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02 October 2015
Acupuncture facts and fallacies
Gloucester Times "Senior Lookout"

Acupuncture is a Chinese medical practice that is centuries old. The theory of acupuncture is that an energy called qi (pronounced “chee”) radiates through and around your body along pathways called meridians. During acupuncture your practitioner looks for points on your body to access the qi that is blocked or not flowing right. Each point relates to certain health problems or body functions. There are 71 meridians in the body. It is believed that in order to function properly the body needs to be in balance. If the energy flow along the meridians is blocked, it forces the energy in the opposite direction, causing an unbalanced flow of energy. Acupuncture engages the qi by inserting needles at certain points along the meridian. Placing needles along blocked pathways stimulates the meridian at that point, opening the flow.

There are many false beliefs about acupuncture:

1. Acupuncture is painful.

Actually according to Pam Stratton, an acupuncturist who manages the Acupuncture Center of Cape Ann, most people find the placing of the needles comforting and relaxing. It is unusual to feel any discomfort. However if discomfort should occur, it will fade quickly and on its own. The needles are no thicker than a cat’s whisker. You may feel a sensation often described as heaviness, throbbing, or an electrical current once the needle is inserted. This is good as it is your body opening up to the flow of energy.

2. No reasonable healthcare professional would recommend it.

Actually acupuncture is recommended by many medical institutions. Even the U.S. military uses acupuncture. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds many clinical research trial on acupuncture. Both NIH and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognize acupuncture as a valid treatment for a wide range of conditions.

3. There is a conflict between medication, physical therapy, and other conventional medical treatments.

There is no conflict, they complement each other. Acupuncture can help improve conditions that you are being treated for.

4. Acupuncture is only helpful in treating pain.

Although acupuncture certainly helps in the treatment of pain, it by no means is the only condition it treats. Acupuncture can help with nausea or vomiting, morning sickness, hypertension, allergies, depression, infertility, addiction, and other conditions.

5. Acupuncture’s effects are psychological. It doesn’t really do anything.

Quite false. Studies show that during acupuncture, our brains begin to release chemicals such as endorphins (natural painkillers). Acupuncture has also proven to have an anti-inflammatory effect and help people’s immune system.

In Massachusetts, an acupuncturist needs to be licensed by the state Board of Medicine. 

Stratton says that she works with many seniors. Acupuncture is helpful with the many aches and pains we experience as we age. It is helpful with arthritis pain, joint difficulties, and other pains. Stratton stresses that acupuncture is not a medicine and should not replace the medicines prescribed by your doctor. Acupuncture acts as a wonderful complement to mainstream medicine.

Many of Stratton’s clients use acupuncture as a maintenance program for their health issues. It helps sustain them between visits with their primary care physician.

If you are interested in learning if acupuncture can be helpful, you can call the Acupuncture Center of Cape Ann at 978-283-0401.

Kelly Knox is the development officer of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Health | Link
01 October 2015
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
A message from Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo-Theken

Please join me as we proclaim October Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  We will come together on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, at 12:30 p.m. to acknowledge our awareness of domestic abuse as a critical public health issue that affects our community and to recommit ourselves to the continued work of advancing Gloucester as a Domestic Violence Free Zone.  I sincerely hope you, your neighbors and colleagues will be able to join me and our community partners for this event.

This year we are fortunate to be able to celebrate some significant advances in our work: 

  • The Gloucester Police Department now has one and a half FT officers focused on issues surrounding  domestic abuse;
  • Eliot Human Services has established an intervention program in Gloucester District Court to assist in the process of rehabilitating domestic offenders;
  • Gloucester Men against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault are re-establishing their organization with the goal to especially devote themselves to trying to help boys grow into healthy men;
  • The Gloucester/Cape Ann HAWC Office has stable staffing via Elaine Fernandes (FT) and Allison Langlois  (PT).

While we have much to celebrate this year, we are also aware that we have much work still to do.  Please join me and our regular community partners – HAWC, the Coalition for the Prevention of Domestic Abuse, The YWCA North Shore Rape Crisis Center, and the Gloucester Police Department on October 6th for this important gathering. 

The favor of a reply to Chris Pantano at 978-281- 9700 or will be appreciated.


Sefatia Romeo-Theken

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Safety Health | Link
25 September 2015
It's time to think about Medicare choices
Gloucester Times "Senior Lookout"

It’s that time of year: Medicare’s annual open enrollment is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. It is the one time of the year when all people with Medicare can make changes to their health and prescription drug plans for the upcoming new year.

Whether you are embarking on Medicare for the first time or looking at changing your plan, making decisions about Medicare can be cumbersome and confusing. Paying attention to detail is vital as you work your way through the maze of possibilities. Also, getting help to better understand your choices can relieve some of the stress that you may experience.

Massachusetts has a program called SHINE (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone ... on Medicare) that is administered by Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs in partnership with local organizations. SHINE provides free, unbiased health insurance information and counseling to Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers. SHINE counselors are available to help people better understand their Medicare choices.

“Open enrollment is an opportunity for anyone who has Medicare currently to review their plan to be sure they are in the most cost effective plan,” said Lisa Rose, Regional SHINE Program Director.

SHINE encourages people to review their plans before calling. You can go online to then click “Find health and drug plans,” which will enable you to find the plans available in your area. “It’s a great resource for people,” said Rose. The Medicare website can show you plans in your area that may cost less, cover your specific drugs, and let you go to the providers you want, such as your doctor or pharmacy.

It is during open enrollment that you can decide to switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan. If you are already on a Medicare Advantage Plan you can switch back to Original Medicare. Furthermore, if you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan and want to switch back to Original Medicare you can do so through Feb. 14. The most important thing to remember is that plans can change on an annual basis. For example, the drug costs can change in your part D plan from one year to the next. Your insurance company will send you an annual notice of change. You should read that to see what is going to change for 2016.

If you switch plans, your new coverage will begin Jan. 1. If you stay with the same plan, changes to coverage, benefits, or cost will begin Jan. 1. If you wait until the Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 time frame to change to Original Medicare your coverage will begin the first day of the month after the plan gets your enrollment form.

If you want expert help as you review your Medicare plan(s), SHINE suggests you call them after Oct. 15 so they can best help you through the process.

To reach a SHINE counselor you can call your local hospital or senior center. To reach the SHINE Program directly call 1-800-892-0890.

Kelly Knox is the development officer of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750. 

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Financial Wellness Health | Link
18 September 2015
Need more shut-eye? Lifestyle may be culprit
Gloucester Times "Senior Lookout"

How well and how much we sleep has great influence on the quality of our life. The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person but on average adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

We each have a natural rhythm that guides our need for sleep called the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep. It is guided by environmental factors such as sunlight and temperature. Sleeping in sync with this rhythm is important for healthy sleep.

As we age our circadian rhythm changes, and our sleep patterns change. For example, you may find that you feel sleepy earlier in the evening as you get older. Although sleep patterns change, the amount of sleep we need does not decrease.

The level of rest you actually achieve during sleep is linked to two types of sleep: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. There are three stages to NREM sleep: your eyes close but you can easily wake up, then you fall into a light sleep, and finally you are in a deep sleep. If someone were to wake you at the final stage of NREM you might feel disoriented for a few moments. REM sleep usually happens after 90 minutes of being asleep. It is during REM sleep that we tend to dream because the brain is more active. We cycle through NREM and REM every 90 minutes. As we age we tend to sleep more lightly and therefore get a less restful sleep. This happens because our body chemistry changes. One of these changes is less melatonin (a hormone that promotes sleep) is secreted as we age.

If you have trouble sleeping it is important to identify the underlying problem(s). Many sleep problems are caused by treatable issues. Common causes of insomnia and sleep disturbances include:

Poor sleep habits and sleep environment. Having a regular sleeping routine where you go to bed and wake the same time each night and day can help improve sleep. Consuming alcohol may seem like it helps increase sleepiness, but it actually disrupts your sleep pattern.

Pain or medical conditions. If you are in pain it can keep you from the deep sleep you need. Some health issues that may interfere with your sleep include arthritis, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, nighttime heartburn, menopause, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Medications. Medications and their side effects can impair sleep.

Lack of exercise. If you are sedentary it may cause you to not feel sleepy or cause excessive sleepiness. Regular exercise during the day can improve your sleeping habits.

Psychological stress or psychological disorders. Life changes such as death of a loved one, moving from the family home, or having been hospitalized can cause stress and anxiety which can impair your sleep.

Sleep disorders. Snoring and sleep apnea occur more frequently as we age.

Keeping a sleep journal will help you determine how best to help yourself. You’ll want to keep track of when you sleep and how rested you feel or don’t. It’s also good to keep track of when you use alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. You’ll want to note the medications you use, when and how you exercise, any lifestyle changes, and recent stressors.

If you are unable to resolve your sleep problems by yourself your doctor may be able to help. You may want to share your sleep journal with your doctor so he or she can better help you.

Kelly Knox is the development officer of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.

Posted by senior care blog at 12:00 AM in Health | Link
17 February 2015
Why it Matters to You

Congress passed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965.  The original legislation established authority for grants to States for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging. The law also established the Administration on Aging (AoA) to administer the newly created grant programs and to serve as the Federal focal point on matters concerning older persons.

Today the OAA is considered to be the major vehicle for the organization and delivery of social and nutrition services to this group and their caregivers.  It authorizes a wide array of service programs through a national network of 56 State agencies on aging, 629 area agencies on aging, nearly 20,000 service providers, 244 Tribal organizations, and 2 Native Hawaiian organizations representing 400 Tribes.  SeniorCare is just one of those organizations, and is both a Massachusetts Aging Services Access Point (ASAP) and a federally designated Area Agency on Aging (AAA).

Programs operated under OAA allow older adults to live more independently, in their homes, or in settings of their choice, particularly those with the greatest need socially or economically.  For some, it has meant employment, for others opportunities to volunteer.  These programs are administered locally, where people understand better the needs of local residents.  

From Meals on Wheels, to Evidence-based prevention programs to the National Family Caregiver program, there are efforts being made to improve the lives of older Americans via this important legislation.  With Baby Boomers entering the ranks of those who benefit from this important Act in unprecedented numbers, its importance should be apparent.  To learn more... Importance of the Older Americans Act


Posted by senior care blog at 11:55 AM in Home Care Financial Wellness nutrition Health Older Americans Act | Link
21 November 2014
Home Care Cut Again???


For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott M. Trenti, Executive Director


Elder Groups Urge Governor Patrick

Not to Cut Vulnerable Seniors---Again

Gloucester & Beverly ~ Six days before Governor Deval Patrick announced his budget cuts to elder home care, elder rights groups send him a letter urging him not to hurt vulnerable seniors. Now that the “9c cuts” have been announced, advocates are asking the Governor again to spare these programs.

In his first year in office in 2008, Governor Deval Patrick impounded funding passed by the legislature heading for home care and other elder accounts. Now in his final weeks in office, the Governor has once again chosen to impound an additional $2.37 million in FY 2015 funding.

            The largest single cut was to home care services. Even before these latest 9c cuts, the home care services account was $2.3 million below where it stood in Fiscal Year 2009, seven budget cycles ago. The Governor’s cuts this week leave the FY 15 home care services account $3.8 million below 2009 funding. The care management account is $4.8 million lower than in FY 2009—so these two home care program accounts total $8.6 million below funding levels 7 years ago.

            In an attempt to ward off these cuts, 6 elder rights groups sent a letter to the Governor, and his Administration and Finance Secretary, Glen Shor, urging them not to cut further into home care accounts.

            Advocates said today they are urging the public to call the Governor’s office (617-725-4005) to ask him to take the 9c cut to elderly home care off the table. “We save the taxpayers money every single day we keep someone out of a nursing facility SeniorCare, Inc. Executive Director Scott Trenti said. “Cutting an investment that creates savings simply makes no sense as fiscal policy---and it hurts some of our most vulnerable seniors.”

            Here are excerpts from the letter hand-delivered to Secretary Shor and the Governor:

Dear Secretary Shor,

In October of 2008, Governor Deval Patrick imposed a total of $15.511 million in 9c cuts to the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (ELD) line items  (9110 accounts). The accounts lost 5.3% in overall funding. The impact of these cuts are still felt today in the ELD accounts, seven budget years later.

The basic home care purchased FY 15 appropriation of $104.4 million, is $2.3 million below the appropriation level of FY 2009---seven budget years earlier! This has not only affected the 28,000 elders in this program, it has resulted in lower CHIA rates for this program, since Chapter 257 rates are based largely on restrained historic levels of funding.

The home care case management appropriation in FY 2015 of $35.54 million is $4.762 million lower than the account had in FY 2009---11.8% below where it stood seven budget years earlier. This has restrained new hiring, resulted in caseloads over 100 per worker, and depressed salary levels in the ASAP system for RNs and CMs well-below industry and state standards, which in turn increases recruitment and training costs.

The figures look even worse when compared to FY 14, because FY 15 was the first recovery year the ELD items have had since the 2008 Recession hit. The FY 14 appropriation level for home care purchased services ($98.752 million) is $7.96 million lower than the FY 2009 benchmark, or 7.5% lower than 7 budget years earlier. The Governor’s laudable effort to help home care recover in FY 15 will be undone by 9cuts in the same accounts that ANF and the Governor helped restore last spring.

Overall, the ELD account appropriations in FY 15 are 13% below the $294.98 million benchmark of FY 2009, or $38.16 million lower.

The ELD accounts are just beginning to emerge from the Recession, and we are just 5 months into the restored funding the Governor provided in FY 15. But this fragile recovery will be shattered if ANF recommends another round of 9c cuts to the ELD accounts.

The home care accounts have had a significant impact on reducing spending in other long term support accounts, especially the nursing facility appropriations. From 2000 to 2013, the patients days paid for by Medicaid have dropped by more than 33%, create a savings to state and federal taxpayers of roughly $865 million annually.

Between FY 2000 and FY 2013, the number of nursing home patient days paid for by MassHealth fell by 4,387,000 days (-33.5%).  In FY 15 terms, the SNF cost per day to Medicaid is around $197.26, and the costs avoided from reduced patient days will be closer to $865 million per year. This is the true “home care dividend” that the state receives from its investment today in home care services. There are few state programs that provide an immediate return on investment: when we keep an elder out of a MassHealth nursing facility bed today, that same day we provide them with care in the community for half the cost.

For all the above reasons, we urge ANF not to impose further 9c cuts on the ELD accounts. Our elderly clients have already paid a significant price for 9c cuts over the past seven years.


Al Norman, Mass Home Care

Mike Festa, AARP Massachusetts

David Stevens, Mass Councils on Aging

Chet Jakubiak, Mass Assoc. of Older Americans

Carolyn Villers, Mass Senior Action Council

Lisa Gurone, Home Care Aide Council of Massachusetts

Posted by senior care blog at 12:34 PM in Home Care Health | Link
20 November 2014
Coping With Stress and Depression
Presented by Annelle B. Primm, M.D., MPH

Posted by senior care blog at 7:00 AM in Health | Link
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