COVID-19 Special Update: Planning and Adapting to COVID-19
What seniors and their caregivers need to know
It has been several weeks since our world started shutting down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The COA’s first response was to provide practical and personal information on COVID-19 for older adults and their caregivers.
As older adults, we have been told to stay at home as much as possible and restrict our contact to people in our household. For some, this means changing daily habits. For others, it has exposed vulnerabilities, leaving us more isolated in the fight against this virus. While we encouraged you to reduce the amount of news you consume, it is hard not to see or hear about the increasing deadly outbreaks in long-term care and other congregate, residential settings (Toronto Star).
This INFO-FLASH will provide you with a recap of the last six INFO-FLASH Special Update newsletters as well as an update on what the COA, City of Ottawa, Province of Ontario, and Federal Government are doing to support seniors and their caregivers during this pandemic.
INFO-FLASH Special COVID-19 Updates for Seniors and their Caregivers
In the early days of the pandemic lockdown, there was little information specific to older adults. Over the last six weeks, we published a series of bilingual INFO-FLASH Special Updates on physical (social) distancing, food, caring for self and others, transportation, money/finances, and finding a balance.
We continue to our efforts to keep the information current, by providing some updates on the topics too. Check it out below!
Physically distancing: How to Stay Connected
“Social (physical) distancing” and “flattening the curve” have been in the news. Social distancing is avoiding physical contact with people who do not live with you as well as public spaces, where surfaces may be infected. “Flattening the curve” is the use of social distancing to slow the spread of the virus so that fewer people need to seek treatment at any given time.
This explains why Ottawa Public Health is advising social distancing. Here’s a bilingual video about social distancing from Dr. Vera Etches.
Food for thought: Getting the Food you Need
As we stay at home to be safe and healthy, we are having to rethink our approach getting food to our tables. Whatever the method you use, we need to give it some thought and proceed with caution as older adults. Here are a few tips to do it safely.
If you are self-isolating and especially if you have symptoms, it is important to maintain good nutrition. Make sure you are eating and drinking regularly, even if you have a low appetite. You can find more information on nutrition and healthy eating at unlockfood.ca (Dietitians of Canada) or Canada’s Food Guide (Health Canada).
Caring for Self and Others: Three Tips for Older Adults to Stay Healthy and Safe
How is everyone doing? I have been impressed by how everyone is coming together to support each other. And following the new rules of physical distancing and hand washing. We need to continue to be on guard to flatten the curve and protect each others’ health and well-being.
It has not been easy to follow the experts’ advice, which is changing every day. As older adults, we are expected to stay home as much as possible, especially those over 70 years of age. Many of us are also caregivers to others at home and in long-term care. What do you need to do if you get sick or a family member gets sick? How do we give and receive care in the age of self-isolation? How do you get support to connect with your family member in long-term care?
Here are three suggestions to help us stay healthy, safe, and well during this pandemic and physical distancing.
Getting Out and About Safely: Walking, Driving and Using Public Transportation
In a sprawling city like Ottawa, getting around is important. We take for granted our ability to walk, bike, drive, or take public transportation when and where we want to go. During COVID-19, we can still get around, but it takes planning ahead and observing physical distancing rules.
Ottawa Public Health now recommends that all Ottawa residents over the age of 70 stay home and self-isolate to protect themselves. Unless you are ill, or are under self-isolation under the Quarantine Act, you can still go outside to take a walk or walk your dog. If you need groceries, go to the store, and limit your time. For other ways to getting food, check out our food resource page. While outside, the rules are to avoid crowds and, whenever possible, to maintain at least a distance of 2 metres from people outside your household.
Money Matters: Benefits, Taxes, Banking, Financial Relief, and Scams
Money is a taboo topic for many people. Yet, we need to think and talk about it now. COVID-19 is forcing us to change the way we spend, access, and manage our money. Governments, retail stores, banks, and other financial institutions are doing their part to ensure older adults’ financial security and needs are addressed in these challenging times. This issue provides lists of resources for older adults include government benefits, taxes, banking, managing your money, and information on frauds and scams.
Finding the Right Balance
Change is what has made us humans. Change is constant. Change is inevitable. But our current, rapid, and unpredictable change can leave us feeling overwhelmed and out of control.
We’re all different. We have different responses to change. We have different coping methods. We have different skill sets. And that’s a wonderful thing.
It also means that there is no one size fits all solution to regain our sense of control and find the right balance. Here are some ways to help you.
Responses to COVID and Seniors: COA, City, Provincial, and Federal
COA: What has the COA been up to the last several weeks, you ask? We have been busy trying to figure out how to respond in a meaningful way to the crisis. The staff are working from their home offices now. They are meeting over video conferences with volunteers, members, partners, and funders. Here are a few of our communication, education, advocacy, and fundraising activities from the last eight weeks:
- Checking in with our members to ask what they need
- Publishing a weekly Special COVID-19 Update with practical and personal information for seniors and their caregivers, including fact sheets on community resources and banking
- Sharing regular updates, resources, and news on Facebook – Don’t forgot to like us!
- Launching a COVID-19 Survey to hear about your experiences during the early stages of the pandemic
- Exploring ways to offer virtual education to Ottawa's seniors – starting with the completion of our Smart Aging program
- Organizing a series of online sessions, in both official languages, about phone and online banking with the Good Companions Centre Seniors Centre without Walls – coming in June!
- Closing our Snow Mole Campaign for Winter 2020! Watch for report soon!
- Approving a response to the City of Ottawa’s Growth Management Strategy and urban boundary expansion
- Mobilizing our Action Committees to plan for responses to COVID-19 now and into the future. Our first response will be on long-term care – more to come shortly
- Launching an appeal for donations following the cancellation of our Spring Luncheon, our major fundraising event of the year! A quick thank you to those who have donated; and a reminder for those who have not, you can do so here
Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to stay true to our vision of respected, informed and engaged seniors living in an age-friendly Ottawa. We will:
- Continue to monitor COVID-19 responses to ensure that seniors’ voices are being heard and their needs met
- Identify and address emerging issues that impact the lives of seniors in Ottawa during the pandemic and beyond
- Publish the weekly community events calendar for virtual and online events as a service to our organization and corporate members
- Return to a bi-monthly newsletter with additional information, resources, stories, and news in the Special COVID-19 Updates
- Urging those over the age of 70 to stay at home and self-isolate
- Recommending any Ottawa resident 60 years of age or older, who is experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, to go for testing at any COVID-19 Assessment Centre or COVID-19 Care Clinic
- Investing $11.4 million in COVID-19-related social services
- Meeting emerging needs of the community by established a Human Services Task Force with partners from City departments, Ottawa Public Health (OPH), and representatives from all sectors, including the seniors’ services
- Asking residents to complete the COVID-19 Engagement Survey to provide feedback to help the City and OPH develop a recovery plan that meets the needs and expectations of our community
- Promoting the Aging Well in Ottawa Facebook page
- Cancelling the Mayor’s Annual Canada Day Celebration for Seniors
- Relaxing restrictions on use of parks, property maintenance services, and community gardens
- Offering online resources and activities through the Ottawa Public Library Isolation Recreation
- Providing access to information related to the coronavirus including:
Ontario Government: In addition to doubling the GAINS payments for seniors, the Ontario government has provided indirect support for seniors and persons with disabilities. Here are highlights of key provincial measures the help and protect older adults:
- Declaring a state of emergency on March 17 to help stop the spread and keep people safe
- Providing access to information about COVID-19 including information in other languages
- Providing additional relief to those in need by investing $11 million to help deliver meals, medicines, and other essentials. To find services in Ottawa, go to the Champlain Community Support Network COVID-19 Community Support Services Response Site
- Enhancing access to mental health supports, such BounceBack, self-led telephone or online therapy for stress, anxiety and depression with videos with helpful tips, available in English, French, Arabic, Farsi, Cantonese, Mandarin and Punjabi
- Supporting volunteer organizations through the SPARK Ontario to post volunteer opportunities available in their communities to help seniors, people with disabilities, and the most vulnerable stay connected and healthy as they self-isolate
- Enhancing access to screening
- Developing COVID-19 Public Resources in partnership with Public Health Ontario
- Providing daily provincial summaries of COVID-19 cases as well as long-term care cases of COVID-19 in Ontario
- Taking further action through the COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes residents and staff
- Extending validation periods for driver, vehicle and carrier products and services including accessible parking permits for people with disabilities
- Extending the deadline to renew your health card until further notice and accepting recently expired health cards
- Planning to reopen businesses, services, and public spaces
Federal Government: We highlighted several of the direct financial benefits for seniors announced by the federal government outlined in the Money Matters INFO-FLASH. The federal government is also providing indirect support to seniors through a variety of measures, including:
- Increasing community supports for seniors with a contribution of $9 million through United Way Canada to help seniors get things they need like groceries and medication
- Investing $350 million for the Emergency Community Support Fund to support vulnerable Canadians through organizations that deliver essential services to those in need, including seniors
- Providing $100 million to national, regional, and local organizations across Canada to improve access to essential food support
- Working with the provinces and territories to develop expert guidance on proper safety protocols for long-term care homes and for home care settings as well as a temporary top up salaries for low-income essential workers to provide a boost for workers caring for seniors
- Updating the New Horizons for Seniors Program so that community based programs can use their funding to help seniors navigate COVID 19
- Asking Canadians about the impact of COVID-19 and the public health response
- Providing a data perspective on COVID-19 through Statistics Canada Insights for a Better Canada, such as:
- Surveys on the impacts of COVID-19 (ongoing – check back regularly to participate in the surveys)
- Canadian consumers prepare for COVID-19 (April 8)
- COVID-19 and social support for seniors: Do seniors have people they can depend on during difficult times? (April 30)
We update our Special COVID-19 Updates page regularly and check the content for quality. Our recent additions include the six issues of the newsletter, community calendar, link to the COVID survey, and information on community resources. For information, opportunities, and resources to help you, visit our Special COVID-19 Updates page or our Facebook page.