Serve Seniors During COVID-19

By Ellen Udovich

COLUMBIA, Md. — Maryland/Delaware Disaster Relief has several opportunities for church members to serve vulnerable senior citizens living alone and in need of assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reached out to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in March, imploring state convention Disaster Relief directors to consider “non-traditional” ways of supporting state and county emergency managers and health departments during the pandemic. Although chainsaws aren’t a useful tool in fighting a public health emergency, volunteer management is.

The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and our partner Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) member organizations have received the request to provide hundreds of volunteers across the state to support “Caregivers Service Corps” (CSC), a new initiative. This new caregiving program is designed to support senior adults living alone, especially those whose normal family caregivers are unable or reluctant to come into their homes for fear of spreading the COVID-19 virus to their loved one.

The care-giving program is spearheaded by the Maryland Department of Aging, in close cooperation with the state and county health departments. Medical Reserve Corps volunteers affiliated with the health department, who have been trained, licensed, background checked and insured, will be making home visits to provide medical evaluations and determine if other supportive services are needed to keep that senior adult safe and well at home. Maryland/Delaware volunteers will support these medical workers.

BCM/D will be providing the volunteer management for the many volunteers from VOAD partner organizations who will be mobilizing to supply some of those other “supportive services.”

The initiative needs church volunteers in every county to serve in longer-term and shorter-term supportive roles.

The PPE Team is critical to the safety of the medical volunteers going into the homes. Within each county, a network of team volunteers will work from home to distribute PPE (personal protective gear) kits to medical volunteers. When a medical volunteer receives the dispatch to a senior’s home, they will also receive the addresses of both of the senior and closest PPE volunteer. When the PPE volunteer receives notice that a medical volunteer is on the way, that person will place the PPE kit outside their door so the medical volunteer can grab it and go.

In addition to the volunteers who distribute the PPE, each county will have a least one PPE team coordinator who will be responsible for getting the PPE supplies from the local health department to the points of distribution. Because of the nature of this work, PPE team members and coordinators are asked to serve for at least several months.

For volunteers with limited time to serve, the Deliveries to Seniors Team will provide service opportunities for an hour or two on any day a volunteer is free. Volunteers will register to serve in their county on a particular day and be “on-call” for grocery and pharmacy delivery to the senior adults identified by the medical volunteers as needing immediate assistance. This is a non-contact service. Volunteers remain outside during the delivery of food or medicines.

Churches who would like more information on the PPE team and the Deliveries to Seniors team can contact Ellen Udovich.

Individuals who are interested in volunteering should go directly to the VOAD volunteer coordination portal at DART-MD. Once on the portal, volunteers will need to first register as a volunteer and then sign up for the project they are interested in.

Although the BCM/D is only providing volunteer management for the PPE and Deliveries projects, all volunteer opportunities on the portal are open to anyone with the necessary skills requested.

Ellen Udovich serves as the BCM/D’s community engagement specialist.