Every day, United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) and our network of direct services, partner agencies and programs work to answer some of our community’s most pressing needs — even in the throes of a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the far-reaching programs we operate internally is United Way Area Agency on Aging (AAA), which serves Jefferson County seniors in a multitude of ways. From helping with prescription drug costs and Medicare counseling to monitoring care at nursing homes and providing meals at Senior Centers, AAA is dedicated to keeping seniors and disabled individuals healthier, happier and more informed.
Alabama Cares, one of AAA’s programs, provides services that inform, educate and assist family caregivers of loved ones. While primarily focused on assisting unpaid caregivers of aging family members, another aspect of the Alabama Cares is the Older Relative Caregiver Program, which supports seniors themselves who are raising grandchildren or other younger relatives. The program offers services, such as temporary financial assistance, childcare and tutoring, as well as a free monthly support group that helps these senior caregivers connect with others in similar positions and learn about community resources.
It was through one of the Older Relative Caregiver Support Groups that Valarie Lawson, Alabama Cares Coordinator, learned of one client’s unique challenge: the elderly woman, who is raising her great nephew, had only a miniature refrigerator, This severely limited the amount of perishable food she could bring into their home.
“I had noted that it was a hardship and was looking into how we could help,” said Lawson. “Then Coronavirus hit.”
As a senior with health issues, the client is among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, meaning she needs to limit her exposure as much as possible. The small refrigerator, however, required numerous trips to the grocery in order to keep enough food in the house. All the while, store shelves were being quickly depleted as other people were “stocking up” and making this client’s problem even more challenging.
In certain cases, the Older Relative Caregiver Program utilizes funds to help families through various types of hardships. “We assess their needs to see what would help them the best,” said Lawson. “The only stipulation is that is has to benefit the child or the household as a whole.”
The Alabama Cares team was, thereby, able to provide the client with a larger, much more accommodating refrigerator. They found a great deal and had the appliance delivered so as to further help the client avoid the exposure of shopping and external contact.
“The client was so grateful that we were able to help,” said Lawson. “It will make taking care of her great-nephew a lot easier, and she’ll be able to make fewer trips to the grocery store, which is crucial for seniors during the COVID-19 crisis.”
AAA, with its many programs, is just one of UWCA’s Community Initiatives that’s working hard to help Central Alabama through this unprecedented and trying time. You can support them by donating to our Community Crisis Fund, which has already awarded more than $150,000 to area nonprofits to support both their programs and operations.