Marketing Director, St. John’s Community Care

St. John’s rings in 2020 with kindness and love for people who are struggling to care for a loved one with dementia. We know caregiving can be stressful and lonely. St. John’s wants to be there when you need us to help shoulder a bit of the burden by providing resources, support, and socialization. We have organized Memory Cafes which are a way for people to express themselves, laugh and have a good time. Cafes are a safe place where it’s OK to be who you are. We all understand and accept if a loved one repeats themselves or if their words are slow to come out. 

 “We are delighted to be offering  Memory Cafes and helping people to be able to socialize with others, so they do not feel isolated,” said Gail Shaw, Dementia Care Specialist – Coordinator of Training & Support for St. John’s Community Care. She went on to say, “There are times when people don’t recognize my face, but they recognize kindness and appreciate having a purpose. It’s very gratifying for me to be able to help provide a bit of relief  for people who are faced with this situation and help support them on this journey.” Everyone is encouraged to share experiences and reminisce on many topics. Snacks, crafts, and fun activities are ways we bring a little joy to the group.   For a list of dates and locations, see page 3.

“I recently attended a Memory Café at the Collinsville Senior Center with my wife.  I had read an article about Memory Cafes in Europe and how well they were being received.  I hoped that maybe someone in our area would begin one.  I was excited when I saw that St. John’s was starting one up. As my wife’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, it has become harder and harder to take her out in public. Trips out shopping or out to lunch or going to a movie get more and more challenging.  At the same time my wife gets more insistent that she wants to go somewhere!  The Memory Cafe provides a space where caregivers and those with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia can get together to socialize, reminisce, do crafts, etc.  Our facilitator, Gail, had us making a Christmas ornament and hanging it on a tree.”    Billy

By Gail Shaw
Coordinator of
Training & Support
Dementia Care Specialist

 It is not uncommon for the family caregiver to feel a sense of isolation as they continue their journey into caregiving. As the person with dementia progresses, caregivers find themselves doing more hands-on care for their loved one. Family caregivers find it harder to get out into the community to do routine activities by themselves. They may also become aware of slowing down and getting away from having the two of them socializing with others.
   Social isolation is a result of the lack of opportunities for social engagement and mental stimulation, according to AARP. Individuals who find themselves isolated from family, friends and their community are more likely to be depressed and have health problems. One may feel hopeless.
   Dr. Bere Miesen, a Dutch psychiatrist, noticed the person with Alzheimer’s and their caregiver were becoming more isolated as the Alzheimer’s disease progressed. This isolation was then seen to have a negative impact on both the client and the family member. Both were suffering.
   Dr. Miesen felt a need to reach out to those suffering so he created the concept of Memory Cafes in 1997 to combat social isolation. His Memory Cafes were a big hit with those feeling isolated. This new concept spread through Europe, to Ireland and England, Australia and now is in the United Sates.
   The main goal of a Memory Cafe is to reduce the social isolation for the family caregiver and the one living with memory loss. It does this by offering a safe, welcoming and mentally stimulating environment for the caregiver and their loved one. Cafes can be held in a variety of venues such as senior centers, libraries, museums, restaurants or coffee cafes.
   Memory Cafes are not a support group or a place to “drop off” your loved one or to be used as respite care. Cafes are for both the caregiver and person with memory loss to attend together. It is a place where both can socialize with others. The members may listen to music, play games or engage in a variety of creative activities. Each month will have a different activity. Refreshments are offered.
   St. John’s Community Care is now offering three Memory Cafes each month. We have one at the Collinsville Senior Center and another at Main Street Community Center in Edwardsville.  A third café will be starting in January at Senior Services Plus in Alton.    Registration is requested.
   A Memory Café may be the answer to helping those experiencing social isolation. If you are interested in finding out more about a Memory Café close to you, call St. John’s Community Care at 618-344-5008 for more information.

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Many Caregivers Neglect Their Own Health

Medical costs and lack of insurance are major factors, study finds

by Peter Urban, AARP, January 24, 2020

Caregivers, who often spend years assisting a loved one or friend, are more likely to neglect their health, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

Based on a 2015 phone survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of nearly 110,000 people, the study found that those who said they regularly care for or assist a family member or friend with a health problem or disability (24,034 respondents) were less likely to have health care coverage or seek needed health services than other Americans. Nearly two-thirds (64.5 percent) of caregivers were women.

“Caregivers had a 26 percent higher risk of not having health care coverage, compared with non-caregivers, and they were at a significantly higher risk, a 59 percent additional risk, for not going to the doctor or getting a necessary health service due to cost,” Jacob Bentley, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Seattle Pacific University, said in a statement.

Get resources and tips to help take the stress out of caregiving with AARP’s Care Guides

Bentley, corresponding author of the study, which was published in the journal Rehabilitation Psychology, noted that caregivers were also at greater risk of having a depressive disorder and more likely to report experiencing at least one limitation to daily activities because of physical, mental or emotional problems.

The results were not entirely unexpected. Previous research has shown that caregiving can make it more difficult to find a job or get ahead at work; plus, the need for a flexible schedule can diminish earnings. But the researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the problem.

“While we expected caregivers to be more at risk in these areas, we were concerned to learn of the extent of these risks and barriers to health care access encountered by caregivers,” Bentley said. “Given the scope of difficulties acquiring health care coverage and utilizing needed services in this large national sample, we believe our findings warrant additional research and likely the development of low-cost and accessible services that meet the multifaceted needs of caregivers.”

The survey found that nearly half (49.7 percent) of caregivers had been in this role for two years or longer. And while more than half (54.7 percent) provided up to eight hours of care a week, 22.7 percent put in 20 or more hours. Personal care (medications, feeding, dressing and bathing) was provided by 50.6 percent of poll respondents. Household tasks (cleaning, managing money and preparing meals) were done by 77.1 percent.

The vast majority of caregivers (79.3 percent) said they had no need for support services, such as classes about providing care, help in getting access to services, support groups, individual counseling to help cope with caregiving, or respite care.

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Inspector General Warns Public About New Twist To Social Security Phone Scams

Posted on January 9, 2020 by Tracy Lynge, Communications Director for the Office of the Inspector General

The Inspector General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis, is warning the public that telephone scammers may send faked documents by email to convince victims to comply with their demands. The Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of victims who received emails with attached letters and reports that appeared to be from Social Security or Social Security OIG. The letters may use official letterhead and government “jargon” to convince victims they are legitimate; they may also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes.

This is the latest variation on Social Security phone scams, which continue to be widespread throughout the United States. Using robocalls or live callers, fraudsters pretend to be government employees and claim there is identity theft or another problem with one’s Social Security number, account, or benefits. They may threaten arrest or other legal action, or may offer to increase benefits, protect assets, or resolve identity theft. They often demand payment via retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency such as Bitcoin, or pre-paid debit card.

Inspector General Ennis urges continued vigilance against all types of phone scams no matter what “proof” callers may offer. As we continue to increase public awareness of phone scams, criminals will come up with new ways to convince people of their legitimacy. Social Security will never:

  • threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee;
  • promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment;
  • require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card; or
  • send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.

If there is ever a problem with your Social Security number or record, in most cases Social Security will mail you a letter. If you do need to submit payments to Social Security, the agency will send a letter with instructions and payment options. You should never pay a government fee or fine using retail gift cards, cash, internet currency, wire transfers, or pre-paid debit cards. The scammers ask for payment this way because it is very difficult to trace and recover. If you receive a call or email that you believe to be suspicious, about a problem with your Social Security number or account, hang up or do not respond. We encourage the public to report Social Security phone scams using our dedicated online form, at Please share this

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ARE YOU A CAREGIVER? AgeSmart can help.

Caring for an older adult family member or friend can be a daunting task.  So many times, the caregiver can exhaust themselves.  You do not have to go it alone.  AgeSmart can help with services and resources to help you make this very important role of a caregiver easier.

Caregiver Resource Specialist

AgeSmart’s Caregiver Resource Specialists can link you to services to help you meet the needs of the person you are caring for.  Each and every situation is different, and they can help you customize a plan for the person you are caring for.  Using a comprehensive resource data base, they can give you guidance and options for your loved one’s care. 

National ElderCare Locator

The National ElderCare Locator is also available for you if you are caring an individual in another state.  Access the ElderCare locator at   or call 1-800-677-1116. You can find the local Area Agency on Aging in that person’s community. 

Respite Care

Sometimes a simple break from your caregiving role can help you, the caregiver, get a needed break.  AgeSmart offers a Respite program which pays the caregiver a monthly stipend that they can use to purchase care allowing them to get out of the house. 

Caregiver Counseling

Short-term counseling is available for St. Clair, Madison and Bond County residents, related to topics of aging, illness, grief, life events, caregiving and community resources.  The counselors are available by appointment for in the home of homebound individuals.

Savvy Caregiver

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease Savvy Caregiver teaches the basic knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to handle the challenges of caring for someone with the disease.  Savvy Caregiver training program will help you reduce your distress effectively so you can focus on the task of being a caregiver.

Stress Busting for Caregivers

The Impact of stress on your health and its relationship to your caregiving is significant.  Stress busting helps you deal with stress through relaxation techniques and problem solving.  It also teaches you how to care for yourself while providing better care for your loved one. Participants in the program are given everything needed including a session handbook and online access to a meditation exercise and relaxation strategy videos. Caregivers who have completed this program feel significantly lower stress, depression, and anxiety and are able to enjoy a better quality of life. They have also experienced improvement in their ability to relax, manage stress and feel better about themselves.

Memory Cafes

If you are living with a person with dementia is sometimes difficult to get out and do simple things with your loved one like going to dinner.  You may be concerned about your loved one’s behavior or abilities and therefore just stay home.  Cafés provide a comfortable environment where can meet with other caregivers and their loved ones and participate in activities. 

Legal Services

Having your legal documents in order is very important.  AgeSmart provides funding to Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation to assist with legal issues caregivers face. 

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

In Illinois, more than 200,000 children are being raised in grandparent-headed homes.  If you are one of these grandparents help is available for you.  Assistance can range from financial assistance, guardianship, legal and Information and assistance.

Advice from caregivers to caregivers:

  • Ask for help.  Do not try to do it all yourself.
  • Never make promises you can’t keep.
  • Trust your instincts, most of the time they will lead you in the right direction. 
  • Educate yourself on your loved one’s condition.  This will help you communicate with doctors. 
  • Breathe!

Services provided by AgeSmart are available to everyone 60 and older for only a suggested contribution.  For more information call AgeSmart at 618-222-2561.

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People Over 60 Most at Risk From Scams

Adapted from AARP Bulletin, December 2019

Older Americans were much more likely than younger adults to be victimized by several common scams last year, a report by the Federal Trade Commission shows. And when they were hit, the oldest victims lost more money.

Those 60-plus were nearly five times more likely than those ages 20 to 59 to fall victim to tech-support fraud. Also, they were three times more likely to be conned by impostors posing as friends or relatives and more than twice as likely to fall for a sweepstakes or lottery scam.

The troubling trends were documented in the FTC’s annual “Protecting Older Consumers report. “Unfortunately, older adults have been targeted or disproportionately affected by fraud,” the report states.

In 2018, people 60-plus filed more than 256,000 fraud reports with losses of nearly $400 million.

“When older consumers are victims of scams, they tend to lose a lot more money than younger victims-often their entire life savings,” says Kathy Stokes, director of the AARP Fraud Watch Network. The median loss for people in their 70s was $769 in 2018, while losses for those over 80 reached a whopping $1,700. The median loss for adults under 40 was about $400, compared with $600 for those in their 60s.

For the latest fraud news, go to

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Community comes together to help a Veteran

Recently AgeSmart Community Resources had the opportunity to assist a Veteran who had previously been enrolled in our Veterans Directed Care Program through the Veteran’s Administration.  This veteran had no support from family and friends, and no pre-arranged burial plans.

The veteran was ill and the home aide arrived just in time to find out that the veteran was being taken to the local hospital.  The home aide followed up at the hospital and provided some information about the veteran.  A hospital social worker contacted the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center who then reached out to AgeSmart to see if we had any other personal contacts for this Veteran.  This veteran had grave health issues and did not recover.  AgeSmart worked with the local hospital social worker and were able to find a family member willing to go to hospital and act on the veteran’s behalf.

AgeSmart Community Resources was concerned about proper funeral arrangements for this Veteran who served our country, and reached out to Wolfersberger Funeral Home in O’Fallon, IL to ask for guidance and counsel. By the end of the phone call, Wolfersberger Funeral Home agreed to partner with AgeSmart and the Madison County Veteran’s Assistance Commission to provide a proper funeral for this veteran.   

On November 15, 2019, the veteran was buried in Jerseyville, next to family with an Honor Guard detail.  All staff of the AgeSmart Veterans Directed Program were in attendance to pay their respects, along with a childhood friend who had seen the funeral notice in the paper.

Thanks to Wolfersberger Funeral Home and the Madison County Veteran’s Assistance Commission for working together to provide a proper burial for this veteran.

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Medicare’s open enrollment is October 15 – December 7.

Why open enrollment for Medicare is important to you.

Let AgeSmart Community Resources help you find your way through the ever-changing world of Medicare Open Enrollment. Beginning on October 15 all people with Medicare may change their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year to better meet their needs. Information for next year’s Medicare plans will be available in early October.

AgeSmart’s trained Senior Health Insurance Counselors can help you make an educated decision about your coverage. Our goal is to help simplify the process and make sure you have the insurance and prescription plan to suit your needs. We will meet with you one-on-one, review your current plan, and based on the information you provide, share options that may better serve your individual situation. To schedule an appointment at our O’Fallon, IL office, or find a location convenient to you, please call AgeSmart Community Resources at 618-222-2561. This service is free of charge.

AgeSmart Community Resources, your local Area Agency on Aging, serves Madison, St. Clair, Bond,  Clinton, Monroe, Randolph and Washington counties. Our mission is to give older adults the opportunity to help them maintain their health and independence and to live well.  For more information about AgeSmart Community Resources visit

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