Click on the article headline to read the full article. The articles are housed on the pcaCares.org website and no registration is needed.
Elder Care Articles
Don Graddick repaired and dismantled ships at the Philadelphia Navy Yard; served as a cook; and worked in a variety of other endeavors. “You name, I’ve done it,” he says.
Khalid Mumtaz is a former Olympic athlete, professional boxer and wrestler, and sports educator. Born in India and raised in Pakistan, he travelled worldwide as an ambassador for sports organizations before settling in Philadelphia.
Today, the men share a common avocation as Senior Companions who spend 20 hours a week visiting the homebound elderly and helping them with tasks. As Senior Companions, they receive a tax-free stipend for their services.
“We lived in the same country. We witnessed the same historic events, survived the same experiences. We have much in common,” Beneta Karbutova says of the homebound older woman she visits through the Senior Companion program. “That’s why it never happens that we have nothing to speak about.”
Both women speak Russian and have a shared culture; both lived in what was then the Soviet Union, and have similar memories of World War II, the Holocaust and the different regimes of the Communist era.
Karbutova learned of the Senior Companion program at the Klein JCC in Northeast Philadelphia where she was taking citizenship classes two years ago. “It is necessary for older people to feel there is somebody who is interested in them and has things in common with them,” she says. “I felt that if I can help a person, I would try to help. Because I am Russian speaking, I felt it would be easier to work with a person who is also Russian speaking.”
Karbutova was an engineer; the woman she visits was a physician who immigrated to the U.S. with her late husband years ago when he was offered a professorship at a local university.
“She has no one in the U.S. now,” the senior companion explains. “I understand I am a friend. To her, this is very important, but our relationship is a lot for both sides.”
Of their 20-hour a week routine, she says: “I give her lunch. We watch programs on TV together; we especially enjoy classical music programs on cable channels. We read. We talk. I help her to take walks down the corridor in her apartment building. Our relationship is good, very good.”
John Steinbeck once wrote “it takes courage to raise children.” If so, courage abounds among the increasing numbers of people who are stepping in to raise their grandchildren.
“It can be intimidating and overwhelming when you first start,” says Shirley Shelton, age 60, who is raising three grandchildren, ages 6, 9 and 10.
According to the Supportive Older Women’s Network (SOWN), Shelton is one of more than 16,800 grandparents in Philadelphia who are raising their grandchildren. The organization provides a range of supports and services through its two GrandFamily Resource Centers, located in Manayunk and North Philadelphia.
Shelton says when she first learned about the GrandFamily program, she was resistant. “I said, ‘I’m not telling anyone my business.’ I thought I was the only one on earth doing this. I was sitting home, thinking, ‘My daughter is the only one who left me with these kids.’” That was two years ago. Today, she says, “I love this group so much.”
GrandFamily Resource Centers
Offers in-person and telephone support groups; counseling; workshops; computer training; wellness services; advocacy; parenting programs; family activities; and crisis intervention.
SOWN Offices (Manayunk)
4100 Main Street, Suite 200
215-487-3000, ext. 23 or 24
Honickman Learning Center (North Philadelphia)
1936 Judson Street
215-235-2900, ext. 6206
100 S. Broad Street, Suite 1810
Assistance with understanding custody issues including physical, partial and legal custody, and filing for custody. Provides direct legal representation; counseling and advocacy services on custody; support; visitation; protection from abuse; and other issues, such as housing, financial stability, and planning for their and their children’s future care.
Grandparents and other relative caregivers may apply for free or low-cost health insurance on behalf of the children they are raising.
Temple University Intergenerational Center Temple University College of Health Professions and Social Work
1700 N. Broad Street, Suite 412
Provides services for children in
In a fire or other emergency, a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Preparing for such an emergency ahead of time can save you those precious few minutes, and is especially important for older adults.
Having a safe environment is one of the best preventive measures, both when there is an emergency, and in day-to-day situations. “It’s not just fire or other emergencies,” said Derrick J. V. Sawyer, Deputy Chief for the Fire Prevention Division of the Philadelphia Fire Department. The Fire Department also responds to seniors who suffer falls in their homes, and he said, “Older adults are also at a higher risk of falls.”
He recommended that seniors should, “have the proper shoes. Shoes with non-slip soles. And if you have throw rugs they too should have a non-slip backing.” Sawyer said taking these steps will “reduce the risk of falls.” This is also important if a senior needs to exit the house in an emergency.
Have a “Home Escape Plan” and know what to do when a fire alarm sounds, he said. “Getting out of the house is highest priority. Then call 911,” Sawyer said. “Having a meeting place once you are out of the building is very important. Have everyone in your household meet at the corner mailbox, for example. The worst thing is not knowing where everyone is. If you can account for everyone, then we will not have firefighters risking their lives rushing into a burning building unnecessarily.”
Sawyer said that you “should practice your Home Escape Plan,” as well. Waking up in the middle of the night to a smoke-filled bedroom can lead to panic and confusion.
With funding from the Older Americans Act, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) supports legal services for older adults in the city. Philadelphia residents age 60+ are eligible to receive free legal services from three providers, each of which covers specific areas of the law. There are no income requirements, but services are prioritized by greatest need. The providers are Temple University Elderly Law Project (described below); SeniorLAW Center; and Community Legal Services.
Temple University Elderly Law Project
According to Debra Kroll, executive director of the Temple University Elderly Law Project, their most requested services are wills; long-term care planning; and social security issues and appeals.
“We provide the type of legal services that tend to be needed by the most vulnerable population. The needs we’re addressing are the most basic: income and access to health care,” said Pamela Walz, supervising attorney of the Aging and Disabilities Unit at Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia.
CLS helps older adults who are facing issues with benefits and entitlements including Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, veterans’ benefits, Medicare and Medicaid.
CLS can help seniors to appeal benefits denials or terminations, and give advice on the Medical Assistance Estate Recovery Program (commonly known as Estate Recovery), which allows state Medicaid programs to recoup the money spent for nursing or in-home care from a person’s estate (i.e. by sale of their home and other assets, after the person’s death).
“Many people want to know what will happen to their home or assets, if they go into a nursing home. We explain everything to them,” said Walz.
Older adults in long-term care facilities, such as nursing or boarding homes, have special legal concerns. “People have a right to stay in a nursing home and not be evicted,” said .
“The number one issue right now is housing,” says Karen Buck, executive director of SeniorLAW Center. “It’s a reflection of the economic crisis. Illegal lock-outs and evictions are a major problem in Philadelphia, especially among low-income people and seniors. If you can’t get into your home, it affects everything else. You can’t access your medication, food and other necessities.”
Dr. Edward Creagan,professor of oncology at Mayo Clinic Medical School,says that animals can be a significant factor for successful aging in general, and can help patients cope with cancer. "Studies suggest that pets can do more than keep you young at heart,” Creagan says. “They can help keep your heart — and the rest of you — younger and healthier.”
Yet there are practical problems to pet ownership, which can increase as we age. Taking a pet to the vet, or buying pet food and supplies can seem insurmountable tasks, especially if you have mobility problems; winter weather can make things even more difficult. There are services to make these things easier. For example, several local vets make house calls to your pets; and online ordering can make purchase of food and supplies more convenient, and even cheaper.
Three neighborhood-based programs in Philadelphia provide services to help older adults take care of chronic health needs, so they can continue to live at home and in their community for as long as possible. Called “Living Independently for Elders,” they are based on the nationally-recognized Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).
Eligible elders who enroll in these programs can receive adult day services, primary health care, and in-home care, as part of an individual plan of care that addresses the person’s physical, mental, spiritual and social needs.
“LIFE is the provider of care, and also the insurer, so the senior has no out-of-pocket costs or co-pays for doctor’s visits, specialist care or medications," said Taryn Duckett, director of marketing for Mercy LIFE which serves seniors in North and South Philadelphia.
Seniors who meet the following requirements may be eligible for LIFE services:
• Age 55 or older
• Live within geographic area of a LIFE program (see locations below)
• Eligible for nursing home level of care
• Able to live safely in the community with services
• Eligible for Medicare, Medical Assistance (Medicaid) or be able to pay privately.
“We urge people to call to discuss their personal situations," said Duckett.
Remember the old days, when doctors made house calls? You may be surprised to learn that some physicians still visit patients in their homes. Among the services available are regular medical exams, blood tests, x-rays, hearing aid fittings, eye exams and physical therapy.
At least 10,000 older adults in Philadelphia (16% of people age 60+) report they cannot walk or get out of bed on their own – even with assistance, according to a survey of the Public Health Management Corporation. Mobility issues make getting regular medical care and tests difficult. But resources are available to help overcome these difficulties.
As tough as the cold weather is on everyone, it’s particularly dangerous for senior citizens.
The cold can aggravate arthritis, while snow and ice can make you slip and cause debilitating falls.
Be very cautious, when walking outside in wet weather. Ice can form very quickly and can sometimes be hard to spot. To help prevent slips or falls, wear shoes with spikes or non-skid soles. Use handrails, or hold on to someone for stability. Avoid going out after dark or in hazardous weather conditions. Stay on sidewalks and areas that have been cleared of snow and ice. You can sprinkle road salt, sand or kitty litter on your sidewalk, step or driveway to melt ice or prevent water from freezing.
Winter auto safety
Freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on your car. Check the air pressure and tread on your tires regularly. Keep all fluids full, including anti-freeze, oil, wiper fluid and your gas tank. Before winter starts, have a mechanic check your brakes and battery life. Belts, hoses and windshield wipers should be inspected for leaks or cracks, and replaced if wear is present.
Seniors should have a severe weather travel kit in the trunk, especially on long trips. This kit should contain a blanket, ice scraper, shovel, flashlight with batteries, jumper cables or auto starter, air compressor, first aid kit, and gas can.
Most veterans of the Vietnam War are 60 or over, most Korean War veterans are over 70; and most World War II veterans are 85-plus; all within or approaching the range where aging support services may be needed.
There is a wide range of benefits to which they may be entitled, including healthcare and disability benefits; monetary assistance for personal care and adult day services; respite services for family caregivers; and housing in VA retirement, assisted living and nursing home facilities.
Following are government and independent organizations that provide help, support and benefit counseling to veterans of the U.S. armed services and their families.
Harrisburg – The Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation and State today announced voters can choose to receive either secure PennDOT IDs, or Department of State voting-only ID cards, when visiting a PennDOT driver license center to obtain photo ID to vote under the state’s new voter ID law.
The agencies also announced that, in order to get the DOS voter ID card, an individual need only give his name, date of birth, social security number, and address; however, proof of residence is not required.
PennDOT will then, while the individual is at the driver license center, confirm with the Department of State that the applicant is a registered voter. Upon confirmation, the applicant will get a DOS voter ID card.
A four-day conference, presented by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging October 1-4, will delve into a broad range of practical, ethical cultural and political issues around aging. Conference Chair Thomas Shea said that although primarily designed for professionals working with older adults, many of the sessions have a broader appeal.
"We're really looking at the whole person, not just at services," Shea said. "For example, one session focuses on the creative experience, and another on how spirituality can impact the older person's personality and response to experiences.One considers the effects on individuals, and on society as a whole, of the Black Migration from the rural South to Northern cities that began in 1910 and continued through 1970. Another looks at the impact of the Holocaust on survivors as they age."
There are sessions on psychiatric and psychological issues, incuding hoarding, dementia and depression; resources available to help; and how to overcome resistance to treatment.
Improving the quality of services offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered adults is the subject of one session.
For the first time, Pennsylvanians will have to show a valid photo ID to vote in November’s election. Those who don’t have one can get a free ID from a PennDOT Center, by presenting the required documentation.
Your original Social Security card is one of the required documents; if you don't have the original, in some cases providing your Social Security number may be sufficient. Click here for details on what is required.
There are five centers in Philadelphia, but you can go to any center in the state. Call for locations and hours: 1-800-932-4600.
Questions and legal issues
Call the PA Voter ID Coaliton, 1-866-687-8683, with questions about the law.
Call the SeniorLaw Helpline, 1-877-727-7529, for help with legal issues and obtaining required documents.
Call Philadelphia’s Voter Registration office: 215-686-3469, for information on absentee and alternative ballots.
If you need help getting to a PennDOT Center, there are several alternatives.
“Beat the Blues” is a research project underway at Center in the Park (CIP), which explores screening and intervention for depression among African American older adults. This is a group considered to be at greater risk for depression, and whose depression often goes unrecognized and untreated. CIP is collaborating with the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing’s Center for Innovative Care in Aging on the project, which provides a model for increasing depression screening and intervention in a community-based setting.
Senior centers like CIP can offer a natural gateway for this kind of screening and intervention, according to Megan McCoy, CIP director of grant research and development, since they routinely assess older adults for service needs and health status. She says they can also provide ‘safe havens’ for individuals who may be reluctant to consult with their primary care physicians about feelings of sadness or depression but who might be more comfortable disclosing their feelings to trusted senior center staff.
CIP reached out to center members and others in its Northwest Philadelphia community and beyond, including homebound elders, to recruit participants. Through the project, 703 African American older adults were screened for depression over a two-year period. Of those, 208 screened positive for depression and were eligible for the one-on-one Beat the Blues intervention.
As people grow older and more frail, more support is needed to enable them to stay in their own homes. Research shows that most would rather remain in their own homes than go to a nursing home.
An assessment can provide a starting point. In Pennsylvania, Area Agencies on Aging, like Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), provide free assessments to individuals 18 and older upon request.
To begin, an assessment professional meets with the individual in the home to evaluate the level and types of care needed, and financial resources available. Low-income seniors who qualify clinically may be eligible for care at little or no cost; others may qualify for cost-sharing. The assessment helps determine eligibility and what options are available.
Help comes to you
Personal care services provide help with such daily activities as bathing and toileting; assistance with dressing and grooming; and help with medication. Some household tasks may be included, such as meal preparation, shopping, laundry and light housekeeping. You may contract for these yourself, or go through PCA or another care management organization.
When hiring home care assistance yourself, it’s important to know the medical and care needs and the skills and training required, advises Connie Jones, RN, nursing supervisor with PCA’s Long Term Care Access Department. “Be sure that the agency does criminal background checks and that you get references. Keep an eye on the situation: pop in unannounced to check how things are going, and be sure to report any problems as soon as they occur.”
Care and companionship
Adult day services centers are non-residential programs for those who are isolated, or cannot remain safely at home alone. Centers provide care, oversight, and social connections, according to Cynthia Wishkovsky, vice president for aging programs at the Center at Journey’s Way’s adult day program in Northwest Philadelphia.
Significant changes have been made to Pennsylvania’s Aging Waiver Program which officials at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) say will impact the range of assistance provided to the frailest and poorest of the Commonwealth’s senior citizens.
The Department of Public Welfare, which administers the Aging Waiver Program, revised the definition, scope and reimbursement for the oversight of care plans, effective July 1, 2012. According to officials at PCA these changes may have a negative impact on their ability to safely provide care at home for many individuals who are nursing-home eligible.
“The new regulations are limiting the oversight and review for Aging Waiver participants to such a great extent that we feel we will not be able to confidently assure the safety at home of some consumers,” said Holly Lange, PCA senior vice president.
According to U.S. News and World Report, more than a million Pennsylvanians age 65+ voted in the last Presidential election.
Nationwide, more than 90% of those age 65+ are registered to vote. But they may not be able to vote this November, as a wave of Voter I.D. laws sweeps the nation, and Pennsylvania with it.
Starting with the November 6, 2012 election, Pennsylvania voters will be required to show photo ID, even if they have voted for years in the same district.
According to figures released by state election officials last week, more than nine percent of the state's voters have neither a Pennsylvania driver's license or a non-driver PennDOT photo ID. In Philadelphia, 186,000 voters do not have either form of photo I.D. Following is a checklist of acceptable forms of ID.
All Pennsylvania voters will have to show a valid photo ID in order to vote in November. If you, or someone you know, don’t have an acceptable photo ID, it may be possible to obtain a FREE non-driver photo ID from a PennDOT office.
Before going to PennDOT, check to make sure you have the correct documents. You will need:
Official Social Security Card (not a copy) – Need a replacement card? Philadelphia residents must apply in person or by mail to the Social Security Card Center at 2 Penn Center. Suite 2000B, 1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd., 20th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102-9713. Office hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (except federal holidays). For information: 1-800-772-1213
AND ONE of the following:
Official birth certificate with raised seal (copies or hospital registration forms not accepted) – Don’t have the original? People born in Pennsylvania do not require a hard copy for voting purposes. When you go to a PennDOT driver’s license center, PennDOT will certify the birth record with the Dept. of Health.
U.S. Citizenship Certificate (INS form N-560)
Naturalization Certificate (INS form N-550 or N-570)
AND TWO of the following:
Lease Agreement or Mortgage Documents
Current Utility Bill (cell phone bills not accepted)
Current Gun Permit
Philadelphia's many neighborhoods of older homes have lots of character and charm. But most were not built with aging in mind.
If you want to stay in your home as you age, there are ways to make it more senior-friendly. Having railings, grab bars, lighting and safety equipment can help prevent accidents or injuries, making your home a safer environment.
For quick tips on how to make your home senior-safe, click here. More guidelines and resources for having repairs and modifications made are below.
For many senior citizens, admission to the hospital may now be a one-way ticket to a nursing home.
The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) has changed regulations which, up to now, enabled hospitals to contact Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) when a senior patient was ready to be discharged. This program, called Community Choice, permitted PCA to order an initial care plan, to provide immediate, expedited services for Medicaid consumers. This would put services in place, enabling the senior to return directly home after a hospital stay, while awaiting DPW approval of a longer-term plan.
Under DPW’s new regulations, effective July 1, services for these consumers will be delayed until a care plan is approved — a process that may take up to 35 working days. Meanwhile, nursing homes can admit an individual immediately, and apply for reimbursement retroactive to the admission date.
As a result, for those who require services to remain in the community, nursing home placement may now be the only choice.
Elder Abuse is a Philadelphia crisis, a national crisis, a worldwide crisis. It occurs everywhere: at home, in hospitals, in nursing homes and facilities; and it affects everyone: all cultures, races, economic groups, education levels, communities. No one is exempt.
SeniorLAW Center's lawyers and advocates partner with the courts, the legal community, the nonprofit community, and the aging network to help prevent and respond to the many pervasive forms of elder abuse perpetrated against our elders, often by their own families, loved ones, caregivers, and those they trust.
These include physical abuse and domestic violence, emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, financial exploitation, and sexual abuse. Statistically, victims of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation have three times the risk of dying prematurely.
In the past year, we helped provide protection and restitution for more than 200 elderly victims, including more than 100 elders seeking protection from violence and abuse in their own homes.
Senior citizens in the United States lose a minimum of $2.9 billion each year to financial exploitation, most of which is perpetrated by family members or trusted others. According to the New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, only one in 44 cases are reported.
The problem is especially acute in Philadelphia, which has the highest proportion of seniors of the nation's 10 largest cities. In 2010, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) began partnering with the city with the support of the Mayor, District Attorney and Police Commissioner to form a task force addressing financial exploitation of the elderly.
The Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Prevention Taskforce aims to strengthen collaboration in order to prevent, detect investigate, recover assets and prosecute financial elder abuse. It also trains law enforcement, social workers, banks and community agencies about elder financial abuse. Finally, it works to raise awareness among seniors and the general community about elder financial abuse and how to prevent it, according to Joseph Snyder, director of PCA’s Older Adult Protective Services.
Forty-seven years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson first signed the Older Americans Act (OAA) into law, it mandated a full range of efficient, well-coordinated and accessible services for older Americans. The services were designed to help Americans age successfully, with modern health services and financial security, while giving them the resources to be able to stay in their own homes.
When he signed the legislation, President Johnson said, “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.”
Congress has been responsible for reauthorizing the OAA approximately every five years, making sure that the law stays relevant as the needs of older Americans have changed.
The Act is once again due for reauthorization, with a committee vote expected in the Senate in June. If approved as proposed, the OAA would, for the first time, specifically recognize the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older Americans.
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for allowing me to be a voice today for my 92 year old mother, Daisy Mitchell who is a consumer under the Aging Waiver program.
QUALITY OF LIFE; LONGEVITY; CARE; HOME; COMPASSION; HOPE. Aging Waiver Program.
Longevity runs in my family. My mother had six siblings that lived to be past 70, four of them lived past 90 one is still alive and living at the age of 95 at home with her daughter as her primary caregiver. The key to their longevity was the quality of life administered by their loved ones through their love, care, compassion, hope.
QUALITY OF LIFE; LONGEVITY; CARE; HOME; COMPASSION; HOPE. Aging Waiver Program.
The beginning of my mother’s decline reared its ugly head after she suffered from of a fall five years ago which left her with a broken shoulder. I was working full time then and didn’t know where to turn. She went from the hospital to a nursing facility rehab and subsequently home.
Here we were ten weeks later faced with my mom’s physical capacity diminished needing complete assist, non-weight bearing, fall risk and the beginning stages of dementia.
Somewhere in our plight with my having to continue to go back to work after FMLA and vacation time had been exhausted I heard about PCA and that there was hope for us in the ability for my mother to return home. A care manager visited her in the rehab and PCA’s advocacy for my mother began. She had a voice.
New regulations will go into effect July 1 that officials at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging say will endanger the health, welfare and safety of more than 8,400 frail, homebound senior citizens in Philadelphia – and more than 20,000 seniors across the Commonwealth.
“The safety net that Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable seniors need and deserve is being shredded by policy decisions from the Department of Public Welfare which jeopardize our ability to serve them most effectively,” said PCA President Rodney D. Williams.
Pictured: Caregiver Bobbi Jones, who testified at a May 31 hearing about the new regulations. See story below for her testimony; click here for video.
Philadelphia Corporation for Aging(PCA) foresees a devastating collision between the increasing needs of Philadelphia’s senior population and decreasing funding is predicted over the next four years.
“The safety net that Pennsylvania’s seniors need and deserve is being shredded,” said PCA President Rodney D. Williams, “in part by neglect and funding shortfalls, and in part by policy decisions which jeopardize our ability to serve them most effectively.”
PCA will present its Four-Year Area Plan for Aging Services at a public hearing on May 31. As the Area Agency on Aging for Philadelphia, PCA is required by federal law to produce an Area Plan every four years. The public is invited to comment on the plan for 2012-2016 at the public hearing, beginning at 10 a.m., at PCA’s offices, 642 North Broad Street in Philadelphia.
Already, Williams said, continued flat funding has contributed to closing of five senior centers and six satellite meal sites, reducing the number of seniors served from 33,000 to 20,000. The Options program for in-home care has a waiting list of more than 1,000 people; and the city just announced that it is cutting $325,000 from the Senior Housing Assistance Repair Program, which PCA administers.
“Our city’s seniors experience poverty at a rate almost double that of Pennsylvania and the nation," Williams said.
In the next four years, increasing needs among Philadelphia’s elderly combined with steadily decreasing funding will produce devastating results, predicts Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) President Rodney D. Williams.
“The safety net that Pennsylvania’s seniors need and deserve is being shredded,” Williams said, “in part by neglect and funding shortfalls, and in part by policy decisions which jeopardize our ability to serve them most effectively.”
This assessment coincides with PCA's preparation of its four-year Area Plan for Aging Services, which is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.
“Philadelphia’s senior population is steadily growing older, frailer, poorer and increasingly minority and limited-English-speaking,” Williams said. “Our city’s seniors experience poverty at a rate almost double that of Pennsylvania and the nation. More than 117,000 of them have trouble paying for one of life’s basic necessities; 23,000 report skipping a meal for lack of money.
"Despite that, the state has not increased funding for aging services from the Pennsylvania Lottery for the past six years -- when, in fact, Lottery revenues are growing, and there is a significant surplus,” he said.
Already, continued flat funding has contributed to closing of five senior centers and six satellite meal sites, Williams said ; reducing the number of seniors served from 33,000 to 20,000. The Options program for in-home care has a waiting list of more than 1,000 people.
Four exhibits showcase the talents of older artists this month, as part of Philadelphia Corporation for Aging's 10th annual senior arts festival, "Celebrate Arts and Aging.”
The celebration includes workshops, classes, performances and discounts of 25% or more for senior citizens.
More than 180 original works, by artists ranging in age from 56 to 99, will be on display in venues throughout the city, including, for the first time, Independence Visitor Center (IVC).
"Lakeside," (above, right) by Ben Cohen, 88, is the signature work for this year's celebration. See story below.
More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year, according to "Caregiving in the United States," a report from the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP.
A majority of caregivers are baby-boomers, ages 46-64, struggling to care for their aging parents while also maintaining jobs, raising children, and handling the day-to-day responsibilities of their own active lives.
The stress from managing this level of responsibility can lead to physical illness, frustration, depression and overall burnout. Over time, caregivers may begin to disregard their own health, according to Katrina Downes, social services manager for Mercy LIFE (Living Independently for Elders), which provides medical and social services and operates adult day centers in South and North Philadelphia. .
"Caregivers have a tendency to feel guilty when focusing on themselves or enjoying their own lives and consequently center all their attention on the needs of their loved one," Downes says. “In most cases, family and friends are the first to recognize the emotional and/or physical changes in the caregiver. The caregiver is the last to recognize change in themselves."
Dr. Donna Raziano, Mercy LIFE associate chief medical officer, offers warnning signs that a caregiver needs help, and suggests ways to cope:
By Pam George
Do you have an old cell phone, computer or TV set lying around in the garage or basement? Expired medications? Left-over paint or varnish? Wasp and bee spray? Used motor oil?
All this adds up to the grim reality that just about every home has the potential to be a hazardous waste site. Tossing them in the trash or pouring them down the drain is extremely bad for the environment. And you would need an advanced degree in science to know how to dispose of them yourself.
“If left to sit in a landfill, they can emit harmful pollutants,” says Colleen Meehan, program organizer for Clean Water Action in Philadelphia, part of the Recycling Alliance of Philadelphia.
Fortunately, there are alternatives.
Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off events are held from 9 a.m. to 3 pm. on specific days throughout the year. An event is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, at the Philadelphia Streets Department’s training center, 8401 State Road (at Ashburner St.), 215-686-5560.
Drug Take-Back April 28
If you have medications you no longer use or that have expired, you can dispose of them safely at the Drug Enforcement Agency’s next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The list of participating sites is posted on the website. Or you may call 1-800-882-9539. If you can’t get to a site, some pharmacies sell inexpensive mailers for disposing of unwanted medications. Before throwing out a container, it’s a good idea to remove identifying information to protect your identity.
Adult Day Services programs are designed to help those with memory loss keep active and engaged, rather than sedentary and despondent.
They also help participants, after an active day, including meals, return home feeling less stressed and isolated.
Participants “get to know people and feel part of something, even though they may have memory loss,” says Cynthia Wishkovsky, vice president of aging services at Journey’s Way in Roxborough. “We utilize a number of expressive arts to enable people … the opportunity to contribute and to be successful … activities that relate to what was interesting to them and to improve the quality of their lives.”
Particpants sleep better
A Penn State University research team, led by Dr. Steven Zarit, concluded that Adult Day Service programs are effective. “We know how stressful it can be for families to provide care to an older relative,” they report, “particularly someone suffering from dementia.”
Today, senior citizens comprise one in 10 Americans, and that number will increase to one in five by 2030. Most older adults say they prefer to remain in their homes and communities as they age and become more frail.
Addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by this trend was the topic of Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s (PCA) M. Powell Lawton Conference on Urban Aging, held last week.
Three models for aging in community were discussed: Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) Programs; Villages; and age-friendly initiatives.
NORCs occur naturally:
services must be developed
“NORC “is a demographic term which stands for Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. It is used to describe a community not originally built for seniors but where a significant proportion of residents are now seniors. NORC Programs vary according to the needs of the residents and the types of services provided. Typically, they bring together housing/neighborhood organizations; residents; health and social service providers; and government agencies to organize and develop services and programs to help residents meet the challenges of aging in their community.
As a geriatric social worker at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City in the mid-1980s, Fredda Vladeck was assigned to address the housing needs of the increasing numbers of frail elderly living in the surrounding community.
She went far beyond her assignment.
After observing the myriad challenges faced by elders aging in the community, in 1986 she founded the nation’s first Supportive Service Program, in a "naturally occurring retirement community," or NORC.
The program, at the Penn South Mutual Redevelopment Houses cooperative in Manhattan, brought group services, individual social services, and health care services together under one roof to assist seniors at Penn South to continue living in their own homes. “Our goal was to change the experience of aging in that community,” she said. Her innovation went on to become a national model.
This week marks the 9th annual National LGBT Health Awareness Week dedicated to promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health.
The theme for this year’s LGBT Health Awareness Week, “Come Out for Health,” seeks to encourage healthcare providers, policy makers, and LGBT people to talk openly about the challenges that LGBT people face, and to promote health and access to health care. Lack of openness about sexuality is a barrier to discussions about sexual health, risk of breast or prostate cancer, hepatitis, HIV risk, hormone therapy or other risk factors.
Recent studies show that the health status of LGBT elders is of particular concern. The number of LGBT Americans who have reached age 65 is greater than ever before, yet services for these seniors are lacking.
They also encounter significant barriers to successful aging, including social isolation, unequal treatment under the law and diminished economic security, according to research sponsored by the National Academy on an Aging Society and SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian Bisexual & Transgender Elders).
More than 8,000 frail, elderly, nursing-home eligible Philadelphia seniors rely on the Aging Waiver program to receive the care they need and remain in their homes. I want to alert you to an emergency situation which will seriously jeopardize the continuity and quality of their care.
The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) has proposed changes to qualifications and rates for home and community-based service (HCBS) providers, which would increase costs; fragment and reduce the quality of care provided to seniors; and increase exponentially the likelihood of seniors being admitted to nursing homes.
Most significantly, the changes would eliminate the Care Management function currently provided by PCA to seniors enrolled in the Aging Waiver.
Care Managers take a comprehensive approach to an elderly person’s needs. In addition to coordinating the home care services for older people, Care Managers address the individual’s housing needs and living situation; work with family members and informal caregivers; coordinate benefit counseling; provide health promotion; arrange guardianship support if needed; and safeguard the consumer from abuse and neglect.
Care Managers also coordinate and arrange for the health care services necessary to allow medically frail and cognitively impaired seniors to remain at home. This coordination of health care is the basis for AAAs requiring all care plans to be reviewed by a Registered Nurse (RN). DPW proposes elimination of this critical function – which will unnecessarily place seniors at risk.
The condition of the frail, elderly consumers served by the Aging Waiver can change dramatically from one day to the next, and responding to those changes can require many hours. A fall can lead to hospitalization; bills left unpaid can result in heat and power shutoffs and evictions; chronic or progressive conditions such as dementia, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease can worsen rapidly.
Under the proposed DPW rules, Care Managers would be replaced by Service Coordinators, whose sole responsibility would be coordinating home care services. The rules would also limit them to devoting three hours a month to each consumer.
Senior citizens’ conditions are often highly volatile and unpredictable. Without the close oversight a Care Manager provides, it is all too easy for a situation to escalate to the point where a nursing home placement is the only option. While nursing homes may be the right choice for some, they are also by far the most expensive option; and they are not what most senior citizens would choose for themselves.
For the past 40 years, PCA has provided coordinated, compassionate and cost-effective care to the most frail senior citizens. These regulations will unnecessarily jeopardize senior citizens and significantly limit the capacity of PCA and other AAAs to serve older Pennsylvanians. The Aging Waiver should remain the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, which was created to coordinate and plan the Commonwealth’s elder initiatives, including long-term care programs for the frail and chronically ill.
If you share my concerns, tell Governor Corbett and your state legislators that the Aging Waiver should be removed from Act 22. Click here for contact information:
Mr. and Mrs. W. were both extremely disabled consumers receiving care management from Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. Mrs. W. was 84 years old with weakness on the right side and inability to speak from a stroke; legally blind; and had some dementia. Her husband was 92 years old with diabetes, and bedbound from a left leg amputation above the knee.
Their only child and the Power of Attorney (P.O.A.) was a son who was in a nursing facility himself due to Multiple Sclerosis.
Mr. W. had been the caregiver for his wife until 2008 when he had to place her in a nursing home for several months while he was recuperating from his amputation. He and the care manager then worked hard to have her return to their apartment.
The care manager visited frequently and made sure that between the two of them they received enough personal care services to meet their needs and that they were safe to remain at home.
In 2010 a woman whose mother lived in their apartment building began visiting them and financially exploiting them. The care manager intervened, making a referral to protective services.
Seniors who wish to live out their lives in an urban community have a new option in Philadelphia - a condominium project that has been created by Friends Center City (FCC).
Called Friends Center City Riverfront, the project at 22 S. Front St. is part of what FCC calls a "grand urban experiment" to provide living options for seniors that combine center city's cultural assets with the security of fellowship and healthcare coordination.
Adults 65+ are 2.5 times likelier to die in a fire than the general population, and as they age, their risk increases, according to the National Fire Protection Association .
Physical and/or mental impairments; reduced sensory abilities; and inability to pay for necessary home improvements, all present key risks for this age group, experts say. In addition, as noted on the website Aging Home Health Care, many aging seniors reside in older houses, which can have damaged or improper wiring and many older individuals live alone, with no one around to help when accidents occur.
Winter presents added fire hazards
The Philadelphia Fire Department website urges people to look after elderly relatives and neighbors; to make sure that they have working smoke alarms; and that they know the basics about cold weather and fire safety.
• Have a working smoke alarm on every level of your home.
• If you haven't checked your batteries recently, check them now.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
• Have a CO alarm within 15 feet of each sleeping area of your home.
• Test batteries today.
Proper Use of Portable Heaters
• Never use gas or electric ranges and ovens to heat your home.
• Keep combustible materials such as newspapers, furniture or clothes at least 3 feet (36 inches) away from portable heaters.
• Never place portable heaters at the bottom of the stairway. This will block the escape route in the event of a fire.
• Check cords on portable electric heaters for cracks, breaks or loose connections. Never overload electrical sockets or use power strips.
Portable Kerosene Heaters
• Use only approved K-1 kerosene, NEVER GASOLINE!
• Never fill or refill kerosene heaters indoors or while hot.
• Avoid overfilling heater.
• Never store kerosene or other ignitable liquids indoors.
• Clean and/or replace old wicks once a year.
It's 5:10 p.m. Another storm is about to hit the area. You usually call your 82-year-old mother daily at 4:45, and you're stuck in rush-hour traffic while sleet begins to fall. Unfortunately, your cell phone is in your briefcase - which is in the trunk of your car.
A scenario like this would normally lead to anxiety, but advances in technology are making it easier and easier to keep in touch with elderly relatives.
For the millions of Americans who are caregivers, holidays can cause stress to soar. "The demands of holiday celebrations can add to the pressures a caregiver may already be experiencing," says Mary Mullen, director of Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s (PCA) Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP).
Caregivers need to know their limits, keep things manageable and ask for help, Mullen advises, adding that “As a caregiver, you are juggling a lot already, and you need to remember to take care of yourself.”
"Following are some tips Mullen offers to help alleviate some potential holiday stress.
Ask siblings, other family members, friends or community volunteers to help with caregiving so you can get a break to shop, decorate, or join in worship and/or or festivities.
Hire an aide to help give you a break; don’t be shy about asking family members to assist with the expense as appropriate.
While many in today’s rapidly growing elderly population need help with activities of daily living (ADL), not all require nursing home level of care. Likewise, thousands of adults with physical/mental disabilities cannot live independently but fall short of the threshold for nursing home placement. For those with mental and intellectual disabilities, psychiatric institutions that once provided residential long term care, like the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry, no longer exist.
Increasingly, licensed personal care homes (PCH) are helping to fill these gaps. However, the number of boarding homes and unlicensed personal care homes has also grown, putting some of society’s most vulnerable individuals at risk, advocates say.
At a point in life when older people might need time to think about what it means to live and ‘what footprint they will leave on this planet,’ many instead think about killing themselves, according to Patrick Arbore, Ed.D.
The founder and director of the Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention and Grief Related Services at the Institute on Aging in San Francisco, he said the highest rate of suicide is actually among older adults, especially those 85+.
Often proud and independent, the elderly may experience a loss of autonomy and dignity as they age. Deteriorating health may cause them to become dependent on others.
Some fear mental deterioration and becoming incapacitated, especially if they have received a diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s, and may view suicide as a way to avoid that fate. Others may fear outliving their money and becoming financially dependent. In the face of such challenges, they may perceive themselves as burdens, rather than as complete human beings, resulting in feelings of hopelessness and low-self-esteem.
“Is there a time in our lives when it’s okay to be dependent?,” Arbore asked, “That’s a challenge in a society that values productivity.”
“Let’s get the family to talk about these things,” Arbore urged. “Let’s put the cards on the table.”
“In our culture, we often combine aging with depression, instead of separating those things out,” he said, adding that many assume - mistakenly - that it is natural for the elderly to be depressed.
Intervention consists of two phases: crisis intervention to protect the older person during times of significant suicidal risk; and treatment of any underlying problems.
An average of 40,000 people are released from prison and return to Philadelphia each year, including many older adults, according to Carolyn Harper, chief of staff for the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services for Ex-Offenders (RISE). Often unequipped to face the health issues of aging and the challenges of daily life, they need of an array of practical and emotional supports.
Last week, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging invited members of the city’s faith communities to consider the challenges older ex-offenders face, at the Clergy-Aging Interfaith Coalition’s Fall Clergy and Seniors Day. The event focused on how the religious community, which is rooted in beliefs of redemption, reconciliation, hospitality and healing, can play a key role in their reintegration into the community.
The PCA Helpline – 215-765-9040 - has taken more than one million calls since it was created by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging in 1991.
Through that one phone number, an average of 400 callers a day are provided with information or referred to programs, services and resources for Philadelphians age 60+ and adults with disabilities age 18+.
Among them are calls to report elder abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, and abandonment, which can be reported to the Helpline, 215-765-9040, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Alma Mora, pictured here, has worked in the PCA Helpline since its beginning. One of several bilingual intake workers, she speaks English and Spanish.
Dr. Andrew Newberg, a pioneer in studying relationships between the brain, religion and health will headline a session on brain health at a Senior Education Fair on Saturday, October 22, presented by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.
Newberg has appeared on Nightline, 20/20, Good Morning America, and ABC’s World News Tonight, and has been featured in Time and Newsweek. He will present practical approaches to maintaining a healthy brain, including nutrition, meditation, and exercises for both mind and body.
The Senior Education Fair is being held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of PCA’s publication of Milestones Newspaper, according to David Nevison, PCA chief planning, development and government relations officer.
Milestones readers who’ve enjoyed Gerald Etter’s food columns will have a chance to meet the former food editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, as he presents a session on cooking for one. Participants will also have an opportunity to meet and talk with Milestones editor Don Harrison.
Participants will be able to attend three sessions. Among the choices are: money management with a specialist from Raymond James & Associates; chair yoga; spotting and stopping scams; volunteering; and a nostalgic look at Philadelphia, from A to Z with Rick Spector, former host of Milestones radio program.
This is the first of what PCA plans as an annual event, and will be held at PCA’s headquarters, 642 N. Broad Street from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Preregistration by September 30 is required to attend the fair. An admission fee of $2 includes sessions and a healthy snack. To register, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or call: 215-765-9000 ext. 5055.
Since 1991, the number of children in the United States living with a grandparent has grown by 64 percent, from 4.7 million to 7.8 million, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Among them are Tyra and Tynisha, 15-year-old twin granddaughters of Roberta Cooper, age 63. She brought up two children of her own, and raised four grandchildren before this. She’s seen the positive things her care has provided, but also the anger that comes from a feeling of abandonment.
“They see other people have parents at graduation … they only have me,” said Cooper. Still, “they need to know somebody’s out there for them.”
Presented by American Society on Aging; sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care
Learn about less expensive housing options for older adults, while understanding the benefits and services provided by senior centers and adult day care centers. Finance options for care beyond traditional insurance coverage, as well as tips on how to create a team approach to providing care, will also be covered.
August 17, 2011 (Wednesday)
10:00 AM Pacific / 11:00 AM Mountain
12:00 PM Central / 1:00 PM Eastern
Speaker: Dr. Amy D'Aprix
Moderator: Mary Alexander
Click here to preregister
To help spread the word about vital senior services provided by Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and other organizations, PCA's Community Outreach Program sends representatives to more than 400 events each year, including senior expos, faith-based events, block parties and health fairs.
These "weekend warriors" work after hours to give presentations, set up information tables, hand out literature and answer questions. Alma Mora, intake and information specialist for the PCA Helpline (215-765-9040 or www.pcaCares.org) is one of the 32 members in the outreach crew.
"They used to call me 'The Queen of Outreaches,'" says Mora, "because when I started doing community outreach for PCA, there were so few reps that I was always asked to go out. I love to help people. Here I have the opportunity to help many people -- both English and Spanish speakers."
Born in El Salvador, Mora didn't begin speaking English fluently until after she came to this country in 1975.
"Many older Latinos only speak Spanish, and they are very happy to learn they can call the Helpline and discuss their situation comfortably in their native language. Even though I speak fluent English, I still feel more comfortable discussing some situations in Spanish. It's very meaningful to be able to provide this same comfort to older adults," Mora says.
"Most of the attendees at outreaches don't know PCA exists. They are very surprised to know what we do for people in need," says Mora, who has been doing outreach for 10 years. "That's why it's so important that we go out and spread the word."
Mora's outgoing personality makes her approachable at events and easy to talk to on the phone. "Everyone tells me I'm very kind, understanding and patient. I treat everybody the same way I like to be treated -- with respect. I get a lot of satisfaction from giving to others. I've always been the nurturing one in the family. My seven brothers and sisters often look to me for advice," says Mora.
The Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE) has launched a web-based resource to help caregivers make decisions about elder care. Called “CaregiverGPS - The Elder’s Advocate,” the resource uses several interactive tools to help provide a customized experience for individuals facing a critical transition point in the care of a loved one.
“A caregiver can be anyone—a sibling, a spouse, a child, a neighbor—who provides assistance to another person experiencing problems with health and/or activities of daily living, whether they live close or far,” said CARIE Executive Director Diane Menio. “When a caregiver becomes concerned about a loved one’s changing needs, it is often overwhelming, both emotionally and logistically, to consider all of the options available.”
The purpose of CaregiverGPS is to offer unbiased counsel based on a caregiver’s unique situation. It does so by gathering information through an on-site review of the individual’s situation.
Users respond to statements about such things as the level of safety in the loved one’s home, opportunities for social contacts, healthcare and personal care needs, financial resources and existing support system.
CaregiverGPS then offers an analysis that takes the user’s responses into account and helps users think about options that may be a good fit for their loved one.
“While the site offers thorough information that we feel is tailored to each caregiver, CaregiverGPS is not intended to tell that caregiver what decision to make,” said Menio.
In addition to the online consultation, the site offers a Caregiver’s Corner blog that will be updated regularly with topical information for caregivers.
At a time when gay men and lesbians enjoy the most social acceptance and legal protection in history, many elders face the daily challenges of aging while isolated from their families and the community. Fear, anti-gay bias and lack of legal standing are among the unique challenges facing an aging gay and lesbian generation. Nancy J. Knauer, author and law professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, has focused her career on the study of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriages.
But it wasn’t until just three years ago that she began to study lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders. Initially, Knauer thought her research would be short, focusing on Medicare and end-of-life decision making. “When I started to research LGBT elders, I realized that was only the tip of the iceberg. The more I started asking questions, the more I realized the treatment of LGBT elders is awful and work needs to be done. The invisibility of an entire generation of LGBT individuals wasn’t being addressed,” said Knauer, 49.
She discovered that LGBT issues were not even being discussed within the broader aging community. She also found the problem to be compounded by ageism that exists within the LGBT community, which is primarily youth-centered and focused on suicide prevention. With approximately two million gay and lesbian elders living in the United States, Knauer felt it was a topic that deserved more attention and has now made it her primary area of research.
“The folks who are LGBT seniors now, came of age when homosexuality was criminalized and considered a severe mental illness. They are familiar with the closet as a coping mechanism. Studies suggest that as people age, they become increasingly more fearful of encountering anti-gay bias and this leads to social isolation. LGBT elders are more likely to be estranged from their natural family. Many LGBT elders rely on chosen family, often of the same generation, as a support group. So they don’t benefit from an intergenerational support system. LGBT elders want to age in place, like everyone, but are reluctant to access services. Closeted gay elders inviting a home health aide into their house can be perceived as risky. They will underutilize senior resources. In the United States, 80% of all caregiving is informal or unpaid. Without a younger support system, caregiving is a big problem for this generation,” she said.
Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) has received a two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to evaluate whether seniors and other adults who live in “walkable" neighborhoods have better health than those who don't.
The outcome of the study could have a profound effect on designing healthier urban neighborhoods, says Allen Glicksman, Ph.D., PCA’s director of research and evaluation, and principal investigator for the study.
Neighborhoods are considered “walkable” when residents can walk to the amenities of daily life, such as the grocery store, senior center, parks, and public transportation, he says.
The “Walkability’s Impact on Senior Health” (WISH) study will evaluate whether residents in more walkable neighborhoods exercise more, eat healthier foods, and are less obese.
Shaniel Murden was 12 years old when “Miss Nancy” first moved in with her family, through Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s “Dom Care” program. Miss Nancy, now 88, became "like family," and still lives with Murden’s parents.
Murden herself is now a married mother of two teenage girls, and three years ago she and her husband became Dom Care providers themselves. "PCA's Dom Care program matches adults who can’t live independently with individuals or families who are willing to provide a home for them,” explains Deb Kish-Silver, Resource Developer for PCA’s Dom Care program.
Photo: Daniel Mordeczko and Shaniel Murden
Helen Mishenko and her husband, artist/architect Alexander Shteynberg, “are like one person,” she says, “four hands, four legs.”
For five years, a paid respite aide has added another pair of arms and legs — and eyes — to help her deal with her husband’s many health problems. The aide accompanies them on errands, such as shopping and doctor’s appointments, which would be difficult to manage on their own. He also provides respite in the home as needed — for instance, if Mishenko needs to attend to personal business.
Shteynberg, 77, who immigrated with his wife and son from Kiev, Ukraine, in 1992, was renowned in his native land for buildings he designed there. Soon after immigrating, he turned his attention to painting because work in his field was hard to find. Here, he has become a prolific, respected and often-exhibited painter.
However, he now contends with medical conditions ranging from heart disease and high blood pressure to limited mobility and a digestive disorder.
Mishenko, 67, who was a talk show host for public television in the Ukraine, now volunteers part-time for a Russian-American newspaper. She has been her husband’s caregiver for close to a decade, despite health issues of her own. Their son visits twice a month. “He is very good, but he works almost 60 hours a week,” she explains.
We raised our kids with the help of baby monitors and nanny cams and now, in our role as the “meat” of the sandwich generation, we baby boomers are discovering that technology can also help us keep tabs on our aging parents.
The developments in “aging-in-place technology” further the goal of allowing our parents to safely stay in their own homes and out of nursing homes. Through devices and sensors already available, and other inventions on the cusp, we can monitor who’s ringing their door bell or calling their phone, whether they’ve taken their medication, awaked in the middle of the night or gotten out of bed, their heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, and even how much time they’ve spent in the bathroom.
Some systems include one or two way video cameras, allowing us to watch our parents going about their daily routine. GPS devices in their shoes keep track of the wanderings of parents with dementia and soon we’ll be able to implant microchips containing health records of seniors who might be discovered unconscious. (My prediction is that these latter two technologies will merge when people realize patients with dementia don’t necessarily put their shoes on before they walk out the front door.)
Fundraising for PCA's Emergency Fund for Older Philadelphians has received a boost from several local businesses. Last week, a telethon hosted by CBS3 raised more than $10,000. And the Reading Terminal Market and the Food Trust have announced that all donations made to Philbert the large bronze "piggy bank" at center court in the Market, 12th and Arch Streets will be donated to PCA's Emergency Fund.
"We are very grateful for all of the support we've been receiving," said Joan Zaremba, director of marketing and corporate relations for PCA. "At one point in December the fund was down to just $4,000, but now it has been rising steadily thanks in large part to a great many individual donations." Zaremba said in addition to CBS-3 and the Reading Terminal Market, corporate support has been received from Bravo Health, Independence Blue Cross and Glaxo Smith Kline.
However, Zaremba said, "The need is also continuing to rise - we're receiving about nine percent more requests for assistance than last year. So the money is going out as fast as it comes in."
What’s in a name? When you reach the milestone of grandparent, it turns out, quite a lot. If you are a prospective grandparent, while your children are pondering baby names, you may want to think about what you wish to be called.
Photo: "Mom-Mom" Kim Lawrence and granddaughter Autumn Lawrence
This time of year can be especially difficult for the elderly and their caregivers, but resources and services are available to give caregivers a break while making sure their loved ones are being taken care of.
“Caregivers need to take the time to care for themselves,” says Lois Hayman-El, who became her late mother’s caregiver after the older woman was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “There are a lot of resources out there, but many people just don’t know about them,” says Hayman-El, training specialist at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, who often gives presentations on the topic.
For caregivers, respite care is invaluable. Whether it’s for a few hours a week to run errands or a few weeks a year to take a much-needed vacation, respite care helps you to reduce stress, restore energy and keep your life in balance, according to AARP.
To someone in need, a few minutes on the phone can be life-changing. "It's amazing how much difference a phone call can make," said Patricia McGee, Intake and Information Specialist on the PCA Helpline. McGee is among 20 phone workers who connect older adults and others in the community with vital information about aging resources and services. "What we do is very important. People need to know about PCA and our wealth of services," McGee said.
The decision to enter a nursing home, whether for rehabilitation or for a longer stay, can be motivated by a variety of reasons. Whatever the cause, it is important to research carefully and choose the facility wisely.
There are some helpful resources online to help narrow down your choices. Basic information is available from Pennsylvania Health Department's Nursing Home Facility Locator including facility location, size, number of beds, payment options, ownership, licensure status, and inspection reports.
However, nothing beats visiting the facility in advance, according to Lynda Pickett, manager of the ombudsman program at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). She advises making repeat visits at different times of day (including weekends), to get a more in-depth picture of the quality of life and care it offers.
Mrs. M., a widow living on a fixed income, was desperate when her oil heater started smoking. But thanks to the Emergency Fund for Older Philadelphians, she was able to replace the old heater, and now is not afraid to see the temperature dropping.
This winter, many others may not be so fortunate. The Emergency Fund for Older Philadelphians, which provides crisis assistance to help low-income senior citizens purchase food, fuel, medications and other necessities, is itself in crisis. Its balance is down to $22,000 going into the winter, which is the season of highest demand for assistance. According to Chris Gallagher, director of PCA’s Helpline call center, this time last year the balance was $126,620.
“We saw the number of referrals increase by 16 percent last year, and the amount disbursed jump by 30 percent, over the previous year,” Gallagher said. A total of $281,866 in emergency assistance was provided between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, up from $215,993 the previous year.
For one nursing home resident, the opportunity to savor the marinara sauce she used to prepare in her younger years would evoke some of her happiest, and most delicious life experiences. She is among the long term care residents who have submitted a favorite recipe for a special event in honor of National Residents Rights Week, October 3 through 9. The theme of National Residents Rights Week this year is “Defining Dining – It’s About Me.”
“It is often forgotten that a facility is the home for which a resident is a paying customer,” says Lynda Pickett, ombudsman manager for Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.
Sixteen nursing home resident council presidents and other representatives will convene at PCA today to share favorite recipes, discuss strategies for getting them added to their facility’s menu, and explore ways to resolve and negotiate dining issues. Recipes will later be posted on PCA’s website.
National Residents Rights Week calls attention to the needs and rights of those who live in long-term care facilities — nursing homes, assisted living, boarding homes, and domiciliary care facilities; and those attending adult day care centers.
“Families have always cared for their elders, but our parents in old age are different than their forbears, just as we boomers are unlike previous generations of adults,” writes Paula Span, in When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions. Like other books published by Springboard Press, When the Time Comes is aimed primarily at the Boomer generation.
A longtime journalist who currently writes for The New York Times’ “New Old Age” blog, in her book Span depicts families struggling with difficult, often heart-wrenching choices about long term care and coping with the aftermath of those choices during an elder’s final years.
Today’s caregivers are often ill-informed about long-term-care options and finances, she says. They deal with elders discharged quicker and sicker from hospitals. Often, they balance caregiving with demanding jobs. Many still have child-rearing responsibilities. Others qualify as elderly themselves.
But it's not all negative. Much is made of the caregiver burden: the physical financial, and psychological tolls that caregiving can take, Span points out.
“The phenomenon called caregiver gain doesn’t appear nearly as often … but it exists,” she says, noting “Rewards also surface when caregivers talk about what they do: pride in being able to meet the challenges, feelings of competence and mastery, a sense of meaning and purpose.”
A new program launched by SeniorLAW Center, the Fostering Kinship Care Legal Project, aims to help grandparents and other seniors understand their options when the Department of Human Services is seeking to place their grandchildren or other relative children in foster care.
Walter Harris became his widowed mother’s caregiver when he was in his 40s; the increasing effects of Alzheimer’s disease had made it impossible for the family matriarch to live alone. But, he is quick to point out, he did not do it alone.
“It takes a village to help a caregiver,” says Walter Harris, supervisor of the In-Home Support Program at North City Congress, who has dealt with the issue from both professional and personal perspectives. “I think we had that here.”
Gail Sheehy’s entrée into the world of caregiving began with three short words: “It’s not benign.”
Her husband’s tumor was cancerous, the doctor said. “It took me time to realize that I had a new role,” she remembered. “I had had nine months to prepare for the birth of a child and nine hours to prepare to be the caregiver of my husband. It came that quickly.”
Appearing at the recent Boomervision® forum held at the WHHY studio and sponsored by Coming of Age, the prize-winning author and journalist focused on the issues raised in her latest book, “Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence,” published in May.
My father taught me how to drive stick shift in a little red Volkswagen convertible. He was patient and unflappable, even when I stalled in the middle of an intersection on Route 73 in New Jersey. And so proud when I mastered it!
So it was excruciating for me - and more so for him - on the day when he insisted he would drive to the doctor - because, as he said, "it's probably the last time I'll be allowed to drive."
In American culture, driving is a much-anticipated rite of passage - and a much valued right. Giving it up is something no one looks forward to, and most resist as long as possible. Sometimes family members have to be the ones who take action, but turning the tables on Mom or Dad and taking away the car keys may not work in every family. There are a number of resources to help with this dilemma.
More than five million people nationwide have Alzheimer’s and twice that many people are providing unpaid care for a friend or loved one suffering from it or other dementias. Care ranges from familiar tasks such as shopping for groceries and preparing meals to managing aggression, preventing wandering and helping with bathing, feeding and toileting.
On May 12, the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter will present a full-day conference titled “Embracing Care, Enhancing Support,” focusing on techniques and coping methods for dealing with difficult situations and the daily challenges of caregiving. Keynoting the conference will be David Shenk, author of “The Forgetting: Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic.”
Claire Day, director of programs and education for the chapter, says the conference offers an opportunity for families and caregivers to “interact with other caregivers who ‘walk the same walk.’” While the association sponsors frequent trainings, annual conferences like this one “bring everyone together for a day of learning and sharing, “ she notes.
If you're caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease, advises Dr. Christine Northrup, internationally recognized authority on women's health, "ask for help. "You're here to serve, not be the main course."
Alzheimer's caregivers give so much time caring for loved ones, they have zero time for themselves. They feel guilty about wanting some. You should allow yourself three minutes to revel in the guilt. Then, do something self-productive. Caregivers also tend to think they are going through the experience alone. They're not. More than 50 million people (one out of five Americans) care for loved ones who can no longer care for themselves.
Caregivers’ health suffers
The stress of providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer's can make you sick, an Indiana University study suggests. About one in four caregivers visits an emergency room or hospital every six months, researchers note in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
It all started with Monday morning conversations among social worker colleagues, after a weekend of caring for family members. Sharing those frustrations, successes and advice triggered Dr. Joyce O. Beckett’s book, “Lifting Our Voices: The Journeys into Family Caregiving of Professional Social Workers” (Columbia University Press, 2008).
Unique in its exploration of the dual roles of professional social workers who are also family caregivers, the book also has been hailed as the only collection on caregiving in which the majority of contributors are African-American.
Social worker, teacher and author Dr. Joyce O. Beckett says it is vital for caregivers to recognize that if they are unable to provide care, their “care partners” will still be there and still be in need. Therefore, it is to everyone’s benefit that caregivers care for themselves. She offers these tips for self care:
1. Learn ways of sharing the responsibilities. If you’re the sole or primary caregiver, set a family meeting to discuss and delegate some assignments. They may not be carried out exactly as you would do them, but they will be accomplished.
2. Find a way of relaxing (Beckett practices yoga), and schedule a standing and unbreakable appointment for that relaxation.
3. Say “thank you” to yourself. A caregiver can feel isolated and unacknowledged. Go to a movie or give yourself a little treat as recognition for your work.
4. Be ready to see any humor in the situation. Beckett mentions an instance from the book in which two sisters are caring for their blind father who also has dementia and bipolar disorder. One night, they wake to find him standing at the top of the stairs and swiftly move him from harm’s way. It’s then they notice he had changed into a pair of their pajamas and burst out laughing. And we thought he couldn’t dress himself, they say.
5. Educate yourself about problems and challenges of the illness or condition of your care partner. In the previous example, the sisters begin to take turns sleeping and caring for their father. Be proactive in identifying the problems that are likely to crop up.
6. Whether from a doctor or a social service agency, insist on good service for yourself and your care partner.
7. Communicate with family members and take advantage of support groups. Letting off some steam or talking with others in the same situation can help you maintain balance and perspective.
Four years ago, a New York Times article about Boston’s Beacon Hill Village led a group of Philadelphia residents to research the feasibility of creating an innovative support system for senior citizens in their own community. Today, "Penn's Village" is a thriving organization, dedicated to new ways of achieving the old-fashioned ideal of "neighbors helping neighbors."
Penn’s Village is a nonprofit, community-based membership organization that provides a range of support, services and programs enabling senior citizens to stay in their own homes as they age. An executive director matches volunteers with people needing services and also screens organizations that provide paid services.
The Village grew from a meeting at the Society Hill Towers in May 2006 that drew 65 people. Over the next two years, planning sessions and group meetings were held, and visits made to Beacon Hill and a similar organization in Washington, D.C. A survey conducted in Society Hill and Queen Village with the assistance of the local civic associations showed there was strong support for the village concept.
Caregiving is still mostly a woman's job and many women are putting their careers and financial futures on hold as they juggle caregiving and job requirements.
This is the reality reported in the just-released study, Caregiving in the U.S.2009, which reveals that 29% of the U.S. adult population, or 65.7 million people, are caregivers, including 31% of all households. These caregivers provide an average of 20 hours of care per week for adults, the elderly and children with special needs.
"Caregivers report they need help looking after their loved ones, but they also need help managing their own stress," said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation, which funded the study. "Those surveyed suggested potential solutions for these challenges, including greater access to information resources, emergency response devices, transportation assistance, and respite services for caregivers."
Every morning, John Groce and Charles Harmon give each other a call. Friends for 60 years, they chat about the day’s news — and almost always, they share caregiving experiences. “We talk about the problems we’re having and the things we are going through and how hard it is," says Harmon, who has assumed more caregiving responsibilities since his wife’s mobility was compromised.
“I rely very heavily on him,” says Groce, who has been caring for his wife since she became disabled 10 years ago. “That kind of communication is so important.”
The economic downturn has greatly increased the pressures on family caregivers, who number 44 million nationwide. Job and pay losses, service cutbacks, combining households, and difficulty selling a home were among the stressors identified through a national study.
Mary Mullen, director of the Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) for Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, (PCA) said she is seeing the impact first-hand.
Stressful as it may be, caring for an older ailing family member may actually increase your lifespan.
University of Michigan researchers, reporting in Psychological Science, found that people caring for a sick spouse were almost 30 percent less likely to die during that period than those who were not.
Another study - of adult daughters caring for older parents - concluded that "the caregiving makes them feel good about themselves and closer to their parents," reports Professor Victoria Raveis of Colombia University.
For most of us, summer's heat seems like an uncomfortable annoyance, but for some it can be deadly. Senior citizens, young children and people with chronic health conditions are at a greater risk heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion or heat stress, according to Sharon Congleton, Health Promotion Nurse Supervisor at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA).
“It is important for older adults to understand the dangers and potential complications that can occur from being exposed to severe heat. Older adults also need to know what they can do to prevent heat stress from occurring,” she said.