March is Social Worker Month

March is Social Worker Month and March 21 is World Social Worker Day.

Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines Social Work as “any of various professional activities or methods concretely concerned with providing social services and especially with the investigation, treatment, and material aid of the economically, physically, mentally, or socially disadvantaged.”

Although the definition above is technically correct, there are many forms of social work, so such a simple and concrete definition does nearly explain the magnitude of the work done by these often highly educated workers.
Social work is a vast discipline that encompasses many therapeutic methods and can range from helping one person, to helping to improve communities around the world. For example a social worker can be working to support humanitarian rescue missions, helping families gain access to government assistance, or counseling those who are near death and their loved ones. A simple social work definition does not do justice to the many ways that social work touches the lives of people every day. The one thing social workers have in common however, is that they strive to better the lives of people, whether at the individual, family, group or societal level.

Social workers are not highly compensated by salary, but the satisfaction they get from helping others live better and more peaceful lives is significant and often motivates them every day.

Here are a few other reasons people become social workers:

They are never bored
In social work, every day is completely different. While they may try and plan meticulously, a social worker can be guaranteed that there will be several unexpected challenges to deal with each week.

It challenges people in ways few other careers do
Social work is incredibly emotionally challenging. The stories social workers hear and sights they see may just take your breath away. The highs and the lows are incomparable. It is so easy to grow attached to the people you support and their successes and failures feel like your successes and failures. Learning to manage these vicarious emotions is an important aspect of the job.

People learn things about themselves they may not otherwise have learned
The situations that social workers face are unique and often extreme. They find out quickly if they are good at dealing with people with aggressive behavior, or people with depression. They often learn the lesson of loss over and over again, be it from a patient that dies by suicide or an elderly client who passes away peacefully as they hold his/her hand.

They get to be the person who changes someone’s life for the better
They may not get a thank you card every day, or even every year, but when they do occasionally get a thank you from a client or family member for helping a person overcome the difficulties one can experience in life, they are fueled by hope. Who doesn’t like to know that you helped another person in some small (or sometimes big) way?

Being a social worker is not an easy job. There are more than 650,000 people who hold a social worker degree across the United States. Each day they wake with the hope, inspiration, and courage to connect with other people in a way that lives can change. Go out of your way today to thank a social worker.

Thank YOU for Supporting Meals on Wheels (1)

THANK YOU to everyone for this morning’s wonderful Meals on Wheels Breakfast! Thank you to our sponsors, to our volunteers, and to everyone who took time out of their morning to join us for breakfast.

In particular, a giant THANK YOU to Dotty, Lennie & Mike Linquata and the wonderful staff at The Gloucester House. Thank you for your generosity, for your hospitality and for your delicious fish cakes!

(Click on an image in order to view full gallery of images.  Additional pictures available in Gallery #2 & Gallery #3.)



March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

I turned 50 years old last August. I received two memorable items in the mail around that time: an invitation to join AARP and a letter from my doctor telling me I needed to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. I did join AARP, because who doesn’t like discounts? And, although I put it off a few months, I made a colonoscopy appointment, which ironically was scheduled for the first week of March 2017.

Colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). He or she uses a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon. A colonoscopy helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people ages 50 and older. African-Americans, however, have a greater risk of colon cancer than people of other races.

The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. There are often no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer — that’s why it’s so important to get screened.

It is suggested that everyone 50 years and over get regular screenings for colon cancer. There are risk factors other than age, however, that may increase your chances of getting colon cancer.

Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:

  • You already had colon cancer or adenomatous polyps.
  • You have chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Genetic syndromes have passed through generations of your family. These syndromes include familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, which is also known as Lynch syndrome.
  • You have a parent, sibling or child with the disease. If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater.
  • You have a diet low in fiber and high in fat and calories. Research in this area has had mixed results. Some studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who eat diets high in red meat and processed meat.
  • You are inactive. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
  • You have diabetes and insulin resistance.
  • You are obese.
  • You smoke.
  • You drink lots of alcohol.

It is estimated that if everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, 6 out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. I did have this screening done last week. I followed the directions that were sent with my appointment confirmation. It was not the most pleasant experience, nor was it as bad as I imagined it would be.

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

The ripple effect of hearing loss can be devastating. Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice. Hearing doorbells, and alarms becomes difficult. Having conversations with loved ones or long-time acquaintances such as the mailperson becomes hard. This can be frustrating, embarrassing and at worse, dangerous.

A new study, reported on in WebMD, links mental decline with hearing loss in the elderly. The study included close to 2000 men and women 70 years of age and over. The study, which began in the late 1990s, tested hearing in year five of the study. Over the next six years each person participated in a series of tests to assess decline in memory and thinking.

Those who experienced hearing loss showed a decline in memory and thinking that was 30-40 percent faster than those who did not have hearing loss.

There are many options to help with hearing loss, but first you need to detect its occurrence. Here are some questions based on a tool for hearing loss. If you answer yes to three or more of these questions you could have a hearing problem and you should check with your doctor.

  • Do you sometimes feel embarrassed when you meet new people because you struggle to hear?
  • Do you feel frustrated when talking to members of your family because you have difficulty hearing them?
  • Do you have difficulty hearing when someone speaks in a whisper?
  • Do you feel restricted or limited by a hearing problem?
  • Do you have difficulty hearing when visiting friends, relatives, or neighbors?
  • Does a hearing problem cause you to attend religious services less often than you would like?
  • Does a hearing problem cause you to argue with family members?
  • Do you have trouble hearing the TV or radio at levels that are loud enough for others?
  • Do you feel that any difficulty with your hearing limits your personal or social life?
  • Do you have trouble hearing family or friends when you are together in a restaurant?

Hearing loss happens for different reasons. Many people lose their hearing slowly as they age. Another reason for hearing loss with aging is having been exposed to year of loud noise. Many construction workers, farmers, musicians, airport workers and people in the armed forces are subject to hearing loss (often times it begins in their younger years).

There are a number of ways to address hearing loss. You must determine what works best for you and your circumstances. Here are a few ways to counter-act hearing loss:

  • Hearing aids. They make sounds louder. Often things will sound different than you are used to, which can make getting use to a hearing aid difficult. You may need to try a number of hearing aids before you find the one that works for you.
  • Cochlear implants. These are small electronic devices surgically implanted in the inner ear. These implants are for people whose hearing loss is severe.
  • Assistive listening device. These include amplifying devices for the telephone, or cell phone. They can also be helpful in places of worship, theaters, and auditoriums.
  • Lip reading. People who use this method pay close attention to others when they talk, by watching how the speaker’s mouth moves.

Sometimes it is difficult to accept that you have hearing loss. However the sooner you can be honest with yourself, the quicker you can find the solution that best works for you.

Heart Health Month

As February 2017 fades into history, I would be remiss not to write about heart health.  I’m guessing here, as I could not find proof of its origin, that February is heart month because of the obvious association with Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is all about love. Recognizing the signs of a heart attack is also all about love, love and respect of self and others (even your pets that also rely on you being around).

Although men and women can experience commonalities when having a heart attack, like gripping chest pain and breaking out in a cold sweat, women often experience less subtle signs that can and are often overlooked. According to the American Heart Association more women than men have died each year since 1984 from heart disease. As a comparison, 1 in 30 women die from breast cancer, while 1 in 3 women die of heart disease each year. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, yet only 1 in 5 women believe that heart disease is their greatest threat.

Here is a list of common symptoms experienced by both men and women:

  • Extreme chest pain or pressure
  • Upper body discomfort – arms, back shoulders, jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Profuse sweating
  • Tightness in chest
  • Heartburn or indigestion without nausea
  • Sudden dizziness

Women should be mindful of these symptoms as well

  • Indigestion or gas-like pain
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  • Discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades
  • Recurring chest pain or pressure
  • Sense of impending doom

Furthermore, according to Cedars Sinai, women who have a history of irregular menstrual cycles, estrogen deficiencies and polycystic ovary syndrome may have a higher risk of developing heart disease.

Test results can be different in men and women, further making the necessary quick diagnosis more difficult. Women can have normal angiograms even when they have ischemic heart disease. Stress tests done on women can come back normal or “false positive.” Cedar Sinai suggests that your doctor pay more attention to the symptoms if you are a woman, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, rather than rely on stress tests.

What to do if you suspect a heart attack:

  • Call 911, the best way to get to the hospital is by ambulance. The Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) or paramedics on the ambulance can begin necessary testing.
  • Chew an aspirin (if you are not allergic). A heart attack is caused by blood clots. Aspirin helps reduce these clots.
  • If someone is having a heart attack and has stopped breathing preform CPR. Knowing CPR can save lives.
  • Remember, acting fast is vital to lessening damage, and saving a life.



Massachusetts Senior Legal Helpline

Elder Affairs is the recipient of a Phase II Model Approaches to Statewide Legal Assistance Systems grant from the Administration for Community Living.  The Phase II funding is an opportunity to continue and expand support for implementing well integrated and cost effective legal service delivery systems that maximize the impact of limited legal services to elder consumers in greatest need.  We have partnered on the Project with the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) of the Boston Bar Association to promote high levels of capacity, performance and service delivery impact.

The focal feature of the partnership is a Senior Legal Helpline hosted by VLP that provides free legal information and referral services to Massachusetts residents who are 60 years old or older.

The Helpline telephone number is 800-342-5297 and is open Monday through Friday 9AM-12PM.  Please see the downloadable flyer for additional information.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia

For me, the most heart wrenching illnesses are Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases. To experience someone you know and love lose their cognition and memory must be devastating – to say the least. I am fortunate not to have experienced this first hand, yet. The chances that I will experience a loved one with a dementia illness or have a personal experience with it are high.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. What’s more, more than 15 million caregivers provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care, worth over $221.3 billion.

I don’t know about you, but I find these statistics to be shocking.

But there is hope. According to the Mayo Clinic, experts are cautiously hopeful about developing Alzheimer’s treatments that can stop or significantly delay its progression. By combining different medications, similar to how HIV/AIDS and some cancers are treated, they hope to slow down or put a stop to this disease.

Researchers are focusing on plaques, which are a characteristic sign of Alzheimer’s. Several drugs may prevent plaques from forming and help clear the brain of the protein responsible for their formation. Recent research shows that these types of medications work best during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. More studies are underway.

Researchers are also hopeful that certain medications can prevent the interaction of two proteins that when combine trigger a destruction of connections between nerve cells and the brain. They have tested a medication, originally developed as a possible cancer treatment, in mice. The animals experienced a reversal of memory loss. A human trial has already begun.

A common brain abnormality found in people with Alzheimer’s is called tangles. This happens when a particular protein twists into microscopic fibers. Researchers are currently looking for ways to prevent theses tangles. Vaccines and inhibitors are currently being tested in trials.

Lastly, in the research realm, researchers are looking at the inflammation of brain cells that occur with Alzheimer’s disease. Treating the inflammatory process that occurs with Alzheimer’s may provide relief to some of the disease’s symptoms.

While we wait for these studies and experiments to pan out, there are some things you can do to help keep Alzheimer’s and dementia at bay. Here is a list of five things you can start doing today:

  1. Watch your food intake. There are foods you can eat that support brain function. Berries, nuts, olive oil, and dark, leafy greens are staples to a brain healthy diet. A diet called the MIND diet, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, ranked third on the US News and World Report’s annual best diet list.
  2. Keep moving. The US National Institute on Aging found that exercise can play a key role in reducing your risk for Alzheimer’s and general cognitive decline.
  3. Less Stress. There is evidence that links high stress with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline. There are a number of ways to lower your stress, including yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep. A 2014 study found a link between poor sleep habits and increased risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
  5. Develop and maintain a social network. According the US National Institute on Aging, staying cognitively active through social interactions is linked with a decrease in Alzheimer’s.

By taking these preventive steps you’ll not only potentially decrease your chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia illnesses, but you will feel better as you are doing it. Between your own positive habits and the miracle of medicine, Alzheimer’s and dementia may someday become diseases of the past.

Elder Lobby Day February 27

Hundreds of Elders Take Issues To New Legislative Session

Contact: Al Norman, Mass Home Care, 978-502-3794,

Elder advocacy groups from across the state will be gathering at the State House on Monday, February 27th to address the needs of the growing elderly population in Massachusetts. By the 2020 US Census, the 60 and older population will represent almost one out of every four Baystate  residents.

Elder rights groups will be presenting their legislative agendas ranging from bills on health care, home care, income security, dental care, food stamps, Medicaid eligibility, and workforce wages.

There are currently 14  sponsoring groups coming for Elder Lobby Day: AARP Massachusetts, Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts & New Hampshire Chapter, Coalition for Elder Economic Security, Disability Advocates Advancing Our Health Care Rights, Jewish Community Relations Council, Home Care Aide Council of Massachusetts, Home Care Alliance, LGBT Aging Project, Mass Chapter of the National Elder Law Attorneys, Mass Council for Adult Foster Care, Mass Home Care, Mass Law Reform Institute, Mass Senior Action Council, and The Pew Charitable Trusts.