CORK people have been encouraged to check in with elderly neighbours, friends and family members during Ireland’s latest lockdown, amid concerns that some people may be at “full stretch” in terms of coping with the pandemic mentally.
Former Lord Mayor of Cork and GP John Sheehan, of Blackpool Bridge Surgery, welcomed the commencement of the roll-out of the Covid vaccination programme saying the distribution “can’t come quick enough” as people are starting to really struggle with the disruption to daily life.
“I think people are nearly at full stretch in terms of coping with it [Covid-19] mentally and the whole isolation and the disruption to routine and particularly then all the social supports that people rely on, especially if you’re elderly and more so if you’re living alone – things like going to mass, going to senior citizens clubs, all the activities that are normally part of your daily routine and that really break up the week and give people something to look forward to,” Dr Sheehan said.
The move to a full Level 5 lockdown was announced by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in a televised address on Wednesday.
Those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue to exercise personal judgement.
It is recommended that they stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced.
When taking exercise outdoors, it is recommended to maintain 2 metres distance from others and wash hands on returning home.
Dr Sheehan encouraged people to take things “one day at a time” during the third lockdown and to get out for some fresh air if possible.
“It’s important that people would get out for a walk because that will help them get through this time,” he said.
Dr Sheehan also encouraged people to check in with elderly neighbours, friends and family.
“After Christmas people can be a little bit more isolated and a little bit more down in themselves so it’s important that you’d check in with them – particularly in January, January is a long month in Ireland anyway.
“It’s really important that we check in with people and just ask if they need anything and things like that. It might just be a five minute phone call but it’s really appreciated by people.”
This sentiment was echoed by well-known campaigner for older people in Cork and organiser of the Over 60s Talent Competition, Paddy O’Brien, who encouraged people to “be more vigilant in caring for the elderly”.
“Neighbours in the vicinity of elderly people should get their telephone numbers and make a point of phoning someone each day.
“A daily phone call, a chat at the window, can mean so much to people.
“It’s vitally important to check that elderly people have adequate food and sufficient fuel in the home,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Elderly people are the weakest section in the community and everyone has a role to play in helping them through these exceptionally difficult times,” he continued.
Mr O’Brien said, speaking to a number of elderly people in recent days, many said they felt Christmas almost “passed them by” as many cherished traditions were scuppered as a result of the pandemic.
“Some have family members living abroad who would normally come home for Christmas and that would be the highlight when they would return. It was very sad to hear some people say Christmas was just non-existent this year,” he said.
Mr O’Brien spoke of the “heartbreaking loneliness” some elderly people are experiencing as a result of the pandemic.
“Loneliness is like one of the conventional diseases – it kills people,” he added.
Speaking to The Echo, Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, said it is vital that elderly people reach out for support if they need it.
The charity, which provides a range of services to support the elderly, saw an increased demand of around 300% during 2020.
“2020 was a year like no other. Since March we’ve had around 40,000 calls,” said Mr Moynihan, who explained that many of these elderly people will require ongoing supports.
The charity delivered Christmas dinner to around 700 people this year.