Mystic Valley Elder Services had created a COVID-19 Resource Guide for Community Members to use. The Guide is sorted by the 11 towns and cities MVES serves. Please click on the link below to download the Guide, which is updated frequently.
May 20, 2020
During these unprecedented times, which have affected almost every aspect of our daily routines, it has become more difficult to know what’s next when you are a caregiver to another adult, such as an aging parent or person with a disability. COVID-19 has complicated the lives of family caregivers, especially those older adults who are most susceptible to the virus. It has created fear, anxiety, uncertainty and isolation in an already stressful situation. Daily routines have been upended as communities cope with this disease.
Even under normal circumstance, caregivers work hard year round to provide assistance to their loved ones. Devoting themselves physically and emotionally, caregivers take on an enormous duty in bringing comfort to a friend or family member. Having care-giving responsibilities for a loved one with a neurological issue like Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia or mild cognitive impairment can be challenging on any given day. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be even more difficult to be a caregiver, especially when your loved one has difficulty understanding some of the necessary challenges required to keep them and your family safe.
According to Being Patient, a news platform on Alzheimer’s disease and brain health research, the caregivers need to decide how to explain any changes such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands as well as lack of physical contact to the individual. Words like “pandemic” and “isolation” can result in fear and anxiety. One way to explain this to your loved one is to say there is a “bug going around” and that for all of our safety, we have been asked to stay at home and not have visitors, including other family members.
To help older adults feel involved, purposeful and less lonely during the pandemic, show them how to video chat with others using smartphones, laptops or tablets; use apps on these devices to provide captions for adults with hearing challenges; and encourage friends and family outside of your household to telephone, write notes or send cards to lift your loved one’s spirits.
Caregivers need caring themselves. Seeking support, practicing self-care, and scheduling personal breaks are important strategies to preventing, and reducing caregiver stress. Caregivers need to:
- Ask for and accept help
- Set realistic goals
- Connect with others, even during social distancing
- Avoid common causes of exhaustion–caregiving for too many hours, lack of sleep, poor nutrition.
- Make time for yourself
Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) has a range of accessible and affordable caregiver services through its Family Caregiver Support Program, such as one-on-one assistance, family meetings (offered virtually), community resources, individualized action plans, educational materials, caregiver support groups (offered virtually), peer support, and respite care, with many offered at no or low cost to caregivers. These services are provided to anyone in MVES’ service area caring for an adult age 60 or older or an adult of any age with Alzheimer’s disease or a related memory disorder. Some participants may be eligible for scholarships for companion services or grants for personal emergency response units or safety-net trackers.
Call our caregiver coordinators today at 781-324-7705 to discover options available to you and your loved one!
May 12, 2020
Social isolation, also known as the Loneliness Epidemic, is a prevalent concern for the nearly 290,000 older adults living in the state of Massachusetts. A 2020 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services states that 28 percent of elders live alone in the community. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic changing people’s day-to-day lives and the ways in which they interact with others, our society must realize that isolation among residents ages 65 and up is at an all-time high.
In their many interactions with seniors, Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) care managers and nurses, along with Meals on Wheels drivers have discovered that loneliness and isolation is a prevalent condition. The recent report mentioned above states that loneliness can increase inflammation, heart disease, memory disorders, mental health conditions and higher death rates. Factors that add to isolation include the inevitable losses of spouse, family members, and friends over time. In addition, physical limitations and a lack of transportation reduce seniors’ mobility outside the home.
“Seniors are at a huge risk for social isolation,” says Susan Doherty, RN from MVES. “There can be many reasons for social isolation and not just during this pandemic. Some older adults might not have family, might be estranged from their family, might not be as technologically savvy as younger folks, and might rely on transportation or Adult Day Health in order to socialize, both of which are not running at this time.”
Social isolation can affect everything from mental health, nutrition, and mobility. Doherty points out. “I was with a daughter of a consumer who has been self-quarantining from her father due to COVID-19 exposure. However, because of the self-quarantining and her father’s social isolation, her father’s health has declined and would have declined further without the help of the MVES services that have been put in place such as personal care for the consumer in providing respite for the family,” she says.
MVES Intake Care Manager Annie Dodge recently spoke with a consumer, a Veteran, who receives home-delivered meals from MVES and he expressed to her how wonderful MVES is. According to Dodge, he has stated many times that MVES is something to be proud of and is appreciative that she has checked in with him so many times to keep tabs on his status. The consumer is also very happy with his Meals on Wheels driver and his commitment to bringing meals as well as his smiling face adding to his day.
“He expressed that the check-ins have made him feel important and not alone. He said he feels like he is in jail because there are two people in his building who have tested positive for COVID-19 and he does not want to leave his apartment. But, the daily delivery and a friendly voice on the phone have made a positive impact,” says Dodge.
While there are a number of resources for family caregivers impacted by the pandemic, the various crises being faced by family caregivers and their loved ones dramatically varies. This pandemic has put much more stress on caregivers who now need to shift gears to provide services and take care of loved ones in different ways, such as telephone calls, “driveway visits”, visits where the individuals are divided by a window, or using telehealth instead of home visits.
“The impact social distancing has had on the ways people memorialize their loved ones and friends is tough. Gatherings are limited or nonexistent and families coping with a loss might be feeling an added layer of grief at not being able to celebrate the life of their loved one as they could have in a pre-pandemic world,” explains MVES Caregiver Support Coordinator Kathy Learned.
MVES nurse Linda Kalogeris’, RN, mother was also a consumer living in Kalogeris’ home before going to Prospect House Assisted Living & Memory Care in Revere for respite care following a fall and broken bone.
“With the onset of the pandemic, my mother has been on lockdown in her room for several weeks and unable to receive visiting nurse services or go to routine doctors’ appointments,” explains Kalogeris. “I am worried about my mother’s growing depression and isolation. I often stand outside my mother’s facility to wave through the window.”
“It has become very evident about the high occurrence of loneliness that many older adults experience in their daily lives, and has been magnified with COVID-19’s social and physical distancing,” says Patricia Hansen, RN, from MVES. “The majority of seniors and those living with disabilities are estranged from their family and friends, or have no family or friends to speak to or interact with. Most of the time their only connection to someone who cares about them is through MVES. A caring voice on the other end of the phone or a smile and wave from a Meals on Wheels driver are critical.”
To address this issue, MVES will launch a new service in early summer for its consumers called the Social Engagement Program, which will provide focused intervention on the poor health and wellness outcomes linked to loneliness and social isolation, a problem that is impacting older adults in epidemic proportions.
“After hearing from volunteers and staff in the field, our community partners, and from consumers themselves, we discovered that older adults are feeling increasingly disconnected and in need of more social support. We decided to take steps to address this problem,” says Lauren Reid, Director of Community Programs.
The Social Engagement Program will connect to MVES consumers through supports that could include the following: the Friendly Visitor Program, in which the consumer receives home visits that focus on in-person socialization and companionship (this will only be done safely and carefully in this time of the pandemic); the Telephone Reassurance Program where a volunteer calls the isolated individual and provides a social contact and friendly conversation; and/or an Email Correspondence for online engagement with others via technology.
“This social engagement intervention will supplement the consumer’ home care services resulting in a comprehensive care plan that supports an improved quality of life and a safe independence,” explains Reid. Trained and carefully screened volunteers will provide the visits, calls and emails.
MVES is playing an important role in the community to combat the effects of social isolation in those valued clients we serve. From increased well-being calls to ongoing home delivered meals to providing resources for family caregivers now worrying about their elderly loved ones from afar, MVES prides itself on remaining a consistent presence in the lives of those we are privileged to serve.
May 6, 2020
Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) recently received a grant of $20,000 from the Everett Community Care Fund in partnership with United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley to help support Everett residents in need during these unsettling times.
Funding from the Everett Community Care Fund will focus on the basic needs of older adults and adults living with disabilities and mobilize resources for emergency assistance to residents of Everett who are financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on those who are most economically vulnerable. The funding will help MVES prevent financial crises and displacement of older adults and adults living with disabilities living in Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Revere, Stoneham, Wakefield or Winthrop.
If you are a resident of MVES’ 11 communities and need assistance due to COVID-19, please contact Mystic Valley Elder Services at (781) 324-7705 or email [email protected]
May 5, 2020
Mystic Valley Elder Services has received donations and grants from many organizations and individuals to help support consumers and community members in need during these unsettling times. These donations and grants will focus on the basic needs of older adults and adults living with disabilities and mobilize resources for emergency assistance to residents of our 11 communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resources will be used for urgently needed assistance such as groceries, grocery shopping, limited rental and utility assistance, other support assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also have a limited supply of cloth masks for those who don’t have any other means to locate one. We will have them available for as long as our supply lasts.
If you are a resident of Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Revere, Stoneham, Wakefield or Winthrop, and need assistance due to COVID-19, whether it be help with grocery shopping or obtaining a cloth mask, please contact Mystic Valley Elder Services at (781) 324-7705 or email [email protected].
The Chinese Culture Connection invited political, spiritual, and organizational members of the greater Malden community, including Mystic Valley Elder Services, to share their thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic.
April 28, 2020
The fear associated with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus is very stressful for many older adults, particularly those who are especially vulnerable to the virus who may have weaker immune systems. High-risk groups include low-income older adults, those living alone, and those suffering from other health conditions such as cognitive decline, dementia, or other underlying physical and mental health conditions.
During this unprecedented public health crisis, many older adults and their families across our communities are feeling the stress of the health threat: concerns about becoming ill, uncertainty about the future, possible financial strain, not being able to see their loved ones, and dramatic changes in daily routines. Individuals respond to stress in different ways and some, especially those with mental health conditions, are prone to negative impact on their mood, anxiety, sleep and overall well-being. This is a critically important time for everyone to take extra care to protect their mental health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends these suggestions for older adults and their caregivers to help with their stress levels and mental health well-being:
- Older adults, especially in isolation and those with cognitive decline/dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated and withdrawn during the outbreak or while in quarantine. Provide practical and emotional support, such as telephone calls, emails, video conferencing and hand written notes, through informal networks (families and caregivers) and health professionals.
- Share simple facts about what is going on and give clear information about how to reduce risk of infection in words older people with/without cognitive impairment can understand. Repeat the information whenever necessary. Instructions need to be communicated in a clear, concise, respectful and patient way. It may also be helpful for information to be displayed in writing or pictures. Engage family members and other support networks in providing information and helping people to practice prevention measures (e.g. handwashing).
- Make or purchase a face covering (masks) and purchase some disposable gloves.
- If you have an underlying health condition, make sure to have access to any medications that you are currently using. Activate your social contacts to provide you with assistance, if needed.
- Be prepared and know in advance where and how to get practical help if needed, like calling a taxi, having food delivered and requesting medical care. Make sure you have up to two weeks of all your regular medicines that you may require.
- Learn simple daily physical exercises to perform at home, in quarantine or isolation so you can maintain mobility and reduce boredom.
- Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible or help create new ones in a new environment, including regular exercising, cleaning, daily chores, singing, painting or other activities. Keep in regular contact with loved ones (e.g. via telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference)
- During these times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food. Keep things in perspective.
- A near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel anxious or distressed. Seek information updates and practical guidance at specific times during the day from health professionals and reputable websites (WHO, CDC) and avoid listening to or following rumors that make you feel uncomfortable.
April 21, 2020
Food Safety During Social Distancing
With the COVID-19 Pandemic still ever present in our daily lives, preventing foodborne illness is more important than ever to avoid unnecessary visits to healthcare providers as well as to stay healthy.
According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, there is currently no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on some surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety — clean, separate, cook, and chill outlined below to prevent foodborne illness.
- Clean: Wash hands, utensils and surfaces often. Germs can spread and survive in many places.
- Separate: Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods, so keep them separate.
- Cook: Food is safely cooked only when the internal temperature is high enough to kill germs that can make you sick.
- Chill: Refrigerate promptly. Bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply quickest between 40°F and 140°F.
Shelf life of food
Many foods purchased at the grocery store include a date, which indicates when it should be used or sold by. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law. Because these dates refer to the product’s quality, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should be thrown out.
For products that don’t require refrigeration until after opening, such as mustard, salad dressing and ketchup, it’s often safe to eat these beyond the date on their label as long as they have been stored properly.
Eating for Good Health
Social distancing has changed daily routines, including eating, for many of us. With some planning and creativity, it is still possible to eat healthfully to be able to maintain good health. This is especially important for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Shop your refrigerator first: Plan Meals Based on the Foods You Already Have
- Looking for healthful ways to reduce your trips to the store? Get creative with what you have on hand. Check the refrigerator, freezer and pantry for foods that need to be used up. Leftover meats and veggies can be added to soups, salads or sandwiches.
- You can save leftovers for a meal later in the week or frozen. Keep in mind that leftovers should be used within three to four days and reheated to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If you have to go inside a store, you can reduce the amount of time you spend there by making a list according to the section of the store where these items are located.
- Prepare for the unexpected—supermarkets are running low on many items. Be ready with a back-up plan if an ingredient you need is unavailable.
- Many stores offer disinfectant wipes to clean your hands and wipe down the cart and basket handles before shopping, or you can use your own wipes and hand sanitizer.
- You can also try online grocery ordering for delivery or pick-up if available. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after putting away your food.
- Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables provide similar nutrients as fresh. Go for low sodium canned veggies and fruits canned in juice or water if available.
- If the store has run out of frozen items like vegetables, fruits, chicken, or fish, you can purchase fresh versions and freeze them. Breads and muffins, whether packaged or homemade, also freeze well for several months.
- Vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, green beans, carrots, and Brussels sprouts freeze well as do fruits like bananas, all berries, cantaloupe, and pineapple. Chop into bite-size pieces and place in a freezer bag.
Healthy Take-out and Delivery
When getting take-out or delivery you can still keep in mind good nutrition, especially if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes.
Tips for Ordering Takeout or Delivery
- If you get takeout, take the food home right away and eat it while it is hot.
- If getting delivery, request “contactless”, the delivery person will notify you when the meal is left at the doorstep.
- Transfer the meal from its packaging onto a plate, discard the packaging, and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Store leftovers safely—wrap tightly and refrigerate any dishes with meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products. Do not let leftovers sit at room temperature for longer than two hours.
- Reheat leftovers to at least 165℉ .
- The microwave is an easy way for reheating leftovers. If your microwave doesn’t have a turntable, rotate food one-half turn midway through the heating time and give it a stir to eliminate cold spots where bacteria can survive.
- Be sure to label the date of purchase on your leftovers and remember to discard within three to five days.
April 14, 2020
COVID-19 is changing the way people work, live and interact with one another. The pandemic is pushing companies to rapidly operate in new ways, and Mystic Valley Elder Services is not immune to it. As we adjust to this new normal, we continuously look at ways of doing things differently to be more efficient. There are things businesses can do to be proactive and look at what they can realistically do to help, adapt to the situation and find a way to keep moving on.
Our consumers have become acquainted with care managers making house calls to check in on them, and Meals on Wheels drivers stopping in to share a brief conversation and friendly smile. However, under the new guidance of “Stay Home, Stay Safe” there is very minimal in home, face-to-face interaction happening at this time.
We continue to be in regular communications with our consumers. Our care and program managers are calling them on a regular basis to assess their well-being and need for services. And to improve upon that process, MVES began to deploy cell phones last week to Client Services staff so they will be able to contact consumers and others with a number that shows up as a MVES caller. With many telephone scams happening during this time, especially those targeting older adults, many consumers do not answer their phones. Calling from a MVES cell phone should help us connect more effectively with consumers who will recognize that MVES is calling and not some unknown number or scammer. Staff have set up tables in the back parking lot so that Client Services staff can drive up and receive a phone that is placed in the trunk of their car without having to get out and interact with others. The distribution of cells phones will continue into this week. Approximately 150 phones will be given out.
April 8, 2020
Help Support Mystic Valley Elder Services’ COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Response Fund
With the emergence of the COVID-19 virus, Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) continues to create contingency plans for service continuity and has established a COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Response Fund so our consumers will remain receiving critical assistance such as food, personal care and other essential items on either a short term or one time basis. Through this fund, you can help provide essential support so that MVES will have the immediate and substantial resources we need to adjust and continue to operate during these incredibly difficult times for so many of your neighbors.
Your generosity will provide the funds MVES needs today to cover the costs of these urgently needed, unbudgeted resources:
- Surge in demand for home-delivered meals and added costs of preparation and delivery.
- Personal Protective Equipment including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers: MVES has purchased over $5,000 worth of masks, gloves and hand sanitizers to protect Meals on Wheels delivery workers and other front line staff who need to visit vulnerable older adults during this pandemic crisis.
- More than 100 new cell phones, $1,200 per month for nurses and care managers working remotely who need to conduct phone risk assessment screenings and do daily safety checks on older adults. By using MVES phones rather than personal cell phones, communication will be improved and older adults and their caregivers will be more likely to answer calls.
- $25 grocery gift cards and pharmacy gift cards to give to home care workers to provide grocery shopping and/or pick up medications at pharmacies for 500 older adults. Grocery stores and pharmacies for the most part will not accept credit card pre-payments from Mystic Valley Elder Services and so low income older adults and their home health aides need a way to be able to directly pay for their essential needs at grocery stores and pharmacies.
Please know that your donation to Mystic Valley Elder Services as a private, nonprofit 501c3 organization is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. On March 27, President Trump signed into law the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. One of the features of this new law is the Federal Charitable Giving Incentive which includes a new above-the-line deduction (universal or non-itemizer deduction that applies to all taxpayers) for total charitable contributions up to $300. The incentive applies to contributions made in 2020 and would be claimed by donors on tax forms next year.
Please support the Mystic Valley Elder Services COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Response Fund. You and your gernerosity will help your neighbors continue to receive the supports they need to live with dignity and independence. You can donate online or by sending a check to the attention of Mystic Valley Elder Services, 300 Commercial St, #19, Malden, MA 02148.
April 1, 2020
The past few weeks have been unlike any we have ever seen. The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has forced Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) to take unprecedented measures to remain a viable resource to older adults, adults living with disabilities, and their caregivers. We continue to adapt with the evolving situation affecting our communities. MVES is taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers, and the 20,000 individuals served on an annual basis.
As a mission-based community resource, MVES is committed to meeting consumers’ needs during this uncertain time. However, we remain prudent in following the recommendations of national, state and local authorities so that our services are delivered in the safest manner possible. Our main office at 300 Commercial Street is closed to visitors with very limited staff working onsite while most staff are working remotely practicing social distancing.
Despite challenges associated with adapting to a mostly-virtual setup, our dedicated professional team has stepped up in a big way and are working hard to keep our programs operational. All of us at MVES are trying to remain as nimble as possible during these uncertain times.
Meals on Wheels will continue to operate, with MVES staff delivering daily meals. Earlier this week, 10,000 frozen meal emergency packets were delivered by 130 volunteers consisting of staff and community members. Care managers, protective services, and clinical counselors continue to connect with consumers by telephone to assess risk, provide care advice, reassurance and support and only visiting when absolutely necessary.
MVES appreciates our consumers, staff, volunteers, and community supporters’ flexibility and cooperation during this unprecedented time. We will provide additional updates as they become available.
March 25, 2020
Scams related to the Coronavirus COVID-19 are rapidly increasing as the public health emergency develops. Scammers are targeting older adults and those with serious long-term health conditions who appear to have a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Please read the Consumer Alert flyer below:
March 23, 2020
Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) knows that the evolving and ever changing news about Coronavirus COVID-19 is causing growing concerns for many. We want you to know that MVES is open for business and is working to be sure that our consumers continue to receive needed services, and to protect not only their health but also the health of our MVES staff and volunteers as well as other agency workers who provide services to our consumers. If our staff or consumers are not feeling well, there may be a temporary interruption or reduction in services. Be assured, MVES will always let consumers know if services will be interrupted, reduced or cannot be delivered. The wellbeing of our staff and consumers is our #1 goal.
As of March 23, 2020, MVES is adhering to the following:
- We have adapted some program protocols to keep consumers, volunteers and staff safe such as instituting a “no visitor” policy at the office.
- We are in regular communications with our consumers. Our care managers are calling them on a regular basis to assess their well-being and need for services.
- Under Governor Baker’s recommendations to protect the staff and public’s health and safety and his advisory to stay at home, we are not conducting home visits but are assessing our consumers’ needs through telephonic means.
- We continue to accept calls and referrals via our online referral form and/or by calling our Information and Referral Dept. at 781-324-7705, x100.
- We continue to serve home delivered meals. We are delivering extra shelf-stable and frozen meals to our consumers and are exploring options in the event that there may be a shortage of meal delivery personnel or if a consumer with active COVID 19 is in need of nutrition supports.
MVES is in constant contact with the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the Department of Public Health, and we are following their guidance as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended best practices. We are also in close communication with our extensive network of in-home service provider agencies and our community partners to deliver services in a safe and effective manner.
Here are a few things you can do to help keep yourself from getting sick:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Practice social distancing putting 6 feet between yourself and other people.
- Avoid crowds of 10 or more and do not travel unless you must.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick with a cold or flu symptoms.
- If you feel sick or have a cough or fever, call your doctor.
The Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak is a rapidly changing situation from a public health perspective and we are committed to keeping you informed. MVES is working to ensure the wellbeing of all those who depend on us.
March 13, 2020
Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) is open for business and continuing to provide services to people in need. We are in close contact with the MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the Department of Public Health, and we are following their guidance as well as the CDC recommended best practices. We are also in close communication with our extensive network of in-home service provider agencies and our community partners to deliver services in a safe and effective manner.
At this time, in keeping with the most up-to-date information that we have and the program regulations that guide our work, MVES is continuing to provide services, while taking all possible precautions to safeguard wellness. We understand that this is a fluid situation and information may change quickly so we are continuing to monitor what is happening and make contingency plans for service continuity. We are asking our staff and volunteers and urge all members of our community to stay home when sick, to limit close interpersonal contact, and to practice frequent handwashing. Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our staff, volunteers, and the members of the communities we serve. Updates will be posted here as circumstances change. Thank you!
MVES is sharing a video link regarding COVID-19 and how older adults should deal with the virus. Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director of infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers advice on what elders can do in response to the outbreak. You can see it here.