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What would you do if you were in an emergency situation trying to help someone who did not speak a shared language? What if your neighborhood was being evacuated door-to-door, but an elderly neighbor living alone had a hearing disability?

In moments like these, it is important to have a tool that can help you or others working in an emergency setting communicate quickly and effectively.

Show Me for Emergencies is a free mobile application developed by the Northampton-based business, CommunicateHealth, for Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management (OPEM). The app is designed to assist first responders, emergency staff, volunteers, and individuals working in emergency shelter settings, dispensing sites, and evacuation and shelter in place scenarios communicate with people with cognitive disabilities, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, those limited English proficiency, and anyone else who may have difficulty communicating verbally during an emergency.

Jessica C., a reviewer in the Google Play Store, also recommends this app for neighborhood responders. “[It’s] a great app to have,” she says, “especially if you participate in any neighborhood emergency prep work.” She calls the app “convenient and easy to use.”

CommunicateHealth worked to develop and test the app with those who would be using it, developing universally understood icons to represent vital emergency information.

The OPEM website further explains: “Within each scenario there are options to communicate information such as an individual’s preferred language, the type of emergency that’s happening, personal and medical needs, animated instructions for actions like boiling water or gathering items, along with a multitude of other concepts.”

The app can be downloaded to smartphones, tablets, and other devices running android via the Google Play Store or iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches through the App Store.

A printable “Show Me” booklet with simplified content is available free to Massachusetts residents and can be downloaded at www.mass.gov/dph/showme. You may also call 617-279-2240x326 to request a hard copy.

The White House has held a Conference on Aging each decade since the 1960s to identify and advance actions to improve the quality of life of older Americans. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security. The conference is an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs while bringing together older Americans, caregivers, government officials, members of the public, business leaders, and community leaders to discuss the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans in the next decade.

Regional forums included a listening session in Massachusetts

The White House Conference on Aging has been collecting stories and input from Americans through regional forums in Tampa, Fla.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Seattle, Wash.; Cleveland, Ohio; and Boston, Mass. The Boston regional forum featured several speakers, including Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Senator Elizabeth Warren; Congressman Stephen Lynch; and Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President of AARP. These forums as well as other venues, including the website and social media pages, provided opportunities for Americans across the country to engage in policy discussions, submit input on their priorities, and share their stories ahead of the White House event.

Some common themes reported by Americans have been retirement security, healthy aging, long-term services and supports, and elder justice and protection from financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect.

How to learn more or tune-in online on July 13

To learn more, read the policy briefs, or share your feedback before July 13, visit whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov. You can watch the event live online at whitehouse.gov/live.

The regional forum held on Thursday, May 28, in Boston was recorded and can be viewed online.

A new class of volunteers who really SHINE!

This past June, a class of six new volunteers graduated from the SHINE (Serving the Health Information Needs of Everyone) Program’s eleven-week-long spring training session: Dennis Gemme, Kate Wadleigh, Kim LeGrand, Jeff Graham, Linda Grenier, and Kathy Scott. Coming from different walks of life, these men and women completed their course with an intensive exam, successfully passing and graduating on Thursday, June 18, as certified SHINE Counselors.

A small graduation ceremony was held for the graduates, who each received a certificate of achievement, a rose, and a gift certificate redeemable at several shops in Greenfield as tokens of appreciation. An afternoon luncheon followed, with food and desserts catered by the Farren Care Center.

June 2015 SHINE Graduation photo

Graduates from the SHINE Program's spring 2015 training celebrated with an afternoon luncheon and ceremony.
Present were, from left to right, Dennis Gemme and Kate Wadleigh, SHINE Counselors;
Annie Toth, Field Operations Manager & Training Coordinator at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs;
Kim LeGrand, Jeff Graham, Linda Grenier, and Kathy Scott, SHINE Counselors; and
Lorraine York-Edberg, Western Massachusetts Regional SHINE Program Director at LifePath.

As SHINE Counselors, they all will be able to work in their own communities to provide free, unbiased health insurance information, education, and assistance services to Medicare beneficiaries and adults with disabilities.

SHINE Counselors can consult with you over the phone or in person at your area senior center, in your home, or at another location that is convenient for you. To learn more about SHINE or to reach a trained and certified SHINE Counselor serving your area, please call 800-732-4636, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

SHINE holds quarterly seminars in Northampton and Turners Falls, entitled, “I am New to Medicare, What are My Options?” Learn more about the program and view a taping of a recent session at here.

If you’re interested in becoming a SHINE Counselor, contact Lorraine York-Edberg, Western Massachusetts Regional Director of the SHINE Program, at LifePath: call 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259 or email us.

The SHINE program (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone…on Medicare), provides free, confidential and unbiased health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the Regional Office at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555 or contact your local Council on Aging.

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. Franklin County Home Care Corporation 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.

Program offers elders and persons with disabilities transportation services to healthcare-related venues

Franklin County Home Care Corporation seeks volunteers for Rides for Health, a relatively new program that addresses an unmet need for elders in our community: transportation to and from medical and healthcare-related venues, such as an appointment with a specialist at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield or something closer to home, like a trip to the corner pharmacy to fill a prescription.

Transportation access is a need for elders all across our nation. According to a June 23, 2015, article in USA Today, 19% of the 271,000 calls received by the national Eldercare Locator hotline were for transportation needs. “Many callers express frustration because they can't do simple things like visit the doctor,” the Eldercare Locator explained in a report. Transportation needs were the top reason for calls in 2014, and 77.5% of those calls were for medical appointments while 13.8% were related to healthcare needs.

Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, runs the call center. “It's a very specific need,” she says. “People are looking predominantly for a ride to some kind of medical appointment.” This need is exacerbated for those living in rural areas, where there is often a lack of public transit options.

Our local elders express their transportation needs

In Franklin County, our rural landscape makes for a beautiful place to live, but access to reliable transportation that meets an older person’s unique needs is a concern for elders.

In the development of the Rides for Health program structure, Program Director Trevor Boeding conducted interviews with elders to determine their specific needs. All following names of those interviewed have been changed to protect the privacy of the interviewees. In the survey, when asked if transportation to their doctor or healthcare provider was ever a problem for you, respondents said,” Yes.” They report having to miss or cancel and reschedule appointments when unable to find transportation, delaying medical procedures or foregoing them all together. Specific concerns also included the need for “door-to-door” and “door-through-door,” rather than just “curb-to-curb” assistance, as well as insufficient times of operation and service area coverage with existing public transportation options.

R4H final - smallerRides for Health volunteers are providing a solution to elders facing a need for transportation to medical appointments and other healthcare-related venues.
Apply to be a volunteer.

“The planning, scheduling, and basic functioning is more of a pain than the doctor’s appointment. Buses are totally out of the question with the walker, as balance is my main issue and there is no one to help with getting on the bus unless you bring someone with you,” says Rebecca Lake. “I tried it once and gave up before I even got on the bus.”

With Rides for Health, trained volunteers offer door-through-door assisted transportation to home care clients, both elders and persons with disabilities. Volunteers work one-to-one, so the person using the service contacts the volunteer directly to arrange for transportation. Volunteers may also provide escort and assistance to the client who uses public transportation. Rides for Health volunteers are trained and authorized to provide physical assistance as needed and remain with the individual at the destination, so there is no calling or waiting for the return trip.

Some elders are able to hire private drivers, but even then transportation is not always available when it is needed. “My driver works two hours weekly, and my appointments are not when she is working,” says Katherine Stone.

When unable to afford private transportation or to rely on public transit to for healthcare needs, some turn to family, friends, and caregivers.

“It’s a hardship if I have to pay someone,” says Rosa Torres. “I rely on friends and family for transportation needs. Without them, I would seriously need transportation help.” There are no additional fees for Rides for Health services, so if Rosa’s relatives and other loved ones were unable to help out, she would not have to find a way to pay a private driver; she could simply call her Rides for Health volunteer.

“My caregiver, Joann, drives me to all my appointments and picks up my prescriptions, but she uses her own car and gas money to do it for me. I would like her to be my personal driver and to get her reimbursed for mileage she uses on her own car. She sometimes drives very far for my appointments,” says Emil Lundberg. With Rides for Health, Joann could volunteer to provide transportation for Emil using her private, insured vehicle and receive mileage reimbursement through the program.

Even those who still drive on their own may need assistance with certain trips. “Due to high-speed driving on I-91, I no longer drive on interstate highways,” says Viktoria Golovin, who has had trouble obtaining transportation to out-of-county medical appointments. A Rides for Health volunteer could offer support for Viktoria as she needs it, as with these longer trips.

Become a volunter in just one half-day!

Becoming a volunteer is simple. After completing the application process, you will attend a half-day of training.

The next free training takes place on Thursday, July 23, 2015, from 1 to 5 p.m., in the community room of the Turners Falls branch of the Greenfield Savings Bank. Light refreshments will be served.

Apply now

For more information, please contact us.