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Offers abound to ‘adopt a senior,’ but await protocol to keep everyone safe

Council on Aging Director Debbie Thompson said in a Monday phone conversation that she has had lots of calls from people wanting to “adopt a senior” and deliver groceries and other necessities to homebound seniors and disabled residents. She is able to run a CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) check on volunteers over the phone. The problem is establishing the protocol to keep everyone safe. She and other town officials are working to set that up so Thompson can get back to those who want to help and begin the training for proper safety procedures. The program will have a protocol similar to that of Meals on Wheels.

Currently, lunch is being delivered on Tuesdays and Thursdays to seniors who request it. Thompson said the number of requests for Meals on Wheels is down, as many seniors are receiving help from family. The new protocol is that the volunteer calls ahead, knocks on the door upon arrival, puts the food on the doorstep, and leaves immediately. There can be no contact. For many clients, that works fine, said Thompson; the problems are with those clients who are immobile or limited in some other way—hard of hearing, for example. Before this new protocol, a volunteer could go into the home to place the meal on the counter and perhaps assist the client in some small way. But now it is imperative that there be no contact. Thompson reiterated that volunteers cannot put themselves or the client at risk.

Thompson and outreach worker Maria Holland are in the process of calling those seniors who may be most in need of help to ask if they would like some assistance. Holland said on Tuesday that in some cases a family member of a senior has called to say they are providing food. On the other hand, Holland talked to one woman who was thrilled to learn that a volunteer would contact her because, as she said, “I don’t have anybody.”

On Monday, well-vetted volunteers delivered frozen soup from Chef Paul to 15 seniors. They called ahead of time and left the soup on the doorstep. Thompson said more soup is in the freezer for delivery next week.

The van is still running, taking seniors to medical appointments. The driver is taking only one person at a time and disinfecting the vehicle between runs.

This week, Holland is at Hildreth House along with Thompson and administrative assistant Lisa Rosen. Outreach worker Charlotte Winchell and Jen Schoenberg, program director, are at home with their families.

Thompson said she wanted to reiterate the town’s advisory: Stay home, stop the spread, and keep people safe. She herself is wearing winter gloves everywhere she goes, and washing them after each trip.

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