Monday, May 6, 2019

Register Today!

AIRS 41st Annual I&R Training & Education Conference
June 2 - 5, 2019

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

April 16, 2019 is National Healthcare Decisions Day.   

Adults of all ages should have a discussion with their families and doctors about their medical wishes as well as any personal needs. People will want to go one step further and write down these decisions in case they become seriously ill or incapacitated and can no longer voice their desires. This practice is part of advance care planning. There are a variety of ways to help a person navigate through this decision process. One helpful tool that is available in many states is an 11-page booklet called “Five Wishes,” which is distributed by Aging with Dignity.  This easy-to-read booklet walks you through making important decisions on choosing a health care agent, the type and amount of medical treatment you desire, and end-of-life wishes.  It has areas to write down your own thoughts and information as well as some pre-written options and ideas you may choose to keep or cross out. This booklet is not meant to give or to forgo any legal advice; however, it may be signed, witnessed and notarized (in Missouri notarization is required), and become your Advance Directive.  To find out more information you can go to

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Nothing will ever be the SAME Just Different

by: Jamie R. Saunders and Anneliese Stoever

The death of a family member or friend is something that many understand, but when a coworker dies, it is different.  My blog this month is dedicated to Mrs. Zora Ward (“Mrs. Z” as we affectionately called her).  She was a coworker who passed away on February 25, 2019. She worked in Information and Assistance for over 20 years. When the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging hired me in 2014, she trained me to be the best information and assistance specialist I could be.
We spend hours at work and, of course, with our co-workers. We eat lunch together, celebrate accomplishments, and talk about our families. In my opinion the worst workplace myth is, “I’m here to work not make friends.”  After spending so much time together, it’s virtually impossible not to develop a relationship with your colleagues.  It’s normal for working relationships to blossom into hanging out on your days off and sharing personal situations. We are only human.  That is why when a co-worker dies, the effect on co-workers is so difficult.  If your co- worker was anything like Mrs. Z, the grief to the entire office is significant.
Since your coworker is not an immediate family member, you really can’t ask for time off work to grieve. In most cases, you end up working extra hours and picking up responsibilities to fill in for the work that person did.  Mrs. Z was a valued colleague. She made everyone feel special.  As a result, everyone felt her loss when she passed.  We are realizing that nothing in our office will be the same, everything is just different. 
Here a few helpful hints on ways to cope with the loss of a coworker.

1.    Notify as many people as possible so that everyone is getting the same message: Our office decided to send out an e-mail.  Fortunately for me, I was out of the office that afternoon. I remember reading the email on my cell phone. I thought the tears would never stop flowing. Luckily, I was able to share my feeling with family, friends and collogues to process the loss.

2.    Recognize that people deal differently with grief:  We all process grief and loss differently.  For one person, it is telling stories about the person.  For another, it might be cleaning.  Typically in bereavement, going to work is a distraction.  But Mrs. Z’s cubicle was across from mine.  I was used to seeing her every single day and talking to her as I walked by.  After she passed, all I saw when I walked by her cubicle was the shawl she wore on the back of her chair.  Looking at her empty desk made my heart feel heavy. I decided to create a memory board with pictures and items from her desk that brought her joy.  It brought much comfort to me while I was packing up her personal belongings for her family.  We now have the Memory Board at her cubicle.  Colleagues often stop by and look at the board.  People have remarked that it brings them comfort. 

3.    Give everyone the opportunity to attend the services for the person:  although this is tax season, our busiest time of the year, we agreed that everyone should have the opportunity to attend the services.  Staff took turns—some people preferred to attend the wake so they went early and came back to cover the phones.  Others wanted to attend the service and we carpooled. Carpooling with my supervisor was great—we were able to support each other.  Although she knew her longer, we appreciated Mrs. Z’s kindness the same.  As a department, we collected funds and sent flowers.  Coworkers all had the chance to participate.   

4.    Do something to honor the person’s memory:  Mrs. Z loved to cook and she prepared food for all of the office parties. I plan on creating a memorial recipe book for the office.  She had several recipes at her desk and I want to share them with our staff.  It can be positive to have an office project—choose something that’s not too disruptive to the workday, but still gives everyone the opportunity to get involved. 

5.    Give people time to grieve and be kind with each other: Grief can cause you to be foggy-headed and distracted, which can impact productivity.  I can honestly say I had a bad case of foggy –head for weeks. When you’re in the profession of helping others cope, often we don’t help ourselves and self-care is necessary when grieving.  Try to be kind with each other.  If someone is short with an answer or forgets to turn in a report, give them a little more leeway than you might otherwise. Recognize that feelings of sadness and grief are normal.

6.    Know that there are professionals available to help:  if you notice that you are becoming tense, filled with anxiety, or irritable & that it is not going away, reach out to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  EAP has access to professional counselors that can dive deeper into the grief. 

7.    Expect that feelings of sadness might be triggered by office events:  the loss of a co-worker will always be in your thoughts, and could be triggered by agency events they participated in and enjoyed.  Mrs. Z’s last day working was Valentine’s Day (she went into the hospital that night).  Co-workers had brought in balloons and snacks & she loved the celebration.  When St. Patrick’s Day came around, it felt too soon to celebrate.  We ended up ordering pizza for a Co-Worker’s Goodbye party (normally she would have been leading the menu planning).  We are mourning her and are trying to keep in mind that these gatherings may be a difficult reminder to our coworkers that she is not here. 

I still think of Mrs. Z every day and I’m sure I’m not the only one. We are all searching for our “new normal”. There is no replacing Mrs. Z.  Nothing in our office will ever be the same, just different.
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” – Victor Hugo

Friday, February 8, 2019

How to Keep Warm in the Winter

Now that winter is upon us, it is important to prepare for the harsh weather conditions. The cold weather can be extra dangerous for the elderly which is why it is very important to make sure the proper precautions are taken. Remember, these cold temperatures can be much harsher on people who are older.  It is important to know the signs and symptoms if your body temperature drops too low. Some potential risk factors for seniors during the winter months include: hypothermia, influenza and the potential to slip and fall in the icy/wet ground.
     There are several precautions that you can take to make sure you will have a safe and secure winter season. First things first, make sure you dress warmly (think layers!) Tip: Make sure the layers are light weight. Of course, you want to be warm, but you do not want to make yourself uncomfortable. Also, it is important to note that skin tends to become thinner as you age and additionally, certain medications can cause dry skin. These factors combined with cold weather could potentially be very painful.
     Keeping body heat contained is a great way to make sure you stay warm on cold winter days Tip: Invest in some mittens – not gloves. Fingers act as little heaters which make them the warmer option.

Stay Warm from inside your house.  Let’s start from the inside of the house. Do you have any curtains or blinds? If so, please make sure most of those remain closed to contain the inside heat. It may be worth it to do some extra preventative protection around windows and doors through caulking. Make sure the thermostat stays between 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep warm conditions inside your house. It could be helpful to store light weight blankets around, to cover yourself if you still feel chilly. Tip: 30-50% of your body heat is lost through your head, so it is important to make sure you keep a warm hat on your senior loved one if you are venturing outdoors, or even inside the house.
     Space heaters could be a way to keep a room extra warm (if you are finding it difficult to get the temperature warm enough). Please use caution if you choose to utilize those though! Some could emit carbon monoxide – which is very difficult for a senior to eliminate from their body which could be dangerous. Make sure you have up-to-date carbon monoxide detectors, because this potentially harmful gas is difficult to identify otherwise. 
A healthy, well-balanced diet. Diet is very important to maintain their health. It also can be a way they can stay warm! Hot tea and soup is a wonderful way to keep your body temperature warm from the inside out. Tip: Make sure you are still drinking 8-10 8oz glasses of water a day. The winter weather brings very dry air which can be damaging (and painful) to skin. Also, (of course) you want to make sure to stay hydrated.
Outside precautions When heading outdoors, it is very important to make sure your wear nonslip/nonskid shoes. These special shoes can help prevent a fall in icy or wet conditions. Tip: If you require the assistance of a cane, make sure the bottom of the cane is resistant to slipping as well. In addition, when entering the house from outside – it is very important to remove your shoes. You don’t want to risk dragging ice and water throughout the house and potentially slipping later on. Don’t forget to salt the entire vicinity where you will be walking.  Better yet, have a friend or family member do this for you.

The harsh winter weather can be extremely difficult and unforgiving, but with the proper precautions you can keep your senior loved one safe and comfortable (even in the toughest weather season).

Information summarized from an article by Dominique Curtain.

Friday, January 4, 2019


The ongoing partnership between the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging (MA4) and the South Central Pension Rights project (SCPRP) has proved to be beneficial to many  Missourians who need help to understand and exercise their pension rights.  MA4, in conjunction with Missouri’s ten Area Agencies on Aging, conducts outreach activities for SCPRP to make residents of the state aware of this needed project and its pension counseling services.

Roger Cume, Managing Attorney of SCPRP said, “Missouri is a non right-to-work state with the types of industries that have resulted in many current retirees being covered by traditional defined benefit plans.  We have seen a recent spike in overpayment recoupment cases where the Pension Plan Administrator incorrectly calculated the monthly pension payment and now they are trying to recover the overpayment by reducing the monthly pension check going forward.  We have had some success in getting recovery of the overpayment and the reduction in the monthly pension waived.” 

Curme mentioned a case in which a Missouri woman recived a letter from her Pension Plan Administrator that she had been overpaid more than $80,000.   SCPRP helped this woman obtain a waiver of the overpayment so her monthly pension check wasn’t reduced by the Plan to recoup the overpayment.

Besides help with recoupment issues, SCPRP services often pertain to unjustly-denied pension benefits; locating the company that administers your benefits; deceased spouse’s pension; entitled-to pension benefit; how to apply for your pension benefits; and questions about your retirement plan.

SCPRP’s services are provided through phone and mail communications by attorneys and paralegals.  These services are free, regardless of the age of the person seeking assistance.  If you would like to know more, visit their website at or contact SCPRP at 1-800-443-2528.   Please note:  SCPRP does not accept public benefit cases. 
The U.S. Administration on Aging has established a grant program to provide pension counseling projects across the United States, because it can be difficult for individuals to understand complex pension plans and laws. 
One of those projects, The South Central Pension Rights Project (SCPRP), assists people in Missouri, as well as other states, with their retirement issues. 
Since it began in October 2008, SCPRP has recovered more than $2.5 million in benefits and has assisted more than 300 individuals with their retirement benefit questions.  There is never a charge to clients, and they are assisted regardless of age, income or the value of the pension involved. 
The current economic climate means that there are more people than ever in need of help with their retirement benefits.  SCPRP answers questions about complicated pension issues, locates and explains retirement plan documents that might be difficult to find, corrects pension miscalculations, tracks down benefits from past employers and provides referrals to retirement benefit professionals, such as attorneys and actuaries, as needed.
SCPRP can assist with retirement income plans offered by either private or government employers and can help clients make more informed decisions by making sure they understand and can exercise their legal rights to their retirement benefits.
Although it is headquartered in Texas, SCPRP provides service for Missouri.   Their staff will be available by phone or in person if needed to assist retirees with problems related to pensions to which they are entitled.  This is another example of how the AAA partners with entities who are experts in other areas to bring information and resources to clients. 
Contact SCPRP for assistance at 800-443-2528 or visit for more information.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Download Your Free CARE Act Wallet Card

The CARE Act helps family caregivers by providing contact details for a loved one in case of emergency. View more info by choosing your state in the list provided. If your state is not listed, the CARE Act has not been implemented but you can sign up for more info and help get support to your state. Link below.

Post by Marilyn Gunter

Friday, November 16, 2018

Arkansas 2-1-1 had the privilege of hosting and AmeriCorps Program from September 2017 through August 2018.  They were tasked with helping expand the 2-1-1 database from four counties to 75.  It was an exciting time of learning and growing as a total of 13 AmeriCorps Members were located at six United Way offices across the state.  As a result of their participation, we were able to increase our resource by 162% and make lasting connections with agencies across the state.  I was particularly impressed when the Members recited the AmeriCorps Pledge during the orientation because it dovetails so perfectly with our role as Information and Referral Specialists:

I will get things done for America
to make our people safer, smarter and healthier.
I will bring Americans together
to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me
this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member and I will
get things done.

If you have the opportunity to work with AmeriCorps, VISTA, SeniorCorps, FemaCorps, or any of the other wonderful National Service entities, you will also have your faith in the human spirit bolstered as your program reaps the benefits of willing hearts.

Post by Carlos Garbutt