AuthorMandi Voegele

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AgeSmart Develops Innovative Programming for Seniors

New pilot programs help seniors stay connected, access healthy foods, and improve health and wellness.

O’Fallon, IL – July 2020 – AgeSmart Community Resources has developed new pilot programs allowing older adults to stay connected, interact with others, learn new things and improve their health and wellness. These programs, rolling out this summer, are being piloted in St. Clair and Madison Counties.

“AgeSmart is proud to bring these pioneering programs to older adults we serve in our communities. These programs will help our seniors live more independently, keep their minds sharp, help them connect with their peers in new ways and provide healthier food choices in addition to home delivered meals. AgeSmart’s mission is to help our seniors age well their way,” said Joy Paeth, CEO of AgeSmart.

New pilot programs include:

  • Uber rides for seniors. Seniors living in the Mascoutah area can contact their Senior Center to coordinate uber rides to and from medical appointments. Call 618-566-8758 to schedule.
  • East Community Health provides community health services in the home for older adults living in the Washington Park area. This partnership between AgeSmart, Visiting Nurses of SW Illinois, SIHF, community churches, and Healthier Together provides vital healthcare services to those who are homebound.
  • The AgeSmart Learning Channel offers older adults the ability to access online classes featuring how-to tech classes. Retired teachers will provide instruction for the interactive lessons.
  • Adaptive Equipment Tutorials – AgeSmart is partnering with Adaptive Equipment Corner to provide step by step video instruction on how to use medical equipment to benefit seniors and their caregivers.
  • Geriatric counseling is now available through AgeSmart’s partnership with Chestnut Health System. 24 hour professional clinical assistance is available for seniors and their caregivers.
  • T-Care for caregivers. This assessment tool for caregivers provides a care plan on managing stress and anxiety levels.
  • Care packages of fresh produce will be distributed to 800 individuals who already are receiving home delivered meals.

To learn more about these programs, contact AgeSmart at 618-222-2561 or log onto AgeSmart.org.

AgeSmart Community Resources is the only Area Agency on Aging serving a 7 county region in Southwest Illinois that promotes healthy aging by providing resources and information needed to age well your way. Our caring, experienced, well-trained staff positively impacts the lives of our clients, caregivers and family members by sharing vital information to ease the stress and anxiety of navigating the process of aging.

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AGESMART PILOT COUNSELING PROGRAM

For the past 6 months, our state has been coping with an unprecedented virus and a circumstance where the best advice from health professionals is that our society, institutions, schools, churches and virtually every corner of our community engage in social distancing and a partial or complete stoppage of normal activity.

These issues have disproportionally impacted Older Adults and who are particularly at risk from the virus itself.  Social isolation is growing and its impact is better understood now as causing increased anxiety, depression, disorientation, loneliness and secondarily increasing risks for Older Adults who have other health issues.

AgeSmart Community Resources and Chestnut Health Systems have partnered to provide Older Adults and Caregivers of Older Adults free access to telephonic and video Counseling services.

HOW TO ACCESS SERVICES:

Access to these free services is available until October 30, 2020, WHEN YOU USE THE CODE AGESMART CARES.   Call 618-877-4420 and ask for AgeSmart Cares

Prescription services will only be offered if someone is enrolled at Chestnut Health Systems at the regular ongoing fee schedule.

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Change Your Mind, Change Your World

Suggestions on how to cope during COVID-19 from AARP.com

Planning for the future makes us more optimistic.

—Robert L. Trestman, M.D.

Rate your personal reactions to COVID-19 — and use them to inspire change

  • IF you feel panicked, plan something for the future, which increases optimism, says psychiatrist Robert L. Trestman of Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
  • IF you get sucked into a daily spiral of bad news, then seek out and share the good that happened in your day, Elizabeth Lombardo says. Positivity is contagious.
  • IF you frantically hoard food and disinfectant wipes, then flip your thinking to an altruistic mindset, focusing on doing something for someone else, Trestman says.
  • IF you have started snapping at loved ones, then stop yourself when you reach a level 6 out of 10 on your own personal stress scale, disengage and take a breather.
  • IF you feel uncomfortable slowing down, then consider that you might come out of this with a new appreciation for the simpler pleasures of life, Froma Walsh says.
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Keep Calm and Avoid Coronavirus Scams

Scam artists are using the pandemic to target older Americans’ money. Be smart.

žThe government will never ask for your credit card number or ask for you to pay in gift cards.

žCheck out trusted charity websites before donating.

žCheck out cdc.gov for updates.

For more information visit aarp.org/scams to learn about the latest coronavirus scams.

Adapted from AARP Bulletin, May 2020

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Managing Anticipatory Grief in a Pandemic

Each of us feels what we feel. Here are some tips for coping. (Read complete article HERE.)

Part of the THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW SPECIAL REPORT

A profound sadness has settled over our planet. Whether it’s the loss of visits with loved ones, the loss of steady work and income, the loss of our usual routines or the full-stop loss of a person in our life whose own life has been extinguished by COVID-19, grief is now a part of our daily landscape.

So, let’s not deny it. And, please, let’s try to avoid constructing mental lists of who-has-it-worst, then arguing with ourselves about whether it’s appropriate for us to be upset about whatever is rocking our own universe.

Example: A neighbor of mine is quarantined at home with her two children, mourning the recent death of her husband from coronavirus. Given this family’s pain and isolation — neither friends nor family can drop by to offer comfort and support — am I entitled to the sadness I feel because I can’t see and hug my adult daughter? Answer: Yes, I am.

Instead, let’s acknowledge that, at a minimum, coronavirus is infecting all of our lives with anticipatory grief.

For some, it’s a sense of impending loss as we gird for the very real prospect that someone we know and care about may be felled by COVID-19: a family member, a colleague, a friend, a neighbor, a caregiver.

As the list of items stoking our fears and grief grow by the day, it helps to remember that while loss is universal, grief is personal.

For others, it’s anticipation, or the bald reality, of financial turmoil: loss of a job; loss of income; loss of a stock portfolio intended to see our grandchildren through college or ourselves through retirement.

No less real, anticipatory grief now darkens even what were once the simplest transactions in our lives. When we go out to shop for food, what might we bring home that wasn’t on our list (COVID-19) or what might we fail to procure (toilet paper)?

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When we phone a child for a weekly chat, what unanticipated news bulletin might explode in our ears? When we extract an envelope from the mailbox, what might it be carrying along with a greeting or a bill?

Grief Is Personal

As the list of items stoking our fears and grief grow by the day, it helps to remember that while loss is universal, grief is personal.

This means that we should honor whatever best enables us to process and handle the myriad disruptions and blows upending our lives, but should neither expect nor assume that our own coping strategies are appropriate for our partners, our children or any of the other people in our orbit.

At a stressful time like this, we need to steer wide of judgment (of ourselves and of others) and widen the space for compassion (for ourselves and for others).

We need to agree that there is no hierarchy to the sadness each and every one of us feels. We need to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all rule or remedy for handling all these feelings.

Then, we need to get practical and find ways to deal with our own grief.

Coping Strategies in the Face of Grief

Toward that end, here are some coping strategies that draw on my work as a grief coach; my personal experience with pre-COVID-19 family losses and my three-year meditation practice. Take what works for you. Toss the rest.

Just, please, don’t deny, dismiss or denigrate the grief you’re feeling. It’s real. You’re entitled to it.

Try techniques to quiet dark thoughts. When you find your thoughts spiraling into a black hole of what-ifs, try replacing them with a one-word mantra or phrase. Shifting your focus from a sprawling mental narrative to a simple word or phrase can help pull you back into the present moment.

One particularly timely phrase: “Don’t go there ’til you get there.” Quiet repetition of these words reminds both that you are in the here and now and that there’s no gain in trying to predict events hours, days or months from now.

Another approach favored by meditators is to focus on the in and out of the breath. Alternately, you can experiment with your five senses to see which best helps you achieve focus. Maybe it’s the warmth of clasped hands. (Touch) Aromas emanating from your kitchen. (Smell) The sound of birds or windchimes. (Hearing) A single flower petal. (Sight) The sensation of an ice cube dissolving in your mouth. (Taste)

Feel your emotions. When we are rocked by a wave of grief, we typically respond with thoughts that strain to parse, argue with or deny what we’re feeling. An alternate approach is to let go of those thoughts and instead focus on the physical sensations.

To do this, sit or lie comfortably. Next, train your attention on where the emotion is showing up in your body. Are you feeling a stiffening in your shoulders? A quickening of your heartbeat? An unease in your gut? A pounding in your temples?

Whatever the sensation, explore it with interest, not judgment. Say to yourself, “So, this is what grief feels like.” By focusing on physical sensations, rather than thoughts, a strong wave of emotion often quiets and passes within minutes.

Practice self-compassion. Rather than argue with or dismiss your grief with harsh judgment and criticism, meet your pain with gentle understanding. Offer yourself words of comfort. Give yourself a hug. Treat yourself, as Kristin Neff suggests in Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, “with the same kindness, caring, and compassion [you] would show to a good friend, or even a stranger.”

Another important aspect of self-compassion, Neff notes, is to acknowledge that we are not alone in our pain. By remembering that grief is a part of the human experience, one that we all share, we allow our pain to connect us to our common humanity rather than isolate us.

Allow yourself to cry. For months after my husband died in 2009, I found that each day around dusk, I’d feel a gut-punch of sorrow and a tidal wave of tears pressing against my eyelids. Rather than try to ignore or blink them away, I’d grab a box of Kleenex, close myself alone in a room and let ’em rip. I’d sob. Keen. Pound the floor with my fists. After 15, 20 minutes, the tears would dry up and I’d feel my grief subsiding.

Sharing a wave and a smile while out walking, or accessing the myriad online efforts to comfort and reassure can help to soften your grief.

During the first week of the current lockdown in New Jersey, I went for a walk. As I took in the shining sun, the blue sky, the picture-perfect clouds, the budding trees, I suddenly felt a familiar gut-punch of sorrow. “Our planet is so sick,” I thought.

With that acknowledgment, I began to weep. I didn’t care if the people across the street or the people 10 feet in front of me noticed. I just let my grief have its say. And you know what? After five, 10 minutes, I felt better.

Give it a try. Maybe you will, too.

Tap into gratitude. Within 14 months of losing my husband, I lost my sister and mother, too. During this protracted period of bereavement, I discovered that my feelings of extreme pain were attended by feelings of extreme gratitude. Appreciation for other people’s kindness. Appreciation for what remained good in my life.

These days, people are trying so hard to lift one another. Sharing a wave and a smile while out walking, or accessing the myriad online efforts to comfort and reassure can help to soften your grief.

This virtual orchestra project by a bunch of college kids opened the floodgates for me. It reminded that tears of gratitude can be as restorative as tears of sorrow.

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