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FALL 2020

how to stay connected to grandkids during covid-19


protect yourself from coronavirus scams


end loneliness during the pandemic



benefits of aging at home

A message from our CEO

Charlie Young


s the CEO of SYNERGY HomeCare, I’m so proud and moved by all of the heartwarming stories about the families we serve and all of the positive ways we help our clients and their families. The common denominator of these stories is that our clients are happy and safe in their homes that they love. Home care is personal, and I believe many of us share common experiences and feelings; so here is a glimpse as to what the word home means to me. For the past 40 years, my wife and our (now) young adult children lived in New Jersey. Just like you, we celebrated birthdays, holidays, and all of life’s milestones in our home. We recently relocated to Arizona, where SYNERGY HomeCare’s corporate headquarters is located. The transition of leaving our home was and is bittersweet. I miss the little things like playing with our dogs in the backyard and our family time sitting around the fire pit and talking late into the night.

Published by SYNERGY HomeCare four times annually, serving the home care community. For questions, call 877.432.2692 or visit synergyhomecare.com.

table of contents

For most, home is a word that makes us feel comforted, happy, and we celebrate home as our cherished sanctuary. Due to the pandemic, our aging population and people living with underlying health risks may (for now) have an altered perspective of their home; it is still their place of safety, but for so many, it is also a place of loneliness and isolation. I want you to know that SYNERGY HomeCare is a life-line for everyone — of all ages and with all types of needs. Our SYNERGY HomeCare agencies across the country ensure that our professionally trained caregivers maintain safety policies that allow you to safely have a companion that can visit with you as often as you like, and can ensure you maintain a healthy lifestyle.


maintaining relationships with grandchildren during covid -19

Tips for virtual and in-person visits


eight benefits of aging at home with in-home care

Independence is the secret of longevity


avoid loneliness & stay connected in the time of social distancing

Health implications of loneliness

Everyday, our thousands of caregivers bring so much joy and light into our clients’ lives. Working together, you can safely maintain your independence in your home. Our partnership is what will allow you to continue to create new memories in your home. We treat our clients like family, with respect, love, and kindness. The time we spend together is all about you! You will enjoy the activities, hobbies, books, games, and past-times that fill your heart with joy and happiness — you will find that your house will feel like a home again, with more smiles, laughter, and memories too. We wish you and yours the very best of health and happiness. Best Regards,


build resilience during covid -19 pandemic

How we respond to COVID-19 says a lot about our resilience


writing your autobiography

Create a family treasure


climbing a different kind of mountain

True story from a decorated mountain climber

Charlie Young Chief Executive Officer (CEO)


protect yourself from coronavirus scams

Seniors today are better equipped to foil scammers

Maintaining Relationships with grandchildren during COVID-19


lder adults and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of serious complications if they become ill with COVID-19. This has led many older Americans to choose to stay home and avoid contact with others— even their own extended families—to prevent possible exposure to the virus.


Tips for virtual visits While phone calls and video chats are no replacement for hugs and precious time together in person, they can be one of the best ways to stay connected and be a part of your grandchildren’s lives while social distancing. Here are some ways to make these calls more meaningful: . If you’re tech-savvy, do a video chat instead of a phone call. You’ll feel more connected when you see one another’s faces and reactions, and it allows you to see them grow. Try FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp or Google Duo, to name a few. . Include the little ones. Recent research shows that even children a young as 1 and 2 years old can develop a social connection from someone they see and talk with via a video call. . Talk regularly. If you used to see each other weekly, plan to talk weekly. This gives both you and your grandchildren something to look forward to. Schedule a time to talk when you all can relax. . Prepare for your chat. With some advance planning, you can do an art activity together, cook a recipe together or play a game. Send a care package with craft supplies for an upcoming activity together.

Social distancing is hard on everyone, but it can be especially heartbreaking to grandparents who miss their grandchildren and feel they are missing out on watching them grow and being part of their lives. And now more than ever, children and teens need the support of trusted, loving adults in their lives. So what can grandparents do to keep the grandparent-grandchild bond strong while social distancing?

. Read a story. Choose longer books for older children and read a section each time you call. . Do a stress buster. School closings, feelings of isolation and other factors related to the virus have caused stress and anxiety for many children. Walk your grandchildren through a stress-relieving activity. You can find deep breathing exercises, stressrelief coloring pages and other ideas online.



“ Social distancing is hard on everyone, but it can be especially heartbreaking to grandparents who miss their grandchildren. “ 6


. Interview each other. Write a list of 10 questions to ask your grandchildren and have them do the same for you. . Share stories about your life. Get out the photo album and show the grandchildren pictures of their parents when they were kids.

Tips for in-person visits After weighing their personal risk, some grandparents will decide to see their grandchildren in person. Take these suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stay as safe as possible: . Plan something outdoors, such as a walk or a meeting on a porch. The outdoors is generally safer than indoors. Consider activities where social distancing can be maintained, like sidewalk chalk art or yard games. . Wash hands for at least 20 seconds at the beginning and end of the visit. If soap and water are not readily available, such as with outdoor visits or activities, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. . Stay six feet apart from others. . Wear a face covering that covers your nose and mouth. Ask grandchildren over 2 years old to wear one, too. . Avoid close contact. For example, don’t shake hands, elbow bump or hug. Remember that open communication with your loved ones is key. Communicate ground rules with your adult children in advance of any in-person visit. Do not assume that family members have the same comfort level as you—if something concerns you about your safety, let them know.



Eight benefits of

Aging at home with in-home care


. Individualized attention and care. Traditional institutions for caregiving do not compare to the one-on-one attention that in-home care offers. While caregivers are attending to several individuals at once in a facility, in-home caregivers are responsible for one individual. Time, energy, and attention are focused on one person, which provides companionship and improves social interaction— both of which play an essential role in the overall quality of life.

ndependence is a little secret of longevity. Being able to remain in your own home as you age has a multitude of benefits. Plus, it truly eclipses assisted living facilities, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. Sometimes, all you need to remain independent is a caregiver to help with the more difficult daily living areas as often as you need them. The eight top benefits include: . Cost-effectiveness. A study published by the American Journal of Medicine showed that patients who received home care after hospital discharge saved roughly $6,500 over a year and decreased readmission and death risk. For others who require daily assistance, the flexibility of in-home care allows individuals the opportunity to receive part-time, full-time, or respite care.

. Maintain independence. People value their independence, especially those of us who are creeping up in age. Many individuals who require assistance in daily living feel the stress and anxiety of being unable to care for themselves independently. In-home care helps maintain a sense of control over their lives and offers more freedom while still having the support of a caregiver to 8

assist with many tasks and chores that cannot be done otherwise. Those who require less assistance typically opt for in-home care as opposed to reducing their level of independence. . Familiarity. People with Alzheimer’s and dementia function better with familiarity and routine. Being able to stay in the same neighborhood, waking up in the same home, and following the same routines can be valuable to individuals with cognitive disorders.

It makes sense for seniors to remain living in their own homes. These top eight reasons are excellent considerations for every senior to ponder. Living in your own home is wonderful. It is you. But there are times when you struggle with specific daily tasks or even going to the doctor. Driving may be too much for you now. Your laundry may be a dreaded chore, and changing your linens is just too difficult. Don’t let these difficulties get in the way of your independence and happiness. You can supplement your daily living with an in-home caregiver who can tackle the hard stuff and allow you to joyfully live in your own home, independently.

. Maintain connections. Independence is not the only thing that individuals maintain when they receive in-home care. They have the opportunity to maintain relationships and connections with those around them. They can stay involved in spiritual and religious communities, keep connections with local service providers and healthcare professionals, and enjoy their favorite familiar places.

Think of it like this: if your house needs painting, you will hire a painter, right? Well, when you need some help at home, you hire a caregiver. While it may be hard for you to ask for help, once you do, you will be happy and relieved that you did.

. Keep pets. Assisted living facilities, rehab centers, and nursing homes do not allow individuals the opportunity to keep beloved family pets or get new pets. Owning pets can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. Pets also contribute to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and even help improve physical activity. While many caregiving options take away the opportunity to own pets, in-home care can help care for the pet.

Enjoy the home you love and the independence that accompanies it!

“ Sometimes, all you need to remain independent is a caregiver to help with the more difficult daily living areas as often as you need them. ”

. Comfort. Of all of the benefits that in-home care provides, comfort is probably the biggest. Peoples’ homes are a safe place for them, holding security and precious memories. Having that safety and comfort alone can help reduce anxiety and depression. . Reduce caregiver burnout. Family members who are responsible for the care of a loved one often suffer from caregiver burnout. Not only are they responsible for their own families and jobs, but they carry the weight of making sure that their loved one is safe and that their needs are met. In-home care helps take that extraordinary pressure off family members and provides reassurance that their loved ones receive care and remain safe. 9


Avoid loneliness and stay connected in the time of social distancing



fter months of social distancing, being cooped up and separated from loved ones is taking its toll, leaving many people feeling lonely and isolated. But feelings of loneliness can be harmful. Research shows that social isolation and loneliness are major risk factors associated with poor physical and mental health in older adults, and can lead to health issues such as:

“ Research shows that social isolation and loneliness are major risk factors associated with poor physical and mental health in older adults, and can lead to health issues. ”

. Increased blood pressure . Heart disease . Obesity . Diminished immune system functioning . Depression and anxiety . Poor cognitive functioning

Share a skill with others.

. Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Sites like takelessons.com match learners with online instructors who teach music, language, crafts and hobbies, and more. Sign up to be a teacher if you have a skill you’d like to share with others.

To avoid the virus, those who are in higherrisk groups like older adults and those with compromised immune systems, continue to follow distancing recommendations for some time to come. Although you may need to stay physically distant from friends and loved ones, it is still important to maintain social connections with others. How can you stay socially connected, avoid loneliness and isolation, yet still follow recommended guidelines?


To start, be sure to call or chat online with friends and loved ones on a regular basis. Friendships and social support are especially important during a crisis. Make these calls a priority of each day.

Helping others can be a great way to ease loneliness while also reducing stress because of the sense of purpose it provides. There are numerous opportunities for volunteering online: The Smithsonian, for example, has opportunities for digital volunteers, and VolunteerMatch offers a searchable site for opportunities, some of which can be done online. You can also call a local organization to see if there are ways you can help out from your home.

Here are a few additional ideas to help you connect with others that go beyond virtual chats:

Walk with a friend. If after weighing the risk, you determine that you can safely have an in-person meeting with a friend or loved one, consider an outdoor activity like a walk. Wear a mask and keep six feet apart to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus.

Pursue a passion. Have you always wanted to learn an instrument? A language? Many organizations are offering online classes for free or for a heavy discount during the pandemic. It can be a great way to stay busy while also connecting with others. You can search individual universities for free online classes, or go to online learning sites like Coursera and edX, which offer classes from numerous organizations. Classcentral.com keeps a list of free online learning opportunities.

Maintaining relationships and staying connected to others takes extra effort during this time of social distancing, but it is important for your health and well-being. If at any time you are feeling overwhelming sadness or anxiety, talk to your health care provider.



Build Resilience during COVID-19 pandemic


here’s no doubt about it: The COVID-19 pandemic is stressful. Worries about getting sick, concern for loved ones, feelings of isolation, financial uncertainty, loss of support services and school closings can all contribute to anxiety and increased stress.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress during an infectious disease outbreak can cause: . Changes in sleep or eating patterns . Difficulty sleeping or concentrating . Worsening of chronic health or mental health problems . Increased use of tobacco, alcohol or other substances


Everyone reacts differently to the stress of the pandemic, and how we respond has a lot to do with our resilience. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.

. Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting.

Resilience can help us get through difficult times, but it’s not something that we are born with. It is built over time, and you can learn how to increase it. The American Psychological Association (APA) compares increasing resilience to building a muscle—it takes time and intentionality.

. Practice mindfulness. Journaling, yoga and meditation, for example, can help restore hope, making you more equipped to manage stress in a healthy way.

Resilience-building tips So what can we do to build resilience during the COVID-19 crisis? The CDC and the APA suggest the following: . Identify those things which you do not have control over. Do the best you can with the resources available to you. Remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation with limited resources. . Increase your sense of control by developing a consistent daily routine when possible— ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Take breaks from work. Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing. If you work from home, set a regular time to end your work for the day, if possible. Make time for things you enjoy. . Accept change. Accept that things are going to be different for some time and that change is a part of life. . Know the facts about COVID-19. Understanding the risk and how to protect yourself and others can reduce stress. . Remind yourself that each of us has a crucial role in fighting this pandemic.


. Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns, how you are feeling or how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you. . Check on others. Helping others improves your sense of control, belonging and self-esteem. . Learn from your past. What was helpful to you in previous times of stress? Can you apply any of those strategies to this situation? You may already have more resilience strategies than you realize.

When to seek help Call your health care provider if your stress or anxiety becomes overwhelming, gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row or if you feel you may be misusing alcohol or other drugs, including prescription drugs, as a means of coping.

“ Everyone reacts differently to the stress of the pandemic, and how we respond has a lot to do with our resilience. ”


Writing your autobiography:

A guide for seniors

“ Along with the sentimental value, the challenge of writing an autobiography and expressing thoughts in writing can provide therapeutic benefits to older adults. �



Categorize events and themes of your life – You do not have to structure your autobiography from beginning to end. You don’t have to create a timeline. If you want to, you can. But it’s best to start by grouping information in an outline. Here is an example:

eniors have a lifetime of experiences, memories, and wisdom to share. They have lived through historical events and hold personal sentiment for friends and family members that their loved ones have no memories of, or only a few. For many seniors, writing an autobiography is a chance to pass on their family history and anecdotes to future generations. The information shared in an autobiography is an attempt for seniors to connect their children and their grandchildren to the past and their ancestors. Along with the sentimental value, the challenge of writing an autobiography and expressing thoughts in writing can provide therapeutic benefits to older adults. It can relieve stress and depression, and according to U.S. News, “writing about emotionally charged subjects also can improve mental health, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, major depressive disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans.”

So how can you get started? Writing an autobiography is a big event. The hardest part is getting started. You have a lifetime of memories and experiences that you want to share, but how do you organize them in a way that is readable and makes sense? Make a definite plan – The first thing you need to decide is how to get your story out of your mind and on paper. There are so many options! If you struggle with computers and writing with a pencil, the choice is not off the table. You can use a voice recorder and speak your story to have it transcribed later onto paper. You can produce video recordings. You can ask a family member to help with getting your thoughts in order. Whichever way you need to do it, you can! Finding and organizing the memories – Gather everything you can find. Photos, letters, newspaper clippings, souvenirs, anything that can trigger memories about your life and your journey. Talk to old friends and family members to relive certain moments with them. Look up information about historical events during your lifetime and think about what you were doing during those times. Explore your past daily routines. There may be a lot of research during this portion of writing your autobiography, but it is a beautiful journey.

a. My Parents b. Life In New York c. How I Found Dance d. My Spiritual Foundation e. Children and Parenting f. Finding Love g. Losing Love h. Happiest Childhood Memories i. Family Traditions Each category provides detail, dates, personal reflections, the political world at that time, your financial state, and family dynamics. Describe what your relationships were life, what you were afraid of, what helped you overcome hardships, and what led you to become the person you are. Explore yourself – Ask yourself questions throughout the autobiography. You can even add a category called Writing Prompts. You can go back and add these in different sections of your autobiography as you see fit, or the answers to your questions can be its section altogether. You might ask yourself: “What was I taught about religion and spirituality?” “Who was the person I most admired?” “Do I have any regrets, and would I do anything differently?”

“What was my childhood home like?” “Do any smells, songs, or sights trigger memories in your life?” Don’t think that you are alone – There are so many resources available to people who want to write. There are courses, books, and groups that provide support and valuable resources to those who want to learn how to write a memoir. You can learn more about the writing process, gather ideas from others who have moved forward in their autobiographical endeavors, receive feedback from other writers and readers, and find help organizing your own story in a creative and riveting written format.



Climbing a different kind of mountain


ugust 30, 2020, was a day to mark in the books for the CareTEAM at SYNERGY HomeCare of Portland and their client, Bruce. The Portland team threw their first social distancing party to celebrate Bruce, as he was presented with the prestigious Mazama’s Leuthold Award.

As a Mazama climbing organization member, Bruce is one of fewer than 20 people to be honored with this award since 1894 when the organization was founded. The Leuthold Award is the highest honor to be bestowed upon a climb leader by the Mazama Climbing Committee. Recipients must have successfully led official Mazama climbs of all 16 major Northwest peaks and selflessly contributed countless hours supporting the Mazama’s mission and preservation activities.

As an accomplished climber who lives for his time climbing and hiking, Bruce has been tackling a new kind of mountain this past year. The former veterinarianturned-software developer suffered two severe strokes at the end of last year. The neurological trauma left him with impairments, both physical and cognitive.

additional concern for Bruce and his family, knowing that his immune system is highly compromised. Going to weekly therapy and doctor’s appointments could be risky. The staff at Providence St. Vincent Hospital in Portland, OR, where Bruce was treated, recommended that Bruce’s family reach out to SYNERGY HomeCare of Portland to help care for Bruce at home. Cynthia Karel and Laurie Harness, who provide leadership for the agency, explain, “Because it is the Portland office’s regular practice to form small, dedicated CareTEAMs for each client, we were uniquely positioned when COVID-19 hit, to implement a continuum of care for Bruce and all our clients, using the same CareTEAM members each day, to help ensure the health and safety of our clients and staff.” Agency owner Bill Merriman concurs that the

His family, who resides on the east coast, was concerned about his ability to stay in his home and manage daily tasks due to the cognitive damage he sustained. They were also concerned about him having to navigate the stairs, as he was now a high fall risk. Most concerning was his limited ability to communicate verbally in the event of an emergency. Additionally, right after Bruce was released to come home, COVID-19 hit. The pandemic became an


Laurie and Cynthia believe that whole-person care is multi-faceted, and a key component of that is proper nutrition. They reached out to their team of registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) from CORE Nutrition Counseling and went to work to create a customized nutrition plan for Bruce. Once his nutrition program was in place, the Portland crew handled meal planning, coordinated in-home grocery delivery with Bruce’s family, and had their CareTEAM prepare fresh, daily meals for Bruce, which had an immediate positive effect on his overall health and emotional wellness. As part of his care plan, Bruce’s caregivers drove and accompanied him to weekly therapy appointments at Providence and worked with him on a daily in-home therapy program, directed and monitored by his doctors and therapists. Bruce began to make considerable strides in his recovery. In addition to his daily physical therapy, Bruce incorporated daily walks into his routine. He quickly graduated from using his walker to a cane, and most recently, a walking stick. He now walks fast, often leaving his caregivers in the dust. Members of Mazama have also gotten in on the act. They have created a weekly hiking schedule tailored to Bruce’s abilities and approved by his medical team. Bruce’s CareTEAM members accompany him on all his hikes, and he is thrilled to be back in his element.

effectiveness of the small, dedicated CareTEAMs has been instrumental in Bruce’s recovery. In response to Bruce’s situation, Portland’s leadership team immediately assembled a highly experienced CareTEAM to work with Bruce. “We understand that in addition to basic companionship and personal care education, to provide the highest quality of care for clients with serious medical issues, we must provide our caregivers with special training to best work with our clients who have medical conditions, in this case, neurotrauma or disease.”

Bruce’s greatest and most important success to date is the stride he has made in regaining his verbal abilities. From not being able to verbalize his thoughts to speaking words that can be understood, and now being able to string more words together to make simple sentences, Bruce is truly making progress. This has not been an easy task - requiring months of dedication from both Bruce and his Portland CareTEAM - and we are far from done. Bruce’s difficult journey has taken nine months of hard work, including some minor medical setbacks. Through constant monitoring and adjustments, Bruce benefits from small wins each week that allow his SYNERGY CareTEAM and his medical team at Providence to make necessary changes each week and renew his goals while keeping him motivated.

Portland’s CareTEAM specialists worked side by side with Providence St. Vincent’s physical and occupational therapists and Bruce’s speech pathologist to support Bruce’s comprehensive in-home recovery program.

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Bruce, and we are excited to be a part of his journey.



Protect yourself from

Coronavirus Scams S

tay alert regarding these top three coronavirus scams that can arrive in your inbox or via a telephone call:

. Emails selling fake COVID-19 cures . Phone calls offering free masks in exchange for Medicare numbers . Fake contact tracers requesting money As coronavirus cases continue to rise, so do the number of scams related to the virus, many of which target older adults. These are just a few of the coronavirus-related scams preying on people’s fear of the virus and financial uncertainties.

. Scams targeting your Social Security benefits. Any communication that says the Social Security Administration will suspend or decrease your benefits due to COVID-19 is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email or phone call.

Scams to watch out for Knowing what scams are out there is the first step to avoid one. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, and Federal Trade Commission report the following coronavirus-related scams to look out for:

. Medicare scams. Some Medicare beneficiaries have reported getting phone calls offering “COVID Wellness Kits” with supplies like hand sanitizer or face masks in exchange for personal Medicare information. Medicare will never call you to sell you anything.

. Scams offering COVID-19 vaccine, cure, air filters or testing. At this time, there is no vaccine or cure for the virus. If you receive a call or email to sell you one, it is a scam. . Fake coronavirus-related charity scams. Scammers may pose as a fake charity that sounds real. If you are considering donating to a charity, choose one on your own rather than responding to a request.

. Contact tracer scams. A real contact tracer will only ask you for your name, address, health information and the names of places and people you have visited. A fake contact tracer may ask you for financial information or payment.

. “Person in need” scams. Some scammers will send emails pretending to be a friend or relative claiming to be ill and requesting money. If you receive an email or text, call your loved one on the phone to verify it was really them. If you get a phone call making such a request, hang up, and call your loved one’s phone number yourself.

. Undelivered goods scams. Scammers are selling products in high demand like cleaning supplies and medical supplies, but not delivering the goods. Before making an online purchase, check out sellers by searching for the company’s name online. Pay by credit card, and keep a copy of your transaction. 18

Tips to protect yourself from scams Never give your Social Security, bank account or credit card number to anyone who contacts you—not even if they say they’re from the government.

How to report suspected scams

If someone calls and asks for your Medicare information, hang up. Medicare will only call you if you’ve called and left a message or if a representative said that someone will call you back.


If you come across any scams or suspicious claims, report them to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint


Report Social Security scams to the SSA Inspector General online at oig.ssa.gov


Report suspicious activities by calling 1-800-MEDICARE 1-800-633-4227

Ignore offers for vaccinations, and be wary of ads for home test kits. Some test kits being advertised have not been approved by the FDA, and aren’t necessarily accurate. Never donate money in cash, by gift card or by wiring money. Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person who contacted you. Do not give money or personal financial information to someone claiming to be a contact tracer. Legitimate contact tracers need health information; they will not ask for payment or financial information. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right to you, say no.



Give the gift of care .

Why it’s important to plan now As the holidays approach, you’re thinking about how to make all your plans come together. Sometimes, this means giving the gift of home care to your loved ones who you would otherwise have to manage while you’re busy preparing for the holidays. Let us do the caring while you do the preparing. Make this holiday season the best with the gift of home care.

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SYNERGY HomeCare Magazine | Fall 2020