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

handoff2.jpg
fruit.jpg
handoff4.jpg
handoff5.jpg

Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Impact of hearing loss on the whole person

RoseannMartocciaHeadshotRoseann Martoccia, Executive Director, LifePathA 25-year study of self-reported hearing loss in France describes how hearing loss can impact a person, including memory loss and cognitive decline. The study began in 1990 and included 3,670 participants. This research was designed to study brain aging, and the 25-year follow up with the participants was used to assess the relationship between hearing loss and long-term, age-related, cognitive decline.

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition affecting older people. It is estimated that 30% of older adults age 65 and older have some degree of hearing loss and approximately 70% to 90% of persons 85 and older have hearing loss. Those with hearing loss often experience social isolation and depressive symptoms. Evidence also demonstrates that older adults with hearing loss have poorer cognitive performance. In two longitudinal studies, hearing loss and cognitive decline were associated over six years of follow-up. While the high prevalence of hearing loss and its consequences on health outcomes is commonly understood, hearing loss is largely underdiagnosed and therefore undertreated. Nearly two-thirds of older persons with impaired hearing do not use hearing aids.

The study used a short questionnaire at the outset with each person to establish a baseline, and the participants were evaluated at home 11 times over the 25-year period after the initial visit. Participants were asked about their hearing trouble, if they had trouble following conversations with more than one person participating, as well as how background noise impacted their ability to hear. Some had hearing aids and some did not. The evaluations also assessed cognitive performance and complaints, functional ability, and symptoms of depression. While the study design used observational results that were self-reported, its strengths include the length of time the study followed participants and the cohort of a large number of people who were randomly selected.

The study concludes that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline and that hearing aid use reduces such cognitive decline. While the progression of hearing loss is an individual process, the study underscores the importance of addressing one’s hearing as part of overall physical health and well-being. Talk about hearing issues with your practitioner so any issues can be properly evaluated by clinical specialists, diagnosed, and treated appropriately. As hearing loss impacts social isolation, take a proactive approach to addressing hearing loss. As hearing aids are costly, it is important to understand the type of hearing loss you have and to be a smart consumer in any purchases of assistive device to improve hearing.

For more consumer information regarding hearing loss and hearing aids, go to: www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/mcdhh/programs/hearing-dogs/hearing-aids.html

It’s your choice, it’s your care

RoseannMartocciaHeadshotRoseann Martoccia, Executive Director of LifePathWho’s your agent? As a competent adult (age 18 and older), you have the right to make your own health care choices. It is not an eventuality which one often thinks about, but it is really important to plan ahead in case at some point you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself.

Though it may seem a daunting task, it is a simple, three-step process: explore, plan, and connect.

First, choose a person you trust to be your agent. Think it through for yourself. If you have a serious injury, accident, or medical procedure and are unable to make health care decisions for yourself, even for a short time, who do you want to talk with your doctors and make decisions on your behalf? Choose a trusted person to be your “agent.” Talk with your agent about what’s important to you and the kind of care you want and do not want.

Second, after you choose your health care agent, the person is “appointed” through your signature and the completion of a Health Care Proxy, which is a simple legal document. Any valid Health Care Proxy or the Honoring Choices MA Health Care Proxy Instructions and Form (available in 8 languages) may be used. As a reminder, a spouse or parent does not automatically have the legal authority to make health care decisions on your behalf unless appointed in a Health Care Proxy. A second reminder is to check on who your agent is if you filed a health care proxy some time ago. Be sure that you still wish the same person to represent your interests in the event you can’t make health care decisions for yourself.

Third, put your Health Care Proxy into action. Make the final and important connection. Once you have completed a Health Care Proxy, keep the original and give a copy to your agent. In addition, give a copy of your Health Care Proxy to your care providers to place in your medical record so they will know how to contact your agent.

Organizations all around Massachusetts have formed a coalition to raise awareness and encourage their members and patients to take the three steps to affirmatively decide who will be their health care agent. The Honoring Choices coalition brings together legal, medical, and community partners to promote the importance of thinking about the question of “Who’s Your Agent?” There is concise a set of FAQs, “Things to Know About a Health Care Proxy,” answering some common questions about the Health Care Proxy concept and document. Take the time to explore, plan, and make the connections with your agent and medical provider to take care of this important piece of personal business.

Read more at www.honoringchoicesmass.com.

A new name for Franklin County Home Care

Roseann MartocciaRoseann MartocciaFranklin County Home Care Corporation has some exciting news to share. After much careful consideration, our Board of Directors has decided to change our name to LifePath, Inc., Options for Independence. We are excited to share this news with you as we transition to our new name on March 1, 2016. 

This decision was made thoughtfully and with the input of many in the community. Services like Home Care and Meals on Wheels have been at the center of our programs and have been so for more than 40 years. Our commitment to providing information and services by listening to each person, offering resources, and working together to find what will work best for them is steadfast. We seek to give caregivers assistance with the care they give to their loved ones by offering support and bringing peace of mind. 

Over time, Franklin County Home Care has grown and changed. The range of services now includes counseling and assistance for benefits and health insurance; self-management workshops for healthy living; working with adults with chronic conditions; and supportive housing; to name a few. Some services extend beyond our core service area of Franklin County and the North Quabbin into Hampden and Hampshire Counties with SHINE, Adult Family Care, and Personal Care Assistance, as well as Elder Protective Services in Berkshire County. We always serve with the goal of offering options for independence for elders, people with disabilities, and their caregivers. 

We appreciate the generous support our community gives to the agency in so many ways. We are fortunate to have a committed staff, dedicated volunteers, and collaborative community partners. One thing is staying the same: our commitment to serve you now and in the future as LifePath. Contact us anytime you need us or have questions. 

Please Note: Our address and phone numbers all remain the same. As of March 1, 2016, the website will change to LifePathMA.org, and you can reach us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LifePathMA. You can also reach us at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259. Call us. We’ll be there. 

RoseannMartocciaHeadshotRoseann Martoccia

2015: A milestone year

This year the Social Security Act turns 80, Medicare turns 50, and the Older Americans Act turns 50, too! Every day, 10,000 Americans are turning 65.

Perspectives from today’s older Americans

Now in its fourth year, the 2015 United States of Aging Survey, conducted by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), the National Council on Aging (NCOA), and UnitedHealthcare, examines the perspectives on aging and what communities can do to better support an increasing, longer-living population of older persons in our country. The survey was comprised of 1,650 telephone interviews of representative samples of older Americans and professionals who work closely with older people, including primary care physicians, pharmacists, and credit union managers. Here are some key findings organized by the four content areas of health, the cost of aging, staying at home, and community connections and the concerns of older people in contrast to professionals working with them.

Do seniors have concerns about their health?

In the health arena, elders are concerned with maintaining their physical health, losing their memory, and maintaining their mental health. Professionals’ top concerns included protection from financial scams, access to affordable housing, and memory loss. There is agreement among the two groups that keys to maintaining good health include healthy eating, a positive attitude, and getting enough sleep. However, more professionals also add the elements of visiting the doctor regularly and taking medications as prescribed. Fifty-seven percent of older people describe themselves as positive and optimistic, noting faith or spirituality and a loving family as their top reasons for being positive. Older adults and professionals agree that positive attitude, an active social life, and regular exercise are some of the best ways to stay mentally sharp.

What about the rising cost of aging in America?

The top financial worries keeping Americans up at night are the increasing costs of living and unexpected medical expenses. An even higher percentage of professionals express concern about affordability of unexpected medical expenses. Less than 25% of older adults anticipate needing support managing their finances in later life, however, more than 75% of professionals stress the possible need for assistance with financial management.

Do older Americans want to live in their own homes?

A majority of older adults have not moved in more than 20 years and 75% intend to live in their current home for the rest of their lives. On a practical level, thirty-four percent have made bathroom upgrades and 28% have improved lighting. Both older adults and professionals working with them would like to see more services that would help with home modifications and repairs.

Are communities doing enough to promote healthy aging?

Are communities doing enough? While there is agreement among older persons and professionals that local communities offer a good quality of life, fewer than half of elders surveyed and a less than 40% of professionals say their community is doing enough to prepare for the needs of retiring Baby Boomers.

Learn more about what elders think of life in America

For complete survey results, visit www.ncoa.org/UnitedStatesofAging. Next month’s SeniorGram will highlight some of the priorities expressed at the White House Conference on Aging held on July 13, 2015. While we have prepared for the Greying of America, there is much more to do, and more advocacy for older adults and their needs is of vital importance. Make your voice heard!

Older Americans Act turns 50, too!

Roseann MartocciaRoseann MartocciaJuly 14 will mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Older Americans Act (OAA) into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. His remarks at the signing ceremony embody the intent and working definition of the law which is marking its golden anniversary: “The Older Americans Act clearly affirms our Nation’s sense of responsibility toward the well-being of all of our older citizens. But even more, the results of this act will help us to expand our opportunities for enriching the lives of all of our citizens in this country, now and in the years to come.”

The OAA created the foundation for a system of services that supports independent living in one’s older years. OAA-funded programs play a vital role in helping to maintain the health and well-being of millions of seniors age 60 and older, reaching one in five adults in the United States, including caregivers. The network is supported by thousands of service providers and volunteers nationwide. Emphasis is placed on serving people with low-income, minority individuals, persons at risk of institutionalization, residents of rural communities, and people with limited English proficiency.

On July 30, 1965, President Johnson signed legislation to establish Medicare for elders and Medicaid for low income adults, children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. Medicare and Medicaid extended health insurance coverage and improved the health and financial security of millions. Over the last 50 years, these healthcare coverage programs have transformed the delivery of healthcare in the United States. They have greatly reduced the number of uninsured Americans. Today, about 55 million Americans are Medicare beneficiaries and more than 70 million have Medicaid in any given month.

April 2015 Volunteer Month v5 photo of Joy and Robert AThe Older Americans Act funds programs that offer elders the opportunity to age with dignity, purpose, and respect, as with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. Shown here, volunteer Ombudsman Robert Amyot talks with Joy Page, a resident of Poet's Seat Health Care Center in Greenfield. Ombudsmen help to advocate for residents of long-term care facilities and encourage them to speak up speak up for themselves.The purpose of these three laws is simple – to have the opportunity to age with dignity, purpose, and respect. LifePath can attest to the range of benefits provided by the Older Americans Act as we administer these funds as part of our responsibilities as an Area Agency on Aging. Whether it is an Ombudsman working with nursing home residents, a driver bringing a hot Meals on Wheels lunch to an elder, an exercise class at a local senior center, a SHINE counselor working to have consumers make the best choices to maximize their Medicare benefits in a cost effective way, or an elder at home with services through the home and community based (MassHealth) waiver, the impact of these services positively affect thousands of people in our local area.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration for Medicare and Medicaid, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is collecting stories of how Medicare and Medicaid have made a difference for everyday Americans. Visit Medicare.gov/anniversary/share-your-story to share your story.