- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
- Published: 27 March 2020
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.