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Alameda County Care Alliance Honors Caregivers at the 4th Annual Caregiver Recognition Celebration

November 14, 2018 | Valerie Steinmetz

In October, PHI's Alameda County Care Alliance (ACCA) hosted its fourth annual Caregiver Recognition Celebration and Health Expo at the Center of Hope Community Church in Oakland, CA. The event was designed to celebrate family and informal caregivers who give their time and talents to assist individuals who require care. “We know that taking care of someone with an advanced illness can bring many demands, challenges, and heartaches,” said Pastor Brondon Reems of Center of Hope Community Church. “But it can also bring a sense of satisfaction, and even hopefulness. We want to honor our caregivers for all that they do and let them know, they are not alone.”

Caregivers are often overlooked as they put their loved ones’ interests above their own, and one-third of all caregivers do not receive any assistance in helping persons needing care. “The ACCA Advanced Illness Care Program (AICP) is unique because it was started in a community, faith-based setting to help our congregants and community members with their health, social, and spiritual needs as it relates to advanced illness,” said Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr., Senior Pastor of Allen Temple Baptist Church. “We work with both people needing care and with caregivers and work to address their needs, help manage resources, and empower them to continue managing their needs while caring for their loved one.”

The ACCA AICP was envisioned, created, and implemented by a consortium of African-American churches with a historic commitment to identifying, understanding, and addressing racial and economic inequities. ACCA leaders recognized the massive burden of disparities in health and health care for those with chronic and advanced illness in their congregations and communities and partnered with local healthcare and academic organizations to create the program. The vision of, and commitment to, addressing racial and economic inequities is central to this unique community-and faith-based effort. As a program of the Public Health Institute and in close partnership with the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis and Kaiser Permanente Community Benefits, the ACCA AICP trains and deploys lay Care Navigators to provide advanced illness care navigation through 14 African American churches in Alameda County and Contra Costa County. The ACCA AICP Care Navigators also work to identify and address needs, provide trusted resources and empower persons needing care and caregivers in five areas: spiritual, planning for advance care, health, social, and caregiving.

The ACCA AICP program has helped an incredible 2,200 individuals over the last 4 years. “One of the critical success factors to this program is the strong, trusting relationship that develops between our care navigators and participants,” said Rev. Cynthia Carter Perrilliat, Executive Director of the ACCA.

The ACCA AICP assists community members who are often hard to reach in general, especially outside of the health care system. Medical mistrust and avoidance of treatment can be seen in many participants. Navigators are able to establish trusting relationships to not only address needs and provide resources but also to empower and encourage participants so they can continue to help themselves and others once they graduate from the program. “You first have to build a relationship with them, so they know you’re not trying to take something away,” sais a Care Navigator. “We’re here to walk alongside them, connect them to trusted resources and to strengthen the connection with their care providers.”

Caregivers in the program expressed their gratitude and valued their participation in working closely with a Care Navigator. “I was there when [the Care Navigator] was taking my loved one under her wing, and how she was getting the papers, all those papers I tell you," said one caregiver. "There was a lot of papers, a lot of work. She was so patient with him. She also gave us information on advance directives. A lot of people are not aware of what they are or what it entails. She was very supportive. She also told us about the meals on wheels. I think that’s very important because when one is sick, you don’t really understand a lot of those things. When you have something that you can refer back to [advanced directives], I think it’s a blessing. I think she and the whole group are doing a very fantastic job as far as getting the word out and getting the information that’s needed. But the ACCA is a group of people that I see the spiritual side, they’re doing what God has commanded us to do, to go ye therefore and to be disciples, and they are being disciples and I thank God for them. I just pray that they will continuously be a blessing in the community and throughout the land and the country.”

Another caregiver reflected on how being part of the program and talking with the navigator made her feel less alone and that she had someone else in her corner, helping her care for her loved one. “Caring for her is a little difficult, but in talking to the Navigator, she lets me know that I’m not the only one that has the problems that I have... It’s been a big help because we didn’t know a lot of stuff. In talking to her, we found out so much and how to begin to manage everything relating to this sickness."

The Caregiver Recognition Celebration featured a caregiver appreciation service, supper and health expo. Each year a different ACCA Pastor has presented the keynote caregiver appreciation sermon. Pastor Horacio Jones of Family Bible Fellowship gave this year’s sermon, challenging attendees to think differently on the matters of death and dying, grief and loss. Before the service, a free supper was served to over 350 congregants and community members. Attendees enjoyed a meal with caregivers, persons needing care, family and friends and were able to visit over 10 local and regional organizations at the health expo. Many of the exhibitors partner with the ACCA to provide tools and training to those with advanced illness and their caregivers. Attendees were able to learn about advance care planning; cancer resources for those undergoing treatment, survivors and caregivers; resources for physical and emotional needs of caregivers; and transportation services for persons needing care and their caregivers.

The ACCA is already looking forward to its fifth annual Caregiver Recognition Celebration, which will take place on September 29, 2019, at Family Bible Fellowship in Newark, CA. Visit www.accarealliance.org more information. 

Sponsors, partners and health exhibitors participating in the event include:

• Kaiser Permanente

• The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation

• Stupski Foundation

• Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, UC Davis

• Public Health Institute

• Center for Elders’ Independence

• ACE Home Health Care and Hospice

• Community Health Center Network

• ACCMA – East Bay Conversation Project

• Alameda Alliance for Health

• Alzheimer’s Association

• Charlotte Maxwell Clinic

• Kaiser Permanente Life Care Planning

• Project 1000

• Women’s Cancer Resource Center

ACCA churches include:

• Allen Temple Baptist Church

• Bethlehem Baptist – Richmond

• Center of Hope Community Church

• Church By the Side of the Road

• Covenant Church

• Family Bible Fellowship

• First Baptist - Pittsburg

• Glad Tidings COGIC

• Greater St. John MBC

• McGee Avenue Baptist Church

• Miracles of Faith

• Parchester First Baptist – Richmond

• Taylor Memorial

• Word Assembly



Valerie Steinmetz is a Program Director at the Center for Technology and Aging