Brookletts Place Senior Center recently hosted a presentation, “Getting Back Out There: How to Re-Engage After the Pandemic” at Brookletts Place at 400 Brookletts Avenue in Easton. The presentation explored elder abuse and social isolation, as well as how to re-engage seniors as a result of the pandemic. The panel of aging experts included Dr. Maggie Black, Partner of Shore Neurocognitive Health; Beth Parker O’Brien, LCSW-C, MPH, Founder/Partner of Shore Neurocognitive & Behavioral Health; Lee Newcomb, Adult Services Social Worker, Talbot County Department of Social Services; Mary Sellers, Upper Shore Aging, Inc., Guardianship and Family Caregiver Program; Dana Newman, Talbot County Free Library; and Kate Stinton, RN, LCSW, Talbot County Health Department.
Presenter Kate Stinton reported that social isolation is an increasing problem across the United States with Medicare reporting that 1 in 5 people suffer health effects from social isolation and that the cost of these health effects is a big health concern. She added, “Social isolation is a lack of contact that involves loneliness, anxiety, and depression among other health conditions. Talbot County has a good network of social services. The Health Department has programs available to help, they can talk with physicians, conduct assessments, and make liaisons with customers to work through the issues. The department offers home visits with 1-to-1 staff, assessments to determine health and functional needs, food, and transportation, along with case management services. Seniors can also enroll in the Senior Call Check services which can help give them a feeling of security. They can help you understand loneliness and social isolation.”
“Some risk factors for social isolation are living alone, decreased mobility, not leaving the home, suffering a major loss, financial struggles, being a caregiver, memory loss, cognitive changes, limited social supports, and eating meals alone,” she added.
According to presenter Lee Newcomb, the Talbot County Department of Social Services provides services to the elderly and vulnerable adults over the age of 18. Additionally, they make assessments to determine what services are helpful.
“The definition of vulnerable is an individual who lacks the mental and/or physical capacity to take care of their daily needs. The majority of the referrals received by our department are for financial exploitation and self-neglect. Self-neglect is when one isn’t taking care of their daily needs. Financial exploitation involves a scam or fraud that involves the transfer of money. It can happen with a family member, a caregiver, or calls/texts on your phone. We try to educate victims on what has happened and how to prevent future exploitation in the future.”
Another role of the Department of Social Services is to determine whether the victims have diminished cognitive capacity. Newcomb adds, “If the individuals are of sound mind and are making poor decisions, services are not appropriate. Adults have the right to make poor decisions.”
For help in determining cognitive capacity, Shore Neurocognitive Health in Easton offers memory screening, neurocognitive testing, and psychotherapy with a focus on the aging population. They provide education regarding anxiety, depression, caregiver stress, and testing to determine if an adult is vulnerable and experiencing cognitive impairment. They also make referrals to the Department of Social Services and the Health Department.
Beth Parker O’Brien and Maggie Black commented, “We want to help families navigate these tough issues. Social isolation and memory are connected. If one had a good memory before COVID, but not now – we can help them figure out what has happened. The central isolation encountered during COVID was a major obstacle and didn’t help anyone as daily life was being impacted. Depression increased, anxiety increased, and memory was impacted. They are seeing that COVID has a memory impact even among younger people.”
Mary Sellers shared resources from Upper Shore Aging, Inc. which serves Caroline, Kent, and Talbot counties. Talbot county receives 44% of the budget which serves the frail and elderly through the Family Caregiver program which provides grants to families and caregivers, along with education to those 60 and above. Some grandparents and clients with dementia are also served. She explained how to tap into these resources, stating, “An individual needs an impairment in at least two activities of daily living, and income is not considered, however, a declaratory income statement is required. Home-delivered meals are very valuable in reducing social isolation as you see a volunteer face to face and they check on the individual during the delivery. The average age of people served through the program is 85 years age. We are also seeing an increase in younger disabled individuals trying to qualify for services along with relatives who have quit their jobs to care for their disabled family members.”
Stinton shared that families and friends are important to help with taking the small steps to make connections. The Senior Centers, community centers, churches, theaters, and libraries are all also places where one can make connections. Dana Newman shared resources from the Talbot County Free Library to help seniors stay connected and find information on such topics as medical concerns and potential scams. The library also has programs for engagement and staying connected with loved ones virtually through FaceTime and Zoom. Staff can assist and can offer WiFi hot spots for free that give Internet connections for two months (there are some data limitations). They have online programming, including an online resource arts and crafts class called Creative Bug and an Easton Book Club that meets once a month. The library’s My Tech program offers people the opportunity to have IT questions answered and to learn FaceTime and Zoom.
The panel ended by encouraging participants to look out for their neighbors to see if changes are occurring and to reach out to one of the resources mentioned if help is needed. The agencies represented at the event work cooperatively to help families navigate the resources they need to address these important aging issues. For further information, call Brookletts Place at 410-822-2869 or visit brooklettsplace.org.
Brookletts Place is a center for seniors to gather and socialize with each other. It provides an aspect of community engagement for individuals 60 or older through the Center’s facilities and various events throughout the year.