As the pandemic prompted many nonprofits to transition their programming to online formats, it became a challenge to connect with clients who did not have the skills or resources to join online activities. This was the case for Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), a San Francisco–based organization that strives to improve the quality of life for family caregivers and the people who receive their care. FCA fulfills this mission by offering support groups and classes, providing resource centers and information, and completing individual assessments to understand client needs. For some of FCA’s clients, the digital transition provided a convenient and flexible alternative to in-person gatherings. For others, it created an extra barrier to connection.
“COVID highlighted those caregivers who didn’t have digital access, or didn’t have the knowledge or skills or technology to connect to online programming,” says Christina Irving, FCA’s client services director. “We saw them become even more isolated and less able to connect with services. With our Spanish-speaking caregivers, in particular, we were seeing low attendance in support groups and classes. Clients were saying, ‘I don’t know how to get on any sort of Zoom or other technology platforms, and I don’t even have the devices or sometimes the Wi-Fi to even do so.’”
FCA quickly recognized that some of their caregivers would need extra support to join digital programming. Beyond having the right tools and devices to connect, their clients would need comprehensive training to truly understand how to navigate the online world. “As caregivers, they all have this whole other responsibility and stress in their life,” reflects Christina. “Trying to learn something, it’s something there’s a desire to do, but it can be overwhelming.”
With funding from San Francisco Tech Council, FCA teamed up with CTN to train their Spanish-speaking caregivers how to use an Android tablet. Before group classes kicked off in October, CTN’s program coordinator, Audrey Potts, completed initial one-on-one training to ensure that each learner understood how to join their first Zoom lesson. The rest of the classes took place over a five-week course modeled after our Home Connect curriculum, taught by CTN instructor Jannette Estrada.
So far, we have had seven Spanish-speaking caregivers benefit from the program, ranging from 55 to 85. The oldest participant is currently caring for his 90-year-old wife with dementia. Though he had never owned a digital device, he was interested in the program and eager to get connected to FCA’s programming. This is certainly one goal of the program, but Christina is hopeful that these new digital tools will help participants better connect with fellow caregivers as well.
While it has been a learning process to get this program off the ground, FCA’s staff has been incredibly helpful in assessing the needs of potential learners and ensuring that they are supported and prepared to join the program. As we wrap up classes, we are excited to hear how these caregivers benefit from their new digital skills and increase their sense of connection!