Volunteer of the Year Award Shared

Volunteer of the Year Award Shared by Katie Donovan and Vicki Rakowski.

At a recent special gathering of the Helping Hands Board of Directors two special people were invited to attend. This is the meeting in which the Board of Directors announces and honors the Volunteer of the Year shared by two individuals this year. The two people were selected because together their efforts have had a significant impact on our organization. Vicki Rakowski our volunteer Volunteer Coordinator and Katie Donovan our Marketing and Fund Development Consultant.

Executive Director John Stauffer presented his comments and acknowledgement on behalf of the staff and Board of Directors:

Vicki Rakowski

There is not a single word that describes Vicki Rakowski. She is a very complex individual who lives life to the fullest. Vicki is a retired nurse, but this does not stop her from lending a hand wherever she can. She is energetic, knowledgeable, driven, compassionate, motivating, a great friend, a motivator, and an all-around class act. Vicki is known to bring a high level of energy to anything she takes on. When there is a need, Vicki is there to tackle the problem. Helping Hands has been fortunate to have Vicki help create a volunteer handbook/manual, as well as forms required to bring volunteers on board. This process has improved the volunteer program by creating efficient processes for finding, recruiting, retaining volunteers, and making them feel like part of our family here at Helping Hands Respite Care. Her presence, opinions, and skills, are greatly valued.
“I am so honored to be recognized like this – truly I am the one that is on the receiving end of this relationship,” shared Rakowski.

Katie Donovan

Katie has worked with Helping Hands for approximately three years in both consulting and volunteer roles. She has always been committed to the agency and its mission. Katie is responsible for guiding the process for creating the current name and brand identity for Helping Hands Respite Care. In addition to being a wonderful marketing consultant, Katie has implemented our sustainable fund raising model. She has become the voice and creator behind the technology and communication aspects related to our excellent electronic newsletter, website, and Facebook page. Katie also single handedly created Kate’s Memory Café, which takes place on the second Sunday of every month at the Adult Day Services program building. She volunteers to facilitate the monthly event and create the agenda for the Memory Café. Katie recently took on the project of soliciting and coordinating volunteers for our Respite House renovation, donating over 50 hours of time over and above her consulting responsibilities. Katie has generated more funds, members, and support from the community all because of her belief in Helping Hands Respite Care.
“Choosing to create and facilitate the Memory Café has been a very personal labor of love. I do it to honor my mother and my father. Mom was the caregiver for Dad as he fought the losses and diminishing awareness that the cruel disease of Alzheimer’s brought on our family,” commented Donovan.

Driving and Dementia

Senior man behind the wheel. We explore driving and dementia

Learn about driving and dementia in the helpful article:

Living with Dementia: When Does Driving Become Unsafe?

By Ava M. Stinnett

A friend or loved one is diagnosed with dementia. Among the many concerns for caregivers and family members is determining when it’s no longer safe for the individual to drive. There are various signs to look for when assessing whether it’s time to give up the car keys; however, something just as important as safety is what the loss of autonomy will mean to your friend or loved one.

Try to imagine what it would be like if you could no longer drive. To most of us, driving means freedom and self-reliance. It’s a natural part of being an adult. Losing the independence that comes with driving may be upsetting. Having to rely on others to get around may feel uncomfortable for the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Keeping all of this in mind, how and when should you intervene?

A family member with dementia often adjusts better if they are involved in discussions about making the transition from driver to passenger. Some people, aware of the risks, will give up driving easily. Others may refuse to discuss the topic of driving, or they may exhibit resentment or anger when you start the conversation. You’ll want to be patient and acknowledge these feelings. The goal is to allow your loved one to maintain the highest level of independence and mobility while avoiding traffic risks. In some cases, it may be necessary to ask a physician or your family attorney to reinforce the message about safe driving.

When first diagnosed, a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s may still possess the skills necessary for safe driving. But because the disease is progressive, eventually driving skills will decrease and they will have to give up driving. Look for some of the following signs that indicate it’s time to limit or stop driving:

  • Loss of coordination getting in and out of the vehicle
  • Difficulty judging distance and space (e.g., parks inappropriately, hits curbs, drifts into other lanes of traffic)
  • Forgetting how to locate familiar places; returning from a routine drive later than usual; unexpected dents in the car
  • Difficulty seeing pedestrians, objects, or other vehicles
  • Making errors at intersections; difficulty with turns, lane changes, or highway exits
  • Failing to observe traffic signs
  • Stops in traffic for no reason
  • Driving at inappropriate speeds
  • Becoming increasingly irritated, confused, or nervous when driving

Once it’s determined that driving poses a hazard on the road, arrange for other forms of transportation such as friends or family members, taxis, public transportation, or special transportation services for older adults. (Note that taxis and public transportation work best for those in the early to middle stages of dementia.) In addition to transportation needs, the Alzheimer’s Association (800-272-3900) and the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116) can help you find local resources and community services for having prescription medicines, groceries, or meals delivered to the home.

Bringing up the topic of turning over the car keys is a process. Over time, caregivers and doctors will need to begin the discussion and may need to return to it several times. Just as critical is knowing whether state laws require doctors to report any medical conditions that may affect their patients’ ability to drive safely. It’s never too soon to start planning a strategy to ease a loved one’s transition to becoming a non-driver.

Volunteer Opportunities at Adult Day Services

Two ladies exploring volunteer opportunities

If your interest is helping older adults, we have some wonderful volunteer opportunities in our Adult Day Services (ADS) program. We are proud to have a program which is a well-planned schedule of individual and group activities which meet the varied needs of our member participants.

We would like to suggest a volunteer opportunity where you and a friend commit to coming on the same day (or days) for at least 3 hour shifts. In this way you will get to know our members better and faster. By committing to a regular schedule you will become a reliable partner in care.

Go to our website www.helpinghandsrespite.care navigate to the Get Involved Tab and go to the Volunteer section in the drop down menu to download the Volunteer Application packet.  Or, email ADS supervisor Alison Sarkozy to request a packet. alison@helpinghandsrespite.care

Meet Leah Gavin – MSW Intern

Leah Gavin shown with ADS member Lucille during end of the day sing-along.

My name is Leah Gavin and I am a native of Detroit, Michigan. I attended Adrian College where I received my Bachelor’s in Social Work in 2015. During my time at Adrian, I realized that I would love to work with older adults. I was able to have my internship at the Lenawee County Department on Aging where I gained experienced in working at adult day services and conducting needs assessments for older adults. After graduation, I moved on to attending Michigan State University’s Advance Standing Masters of Social Work Program. My concentration is in Organization and Community Leadership with a focus in gerontology.

I have always felt interest towards working with older adults. I see that there is great need within the elderly population and I wish to make an impact on helping older adults and families receive the resources and services they need to cope with the many changes in life. I am very passionate about elder abuse prevention, Alzheimer’s disease, and providing programs and services for older adults. I would like to one day start up my own adult day service program and also oversee a non-for-profit agency for older adults in the community.


Leah will be an intern at Helping Hands Respite Care adult day services (ADS) for the 2016-2017 school year. In addition she will gain experience in learning the administrative and leadership aspects of working in an organization.

Benefits of Social Wellness to Seniors

Social Wellness demonstrated with senior interacting with grand children

July is Social Wellness Awareness Month. Social wellness is defined as nurturing yourself by building healthy, supportive relationships with others. Making genuine connections with those around you is critical to physical and psychological health.

Research shows that the physical risks of being socially isolated are comparable to the risks associated with heart disease, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. However, for people with healthy relationships, their heart and blood pressure respond better to stress. Having a healthy social network can also enhance the immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases and speed healing. Maintaining relationships—giving and receiving emotional support—ensures that you have a network of friends, family, and others to turn to in times of need. Why is social wellness important for those with dementia-related diseases and their caregivers?

Benefits of Social Wellness for Memory Care

Perhaps a friend or loved one has displayed intermittent symptoms of mild cognitive decline such as forgetfulness, difficulty driving, word searching, or trouble concentrating and problem solving. Having a group of close friends or family members may help them maintain their independence and adjust to their changing needs. If you’re a caregiver, being able to discuss your concerns with others can provide you with a broader perspective and, perhaps, helpful resources.

In early-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, signs of mental impairment become more visible. It’s not unusual for the person affected by the disease to become moody, to express negative emotions (e.g., anger, frustration, anxiety, depression), or to withdraw socially. A study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that seniors who were housebound or socially isolated were not only more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease but experienced more rapid cognitive decline than seniors who got out and interacted more with others.

According to lead author Bryan D. James, “People who don’t leave their home as much aren’t engaging with their environment and meeting new people. They may not be using their minds as much.” The study does not conclude that social isolation causes Alzheimer’s or dementia; however, it does indicate a potential connection between social isolation and the development of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Social wellness involves being present as the friend, colleague, or loved one learns to navigate the impact of the physical, emotional, and cognitive changes as they occur. It also involves encouraging a loved one’s continued interaction with others.

Written by: Ava Stinnett

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dementia and Using Clocks

Photo of a memory clock - Dementia and using clocks.

Losing Track of Time:The Benefits of Using Clocks for Dementia
An article for the Alzheimer’s Association by Ava M. Stinnett

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? (Dr. Seuss)

What can we learn about dementia and using clocks? We know that aging and dementia-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease can cause confusion, memory loss, and difficulty performing everyday activities. Another symptom of Alzheimer’s disease involves losing track of time, dates, and seasons of the year. As the disease progresses, it may also be more difficult to differentiate between night and day.

Although calendars may help those affected, it’s important to keep in mind that a person with Alzheimer’s not only forgets to look at the calendar but they often forget how to read a calendar. For example, the person with Alzheimer’s might suppose that the sixth day of the month on the calendar refers to the sixth month of the year. When it comes to keeping track of time, a large easy-to-read clock may seem like a good idea. But your loved one may not know how to interpret what the hands on the face of a clock mean. They may ask you repeatedly what day or what time it is, perhaps because they forgot that they’d just asked you.

If a loved one can’t determine what day it is, what year it is, or even what time of day it is, how can they be expected to remember whether they’ve taken the day’s medication or if they have a medical appointment or plans for a visitor to stop by? As caregivers, we may not realize that it’s common for those with Alzheimer’s to feel confused or too embarrassed to admit that they can no longer read or make sense of a calendar, a clock, or a watch.

Fortunately, there are a variety of clocks on the market that are designed specifically to help people with dementia and using clocks. Sometimes referred to as “Alzheimer’s clocks” or “dementia user-friendly clocks,” they help those affected by the disease keep track of dates and times in a way that helps them maintain the routine, structure, and focus they need to ease confusion and anxiety.

When shopping for a clock, look for the following features:
• Clear and simple display of time, day of the week, month, and year
• Images to indicate whether it is morning, afternoon, evening, or night
• Clearly visible at night without being too bright
• Easy to set up
• Tamper-proof buttons to avoid accidental interference

There is an increasing amount of evidence about the benefits of using clocks for dementia. An understanding of the correct time, day, and date can reduce stress and help those with dementia feel less alone or lost in the past. When they are able to stay anchored in the present, independence is improved and, perhaps, they will feel as if they are functioning the same way as everyone else.

Extraordinary Program ADS Value

Participants in Adult Day Services , program ads value to life

Did you know that among the Adult Day Services programs in the State of Michigan there are just a handful that have an on-site nurse? Helping Hands Respite Care is one of those programs. Did you know that because Helping Hands Respite Care Adult Day Services (ADS) has an on-site nurse which means we are capable of offering care to individuals who might not qualify in another program because of complex medical conditions? This means that the Helping Hands Adult Day Program has an average age of participant of 82 years – the oldest in the state.

When you are thinking about an Adult Day Services Program do you ask for the care ratio of caregivers to clients? You may have found care ratios of 5, 6, 7, or even 8 clients to 1 caregiver. At Helping Hands our average caregiver ratio is 3 to 1, and when you factor in volunteers or student interns the ratio is as low as 2 to 1.

Have you been concerned about the cost of transporting your loved one to an Adult Day program? No worries, here at Helping Hands Respite Care we have transportation services available from across Ingham, Eaton and Clinton Counties to our Adult Day Services program. The cost of transportation is included in our fee structure and represents no additional cost to families.

Oh, by the way, were you concerned about the cost of food? Did we mention that Helping Hands is an authorized meal site for the Meals on Wheels program of the Tri-County Office on Aging and the cost of daily meal is baked into our hourly rate?

How this Program ADS Value

So let’s recap the value proposition of Helping Hands Respite Care ADS program:
– On – Site Nurse overseeing and monitoring health of all participants
– More clients with complex health issues may attend
– Average age of participants at Helping Hands ADS is 82, a very young 82.
– Client to Caregiver Ratios at 3 to 1 and often 2 to 1.
– Transportation to ADS program across three counties Ingham, Eaton and Client
No additional cost.
– Nutritious meals daily from the Tri-County Office on Aging Meals on Wheels program
– The hourly rate at Helping Hands ADS program is just $13 per hour, average daily visit is 3 to 5 hours.

Last, but certainly not least, if you have a loved one over the age of 60 , the Helping Hands Respite Care ADS program currently has grant funds available to provide either FREE or reduced cost to participate in the program.

For more on this extraordinary value contact: ADS Supervisor Alison Sarkozy at 372-6671, ext 107 or Alison @helpinghandsrespite.care

Pancakes in the Mail

Stack of pancakes for Pancakes in the Park Free Tickets for Pancakes

Well, not the actual pancakes, but FREE tickets to Pancakes in the Park. Sunday June 12th is the Annual Pancakes in the Park event at Patriarch Park on Alton Rd. in East Lansing. Watch for the park sign off Saginaw Avenue near St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Pancakes in the Park are served from 8am to 1pm.

Free Tickets for Pancakes  in the Park

These tickets come to you compliments of Rotarians John Stauffer and Katie Donovan and several other members of the East Lansing Rotary Club. When you come to the park be sure to take time to experience the new play space. It is handicap accessible and has a soft landing surface. Come to the park, eat some pancakes and have some fun!

Visit play space during Pancakes in the Park

If you missed this letter in the mail, give us a call 372-6671 or stop by for your FREE tickets.

Breaking Barriers Today – Summer Plans

We are gearing up for a busy summer filled with activities at BBT. We have a great team of helping interns and volunteers ready to help a teen or young adult get the most out of summer packed with new activities and special field trips. Learn More or email BBT Supervisor – Kathryn Green.

Because the Breaking Barriers Today program is located at the Gier Community Center we have the ability to take advantage of not only a tremendous facility which gives us lots of room to get active, but also to participate in programs and outings planned by the City Parks and Recreation Director. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to merge our program participants into programs which may include neuro-typical children. Ask your case manager how your child can participate and whether the care plan could be expanded to include time at the Breaking Barriers Today program.

So often we see teens or young adults with a disability languishing in front of a television or feeling a growing sense of isolation. What a difference we can make in their day by having the access and resources to clear a path for them to experience exciting new things.

We have a team of soon-to-graduate Occupational Therapists from Baker Community College who have pledge a significant amount of time to the Breaking Barriers program this summer. More volunteers are also committing time to make participating in a special outing or event a reality.

If you know someone that is searching for something meaningful to do this summer, we would be pleased to have them participate as a volunteer at Breaking Barriers Today. The application process is straightforward and easy to complete. Download a volunteer packet today!

Tri-County Office on Aging – Financial Assistance to Serve More Seniors

New Rate Structure for Adult Day Services. Picture of members playing a game of bingo.

In an effort to serve more seniors we are using the help of the Tri-County Office on Aging to help families cover the cost of care at the Adult Day Services program.

Are you caring for a senior at home? Or do you know a friend, relative or neighbor in a similar position? Whether this is your spouse, parent, or sibling you know the heartbreak of seeing your loved one declining. Every day is precious and yet you find yourself losing steam and are challenged to consistently provide an enriching and engaging environment.

Helping Hands Respite Care provides a robust Adult Day Services (ADS) senior activity program Monday – Friday. The families participating report that their loved ones come home at the end of the day feeling good because they have enjoyed a full day of planned activities, good food and social interaction.

The ADS program is real respite care because it maintains a consistently low ratio of caregivers to participants plus has an on-sight nurse and caregivers with comprehensive training. This means you can relax knowing your loved one is in good hands. Choosing a trustworthy option for care is the first step to improving your quality of life and also for the one in your care.

Financial Support to Serve More Seniors 

If finances are stopping you from exploring this as an option you should know that Helping Hands has a grant from the Tri County Office on Aging which may cover all or part of the costs to attend. The requirements to qualify are easy. Grants cover daily fees, meals, and transportation and range from 100% to 20% OFF. To learn more about qualifying for this financial support download this worksheet.

The best part of the qualifying process for most families is that the costs of household (rent, mortgage, and even maintenance) and transportation costs are deducted from the monthly income qualification. This significantly improves the likelihood of qualifying for financial support for the Adult Day Services program.

Call now to schedule a LEARN MORE visit and experience, 517-372-6671 ext 107 Alison Sarkozy program supervisor. Or email: alison@helpinghandsrespite.care