Elderly citizens are among the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus that has killed thousands around the world. Though Turkey has a relatively younger population compared to worst-hit countries like Italy, the elderly, especially those dependent on care, remain at risk.
The government stepped up measures to protect senior citizens in need of care, starting in nursing homes. The Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services is overseeing the efforts. Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk recently disclosed a number of measures to protect the elderly at nursing homes and other centers for the care of frail, elderly citizens. All nursing homes are being regularly disinfected, while both residents and staff are informed on the coronavirus and ways of protection. Except for essential visits, all visits to these centers have been banned. In urgent cases, visitors are allowed only after they are screened for virus symptoms. Selçuk said nursing home staff also run symptom checks four times a day for the residents, every six hours.
The ministry also reduced house visits by social workers and decided to close soup kitchens for needy citizens. Instead, meals will be delivered to the homes of citizens or will be served as takeaways. Social workers will be mandated to care for hygiene rules in essential house visits. Activities at Family Support Centers and Social Solidarity Centers, which serve as venues where disadvantaged communities and families can consult and take vocational training with experts, will also be suspended.
For citizens suffering from chronic illnesses, the ministry decided to automatically extend the deadline of documents they obtained for access to medicine and medical equipment, allowing people to obtain them from pharmacists without extra paperwork.
Citizens with suspected symptoms will be eligible for a 14-day leave without losing their social security benefits, the ministry also announced.
The Turkish Red Crescent also extended a helping hand for senior citizens and citizens with chronic illness amid the coronavirus scare. The youth branch of the leading Turkish charity sent volunteers to do the shopping for senior and sick citizens who cannot leave home. Volunteers, in coordination with local authorities, first call the citizens at risk and ask their grocery needs. They later deliver groceries to the citizens and inform them about coronavirus measures.