JF&CS Memory Café and Assisting Hands Home Care: Addressing Social Isolation Together
JF&CS is fortunate to work with a number of corporate partners who advance and extend our work throughout the community. One of those partners, Assisting Hands Home Care, is a deeply engaged sponsor of JF&CS Memory Café. We spoke with Dave Tasto (President, Assisting Hands - Boston Northwest) and Beth Soltzberg (Director, Alzheimer’s/Related Disorders Family Support Program for JF&CS) about the partnership and its impact on the community.
Let’s start with some background info. Dave, can you tell us a little about Assisting Hands Home Care?
DT: We help keep individuals healthy and happy at home. Some of our clients want companionship and some transportation help, and others have more extensive needs requiring around-the-clock care at home.
Beth, please describe JF&CS Memory Café.
BS: Memory cafés are welcoming social gatherings for people living with dementia, along with their family members, friends, and professional care providers. The first café was held in Holland in 1997, and they have spread throughout the world as part of the dementia friendly community movement. JF&CS Memory Café was created in 2014; we launched the Memory Café Percolator that same year to help other organizations start and sustain their own cafés.
What issues are your clients/participants struggling with these days?
DT: It’s clear that the isolation and loneliness associated with the pandemic have taken a toll—families have seen real declines in overall health of their loved ones. In addition, family members have taken on additional care duties. It all adds up to a great deal of stress for families and other caregivers.
BS: It’s challenging at any time for a family to address dementia – the financial, emotional, and physical impact can be significant. During the pandemic, families often faced an impossible situation as the symptoms of their loved ones worsened and the available supports decreased.
What has that meant for your teams?
BS: Providers like JF&CS Memory Café have had to learn how to deliver services in totally different ways. We had to figure out how to best use technology to keep our programs going…then help our clients figure out how to log on!
DT: If our homes were our castles before COVID, they became castles with moats during it. We doubled down on our infectious disease protocols, reduced the number of clients our caregivers would see. We also embraced technology, but in our case, it was to bridge communications gaps. Our caregivers take notes on their smartphones and have them immediately available to family members who may be miles away or down the street.
Please describe the nature of the partnership between JF&CS Memory Café and Assisting Hands.
BS: We were connected through a colleague almost three years ago. Dave started attending the Memory Café and quickly became a valued thought partner and financial supporter.
DT: The more I got to know Beth and JF&CS, the more impressed I was with the team’s professional, caring approach. I really admire their commitment to bringing joy to those they serve. We share an important goal: to help even more individuals and families become aware of the supports available to them through organizations like ours. And our values are aligned…we both care deeply about giving back to the community.
BS: It’s an ongoing struggle to raise awareness about programs like JF&CS Memory Café. It’s tough to get people to talk about your program when they don’t want to discuss dementia. Dave has helped us think about creative new ways to spread the word. We have been fortunate to have him as a partner—not everyone takes that added step of saying “I’d like to help advance this work through a financial sponsorship.”
What opportunities do you see for partnership in the future?
BS: Service providers are at an interesting point where things are reopening, but there are no guarantees about what’s ahead. We do know that we’re not going back to the way things were, that we will continue to weave in new ways of supporting these individuals and families. As we plan, it’s really helpful to have the strategic and financial support of partners like Assisting Hands.
DT: When I look to the future, about two key things: awareness and access. We need to let more people know that programs like JF&CS Memory Café and Assisting Hands are here to support them. And we need to continue to find ways to make our services more accessible throughout the community.
Any last thoughts?
BS: For families supporting a loved one with dementia, it’s both a precious and challenging time. It can be the hardest thing they have ever done, but it can also be incredibly fulfilling. To make it the best possible experience, families need to expand their network… to augment their already wonderful care and attention. That’s the way I feel about our partnership with Assisting Hands. Through his collaboration and financial support, Dave helps us do even more to support people living with dementia and the people who care about them.
For more information about JF&CS Memory Café: https://www.jfcsboston.org/Our-Services/Older-Adults/Alzheimers-Related-Disorders-Family-Support
To learn more about senior home care from Assisting Hands Home Care.