Anthony Fauci, a doctor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warns, “If you are an elderly person with an underlying condition, if you get infected, the risk of getting into trouble (due to COVID-19) is considerable.” Through all the discussion around the virus, health professionals are unified in their concern for negative health outcomes when older adults are exposed to COVID-19. For our most vulnerable neighbors and loved ones, the virus poses a double threat, first the threat of the most severe virus symptoms, and second, threats due to a shutdown of the services older adults need to survive in the community.
Communication and direct care services are vital to reducing the risks for vulnerable elders. Each city and town in the region has senior residents who are able to maintain their community lifestyle through an amazing network of formal (paid assistance) and informal (family and friend caregivers) supports. If the network is disabled, even temporarily, aides may be unable to care for the elderly, meals on wheels may not be delivered, medications may not be picked up, and our elderly will suffer disproportionately. Previous community emergencies like hurricanes Katrina and Irma shed a spotlight on the vulnerability of older adults. We must develop a community response that includes getting shelf-stable food to the homes of vulnerable seniors, addressing 30-day vital medication supplies and developing emergency backup care plans for seniors who can’t ambulate, toilet, eat, medicate or bathe.