Family Dynamics in Caregiving

November 7, 2013  
Filed under Aging Parents

By Phyl Newbeck

Pity the only child. He or she has no one else to turn to when it’s time to take care of an aging parent. But the only child isn’t the only one who may be doing it alone. Patrice Thabault, owner of the South Burlington office of Home Instead Senior Care (HISC), said research shows that even when there are multiple siblings, one sibling takes on the lion’s share of the work in close to half the cases studied. In most cases, that sibling is the youngest daughter. Only 2 percent of those interviewed said their family shared the burden equally.

50-50

HISC sponsors a program called 50-50 to help siblings deal with the problems inherent in taking care of aging parents. The first 50 refers to the average age at which the parent/child role begins reversing and the child becomes a caregiver, while the full name references what an equitable division of labor should look like. Literature on the 50-50 rule includes the recommendation for siblings to both talk and listen to one another, research options for their parents, plan ahead, be flexible and be honest with one another.

Since caregivers often have their own familial and professional obligations, it’s hard for them to take on all the varied responsibilities of their new roles. Thabault said she has seen situations where multiple siblings work together effectively to take care of an aging parent, with one assuming the communication duties, another taking care of grocery shopping and a third preparing meals. She noted that although a completely equitable division of labor isn’t always possible, siblings need to understand what each of them can bring to the table and divvy up the assignments as evenly as possible. In addition, they need to feel comfortable looking outside the family for assistance, although finances may make this difficult to do. Even with various caregiver responsibilities shared, children can find themselves stressed by the duties of caring for an aging parent.
The website caregiverstress.com has a Family Caregiver Distress Assessment to help caregivers figure out when they need to look for assistance.

Paying the bills

Among the many tasks which have to be divvied up when caring for aging parents is the question of finances. Robyn Young, owner of Money Care in Williston, said she often sees discord among siblings when one becomes the primary caregiver. “The dynamic I see most often,” she said “is mistrust and jealousy.”

Young said often one child lives physically close to the parent and falls into the caregiver role, which includes paying the bills, but another child isn’t as close to the situation and begins to question how money is being spent. Additionally, there are times when the child taking care of the parent receives some remuneration for his/her services, but the other siblings don’t appreciate the amount of work involved and question the compensation.

Young said the most important things for the caregiving sibling to do are keep detailed records, document their time and save receipts. If the caregiver is being paid by the parent, it is important to explain that at the onset and, if possible, get buy-in from the rest of the siblings. “I’ve seen lots of situations,” said Young “where the sibling who is providing the care gets so worn down by the strife that they throw up their hands and give up and say they won’t do it anymore.”

She said the best way to eliminate family misunderstandings is to have a meeting early on and clarify exactly what the caregiver is doing.

Sibling traps

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the average caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who is married, works outside the home and earns $35,000 annually. Francine Russo, an author affiliated with the alliance, describes five traps that siblings may fall into in caretaking:

  • Waiting until there is a crisis to talk to one another and/or not including everyone
  • Thinking there are only concrete specific tasks which can be assigned to individual siblings rather than shared
  • Not knowing what you want from your siblings
  • Thinking you shouldn’t have to ask for help
  • Falling into the anger/guilt gridlock

Elder Care Connections of Vermont provides assistance to caregivers by creating plans for those taking care of elderly relatives so they can avoid those traps.  Nancy Scagnelli, co-owner of Elder Care Connections, agreed that it is frequently the youngest daughter who shoulders much of the burden for caregiving. Sometimes, other siblings don’t recognize the amount of work the primary caregiver puts into his/her role, so Scagnelli recommends that they write down exactly what takes place in a typical week so the rest of the family understands. “Clear communication can be very challenging with families,” she said “but the better they can communicate, the less resentment there will be.”

Scagnelli recognizes that not all siblings can contribute equally due to geography, work and family obligations, so she suggests a teamwork approach where the labor is divided. If one sibling lives far away, perhaps they can provide financial support to make up for their lack of physical presence. “It’s helpful if they assign roles so one person doesn’t shoulder all the burden,” she said. Scagnelli noted that situations are always easier if there is advance planning among siblings. “The role of the caregiver cannot be overstated,” she said. “It can be very stressful. Everyone needs down time and respite time.”

Financial Support for Caregivers

November 7, 2013  
Filed under Aging Parents

By Phyl Newbeck

Not only can caregiving be emotionally draining, but it’s hard on the wallet, as well. Thankfully, there are some programs in place that can help those who are doing the difficult work of caring for loved ones. In Vermont, the Division of Disability and Aging Services (DDAS) receives funding via the federal Older Americans Act (OAA) to provide services for Vermont seniors and their caregivers.

Megan Tierney-Ward, Aging and Disabilities Program Manager for DDAS, said OAA money is funneled through the state to five regional agencies based in the Champlain Valley, Northeast Kingdom, Central, Southeastern and Southwestern Vermont. Although the DDAS prepares an official State Plan on Aging every five years, the services are provided on a regional basis and caregivers are urged to contact their local offices rather than DDAS for assistance.

The National Family Caregiver Support Program of the OAA was established in 2000. The program provides grants to states to support family and informal caregivers. The amount of the grants is based on the number of seniors (defined by the program as 67 and over) in each state. According to the program’s website, 22 percent of caregivers assist two or more seniors and 8 percent care for three or more. Nationally, more than half of these caregivers are 50 years of age, and over one-third of them self-reported health troubles of their own.

The program has five main areas of support for caregivers: information; assistance in gaining access to services; individual counseling, support groups and training; respite care; and limited supplemental services.

John Barbour, Executive Director of the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging (CVAA), said there are very few programs that provide financial support for caregivers. The options available include Choices for Care, a program for those who qualify for long-term care through Medicaid. These seniors can opt for a nursing home, residential care facility or staying in their own homes. If they choose the latter, Choices for Care will pay to have caregivers provide services to them. Caregivers can be from a professional nursing/caregiver service, or from family members who are screened for suitability by a state employee. Medicaid will pay for an approved number of hours to help the caregiver provide assistance for activities for daily living such as bathing and preparing meals. Choices for Care has very strict eligibility criteria and is only available to those with a very low income and meager resources.

CVAA also administers a Dementia Respite Grant for caregivers of those with dementia. The grant is requested on behalf of the patient and only those with an income of less than $35,000 (or $46,000 for couples) are eligible. The program currently provides $800 to $1,500 annually to caregivers so they can take time off and hire a substitute. Caregivers have flexibility as to how they spend the funds, but three quarters is spent on in-home care or adult day services, according to Barbour, who noted that some is also used for transportation. Caregivers do not need approval for their use of the grant, which is often applied to airfare for vacations, class fees for education, gym memberships or theater tickets. The program is somewhat limited and Barbour said there is sometimes a waiting list for the grants. In addition, the amount of money provided is not constant and varies each year.

A third funding mechanism is known as the Attendant Services Program. The program supports independent living for adults with disabilities who need physical assistance with daily activities by hiring, training, supervising and scheduling their caregivers, who receive an hourly wage.

Mary Collins, an Independent Living Service Consultant at DDAS, said there are three types of services which fall under the program’s auspices, all of which require that the caregiver be a Vermont resident over the age of 18. The General Fund Personal Services money goes to help someone with a disability that is on Medicaid and needs physical assistance with at least one activity of daily living. The Medicaid Participant Directed Attendant Care goes to those taking care of someone with a permanent and severe disability who is on Medicaid and needs assistance with at least two activities of daily living. The General Fund Participant Directed Attendant Care is similar to the Medicaid version except the funds will only go to someone who has been found ineligible for services from other Medicaid-funded personal care or attendant care programs. The third program is the only one for which a spouse or civil union partner can be the caregiver, but for all three there is no prohibition against the caregiver being an adult child, friend or neighbor.

Military veterans also have access to an Aid and Attendance Pension. The program provides benefits for veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in activities of daily living. It also covers those who are blind or living in a nursing home due to physical or mental incapacity. The money is not dependent on a service-related injury and can also be used for nursing homes or assisted care facilities. The program can provide up to $1,732 per month to a veteran, $1,113 per month to a surviving spouse or $2,054 per month to a couple. For the caregivers of veterans who suffered catastrophic wounds, illnesses or injuries while in the service, there is additional funding called Special Compensation for Assistance with Activities of Daily Living.

Although official programs are limited, Vermonters may be able to get advice from organizations devoted to particular conditions or from Vermont 211, a statewide hotline run by the United Ways of Vermont. The best advice is for caregivers to call their local agency/council on aging. They have trained professionals ready to provide information on which programs to access and help in filling out the complex paperwork.

Holiday Style Countdown

November 7, 2013  
Filed under Fashion

By Sharon Mosley

When it comes to planning for the holidays — whether it’s serving up a scrumptious dinner or hosting a small cocktail party for the neighbors — there’s always one thing to do first — make a plan. it’s time to put some festive touches on your wardrobe. Start the countdown now.

First, make a list and make it count. Santa does it, so can you. If you already have special events on the calendar or family dinners, then start writing it down. Or let your phone keep you on track. The holidays tend to snowball once November rolls around, and we all know where those end up … at the bottom of the hill if we’re not careful … covered up in more tidings of comfort and joy than we can stand.

At the top of the list should be shopping for special clothes, if the occasion calls for it. If you’ve got any “Save the Date” invites, go ahead and set your sights on what you might wear. If you rarely attend black tie events, then you may need to carve out a date to browse local shops or the mall. There’s nothing worse than making a mad dash to the designer department of your favorite store a day or two before the big party to find nothing but picked-over offerings … and nothing suitable in your size. It is, indeed, a little too stressful, and wouldn’t you really rather be drinking eggnog before the fire, looking at those beautiful fashion magazines and imagining yourself the belle of the ball?

But even if you’re just cooking up some delicious fun for your relatives and friends, or that special someone you’ve just met on Match.com, dress up! Bring out the velvet and brocade; make it festive. Or wear an embellished cardigan and tee with your jeans. Comfortable leggings and a graphic sweater is another stylish option. You can always wear one of those fun holiday aprons! Remember all those photos that will show up on Facebook.

Anyway, we’ve all been there, so promise yourself that this year things will be different and start shopping early if you need to. You can always get some of your holiday gift shopping done while you are looking for the perfect dress, too — hopefully, at a leisurely pace so big mistakes are kept at a minimum. Or give yourself enough time ahead of special events so that if you do decide that you really can’t sit down in that frothy pink feathery skirt or slinky sequin sheath, you can still return it in plenty of time and find another stunning entrance maker.

Don’t pass up vintage stores. These are some of my favorite places to find those unusual one-of-a-kind treasures to wear and to give as gifts. I’ve found patent leather 1950s clutches, a Persian lamb stole, suede platform pumps and tons of interesting statement jewelry.

A great pair of rhinestone drop earrings will give that old, little black dress new sparkle or make a wonderful gift for a friend. And remember, one size fits all is the perfect gift you don’t have to worry about returning. Indeed, make the weeks before holiday parties count, scoring not only stylish treats but also stocking stuffers and hostess gifts.

Then don’t forget to make salon appointments early. Even if you wear your favorite holiday jacket that you’ve relied on for years, you’ll feel more like celebrating if your hair looks good and your nails are manicured. Think bright red. And spray tans are looking better and better.

Get in the spirit of looking good. You may actually have time to celebrate.

The Gift of Planned Giving

November 7, 2013  
Filed under Money

By Ron Maloney

You can’t take it with you.

But with a little forethought and preparation, you can support a beloved charity, alma mater or non-profit from the Great Beyond — and realize concrete income, tax or estate benefits that could save you and yours a lot of money and promote your philantropic values among future generations of your family.

It’s called “deferred giving” or, more commonly, “planned giving,” a term coined nearly five decades ago by financial planner Robert F. Sharpe, whose Sharpe Group offers capital fundraising services to churches, educational institutions and other not-for-profit institutions.

Planned giving offers opportunities for giving under the tax codes that can provide an immediate income for the donor or the charity, or a future income to the charity, while allowing the donor to maintain access or control of the donated funds or property and realize tax benefits —including in capital gains, gifts or estates.

Anybody in their 30s or 40s who attended college or otherwise had contact with a charity or non-profit has probably received fundraising postcards, mailers or e-mails from these entities extolling the work of the organization and the potential benefits to the  donor and charity of planned giving.

The vehicles involved in planned giving include various scenarios for gifting or creating trusts. The assets to be conveyed can include cash, stocks or securities, business interests, a life insurance policy, real estate or personal property and even benefits from a retirement plan.

Options for giving abound. Anyone contemplating making such a gift should talk to two people — their professional financial advisor or attorney who specializes in estate planning and someone from the charity they’re considering supporting — to discuss ways the gift might be made and to best integrate the gift into the charity’s future plans.

Anne Hamilton is president of the Planned Giving Council of New Hampshire and Vermont, which since the 1980s has promoted planned giving and provides training and development opportunities for its 120-odd member non-profits and charities.

Professional advice is important in estate planning whether one intends to give or not, Hamilton said.

“It’s thinking about your estate, what your wishes are and where you want to put your money when you’re no longer around,” Hamilton said. “In addition to your family and your friends, charity is obviously one area people can think about.”

A potential donor can approach a representative of any nonprofit or charity to discuss the idea, Hamilton said.

“There are certainly people who have personal interests, where they’ve supported charities during their lifetime and this is a way to think of that for the future. It’s not only for end of life, but as you plan around a business,” Hamilton said. “There are a lot of instances where you can plan around what you want to see happen.”

Larger institutions such as a university or a medical center will often have offices dedicated to development, donations or giving. Dartmouth College’s website, dartmouth.edu, has a “Giving” tab in the upper right-hand corner of its main page. The University of Vermont, as well as Champlain and St. Michael’s colleges all have development departments. But most charities in Vermont and New Hampshire are small, and often one staff member is charged with facilitating planned gifts. More often still, the staff member will be an executive director who wears many hats in a small organization.

“And dimes to donuts, that person at the charity would encourage them to talk to their own financial advisors,” Hamilton said. “A staff person at any charity I know would look for charitable intent, but would encourage them to talk to their financial advisor to construct a gift that could be beneficial to them from a tax perspective and also benefit the charity, as well.”

Ways to Give

The most common gifts, Hamilton said, are bequests of money — a specific amount or a percentage of an estate — made to a particular charity. Then there are gifts of personal items, property and real estate, and a lot of tax law has been written around those issues.

Planned Giving Council of New Hampshire and Vermont board member and Burlington attorney Leigh Keyser Phillips’ law practice includes estate planning services. Phillips said there are a number of ways to make a planned gift to a charity.

“You can do retirement plan designations through your 401K or IRA, you can do a life insurance policy, you can do a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) or a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT),” she said.

Someone who doesn’t wish to pay an attorney could easily set up a donation through a retirement account such as a 401K or an IRA by naming the charity as a beneficiary of either a set dollar amount or a percentage of the account. It is good to discuss the gift with the charity, though.

A Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) offers the option of donating a lump of money — with a tax benefit — to a charity, which in turn pays interest back to the giver of the gift during the giver’s lifetime. When the benefactor passes away, the remainder goes to the charity.

If such a gift is made for the charitable uses and purposes of the organization, it’s not difficult to set up, Phillips said. But a donor who wants to set up a special scholarship fund, support an endowment or a special program needs to ensure the language to make that wish happen is all correct. A CGA is an irrevocable contract with a charity.

A Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) is generally an option for the very wealthy — those with a million or two to set aside for a favorite charity. There are different types where the donor can realize an income and then the charity receives the gift at the end of the line, so to speak. They can be complex and professional help would be vital in their preparation, Phillips said.

“You should definitely talk to an accountant or an attorney,” Phillips said.

Not Just For the Rich

But planned giving isn’t just something the wealthy do.

More modest gifts — particularly regular, ongoing ones — are just as important to a charity as the big endowments are.

“The big donors are important, but a charity should look at who’s given consistently over 10 or 15 years,” Phillips said. “Those are the people most likely to come forward and give a planned gift if they understand it. When a donor dies, a charity loses that support and that membership and there is a way to keep it, which means the charity doesn’t have to scramble to replace that.”

When it comes to endowing a regular, ongoing gift, development planners use something called the “Rule of 20.”

“Let’s say you’re a regular supporter and you give a charity $100 a year,” Phillips said. “The ‘Rule of 20’ says that if you left 20 times that gift in your will, you’re basically endowing that gift and you can gift it in perpetuity. Your support of the charity can continue.”

Hamilton agreed.

“It’s more about helping an organization you’ve loved in your lifetime in the future,” she said.

Banking Online: How to Keep Your Money Safe

November 7, 2013  
Filed under Money

By Eric Christensen

Now that pervasive Wi-Fi coverage, smartphones and mobile apps allow users to access the Internet just about anywhere, online banking has never been easier or more convenient. Why wait for a monthly statement when you can check your accounts on demand? Why visit your neighborhood branch office when you can transfer funds, open a new account and pay bills with a few keystrokes?

But is it safer? Transforming your relationship with your bank — and your money — into a collection of electrons makes some people nervous. And reports of hackers, identity theft and data breaches amplify these fears. But the reality is that online banking is just as safe, if not safer, than face-to-face banking, so long as both you and your bank take certain precautions.

There are legitimate reasons to be suspicious of online banking. Between 2006 and 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics calculated that almost 12 million Americans were victims of identity theft. In June 2011, Citigroup disclosed a data breach in their credit card operation that affected 210,000 customers. In March 2012, Global Payments, a payment processor, discovered a hacker had accessed millions of credit card users’ account data. In June 2012, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing to discuss the threat of hackers targeting the bank accounts of small and mid-sized businesses. And in October 2012, TD Bank notified 260,000 customers of a security breach stemming from a misplaced backup data tape.

Thankfully, banks employ several measures to keep their customers’ data secure. First, most online banks use 128-bit encryption algorithms and require customers to use browsers with 128-bit encryption. 128-bit encryption is the most powerful currently available, so powerful that the U.S. government forbids its sale overseas. Encryption may also make online banking safer than face-to-face banking because encryption scrambles data. Face-to-face banking, in contrast, often generates receipts and records that can be read by anyone if found or stolen.

Second, the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 requires banks to:  regularly provide customers with a privacy notice outlining what information the bank gathers and how it is used and shared; develop a written information security plan that describes how the bank will protect customers’ information;  implement safeguards to protect customers from scams and hackers.

There are also several steps you as a customer can take to prevent the theft of your information. First, change your passwords often, and pick robust passwords that contain letters, numbers and symbols. Do not reuse passwords from other sites, and do not use common phrases like “password” or names and birthdays of family members.

Second, avoid emails that appear to be from your bank but ask you to update your password or to open a seemingly safe attachment. Banks will never email you to do either of these things.

Third, shred or safely store your banking paperwork. Even better, switch to paperless accounts if offered by your online bank. Not only is this better for the environment, but it is also more secure as it reduces the chances of someone stealing your account information.

Fourth, online banking makes it easy to check your account, so do so regularly and look for fraudulent activity. If you believe you are the victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately. You will likely not face any penalty, and you should get all your money back.

But even if you take every opportunity to protect your information, vulnerabilities exist at other points. Thieves can attach “skimmers” to ATMs that steal your card information. Hackers love targeting payment processors like Global Payments because they handle millions of transactions every day. Even networks like Gmail and the Play Station Network have been hacked in order to harvest users’ nonpublic information.

Banking online is like any other online activity: there are certain risks, but they can be minimized. Instead of fearing the risks of online banking, protect against them. So long as you undertake certain precautions, online banking can be just as, if not more, secure than face-to-face banking. When improved security is combined with improved convenience, it is no wonder why many customers are switching to online banking. —CNS

Fiber: ‘Invisible’ Superfood Can Help You Lose Weight, Improve Your Health

November 7, 2013  
Filed under Food

By Dr. Stuart Offer

When it comes to a healthy lifestyle and eating for preventing disease, some things are so easy to do I want to stand on top of the tallest building with a bullhorn and scream, “Yes, you can do it!”

You have probably heard fiber is good for preventing constipation, right? In addition, research has demonstrated that individuals with a high intake of dietary fiber are at significantly lower risk for developing heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and certain gastrointestinal diseases. In spite of these findings, the average fiber intake for U.S. children and adults is less than half of the recommended levels.

Dietary fiber comes from the roughage in our food. Our bodies cannot absorb or digest it. Instead fiber passes through our bodies relatively intact, imparting some amazing and healthy benefits. Fiber is classified as either soluble (it dissolves in water) or insoluble (it doesn’t dissolve), each contributing to unique and specific benefits. Soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. The good thing is most plant-based foods contain both types of fiber.

One of the most interesting things about fiber is how it can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Fiber contains calories, however these calories are virtually invisible to your body and will not contribute to weight gain. This healthy carbohydrate cannot be digested and what goes in just works its way out the other end.

Here is something to ponder – let’s say you eat one serving of breakfast cereal that has “0” grams of fiber. These are very easy to find as most cereals have little to no fiber, such as Rice Krispies. Now let’s compare this to a cereal such as Fiber One that has 14 grams of fiber. Most of what is in cereal, including fiber, is carbohydrates (some healthy and others not so). Each gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories. Just for easy comparison, let’s say each of these cereals contain 100 calories per serving. The rice cereal allows your body to digest the full 100 calories, much of it going to fat storage. But the 14 grams of fiber in the Fiber One cereal equals 56 invisible calories. That high fiber cereal only has 44 calories for your body to see. A 56 calorie savings may not seem like much, but just think about if you do this day after day. In one year, you will lose more than 10 pounds with no effort at all. In addition, what if you don’t stop at breakfast, but add high fiber foods throughout your day? You will lose far more weight. Foods rich in fiber can add bulk without adding calories, increasing a sense of fullness. In addition, as these foods require more chewing time, they can allow you to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat.

If that was not enough to get you to start eating more fiber, here are other great reasons: a high fiber diet normalizes bowel movements, helps maintain bowel health, lowers cholesterol levels, helps control blood sugar levels (reducing your risk of Type 2 Diabetes) and significantly reduces the risk of heart disease. Research is a bit inconclusive, but there is strong evidence that a high fiber diet will also help prevent colon cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer.

How much fiber do you need each day? The Institute of Medicine, which provides science-based advice on matters of medicine and health, gives the following daily recommendations for adults: Men age 50 or younger, 38 grams; older than 51, should have 30 grams; women who are 50 or younger, 25 grams; older than 51, should have 21 grams.

If you aren’t getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake. Here is where you will find the best sources — whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas and other legumes, nuts and seeds. Refined or processed foods — such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fiber. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Similarly, removing the skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fiber content.

Always worrying about heart disease, one of my favorite sources of fiber comes from oats. Oats are loaded with both soluble (for bad cholesterol reduction) and insoluble fiber. The healthiest form of this super food is steel cut oats. The problem is they usually take 30 or more minutes to cook, way to slow for a fast breakfast. Here is way to have them within minutes.

Five Tips to Help You Lookand Feel Younger

November 7, 2013  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

The weather is getting colder, the sun is disappearing and the fall doldrums are making grown adults dream of taking midday naps. Everywhere you look people seem to be angry, stressed and tired. The talk on the news is about debt ceilings and possible recession. The old saying is you are as old as you feel. Well, some days I feel way older than my chronological age. I do not think I am alone in feeling and looking older than I want to.

However, some simple steps can put some pep in your step while making you look younger and more vital. Here are five tips to look and feel your best!

Tip 1: You are what you eat.

If you live on sugar and junk, you will feel sluggish and not your best. Hydrate yourself — drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. It will make you more alert and make your body run more efficiently, helping you maintain a healthy weight and improving the look of your skin.

Want to lose weight and feel younger? Eat a healthy diet. Do not fall for the “lose 10 pounds while doing nothing” sales pitch that you see advertised on TV. There is no shortcut to eating healthy. It takes 14 days to break a bad habit or learn a new one. Fad diets will just dehydrate you, making you feel and look worse.

Looking to lose some weight? Then eat foods like dairy (skim milk or light yogurt), apples, black beans, carrots, onions and soup (not the canned kind high in sodium). These foods will make you feel full so you will lose weight the healthy way.

Want to improve how your skin looks? Good nutrition can help with that, also. Almonds, for example, will make your skin look smoother and more youthful. Collard greens can protect you from the sun, blackberries and blueberries can slow the aging process and pomegranate juice can stop the formation of “spider veins.”

Tip 2: If your skin looks young, you will feel young.

If you want to make sure your skin looks its best, all you need to do is follow a few simple tips. Hydrate. Yes, we have said it before and we will say it again — drinking water is the best thing you can do to feel and look younger.

Don’t forget your sunscreen. Not only can sunscreen protect you from skin cancer, but it can reduce the incidence of sun spots and help to avoid fine lines and wrinkles. Dailey SPF can reverse some signs of sun-induced aging. Using a topical vitamin C cream before your sunscreen can help preserve your skin. In fact, it creates more collagen which makes the skin appear plumper. Also, anti-inflammatories in green tea can make your skin look younger.

Tip 3: Exercise will keep you young.

Move it or lose it has never been more true. Want to feel more vital, look younger, be more trim? Strength training exercises will increase your balance, trim your waistline, give you more energy and help you sleep. Keeping active puts some pep in your step and makes sure to keep you in the best health possible. Go for a walk, go for a swim, do some yoga. Whatever activity you enjoy is fine — just get out there and do it.

Tip 4: A good night’s sleep is the key to good health.

We all do it — we try to get away with as little sleep as possible. We reason that we are too busy to sleep, we will make it up on the weekend, or that we are tough and can handle it. Good try, but this is called denial. We all need a good night’s sleep. You need to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you want to look and feel your best, make sure you get your beauty rest.

The short term effects of lack of sleep are scary enough. Lose a few nights sleep and your immune system becomes impaired; you get confused, clumsy, are less aware and have difficulty thinking and reasoning. The long term effects can be downright deadly. Lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, obesity and depression.

Tip 5: Avoid stress.

Avoiding stress is tricky. The world is stressful and you can’t change that, but you can change how you react to it. Eat healthy, sleep well and stay active and you will be able to handle stress better. But if you really want to avoid stress, focus on the people and the things you love. Pamper yourself a little. Find a hobby you love, spend time with family and friends and make sure your to do list includes things that make you happy.

Laughter will not only make you look younger, it can make you feel like a kid again. So laugh a little and give yourself permission to make you a priority. As the saying goes, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA. For more information on services for seniors, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119.

The Byerlys of Jericho: You Call This Retirement?

November 4, 2013  
Filed under Feature Stories

Retirement for Ken and Priscilla Byerly of Jericho does not mean doing nothing. Between hiking, gardening, skiing, writing and volunteering, the couple, who are both in their late 70s, keeps busy and active. (Courtesy photo)

By Phyl Newbeck

It’s hard to imagine a more active couple than Ken and Priscilla Byerly of Jericho. Whether it’s tilling the garden by hand, volunteering, skiing, writing or playing the piano, at ages 78 and 77 respectively, the couple always seems to be doing something.

The duo met at a cocktail party in New York City and dated for a few months — including a ski trip to Vermont — but, as Ken put it “it didn’t take.” Three years later, he saw her in a lift line at Stratton and called out to her, asking her to wait. Despite the fact that he had her name wrong, she did wait, and this time they clicked. “I like this woman. We can do things together and we’ve been doing that ever since,” said Ken.

Although the couple’s relationship began in Vermont, it took some time before they relocated to the Green Mountain State. While living in New York, they came up to ski almost every weekend in the winter, but when Ken took early retirement, they decided to head out west. Although he was born in rural North Carolina, Ken had attended the University of Montana on an athletic scholarship, playing football and basketball and graduating with a degree in journalism, so the couple relocated to Bozeman, Montana. “We did nothing but ski and hike,” said Ken. “We made friends and wandered around the West. After about three years, we started to miss the East, particularly the culture and the colors of autumn.”

Given their history of skiing in Vermont, the state seemed like a good option. The couple flew east and spent three days re-acquainting themselves with the area. Eventually, Ken left Priscilla in charge, asking her to find a house with a fireplace and a view. Their Jericho home has both, although a neighbor’s trees are starting to slightly impinge on their stunning vista of the Adirondacks. The couple continues to diligently work to improve the property. The first thing they did was remove a big plastic swimming pool and in its place is a series of gardens. Priscilla is in charge of the flowers and berries while Ken rules the vegetable domain. The couple estimates that during the summer, three-quarters of their vegetable intake comes from their garden, with some root crops continuing to nourish them throughout the winter.

Although Ken was very happy with his retirement, Priscilla, a former junior high school teacher, decided to go back to work, and got a job teaching Spanish at UVM. She retired for the second time in December of 2006. Retirement, however, does not mean doing nothing. Priscilla goes to a local Elder Enrichment program, volunteers with Road to Recovery (an American Cancer Society program) and takes piano lessons. This winter, she managed to hit the slopes 20 times at a variety of Vermont resorts, just slightly below Ken’s total of 25 days.

Once the skis are put away, the couple enjoys hiking together. They completed the Long Trail over the course of three summers and then Ken set his sights on the Appalachian Trail. Priscilla has hiked several portions of the trail and Ken was finally able to call himself an end-to-ender in 2005, just before his 71st birthday. “I miss it,” he said. “I still love to hit the trail and see the white blazes. That was one of our great adventures.”

With the trail completed, Ken needed a new goal. He had worked as a journalist before a second career as a stockbroker, editing the Tidewater News and working as a reporter for the Washington Post as well as working as a reporter and editor for Newsday in New York. With time on his hands, he decided to focus on writing and in short order, penned three novels and two short story compilations. The books are self-published and Ken is trying to figure out how best to market them. Several area libraries have at least some of the books in their collections. “The short stories are from my own life,” he said. “If I hadn’t written them, I might have spent a lot of money on psychiatrists. By writing, you put it all out there. It’s very therapeutic.”

At this point, Ken has no plans for any future novels, but he continues to write short stories, keeping a folder with all his story ideas.

The couple thinks the best way to stay young is to stay active. “Once you get in the habit of working out, if you don’t work out you feel like you have a hangover,” said Ken. “I’m driven to do this.”

The first thing the couple talks about at breakfast is what kind of exercise they’ll partake in that day. “After that,” said Ken, “the rest of the day just fits together.”

Ken also believes it’s good to have a goal in life. “If you have a quest, you’ll become consumed by it,” he said, using hiking the Appalachian Trail, skiing out West, writing his books and maximizing his time with Priscilla as examples. “If you have a quest and you care about it, it’s not the finish that’s important. You want the journey to go on and on.”