New Community Enrichment Center in Sunderland to offer caregiver support

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 08-14-2023 7:35 PM

GREENFIELD — Two social service agencies are working together to support not only older adults and people with disabilities, but also their families who care for them through the creation of a new enrichment center.

Thanks to $450,000 in state funding, the Community Enrichment Center, which is expected to be ready this fall, will provide a space where older adults and people with disabilities can enjoy respite, activities and socialization with people of all ages. LifePath is working in collaboration with The Care Collaborative to bring the program to fruition. Both nonprofits serve elders and caregivers.

“By supporting the individual who needs care, we’re also supporting the caregiver,” said LifePath Executive Director Gary Yuhas. “I think people often forget that being a caregiver does come at quite an emotional and physical cost. We’re trying to provide a holistic approach to that challenge.”

The Community Enrichment Center will be located at The Care Collaborative’s location at 267 Amherst Road in Sunderland. A portion of the state funds will be used to outfit the space, which is currently used as the collaborative’s training room.

The two agencies hope to serve 15 people at any given time, Yuhas said. There will be two slots reserved for unexpected respite needs.

“We see the center as a one-stop shop for caregivers,” said Diane Robie, director of client services at LifePath. “We want caregivers — paid and unpaid — to know they are not alone.”

The center will also be a place where caregivers can get information and resources specific to their unique caregiving needs, and where they can access help navigating health care and social service systems. In addition, there will be self-care offerings like massage and yoga, as well as peer support.

“All of the work originates from the foundational belief that in order for elders to be well-cared for and supported, they must have well-supported caregivers,” said The Care Collaborative Executive Director Sue Pratt.

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The Care Collaborative will recruit and train paid caregivers who can gain experience at the center and then go into people’s homes to provide respite care.

In awarding the grant to LifePath, the Healey-Driscoll administration was seeking innovative models to identify promising practices to relieve caregivers of the stress acquired from the exceptional demands of caring for individuals with complex needs, to close service gaps, and to provide person-centered respite in home- and community-based settings, according to an announcement from LifePath.

“So many people in our state act as primary caregivers for others every single day,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh said in a statement. “It is important to provide these caregivers with the opportunity to rest, while still ensuring continuity and high-level quality of care that is both culturally and linguistically appropriate to those who rely on them.”

The center will partner with local colleges and universities to provide internships for those who are interested in learning more about the needs of this population, according to LifePath. Interns will have opportunities to learn from caregivers and those who are entering the direct-care workforce by participating in activities at the Community Enrichment Center, attending workshops and providing specialized services.

“We want this to be a multi-generational center where one day there might be elementary children joining for a music session, and another day high school students might be leading an activity on building bird houses,” Robie said. “We see this as an innovative approach to bridge fragmented systems of care and build strong and lasting relationships of support.”

Yuhas said LifePath is proud to organize this new service in a collaborative way.

“Neither The Care Collaborative or LifePath would be able to do this without each other,” he said. “I think that really shines a light on the strength of community and connection. We work with some really amazing people.”

Questions about enrollment and cost can be directed to LifePath at 413-773-5555. Twenty scholarships of up to $600 each year will be offered for people to receive services.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

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