By: Stephanie Ntim
When Senior Services began adapting programs in mid-March, federal and local government ordinances led many in Forsyth County to change their daily lives to limit community spread of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Despite the unfortunate turn of events in Spring 2020, Aging Resources specialist, Sarah Fuerbacher has stayed hopeful. She lauds the organization for adapting practices to help seniors in the community. “Senior Services has definitely responded with open arms to the community. The seniors we serve who are homebound need a voice, and I think Senior Services is giving that to them.” The same dedication to seniors reverberates in every Senior Services program, including two where Fuerbacher has served–Help Line and Meals-on-Wheels.
Currently, as an Aging Resources specialist, Fuerbacher responds to inquiries and calls submitted to the Help Line, providing information and referrals related to resources available to seniors and their caregivers on topics such as in-home services, senior living, insurance information and more. Among the many daily operations changes, the Help Line team now works remotely, yet continues to take phone calls every day, updating and providing information regularly so seniors and caregivers know what services are available to meet their needs.
This connection to seniors is valued, especially when some are often isolated from their loved ones. “COVID has limited [participants]. They’re stuck at home, waiting for the vaccine, and probably nervous about letting anyone come into the home. In some ways COVID has made them even more isolated than before.” And COVID-19 continues to be a common topic of Help Line inquires. “When I’m taking calls, the question of what kind of support system they have definitely is a topic of conversation. And, it’s always a full circle screening of what we can do to help them in the home; whether it would be getting them into contact with another department for wellness checks; or whether they would need personal care because a family member cannot help them anymore; or the Meals-on-Wheels department because they can’t get to the store right now,” said Fuerbacher. Aging Resources specialists like Fuerbacher gather a complete picture of friends, neighbors, and family who support callers. This attention to detail helps the Aging Resources specialists connect seniors to a network of Senior Services programs and other community partners, that can provide relief to callers seeking assistance.
Fuerbacher previously worked as the volunteer coordinator with Meals-on-Wheels, a program to help seniors who are homebound access nutritious meals. She was part of the team that helped transition the program from daily hot meals to a frozen delivery program, in which volunteers and staff deliver a weekly 5-pack of frozen meals to all Meals-on-Wheels participants. This reduced the number of times meal recipients, volunteers, and staff were in contact with one another. When the pandemic necessitated the shift in delivery during the spring of 2020, Fuerbacher was delighted by the outpouring of support from community members to help. Soon after the change, community members stepped up to rally around delivering meals to seniors. This concerted effort by the community does not go unnoticed, especially when many are in need.
Fuerbacher’s efforts to help seniors age with purpose and live with dignity extends beyond her work with Help Line and Meals-on-Wheels. One of her most memorable moments occurred in December of last year, when she and her husband adopted a WISH recipient in her church group. WISH recipients are seniors who receive gifts from community members every December. “It was just a joy to see how happy he was…that was a really special moment for me last month,” said Fuerbacher. Through her work with the Help Line program, she hopes to impart a similar joy while speaking to callers. She often tells them, “We [Senior Services] are here for you.”
As the coronavirus pandemic continues into the new year, Fuerbacher intends to stay positive and do the best she can to support seniors. “They [seniors] need help, and especially isolated seniors. Someone needs to advocate for them, and I feel that Senior Services does that, and it is their top priority.” In the spirit of remaining positive, Fuerbacher asks that people in the community volunteer, donate, and keep spreading the word about Senior Services to continue the mission of helping older adults age with purpose and live with dignity.