Posted on February 21, 2023
Harmonia Collaborates to Support Caregivers
Valerie Nowak, LMHC, MPA
CEO – Harmonia Collaborative Care
A Health Foundation for Western and Central New York (HFWCNY) Aging by Design study found that 90% of seniors want to remain in their homes for as long as possible. In addition, 32% see living independently as their highest priority. Caregivers play an essential role in supporting senior care recipient needs and wishes.
Harmonia Collaborative Care is collaborating on a three-year project, called “Pathways for Caregivers”, to support Caregivers and their loved ones. “Harmonia has served seniors from our inception. We understand the day-to-day challenges of seniors and those who care for them. We are excited to be part of this innovative project”, noted Valerie Nowak, LMHC, MPA, Harmonia CEO.
Harmonia, a long-time member of Network in Aging, offers mental health and senior care services to those in need of support in semi-rural southern Erie County since 1971. Harmonia operates out of a main location in Derby, with a satellite location in Hamburg.
Often caregivers suffer from extreme stress and mental health concerns. Research has also found that in their role supporting a loved one many do not recognize themselves as caregivers. An AARP study reported that 17-35% of responding family caregivers considered their health to be fair to poor. The challenge of caring for a loved one can be a rewarding experience while simultaneously being emotionally draining and physically exhausting.
To address these issues, the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation came together to create an innovative family caregiver initiative called Exhale. These visionary funders recognized that supporting caregivers and their family member would also positively impact the larger community. Their fundamental driving principle is that family caregivers provide essential support for many older adults living in the community who need extra support and compassion. A respite from their duties is a welcome opportunity for self-care.
Respite programs take many forms in the community. Respite can be more traditional in-home care and companionship, day-care programs or non-traditional community programming that engage the arts, dance and music.
This expanded approach to respite, led to the foundations funding three respite pilot programs as part of their first 2019-2023 Cohort Resources and Learning Community. The effort funds development program activities, timeline, and learning community activities as well as organization project administration. The goal is to help funded organizations work towards sustainability.
The Exhale 2022 – 2025 Cohort Resources and Learning Community includes a collaboration in which Harmonia will work with Cradle Beach and Lisa Rood, an Older Adults Program Developer & Implementation Consultant.
A geographic neighbor to Harmonia, Cradle Beach will act as the lead coordinating agency and provide expertise in respite services at their 66-acre campus on Lake Erie. “Pathways for Caregivers” delivered at Cradle Beach will include activities and support for both caregivers and their loved ones. Lisa Rood will bring her experience in informed respite programming, coordinate recreational, educational and/or fun outings for caregivers and their loved ones and conduct Train-the-Trainer sessions.
Beginning in March 2023, monthly, four-hour, respite sessions will allow family caregivers the choice to remain at Cradle Beach’s relaxing campus or leave Cradle Beach to have time to themselves. Trained volunteers offer activities and individual care to loved one’s during this respite time. Cradle Beach’s Campus offers a beautiful and safe oasis filled with nature greenery, trails, activities and the most beautiful lakeshore views.
“Cradle Beach is thrilled to expand our longstanding and relied upon respite program to serve caregivers of aging loved ones. The cumulative strengths and expertise offered by Cradle Beach, Harmonia and Lisa Rood provide a one-of-a-kind respite opportunity in the Southtowns for caregivers to take a breath, access peer support and nourish their own health and wellness”, offered Ann-Marie Orlowski, LMSW and CEO of Cradle Beach.
Valerie Nowak is a graduate of the HFWCNY’s Health Leadership Fellows Program and Ann-Marie Orlowski is slated to graduate as a Health Fellow in the Fall of 2023.
Harmonia’s involvement in “Pathways for Caregivers” will be led by Director of Senior Services, Jennifer Gunia. Jennifer is the 2021 Network in Aging Dr. Evan Calkins Meritorious Award recipient, sits on the Hamburg Senior Advisory Board and has 19 years of experience in senior services in southern Erie County. The Exhale collaboration will tap into Harmonia’s Senior case management services which provide monitoring and linkages to community services; and CarePanion program which provides in home non-medical care and support allowing seniors to remain independent in their homes. Harmonia will conduct a support group for caregivers at the Cradle Beach site while their loved ones are engaged in other activities. The group will be facilitated by a professional mental health clinician from the agency. Additionally, Harmonia’s clinical team, including a geriatric psychologist, are well-trained in providing out-patient treatment in person or via telehealth to individuals, families, and groups.
“Harmonia’s professional staff takes pride in providing empathic care to help bring balance into the lives of our clients,” shared Valerie Nowak.
The NIH National Institute on Aging report on Aging in Place: Growing Older at Home report, identified that assistance with personal care, household chores, meals, money management and healthcare allow seniors to stay in their homes and save money. “Harmonia greatly understands the importance of supporting caregivers and is dedicated to identifying and implementing collaborative solutions, while offering knowledge and expertise to meet the needs of the community,” said Jennifer Gunia.
Follow our Exhale “Pathways for Caregivers” initiatives at www.harmonia-care.org or on social media @harmoniacc.