Senior Hunger in America

When I saw my mother this Mother’s Day, I made sure to ask all the right questions: Was she taking her medication? Did she get out to see friends often? Was she getting enough to eat? A quick check of her fridge assured me that she was in no danger of malnutrition, but it got me wondering — how many seniors can say the same? Her elderly neighbor, for example, would be actively fighting hunger if it were not for Meals on Wheels.

On May 8, 2012, TV Icons Linda Evans of Dynasty and Linda Gray of Dallas joined Congresswomen Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) at Capitol Hill for MoWAA’s second annual Mother’s Day Event, “Meals for Mom”. The Congresswomen are honorary co-chairs of the newly created National Alliance of Women Against Senior Hunger (NAWASH). Joining them were other members of Congress, who signed Mother’s Day cards for constituents, which were delivered along with nutritious meals by Meals On Wheels program volunteers in their Congressional districts.

The Meals on Wheels Association of America has made its mission to eradicate senior hunger by 2020. According to its latest research, 8.3 million seniors in the United States face the threat of hunger. The majority of those affected are women. For those living alone, and especially those without family, the volunteers for Meals on Wheels bring not only food, but may be these seniors’ only contact with the outside world.

Enid Borden, President and CEO of the Meals On Wheels Association of America, is calling for help in the form of volunteers and donations in order to help her reach her lifelong goal — making sure that no senior goes hungry, especially in this land of plenty. Check out the Meals on Wheels website to read about their initiatives and projects to check out the myriad of opportunities available for you to help.

In these times of government budget cuts, it’s more imperative than ever that we pull together as a community and make sure that no senior lives without proper nutrition or ever goes hungry.

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Seniors in Japan Knitting to Recover from Tsunami

Japanese elderly are knitting their way back to emotional health after the Tsunami left their communities devastated and left many homeless.  Caregivers looking for beneficial activities to engage in with their senior clients can take a few notes from the success of the "Yarn Alive" program in Japan.

One lady shares that the knitting cheers her up so much that she is not lonely at night anymore and enjoys working on her projects.  There are more than 325,000 seniors age 65 or older who live in temporary housing in Japan since the Tsunami destroyed their homes.  Yarn has been donated from those in Australia, Scotland, Korea and the U.S.A.

The activity of knitting engages the mind with the hands to ignite a relaxation state and also uses brain cells when yarn patterns must be figured out.  Knitting is being called the "new yoga".  Read the Wall Street Journalreport on the senior knitters in Japan.

Caregivers can also engage their senior clients in activities such as making scrapbooks and photo books and discussing the memories from past events.

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Senior Care: When Moving Requires Downsizing

Senior care requirements sometimes occur suddenly.  As seniors (people age 65 and older), are now the largest group in size and percentage. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, this age group grew at a faster rate than the total poipulation between 2000 and 2010.  It also discovered there are 53,364 centenarians (age 100+). 

The population of older men increased at a more rapid rate than older women which means men are living longer now, too.  Previous generations experienced women outliving men by decades.  Now that women have entered the workforce, this has been changing and the advancement of medical technology has enabled doctors to discover illnesses earlier and successfully treat them.

As seniors are living longer, it has become more acceptable to plan ahead for senior care needs.  And more and more assisted living communities are opening up with all the luxuries you would expect to find on a spa vacation.  Senior care options include senior home care, assisted living, continuing care retirement communities and nursing homes.

Seniors experiencing a medical emergency can find the need to down-size to a smaller apartment in an assisted living community to be overwhelming.  Now there are services which assist with this.  One of my friends who had 2 sibilings, had innovative parents who asked each of them to tell them what items in their home they would like to inherit.  Then they gave them what they could at the time of their downsizing and sold their home and moved into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).  As everyone in the family knew who was getting what for inheritance, that issue was solved.  They were then able to enjoy their retirement years without the added stress of keeping up a large house.  Her mother did die suddenly and her father later developed memory loss and cancer but was able to transfer to the nursing home section of the CCRC and the children can go to work each day knowing he is well cared for (he has even found a girlfriend and is very happy).

Review the costs of nursing homes nationwide as you prepare for our own retirement care.  Nursing homes are often an extension of a hospital stay now (Medicare will pay for up to 100 days) and if you should run out of money to privately pay for care, you may qualify for Medicaid and be able to receive care in a Medicaid nursing home.

MSNBC recently reported on specialists who assist seniors to down-size.  Senior living experts also assist families to find the right assisted living community which will meet their budget requirements and provide the right amenities.  These services are free to seniors as they provide a valuable benefit to the assisted living communities who pay a referral fee to the senior living experts.

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Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee for Caregivers

Senior caregivers usually have very busy schedules.  Professional caregivers have the added challenge of needing to be sure to arrive 5 minutes early for their senior care jobs.  As seniors will quickly become distressed if a caregiver is not on time, most companies require early arrival.

This means coffee-drinking usually comes with the territory of senior care.  In addition, sharing a cup of coffee with a senior also can be part of a daily routine.  And now that there is a Starbucks on nearly every corner of major cities, stopping in for a cup of joe can also be enticing, even when you weren’t planning to do so.

As everyone is focusing on new goals for the new year, there is good news that coffee does have some health benefits.

Coffee’s Health Benefits

·         Memory Enhancement:  3 or more cups of coffee a day can reduce the threat of Alzheimer's and dementia by up to 65%. Coffee releases a substance called GCSF which assists to clean away the plaque build-up that is present in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients.

 ·         Heart Health:  1 to 2 cups daily makes your blood vessels expand and contract better with each heart beat.

 ·      Fights Diabetes:  as coffee consumption goes up, diabetes risk goes down.  Drinking 4 four cups daily improves insulin's effects and reduces your diabetes risk by 1/3rd.

 ·         Prevents Strokes:  Drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day may cut your stroke risk by up to 19%.

 ·         Reduces Cancer Risk:  Research is showing that coffee is a really potent weapon against cancer. For women, the latest research suggests drinking 4 cups of coffee a day may lower their risk of endometrial cancer by up 25%. Postmenopausal women who sip at least 5 cups a day may cut their risk of certain types of breast cancer in half.   For men, both caffeinated and decaf coffee may fend off prostate cancer. And for both sexes, 3 cups of coffee a day may help fight the most common skin cancer, basal cell.

If you received a new coffee maker for Christmas, or maybe have one of the Keurig K-Cup brewers in your office (which can definitely become addictive), this means even drinking 3 cups of coffee, or more, each day will be perfectly fine.  In fact, it will be good for your health according to this latest research.

Caregivers usually have coffee included as a free benefit by their clients, so drink up and enjoy and explore new varieties and flavors.

Remember that coffee is considered a “natural” drink and because of this, has advantages over other unnatural ways of obtaining caffeine, such as drinking carbonated soda pop (some people call it "pop" and some people call it "soda", I am from a soda drinking area, but just wanted to make sure you know I am referring to Diet Coke, Rootbeer, and you know, soda........we always have fun teasing our Minnesota cousins who ask for a "pop", which to us is the same as a spanking, not something you drink).

Enjoy a cup of coffee while studying for Caregiver Certification or obtaining your Certified Nursing Aide certification as you develop your career as a senior caregiver.  As senior care companies are constantly hiring new caregivers, you may also apply for a senior care job near you.  And remember, a cup of coffee a day, or 2 or 3 or 4, may keep the doctor away. 

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Girl Scout Cookies and Caregivers

Girl Scout Cookies have been around for more than 80 years.  The cookies are a bit smaller than they use to be, but they still taste great and they still raise money for a good cause which happens to also support research that benefits caregivers.

Thin mints? Trefoils? Do-si-dos? Tagalongs?  If you were a girl scout, or the parent or brother of a girl scout, you probably remember all of the girl scout cookie names, as well as your favorite flavor.  The Philadelphia girl scouts were the first council to have a bake sale as a fundraiser, with the girls doing the sales and marketing.  This lead to the New York Girl Scout chapter following and then creating a branded cookie style with the Girl Scout logo.  This cookie mold was then licensed to other bakers allowing Girl Scout cookie sales to take place nationwide.

Along with selling cookies, the Girl Scouts of America promotes a healthy lifestyle for members, which includes a well-balanced diet and plenty of exercise.  The Girl Scout research Institute (GSRI) created a guide for helping girls to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to take these skills into their communities.

Actionable items taught include healthy weight, nutrition and exercise for all family members and caregivers.  A healthy environment leads to better health, the research shows. 

Senior caregivers can learn more by reading the Girl Scout Research Institute report called "Weighing In".    Caregivers may also find certified caregiver training which teaches safe caregiving skills and apply for a senior caregiving job in their area (both Girl Scouts and non-Girl Scouts are welcome).

And if you would like to buy some girl scout cookies this year, well, there is even an App to help you find the right flavors more easily or you may just plug your zip-code in here at the Girl Scout Cookie website.

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Assessing Senior Caregiving Needs During Holiday Visits

As you gather for Thanksgiving dinner, remember to take time to really talk with the seniors in your family and notice if there are any changes they are experiencing as they age. Use this opportunity to think about how you can help them age well.

Medical Issues: Remember that some age-related illnesses, if caught and treated early, can be given the proper medical attention in order to slow progression. Take the time to think about any care needs your senior relative may need as their health conditions change. It is sometimes easier for those who do not see their parents and grandparents often to notice changes than for those who have daily interactions with them. Take the time to notice hearing and vision. Are your elder relatives taking care with their hygiene and appearance? Are they taking their medications at a regular time each day? Are they incorporating physical exercise into their daily routine? Do they employ a nutritious diet?

Social Issues: Ask your senior family member what their week is like. Are they maintaining social activities? Healthy aging requires maintaining physical and mental exercise and socialization. Do they belong to any clubs or church groups? Many health clubs offer senior discounts. Warm-water pool aquatic classes provide the opportunity for socialization combined with low-impact exercise. Win-win! There are a number of adult day care centers that afford older adults a chance to get out of the house and enjoy both mental and social stimulation.

Caregiving Issues: Many seniors will find it necessary to change their lifestyle some to make sure they are keeping up with both health needs and social needs as they age. Sometimes it is necessary to involve a family member or caregiving service to assist with care needs, at least part-time, as abilities change. If you live far away from senior family members, take the time to investigate senior care options in their town when you are visiting. Find out what quality Senior Home Care Agencies are in their area and learn about senior service programs. Obtain names and numbers so you will be able to contact someone to assist if the need should arise.

Most of all, use the time to really connect and enjoy the holiday together.

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Respite Caregiving Services for Families Expands

The lifespan Respite Care Program, administered by the Administration on Aging, has delivered grants to 29 states and the District of Columbia since 2009.  Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee announced this week that more than $1.1 million in additional funding has been awarded to Delaware, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and D.C. to expand the respite caregiving services for family caregivers.

The program, called Lifespan Respite Care Program Expansion (nothing like calling it what it is, right?), pays for direct services for caregivers as well as continued program development activities.  As family caregivers can easily become both isolated and exhausted which leads to a decline in their own health and possible depression, the respite caregiving services provides the caregivers with emotional support services necessary to reduce stress and caregiver burnout.

States with respite caregiving program grants are:

Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington State, Wisconsin, Utah.

If you live in one of these states, professional and family caregivers may locate respite services in their community through the National Respite Locator.  Each state administers the program in different ways, in addition to recruiting volunteers and offering training and activities.

You may also find By-State contact information in Caregiverlist's directory along with caregiver training and job opportunities in your area if you would like to pursue a career in caregiving, after having personal experience.




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September 11th Memorial: Caregivers Remembered

Caregiving brings many challenges, along with many gifts.  Professional caregivers know that the job brings fulfillment along with the paycheck, even from senior clients who don't vocalize their appreciation.

The tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks bring stories from survivors which include how the experience brought them closer to friends and family members.

One of the survivors, Lauren Manning, shares that she had left her home that morning and was in an argument with her husband.  She was burned on more than 80% of her body, after arriving to the World Trace Center late that morning, and a fireball greeted her from the building's elevator shaft.  She worked for Cantor Fitzgerald which lost 658 people on Sept. 11th.  Their office was on a floor above where the plane hit the building.

She describes her road back to health like "pushing a rock uphill every day".  But she is grateful to have survived and for the renewed relationships with her loved ones.  She says that immediately all of the little issues with her husband did not matter and he was a wonderful caregiver to her.  She wore pressure garments 23 hours a day to keep scar tissue from forming.  She participated in rehabilitation therapy for 5 years.

On Sunday, September 11, 2011, as we take time to remember the 10th year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, remember too, those who are your caregivers, in good times and bad.

As more Americans live longer, the cost of senior care continues to be a concern, along with the need for more caregivers.  Learn about caregiving costs and careers to plan ahead effectively should you ever need caregiving services.

Training is also a huge part of successful caregiving, as family caregivers quickly learn.  Review the basics for caregiver training and take an online course if you are considering becoming a caregiver (by choice) or suddenly become one because of a family care need.

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C.N.A. Jobs

Certified Nursing Aides, also called Certified Nursing Assistants or C.N.A.'s have many different job opportunities.

C.N.A. training involves an investment of $500 to $3,000, depending on what part of the country you live in.  Many community colleges and non-profit programs provide tuition grants and scholarships.  In addition, some employers will provide a bonus for C.N.A. training after the employee completes a certain time period of employment.

Why are ongoing job opportunities available for C.N.A.'s?
Because by law, nursing homes and hospitals must staff a certain percentage of certified nursing assistants, based on the number of patients admitted.  Some caregiving tasks may also only be administered by trained nursing aides.

What training is required to become Certified?
Attending a state approved certification training school will qualify you to take the state nursing aide certification exam. You can find schools in your area and take a sample nursing aide test or a practice nursing aide test to learn more about the skills which are taught.

How much money do C.N.A.'s earn?
Pay will range from $9.00 to $18 per hour, depending on the job duties, number of patients and the company's full benefit package offering.

You may also begin learning about nursing aide skills by first working as a senior companion caregiver for a senior home care agency. Agencies will provide you with training for ongoing assignments, usually providing one-on-one care for a senior.

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CLASS Act Passes Senate: Natl. Long-term Care Insurance

The Senate passed the Community Living Assistance and Support Services (CLASS) Act on Friday, December 4th, making this act an approved portion of the healthcare reform bill.  The word on the street is the healthcare bill will pass, in some form, and this portion of the bill has now been approved.

What is it?

The CLASS Act allows Americans to contribute, through payroll deductions, to this long-term care insurance program.  After 5 years of paying into the program, benefits may be paid, if assistance is needed for a minimum of 2 Activities of Daily Living.

The purpose of the program is to provide an alternative to nursing home care for people with disabilities and seniors.  It will also allow family members to be able to continue to work and pay for a caregiver. 

Average policy premium?  About $50 per month.

Average amount of daily benefit?  About $75 per month.

How will the benefit be paid for? Through the insurance policy premiums - - this was fashioned to follow how private insurance is operated - which can be extremely profitable when managed well.  The government did have actuaries crunch the numbers for this insurance program (yep, there is a reason why Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest guys in the U.S.A., likes to buy insurance companies - - many more people pay into premiums than collect on them and interest can be earned on the money in the meantime).  The premiums will be age-adjusted and contributions must be made for 5 years before someone can file a benefit claim.  And, the government can't "borrow" from this money to pay for other programs.

By delaying and preventing nursing home admissions, the CLASS Act will also decrease costs for Medicaid, which only provides for care in a nursing home. 

The risk?  It will be important for participation rates to be high.

Learn more about the CLASS Act and read the statement prepared for the Senate by Massachusett's Senator Kirk, who filled former Senator Edward Kennedy's seat - - Senator Kennedy had been a proponet of the CLASS Act as a way to allow seniors and the disabled to remain in their homes and afford at least part-time care.



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