District Emergency Organizations (DEOs) will be mobilized over the next week to reach out to elderly citizens across Barbados, 70 years and over, to check on their health care status, and whether or not they have signs of COVID-19.
In the initial phase, which is set to get under way from Monday, May 11, the parishes of St. Philip, St. Michael, Christ Church, St. George and St. Lucy will be targeted.
Members of the DEOs will be contacting persons in their assigned area via telephone and not through visits to their homes as physical engagement with the elderly is being discouraged at this time. They will identify themselves as members of the DEO, and will not be asking for any financial details or requesting money.
Speaking during a virtual meeting yesterday, Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, said this formed part of an initiative from Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley to ensure that residents over the age of 70 were as protected as possible from contracting COVID-19.
“The over 70s are our more critical and vulnerable population. A lot of them suffer with chronic non-communicable diseases which makes them susceptible to COVID-19,” he said, while urging the public’s cooperation during the one-week exercise.
This was supported by COVID-19 Czar, Richard Carter, who explained that a society was judged by its social status and the way it took care of the most vulnerable. “COVID-19 exposes the vulnerability of elderly persons,” he said.
Mr. Carter explained that the DEOs were provided with a list of names of elderly persons over 70, according to their polling district, their addresses and telephone numbers, so they could reach out to them and see what, if any, help was needed.
Noting that only basic information was being collected during the exercise, Mr. Carter gave the assurance that it would be kept in the strictest confidence and only shared with the relevant government agencies.
In circumstances where elderly persons, their relatives or caregivers indicate that they were not feeling well, they would be referred to a medical professional, and interviewed further.
Senior Communications Officer with the COVID Implementation Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office, Denise Carter Taylor, explained that the members of the DEOs would have a checklist to use as guidance.
That list, she explained, would require them to ascertain the person’s name, address and telephone number; whether they live alone or with others; if they are able to get their meals with or without assistance; their ability to go to the supermarket; whether they care for themselves alone or with help; if they are able to go to the doctor alone or need assistance to do; and also whether they have had any COVID-19 symptoms within the last three weeks.
She added that in cases where the elderly persons could not speak for themselves, due to an ailment such as dementia, the DEO representatives would be able to speak with their relatives or caregivers.
Meanwhile, the Department of Emergency Management also stands ready to assist in the process of making calls to the elderly as a part of the exercise.