5 ways to help an elderly neighbor amid the coronavirus outbreak

Form a virtual book club or call just to chat: Ways to help people in your life who may be most vulnerable right now

Credit: AJC

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution would like to thank all of the people who aren't able to work from home during the Covid-19 outbreak. We appreciate their sacrifice. (Photos by AJC staff, Video by Tyson Horne)

Some Atlanta neighborhoods have made a formal effort to help elderly neighbors, like Kirkwood's "adopt a senior" program.

There are also plenty of informal ways to help your neighbors who may be most at risk.

If you’re looking for some ways to help senior citizens in your neighborhood, here are five ideas.

Offer to go to the grocery store

As people shelter in place, of course an essential errand is going to the grocery store. While some stores have designated shopping hours for senior citizens amid the coronavirus outbreak, check in with a neighbor to see if they are uncomfortable going out.

If you do pick up and drop off groceries for a neighbor, here are some things to keep in mind: Go to the store alone, wash your hands before going, wipe down your cart and then wash your hands when you get home before dropping off the supplies with your neighbor, Dr. Brian Chow, an infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center told WGBH.

“We know that coronavirus can persist on some surfaces for at least a few hours afterwards. We're not really sure what the outside number for that is. But eventually it will dry out and die and not become contagious,” Chow told the radio station.

Call to just say hi

Loneliness can be pervasive among senior citizens, even in "normal" times. Finding ways to remain social connections is important for all of us right now — especially for people who may be less likely to find connection to friends and family through social media.

There is also a national nonprofit that is collecting video and messages to send to senior citizens who may be feeling lonely right now. More details on how to participate in their effort can be found here.

Send a care package

Most experts agree that its OK to send mail amid the coronavirus outbreak and can be a way to brighten someone’s day.

"Although the virus can survive on inanimate objects for a period of time, the major risk is going to be in the social interactions with people who are sick,” Chow told WGBH.

If you're going to send or drop off a care package for a senior citizen in your life, WebMD recommends including things like over-the-counter medications to treat fever or coughs, food items that will last awhile, and disinfectant sprays or wipes. You can also include things like puzzles, reading materials or crosswords.

Help them make a plan

Experts note that having a plan can help lessen anxiety amid uncertain times. If you have an elderly family member or neighbor, helping them get organized or have a plan in place may help them feel better.

"Offer to help your loved ones write up their plan. Put together a list of contact information for them," WebMD recommends.

The list can include contact information for places like emergency contacts, who to call if they are showing symptoms, local organizations that can help with errands and local public health officials.

Form a book club or watch a movie ‘together’

Pick a book or movie to both read or watch, then schedule a time to talk about it on the phone or via video chat. It’s a small way to feel connected to the people in our lives right now, even if you’re unable to gather in person.

Here are some charities that will help senior citizens in metro Atlanta:

Meals On Wheels Atlanta: This charity assists seniors by delivering hundreds of thousands of meals. mowatl.org

PALS Atlanta: Pets Are Loving Support, Inc. provides pet support and care to people living with disabilities due to HIV/AIDS, terminal illnesses and the elderly. palsatlanta.org

Southwest Christian Care: Based in Union City, this charity is assisting those in hospice care and seniors suffering from memory loss. swchristiancare.org