- 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 Carol Foote, Development Director, 413-773-5555 x2225, firstname.lastname@example.org
Not knowing what to expect or even how to create something meaningful out of 27 years of a known entity was daunting. But this community responded with kindness and generosity to LifePath’s 2020 Virtual Walkathon. Even though we weren’t together, the spirit was palpable as viewers joined to watch the presentation in real time and post-premiere, images from the day appeared in our inbox, good will messages were shared, and collected donations continue to flow in. It has been simply remarkable.
This community responded with kindness and generosity to LifePath’s 2020 Virtual Walkathon.
We have so much to be grateful for.
More than 250 viewers watched the virtual presentation that can be found on YouTube by searching for LifePath Virtual Walkathon. The fact that individuals take part for all kinds of reasons is heartening - to support the programs and services LifePath provides, in memory of loved ones, to stay active with purpose, and because they or someone they know has benefitted from what we and our partners do every day.
Team members took advantage of raising funds through personalized online links as well as reaching out in traditional ways. Fantastic totals have come in from 14 teams plus additional individual fundraisers. We also understand that teams that have previously participated are simply postponing their fundraising but plan to come through. Though preliminary tallies are in, we will wait a little longer to report out final tallies. The dedication of both fundraisers and donors is what makes them the heart and soul of this event.
Participants and donors voiced encouragement and gratitude for the agency and the fundraisers who stepped up:
- Thank you for all you do to help our seniors.
- I'm glad to participate in this Walkathon effort!
- A fan of LifePath for years!
- For the good of all.
- Thank you for asking for our help.
- I am grateful for LifePath's ability to help people!
- Go girl go!
- Thank you for providing meals and care for the seniors in our community.
- It's an honor to contribute.
- Keep up the good work. You are wonderful.
- Happy to support you and this great organization.
Sponsors, among their own emerging needs, found a way to continue to be the backbone of this event with contributions nearing $20,000. Businesses such as Greenfield Savings Bank, Greenfield Cooperative Bank, Rockridge, Victory Home Healthcare, and many more, lay the groundwork for our success and enable LifePath to provide programs and services to consumers. We truly appreciate your support.
Please keep your feel-good efforts and gifts coming. Thank you so very much for your part in making LifePath's Virtual Walkathon one to remember.
- Written by Andi Waisman, M.S.Ed., Healthy Living Program Manager
Workshops you can access at HOME on your computer OR your phone!
Even though we are unable to gather this summer in groups, we are continuing to provide support and education for people with long-term health conditions. LifePath is offering new, approved delivery models of our self-management education programs during the time of social distancing. Our Healthy Living workshops provide information and practical skills that build self-confidence and help participants assume an active role in managing one or more chronic conditions. Caregivers and loved ones are welcome to attend. All workshops are still FREE!
Live Video Conferencing Workshops
- Books, relaxation CD, and handouts mailed to your home
- 8-12 participants
- 2 Workshop Leaders
- A Technical Assistance Moderator
Toolkit Telephone Workshops
- All the tools in the traditional workshops + tip sheets and exercise CD, mailed in a “toolkit” to your home
- Weekly check in calls with 3-4 others to practice new skills and talk about weekly goals
- My Life, My Health – Chronic Disease Self-Management: This workshop is for adults with any long-term health condition and their caregivers: heart disease, depression, asthma, Crohn’s disease, obesity, etc. Partial list of topics include healthy eating, relaxation techniques, communicating with health professionals and loved ones, goal-setting, and problem solving.
Toolkit Telephone Workshop: Six Tuesdays, 1:00-2:00 p.m., July 7-Aug. 18
- Chronic Pain Self-Management: This workshop is for adults who live with chronic pain and their caregivers. Partial list of topics includes the mind/body connection; distraction and relaxation techniques; appropriate exercise for improving strength, flexibility, and endurance; pacing activity and rest; goal-setting; and problem solving.
Live Video Conferencing Workshop: Six Thursdays 1:00-3:30 p.m., July 16-Aug. 20
- Diabetes Self-Management: This workshop is for adults with pre-diabetes or diabetes or their caregivers. Partial list of topics include techniques to deal with hyper/hypoglycemia, appropriate use of medication, meal planning, goal-setting, and problem solving.
Toolkit Telephone Workshop: Six Wednesdays, 1:00-2:00 p.m., July 15–Aug. 19
- Healthy Eating for Successful Living in Older Adults: This workshop is for adults hoping to improve their nutrition in order to lose/gain weight or live well with a chronic condition. Partial list of topics include “My Plate” guidelines, nutrition basics, label-reading, meal planning, goal-setting, and problem solving.
Live Video Conferencing Workshop: Six Mondays, 1:00-3:30 p.m., July 13–Aug. 17
- Written by Andi Waisman, M.S.Ed., Healthy Living Program Manager
Many of us have fears about growing older: the potential of losing friends and family; cognitive decline; losing our abilities to do some of the things we love; living with chronic conditions; and giving up freedoms we have grown accustomed to. And since the coronavirus has been more deadly for those of us with underlying conditions, and most people over 50 have at least one chronic condition, older adults in this worldwide pandemic have been especially hard hit. In the time of the coronavirus, many older adults are doing the best that they can just to stay alive, and haven't been able to focus on much else. Though it is hard to prioritize our health beyond avoiding the coronavirus, and ground ourselves in a larger life purpose when our way of life has been derailed, it is also true that this extraordinary time offers an opportunity to clarify our priorities and revitalize our steps toward health.
It is true that we will find ourselves in some hard situations, but we are never without options, and with a strong sense of purpose, we can find our compass.
Life and Death
Stephen Levine, author and teacher best known for his work on death and dying, challenges us to engage in a year-long experiment where we act as if the year ahead of us is our last. He describes how when people are faced with the reality of their death, they feel a sharpened focus on how they want to live. Levine writes, “When people are told they have only a short time to live, they speak of catching up with their lives just ‘in the nick of time.’ Many people speak of interests that had to be put aside because of family responsibilities or social acceptability. Some, recognizing their desires, bought themselves a cello that they had always wanted or a lathe, or a canvas stretcher or a new computer crammed with art programs. Some were drawn to long walks in the woods or sitting quietly by the sea. Some went back to church; some took up a meditation practice. Many said they would have adopted a gentler pace of life, changed their surroundings, been less preoccupied with social and material ambitions. Almost all said that they would have slowed down and stopped to smell, if not plant, the roses.” By taking on this year-long experiment, we might find “healing, joy and revitalization.” (A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last, Stephen Levine, Bell Tower, New York, 1997.)
What would you like to commit to in order to revitalize your life?
Viktor Emil Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, writes about human hope in the face of tragedy and the importance of saying “yes” to life despite unbearable loss. He founded the field of logotherapy, helping people find meaning in their lives. Frankl states, “Having a sense of purpose in life offers a buffer against poor health. People with a life purpose tend to live longer.” It is true that we will find ourselves in some hard situations, but we are never without options, and with a strong sense of purpose, we can find our compass. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way,” says Frankl. (Viktor Frankl, Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything, Beacon Press, 2020.)
Frankl tells the story of a man who had been sentenced to life imprisonment and was deported to Devil’s Island, a French penal colony. When the ship was on the high seas, a fire broke out. Due to the crisis situation, the prisoner was released from his shackles to take part in the rescue work, and saved 10 lives. As a result, he was later pardoned. If he had been asked before leaving on the boat, whether continuing to live could have any kind of meaning for him, he would have had to shake his head, asking what could possibly be waiting for him. Sometimes, we suffer from those same feelings.
So though acceptance of our situation is important, we can still make goals and have hope for a joyous future. We don’t know what is waiting for us, what big moment, what unique opportunity for us to act in an exceptional way. Healthy living during these times means to commit to doing what we can to stay strong and healthy, even when we are not sure of what is ahead.
Here are some questions for us to consider:
- What is most important in our life at this moment?
- What are the things we value and are a priority?
- In what way are we living out these values?
- What are some of the things we wish to move toward in our life?
- When we think about the future, what are some things we would like to have in it?
- When we were children, what did we dream about doing with our life? How about now?
- What pain do we have to face and heal so that we can live life more fully?
- What does life expect of us? What task in life is waiting for us?
Do it before you feel it. Act.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” (Rabindranath Tagore, poet)
During this isolated time, we are making goals for our health, not only to stay safe from COVID-19, but to make our lives richer, whether that means to stay active, to exercise, to eat well, to meditate, to garden, to get 7-9 hours of sleep, to integrate balance exercises while doing dishes, to make sure we have our medications, to do strengthening exercise, to stretch, or anything else that increases our quality of life. Sometimes, when we remember our reasons for living, our overarching goals, we get motivated to take better care of our health. Sometimes, when we set small goals to take care of our health, we remember our reason for living. Many of LifePath’s classes in Healthy Living are based on the premise that we change our minds and attitudes by doing, even before our heart is in it. By taking active steps for our health, we are saying “yes” to life.
- Written by Dave Gott, Rainbow Elders Group Facilitator, (pronouns: he and they)
During the first week of COVID my personal and work life kind of shut down. It was largely spent canceling plans and grieving the loss of them. Then I was able to attend an area gay/bi men’s support group Zoom meeting, which felt very heartening. I immediately decided that I would like to offer that to the Rainbow Elders. Our steering committee volunteers enthusiastically agreed and offered their attendance, LifePath staff initiated its ongoing support, and we launched our first virtual gathering on March 26.
Probably like many others attending virtual meetings, participants have welcomed the relief from isolation that our gathering provides.
With the COVID crisis presenting huge unknowns, we hoped that we could offer a true safety net to LGBTIQA elders, some of whom have a unique risk for contracting the illness and who are often more susceptible to isolation than other elders. It seemed and still seems important through the month of May to offer this opportunity weekly so that folks can know they have someplace to take concerns, share support, and provide resources.
I miss our wonderful monthly luncheons at the South County Senior Center! However, we have averaged 15 people attending per virtual gathering, so folks are having much more regular opportunity to see one another than before. Mastery of the technology has been both a challenge and an opportunity. A few people have dropped out for now due to those challenges, while others have mastered the use of our platform. Some attend by phone, while most come with a screen view of their surroundings. Certain people, who find it difficult for various reasons to travel to our luncheons, find it easy to attend these gatherings. Others from various New England communities have joined us as they prepare for their local LGBTIQA elders groups to offer something similar, or just in order to meet others.
Probably like many others attending virtual meetings, participants have welcomed the relief from isolation that our gathering provides. Some have described their fears and the courage it has taken to venture out of their homes for essential activities, while others describe their choice to remain at home as much as possible. We have discussed contingency plans in the case of illness, offered support for specific challenges people are encountering, and shared stories regarding our varied experiences as LGBTIQA elders.
It often takes a while to do check-ins, due to the number of participants as well as the importance of including COVID-related experiences and responses. A few lively group conversations have ensued, although I think we are still getting our sea legs in that regard. Spirited sharing has long been a hallmark of our in-person events, but technology may at the moment be hampering possibilities in that regard. We are looking into what may be done about this. Also, participants are sharing lots of resources and we are experimenting with ways to easily share those during or after the gatherings.
How might virtual Rainbow Elders gatherings evolve in the future? The group will decide. If we continue them on a less frequent basis once our society opens up again, they might offer a great supplement to in-person events with a smaller carbon footprint, and as a complement or replacement for those who find travel challenging.
Here’s to all of us emerging from COVID more connected to ourselves and to our various communities of care!