*** February 2008 ***
* E-zine *

This Month's Highlights:
· Caregiver Stress
· Is Aging in Place for You?
· Heating Oil Prices Are On Fire

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Care giving: Providing comfort and love, medical attention, physical and emotional sustenance. It should be easy for a loving family member to provide to another, shouldn't it?

In fairy tales, it is...maybe. In reality it is hard, unending work. It can mean sleepless nights for the caregiver. It can mean dealing with a deeply loved family member who at the end of his life is not into suffering, nor into suffering social niceties anymore (and probably weighs more than you do). Or maybe it is your mom who you care for, but she doesn't recognize you anymore. You are constantly on watch, night and day. Every so often there is a moment of recognition, replaced moments later by fear in her eyes, of the "unknown" person in front of her.

These common and tragic realities can place a huge stress on caregivers. The caregiver sometimes will lose weight. He or she (usually a she) finds she doesn't have the appetite she used to have and loses weight, and works long hours and little restorative sleep. Then there are the potential financial repercussions from the workplace, and social and family member stress. Did you snap at the kids because Mom was a handful and normal teen behavior was just too much to take in a single moment? This goes on and on, seemingly indefinitely. Depression can occur in any caregiver. In many families the caregiver stops looking after her own health, and then illness the caregiver!

It turns out that care giving isn't universally stressful. Caring for a person needing light attention is one thing. But when that family member needs greater care a heavier load of duties is placed upon the caregiver. This is when the stress really can pile on! The transition between light and heavy care giving is one of the most dangerous situations for the health of the caregiver.

What to do? Well, what would you normally do if you knew you were about to enter into a stressful, ongoing situation at work? You'd evaluate your options, ask questions, and plan ahead, right? Then do so. Ask questions:

  1. Is it possible to share the household chore load?
  2. Can you ask another family member to look after you and gently remind you when you obviously need to eat, rest, or get some "time out"?
  3. If children are involved can they carry part of the load, say, cleaning their own rooms, or helping with household chores?
  4. Are there adult children to lend a hand?
  5. What about part time companion care or nursing care in the home to assist with some of the things that need doing?
  6. Finally, what about assisted living or nursing home care?

Think about what could go wrong, what the challenges will be in care giving for your particular situation. There are counselors who specialize in care giving, and end-of-life issues. You might find it extremely helpful as part of your planning process to meet with one or two of them and see if their advice is useful to you, the caregiver. Then, make your plans and discuss them with every family member who may be affected. Yes, even the relatives out of state who aren't ever going to help should likely be spoken to and informed of the situation you face. When you do go forward, you'll be going prepared with a plan for success with contingency plans, should things go awry. And you'll be going forward with confidence that you're taking the appropriate measures to protect not only your loved one, but your own health, that of the care giver they so dearly depend upon.

Additional health-related information for seniors can also be found at:

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So you're living in a building with lots of neighbors around your age. People are friendly here and respectful to each other here, as you've always been accustomed to from your generation. There is an informal and effective network to rely on: can't get to the store today? No problem, "Mr. Smith" across the hall is going later on and will pick up the things you need, because you did the same for him last week.

Yet, you're not a spring chicken anymore and have been wondering if you should be moving to a retirement facility. Shouldn't an older person have staff looking in on them? Those communities seem to be nice enough and have activities planned, but who wants to put up with a regimented schedule? And who wants to leave old friends just to navigate a new group of individuals? Are there others who feel this way? What do they do?

Increasingly, a lot of them stay put right where they are!

Aging in place is a growing trend not just in the U.S., but in the UK, Australia, and other industrialized nations. Sometimes an entire community just evolves into a great place for seniors as the baby boom generation in that certain spot stays put in their homes. There might be convenient shopping and transit, low crime, libraries, and so forth. Or, it may just be that everyone in the building is of a certain age and voilá, a retirement community is born.

Some cities encourage seniors to move to their town to enjoy the amenities especially useful to seniors, but lots of people decide to stay right where they are in the home they bought 40 years ago or the apartment they've kept for the last ten years. Regardless, the concept of "home" is irreplaceable for comfort to many, many people, and so they band together. Ordinary folks in neighborhoods, not governments, have been creating citizen-based organizations. They do so to facilitate affordable, comfortable, and safe retirement living through aging-in-place.

Beacon Hill Village ( is a leader in this movement, actively encouraging and teaching other neighborhood organizations how to achieve the goal of making one's neighborhood a great place to stay in for senior citizens. They've even published a workbook/manual for those who would like to learn how it might be accomplished in their own part of the country. Beacon Hill Village is a non-profit organization that partners with service providers to meet the needs of its members, people ageing in place in the neighborhoods in, and surrounding Beacon Hill, in Boston, MA. When a neighbor joins the group, the annual membership fee includes some services, and there is a menu of other services a senior can select from to meet his or her personal needs.

There are information services, household services, transportation, meals and grocery deliveries, and volunteer and even concierge services available to Beacon Hill members. A social calendar is maintained and, as you can imagine, the members do it all, themselves, at a considerable savings to retirement home relocation and living. The best part? They're in their own homes!

So think about it. Weigh your options. Talk to your friends and family. Maybe there is no place better to age than home sweet home!

Additional and expanded Aging in Place information for seniors can also be found at:

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Heating oil hit $3.40 cents a gallon in the second week of January. Living in Southern California? That's not such a problem. Living in Iowa? It becomes a life-or-death issue.

Every year in America there are senior citizens who die of cold in their own homes. Others choose between heat and meals due to high heating oil prices, just as some families are forced to choose between meals and medication due to high medical costs in America.

The price record for heating oil set in January is 98 cents higher than it was last year, and was the fourth record set in four weeks time. The lowest price in the nation during this period was Nebraska, at $3.01 per gallon, and the highest costs found in Washington, D.C., coming in at $3.77 per gallon. In the northeast U.S., roughly one- third of homes employ heating oil to keep warm, and those costs are estimated to average over $2,000 for the winter. We're about halfway through the heating season now.

The rising trend in home heating oil has been ongoing for years. As long as oil prices rise and fall, there really isn't any end in sight for potential home heating energy price increases until spring. This is due to supply-and-demand imbalances for crude and refined oil as the developing world buys cars and durable goods. Also reflected in the price of refined fuels is the reality of the weak condition of the U.S. dollar. It simply doesn't buy what it used to, as our national debt is near its highest level in a decade.

Thankfully, most Americans can afford to heat their homes. As a nation, we have resources for at-risk lower income citizens. The National Fuel Funds Network (NFFN) distributes $100 million in energy assistance funds each year, and is now asking the White House to release funds set aside by Congress for home heating oil emergencies such as low-income households in cold climates are now facing. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as LIHEAP, is being looked to for $590 million in assistance to low-income families.

The NFFN also makes the rounds of Congress in a January 30 kickoff to their annual fundraising campaign, with a goal of 100 of their representatives visiting 1250-2000 congressional offices in a single day.

Here are some links to resources for low-income households needing home heating assistance:

Baltimore, MD:
Bloomfield, CT:
Charlotte, NC:
Denver, CO:
Detroit, MI:
Ewing, NJ:
Kansas City, MO:
Madison, WI:
New York, NY:
Minnesota: and
Philadelphia, PA:
Pittsburgh, PA:
St. Louis, MO:
State of OR:

Energy saving information and devices for seniors can be found at:

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Dressing for the Weather
The following are some steps that can be taken to staying warm:

  1. Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  2. Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  3. Wear a hat.
  4. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

Recognizing Symptoms of Exposure

  1. Confusion, dizziness, exhaustion, and excessive shivering are signs of hypothermia. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
  2. Gray, white, or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy skin are symptoms of frostbite. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
  3. In the case of overexposure to freezing temperatures, remove wet clothing and immediately warm the body.

For more tips see "Energy Saving Home Improvements From A to Z" at

Protecting Grandchildren and Pets from Toxic Plants
Indoor and outdoor plants are responsible for a rising number of accidental poisonings. Plant ingestions are among the top five causes of accidental poisonings in children younger than five years. Pets are also frequent victims of plant poisonings.

Everyone should be aware of the potential danger of plants. Although most plants are poisonous because they can cause some kind of harm, only a small number of plants are actually deadly. Usually, a large quantity of berries, pods, leaves, flowers, or seeds must be eaten to cause symptoms. Be aware of plants treated with pesticides or fertilizers. Non-toxic plants treated with toxic chemicals become dangerous because of the chemicals. Here are some tips on plant safety:

  • If you have small children or curious pets, keep all plants out of their reach.
  • Before buying a new plant, have the store label the plant with their common and Latin names.
  • Know the names of all your plants both inside and outside the house.
  • Store labeled bulbs and seeds safely out of the reach of children and pets. Do not confuse bulbs with onions or shallots.
  • Wear gloves and protective clothing when handling plants that can be irritating to the skin.
  • Wash hands and clothes well afterwards handling plants.

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We present here some words from those with a birthday this month.

Oscar De La Hoya - "A good school teacher is like another parent."

Jennifer Jason Leigh - "I love being in therapy. It's just constantly fulfilling for me."

Dan Quayle - "If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure"

Ronald Reagan - "Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music."

Zsa Zsa Gabor - "One of my theories is that men love with their eyes; women love with their ears."

More "Thoughts" at:

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AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month

Macular degeneration, often called AMD, is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness for senior Americans. Low vision is commonly used to mean partial sight, or sight that is not corrected with standard contact lenses or glasses. Vision is still functional but the vision loss is to the degree that it interferes with the ability to perform daily activities. A person with low vision has any or all of the following: severely reduced visual acuity or contrast sensitivity, a significantly obstructed field of vision. The severity can be moderate to almost total blindness. Some signs of low vision are: difficulty recognizing a familiar face, difficulty reading (print appears broken, distorted or incomplete), difficulty seeing objects and potential hazards such as steps, curbs, walls, uneven surfaces and furniture.
Learn more:

American Heart Month

Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are our nation's No. 1 killer. During this month, thousands of our volunteers visit their neighbors. Their goal is to raise funds for research and education and pass along information about heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is also a major cause of disability. Recognizing and responding quickly to symptoms and receiving appropriate care can limit heart damage. Prevention measures reduce the risk for heart disease and its effects. At the individual level, persons can eliminate or control their own risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, obesity, and diabetes. At the community level, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends school, worksite, and health-care facility education programs on heart disease; policies that ensure access to screening, referral, and counseling services for stroke and heart-disease risk factors; and measures that ensure access to healthy food and safe environments for physical activity. Information regarding CDC heart-disease programs is available at

National Bird Feeding Month

Bird feeding can benefit birds and also provides great bird watching from your own backyard. The obvious time to feed birds is in winter when natural food supplies are scarce; however, additional species visit feeders during the spring and fall migrations, and also during summer while nesting. The National Audubon Society, Inc., recommends the following to keep birds coming back to your feeders in any season. Provide them with the following three essential elements:

  1. Variety of quality seed.
  2. Fresh water for drinking and bathing.
  3. Ample cover, preferably provided by native plants. Native plants also provide potential nesting sites and a source of natural food

Information on Pets for Seniors is available at:

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Department of Defense Patient Safety Program Website
This site provides a comprehensive program with the goal of establishing a culture of patient safety and quality within the Military Health System (MHS). The program encourages a systems approach to create safer patient environment. The MHS developed Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety (TeamSTEPPS) to improve the culture of patient safety in hospitals and other health care settings. The MHS has teamed up with the Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to release the program to civilian healthcare providers. The website contains pamphlets and posters plus critical information, training resources, educational materials, and data analysis to aid patient safety personnel. Learn more at

American Foundation for the Blind
The foundation has launched the AFB Senior Site, a website, specifically designed to meet the needs of seniors losing their vision, as well as their families and the professionals who serve them. The website offers a forum where people can ask questions, share their experiences, and offer support to others with low vision.
Additional health-related information for seniors can also be found at:

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It's About the Words!
A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day-30,000 to a man's 15,000. The wife replied, "The reason has to be because we have to repeat everything to men. The husband turned to his wife and asked, "What?"

You Worked at a Corporate Giant if:

  • You sat at the same desk for four years and worked for three different companies.
  • Your company welcome sign is attached with Velcro.
  • Your resume is on a diskette in your pocket.
  • Your company logo on your badge is applied with stick-um.
  • You order your business cards in "half orders" instead of whole boxes.
  • When someone asks about what you do for a living, you lie.
  • You get really excited about a 2% pay raise.

Visit 1000's of jokes of interest to people who have lived a long and rich life.

"Oh My Aging Funny Bone" is at:

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This issue has been edited by Betsy Day ([email protected]).

Copyright 2008, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Other products, service and companies named herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders and are solely responsible for the content of their articles. Articles are included for informational purposes and are not an endorsement.

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