Friday, June 5, 2020

Whatever it takes!

by: Jamie Saunders

Is COVID-19 a natural disaster? If not, it sure feels like a tornado or earthquake hit all 50 states and the world at the same time. But like a good neighbor, Information & Referrals Community Resource Specialists are here to help. Just like every Avenger film I’ve seen, there is an army of dictated essential workers behind the scenes with a team ready to make sure Captain America saves the day. I am new to Marvel movies, but my 10 year old daughter makes sure I get caught up before going to see one. It’s my understanding that Avenger: Endgame was the highest grossing Marvel film of all time.  I know you’re like where is this MAK–AIRS blog going? If the coronavirus was a film, it would definitely be Endgame.  I & R’s across the country fearlessly stood behind the directives of the CDC, Health Departments, state and local task forces. Nobody has asked for our autograph, the media hasn’t given front line I & R staff recognition or five second of fame.
Some of us had the option of working from home and others were going into the office everyday because they were essential employees. I don’t know about you, but the stress associated with this pandemic made our jobs that much more challenging. Information was fluid, changing from one staff meeting to the next one. Three or four team meetings in one day were the norm for about three weeks. Unlike a natural disaster, we could only use half of the policies and procedures already in place. After three months we have new policies, new procedures, tweaked the old ones and kept it moving.
This blog isn’t supposed to be informative.  I don’t know about you but right now I am on information overload. We all need a high five…retract that no touching. We all need a pat on the back…scratch that one too. We all need a sign outside our window or cubical that says, “An Information & Referral Community Specialist Hero’s work here or lives here. I long for the day when my 10 year old tells my now 7th month old granddaughter how her grandma went to work every day during the pandemic that hit the entire world.
COVID-19 isn’t over by any means, but today I want to give honor to those of us behind the scenes. We held it together under tremendous pressure to help those who were afraid.
Avenger: Endgame brought 11 years of storytelling to a close. My favorite quote from the film takes place in this scene. When their time travel device was perfected and their target timelines to retrieve the Infinity Stones confirmed, Cap decides to give his teammates one last motivational talk before carrying out their mission. Steve Rogers reminds the Avengers of why they are risking their lives on the singular chance that they can to bring their loved ones and the loved ones of the strangers they have sworn to protect back into existence, holding them to the promise that they will go to any means necessary to succeed.   
AIRS Community Resource Specialist we do, “Whatever it takes” – Steve Rogers

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

New Abuse Icon on Nursing Home Compare
To better inform the public about nursing homes where abuse and neglect occurs the Nursing Home Compare website has a new red hand abuse icon (pictured here).
Every nursing home resident should receive safe care and be treated with respect at all times. Abuse and neglect are never acceptable. Beginning October 23, 2019, the red hand icon was added to the Nursing Home Compare website, whenever a facility is cited at inspection for: 1) abuse that led to harm of a resident within the past year; and/or 2) abuse that could have potentially led to harm of a resident in each of the last two years. To ensure the latest information is available to the public, the icon will be updated monthly, as inspection results are posted. Consumers will have this important information sooner as they consider their long-term care options.
Better public information, such as use of the icon, was prompted by requests from government oversight entities, congressional members and advocates. If you or someone you know is or has been abused in an adult care facility, report it to local law enforcement by calling 911 and to the Adult Abuse hotline in your state. In Kansas, call 1-800-842-0078. In Missouri, call 1-800-392-0210. In Arkansas, call 1-800-582-4887.  If it is an emergency, or a crime is suspected, call 911 immediately.
Abuse is defined as the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish. Abuse may be verbal, sexual, physical, mental and financial.
Nursing homes cited for abuse are required to take steps to protect their residents. If you’re considering a nursing home that’s been cited for abuse, we encourage you to ask the administrator and staff what corrections have been made, and what they’re doing to keep residents safe from abuse, neglect, mistreatment, or exploitation.
Abuse or neglect can happen at any time. The icon is a very positive step in the right direction to alert residents and the public. It provides accountability by the nursing home where abuse or neglect has occurred. Here is the link for Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare:
Note: If a facility is NOT certified by Medicare or Medicaid, it is not included on Nursing Home Compare. Those nursing homes should be licensed by the state.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Missouri opens novel coronavirus information hotline
Media Contact:
Lisa Cox
Chief, Office of Public Information
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
JEFFERSON CITY, MO –The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) activated a statewide public hotline for citizens or providers needing guidance regarding the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. At 8 a.m. today, the hotline opened and can be reached at 877-435-8411. The hotline is being operated by medical professionals and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“Communication is vital to our response to this rapidly-evolving situation,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS. “For several weeks, our COVID-19 webpage has been and continues to be a great resource for the public, but having the hotline as an additional resource will likely be invaluable as citizens seek guidance for their concerns.”
To date, 46 patients in Missouri have been tested for the virus that causes COVID-19; one of those has tested positive.
“It is important to know what to do if you have concerns about an illness during this outbreak,” said Williams. “For those who may be at risk for COVID-19, we encourage them to utilize this hotline or call their health care provider or local public health agency to inform them of their travel history and symptoms. They’ll be instructed on how to receive care without exposing others to the possible illness.” 
Simple preventive actions that help prevent the spread of all types of respiratory viruses include:
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
For more information, visit or the CDC’s COVID-19 website. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

When Joy is A Habit, Love is A Reflex

Heather Pierce, February 7, 2020

I'm reading Bob Goff's new devotional 'Live In Grace, Walk In Love' in 2020. Bob's whole deal is about loving those around us, opening ourselves up to community, and accepting people where they are in this journey we call life. As a natural introvert this can feel overwhelming to me. I tend to shy away from engaging strangers and typically you'll find me with my head buried in a book. A friend reminded me recently that we are not meant to do this life alone even though we are encouraged to think that way in this country. I am trying to be more purposeful in my connections this year.
In today's devotional Bob asks, "How do we make joy a habit in our everyday lives so our reflex is always love for the people around us?" His answer, "I can't think of a better way than gratitude. When we're intentional about giving thanks for everything we come across, we can't help but feel joy over the pure gift of another day. And when our joy has become a habit, our love becomes a way of living."
Yes! This is what we should all strive for. A reflex of love, born from the habit of joy, built on the discipline of gratitude. So what are you grateful for today? As Information and Referral professionals we get the distinct honor of connecting with lost, hurting people day in and day out. It isn't easy work but if we've built a habit of joy then even when our callers spew anger in our direction our natural reflex can be love.
MAK-AIRS and AIRS are communities of people that do the work that you do, understand the highs and lows of I&R, and support each other. Join us! Make plans now to attend our Regional Conference this fall in Kansas City to expand your support network. I look forward to connecting with you there!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Stand Up and Be Counted
2020! A new decade, time for a fresh start and time to be counted in the upcoming census. The census is taken in the United States every 10 years since 1790. The 1790 census was conducted by marshals of the U.S. judicial districts and was taken in the 13 original states, the districts of Kentucky, Vermont, Maine and the Southwest Territory with a reported number of 3.9 million inhabitants. We have come a long way since that first census; the 2010 census reported 308.7 million inhabitants in the United States.
Census day is April 1, 2020, that means census responses should be based on your household residents of that date. The Census Bureau will mail out invitations March 12-20 to respond. You can respond by mail, by phone or online. If you do not respond then reminder letters, postcards and a paper form will be sent out. If you fail to respond to those, a census worker may come to your home to get your information. Census workers will never ask you for your Social Security number or information about your bank accounts or credit cards. If you get calls asking those questions, please hang up immediately. Never give out private information to strangers over the phone. If a census worker comes to your home they will not ask to go inside, they will also have a valid ID Badge with their picture, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. If you are unsure or concerned you may call 800-392-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative.
The Census information is safe, secure and protected. The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics. You are kept anonymous: The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or anyone else in your home.
So please respond to the census when you receive the notice, tell your friends and family how important this is and encourage them to respond.
~ Submitted by Liz Yokley, BSW at Aging Matters

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

National Family Caregivers Month is recognized throughout the month of November.  In 2019, Caregiver Action Network has chosen the theme #BeCareCurious.  According to, there are many things a family caregiver can BE CURIOUS about.  BE CURIOUS about your loved one’s goals and treatment options. There are so many advancements to treatments becoming available all the time; check with the doctor to see if any of them may be an option for your loved one.   BE CURIOUS about the research you do. Make sure the information is from a reliable and from a trusted source and discuss the information with the doctor. BE CURIOUS if insurance will cover treatment and medications, and BE CURIOUS about your loved one’s care plan.  You want to make sure you understand, and have the ability to provide the treatment and care required.
There is a family caregiver toolbox as well as several tips to help you through the sometimes challenging journey as a family caregiver at CaregiverActionNetwork: 
Another resource available is the Caregiver Teleconnection program.  This program offers several free hour-long conference calls each month.  The calls cover varying topics related to caregiving and caregiver support.  The events can be found at:
~ Content provided by Penny Humphrey, Care Connection for Aging Services

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dementia Friend

Caregivers and their families are often looking for reliable resources.  Dementia Friends is a newly adopted initiative by the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging(SLAAA), designed to promote public awareness about dementia and to help create dementia-friendly communities throughout the city.  Dementia Friends was founded by the Alzheimer's Society in the United Kingdom in 2013, and has grown to over 3 million registered Dementia Friends volunteers worldwide.     
The 2019 AIRS I &R Training Manual states, “Aging is an active and ongoing process and there are a variety of factors that impact the aging process including genetic, environment, existing health conditions or disabilities, and life style. While the aging process is different for everyone, understanding some of the common changes older adults experience and how they impact their lives can help Community Resource Specialist better serve older adult consumers.” (VOLUME 1: The Community Resource Specialist, page 297)

So what is a Dementia Friend, and what do we do? 
A Dementia Friend is someone who commits to learning more about dementia, and turns that understanding into action.  There is no action too small, and they can range from educating others about dementia and the Dementia Friends initiative, to spending time with or assisting someone with dementia.  The program is predicated on 5 Key Messages:
1.  Dementia is not a normal part of aging.  Not everyone who grows old
     develops dementia.
2.  Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain.  Alzheimer's changes the
     chemistry and structure of the brain, causing the brain cells to die off.
3.  Dementia is not just about memory problems.  Dementia can affect the way
     people think, speak, and perform everyday tasks.
4.  It is possible to have a good quality of life with dementia.  Many people
     with dementia continue to drive, socialize, and hold down satisfying jobs.
5.  There's more to a person than the dementia.  In the same way that we see a
     person with diabetes or cancer as a person first, we should also see those
     affected by dementia as a person first.
Listed below are a few effective communication techniques described in the AIRS Training Manuel, all of these have worked well for the Information and Referral (I&R) staff at SLAAA.

  • Establish respect by using the client’s formal name or ask what they prefer.
  • Avoid rushing the conversation and expect several call backs for the same information.
  • Always be aware of cultural and generational differences. It’s better to have a long conversation to build trust.

So how do you become a Dementia Friend?
If you want more information, please call the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging at (314) 612-5918 and ask for Lane Stultz.  Alternatively, individuals can go online to and watch a series of videos.  These videos will highlight some of the difficulties of living with dementia, and ask individuals to turn that understanding into action.  At the end of the information session or webinar, each participant will receive a certificate of completion and will become a registered Dementia Friend. 
All of the  I & R specialist in our office are certified Dementia Friends and have become familiar with the dementia services offered in your area. The SLAAA office receives a great number of referrals from caregivers who contacted the Elder Locator and the United Way of Greater St. Louis (2-1-1) for memory services. Please consider joining our efforts in making the city of St. Louis and other cities in the AIRS network a dementia friendly community. 
~ Written by Lane Stultz, BS - Specialist on Aging I