Providing care for someone with an advanced illness can be incredibly difficult. For many the pressure to assess medical needs, monitor medication, assist with basic needs and provide companionship to a loved one can quickly lead to overwhelm, loneliness and isolation.
Thankfully, due to a new faith-based initiative, Bay Area caregivers no longer need to navigate these challenges alone. The Alameda County Care Alliance, ACCA pairs families coping with advanced illness with a healthcare navigator. Care Navigators and Care Liaisons assist families by empowering them to advocate for their loved ones, prepare for physician visits with questions concerning their prescriptions, connect to resources, and plan for the future.
One ACCA Care Liaison, Rev. Barbara Galloway-Lee, describes her role, saying, “One of the best parts of the ACCA is being able to connect people to resources. For example, I was working with a gentleman who had suffered through a terrible accident and really needed advanced-care support. Through this program, we were able to provide him with prayer, a wheelchair and also discussed his long-term directives. Our program seeks to assist people with their mental health and emotional challenges as well. We’ve established a caregiver support group where I’ve coached caregivers on self-care as they take care of others.”
Before connecting to the ACCA, Galloway-Lee describes the responses of many in her caseload, saying, “Before the program, they express isolation, they feel they need help navigating doctor’s visits and basically we come in and serve as advocates for them. We’ve found out that through our program, families are less likely to go to the emergency room so I’m very passionate about this work.”
To date, the program has been incredibly well received. Considering their success so far, the program’s Executive Director, Rev. Cynthia Carter-Perrilliat, is most proud for their integrative body, mind and spirit model.
“We know that dealing with illness is something that impacts not just the body. In our work, we focus on Five Cornerstones – health and physical needs, planning for advance care, social needs, caregiving needs, and spiritual needs. As a faith and community-based initiative, we honor spirituality and pray with families. If there is no spiritual emphasis, we honor that as well.”
Carter-Perrilliat continues, “We also have the challenge of thinking about the social determinants of health – lack of housing, food issues, lack of transportation…all of these issues affect health and so our navigators connect families to these kinds of resources as well.”
Currently the ACCA operates in Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley, San Leandro, Newark, Livermore, Richmond and quickly is expanding to include more cities throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The ACCA initiative began as a collaboration between Bay Area healthcare partners, Kaiser Permanente Community Benefits, Alameda Health System, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Glad Tidings Church of God in Christ, Center of Hope Community Church, Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church, and now several expansion churches.
In the works, the ACCA is producing an inspirational music album to encourage caregivers and those they care for, and hosting a Caregiver’s Recognition Celebration at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 8th at Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland.
What more could a caregiver need? If you or someone you love could benefit from connecting with the Alameda County Care Alliance and a Care Navigator/Liaison near you, visit accarealliance.org or attend the Caregiver’s Recognition Celebration.