By Rick Morwick
No one is immune from the physical and economic threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. But for seniors, the risk of infection – and becoming prey to scammers – is heightened compared to rest of the population.
Current Publishing recently conducted a Q&A interview with Jill Gilmer, co-owner and director of operations for BrightStar Care, about what seniors can do to safeguard their health and finances during the pandemic. BrightStar Care is a home care company that provides services in the form of nurses, therapists, certified nursing assistants and professional caregivers. It serves Marion County and the seven surrounding counties, including Hamilton.
What advice/tips can you offer seniors for protecting their health during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Gilmer: Stay home as much as possible. Try to utilize delivery drop-off services or call a family member or friend to shop for you. They should drop the items off on your porch or in your garage, if possible. If you must go out in public, be sure to keep your distance from others, wear a mask, take hand sanitizer with you and wash your hands as soon as you return home. Assume everyone you encounter may have been exposed and maintain social distancing.
Which age group is most at risk to coronavirus exposure?
Gilmer: Older adults, mostly those over the age of 65. It has also been seen to affect individuals of any age who have serious underlying health issues, such as asthma, lung disease, heart conditions, diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, liver disease, etc. Lastly, people who have compromised immune systems, such as undergoing cancer treatments, smokers or bone marrow/organ transplantation, are at greater risk.
What practices do you recommend for seniors?
Gilmer: Protect your health (as mentioned). If your plan to protect yourself were to fail, and you were to become sick, determine how, where and by whom you will be best cared for. Make sure your emergency contacts are updated and with appropriate names and numbers. Utilize the senior hours for stores and pharmacies offering them if you cannot do delivery/drop-off services. If you have appointments or errands that require you to leave your residence, call those places ahead of time to see if other arrangements can be made during this time to maintain social distancing. Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories about the pandemic. Hearing and talking about the pandemic repeatedly can be stressful and upsetting. Find ways to connect with your loved ones via phone, writing letters or trying a new online platform such as FaceTime or Zoom. Pick a new hobby to conquer or become an expert on a new topic to keep busy during the quarantine.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for seniors about financial resources and avoiding scams and fraud?
Gilmer: Once again, seniors are being targeted for scams, specifically around the COVID-19 pandemic. We have heard of scams where seniors are receiving calls regarding coronavirus vaccines and preventative medicine, claiming to send them doses if they prepay over the phone. Remember to never provide financial or private information to anyone over the phone, including, but not limited to, your credit card number, bank account number or Social Security number. Also, remember not to purchase anything online from a website you are not familiar with. Check with your family or friends before making any decisions to sign up, register or purchase anything from a new company to ensure it is legitimate. Register with the Consumer Protection section on the Attorney General website (in.gov/attorneygeneral/2389.htm). You can receive email and text notifications about the latest scams. They also provide many resources and education on senior fraud. Indiana 211 (in211.communityos.org) is another resource for anyone needing assistance. Hoosiers can dial 211 to confidentially connect with a resource navigator who will assist them.