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older woman smilingDuring the declared State of Emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, families may be considering whether their loved one should move from a Nursing Facility, Rest Home or Assisted Living Residence. The following information about the processes different facilities follow and the questions to ask can help in this complex decision making process.

Step 1: What type of facility does my loved one reside in?

The processes and implications are different depending on where your loved one resides.

If a Loved One Lives in an Assisted Living Residence (ALR):If a Loved One Lives in a Nursing Facility or Rest Home:

There is no uniform process to move out as the tenancy is governed by landlord-tenant law; however,

  • If the move is permanent, it is important to check the resident agreement to understand any applicable terms or penalties for terminating residency.

  • If the move is temporary, it is important to inform the residence (preferably in writing) that the family member will be spending time away from the ALR and continue to make required payments to preserve your family member’s tenancy so that they can return to their unit at a later date.

  • It is also important to coordinate the date, time, and process for the move or subsequent return with the ALR and ensure access to any necessary medications, supplies, and assistive equipment.

If you have decided on a discharge home, you can begin the process by:

  • Contacting the social worker at the nursing home to begin to facilitate the discharge process outlined below.

  • The resident may initiate this contact on their own or if a resident does not have decisional capacity, the authorized contact or guardian can make this request.

  • It is important to note that if a family chooses to discharge a loved one from a nursing facility or rest home, their loved one is not guaranteed re-admittance to that facility.

Have you factored in your loved one’s opinion about whether s/he wants to stay or go?

Step 2: Primary Considerations for Moving a Loved One

Here are some key questions to consider in moving a loved one from their facility to home:

  • Have you factored in your loved one’s opinion about whether s/he wants to stay or go?
  • Is there consistent support and a backup plan should that support not be available?
  • Is your home able to handle your loved one’s needs?
  • Has your loved one been tested to ensure they do not have the virus?
  • Is there a plan for what would happen if someone in your home gets infected?
  • What happens if your loved one becomes ill or needs more care than you can provide once they are in your home?
  • Can your loved one return to the facility once the pandemic is over?
  • Will your loved one have to reapply for Medicaid before going back to a nursing home?
  • What specific services and supports does your loved one need?

Step 3: What are your loved one’s needs? Who will provide assistance?

This chart below can assist with evaluating your loved one’s needs, help you gage the level of assistance s/he may require, and who within the family/social support network can provide the in-home assistance. This chart can be shared with the social worker to help determine how much assistance is required and if an outside service is needed.

NeedsIndependent/Able to do for themselvesFamily/Friend/In-home Support will provide needed assistanceWill need outside assistance
Bathing/Personal Hygiene      
Getting dressed/undressed      
Toileting      
Walking (Ambulating)      
Getting into and out of chair or bed (Transferring)      
Taking or reminding to take medication      
Meal Preparation      
Shopping      
Laundry      
Transportation to Medical Appointments      
Supervision (due to cognition/memory loss)      
Other      

Step 4: If You Decide Outside Services Are Needed

Now that you have a sense of what your loved one’s needs are and which of these needs requires outside assistance, there are resources in your community to assist you with these decisions.

Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs), including LifePath, are available in every region in the state and can help evaluate the following questions regarding the long-term care needs of a loved one.

  • What services or care are available to support community living?
  • What assistive devices or home modifications are available to support my loved one living in the community?
  • Does insurance cover any services, care and/or home modifications? If not, what funding, loans or donations may be available?

Additionally, if your loved one was previously receiving in-home services from their local ASAP, the ASAP can assist with reinstating services upon their return home.

Call LifePath at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get the help you need.

Betty Wilson and Frankie Hankinson of Leverett showing their Virtual Walkathon spirit with all their past event t-shirts on a poleBetty Wilson and Frankie Hankinson of Leverett showing their Virtual Walkathon spirit.

Thank you to all those who joined us 
on Saturday, May 2 and offered their support 
For LifePath’s 2020 Virtual Walkathon.

More will be shared later in the month.

In the meantime, if you have donations
to turn in please call 413-773-5555 x2225 for a 
physically distanced pick up or send them to:
LifePath 
101 Munson Street, Suite 201
Greenfield, MA 01301.

Or if you would like to donate online, 
please visit lifepathma.org

Maile Shoul, Project Manager, Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin RegionMaile Shoul, Project Manager, Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin RegionOver the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed nearly every aspect of our lives, from grocery shopping to visiting family members. Due to social distancing guidelines, many of us are spending more time at home than ever before, cut off from almost all in-person interaction. This can be especially difficult for people who are struggling with substance use disorders (the medical term for drug or alcohol addiction) and are currently seeking treatment and recovery services.

President Trump declared the opioid epidemic to be a national emergency in 2017; while the federal government spent over $7 billion on combating the opioid epidemic in 2018, advocates say that this funding has not been enough. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that over 69,000 people died in the United States from drug overdose in 2019. Nearly seven out of ten of these deaths were due to opioid misuse. 

Our rural region is now experiencing two widespread public health crises at the same time. The coronavirus crisis has made it more difficult to access treatment and recovery services for substance-use disorders and the social distancing that helps to protect us from COVID-19 can make us more vulnerable to isolation and depression, which can exacerbate substance misuse. However, local programs are working diligently to quickly adapt to this new reality and to ensure that their treatment and recovery services remain accessible to those in need of support. 

The coronavirus crisis has made it more difficult to access treatment and recovery services for substance-use disorders and the social distancing that helps to protect us from COVID-19 can make us more vulnerable to isolation and depression, which can exacerbate substance misuse.

The Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region has compiled a list of resources for how to get help during this challenging time. This list includes resources for behavioral health, treatment, recovery, harm reduction, and much more. 

Residential rehab programs, such as the Northern Hope Center in Greenfield, remain open. Most other residential treatment programs are continuing to provide services and have put strict safety and social distancing protocols in place to ensure that their residents remain safe from COVID-19. In the unfortunate event that one does get diagnosed with the virus, many have also set up separate spaces for the quarantine of patients, who can still get treatment while keeping everyone else from being infected.

COVID-19 has also impacted the thousands of people in Massachusetts being prescribed medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD, also referred to as medication-assisted treatment or MAT), such as methadone or Suboxone. Research shows that medications to treat addiction significantly increase adherence to treatment and make it possible for people in recovery to hold jobs, go back to school, and repair relationships. 

In the United States, methadone is highly regulated and can only be dispensed at licensed methadone clinics. In most cases, people taking methadone must get their daily dose at the clinic. Methadone is a Schedule II drug, which has the potential for abuse, but other Schedule II drugs, such as Oxycodone and codeine, are not subject to the same strict regulations. 

COVID-19 made the traditional clinic model of dispensing methadone extremely risky. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued emergency guidelines in March that relaxed these decades-old restrictions, allowing stable patients to take home up to 28 days worth of medication. Suboxone (the brand name for buprenorphine) is typically easier to access than methadone, but also subject to strict regulations. SAMHSA’s emergency guidelines now make it easier for people to access Suboxone via telehealth visits. 

Treatment and recovery advocates have long argued that these heavy regulations on medications for opioid use disorder create too high of a barrier for people seeking treatment. Perhaps one silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic is that we are now experiencing a change in the guidelines that will lower one barrier to treatment. 

The biggest threat to recovery during this pandemic may be the sense of isolation that many people are feeling now that most in-person gatherings have been shut down and so many people are experiencing job loss. Peter Babineau, the Western Regional Manager of Learn to Cope, a non-profit that holds support groups for family members of individuals with substance-use disorder, says that the COVID-19 pandemic has been “a nightmare for a lot of folks.” He reports that the increased stress and anxiety that go hand in hand with the pandemic can lead to an increase in relapse. Isolation and boredom can be triggers for drug and alcohol use. 

Many people across the country are feeling the sudden loss of their in-person support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Most support groups have moved their meetings online, using platforms such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. Peer recovery centers, including the RECOVER Project in Greenfield, and the North Quabbin Recovery Center in Athol, have also moved their meetings and services to a virtual platform. 

This sudden move online has drawbacks and benefits. Online communication doesn’t provide the same sense of intimacy and nuance that a face-to-face interaction provides, and it can feel awkward at first. To get online, many people have to learn new technology, which can be frustrating. However, remote solutions remove geographic and transportation barriers, which can make meetings more accessible. At Learn to Cope, Peter says that they have combined their Franklin County meeting with their Pittsfield meeting, which has been very successful. Individuals from Vermont, New York and other regions have joined in. “After all of this is resolved,” says Peter, “Learn to Cope will continue to offer virtual support, because it’s been such a success.” 

It is often said in recovery circles that “the opposite of addiction is connection.” The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted for all of us just how important our personal connections are. While we may be temporarily more physically isolated than we were a few months ago, the opportunities for connection still exist and can be a source of light during these trying times.

Warwick Walkers walking with socially distanced spacing on road in woodsThe Warwick Walkers preparing for #LifePathVirtualWalkathon2020.Today, Saturday, May 2, we log on to a virtual walking path and let our eyes meander down memory lane and recognize familiar faces, places, and feelings.  

LifePath’s Walkathon has always been about bringing our local community together, and when we can’t, we are grateful that community members continue to “show up” in so many ways.

The coronavirus can’t beat the spirit of individuals who are team members or work for companies that believe in what LifePath does.

The coronavirus can’t beat the spirit of individuals who are team members or work for companies that believe in what LifePath does. Those who have come through with their ideas, efforts, and donations are truly the heart and soul of this event and keep their walking shoes on, even in the most uncertain of times.

Today’s virtual presentation won’t be long or full of bells and whistles, but it will be a simple demonstration of our love for you reflecting your love for us. Thank you for the miles and miles of goodwill, countless dollars, and many surprises you have offered LifePath over these 28 years. If you do head out for a walk today, consider putting on a Walkathon t-shirt from another year, or wearing blue, LifePath’s signature color.  Post any “selfies” you take with #LifePathVirtualWalkathon2020 so that we can follow you.

Though giving through the Walkathon is a special way to show your support, LifePath always accepts donations through our website, or at our office at 101 Munson Street, Suite 201, Greenfield, MA, 01301. Your generosity always has a place in helping someone find, extend, or enhance their independence. Thank you.

Please note: If you did not receive an invitation to watch the presentation today, it will be available at our website in the coming days.

Barbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorCelebrating 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.