Connecting seniors to resources and supports available through local programs such as Shuswap Better At Home is now as easy as dialing 211.
On Thursday, March 26, the B.C. government announced it would be broadening the reach of the provincial helpline to support seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously only available in the Lower Mainland, the number can now be used by seniors in the Interior to connect with available community programs or services.
“If you are a senior or the family member of a senior who needs help getting groceries, getting medications and staying connected, call 211 or visit the website and we’ll try to match you up with a volunteer or some kind of service in your community,” announced B.C. seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie.
One of those services that seniors in the North Okanagan-Shuswap may be referred to is the United Way’s Better at Home program.
Heather O’Brien, regional co-ordinator for the Shuswap (which covers an area that includes Chase, the North and South Shuswap, Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Malakwa and Falkland), explains the program provides supports for seniors living independently that include pickup and delivery of groceries, prescriptions and food bank or meals program offerings, check-in phone calls, housekeeping services and some yard work.
With the onset of COVID-19, availability of some of those services, such as housekeeping, is currently on hold.
“Some of our housekeeping staff in Enderby is still going to do those types of services… because we have quite a few clients there,” said O’Brien of the largely volunteer driven service. “In other communities, it’s mostly co-ordinators taking on that work right now because a lot of our volunteers are also seniors. They’re trying protect their health and just keep everyone comfortable and safe.”
With the announcement of the 211 expansion, O’Brien said she’s already had a couple of callers referred to her, both from Salmon Arm. One was a senior who is now signed up with the program, and the other a prospective volunteer. O’Brien notes volunteers are vetted and undergo a criminal background check. With COVID-19, O’Brien is hoping more people will take an interest in volunteering, noting there are currently no volunteers working for the program in Salmon Arm. She says there’s no pressure on volunteers, whose work may involve doing deliveries or just checking in on seniors with a phone call.
“We are managing OK right now but we certainly do appreciate anyone that is wanting to volunteer to connect with us, and maybe it will end up being a situation where they’ll stick around and they can end up volunteering down the road if needed,” said O’Brien.
If anybody needs help, or knows of a neighbour who needs help, O’Brien invites them to contact Shuswap Better At Home by calling 250-253-2749, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We will definitely be in touch with them, we will let them know what we can do and hopefully we will be able to give them any other information they need,” said O’Brien.