New senior hotline ensures older population receives help during pandemic

A centre dedicated to helping the older population has launched a COVID-19 hotline to help seniors with grocery delivery, financial support and any other needs that may arise.

Hotline includes grocery and prescription delivery, rides to appointments and more

Marg Cornish, who lives at Carewest Colonel Belcher in the northwest, says she's happy that her facility is doing everything they can to keep her safe from the virus. (Caroline Gosselin)

A centre dedicated to helping the older population has launched a COVID-19 hotline to help seniors with grocery delivery, financial support and any other needs that may arise.

Fears among seniors and those in care homes started after the province announced on Tuesday that a woman in her 80s — who was living at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre — died of COVID-19.

At the same facility operated by Revera, health officials confirmed eight new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total there to 14.

"I want to assure you that Revera takes outbreaks very seriously," the company's chief medical officer Dr. Rhonda Collins said in a letter sent to residents. "We remain vigilant in our efforts to protect the health and safety of our residents, families, employees, volunteers, suppliers and essential health-care service providers."

Advocates say seniors are becoming more afraid as COVID-19 spreads into their communities.

Such fears have prompted the Kerby Centre, a not-for-profit organization committed to helping older adults, to launch a new COVID-19 hotline to keep seniors up to date with accurate information and help where needed.

Senior support

Larry Mathieson, CEO of the Kerby Centre, is hoping the new hotline will help bring the centre to seniors while its doors are closed.

"We figured, OK, let's redeploy our staff to get them on the phone to do outreach and to actually do some deliveries and so on," he said.

Mathieson said while they have ramped up their website to offer resources, research shows only a third of seniors access the internet.

"[It's a resource] even if you're just lonely or if you just want one of our staff or volunteers to give you a call back and we can check how you're doing," he said.

According to a release, the hotline will be operated Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the centre's main phone line.

Seniors can call about food security, emergency shelter, prescription and grocery delivery, emergency financial supports and get information on senior specific services like designated shopping hours for their age group.

Safe, healthy and engaged

Lori Paine, executive director of the Calgary Senior Resource Society, said the important thing is for everyone to work together to help seniors through this crisis.

She said the phone number 403-SENIORS and the distress centre's hotline are also available to the older population.

"Certainly, the calls are increasing. I think even just the fear about, 'What does this really mean? Like now I can't go out at all and I can't do anything?'" she said.

"People are starting to hear of those that are hospitalized and we're starting to hear about the people who didn't make it, and often they are older individuals."

At the resource society, Paine said more than 1,400 volunteers help seniors with deliveries, getting them to appointments and helping out with whatever else they may need.

Paine is hoping these resources will keep seniors properly informed, safe, healthy and engaged.

Seniors happy with extra precautions

Long-term care homes across Calgary have also changed their rules and regulations around visitors and public areas within the facility.

Some seniors talked to the Calgary Eyeopener about being isolated.

Marg Wreggit, who lives at Amica Aspen Woods in the southwest, said residents were confined to their rooms Wednesday morning and since then all seating arrangements have been removed in public areas.

Wreggit said she now gets her food delivered to her room and spends her day reading, watching the news, doing crossword puzzles and talking to her son, Andrew.

"What Andrew did is he drove out into the parking lot and I stepped out on my deck and I had a nice conversation. We were on the phone when we spoke," she said.

Wreggit said she doesn't mind spending time in her room and it has prompted her to make a list of new things she can do — one of them being memorizing poetry.

"I love poetry and I can memorize more poems now that I have time to do that," she said.

Over at a facility in the northwest, Marg Cornish, a resident at Carewest Colonel Belcher, said she's happy her facility is doing everything they can to keep her safe from the virus.

According to an email from Carewest Colonel Belcher, residents have not been confined to their rooms, but the facility is practicing physical distancing by seating anywhere from two to four people at large tables. The facility has cancelled larger group activities or those that involve the community.

Visitation is limited to only one essential visitor per resident — which is a family member, friend or paid caregiver that provides direct care or is attending a client who is dying.

"There's no congregating ….If you're in good health you can still go down for a meal and after the meals, you go back to your rooms," she said.

Cornish says the pandemic reminds her of the Great Depression — which she experienced as a young child — but that it's much worse.

Marg Cornish says she misses playing the piano at her facility, but she knows the pandemic will pass. (Caroline Gosselin)

"It wasn't a case of keeping your hands washed a million times a day. It was just a worry that people were losing their jobs, which is similar to now," she said.

Despite this, she said she feels secure at her home and finds that the pandemic is bringing people together.

"My family has just been so wonderful to me. They keep track and if there is anything I need, they are on the phone," she said.

With files from Terri Trembath, Sarah Rieger, Paul Karchut and the Calgary Eyeopener


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?