Local News and Stories

Catholic Community Service: Caring for the clients and caregivers alike

As the corporal works of mercy for the Catholic church in the Diocese of Juneau, Catholic Community Service is all about helping the most vulnerable among us, with dignity, care, and compassion. As you may know, much of our work around Southeast Alaska is centered around seniors. Each one of our 11 senior centers in Southeast Alaska is committed to promoting health, independence, and quality of life for all seniors.

One of the most important ways we serve seniors in Juneau, especially those who suffer from cognitive impairment, is through the Bridge Adult Day Program.

The work of the Bridge is twofold:

  • It improves the lives of seniors by providing a safe and nurturing place for them to spend their days. The elders benefit from good company, activities, and nutritious lunches. Their cognition is maintained and even improved by activities like exercises, games, puzzles, live music, arts and crafts, and community outings.
  • It supports caregivers by providing respite. Caring for a loved one can be difficult and lonely. Knowing that an elderly parent, spouse, or disabled adult is safe, nourished, and stimulated during the day is a huge relief to their loving caregivers.

The coronavirus

The coronavirus upended our much-loved routine at the Bridge. Per the State of Alaska Health Alert 007, all congregate programs for seniors were ordered closed on March 17 for the protection of vulnerable elders, including the Bridge Adult Day Center. Although necessary, the closure has been difficult on several levels. Elders have missed the daily stimulation they were used to — not only social stimulation but also the activities that kept them engaged. There is a real danger of losing ground cognitively during the hiatus.

Meanwhile, their caregivers suffer as well. Taking care of a loved one experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s or a traumatic brain injury can be a full-time job—and regular respite for caregivers can make all the difference. Having to leave a vulnerable person at home during the day can be incredibly stressful, and often not safe for the elder.

Throughout the crisis, we have stayed in close contact with caregivers who may be having a rough time.

Thanks to the CCS Caregiver Support program, we have offered individual counseling and regular group call-in sessions for caregivers at home 24/7 with their elder.

Reopening – slowly and safely

We are happy to report that, with the blessing of the Department of Health and Social Services, the Bridge is opening up with modified services to the participants in our program! We are taking it slowly and implementing all possible precautions to make sure that our seniors stay safe.

Each participant has an individualized daily schedule that focuses on their interests and specific activities that engage them. Each day, although abbreviated, offers cognitive stimulation, physical activity and social interaction – all provided with the understanding and compassionate person-centered care that the Bridge is known for.

We are following all state requirements for safety. Our services are being provided one to one, so only one senior is at the Bridge at a time, and only interacting with a single staff while at the program. The number of people allowed in the center is limited to reduce exposure for all. And of course, we follow safety precautions, including masks and disinfecting.

For Bridge staff, it is a blessing to be able to provide care again, even if it is just for a few hours each day. And we are happy to be able to be of service and give our wonderful caregivers a break! We look forward to opening our doors all the way once again!

For those who would like to help

You can help us by becoming a CCS Champion! Watch your mailbox at home for this flyer that will explain how it works and how you can become a Champion of Catholic Community Service and contribute to the goods works we do!

Thank you all for your continued support of all kinds – volunteering, donations and prayers!

God Bless,
Erin Walker-Tolles
Executive Director