Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
Self-neglect: balancing rights versus risks
According to the National Institute of Health, “self-neglect in older adults is an increasingly prevalent, poorly understood problem.” Common situations of self-neglect include issues regarding nutrition, health, hygiene, unmet medical and medication needs, excessive use of alcohol or other substances, home safety, clutter and cleanliness concerns. These manifestations happen at all stages of adult life and may be attributed to loss of financial resources or family supports, social isolation, trauma, declining physical or emotional health, or cognitive impairment. Other times, situations of self-neglect are a result of choices made by the individual associated to values such as independence, culture, privacy, and right to refuse care.
As adults with capacity to direct our own lives, we have the right to fail and the right to make poor decisions. We have the right to choose gratification or self-determination over our personal health and safety. Why should elders be entitled to anything less? LifePath honors the right to self-determination and seeks to provide interventions to mitigate health and safety concerns and improve quality of life. Our goal is to work to understand the unique qualities of each person we serve, consider their values and desires, and look to assess the causes of risk in a person’s current life situation. It is essential to engage in discussion to be sure the elder understands the risk issues at hand and assess the person’s capacity. We need to allow the elder to set the pace for intervention and validate their life decisions.
There are situations where an individual is deemed incapacitated or incompetent and a substitute decision maker, such as a power of attorney, health care proxy or guardian, is needed to intervene. However, the individual’s wishes must remain central in any decisions made on the elder’s behalf. The best interest of the elder must always be taken into consideration when their preference is known or expressed.
Whether it is to the elder, or a substitute decision maker, LifePath provides guidance and assistance to reduce or eliminate health and safety concerns. Change often requires time and incremental steps to work towards alleviating the risks at hand. We work to build respectful and productive relationships in partnership with the elder and their community supports. Success is often achieved through the provision of available resources and services, and in keeping the goal of wellbeing and independence of the elder front and center.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
June is LGBT Pride Month - and community efforts to show pride all year abound
Nearly 50 years ago, at the end of June, 1969, in what came to be known as the Stonewall riots, a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning individuals joined together to riot in protest of a police raid of the Stonewall Inn.
At that time in our nation’s history, LGBTIQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, aromantic, asexual, agender, and allied) persons faced a starkly repressive culture and justice system. The stories of the struggles people endured may come as a surprise to younger generations of LGBTIQA people, whose own unique challenges today may make an impression on those who were young themselves in 1969.
Bringing together the stories of many generations of this important group of people is part of the work of the Rainbow Elders of LifePath.
Rainbow Elders offers opportunities for LGBTIQA elders, as well as their allies, to build connections and find resources. The group helps people build relationships, give and gain support, grow in knowledge and cultural competence, and advocate for human rights so that everyone can live and age with dignity.
Each year in the spring, Rainbow Elders partners with area nonprofits and business supporters to host an intergenerational gathering of LGBTIQA people of all ages. Over dinner, guests mingle and get to know one another over ice-breakers and deeper conversations about what is means to be LGBTIQA today, what it meant yesterday, and what the future could hold.
Rainbow Elders also hosts other annual social and educational events. The next picnic takes place in July, and an educational presentation will be offered in the fall. A team of elder panelists is available to speak with community groups, and Rainbow Elders also offers information, referral, and opportunities for advocacy.
Several other organizations exist here in Western Mass to support LGBTIQA people. You can meet many of them at the upcoming Franklin County Pride event on June 23, right here in Greenfield.
Here is a partial selection of local offerings, as featured in the Rainbow Elder’s quarterly newsletter, available by free subscription to your email inbox (sign up online):
- Pioneer Valley OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change): Meets twice monthly in Northampton; films are open to all ages; visit their website
- Gender-Role Free Contra Dances for the LGBTIQA Community & Friends: Seasonal; meets in Montague; visit their website
- G Cha Cha: A Queer Latin Dance Night: “for the dance-serious and the dance-curious”; meets the second Thursday of every month from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Boylston Room East at Keystone Mill in Easthampton.
- Rainbow Seniors: offers a “Talk & Listen Group” for confidential conversation and monthly “fun” meetings in Pittsfield, Mass.; visit rainbowseniors.org
LifePath’s many services for elders, people with disabilities, and caregivers are open to and affirming of people of all identities. If you need a helping and welcoming hand, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Find us online and a phone call away at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259.
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
Engage at Every Age
Older Americans Month (OAM) has been observed for the last 55 years to recognize older Americans and their contributions to our communities. This year’s OAM theme, “Engage at Every Age,” emphasizes the importance of being active and involved, no matter where or when you are in life. You are never too old (or too young) to participate in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Remaining socially engaged can improve the quality of life for older adults. LifePath offers many opportunities for community engagement through a variety of volunteer opportunities. Whether it is volunteering to deliver Meals on Wheels, helping a person with bill paying, assisting with SNAP (food stamps) or other public benefits applications, providing health insurance counseling as a SHINE (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone) counselor or leading an evidence-based workshop to help individuals manage chronic conditions, you will be giving back to your community through volunteering, mentoring and learning, leading and engaging.
Spring also brings the time of year when advocacy is top of mind. Legislative priorities for the state budget include increased investment in the workforce so that direct care workers and staff working in home and community-based settings are sufficient to meet a greater need for services. Elder nutrition and Protective Services are also high on the list to meet the growing need for these services. Elder Protective reports have increased 11% from a year ago.
The federal fiscal year budget passed in March, following several continuing resolutions. The good news is that Older Americans Act programs did receive increased funding. Supportive services were increased by 10%, nutrition services saw a 7% increase, funding for support to caregivers increased by 20% and evidence-based programs to help people manage chronic conditions saw a 25% boost. SHINE had $2 million restored from the $5 million cut in 2017. These increases signal that Congress heard from constituents about the importance of home and community-based services. While Older Americans Act funding has not kept pace with the number of elders and demand for services, we are grateful for these increased funding levels.
“Engage at Every Age” and make a difference through volunteerism and advocacy.
- Written by Roseann Martoccia
Malnutrition and elders – the need is now
The Massachusetts Malnutrition Commission began its work in February following the passage of S.2147. The Commission will study the impact of malnutrition on Massachusetts seniors across care settings and investigate effective strategies for reducing malnutrition. The Commission will look closely at the impact on healthcare quality indicators, costs and outcomes. The Malnutrition Prevention Commission will focus on study and recommendations regarding strategies for public awareness, ways to improve data collection and analysis to identify malnutrition risk. They will also assess the risk and measure the incidence of malnutrition occurring in various settings across the continuum of care and impact of care transitions. The Commission’s work will conclude with a report to the Governor and Legislature.
At LifePath, here’s how we describe the positive impact of providing nutritional support to elders though our Nutrition Program, which oversees Meals on Wheels as well as dining centers and luncheon clubs:
- Meals are nutritionally balanced and meet one third of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) requirements. The meals are low salt and low fat. Therapeutic meals are available when prescribed by the person’s physician.
- Meals served at senior centers and community sites offer an opportunity for a meal and the company of others.
- As the programs are donation based, they do not strain monthly financial resources for many who are on a limited and fixed income when other basic needs such as food, housing/energy and health-related costs, including medication, are competing for each dollar.
- Meals on Wheels provides a hot noontime meal, a check-in from the driver who delivers the meal and peace of mind to caregivers who are at work or living at a distance from their loved one.
According to research conducted by Meals on Wheels America (“Hunger in Older Adults,” February 2017), malnutrition and its impact on health is significant: “Malnutrition results when the body does not get the right balance of nutrients and calories to stay healthy. Malnutrition can be found in a nursing home, hospital or one’s own home or community. There are estimates that up to 50% of older adults may be malnourished, and that up to 33% of older adults admitted to the hospital may be malnourished. Malnourished older adults are likely to have higher levels of healthcare utilization, such as more frequent hospital admissions and longer hospital stays.”
There is an urgent need to combat malnutrition for elders through research and action.
Thank you for the opportunity to connect with our readers monthly. The Seniorgram will continue! Barbara Bodzin, executive director of LifePath, will commence writing the articles in May. Franklin County and the North Quabbin are caring communities. It has been a pleasure to work in and serve these communities. I look forward to when our paths cross again. See you at the Meals on Wheels Walkathon on April 28 at 101 Munson Street, Greenfield.
- Written by Roseann Martoccia, Executive Director
Budget updates from Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill
The Governor’s Budget, known as House 2 (H.2), was released in late January. It is very encouraging that the administration has proposed $17.4 million over projected spending for FY18. These increases would bring $2.9 million to councils on Aging, increasing the formula grant from $9.00 to $12.00 per senior, add $12.1 million more for caseload growth in the home care programs and add $2.7 million to elder protective services.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) estimates that up to five million elders suffer from some form of elder abuse each year, or about one in eight Americans age 65 and older. In Massachusetts:
- Elder protective services was contacted by over 30,000 individuals who were seeking help, and reports have increased an average of 11% in each of the last three years.
- We anticipate the FY19 cost will be approximately a 9% increase above the governor’s budget.
The Administration has recommended an increase of $2.7 million for elder protective services funding over the FY18 appropriation; however, increasing caseloads and program improvements will still leave this program with a shortfall in FY19. Advocates are requesting an additional $2,600,000 over the Governor’s H.2 recommendation to meet protective services needs next year.
Meanwhile, the federal budget remains in Continuing Resolution, which will bring us to March 23. The Senate and House reached a sweeping bipartisan agreement that would, among other things, increase overall non-defense discretionary budget caps for FY 2018 and FY 2019. This gives Congressional appropriators six more weeks to finalize all 12 annual spending bills for the rest of FY 2018 and then roll those together into one omnibus bill. The passage of the two-year budget deal lifts the stringent budget caps established by the 2011 Budget Control Act – giving appropriators more money to divvy up among programs. This means that it is more important than ever that advocates connect with their lawmakers to promote funding priorities for Older Americans Act and other federal aging programs.
In this very challenging budget year, advocates secured a major win when House lawmakers passed a $14.2 million increase for Older Americans Act Title III B Supportive Services, but continued advocacy is needed to ensure that increase is reflected in a final bill.
In addition, advocacy is needed to assure, at a minimum, that funding for the SHINE (known as SHIP in other states) program is funded at the Senate proposed levels, which would spare the SHINE program from any reduction in funding from the current funding level.
Continued advocacy to state and federal lawmakers is needed. We need to make our voices heard so that people who wish to remain at home, as well as their caregivers, receive needed resources.