CARES Act Grants to Help Social Isolation among Elders

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law.   The CARES Act grants totally $955 million will support older adults and people with disabilities in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizations that will have access to this funding includes a network of community-based organization such as Area Agencies on Aging, Centers for Independent Living,  senior centers, faith-based organizations and other community-based non-profit organizations that provide resources and services to help older adults and people living with disabilities stay healthy and live independently.   $100 million is earmarked for the National Family Caregiver Support Program to help expand services that aid families and information for caregivers who are providing support for their loved ones at home.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly brought to light the weaknesses of our current social support systems for older adults and their care partners living at home.  The much-needed CARES Act funding will help aging service providers and other community-based organizations  to reach vulnerable populations across the United States with resources to help meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of this group, among other at-risk population groups.

Social isolation and loneliness of older adults and their care partners did not start with the pandemic, but quarantine and social distancing  guidelines have intensified what was already a serious and growing problem with our fast-aging population.   While some initial studies pointed to a near 30% increase in loneliness during the first month of COVID-19,  it is  yet to be determined  the fall-out of long-term isolation for older adults now that we are moving into our 10th month of the pandemic.

Across the spectrum of care of our aging population, especially those living alone, COVID recovery must address the long-term effects of prolonged isolation and loneliness.  Some of these include mental health concerns, substance abuse, domestic violence,  anxiety, poor sleep, changed eating habits, and depression.

Thanks to technology,  many organizations quickly became adept at reaching these populations through Zoom and other conferencing platforms, helping to support at-home caregivers and provide meaningful activities to help alleviate the social isolation.  Innovation and creativity have led many of these groups to realize that post-Pandemic, these social platforms will be a permanent and important part of their community outreach education, resource and support services.   CARES Act funding will help support these initiatives and address the most pressing challenges of reaching elders and families who simply cannot leave their homes, even when there is no pandemic.  Rural elders and their care partners are especially an at-risk population.

With the hope of a vaccine bringing the pandemic to a slow-closure, social isolation and loneliness in older adults must be addressed as the public health challenge that it is.  The targeted funding from the CARES Act is the critical financial injection at the state and local level and hopefully will be the catalyst for additional long-term funding to support the needs of older adults and their families with expanded education, resources and support services.

For information on AGE-u-cate programs for older adults and their care partners that may be offered by Area Agencies on Aging and other community-based organizations click here.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute.      AGE-u-cate develops and delivers training and education for professional and family caregivers across the aging services spectrum.  Pam is a passionate advocate for elders and their caregivers.  


The Perpetual Now: Living in This Moment While Living in the Past

As a parent or caregiver, you likely have been asked, “When is dinner?” or “Do I have to do that now?” Sometimes the questions are perpetual and never ending. We are living moment to moment, but there is always a feeling of what is next. If you have been a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, there is another challenge of living in the present while thinking about the past.

Emotions and Memories

People with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias retain their long-term memories, especially ones that are tied to emotion. The progression of Alzheimer’s disease varies with each person. However, those with this disease typically remember people and events from the past.

If you have worked with and cared for someone with dementia, you have likely heard questions about a long-lost relative, or an important event that happened long ago. It is painful to see someone you care for express their sadness or longing for someone or something that is long gone. When these questions or feelings emerge while you are trying to get something done for and with the person, it is even more challenging.

Living in the Now and in the Past

How do you do what needs to be done, while acknowledging the feelings of loved ones? How do you live in the perpetual now, with all that needs to be done? What is the best approach for taking care of loved ones with dementia while taking care of everything else?

Acknowledge the emotions and memories of your loved one. Try to understand that people with Alzheimer’s disease may find security in memories. The feelings remain intact. Honor those feelings. Live in that moment, even though it is in the past. Even though you may have heard the same feelings and stories many times before.

Determine how you can help that person do what needs to be done. Consider whether or not what needs to be done can be modified. Also try to delay the activity if possible. Reach out to other care partners to find other strategies.

Taking Care of Emotions and Business

It is hard, sometimes impossible, to live in the perpetual now, with all that needs to be done. Caring for someone with dementia who is likely living in the past is difficult, especially with the pressure of getting things done. Putting their feelings first helps to live in the now, focusing on where they are. Remember that you are doing your best. Take care of yourself and know that your work is valuable.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers;

In 2021, Hope For A New Year: Hurry Up And Wait

It goes without saying, but here goes: 2021 really cannot get here soon enough. There are many reasons to hope and to look forward to in the new year.  For now, we have to cope with our current state.

Signs of Hope in 2021

There are the vaccines for the coronavirus. They are being administered to frontline workers, first responders and older adults. We all hope that the vaccines will successfully keep us safe from the effects of the virus.

Some states have allowed visits to loved ones in long term care communities. Precautions still must be used, but being able to see a family member helps.

Even with the administration of vaccines and seeing loved ones in supervised settings, there is still so much to recover and heal from. There are many people who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus. Both frontline workers and people from all walks of life have been affected.

Has Anything Changed?

There are direct care workers still offering support and care at their own expense. Facilities at all levels of long-term care have been affected.

At this point, each of us likely know someone, either in our direct family or a family member of a friend who has or has had the virus. Whether we know someone directly or indirectly, we are still affected by the coronavirus and the quarantine measures.

What Can Give Us Hope?

While we wait to see how well the vaccines work, we have to look for signs of hope. In the United States, we are in the midst of winter, which makes things harder to deal with. The darker days and longer nights do not help.

For a lot of people, this time of year is a challenge. Where can we find hope and promise after the excitement of the holidays fades? Or after the relief that the holidays have passed has dissolved?

One way that works for me is to look at nature, especially trees. There are trees that bud during the winter.

Effects of Winter

Winter is a time of being dormant, gathering rest to gear up for spring. Some trees produce buds in the winter as a way of protection. For me, seeing trees with buds in the middle of winter has always given me hope.

Seeing trees with buds reminds me that something better is coming. Better weather and beautiful flowers will be arriving. I just have to wait, but knowing they will be here always gives me hope.

We are all still waiting, hoping for relief and resolution. May 2021 bring us control over and relief from COVID-19. In the meantime, we must find ways to continue coping and looking for signs of hope. May we all also  find hope in the people who continue to serve those who are coping directly with the virus.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers;

To Renew and Recover: How Big is Your Boat?

For those coping with the direct effects of COVID-19, finding ways to renew and recover has been challenging. Even as the vaccine begins to be administered, it does not ease the immediate stress of  those still working to manage COVID-19 and its effects. There is still much to get through before life can truly be better.

Quotes to Motivate

Winston Churchill is noted for a quote about keeping going when going through a difficult time. There’s also the quote about keeping calm and carrying on. In our current state of affairs, it is safe to say that we are going through a difficult time. Also, there are plenty of people, especially those in health care and long-term care, who have kept calm and carried on.

What do you do when there seems to be no end in sight? Or, if the end is coming, which is sounds ominous, how do you keep going? Quotes are helpful. People use mantras to help refocus in times of stress. With everything that has happened and with so much unknown, I think, with apologies to Roy Scheider’s character in JAWS, we are gonna need a bigger boat.

How To Renew and Recover

Some of these best ways to renew and recover involve laughter. Watching a comedy video  can help provide laughs. Watching a funny movie can help lift spirits. Also, being with people who make you laugh is good medicine for the soul.

There are also videos online that provide support for caregivers. Sometimes being with people who can relate to what you are going through provide the best support. There are several online videos for caregivers that offer education and understanding.

Other ways to renew and recover include exercise and eating healthy. A simple walk around the neighborhood can help clear your mind. Music is also a great way to relieve stress and find relief. Focused breathing can also reduce stress.

Whatever way works for you, keep doing that. Breathe. Eat. Move. Be easy on yourself and know you can do this. You are doing your best.


Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is an Advisor at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers;

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial