Covering All the Aging Bases in 2017

Published in Pawtucket times on January 1, 2017

As an age beat columnist, it has been a very eventful year in covering aging, health care and medical issues that impact older Rhode Islanders. During 2017, over 42 “fresh” commentaries along with previous printed ones appeared in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call. Readers were kept abreast on a dazzling array of political issues, including a GOP President and Republican-controlled Congress attempting to whittle popular domestic entitlement programs like Social and Medicare programs, attempts to derail Obamacare, and the passage of the largest tax code changes in the past 30 years.

Throughout 2017, a few of my weekly commentaries drew attention to individuals who worked tirelessly on behalf of older Rhode Islanders. It is important to recognize volunteers who assist Rhode Island’s aging network provide programs and services to the state’s growing older population. One commentary noted Phil Zarlengo tireless efforts, and his receiving AARP’s most distinguished volunteer award. Another commentary gave kudos to the Rhode Island Minority Task Force’s 10 “Everyday Heroes.”

Meanwhile, other commentaries penned that year touched on a wide range of aging issues, from a Senate calling to better protect seniors during disasters, improving your cognitive health, enhancing communication at home, taking a look at how innovative companies help caregiver employees, to taking a look how a person made “lemonade out of life’s lemons” who shared her insight others.

Below are five article, providing you with the breadth and depth of this year’s commentaries. Over 300 commentaries including the below ones can be viewed on my blog, herbweiss.wordpress.com.

1. “Spumoni’s: “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”: Study Says Being Socially Active May Improve Cognitive Functioning,” published I the Feb. 26, 2017 issue of the Woonsocket Call, and one day later in the Pawtucket Times.

Mark and Nancy Shorrock, of Attleboro, Massachusetts, now in their seventies and married for 52 years, began dining at Spumonis twice a week with their children in the 1980s, and remember being drawn to the Italian-style restaurant because of its reputation of serving “good food.” Over the years, as the Shorrock’s three children became more independent and “doing things on their own,” the couple began increasing their trips daily to the Pawtucket resident for dinner since it was so close by. Of course, their network of friends increased, too.

What the Shorrocks know innately, a 24-page report, “The Brain and Social Connectedness: GCBH Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health, “released by the Global Council on Brain Health in February 14, 2017, tells us that larger social networks may positively impact your health, wellbeing, even your cognitive functioning. This report is available at http://www.GlobalCouncilOnBrainHealth.org.

“It’s not uncommon for our social networks to shrink in size as we get older,” said Marilyn Albert, Ph.D., GCBH Chair, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Division of Cognitive Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. “This report provides many helpful suggestions about the things we can do to improve the quality of our relationships with family and friends, which may be beneficial in maintaining our mental abilities.”

The Brain and Social Connectedness report addresses the social benefits of having pets, the role that age-friendly communities play in fostering social ties, and how close relationships promote both physical health and psychological well-being. The report also covers how social media like Facebook and Skype helps older adults maintain their social connections.

2. “Carvelli: Making Lemonade Out of Life’s Lemons,” published in the April 9, 2017 issue of the Woonsocket Call, and one day later in the Pawtucket Times.
Author and life coach Linda Carvelli believes that everything in life has a purpose and that resilience will get you through any obstacle in your path. She succinctly illustrates this philosophy in her 340 page memoir, “Perfectly Negative: How I Learned to Embrace Life’s Lemons Lessons.” The self-published book details how she faced personal and family tragedy (divorce, becoming unemployed, and caring for her mother and sister with breast cancer who ultimately died, and herself being diagnosed with breast cancer.)

Carvelli a Warren resident, dedicated over twenty years of her professional career to computer technology and project management before writing her first full-length memoir, published in 2016, that reveals how she ultimately came to terms with her life’s mission. That is helping people overcome and learn from the challenges in their daily lives. As a board certified life coach, she brings lessons from her book to people to help them regain control of their lives, discover new perspectives, create more options, and move forward with confidence and courage.

3. “Assistance to Employee Caregivers Good for Everyone’s Bottom Line,” published on June 11 issue of the Woonsocket Call, and one day later in the Pawtucket Times.

In 2017, AARP and the Respect a Caregiver’s Time Coalition (ReACT) released a report detailing innovative practices and policies of 14 organizations (including Fannie Mae, CBS Corporation, Allianz Life, and Emory University) to support their employees with caregiver responsibilities. With the graying of America, supporting caregiver employees should be considered “a potentially new weapon” to attract or retain talented employees, say the researchers, by flexible work arrangements and paid leave policies. And there will be a need for this support.

“Family caregivers juggle their loved one’s needs with their own personal and professional goals every day. AARP hopes this report will encourage more employers understand caregiving and support their employees’ success,” said Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer in a statement. AARP sponsored the 49-page report.

`According to researchers, interviews with business and human resources executives from the profiled organizations in the report indicated that time and flexibility are what matter most to employees when it comes to balancing work and caregiving. Close to half of the employers interviewed provide paid time off for caregiving as well as emergency backup care and flexible work arrangements.

All offer employee caregivers a combination of information resources, referral services and advice by phone. Most provide resources online, typically through an employee assistance (EAP) or an intranet portal. More than half offer phone consultations or 24/7 expert hotlines. Several interviewees stressed the value of providing on-site, independent eldercare consultants, noting that employees appreciate both the convenience and the respect for their privacy.

4. “Save the Roses and Try These Tips: Six Ways to Improving Communication at Home,” published in the February 5, 2017 issue of the Woonsocket Call, and one day later in the Pawtucket Times

Effective Communication at home with your husband, wife, or partner is key to maintaining a meaningful, healthy, environment and thriving family. Author Donna Mac, a well-known corporate trainer, based in South Eastern, Massachusetts, with 25 years of experience in the broadcasting industry, translates effective corporate communication details tips in her book, “Six Pillars of Effective Communication” which can bring healthy energy into an ailing relationship and bring you closer together with your loved one.

According to Author Donna Mac, president of Rehoboth, MA-based DMacVoice Communications, sexual infidelity, commonly linked to divorce, is not the leading cause for couples separating. The corporate communications expert notes that a recent article in Psychology Today says that whether a partner’s communication “lifts you up or brings you down” is the single largest predictor of divorce.

Mac’s six pillars call for a person to: know and own who they are; understand the audience you are speaking to; master the topic of your conversation; anticipate the questions and reactions to your conversation; “speak to serve” by making sure the conversation is not about you; and be detach from the outcome of your discussion.

5. “Senate Aging Panel Calls for Improved Emergency Preparation and Response,” published in the October 8, 2017 of the Woonsocket Call, and one day later in the Pawtucket Times

In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, after the death of at least nine nursing facility residents due to heat-related illness due to sweltering heat at a Hollywood, Florida-based facility that had lost power to run its air conditioner, the Senate Special Committee on Aging put the spotlight on the challenges facing seniors during natural disasters at a hearing on Sept. 20, 2017.

The expert panel detailed a variety of recommendations at this Senate panel hearing. One suggestion included creating registries to quickly locate were residents who are electricity-dependent live, for swift evacuations. Another called for fully funding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and investing in weather surveillance tools for better decision making.

Other recommendations included: requiring nursing and assisted living facilities have emergency evacuation plans; having support generators in the event of a power failure; gathering more research on what types of patients will benefit from evacuation or sheltering in; only allowing construction of facilities in places that minimize flooding risk; and litigation protection for facilities that abide by regulations and provide care during disaster scenarios.

If you like my weekly coverage of issues of interest to the aging network and older Rhode Islanders, a book compiling 79 of these commentaries is now available for purchase. To order “Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly,” go to http://www.herbweiss.com.

Advertisements

Save the Roses and Try These Tips: Six Ways to Improving Communication at Home

Published in the Woonsocket Call on February 5, 2017

Effective Communication at home with your husband, wife, or partner is key to maintaining a meaningful, healthy, environment and thriving family. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Author Donna Mac, a well-known corporate trainer, based in South Eastern, Massachusetts, with 25 years of experience in the broadcasting industry, translates effective corporate communication into tips for use in enhancing communication with your loved ones.

According to Mac, sexual infidelity, commonly linked to divorce, is not the leading cause for couples separating. The corporate communications expert notes that a recent article in Psychology Today says that whether a partner’s communication “lifts you up or brings you down” is the single largest predictor of divorce.

So, mastering your communication skills may be the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give, much better than a dozen roses. Mac, founder & president of Rehoboth, MA-based DMacVoice Communications, explains her Six Pillars Of Effective Communication which can bring healthy energy into an ailing relationship and bring you closer together with your loved one.

Six Pillars of Effective Communication

“The first pillar in becoming a more effective communicator,” says Mac, noting this “is tied to ‘knowing and owning who you are.’ That means your strengths and vulnerabilities. You must be comfortable with who you are and understand that you have a right to communicate what you are thinking and feeling.” She cautions us to be careful to always communicate as calmly and respectfully as possible. Don’t wait to communicate until emotions build up to the point where that is not possible.

“Also, get a sense for whether you are you an extrovert or an introvert”. Mac notes that this will influence how you interact with your partner. According to Mac, communication tends to flows more easily for extroverts. Introverts need more time to process before they speak, but they are usually better listeners.

She also cautions against being a passive, or even a passive-aggressive communicator. Both of these styles are non-productive but they are easy to fall into. Often times it feels easier to be a passive communicator because being an effective communicator take courage and work. “These days, it’s easy to hide behind our computer screens,” she says.

The second Pillar calls for the need to understand your partner. “Understand how your personality and communication style differs from that of your loved one,” suggests Mac, who says that there are differences as well as varying points of view in every relationship. “When you disagree, be open to the possibility that either of you may be “right” or “wrong” or a bit of both. Be open to learning something new. It is also important to make it easy for your partner to share his or her vulnerabilities and ask for your help. “Create a safe space for communications by allowing and encouraging your partner to communicate often and to be authentic,” she adds.

To use a phrase from her book, you can continue to “understand your audience” over the years by listening intently and often.

Pillar three encourages you to “master the content of the conversation” you are about to have. She stresses the need to be clear on what it is you would like to say especially if you have to have a challenging conversation.

Mac says, “You may need to practice how you are going to broach an extremely difficult topic. Do your best to speak in a way that is compelling but concise and has the best interest of both of you. Instead of accusing your partner of something, talk about the way that issue has affected you. Remember, they might not know if you don’t’ tell them. Also, try not to ramble. Instead, state your case with clarity and the most positive energy you can muster. If their actions are unacceptable, know where your boundaries lie and clearly and calmly state them.”

Put Yourself Into Their Shoes

Pillar four calls for you to “anticipate questions and reactions” to conversations.” Mac recommends, while you want to make sure you get your point across, ensure that you’ve taken time to put yourself into your partner’s shoes. “Life isn’t easy for anyone. But if you take time to think about and anticipate how they may feel or react to your topic you won’t be so quick to react emotionally and with harsh words and energy.

By anticipating reaction you will be able become more proactive in your relationship, she says, noting that, “your partner will appreciate it.”

“Remember, effective communication in a trusted relationship takes time, thought and occasional discomfort,” says Mac.

Pillar five suggests that you “speak to serve” in your conversations. “When you ‘serve’ the person you’re speaking with, you are taking time to make sure that the conversation is not “all about you”. It’s for the benefit of you, for them and for the greater good of the relationship or even the entire family!” says Mac. “When you serve while speaking, you are making sure that understanding is taking place. If you’re not sure that it is, you might want to say something like, “is this making sense to you?”

Finally, Pillar six calls for you to “detach from the outcome” of the conversation. “If you follow the first 5 Pillars of Effective Communication you will be well on your way to becoming a highly effective communicator. But you aren’t quite there yet!” states Mac. It is very important that you don’t try to control your partner’s reaction.

Instead of concerning yourself with perfection, remain flexible and detached, knowing that total agreement is never possible. Plus, it’s really unimportant. What is important is the health and strength of your relationship and two powerful voices, even if they don’t always see eye to eye,” she adds.

Don’t Try to Change Others, Change Yourself

Mac suggests that if you want to become an effective communicator, don’t focus on changing the other person. We have no control over other people, only ourselves. “So work on changing what you can change in your communication style so that you can communicate in compelling and influential ways”.

While Mac’s Six Pillars Of Effective Communication can be directed to couples, look at the recommendations and try replacing “romantic” partner with “business” partner or someone you’re collaborating with at work. And replace “the entire family” with “the entire department or company in Pillar five.

“These communication tips are universal and are the foundation for healthy professional AND personal relationships. The are not easy to integrate into our lives, but the more you use them, the quicker they’ll become part of who you are and how you communicate.”

Donna Mac is author of Guide to a RICHER LIFE–Know Your Worth, Find Your Voice & Speak Your Mind and The Six Pillars of Effective Communication. She is also a keynote speaker and private coach. For more details, go to http://www.dmacvoice.com.