What can be said about 2020 that hasn’t already been said by so many? We’re all certainly glad to have it behind us. And there is much reason for optimism as we look forward into 2021, especially with the vaccines being administered to members of our community living in long-term residential facilities. We know this gives so much comfort to their families.
I’d like to take just a few minutes of your time to share our successes from the past year. 2020 started off as expected and Alzheimer’s Los Angeles was on track. Clients were being seen and cared for, our team was operating at high levels, and our donors had been very generous in the previous year-end giving season. Then, we all began hearing about this new coronavirus that had shut down a whole city in China, where people were dying at alarming rates.
Along with the rest of the world, we watched as it crawled its way across the globe to California. We sat in horror as people were kept confined to cruise ships and wondered if this was reality. And we began to plan for how we would respond if, and when, it came to LA.
The first Stay-At-Home order sent many of our clients into crisis. Caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia were stressed and stretched thin before the pandemic, but the new situation caused significant distress to so many families in our community. We raced to respond and ensure access to critically needed resources, including food delivery services, PPE, and sanitary supplies as well as to maintain all our programs and services that clients have come to rely upon.
The buzz word of the moment became, “pivot.” Everyone described moving to work-at-home situations and remote service delivery as pivoting. We also transitioned all of our programs and services to being available online or on the phone in a matter of days. I am so grateful to our amazing team of dedicated professionals who put our clients’ needs ahead of their own and were innovative and creative in finding solutions to problems no one had previously thought of.
Looking back on it now, I wouldn’t describe that transition as a pivot. In hindsight, what we did was provide a source of stability and ensure that our clients’ needs continued to be met, no matter how intense they became. The dynamics of our client interactions changed. Our care counselors were seeing slightly fewer people, but they were handling more complex cases, and each client required more interactions. By the end of the year, we provided more hours of service per client than previous years.
Shortly into the COVID-19 quarantine, we also began to notice an uptick in the number of calls and referrals for people with early-stage symptoms and diagnoses. We shifted resources to meet this growing need. Similarly, the move to virtual platforms and phone-based conference calls opened up support groups to many more people, and we saw participation grow significantly as we added more groups in the evenings and on weekends.
As the months moved forward and the financial impact became apparent, we made the unfortunate and difficult decision to restructure the organization. It was a necessary step to ensure that our services were able to continue indefinitely and without interruption.
My gratitude to our team of professionals throughout this organization cannot be overstated. While each has felt the burden of this year personally, collectively our team never wavered in their dedication to our clients. Each person worked through the challenges they faced throughout the year, often both personal and professional, and found new ways to stay connected and provide support and education to the community.
Our donors and volunteers have stood by us and redoubled their commitments to ensuring we continue to have the resources we need, both human and financial. We are grateful for every dollar and every hour given selflessly. It is only because of you that we have been able to maintain all of our programs and services during this time.
We are proud to continue serving the greater Los Angeles area and Inland Empire, even if we’re doing it a bit differently these days. And we look forward to when we can return to in-person programs. Until then, thank you for helping us make 2020 such strong year – in spite of everything.