Our staff and volunteers have done a fantastic job of making adaptations for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. It was not easy nor inexpensive, but we are a more nimble and responsive organization because of the changes.
COVID-19 forced the Alzheimer’s Project to modify the way we deliver services. Here’s how we have adjusted to continue serving:
The respite service we deliver through our Social Clubs could not meet in-person, a major blow to clients. The Social Clubs are a way for the person living with dementia to engage in activities like sing-alongs and music therapy. Caregivers were also unable to take time away from their loved one to attend to their personal needs. As a solution, we offered activities online such as bingo and sing-a-longs. Online activities have their own challenges, but they do engage clients and give caregivers some relief.
Eventually, we were able to offer in-home respite care to caregivers. Not everyone is willing to have a volunteer or staff member in their home. Therefore, for this group, we put together activity bags and care packages. Activity bags contained puzzles, games, and other brain activities. The care packages included snacks and personal protective equipment that caregivers and clients could use when they were ready to venture out or have visitors in their home.
We are beginning to reopen in-person day respite this month. It will be done with reduced occupancy to ensure proper distancing and safety for both the clients and our volunteers.
Another major component of our service is support groups. Support groups moved to a virtual environment, meeting on the same schedule but doing it via Zoom or conference call. We also started posting regularly to our Online Support Group on Facebook for those who use that platform. Caregivers were still able to share their stories with people dealing with similar issues. It’s comforting to know you are not alone and get advice from others who understand your situation.
In addition to virtual activities and support groups, we offered our “Dealing with Dementia” training and our “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” courses online. Online training has been well attended and effective, and we may continue to offer online courses even after resuming in-person training. Clinical staff were able to continue to provide counseling services to our caregivers. The staff adapted by providing support counseling via Zoom and over the telephone.
Our staff had to make adaptations for COVID-19 as well, working remotely rather than coming into the office. This required new computers, new software, and a new way of communicating. Our staff managed the changes well, coming up with creative ideas for programming and working through the challenges presented by new technology. We uncovered new strengths through adversity.
In addition to changing our operations, we were forced to cancel some fundraising events and modify others. We canceled the Journey of Support, usually held at the University Club, and The Parrotheads canceled their 2020 Phrenzy, which is another major fundraiser for us. We converted our live Purple Craze event into a virtual fundraiser, which produced 25% of what we’d normally receive.
The good news is that, despite COVID-19, the Alzheimer Project is in good financial shape. Our “Cliff Hinkle Round to Remember” golf tournament in early November was a big success, raising over $70,000, as well as the Forget-Me-Not Walk which brought in an additional $25,000. We’ve also received Leon County Cares Grants that have helped as well.
Our next event is the 36th Annual Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Training Conference on Friday, March 26, 2021. The event will be held virtually from 9am to 4pm. The conference brings together top educators, trainers, and other experts in the field of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias to discuss topics that are important to family caregivers and healthcare professionals. We are able to offer the conference at no charge to participants with the help of our generous community sponsors.
Although the pandemic continues on, so do our adaptations for COVID-19 and the safety of everyone involved with Alzheimer’s Project.