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Attorney Seunghee ChaAttorney Seunghee Cha“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple/With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me . . .” Penned in 1961 by the English poet Jenny Joseph at age 29, Warning is hailed as the most popular post-war poem in the UK. The poet muses about making up for the sobriety of youth: going out in slippers in the rain, picking flowers in other people’s gardens, and eating only bread and pickle for a week.

Caring for a loved one is a difficult balancing act between empowerment and protection.

The truth is, we would be alarmed to see our loved one behave so, with labels such as dementia, self-neglect, and elder abuse. Warning is used in trainings of professionals, including doctors and attorneys, who serve elderly people with diminished capacity. 

Caring for a loved one is a difficult balancing act between empowerment and protection. Families often lack basic knowledge about complex capacity issues they encounter. A better understanding will help identify planning opportunities and the right time for intervention. 

Here is a brief summary of general legal standards of capacity for common transactions and decisions: 

First, the most fundamental tenets: Legal adults are presumed to have capacity until proven otherwise; you have the right to make bad decisions.   

Testamentary capacity: You know the natural objects of your bounty and understand the nature and extent of your property, and you can interrelate such knowledge and understanding to create a rational plan to dispose of property. The ability to manage all your affairs is not necessary; you need the requisite capacity only at the time of executing the will—not before or after. 

Contractual capacity: You understand the nature and effect of the business transaction. If the transaction is complicated, a higher level of understanding is necessary.

Durable power of attorney: The requisite capacity to appoint an agent to handle your financial and legal affairs is the same as contractual capacity. 

Health care decisions: You understand the benefits and risks posed by a medical treatment and alternatives to the proposed treatment, and you can communicate your decisions.   

Donative capacity: You understand the nature and purpose of the gift and the extent of property to be gifted, and you know the natural objects of your bounty and the effect of the gift. 

Capacity to convey real estate: You understand the nature and effect of the transfer at the time of executing the deed. 

Clinical assessments must consider the specifics, nuances, and temporality of one’s capacity; appreciating the multifaceted nature of the ability to manage one’s own affairs is essential to self-determination and compassionate caregiving. 

Ms. Joseph died in 2018. Her beloved poem has inspired the Red Hat Society, for women over 50 to explore the power of fun and friendship.

Karen Lentner, MA, RD, LDNKaren Lentner, MA, RD, LDNDuring the coronavirus, do you find yourself looking for ways to keep yourself healthy? Currently there’s not a vaccine or food that is guaranteed to protect you from coronavirus, but there are ways to keep your immune system working optimally to help you stay healthy during these times. We’ve heard about washing our hands, avoiding contact with sick individuals, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and being physically active; but good nutrition is also critical for good health. A healthful, balanced diet is necessary to keep our immune system strong, and eating a variety of foods is the key to good nutrition.

We’ve heard about washing our hands, avoiding contact with sick individuals, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and being physically active; but good nutrition is also critical for good health.

The nutrients your body needs include protein, to build and preserve body tissues and strength and to fight viruses or infections.  Protein sources include lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and yogurt. Consider plant-based sources, especially if you’re finding meat to be more limited at this time. Nuts and nut butters, beans, lentils, tofu, hummus, and quinoa are excellent options. Try to incorporate protein sources into each meal or snack throughout the day.

Antioxidants, vitamins and minerals can also boost immune function. Beta carotene helps antibodies fight toxins and reduce inflammation. Sources include green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin C and E are antioxidants that protect your cells and support immune response. Sources include oranges, grapefruit, red and green peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and strawberries. 

Vitamin D may help reduce your risk for viral and respiratory infections. The best source of natural vitamin D is obtained outdoors in the sunshine. Food sources include egg yolks, cheese, mushrooms, tofu, salmon and fortified milk, soymilk, orange juice, and cereals. 

Probiotics and prebiotics help boost the health of our microbiome (our gut). They help digest food, destroy disease causing microorganisms, and keep your immune system healthy. Food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, fermented pickles and sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and sourdough bread.  Prebiotic rich foods include asparagus, garlic, apple cider vinegar, onions, berries, bananas, and whole grains. 

Zinc is a mineral that has been helpful in shortening the duration of the common cold and boosting immunity. Sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, nuts, seeds, beef, pork, and yogurt. 

Other foods that have shown benefits in boosting the immune system include blueberries, ginger, turmeric, garlic, elderberry, and green tea. 

With summer approaching, consider buying many of the foods listed at a local farmers market. Find a farmers market near you at massfarmersmarkets.org

Remember to stay hydrated! Water, fruits, and soups all provide necessary fluids to stay hydrated and healthy.  Try to consume at least 6 to 8 cups of fluid every day.

If you find yourself craving comfort foods at this time, especially those with high sugar or fat content, try to limit the amounts, if you feel able. Be mindful of the foods you are eating and limit those that provide mostly calories and limited nutritional value.

In these uncertain times, take care of yourself. Plan your meals and snacks using foods listed above, try to maintain a healthy weight, and enjoy the bounty of the season. Consider Grab and Go meals from one of our dining centers or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555.

Rep. Susannah Whipps, 2nd Franklin District, standing with the apples, pears, oranges, and bananas she delivered to our kitchen in Erving.

On the morning of May 28, LifePath received a call from Rep. Susannah Whipps, 2nd Franklin District, offering to donate 8 cases, or about 700-800 pieces, of fresh fruit to the Meals on Wheels program.  We quickly accepted, and by noon, Rep. Whipps had delivered the apples, pears, oranges, and bananas to our kitchen in Erving.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day logoJune 15, 2020 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. On that day, communities in the USA and all over the world will sponsor events to highlight solutions to this systemic social challenge. LifePath is proud to participate in this national conversation. 2020 is the 14th observation of Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and with it comes the very specific challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goals of ending elder abuse and enhancing the social structures that support vibrant and vital aging for all hold truer than ever. We want to take this time to highlight the ways that the virus and its attendant challenges impact the dynamics of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

The United Nations Population Fund predicts a 20% increase in domestic violence during the lockdowns, which is an additional 15 million people worldwide.

Orders to shelter-in-place, stay home when possible, and reduce or eliminate contacts outside of your household result in an increased risk of domestic violence incidents if the elder lives with an abuser. The United Nations Population Fund predicts a 20% increase in domestic violence during the lockdowns, which is an additional 15 million people worldwide. In April, a variety of news sources reported that domestic violence calls resulting in police response had increased in Massachusetts, while calls to helplines decreased. Leela Strong, a spokesperson for the state’s domestic violence hotline “SafeLink” highlights the fact that “if you are home with your abuser, there is no time to call.” 

Increased financial pressures and fear can lead to exploitation  and vulnerability to COVID related scams. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has a good resource page about these scams.

Caregiver neglect occurs as needs increase and required prevention efforts limit care providers’ comfort with direct contact. Stress and reduced social contact are major contributors to an increase in depression leading to self-neglect. Accessing care for physical and mental health challenges can be cumbersome in our rural counties under the best circumstances. Other long-standing concerns made much more acute in light of COVID-19 include the lack of access to safe public transportation and the internet, as well as fluency with technology. 

Under normal circumstances, elder abuse is widespread. Every year an estimated 1 in 10 older Americans experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Research suggests that as few as 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities. Prevention is possible, starting with continued efforts to strengthen our social support through policies, services, and programs that keep us integrated in our communities as we age. 

LifePath administers the Adult Protective Services (APS) program, which investigates and intervenes in the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people 60 and over. The adult protective services program investigates what is happening in real time, addressing the very real individual and interpersonal impacts of violence, neglect, and exploitation. One of the most dynamic and effective elements of the APS program is that we let our clients lead, use all of the tools at our disposal, and connect participants to therapeutic, social, financial, and legal resources as indicated. LifePath Adult Protective Services understands that a successful program addresses the impacts of elder abuse on individuals and families and that healing from and preventing abuse requires structural supports and an expansive view of social-emotional, financial, and other basic needs. 

LifePath’s other programs help to address transportation issues, access to social and educational opportunities, and the management of in-home health and personal care. LifePath enhances our community assets and the well-being of older adults and people with disabilities by extending support for caregivers, food security and nutrition, financial security, mental health and more.

If you are a community member interested in more information about how to keep older adults in our communities safe, please reach out to LifePath at 413-773-5555 or lifepathma.org to explore our programs. To make a report of concern to APS about elder abuse call the Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-922-2275 or file online

To recognize Elder Abuse Awareness Day, you can do your part and check in on a family member, friend, or a neighbor and ask if they are safe.  Also, wear something purple on June 15 to help raise awareness of elder abuse, and share a photo of yourself wearing purple on social media.

Happy man with walker standing at his front door looking out.Join Community Leaders June 9 from 2-3 p.m.

LifePath is pleased to present a special community forum on June 9 from 2-3 p.m., Elders and People with Disabilities Safe and Thriving at Home: A Virtual Forum, hosted by AOTV via Zoom video or phone conference. COVID-19 poses a higher health risk and has a greater impact on quality of life for elders and people with disabilities. The goal of this forum is to highlight the needs of this group and to increase awareness of the current services available, including new supports specifically created for the effects of the COVID crisis. Panelists will include:

Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director, LifePath
Heather Bialecki-Canning, Executive Director, North Quabbin Community Coalition
Senator Jo Comerford of Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District
Clare Higgins, Executive Director, Community Action
Christina Johnson, Director, South County Senior Center
Moderator: Lynne Feldman, Director of Community Services, LifePath

Registration is not required. You can join at the time of the event online at zoom.us/join or via phone at 929-436-2866. You will need to enter the following information to access the forum:

Meeting ID: 948 0819 6371
Password: 598148

Please take a moment to tell us a bit about yourself before the forum and let us know what questions you would like to ask the panel.

Participants are invited to bring their questions and comments. We hope to see you there! Thank you to AOTV and our partner organizations for helping make this event possible.