This month, Institute on Aging wants to recognize some of the glorious ways in which Bay Area locals are taking care of older neighbors, family members and friends, as well as the ways that older adults enrich the rest of us — not only during shelter-in-place, but all year long.

I’ve been volunteering for 10 years at the Friendship Line and I love it. After having a career as a geriatric social worker for 25 years, I thought I wanted to work with children in my retirement days, but quickly realized I missed working with the elderly. My cousin told me about the Friendship Line and I immediately signed up. I am 83 myself, and not shy about sharing my age with callers since I think it makes me more relatable. Quite often I get calls from people I’ve previously spoken with, and we pick up our conversation right where we left off. So many are isolated seniors, and the Friendship Line is really important to them as they don’t have anyone else to relate to in person.

–Linda Lyons, Friendship Line Volunteer

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Slippery Fish Preschool (my youngest son goes there), and IOA’s Activities Director, Steve Jacob, of the support services team at Martin Luther Tower (affordable senior housing) are all working together to assemble and deliver care packages to the 120 older residents sheltering-in-place at Martin Luther Tower. Each will receive a goody bag left on their door that includes letters and artwork from the preschool children.

–Rowena Fontanos, San Francisco Resident

On my block in San Francisco, we maintain an occasional online-community forum. Many of our members are aging residents or have older loved ones, so I recently reminded everyone about our Friendship Line and its magnificent ability to alleviate isolation and loneliness—an important superpower during this time of lessening live interactions. Not only did I receive gratitude notes via email, but a neighbor, whom I’d never met, showed up at my front door to thank me in person (keeping social distance, of course)! Her enthusiastic gift of gratitude really belongs to Friendship Line and the amazing staff who practice compassionate listening and support of those who need it most.

— Caitlin Morgan, Education Manager, Institute on Aging

We will never forget Father Dennis, one of the sweetest men that many of us had ever met. Formerly, he was a priest who spent most of his time in the Tenderloin helping those who needed it most. He knew the neighborhood was dangerous, but that’s why he had to be of service there. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he became depressed and almost non-verbal after leaving his position at the church, but once he started coming to our social day program five days a week, he awoke again! His caregiver noted that after his first week with us, as he was driving him home, Father said, “Oh, look!  It’s that funny mustard colored house we saw yesterday” with the old, familiar delight in his voice that had been absent for so long. After that, Father started wearing his “funny t-shirts” to the center. Think Garfield saying “Ugh, Mondays” or “My friends went to Puerto Rico and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” grandpa humor type of shirts.

Father was thriving and his joy radiated to everyone with whom he came in contact. One day, I was walking with Father and he started to cry. When I inquired as to what was bothering him, he said he was overwhelmed because in his previous life, his purpose was to serve and take care of others. Now his purpose was to receive that same care. He told me that’s how he felt connected to God. I, of course, had tears of gratitude streaming down my face. He had articulated so simply one of our most human conditions: the power of care.

–Alison Moritz, Program Director of the Enrichment Center at the Presidio

Please consider making a contribution to our Care for Caregivers fund today. Because with your help, our collective care can go farther. Donate now!

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Humans are, by nature, social creatures. As the Dalai Lama once said, “We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”

This is not just a random statement; as it turns out, it is rooted in science. Over many years, studies have shown that our social interactions, and the quality of them, quite literally affect our health and happiness, as well as our ability to live longer lives. Without connections to others, it seems that we are doomed to shrink down into less-than-ideal versions of ourselves.

As we age, our social circles and opportunities for interactions diminish. This is natural; children grow up into adults and move out, taking retirement equals more time at home, family and friends move away or pass away. Health issues can also restrict our ability to interact with others.

All of the sudden, maintaining social outlets becomes more of a challenge. This is where the Friendship Line at Institute on Aging can really make a difference.

When Dr. Patrick Arbore first established the Friendship Line in 1973, it was born from a vision to keep older adults out of harm’s way. Suicide rates among Americans age 60 and older were on the increase, and Dr. Arbore saw a need for a crisis line for this societal segment. Thus, when the Friendship Line was put into place, its intent was to field calls from those in deep distress.

As time went on, a wonderful thing happened. Staff and volunteers for the Friendship Line were getting more calls from people “who just needed to talk.” Sometimes the callers had no one else in their lives and were feeling lonely. Others were facing issues with family members, including caregiving children, and needed to vent their frustrations. Others were feeling anxious about their mortality, health or some other concern. All needed one simple thing: someone to listen.

Today, the Friendship Line still functions as a crisis hotline as originally intended, but the majority of calls are “warm line” in nature, from individuals needing to hear a friendly voice and to talk about whatever was on their mind. It also handles calls from adults of any age living with disabilities.

Recently, Institute on Aging had the unprecedented opportunity to partner with the state of California, and specifically the California Department of Aging, to expand the Friendship Line to all older Californians. Together, they established a new toll-free line (888-670-1360) and trained a new, dedicated staff to handle calls on the line. The new staff previously worked for the Alzheimer’s Association, so they were already well-versed on the specific needs of seniors.

The partnership is part of the state’s dedication to better care for California’s aging adults, not only during the pandemic, but ongoing. It is estimated that 7.8 million Californians are 60 and older and that number is estimated to increase by 40 percent in the next decade.*

So, if you are an older adult or an adult living with a disability in California, and are feeling lonely, isolated, anxious, upset or any other uncomfortable feeling, pick up the phone and give us a call. We are here to help.

*based on data in California’s State Plan on Aging, 2017-2021

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When Nature Calls At Night: Prostate Enlargement and You

Just when you thought you could get a good night’s rest, all of a sudden you get urges, so you get up and go to the bathroom. A few hours later in the middle of the night, you get urges again. Just before sunrise, you go again! Could it be a small bladder? You go to the doctor and after a few tests, he tells you it’s benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is the medical term for non-cancerous prostate enlargement due to age.

One of the symptoms commonly associated with this common condition in older men is frequent urination, especially at night. This is also referred to as nocturia. When your body forces you to get up and go to the bathroom, you could be losing on a good night’s rest. Less sleep means less productivity and exhaustion throughout the day, leaving you vulnerable to irritability, stress and weakened immunity.

During this time of the global pandemic, your immunity is very important to keeping you safe, so one of the basic recommendations has been to get a good night’s rest. This is not a prevention or cure for covid-19, but rather one way to maintain your immune system by letting your body rest as much as it needs to so that your body is better able to fight off symptoms, infections and so on (this goes for the cold, flu, and any other infections or a bacterial or viral nature that may enter your body).

This is where BPH could get in the way. If you are experiencing nightly trips to the restroom which don’t let you sleep well throughout the night, your body may be the very thing that’s partly keeping you from maintaining your immune system defenses at optimum levels. Other factors that may contribute to immunity are nutrition, mental health, and the management of other pre-existing conditions.

One solution may be to have a bed pan or medical grade urine bottle near your bed so that if you’re feeling urges, you can relieve yourself in the same room without having to get up and move. This means you could fall back to sleep faster. Another solution is to speak with a naturopathic physician about a compatible and clinically proven herbal therapy to support your urinary symptoms of BPH, especially when it’s in the mild stages.

All parts of the body can affect each other in a complex, interconnected relationship. To strike a balance, it is necessary to be mindful of your health and be proactive to maintain it. Although we may hear the old stereotype that men care more about their cars than their own health, we hope that shedding light on BPH can get the community to support men and for men to support themselves a little more, too!

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Beyond the basics, an in-home caregiver can provide much-needed companionship and serve as a buffer to loneliness for seniors not able to leave their homes.

79-year old Jobyna has dementia. Until recently, she spent a few days a week dancing, singing, playing games, and enjoying conversations and meals with her fellow seniors at a social day program held at Institute on Aging’s Enrichment Center in the Presidio.

All of that has dramatically changed for Jobyna, as it has for so many other seniors. Her days are now spent at home with her husband John, who manages much of her care. Two days a week, an in-home caregiver, Rayna takes over, giving John a much-needed break. Rayna came to the couple via another Institute on Aging service, Home Care & Support Services. Says John, who brought Rayna on right before the shelter-in-place mandate, “this was so fortuitous in light of IOA’s social day program closing. Now we have Rayna on Tuesday and Thursday….and Jobyna did not want her to leave at the end of her shift. I will try to get by on this for now during the awful pandemic.”

With weeks or perhaps months to go with shelter-in-place mandates, it’s becoming more and more challenging for seniors and their families. The challenges vary. Some older adults, who relied on meal services, are having difficulty with maintaining good nutrition, or simply missing the camaraderie they enjoyed at mealtimes. Others are having trouble with keeping up with simple tasks. Families who need to care for an aging family member are struggling to keep up while working at home and homeschooling their children. Many don’t know where to turn for help.

Institute on Aging’s Home Care & Support Services can help with caregivers who can come into the home for as little as 4 hours a day. Both clients and caregivers are carefully prescreened prior each home entry, and caregivers wear appropriate personal protection equipment.

Here are six ways that a home care worker can help seniors during this time, in addition to the basics of cooking, cleaning, shopping, and more:  

  1. Be a companion. “We are all so focused on the health side of things, but we can’t forget about our mental health,” said Mary Griffin of IOA. Humans are social beings, and seniors who live alone are particularly prone to feeling isolated and lonely with reduced human interaction, especially if family and friends are limiting or shortening their visits. A home care worker can play games with them, help put together puzzles, cook with them even just looking at old photo albums together and reminiscing about the past.
  2. Set up technology to make it easier for the senior when no one is around. Voice-driven devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, can be great for seniors because they can use them for functions such as turning on and off lights, the television and more. However, those devices must be set up in order to communicate with each other, which can be challenging for seniors. Home care workers can assist with the set-up process. If the senior owns a laptop or tablet, they can help them learn how to use video-chat programs such as Zoom or Google Meet in order to stay connected.
  3. Offer day-to-day reminders. Caregivers can post reminders about when to take medication, upcoming calendar events to remember (granddaughter’s birthday) and more in a place where seniors can easily access them. This is especially helpful for those with cognitive function disorders such as dementia. It can even be helpful to leave a note about the current state of affairs (we have to remain indoors during this period, and here is why….) so that those who have short term memory loss can recall why they are being asked to remain indoors.
  4. Be an exercise coach. Home care workers can provide a gentle nudge to get moving. Whether it’s a walk around the block or a walk around the house, even doing a little bit of movement can help stimulate mood-lifting endorphins. One caregiver at IOA puts on dance music for her clients and encourages them to get up and boogie. 
  5. Help stay connected to the arts. Many seniors are missing outings to local museums, the symphony and the theater, but many institutions are implementing virtual streaming of performances and places to visit, such as the San Francisco Symphony, ACT San Francisco and the California Academy of Sciences. Iconic destinations that would be normally be difficult to reach due to travel restrictions, such as the Louvre in Paris and Metropolitan Opera in New York, are free to visit online. A caregiver can help discover these opportunities.
  6. Tackle to-do lists. Perhaps its cleaning out a closet, rearranging dresser drawers or putting down shelf paper. Home care workers canmake headway on those tidying-up projects that have been on the list for months.

If you believe a caregiver from Institute on Aging’s Home Care & Support Services could be right for you, please give us a call at 415.750.4111 or 650.424.1411. We would be happy to talk about a customized plan that is right for your needs.

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How Older Men with BPH Can Appreciate Life During the Pandemic

Although it’s not just older men with BPH (prostate enlargement) who are going through the pandemic, our awareness campaign wants to bring this condition to the public eye. BPH or benign prostatic hyperplasia is a common condition in older men in which the prostate grows to a larger size, potentially interfering with the urinary system (bladder, urethra and kidneys). Symptoms include frequent urination and struggle to urinate smoothly. Among men’s health talks, we might not hear about BPH by name but we are familiar with men going to the bathroom more as they get older as well as prostate jokes (BPH is no joke, though).

Anyway, now that we got the awareness part up there, let’s talk about the global pandemic we are going through alongside our senior men with BPH. This pandemic has taught everyone, including those men with BPH, that life is precious and we should enjoy the gift of life by protecting it for ourselves, our loved ones, and others. Yes, some of us may have daily struggles related to livelihood and other health problems aside from the fears of the pandemic, but there’s something to be said about being able to go to sleep at night and wake up again the next morning. There is something profound about life that we hope many can come to understand. As we work to get our health in order, we hope that managing the health conditions and ailments that affect us and our loved ones can bring us together and motivate us to find solutions to prolong and improve quality of life.

For men with BPH, practicing good nutrition and physical activity as well as voiding techniques to facilitate and cope with the symptoms of mild BPH are one step in the right direction. Advice from doctors and medical support groups can help. Trying safe and natural solutions that have been studied and consulted with their doctors could be another path.

If you are reading this, you are living- we hope that as March comes to a close, in these troubling times you are still gripping firmly on hope, positive sentiments and the gift of your precious life. The spring season has come to grace us with flowers, warmer weather, and rain for the plant life. We can also awaken like the flowering buds in our newfound appreciation for life! 

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Institute on Aging’s mission has always been dedicated to preserving the dignity, independence, and well-being of aging adults and people living with disabilities. It has been our focus for over 40 years.

Today, we suddenly find ourselves in a whole new world full of uncertainty and constantly evolving questions, with a global pandemic that our core audience is most susceptible. We aren’t just helping people with well-being and independence anymore; we are helping them protect themselves, survive mentally, cope with social isolation, and manage day-to-day living in unprecedented times.  

The Incident Command Team of the Institute has been monitoring the situation since the first case appeared in the US. Throughout this rapidly evolving period, we have relied on information provided by the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), Department of Public Health (DPH) in all operating counties, as well as partner organizations and funders. This team meets multiple times daily to assess changes and developments. In addition, there is a team who monitors changes throughout the day.

As shelter-in-place mandates have led us to suspend services such as enrichment day programs and limit access to community-based meals, we find ourselves stepping up in other areas that fit with social distancing guidelines, such as offering Home Care Services and increasing activity with our nationally recognized Friendship Line. We are, and will continue to be, a valued resource to at-risk seniors, as well as aging adults who may be feeling especially anxious, lonely and depressed during this time period.

More Help at Home

Many are wondering what will happen to our seniors ages 65 and older — the most vulnerable to medical complications as a result of coronavirus – if they are alone and without help. IOA’s home care program can help provide a bridge until daily life returns to normal. We provide personalized care for aging adults in their own home. We have licensed, bonded, and insured caregivers who can be scheduled to meet specific needs and we have hourly or 24/7 live-in care and overnight assistance. Just some of the many things we help with:

  • Companionship (even for just several hours a day)
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s care
  • Home safety evaluations
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Escorted transportation, errands, and accompaniment & light housekeeping

To find out more, please call our CONNECT line at 415-720-4111, or 650-424-1411.  

A Warm, Friendly Voice for Those Feeling Isolated

Our Friendship Line, which was founded 47 years ago by Dr. Patrick Arbore, is the only accredited crisis line in the country for people age 60 years and older and adults living with disabilities.

Volunteers who staff the linesassist clients, caretakers or anyone else in the community with social isolation questions, especially ones surrounding coronavirus. As participation in social activities wanes due to lockdowns, social isolation, loneliness and anxiety for seniors may increase. The Friendship Line can be a much-needed support service to aging adults at this time – we encourage you to provide the Friendship Line number to seniors who need a connection or a listening ear. Please note that our volunteers are not equipped to provide medical advice.  

We anticipate a large increase in volume in calls due to COVID-19 forcing more and more seniors to be isolated. As such, we are ramping up staffing and partners to be able to meet this growing need.

The Friendship Line was recently featured on ABC7 and featured on KQED Newsroom (IOA segment starts at 20:45).

The Friendship Line operates 24 hours a day with support in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese. 800-971-3073 (toll-free).

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in the weeks following the holidays, there is typically a spike in dementia diagnoses. People tend to spend more time with family members during the holiday season than almost any other time of the year, and so it’s more noticeable when Mom has trouble remembering where the napkins are, even though she’s stored them in the same place for years, or Dad has difficulty finishing a sentence or telling a story without rambling.

Alzheimer’s (and other forms of dementia) is all around us. The number of Americans being diagnosed with dementia is rising so rapidly that it’s inevitable that most of us will experience being in contact with a family member, friend or acquaintance of someone who has been diagnosed at some point in our lives.

Friends abandoning friends who have been recently diagnosed is more common than one thinks, according to this article in The Wall Street Journal. Friends of those who are diagnosed the disease either simply don’t know what to say, or worse, say nothing at all and disappear. Sadly, this happens whether it is a new friendship or a 30-year bond.

How to handle the situation? “First off, don’t disappear,” says Alison Moritz, Program Director for Institute on Aging’s Enrichment Center which offers social day programs for adults with dementia. “Hold the diagnosed person close and listen to them. Offer a sense of normalcy, such as going to the movies with them or having lunch together. Everyone involved needs to hold onto familiar rituals and a sense community, because they are collectively experiencing a loss.”

Adds Moritz, if it’s a parent of a friend who has been diagnosed, “don’t tell your friend it’s a ‘blessing’ to get to take care of their parent, or worse, share horror stories of what you’ve personally experienced. Let your friend ask for advice in his or her own time.”

Some other suggestion for interacting with a newly diagnosed friend:

Don’t Joke About Forgetfulness       

While you don’t want to come off as overly serious, there is a line between that and being too light about things. Making jokes in front of the person about their tendency to forget things is insensitive.

Listen, Listen and then Listen Some More

Matthew*, whose mother was diagnosed, shared that his friends either disappeared or said dismissive things like “well, at least you still have your mother” or “you’ll be good at this” or “everything happens for a reason.” In this case, the friends could have just listened to what he had to say or let him vent his feelings.

 Don’t Forget to Take Care of the Caregiver

When Rebecca* found out about her husband’s diagnosis, it was a dark and scary time for both of them and also a point when friendships became even more important to the couple. She also discovered she needed to be specific about her needs as her husband’s caregiver when friends offered to help, such as requesting that they take him out for a walk or to lunch when she needed a break. 

*names have been changed to protect privacy

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Samaritan is focused on one goal – ensuring the comfort of our clients. We strive to keep individuals healthy and independent. We thoroughly assess your needs and select the appropriate caregiver to ensure compatibility.

6151 Wilson Mills Road – Suite 101
Cleveland, OH 44143

Copyright by Samaritan Home Health Services 2020. All rights reserved.