"I was basically home, doing absolutely nothing, bored — and BakuCare saved my life,” she said. “Otherwise, I would have probably become so obese. The year I stayed at home, I gained 70 pounds.” Erskine, who lives at home with her husband, said she would socialize by playing games like Bingo, exercising, and going on field trips while attending BakuCare in the mornings and afternoons. But now that BakuCare is closed due to the pandemic, she’s unable to participate in these social activities that get her out of the house. “I look forward to getting up, taking a shower, going to a day program, being entertained, being fed and then going home,” she said. “It gives me an outlet”
For adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Pioneer Valley, day programs, activities and other services can provide necessary structure and community support. And with physical locations closed, caregivers and support staff are rising to meet the challenges of providing some stability during the pandemic with daily phone call check-ins and online group activities. Since BakuCare closed in March, Johnson, who lives in Northampton, said she has been finding it difficult not to have the day-to-day, in-person support system, but she has been keeping in touch with BakuCare staff through a telehealth program. “I have a friend that I call every day,” Johnson said. “We’re just trying to keep up with everything. I’m missing her. “Johnson added that she’s worried about contracting COVID-19 as she is diabetic.
Pat Ononibaku, director of BakuCare, said she and her staff have been providing alternative care coordination through remote services. “With the closure of BakuCare, we’re still interacting with our participants, but we’re doing it in a different way,” she said. “Basically, what my staff and myself will do is call and check on them.
“Ononibaku and her staff ask participants daily whether they have any COVID-19 symptoms, she added. They also ask participants if they are receiving their medication; if they have food; what their financial situation is currently like; how their grooming, sleeping, and eating habits have been; and how they are spending their day. Participants sometimes “bring up issues about the news on TV,” Ononibaku said. “We try to reassure them over the phone that we’re all in this together and that things will eventually calm down."
Hampshire Gazette, staff writer Chris Goudreau, 5/13/2020