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Seniorgram: Mounting Concerns During COVID-19

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive Director

The incredible pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic have laid bare many challenges for older adults in our communities. Social distancing, coupled with safer-at-home policies, has significantly segregated elders and diminished their interactions with their family and friends. Restricted access to community supports, social engagement, and routine medical care have only further isolated older adults.

In light of the loss of many family- and community-based safety nets, we want to take this opportunity to reiterate our role. Adult Protective Services at LifePath is here to serve and wants to partner with you to keep our families and friends healthy and safe. This is a time when caregivers who are experiencing their own COVID-related crises caused by loss of economic stability, increased caregiving demands, or health-related concerns might be prone to escalated abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of their loved one.

Alarmingly, at this time when older adults are susceptible to more frequent and severe mistreatment or self-neglect, reports to Adult Protective Services are on the decline. With fewer ‘eyes’ to witness behaviors or signs of mistreatment that were typically observed pre-COVID in hospitals, physician’s practices, and at social gatherings, so have waned the opportunities to glean the need for intervention.

Instances of COVID-related anxiety, depression, and substance use are also on the rise across the age spectrum. For older adults, behavioral health issues create greater risks of falls, compromised immunity, and cognitive impairments. Adult Protective Services can offer coping techniques, supportive services, and resources for enhancing health and safety.

We are asking our community of professionals, health and home care providers, neighbors, families, and friends to be extra vigilant and take notice.

We are asking our community of professionals, health and home care providers, neighbors, families, and friends to be extra vigilant and take notice. Systems we have historically depended on to report concerns are disrupted and overloaded. We need new eyes, ears, and voices to come forward so that LifePath can provide interventions to address elders at risk. Please consider situations such as the following:

  • You haven’t heard from a friend for whom you usually pick up medicine or take to appointments.
  • You have observed a disturbance at a home where an elder is present and there is alcohol, drugs, or violence involved, but you aren’t sure how/if it’s impacting the elder.
  • An older adult you are aware of who lives alone, and only had contact with social supports through their Council on Aging or other now-cancelled social activities, responds in a way that makes you feel nervous when you check on them.

You can make an Adult Protective Services report online, via this web form, or call in a report to (800) 922-2275.

To discuss a specific situation or learn more about reporting in general, you may call LifePath at 413-773-5555 and ask for a “Protective Services Supervisor.” Video chats are available upon request. LifePath has many programs and services for older adults and people with disabilities. Visit our website to learn more, or call to speak with a Resource Consultant.