COVID-19 has made us change. We try to soften things with words like transition and morph as if there was a methodical plan guiding us. However, that is not what happened. Not even close! It was as if a drill Sergeant’s voice came out of nowhere shouting MOVE…NOW! Our way of doing business and providing services was forced to change quickly.
There has been pain for us organizationally and pain for those who need our services. Much like we learn in life, we don’t get much of a say in what happens to us. On the other hand, we can chose how we respond.
In many ways, COVID-19 has made us better. We did not have the luxury of time and, subsequently, made big changes overnight. As one of our ardent supporters reminds us, caregivers don’t get weekends and holidays off. It’s an around the clock job, all day every day. We had to pivot quickly and our staff has shown a tremendous ability to adapt.
For example, we moved group support to an online environment. We had to learn technology and find new ways to connect safely with our clients. Not only are our Social Workers facilitating Support Groups, but they’re also providing tech support for those navigating Zoom and Facebook for the first time. We don’t want anyone to feel isolated or alone so we’re doing all we can to help keep everyone connected.
One of the biggest struggles left by quarantine has been the lack of Social Clubs. Social Clubs are our respite care programs that operate in churches and community facilities in our 11 county service area. Caregivers bring their loved one to spend time with us and friends while the caregiver gets a much needed break. For some, this is the only relief they had.
Our answer to this is twofold. We have moved some of the most popular activities such as Bingo and Sing-Along to our Online Support Group. We have also been able to do some in-home respite. This allows staff and volunteers to provide relief to individual caregivers while we engage their loved one. Most of our clients have remained quarantined at home so having a visitor helps curb the feeling of complete isolation.
Isolation isn’t a one way street. Similarly, our staff miss their face-to-face interactions too! This work is their passion and they get energy & joy out of seeing their clients. In an effort to find alternative ways to serve our clients, staff and volunteers have created goody bags with games, puzzles, and handwritten notes to let them know we are thinking of them. In addition, we have had outside organizations partner with us on similar projects. Based on the thank you notes we have received, all of the efforts are appreciated. Yet, many of those note say “I can’t wait to go back to Social Club.”
Although, this is not possible without the support of our donors. To that end, we have even had to change the way we raise money. Purple Craze was canceled and made into a virtual fundraiser, which brought in only 25% of what the in-person event normally raises. The Parrothead Club of Tallahassee has postponed the Phrenzy as well, which is another big part of our outside fundraising efforts.
We are relying on our Journey of Support, Forget-Me-Not Walk and Cliff Hinkle Round to Remember to help us finish the year strong. We can do these events safely while still making them enjoyable but will need YOUR help. The Forget-Me-Not Walk will have a virtual twist to it. We look forward to announcing that very soon!
Jimmy Buffet wrote a song Breath In, Breath Out, Move On as a tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. He talks about a watch that “doesn’t have numbers or moving hands, it always just says now.” It feels like we have been wearing that watch since March. We can’t wait! Caregivers need us NOW.
So, if you’ve read this and you’re wondering what you can do right now, here’s how you can help:
In short, we must come together right now to ensure caregivers have the support they need! We need YOU to help us keep the mission alive. We must adapt to change and continue providing services to the most vulnerable in our community. Together, we can be the village for local families facing Alzheimer’s disease!