Does the thought of “social distancing” — missing church, movies, or friendly hugs for weeks cause you to feel uneasy? Have you imagined what it might feel like to be quarantined inside your home — to depend on frozen foods, family, friends, or social services for basic necessities? As Americans face the coronavirus pandemic, questions like these are on everyone’s mind. But for thousands of frail-aging adults in North Carolina, living “quarantined” is an ongoing day-to-day reality, and has been long before we ever heard of social distancing or self-isolation.
Health professionals are concerned about isolation among older adults and consider it already a health crisis of major proportions –– one that contributes to high blood pressure, depression, cognitive decline, and a 30% increased risk of premature death.
Whitney Brooks, an integrative health coach and consultant for North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM), is concerned that seniors are losing even more valuable contact with friends and loved ones as an unintended consequence of social distancing efforts.
“Although social isolation and loneliness among seniors isn’t a new problem, it has only recently gained national attention. Because seniors are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, nursing homes and assisted living communities are limiting outside visitors which has resulted in a sudden onset of greater isolation. NCBAM’s Hope Line offers a way to help older adults while they wait this out.”
For seniors who may be living on the brink of social isolation, the recent recommendations for slowing the spread of the virus may make life even lonelier. For many, a weekly church service was the only outing of the week.
Older adults are also at risk of losing visits from friends or family members who don’t want to risk passing the virus to them.
NCBAM’s “Hope Line” offers help and hope to those suffering from isolation and loneliness — whether or not it is related to virus quarantines. The toll-free Hope Line is open 9:00 am – 9:00 pm, Monday through Friday at 866-578-HOPE (866-578-4673).
Trained staff and volunteers respond with a friendly voice, a compassionate ear, and missional hearts to pray with and for people.
Due to anxieties over the coronavirus, NCBAM Call Center director, Melanie Beeson, has created extra resources for Hope Line staff and volunteers.
“As callers express fear or worry over the uncertainties of the virus, we of course encourage them to seek medical attention if they have symptoms, and we also are ready to share God’s word with them — encouraging them to trust God and not to live in fear because of the virus — or for any other reason.”
The Hope Line is part of NCBAM’s “One Hope” outreach which offers a spiritual response to isolation and loneliness. To learn more, call 877-506-2226 to connect with an NCBAM regional director in your area.
Connect to the NCBAM Call Center by calling 877-506-2226 or visiting www.ncbam.org
Article by Carol Layton, NCBAM Director of Communications & Administration