Reach out for help: COVID-19’s impact on seniors

This is a story of my mom and me during this COVID-19 pandemic.

You’re asking: What makes this story so different? That is exactly why I am writing it — because it isn’t. There are hundreds, if not thousands, who are experiencing the same thing as we are. I am encouraging people to reach out for help and assistance.

Let me take you back to January and February.  I would take my mom out three to four times a week to stores just to browse and shop. Her favorite day would be when she got her hair done and came down for supper, then topped it off with several hands of gin rummy (which she won most of the time).

Then March 12 came. I started working from home, had very limited visits to her apartment, [with] social distancing, masks and gloves — our new normal. My mom has severe dementia and hearing loss, among other things, so trying to explain what was happening outside her apartment, why I was not able to take her out, unable to visit and why I now wear a mask and gloves, is beyond her comprehension.

In March I saw her twice, to fill her medication box and to stock up on food. She had a worker that would go in and help her two hours a day to keep things normal. She didn’t understand. She started to feel abandoned, frustrated, lost, alone and scared. My mom started to withdraw. She sat in her chair, ate and drank less and less, failed to take care of her own personal needs and slept more. She gave up.

My mom has been in the hospital twice since April, has lost strength in her legs and has lost over 10 pounds. Her dementia has intensified dramatically, and she has gone from home-based care to long-term care and facing placement. She has given up.

If you find yourself in a situation which seems overwhelming, reach out. I did. 

I reached out to the Aroostook Agency on Aging for help and received information, help, guidance, empathy and so much more. I encourage you to do the same. Some of the programs the agency offers are the Family Caregiver Program, Savvy Caregiver, Elder care services (homemaker), Tai Chi, Money Minders, RSVP which includes a friendly visitor/caller, home-delivered meals, and much more. What a wealth of information and compassion.

The agency has the answers. Their job is serving the elderly population. They do it and do it well, with grace, caring and years of experience, and have a wealth of knowledge and resources. 

I encourage you to hold your loved one’s hand, give them a hug, kiss their cheek and say “Love you more,” because … I can’t. 

Ruth White of Presque Isle is the Embark regional access director at Northern Maine Community College.

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