The annual Community Caregivers gala will be held on Nov. 14 at the Colonie Golf and Country Club in New Scotland.

This annual event features cocktails at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., silent and live auctions, and dancing to the music of The Bluz House Rockers at 9 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person and the deadline for making reservations is Nov. 2. All proceeds go directly to providing services and programs for clients, caregivers, and their families.

Major sponsors for the evening include Adirondack Environmental Services, Albany Medical Center, Capital District Physicians Health Plan, GCom Software Inc., the New York State Funeral Directors Association, PBR Printing, the Times Union, and Wells Fargo.

Community Caregivers will be presenting two awards at this year’s gala.

“We are extremely proud to honor James J. Barba, president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center, and Midge McGraw Bulgaro, Community Caregivers Board member,” said Edna Mae Reilly, board president. “Both individuals understand the needs of caregivers and have responded to those needs through their commitment, dedication, and actions.”

Mr. Barba will receive the Joseph A. Bosco Community Services Award. This award is given to an individual who has been a leader in community service.

In addition to Mr. Barba’s responsibilities at Albany Medical Center, he serves on the board of directors of the Health Care Association of New York State and the Park Playhouse and co-chairs Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Capital Region Economic Development Council. He has received the University at Albany’s Citizen Laureate award, as well as many other awards from Capital Region organizations.

Mrs. Bulgaro will receive the Victor G. Ross Community Caregivers Founders Award. This award recognizes contributions to the long-term success of the Community Caregivers program.

Mrs. Bulgaro has been a member of the board of directors for 13 years. She has served as president and vice president and has co-chaired the golf and gala committees several times. She is also a tireless volunteer.

Career-wise, Mrs. Bulgaro spent 24 years in state government, including the New York State Assembly, Department of Labor, and Governor’s Office of Counsel, and the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

After her public-service career, she was vice president for Government Affairs for AmeriChoice Inc. Her experience and expertise have been very important to the programmatic and financial success of Community Caregivers.

Many individuals and businesses have generously donated prizes for the silent and live auction and it’s always a fun night out. Won’t you join us? Check the website — www.communitycaregivers.org — for additional information.           

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Marey Bailey is a no-nonsense kind of woman. Among other things, she has worked for the Albany County Hall of Records and History. In that capacity, she had the “dubious role of organizing Mayor Corning’s letters,” she said. Marey also worked for Floral Designs in Guilderland for 11 years.

When she retired in 2014, she planned to volunteer. Marey said, “I wanted to have some things to do that are regular.”

She heard about Community Caregivers. Marey’s last job was as a home-care social worker with The Eddy.  She said of Community Caregivers, “It’s local...It’s Guilderland. I like helping people.”

Marey’s volunteer assignment is driving people to doctors’ appointments. She “regularly takes a woman to dialysis twice a week.”  As a volunteer, she feels, for her, it’s important to be flexible but “don’t over commit. I tend to over commit,” she says so she watches it.

Linda Miller, Caregivers Outreach and Education coordinator, holds orientation sessions, emphasizing how Caregivers respects the volunteers’ choices regarding the days and times they can commit to be available.

Marey’s tendency to overcommit isn’t taken advantage of. And, indeed, even though she or any volunteer states their days and times of availability, stuff still comes up.

Mary Morrison, Volunteer/Client coordinator, is fond of saying Caregivers is a no-guilt organization. And this emphasizes the continued need for volunteers so that not just a few are always doing the work, so that, if you can’t make your commitment, there is always someone to back you up.

This is another in a series of interviews with some of Community Caregivers volunteers. Making the decision to volunteer is not easy. Or rather, deciding is easy, but implementing it is something else.

Marey’s decision to volunteer was “…when I retired” and it took a year. Decisions like this, commitments, do take time to come to fruition. For Marey, being local and being known were important considerations for the agency she would volunteer for.

If you’re available and want to help others in your community of Berne, Bethlehem, Guilderland, New Scotland, Knox, Voorheesville, or Albany, please call 456-2898 to make an appointment for an orientation. Currently, meetings are first Tuesdays and third Thursdays through December.

The Caregivers’ mission is to help people of all ages stay in their homes and communities and maintain their independence and dignity. We’re ready for you when you’re ready for us.

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Safety and the older driver is a sensitive topic.  Concerns about driving as one grows older   include the physical safety of the driver and others. And it includes the emotional decision of when to stop driving, as the ability to drive represents independence in our society.

Often, transportation is the number-one barrier for people who are seeking to age independently. Therefore, especially in our rural and suburban communities here in Albany County, independence means hanging on to the car keys.

As it turns out, we are neither helpless nor hopeless with the challenge of driving safely as we age. Education, preparation, and awareness can help all of us. Improvements in driver safety are not limited to those who are elders in the community; everyone can benefit. 

The National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, www.nia.nih.gov, offers safe driving tips for you or the older driver in your family.

Mobility

If you have stiff joints and sore muscles, perhaps due to arthritis, you might have difficulty turning your head to see what’s behind you, turning the steering wheel, or braking safely.

See your doctor if the pain and stiffness is affecting your driving.

Drive with power steering, power brakes, and larger mirrors, if possible. 

Do exercises to improve flexibility and strength.

Vision 

If your vision has changed with age, it may be harder to see movement of cars or people outside of your direct line of sight. Glare from blinding sunlight during the day and from oncoming headlights at night can make it difficult to see the road.

See your eye doctor at least every one to two years from age 65 on; many vision problems, like cataracts, are treatable.

Make sure your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses is up to date.

Cut back on nighttime driving or stop altogether if you have difficulty seeing in the dark.

Sunrise and sunset are good times to avoid driving, since the sun can be directly in your line of vision. Pay attention to changes in the length of the day throughout the year and adjust your travel plans.

Hearing

If your hearing is impaired, which is common as we age, it’s harder to hear sirens, car horns or other vehicles approaching.

Get your hearing checked. The National Institute on Aging recommends having your hearing checked at least every three years after age 50.

Keep the interior of your car as quiet as possible while you are behind the wheel. 

Watch those warning lights on the car’s dashboard for any signals of something wrong with the car.

Reflexes

Older drivers may also experience slower reaction times and reflexes. To avoid other drivers, pedestrians, or hazards in the road, you need adequate response time. Consider that medications might make you drowsy and slow your reaction time.

Leave more distance between you and the car ahead of you.

Brake earlier when you need to stop.

Avoid high traffic situations and high speed driving.

If you must drive on highways, stay in the right lane with slower traffic to give you more time to make safe driving decisions.

Read medicine labels carefully; speak to your doctor or pharmacist about side effects that may affect your ability to drive.

Driving programs

There are driving programs aimed at older adults to update and refresh their knowledge of the rules of the road and learn how to adjust their driving to compensate for age-related physical changes. Safe-driver courses and resources are offered by the American association of Retired Persons, the American Automobile Association, and some insurance companies.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has resources devoted to senior drivers. Its website can be found at www.nhtsa.gov/Senior-Drivers

Part Two of Older Driver Safety will consider when to give up driving.

Community Caregivers, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation, 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 volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call 456-2898.            

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

Why do people volunteer?  The answers are as varied as the people I interviewed. I asked some of Caregivers’ volunteers what actually motivated them to volunteer.

John Meany — he likes to be called Jack — started volunteering three or four years ago after his wife died. Jack’s daughter had passed along copies of The Enterprise, and it was there he learned about Caregivers.

He thought, “If it pans out, so much the better.” Later he said, “Volunteering helped me through that time.”  It filled his empty time.

Jack does transportation twice a week. Mostly, he takes people to doctors for their appointments, sometimes to a hospital. Sometimes “…transporting for radiation, you get to know them [the clients]. After a while, people open up.” He continued, “After I got into it, I found that it really is keeping people in their homes. It’s doing what its mission says.”

So Jack started out as a volunteer for what he said was ”…a perceived, personal need.” There was no pressure from Community Caregivers.

And, after a while, he realized he looked forward to it; it was rewarding to satisfy someone’s needs.  “There’s a degree of satisfaction,” he said. “It’s hard to describe.”

Jack likes meeting people, and he sees that the people he helps are so appreciative.  He often finds himself saying, “That was a good mission today.”

Jack doesn’t want to portray himself as a hero or somebody who is outstanding. He calls himself ”…just an average Joe.” Jack joins Community Caregivers’ family in choosing to make a difference in his community by helping others maintain their independence, dignity, and quality of life.

Most of Caregivers’ volunteers don’t think of themselves as heroes, but they certainly are to those they help. Consider calling the office at 456-2878 to sign up for an orientation. The Fall schedule is first Tuesdays at 10 or Third Thursdays at noon.

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This is the second of a series on why people volunteer with Community Caregivers. What led them to pick up the phone and call Community Caregivers to make an appointment for an orientation?

Jerry Ostrander shares his story.

Jerry started with Community Caregivers in February 2010. Since then, he’s provided transportation for clients to various appointments.

When I asked him what the impetus was for him to contact the Caregivers, he said, “That’s a tough question.” After some thought, he said, “God has blessed me beyond measure during my lifetime, and I feel strongly about the need to give back whenever possible.”

He went on, “I’ve been blessed with a nice comfortable retirement, a nice vehicle, the physical ability to drive.” So he decided to provide transportation “…as requested and when convenient to my schedule.”

Jerry learned a lot about Caregivers when he walked the indoor track at the Guilderland Y with Tom Morrison. The “why” he joined resulted from the multiple conversations he and Tom had. Tom volunteers for the Caregivers, too.

“It is clearly a discussion and subsequent decision I am very happy about,” Jerry said. He believes volunteering is important because he feels “…a personal responsibility to help others.” He added, “Maybe more personally gratifying is the reality that my life is so enriched by serving others,” even when all he does is provide a ride to an appointment.

The assignments Jerry has allow him to develop friendships. For example, for three years he drove a client to visit his wife at a nursing home. He said you can’t drive someone for three years and not get to know them. “I have always received more than the service I provide,” he said.

Mary Morrison, Caregivers’ Transportation Coordinator, gets kudos because she knows Jerry likes a “regular, weekly assignment,”  since it allows him flexibility. When Mary calls for an additional assignment, he is very willing if his schedule permits.

Transportation continues to be the most requested service. In June, there were 249 requests for that service alone. Jerry took one client to visit his wife; he now has another client he takes to therapy two times a week.

Keeping folks in their homes and helping them maintain their independence is what Community Caregivers is about. Check out the website: communitycaregivers.org. Our number is 456-2898. Or talk to Jerry. Say happy birthday if you see him; it was Aug. 24.

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