Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
LifePath lifts its voice in concert with the voices speaking out against institutionalized racism. We strive to be heard in a new way in our own community, joining others across our nation. We cannot remain silent while the evidence and terrible consequences of racism continue to amass.
Today, as leaders in our community, we acknowledge these realities:
The current systems of power in our country were designed to preserve and nurture privileges for white people and leave black people with significantly less opportunity and freedom. The destructive impact of white supremacy, dominance, and privilege exists and is prevalent. The effects range from lack of financial and educational opportunities, to violence, imprisonment, and loss of life. Racism touches all institutions, including ours, and we commit to taking an active role in dismantling it.
The destructive impact of white supremacy, dominance, and privilege exists and is prevalent.
This system creates health inequities, in which black people experience worse health outcomes than their white counterparts. Our role in supporting wellbeing, independence, and dignity requires us to work directly to solve health inequities, which means working against racism. We will continue to focus on creating an inclusive and fair system of long-term services and supports, and to be an employer whose practices enable equal opportunity for all.
Working against racism and solving these issues requires a seismic shift in the approaches long taken by local and national leadership within municipalities, law enforcement, schools, hospitals, businesses, and non-profit organizations. This moment presents a tremendous opportunity to educate and capitalize on the love, trust, concern, and common ground that exists in our community to learn and make significant changes that address systemic racism. We want to make our community better, not just for those who have directly experienced the horrific effects of racism, but for everyone.
Please join us with a spirit of hope as we move forward with actions to attend to this difficult work. Getting results will not be quick or easy, but, together with your support, we will succeed and make our community stronger.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
Now more than ever, LifePath is here to serve. With COVID-19 impacting every person’s life, the landscape of long-term care within our communities has dramatically changed. Those in need of support to maintain their independence are the most vulnerable to this pandemic and LifePath has the resources to respond. Our mission is to enhance well-being, so that elders and persons with disabilities can remain or return to the place they call home, and avoid hospitalizations and nursing facilities whenever possible.
LifePath can provide support through its Phone Pal program where staff and volunteers are available to chat by phone and provide wellness checks.
Funds are available and volunteers are stepping up, wanting to make a difference like never before. LifePath has heard from over 200 individuals, looking for opportunities and a sense of purpose by providing assistance to those most vulnerable. We are able to provide goods and services to attend to Coronavirus related needs thanks to special funding made available through the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Meals on Wheels of America, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and generous donors.
LifePath programs and services are in full operation:
- Volunteers are eager to provide grocery shopping, prescription pick up, and delivery.
- Hundreds of face coverings have been made, donated, and distributed to consumers. Other personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, hand sanitizer, face shields, masks, and gowns are available for distribution.
- Caregivers can receive much needed compensation for care they are providing to their loved ones through our Adult Family Care program.
- Trained homemakers, personal care attendants, nurses, and drivers are available to provide safe and protected care through the use of equipment, proper hygiene, and social distancing.
- Meals on Wheels, grab and go meals, boxes of USDA meats and cheese, and grocery cards are available through LifePath and local Councils on Aging.
- Funding support to caregivers and to those facing economic challenges can be accessed to cover food costs, respite care, and other basic necessities.
- Protective services are available to address concerns of abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, and situations of self neglect.
Loneliness and isolation, frequently a chronic challenge for older adults, is further magnified during this time when so many are forced into seclusion. Limited contact with others only adds to feelings of vulnerability and anxiety as a result of this isolation. For many who are alone each day, social connectivity is vital to maintain their wellbeing. A call from someone who cares can have tremendous impact and improve a person’s physical and emotional health.
Physical seclusion from neighbors, friends, and family is devastating and can be somewhat remedied through video and telephonic connections. LifePath can provide support through its Phone Pal program where staff and volunteers are available to chat by phone and provide wellness checks. For those interested in video conferencing, we can provide resources for accessing internet connection, purchasing of laptops and tablets, and offer creative ways to make connections with others. Free access to online exercise classes, tai chi, arts and crafts, nutrition, and mental health support is available. Even bingo is available through the internet.
As restrictions are gradually being lifted, many older adults and individuals with disabilities will be reluctant or unable to return to group activities due to their increased vulnerabilities. LifePath will continue to look to find new and creative ways to attend to these ongoing needs, to optimize quality of life, and to provide for the emotional support and physical care needs of those we serve.
This is a challenging and uncertain time yet there is much to be grateful for. The compassion and care within our organization and within our communities is shining through. Call us if you are seeking information, looking for services, needing to learn about resources or financial support, or just wanting to hear a friendly voice.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of COVID-19
The ravages of this pandemic are far reaching with all of us touched in some way, either personally or professionally. Front-line health care workers, especially those working in care centers like nursing facilities, emergency departments, and intensive care units, are putting themselves in harm’s way each and every day as they honor their commitment to serve for the sake of their patients’ wellbeing, despite the risk to their own health. A true sacrifice.
Home care workers don’t have the luxury of caring from a distance.
In response to their commitment, each day thousands of individuals around the world appear on their terraces and porches or call out their windows to thank and celebrate the health care workers and the first responders. It is an inspiring display of appreciation that they so richly deserve. Another subset of care providers deserving of accolades are the unsung heroes entering people’s homes. They are home care workers, recognized as health care workers by some, who have not received the support and acknowledgement they, too, deserve.
We’ve seen certain adjustments in the care field as we comply with social distancing - more regular use of video assessments, telehealth services and deliveries of meals, groceries, and other goods and services. Unfortunately this model doesn’t apply to personal care services requiring direct contact. Home care workers don’t have the luxury of caring from a distance.
Home care workers are welcomed into residences, many times like family members, to provide essential services so that elders and individuals with disabilities may maintain their dignity and independence. The tasks they help consumers with - bathing, dressing, getting out of bed, meal preparation, laundry, and shopping - are critical for anyone to maintain their health and safety. Trust is built and relationships grow with this unique and beautiful type of support.
Since home care workers are currently limited to providing only essential services, as an alternative, family members are being asked to provide care to limit the number of individuals coming into the home. However, many do not have family to turn to, or family members, themselves, could be potential unwitting transmitters of the virus. Despite precautionary measures, some consumers are turning away their services out of fear of contracting the virus. This could mean going without a meal, a bath, and getting to the toilet. These are serious issues concerning wellbeing and dignity.
With a limited supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and use of standard infection control practices, workers are doing everything they can to stay well, keep consumers safe, and avoid spreading the virus. Yet workers and care recipients alike are concerned about transmission of COVID-19 from one home to the next. Home care workers including nurses, home health aides, and personal care attendants, are self screening and also calling consumers before they visit to determine if anyone in the household is symptomatic. Courageous workers are designated to work solely with those who are symptomatic, presumptive, or COVID-19 positive as another defensive measure to avoid spread.
The home care workforce is in dire need of greater support in testing for exposure to COVID-19 to continue to provide their essential services. As tests become available, we’re seeing that care providers from in-patient hospital and facility settings are getting preferential attention. Testing remains limited in our communities and needs to be more accessible. Negative tests provide greater confidence and acceptance of the care an individual will receive at home. The additional benefit of keeping a consumer at home, with services intact and out of the hospital, is to free up capacity where beds are limited and exposure is potentially greater.
We’re seeing an uptick in inquiries for LifePath services for those who are being discharged from care centers but are still in need of rehabilitation services. Nursing facilities, sadly, are hot spots for the spread of the virus at this time, and home care services are a viable alternative for comparable care.
As dedicated home care workers navigate the dangers and effects of this virus, they take the risks because they prioritize the independence of others. For that, they deserve your praise and thanks. If a home care worker comes into your home or the home of someone you love, tell them what their dedication means to you and your family members. Or simply cheer or clap for them out your window or from your porch when you see them. Make it known that they are unsung heroes of this community.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
The local impact of COVID-19 has caused us all to assess and fortify our preparedness to care for ourselves and our loved ones, to prevent further spread, and mitigate the risk to the most vulnerable populations, which are those served through LifePath. We take our responsibility seriously to do everything possible to protect the health and wellbeing of the elders and individuals with disabilities within our communities. That means planning, advocating, and providing support and services as best we can, through our own infrastructure, reaching out to professional partners and to the community at large.
Our focus is on responding to the changing needs of those we serve, offering services to new consumers, staying current on any COVID-19 related developments, communicating up to date and accurate information, being a resource for callers, and securing whatever support is needed to continue to do our work.
Training staff and volunteers to keep themselves and those with whom they interact healthy and safe is essential. We have moved most of our administrative functions off site with staff fully equipped and capable to work remote from home. Assessments are occurring telephonically and through the use of video connections to reduce contact with consumers. Our focus is on responding to the changing needs of those we serve, offering services to new consumers, staying current on any COVID-19 related developments, communicating up to date and accurate information, being a resource for callers, and securing whatever support is needed to continue to do our work.
In the face of heightened concern and a growing number of COVID-19 cases in our community, we are having to address real life concerns faced by consumers and those providing support. Volunteers have needed to step away from their duties in an effort to protect themselves and others. Some Meals on Wheels recipients are refusing meal delivery out of fear of having the virus passed over their threshold. There are those who participate in our Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program who are impaired physically to the extent of needing someone they trust to prepare daily meals, help with bathing, and make sure they move safely about their home. Consumers are voicing their concerns about how they will continue to live independently if they find themselves or those who support them needing to be quarantined.
It’s not lost on consumers that without the support provided though LifePath, they will need to relinquish some, if not all, of the independence they’ve come to, well, depend on. Conversely, by letting caregivers and support staff inside their home who may carry the virus unknowingly, consumers are literally risking their lives to survive. There is no truer conundrum than to be acutely aware of the risks and to embrace the potential reality of not being cared for.
At the forefront of our concerns is the impending loss of front-line workers, primarily home health aides, personal care attendants, homemakers and volunteer meals drivers, and the direct impact on those who rely upon their support. These workers and volunteers are some of the most dedicated, hard working, and proud employees in the workforce. It is essential that these care providers who cannot always maintain the 6’ of distance from those receiving care have the proper personal protective equipment, known as PPE, to maintain their safety, as well as protecting those receiving care. We must also consider the vulnerability of the informal caregiving provided by family, friends, and neighbors and how fragile these systems are today.
The silver lining of this pandemic is the generosity of spirit manifesting within our communities. The activation and creation of community-based systems is happening throughout our region with offers of many to step up to care for those in need. This blossoming of community is what will sustain us through these uncertain times and carry us to a better place where barriers are diminished and support is flowing to one another in a more sustainable manner.
We need to consider creative ways to address the inevitable loss of support of family caregivers and direct service workers unable to continue to provide care. It is time to think outside the box and look to nursing schools, to students who have completed training in providing personal care, workers who have stepped away from the field, or simply to a willing neighbor aware of someone who relies upon others for care. Another idea is the creation of a neighborhood watch of sorts to look out for those neighbors who have lost caregivers or whose family members cannot visit because they are quarantined. Though social distancing is a best practice, is there someone you can be responsible to check on within your neighborhood? Or might you be willing to take on volunteer duties with LifePath to serve those who don’t have anyone?
Reach out to your Council on Aging, your local village neighbor group, or to LifePath. We are going strong, and we are here more than ever to support elders, persons with disabilities, and caregivers. Call us with your needs and call us with your offerings. Here is what we need:
- Volunteers - To deliver meals, grocery shop, provide transportation, make wellness calls. You can sign up as a back-up volunteer.
- Personal Protective Equipment - we need hand sanitizer, face masks and gloves
- Donations - Funding is a balancing act at LifePath. As a private, not for profit organization, the gaps we experience, especially in uncertain times, are particularly real as we look to expand the types of support we provide to the community. Revenue streams are at risk of being disrupted and in order to keep our systems going, we need your support more than ever.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
There are celebrations across the nation throughout the month of March, commemorating over 45 years since the establishment of the Meals on Wheels Program. Locally, this program was built on, and is sustained by, the commitment and dedication of LifePath staff and volunteers and is made possible through the support of businesses, sponsors, funders and donors. Meals on Wheels provides a vital nutritional lifeline and social connection to elders within our communities.
The elder population is growing exponentially. Today, 1 in 5 Americans is 60 or older with 12,000 more turning 60 each day. We’ve learned a lot about health risks associated with aging and have developed a range of preventative responses to many of these risks. More recently we’ve gained important insights into the connection between isolation, depression, nutrition, and associated risk factors which can have a dramatic impact on one’s health and wellbeing.
Here are some sobering statistics, according to Meals on Wheels America:
- 9.5 million elders are threatened by hunger, with nearly 5.5 million experiencing food insecurity.
- Food insecurity in the elder population is driven by the high numbers of elders living in poverty in this country. Specifically, 7.1 million elders have a retirement income of $234 a week or less making it extremely difficult for these retirees to pay for all of their basic needs.
- 1 in 4 elders live alone and of those, 20% report feeling lonely. Social isolation is, in and of itself, a risk factor for poor health. Combined with the impacts of food insecurity and malnutrition, this cohort is at great risk of experiencing multiple chronic health conditions.
- 83% of elders who are low income and food insecure are not receiving the meals they need, and those in need of improved nutrition report fair or poor health, not having enough money to buy the food they need, and screen positive for depression.
Area Agencies on Aging, such as LifePath, and Councils on Aging, are making a difference in the lives of these elders every day. Congregate Meals programs often located at Senior Centers provide excellent opportunities for making new connections and socializing with friends and neighbors.
It is not unusual for the meals driver to be the only contact for an elder all day.
The Meals on Wheels program provides healthful daily nutrition, a wellness check, and socialization, intended to both improve nutrition and reduce isolation and depression. It is not unusual for the meals driver to be the only contact for an elder all day. LifePath is committed to providing Meals on Wheels to each elder in need of this essential service. This program is fiscally dependent on volunteer drivers to deliver meals throughout our rural communities, regardless of how remote the location might be.