On International Day for Older Persons, Peta, an Age UK adviser, shares her experiences of supporting older people during the coronavirus pandemic
“We’ve been so busy on Age UK’s Advice Line since the pandemic began, and for a while were getting almost double the usual number of calls. The calls I’ve taken have shown me how our older population have been struggling to cope and highlight just how vulnerable many people are. Lots of people are worried about themselves and their family and friends, and some of the calls have been particularly hard to hear.
“Harriet, an ex-nurse in Yorkshire who is in her 70s and living alone, called up to ask that if she were to get coronavirus and pass away, could she still be buried in a grave with her family, as requested in her will. During the call she was hugely apologetic for taking up my time on the line, but I reassured her that we are here to help on all sorts of matters, especially at this unprecedented time.
“Another woman called who was concerned for her brother, in his 70s, who has a fracture, dementia, and difficulty with his sight. He is usually looked after by his son and daughter-in-law but they’re self-isolating due to coronavirus symptoms. He’s been trying to cope alone without carers and hasn’t been able to shower. His sister also worries that he’s had some falls and whether he’s taking his medication. She was beside herself, feeling her brother has been abandoned by the system and social support in his time of need.
“I also had a man in his 80s call who has several underlying health conditions. He was running out of food and he also needed medical assistance, but he was told a district nurse can’t be sent to his home, so he wasn’t sure what to do. I was able to let him know about the different options of support available for him, for example a contact for his local Age UK who is providing on-the-ground services, and I could signpost him to other local organisations who might be able to help.
“Coronavirus is having an impact on most calls I’ve been receiving in some way or another. I took a call from a man in his 70s who is having trouble paying a council tax bill. He’s living in sheltered accommodation and is on pension credit, and he can’t pay a bill which was originally waived but has now been taken up again by the local authority. He sounded completely helpless, and it’s clear that although people are still struggling with the same issues they had before coronavirus, the health crisis is creating additional challenges and worries.
“It’s been a difficult time and it looks like there is more uncertainty ahead of us. Despite this I still believe we can be hopeful about the future, and it feels good to be able to offer reassurance and advice to those who are struggling. We all have a part to play, and Age UK is determined to be there for the older people who need us the most.”
Age UK Advice Line
The Age UK Advice Line provides free information and advice to help older people, and their families and friends, on topics as diverse as claiming benefits to staying healthy. The Advice Line is a free and confidential service, open 365 days a year from 8am-7pm.
More recently the Age UK Advice Line has been a vital source of information and support for issues related to coronavirus and older people, and demand for the service has increased by up to 88%.
In addition to the Advice Line, Age UK has an online hub with the latest information and advice on coronavirus. The hub covers a range of issues, from how to stay safe and well at home, to how to help older people in your neighbourhood: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/coronavirus/