Several agencies are providing information and services to help Jefferson County and Eureka senior citizens during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Ron Harder, the public information officer for the Jefferson County Emergency Management Department, said the senior age group is considered at high risk for the virus.
He said a good resource for seniors to learn about measures they can take to protect themselves is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at cdc.gov.
“The CDC has a fantastic website, which has everything on there from protecting yourself to managing anxiety and stress,” said Harder, who also is the public information officer for the Rock Community Fire Protection District.
Harder said seniors should try to protect themselves from contracting or spreading the virus by following guidelines that federal, state and local agencies have issued.
“They should stay indoors and try to avoid contact with large groups,” Harder said. “They should make sure they are washing their hands. If they have to go out, a big thing is to stay away from those with respiratory issues. This is very much a respiratory-based thing.
“Unless it is a medical emergency and they really need to see a doctor or dentist, they should stay away from those facilities. They can take advantage of delivery services or having people drop things off to them. Exposure is going to be a big thing, and social separation is important.”
On Thursday (March 19), the CDC said on its website that eight out of 10 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the U.S. have been adults 65 or older.
It estimated that 31 to 70 percent of adults 85 and older who contract the virus will need to be hospitalized , and 31 to 59 percent of those 65 to 84 years old will need to be hospitalized.
The CDC estimated that 6 to 29 percent of those 85 and older with the virus will need to be admitted to an intensive care unit, and 11 to 31 percent of those between 65 and 84 will be admitted to an intensive care unit.
In an effort to avoid the virus, the CDC said seniors need to wash their hands often, stay at least 6 feet away from those who are sick, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, avoid unnecessary travel (especially on cruise ships and planes). The agency also advises seniors to call a health professional if a senior is concerned about showing symptoms for the coronavirus.
The CDC also said seniors should be aware of heightened stress levels during the pandemic and recommended taking breaks from information sources dealing with the coronavirus.
The agency advises seniors to take deep breaths, stretch or meditate, if they are feeling overwhelmed. It also said eating well-balanced meals, exercising and getting plenty of sleep would help relieve stress.
The CDC said those who are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, anxiety or feel like they want to harm themselves should call a medical professional or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress helpline 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
Harder said the need to monitor stress levels and anxiety go beyond those in the senior-age group.
“We are suggesting to everybody to give themselves a break,” Harder said. “People should take a break from the news, talking about COVID-19 and do things they enjoy doing. If they enjoy cooking, they can cook themselves a special meal, kind of treat themselves while at home. They can watch their favorite movie, something to take your mind off of it.”
For those who need extra help, they are encouraged to reach out to agencies that offer services for them.
Aging Ahead, which provides services for those 60 and older in Jefferson County and the rest of the St. Louis region, announced on its website that it will continue to provide home-delivered lunches through the Meals on Wheels program, as well as other services. To schedule meals or for other information about Aging Ahead services, call the agency at 636-207-0847.
Aging Ahead also announced on its website that it has closed all of its senior centers, including the four in Jefferson County, where the Meals on Wheels program for county seniors had operated from.
Now, the Aging Ahead’s home-delivered meals are provided by GA Foods, according to an announcement on the city of Arnold’s Facebook page.
The city also advised seniors 60 and older who need help with transportation or other issues because of the pandemic to call Aging Ahead.
In addition to closing its senior centers, Aging Ahead has canceled all its programs at community locations, like YMCAs and libraries. It said the closures will be in effect through at least March 31.
The Pacific Lions Club is offering to shop for groceries and other merchandise for those 60 and older who live in the Meramec Valley School District and Eureka, Lions member Pam Manuel said.
The Lions will help seniors set up grocery pickup and delivery services through Walmart.com or Instacart for Schnucks on seniors’ computers or smartphones.
Also, the Lions will shop for seniors at B&H Market, Save a Lot, Pacific CVS, Eureka Walgreens, Pacific Medicine Shoppe and both Pacific Dollar General stores. The volunteers also will pick up items for seniors at the Agape House Food Pantry.
Manuel said all volunteers will wear masks and follow CDC hand-washing guidelines.
Seniors from the Eureka area who want assistance may contact the Lions by calling 636-675-3186, sending an email to Typamed@gmail.com or sending a message through the Pacific Lions Facebook page.
Manuel said those who live outside the Eureka area may still contact the Pacific Lions, and they will reach out to other Lions clubs in those areas to see if similar help can be provided.
Other shopping options
Grocery and retail stores in the area have announced special shopping hours for those 60 and older during the pandemic.
Schnucks stores have set 6-7 a.m. for a shopping time for seniors, and Dierbergs has reserved 8-9 a.m. for senior shoppers.
Target also established 8-9 a.m. for shopping time exclusively for high-risk customers.
Walmart announced on its website that it will open its stores to seniors from 6-7 a.m. every Tuesday from March 24 to April 28. The pharmacies and vision centers at Walmart stores also will be open during that time.
Extra precautions are being taken to try to stem the spread of the virus at assisted-living communities and nursing homes.
Representatives from Rosemont Senior Living Centre, 2121 Ridge Drive, in Arnold, and Scenic Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 1333 Scenic Drive, in Herculaneum said they – like most senior living centers – have banned visitors, unless it is for an emergency.
“We are limiting visitors to if a person needs medical help or if a relative is bringing medicine or supplies they need,” Rosemont owner Gary Allen said. “Other than that, we do not allow anybody in the building.”
Rosemont has 45 residents, Allen said.
Scenic has 170 residents, executive director Tyler Czarnecki said.
Along with restricting visitors, both facilities have increased cleaning and disinfecting practices, made hand sanitizer more readily available and restricted access to their buildings to one entry point.
“It is something you just can’t imagine happening,” Allen said of the pandemic. “We just have to deal with it day by day, hoping for the best.”
In a letter sent to families with relatives at Scenic, the center said it is screening residents daily for signs and symptoms of the illness. Scenic employees are screened prior to their shift and sent home if they show signs of illness.
“I can assure you that we are evaluating this situation daily and will make changes as needed to ensure the safety and well-beings of your loved one,” Czarnecki wrote in Scenic’s letter.
Be alert for scams
On Thursday, Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe warned seniors to be aware of possible scams during the pandemic.
Kehoe said scams should be reported to his office by calling 573-751-4727 or emailing email@example.com or by contacting the Missouri Attorney General’s Office’s consumer protection hotline at 1-800-392-8222 or by going to the website ago.mo.gov/about-us/contact-us.
“Unfortunately, during challenging times, there will be those who seek to prey upon the vulnerability or misfortune of others,” Kehoe said in a written statement. “Often their targets are seniors and veterans. I join Attorney General (Eric) Schmitt and others encouraging Missourians to take care, and look out for, one another.”
On its website, Ameren announced that customers should be aware of telephone, mail, email, door-to-door and other in-person scams that involve criminals posing as Ameren representatives and demanding immediate payment or personal information.
Ameren said it has suspended all disconnections for non-payment and is forgiving any late payment fees for residential and business customers at this time. Normal billing for customers' usage will continue as usual, but if customers are having difficulty paying a bill, they should contact the company’s Customer Care team at 1-800-552-7583 for residential or 1-877-426-3736 for business or go to the Missouri payment assistance page on Ameren’s website, amerern.com/Missouri.