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What to look for when reconnecting after COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives. This is especially true for older adults who are at highest risk from the virus and have been isolated from friends and family.

As we look at healthy aging in a pandemic world, we need to assess the changes that the past two years have had on our lives, our health and our relationships — and find new ways that community resources can help us continue to adapt, reset and reconnect.

When reconnecting with our families and friends after time apart, it is important that we take stock of the physical and emotional changes that may have occurred during the pandemic. Some of these changes may require extra attention to resolve, so it is important to know where to begin.

Our local NY Connects Helpline and our national counterpart, the Eldercare Locator, help older adults, caregivers and families find local services that can help address changes that may have gone unnoticed or untreated during the height of the pandemic. The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration for Community Living that connects people to local resources, including the Office for Aging Services, NY Connects, and Title VI Native American Aging Programs.

These local resources provide support across the spectrum of issues important to the lives of older adults in Chautauqua County and across the country. By providing information about local services like nutrition, in-home care, transportation, home modification and repair services, and so much more, the Eldercare Locator & NY Connects help ensure older adults, caregivers and families are connected to tools that help older adults age well and live independently in their homes and communities.

Reconnecting with family and friends after time apart due to COVID-19 can bring joy but can also highlight changes in our overall well-being and theirs. When interacting with older loved ones and friends for the first time in a while, it is important to look for physical and emotional changes that may have developed in the time since you last saw one another.

Changes to physical condition include those that affect vision, hearing, mobility and, ultimately, the ability to care for oneself. If you notice that you or an older loved one is walking more slowly, or having more difficulty seeing, hearing or reading, it may be time to act. Depending on how significant any changes you notice may be, a trip to the doctor’s office may help determine the full impact and provide next steps. NY Connects can provide information about medical services and ways to help older adults afford items such as hearing aids, dental care, or medicine.

Take a look at your home or the home of an older family member or friend. Are there any rugs or other items on the floor that may cause a fall? Is there enough light to safely navigate the home at night when it is dark?

Look with an eye toward safety concerns and consider whether you or the person you are concerned about is willing to make simple modifications such as adding light fixtures, replacing doorknobs, or installing grab bars in the bathroom or railings along stairways.

Other changes such as repairing a leaky roof or installing a ramp to more easily exit the home, may require support from licensed professionals. NY Connects can provide a guide to help assess your home safety as well as connect you to programs and resources that can assist with home modifications. In addition, an older adult’s ability to perform simple chores in the home, prepare nutritious meals, manage medication or handle their finances may have changed during the pandemic.

As a result, many older adults have developed a need for in-home support such as housekeeping, meal preparation and personal care activities such as bathing and dressing. NY Connects and the Eldercare Locator can connect you to home and community-based services that can address these needs and help you continue to age well at home.

Social isolation from a lack of in-person interaction has been especially hard on older adults during the pandemic. I think we all can relate to the loneliness and depression that isolating at home has caused and it can affect our physical as well as mental health. Fortunately, many programs exist to help older adult get and stay connected to others.

Whether it is volunteer opportunities, online cooking and exercise classes, virtual museum tours or a pen pal program, NY Connects can point you in the right direction. As this latest COVID surge wanes and many restrictions are lifted, in-person programs are re-starting all over our county. Organizers should be sensitive that many people might not feel comfortable giving up masks and extra sanitizing just yet. Lets make sure we are all welcoming to those who want to restart coming to in-person events but don’t want to shed their masks just yet. People who have underlying health issues or are battling cancer still need to be extra careful. Plan events with extra room so people can still be socially distant if they want and have sanitizer or COVID testing available. The Office for Aging Services and the Health Department have many FREE Covid tests still available for individuals and organizations. This may be just what people need to make everyone feel comfortable as we start getting together in person.

For more information on anything in this article or to get FREE Covid tests for yourself or your organization, call the NY Connects helpline at (716)753-4582 or email us at CCNYC@chqgov.com and check out our Facebook page. If you have loved ones outside of Chautauqua County, who need assistance contact the Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.acl.gov or call 1 (800) 677-1116. Happy Spring!

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