Jennifer manages the TeleCheck program that is affiliated with Headwaters. The community-based program is a free, confidential check-in service that supports adults 55+ living independently in their homes.
Even before COVID-19 older adults faced social isolation and loneliness. The pandemic’s arrival and ensuing physical distancing left older adults who lived alone even more isolated than before. For those with underlying health concerns this isolation placed them further at risk.
Research has demonstrated that social isolation and loneliness can lead to an increase in vulnerability and higher risk for related health problems such as cognitive decline, depression, and heart disease. The team at TeleCheck helps to address these risks and work to lessen the negative effects through regular connection and companionship.
“In the early days of the pandemic we had many really long calls that allowed us to connect with our isolated members and provide an opportunity to share what was happening in their lives, help them understand what resources may be available in the community to support them, and more importantly provide them with the social contact they deeply value,” shared Jennifer.
For some members of the program these phone calls are the only contact they have and for others it is a bridge to other community services that can create a sense of belonging.
“Prior to the pandemic our volunteers made calls from a call centre in the community. When the pandemic hit, in under 24 hours, the program moved to fully remote. This provided our volunteers with more flexibility and enabled us to take on more volunteers while supporting our long-time adult volunteers with the opportunity to finetune their tech skills,” shared Jennifer.
The volunteer team did struggle with not being able to see each other in person. COVID-19 has taken away from being able to socialize with other TeleCheck volunteers, which many hold dearly, but it has not stopped the calls.
“I am in constant awe of the beautiful group of dedicated volunteers and staff who make an enormous difference with every call that they make,” shared Jennifer.
The team at TeleCheck also works closely with our hospital and Dufferin County Paramedic Service. Each program encounters older adults on a regular basis and is able to identify at risk or socially isolated older adults while having the ability to connect them with support services and each other respectively.
“The warmth and support we have received from Headwaters staff has been overwhelming. We work closely with Geriatric Emergency Department Nurse, Karen, to support older adults discharged from hospital to stay connected as well as paramedics to combine resources to support individuals in the community,” shared Jennifer.
Going forward TeleCheck hopes to continue to expand its volunteer base and increase member volume by working with community partners to expand system navigation pathways. The pandemic has highlighted the need for collaboration across all agencies, supporting older adults and addressing social isolation.
“Not a day goes by that I am not opened to a new perspective, provided with an opportunity to learn something new or am brought to laughter along with our many members. My hope for TeleCheck is to be an essential piece of an integrated system of social care,” shared Jennifer.
Photo caption: (right to left) Volunteer Bob, Jennifer, TeleCheck Manager, Volunteer Diane and Kim, TeleCheck staff member.