Some of us of a certain age remember the days when doctors used to make house calls with their black bags. Well, things have come full circle.
In this high-tech age, when health care seems more complicated, some local Medicare Advantage plans have arranged to provide home-based services to those with multiple chronic conditions. What health providers have discovered is that those persons with the greatest needs will do much better if given this kind of intensive attention at home and it will avoid the need to go to a hospital or use more expensive services.
The home-based team often includes physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, and social workers. The team is not meant to replace the patient’s primary-care doctor but rather to provide follow-up care and to implement a plan of care coordination.
Other efforts are underway to provide better care coordination even if home visits are not involved. Many providers are calling their patients when they return home to make sure they are connected to the follow-up care needed for them to remain at home and improve their health condition.
Some hospitals are also considering adding community-services providers in the hospital to help coordinate care for the person when he or she returns home.
The services of Community Caregivers, of course, also help people remain living at home. We are working more closely with medical providers, giving our advice on the best ways for the coordination of medical and community services for those persons returning home from the hospital.
In the coming year, we are hoping to work with them on developing and training volunteer patient navigators who could be available to provide assistance with the follow-up and coaching to make progress with a care plan.
Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of 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.
Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at (518) 456-2898.
Editor’s note: Michael Burgess is a health policy consultant for Community Caregivers Inc.
The term “family caregiver” refers to an individual who assists and supports an adult family member with chronic or disabling conditions. There are variations on this definition, but a key point is that most family members don’t recognize themselves as caregivers; they simply “help Mom.”
Caregiving is a role that can sneak up on you, as someone you love needs more help over time — whether navigating health-insurance coverage, paying bills, or preparing healthy meals. Caregivers gradually find themselves doing more and devoting more time to these tasks.
Family caregivers who have their own lives to attend to need all the help they can get; however, about half get none at all.
Although those who provide care may feel they are alone, in reality there are a lot of us out there. According to a November 2016 American Association of Retired Persons Public Policy Institute Report on family caregivers, entitled “Family Caregivers and Managed Long-Term Services and Supports,” about 40 million caregivers provided an estimated 37 billion hours of care to adults with self-care needs in 2013.
The economic impact of family caregiving is enormous. The report goes on, “The economic value of this unpaid help was approximately $470 billion — more than six times the amount ($75 billion) that the Medicaid program spent on all home- and community-based services that year.”
The report also notes, “The emotional, physical, and financial demands of caring for a person with chronic and disabling conditions can take a significant toll; meanwhile, family caregivers often neglect their own health.”
There is a saying that caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. So taking care of one’s own needs is critical.
Despite our desire to “do it all ourselves,” forming a team of support and care — around your loved one and you — can create a positive difference in the long haul of caregiving. Community Caregivers perhaps can be part of the support team you put in place.
Through our volunteer network of “neighbors helping neighbors,” we provide rides, friendly visits, and help with shopping or errands. We also offer support groups, information, caregiver education, and referrals. All of this is provided without charge. Call us at (518) 456-2898 to find out if we can be of assistance to your family.
Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation and caregiver support, at no charge to residents of 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.
Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States. Administration on Aging. To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at (518) 456-2898.
Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.
We’ve just come off at least two months of gift-buying and gift-giving. Special days with deep discounts vied for our dollars: Black Friday; Cyber Monday; Small Business Saturday; and, new this year, Choose Women Wednesday. Among these days was Giving Tuesday — the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
At this time, a message went out from the Community Caregivers office which said, in part, “As the holiday season swings into full gear, it’s good to know you can support a local organization that faithfully serves community needs year round. We serve our neighbors throughout the year who need rides, shopping assistance, friendly visits, caregiver support and more to live independently at home.” And what we’re most proud of, “Since 2010 over 300 of our volunteers have provided 19,000 services to more than 500 individuals. That’s a lot of caring.”
I’d like to suggest that we all have lots of “Giving Tuesdays.” That we make giving a year-round activity. The same joy you get in giving gifts occurs when you give money to not-for-profits.
Dr. Oz said in the December issue of Oprah Magazine, “Donating to an individual or a group can make you feel great.” He goes on to say that research shows givers are happier than people who just spend on themselves. And, in fact, the brain’s reward processing center lights up when people give.
Let me suggest some reasons to give:
— In honor of an anniversary or birthday;
— For a favor someone did for you;
— For a service someone did for you and wouldn’t accept payment;
— To say thank you; and
— Just because I want to do something great today.
I know there are lots of other reasons to support Community Caregivers. Be inventive.
In this day of widespread internet use, there are also sites that donate a percentage of what you pay. PayPal matched 1 percent of any donation through the PayPal Giving Fund offer. Year round, for Amazon shoppers, there’s a link that donates to a charity of your choice.
Of course we hope you choose Community Caregivers. Select Smile.amazon.com from your web browser on your computer or mobile device. On your first visit to Smile, you need to select a charitable organization — “Community Caregivers” — before you begin shopping. Amazon will remember your selection. Then, order as normal. Part of the purchase price — half of 1 percent — goes to the charity. And that doesn’t cost you anything.
We’ve been helping neighbors faithfully year-round since 1996. One way you can insure we continue our services is to make a donation with your checkbook or online. You can also go to our website, which will give you instructions on how to make a donation: www.communitycaregivers.org.
Not all can become volunteers to help people. Probably all can make a donation that helps insure we stay in business.
Albany County has been selected to join the World Health Organization’s network of Age-Friendly Communities. This global network is facilitated by the American Association of Retired Persons in the United States with the goal of enhancing the quality of life for older residents.
In 2020, just three years away, there are projected to be 75,000 people in Albany County who are age 60 and older, or almost 25 percent of the county’s population. So, planning for housing, transportation, and other services increasingly needs to consider the needs and desires of older people.
In the coming months, the county will work with local senior leaders to review the criteria used by the WHO and AARP, assess the county’s strengths and needs, and determine how enhancements can be made in services and programs. I will be serving as a co-chair of this effort.
Community Caregivers looks forward to assisting the county and the towns and municipalities in this process. We can share information on the services we have provided as an organization of “neighbors helping neighbors.”
We believe our mission to support older residents who wish to remain living in the community is a shared goal of all government entities and senior-service providers. While government funding through aging and health services will always be a key force in ensuring a good quality of life for vulnerable seniors, we believe that voluntarism and grassroots community projects like the “village” concept are important personal and local responses to helping family, friends, and neighbors.
The board of directors of Community Caregivers has endorsed supporting self-help villages or neighborhoods that are developing in the county to provide a network of support for those who may not have family members in the area or simply want to remain connected with others.
Certainly, in planning for an aging population, we need to remember that, while older people may have increasing service needs, they are also an asset to our communities. Many are still able and desiring to serve, whether through providing rides, friendly visits, or helping with chores and shopping.
Many are active grandparents who also are there to help their children and grandchildren. In preparing for an age-friendly community we are really improving the quality of life for all residents.
Community Caregivers Inc. is a not for profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of 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. Our funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging.
Editor’s note: Michael Burgess is a Health and Aging Policy Consultant to Community Caregivers.
Joel Edwards says it’s a way to put his faith in action.
Joel’s first assignment from Community Caregivers was to pick up a sample of urine at 6 a.m. and deliver it to a doctor’s office. The woman lived alone, Joel recalls, and she didn’t drive.
As a doctor of veterinary internal medicine with a specialty in cardiology, he volunteered around his job. Finding time to volunteer, he said, “…wasn’t easy. The administrative part was ‘schedulable’; the service part was weekends and early morning.”
Joel’s connection to Caregivers started in 1993 when he and a friend of his wife, Cindy, Mary Therriault, were exploring ways to put their faith in action. Joel said, “I stumbled across an Interfaith Caregivers Program.”
Robert Wood Johnson was trying to establish units of caregiving throughout the country. So the next two years, 1994 to 1996 saw an organization forming — Community Caregivers. And it began providing services in 1996.
In the early years, an organizing committee was formed; 10 people were handpicked — ministers, nurses, people in the community who had gifts and the desire. They were connected through the four (at the time) churches in Altamont, Joel explained.
When asked how he recruited people to become volunteers, Joel said that the group went to churches and civic organizations like the Lions, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion — “anyone who would listen to us.” He said, “Nowadays, when I’m talking with someone, I’ll just ask them to consider volunteering.”
Joel himself has performed administrative services: a founder, twice president of the board of directors, treasurer, and chairman of the Grant Team. Direct services he’s provided include transportation, respite care, visits, and some home repair.
“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he said. “Having the ability to give back is what’s important.” He did say transportation, “volume-wise” was the service he spent the most time on.
“Visiting,” another service Caregivers provides, “is,” he said, “a different relationship with the care receiver. In a way, it’s more rewarding. You get to listen to the person’s story.” He explained that folks who receive visits are usually alone, not able to socialize, and not having an adequate social life.
“You realize,” he observed, “you’re just a little piece of the puzzle; you’re not going to fix it.”
When asked for a memorable experience from all his years of connection to Caregivers, Joel told this story. Early in 1994, when Caregivers was organizing, he was driving on the Taconic, “…feeling overwhelmed, mumbling away. Out of my radio came, ‘Go forth with boldness.’ I reached down to shut off the radio, and it was already off.”
Ever since, Joel has done exactly that. He is no longer on the administrative end of Caregivers, but he is still on the service end. Joel says, “The aging population is increasing. There is a socio-economic stress of, often, both adults working. And our families aren’t near. We need volunteers. We always need more volunteers.”
Joel says, “One of the beauties of the organization is you can freely say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ No guilt. Trust me, they will call again.”
As you begin to think about what goals you have for the new year, why not consider finding out more about community Caregivers? Go online to www.communitycaregivers.org, or call the office at (518) 456-2898 to inquire about an orientation. Or talk to Joel Edwards. He knows a lot.