By Sara Floor.
After a career of helping others address substance use issues with alternative and holistic therapies, Tony Landrum found himself living with brain cancer and in need of some care himself.
“Alameda County Care Partners, especially Miss Wanda, came out to visit me and learn about my needs,” said Landrum. “Miss Wanda not only listened to me, but she really heard me.”
Bedridden and frail after brain surgery and radiation treatments, Landrum now receives regular food deliveries from Meals On Wheels and is in the process of being assigned an In-Home Supportive Service (IHSS) Chore Partner. These are just some of the wrap-around services available through Alameda County Care Partners designed to keep county residents in their homes safely and comfortably as they deal with serious illness or end-of-life care.
A collaboration between Alameda County’s Health Care Services Agency, Social Services Agency and community-based organizations, Care Partners is the first program of its kind. The program seeks to address racial and cultural disparities in access to end-of-life planning and care among the County’s diverse low-income older adult population.
“We heard from some seniors that they want to see clinicians who look like them … who speak their language. So we immediately decided we were going to build a multicultural, culturally competent team of compassionate clinicians, community based organizations and volunteers from the community,” said Care Partners Program Director Wanda Ferguson.
“Because I’m bilingual in Cantonese and Mandarin, I do a lot of the Chinese-speaking clients’ home visits,” said Jiandi Liang, Care Partners Team Lead. “And they’re just like my grandparents, having a chit-chat and getting to know their stories. At the same time, they share their struggles with me so I can get them the support.”
Alameda County Care Partners also offers daily trainings in Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Farsi and more to familiarize In-Home Supportive Service Chore Providers and volunteer caregivers with the range of supportive services available. “It is important to provide these services in every language that exists because California is a melting pot and everyone here comes from somewhere,” said Lola Allen, Health Care Services Agency & IHSS Educator, Facilitator and Training. “And we want to be able to connect with them from wherever they are.”
After the trainings, participants can assist IHSS clients in completing healthcare directives, identifying services and support needs and sharing a range of palliative care and hospice services available within the community. “We are teaching and educating that every time a client documents their wishes, it ensures that we start to close the gap on healthcare disparities because that’s a legal document. And it must and has to be honored,” said Ferguson.
“Everybody needs some type of support in certain areas, and when you know you can call up Miss Wanda and her team of support givers and they’re going to be there to do what they can to make things better for you, it’s just a tremendous opportunity and it lifts your self-esteem,” said Landrum. “Not only is it helping me, but I’m sure it’s helping other people.”
This Alameda County program is a recipient of a 2018 CSAC Challenge Award, which spotlights the most innovative programs in county government.