2018 Senior Games

Exactly What do you Need to Fix Yourself?

Before you begin your journey to wellness, you need to be clear about where you want to go! If you just say something fluffy like, “I want to feel healthier,” you need to dive deeper because casual intention won’t get you there. Goals need to be more specific. For instance, if you’re overweight, your goal (or one of them) will probably be to lose a certain amount of weight. If you get tired at lunchtime and drag yourself around all day long, you’ll probably want more sustained energy. If you’re in pain, you’ll definitely want to reduce inflammation and get rid of the pain, preferably without drugs.

You can start right now to fix the things you want to change. Whatever you strongly visualize as the newer, younger, healthier version of yourself can come true. You need to want it badly enough to be willing to work for it. It takes a can-do attitude and a warrior spirit because you’ll most likely be needing to break some very old habits.

Don’t let your age be a cover-up for inaction. Never act your age and especially don’t use it as an excuse. “I’m XX years old, so of course I can’t do that.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” “I’m doing pretty well for my age.” We’ve all heard them, over and over and over. Defining yourself by your age can be your downfall. If you’re too old to do anything new, you’ll stagnate and likely slip into the health problems you have learned to expect with age. So never say “I’m too old.” Take those three little words right out of your vocabulary.

True stories of a few people I know…

I have a friend from Camp Hill who has been running at least three miles a day for over 30 years, rain or shine. Incredibly, he’s never missed a day! He’s now in his 70’s, thinks he’s a kid, and has no intention of stopping.

While visiting Key West, I watched a man in his mid-80’s walk unassisted and unprotected on a 30 foot long tightrope, 15 feet above the ground. Since I teach balance classes, I know how incredibly difficult this is, especially since everyone knows that people “lose their balance as they age.” He did his tightrope walk most evenings to entertain the crowds, and so far hasn’t fallen off. Maybe nobody ever told him he was too old to balance.

Two friends of mine who happen to take my classes are the picture of health and act like they’re half their age. One rides horses, mucks their stables, and feeds them – all year long. The other is a walker and teaches dyslexic kids as well as English as a Second Language classes. What do they have in common besides a zest for life (and no meds) — they’re both about the turn 80!

The lesson … don’t allow your age to define you and hold you back. You CAN learn new things and create positive change. Too many people get motivated to improve their health a little late, like when the doctor reads them the riot act or when they collapse on the floor and have to be carted off to the emergency room. Don’t you wait for that cataclysmic event to start your fix. Get started now!

Next time we’ll talk about the first steps you can take to clean up your diet. Till then, think hard about your goals.


Written by: Susan Charles, MS Pennsylvania State University and Messiah Lifeways Guest Blogger. After working for 25 years in sales and marketing for IBM and Lexmark, Susan undertook a second career in Wellness with a degree in holistic nutrition along with many fitness certifications with an emphasis on older adult exercise. Her new passion has formed the foundation for public speaking, writing, counseling, and exercise teaching as a second career. 

Who am I?

Introducing Susan Charles, MS Pennsylvania State University and Messiah Lifeways Guest Blogger

After working for 25 years in sales and marketing for IBM and Lexmark, Susan undertook a second career in Wellness with a degree in holistic nutrition along with many fitness certifications with an emphasis on older adult exercise. Her new passion has formed the foundation for public speaking, writing, counseling, and exercise teaching as a second career. Let’s hear a little bit from Susan and what she has in store for our readers.

I’m a new blogger for Messiah Village. I’m 70 years old, live in Hampden Township, and have seven grandchildren. I am healthy as a horse, and whatever I share in this blog, I have tried myself. I just hate it when people preach about things they read on the internet but haven’t made any effort to find out if they really work. You can call me Wellness Grandma because the things we’ll cover will include wide-ranging “wellness” topics. Some examples are purpose-driven living, healthy holistic nutrition, getting in shape for travel, keeping your mind sharp as you age, and much more.

Why am I writing about these things? I feel like my life is fabulous right now, and I revel in getting up every morning with energy and enthusiasm. I strongly believe all of us can do better and sometimes a little guidance helps. I just returned from 12 days of hiking very rigorous trails in the Himalayas, and last fall I went scuba diving with hundreds of sharks, rays and barracudas in Bora Bora. I feel great all the time and take no meds. Although I have lots of academic credentials, I think the results speak louder than the words of advice found in scholarly articles or just about everywhere. I live the life of wellness and love every minute of it. It has paid off very well, and I am enthusiastic to share some of the insights I’ve learned along the way. My goal is to be able to help you create a better version of yourself.

In future blogs, I hope to be able to have online discussions and make this information more interesting and helpful for you! So, let’s get started…

At Messiah Village you hear about embracing life more fully, which is something I hope all my readers would like to do. This blog will generate ideas offering concrete suggestions about how to fully embrace life and improve your overall wellbeing. There will be lots of wide-ranging topics and suggestions. For example, we will discuss things about how to keep your mind sharp, how to create more energy, how to make healthier food choices, and lots more. Hopefully, you’ll want to incorporate some of these suggestions into your daily life.

Let’s get started

Healthy eating is a perfect place for us to start. In terms of results. It offers terrific odds for success because a positive change in eating habits will make you look and feel better than just about any other single thing you can do.

It’s easy to form bad eating habits, and most of us do. Many fast foods, sweet foods, fried foods, and greasy foods taste incredibly good, and so we eat them regularly. Replacing them with healthy food is a process that takes some knowledge of better options and (you will probably hate this word) willpower.

The word willpower has gotten a bad rap in the food world because of its association with dieting. But we won’t use it to mean starving yourself like some half-crazed person on a low calorie diet who beats themselves up later because they couldn’t stick with it. In fact, that kind of dieting is virtually guaranteed to fail. We’ll elaborate on this whole issue in the future because it’s worth a bit of digging in.

What we mean by willpower is about developing a willingness, and later a preference, to reach for a piece of fruit instead of a junk food snack in the middle of the afternoon. Soon we’ll dive into topics such as how to get off processed foods, a mighty hurdle but critical to success. We’ll talk about the (boring?) topic of eating your veggies and loving them, which actually doesn’t have to be boring at all.

I hope you will follow this blog. Right now, just take my word for it; the dividends for making the effort will be well worth your trouble.

Stay tuned for future blog entries as Susan shares her insight, energy and adventures – helping to “Change the Conversation About Aging and Wellness.”

The Intern Experience

Get to Know Me

…My name is Eliese Bjerke, and this fall I will be a senior at Messiah College located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania! I’m currently in the process of earning my Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Development and Family Science and minor in Gerontology. Now you may be wondering what on earth is Gerontology? Have no fear, I will explain. Gerontology is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary study of the aging process as well as the difficulties that, at times, coincide with it. Courses generally encompass a combination of biology, psychology and sociology. Often times, Gerontology gets confused with geriatrics, but let me remind you, they are quite different. Geriatrics tend to hone in on medical conditions and diseases within aging, whereas Gerontology is the overarching umbrella looking at the multi-faceted aspects of aging.

Why I Love Gerontology

For a long time, I knew I wanted to help individuals and their families, but how and in what way was still undetermined. However, by the time my grandmother moved in with my family, I grew more and more intrigued by the aging process. I watched for years as my mother was her primary caregiver; administering and overseeing her medications, taking her to doctors’ appointments, bathing her and really just tending to her every need. Whatever my grandmother needed, my mother was present. When my grandmother’s health started to decline, the living arrangements became even more complicated; and after her first, second and third fall, changes were in order. I knew the changes were difficult on everyone. However, I was still acquiring an interest in how to be the best caregiver alongside my mother. By the time I entered my sophomore year of college, I knew I just had to get into this field of study. Gerontology was waiting for me. When my grandmother passed away last year, I felt as though the tables were turning. Now, it was my time to make others feel loved and cared for the way that I saw my mom nurture her mother. It’s truly inspiring. Realizing everyone deserves to be loved like family is a concept that I hold on to dearly; furthermore, understanding that you have the capability of promoting and maintaining quality of life and dignity for older adults just makes serving these individuals all the more rewarding.

 From Messiah College to Messiah Lifeways

So first, how did I manage to get involved in this wonderful community? As I previously mentioned, I attend Messiah College, and this provides me with the opportunity to be involved in several courses that engage fully with my career aspirations such as Gerontology. This past semester, I completed the Sociology of Aging course and in this, we are required to fulfill an Experiential Learning Initiative (ELI). One ELI is required in order to graduate. This activity can take place in many shapes in forms. For instance, students can either earn their ELI through practicums or internships, service learning, off-campus programs, leadership opportunities and/or assisting with undergraduate research. This encourages students to engage in a meaningful guided process that will foster willingness to challenge one’s learning, and then transition to adequately applying and strategically integrating former knowledge of the experience in an authentic context.

All this to say, the Sociology of Aging course taught by Dr. Raeann Hamon was uniquely designed to make a way for students to actively engage with older adults and to develop a relationship with them over the course of the semester, which then may turn into a long-lasting connection. That was my first encounter with Messiah Lifeways. A student and I were presented with a couple that was situated in the residential level of care. Our time spent with the residents included: volunteering with transporting residents from physical therapy, assisting with a community garden, and then spending time interviewing each of the spouses individually about a major life event that they encountered, writing about it in creative manner, and then at the end of the semester presenting them with their story.

As cliché as this may sound, the moment I drove onto the campus of Messiah Lifeways, I was blown away. It exceeded my expectations tremendously. When I think of retirement or aging, my mind takes me back to when my grandmother used to live in a rehabilitation center or nursing home, and I think somewhat pessimistically. Yes, most of the places where my grandmother ended up were fairly nice, but it didn’t have the outspoken community atmosphere that I encountered when volunteering with the residents where everyone had a smile on their face and held an attitude that just seemed to say “I care for you.”

It’s All about Learning

If I’m being honest, beginning an internship sounded like the most terrifying experience in the world. I had finally gotten somewhere in life. I had an opportunity to showcase my education and my skill set. Over the span of my internship, there was a lot to be learned; such as, speaking professionally and with etiquette. You don’t speak to your supervisor the same way you speak to your friends and even your parents for that matter. I was able to be involved in a couple of networking events alongside the community liaison at Messiah Lifeways, which was also a valuable time for me to develop good listening and communication skills. Being a relatively shy person did present itself with some challenges, but as I’ve learned, it’s better to be bold than to hide in the shadows. How is anyone going to know who you are and what you have to offer if you don’t do so? My internship covered a vast amount of information that would take more than five pages of writing to summarize so I will try my absolute hardest to condense it as best as I can.

Over the course of my internship, I was able to meet the admissions coordinator, director of admissions, social workers from both enhanced living and nursing care, activity coordinators in residential, enhanced living (Personal Care) and nursing care, director of marketing, events coordinator, director of Adult Day at Messiah Lifeways, director of Mechanicsburg Place located in central Mechanicsburg as well as the pastors in the department of pastoral ministries, the director of wellness, the director of Messiah Lifeways At Home (Home Care), and many others. My experience was extremely heart felt. I sensed a lot of joy and pride in what each of the team members was extending to the community. More than that, working alongside a group of co-workers that were tightly knit as friends made coming in every morning something I looked forward to rather than nervous or fearful. The environment was kind and inviting… It’s nice to see how easily team members transition from their work to simply laughing together and getting to know one another better. Something else that added to that community feel was the simple statement of saying “hi” to a person passing by; it didn’t have to matter if you knew them or not, you just simply did it because you wanted to. As I’ve learned, who knows what another person is walking through, maybe a simple “hello” or “how are doing” is just what they need to brighten up their day. It’s so obvious to see the love in these people’s hearts, and that’s something that I will always admire about Messiah Lifeways.

A Word of Thanks

I first and foremost wanted to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor Matthew Gallardo, the Director of Community Engagement and Coach as well as a Certified Retirement Options Coach at Messiah Lifeways. He has taught me what it truly means to be a servant of the Lord. Something that I found to be particularly neat and wonderful about his coaching position is that when it comes down to the heart of it, coaching is essentially helping individuals and their families navigate [all the many options and resources] for their loved one. There is nothing that can prevent someone from utilizing this service; it is free and caters to the general public despite their race, color, financial state, familial status, disability or national origin. Furthermore, he can make referrals to other CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities), nursing homes, assisted care living homes, etc. This job isn’t intended to persuade clients to move directly to Messiah Lifeways. It’s about what’s best for them and their family, whatever they may choose. Mr. Gallardo, thank you for your time and effort. Thank you for providing me with a wonderful educational experience that has helped me develop skills and connections for my future career.

Non-Financial Retirement Planning and Readiness (Coach’s Corner Episode 4)

How much thought have you given to your non-financial retirement planning? There are numerous aspects to consider when planning for your retirement, besides just determining whether you have enough saved up. Listen to our retirement planning coach’s thoughts on the subject by listening to the podcast below, and read on for a transcription!

INTRO: You’re listening to the Coach’s Corner, your trusted source for advice and insight on aging well. Lifeways coach Matt Gallardo has been working in the long-term care industry for nearly 20 years. During his career he has helped thousands of individuals and their families on the journey of aging. His diverse experience, from hospital and rehab settings to senior housing, allows him to share a balanced perspective on aging, along with unique solutions for helping individuals proactively and purposely plan for the future.

And now, here’s your host, Matt Gallardo.

COACH MATT GALLARDO: Hello, this week we’re going to talk about retirement readiness. And I’ll be talking about being prepared in a different manner. First, did you know we’re living in an unprecedented time? We’re all living longer, healthier lives. And the number of people over the age of 65 is as large as it’s ever been in human history.

And that number continues to swell, because over the next 20 years or so nearly 76 million baby boomers will retire. Now that equates to nearly 10 thousand boomers turning 65 every single day until the year 2029 and the leading edge of the baby boom started retiring in 2011. Pretty astounding.

We’ve also come to realize that this group of retirees does not view retirement like previous generations, they don’t see it as an ending but as a transition to a new, exciting phase of life. More and more of them are living 10, 20, even 30 years after they retire. It’s really becoming the new normal.

Therefore, many are or should be looking for better ways to achieve and live their retirement dreams. They should be striving for a more meaningful, purposeful and productive life after their mid-60’s.

But here’s the problem, we often hear that many people spend more time planning a 2-week vacation than they do for their retirement. Now I’m not talking about financial planning. I think it’s fair to say that more resources and time is spent to financially plan for the future. But almost just as important are the number of other aspects of life that are impacted by retirement.

For instance, where will you find purpose and meaning in retirement? How will you handle changing relationships with family and friends? Or what is your plan to satisfy the desire for personal growth and development? What about health concerns, and where do you plan to live?

Again, financial planning for retirement is extremely important to answer questions like, how much will you need to fund leisure time during retirement? Or how much will you need to live on day to day? How much will you need for medical care? And finally, what will be left behind for your family?

But for today’s podcast, let’s focus on non-financial retirement planning. How much thought have you really given to that? I’d say a more popular question regarding retirement is do I have enough money, let’s say for the next 20 years, but your next question should be, what will I do to keep busy, healthy and engaged for the next 20 years.

Part of the secret to a successful retirement is having the insight, tools, and resources to renew and recreate yourself in a phase of life that is no longer determined by your weekly nine-to-five schedule. Initially this sounds great, but in reality it’s very challenging and disheartening for many retirees. Some people lose their sense of identity, their motivation, or their sense of direction or purpose.

Let’s take a doctor for example, let’s say after 40 years of a busy medical practice and a 70-hour work week, that doctor retires. Now I’m sure he’ll have plenty of leisure activities on his or her bucket list but what will fill the void after that? Or fill the need of helping others? Now some people have this figured out, but many are still searching for the right answers.

Another example, let’s say a person retires from a job that they never really felt fulfilled. And now they are retired and they want to try something new or they want to learn more, or they want to live a healthier lifestyle. What will retirement look like to them? Or how about a newly retired husband and wife who love each other but don’t necessarily want to spend every waking moment of the day with each other. What if their health and wellness becomes an issue?

As you can tell, there are a lot of “what if’s” and uncertainties, and finances is not the only issue that warrants pre-planning. Like I mentioned earlier, part of a successful retirement is having the tools and resources to renew and rediscover yourself at this point in your life. So, in a continual effort by Messiah Lifeways Coaching, to change the conversation about aging and to explore and plan for the future, I’m really pleased to announce a new service called retirement options coaching.

This new program is here to help retirees plan for the next phase of life by assessing, focusing and guiding retirees through what we call a life options profile. This concentrates on six key life arenas: career and work, health and wellness, finance and insurance, family and relationships, leisure and social, and finally personal development. I recently become certified as retirement options coach, and I’ll administer the life options profile and will evaluate these six areas that I mentioned, and I’ll provide a personal, practical and relevant self portrait of one’s lifestyle needs.

I’m really looking forward to offering this program to retirees and those on the verge of retirement. If you want to learn more about this valuable program, its costs, or to schedule an appointment, please call the coaching office at 717-591-7225 or email me at coach@messiahlifeways.org. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, head on over to iTunes and hit the subscribe button to the Coach’s Corner podcast and never miss an episode. Or if you have an idea or topic you’d like me to cover please email me at coach@messiahlifeways.org. Thanks for listening and until next time, age well.

Safeguarding Your Identity: Tips for Seniors

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, with a majority of it occurring online. Today, with technology and social media becoming increasingly advanced, it can be a challenge to stay safe. What can you do to prevent identity theft and fraud? Keep reading for additional information regarding this topic.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone steals and poses dishonestly as another person by using their name and their personal information without direct permission of that individual for fraudulent purposes. Such examples include: Investment Fraud, Credit Card Fraud, Passport Fraud, Telephone Fraud, Tax Fraud, Mail Theft as well as Social Security Number Misuse. The penalties for identity theft in Pennsylvania can vary depending on the total value of possessions allegedly obtained by using false identification. Plus a fine could range anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 along with jail time from 5 years up to 10 years, yet the problem persists.

Who Is At Risk?

We are all at risk, but due to the “booming” senior population, especially in states like Pennsylvania, seniors unfortunately make up a large percentage of these victims. They’re targeted for a number of reasons. First, they may be struggling with cognitive impairments such as dementia or memory loss, which can then impair their decision-making. Also, thieves may prey on them because of loneliness and isolation. So when a senior sees “someone in need” or that person is seeking their attention, it can reel them right in. Additionally, many grew up in an era where a hand shake or someone’s word meant a lot and therefore may be more trusting than they should be. Lastly, as technology evolves, thieves have become more hi-tech, so online information is becoming much easier to steal and because many older adults aren’t as tech savvy, they may unknowingly leave themselves open for these types of attacks.

How Can I Prevent Identity Theft?

To help prevent theft and fraud, you should consider a few of these precautionary steps. First, be careful creating usernames, passwords and/or Personal Identification Numbers (PIN). Do not use birth dates, Social Security numbers, your email address, or words, names or phrases that might be easy to guess. Use a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Second, if you have financial paperwork lying around that contains personal information, shred these documents before disposing them. It seems like such a silly step to take yet, it can make all the difference in the world. Third, safeguard your Social Security number as though your life depends on it because in a way, it does. Do not keep your Social Security number in your wallet, purse or handbag. In fact, don’t even write your SSN on a check, as this can put you at risk. Lastly, refrain from exchanging sensitive information through the mail, over the internet, through the phone or on other social media unless you specifically know the person you are dealing with and you are aware of why they are in need of this information.

Also around tax season, there have been a number of “IRS” scams stating they owe money and if they do not pay immediately you’ll be jailed or fined. This is a scam. The Internal Revenue will not contact you via social media, phone call or email. If they need to reach you, it will be by letter.

What Do I Do If I Suspect Identity Theft is Occurring?

One of the best things to do if you are suspicious is to be vigilant and proactive. The longer you wait, the more damage can be caused and thus the more money you can lose. The next thing you might be wondering is who do I contact? That depends. Based on the type of identity theft that is occurring, there are different organizations that are specifically geared towards eliminating that issue of identity theft and/or fraud. For instance, in order to contact someone about tax fraud, contact the Internal Revenue Service (www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection). On the other hand, if you’re dealing with mail theft, you may want to contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov).

Here are some additional resources to contact if you are in need of further assistance regarding identity theft and/or fraud. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. So if you are having any kind of inkling of this occurring, then please reach out to someone!

  • Investment fraud – Contact the U.S. Securities and Exchange commission at sec.gov.
  • Mail theft – Contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at postalinspectors.uspis.gov
  • Passport fraud – Contact the U.S. Department of State at passports.state.gov
  • Telephone fraud – For cellular phones and long distance service, contact the Federal Communications Commission at fcc.gov/complaints or at 1-88-TELL-FCC or write FCC/Consumer Information Bureau, 445 12th Street, Room 5A863, Washington, D.C. 20554
  • Social Security Number misuse – Contact http://oig.ssa.gov/report or call 1-800-269-0271, fax 1-410-597-0118 or write SSA Fraud Hotline, P.O. Box 17768, Baltimore, MD 21235
  • Tax fraud – Contact the Internal Revenue Service at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection or call at 1-800-908-4490

Written by: Eliese Bjerke, Messiah Lifeways Coaching and Community Engagement Student Intern (Messiah College)


Carlisle Adult Day Center is enrolling new clients

The National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA) defines Adult Day programs as “a professional care setting in which older adults and adults living with dementia…receive individualized therapeutic, social, and health services for some part of the day.”

Carlisle Adult Day clients enjoy gardening with the Master Gardeners from Penn State.

Messiah Lifeways Adult Day services go above and beyond in providing a positive, nurturing programming to meet a variety of needs in clients, especially those with a dementia diagnosis. Music, art, exercise, gardening, service projects, a hot lunch, special events… everything is geared towards socialization and maintaining the cognitive and physical abilities of each client. We don’t dwell on what has been lost; we focus on what is still possible.

We’re also keenly aware of the difficulties facing caregivers in Central Pennsylvania. Adult children need to continue working, devoted spouses become weary with caregiver burnout, families and neighbors feel ill-equipped to help. Adult Day programs like ours provide a safety net – a safe haven – for the clients and their loved ones. The Messiah Lifeways Adult Day programs are also strongly connected to the Alzheimer’s Association which adds an extra layer of support through training, resources, and caregiver support groups that help the entire family.

If someone you love is unable to stay safely at home during the work week due to memory impairment or another age-related concern or you know someone who would benefit from the services at a Messiah Lifeways Adult Day Services, please feel free to help spread the word. Some additional points of interest about Messiah Lifeways Adult Day programs:

• They’re secured and thoroughly equipped to put the caregiver’s mind at ease.
• They employ team members, including several Registered Nurses, who are well trained in therapeutic programming, validation and remotivation therapy, and more.
• Focus on the client – their memories, their interests, their hobbies, to make each day meaningful and positive.
• May help to reduce the unwanted behaviors that sometimes challenges families and caregivers.

Our Mechanicsburg Center is currently on a waiting list but our Carlisle Center does have openings. Melissa Brandt, the Carlisle Center Coordinator would welcome the opportunity to give tours and talk about the admission process with anyone who is interested. The Carlisle Adult Day program is located at The Meeting House, Carlisle Campus, 1155 Walnut Bottom Road.

Melissa can be reached at: 717-243-0447 or via email at mbrandt@messiahlifeways.org

To learn more about Messiah Lifeways Adult Services, please visit MessiahLifeways.org/AdultDay.


Paying for Personal Care in PA: Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Personal Care Homes (PCH) and Assisted Living Residences (ALR) are housing options typically for older adults that provide hands-on care with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming and offer three meals a day, activities and medication monitoring. The average annual cost of a personal care home or assisted living in Pennsylvania is $41,400¹. While some older Pennsylvanians are fortunate enough to pay privately for these services, a much larger percentage simply cannot. Either way, many of those who need these levels of care are often mistaken on how it will get paid for. Many seniors and/or their families think that Medicare or Medicaid (aka Medical Assistance) will pay for some or all of personal care or assisted living. But, regrettably neither offer coverage in Pennsylvania, therefore private out-of-pocket payment tends to be the primary funding source for PA seniors. But, a fair number of states like Florida, North Carolina and Maryland do provide full coverage through their state Medicaid program. For full details on all 50 states, click [here].

For many older Pennsylvanians who begin to decline and struggle to live safely at home, moving to a personal care home can be the perfect solution. However, again due to average monthly costs of $3,450¹, it’s just not an option for many.

Of course this is nothing new, so state funded programs through Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), also known as Waiver Funded Services or Waiver Programs, were created to provide alternatives. They provide support and services that enable individuals to remain in a community setting rather than being admitted to a long-term care facility. Some of these waiver funds particularly aimed at helping seniors include adult day programs, non-medical home care, home modification grants and environmental adaptation services. While these are helpful, they may fall short for someone who cannot live alone safely 24 hours a day, for instance those with a dementia diagnosis. In cases where placement is an absolute must, the other option is nursing home placement; because if financially eligible, Medicaid will pay for them to be in a nursing home. The problem with this is that a number of these people don’t actually need true nursing care. For example, someone with moderate dementia may be in decent physical health, but because of safety or behavioral issues coupled with little income and no assets, nursing placement becomes the only option. Thus – “becoming stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Some good news

There are two direct funding sources that will provide partial or possibly full coverage for PCHs and ALRs in PA. The first is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and second is the Aid and Attendance Pension Benefit through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Not to be confused with Social Security income that most everyone receives after retirement, Supplemental Security Income is strictly a needs-based program determined by one’s income and assets and, of course, physical need. It exists for people age 65+, as well as blind or disabled people of any age, including children.

To meet the SSI income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a very limited income. SSI provides a number of benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. It also provides a monthly payment for the PA “Domiciliary Care or “Dom Care” program. As stated on PA Aging website, “Dom Care was created to provide a home-like living arrangement in the community for adults age 18 and older who need assistance with activities of daily living and are unable to live independently. Dom care providers open their homes to individuals who need supervision, support, and encouragement in a family-like setting.

Dom care residents are matched to homes that best meet their special needs, preferences, and interests. Dom care homes are smaller than the traditional personal care home in that home providers care for no more than three dom care residents. Unlike larger personal care homes, dom care homes are the individual providers’ homes. They are inspected annually to ensure they meet health and safety standards. If the home and provider pass this inspection, they become certified.

The local Area Agency on Aging is responsible for the initial certification and ongoing annual inspections of Dom Care homes in their area. They are also responsible for the placement of individuals into certified Dom Care homes.”

Supplemental Security Income in Pennsylvania will also cover monthly Personal Care/Boarding Home (PCBH) costs at $1,189.30 per eligible person or $2082.40 per eligible couple∗. The drawback to this funding option is that personal care homes must be willing to participate and accept these shortfall amounts. Thus, finding a participating facility can be a challenge. To get a list of facilities that accept SSI payments, please contact your local County Area Agency on Aging.

Next, the V.A. Aid and Attendance benefit provides an additional monthly pension to eligible veterans and/or their surviving spouses. Eligibility is based on income and assets, war-time service status and physical/medical need. This additional monthly stipend can be used for community based services, but can also be used to cover costs associated with placement in a personal care home or assisted living setting. To learn more click [here].

Lastly, another alternative in Pa, which falls under the category of community support is the LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly) program. A person continues to live at home, but LIFE offers heavier partial day services and care to keep them there for as long as possible. “…it is an option that allows older Pennsylvanians to live independently while receiving services and supports that meet the health and personal needs of the individual [such as physician, nursing and rehab services, transportation and heavy physical assistance.]

Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE) is a managed care program that provides a comprehensive, all-inclusive package of medical and supportive services. The program is known nationally as the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). All PACE providers in Pennsylvania have “LIFE” in their name. The first programs were implemented in Pennsylvania in 1998.” This is a program, if eligible, Medical Assistance (Medicaid) will pay for.

Final thoughts

In Pennsylvania, those who can afford to pay privately for the assistive care facilities, the burden is mostly on you. If you are someone who might qualify for coverage based on low income and assets, you may be fortunate enough to find a local option. But for a large chunk of older adults who fall between these two extremes, I wish I had more options to share. My advice is to be more proactive and anticipate the possibility of needing care as we age. Be mindful of unnecessary spending or gifting after retirement. Become more familiar with placement options and related costs. And most importantly, save more for retirement and earmark it for future care! We’re all living longer and care is not getting any cheaper. And although senior advocacy groups like LeadingAge™ PA continue the push to have ALR/PCHs receive partial government funding; current legislation is trending away from covering institutional types of care.

For more information or help on this topic, please contact Messiah Lifeways Coaching at 717.591.7225 or coach@messiahlifeways.org.

¹Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey 2017
∗Current SSI rates as of 2018


Walker & Rollator Safety Tips

Written by Christina Weber, Director of Home Care Services

Article adapted from
“How do I use my walker (rollator)? at www.walkerfacts.com

More and more older adults are using wheeled walkers or rollators to get around. And whether you are a hired caregiver or a family caregiver, you can help minimize their risk of injury by encouraging safe use of their device. There are four main activities that users need to perform safely when using their walkers. These are: standing up, walking, turning, and sitting down.

Wheeled walker


Common mistakes made while using walkers, wheeled walkers or rollators are made during these activities and include, but are not limited to:

  • Not engaging the brakes when sitting or standing.
  • Starting to sit while still turning in front of the chair/bed/toilet/car.
  • Taking uneven steps.
  • Holding the walker too close/too far away from you while taking steps.
  • Forgetting to use the walker – walking away from the walker.
  • Holding the walker with both hands while standing up and sitting down.
  • Leaning too far away from the base of support provided by the walker.
  • Twisting away from the walker while turning.
  • Sitting on the wheeled walker or rollator while someone pushes it. (Note: Some walkers are made with this capability, but you should conform the device is designed to do this.)
  • If the user needs assistance, help them by guiding their body forward and keeping their weight over their feet. Do not pull them through by their arms or shoulders. Also they should not hold onto you, they should hold on to the furniture and walker while you support them.

This devices were created to assist and support their users, but not used properly they can potentially create more danger and increase the chance of injury. For safe and efficient use of a walker, rollator or other ambulatory devices, please consult your therapist or physician. If you need additional information, please visit www.walkerfacts.com.


Thinking about moving to personal care?

Are you or a loved one considering a move to a Personal Care Home? One of the region’s newest options is Hopewell, which is the most recent edition to the Enhanced Living neighborhoods at Messiah Village. Check out the Top 10 Reasons to consider why a move to Hopewell might be the right choice for you.

  1. Hopewell embodies a new living option in personal care for individuals and couples. 26 new private apartments offer some of the largest personal care apartments in the region with four floor plans ranging in size from 532 to 767 square feet.
  2. Messiah Village offers a full range of daily living support options. Gain independence by obtaining your care needs without sacrificing your social needs.
  3. The Hopewell neighborhood is the newest addition to Messiah Village’s comprehensive care continuum – when skilled nursing or rehab needs arise, there’s no need to worry. A skilled team of outpatient physicians, clinicians, and therapists are available to meet your post-hospital needs.
  4. Your care will never be compromised, even if down the road financial worries loom. Our $16 million Endowment Fund for Benevolent Care means there is financial assistance if needed.
  5. Three well-balanced, chef-prepared, daily meals in the Asbury Room offer a delicious reason to leave your apron and skillets behind. If you crave a cappuccino or want to celebrate a special occasion with family, you can conveniently dine, at your own expense, in one of our four restaurants (3 of which you can access without ever going outside).
  6. Messiah Lifeways is a non-profit ministry governed by a local board of directors who live, work, and volunteer in Central Pennsylvania. You can rest assured that strategic decisions about your home are being made by people who believe in our mission.
  7. As a Messiah Village resident, trusted services from health professionals are available to you; no need to drive. You can schedule podiatrist, optician, audiologist, psychiatrist, and psychologist appointments on campus.
  8. Hopewell’s Asbury Room and Great Room are designed to resemble the inviting gathering spaces of private homes. Whether you’re entertaining family or playing games with neighbors, you will find a perfect spot to relax.
  9. Need a massage or manicure? Time for a new hair style? Leave the car keys aside and enjoy all-weather access to campus salons including the new Cerise Day Spa.
  10. So much more than your average retirement community…Amenities include a new Center for Vitality & Wellness with a warm salt water pool, lifelong learning courses, organized trips and more.

    Call 717.790.8201 for a private tour today!

       Adapted from the March 2018 Messiah Lifeways Preview Guide.