When an independent spouse or parent needs a little or a lot of help with daily living, we often are unprepared for it. The transition from independence to dependence for those needing care — and for those providing care — can trigger conflicting emotions and stress.

For parents and adult children, providing care and accepting support may be an opportunity to reconnect after many years apart in adult life. However, it’s not easy. And, it’s a journey unique to each of us; therefore, family caregivers and those on the receiving end of help often find that writing about their experiences is very meaningful.

With that in mind, Community Caregivers invites interested individuals to register for an upcoming Writing Workshop for Caregivers. This event is also open to Community Caregivers’ volunteers who serve others in the community.

The workshop will be held on Wednesday, March 7, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Normanskill Room at the Guilderland Public Library at 2228 Western Ave. in Guilderland. Light refreshments will be provided.

The workshop leader is an award-winning author, columnist, and teacher Diane Cameron. Diane also has also been a family caregiver herself and once directed the Community Caregivers. She loves to help new writers begin their work. We are pleased that Diane has graciously offered to share her time and talent with us.

This fun and hands-on writing workshop will help you tell your own story or the story of a person you love. You can keep it or share as a gift to your family. You may also intend it for publication. In case you are wondering, you do not share your writing with others during the workshop.

Pens and paper will be provided. Registration is required, and we ask that you let us know you are attending no later than Monday, March 5. Again, please let us know if you would like to attend. Call 518-456-2898 to register or email me at

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.

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It seems hard to keep up with all the changes that are swiftly coming in this new digital era. There are so many great advances that help old people.

Many older adults are learning how to use iPads and smartphones, which allows them to “video chat” with family members far away or to see their photos and videos on Facebook. These advances provide personal contact and pleasure to keep in touch with family and friends in ways that were previously only available by letter and telephone call.

Important uses of technology are also helping caregivers and older adults. Recently, New York State approved the operation of the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft that expand transportation options for people to travel to doctor appointments or for other activities.

Other new technologies allow family members or caregivers to monitor an older family member living alone. Perhaps you have heard of sensors that will provide an alert if the person being monitoring has not opened the refrigerator by lunch time.

Technology can promote social connections; computer software allows groups in aging-in-place “villages” to connect members who have similar social interests, such as book clubs or movie-discussion groups. Technology also can assist individuals with tracking their own health and preventive-care needs using smartphone apps.

Apple recently announced plans to allow doctors and health providers to upload patient medical records to a health app on the patient’s iPhone.

Alan S. Teel, M.D. has pioneered the use of technology to help his elderly patients stay at home in his rural state of Maine. In his book “Alone and Invisible No More,” Dr. Teel advocates the use of internet-based technology tools along with volunteers and paid assistance to help elders remain at home and remain connected to their communities.

His company, Full Circle America, offers services including: “quick call” buttons, video and sensor monitoring (as noted in the refrigerator example, above), friendly reminder calls and a Circle of Care. The Circle of Care approach helps the individual identify people who can assist and support him or her, including family members, friends, neighbors, and volunteers.

Teel’s approach seeks to be comprehensive by incorporating the human as well as the technological elements. It’s a rapidly developing field with many companies vying to offer “tech” solutions to monitor the well-being of elders.

These new products enhance the ability of older persons to remain living at home longer; we all need to be aware and keep educated about what is available. Community Caregivers staff will continue to study these new products and innovations so that we can provide information for our volunteers, individuals, and family caregivers about new options.

While nothing can substitute for human contact and caring helpers, technological innovations may hold part of the answer to help those who need assistance to live well at home.

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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.

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.

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January feels like a long month. And, whether or not we have broken official cold records this month in Albany County, it sure feels like we have! Despite a brief reprieve from the bone-chilling, below-zero readings, there is still a lot of winter ahead. It’s particularly imperative that older adults take precautions to stay safe in the cold weather.

Why the extra precautions? Older adults can lose body heat faster than younger adults. Age-related changes can make it harder for older adults to be aware of getting cold. This can lead to a serious problem — hypothermia — even before the older person realizes it.

Hypothermia occurs when one’s body temperature gets very low. For an older person, a body temperature colder than 95 degrees Fahrenheit can cause many health problems, among them heart attack, kidney problems, or liver damage.

It’s not only being outside that can cause problems; living in cold house also can lead to hypothermia.

You can take steps to lower your chance of getting hypothermia. For example, try to stay away from cold places and pay attention to how cold it is where you are.  

The National Institute on Aging offers these additional sensible guidelines.

Keep warm inside

Living in a cold house, apartment, or other building can cause hypothermia. In fact, hypothermia can occur in a group facility — if the rooms are not kept warm enough. If someone you know lives in a group setting, pay attention to the temperature and whether your friend or loved one is dressed warmly enough.

People who are sick may have special problems keeping warm. Therefore, do not set the thermostat too low and dress warmly. Even if the temperature is set between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, your home or apartment may not be warm enough to keep you safe.

This is a special problem if you live alone since there is no one else to feel the chilliness of the house or notice if you are having symptoms of hypothermia. Keep warm indoors using these tips:

— Set your heat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. To save on heating bills, close off rooms you are not using. Close the vents and shut the doors in these rooms. Keep the basement door closed. Place a rolled towel in front of all doors to keep out drafts;

— Make sure your house isn’t losing heat through windows. Keep your blinds and curtains closed. If you have gaps around the windows, try using weather stripping or caulk to keep the cold air out;

— Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house. Throw a blanket over your legs. Wear both socks and shoes;

— When you go to sleep, wear long underwear under your pajamas, and use extra covers. Wear a cap or hat to keep body heat in;

— Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your energy;

— Drink alcohol sparingly, if at all. Alcoholic drinks can lead to loss of body heat;

— Think whether you know an older adult who is living alone and be a good neighbor by checking on that individual during cold stretches or snowstorms;

— If a power outage leaves you without heat, contact a relative, friend, or emergency personnel; do not try to wait it out this time of year; and

— You may be tempted to warm your room with a space heater. But, some space heaters are fire hazards and others can cause carbon-monoxide poisoning. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has information on the use of space heaters. Read the following for more information: “Reducing Fire Hazards for Portable Electric Heaters.” You can find it online at www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/heaters.pdf.

Bundle up on windy, cold days

A heavy wind can quickly lower your body temperature. Check the weather forecast for windy and cold days. On those days, try to stay inside or in a warm place. If you have to go out, wear warm clothes, and don’t stay out for any length of time.

Here are other tips:

— Dress for the weather if you have to go out on chilly, cold, or damp days;

— Wear loose layers of clothing. The air between the layers helps to keep you warm;

— Put on a hat and scarf. You lose a lot of body heat when your head and neck are uncovered; and

— Wear a waterproof coat or jacket if it’s snowy.

Illness, medicines, and cold weather

Some illnesses may make it harder for your body to stay warm. Diabetes, thyroid problems, Parkinson’s disease, memory loss, and arthritis are problems that can make it harder for older adults to stay warm. Talk with your doctor about your health problems and how to prevent hypothermia.

Medications and inactivity also can affect body heat. Here are some topics to talk about with your doctor to stay safe in cold weather:

— Ask your doctor about signs of hypothermia;

— Talk to your doctor about any health problems and medications that can make hypothermia a special problem for you. Your doctor can help you find ways to prevent hypothermia; and

— Ask about safe ways to stay active even when it’s cold outside.

Warning signs

Sometimes it is hard to tell if a person has hypothermia. Look for clues. Is the house very cold? Is the person not dressed for cold weather? Is the person speaking more slowly than normal and having trouble keeping his or her balance?

Early signs of hypothermia include cold feet and hands, puffy or swollen face, pale skin and shivering. Also, the person may have slower than normal speech or slurring and act sleepy, angry, or confused.

Later signs of hypothermia include slow and clumsy movement, stiffness, slow heartbeat, shallow breathing, and losing consciousness.

Call 9-1-1 right away if you think someone has warning signs of hypothermia. After you call 9-1-1, move the person to a warmer place and wrap him or her in blankets or coats — whatever is handy, until help arrives.

Heating bills

If you are having a hard time paying your heating bills, there are some resources that might help. Contact the National Energy Assistance Referral service at 1-866-674-6327 (toll-free; TTY, 1-866-367-6228) or email to get information about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

In Albany County, call New York Connects at 518-447-7177 for low-income energy assistance information.

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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.

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.

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This is the time of year that we set goals for ourselves. While polls show that fewer than one-half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, most of us seek to live better after the holidays by exercising more, eating less, and demonstrating willpower. We strive to not be the person standing at the kitchen counter, spoon in hand, polishing off the half-gallon of ice cream!  

Willpower, however, doesn’t help us create or sustain long-lasting change. According to the website Statistic Brain, only a fraction of those who make resolutions — 9.2 percent — report success keeping them.

Sometimes, perhaps, what’s needed more to improve our lives is a meaningful connection with other people. So, as we start the New Year, let’s look beyond ourselves (and our inevitable shortcomings) for some inspiration. And, maybe success!

One of the strengths of Community Caregivers is that we create a sense of community for those we serve and those who serve. We connect people who want to help with those who need a helping hand.

While our service area encompasses five Albany County Towns (Guilderland, Bethlehem, New Scotland, Berne, and Knox) and the city of Albany, we assign volunteers near where they live or work. And we serve as a trusted resource for family caregivers.

We invite you to join our community.

If you are an adult who finds it harder of late to keep your home and daily life in good order, maybe we can help. Our volunteers are kind, caring, and respectful.

A Community Caregivers’ volunteer might be able to offer you a ride, grocery shopping help, a visit, or a regular friendly telephone call. Depending on what you need, a volunteer might put away your groceries, help you sort the mail, read aloud, or simply swap stories and share a laugh with you.

We know that people are sometimes reluctant to ask for help, but remember, this is not a one-way street. Our volunteers are eager to serve and will also benefit from meeting you.

If you are a family caregiver who helps a loved one stay in the community and delay a move to assisted living, we offer support; education; and, importantly, a few hours off. Our respite volunteers may be able to give you a break by coming to your home and spending time with your loved one.

And, through education programs and a support group, we create a community for caregivers, so you know that you’re not alone.

If you would like to make a difference in the lives of others, volunteer with us. We always need volunteer drivers; our drivers use their own cars and start from home, not the office.

In 2018, we are creating care teams that might be a good fit for you; we always offer volunteers flexible schedules. If you have a cell phone and a few minutes, you can volunteer to make regular calls this winter to an elderly person who is homebound during the snowy months.   

So, in the days ahead, maybe think outside the box for a New Year’s resolution. Sign up to help in your community; we offer two volunteer information/orientation sessions monthly. In January, the first is Thursday, Jan. 4, at noon; the second is Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 1 p.m. We ask that you register: online at or by calling (518) 456-2898.

Call us if you might need a little help for yourself or a loved one and join us for caregiver education programs. We announce our programs in Caregivers’ Corner, on our website, and on our Community Caregivers’ Facebook page.

From all of us, we wish you a Happy New Year!

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.

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Caregivers who struggle to balance their jobs while caring for older or ill family members or newborns, or have added responsibilities due to a family member’s military deployment will have added security and financial support with New York State’s Paid Family Leave, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018.  

Most private-sector workers in the state will be able to take up to eight weeks of paid leave and will receive half of their average annual earnings up to a cap. By 2021, when the benefit is fully phased in, workers will be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds of their wage up to the statewide cap. An employee does not have to use earned vacation and sick time prior to taking paid family leave.

If possible, an employee should provide advance notice to an employer of the need for paid family leave such as when a family is expecting a baby. However, as caregivers for older and sick persons know, a family health emergency can strike and there is an immediate need for time off.

This law is of particular benefit to older persons and their caregivers since some employers have given time off for maternity and paternity leave, but not for caring for sick or elderly relatives. Traditionally, women have been the ones at home providing care for newborns and also for older parents or relatives; with paid leave, supporters believe that more men will be able to provide care in the future.

The program is paid through small weekly deductions from employee paychecks (0.126 percent per week up to a maximum of $1.65 per week). The paid-family-leave insurance program pays for the leave benefit, not the employer. The employee’s health insurance is not affected. The employer is also free to use the leave worker’s wages to cover overtime costs or for temporary help.

For more details about the rules of the program, regarding which relatives are covered for leave time, what documentation is needed from doctors, etc., you can visit the program’s website at www.ny.gov/paidfamilyleave. Locally, Community Caregivers’ staff can offer information and assistance to those who may be interested in learning more about the law and how it possibly can work for their families.

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.

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