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Archive for the ‘Women and Aging’ Category

love

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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Enhancement

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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Image

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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On May 10, 2011, we convened our third-annual roundtable of experts at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to discuss the urgent issues facing older Americans today. This year’s discussion — Women and Aging 2011: Policy Implications for an Aging Population — focused specifically on the significance of aging women in the home, workplace and broader community, with an in-depth discussion on the public policy and other solutions needed to head off an impending crisis of the nation’s elderly.

“The good news is that women are living longer,” said panelist Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The bad news is that they also living poorer and sicker. They earn less, save less and are still the primary caregivers [for older family members].”

Our National President Mike King shared with the audience and fellow panelists his experiences caring for his mother as she grew older, something he considered an honor rather than a burden. He added that it is critical to talk to aging family members about their needs and preferences before it’s too late.

“You can’t start the discussion on family care choices early enough,” King said.

Panelist Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, drew a contrast between her native Greek heritage and American culture.

“There is something in [American] culture that does not respect and revere age,” she said. “We need to redefine what it is to take care of older family members so that task is not perceived as drudgery.”

Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, executive vice president of multicultural markets and engagement for AARP, said she was personally surprised at how unprepared she is for the task of now caring for her own mother. “The biggest barriers are lack of knowledge and preparation,” she said.

Ms. Cortés-Vázquez said that challenges in caregiving for the elderly center on four areas: health issues; legal issues, including the need to make decisions about care well in advance; the need to prepare for aging at home rather than seeking institutional care; and the “myth” that Medicare will provide completely for one’s long-term care. She stressed that we must explore alternatives to Medicare such as long-term care insurance.

The May 10 roundtable, moderated by Medical journalist and best-selling author Dr. Bob Arnot, served as a launch for our new white paper — Boomer Bust 2011: Still Unprepared and Unaware — featuring new research that paints a disturbing picture of the financial realities faced by seniors and their caregivers. According to the white paper, women over age 60 make up a rapidly growing percentage of the people retired or facing retirement and comprise 80 percent of the caregivers for chronically ill or aging relatives.

Ness also emphasized the need to prepare for aging while also stressing that existing public policy “has a long way to go” to help caregivers reach their own old age with adequate preparation.

“Take care of your own health, and learn about financial planning,” she said. “Understand how you want to be cared for and communicate that to your future caregivers.”

We encourage you to remain active in this national debate either through our blog or through your own established blog.  Thanks to bloggers like Rosie Lumetta , Anthony Cirillo, Carol Bradley BursackLynne Spreen and ElderCarelink the conversatons we started at this event will remain at the forefront of public discussion.  You can help keep the momentum going by posting and encouraging those on your blogroll to do the same.  To get more information or to obtain exclusive blogger content contact David Burch

Whether you attended the event in person, watched the livestream, view the event now or follow the twitter conversation about it, please share your impression of the event and the important issues it raised.  With a projected 71.5 million people aged 65 or older by 2030 and long-term costs continuing to rise with many Americans unprepared for – and unaware of the those costs – the time is now to focus on changes necessary to ensure everyone receives the care they need as they grow older.

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As we continue to move boldly forward with our focus on aging issues, we are launching a new public service announcement (PSA) campaign featuring celebrities, kicking off with Joan and Melissa Rivers. The campaign also will features radio and print components, as well as other initiatives designed to engage the public.

This is one of the most important public education efforts we have ever initiated. Early discussions are key to helping families plan for each other’s care but too often we wait for a crisis to hit, leaving us with limited choices made under duress. We all need to take that critical first step and talk about aging care issues with our families before it’s too late – start that conversation now.

Americans are facing one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in history as a projected 71.5 million people will be age 65 or older within the next two decades. In response to the demands this will have on current health care systems, we have been conducting studies, holding panel discussions with aging experts and policy makers, and elevating the issue of how to better prepare for a loved one’s care.

Using humor to address this serious subject, this first TV PSA in the campaign features Joan Rivers and daughter, Melissa Rivers, having (or not having) a conversation about Joan’s wants and needs as she grows older. The PSA ends with the tagline: “No matter who you are, it’s not easy talking about aging,” indicating that no one is exempt from the aging process or the need to prepare for their care as they grow older. It also provides viewers with valuable information to help them address this often overlooked, but necessary discussion with their loved ones by visiting a special web page.

So please talk with your loved ones about their plans for aging with dignity – we all deserve it.

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Let’s Talk

Rosemarie Rae, Executive Vice President, Strategy

Rosemarie Rae, Executive Vice President, Strategy for Volunteers of America

Talking with your loved one about issues surrounding health care, finances and basic needs and wants associated with aging is a difficult subject. But it can be done! Here is some helpful information to get you started from Volunteers of America’s aging expert, Rosemarie Rae.

It’s never too early!

Start well in advance of when you think you need to begin planning and talking about what parents or loved ones may need as they age…and when everyone is still in good health! It’s much easier to discuss care planning before anyone actually needs assistance. In the same way people save for college years in advance, we also need to start talking about our needs and wants before it’s too late to make good decisions.

As the future caregiver to my own parents, I offer this from my personal perspective, but this useful information can easily be translated to the parents’ point of view for those who wish to talk to their children about what they would like to see happen as they age and become frail.

Sound familiar?

It’s hard for my mom and dad to acknowledge their diminishing cognitive abilities and failing health. It’s hard as a daughter to witness the decline and imagine my mom and dad not being part of my life. And so, we say nothing – and my father hopes I don’t notice his changing memory and my mom doesn’t want to burden me with her financial needs.

How to Begin the Conversation

A great way to approach this sensitive and important subject is by letting your loved ones know that you want to support them, and they can count on you; but in return, they have to help you prepare. Start with something that feels a bit more neutral. Agree to organize and prepare the following:

  • An advance directive (a document that allows you to convey your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time) and power of attorney.
  • A listing of assets and copies of related mortgages, investment statements, bank and savings accounts.
  • A listing of other assets such as cars and jewelry.
  • A listing and copies of insurance policies including long-term care (and if they don’t have it and can afford it – they should buy it), disability and life insurance policies. Remember to include policies that may be offered through employment or previous employment.
  • Document burial and funeral arrangement wishes

It may be helpful to engage an elder law attorney if you can afford it. Many communities offer low-cost or free long-term care planning services, so make sure to check community Web sites for resources.

Change Begins at Home

Understand caregiving and long-term care living options that may include home modification, home care, technology, assisted living, senior day centers, nursing homes and hospice. It’s important that families understand that there isn’t a single solution. Home care may not be feasible forever. Agree on when it might be right for assisted living or nursing home care.

Most of us envision aging in our own homes or the homes of our children. Realistically think through what home modifications will be required to facilitate that decision. For example, washer and dryers are frequently in the basement – not a practical solution for frail older adults. A care manager with expertise in elder care can be very helpful while investigating options. IONA Senior Services in Washington, D.C. is a wonderful resource. Many families blanch at the cost, but it is well worth the investment.

Talk Finances

Understand all possible benefits that may help pay for long term-care including Medicare, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Long Term Care and other private insurance. Because many seniors will not have sufficient resources to pay for all of their long-term care needs, read and understand the ins and outs of Medicaid benefits and the associated eligibility requirements. The Administration on Aging offers a Long-Term Care Savings Calculator that can give you a rough idea of how much you might need and whether you would be able or want to use your private resources to cover long-term care services.

From the Heart

So now you’ve made a compassionate commitment from the heart. But please know it’s extremely important to also emotionally prepare for caregiving. Agree to some ground rules as a family – mom/dad, the adult children, spouses and grandchildren. Caregivers are rarely prepared for the emotional “wear and tear” on their marriages and sibling relationships. This is particularly true when a daughter-in-law is the primary caregiver. While caregiving can be rewarding, it can also stir up years of resentments and unresolved family issues. Engaging a neutral third party to negotiate can be very helpful. Many communities offer senior conflict resolution.

Health and Happiness

If your parent doesn’t have a relationship with a gerontologist or internist, make sure they build one. Beyond carrying for medical needs, the doctor is often someone a family can turn to when facing care planning decisions. Many times parents don’t listen to their children and vice versa, but many times the medical professional can put everyone at ease with sound advice for all to follow. Proactively seek guidance from a gerontologist when you suspect that your loved one may be experiencing dementia or early signs of Alzheimer’s. It is so important to calmly share your concerns with your loved one and that you think a doctor’s visit is warranted due to certain symptoms you have observed. Happily, Alzheimer’s medication started early often means the slowing progression of symptoms associated with this common disease associated with aging.

Breathe!

Remember to breathe! This is a marathon not a sprint. Caregiving typically occurs over years not months. Ensure that you have included maintenance of your own life into your caregiving plan. Going on vacation, attending family reunions, spending time with our own children or just having time to ourselves is what keeps us sane and feeling connected.

By Rosemarie Rae, Executive Vice President, Strategy for Volunteers of America

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