- Written by Janis Merrell
In this month’s Seniorgram, LifePath’s Executive Director Barbara Bodzin described how social distancing, coupled with safer-at-home policies, has significantly segregated elders and diminished their interactions with their family and friends, while restricted access to community supports, social engagement, and routine medical care have only further isolated older adults.
In April 2020, at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, LifePath initiated the Phone Pals program, predicting and addressing this increased isolation. As our staff were reaching out to people via the phone, we realized this type of connection was more important than ever during the pandemic. The Phone Pals program was developed to meet this need by building a connection and social support for elders in an informal way.
Today, through the Phone Pals program, our trained volunteers continue to provide companionship and social interaction via weekly phone calls. Volunteers and elders connect by phone or video chat, depending on the comfort and preferences of the elder. Most matches talk weekly and calls range from 10–30 minutes.
As our staff were reaching out to people via the phone, we realized this type of connection was more important than ever during the pandemic.
Joyce St. Jean, Special Programs Manager, says, “LifePath will continue to provide the Phone Pals program to those who are interested in keeping this connection. What was the old AT&T jingle from the 70’s, ‘Reach out and touch someone’? It can be that simple and this can have a profound effect on those needing human connection.”
According to a participant who is an 82-year-old Athol resident, “My Phone Pal is a hoot. We have a lot in common.”
Currently the Phone Pals program has 12 participants and 13 volunteers, with 6 elders waiting to be matched with a volunteer. We work to make matches based on both people’s interests and preferences. Our volunteers are a cross section of caring community members seeking to support others during these challenging times.
- Written by Janis Merrell
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA-DPH) is trying to hear from as many community members as possible so that it can better help people during the COVID-19 crisis. By taking the COVID-19 Community Impact Survey (CCIS), you can help find new solutions to community problems, and give MA-DPH the information they need to take action and support the communities that need it most. MA-DPH is committed to sharing information back in ways that will help us all take collective action.
Please consider taking a few minutes out of your day to take this important survey.
Findings from this survey will be used to improve DPH’s ability to act by helping address the most critical needs, partnering with communities to support local efforts, and informing state policy with accurate information on what people need now and in the long term. Results will be available to community-based organizations for their own planning and action purposes.
Even if you haven’t been sick, your answers can help! The only requirement is that you are 14 or older and live in Massachusetts. Please consider taking a few minutes out of your day to take this important survey.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
The incredible pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic have laid bare many challenges for older adults in our communities. Social distancing, coupled with safer-at-home policies, has significantly segregated elders and diminished their interactions with their family and friends. Restricted access to community supports, social engagement, and routine medical care have only further isolated older adults.
In light of the loss of many family- and community-based safety nets, we want to take this opportunity to reiterate our role. Adult Protective Services at LifePath is here to serve and wants to partner with you to keep our families and friends healthy and safe. This is a time when caregivers who are experiencing their own COVID-related crises caused by loss of economic stability, increased caregiving demands, or health-related concerns might be prone to escalated abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of their loved one.
Alarmingly, at this time when older adults are susceptible to more frequent and severe mistreatment or self-neglect, reports to Adult Protective Services are on the decline. With fewer ‘eyes’ to witness behaviors or signs of mistreatment that were typically observed pre-COVID in hospitals, physician’s practices, and at social gatherings, so have waned the opportunities to glean the need for intervention.
Instances of COVID-related anxiety, depression, and substance use are also on the rise across the age spectrum. For older adults, behavioral health issues create greater risks of falls, compromised immunity, and cognitive impairments. Adult Protective Services can offer coping techniques, supportive services, and resources for enhancing health and safety.
We are asking our community of professionals, health and home care providers, neighbors, families, and friends to be extra vigilant and take notice.
We are asking our community of professionals, health and home care providers, neighbors, families, and friends to be extra vigilant and take notice. Systems we have historically depended on to report concerns are disrupted and overloaded. We need new eyes, ears, and voices to come forward so that LifePath can provide interventions to address elders at risk. Please consider situations such as the following:
- You haven’t heard from a friend for whom you usually pick up medicine or take to appointments.
- You have observed a disturbance at a home where an elder is present and there is alcohol, drugs, or violence involved, but you aren’t sure how/if it’s impacting the elder.
- An older adult you are aware of who lives alone, and only had contact with social supports through their Council on Aging or other now-cancelled social activities, responds in a way that makes you feel nervous when you check on them.
You can make an Adult Protective Services report online, via this web form, or call in a report to (800) 922-2275.
To discuss a specific situation or learn more about reporting in general, you may call LifePath at 413-773-5555 and ask for a “Protective Services Supervisor.” Video chats are available upon request. LifePath has many programs and services for older adults and people with disabilities. Visit our website to learn more, or call to speak with a Resource Consultant.
- Written by Andi Waisman, M.S.Ed., Healthy Living Program Manager
LifePath’s Healthy Living Program has offered in-person workshops for over a decade to help people with chronic conditions feel more empowered to manage their health conditions. This summer, due to COVID-19, we started providing remote workshops through video conferencing and the good old-fashioned telephone. We learned; we connected; we had fun.
For some, the prospect of spending hours in front of a computer makes them anxious or angry. “I can't see the screen on my work computer half the time because of trifocals, tiny fonts and glare. I get angry at all the confusion. Where did I put my phone? What's my password? Where did I put my charger? I am losing my short term memory for real life from all the screen time. Why am I getting ads about men's underwear? Doesn’t anyone talk on the phone anymore?” said a 60-year-old LifePath staff member.
“Rather than an obstacle, this platform brought us together while staying in the comfort of our homes.”
Despite the anxiety that many of us feel adjusting to online communication, our first Zoom and phone workshops were a pleasant surprise. One of our Chronic Pain Self-Management leaders describes how “folks navigated the technology well, despite some having had little or no experience using Zoom. For some, it eliminated the difficult and sometimes impossible obstacle of getting to and from an in-person meeting and sitting through a 2.5-hour program in hard chairs. A couple of folks sat in their comfy recliners while another lay on her couch. We ‘met’ their pets. Most surprising and gratifying was the connection, support, and warmth that was shared. None of us seemed to want to sign off after the last session! Rather than an obstacle, this platform brought us together while staying in the comfort of our homes.”
For others, it has been an opportunity to rise to a challenge, or a welcomed change. “I found it to be fun, a needed challenge which I haven’t had enough of lately. I was nervous at first. I thought I would have to dress up and my daughter reassured me that people only see you from the waist up. Every week, the workshop leaders sent me a link for the class, so it was easy,” said an 81-year-old Healthy Eating workshop participant.
Stepping into the virtual world can be frustrating and overwhelming. Some of us don’t have access to the internet (19% of people in Franklin County) or to an updated computer, or just feel ill-equipped to tackle the challenge. This “digital divide,” the uneven distribution of communication technologies, is being described by some as a “public health crisis,” leaving some without access to healthcare or connections to loved ones.
We at LifePath are committed to not leaving anyone behind. We are offering telephone workshops for people who don’t have access or motivation to use computers. We are able to provide laptops, tablets, cell phones, technology guidance and support to qualifying individuals who want to get online. We have volunteers helping our participants over the phone master the skills needed, and are patiently helping each other with the inevitable glitches and frustrations. One person reassures, “If you can raise children, have a career, drive a car, and/or run a household, you’re certainly capable of working with computers.”
As we prepare for another season of remote workshops this fall, we want to encourage our community to take a risk, stretch your comfort level, and try a video or phone workshop.
Fall 2020 Healthy Living Schedule
- My Life, My Health: Living Well with Long-Term Health Conditions
- Live Video Conferencing Workshop
Six Wednesdays, 2:00-4:30 p.m.
October 14-November 18
- OR Toolkit Telephone Workshop
Six Tuesdays, 1:00-2:00 p.m.
October 13-November 17
- Live Video Conferencing Workshop
- Chronic Pain Self-Management
Toolkit Telephone Workshop
Six Thursdays, 1:00-2:00 p.m.
October 15-November 19
- A Matter of Balance–Managing Concerns About Falls
Live Video Conferencing Workshop
Eight Sessions, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-4:00 p.m.
September 29-October 22
- Written by Carol Foote, Outreach and Development Director, 413-773-5555 X2225, email@example.com
On Friday, August 21, Franklin County Golf Center, located at 1245 Bernardston Road in Greenfield, hosted a Gas-N-Go event with local radio station Bear Country. Todd Cromack, owner of the Golf Center and Liberty Tax Service, held a raffle and donated one third of the proceeds from the golf range ball sales, totaling $500, in support of LifePath’s Meals on Wheels program.
Across Franklin County and the North Quabbin region, LifePath delivers about 525 meals and wellness checks to elders in need each weekday. LifePath has also been delivering frozen meals to individuals with disabilities under the age of 60 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was a steady stream of golfers throughout the day, with the busiest time being after work. What great hosts Todd and his staff were - offering smiles, hot dogs, chips, and bottles of water.
“Elders and veterans are the reason I have a business at all, and this is one way I can give back to those groups.”
This isn’t the first—or last—show of support Todd has made for the people LifePath serves. He has sponsored LifePath’s Walkathon and is dreaming up other ways to support the agency (Spoiler alert! Watch for a spooky, fun fall event!). When asked why he is committed to supporting LifePath, he responds, “Elders and veterans are the reason I have a business at all, and this is one way I can give back to those groups.”
We are so grateful to Todd and everyone who purchased raffle tickets and buckets of range balls that benefited LifePath and those we serve on that beautiful day. Thank you so much!