By Vickie Cammack and Al Etmanski
The imperative to keep our social distance as the novel corona virus spreads means that life is becoming tougher for vulnerable Canadians, those we know and those we don’t. Many will lose their community connections and become even more isolated in their homes. Some will die.
We know the virus can kill. We also know from previous emergencies, such as heat waves and SARS, that social
isolation kills too. Elderly relatives and neighbours, sick friends, people with disabilities, those with underlying medical conditions, weak immune systems as well as their caregivers are especially vulnerable during this pandemic.
Social connections may be the difference between life and death.
We have been connecting people who are isolated and vulnerable to caring neighbours and community members for more than three decades. We’ve learned to be intentional about reaching out. Just as washing hands can no longer be treated in a casual matter, neither should connecting to those who must remain in their homes alone.
We urge all Canadians to make a list of people they are concerned about and make a plan to stay in touch with them.
Here are five ideas to get you started:
- Don’t wait to be asked. For a variety of reasons (pride, past hurts, fear of being turned down, loss of confidence, confusion) not everyone will ask for help — even as their situations worsen. Keep the connection alive. Be confident and cheerful. Don’t give up even if the first couple of responses are lukewarm. Or if you haven’t been thanked.
- Make it a team effort. A small group or network is the best way to share the things that need to be done especially if the needs are great. It helps sort out who is doing what and when. A team effort allows you to take care of your other responsibilities. A team effort allows you to spell each other off while ensuring the person who is the focus of your concern is never neglected and taken care of in a timely way.
- The latest technology helps. So does old technology like knocking on the door or picking up the phone. What’s App, Slack, NextDoor, Facetime, private Facebook groups, email and telephone trees are simple ways to stay in touch and keep everyone up to date. You may want to invest in video conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts. Zoom is very good for people who lip read and their business version includes closed captioning and transcripts.
- Little things make a big difference. It all helps. A phone call every day or so, a Netflix subscription, a bag of cookies, running an errand, paying bills online, bringing in the garbage cans, picking up prescriptions, changing a light bulb, exchanging emergency contact information, walking the dog or checking someone’s internet connection.
- The majority of people care and want to help. We can’t emphasize this enough. Despite what you may have read or thought, caring is in Canada’s DNA. Don’t be afraid to ask. Or to accept help. You will actually be doing everyone a favour, including yourself.
The organization we founded Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network has a team of community connectors across Canada who specialize in creating networks of support. Beginning today they are distributing a regular bulletin focused on practical tips for reaching out to vulnerable people.
Their companion organization, Plan Institute will devote their regular hotline (1-844-311-7526) to answer individual questions. It is also offering a free version of their popular Weaving the Ties that Bind webinar to all Canadians. For details about these and other resources contact Rebecca Pauls at www.plan.ca
It may not be possible to reach out and touch people you care about during this terrible pandemic. However, it is more that possible to stay in touch. In combination with our health care system, there is no better way to get through these tough times and reduce all unnecessary consequences.
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing steadily and the above conditions and regulations may have altered since the date of publication.
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Photo credit: istockphoto