“It’s a Marathon; Beware of Hitting the Wall”
Although you’d be hard pressed to believe this, judging by the current shape I’m in, after a cardiac scare in 1998 I set out on a mission to get healthy. In addition to giving up a close-to-30-year cigarette habit, I began running to lose weight, improve my arterial health and my overall sense of wellness. This wasn’t easy for me, given the skeletal sequelae from a 1983 car accident in which I was hit head-on by a kid racing in a jacked-up SS as I drove home from grad school in my tin can Chevy Chevette. After a month in the hospital, I recovered, but by 1998 the hip and the back were already complaining. My doctors didn’t think distance running would be great for my joints, but since they acknowledged I’d likely need a hip replacement and back surgery eventually, in any case, they ultimately relented.
I worked my way through 5K’s, 10 and 15K’s and then a series of half-marathons, which proved to be my “magic distance.” I was able to hit reasonably decent times considering my age and physical condition and decided I would run (perhaps just once) a marathon. My family has owned a home in Schroon Lake, in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, for many years. As luck would have it, it turned out that (with the addition of a short “add on loop”) the distance around the lake was exactly 26.2 miles. The Adirondack Marathon, founded in the mid-90’s, quickly built a reputation as a tough race with a spectacular course and it seemed the perfect place for me to take a shot at what would prove to be my one and only voyage at this distance.
After a couple of months of training runs, marathon day finally arrived, in September of 2000. Filled with adrenalin and fighting a touch of bronchitis, I tried to hold myself back at the gun, knowing that there was a real danger of letting my pace get away from me. My only real goal was to finish, to not be last, to come across the line with my head held high. So off we went, 500 or so of us, into the morning dampness and the rolling lakeside hills that populated the first half of the racecourse. It was this portion of the race that I feared most, as many runners talked about how much these hills could sap the strength from even experienced marathoners.
I hit the hills hard---and was saved after a coughing fit when a fellow runner tossed me an inhaler (can you imagine that in our current context?) and, to my surprise, burned through the half- marathon in less than 2 hours. I felt good, began to envision the end of the journey, thought about how hard the months of training had been and how happy I’d be when (frankly) this race was over. And then the surprise; the second half of the course was a long slow descending curve that we all expected to be the part of the race during which we’d relax, enjoy the scenery, and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We were very wrong.
Within a couple of miles on the easy-grade descent on the backside of the lake, it became clear that our calculus was off. One by one, both experienced and novice runners began to cramp up, our leg muscles barking mightily against the new static stride. The runner who had been leading the race collapsed and was pulled from the course, cramping terribly. A woman in a foil wrap (I was exhausted enough to imagine her as a baked potato) was wobbling erratically from side to side and yelled “don’t touch me!” when anyone tried to lend a hand. My pace dropped by almost 2 minutes per mile, and I knew I was in trouble. My thoughts of how great it would feel when I raised my arms triumphantly at the finish line quickly turned to “what if I can’t finish- what if I’m last- what if I just don’t have the energy to get to the end?” I had tried so hard to pull this off and a combination of impatience and exhaustion set in. I had, indeed, “hit the wall.”
The power of the human mind is quite something, and despite everything, I managed to will myself to the finish line, having taken 3 hours to run the final half of the race. It was an amazing experience, and one I didn’t particularly relish reliving. 26.2 miles was just too long a run to do voluntarily.
Here we are, 20 years later, struggling to complete the marathon of our lives. This time none of it was voluntary. We were sucker-punched by a rapidly adapting virus and, to use an oft-quoted phrase these days, “the likes of which we’d never seen.” We’ve had to train during the race, not before it. There was no preparation. We’ve learned to cover our faces, to distance ourselves from our fellow human beings, to resist the urge to hug. Due to the asymptomatic nature of this virus in so many people, some of us have intentionally avoided loved ones for fear of making them sick. It’s been heartbreaking and exhausting. Every day has been Groundhog Day. We desperately want it to be over. Where is that finish line?
As I write this, heading into Memorial Day weekend, the finish line is finally- dimly, still well obscured- in sight. We so just want to will ourselves to the end- to avoid the cramping, feeling a desire to just quit the practices that help mitigate the spread of the virus. Enough already, our brains scream.
And yet…if we can just relax and be mindful of context and what still lies ahead, we’ll get there. We’ll get there intact, without too many bodies unnecessarily strewn on the course. Our pace may be slower, and our self-talk may have to increase, but we will, indeed, get there. Let’s not blow it now. We’ve worked too hard.
It’s often the “easy part of the race” that turns out to be the toughest. Stay strong, friends. We’ll get there.
Why Don't I Have the Energy to do Anything?
How COVID-19 is Affecting Your Energy
by Kayla Horne, Peer Wellness Coach at Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center
Over the last month, you might have asked yourself, “Why don’t I have the energy to do anything?” Some of you may have “more time” right now or more flexibility in your schedules. Initially, this seems exciting, “I can finally get things done that I have been putting off!” However, during the trying times of the Coronavirus, this isn’t as easy as we thought it would be. Some of us are working from home, balancing school, families, taking care of others, and at the end of that, trying to take care of ourselves simultaneously.
We have this really important part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex. When the brain starts to undergo stress, our prefrontal cortex shuts down. Our prefrontal cortex is vital. Our frontal lobes are responsible for receiving information, organizing it, and sending it to the various parts of the brain for things to get done. Generally, when our prefrontal cortex gets a message from our amygdala, the part of our brain that senses possible danger and activates our fight or flight response, it can organize this fear and make it a bit less scary and more rational. However, if we are undergoing consistent stress, our body keeps pumping out stress hormones, eventually weighing down our prefrontal cortex. COVID-19 is an ongoing stressor. We don’t have consistent clear information, we can’t visually see the destruction and rebuild of it as we would a natural disaster, our schedules have been thrown off, and we aren’t quite sure exactly what to do. There isn’t any clear certainty about the next steps.
Our brains are tired. Our brains are working in overload right now trying to process everything that is going on and keep up with the constant changes. Our brains are trying to survive and protect us. Our brains are on alert right now to keep us adaptive. All the energy we would normally put elsewhere, is widely being used right now just to get through the days and manage any unforeseen situation.
Here is some good news: How you’re reacting, how you’re feeling, it is normal. Some of us are feeling anxious, scared, exhausted, angry, worried, and maybe at a loss of what to do. It doesn’t feel great, but it will pass. Most of this is out of our control, but there are some things we can do to regain control!
Some tips to take control of our self-care right now:
- Feed your body nutritious foods! Food is medicine. Certain foods like oranges, leafy greens, ginger, garlic, turmeric, healthy proteins, legumes, and more can boost our immune systems and keep our bodies ready to fight!
- Develop a regular sleep schedule. Put your phone away 30 minutes to an hour before bed, reduce your blue light exposure, and go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
- Move your body! Go for a walk, go up and down your stairs, park further at the grocery store, anything you can do to increase your movement will be helpful.
- Hydrate! It is extremely important to make sure you are getting in an adequate amount of water. You will feel more energized, decrease toxins in your body, and keep your brain and body going.
- Find some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice. Take a walk and pay attention to your surroundings, tune into your five senses, play some relaxing music and focus on your breath, or journal.
- Positive affirmations! Our brains take into account what we say to ourselves. When we consistently take in negative phrases, we start to feel bad. The opposite is true! Telling yourself, “I have gotten through tough things before, I can do it again.” “This too shall pass.” “I am strong and capable”, and other phrases of the sort can be really helpful.
- Lastly, be patient and kind with yourself.
Photo taken from-https://www.clipart.email/clipart/stress-brain-clipart-289750.html
Banana Split Project
Emotional abuse hits deep; it instills a lifelong feeling of fear and you can never trust anyone again. An abusive caregiver can gaslight you crazy to the point where your perception of reality is distorted and you think everyone around you is lying to you. -- Ashna Gupta
Banana Split Project is an initiative started by Ashna Gupta, a 16-year-old high school junior at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge NJ. It’s aimed at raising awareness on emotional child abuse as well as educating the community on the signs and long-term effects of the abuse. It also focuses on helping children going through this ordeal through different avenues.
When Ashna decided to pursue her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a girl scout can receive, she wanted to create a project about emotional child abuse, a subject very close to her heart. She was faced with a lot of disapproval, deniability of the existence of the issue, and expression that she was merely exaggerating. Despite it all, she stood strong and confident, and continued with her aspiration. Ashna exceeded expectations, transforming Banana Split Project into a non-profit to further her campaign on this subject and help abused children as much as possible.
Emotional abuse of children may be the most damaging form of maltreatment, affecting their overall health as well as their cognitive development. It is often the most misunderstood form of trauma that even those close to the child and law enforcement cannot comprehend.
Why the name Banana Split? This was the name of the lunch time support group started by her elementary school guidance counselor for children from broken homes where she had the feeling of belonging for the first time in her life. The sentiment of turning adversity into motivation for social change stuck with her.
Her website, www.bananasplitproject.org features original explanations of the issue, informative resources, and different ways a child can seek help. It additionally includes the options where children can share their stories anonymously or eponymously. Even if it's anonymous, seeing their story shared gives the strength and feeling of empowerment to the abused children. Along with this, seeing other’s stories reassures the children that they are not alone in their fight.
Banana Split Project started a buddy network, where a child in need can talk or write to volunteers who themselves have survived the abuse and trauma. It’s not an alternative to therapy but more like a pen pal program.
Ashna also published and wrote articles on her website on how being co-quarantined with an abuser during COVID pandemic can be detrimental and dangerous for the child. It talks about the signs an abuser can use during quarantine to further their abuse cycle, being that they’re together every day, throughout the day and what a child can do to alleviate the pain and seek help. She is a teen mentor working with Lauren Muriello, LPC at her live stream called “Talking about real things” every week during the time of social distancing helping teens with their concerns and questions.
She worked on a webinar with Jenn Blossom, a mental health activist, and discussed the nuances and science behind emotional abuse (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiaMAtysJ1I&t=418s). She had another webinar with Christianah Akindolie talking about important tips, signs and effects of emotional abuse (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2msMMOCKsw). Ms. Akindolie runs an NGO for children in Nigeria. The recordings of the webinar are also available on the website. On top of this, she has recorded a podcast with Rae Du Soleil, called “Inevitable Sh!t: Stories of Creation and Connection” detailing her inspiration for her project and inspiring others to use their adversity and motivation for positive social change Online: https://www.raedusoleil.com/podcast/.
by Linda Flint, LCSW, Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center
What do Owen Wilson, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jim Carrey, Brad Pitt and Michael Phelps have in common?
- They are very talented men who are accomplished in their careers
- They are diagnosed with a mental illness
- They are brave enough to speak out against stigma
- All of the above
In June we celebrate Men’s Health Month. It is a time to focus on and encourage men to become involved in health services, including mental health services. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, 75% of people who die by suicide are male. This is a concerning statistic and an important reason to identify and treat mental health symptoms among young males and adult men.
Untreated depression is one of the leading factors related to suicide. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) estimated the average time between mental health symptoms developing and seeking treatment is 11 years. Imagine waiting 11 years to visit the doctor when you have chest pain. Why wait so long? One of the reasons young males or adult men might hesitate to seek mental health treatment is because of stigma. Some might believe that depression is a sign of weakness or that a man should be able to cope on his own. Some of these myths are debunked on a website dedicated to men’s mental health, www.headsupguys.org.
The link between mental and physical health is important. Information gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SAMSHA show that 65.9 million people went to their primary care doctor with a primary diagnosis of mental illness. Also, a person who has depression has a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic disease when compared to the general population.
If you answered “4” to the question above, you are correct. Anyone can have mental health symptoms. The good news is that someone is always available to listen. If you or someone you know is in need of mental health assistance, help can be reached 24/7 by calling:
SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP
Mental Health Hotline at 1-877-294-HELP (4357)
NJ Hopeline at 1-855-654-6735
Reach NJ at 1-844-ReachNJ (732-2465)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
Why is June Pride Month?
by Johanna Moore, Human Services Planning Administrator
It started back in 1969, according to the Library of Congress, at the Stonewall uprising in Greenwich Village, New York City.
The Stonewall Inn was a refuge for the LGBTQIA+ community, where they could socialize in safety. Safety is all relative for it was still under regular police harassment. So in the early hours of June 28, 1969, nine policemen arrested employees in the bar for selling alcohol without a license. Many of its patrons were harassed, the police cleared the bar and arrested anyone not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing, as was the law in New York at the time.
This was the third raid within a short period of time and so enough was enough. Instead of retreating, this time, people outside the bar were vocal and threw bottles, which led to the police call for reinforcements. People barricaded themselves in the bar while around 400 people rioted outside. Eventually, the barricade was breached and the bar was set on fire. The "riots" outside the bar went on for five days straight.
To experience this event and to learn more about the rich history, visit Stonewall Forever, an interactive website and app. It tells the story of the people who were involved in and impacted by the Stonewall Riots and the LGBTQIA+ rights movement that followed. Go ahead, click the picture.
If you are or have people who are very close to you as a member of this community, or that you just want to learn more about history, visit Stonewall Forever as the story and fight for equality is still being written today, all over the world. In the meantime, celebrate the richness of Pride Month in Somerset County.
COVID19 and Juvenile Detention in NJ
By Gayle Kaufman, MA, Juvenile Institutional Services
On Wednesday, April 22, 2020, the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission confirmed the first positive case of COVID19 in a resident at the New Jersey Training School for Boys (commonly referred to as “Jamesburg”), the largest long-term facility for incarcerated youth in the state. This came 4 days after Virginia’s long-term facility, the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, was declared a “hotspot” for the virus, representing 25% of all cases reported in juvenile facilities nationwide according to the Associated Press:
“So far, 101 kids have tested positive nationwide, more than half of them in Virginia and Louisiana, according to the Washington DC-based The Sentencing Project, which has been aggregating numbers since late March. The real number is likely much higher, because many kids with symptoms are not being tested.”
New Jersey took immediate action by announcing, on May 1, that it would be the first state to test every juvenile offender and employee under the Juvenile Justice Commission’s purview. By May 10, 218 residents had undergone testing, with 28 positive results.
The Juvenile Justice Commission has taken taking numerous steps, in consultation with the Department of Health, to mitigate the spread of the virus, and most County-run facilities (which serve youth who are detained while pending the processing of their cases, as well as youth who have been ordered to served up to 60 days), have adopted many similar measures:
Replacing in-person family visits with an increase in free phone calls and the use of video visitation for residents;
Suspending in-person visits of volunteers to all facilities;
Implementing work-from-home programs for non-essential staff;
Collaborating with the State Parole Board to conduct hearings via telephone and/or video conferencing;
Working with the Office of the Public Defender and Rutgers Law School’s Criminal & Youth Justice Clinic to modify dispositions so that youth scheduled for release in the near future can be released early when appropriate;
Temperature screening all staff entering JJC secure facilities and Residential Community Homes;
Temperature screening youth on a daily basis;
Conducting contact tracing and mandating that staff having contact with an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 self-quarantine at home for 14 days;
Communicating regularly with youth about preventative hygiene practices and what to do if they experience symptoms through written materials and routine conversation;
In any facility where someone has tested positive for COVID-19, using “cohort quarantining,” whereby residents remain in their assigned housing units except for outdoor recreation for 14 days, to minimize any potential spread of the disease;
Following any 14-day period of cohort-quarantining, moving to “modified cohort quarantining,” whereby residents have greater freedom of movement, but still do not interact with residents from another housing unit (i.e., residents might utilize the gym, programming space, or the dining room, but they do so only with their cohort);
Temporarily replacing on-site delivery of educational and social services with remote service delivery;
Implementing enhanced sanitization protocols, including contracting with two professional environmental firms to conduct enhanced cleaning at all facilities where an individual tested positive for COVID-19, and contracting with a third vendor to conduct weekly deep cleaning that supplements daily cleaning completed by the JJC’s own staff;
Effective April 8, mandating all individuals entering facilities wear face masks;
Making face masks available to all residents;
Making additional personal protective equipment available to staff at facilities impacted by COVID-19;
Preparing medical isolation areas for use in the event a resident exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and requiring staff to wear appropriate personal protective equipment when interacting with any resident in medical isolation;
Temporarily suspending work release programs for residents;
Cancelling all non-essential court, medical, and other transports;
Suspending all staff trainings and group meetings;
Prohibiting the intake of youth presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and otherwise holding new intakes in the Juvenile Reception Unit for 14 days prior to transfer to the general population; and
Implementing enhanced social distancing practices for youth and staff including moving furniture to ensure these practices are followed.
“Virginia juvenile detention center new coronavirus hotspot,” Associated Press, April 18, 2020 https://apnews.com/e41a29b79728ce88a8dadfc2a47a26f1
“N.J. to be first state to test every juvenile offender as coronavirus cases rise,” By Blake Nelson, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, Updated May 02, 2020 https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/05/nj-to-be-first-state-to-test-every-juvenile-offender-as-coronavirus-cases-rise.html
New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission Covid-19 Updates, Information Updated on 5/11/20 https://www.nj.gov/oag/jjc/covid19-facilities.html
by Andrew Rees, MSW, Intake Specialist, Somerset County Office on Aging & Disability Services
In 2020 the observance of Older Americans Month (OAM) is more significant due to the pandemic we are all experiencing. Despite these circumstances older Americans still make their mark everyday serving as volunteers, parents, grandparents, mentors and advocates utilizing their remarkable talents to help the communities in which they live. We've all learned simple truths from our older generations who paved the way for all of the programs and resources we have today enriching our country while breaking down barriers. It is important to honor our seniors with love and respect everyday not just during this month.
Each May we celebrate older Americans. At its' inception 55 years ago, OAM was previously called Senior Citizens Month. During this time many senior citizens outlived their money and had very few programs to assist them with food security, healthcare and other services. The Older Americans Act passed in 1965 helps seniors and their caregivers with a myriad of health and nutrition programs, community service, employment and elder rights protection.
This year's theme "Make Your Mark" highlights the many success stories from seniors who are homebound due to COVID 19. Despite these limitations they still remain active in helping others less fortunate than themselves whether it be cooking a meal for a neighbor, running an errand, or making phone calls to check on less fortunate peers.
Seniors are comprised of both the Silent Generation and the aging out Baby Boomers. The Silents lived through the Great Depression and the Baby Boomers have lived through the Great Recession and are experiencing the current economic climate resulting from the COVID-19 shutdown of major businesses. Silents lived through tenuous times exhibiting tremendous coping skills. The Silents know how to share their stories with their children and grandchildren leaving a legacy behind. Despite economic hardships older Americans find the avenues and techniques to remain active in body, mind and spirit. Baby boomers have redefined what it means to age in a modern world and continue to find ways to interact and communicate with new technology. As 65 million baby boomers reach their 70s and 80s, expect to see more and more Americans doing extraordinary things.
This is a month to join forces with family and friends and put older Americans center stage for the time, talent and life experience they contribute to benefit others. Recognize the importance of diverse generations coming together for common causes throughout their lifetimes. They are integral members of society who push the limits of growing older in a youth obsessed culture.
We extend a special note of gratitude to all seniors for your accomplishments for our country.
For more information regarding programs and services for seniors contact the Somerset County Office on Aging and Disability Services, 1 -888 747-1122 or 908 704-6346.
Child Care for Essential Workers Amid a Pandemic
by Johanna Moore, Human Services Planning Administrator
Workers deemed essential have faced immense challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the major stressors for families revolved around how to care for their young children. Under Governor Murphy’s Executive Order No. 110, all of the state’s child care centers were closed. Enter the COVID-19 Essential Child Care Assistance program (ECCAP). The purpose is to both lessen the financial burden and provide the services needed for these essential employees to meet the demands of their jobs. ECCAP is administered through the state’s Department of Human Services’ Division of Family Development. The child care centers first had to apply to become an Essential Personnel Child Care site for approval to be open. In addition, they had to agree to follow strict protocols in order to open and to remain open.
Daily monitoring of temperatures, strict enforcement of PPE use, the need to incorporate social distancing were just some of the considerations for a center’s staff to plan out and deliver. For those centers and parents who needed them, the state’s program would pay for the child care tuition at set prices so the parent could work. The parent would simply have to register with a county-based Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&R). All essential employees have to enroll (online) and Somerset County’s CCR&R is Community Child Care Solutions. During this time, MaryJane DiPaolo, Arnetta Hannah and the entire team at Community Child Care Solutions were instrumental in reviewing and processing each application and then following up with the families to identify a participating child care provider to meet their needs. While the ECCAP was originally planned to expire the end of April, this program was just extended to the end of June to assist parents needing child care solutions. Are you a parent needing child care? June 1 is the last day to apply for the program... Click here for the NJ website
Since April, the following child care centers have been going strong and we would like to give a shout out to the owners, directors and teachers for keeping our community healthy, safe and thriving. It is because of these centers and their dedicated staff, the essential parents are able to work at this critical time with peace of mind.
Central Jersey Enrichment Center, Inc. in Somerset
Ellie’s Academy in Somerville
Inquisitive Minds STEAM Academy in Somerset
Kingdom Kidz Academy, LLC in Somerset
The Learning Experience in Franklin Township
YMCA Gregory Scott Lowe Child Care Center in Hillsborough
For your viewing pleasure, thank you to Bushra Shahab, Center Director at The Learning Experience for sharing glimpses of child care life as they appreciate the wonderful essential employees in the community & the teachers in the center and a quick glimpse at a typical day in school:
A Day in the Life of a Child Care Center: Ellie’s Academy
- by Tirusha Dave, Director/Owner
The reality of the situation is that a lot of the children, especially the young ones, do not understand what is COVID, and why it exists. So we’ve tried to take things which are important right now, and make it fun for them, with a few videos:
Thanking Essential Workers
By the time we were given the "Emergency Child Care License," it was clear that we would only be allowed to serve the children of essential & frontline workers. At this time, we were in a limbo of 8-10 kids, already the children of essential parents, who were coming into the center.
During this time, we were worried as to what was going to happen. But myself & my team remained (1) optimistic about the future, and (2) were determined to do everything we could to stay open.
After the centers were approved, we were introduced to the Emergency Child Care Assistance Program (ECCAP), where any essential parent (as per the Governor's executive orders) who needed childcare, could apply for the program. Once they were approved, they were given a list of childcare centers who were allowed to stay open, and that's when the phone calls started to come in for us.
The ECCAP program was great for centers who pushed through and stayed open because the State, inevitably, paid for the tuition for the essential parent who sent their child to daycare during this time. At first the program was for April, and then it was extended through June.
Because of the ECCAP program, we are just above 30 children in the building, which has been great, because we've been able to pay our staff and keep our doors open for the parents who required childcare. The state also provided us with strict guidelines to follow, and we also implemented some of our own ideas too:
Change of shoes: staff & children are provided a plastic bin, and upon arrival to the center, they put their "outside shoes" into the bin and wear their "school shoes" -- we did this because we felt it was a way to "control" what steps foot into the building. Once the kids are in the school, I spray down the shoes. And when they leave for the day, I spray down the school shoes.
Temp Checks & Questions: Once they change their shoes, I take their temperature & ask them COVID-related questions (were they given medication? do they have symptoms? does anyone in the home have symptoms? Have they been around anyone with COVID?) Once these two items are done, the child may enter past the front door.
Hand-washing: this has always been important in daycare, but obviously even more important given the current world's situation. Once they come into the building, they put down their school bag & go wash their hands (for a min. of 20 seconds) and sing a fun song @ the same time.
Limited group meals: We've eliminated "family-style dining", where the children would typically eat their meals together; now we stagger meal-times, so that we can do small groups (sanitizing the tables before & after each group)
We've also staggered outdoor play, so that we can try to maximize small groups where possible
Some of these things, such as temp checks, we did towards the end of March, before the State mandated us to do so; so it was great, as we communicated it out to the parents proactively & asked them to also talk about the changes which would be coming to Ellie's Academy. It is probably harder for the Infants & Toddlers, because consistency & routine are very important for these age groups. For the preschooler kids who normally come to our centers, but are at home, they are so young and do not fully understand what is happening and why some have suddenly stopped going to daycare. Some of our children, who are home, have called us on video chat via WhatsApp to partake in circle time or talk to their friends -- and they don't understand why they cannot go to school too. It's absolutely heart-breaking.
It is indeed a unique time we are in, but it’s also a critical time for childcare. It is important for all of us to advocate for all the #EarlyEducators and the #ForgottenHeroes during this crisis. Ellie’s Academy has partnered with different small business restaurants in the area where almost 2x per week, since April, they have been donating meals to the essential parents @ our daycare. All of this generosity and support are posted on our Facebook page where you can see how places like Costco donated their cheese pies for the families; local restaurants in Somerville have also been doing the same – and we’ve been encouraging the parents to also do curbside pick-up from these small businesses. This pandemic has certainly shown how together, as a community, Somerset County residents and business owners have been supporting each other and standing strong together (well, at least six feet apart).
Hello, Margaret...how one simple call can make a such a difference!
- by Andrew Rees, MSW, Information Specialist, Office on Aging & Disability Services
During this unprecedented time of quarantine where people are staying home and isolated from social contacts, the Telephone Reassurance Program is vital to maintain contact with senior citizens who may feel isolated and scared in their homes. The contact helps boost their spirits and provide essential human contact. In many cases as a result of routine contact a trusting relationship develops between the caller and client. By building a rapport, clients begin to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings when speaking with staff.
The Somerset County Office on Aging and Disability Services (OoA&DS) offers the Telephone Reassurance Program to senior citizens ages 60+ as a friendly call which serves as a welfare check. The call is made by a professional staff member. Calls are made at the client’s request Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. The program is self-directed and each client determines the time and days they wish to receive contact. In the event the client does not answer the phone, a second and third attempt is made within the hour to reach the client. If a client does not answer after the third attempt the emergency contact provided by client, is notified to determine the whereabouts of the client. Should the emergency contact not be reached, the client’s local police department is notified to conduct a Welfare check. This procedure assures the client’s well-being and the determination is made during the welfare check if emergency services are required.
One such relationship allowed a client to turn a tough day into a successful one. The client, Margaret, is a retired nurse, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Margaret’s family and extended family resides out of state, although the family keeps in contact with Margaret on a weekly basis. One morning during contact, Margaret answered the phone in a low, distressed voice. I identified myself as Andrew from the OoAD&S. Margaret replied (while crying) that children are not supposed to die before their parents. Margaret further explained that she just heard that her daughter, an out of state resident, died of a heart attack last night. I expressed my condolences and allowed the client to continue speaking to validate her feelings. The client reflected on her daughter saying she was so successful with her job and family raising two children who are both college-educated and employed with good jobs. The client then said that the situation was unfair, but quickly reversed and then said life is not always fair but you have to go on.
I consoled the client and validated her feelings by stating I felt her pain with losing a child. I suggested she allow herself time to grieve and to remember the good things about her daughter and hold them close to her heart. I asked the client if she would like to speak to her Care Manager for references to support groups for grieving parents. The client declined stating she will reach out to her church and family to grieve the loss. The client expressed her gratitude for the Telephone Reassurance contact. She especially appreciated the call that specific day because the contact gave her the opportunity to discuss her daughter and validated her grieving the loss of a child. The client then informed me that she would let me know when she would not be available to receive her daily contact call due to the memorial services. The client said her family is also grateful for the Telephone Reassurance Program because they feel reassured that someone nearby will be calling her during the day to check on her status.
Today, seniors are experiencing unsettling times where their normal routines are disrupted. This causes fear of the unknown. Social distancing is the temporary norm adding to the isolation and loneliness. The Telephone Reassurance Program is beneficial to the client, the client’s family and to the community at large. The program provides contact with senior citizens who are homebound and may not have an opportunity for human contact. For the client, the daily contact provides reassurance that someone is checking on their status for the day.
For more information about the Telephone Reassurance program, contact the Somerset County Office on Aging and Disability Services toll free at 1-888-747-1122 or 908 704-6346.
Somerset County 4-H
Through online clubs, webinars, social media challenges, and more - Somerset County 4-H has so much to offer for youth in our community:
- Join an online STEP Club focused on science, technology, exercise, and so much more
- Attend an interactive webinar focused on free, youth focused learning opportunities
- Read our new blog "Nature Inspired" which focuses on local, educational content from butterflies to ephemerals
- Check out our list of online virtual learning opportunities from museum tours to kid activity guides
- Participate in our weekly "Spirit Week" challenges on social media, promoting creativity and engagement at home
Family and Community Health Sciences
Health and nutrition are universal topics that are great for online learning! With webinars, Live cooking sessions, monthly newsletters, and fact-based publications - Family & Community Health Science is prepared to deliver quality, educational content online:
- Register for a "Wellness Wednesdays" class focused on healthy living taught by experts from across the state of New Jersey every Wednesday
- Watch a Facebook Live cooking class on "Tasty Tuesdays" and "Family Fridays" focused on bringing the family together through cooking and healthy recipes
- Check out our previous cooking classes on YouTube to learn something new and to explore new recipes
- Sign up for the once-a-month email newsletter from Somerset County FCHS focuses on important health news, upcoming events, and more!
- Read a Rutgers, fact based publication on Food, Nutrition, and Health
Agriculture and Natural Resources
With Governor Murphy having allowed community gardens to open on May 22, now is a great time to get involved with your local land through webinars focused on protecting the environment and learning how to grow your own community garden for your community:
- Join an Earth Day at home webinar focused on teaching everyday steps you can take to protect the environment
- Register for the "Lunch and Learn" webinars where you'll Learn how to grow a community garden with the help of the trained experts from Rutgers
- Read up on all the Gardening and Landscaping publications written and distributed by Rutgers University
Click the above flyer to register or to here to send email
In 2018, a joint NJ Assembly and Senate resolution passed and was signed by Governor Murphy which officially designated June 4th as TS Awareness Day in New Jersey.
NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome asks that you join us in this recognizing this day by educating yourself on this often misunderstood disorder that affects 1 in 100 individuals. Established in 2004, NJCTS is the nation’s first center of excellence for Tourette Syndrome. This year, NJCTS celebrates 15 years of Education, Advocacy and Research.
Learn more about NJCTS and the programs and services available to families throughout New Jersey by visiting www.njcts.org.