Many of us have had a dog or a cat, or even a hamster and we can all attest to that heart-bursting love a human has for their pet. But, in addition to being our loyal cuddlers, there are plenty more benefits that come with having a loving pet.

The bond between humans and animals dates back to prehistoric times, believe it or not. At the end of the last Ice Age, the transition from hunting and gathering to farming favored the process of domesticating animals.

The first species to make the transition from wild to domestic was the wolf and its domestication was based on a mutually beneficial relationship with man. Until recently, archaeological findings were the only evidence to highlight the beginning of man’s symbiotic relationship with dogs, the date of dog’s domestication being placed between 14,000 to 10,000 years ago.

However, some anthropologists suggest that the human-dog relationship could be almost as old as modern man himself. In return for companionship and food, the early ancestor of the dog assisted man in tracking, hunting, and guarding. As man wandered through the early world, he took his dog with him for the ride.

This extremely lengthy association between man and dog has provided the foundation for the social behaviors learned by dogs that has enabled them to cooperate and communicate with humans.

There is increasing evidence suggesting that a close relationship with a pet animal is associated with significant health effects in people. The most cited outcomes are lowered risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as coronary heart disease and higher chance of surviving after a heart attack, less need of physician services during stressful life events, and a highly significant reduction in everyday minor health problems during the first months after acquiring a pet.

Interestingly, the presence of an animal or even just looking at one, can alter the physiological and psychological responses to stress and anxiety. This can lead to a transient decrease in blood pressure and heart rate in adults and children.

It has also been found that interacting with a dog leads to increases in the neuropeptide oxytocin, which among many functions, is involved in bonding, social affiliation, and building trust.

Animals are so awesome that there are a variety of animal-assisted interventions such as animal-assisted therapies and education. Animal-assisted intervention in the elderly has been shown to improve communication and reduce loneliness. In children, “pet therapy” has been shown to reduce anxiety and promote responsiveness, alertness, and willingness.

Cortisol is considered the stress hormone, responsible for how we respond to stress. In healthy adults, previous studies have shown a decrease in cortisol levels after interactions with dogs, leading to a decrease in the stress response.

Not only are pet animals extremely adorable but they are very beneficial to our health. So next time you are considering adopting a pet, go for it! Not only would you be rescuing an animal in need but the animal can help keep you healthier in the long run.

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Community Caregivers is a not-for-profit agency supported by community donations, and grants from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Department of Health and Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging.

Editor’s note: Priscilla Rodriguez is a Community Caregivers’ volunteer in the Class of 2025 at Albany Medical College.

At this point in the pandemic, most people have used a front-facing video chatting app to connect with colleagues, friends, and family. Many of us have probably also looked at our screens and noticed the gray hairs, the frown lines, and the blemishes.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports 15.6 million cosmetic procedures in 2020 despite lockdowns and mandatory shutdowns of elective procedures. Botox and soft-tissue fillers were the most sought-after injectable procedure, and procedures involving the face — rhinoplasty, facelifts, and eyelid surgeries — were the most sought-after cosmetic surgeries.

As we enter a post-pandemic life, we are unlikely to drop online chatting altogether. Companies have found it easier and cheaper to meet online, and the rise of new social media apps like TikTok will keep us cognizant of the way they look.

For some, a simple cosmetic procedure can greatly alleviate any personal dissatisfaction. However, many are unable to afford cosmetic procedures, and some continue to deal with anxiety and low self-esteem related to their appearances.

According to researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, among people getting cosmetic surgery, approximately 7 to 15 percent have body dysmorphic disorder, a condition in which an imagined or slight defect in appearance causes significant distress and impairment.

To compound the issue, social media and entertainment media continue to popularize very high — some might even argue, unattainable — expectations of beauty through pre-planned or choreographed visuals, photo editing, and cosmetic procedures.

How can our society address this issue?

It starts with teaching ourselves that the images we are presented with might not reflect reality. They might be edited, filtered, or touched up.

It is also important that the media and entertainment industries be more inclusive and representative of our society — one that is filled with people of different cultures, body types, skin tones, ethnicities, and sexual orientation.

Finally, it is important to form positive, supportive relationships with the people in our lives and to talk about body image and self-esteem with our peers, families, and doctors.

This article is not medical advice and should not substitute medical judgement.

Community Caregivers is a not-for-profit agency supported by community donations, and grants from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Department of Health and Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging.

Editor’s note: Kanthi Bommareddy, M.D. is a former Community Caregivers student volunteer.

Driving is an everyday part of our lives that allows us to travel easily to the places we need to go. Being able to drive gives us the freedom and independence to enjoy a multitude of activities or simply get tasks done.

Unfortunately, our ability to drive is affected as we age, especially after we turn 65. We begin to experience medical conditions and undergo physical and cognitive changes that make driving a more hazardous task.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day about 700 older adults are injured in a car crash. Thus, it’s important that we become more vigilant and careful drivers for not only our own safety, but others around us.

Here are some helpful driving tips from the CDC to assist older adults stay safe on the road:

— Whether you’re the driver or the passenger, it’s important to always wear a seat belt. It’s one of the best ways to lower the chances of getting hurt;

— Don’t drink and drive. Alcohol has negative effects on cognition, coordination, and judgement skills that impact driving;

— Exercise is important in all facets of health. Being active helps us maintain our ability to control a vehicle and remain alert on the road;

— As we get older, various medical conditions may interfere with our driving ability. It’s important to consult a physician to see how they may alter our driving skills and seek treatments that keep us healthy and allow us to safely stay on the road;

— Ask your physician or pharmacist about your medications’ side effects as some may cause drowsiness, blurry vision, dizziness, and confusion. It’s also important to ask how your medications may interact with one another and what occurs when you stop or change that medication. This allows you to be aware of any unwanted effects on your driving. If any of your medications impair your driving, try asking your physician if it’s possible to stop or change your medication;

— Check your vision yearly with your doctor. Ensure you’re wearing your glasses or contact lenses while driving. It’s also important to check your hearing at least once every three years after the age 50. Wear any necessary hearing aids while driving;

— Drive cautiously. As we get older, our reflexes and reaction time get worn down. It’s important to maintain a safe distance between the car in front of you and your own. Reduce any distractions in the car. While driving, avoid talking, being on the phone and loud music;

— Plan where and when you drive before going out. Drive during the day, during good weather, and on well-lit streets. Avoid driving when it’s night time, snowing, raining, or icy outside as this increases the chances of potentially getting in an accident;

— Avoid driving while you’re drowsy. According to the CDC, driving while sleep deprived is similar to driving under the influence. Ensure you are getting between seven and nine hours of quality sleep; and

— Finally, consider a substitute for driving. Instead of driving by yourself, consider carpooling with family or friends. Albany also offers some great public transportation options.

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Community Caregivers is a not-for-profit agency supported by community donations, and grants from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Department of Health, and the Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging.

Editor’s note: Hyun Ah Michelle Yoon is a Community Caregivers student volunteer, slated to graduate from Albany Medical College in 2024.

Naps can give us the boost of energy we need to power through a long day. While there have been plenty of studies that support the benefits of napping, as with all things, napping should be done in moderation.

In this column, we’ll explore the “ideal” nap as well as the benefits and the drawbacks of napping. When describing the “ideal” nap, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact time of day it should be done and precisely what length it should be.

An “ideal” nap can be influenced by a variety of factors including age, time of day, a person’s sleep need, quality of sleep the person gets regularly, whether a person is an early bird or a night owl, and the person’s normal sleep-wake cycle.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has narrowed it down for us. The CDC recommends either shorter 15- to 30-minute naps or longer one-hour to one-hour-and-a-half naps to improve daytime wakefulness.

Longer naps are more recommended for people who have long work shifts or experience inconsistent sleep. Shorter naps are recommended for the general population. According to the National Institute on Aging, these naps should occur in the early afternoon for a person to experience the full benefits of a nap.

Studies have shown that short naps (30 minutes or less) in the afternoon not only help us feel more awake but also actually improve our ability to perform and learn. Napping in adults can boost logical reasoning abilities and reaction time, studies show.

It also has been shown to improve mood and help people feel like they’re performing better even if there’s no change in their actual performance. If you’d like to reap the full benefits of a nap, studies have shown it’s best to drink a caffeinated beverage afterwards to further increase subjective feelings of wakefulness and help improve performance.

Other studies have shown that short naps, less than 30 minutes, during the day are associated with lower rates of metabolic and cardiovascular disorders and may protect people from certain health conditions.

It is important to note that some studies have found that napping excessively has been associated with certain medical conditions. However, it has not been proven whether this is due to napping or if the tendency to nap longer is a result of these conditions.

A major downside of napping, especially for longer periods of time, 30 minutes or more, is sleep inertia. Sleep inertia occurs right after we wake up and is characterized as a person having decreased performance, wakefulness, and increased inclination to go back to sleep.

Because of this, it’s recommended to take some time to “wake up” after a long nap before returning to any rigorous or attention-sensitive tasks. The National Institute of Aging also recommends avoiding napping in the late afternoon or evening because it can interfere with sleeping at an appropriate time at night.

Naps aren’t as simple as we may have thought they were. A variety of factors influence whether we have a “good” nap.

However, in general, much evidence supports shorter 15- to 30-minute naps in the early afternoon having a beneficial effect on our physical and mental health. It’s important to highlight that, as great as naps may be to temporarily improve cognitive function and our alertness, naps can never replace a good night’s sleep.

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Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides nonmedical 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. Its funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United Administration on Aging. Community Caregivers also provides services by phone in Rensselaer County to reduce isolation and make referrals for other needed services.

Editor’s note: Hyun Ah Michelle Yoon is a Community Caregivers’ student volunteer, slated to graduate from Albany Medical College in 2024.

The world of pets has changed over the years. When I ask my father about his dogs growing up, he mentions guard dogs at his dad’s mechanic shop, who were only allowed outside or in the kitchen, and never on the couch. Flash forward to my childhood dog who slept in our bed every night and was fed gourmet pet food.

I believe pets are some of the best forms of companionship and they often become family members. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, pets were especially beneficial.

My mother was working from home alone for almost a year with her only officemate being my dog. Although it is unusual to have to walk and feed your “coworker,” having that “person” around kept her sane and I know many people also felt that way.


An Australian study showed that during the COVID-19 lockdown, owning a dog was protection against stress and depression during the isolation. One reason is that dogs encourage a routine.

For example, they require owners to wake up at 7 a.m. for a walk, feed them at multiple exact times of day, and of course, lots of cuddling. This allows socialization if you walk with neighbors and exercise, both of which improve mood. It also helped to keep life feeling normal, as our animals have no idea what a pandemic is, except that we are home more than usual.

Another study showed human-animal interactions with dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, hamsters, and even crickets lead to decreased depression, loneliness, anxiety, and improved social skills. As far as physical health, animals can lower blood pressure and lower the risk of complications for those with cardiovascular disease.

Pets have been shown to improve behavior in people with dementia, as well. Another study found that having a pet as a companion lowered the increase in both depression and loneliness.

There are also multiple benefits for children in caring for a pet such as helping them be calm, and teaching them responsibility. Even aquariums and watching fish can benefit our well-being by increasing relaxation and stress-reduction. So, furry friends not your thing? Maybe find a fish friend to watch swim around!

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Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides nonmedical 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. Its funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the United Administration on Aging. Community Caregivers also provides services by phone in Rensselaer County to reduce isolation and make referrals for other needed services.

Editor’s note: Meghan Goddard is a Community Caregivers’ student volunteer, slated to graduate from Albany Medical College in 2024.

A hot summer is always a treat after a long New York winter. However, with the heat comes serious health risks.

The most at risk for heat-related illnesses are infants, young children, and people over 50 years old, especially those with other medical conditions.

Heat stroke, or “sun-stroke,” is when someone’s body has difficulty controlling their temperature. Their body temperature rises rapidly and cannot be recovered from sweating. This is a medical emergency!

Signs of heat stroke include fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; skin that is hot, red, and dry but not sweaty; a rapid and strong pulse; throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and/or unconsciousness

If you think you or a loved one is experiencing heat stroke, call 9-1-1 for immediate help or go to a hospital emergency room. While waiting for an ambulance, move to a shaded area, cool down with a cool cloth, cold shower, spray bottle, or sponge. Apply ice packs to the armpit, groin, neck, and back for quick cooling.

It is important to monitor body temperature and continue cooling down until body temperature decreases to 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are concerned and an ambulance has not arrived, you can call the local hospital emergency room for helpful advice.

If untreated, heat stroke can lead to death or serious permanent injury so it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

A milder form of heat-related illness is heat exhaustion. This can occur with prolonged exposure to heat and dehydration.

The people most at risk are the elderly, individuals with high blood pressure, and people working outside in the heat. Signs to look for include extreme sweating, paleness, muscle aches, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea/vomiting, weak and fast pulse, fast shallow breathing, and/or fainting.

If untreated, this can progress to heat stroke; therefore it is important to seek medical help if symptoms worsen or last more than one hour. Similar precautions should be taken to cool yourself or the person suffering from heat exhaustion, including: drinking cool, nonalcoholic drinks; resting; taking cool showers; sitting in the shade or air-conditioning; and wearing cool clothing.

To avoid all heat-related illnesses (heat muscle cramps, heat rash, heat stroke, etc.), try to keep cool. It is important to drink more fluids than usual.

Eight glasses of water per day is key, but also supplement with drinks with electrolytes and minerals (sport drinks, lemonade, iced tea, fruit or vegetable juice).

Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink! Keep hydrated throughout the day all summer long.

Do not sit in a hot car without air-conditioning, even if it is parked in the shade or has windows open. Wear sunscreen (Sun Protection Factor 30 or higher) and appropriate clothing — made of light-colored, breathable, and loose-fitting material.

Also avoid long hours outdoors in the heat. Go outside with a friend, and keep cool indoors with air-conditioning or fans. Be aware, certain medications can also increase your chances of heat-related illnesses.

For any more questions or concerns, contact your doctor and remember to be safe while enjoying this beautiful warm weather!

Editor’s note: Meghan Goddard, a Community Caregivers’ intern, is slated to graduate from Albany Medical College in 2024.

Community Caregivers is a not-for-profit agency supported by community donations, and grants from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Department of Health and Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging.

Getting a good night’s sleep leaves us feeling energized, focused and improves both mental and physical health. As we get older, there are various changes to our sleep cycle that can cause difficulty sleeping at night, leading to daytime drowsiness.

Being awake or asleep is controlled by the circadian rhythm and the homeostatic sleep drive. While the circadian rhythm controls the overall sleep-wake cycle, the homeostatic sleep drive is a daily build-up of hormones and metabolites that make us tired.

It’s been found that, as we age, our circadian rhythm will naturally shift “one phase.” This leads to us sleeping and waking up earlier.

As we age, there are also normal hormonal changes that impact our sleep. These changes cause us to sleep less, wake up more easily and often during the night, have difficulty falling asleep and have less slow-wave and REM [rapid eye movement] sleep.

These natural sleep changes can be further exacerbated by medical conditions. In addition, we all may have developed some bad sleep hygiene, or habits that lead to bad sleeping conditions.

How can we reduce daytime drowsiness and sleep better at night? Here are some non-pharmacological sleep hygiene methods found to possibly help improve sleep quality and wakefulness during the day.

Blue light, which can come from LED [light-emitting diode] televisions, computers, or smartphones, can lower the amount of melatonin we release. Melatonin is a hormone involved in the circadian rhythm that helps us fall asleep. Harvard Medical School recommends avoiding any screens for two to three hours before sleeping to reduce the amount of blue light exposure to help improve sleep.

Calming music for 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime has been found to also improve sleep quality and daytime energy. A study in Taiwan found that its subjects who listened to music fell asleep faster for much longer hours with fewer disruptions and overall, felt like they slept much better.

As much as we all love that heavenly cup of Joe, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it may be best to avoid any coffee at least six hours before bedtime. This tip also includes avoiding any caffeine products like teas or energy drinks.

Caffeine taken six hours or less prior to bedtime can delay sleep since it blocks adenosine, a key player in our homeostatic sleep drive. Adenosine is important for helping us relax and feel sleepy at those bedtime hours.

On the other hand, a hot cup of chamomile tea may lower the amount of disruptions during sleep and improve daytime wakefulness. If chamomile is not your cup of tea, aromatherapy with chamomile extract with lavender essential oil has also been shown to also improve sleep.

And finally, exercise! Exercise has been found to not only improve daytime wakefulness and sleep quality but also mental health. Exercise can range from an evening stroll to high-intensity physical resistance strength training in the afternoon.

It’s dependent on your own mobility. Some studies have found that, in order to improve sleep, it may be necessary to pair exercise with a short 30-minute midafternoon nap or social activity.

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This article is not medical advice and should not substitute medical judgement.

Community Caregivers is a noto-for-profit agency supported by community donations, and grants from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Department of Health and Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging.

Editor’s note: Hyun Ah Michelle Yoon is a Community Caregivers’ intern and an Albany Medical College student, scheduled to graduate in 2024.

Getting older can be scary: We might not be as healthy as we once were, and our skin begins to show our age. A healthy lifestyle can help reduce our risk for many major diseases, but what can we do about our skin? Is it possible to prevent or even reverse aging?

What is skin aging?

The largest organ in our body, our skin is vulnerable to internal and external causes of aging. The skin is divided into three layers: the epidermis (top), dermis (middle), and hypodermis (deep). As we age, the epidermis becomes thinner and loses its connection with the underlying dermis, resulting in fragility. The dermis loses collagen and elastin, proteins that keep our skin supple and firm.

There are two types of aging: chronological aging and photoaging. Chronological aging is the natural aging of our skin. It results in fine wrinkles and dry, thin skin with loss of underlying fat. Photoaging is caused by excessive ultraviolet, or UV, radiation.

UV radiation can be divided into UV-A and UV-B rays. UV-A rays penetrate the deeper layers of the skin to break down collagen and elastin fibers. UV-B rays penetrate only the superficial layers of the skin and cause sunburns and skin cancer. Photoaging results in coarse wrinkles, roughness, laxity, and irregular pigmentation.  

What causes aging?

Sun exposure without SPF )sun protection factor) protection is an important cause of aging. Additionally, tobacco smoking accelerates aging by remodeling elastic fibers in our skin, thereby causing stiffening and wrinkling.

Even the way you sleep affects the way your skin ages. Sleeping on your back avoids tension and compression to your facial skin. Sleeping with your face against a pillow can occlude the skin on the face, making it prone to clogged pores, acne, and lines.

Finally, “yo-yo dieting” or weight cycling, a pattern of weight loss followed by weight gain followed by loss can accelerate aging. Over time, the collagen and elastin in our skin begins to stretch and break down, leading to saggy, dull-appearing skin and exaggerated wrinkles.

Is there a magical fountain of youth?

There are certainly steps you can take in your daily life that can significantly slow the rate of aging. Daily broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen can protect against photoaging. Smoking cessation and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent the stretching and breakdown of skin proteins.

Drinking adequate water and moisturizing your skin can often improve the appearance of dry, wrinkled skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and reports that consuming sugar and refined carbohydrates can accelerate aging.

The academy also recommends minimizing alcohol as it can dehydrate your skin. Avoid repetitive facial expressions, like squinting. Wear sunglasses whenever needed to avoid wrinkles around your eyes. Finally, make sure your skin is not irritated: Wash your face after sweating and avoid skin-care products that burn or sting.

Jimmy Buffett, who said, “Wrinkles will only go where smiles have been,” is right: Our skin is truly a reflection of our life — the sunny days, the laughs and smiles, the food, and everything in between. We might not be able to stop aging, but perhaps we don’t need to.

Getting older is beautiful: We are wiser, more confident, and more experienced. Enjoy the process while incorporating these small lifestyle changes to keep your skin healthy and radiant.

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Community Caregivers is a not-for--profit agency supported by community donations, and grants from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Department of Health and Office for the Aging, and the United States Administration on Aging.

Editor’s note: Kanthi Bomareddy, M.D. is a former Community Caregivers student volunteer and a recent graduate of Albany Medical College.

The summer months are very important to our health and well being. Sunshine helps our body generate vitamin D and has been shown to increase levels of serotonin, a hormone in our body that improves mood and helps with anxiety.

While we should enjoy the warm weather and stay active outdoors, it’s important to protect our skin.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

We lose a lot of water from heat, wind, and physical activity. The conventional “eight 8-ounce glasses of water” is enough for most people. However, if you are exercising, outside on a hot day, have certain medical conditions, or take certain medications, then you might need more or less water.

How does water affect our skin? Without enough water, our skin can become dry, flaky, and tight, making it prone to wrinkles. While there is no data on water improving the appearance of skin, many people claim their skin is more radiant and healthier when hydrated.

Protect yourself from harmful rays!

The sun radiates a lot of electromagnetic waves onto Earth, particularly infrared radiation (heat), visible light (colors), and ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). This radiation is important to our environment and ecosystem but can be harmful to our skin.

UV radiation and visible light has been shown to penetrate our skin, resulting in tanning, sunburns, aging, and, possibly, skin-cancer formation. In fact, one in five Americans will be diagnosed with a skin cancer in his or her lifetime.

How can we protect ourselves? Staying in shade during peak sun hours, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; wearing UV-protective clothing; and, finally, putting on sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen that is broad-spectrum (protecting against ultravioletA and ultravioletB rays), has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, and is water resistant.

Sunscreen should be worn every day, even on cloudy days when up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful rays are able to damage your skin. The average adult will need about one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) for the entire body to be applied about minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen as directed on the bottle.

Certain people are especially sensitive to sunlight and can develop redness or hyperpigmentation. In addition to UV radiation, visible light itself can cause significant redness and hyperpigmentation. Tinted sunscreens can reduce your skin’s exposure to UV rays and visible light.

How can we keep our skin looking healthy and clear? Hydration and daily sunscreen are the first steps. Exfoliation can help remove dead skins and stimulate growth.

Remember to gently rub your skin with an exfoliator for 30 seconds and rinse with warm, not hot, water. The frequency you exfoliate depends on the sensitivity of your skin.

For people with certain skin types, medications (retinols, benzoyl peroxide, etc.),and other skin products can make their skin red, hyperpigmented, and irritated. For those who are prone to hyperpigmentation on their faces, topical vitamin C has been shown to prevent UV-induced pigmentation and photoaging.

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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.

Its 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. Community Caregivers also provides services by phone in Rensselaer County to reduce isolation and make referrals for other needed services.

Editor’s note: Kanthi Bommareddy is slated to graduate from Albany Medical College on May 27. He is a volunteer for Community Caregivers.

Community Caregivers is working hard to make sure seniors have access to COVID vaccines. We have learned that being eligible for the vaccine does not guarantee access. Many seniors do not have smartphones, notebooks, laptops or desktops. This is the same demographic that is most vulnerable to the virus.

For those of us who can navigate the internet, finding an appointment for a vaccine has been challenging.  We have had to search various websites and complete online pre-applications so that we can access the actual application typically sent to us through other electronic communications. In this seemingly exclusive electronic effort, seniors are being left out.

Community Caregivers has a three-step approach to make sure seniors are included. First, we bring up the topic and directly ask: Do you need help getting a vaccine? We are asking this question to about 600 distinct individuals that we served in 2020.

Prior to our conversation, many seniors have not been asked the question. They, like the rest of us, need to have these discussions if for no other reason to vent some of their mounting COVID-anxiety.  

Second, if a senior is interested in obtaining a vaccine, we search to find them an appointment. We do not have access to a secret stash of vaccines, but we do have perseverance.

We, like many, have found success with a relentless effort to review the different sites over and over until we find an appointment that suits each senior. Then on their behalf, we book the appointments, collect all necessary forms, and help fill out the hard copies.  

Third, we provide transportation to and from the appointments, observing all necessary COVID precautions. We find volunteer drivers who will transport door-to-door. 

Our volunteers call in advance to make sure all the arrangements are in place and we provide the personal touch of driving seniors individually so there is no worry about traveling in a group.       

These are steps Community Caregivers is taking to assure seniors are included and protected as we get through this pandemic together. Please feel free to call our office at 518-456-2898 or email us at if you know of a senior who needs help setting up a vaccine appointment.

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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.

Its 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. Community Caregivers also provides services by phone in Rensselaer County to reduce isolation and make referrals for other needed services.

Editor’s note: Tony Cortese, M.S.W. coordinates services for Community Caregivers.

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