Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
This year, the world has seen even more extreme weather events. In Western Massachusetts and the Northeast, we have not had to experience the devastating forest fires that are still burning, or natural events such as earthquakes, that have happened in other parts of the U.S. and the world. While we are fortunate in that way, we’ve still seen severe storms that have done major damage, interrupted service, caused flooding, and have even taken lives.
Floods are often underestimated, and have killed more people in the United States than other types of severe weather. Flash floods are fast and unforgiving, and can move boulders the size of cars, rip out swaths of trees, and destroy buildings and bridges. A flash flood is a rapid rise of water from heavy rain, snow melt, dam failure, etc., which travels along low areas damaging everything in its path.
Flash floods are fast and unforgiving, and can move boulders the size of cars, rip out swaths of trees, and destroy buildings and bridges.
With any weather event, it is always important to be prepared. Here are some tips from weather.gov regarding flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, microbursts, and severe storms:
- Are you in a low area with greater flood potential? If so, be extra alert for flood watches and warnings.
- Make sure that your homeowners’/rental insurance covers flooding or water damage.
- Store important papers and personal information in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box.
- Create an evacuation plan before flooding happens, which includes having a safe place to go as well as a planned evacuation route.
- Determine a meeting place should members of your household get split up.
- Make sure your evacuation route has accounted for potential flooding on the roads.
- Keep your car fueled up and have an emergency auto hammer inside to break the windows in the event you need to escape.
- Store drinking water in food-grade containers as there may be service interruptions, or contaminated water supplies.
- Get a NOAA weather radio/battery powered radio to keep on hand as well as backup batteries. Check the websites of your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office to find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond.
- Buy supplies before the hurricane/storm season and keep a stock of food which can be easily transported and doesn’t require cooking or refrigeration, such as nuts and protein bars.
- Keep first aid supplies on hand, as well as necessary prescription medications.
- Have a charged battery pack for your phone as well as a charging cable, along with a flashlight.
- Purchase emergency supplies ahead of time, rather than waiting for the pre-storm rush.
During a hurricane:
- If you are not ordered to evacuate, take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway. Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can. Stay away from windows, skylights, and glass doors.
- If the eye of the storm passes over your area, there will be a short period of calm. Remember that at the other side of the eye, the wind speed rapidly increases to hurricane-force winds coming from the opposite direction.
During a flood:
- If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately, bringing necessary supplies and personal documents.
- Do not venture through flooded waters on foot or in a car as the rate of flow can be deceptive and debris carried in the flood can be hidden below the surface. Vehicles can be swept away in 18-24 inches of water.
- Move to higher ground.
Many of us are fortunate, where we live, to not be impacted by severe weather events very often. Still, it is always a good idea to be prepared, as recent storms have proved. It’s helpful to have a disaster supply kit ready, just in case. Here are some items to include:
- Water supply: 1 gallon per person per day
- Food that won’t spoil, and doesn’t need refrigeration or cooking
- One change of clothing per person
- One blanket/sleeping bag per person
- First aid kit
- Prescription medications
- Emergency tools
- Battery powered emergency NOAA radio
- Portable radio
- Flashlight & extra batteries
- Extra set of car keys
- Cash & credit card
- ID & important documents
- Map of the local area
- Battery pack and charging cable for mobile phone
- Mobile phone
- Pet supplies including water, food, a pet carrier, and any medications
Other ways to be proactive include removing clutter and other tripping hazards from walkways, stairs, and doorways in the event that the power does go out and you need to exit the home in the dark or with a flashlight. Older adults might consider taking a balance class which can help with the ability to evacuate in an emergency.
You can find more weather preparedness information here.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
Break the silence, build a better community.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and more specifically, September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day. This designation was created to break the silence about dementia in an effort to bring greater awareness and to dispel associated dementia myths and misconceptions.
When people affected by dementia stand up and speak about their experience, they open windows of opportunity for support, research, best practices, and understanding.
According to Linda Puzan, Clinical Services Supervisor at LifePath, “Worldwide, there are nearly 50 million people living with dementia and most of them have loved ones who are markedly impacted. Here in our corner of the world, LifePath knows there are many caregivers who oftentimes become isolated and families who struggle with how to relate to, interact with, and care for their loved one as the dementia progresses.”
By breaking the silence, the stigma of dementia can be lifted. When people affected by dementia stand up and speak about their experience, they open windows of opportunity for support, research, best practices, and understanding. Communities can begin to face dementia together with dementia-friendly planning and services.
"Many communities across Franklin County and North Quabbin are recognizing the need to prepare for an increasingly older population through creating age- and dementia-friendly communities, and World Alzheimer's Month is a great opportunity to shine a brighter light on the impact of Alzheimer's Disease and what we can do individually and collectively. Challenging the stigma that continues to surround Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia, while emphasizing the importance of early detection, is one way to make our communities better informed and safer for those living with dementia," explains Nour Elkhattaby Strauch, Age-Friendly Program Manager.
Nour is tackling this head on by engaging with communities in Franklin County and the North Quabbin area to weave age and dementia planning into town initiatives. A dementia friendly community is a town, city, or county that is informed, safe, and provides supportive options which foster quality of life, making it possible for the person with dementia to remain in the community, to be engaged, and to thrive.
Transportation, housing, public spaces, business, and communities of faith are all domains in the day-to-day life of individuals with dementia, their caregivers, and loved ones. Modifications to how information is presented and adjustments in communications enable civic participation and engagement, with community support. For example, a dementia-friendly restaurant might offer a simplified menu with fewer choices and larger font, a table in a quiet area with little glare, and a server who makes direct eye contact, and speaks directly to the individual with dementia in a calm and clear manner. Memory cafes, frequently sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, are welcoming places which provide a venue for socialization for both the individual with dementia and their caregiver. Making age and dementia-friendly adjustments to infrastructure and outdoor spaces and buildings creates more liveable communities for everyone, not just those affected by dementia.
Caring for someone with dementia has its unique challenges. LifePath offers educational opportunities to better understand the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia and the impact the diagnosis can have on the whole family. Caregivers learn that they are not alone and they cannot control the disease. They can, however, gain skills to help manage stress and find joy in caring for their loved one.
- Our Elder Mental Health Outreach Team (EMHOT), meets with elders in their homes, or another location of their choice, to discuss problems which impact their emotional well-being. Team members work with elders to help arrange for ongoing community support.
- LifePath also offers Support Groups facilitated by experienced practitioners who create a welcoming place to give and receive emotional support, share ideas and stories, and get needed resources and educational materials. Check our schedule of events to see upcoming group meetings.
- The Savvy Caregiver Trainings presented by LifePath are seven-week sessions designed for caregivers who assist family members or friends with dementia. It is a unique approach to caregiver education. Caregivers are encouraged to learn, develop, and modify approaches they can use to lessen their own stress and improve their particular situation.
- Our Dementia Coaching program offers one-on-one sessions through home visits, and telephone and video conferencing. Caregivers gain knowledge specific to their loved one’s dementia diagnosis, get tips for handling changes in behavior, and receive suggestions to help cope with the progression of the disease.
This month, and throughout the year, I encourage everyone to break the silence around dementia, to reach out to a neighbor, friend, or community member who is affected by dementia, and to listen first and show them support.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
At LifePath, we are exceptionally proud of our Nutrition program, which has provided home delivered meals for over 45 years, thanks to a team of dedicated and spirited volunteer drivers. This program is dependent on efforts of volunteers to deliver meals throughout our rural communities, regardless of how remote the location might be. The program provides a vital nutritional lifeline, a wellness check, and socialization, all intended to address food insecurity and reduce isolation and depression. The compassionate and friendly volunteer drivers may be the only person the meals recipient sees all day.
The compassionate and friendly volunteer drivers may be the only person the meals recipient sees all day.
The volunteer drivers are at the heart and soul of our home delivered meals program. Our drivers love what they do, and for many it is the best part of their day. Maddie has been a driver for Meals on Wheels (MOW) for five years and says, “I care for the senior citizens in my community, so I'm glad to be a part of this valuable service. I really enjoy getting to know each and every one of my clients.”
Patricia explains the role of the volunteer driver: “I love my volunteer job with LifePath! Two days a week I load up the car in Millers Falls along with other drivers and a friendly team of kitchen workers, and then get to drive through beautiful Franklin County, greeting appreciative housebound people and leaving them a meal. I even get my mileage reimbursed. It is energizing and satisfying. Thank you for the opportunity!”
Barry has been driving for a year now and says, “It just makes me feel good,” while Charlie, a MOW volunteer for 8 years, acknowledges the importance of the wellness check and food delivery, explaining, “for some people, I’m the only person they see all day.” Many of our drivers feel a great sense of accomplishment, like Shelly, who says, “I’ve been delivering meals for 5 years. The best part about it is the appreciation I get from consumers. It makes me feel good inside!”
While many of us were safely sheltering at home throughout the pandemic restrictions, our Nutrition program quickly adapted to required changes, and delivered meals to the community without missing a day. In addition to our longstanding team of drivers, there was a heartwarming outpouring of help from people who were not able to work. These courageous individuals had a need to do something to contribute to their community. They provided us with the much-needed capacity to expand the program to serve more individuals who were now isolated and experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic.
As the restrictions have now been lifted, many of those who were available are being called back into work and are sadly leaving their positions as volunteer drivers. This puts us in a position of needing to find more volunteer drivers in many of our towns served. If you have the time, and want a fulfilling and rewarding volunteer opportunity, please consider becoming a home delivered meals driver—it will change your life for the better. As Rosie, a volunteer MOW driver for 21 years says, “Once I started I couldn’t stop! My clients inspire me everyday with their stories, their good humor, and always their love. They truly are the best part of my day. Thank you LifePath for this wonderful program!”
The positive impact of the Nutrition program is clear and oftentimes life-changing for the recipient and for the volunteer driver as well. Whether it is one day or five days per week, the offer of your time makes a difference. Do you want to volunteer, or know anyone who would be willing to make a big difference in someone's day by delivering meals in their own community? Stipend and mileage reimbursements are available. Call 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 and ask for the Nutrition department.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
When most people think of the 4th of July, they think of fireworks and flags and this country’s freedom from British rule. For me, Independence Day raises thoughts of self-determination and the ability to live an independent life. Our right to independence should not be impacted as we age, we should be able to enjoy equal opportunity to gainful employment, to continue in our right to determine where and how we want to live, and, if we need assistance, to determine who will provide the care.
Sadly, ageism continues to be a tolerated form of social bias, evidenced in our attitudes, our language, and our stereotypes. As is the case with other forms of discrimination, internalized ageism oftentimes impacts our self-perception, devaluing ourselves as less of a person, with diminished autonomy, especially when we need to look to others for assistance. Our mission at LifePath is to combat the influences of ageism and to hold and honor the values and preferences of those we serve.
LifePath staff work with individuals and their families to help determine needs and assist the individual to make informed decisions regarding the type of care which best meets their personal preferences.
At LifePath, we listen first, and then help each person find the best options for their unique needs. We assist older adults and persons with disabilities maintain independence and quality of life in their own homes and communities. We help caregivers to find relief and help loved ones to choose the right path. We have been doing this for 46 years and will continue to be there, creating new programs to help support and foster independence. Our Information and Caregiver Resource Center is the gateway to our organization, where Resource Consultants provide guidance to help the caller navigate the wide array of resources, services, and programs available.
LifePath staff work with individuals and their families to help determine needs and assist the individual to make informed decisions regarding the type of care which best meets their personal preferences. In-home service options provide the support needed to manage daily activities, so individuals can maintain their independence and remain in their own home or move into the home of a caregiver. Our consumer-directed care programs offer individuals the opportunity to choose and hire their own caregiver.
We are excited to have established Franklin County and the North Quabbin as an Age- and Dementia-Friendly Community, a community-led effort that aims to bring about policy and systems-level change to make more liveable towns and strive to better meet the needs of their older residents by considering the environmental, economic, and social factors that influence their health and well-being.
The 4th of July is a celebration of the Declaration of Independence, declaring that the 13 American colonies were no longer subject to the monarchy and were now united, free, and independent states. Independence Day is a day to affirm this to ourselves. We, the people, have the right to age in place and to self-determination. Stand up to ageism/ableism and say, “I am in control of my life and my destiny and I am going to live my best, independent life.” LifePath will be right beside you.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
June is recognized as International Pride Month marking the anniversary of the riot at the Stonewall Inn, in New York City, which led to a global movement for LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual or Agender) rights and annual Pride marches to build community, increase visibility, and advocate for equal rights. When it comes to civil rights we are thankful to those who have come before us to challenge the societal norms of the day and expand protections to those excluded or marginalized.
For LGBTQIA+ people, the simple act of coming out of the closet meant (and can still mean) losing one’s family, job, status in society, or even their life. The social isolation of being outside the norm fostered a deep sense of community and support. LGBTQIA+ people relied on one another and helped each other to thrive in adverse conditions. For those who did, the brave act of coming out publicly paved the way for many others to be proud of who they are, and who they love, and come out as well.
Despite the fact that LGBTQIA+ people can marry legally, and the many advances in equal rights over the years, as LGBTQIA+ individuals age, challenges arise with healthcare, housing, and long-term care due to lack of training and understanding of their needs.
This past year is not the first time that LGBTQIA+ elders have faced a pandemic and had to adapt. The AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) crisis was a global pandemic that was not recognized as such due to the populations being affected initially. The actions that LGBTQIA+ activists took to raise awareness led to a push for developments in HIV treatment, and access, and ultimately a worldwide reduction in deaths from AIDS.
The lessons and experience of the past helped many LGBTQIA+ elders adapt once again. LifePath’s Rainbow Elders group quickly made the shift to virtual gatherings in March of 2020, and took an intergenerational approach to help participating older adults become more technically savvy. As Massachusetts progresses towards reopening, the group is considering a hybrid model in order to continue to include older adults who are homebound, or otherwise cannot attend live events. Click here to learn more about Rainbow Elders events.
Despite the fact that LGBTQIA+ people can marry legally, and the many advances in equal rights over the years, as LGBTQIA+ individuals age, challenges arise with healthcare, housing, and long-term care due to lack of training and understanding of their needs. To begin to address this, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, in 2018, signed into law “An Act Relative to LGBTQIA+ Awareness Training for Aging Services Providers.” The first-in-the-nation law will require that all state funded or licensed providers of services complete training in how to provide meaningful care to LGBTQIA+ individuals and ensure that they can access services. Training is underway but there is still a long way to go in this area to recognize unique needs and provide relevant care with dignity and respect.
Beginning in June, LifePath’s Healthy Living program is launching a 7 week course “Living Well as LGBTQIA+ Older Adults with Long-Term Health Conditions.” This free, remote workshop will be led by two LGBTQIA+ leaders, who are also challenged by chronic conditions, and will be held Tuesdays, June 22–August 3, 1–3:30 p.m.
Over the past year one thing we have all learned is that we are all in this together, despite our differences. If you are LGBTQIA+ or know someone who is, please take inspiration from the easing of the pandemic restrictions to reach out and support one another, whether there is a pandemic or not. We will all benefit from a supportive community.