Are you having trouble loading this page? Click here to view a text-only version.

Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

female caregiver smiling at elderly womanConsumer directed care is both a philosophy and service delivery model often associated with home- and community-based services. The principles focus on the inherent rights of the individual to be at the center of any decisions regarding their care.

Placing responsibility into the hands of the consumer started in the 1960s, as control began to slowly shift away from health care and human service professionals. Disability, or age, should not be a barrier for the consumer to express their preferences. Consumers should determine the type of care they receive as well as who provides their care and when and where the care is delivered. With the emergence of the Independent Living movement, it was the voice of persons with disabilities who led the march in asserting that it is the consumer who has the clearest insights into their own needs, and it is the consumer who is the expert in determining their own care.

For 45 years, LifePath’s mission has been consistent: maintaining the independence of those we serve while coordinating the supports they need.

All of the services provided by LifePath are predicated on the rights of informed consent, protection of confidentiality, self-determination, and consumer choice.

We recognize that although consumer directed care has gained footing over the years, further progress is needed in honoring the rights of consumers. LifePath strives to maintain a consumer-centered, consumer-directed approach throughout its programs and supports to elders, persons with disabilities and caregivers. All of the services provided by LifePath are predicated on the rights of informed consent, protection of confidentiality, self-determination, and consumer choice.

One way consumers are able to thrive in their communities is with support uniquely available through the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program. This MassHealth funded program puts the control into the hands of the consumer to hire, train, and oversee their direct care workers.
On the front end, consumers’ care needs are evaluated by LifePath’s skills trainers and nurses. Additionally, consumers are trained and supported in the responsibilities of being an employer.

Other programs core to LifePath’s mission cover the full spectrum of consumer-centric long-term support services. Our commitment to those we serve includes:

  • objectives and goals reflecting the individual’s preferences, strengths, and needs;
  • lifestyle, values, and capabilities are considered in the formulation of care plans;
  • goals are fluid and may be modified to realistically reflect the consumer’s vision as emerging options and challenges are discovered;
  • information, resources, and referrals are frequently provided to assist the consumer to build upon existing supports to best achieve improved safety and quality of life.

Our staff are trained and educated to combat ageism and disablism biases held by some health and home care providers and caregivers alike, and to resist tendencies to take charge. We listen, respond, and adjust in an effort to truly deliver a person-centered solution which promotes choice, independence, dignity and self-determination.

For more information regarding consumer direction or services available, speak to a Resource Consultant at 413-773-5555, X1230 or 978-544-2259, X1230 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

45 Years of LifePath: 1974-2019

Barbara Bodzin, LifePath Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive DirectorThroughout the changing landscape of the past 45 years, LifePath has stayed true to its mission to provide options for independence and enhance the quality of life of those we serve through person centered care and support of caregivers. Core to our success has been the outstanding skill and dedication of staff, volunteers, board members, community partners and the generosity of so many, who have enabled LifePath to thrive and carry out our mission.

On July 22, 1974, Franklin County Home Care Corporation (FCHCC), now known as LifePath, was incorporated as a nonprofit corporation at the request of the Commonwealth, in order to provide the state-funded Home Care Program to persons 60 years of age and older. The Corporation was authorized to assist elders with services to prolong their lives and enhance well being. Our designated catchment area included the 26 towns of Franklin County and the 4 Worcester County towns of Athol, Petersham, Phillipston and Royalston.

On October 1, 1975, our expansion began, as FCHCC was designated as a federally funded Area Agency on Aging. Area planning, providing in-home services, administering the meals program, and working with local Councils on Aging continued throughout the 1980s. During that decade, the Adult Family Care program was added; Information and Referral services began, as well as Protective Services and the Nursing Home Ombudsman program.

The 1990s was a time of continued growth, where supportive services were added to select housing complexes and the agency amended its Articles of Organization to expand its focus and services to younger persons with disabilities through the Personal Care Assistance program. The Olmstead decision of the US Supreme Court in 1999, with emphasis on “care in the least restrictive setting,” was a landmark act which identified the civil right of the individual to receive parity of services within the community. This resulted in a major shift and multiple policy initiatives focusing on consumer-directed and person-centered care. Capacity and funding was redirected to serve individuals who would otherwise be in nursing facilities to expansion of home and community based programs.

“Today, LifePath has over 40 programs and service delivery models, and we are able to offer long-term care services across the income and age spectrum.”

Recognizing that health insurance was another key issue, the agency began to operate the SHINE program in the late nineties to help navigate Medicare and supplemental insurance benefits. The new millennium brought awareness of the need to establish programs to assist grandparents raising grandchildren and support caregivers of persons with dementia.

Our recognition of the growing population in need of in-home services and vision to best serve the community led us down the path of grant funding and pursuing the generous support of donors and business sponsors to fill gaps in care. Today, LifePath has over 40 programs and service delivery models, and we are able to offer long-term care services across the income and age spectrum. LifePath has also expanded its geographic reach, with some of our programs extending beyond Franklin County and the North Quabbin area into Worcester, Berkshire, Hampshire and Hampden counties.

We are excited to celebrate this 45 year milestone with our community and look forward to finding new and innovative ways to best meet the needs of those we serve. Contact us, let us know how we can be of support or honor our 45 years through your support. Please call us at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With spring upon us, longer days and warmer temperatures bring much needed relief from the challenges of winter. This “growing“ season brings with it the opportunity to get outside and interact with nature; an activity that’s not only a joy for the senses but literally healing for the body.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research, gentle outdoor activity has proven to greatly improve physical functioning, reduce one’s fear of falling and result in fewer depressive symptoms.

Being outside can help increase levels of Vitamin D, which often is low among older adults. Getting sufficient Vitamin D can help reduce your risk of a number of physical health issues, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and heart attack. In addition, time in nature may help you recover more quickly from an injury or illness.

“Studies tell us that older adults who take daily outdoor walks report significantly fewer complaints in pain, sleep and other problems when compared to adults who do not go outside daily.”

Research shows that physical activity can lead to a better quality of life as we grow older. Studies tell us that older adults who take daily outdoor walks report significantly fewer complaints in pain, sleep and other problems when compared to adults who do not go outside daily.

Like walking, gardening can also play a positive role in health as we age both physically and mentally. Older gardeners with access to a community garden report increased physical activity over those who don’t garden. They also report better health status, increased physical functioning, reduced pain and other physical benefits. And naturally, gardeners are more likely to eat more vegetables resulting in better diets than non-gardeners of the same age. A 2006 study found that gardening could lower risk of dementia by 36 percent. The International Journal of Environmental Research tracked more than 2,800 people over the age of 60 for 16 years and concluded that physical activity, particularly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.

Bumblebee in a flowerAlong with the physical benefits of time spent in nature, the restorative effects of nature support mental health and well-being. In older adults, studies show that physical activity in green spaces can be linked to better moods, decreased chance of depression, reduced stress levels and improved cognitive function. These benefits extend beyond physical activity. Studies show that the frequency and amount of time spent in nature correlate with feelings of mental restoration. An extra 30 minutes spent in nature increases this restorative effect and can be even more dramatic with individuals experiencing higher stress levels.

Even looking out a window into a garden or forest or viewing pictures of nature can contribute to a reduction in stress and improved cognitive health. These benefits can become especially significant in older individuals suffering from chronic stress or experiencing stressful events such as the loss of a loved one.

Take advantage of the natural, restorative benefits this wonderful season offers!

Barbara Bodzin, LifePath Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive Director

Celebrating Older Americans

May is Older Americans Month, and this year’s theme, according to the Administration for Community Living, which leads our nation’s observance, is Connect, Create, Contribute. It encourages older adults and their communities to:

  • Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation.
  • Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

Group of senior women linking armsEngagement promotes wellbeing and fosters the essential role older adults play within our communities. Positive engagement occurs through participation in meaningful activities which support our values and our life goals. This can happen through a multitude of ways to connect with others.

Connections naturally occur through our networks of family, friends and neighbors and expand out into our communities. We can enrich the lives of others when we tell our stories, share our culture, our history, and our wisdom. We can have a voice through grassroots activities, involvement with nonprofit organizations, participation on boards, communication with legislators, or involvement in social and political actions.

Opportunities for enrichment through education, volunteerism, exercise, health enhancement and social engagement are available through area colleges, senior centers, faith communities, and local organizations.

“Engagement promotes wellbeing and fosters the essential role older adults play within our communities.”

LifePath offers evidence-based healthy living programs which help participants improve health behaviors, health outcomes, and reduce healthcare utilization. Participants are motivated by peer leaders and by peer support who encourage one another to make positive lifestyle changes. Participants successfully integrate behavior changes into their day-to-day lives through this effective model. For those who are inspired by the experience and impact, there is opportunity and encouragement to continue on and train as volunteer peer leaders.

Volunteerism is another way to find fulfillment through a sense of connection and a way to give back to the community. LifePath relies on dedicated volunteers who positively change the lives of others. There is a wide range of options available, including delivering Meals on Wheels or assisting at a congregate dining center, visiting and advocating for residents in nursing facilities, leading a workshop in healthy living, transporting to medical appointments, or providing assistance with bill paying, understanding health insurance options, or completing fuel assistance applications. For those who prefer, there are options for working in our offices, acting as a consultant, or assisting with fundraising. Whatever the passion or skill set, there are opportunities available.

Whatever your age, or stage in life, consider ways you might connect, create, or contribute. Opportunities abound to become involved. Call LifePath to explore options at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Barbara Bodzin, LifePath Executive DirectorBarbara Bodzin, Executive Director

The Power of Language and the Negative Effects of “Elderspeak”

Talking down to older adults is not only disrespectful, it can be detrimental.

“Elderspeak” occurs when an older adult is spoken to as if they are a child or a pet with limited understanding. This phenomenon is not uncommon in interactions with health care workers, service personnel, neighbors, or even family members. In a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, Anna I. Corwin, an anthropologist and professor at St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, noted that elderspeak “sounds like baby talk or simplified speech” and is, in fact, a symptom of how older adults are often perceived.

According to Corwin, elderspeak includes characteristics including “a slower speech rate; exaggerated intonation; elevated pitch — raising your voice as if everything is a question; elevated volume; simplified vocabulary and reduced grammatical complexity; diminutives, like calling people ‘dear’ or ‘sweetie’; pronoun substitution like using the collective pronoun ‘we’; and lots of repetition.”

“Speaking to an elder should be no different than speaking to any other adult.”

“Americans tend to view and treat older adults as no longer productive in society. And that’s how we define personhood, as an adult who is a productive member of society,” Corwin said. Corwin’s insights were the result of a study of the linguistic communication that contributes to successful aging which included spending seven months in a Catholic convent infirmary where the nuns, noted for more successful aging than secular peers, did not engage in elderspeak. The caregivers instead used conversational tones, made jokes, told narratives, and essentially treated the care recipient as a “meaningful [person] whether they could understand them or not.”

According to Becca Levy, a researcher on a study on the effects of elderspeak at Yale University, the practice “sends a message that the (elder) is incompetent and begins a negative downward spiral for older adults who react with decreased self-esteem, depression and withdrawal.” Elderspeak has also been shown to increase the likelihood of challenging behaviors in those with dementia and is correlated with poorer health outcomes is general.

In its guide "Communicating With Older Adults," the Gerontological Society of America says you don't need to change your vocabulary to use simplified words. As a general rule, older adults maintain their existing vocabulary or continue to improve it. They have no greater problem understanding complicated words than do members of other age groups.

The solution is straightforward: speaking to an elder should be no different than speaking to any other adult. Word choices matter. Instead of ‘honey’ or ‘dear’, elders want to be addressed with a title and their last name: “Ms. Smith” or, with permission, by their first name. Often times people are unaware of behaviors and style of communication; taking time to reflect on speech will enhance and foster respectful and empowering relationships.