January 27, 2021

Fostering Community Support and Togetherness

In spring 2020, Concord Regional VNA reimagined its wellness programs for a virtual setting to help practice social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a frequent participant of our in-person programs, Carol-Ann of Concord was hesitant to continue attending. However, with help from our staff and her children, she quickly learned the technology. 
“It took me a while to get used to the technology, but now that I’ve gotten used to it, I kind of like it,” she said. “It saves a lot of driving. Without this kind of support during the pandemic, I would be extremely lonely and at my wit’s end.” 
“Social engagement and cognitive stimulation are so important to our well-being, memory, and mood,” said Jennifer Brechtel, CHES, Community Benefit Manager. “Using technology to help support people who are aging in our community has allowed us to continue to promote wellness and social connectivity to our most vulnerable populations.” 
Through Concord Regional VNA’s wellness programs, patients, families, and the larger community have access to offerings on topics such as aging, healthy lifestyles, advance care planning, falls prevention, caregiving, and grief and bereavement. 
“Powerful Tools for Caregivers,” a six-week interactive workshop for family caregivers, is especially relevant to Carol-Ann who cares for her husband Alden. The program is designed to help family caregivers learn to reduce personal stress, make challenging caregiving decisions, and communicate more effectively. 
“In Powerful Tools for Caregivers, we spend time talking about communication and communication styles,” Brechtel said. We discuss the importance of using ‘I’ versus ‘you’ messages when we communicate with our care partners and others in our lives. If we are able to talk about ourselves and how we feel in relation to a situation and less about what our message receiver is or is not doing, we can have much more productive conversations. By simply reframing, ‘You upset me when you…’ to, ‘I feel upset when this happens,’ can definitely cause the conversation to be more successful.” 
“I used to get upset because the commercials are extra loud during the news,” Carol-Ann said. “When I used ‘I’ instead of ‘You,’ it was very useful. Now, Alden almost automatically turns the TV down during commercials. It did work. I can guarantee it helps.” 
“As part of the communication session, we also discuss assertiveness and making our needs known and asking for help when needed to be good stewards of our own self-care,” Brechtel added. 
“Because of the programs that have been offered, I have more confidence in myself to go ahead and hire someone to be with Alden on a regular basis every week and to also accept that kind of help for me, which I thought in the past was only for him,” said Carol-Ann. 
Bereavement Programs 
“My brother suffered side effects from Agent Orange, his health was declining, and at the end of August, he died,” said Carol-Ann. “We could not travel to Western Massachusetts to attend the funeral service with family, and if we did go, we could only spend the day and not come in close contact with family. I couldn’t keep my hands off my family out there, so we stayed here and watched it on Zoom.” 
To help with her loss, Carol-Ann participated in an online grief group where participants are encouraged to share their thoughts, feelings, and challenges. She acknowledged that the group was helpful, especially since she could not attend the funeral service with her loved ones.  
Carol-Ann believes that our online programs can be beneficial to people and encourages others to not be intimidated by technology.  
For a complete list of online programs, visit www.crvna.org/onlineprograms.  
All of Concord Regional VNA’s virtual programming is available at no cost to participants. Please note that registration is required for all programs and that technical support is available to participants.