During these unprecedented times it has become more difficult to know what’s next when you are a caregiver to another adult, such as an aging parent or person with a disability. COVID-19 has complicated the lives of family caregivers, especially those older adults who are most susceptible to the virus. It has created fear, anxiety, uncertainty and isolation in an already stressful situation.
The pandemic has pressed companies to operate in new ways and Mystic Valley Elder Services has been doing just that as we continuously look at ways of doing things differently to remain efficient. Our caregiver support groups, where participants meet face to face with a caregiver coordinator, needed to be reassessed with social distancing and no large group gatherings in effect. The result was to take the support groups virtual to keep participants not only connected to their caregiver coordinator but to the other individuals in the group.
“I have been so amazed at how much folks need the connection of one another and how grateful they are we are still able to meet,” says MVES Caregiver Support Coordinator Kathy Learned. “These individuals are feeling even more alone in their caregiving roles than they did prior to COVID-19. For some, they have been isolated for years and the only time they got out was to attend our support group. We are so glad that holding the groups virtually was possible and received so well by the group members.”
MVES holds four family support groups either by WebEx or Zoom with about 20-30 individuals joining in each week to one of them. According to Learned, there was time spent getting to learn the technology and practicing and getting acquainted with being “live” on the computer. But everyone has adjusted.
“The participants express their gratitude every meeting and all say they really look forward to the weekly meetings. There is active participation. They did not miss a beat jumping out of the comfort zone and trying something new with the online support,” she says.
One participant states: “I can’t meet up with my buddies to have coffee like we used to or join a friend at his house. Granted places are beginning open up slowly but many individuals are still quarantined in their homes or are nervous about going out. Continuing with our support group online has been a Godsend, keeping us together each week in a more innovative way.”
Learned feels that most folks are eager to meet face to face again but the remote groups have been successful and are currently our new normal. “Meeting remotely is working. It is working remarkably well! We are still making a difference,” she says.
Along with the four caregiver support groups, MVES offers a range of accessible and affordable caregiver services through its Family Caregiver Support Program, such as one-on-one assistance, family meetings (offered virtually), community resources, individualized action plans, educational materials, peer support, and respite care, with many offered at no or low cost to caregivers. Services are provided to anyone in MVES’ service area caring for an adult age 60 or older or an adult of any age with Alzheimer’s disease or a related memory disorder. Some participants may be eligible for scholarships for companion services or grants for personal emergency response units or safety-net trackers.
Call our caregiver coordinators today at 781-324-7705 to learn more about our virtual support groups and discover other options available to you and your loved one!