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Information & Caregiver Resource Corner

empty road with grassy hills on each side from perspective of driverAlthough getting older doesn’t mean your driving ability will get worse, it’s important to be aware of how age-related factors and health conditions may affect your driving skills.

Q: How might my age affect my ability to drive?

A: According to AAA, the automotive motor club association, things that might affect your driving safety as you age include:

  • Physical changes: such as mobility, alertness, coordination, and response times.
  • Vision changes: such as the way your eyes focus, can have an impact on driving safety.
  • Hearing changes: inability to hear ambulance or police sirens, car horns, motorists, or pedestrians could have an impact on driving safety.
  • Cognitive problems: According to AAA, our ability to process information tends to slow down as we get older. People with certain conditions like dementia might not be able to react appropriately to traffic situations and might not react properly to traffic signs and pavement markings.
  • Medications: some prescription drugs may have side effects, such as drowsiness, that make driving dangerous. Read the labels carefully.

Be proactive: schedule regular appointments with your physician to monitor pain or stiffness in your joints, any chronic conditions, fatigue, and stress. In addition to visiting your physician for general health checkups, vision and hearing screenings also need to be performed regularly.

It's important to be aware of any limitations that you find yourself up against, so that you can make necessary adjustments to ensure safety for yourself and those around you.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are out on the road:

  • If you wear glasses or contact lenses, ALWAYS have them while driving.
  • Be aware of conditions that might be affecting your vision, such as:
    • Cataracts
    • Glaucoma
    • Macular degeneration
  • If you feel like your vision is worsening, consult with your optometrist.
  • Recognize signs of trouble seeing at night.
  • If you have problems hearing other vehicles or emergency sirens when you drive, consult an audiologist.
  • Keep the noise inside the vehicle to a minimum.

It's important to be aware of any limitations that you find yourself up against, so that you can make necessary adjustments to ensure safety for yourself and those around you. Some of these adjustments can include the following:

  • Increase your following distance.
  • Use the brakes early.
  • Avoid busy areas.
  • Try to anticipate rather than react.
  • Keep the steering wheel at a comfortable distance from your chest.
  • Raise the height of the seat so that your eyes are above the steering wheel.
  • Move your side mirrors to avoid blind spots.
  • Raise or lower the headrest so that it is directly behind your head.

There are certain times when senior drivers will be more at risk. For this reason, try to avoid driving in inclement weather, at night, or during rush hour when possible.

Brushing up on your driving skills is one way to help you stay safe while driving. Consider taking a mature driver safety course. AAA’s “Roadwise Driver” is a course to help you with:

  • Extending your safe driving career
  • Distractions, drowsiness, aggressive driving & road rage
  • Managing visibility, time & space
  • Alcohol & medications
  • Comfort & safety tips

Finally, be prepared for the unexpected. If you have the right items in your emergency roadside kit, such as reflective triangles, you can safely deal with any problems that arise. A basic roadside emergency kit should include some of the following items:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flares or triangle reflectors
  • A quart or more of motor oil
  • A gallon of coolant
  • First-aid kit
  • Blanket or space blanket
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, pocket knife
  • A can of tire inflator and sealant
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Paper towels
  • Spray bottle with washer fluid
  • Ice scraper
  • Pen and paper
  • Granola or energy bars
  • Bottled water

Laurie DeskavichLaurie DeskavichDecluttering and downsizing can be overwhelming. Whether it’s to move from a family home to a small apartment, into an assisted living facility, or for some other reason, the task at hand can be challenging for all those involved.

Q: When I want to declutter my home or helped a loved one, where do I begin?

A: It is important to recognize that although this task is necessary, it can be emotionally and physically draining. Remember that there may be items that you or your loved one cherish and need to keep. Start slow, and be respectful of everyone’s feelings during the process.

Begin by identifying your possessions into categories, such as:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Sell
  • Discard

Have a system for identifying which category each item belongs in. This is also a perfect time to designate or give items to loved ones.

“Start slow and be respectful of everyone’s feelings during the process.”

The Family Care Alliance at www.caregiver.org encourages those helping another with the process to “be patient and allow time at this stage for your [loved one] to talk about memories, to reminisce about family activities or relatives no longer with you, to acknowledge emotions. This can be a nice opportunity for you both to remember the stories and incidents that are part of your history and that make each family unique.”

Decide what paperwork is important to keep, and shred what is no longer relevant. Pack photos and go through them at a later date, as this takes time and may be emotional.

Then begin the process of donating, selling and discarding the items. There may be items you wish to have appraised if the value is not known. You may want to contact estate sale companies or consignment shops, or hold a yard sale to sell items. Contact local charities for them to pick the items you wish to donate.

People who feel overwhelmed by clutter and do not know where to begin may not be ready for the steps outlined above. Fortunately, there are programs available to help people feel more ready to declutter. For local resources, reach out to the Information & Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath: call 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit LifePathMA.org.

How to offer support when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer

World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. Having cancer patients be a part of the process from the beginning will help them address their overall needs physically, emotionally and socially. Having a supportive caregiver to get through the diagnosis, treatments, etc. is monumental.

Attention caregivers: this article’s focus is to provide helpful tips when caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Q: What are some ways caregivers can be helpful?

A: When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, many people feel overwhelmed. Cancer does not just affect the person diagnosed - people involved in that person’s life, and especially those involved in their care, are also impacted. By taking certain steps, you’ll be better equipped to care for your loved one.

First, remember that communication is key. Keeping the lines of communication open will help all involved. Second, caregivers need to remember to take care of themselves. Without it their own well-being could become affected. Third, some find support groups can help cope with the diagnosis along with supporting the mental wellbeing of the patient and their caregivers. Support and understanding from family and friends often provides the biggest impact on one’s emotional wellbeing.

The nonprofit Cancer Support Community offers ten tips for caregivers:
1. Know your support system

Talking to others who are experiencing what you may be experiencing can help manage stress, cope with possible isolation and help you be a better caregiver.

2. Collect information

“Knowledge is power.” Research information about your loved one’s diagnosis and what treatments are available.

3. Understand how your life might change

Many cancer patients and their loved ones express feeling a loss of control after they have been diagnosed. Take time to accept the “new normal” and the changes that may come, one day at a time.

4. Take a break

Take time to relax and renew. Take a walk. This will help with your stress level and frame of mind.

5. Make time for yourself

Don’t forget you have a life, too. Reach out to friends for support.

6. Have a plan

This will give you peace of mind. Think of activities to do during treatments and plan something special to celebrate when treatments are over.

7. Accept help

Everyone needs help. If someone offers, say yes. This will help more than you think.

8. Take care of you

Don’t forget to stay current with your own medical appointments. Exercise, eat well and get plenty of rest.

9. Manage stress

Meditate, do yoga or whatever makes you feel at ease. Keeping your stress level down is important.

10. Know your limits

Everyone needs help, including you. Know what you can and cannot do by yourself.

A cancer diagnosis brings change, but patients and their caregivers can take better care of their physical, emotional, and social well-being by taking part in the process from day one. Find more information and support from Cancer Support Community or the American Cancer Society.

The Information & Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath is here to help find answers to your questions. To speak with a resource consultant, contact us.

Tips to stay active all winter, indoors and outdoors

Winter is here and so is the cold weather. Staying motivated about your fitness can be a challenge when it’s cold outside!! Exercise has benefits all year, even during the winter. Winter brings cold weather and, for some, sickness, the “blues,” and isolation. So don’t put your exercise gear away – instead, stay active!

Q: How do I stay fit in the winter months?

A: Stay active! Choose an activity that you already do, or now might be the time to try something new. There are types of exercise that can be done outside or inside. Choose one or more that you might enjoy.  

Exercising outdoors in the winter

Jan 2019 ICRC Winter fitness photo WEBWhen the weather permits, walking is a good outdoor fitness activity for the winter, either on its own or as a warm-up for more intense activities. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.com.If you want to walk, ski, ice skate, shovel snow, or do other outdoor activities when it’s cold outside:

  • Check the weather forecast. If it’s very windy or cold, exercise inside with a fitness video and go out another time.
  • Also watch out for snow and icy sidewalks.
  • Warm up your muscles first. Try walking or light arm pumping before you go out.
  • Wear several layers of loose clothing. The layers will trap warm air between them.
  • Avoid tight clothing, which can keep your blood from flowing freely and lead to loss of body heat.
  • Wear a waterproof coat or jacket if it’s snowy or rainy.
  • Wear a hat, scarf, and gloves.
Exercising indoors in the winter
  • If you enjoy walking, go to the local mall and walk around inside or use a treadmill at home or at a gym.
  • You can take a tai chi class as tai chi helps to reduce stress; improve posture, balance and general mobility; and increase muscle strength in the legs.
  • There is also yoga. Regular yoga practice benefits people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.
  • You can also join the local YMCA or fitness club to do activities such as swimming or rock climbing.  
  • If home is where you want to be, you could use a workout video, do routine exercises, or use at-home equipment (weights, an exercise bike, jump rope, etc.).

Exercising daily can help prolong your life and improve the quality of it. It’s important to include aerobic activity, strength training, balance exercises, and stretching in your routine. Start slowly and build your endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility gradually.

Almost anyone, at any age, can exercise safely and get meaningful benefits. Staying safe while you exercise is always important, whether you’re just starting a new activity or haven’t been active for a long time.

You can find more information from Go4Life, a fitness campaign of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging.

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath can help you exercise more and develop healthy habits.

Remember, keep moving!!!

Remember to take care of yourself first during times of stress

As the holidays approach, so does stress, which can cause physical and emotional health issues. Taking care of you is very important.

Q: So what should I know about self-care?

A: First make sure to make time for you.

According to Counseling Psychologist Raphailia Michael, writing for Psych Central, “self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” Self-care activities build us up to better manage all aspects of our daily lives, and they are effective when they are a planned part of our daily and weekly routines.

Eating a healthy diet, staying active and exercising regularly, getting lots of rest, and seeing your doctor regularly can all help to ensure overall good health. Beyond these general habits, you may also find ways to take care of yourself that are more unique to your particular needs and reflect what you enjoy doing.

DinoDino Schnelle participated in a Healthy Living workshop through LifePath. He reports, "The goal-setting and expectations-management tools have been one of the most important things that I learned, and the exercise and diet tools continue to help me reclaim my life.”

Self-care for people with chronic health conditions

For someone who is experiencing chronic health issues that limit your activities and socialization, LifePath’s Healthy Living program could offer ways to manage your health. Workshops cover topics such as managing pain, diabetes, and general chronic diseases; balance and fitness; and healthy eating. These programs will help you maintain good health and stay active. Learn more about Healthy Living workshops.

Self-care for caregivers

As a caregiver, it is important to take care of yourself. If you’re not well-fueled, you won’t have resources in your tank to care for others.

At times you may feel isolated. It is important to remember you are not alone. You could join a support group in person or online or stay active by becoming a member at your local YMCA. It is important to take a break and spend time with friends.

LifePath’s Caregiver Program is available to help and inform you about what types of services are available to you and your loved one. Ask what types of caregiver respite might be available so you can refresh and renew. It is important to reach out for help as no one can do it alone.

Self-care for mental health

If you are experiencing feelings of overwhelming stress or anxiety, intense emotional situations or are having difficulty engaging in regular daily activities, LifePath’s Elder Mental Health Outreach Team can help with these problems that are impacting your emotional wellbeing. Our team can help make referrals and educate you about possible resources.

Most importantly, communicate to your primary care physician about what you are experiencing as this is key to getting good medical care. Your doctor can also make referrals for respite, in-home care, YMCA-sponsored programs, or counseling along with assessing your overall wellbeing both physically and emotionally.

Additional self-care resources

Call the Information and Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, or send us an email, for more information or click here for additional resources.

Remember, you’re not alone; help is out there.