By Stephen Bogdan

Red Cross Offers Virtual Assistance to New York State Residents Coping with Loss from COVID-19

Red Cross Offers Virtual Assistance to New York State Residents Coping with Loss from COVID-19 As the losses for the coronavirus continue to rise, so does the grief that follows in their wake. In keeping with the core mission of the American Red Cross, to alleviate human suffering, the Red Cross in New York is calling attention to another toll of the pandemic: the many people left behind to grieve, in a time of social isolation. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered everyone’s daily lives, including how people grieve the loss of a loved one. The isolation of the sick is difficult to deal with emotionally because people have not had opportunities to be with their loved ones while they were in the hospital or nursing home and not able to be with them when they passed. Although we cannot minimize the severity of a loss of a loved one, we can assist family members in obtaining clear, concise, and accurate information and access to helpful resources, in a way that is professionally responsible, empathic and culturally sensitive during a very challenging time. These actions can facilitate the healing process for family members. The Red Cross regions across New York have developed a Virtual Family Assistance Center to support individuals and families who have lost family members to death as a result of COVID-19. The program links crisis counselors with families to provide emotional and spiritual support, as well as targeted short-term case management to assist with navigating through the challenging processes they might be faced with as a result of the death. People can call the center just to talk or be connected with needed resources in their community. Whatever the need, it’s about making the process easier so families can get through this difficult time. “These families are dealing with the emotional trauma of losing a loved one, while facing logistical challenges caused by this public health emergency,” said Tara Hughes, Northeast Division Disaster Mental Health Advisor, who is leading the virtual Family Assistance Center program. “We’re proud to use the mass casualty experience of the Red Cross to join our community together and provide comfort and support to these families across New York State during these difficult times.”

The Red Cross does not charge a fee for this service and all information remains confidential. The volunteers are passionate and have eagerly jumped on board to assist their fellow New York State residents.

Communities across New York State count on the Red Cross for help every day – and supporting those communities is at the heart of what we do. Our work never stops, even during this coronavirus crisis, and we remain focused on delivering our lifesaving mission each day. Click here to read more about how the Red Cross serves New York State Residents: A team of thirty specially trained Red Cross Disaster Mental Health, Disaster Health Services and Disaster Spiritual Care volunteers are contacting people who fill out a form online (see links below) or call the

intake number. They team will be available to support families with their emotional and spiritual needs, as well as provide information and referrals to state and local agencies as well as other community organizations to help families meet their immediate needs. “So what they get when they call is a lot of support emotional support, really from someone who understands what they’re going through,” said Hughes. COVID-19 has also complicated the normal post death procedures including the process of moving a loved one to a funeral home, funeral service or memorial planning while managing social distancing guidelines. Assistance can include many things from obtaining a death certificate, travel concerns, working with the funeral provider and securing legal resources for estate, custody, immigration, or other related issues.

“We’re really helping them figure out what their needs are and then looking to do all we can to navigate those processes and then get them to where they need to be,” said Hughes. Families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 can fill out an online intake form in English or Spanish, and a Family Assistance Center volunteer will contact them. Intake forms can also be filled out by a concerned friend who thinks someone needs help, a professional advocating for a family, or an agency working on behalf of the family. Those without online capabilities may call 585-957-8187, and a volunteer will assist them with the initial intake process. The Family Assistance Center is expected to operate for as long as families will benefit from the service. “The volunteers we have are amazing people and they have been stepping up to the plate to do this,” said Hughes. “Volunteers can stick with them, really, until they have supported them through the processes they and their family are going through.”