Caregiving for the Elderly During Pandemic

By Shawna Wasko, M.OLP PI/Nutrition Contracts Mgr.

Both of my parents have COPD. Both are exceedingly frail. They still live on their own, and up until now I visited often. But during this crisis I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw them, spent time with them eating or watching TV, or even just hugged them. I shop for them & leave the groceries on the porch, I call and visit with Dad each day, but Mom with Alzheimer’s Disease doesn’t ‘do the phone anymore.’ The stress and worry we Caregivers feel during this time is palpable.

I am the nutrition contracts manager for the CSI Office on Aging (OOA). I am in constant contact with our 16 area Senior Centers. I don’t feel that Senior Centers are getting the press they deserve during this pandemic. They are feeding our frail homebound; those that don’t drive, can’t access food — many who are living alone with Alzheimer’s Disease. Our Centers are deemed essential workers and most Senior Center’ employees are at their jobs, preparing food, delivering meals, collecting donations from the public, calling their homebound clients, asking what they need, and trying desperately to fulfill that need. The friendly phone calls are so vital during this time.

Early on in the pandemic, I had a call from a news reporter. She said, “What are a Senior Centers plan during this, what will they do?” I explained to the reporter that during my tenure at the OOA we had experienced natural disasters and my Senior Centers had risen to the challenge splendidly. A few years back we had massive snowstorms and during that time my Senior Centers provided meals to every one of their homebound clients, except one who lived so far out the local police had to help get food to her. Years back Blaine County had massive fires. The exceptional Blaine County Senior Center (The Connection) knew where all their homebound clients were and worked with local officials to bring all of them into safety. The Sun Valley area people are incredible survivors and have great volunteers who will rise to any challenge. Even the COVID-19 challenge. I pray for all of them.

Twin Falls Senior Center along with others have worked many hours overtime trying to find resources for their clients. Most of the centers are providing drive-by or curbside meals, along with home-delivered meals. Volunteers are using every precaution when they deliver the meals to these frail individuals. They deserve our undying gratitude.

We have local businesses that have stepped up to help Senior Centers. Gem State Paper provided rolls of toilet papers to home-delivered meal clients,
Chobani has donated countless containers of yogurt, Cliff Bar has donated their delicious bars, DOT Foods has delivered many pounds of wonderful food items to the Centers. One little girl even pent her time at home creating cards with cut out hearts and shapes from the colored paper while writing (in cursive no less) wonderful inspirational messages to homebound seniors. Her mother and she have isolated at home for weeks and then brought the first one hundred cards to Jeanette Roe, the Twin Falls Senior Center Director, to distribute to the homebound. This act of love blessed the hearts (pun intended) of the homebound. There have been so many donations to Centers, it is hard to keep count. We thank all of you! We appreciate you!

Please thank those who serve some of our most vulnerable and frail. They are soldiers in this fight, and we need to recognize all of their unselfish work. Thank you for making my job easier as a Caregiver. Thanks for feeding my parents. You are loved.

You can reach the Office on Aging: (208)736-2122 if you have any questions about our services for seniors.

The truth is that you always know the right thing to do. The tough part is doing it.”

General Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army

You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius

Whatever is going on, we have the power to decide how we respond. In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

Sun Tsu
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