As the sun rises on spring and Alaskans begin to regain a sense of normalcy in a post-pandemic life, now is the time to check in with aging neighbors and friends. Catholic Community Service (CCS) has the great honor to perform corporal works of mercy on behalf of the Catholic Church in Southeast Alaska.
Catholic Community Service’s Southeast Senior Services (SESS) provides a wide range of services for seniors and their caregivers—from Meals on Wheels to transportation to resources and counseling.
Please help us in our mission of supporting Southeast seniors to live independent and healthy lives by reaching out to the seniors in your life.
While everyone has experienced stress and isolation during this unprecedented time of the pandemic, seniors have been disproportionally affected. Socialization is critical for maintaining health, wellness, and independence. It’s been a year since isolation began, and we have seen many seniors experience a decline in their physical and mental health during this time. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, social isolation contributes to roughly a 50 percent increased risk of dementia in seniors.
Southeast Senior Services helps by delivering hot, nutritious meals and making phone calls to check in on seniors we know. CCS’s Hospice and Home Care of Juneau provides more home health nursing and physical therapy than ever before to those seniors whose health has been profoundly affected.
We try to identify seniors in need through our Senior Outreach and Referral (SOAR) Gatekeeper Program. We partner with local businesses that encounter seniors frequently, such as grocery stores, banks, mail carriers, and train their employees to know that a senior may be in need. Some key indicators that Gatekeepers are trained to look for:
- Unkempt appearance
- Inappropriate clothing for the weather
- Severe hoarding or home in disrepair
- Confusion or disorientation
- Forgetfulness or repetitiveness
- Unusual anxiety or paranoia
- Financial difficulties
But even with all these efforts, there are still so many seniors we haven’t reached. According to a June 2014 issue of Alaska Economic Trends, 25 percent of Alaska’s senior citizens live alone, and many don’t have local family to support them.
In his February 12 message for Lent 2021, Pope Francis says:
In Lent, may we be increasingly concerned with “speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn” (Fratelli Tutti, 223). To give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be “willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference.”
Reaching out to a senior expressing concern and compassion, encouragement and fellowship doesn’t take much time but can make all the difference in the world to a senior who has been in isolation for a year. Consider reaching out, being aware of the signs that an elder may need more support and help during this time. We need every Alaskan to extend a hand to their aging neighbor who may need help.
If you are concerned about a senior in Southeast Alaska or want to know more about the signs, please call the Senior and Caregiver Resource Center. Calls are confidential. We provide information, guidance, and if needed, we can reach out to help assess the senior you are concerned about and offer our support, all free of charge. Call CCS’s Senior and Caregiver Resource Center in Juneau at (907) 463-6177 or toll-free at (866) 746-6177.
For those who live in the Anchorage area, resources are available at the Aging & Disability Resource Center call (907) 343-7770 or email Program Manager Maureen Haggblom: Maureen.Haggblom@anchorageak.gov.
For those who live in the Fairbanks area, resources are available at ADRC North, Fairbanks Senior Center; call (907) 452-2551 or visit their website at www.adrcnorth.org.
Stay well, and God bless,