Isolated seniors in Appalachia receive needed care during pandemic

Christian Appalachian Project
·4 min read

Christian Appalachian Project caseworkers find new ways to offer social support

A caseworker helped Parsie celebrate his birthday during a socially-distanced porch visit.
A caseworker helped Parsie celebrate his birthday during a socially-distanced porch visit.
A caseworker helped Parsie celebrate his birthday during a socially-distanced porch visit.
Renee Thomas had a porch visit with Bea and delivered food from the Grateful Bread Food Pantry and from her own home garden.
Renee Thomas had a porch visit with Bea and delivered food from the Grateful Bread Food Pantry and from her own home garden.
Renee Thomas had a porch visit with Bea and delivered food from the Grateful Bread Food Pantry and from her own home garden.

PAINTSVILLE, Ky., Oct. 30, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- For many seniors in Appalachia, there is literally no one to go to for help with even the most basic needs. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a host of new challenges to providing services, but also made these services, especially the social aspect, even more necessary.

“One of my participants has been receiving wound care during the pandemic and he was unable to find a mask,” said Ruby Fannin, an Elderly Services caseworker in Martin County. “Thankfully, I had a friend who was making masks for free to anyone who needed them. She donated masks to CAP and I was able to deliver one to him and his caregiver. He was so thankful for them. It’s the little things that mean the most to our participants.”

Martha Carter*, another participant, has lived in Eastern Kentucky for 25 years, but is originally from the Philippines and has no family in Kentucky. “She has no one here except for her husband, and she’s his primary caregiver,” added Kasey Mills, also an Elderly Services caseworker. “When we met Martha, she had not been out of the house in approximately three to four months. She and her husband would have no support if it weren't for CAP.”

Carter has had difficulties finding work, and because her husband needs around-the-clock care, she would be unable to hold a job even if hired. The support she receives from CAP allows them to stay in their home so that they don’t have to go into a long-term facility. With COVID-19 cases hitting nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the unknown has just added to an already stressful situation.

“It is me and my husband only. It is so lonely,” said Carter, fighting to hold back tears. “All of my family and friends are back in my country. Sometimes I am ashamed to ask for help, but they tell me to call and CAP will help. I hope some time I can do something in return.”

CAP has stepped in to make sure the Carters have what they need. This included repairs to their home (new doors and a repaired bathroom floor, a new vanity, and handicap-accessible toilet) to keep them safe, warm, and dry. Mills has also worked to secure additional services for the family.

“When I first met Martha, she did not have food most of the time,” said Mills, who helped Carter sign up for benefits she and her family were eligible for. “She didn’t know these services existed for her, but now she is able to go to the doctor if she needs to. She had not been to see a doctor in years. Now she can get food for the house too. We provide transportation so that even during the pandemic she can get what she needs.”

Also, caseworkers often serve as surrogate family members. For some, there is no one else to serve as a primary caregiver, or family members are too far away or not in the picture at all. At times, CAP staff may even handle funeral services if there is no one else to do so.

One participant, Marleen Lott*, often needs help with home repairs. “I’m an old lady,” Lott said. “I’m 81 years old this month; I’m not able to do nothing. I think the world of them. They’re so good to me.”

Fannin feels blessed to serve seniors in Appalachia, especially so since COVID-19 has made in-home visits impossible. “Every time I call to check on Marleen she tells me she loves hearing my voice. She never ends our conversation without saying ‘I love you.’ Our participants are special to us. I am blessed beyond measure to be able to do the work I do,” Fannin said.

As the pandemic has impacted social gatherings of large groups, one thing that is clearly missed by participants and staff alike are the annual picnic and senior games. “Those events just added so many smiles to their faces,” said Teresa Gullett, manager of the Elderly Services Program in Martin, Floyd, and Johnson Counties. Lott echoed the sentiment. “We didn’t get to go to the senior games this year because of the virus. I just miss seeing all of them.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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About Christian Appalachian Project

Christian Appalachian Project has been building hope, transforming lives, and sharing Christ’s love through service in Appalachia since our founding more than 50 years ago. With the help of donors, volunteers, staff, and the communities it serves, CAP has grown to impact the lives of more than 1 million people each year. For more information about CAP, visit www.christianapp.org.

Attachments

CONTACT: Tina Bryson Christian Appalachian Project 8592701776 tbryson@chrisapp.org