This spotlight first appeared in the Health Foundation’s 2020 Annual Report.
Family caregivers typically face unique challenges. The responsibilities of that role bring physical, emotional, mental and financial stress, as well as the risk of social isolation to both caregivers and their loved ones. COVID-19 has only exacerbated these issues. The Health Foundation is proud of our ongoing partnership with the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to support programs and initiatives that improve the lives of family caregivers and the people they care for. In 2020, we supported a number of these initiatives, including many that recognize how family caregiver needs have changed as a result of the pandemic.
The Health Foundation has partnered with the Brookdale Foundation to provide grants to community-based organizations in western and central New York in support of Relatives as Parents Programs (RAPP).
These programs provide support, guidance and respite opportunities for grandparents or other relatives who serve as the main caregiver for children whose biological parents are unable to provide that care.
In central New York, PEACE Inc.’s family resource coordinator Shelly Kasprzak oversees their RAPP program serving the western suburbs of Syracuse. Before the pandemic, their RAPP programming would include twice monthly support meetings. When social distancing made it harder to get together in person, Shelly made sure to find new ways for their grandparent caregivers to stay connected.
“Throughout it all, I’ve kept in touch with our families. Some would come into our food pantry, and for those who couldn’t, we’d arrange to have food delivered to their home,” says Shelly. Over the summer, the group was able to safely meet in the park—wearing masks and practicing social distancing—to take in a cooking demonstration with Cornell Cooperative Extension.
At that meeting, Shelly also gave kids backpacks full of back-to-school supplies, thermometers and other gear. One of the key benefits of PEACE Inc.’s RAPP program is the sense of community, especially during a pandemic that has increased the risk of social isolation for many.
“One grandmother shared with me that this is the only time she gets out in the community,” says Shelly. “The programming gives her a chance to share her struggles with other grandparents, get advice and not feel so alone.”