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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Meet our November CSA Spotlight, Jenn Chan

I’m an entrepreneur in the senior care industry, and I truly want to celebrate, appreciate, recognize and educate new senior caregivers with a party called a Senior Shower!

As a caregiver for my 95-year-old grandmother, I assist her with activities of daily living and exercise. Over the last seven years of caregiving, I’ve developed a passion for caregiving and learned that this role requires love, compassion, patience, hard work, communication, time management and a whole lot more. When I shared my caregiving duties with my colleagues, I noticed a majority responded with empathy but also with a lack of enthusiasm for the caregiver role. This response sparked my curiosity to research the common perception of the caregiver role within my social and professional network. While I personally looked forward to the rewarding caregiving experience, many others expressed that they would not know what to do as a caregiver or they would not feel confident in providing for an elderly person in their family. With this discovery, I recognized an opportunity to educate my peers about caregiving.

Around the same time, I attended my friend’s baby shower where attendees were congratulating the mom-to-be on her new parental role, happily sharing parenting advice and stories, giving useful gifts and thoughtful presents and having fun together. At this party, I realized that new senior caregivers can benefit from a similar party model.

So, I developed a new party concept called Senior Shower. At a Senior Shower, family and friends get together to recognize the individual on his/her new caregiver role, celebrate the love involved in the caregiver role, talk about their senior caregiving experiences, discuss community resources and bring useful gifts for the new senior caregiver. I believe this party is an educational experience for all attendees and provides everyone, especially the new caregiver, with insight on caregiving and senior-related topics.

With my sales and marketing background, I started the Senior Shower Project to spread the word about Senior Showers. But as I conducted market research and attended senior care-related conferences, I realized I was missing the big life picture. With the party, I was only focused on the beginning stages of senior care, but I did not address the rest of the aging care process. I researched senior care educational programs online, and I found the Society of Certified Senior Advisors’ (CSA®) website. As soon as I watched the "Becoming a CSA" video, I immediately knew I wanted to complete the CSA course. The curriculum offered the big picture I was looking for. The course provided the structure for me to become a resource for caregivers when they need help with senior-related financial, health and social matters.

With a Senior Shower, I hope to provide individuals with celebration, education and support at the beginning of their senior caregiving journey. And when the party is over, I, as a CSA, will offer my help and advice to families throughout the caregiving and aging journey.

Jenn Chan, CSA
Certified Senior Advisor®

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Homewatch CareGivers Heroes of Hurricane Sandy

Blog posting courtesy of Belinda Gordon, President, Homewatch Caregivers. 11.7.2012

Over the last two weeks the talk in the Lehigh Valley has gone from the predictions of how badly Hurricane Sandy would hit our area, to enduring the storm itself with its high winds and torrential downpours, to dealing with the aftermath of fallen trees, downed wires and no electricity as temperatures dropped below freezing.

When it was all over the stories emerged. Where ever people met, they swapped accounts of the damage Sandy caused. These sometimes tragic stories were tempered by the inevitable tales of people rising to the occasion and becoming heroes to those around them.

I talk a lot about how wonderful our team is at Homewatch CareGivers of the Lehigh Valley. I tell anyone who will listen that they are simply the best around. But last week many of them rose to the level of Hero in my book. Let me tell you some of their stories.

On Tuesday driving around the Lehigh Valley was next to impossible, everywhere you turned trees and downed electrical wires blocked the road. Several of our caregivers, including Jody Berger and Enid Aponte, walked to their clients- who they weren’t even schedule to see- taking them food and water. Jody was actually supposed to be on vacation that day. Loretta Lomonaco also checked up on as many clients as she could reach.

It took days for many people in the valley to get their electrical service back, and that included a number of our clients as well. Peter Stamm and Maribel Nunez welcomed their clients into their homes so they could remain safe and warm while they waited for their electricity to return.

Some caregivers cared for their clients as best they could without electricity and, when it became just too cold, helped move them temporarily into the home of a family member, facility or shelter where they would be warm. Chibogo Anosike and Alison Holben took care of their client at the hotel where she was staying with her husband.

When talking about the heroes on our team I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about our wonderful office staff. Josh Benavides went into the office on the Saturday before the storm to process payroll so everyone could get paid on time despite of Sandy. Ruth Luciano, Tiffany Ramos and Maritza Feliciano, all losing electricity at their own homes, sought out family and friends who had electricity and worked off their cell phones to keep the ship running- checking in with clients and caregivers to make sure everyone was safe and had the care they needed.

These are just the stories that have reached my ear. I have no doubt that there are many many more. How can I be so sure? Because our caregivers and staff do these kinds of generous, thoughtful things whenever they see a need. It’s part of their DNA.

So let me take this opportunity to thank these wonderful people who work for me. I hope these stories have given you a sense of the type of people they are. I’m proud to call them members of the Homewatch CareGivers team.

Belinda Gordon, CSA
Homewatch CareGivers of the Lehigh Valley

Monday, November 19, 2012

No More Questions: Medical Health Records Enter the Digital Age

Excerpts from the October 2012, Senior Spirit newsletter

“What medications are you currently taking”? “Please list all of the operations you have had in your lifetime.” “How old were you when you had measles?” “When was the last time you had a tetanus shot?” “Are you allergic to any medications?”

Chances are that if you are 60 or older and have visited a physicians’ office, dentist, clinic or hospital in the last year, you have had the sheer joy of responding to these and/or a multitude of other personal health history questions for at least the 25th time in your life. And, unless you are extremely well organized or have a knack for remembering events or dates (or events and dates in combination), you found yourself wracking your brain or searching through pockets or purses for a dog-eared piece of paper—the same behavior you experienced last year—to come up with reasonably close-to-correct responses.

But things are changing. The next time you walk into your healthcare provider’s office, you could have all the answers to those crucial but tedious questions already in hand—on your Internet-capable communication device (smart phone, iPad, laptop, etc.). During the next few months, this column will address the rapidly emerging trends in electronic health data and how we can be more informed and better prepared consumers of healthcare services in this digital age.

Creating and Storing Personal Health Information in the Digital Age

There are two major digital systems for creating and storing personal health information: personal health records (PHR) and electronic health records (EHR).

PHR. As the name implies, a PHR is an electronic record of your entire health history—created and maintained by you. Paper forms of health history records have existed for many years, but maintaining and storing such records are fraught with problems because files can get lost, be difficult to retrieve and/or require extra storage space.

PHRs provide you with ownership of your health information and allow you to share information with multiple healthcare providers. You can create and store the records on your home computer and download them to a small storage device such as a thumb drive, or upload them to one of several websites. Many health insurance companies and medical information sites, such as WebMD and even, have PHR record-keeping options, which we will explore in more detail in a future column. A functioning model of such electronic information sharing, which patients can readily use, is the MyHealtheVet website, introduced by the U.S. Departent of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 2010 (Turvey). In a survey of 18,471 PHR users in the VA system, most respondents were interested in sharing access to their electronic health information with caregivers and non-VA providers (Zulman).

To continue reading this article or to download a printable copy, click here!

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors would love to hear from you. Are you or someone you love currently utilizing electronic health records? Please share your story with us!

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Good Options for Giving Up the Car

Excerpts from the September 2012, Senior Spirit newsletter

Recently, a 100-year-old elderly driver made headlines after seriously injuring a group of parents and children in Los Angeles after accidentally backing up his vehicle into the crowd. Such stories appear all too often, as if to demonstrate the dangers of senior driving.

For those who decide they do not want to drive anymore or if the decision is forced on them, (see Brain Exercises Reduce Senior Drivers’ Crash Risk, and How Seniors Can Become Safer Drivers), there are plenty of options for alternative forms of transportation. Availability of these options will depend on what types of programs your local government provides for senior citizens.

Public Transportation

Depending on where a senior lives, the local public transportation office may provide reduced fares for seniors and provide routes that accommodate wheelchairs or other special needs. Although locally operated transportation services are extremely important to elders, their availability and cost vary greatly from town to town.

Many communities try to meet senior transportation needs in some way. To help seniors save money on transportation, some areas offer vouchers to defray the costs, base prices on a sliding scale or provide free or minimally priced transportation. Another common option is a van that will pick up seniors at their homes and bring them to a grocery store or senior center. While sometimes slow, these vans offer seniors a way to get out and an opportunity to socialize with others in the van. This transportation option is often run by the local government agency on aging, although retirement communities often offer their own shuttle buses or vans.

Taxis or Private Driving Companies

Private transportation is another alternative to the personal car, but the costs of taxis and car services can be expensive, with urban areas generally costing more than rural areas. However, competition among providers in a particular area usually leads to lower prices. One government agency, the Prince William Area Agency on Aging in northern Virginia, has created a program for those who cannot use public transit. This agency's transportation voucher program enables eligible residents to use subsidized taxi and accessible transportation services.

Home Care Aides

Seniors or their caregivers can hire aides through local home care agencies, but they should check to make sure that the agency runs background checks and carefully screens employees. While this transportation and care option is extremely convenient, such individualized care can be expensive. In 2007, MetLife ( estimated that the average hourly cost of a home care aide worker was $19 per hour. However, in some states the surveyed rate was as high as $30 per hour and as low as $9 per hour. Similarly, a private individual can be hired, but care must be taken to find someone reliable. ( suggests that people find out how long the provider has been in the transportation business, ask for at least three references with contact information, request background details, and run a background check.

To continue reading this article or to download a printable copy, click here!

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors would love to hear from you. Have you experienced "giving up the car" or have you helped a loved one go through this transition? Share your story with us!

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tips on Lowering Drug Costs

Excerpts from the September 2012, Senior Spirit newsletter.

Recently, a caretaker posed a question to the Internet information site,, that highlighted the serious issue of seniors’ inability to afford prescription drugs. The question asked, “How can I find low-cost drug programs for my grandfather?”

“I have recently started caring for my elderly grandfather who lives on a very limited income. He has been prescribed Zocor for cholesterol problems, but this medication is so expensive it is becoming a choice for a place to live or his medication.”

Studies have shown that many older patients with chronic health problems are cutting back on their medications because they cost too much, not only impairing their daily functioning, but also endangering their lives. In 2009, the nonpartisan Senior Citizens League conducted a study in which 42 percent of the participants said they had either postponed filling their prescription medications or were taking a smaller dosage than prescribed by their physicians, due to the economic recession. Fortunately, low-cost prescription drug options are available for seniors through pharmacies, drug manufacturers and/or government-assistance programs.


A survey by found that prescription drug prices can vary by as much as 35 percent from one store to another. The survey compared Walgreens, Costco and Target. In one case, 50 mg of Levoxyl cost $14 at Target, $35 at Costco and $42 at Walgreens, but for other drugs, the stores offering the lowest costs were reversed. This means that the drug user needs to contact different stores to find the cheapest prices.

A survey by found that prescription drug prices can vary by as much as 35 percent from one store to another. The survey compared Walgreens, Costco and Target. In one case, 50 mg of Levoxyl cost $14 at Target, $35 at Costco and $42 at Walgreens, but for other drugs, the stores offering the lowest costs were reversed. This means that the drug user needs to contact different stores to find the cheapest prices.

The downside of purchasing prescriptions based solely on cost is not being able to use one trusted pharmacy. One woman commented, on, “My husband has made a habit of going to the local pharmacy because the pharmacist is his ‘buddy.’ No doubt this has cost us tremendously. But I do not think we are alone in this situation. Local pharmacists can make it easy to do business—they provide advice, counsel and a more personal face on a difficult medical situation.” Also, using the same pharmacy means that the pharmacist is aware of other drugs being taken and can warn the customer in case one interferes with another or if combining certain drugs may cause harmful effects. (See The Risks of Taking Too Many Drugs in this issue of Senior Spirit.)

To continue reading this article or to download a printable copy, click here!

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors would love to hear from you. Please share any tips with our audience, that you have found useful.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors