The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unique challenges for older adults and those who serve them. Social isolation, access to food, caregiver stress and financial crises from job layoffs are among the issues AgeOptions and our partner agencies quickly ramped up to address when the pandemic began.
Below, some of our partner agencies share how they have been able to assist older people whose lives were upended by the pandemic.
A client who never considered himself dependent and who thought he had enough for a rainy day immediately lost his source of income at the start of the pandemic and was on the verge of eviction. He was in desperate need of help when he reached out to a caseworker.
The caseworker noticed how much the man’s financial situation and uncertain future were affecting his emotional well-being and assured him that the agency would do everything possible to help him get back on track. AAFS first added him to their monthly food drives and congregate meal program, and provided shelf-stable meals so that food would not be a burden. He was also able to receive SNAP benefits, unemployment benefits, and assistance with rent, gas and electric bills.
All these forms of assistance helped the client get his financial status on track and gave him a sense of hope that he had someone in the community to turn to. Profusely expressing his thanks to AAFS staff, he said he finally could take a breath of fresh air knowing AAFS didn’t leave him along in his struggles.
The staff were pleased to learn he has successfully found employment and is slowly but surely turning his life around. He has become a proud advocate and supporter of AAFS, and has referred others to the agency for assistance.
Hanul Family Alliance, which primarily serves Korean-American older adults, received numerous calls from a woman experiencing serious anxiety related to the pandemic. She called the agency repeatedly, expressing fear of contracting the virus and about conspiracy theories she was hearing. She was happy to learn the congregate meal program was continuing as pickup program and said she would gladly pick up lunch since she trusted Hanul, but it was clear to the staff member that she was under very high stress.
Hanul staff arranged for the woman to be referred to their mental health counselor because she needed someone to talk to and couldn’t meet anyone in person. She agreed that talking to someone would help, and she is now more at ease though still worried about COVID-19.
A man who called his local senior center said he was “really in a funk,” that nothing was going right for him and he was very afraid of catching COVID-19. The Information and Assistance specialist spoke to him for about 30 minutes and encouraged him to call his psychiatrist. He didn’t want to do that, so the specialist referred him to the crisis hotline. He was willing to call because he thought he would be able to get another perspective on his situation.
A few days later the gentleman called back and thanked the specialist for listening and connecting him with a new resource.
A family participating in North Shore Senior Center’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program was two months behind on their rent after the husband lost his job because of COVID19 layoffs. At the time, the family’s only income was the wife’s Social Security Disability Income because the husband was turned down for unemployment benefits.
When the couple filed their income tax return in February, the IRS seized their refund, claiming the husband had fraudulently filed for unemployment in 2019. The couple believe someone used his identity to do so. NSSC’s Care Coordinator has contacted Legal Aid on the couple’s behalf and applied to the Illinois Department of Housing Assistance’s Emergency Rent Initiative. While the couple wait for those funds and the utility bill assistance they were approved for, NSSC is using Grandparents Raising Grandchildren funds to shore them up. NSSC also received approval from the Illinois Department on Aging to provide $500 in rental assistance and combined that with $750 in COVID Gap Funds.