.gov.