Archive for the ‘Aging with Options’ Category


We love to talk about love in our society, especially this time of year around Valentine’s Day. Discussions of the trappings of love – the flowers, the dinners, diamond jewelry commercials on TV – seem inescapable. A new trend on social media focuses on increasingly elaborate proposals featuring flash mobs, show choirs and even some national talk show hosts. From the popularity of romantic comedies to the over-the-top – and expensive – weddings favored by many couples, “love” receives a great deal of attention long after Valentine’s Day is over.

Unfortunately, these examples focus less on true love and more on romance … which might explain why so many marriages end in divorce. True love persists after the romance and excitement have ended. True love doesn’t necessarily come with happiness. It can mean a lot of pain, sadness and sacrifice – experiences that can’t be easily summed up in a greeting card or a cute YouTube video.

Over the past year, I’ve had the great privilege to get to know Kim Campbell, wife of the legendary Glen Campbell. Since Glen’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s in 2011, Kim has taken on the never-ending and often thankless role of caretaker for her husband. Her experiences reflect those of countless other caretakers supporting those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases. These caretakers must express their love despite the fact that the memories and personality of their loved ones gradually slip away. Those with Alzheimer’s often can’t express their love or gratitude, and sometimes can’t even recognize the one taking care of them, but people like Kim carry on because of a bond that transcends superficial romantic gestures. This is the true meaning of love that gets ignored on Valentine’s Day.

And this love doesn’t just apply to married couples or between parent and children. At Volunteers of America, we employ a small army of caregivers who dedicate their professional lives to caring for others. They do this work out of a deep love and concern for other people, often when they could be doing something more lucrative and less emotionally taxing.

Thank you for your support.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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Volunteers of America Historical Photo

Women are caretakers. They care for children, for parents, for elderly neighbors who don’t have anyone else to watch over them. They act as the glue holding together extended, multigenerational families. And all too often, unfortunately, women are the only caretakers in many families.

This is why so many of the programs offered by Volunteers of America focus on women, especially mothers. We understand the role they play as the foundations of their families and communities. We know we can’t begin to help the children, low-income seniors and many others who depend on these women if we don’t first stabilize the lives of the women themselves. This includes affordable housing, nutrition programs, and even addiction and mental health services, depending on the specific situation. By building stronger women, we also hope to build stronger families and communities.

Today, we’re seeing a growing number of women veterans joining the ranks of our homeless clients. These women bring with them unique problems that programs designed to help single male veterans fail to address … in particular, that many of these women are mothers with children who must be accommodated, as well. Military sexual trauma is another challenge that we’re only just now beginning to identify and understand.

Maud Booth co-founded Volunteers of America in 1896, in an era when women rarely worked outside the home, let alone led national human service organizations. She understood the benefit of tailoring programs to people’s individual needs, and being able to adapt as new social problems presented themselves. Helping women was always a top priority for her, starting with poor widows back in the days before Social Security. Maud remains an inspiration to us at Volunteers of America to this day.

Learn more about Volunteers of America’s programs, including those benefiting women and families.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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One minute of your time could help put an end to Alzheimer’s.

At Volunteers of America, we’ve committed to join a nationwide effort of organizations committed to ending Alzheimer’s. Together, we’re building a movement, and we need you.

Be a part of the movement today – start by signing the Petition to Stop Alzheimer’s.

One in three families is affected by Alzheimer’s. It’s a cruel disease with a tremendous emotional and social cost – as well as an economic one. If we don’t act now, Alzheimer’s will cost our nation more than a trillion dollars each year by 2050.

We’re building this movement because individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caretakers and families need our support – and they need it right away. One minute of your time can make all the difference; please sign the petition today to put an end to Alzheimer’s.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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Let’s be honest about the “fiscal cliff” and the faulty logic that claims that charitable tax deduction is a benefit for the wealthy that won’t be missed. Political leaders touting this bromide are justifying proposals to redirect these dollars away from important work happening in communities nationwide.

Congress is seriously considering caps or cuts to the charitable deduction. The potential result—millions served by America’s nonprofit sector will be hit with the double whammy of government cutbacks and decline in the support of organizations like Volunteers of America, American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the American Cancer Society.

Quietly and humbly carrying out extraordinary missions every day, it may be easy to overlook the nonprofit sector as a growth industry and vital part of America’s social and economic fabric. Limiting or doing away with the charitable deduction at a time when people are still reeling from the recession and budget cutbacks simply makes no sense. It won’t help the federal government avoid the fiscal cliff. It will simply shift it to the nonprofit sector and communities that depend on it.

Hundreds of leaders serving our communities will travel to our nation’s capital December 4-5 to make sure elected officials understand what is at stake. These leaders of the Charitable Giving Coalition include more than 50 of America’s most active charities, nonprofits and other organizations. We are speaking out to protect a 100-year American philanthropic tradition that encourages giving back and strengthening communities. We’re also urging anyone committed to protecting the charitable deduction and the communities served by charitable giving to make sure their voices are heard.

We aim to pierce the “inside-the-beltway” bubble with a reality check from thousands of communities outside the beltway about what is at stake—crucial programs and services, from food pantries and medical research to youth programs and seed grants to support new businesses and job creation.

Data suggests that for every dollar deducted through this incentive, communities receive $3 of benefit. No other tax provision generates the kind of positive impact. But, if donors have less incentive to give, donations decline. The result is the loss of billions of dollars to support worthy causes, the jobs they provide, and the millions they serve.

According to Giving USA individual contributions to charitable causes in America account for 73 percent of all giving. These donations help achieve breakthroughs and benefits that put our country on a path of continuous improvement. A new public opinion poll commissioned by the United Way found that most Americans (79 percent) believe reducing or eliminating the charitable tax deduction would have a negative impact on charities and the people they serve. Of those who indicate they would reduce charitable giving, the majority (62 percent) indicate they would have to reduce their contributions by a significant amount—by 25 percent or more. Two out of every three Americans (67 percent) are opposed to reducing the charitable tax deduction.

The message is clear. Americans want to protect the charitable deduction.

And, consider this: Nonprofits generate $1.1 trillion every year through human services and provide 13.5 million jobs. They account for 5.4 percent of the GDP and 9 percent of all wages paid. The diverse nonprofit sector supports efforts to, for example, develop technology and medications to improve our health—like insulin, the polio vaccine, the MRI, electron microscope and pacemaker, provide educational opportunities and access to health services and ensure housing and shelter for the most vulnerable. Other nonprofits enhance the arts and cultural activities, conserve wetlands and protect the environment, protect civil and voting rights, and preserve historic treasures.

Now is not the time for Congress to dismantle a tradition that supports America’s nonprofits and the people and causes they serve. No doubt our nation faces a fiscal crisis that must be addressed, but Congress should stop seeing the charitable deduction as an easy mark and acknowledge the fiscal cliff they will create for America’s most vulnerable at a time they can least afford it. Giving strengthens our communities. Urge your members of Congress to preserve the charitable deduction.

Click here to add writing to your member of Congress to preserve charitable giving to your GOOD “to-do” list.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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Photo from June 1954: Glen at age one and his mom. She took care of him and now he cares for her. Funny how that works out.

At age 70, my mother took great pride in her independence. She loved her apartment and friends and was enjoying her “golden years” in Maine. Suddenly and unexpectedly, with one serious hospitalization, my mother lost her independence and became totally dependent on me. As her only child, I did my best to take charge of the situation, but I was not prepared and had no experience in this area.

After her condition stabilized, I was told that she would be moved to 24/7 care and a specific nursing home was recommended by the hospital. Her condition meant that she would never be able to go back to her home. This was a devastating blow for her and sent her into a deep depression. The situation was now a crisis for both of us. I had to make several critical decisions with basically no information or support. These included:

  • Was this the right nursing home that provided quality care?
  • What were the costs and how would they be paid for?
  • Did she have Medicare and what did it cover?
  • How much money did my mother have and was it enough?
  • How long would she be in the nursing home so I could line up another place for her to live?
  • And, when she came home, what kind of care would she need and how would it be provided?

The list seemed endless and was totally overwhelming to me. She qualified for Volunteers of America housing but I had no knowledge that it existed. It was all too much, too fast and I ended up in the hospital myself. Nobody should have to go through this. There has to be a better way! I swore that day that I would help make it easier for others to navigate this time of great change and crisis by sharing my own experience and educating as many people as possible about how important it is to prepare beforehand for the care of aging loved ones and the wonderful aging options Volunteers of America offers.

The Program of All-Inclusive Care (PACE) can provide the care and support that loved ones need. With growing interest from our affiliates, Aging with Options™ is committed to expanding this program nationally. We are excited that by the beginning of the New Year, we will have opened the Senior CommUnity Care PACE program in the Durham, N.C., area. By having more options for elderly care, we are helping our seniors maintain the dignity and independence they want and deserve.

– By Glenn Michaels, Director of Marketing, Communications and Community Engagement for Volunteers of America Northern New England

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When I hear the debate about entitlement programs and trimming spending from the federal budget, I think of my late mother. She was a Dallas hairdresser who eventually opened her own beauty shop and worked hard her whole life to support her family. In her later years, when her health started to fail, I became largely responsible for her care. But despite having close relatives who could provide for her day-to-day needs, she still depended on Medicare and Social Security to provide for her healthcare and other expenses.

My mother was lucky. Many older people have no one to care for them and no savings to rely upon. As head of an organization that provides health care and housing to more than 30,000 low-income seniors daily, I take very seriously the reality that for many of these vulnerable Americans, we have become their family… they are certainly ours.

As the family members responsible for their care, we rely on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security to assist in financing their services. These proud and dedicated Americans are not looking for a handout. Rather, they have been hard working men and women who guided the country through World War II and then built us into the strongest nation and democracy on earth. They helped defend and secure for future generations most of the freedoms we enjoy.

For these reasons, it seems unthinkable that our country could adopt any fiscal policy that would balance the federal budget on the backs of these great — but now elderly and vulnerable — Americans. I, for one, can not face them everyday unless we’ve let it be known that this outcome is unacceptable.

While we know that it’s necessary to control spending, we must take a prudent and even-handed approach. Currently, a disproportionate share of proposed budget cuts focus on vulnerable and low-income people who depend on government-funded services. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security cannot fall victim to shortsighted efforts to cut the budget.

One proposal would convert Medicaid into a block grant system, pushing the burden of the program from the federal government to the cash-strapped states. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has stated that turning Medicaid into a block grant will greatly reduce the number of people who can be served by the program and will cause some services that are currently mandatory to be reduced or eliminated due to budgetary shortfalls. We and other like-minded organizations are very concerned about the impact this would have and are working to oppose this form of funding.

It has also been proposed that Medicare move away from its traditional form and move to a voucher-based program. However, these open-market programs typically cost more, not less, per beneficiary. Payments to existing voucher-based plans are an average of 13 percent higher than traditional Medicare costs.

Additionally, Social Security has become an integral and necessary component to the American economy. For decades Congress has borrowed against the surplus Social Security had in its coffers. In the 1950s, things were working well — people paid into the programs, funds were drawn down for beneficiaries and there were 16 workers per beneficiary.

Years later, the funds Congress borrowed from Social Security in the past are needed today since there are now only 3.3 workers per beneficiary. Seniors are also more reliant on these funds than in the past, as Social Security provides the majority of income for more than 60 percent of senior households. For the poorest 40 percent of seniors, Social Security makes up more than 80 percent of total income. These funds also go to organizations like Volunteers of America to help provide much-needed care.

There are both moral and fiscal reasons to preserve these services. If the shelter and care needy people receive is taken away or delayed, they will end up sicker and in more distress. The proposed options to delay the immediate and short-term costs for these people will only exacerbate the situation and increase total costs in the long run. This will do more harm to the future fiscal health of the entire country.

A balanced, thoughtful approach must be taken to ensure proper support for the most vulnerable while protecting the long-term fiscal position of the nation. Older Americans, and all vulnerable people, deserve the dignity provided through the care funded by programs like Medicaid and Medicare. We’re all one big family — we can’t turn our backs on them when they need us most.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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During Volunteers of America’s first years in the early 20th century, our founders and their faithful followers adhered to the tenet “to go wherever we are needed and do whatever comes to hand.” More than a century later, this philosophy continues to guide Volunteers of America’s ministry of service.

You may have noticed that the programs and services provided by Volunteers of America in one part of the country can look completely different than those offered in another. Our approach is to assess the more than 400 communities we serve individually, identifying each one’s unique unaddressed needs We understand that a one-size-fits-all solution is not the best way to help those in need. Because all people and all communities are different, that’s the only way to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of those we serve.

The professional staff at Volunteers of America is really a 16,000-member family, and as you know, a family’s greatest strength is in its diversity. We’re experts in the needs of children, low-income families, the elderly, the homeless, veterans, those with disabilities and the incarcerated. We also understand that to fix many problems, we must help multiple groups and address multiple needs at the same time, taking a comprehensive approach that ultimately builds stronger communities.

And while we’re a national organization, we know that our work is most effective when it’s done locally. Examples of this can be found in places like Sioux Falls, S.D., where Volunteers of America recently hosted its national conference. While many of the problems in that community, such as poverty and substance abuse, are the same as in other places where we have a presence, the unique people in this community come with their own unique issues that must be considered. In South Dakota, Volunteers of America is a leader in providing services specifically to the Native American population, and we incorporate our clients’ culture into the services they receive.

Volunteers of America has always been a national organization providing services that meet local needs. In an age when taking a custom approach to anything has become increasingly rare, we strive to make sure our clients receive care that fits their unique individual needs. The people we help deserve more than just a cookie cutter solution to their problems. We make sure that they get the best individualized care possible. At Volunteers of America, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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