Help Isolated Older Adults Near You
CREATE A CIRCLE OF CARE
The older adults in our communities have faced many challenges over the years and we can learn a lot by listening to them. Just think, they’ve been through wars, the Great Depression and other diseases before vaccines were created. They are resilient. But now more than ever, they still need our help.
You can provide life-saving support to a small group of older adults. You can do it safely and from your home. The coronavirus outbreak will be especially hard for older people in our community who are already isolated and at higher risk. There are easy and safe steps we can all take. One of the easiest is creating a Circle of Care. The purpose of this page is to describe the concept of Circles of Care. The intended audience for this page is individuals, families, communities, the private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based and service organizations.
What is a Circle of Care?
It is a do-it-yourself way to connect the needs of older people to local community helpers and services. Circles are built on the principle that everyone has the desire to contribute in big and small ways. The older adult(s) you help most likely have a way to contribute in their own way. Honor and appreciate that in your circle.
A Circle of Care can be any size, but seems to work best in circles of 3-5 people checking in on each other. Circles of Care can be small groups of people setting up independently in communities to support vulnerable people around them through the outbreak.
AGE+ is providing these suggestions to support your efforts, but do what works best for you and your community. The resources through this webpage are to give you suggestions based on our expertise in aging and provide a platform for sharing your ideas and inspiration with others.
PRIORITIZE SAFETY: Community care is about preventing the spread of COVID-19 and providing support for the most vulnerable. Before beginning a circle of care project, please familiarize yourself with local and CDC guidelines on how to support others without spreading the virus. Additionally, Step 2 below has specific tips for how to help older adults safely.
Click on Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3 below for information about how to start a circle of care for your community.
Connect with Older Adults
Start with family and friends. Your aunt in Eugene. Your grandfather a mile away. A friend across the street. Staying at home can be especially hard on older Oregonians, especially those who are already isolated — and the effects are lasting. In fact, social isolation is equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day! Take a look at our fact sheet for more information on why focusing on your older neighbors right now is important.
Where you live. Your neighbors. You may not know them very well, but are you aware of someone in your neighborhood who lives alone? Leave a note on their door or in/on their mailbox and introduce yourself. Leave your phone number then allow the person to decide whether to reach out. Because of scammers, try to identify yourself as “your neighbor with the green car” or other low tech identifiers. Perhaps leave a reference the older person can speak to. Here is a sample letter that you can use as a guide to help you create letters for your neighbors.
Approach a leader in your community to see if they know people who could use help. Use this mini poster to help get the ball rolling in your community.
You will meet people different from you. They may be different in age, race, culture, religion, sexual preference, gender identity, income level, educational level, mental or physical ability. These differences create an opportunity to learn more about others.
A successful Circle of Care will:
- Treat all people with dignity and respect.
- Not judge others lifestyles and habits.
- Give fair and impartial assistance to all individuals.
- Respect privacy and the right of older adults to make their own decisions – remember you are developing a trusting relationship.
Commitment to Regular Help
You will be building expectations and hopes in people who may be lonely and fearful; they will be placing trust in you. Consider now how crushing it might be if you were to ghost away when your help is needed most. Make your commitment real by telling family and friends what you plan to do. Pledge now to do everything you can to stay in touch with your circle until this crisis is over. Click here to see our principles on safeguarding people’s trust.
Start with a “Friendly Check-in.” What is that? First, it is a chance for safe human connections. The technology you use is unimportant. A simple phone call or letter is great. Also keep in mind that some older people may be familiar with technology like FaceTime and Zoom, but others may not. Find out what works best for each individual. Click here for some helpful tools and suggestions to help you get to know another person.
Check to see if basic needs are being met. Is there anything the older person needs? Are they feeling okay? Do they need medications or groceries? Are there outside tasks volunteers can safely help with? Can you help consolidate trips for groceries and supplies?
In any in-person encounter, maintain safe distance—6 feet or about two arms’ length. We highly recommend that you do not enter someone’s home, but if you must (for example if the person you are helping has a disability), be sure to follow our recommendations in the links and advice above.
We are in this together
Link to our Facebook Group for ideas and practical reminders. You can run a circle on your own but is most effective (and fun) as a team working together to help older adults and each other. That’s what makes it a circle! Reach out to others in your circle to share and generate ideas. Create your own group message to stay in contact with your circle of care; group text or WhatsApp are also good options.
Remember, you are not alone. But prepare now in case emergencies arise. You can ask a person you are helping if they have an emergency contact they would like to share. If there is a medical emergency, your first call should always be 911. If you are wondering what actions you should take, here are some tools for you to consider: self-checker resources for possible COVID-19, and when to call 911.
- Create a backup plan in case you become ill. Who can replace your friendly check-ins?
- Consider volunteering for local organizations that are helping others.
- Join our Facebook group for information, tips and resources.
- Share your ideas and comments with us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Share this page. Circles of care can spread faster than the virus.