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Daily News

GREENFIELD — LifePath was awarded more than $450,000 by the Healey-Driscoll administration for the creation of a community enrichment center. The center will provide a space where older adults and people with disabilities can enjoy respite, activities, and socialization with people of all ages, while caregivers can take a break and receive information needed to help their loved one remain at home.

The administration sought innovative models to identify promising practices to relieve caregivers of the stress acquired from the exceptional demands of caring for individuals with complex needs, to close service gaps, and to provide person-centered respite in home- and community-based settings.

“So many people in our state act as primary caregivers for others every single day,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh said. “It is important to provide these caregivers with the opportunity to rest, while still ensuring continuity and high-level quality of care that is both culturally and linguistically appropriate to those who rely on them.”

LifePath is partnering with the Care Collaborative (TCC), a local nonprofit serving elders and their caregivers for more than 20 years. Programming will start in late fall. The day program will be hosted by TCC at its Sunderland location.

“All of the work originates from the foundational belief that, in order for elders to be well-cared-for and supported, they must have well-supported caregivers,” said Sue Pratt, executive director and founder of TCC.

Through this grant, TCC will recruit and train paid caregivers who can gain experience at the center and then go into people’s homes to provide respite care. In-home training on the best way to care for their loved one can also be provided to family and informal caregivers.

“We see the center as a one-stop shop for caregivers,” said Diane Robie, director of Client Services at LifePath. “We want caregivers — paid and unpaid — to know they are not alone.”

The center will be a place where caregivers can get information and resources specific to their unique caregiving needs, and where they can access help navigating healthcare and social systems. In addition, there will be self-care offerings like massage and yoga, as well as peer support.

The center will partner with local colleges and universities to provide internships for those who are interested in learning more about the needs of this population. Interns will have opportunities to learn with and from caregivers and those who are entering the direct-care workforce by participating in activities at the center, attending workshops, and providing specialized services.

“We want this to be a multi-generational center where, one day, there might be elementary children joining for a music session, and another day high-school students might be leading an activity on building birdhouses,” Robie said. “We see this as an innovative approach to bridge fragmented systems of care and build strong and lasting relationships of support.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the center or being part of a planning group should contact Robie at [email protected] or (413) 773-5555.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — LifePath, the organization that cares for older adults and people with disabilities in Franklin County and the North Quabbin, has an urgent need for volunteers to help with three food-distribution programs:

Meals on Wheels drivers are needed immediately to deliver pre-made meals to homebound individuals in our community. Food delivery routes go out in the morning, Monday-Friday. Volunteers can sign up for one to five days.

The Grocery Shopper program pairs a volunteer with someone who can prepare meals but cannot get to the store to buy the food. Volunteers are matched with someone who lives nearby (volunteers are needed throughout our service area), and the volunteer and consumer decide together how often shopping trips will occur.

The newest program, Farm to Home, delivers fresh food from local farms to people throughout the area who meet income requirements.  Volunteers are needed to help people place their orders, one to four weeks per month, by phone. Volunteers can work from the comfort of their own homes.

Between these three programs, LifePath has a need for more than 25 volunteers to keep food on the table for their neighbors.

While volunteers provide life-saving services to others, they also benefit personally. Studies show that volunteering brings meaning and joy into our lives while helping us connect with others, combating feelings of isolation and loneliness in the process.

Anyone aged 18 and over can qualify to become a LifePath volunteer. Those interested can explore these and other volunteer opportunities at LifePathMA.org/get-involved/volunteer or contact Carmela Lanza-Weil, associate director of Volunteer Resources at [email protected] or (413) 773-5555,  ext. 3006.


Daily News

GREENFIELD — LifePath recently hosted a virtual event called “Aging Populations: Addressing the Workforce Crisis in Home- and Community-based Care.” This event brought together aging experts, physicians, legislators, providers, consumers, and caregivers to discuss the dire lack of home-care workers in our area, resulting in some older adults and people with disabilities not being able to get the care they need. Also discussed was the need for improved support for family caregivers who are struggling to meet the needs of their loved ones.

In attendance were U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern; state Sen. Jo Comerford; state Reps. Susannah Whipps and Natalie Blais; Dr. Rachel Broudy, geriatrician and medical director of Pioneer Valley Hospice and Palliative Care; Elaine Fluet, president and CEO of Care Central VNA and Hospice Inc.; Sue Pratt, director of the Care Collaborative; Lisa Gurgone, executive director of Mass Home Care; and community members and concerned individuals.

Comerford described the event as “one of the best legislative briefings that I’ve been to in my three years in the Senate.” As part of the presentation, LifePath debuted a nine-minute video called “Reimagining Care: A LifePath Call to Action,” available on LifePath’s YouTube channel. In the video, Broudy says the current lack of caregivers “is clearly a crisis, a terrible crisis right now with staffing … the things that really make older adults better is not what I’m doing in the office with their medications, but what’s happening in the home and what’s happening in the community. And it’s what support their families have, what support caregivers have.”

Elizabeth Davis, a caregiver who is certified as a home health aide (HHA), spoke about her role and the challenges HHAs face. “When the pandemic started, schools shut down … so the caregivers had to stay at home and take care of their kids.” Also, “there’s jobs that offer $15 to $18 an hour, where the home-care agencies haven’t gotten to that rate yet. Hopefully, they will soon so they can attract more aides. There’re aides out there that want to work, but it’s the pay rate … even before the pandemic, it was tough. A lot of the aides had to work for two or three agencies to make ends meet, and they still were living in poverty even with 80 hours of work.”

During the legislative discussion that followed the video, Blais said, “the word ‘home’ means so much … healthcare workers feel invisible. We see you, we feel your passion for this work, we value you, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you and recognize your excellent work.”

McGovern added, “we all say that we care deeply about senior citizens and want to honor them for all their contributions … and yet we pay home-care workers insufficient salaries for the work they’re doing.”

Whipps spoke about the “priceless gift that was given to my family by GVNA Hospice,” giving her parents the opportunity to stay in their home. She also pointed out that “nobody should be working 60 to 70 hours a week and not be paid a living wage.”

Barbara Bodzin, executive director at LifePath, argued that “we must elevate the home- and community-based workforce by valuing their knowledge and respecting their work within the home. By acknowledging the essential work carried out each day through better pay, more comprehensive benefits, guaranteed hours, job security, and career-ladder and training opportunities, we can build a strong and sustainable model of care.”

HCN News & Notes

GREENFIELD — LifePath will hold its next free community learning session, “Getting Started with Social Security and Medicare,” on Wednesday, March 25, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at its offices in the Greenfield Corporate Center, 101 Munson St., Greenfield.

Sabrina Feliciano, Public Affairs specialist at the Social Security Administration, will present on Social Security benefits, retirement, planning for the future, and COLA. Lorraine York-Edberg, SHINE regional program director, will present on the basics of Medicare and the options available.

Fifty-five people attended LifePath’s most recent community learning session on Jan. 29, which was intended for older adults and caregivers concerned about protecting themselves from financial risks, including fraud, scams, and financial exploitation.

The session, called “Avoiding Fraud in the New Year,” featured three presenters. Dean Lagrotteria, LifePath’s Elder Protective Services regional director, explained what financial exploitation is, how to avoid it, and how to report it when it’s suspected. Anita Wilson, Consumer Protection case coordinator at the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, and Rachel Senecal, Elder & Persons with Disabilities Unit coordinator, explained how to recognize the tricks scammers use to steal money or personal information and how people can protect themselves.

That session can be viewed online by clicking here.