Supporting seniors during COVID-19 with outreach and community care packages

Social worker Loralee Smith said making the phone calls got her her thinking about what else can be done to reach out and support people right now?
Social worker Loralee Smith said making the phone calls got her her thinking about what else can be done to reach out and support people right now?

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, social workers Holly Richardson and Loralee Smith, who work with collaborative family practice teams in Annapolis County, thought that making check-in phone calls to support community members, particularly seniors, would be helpful.

Richardson’s collaborative family practice team members were ready to start making these calls after hearing about her idea. 

A plan had been developed previously by the practice’s physicians and nurses about contacting patients in the event of a large storm, so it was easily adapted for this purpose. 

“Making these phone calls [to our patients] was as helpful for me as it was for the patient,” said Richardson. “I’m new to the area, so these calls helped me connect with patients and they were often the ones teaching me about resources in the community and how to access them.”

Richardson says that COVID-19 really brought attention to how resilient people and communities are, and how community members can quickly work to set-up networks to help themselves and their neighbours. 

“While people didn’t necessarily always need something from me when I called, they knew that they could reach out to me, and sometimes I would get a call back a week later and be able to offer [them] support.”

“Making these calls and connecting with people also got me thinking,” said Smith. “What else can we do to reach out to people and support them right now?” 

Smith reached out to the seniors’ safety officer for Annapolis County, Sharon Elliot who she had worked closely with in the past. 

Elliot had the idea to create care packages for seniors including safety information, a treat, a mask, puzzle books and hand sanitizer. These packages were assembled in collaboration with local grocery stores and churches. 

Members of local churches volunteered to sew masks to be distributed to seniors. Local care providers such as continuing care and family physicians helped identify seniors who would benefit from the packages. 

Smith and Richardson both helped distribute these care packages. Smith brought her children with her to help out.

“They really enjoyed it, and have been asking about when they can do it again.”

Both said that people seemed to really appreciate the packages. 

“People who didn’t even know I was involved [with the care packages] brought it up in my check-in calls,” said Smith. “They said how much it meant to them to know that someone was thinking of them.” 

In total, 600 care packages were distributed. Smith and Richardson both hope to continue to find creative ways to support their patients and communities going forward.