Interest in the “village movement” for aging in the community continues to spread across the country and state.  A new village called Love Living at Home was recently incorporated in the Ithaca area.  Rhinebeck at Home in the Hudson Valley also is a relatively new village.

In Albany, Livingston Village is being developed by Senior Services of Albany in a public school recently converted into senior apartments. There are a number of villages in Westchester County and they are working with the Center for Aging in Place Services there, which provides support.  There are also villages in New York City, in Long Island, and in the western part of the state.  

The Albany Guardian Society has hosted two meetings this year to provide information about how to develop villages.  Community Caregivers is interested in discussing and supporting the village concept with other local seniors interested in setting up villages in Albany County.

The Village Movement became a national organization, which is based in St. Louis.  Its national website can be reached at this link to get a look at the various organizations around the state and nation that have identified themselves as either formed or interested in forming a village: http://www.vtvnetwork.org/content.aspx?page_id=1905&club_id=691012

The village movement began several years ago in Boston when Beacon Hill Village was formed by neighbors who wanted to join to help each other stay in their homes or community.  Dues were charged to provide a staff and some services though the models in each community are different and reflect the desires of the local group.

In addition to the services provided, the connection to an organization run by the members builds a sense of community and support and reduces isolation and the feeling of not being able to manage the challenges of living at home and aging.

Since the first village, the movement has taken off because of the local connection and hands-on participation.  However, maintaining a village is difficult and many face issues related to ongoing financing to support staffing and the usual turnover and “aging out” of older activists who were the original founders.

Increasingly, villages are being organized by existing not-for-profits that can provide some ongoing support, though many still spring up as local efforts of community volunteers.

Of course, New York State has many other aging-in-place communities like the NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) that are funded by the State Office for the Aging and the New York City Department for the Aging. NORCs in these government programs have definitions that were in legislation so they are not as open-ended as a local village might be.

Villages and NORCs complement the formal health-care system and the formal aging network, providing services based on income and eligibility for the most part.  It is critical to support and engage self-help community groups as well as caregivers and volunteers.  It is also important that the state continue to nurture and support the movement.

Community Caregivers, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides non-medical services and caregiver support at no charge to residents in Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors. To find out more about our services or volunteering, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Michael Burgess serves as a consultant to Community Caregivers; he formerly headed the New York State Office for the Aging.

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Summer is a great time to be outdoors in Albany County. Whether you are gardening, visiting a farmers’ market, going to the fair, or are off to the races, it’s also a time to be vigilant about the risks of excessive heat and sun.  While too much heat is unsafe for everyone, the risks increase for anyone who is older or has health problems.

In upstate New York, most of us have heard of “hypothermia” caused by exposure to cold weather. But the risk in hot weather, which we may not be aware of, is “hyperthermia.”

Hyperthermia is caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body. Hyperthermia includes: heat fatigue, heat syncope — sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

While older adults are generally at risk for these conditions, this risk can increase with the combination of higher temperature, individual lifestyle, and general health. Lifestyle factors include not drinking enough fluids, a home without air-conditioning, lack of mobility or access to transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places, and not understanding how to respond to hot weather conditions.

It’s recommended that older individuals, particularly those with chronic medical conditions, stay indoors in cooler spaces on hot and humid days. People without air-conditioning may find relief in air-conditioned spaces like senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters, and libraries during the hottest hours of the day.

During stretches of hot weather, consider making a daily call or visit to an older relative, friend, or neighbor.

The National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, has valuable advice to help all of us avoid the hazards of hot weather. Awareness of factors that increase the risk of hyperthermia may help with prevention. They include:

— Dehydration;

— High blood pressure or other health conditions that require changes in diet. For example, people on salt-restricted diets may be at increased risk. However, salt pills should not be used without first consulting a doctor;

— Heart, lung, and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever;

— Use of multiple medications. Please note that it is important to continue to take prescribed medication and discuss possible problems with a physician;

— Reduced sweating, caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and certain heart and blood pressure drugs;

— Age-related changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands;

— Being substantially overweight or underweight; and

— Alcohol use.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. It occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and unable to control its temperature. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include a significant increase in body temperature (generally above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), changes in mental status (like confusion), strong rapid pulse, lack of sweating, dry flushed skin, feeling faint, and staggering or coma.

Seek immediate emergency medical attention for a person with heat-stroke symptoms, especially an older adult.

To keep heat-related illnesses from becoming a dangerous heat stroke, you can:

— Get out of the sun and into a cool place;

— Drink fluids, but avoid alcohol or caffeine. Water or juices are recommended;

— Shower, bathe, or sponge off with cool water; and

— Lie down and rest in a cool place and, importantly, get medical assistance if you don’t cool down quickly.

Safety precautions in the heat will help keep our memories of Summer 2015 happy ones. If you would like more information about health and aging from the National Institute on Aging, go to www.nia.nih.gov.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services and caregiver support at no charge to residents in Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors. To find out more about our services or volunteering, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education Coordinator for community Caregivers.

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How do you motivate people? What is it that causes a person to take action, to take that first step? Specifically, in the case of volunteering for Community Caregivers, what will cause you to pick up the phone and call us?

I asked Mary Morrison, Caregivers’ transportation coordinator, to give me the names of eight to 10  women and men of  various ages  who have volunteered for CC. What motivated them might motivate you.

These are the questions I asked:

— 1. Age;

— 2. Date you started volunteering;

— 3.What services did you provide;

— 4. What was the impetus for you to call CC to look into volunteering; and

— 5. What would you say to someone who has expressed interest in CC to take the first step?

If the volunteer’s name is included, they have given permission. This is the first of a series to hear what some of our volunteers said.

When Judy Lenihan of Delmar was getting ready to retire, she “…was exploring a lot of options in planning retirement — docent at the Albany Institute of History and Art, ushering at one of our local theaters and I had been researching senior services in Bethlehem.”

One other activity, pre-retirement, occurred. She went to a job fair to see, as Judy put it, “what was available part time.”

At the job fair, Judy met Caregivers’ executive director at the time who explained, “Since our society is so mobile today, many families don’t have relatives to count on when they need help, and that is where CC can help.”

At this time, although she was still working, Judy learned about an opening for a transportation coordinator that allowed her to make calls evenings and weekend. (This job no longer exists for volunteers.)

 “It was a good fit for a while,” she said. After retirement, though, Judy wanted to do transportation for clients because it suited her “desire for flexibility.”

During this time period, I had met Judy and asked her to join the Volunteer Support Committee. Judy says that she has encouraged two of her friends to volunteer. She says, “Your personal invitation to join the VSC is what encouraged me to join the committee.”

What would Judy say to someone who has expressed interest in volunteering but hasn’t done anything yet?

“You can volunteer — as often as you want; there’s a no-guilt policy; rides for clients are important (not just seniors); there is joy in knowing that you are really helping clients access what they need due to a variety of circumstances; I enjoy meeting different, interesting people.”

Lastly, Judy says she’d ask a person who was contemplating volunteering what his or her biggest concern was. What is holding them back?

After a few years, Judy started in 2006, she became a client and received transportation services to chemo appointments. She said, “I would want to share what that meant to me.”

Take the step. Call 456-2898 to find out the date for the next orientation and what all the opportunities are.

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On the Memorial Day weekend, we were in Austin, Texas for a grandson’s graduation from the University of Texas. You may recall that weekend had devastating flooding in Texas. We woke up on Sunday morning to hear what the damages were.

San Marcos was badly hit. The mayor came on the news to thank first responders, the National Guard, and many others, but also neighbors who helped people in need. Schools were shelters; 300 homes were reduced to slabs; 300 to 400 homes sustained damage; several hundred people were evacuated; 7,000 people were without power — all this within a 12-hour period from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. on May 24.

If you remember that weekend, you know it got worse. What struck me at the time was the mayor’s reference to “neighbors.” The San Marcos neighbors are not unlike the neighbors in our region. And, indeed, the neighbors, your neighbors, who provide the wonderful services that Community Caregivers arranges for those in need. We connect those who can help with those who need it.

Mary Morrison, Caregivers Transportation Coordinator says we need drivers for St. Vincents’ Food Pantry on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from 12:30 2:30 p.m. Last week, I drove six people.

If there are two drivers, you can divvy the rides up and each spend one hour instead of two. Here is an example of literally devoting one or two hours a month to volunteering.

These folks have many groceries to get home. Some have farther to go than others. I know my help is appreciated.

There are also seven or eight people who Mary says have requested assurance calls or visits. Mary explained some clients live with families but the members work. They’re safe but they’d like company.

Some people live alone, are elderly, and need some visitors and reassurance calls. What do you talk about or what do you do? Mary said that the caregivers give suggestions for activities or conversations. Reading, playing cards, watching TV as possible activities.

Building a relationship would be a good outcome. It’s also possible you might just keep the person safe while the caregiver gets some much-needed relief.

Upcoming orientation sessions are June 16 at noon, July 7 at 1 p.m., July 23 at 10 a.m., Aug. 4 at noon, and Aug. 17 at 5:30 p.m.. If none of these times work, you can always call the office to arrange a time that is best for you.  All orientations are held at the Caregivers’ office at 2021 Western Ave in Guilderland, Suite 4. Please call ahead, 456-2898, to let the staff know you’ll be there so they have enough materials.

Our lives fluctuate. If this is a good time frame, consider joining the Caregivers’ team. If you want to do something that matters, that’s another good reason.

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“Falls are never ‘nothing’,” stated Kathy Greenlee, United States Assistant Secretary for Aging, at the National Council on Aging Summit on Falls Prevention in Washington, D.C. The summit took place on April 30, to inform policymakers for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.

As many readers know, a fall for an older adult can be a game-changer.

There was a lot of discussion by experts at this summit.  And it’s indisputable that fall-prevention priorities and strategies include funding and reimbursement, engaging new stakeholders, and expanding evidence-based programs known to help reduce falls. Conversely, fall prevention barriers include lack of funding, missing clinical-community connections, and low public awareness. 

This is where small community-based agencies, like Community Caregivers, can help make a difference: by raising public awareness about falls and strengthening community connections. Community Caregivers has at the heart of its mission helping individuals “maintain their independence, dignity and quality of life within their homes and communities.” Preventing falls, especially among older adults, can make an independent life a reality.

Community Caregivers Inc. is committed to fall prevention education. Earlier this year, in Caregivers Corner, we provided winter safety tips to prevent falls.  Underlying causes of falls, however, know no season and can occur at any time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promote four things that individuals can do to prevent falls:

— Begin a regular exercise program;

— Have your health-care provider review your medicines;

— Have your vision checked; and

— Make your home safer.

The Community Caregivers’ website, www.communitycaregivers.org, has resources on fall-prevention education. You may also request a speaker for your community group by calling us at 456-2898.

Nora Super, executive director of the White House Conference on Aging, notes, “Prevention is better than treatment. That’s certainly true when it comes to falls and older adults.”

Clearly, the fall that never happens is the best outcome for any of us. 

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services and caregiver support at no charge to residents in Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.

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