November 2020
The Holidays and Alzheimer’s During COVID-19
Courtesy: Alzheimer's Association

The holidays are often filled with sharing, laughter and memories. But they can also bring stress, disappointment, sadness — and due to the COVID-19 pandemic — heightened risk for spreading the virus, especially for older adults who tend to have underlying health conditions. A person living with Alzheimer’s may feel a special sense of loss during the holidays because of the changes he or she has experienced. At the same time, caregivers may feel overwhelmed by maintaining traditions while providing care and adhering to safety precautions.

The safest option is to avoid in-person holiday gatherings with people outside of your household, as there are other ways to stay socially connected. A holiday is still a holiday no matter where it is celebrated.

Loneliness Among Older Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Courtesy: University of Michigan

The University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging (NPHA) asked a national sample of U.S. adults, age 50–80, about lack of companionship and isolation (loneliness), social interactions and health behaviors in June 2020. This was a follow-up to a similar NPHA survey conducted in October 2018 among a different national sample.

The survey showed a substantial increase in loneliness among older adults from before the COVID-19 pandemic to the period March–June 2020.

"On the other hand, those who interacted with others in their neighborhood and/or with nature experienced less loneliness," according to the NPHA report. "While personal interactions and social activities may look different during the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., physically distanced, outdoors, or online), providing safe opportunities for regular and meaningful interaction with others and with nature is important to reduce loneliness and maintain social connections."

Clergy Conversation on Social Isolation in Older Adults
Dec. 8, 10:00 a.m.

All faith leaders are invited to a virtual clergy conversation on social isolation of older adults. The webinar will include information on:

  • what social isolation is and how it differs from loneliness, 
  • the types of things faith communities are doing to help combat social isolation in older adults,
  • available resources for individuals and organizations that serve older adults. 

Lifetime Experiences Help Older Adults Build Resilience to Pandemic Trauma
Courtesy Kaiser Family Foundation

Older adults are especially vulnerable physically during the coronavirus pandemic. But they’re also notably resilient psychologically, calling upon a lifetime of experience and perspective to help them through difficult times.

New research calls attention to this little-remarked-upon resilience as well as significant challenges for older adults as the pandemic stretches on. It shows that many seniors have changed behaviors — reaching out to family and friends, pursuing hobbies, exercising, participating in faith communities — as they strive to stay safe from the coronavirus.

“There are some older adults who are doing quite well during the pandemic and have actually expanded their social networks and activities,” said Brian Carpenter, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. “But you don’t hear about them because the pandemic narrative reinforces stereotypes of older adults as frail, disabled and dependent.”

Community Spotlight: Area Agencies on Aging
Thanks to Area Agencies on Aging (AAA), older adults receive a range of supports and services to help make independent living a viable option. AAAs are public or private nonprofit agencies designated by a state to address the needs and concerns of all older persons at the regional and local levels.

AAAs coordinate and offer services, such as home-delivered meals, homemaker assistance and whatever else it may take to help older adults remain in their homes, if that is their preference.

For example, AgeOptions helps people thrive as they age. The nonprofit AAA of suburban Cook County since 1974, it connects older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers with resources and service options. AgeOptions plans, coordinates, funds and advocates for services and coordinates a network of community-based agencies to ensure effective and efficient service delivery. With its network of partner agencies, AgeOptions is the principal source of information regarding older adult services in the 130 communities of suburban Cook County.
Other Area Agency on Aging locations in Illinois

Senior Services Area Agency on Aging, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services

Age Guide serves residents in DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

See additional aging agencies in Illinois here.
Area Agency on Aging locations in Wisconsin

See additional aging agencies in Wisconsin here.
Resources for Caregivers and Older Adults
Family Caregiver Alliance: COVID-19 Resources and Articles for Family Caregivers covers topics including in-home care, food and grocery delivery and caregiver self-care.

Alzheimer’s Association: COVID-19 Tips for Dementia Caregivers, divided into tips for caregivers at home and tips for caregivers of those in assisted living.

Alzheimer’s Association Helpline 800.272.3900. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for information about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, referrals to local programs and services, and crisis support.

Well-Med Charitable Foundation: Caregiver Teleconnection. One-hour free caregiver support group calls on a variety of topics.

Mather Telephone Topics: A variety of free classes, groups, and performances via phone.

TimeSlips Creativity CenterIdeas and prompts for creative engagement at home.
November is National Gratitude Month
November is National Gratitude Month, a time to acknowledge our blessings and learn how to live a more grateful life.

Feel free to share the bulletin insert and worship slide with your faith community:

Gratitude Jar Project Makes an Impact One Blessing at a Time
Despite facing healthcare challenges and living through a pandemic, Floretta Strong-Pulley greets each day with gratitude.  “I’m so thankful to be alive,” she said. “Life is precious – I don’t want to waste a moment of it.”

To help her along her gratitude journey, Floretta, who has diabetes and undergoes maintenance chemotherapy, has joined dozens of others in participating in the Gratitude Jar Project.

The project began in January 2020 through the Partners of Faith Health Network (PFHN) at Advocate Trinity Hospital and Advocate South Suburban Hospital.

Floretta Strong-Pulley
Color Breathing Can Help Manage Stress
Color breathingBreathing exercises are one of the many relaxation techniques we can use to manage stress, reduce blood pressure and increase our vibration daily. They are fantastic for health and well-being. Many people do not breath properly, meaning the oxygen does not circulate around the body as well as it could. Oxygen is nourishing and essential to the body, helping to fight free radicals and boost your immune system. It can also help you to feel alert.

See additional breathing exercises, as well as meditation, resiliency and health and well-being resources here.
Upcoming Events
Nov. 19 11:00 a.m.

Did you know there is a form of psychological research that focuses on how spirituality affects and relates to interpersonal relationships? It is called Relational Spirituality and it has implications for how people experience marriage, parenting, friendship, and other forms of social connections.

This fifth in the Partnership Center’s six-part webinar series will discuss research that focuses on how faith and spirituality relate to interpersonal relationships and the implications for treatment and recovery for individuals with mental illness and their loved ones.
Nov. 20, 11:00 a.m.

Sponsored by The Lutheran Foundation and RemedyLIVE

For people with substance use disorder, 2020 has been an especially difficult year.

In difficult times like this, what is the role of faith and the church? This panel discussion will look at what is happening locally with substance use, provide insights from a clinician working with people with opioid and stimulant disorder, share some unique ways The Lutheran Foundation is working with community partners to connect people to treatment and recovery services, and discuss how the church can support people and families facing substance use disorder.
Dec. 3, 7:00 PM - 8:30 p.m.

Sponsored by the Interfaith Mental Health Coalition South Suburban Mental Health Cluster.

A workshop designed for all who are dealing with pandemic stress as well as those supporting them, including parents and guardians, community leaders, educators, and faith leaders of all religious faiths.

Dec. 10, 9:00 a.m.

Sponsored by The Lutheran Foundation and RemedyLIVE

The holidays can be a stressful and emotionally challenging time of year for many people in a "normal year," and this holiday season will bring its unique set of stresses and feelings of anxiety, loss and grief due to the current pandemic.

This webinar will explore some holiday challenges, emphasize the importance of acknowledging and legitimizing our feelings, help participants recognize some signs and symptoms of emotional struggle, and offer practical coping strategies, including self-care and self-compassion tips.
Dec. 10 1:00 p.m.

Financial exploitation and fraudulent scams aimed at older adults result in the loss of billions of dollars every year. These crimes often go unreported because victims are scared, embarrassed, or don’t know who to call. The U.S. Department of Justice National Elder Fraud Hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, provides services to adults aged 60 and older who experience fraud and exploitation to help them report the crime and access appropriate resources. This webinar will offer an overview of the National Elder Fraud Hotline and answer frequently asked questions about the available services.
Exploring Grief Groups
Lake Forest, Ill.
7:00-8:30 p.m. on Mondays through Nov. 30

North Shore, Ill.
7:00-8:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Dec. 10

Are you or someone you know grieving the loss of a family member, partner, or friend? If so, find comfort and support in free virtual Exploring Grief Groups. The groups provide a confidential, educational and nonjudgmental environment. They encourage attendees to cope with their loss and continue to find meaning in their lives. These groups are facilitated by professional counselors.

To register for Lake Forest group, contact Denise Kitanovski at 847-446-6955, ext. 22 or

To register for North Shore group, contact Joellen at 847-446-6955, ext. 19 or

  • Tuesdays through Jan. 12, 2021
  • 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, Ill.

GriefShare is a special weekly seminar and support group designed to help you rebuild your life after losing a loved one. Our group is led by caring people who have experienced grief and want to help you through the difficult days ahead.

To register, call 708-366-6900 or email

  • Wednesdays, through Dec. 30
  • 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Sponsored by Advocate Aurora Health

“What’s Next?” is a weekly resilience program that combines evidence-based scientific studies with encouragement from faith-based resources. Participants will gain tools to:

  • build resilience amid the difficulties of life
  • learn from their experiences
  • use the knowledge they gain to nourish themselves and the world around them

Attend any or all sessions. LaShondria Purnell, RN, a faith community nurse with Advocate Aurora Health, facilitates "What's Next?" and looks forward to learning alongside you.
Faith and Mental Health Specialist Services Available for Faith Communities
Amy McNicholas, LCPC, Faith and Mental Health Specialist for Advocate Aurora Health, is committed to supporting the emotional well-being of faith communities through a variety of programs and services:

  • Individual clergy consultations
  • Informational webinars (topics to fit your needs)
  • Online support groups
  • Virtual Mental Health First Aid
  • Emotional well-being resources

Please email or call if you need support: or 630-929-9103.

Behavioral Health Care Resources
Advocate Health Care

Hotlines and Locator Tools
Support Hotlines

  • NAMI Chicago Helpline: 833-NAMI-CHI
  • NAMI Greater Milwaukee Helpline: 414-257-7222
  • Free Emotional Support line: text “talk” to 552020, and a counselor from a local community mental health center will call you within 24 hours. 
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
  • Bright Star Community Outreach Trauma Hotline: Chicago-based toll-free number: 833-TURN123

Locator Tools

See information on mental health resources and mental health organizations by clicking here.
A new phone number for mental health emergencies coming in 2022
By: Kate Thayer, public affairs coordinator with Advocate Health Care

A new, three-digit emergency phone number dedicated solely to mental health will become a reality in 2022 – welcome news in a time when more people find themselves in crisis.

The creation of the number – 988 – is due to the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which became federal law last month after suicide prevention advocates pushed for a dedicated line for suicide and other mental health emergencies. It’s expected to go live summer of 2022.

Suicide rates in the country have been climbing in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the mental health fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic adds even more concern.

“There’s definitely a need,” said Dr. Shannon Gritzenbach, medical director of outpatient behavioral health services at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. “People are feeling pretty hopeless. There’s so many heavy things going on in the world.”

Mental health articles from Advocate Aurora Health health enews
Observances and Commemorations
Wishing you and your loved ones a blessed Thanksgiving and joyful holiday season!
Faith and Mental Health Quarterly provides updates on mental health resources, events and news to support the well-being of people in your congregation and community.

Please contact Cindy Novak if you have news to share, topics you'd like addressed or if you have questions or concerns. Thank you!
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