- Written by Pat Sicard, RSVP of the Pioneer Valley Volunteer Manager
Everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging and importance, especially after retirement. Losing the connection to meaningful work and valued co-workers can be discouraging, but volunteering often fills that need to make a difference. Whether you would like to share your skills and experience to benefit local nonprofits, wish to make new friends, want to practice skills in preparation for re-entering the job market, or seek to help an organization that has helped you, volunteering is your ticket to post-retirement fulfillment.
With a few hours weekly or monthly, you can give assistance that will have a powerful impact on the wellbeing of your community’s most senior residents. Helping to prepare or deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound elders is one of the most important volunteer supports in every community. Elders who cannot prepare a hot meal for themselves depend on the meals drivers to bring sustaining food with a smile. This delivery also serves as a wellness check that can alert caregivers when a senior is having difficulties of any type. Meals drivers decrease loneliness, increase health and wellbeing, and always know that their volunteer efforts make a definite difference in the lives of their clients.
With a few hours weekly or monthly, you can give assistance that will have a powerful impact on the wellbeing of your community’s most senior residents.
Some other volunteer assignments that support seniors are money management volunteers who help elders pay their bills, long-term care ombudsman volunteers who visit seniors in nursing homes, and Med-Ride drivers who take seniors to medical appointments. RSVP of the Pioneer Valley can offer many volunteer options, you make the choice that fits you best, and we facilitate the match. Challenge your interests and skills and make a difference.
- Written by Carol Foote, Development Director, 413-773-5555 x2225, firstname.lastname@example.org
Having been a resource for 45 years, LifePath has built its strong reputation through our integrity, credibility, and the wide range of quality programs and services we offer. Over these many decades, as much as we’ve put into our community, the community has reached back with generosity and gratitude. Letters and donations come in regularly, smiles and hugs are given freely, and partners want to continue working with us. Yes, LifePath generates goodwill.
That goodwill is received as a result of LifePath taking its responsibility seriously to support elders, people with disabilities, and their caregivers.
We’ve been successful at serving those in our service areas because:
- individuals and/or their family members raise their hand to say, “Yes, we need support to live fuller lives;”
- programming grew out of necessity, creating an array of about 40 programs and services available today;
- donors and funders have become stakeholders because they recognize the need that exists and believe in the work of the agency;
- volunteers step forward and place priority on those we serve over their own free time; and
- staff members carry out our mission every day to provide options for independence and enhance the quality of life through person-centered care.
The above named pieces coming together speaks to the fact that we have a community that cares and knows we can’t do this work alone. As an agency, we are grateful to those who partner with us, allowing us to stand on solid footing, be it the individual we are serving, their family member, or a community partner, funder, or donor endorsing what we do.
Whether you met us 45 years ago as Franklin County Home Care Corp., know us now as LifePath, or crossed our path somewhere between, THANK YOU for being a source of support for us, so that we may offer support to others.
Mark your calendar to participate in the national online giving effort that is #GivingTuesday on December 3!
- Written by Janis Merrell, Editor of The Good Life
November is National Diabetes Awareness month, and I wish it wasn’t. As someone who has type 2 diabetes, this is the time of year when I want to ignore it completely and enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner (and the morning celebratory cinnamon rolls to go with it)…followed by dessert…and leftovers. Plus November is the beginning of the holiday food season. The last thing I want to be reminded of is diabetes!
Having made my protest, remembering to manage one’s diabetes is the key to staying healthy and being able to enjoy as many future holidays as possible. With a healthy future in mind, what follows is some information about the diabetes epidemic, the symptoms of diabetes and its diagnosis, and how to manage diabetes successfully.
According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2015 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population had diabetes-so if you have diabetes, you are not alone! Of those 30.3 million, 23.1 million were diagnosed and 7.2 million were undiagnosed. Also, diabetes disproportionately affects older adults. Approximately 25% of Americans over the age of 60 have diabetes, and aging of the U.S. population is widely acknowledged as one of the drivers of the diabetes epidemic.
Insulin is a hormone that the body needs in order to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. If you have type 1 diabetes, in which your pancreas does not produce insulin, then you may notice weight loss even though you are eating more food. If you have type 2 diabetes, in which your body doesn’t use insulin properly, you may notice tingling, pain, or numbness in your hands and/or feet. Other common symptoms of either type of diabetes include urinating often, feeling very thirsty and hungry (even though you are drinking and eating), feeling fatigued, having blurry vision, and having cuts and bruises that are slow to heal.
If you are concerned you might have diabetes, your first step is to talk to your physician. They will order an A1C test, which will provide your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. It is a simple blood test. Learn more about A1C.
If you do find out you have diabetes, don’t lose hope! It can be managed successfully through healthy eating, regular exercise, and managing your medication. If it is type 1 diabetes, it will require monitoring your blood sugar and administering multiple daily insulin injections with a pen, a syringe, or a pump. Learn more about managing type 1 diabetes.
Approximately 25% of Americans over the age of 60 have diabetes, and aging of the U.S. population is widely acknowledged as one of the drivers of the diabetes epidemic.
If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, with your doctor’s guidance you may be able to control your blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, or you may need medication or insulin to fight it. Learn more about managing type 2 diabetes.
There is also gestational diabetes, which affects 10 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. and for which the cause is unknown. Hormones can block the action of the mother’s insulin in her body causing insulin resistance, or the mother’s body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes can still have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. Learn more about gestational diabetes.
Once you receive a diabetes diagnosis, whether it is type 1, type 2, or gestational, it is important to focus on healthy food choices, exercise, medication management (if required), and blood sugar monitoring. Talk to your medical provider about resources that can help, such as a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) or registered dietitian (RD) to help you figure out what eating plan makes sense for you.
According to the American Diabetes Association’s 2019 Nutrition Consensus Report, everyone’s body responds differently to different types of food and diets, so there is no “diabetes diet,” although it is good for diabetics to include lots of non-starchy vegetables, minimize added sugars and refined grains, and choose whole, minimally processed foods. For “some” in the study, eating no more than 26-45% of total calories from carbohydrates did result in better blood sugars and a reduction in diabetes medications, but please check with your physician to find out if this is the best option for you.
Even losing modest amounts of weight through a healthy diet and exercise can improve your blood sugars and reduce your risk for diabetes complications. It is important to start out slow. Five minutes of exercise is better than nothing, and you are more likely to do it again than if you push yourself too hard. Also, if you are taking insulin, you are at risk for hypoglycemia if your insulin dose or carbohydrate intake is not adjusted with exercise, so you will need to work with your medical team to figure out the best approach for you.
The cost of diabetes medications and blood sugar testing supplies can be stressful to people with diabetes. If you are struggling to pay for insulin, visit insulinhelp.org to find out how to obtain immediate assistance and find a long-term solution. Talk to your medical team about help paying for your medications and supplies, as most pharmaceutical companies offer financial assistance programs to people who need help.
Emotional support is also important for people with diabetes. Caregiver.com suggests talking with your family and friends honestly about the problems you are having dealing with diabetes, including any judgment you might be feeling from others around your diabetes diagnosis. Your loved ones can help you take care of yourself, just as you help them. They can join you in being physically active and help you prepare healthy meals. If you need additional emotional support, please talk to your physician or mental health professional about available options.
Making the major lifestyle changes that diabetes may warrant can be difficult. If this is a concern for you, consider attending a Diabetes Self-Management workshop, such as the one offered by LifePath. These evidence-based workshops are hosted at various community locations and are taught by leaders who usually also struggle with diabetes. They are designed to help you make the changes that are right for you in a supportive learning environment. If a workshop isn’t right for you, we may be able to offer other support to tackle these challenges.
- Written by Janis Merrell
Enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at a senior dining center or luncheon club
Every year, local seniors age sixty and over and their spouses of any age enjoy a special holiday meal during the week before Thanksgiving at senior dining centers and luncheon clubs across Franklin County and the North Quabbin region. Thanksgiving dinners are a longstanding tradition at senior dining centers and luncheon clubs. A $3 donation per meal is requested. All are welcome: those who have been visiting for years and newcomers alike.
Thanksgiving dinners are a longstanding tradition at senior dining centers and luncheon clubs.
Menu items for this year’s celebration include roast turkey with herb gravy, whipped potatoes, bread stuffing, maple cinnamon butternut squash, and a wheat dinner roll, with pumpkin pie or diet pumpkin pudding for dessert.
Call your local dining center or luncheon club to find out if and when they’re participating in the special meal this year and to reserve your spot. You do not have to reside in the community in which you dine.
- Athol Senior Center: 978-249-9001
- Bernardston Senior Center: 413-648-5319
- Charlemont Luncheon Club: 413-339-5720
- Erving Senior Center: 413-423-3308
- Leverett Luncheon Club: 413-367-2694
- Montague Senior Center: 413-863-9357
- New Salem Luncheon Club: 978-544-2178
- Northfield Senior Center: 413-498-2186
- Orange Senior Center: 978-544-7082
- Petersham Luncheon Club: 978-724-3233
- Phillipston Luncheon Club: 774-262-0952
- Rainbow Elders Luncheon Club: 413-773-5555 x1242
- Royalston Luncheon Club: 978-249-9656
- Shelburne Senior Center: 413-625-6266
- South County Senior Center: 413-665-5063
- Warwick Luncheon Club: 978-544-2630
Other Thanksgiving Options
Free home-delivered meals on Thanksgiving Day are available for the elderly and homebound in Athol, Erving, New Salem, Orange, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Warwick, and Wendell only. Reservations must be made by November 22 by calling the North Quabbin Community Coalition at 978-249-3703.
The free William J. O’Brien Memorial Thanksgiving Dinner will be held at 12 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day (November 28) at the Athol American Legion (at the corner of Exchange & Pequoig Streets). Transportation is available. Reservations are required. Call the Athol Council on Aging at 978-249-8986.
Contact your local Salvation Army to find out the date and reserve a seat for their free Thanksgiving meal.
- Written by Lynne Feldman, Director of Community Services, LifePath
A powerful Nor’easter tore through New England on the evening of Wednesday, October 16, 2019, creating power outages for many in our area. At LifePath, staff and volunteers came in on Thursday, October 17, with stories of clearing fallen limbs from driveways and being detoured many miles as some roads were impassable due to fallen trees and power lines. By mid-afternoon, the local power companies were providing estimates of power returning as late as 11 p.m. Saturday evening for some residents, still more than two full days away. At that point, we initiated our emergency plans and began to try to identify those people who were more at risk due to the potentially extended power outage.
LifePath serves over 4,000 individuals each year through many different programs. Some of the people we serve do not have many other people they can rely on for help. For example, 36% of people who receive Meals on Wheels live alone with no one else to check on them. It’s these people that we turn our attention to when the power goes out.
The greatest risk of power outages is experienced by people who:
- Use oxygen or other medical equipment which requires electricity to recharge the unit batteries
- Rely on microwaves or electric stoves for meals, don’t have pantry food on hand, and can’t get to a location where meals are served
- Use medication that needs to be kept refrigerated
- Use electricity to heat their homes and can’t get to a warm location, if temperatures are expected to be cold
Thursday afternoon, LifePath staff began to pull together lists of people who, because they met the criteria above, needed a wellness check. Those people were called by staff or visited by Meals on Wheels drivers to ask if they were OK. If someone needed help, we problem-solved to provide the needed assistance. In a few cases, we worked with the providers of oxygen equipment to make sure they were able to get to the people who needed backup battery supplies. We also sent extra shelf-stable meals out with the Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers who were delivering that day to the areas affected by the power outage. The shelf-stable meals, such as a tuna fish sandwich meal, come in a package with a drink and a fruit or vegetable. After power had been restored for most people over the weekend, we heard that some really welcomed the shelf-stable meals. One person said, "It was very much appreciated."
We also responded to community requests for help. For example, in response to a call from a local fire chief, LifePath staff coordinated a short-term stay at a local nursing facility for a person with a disability who needed an accessible accommodation.
If someone needed help, we problem-solved to provide the needed assistance.
“For us, the most important part is making sure that everyone is safe, especially people for whom electricity is a life-sustaining necessity. Our dedicated staff contact those we serve who are isolated, with limited or no family or neighbor support, and have the greatest medical needs,” said Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director of LifePath. “We drop everything in emergency situations like this to help those who are most at risk. This is truly a collaborative effort with first responders, emergency town managers, hospitals and nursing facilities all working together to ensure the well-being of the community.”