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Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

older woman smilingDuring the declared State of Emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, families may be considering whether their loved one should move from a Nursing Facility, Rest Home or Assisted Living Residence. The following information about the processes different facilities follow and the questions to ask can help in this complex decision making process.

Step 1: What type of facility does my loved one reside in?

The processes and implications are different depending on where your loved one resides.

If a Loved One Lives in an Assisted Living Residence (ALR):If a Loved One Lives in a Nursing Facility or Rest Home:

There is no uniform process to move out as the tenancy is governed by landlord-tenant law; however,

  • If the move is permanent, it is important to check the resident agreement to understand any applicable terms or penalties for terminating residency.

  • If the move is temporary, it is important to inform the residence (preferably in writing) that the family member will be spending time away from the ALR and continue to make required payments to preserve your family member’s tenancy so that they can return to their unit at a later date.

  • It is also important to coordinate the date, time, and process for the move or subsequent return with the ALR and ensure access to any necessary medications, supplies, and assistive equipment.

If you have decided on a discharge home, you can begin the process by:

  • Contacting the social worker at the nursing home to begin to facilitate the discharge process outlined below.

  • The resident may initiate this contact on their own or if a resident does not have decisional capacity, the authorized contact or guardian can make this request.

  • It is important to note that if a family chooses to discharge a loved one from a nursing facility or rest home, their loved one is not guaranteed re-admittance to that facility.

Have you factored in your loved one’s opinion about whether s/he wants to stay or go?

Step 2: Primary Considerations for Moving a Loved One

Here are some key questions to consider in moving a loved one from their facility to home:

  • Have you factored in your loved one’s opinion about whether s/he wants to stay or go?
  • Is there consistent support and a backup plan should that support not be available?
  • Is your home able to handle your loved one’s needs?
  • Has your loved one been tested to ensure they do not have the virus?
  • Is there a plan for what would happen if someone in your home gets infected?
  • What happens if your loved one becomes ill or needs more care than you can provide once they are in your home?
  • Can your loved one return to the facility once the pandemic is over?
  • Will your loved one have to reapply for Medicaid before going back to a nursing home?
  • What specific services and supports does your loved one need?

Step 3: What are your loved one’s needs? Who will provide assistance?

This chart below can assist with evaluating your loved one’s needs, help you gage the level of assistance s/he may require, and who within the family/social support network can provide the in-home assistance. This chart can be shared with the social worker to help determine how much assistance is required and if an outside service is needed.

NeedsIndependent/Able to do for themselvesFamily/Friend/In-home Support will provide needed assistanceWill need outside assistance
Bathing/Personal Hygiene      
Getting dressed/undressed      
Toileting      
Walking (Ambulating)      
Getting into and out of chair or bed (Transferring)      
Taking or reminding to take medication      
Meal Preparation      
Shopping      
Laundry      
Transportation to Medical Appointments      
Supervision (due to cognition/memory loss)      
Other      

Step 4: If You Decide Outside Services Are Needed

Now that you have a sense of what your loved one’s needs are and which of these needs requires outside assistance, there are resources in your community to assist you with these decisions.

Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs), including LifePath, are available in every region in the state and can help evaluate the following questions regarding the long-term care needs of a loved one.

  • What services or care are available to support community living?
  • What assistive devices or home modifications are available to support my loved one living in the community?
  • Does insurance cover any services, care and/or home modifications? If not, what funding, loans or donations may be available?

Additionally, if your loved one was previously receiving in-home services from their local ASAP, the ASAP can assist with reinstating services upon their return home.

Call LifePath at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get the help you need.

Maile Shoul, Project Manager, Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin RegionMaile Shoul, Project Manager, Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin RegionOver the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed nearly every aspect of our lives, from grocery shopping to visiting family members. Due to social distancing guidelines, many of us are spending more time at home than ever before, cut off from almost all in-person interaction. This can be especially difficult for people who are struggling with substance use disorders (the medical term for drug or alcohol addiction) and are currently seeking treatment and recovery services.

President Trump declared the opioid epidemic to be a national emergency in 2017; while the federal government spent over $7 billion on combating the opioid epidemic in 2018, advocates say that this funding has not been enough. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that over 69,000 people died in the United States from drug overdose in 2019. Nearly seven out of ten of these deaths were due to opioid misuse. 

Our rural region is now experiencing two widespread public health crises at the same time. The coronavirus crisis has made it more difficult to access treatment and recovery services for substance-use disorders and the social distancing that helps to protect us from COVID-19 can make us more vulnerable to isolation and depression, which can exacerbate substance misuse. However, local programs are working diligently to quickly adapt to this new reality and to ensure that their treatment and recovery services remain accessible to those in need of support. 

The coronavirus crisis has made it more difficult to access treatment and recovery services for substance-use disorders and the social distancing that helps to protect us from COVID-19 can make us more vulnerable to isolation and depression, which can exacerbate substance misuse.

The Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region has compiled a list of resources for how to get help during this challenging time. This list includes resources for behavioral health, treatment, recovery, harm reduction, and much more. 

Residential rehab programs, such as the Northern Hope Center in Greenfield, remain open. Most other residential treatment programs are continuing to provide services and have put strict safety and social distancing protocols in place to ensure that their residents remain safe from COVID-19. In the unfortunate event that one does get diagnosed with the virus, many have also set up separate spaces for the quarantine of patients, who can still get treatment while keeping everyone else from being infected.

COVID-19 has also impacted the thousands of people in Massachusetts being prescribed medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD, also referred to as medication-assisted treatment or MAT), such as methadone or Suboxone. Research shows that medications to treat addiction significantly increase adherence to treatment and make it possible for people in recovery to hold jobs, go back to school, and repair relationships. 

In the United States, methadone is highly regulated and can only be dispensed at licensed methadone clinics. In most cases, people taking methadone must get their daily dose at the clinic. Methadone is a Schedule II drug, which has the potential for abuse, but other Schedule II drugs, such as Oxycodone and codeine, are not subject to the same strict regulations. 

COVID-19 made the traditional clinic model of dispensing methadone extremely risky. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued emergency guidelines in March that relaxed these decades-old restrictions, allowing stable patients to take home up to 28 days worth of medication. Suboxone (the brand name for buprenorphine) is typically easier to access than methadone, but also subject to strict regulations. SAMHSA’s emergency guidelines now make it easier for people to access Suboxone via telehealth visits. 

Treatment and recovery advocates have long argued that these heavy regulations on medications for opioid use disorder create too high of a barrier for people seeking treatment. Perhaps one silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic is that we are now experiencing a change in the guidelines that will lower one barrier to treatment. 

The biggest threat to recovery during this pandemic may be the sense of isolation that many people are feeling now that most in-person gatherings have been shut down and so many people are experiencing job loss. Peter Babineau, the Western Regional Manager of Learn to Cope, a non-profit that holds support groups for family members of individuals with substance-use disorder, says that the COVID-19 pandemic has been “a nightmare for a lot of folks.” He reports that the increased stress and anxiety that go hand in hand with the pandemic can lead to an increase in relapse. Isolation and boredom can be triggers for drug and alcohol use. 

Many people across the country are feeling the sudden loss of their in-person support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Most support groups have moved their meetings online, using platforms such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. Peer recovery centers, including the RECOVER Project in Greenfield, and the North Quabbin Recovery Center in Athol, have also moved their meetings and services to a virtual platform. 

This sudden move online has drawbacks and benefits. Online communication doesn’t provide the same sense of intimacy and nuance that a face-to-face interaction provides, and it can feel awkward at first. To get online, many people have to learn new technology, which can be frustrating. However, remote solutions remove geographic and transportation barriers, which can make meetings more accessible. At Learn to Cope, Peter says that they have combined their Franklin County meeting with their Pittsfield meeting, which has been very successful. Individuals from Vermont, New York and other regions have joined in. “After all of this is resolved,” says Peter, “Learn to Cope will continue to offer virtual support, because it’s been such a success.” 

It is often said in recovery circles that “the opposite of addiction is connection.” The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted for all of us just how important our personal connections are. While we may be temporarily more physically isolated than we were a few months ago, the opportunities for connection still exist and can be a source of light during these trying times.

smp logoScams related to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, are rapidly increasing as the public health emergency develops. Scammers are targeting older adults and those with serious long-term health conditions who appear to have a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

Fraudsters are attempting to bill Medicare for sham tests or treatments related to the coronavirus and are targeting individuals to illegally obtain money or Medicare numbers.

What Can You Do to Stop COVID-19 Fraud?

  • Do not give out your Medicare number to anyone other than your doctor or other health care provider.
  • Protect your Medicare number and treat your Medicare card like a credit card.
  • Never provide your Medicare number to anyone who contacts you through unsolicited calls, texts, or emails.
  • Be cautious of anyone who comes to your door offering free coronavirus testing, treatment, or supplies.
  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know, which could put your computer or device at risk. Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer are up to date.
  • Be cautious when purchasing medical supplies from unverified sources, including online advertisements and email/phone solicitations.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. If you see ads touting prevention products or cures for COVID-19, they are most likely a scam.
  • Do your homework before making a donation to a charity or crowdfunding site due to a public health emergency. Be particularly wary of any charities requesting donations by cash, by gift card, or wire transfer.
  • Be alert to “investment opportunities.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19 and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

 What Does Medicare Cover in Relation to COVID-19?

  • Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers COVID-19 tests when ordered by your doctor or health care provider on or after February 4, 2020.
  • Medicare covers all medically necessary hospitalizations, including extra days in the hospital for patients who had to stay longer under COVID-19 quarantine.
  • There is no vaccine for COVID-19 at this time; however, if one becomes available, Medicare will cover it.
  • Medicare also recently expanded coverage of telehealth services to enable beneficiaries to access a wider range of services from their providers without having to travel to a facility.
    • This includes access to doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers.
    • During this emergency, there are also more options for the ways your providers can talk with you under this provision.

For Medicare coverage questions, contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at their website, or call 1-877-839-2675.

 Other COVID-19 Resources:

How Your Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Can Help

Your local SMP is ready to provide you with the information you need to PROTECT yourself from Medicare fraud, errors, and abuse; DETECT potential fraud, errors, and abuse; and REPORT your concerns. SMPs and their trained volunteers help educate and empower Medicare beneficiaries in the fight against health care fraud. Your SMP can help you with your questions, concerns, or complaints about potential fraud and abuse issues. It also can provide information and educational presentations.

To locate your state Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP): Visit the Senior Medicare Patrol website or call 1-877-808-2468.

Supported by a grant (No. 90MPRC0001) from the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Amanda Barrow, wearing one of her creations.Amanda Barrow, wearing one of her creations.When LifePath put out a call for Personal Protective Equipment (including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer) to be used in our programs where we are in contact with elders and persons with disabilities, the overwhelming response was heartwarming. One of the many people who contacted us was Amanda Barrow, who offered to make 20 masks for us from her late mother’s fabric supply. Along with donating the masks, Amanda agreed to answer a few questions for The Good Life.

1. What motivated you/gave you the idea to make masks?

When the COVID-19 event began to be a real thing for me in mid-February, I decided that I wanted to get involved with helping helpers. I knew that I couldn't actually manufacture N-95 masks, the type that doctors use in the hospital, etc. I wanted to make something more simple, for the everyday person, something that I could just sort of ''bang out'' quickly, to put it bluntly. I'm a pretty good seamstress. I saw a post from my friend Noe Kidder on Facebook, and she is sewing face masks in Brooklyn, NY. Then I saw a more local group on Facebook, and hooked up with them, DIY MASKS OF WESTERN MASS.* I remember my mom talking about ''Bundles for Britain'' that she was involved with in the 1940's. She made handknit hats and mittens for the soldiers that were shipped to Britain, and I wanted to do something similar for my community, but only with masks.

2. What made you use your mother's fabric?

My mother passed away almost 25 years ago, and she was an obsessive quilter and knitter; she made beautiful and intricate hand-stitched items. Her ''craft room'' was filled with unused quilt fabric after she died. My siblings and I split up the fabric, and I've been moving it from place to place for 25 years, using it in my artwork, and also giving it away. When I read that very tightly woven fabric should be used in the fabrication of these face masks, I instantly thought of my mom's quilting fabric. I had so much I gave some to my friend Pamela Matsuda-Dunn, who is also sewing masks for caregivers, pharmacists, friends, family, etc. I thought it would be a wonderful thing to share mom's fabric, which has been in plastic bags-release her loving fabric out into the world as little protection devices. She would've loved this project!

I thought it would be a wonderful thing to share mom's fabric, which has been in plastic bags-release her loving fabric out into the world as little protection devices.

3. What was your mom's name and tell me a little about her.

My mom's name was Josephine, and she was a very smart and down-to-earth woman. She was born in Indiana and pretty much stayed there all of her life. In the mid-sixties, she divorced my father and went back to school to get her MSW (Masters in Social Work). She had four kids to raise, and needed to work. After graduating from graduate school, she got a job at a childrens' hospital in Indianapolis, and worked with kids and adults for I believe 28 years. She was an excellent seamstress, knitter, quilter, etc. She was the type of person who could pick up textile-related skills very easily. She passed those skills onto my sister, me, AND one of my brothers (he knits and sews too!). She had three cancers, and the last one got her (breast, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and leukemia). She died at age 66. She was a sweetie!

4. How many masks have you made so far?  How many did you end up making for LifePath?

I've made around 55 masks so far. I finally got my elastic today so I can make more, but I also have a life. LifePath will be the recipient of 20 masks. LifePath will get some funny ones . . . I found some kitty fabric that my mom had. She loved cats! So I hope someone ends up with a kitty mask and gets a few laughs from it. I also found some gorgeous blue fabric with some nice block printing . . . that's a nice mask too!

5. Tell us a little about yourself and your art.

I'm a visual artist and live in Easthampton, MA with my musician-husband Carl Clements who is a saxophone performer/composer; he teaches at Amherst College and Springfield College presently. My studio is located in Easthampton, where I teach printmaking classes, and also maintain a painting studio. I teach around the world (India, Germany, Iceland), and am hoping that the three classes I have scheduled for Germany in early June will happen, as well as my workshop in Iceland on October 10! But who knows . . . 

A mask being sewn on an old fashioned sewing machine.A mask in process.I have a sponsor, Speedball Art/Akua Inks, and I teach monotype printmaking with sustainable products and inks that clean up with warm soapy water. In my paintings, I use some of my mom's fabrics to create ''collage paintings.'' I incorporate fabric on top of cheesecloth, silk, and linen to create work that hopefully suggests to the viewer ideas of the past, future, and present moment.  I've been an artist most of my 60 years on the planet. My family was very supportive of my gifts and talent, and I'm blessed to have a great clan. My next show is with the Affordable Art Fair/NYC September 23-27. 

These masks are not only functional but also ornamental as well. One can't speak very well when one wears a mask, and I'm actually starting to think of them as art pieces. These days, I see human rights issues going down the toilet in this country, and in a way, the mask is the perfect object or vehicle to be used as a metaphor in that context. The idea of the mask is starting to infiltrate my creative process . . . who knows what I'll come up with in my studio at this point, now that I've been touched by COVID-19. You are welcome to sign up for my newsletter to find out about my workshops and open studio events, and gallery exhibitions, at my website.

6. How did you hear about LifePath?

My friend Mona Shiber, who is an artist in my building at One Cottage Street in Easthampton, forwarded me an email that LifePath was looking for masks. She was my connection.

7. How long does it take you to make each mask/what is your general process?

Now that I have the process down, I guess it's taking me about 15 minutes per mask. I use a method from the Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, IN. They put a call out for masks, and gave instructions online. It's the most simple pattern I could find.

8. What else do you feel it's important for people to know?

These masks are used by everyone. I wear mine when I shop at the market, go to the Post Office, CVS, etc. I saw a guy wearing one the other day while riding his bike!

*If you are a seamster or seamstress, or have fabric, 1/4'' elastic, an old sewing machine that works, or anything like that to donate, please get in touch with DIY Masks of Western Mass on Facebook. Thank you!

picture of happy woman with Downs Syndrome cutting a carrotLifePath has expanded their Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program further east into Worcester County. This expansion is in response to Montachusett Home Care opting to terminate their PCA Program this year, along with MassHealth not awarding contracts to five other Personal Care Management Agencies (PCMs) during the recent contract procurement process.

3,915 PCA consumers across the state were affected by these changes and needed to be transferred to new PCMs. LifePath is now the Personal Care Management agency for approximately 600 of them. These new consumers are primarily located in Worcester County, including towns like Fitchburg, Gardner, Leominster, Lunenburg, and many others.

LifePath is now the Personal Care Management agency for approximately 600 new consumers in Worcester County.

The PCA program fosters independence in individuals with disabilities by supporting them in the management of their own home-based services. To qualify for the PCA Program, an individual must require physical assistance with two activities of daily living, such as help with mobility and transfers, medication assistance, bathing and grooming, dressing and undressing, toileting, and feeding. Consumers find and hire their own Personal Care Attendants and pay them with funding from MassHealth. PCAs can include family members and friends, although spouses are not yet eligible (legislators are working to change this). 

Sometimes consumers need help managing the employment of PCAs. These consumers utilize volunteer surrogates who can help hire, train, and supervise their PCAs. Surrogates can be family members, friends or volunteers. As of January 2020, consumers can also utilize Administrative Proxies to assist with certain functions of PCA management. An Administrative Proxy can be the member's legal guardian, a family member, or any other person who is responsible for performing certain administrative functions related to PCA management that the consumer is unable or unwilling to perform.

LifePath PCA Skills Trainers help individuals gain approval from MassHealth for PCA services, provide training to consumers to become employers of Personal Care Attendants, and provide ongoing support.

If you are interested in PCA services for you or a loved one, please contact our Information and Caregiver Resource Center (ICRC) by calling 413-773-5555, 978-544-2259, toll-free at 800-732-4636, or via TDD at 413-772-6566, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also contact them anytime by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you are interested in becoming a PCA, you can register on the statewide PCA Directory at www.masspcadirectory.org or call 1-888-MASSPCA.