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Care and connection.

As human beings we need these supports—no matter what stage of life we’re in. But older adults and people with disabilities often struggle to get the physical and emotional care they need, especially if they value independence and want to continue to live at home with support.

A great option right here in Western Massachusetts is WMEC’s Adult Family Care (AFC) program. With AFC, caregivers open their homes to older adults or those with disabilities who cannot live alone safely. These individuals receive the care and comfort that they need in a family setting from a person they feel comfortable with. At the same time, the caregivers get emotional support and friendship from their new companion as well as compensation for their caregiving services. Family members get paid for the crucial care they already provide their relatives.

As you’ll see in the stories below, AFC can keep families together and allows friends and or new hosts to create families and forge deeper bonds than they ever thought possible.

Here are three real stories from our AFC consumers:

Doris Comes Home

No one in Doris’ family could have predicted that a single misstep could have taken the healthy and happy 78-year-old mother from their home for good. A broken ankle was the first in a series of events and surgeries that totaled 18 months in hospitals and rehabs. After ankle surgery, a knee replacement, and a subsequent fall resulting in a broken femur, it looked like a nursing home could have been in Doris’ future.

Yet Doris did return home—with the help of AFC from WestMass ElderCare.

With a family member appointed and paid to be Doris’ caregiver, Doris was able to recover at home with a person she trusted and loved. Caregivers don’t go it alone, however. Doris’ family received support and direction from a WMEC social worker and registered nurse. With help, they modified the living space and made the bathroom and bedroom safer to navigate. They cleared away unnecessary clutter or rugs that posed potential fall hazards. Doris could safely recuperate.

With the monthly stipend her family received to care for Doris, they were able to reinvest in things that made her life easier: a lift recliner and savings toward a cement patio enabling her to sit outside and enjoy the gardens and her beloved birds. She was even able to enjoy a quick waltz with her son on the new patio. Yes, Doris was up and dancing with all the care and support she had.

What was the most striking to her family was watching the physical and emotional changes that began almost immediately when Doris came home. She became more talkative, had a better appetite, and as they put it, her personality seemed to be waking up from a long nap. They saw the difference in pictures taken when she first came home and then just six short months later when the whole family was enjoying the holidays together.

“Every day that Doris is able to stay with us and be a part of our life,” they said, “is a priceless gift.” That is the gift of AFC.

Lisa: From Friend to Family Member

AFC helps do more than help older adults live their lives in a healthy, happy community setting. It also enriches the lives of the caregivers.

Here’s an example of AFC in action:

In December 2010, WestMass Eldercare introduced Lisa to her future caregiver, Lois. The two women would eventually come to see one another as family.

Lisa was in a nursing home in Turners Falls at the time, and WestMass would pick up Lois so that she could visit Lisa. They had much in common, and after several visits they became friends.

In February 2011, Lisa moved with Lois and her family through the AFC program. Lois said:

“Lisa quickly became a part of our household and still lives with us today. She has added so much happiness to our lives with her bubbly personality. She has shown us that ‘family’ is not just blood related. If it weren’t for WestMass ElderCare, our paths would have never crossed. They helped Lisa find a forever home with us – and Lisa and I couldn’t be more grateful for bringing us all together.”

Care and connection are truly alive in this story of hope and family.

Heidi Helps Not One, but Two AFC Consumers

Heidi is another caregiver in our AFC program who has received as much love as she’s given. In fact, her first experience as an AFC provider was so powerful for her family and the consumer, she opened her home to others in need.

“I became involved in AFC in 2007 when my aunt Theresa (who had Down Syndrome) needed help,” said Heidi, who is mom to Austin, 16, and Madison, 15. “I felt good knowing that my family could give Theresa a home and family, instead of her having to live in a long-term care facility.”

A few years after Heidi and her family welcomed Theresa, they opened their home to another AFC consumer named Susan. According to Heidi, Susan quickly became “a regular member of the family” and remains so to this day.

Heidi is quick to point out that the benefit of the AFC program is mutual. “Theresa was like a sister to my kids,” she shared. And Susan helps out with Austin and Madison a lot. She reads to them and plays games with them, and really thinks of them as her grandkids. “It’s truly a blessing for us to have this experience. We’ve enjoyed it so much!”

We’re Here to Help

If you or someone you know might need AFC services – or other care options for living comfortably and confidently – reach out to us today. We’re more than glad to help you explore your options and see how we can make caregiving easier and more rewarding for you.

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