Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues
- 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 Seniorgram Guest Contributor Raeann G. LeBlanc, PhD, DNP – University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing
We can do this together!
During our current COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced a lot of different messages about how to best protect our health. We know more now about how to prevent transmission of the virus to others. It has not been a familiar practice among the general population to wear masks or use other protective barriers, and there are unique cultural perceptions that can affect our health behaviors.
Think of handwashing as protection before you put on your mask, before you take it off, and after you take it off.
It helps to first be reminded that COVID-19 is highly contagious and is easily spread by person to person to person, primarily through respiratory droplets. People can give it to one another without even having symptoms. Some people get severely ill, some die, some have only minor illness, and others have lingering debilitating symptoms. Cases keep growing and the gravity of spreading the COVID-19 virus is really big and even more complicated because of the persistent high levels of infection across our country and a lack of adequate testing and contact tracing to meet that demand. This does not mean we are without any power to address very basic infection control practices and play an active role in a consistent approach that can influence prevention (social distancing, mask wearing, handwashing, diligence).
Not only do we want to prevent ourselves from getting sick, we also want to prevent spreading the infection to others should we become infected. The recommendations from the CDC and public health experts are relatively clear: frequent hand washing and cleaning of high contact surfaces (faucets, door knobs, counters). Using soap and water OR hand sanitizer (60% alcohol or more) and, importantly, using friction to clean all parts of the hands, front and back, for a minimum of 20 seconds, is highly effective in preventing transmission. The friction of rubbing hands together can mitigate pathogen adherence and is a key part of successful handwashing.
The next important tool to prevent contracting and spreading COVID-19 is personal protective equipment, primarily mask wearing. There is much variability in masks. The general public can use cloth facial coverings. But there are some important considerations. Your mask needs to be comfortable and fit well so you are not touching it or needing to adjust it once it is on. To protect others from you, your nose and mouth need to be covered. The thickness of the mask is important – and a facial mask made of two layers of heavy-duty tight weave fabric with a built-in pocket where you can place a filter, versus a bandana or neck gaiter, is preferred. There is evidence that some materials are better than others. Surprisingly, fleece material can actually be worse than no mask at all.
It is very important to wash your cloth face covering between wearings. Think about what the outer layer of your face covering is being exposed to and to how many people. If you go to the grocery store or ride public transportation, then wash your mask. Ideally, you are still only going out as necessary and still staying 6 feet away. Before you remove your mask, make sure to wash your hands. Then, when you remove your mask, you do not want to touch what it has been exposed to. Ideally, take it off by removing the ear straps and turning the mask inward. In this fashion, you do not have contact with what your mask may have contacted. After you remove your mask, once again wash your hands. You can wash your cloth face covering by hand or in the washing machine, then dry in the dryer or in sunlight if preferred. Disposable surgical and KN95 masks cannot be washed, but you can rotate your masks at least every 3 days, provided the mask is not soiled or damaged. Think of handwashing as protection before you put on your mask, before you take it off, and after you take it off.
Six Feet Apart – Together
Maintain a social distance preventative stance and ask that of others when possible. For the best protection, wear a mask and maintain a 6-foot distance, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and clean high contact areas. For caregivers and those where close contact is necessary, handwashing and facial coverings offer additional protection. Be mindful of your own symptoms of possible exposure and have a backup plan so you can self-quarantine should you feel sick (cough, fever, change in taste or smell, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, recent loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea) and need to take time away from close caregiving while you get tested and await test results. In Massachusetts, call 211 if you have concerns about COVID-19.
As with many health issues, prevention takes a multi-pronged approach. The effectiveness of our equipment to protect one another depends on how we use it. As careful citizens we want to prevent the spread to others. We can do this! It does take a little more time, being conscious of the importance to humanity, access to a mask and hand sanitizer, commitment, and practice. This extra care is worth it as it is of significant importance to our very existence. The following resources may also help:
- How to Wash a Cloth Face Mask
- How to Care For Your Face Mask
- Coronavirus Face Masks & Protection FAQs
- Face Mask Efficiency
- Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives
- Household Materials Selection for Homemade Face Coverings
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
Home Care Workers Enjoy Flexibility and a Deep Sense of Fulfillment
Massachusetts is one of a handful of states where efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 have been widely successful, but this in no way means we are out of the woods. While we are on solid ground, with success at our backs, we face a potential second wave. LifePath and many other agencies have been rising to meet the continual challenges of helping those in need to survive the pandemic.
This COVID-19 pandemic has touched everyone, across the world. One silver lining is social distancing, quarantine, and isolation gave us all a Great Pause-a time for reflection on our lives, and our communities. We had to come to a full stop in our hurried lives and resulting from this, many are now re-evaluating their career/life paths. For some, stepping up and helping when a family member or neighbor was in need not only deepened the strength of community, but opened up new opportunities for a highly rewarding career in Home Health Care. The tasks Home Care workers help with-bathing, dressing, getting out of bed, meal preparation, laundry, and shopping-are critical for anyone to maintain their health and safety.
We had to come to a full stop in our hurried lives and resulting from this, many are now re-evaluating their career/life paths.
Hospitals and medical professionals are seeing the benefit of keeping an individual at home, with services intact, rather than in a hospital or nursing facility, and thereby freeing up capacity and limiting potential exposure. Nursing facilities sadly remain hot spots for the spread of the virus at this time and home care services are a viable and safe alternative for most. Home Care workers are well trained and equipped with proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Due to this increase in home care necessity, there is a fast growing need for more Home Care workers.
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 majority of home care workers report a deep sense of fulfillment and job satisfaction. They experience the privilege of making a difference in the lives of an elder, a person with a disability, and their family. Those of you who already have a Personal Care Attendant (PCA), Homemaker, or Home Health Aide understand how vital these workers are and, in many cases, how they are a welcome break in the isolation imposed by the pandemic.
Workers enjoy a flexible schedule and can work as much or as little as they want, which is a perfect career opportunity for the newly unemployed, the new high school or college graduate, or for a parent looking for part-time hours. This work experience often becomes a stepping stone to a career in healthcare as Home Care workers are considered Essential Healthcare Providers.
Perhaps you have a family member, friend, or neighbor who is looking for a new career path, who would enjoy this wonderful way to serve the community while also getting paid for rewarding work. Please help spread the word that Home Care workers are vitally needed, now more than ever, when wellbeing can best be achieved in the safety of one’s home.
LifePath contracts with the following Home Care agencies who are currently hiring new workers. Training is provided: Arcadia New England, Associated Home Care, At Home Senior Care, Barton's Angels, Care Central VNA & Hospice, Catholic Charities, Elara Caring, Excel Nursing Services, Interim Healthcare, International Health Solutions, O'Connell Care at Home, Overlook VNA, and Victory Home Healthcare. To find contact information for these agencies please visit Direct Care Worker Opportunities Outside of LifePath.
According to Mike Hynek, Human Resources Generalist at O’Connell Care at Home, “O'Connell Care at Home cannot express how thankful we are for all the aides that are currently working on the front lines. We recognize their immense sacrifices and understand the important role they play in keeping our communities safe during these trying times." O’Connell Care at Home is currently hiring for Home Care Aide positions in all four of their offices located in Deerfield, Springfield, Holyoke, and Westfield. Anyone with experience in being a PCA, HHA, or CNA is encouraged to apply, as is anyone with interest in Home Care. Please visit O'Connell Care at Home's Career Opportunities webpage to learn more about available positions.
Also, Catholic Charities is holding a job fair on August 4th, 2020, at 91 Main St., Greenfield, MA, 01301, from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., in the back of the parking lot to allow for social distancing. According to Paula Nicholson, Regional Supervisor of Catholic Charities’ Greenfield/Shelburne Falls offices, Home Care workers who work for Catholic Charities provide a range of services from basic house cleaning, laundry, and groceries; as well as personal care, appointment escorts, and companionship. “It is an excellent opportunity for anyone who wants either full- or part-time work, or even retirees looking for some extra income. Benefits are available,” says Nicholson, “Because our clients depend on our services, we are looking for responsible workers who can be dedicated to the care of these people. If you are interested in this opportunity, please call us at 800-244-4563.”
- 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.