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Do you take care of a parent or someone needing support with their care? If so, remember that a healthy mouth can help them enjoy food, chew better, eat well, and avoid pain and tooth loss.

Plaque puts a healthy mouth at risk. It can collect on teeth that aren’t brushed well. The buildup can cause bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.

Some individuals need to be reminded to brush and floss teeth. Others may need help actually getting it done.

You can take steps to help make brushing easier

For example, try a power or multiple-sided toothbrush. You can also modify the toothbrush handle to make it easier to hold.

If you are providing support, remember to wash your hands and wear disposable gloves before you begin. Use the “tell-show-do” approach. Tell them what you are going to do, show them, and then do what you’ve described.

Regular dental visits are important too. At a dental visit, you can ask for ways to help the person you care for.

The National Institutes of Health has a series of fact sheets to help caregivers learn more about protecting oral health in older adults.

Article adapted from the National Institutes of Health November 2018 News in Health.

hip logo enEven though it’s winter, local fruits and vegetables are still available in our abundant hills and valleys, thanks to the efforts of local farmers. For people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, a special program can help to make these healthy local foods more affordable.

Through the Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP),  participants can double the value of their SNAP benefits when making certain purchases at certain farmers markets. The program has been extended through February 28, 2019. Is is also set to resume in the spring.

HIP helps families afford more fresh, canned, dried, and frozen fruits and vegetables without added salts, sugars, fats, or oils. HIP adds the amount of your purchase instantly back to your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, up to a certain value each month. If you are a household of one or two people and spend $40 of your SNAP benefits at a HIP retailer, you will earn $40 credit back in your SNAP account. For a household of three to five people, the amount is $60, and it is $80 for a household of six or more. Your receipt will show the amount of additional SNAP dollars you have earned.

Though most local farmers’ markets have closed for the season, the Greenfield Winter Farmers’ Market, taking place at the Four Corners School at 21 Ferrante Ave on the first Saturday of the month until March 2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., participates in HIP. Beyond Franklin County, the Amherst Winter Farmers’ Market takes place at the Hampshire Mall in Hadley on Saturdays through March 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market also takes place on Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Northampton Senior Center at 67 Conz Street; both participate in HIP.

In addition to farmers markets, some farm stands, mobile markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) are also HIP retailers. To find more information or other HIP retailers near you, visit the HIP webpage, call Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333, or look for the HIP logo.

CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) offers a complete directory of farmers markets. To request a hard copy, contact the CISA office at 413-665-7100 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Nutrition Program at LifePath operates many senior dining centers and senior luncheon clubs, as well as the Meals on Wheels program, across Franklin County and the North Quabbin region. Home Care and other programs may offer assistance with grocery shopping. To learn more, contact us.

Andi WaismanAndi WaismanAs we reach the end of 2018, many people will be thinking about what changes they’d like to make in the new year. Eating healthier and exercising often top the lists of resolutions. Yet, as we all know, the path between setting a goal and reaching it can be fraught with many obstacles. We struggle with survival needs; we struggle with addictions; we struggle with managing all the demands on our time and attention.

Change is hard, but change is also possible. Here in the Healthy Living program at LifePath, we run programs that are proven to help people take control over their chronic health conditions, in part by exploring ways to make more behavior changes happen. People who have participated in our evidence-based programs over the years generally have fewer symptoms, such as depression, shortness of breath, anxiety, pain, mobility limitations, and have better quality of life, exercise more, and usually utilize health care less. Something in the recipe of these self-management workshops works.

The behavior change principle that underlies many of our programs is the concept of self-efficacy, the belief that we can perform the targeted behavior. How do we enhance people's confidence in their ability to manage their chronic conditions and other aspects of their lives?

Action planning

One of the major tools in our self-management workshop “toolbox” that help to build self-efficacy is the tool of action planning. For about 25 to 35 percent of each weekly session, we each take turns making a specific action plan, sharing it with the group, and brainstorming solutions to the barriers that keep us from accomplishing our plan. It is through action planning that people begin to feel in control of their fate, begin to grow their confidence in their ability to make changes, and see some hope that improvement is possible.

Given a structure and support, all of us usually make good decisions about our health and get motivated to make and complete goals we want to achieve. For this reason, the group leaders and peers never tell people what to do but rather support them in what they choose to do, even when the group or their doctor might have other goals for them. By asking people to make action plans and report on these plans, participants are gently persuaded and supported to try new activities they truly want for themselves.

How does action planning work?

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think about the changes we want to make or the activities we want to accomplish. They seem too big to work on all at once, which makes it hard to get started. So, action planning asks people to commit to attempting, in front of a group of people, a small, “doable” action step, one that is achievable, specific, and answers the questions of what, how much, when, and how often.

For example, a person who wants to improve fitness might break this goal into several steps over the course of a few weeks:
  1. Research what type of exercise to do.
  2. Find a place to exercise.
  3. Start an exercise program by walking for five minutes, two or three times a week.
  4. Ask a friend to exercise with them.

Each step should be action-specific. For example, losing weight is not an action or behavior, but replacing processed food snacks with fruit between meals is.

Peer support and accountability are important aspects of this technique. The thought of facing their group and having to admit that they blew off their plan is, for some, the motivator to complete it.

We are continually impressed with the action plans our participants commit to and complete. Some of these have been:
  • Taking an art and wine class
  • Keeping an eating journal
  • Walking 20 minutes a day
  • Scheduling regular meals for one week
  • Take a shorter nap during the day
  • Limiting an evening snack to fruits or vegetables
  • Joining a gym
  • Going to sleep by 10:30 on two nights
  • Putting a positive statement on the mirror
  • Doing the shoulder exercises in the book
  • Standing up at least 25 times during the day
  • Drinking a glass of water before eating
  • Calling a parent every day

Sometimes we don’t accomplish our plan. We run into barriers: the weather, a spouse who buys food we don't want to eat, our lack of motivation, or our too busy lives. We then work together to brainstorm solutions to those barriers. We pick a solution to try and start again. I believe it is this restart – this human instinct to set goals for ourselves for our immediate future, to see the possibility ahead – that grows our confidence.

Try action planning

Even if you can’t attend a LifePath workshop, you can still try action planning on your own. Find a friend to make a weekly date with. Support each other to think of a small, specific, doable action plan that you each really want to accomplish over the coming week, and then check in to see how it went. Also, try calling your friend in the middle of the week to remind them of what they wanted to accomplish and express that you have faith in them; see how gratifying that feels.

At this turn of the year, when we naturally are drawn to new year’s resolutions to start fresh with hopes and dreams for the year ahead, know that the folks at LifePath are cheering you on and want to hear about your successes and challenges.

Learn more about Healthy Living workshops.

In addition to the workshops, the Healthy Living Program offers a monthly alumni group where graduates from any of the workshops support each other in making and accomplishing our action plans. The alumni group meets on the first Thursday of the month, from 2:00-3:45 p.m., at the Greenfield Senior Center.

Read more “Healthy Living in Community” articles.

Seunghee ChaAttorney Seunghee ChaWith the graying of baby boomers, and an estimated one out of eight expected to develop Alzheimer’s disease, the cost of medical expenses, including long-term care, has become an essential aspect of preparing for aging.

Health Savings Accounts

An emerging strategy is the Health Savings Account (HSA), a medical savings account designed to defray the cost of medical expenses not covered by insurance. It was established as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act and signed into law in December 2003.

To be eligible to contribute to an HSA, you must be enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). Once you turn age 65 and enroll in Medicare, you are ineligible to contribute. Contribution limits in 2019 are $3,500 for single coverage and $7,000 for family coverage, with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution for people age 55 and older.

HSAs offer significant tax advantages:

  • Funds contributed by an employer’s payroll deposit are pre-tax contributions and not subject to federal income tax (some employers also contribute to their employees’ HSAs).
  • In most states, including Massachusetts, your contributions to an HSA are excluded from your gross income.
  • You can invest the money in your HSA, which grows tax-free, and use it for qualified medical expenses for you, your spouse, and qualifying dependents.
  • Withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free; withdrawals for unqualified expenses are subject to income tax—if you are under age 65, a 20% penalty applies also.
  • Starting at age 65 you can withdraw funds for non-medical expenses tax-free and without penalty.
  • Funds in an HSA can be used to purchase long-term care insurance (limits apply and increase with age), which is important for taxpayers who cannot itemize deductions—premiums for long-term care insurance paid with non-HSA funds are deductible but only for taxpayers who take itemized deductions.
  • At your death if you name your spouse as beneficiary, the HSA can continue in their own name even if your spouse is not enrolled in a HDHP; alternatively, your spouse can take the remaining funds in a lump sum tax-free (non-spouse beneficiaries cannot continue the HSA in their own name and are taxed on the entire remainder account in the year of your death).

The tax-free advantages, with the enhanced benefits for people age 65 and older, make the HSA a more attractive investment vehicle than a taxable account like a 401(k) for savers who can maximize contributions and invest in long-term investments. HSAs incentivize saving for future medical expenses and can make long-term care insurance more affordable. If you are eligible to contribute to an HSA, start early, and it should be an integral part of a comprehensive plan for retirement and aging well.

The views expressed in this column represent general information. To address your particular and specific needs consult your own attorney. If you need help with referral to an attorney, contact the Franklin County Bar Association at (413) 773-9839 or the Worcester County Bar Association at (978) 752-1311. Elder law resources may be found through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Massachusetts Chapter, at massnaela.com or 617-566-5640.

Community Legal Aid (CLA) provides legal services free to people age 60 and older for civil legal matters with an emphasis on access to health care coverage (MassHealth and Medicare) and public benefits as well as tenants’ rights. A request for legal assistance can be made by phone at 413-774-3747 or toll-free 1-855-252-5342 during their intake hours (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.) or any time online by visiting www.communitylegal.org.

2018 Share the Love Co Branded Banner Carol Foote Headshot July 2018Carol FooteWe are excited to announce that LifePath is taking part in the Subaru Share the Love® Event.  Since 2008, this annual event has helped deliver nearly 2 million meals to seniors in need.

In a nutshell, those customers who purchase a Subaru now through January 2 will be able to designate a $250.00 donation from Subaru of America to a charity of their choice, including Meals on Wheels. Once the promotion is complete, Subaru and Meals on Wheels of America will award those charitable funds to organizations that manage the local Meals on Wheels programs and participate in the promotion.

We are proud of our Meals on Wheels program that last year served more than 500 elders per day, with volunteer drivers logging 267,372 miles as they delivered a nutritious noontime meal and wellness check to local elders. We are pleased that Subaru of America recognizes the Meals on Wheels program as a vital resource in caring for elders.

MOW America statsIf you’re in the market for a car, consider a win-win purchase - a new car for you and support for Meals on Wheels. Or, if you simply wish to support LifePath’s Meals on Wheels program, visit our giving page or send a donation to: LifePath, 101 Munson Street, Suite 201, Greenfield, MA 01301.