Helpline for older people extends hours

Big demand from those worried about COVID-19
  • Deborah Condon

A support line that was launched a week ago for older people worried about COVID-19 (coronavirus) has received hundreds of calls and has had to extend its opening hours.

ALONE, the charity that supports older people, launched its support line on March 9. Initially, the line was meant to be available from Monday to Friday, however it has received hundreds of calls and has extended its hours to include Saturdays and Sundays. It will also be open on St Patrick's Day.

Extra staff have been added to meet demand.

The charity said that it expects the number of calls to increase even more "as Department of Health advice to older people and vulnerable groups to reduce their contacts outside their home is implemented by older people in the community".

"Earlier in the week, we were hearing from older people who needed some reassurance and who were feeling anxious about the outbreak. Now, and particularly over the weekend, we have been receiving increasing numbers of calls from older people who are self-isolating and who require support with getting their groceries, prescriptions and fuel, which we are providing with the help of our volunteers," explained ALONE chief executive, Sean Moyhihan.

He is encouraging any older people who need support to get in touch. ALONE's services are available to all older people, including those who have not used them before.

ALONE is working with the HSE, the Department of Health, the Department of Rural and Community Development, Pobal, Rural Link, Volunteer Ireland, The Wheel, and more partner organisations to ensure older people have access to the support they need no matter where they are in the country.

However, older people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are advised to telephone their GP.

As well as providing the helpline, advice, reassurance, and support with tasks including grocery and prescription drop-offs, ALONE is also offering regular check-in calls to older people who may feel isolated or want regular contact throughout this period.

ALONE has also issued an appeal to families, friends and neighbours to get in touch with any older people that they know by telephone, to offer support and share the support line details if necessary.

According to Mr Moynihan, the level of community response to COVID-19 so far had been "unprecedented".

"We are incredibly grateful for all of the offers to volunteer we have been receiving through email and social media. We have received a huge response and we will be back in touch with everyone who has so generously volunteered their time as soon as possible. Over the coming months, we hope to recruit 1,500 volunteers.

"For those who are interested in providing support to older people throughout this period, we would ask them to email us on with their full name, phone contact details and location," Mr Moyhihan commented.

He said that it has been "phenomenal to see the outpouring of generosity" from people and organisations nationwide.

"Now and in the weeks to come, the support of the community will be needed more than ever," he added.

The ALONE support line is available on 0818 222 024. It is available seven days a week from 8am to 8pm. For more information on ALONE, click here.

COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person's body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing), or by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of the virus to show. These may include a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fever (high temperature).

COVID-19 can also cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia and severe breathing difficulties. Some 80% of cases will be mild to moderate, 14% will be more severe, while 6% will be critical.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, people should:
-Practice social distancing and avoid crowded places
-Wash their hands properly and often
-Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, or cough and sneeze into their elbow
-Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
-Stay at home if they are sick to avoid spread of whatever infection they have.

For more information on COVID-19, click here.


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