Nobody could have expected the arrival and impact of coronavirus, but what it did show was the lack of preparedness in Pittsburgh’s medical system. TribLive highlighted the WQED documentary looking at shortcomings across the system, and how it has raised serious questions over the capability of the state to provide proper care and support for the city’s senior citizens. It’s not an easy challenge to definitively answer, but there are clear ways to improve the experience and safety of the state’s senior citizens this winter.
Community help and care
Experts with the University of Pittsburgh are already predicting a severe winter. Influenza is likely to be at much higher rates with general immunity rates reduced. This will mean seniors are more confined to their homes than before, and that increases the amount of reliance they have both on their family and on the community for helping out. This is important when you consider fine matters of independence – what happens if an appliance goes out? Seniors, more than most, need quick repair, as they are more susceptible to illness from temperature change. The same goes for all utilities, whether that be their fridge, oven or the internet in their homes. Quick repair is essential, and community-based support will be a key factor in supporting that.
Seniors are also at risk of financial insecurity in winter. The natural gas supply issues that have seen global skyrocketing prices haven’t yet touched down in the USA, but there’s reason enough to be wary. There are many schemes in PA that help in these situations; take, for example, the PA 211 winter fuel allowance for impoverished families. Awareness is key, and communities and advocates will need to be in regular contact with seniors way ahead of time to ensure that they are aware of the potential benefits they have not yet made use of.
Worst case scenarios
The pandemic has shown that disaster planning is a necessary part of public life. Bad situations can, and will, happen. It’s imperative that all bases are covered as much as is reasonably possible. This is something that needs to come from all sections of society – local authorities, community, family, and private business. Work in this regard has been focused on by local charitable efforts – for instance, KeyBank has been providing warm clothes to disadvantaged families and senior citizens across the city for months in preparation for the upcoming cold season. The Post Gazette reports that the Farmer’s Almanac predicts 2 foot of snow in rural areas and biting cold when the winter passes over the state. That’s a huge challenge for senior citizens and their care network.
2020 showed just how precarious the support system that many senior citizens rely on is. There’s a chance in the 2021/22 winter to change that. Through community, authority and local action, real change can be made. That, in turn, will lead to more senior citizens feeling secure at the most challenging time of year.