Working with families in their homes is at the heart of how Adult Family Care (AFC) helps families provide care for loved ones. But with Coronavirus changing everything in recent months, the nonprofit program is sharply increasing use of videoconferencing technology to deliver support.
“Normally, the most important tool in our toolbox is the interpersonal relationships we develop by being in people’s homes,” said AFC Social Work Manager Nina Cohen. “We can’t do that right now, so we’re working twice as hard to make that personal connection.”
The numbers bear that out. With AFC pivoting to telephonic support, its nurses and social workers are spending twice as much time every month with each family. In practice, the calls are a mix of a well-being check, support, and caregiver training.
AFC provided training in July on managing caregiver stress. It featured a series of discussion items to help caregivers gauge their current level of stress. The AFC team also provided advice on how to manage and reduce stress during the pandemic, sharing information drawn from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines.
“We had many good discussions,” said AFC Social Worker Rachel Lynch. “A lot of times, caregivers appreciate just being heard out and reminded that many of the additional challenges they’re dealing with are temporary.”
Caregiving can be a stressful role under the best of circumstances. Support systems are often key to managing caregiver stress, but the Coronavirus pandemic has turned many routines upside down. For instance, Adult Day Health Centers have closed, and families must socially distance from those who usually provide informal support.
While teleconferencing has helped AFC maintain connections with many of the families they serve, some homes lacked the necessary technology. To support these households, AFC provided 46 of them with tablets.
“The pandemic has resulted in a great deal of social isolation for many families,” said Cohen. “We recognize how vital human connection is for everyone’s health and well-being. Therefore, maintaining a sense of connection with the families in our program has been our top priority during this time.”
AFC Program Director Jeanne Leyden said the tablet distribution was a team effort, adding that she enjoyed reaching out to the families to tell them about the new equipment.
“It was just so nice to call the families and hear how appreciative they were,” said Leyden. “There is no substitute for being in people’s homes, but this helps.”
AFC is a mission-driven non-profit program that helps eligible adults receive essential care at home. The program serves adults who cannot live alone due to a medical diagnosis, by supporting friend or family caregivers with training, compensation, and ongoing support. To learn more, call 617-440-0987, email AFC@eldercare.org, or visit AdultFamilyCare.org.
Adult Family Care is a regional program of Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services that serves much of the Greater Boston Area.