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Older gentleman sitting on a bench by a riverDepression is like gray paint over the canvas of my life.  I’ve lived with it since childhood and no amount of wishing or sleep has made it go away, but there are things I can do to ease the burden it lays upon me.  By reading this article, you’re opening yourself up to finding a tidbit that will lead you to think or do something that’ll improve your wellbeing, too. If you agree, then you have hope.

Hope is one of the five key concepts of recovery as developed by Dr. Mary Ellen Copeland and her colleagues when they created WRAP, a Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  It’s an evidence-based self-help life management system whose premise is that through hope, personal responsibility, education, self-advocacy, and support, we can live the kind of lives we want, even as we encounter difficulties like those associated with depression. If you don’t feel you’ve got much hope, don’t fret.  Just a little bit can take you as far as you need to go. Hope is like a personal pilot light. We can’t cook if the light in the stove goes out and people are like that, too. With the flame on, though, all kinds of things can be accomplished, even with depression.

If your hope flame is totally dark, you might have to give yourself permission to take a hopeless leap of faith.  It’s funny how that can sometimes get things started. In wrestling with depression, tricks are necessary when we’ve got nothing else to move us.  If you have to pretend you’re a person with hope on a day when you know you don’t have it, I’m asking you to try pretending so you can do things that are likely to enrich your wellbeing.  If that doesn’t work, believe in hope that others can hold for you. Try using the next four key concepts and you are likely to notice positive effects and hope can re-enter your life as a result.

Personal responsibility means claiming ownership of your recovery.  It can feel easier to say, “Oh, the doctors are taking care of it,” or, “There’s nothing I can do,” but that won’t get you to a better place.  When we feel in charge, we can act in ways that reflect that and make changes that will be life-enhancing. For example, a doctor might give me a prescription that works for many people, but makes me feel sick. I know it’s not the right one because I’m the expert on myself.  Likewise, you are the expert on yourself. With that acknowledgement, the next step is self-advocacy. Before we go on, though, you might need to repeat the words, “I am the expert on myself,” aloud. Say it. I encourage you to do so, to make it feel real, if it doesn’t already.

Speak up with your concerns and needs.  Your voice is the one that matters most when it comes to your own wellness. Use it. It might feel rusty if you haven’t tried it in a while, but it will become stronger with use. Sometimes life feels like exhausting work. Fortifications are necessary along the way.  Don’t forget to take care of yourself as is right for you. Maybe laughing over a show makes you feel good. Maybe a twenty minute rest and a cup of tea helps you. I like to snuggle with a cat and sing. Feel-good energy is restorative and gives us strength and positivity. By acting to support your recovery, not only are you heading towards your goal, but you’re also experiencing a better today.  

There are countless ways to learn nowadays.  I can ask friends if they know doctors I might like. I can google reviews of doctors in my area.  I can find a support group through local listings. I can attend a talk at the library. I can ask the pharmacist a question about my meds. I can read a book or listen to a lecture online.  Education comes in a variety of forms and it is empowering.

Have you noticed that though I’m responsible for myself, others play a part in my wellness journey? Support evolves over time by need, desire, and opportunity. I add good people to my life whenever I can.  The day I moved into my house, I couldn’t open the back door. I would have been outside all day if I didn’t accept help from my neighbor. Besides help for practical matters, support brings us a feeling of connectedness.  A community choir, a senior center, or a social worker might be part of your support network. You decide what works for you! Good support supplies peace of mind. We can improve our quality of life by doing more for ourselves, and sometimes that “more” means being vulnerable and asking for help.  Best wishes to you as you paint on top of the gray.

The author, Bec Belofsky Shuer, and Lee Shuer, from Easthampton, will facilitate a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) group to support you as you develop strategies for making the most of every day, even when things are tough! The group, offered by LifePath, will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays Apr. 29-May 22 from 1—3 p.m in Conference Room B at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.  Call LifePath at 413-773-5555 for more information or to register.

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.

Carol FooteCarol Foote, Development DirectorFor the second year in a row, GSB will support the fundraising efforts of new walkers by matching their dollars raised for the 2019 Meals on Wheels Walkathon on Saturday, April 27, from 8:30 to 11 a.m., at LifePath, 101 Munson Street in Greenfield, Mass. This is GSB’s 24th year of supporting Meals on Wheels!

“Last year the Walkathon saw close to 70 walkers join the effort who hadn’t participated in the previous year. If you’ve been thinking of joining the LifePath Meals on Wheels Walkathon for the first time, let us match your efforts - up to $7,000,” says GSB President and CEO John Howland. “We want to double your gift and create impact for elders who need the support of Meals on Wheels.”

Carol Foote, Nancy Kilhart, and Virginia FellowsNew walker with the Warwick Walkers at the 2018 event, Nancy Kilhart is flanked by fellow team member Virginia Fellows (r) and LifePath staffer Carol Foote (l). Join the effort and have your dollars doubled like Nancy did last year!“LifePath’s Meals on Wheels program provides many of the elders in our community with a nutritious hot meal delivered to their homes,” says Howland. “This important program ensures these important members of our community have daily contact and a ‘wellness check’ during the week. Please join the many GSB employees who will be walking for this great cause, and pledge generously.”

Meals on Wheels at LifePath supports over 1,300 local elders every year. Thanks to community support from local businesses and organizations like GSB and individuals like you, the funding deficit is lessened, allowing our program to have no waiting list for eligible elders in need of a hot meal.

If you’re a student, belong to a social or youth organization, or just have the interest in making a difference, please join the effort this year. There’s still time to register as a walker, create a walk team with friends, family, and coworkers, or make a pledge in support of your favorite walker or team. Read more about the Walkathon or contact Carol Foote, Development Director, at 413-773-5555 x2225 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Checks made out to LifePath with “Meals on Wheels” in the memo line can also be mailed to LifePath at 101 Munson Street, Suite 201, Greenfield, MA 01301.

2019 LifePath Meals on Wheels Walkathon

Carol FooteCarol FooteSponsors, fundraisers, and walkers have their own, and sometimes very personal, reasons for taking part in LifePath’s annual Meals on Wheels Walkathon. But, for those thinking about why they should participate, or others who would like a reminder, here’s a solid list.

Federal funding covers a decreasing portion of this program.

Funding for the program has failed to keep up with inflation and increased demand from a rapidly aging population.

The increase in requests for meals is a trend that isn’t going away.

Each year, LifePath receives more requests for meals.  In many towns in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region, the percentage of the population that is age 60 or older averages around 30%, as compared with Massachusetts on the whole which is 21%.

A boy with his dad at the WalkathonYour participation prioritizes the needs of local elders through LifePath’s Nutrition Program.

Each day, an average of 550 meals are delivered to elders who are unable to shop or cook for themselves, with more than 1,130 unique elders receiving this service annually. Some recipients have been part of the program for years, while others participate for a short amount of time after surgery, or some other acute need. In either case, LifePath’s nutrition program offers elders this option to stay independently in their own home, with support.

Because elders shouldn’t have to wait.

Though LifePath does receive government funding, that funding covers less than 75% of our costs. The Walkathon, and other efforts, generate the required funding from our communities that finance the additional need.  In other parts of the country, elders are placed on waiting lists to receive meals. With your participation, you say, “Not here.”

What better way to kick off spring!?

To be walking among others who feel akin to you in their support for elders is truly wonderful. Come feel the spirit this event generates!

We appreciate how much effort goes into your participation in the weeks leading up to the April date. Every dollar raised and every step that is taken bring meals, a wellness check, and socialization to many elders in our communities.  Though the event is just one day each year, you help them continue to be in their homes year round.

This year's Meals on Wheels Walkathon will take place on Saturday, April 27, 8:30AM-11:00 AM at the Greenfield Corporate Center at 101 Munson St. in Greenfield. Join or start a walkathon team today, or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Development Director, at 413-773-5555 x2225.

Jan 2018 Savvy Caregiver photo WEB“Families of all sorts make wonderful caregivers.”If there’s one thing everyone wants, it’s a sense of belonging. The Adult Family Care (AFC) program at LifePath (formerly Franklin County Home Care) helps enable adults of all ages to belong to a community, and more importantly, to a family.

Specifically, AFC helps adults age 16 or older who—because of medical, physical, cognitive, or mental health conditions—cannot safely live alone. Family members or individuals wanting to care for a person in need can become an AFC caregiver. They are compensated for their care with a tax-exempt stipend and room and board.

Families of all sorts make wonderful caregivers. “Our families range from single people, couples, to families with children,” explains Janet Calcari, AFC Program Director, “and our clients range from 16 to 98 years old, with all kinds of diagnoses and all kinds of needs.”

Some families come pre-made: the parent of an adult child with a developmental disability, the child of a parent with a physical disability, or a friend of someone who has a medical condition may qualify to become a caregiver. Other homes are created by matching individuals or families who wish to open their homes and become caregivers with someone in need.

“We support the client and the caregiver as much as they need,” says Calcari. Each caregiver is paired with a nurse and a care manager, who are there as advocates, providing information and education to caregivers to ensure the caregiver has a proper understanding of the needs of the person in their care. In addition to monthly visits, nurses and care managers are always available by phone and for crisis visits.

For more information about AFC and other services provided by LifePath, contact 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Read more about Adult Family Care.