As Southeast Connecticut Adopts “Social Distancing,” Local Businesses, Social Services, Step Up to Help Residents and Elderly

in Health/Old Lyme

As efforts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus get underway across southeast Connecticut, all Meals on Wheels programs are continuing for now, said Stephanie Gould, the director at the Lyme-Old Lyme Senior Center.

Many pharmacies, such as CVS, are offering medication delivery for free to anyone who is concerned about going out in public.

“And if their pharmacy won’t do it, we can help,” said Cathy Wilson, the director of the East Lyme Senior Center. “Our Meals on Wheels drivers are excellent and could pick up medications.”

It isn’t just senior centers and pharmacies that are pitching in to help those who are staying home, Coffee’s Country Market in Old Lyme is offering deliveries at no additional charge. The same is true at Pasta Vita in Old Saybrook.

“If someone is elderly and can’t make it in we are delivering for them. If they call we would help them through an order and then bring it over,” said Rich Cersosimo, the co-founder of Pasta Vita. “We kind of did that way anyway, but it is so much more needed right now.”

The status of facilities like the senior centers, however, could change quickly.

“We are going to be meeting on Monday with the Public Health officials and determining our path forward,” Gould said. “People are being smart, people who aren’t feeling well or have a compromised condition are staying home, but for everyone else we are still open.”

The message repeated again and again by state and local health officials is social distancing. To slow the spread of COVID-19 Governor Ned Lamont has banned gatherings of more than 250 people, eliminated the 180-day school year requirement and restricted visiting of those in nursing homes.

Although helpful in reducing the spread of disease, with social distancing comes the potential for feelings of isolation and loneliness.

“We are really only allowing visitors for our end of life or hospice folks, and you’ll hear the same story at every nursing facility,” said Paul Knutsen, executive director of Gladview Healthcare Center in Old Saybrook.

For families in the midst of losing a loved one, the one-at-a-time visits and restrictions can make this time even more challenging. For those who are unable to visit older parents or relatives at all, the separation can be heartbreaking.

To prevent feelings of isolation “for our other residents we are trying to encourage more social media stuff and conversations via facetime on the tablets and iphones we have available to them,” Knutsen said.

Although visitors have decreased, social programming within the nursing home has not, Knutsen said.

“We still have our vibrant recreation programs internally,” he said. “We are keeping everyone active and social inside and closely monitoring the situation outside. Right now, we are erring on the side of caution.”

As of yet, health officials in the region have no confirmed cases of the virus.

For older adults who still live independently, the advice to stay home may be more of a challenge.

“Surprisingly enough, our attendance hasn’t been impacted yet,” said Cathy Wilson, director of the East Lyme senior center which has thus far remained open. “I think people are trying to have as much interaction with others before things go dark. It really shows how important the social piece of senior centers is.”

In East Lyme, and across the region, senior centers are remaining open for the time being but cancelling larger events, such as the Saint Patrick’s Day Luncheon in Old Lyme.

“There are going to be some social ramifications by the end of this,” Wilson said. “If people are experiencing difficulty then they need to reach out to their senior centers. We can help arrange medication deliveries, food deliveries, regular phones, we have enough volunteers here we will be able to help.”