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Vaccinations helping to resume essential care to elderly veterans

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PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The pandemic has taken a toll on families and some of the most vulnerable communities. Among them are thousands of elderly veterans.

Eyewitness News has kept a close eye on how many senior assisted living facilities and places like the VA in Luzerne County have had to shut down everything but the most essential of services. As more and more vaccines are administered, those services can come back.

According to the CDC, more than 97% of our senior citizens in the Keystone State have had at least one dose of a vaccine and more than 76% have had at least one dose.

Nicole Guest does a lot with the American Legion and mixes that with volunteer work at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center in Plains Township. The non-essential services are something that she hasn’t been able to provide in well over a year.

“We’ve all gotten so attached to them, they’re our family, they’re our extended family,” Guest said.

Volunteers for the VA have been put on standby and are one call away from being able to regularly visit again. Guest and countless others are looking forward to get back in and provide some extra caregiving for vets whose families may not live in the area.

“Of course we all want to have a party. We have everyone wanting to do cookouts but I think the first thing is just to hug them,” Guest.

Hope is starting to build at the VA Medical Center and for veterans across the region.

Amy Goyer is a veterans caregiving expert with the AARP and sees many programs from adult daycare to services that go in to help our homebound veterans coming back soon.

“People have really cut off some of their caregiving support–services that come into the home because they wanted to protect them and so if we can get people vaccinated and help them be safer? They can start getting services again,” Goyer said.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, more than 13,000 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in nursing homes and long-term care facilities with the rate dramatically decreasing since December.

While many can look forward to more visits and being reconnected, she says it’s important to remember everyone who has been hard at work along the way.

“Family caregivers have been under a lot of stress, traditionally they’re isolated and then the pandemic added a whole other layer. If you know someone, reach out. Give the, a little extra help now that things are opening up, maybe you can provide a meal or do something to support them,” Goyer said.

At the VA Medical Center in Plains Township, regular volunteers are on standby to come back and help give that extra help to many who don’t have family in the immediate area.

Its welcome news as Memorial Day is around the corner and we remember those no longer with us.

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