Distant but not isolated: Even amid social distancing, LSSND finds ways to reach out to seniors

It’s like clockwork.

Twice a day, every day, Linda Weldon calls her senior clients to make sure they’re doing okay.

Linda is a Senior Companion through LSSND, which means she provides one-on-one companionship and help with light, at-home tasks to other senior citizens who are lonely, homebound, physically fragile or isolated. In the wake of COVID-19, Linda can no longer do in-person visits. But she knows how much human contact means to clients like Abigail, who is 96 and doesn’t get many visitors.

Linda makes it a point to touch base with her clients by telephone, every single day. Last Saturday, Abigail was walking outside and fell. She tried and tried, but she could not get back up on her own.

Abigail was able to crawl inside but fell a second time when she tried to get up. She was still lying on the floor when Linda called. Fortunately, Abigail was somehow able to pull down the receiver on her wall phone and to tell Linda she needed help. Linda connected with another LSS volunteer, Moira Solberg, LSS Volunteer Station supervisor, who was able to call an ambulance.

Without this intervention, Abigail might have been on the floor for hours, even days.

“Linda and Moira were her saviors,” says Becky Telin, Senior/Volunteer Companions team lead at Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. “It was the weekend. Linda doesn’t have to call on her weekends off but thank goodness she does.”

Because seniors are at the most vulnerable to COVID-19, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota had to suspend all in-person services until at least April 30th. But we are so very pleased to share that our Senior and Volunteer Companions are committed to continuing their help — volunteers are providing their clients with several check-in-calls a week to be a friendly and familiar voice while answering any questions they may have.

“Our main goal is to prevent loneliness and isolation by providing in-home companionship. Because of COVID-19, these older adults are even more isolated,” – Becky Telin.

During this period of social distancing, the relationships built between Senior and Volunteer Companions and their clients are needed more than ever. Social isolation is tough for anybody, and no one is immune to the fear and uncertainty surrounding the global pandemic. But this concern is heightened for older adults as loneliness and isolation have been linked to both physical and mental health risks.

We are still working hard to continue providing services to seniors during this time through the following programs:

  • Senior Companions: Pairs age 55+ companions with age 60+ senior or adults who are

During COVID-19, our companions still call their clients.

lonely, homebound or disabled while providing clients with one-on-one companionship, social recreation and help with light tasks in their homes. Older volunteers who meet certain eligibility guidelines receive a tax-free hourly stipend and travel reimbursement. (Contact Becky Telin, 701-838-7800, beckyt@lssnd.org). Our Senior Companions will continue to receive their stipend allowance, granted by the federal Corporation for National and Community Services.

  • Volunteer Companions: Pairs age 18+ companions with age 60+ seniors who are lonely, homebound or disabled while providing clients with one-on-one companionship, social recreation and help with light tasks in their homes. Volunteer Companions receive travel reimbursement. (Contact Becky Telin, 701-838-7800, beckyt@lssnd.org).

  • Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP): Links age 55+ volunteers with short- or long-term projects that promote senior independence, food security, health and wellness and more. Volunteers serve non-profit, government agencies and community groups. (Contact Nancy Olson, 701-271-1318; nancyo@lssnd.org)

Care coordinators still meet in-person for essential tasks.
  • Aging Life Care: Care Coordination connects older adults (and those with chronic medical or mental health needs) with a trusted adviser/coordinator to help navigate the many complex issues that come with changes in health and/or living situations. (Contact Carmel Froemke, (218) 284-6242; carmelf@lssnd.org)

To read more about how to support seniors through COVID-19, click here.

We know this is a scary time. We are here for you.

The Senior and Volunteer Companion programs at LSS pairs elderly clients (60 +) with adult volunteers who assist clients with everyday tasks, making it possible for them to remain independent for longer. The program also nurtures connection and friendship, addressing the epidemic of loneliness reported among our elderly population.

– By Micayla Bitz & Tammy Swift

*Name changed to protect client privacy.

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