SOWEGA Council on Aging Program Update - Albany News Herald


Falling: One of the biggest, most preventable, threats to our lives - Georgia Health News


Golden K Kiwanis Honor Veterans


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Gary Barg article, Today's Caregiver Magazine





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Date Posted: May 26, 2015
SOWEGA Council on Aging Program Update - Albany News Herald Article



— The most visible part of the SOWEGA Council on Aging’s presence in Albany is the 45,000-square-foot Kay H. Hind Senior Life Enrichment Center that took years to become a reality. The core of the mission is what goes on inside the walls to give senior citizens a reason to get out of bed in the morning and continue moving.

On any given day, there is something going on from which senior citizens — and even younger folks — could benefit from. Powerful Tools for Caregivers, a six-week course meant to increase confidence for caregivers, is among those along with the monthly caregiver support group meetings. Matter of Balance, meant to help those most vulnerable to better prevent falls, is a four-week class held twice a week.

There’s also an art class that meets on Mondays, a line dancing class that meets twice a week, a chair fitness class meeting twice weekly, a Friday drumming class, an eight-week computer class that meets twice a week and the AARP Driver Safety Program that has sessions coming up in June and September.

Currently, the first part of a Tai Chi course for arthritis is taking place through June 25. There is a fitness room built for senior’s needs, and there are places for people to just come to eat a meal or socialize by playing cards.

SOWEGA also maintains evidence-based programs, such as those relating to chronic disease management.

“(Evidence-based programs) are classes held according to the standards given, and we can expect results from them,” said SOWEGA Executive Director Kay Hind. “We have staff willing to go out in the community and speak to groups and inform them of what we have to offer. Most (of the classes and programs) are new, because now we have the space to do it and volunteers to help carry them out.”

As the funds allow, the council is expanding on those opportunities.

“Older Americans Month is May, and the theme is ‘Get Into the Act’,” said Hind. “It’s a national (campaign) promoting being active and being involved. We believe in that all the time around here.

“We are fortunate to have a building that will accommodate programs, more entertainment and more education … We continue to add new programs and activities as we get requests. We encourage older people to suggest programs we may not have thought of. We are not limited in what we can do.”

Part of gaining input from the community was the creation of the council’s advisory board, which consists primarily of people in its services, or are eligible to receive them, giving advice to SOWEGA’s leadership.

Among those on that board is Marilyn Malphus McKinney. About to turn 91, she has been active with the Council on Aging since she got involved with its tax program in 1990 — which was followed by a career as an accounting instructor at what is now Darton State College.

After about a decade, eyesight problems forced her to step down from the program.

“It is a wonderful program. It helps so many folks each year,” she said. “The RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program), transportation, everything we do is for seniors.”

McKinney was involved in recruiting someone to take her place when she got connected with the advisory board.

“I come to hear about the things being done, and I want to be a part of it,” she said. “It takes a lot of people involved to make it work … There are a lot of good things happening. I’m so proud of the senior center. It is the most wonderful thing that could have happened. I’m so proud of it.”

The center’s very existence reflects a strong community interest, she said, toward giving back to a population who has already given a lot of themselves.

“They have given a lot to us, so it is important for us to see they have an easy time,” McKinney said. “(The building) is phenomenal.”

It’s particularly important for those at risk of fading away slowly into the background who need to stay visible and active.

“So many seniors become isolated and don’t have interaction,” McKinney said. “With Meals on Wheels, the visit is just as important as the food. They can come here and have plenty of people to talk to.

“I think the future is bright (for the Council on Aging). I can’t think of a reason why we can’t (go farther).”

On June 4, the 22nd annual Shades of Gold Senior Art Show will be taking place at the Albany Museum of Art from noon-2 p.m. to give some of the area’s seniors a chance to showcase their work.

That is among a few programs allowing the council to be visible outside the West Society Avenue center.

“That is one of our most popular activities,” Hind said.

After that, the council’s 10th annual Comedy Night, to feature Mark Lowry and Stan Whitmire, will be taking place at 7 p.m. on Aug. 6 at the Albany Municipal Auditorium to raise funds for the Meals on Wheels program.

“That is our major fundraiser each year,” Hind said.

There are volunteer opportunities, including the Knights of Columbus Sewing Group, Meals on Wheels and the RSVP ramp crew. The Albany Golden K Kiwanis Club recently volunteered their time by setting up a veterans memorial outside the center consisting of a red maple tree and a granite marker, as did the Albany Woman’s Club by helping to set up a flower bed on the grounds.

In addition, some of the clients have been working on a community garden through the council’s wellness programs and grants.

“We raised the beds and planted vegetables,” Hind. “Participants are at the center where they serve lunch, they pull weeds and share vegetables. It is scientifically done and organic. It is exciting to see the garden grow.”

Outside of Albany, there are centers in Arlington, Bainbridge, Blakely, Cairo, Colquitt, Dawson, Donalsonville, Leesburg, Moultrie, Newton, Pelham, Sylvester and Thomasville.

“We have senior centers in every county (served by SOWEGA),” Hind said. “They carry out some of the programs at their facilities, and are otherwise invited to come here (to the Albany center).”

Among the core programs have included Meals on Wheels, as well as homemaker services and in-home care services for those eligible for nursing home care.

Much of what is offered at the center is done at little to no cost to the clients. The help of private donations, state and federal funding, grants and rental fees from outside entities wanting to utilize parts of the building — such as for statewide conferences — have allowed the center to be able to do what it does while remaining financially stable.

“We are doing well,” Hind said. “We are having more people come in from the community that we have not had the opportunity to serve before … People in the community recognize this as a resource. We rent it to meet expenses.

“We start a new (fiscal) year on July 1, and have already established our budget. We have spent carefully, but are able to continue with grants we are able to get, and with federal and state funding, we are able to offer most of the programs at the same level (as we have been).

“We’ve had to make some cuts due to funding, but we try to keep that to a minimum.”

The council’s newsletter goes out every other month to keep the community informed of its activities at the center, which was completed in late 2013 following a $10 million investment in time and resources — and has a strong following even outside Southwest Georgia.

“I get nothing but compliments, not only here but statewide,” Hind said. “We’ve received a lot of recognition, and (are) having more people come from other areas.

“So far, everyone I’ve talked to has been positive about it. It’s really been an asset … People come (from out of town) and stay in hotels (and spend money in the community). It’s not just us that benefits.”

The 2014 annual report for the council included statistics from the Georgia Division of Aging Services showing there are 67,369 elderly people living in Southwest Georgia, with 16,255 being from Dougherty County. Through the senior life enrichment centers in the SOWEGA coverage area, there were 823 people and 123,547 congregate meals served in Fiscal Year 2014.

In Fiscal Year 2014, there were 20,335 day care hours and 5,000 in-home respite hours provided through the adult day care and in-home respite care programs. The Community Care Services program, an in-home nursing care alternative, provided a total of $9.9 million in services, with 812 people in Southwest Georgia being served through the program in FY 2014. More than 3,600 beds were served by the ombudsman program, and 6,497 were served through the Georgia Cares prescription program, the annual report said.

The RSVP program, consisting of about 500 volunteers giving more than 50,000 hours annually, built 80 ramps and averaged 100 teddy bears a week made to be distributed at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. There were 817 clients served by Meals on Wheels and 133 served through the homemaker services program. There were also 66 in the caregiver support group, the annual report said.

For more information on SOWEGA, call (229) 432-1124 or (800) 282-6612.


Date Posted: May 21, 2015
Falling: One of the biggest, most preventable, threats to our lives - Georgia Health News

- Georgia Health News (Click here to read article via

From flashlights to tai chi to rewards programs, health care providers are using various strategies to prevent falls by patients.

Falling is a dangerous — and very expensive — problem. Its direct medical costs are in the billions nationwide, more than $34 billion, according to recent reports. The total national cost of fall injuries is expected to soar to $59.6 billion by 2020, according to the National Council on Aging.

The Affordable Care Act imposes payment penalties on the 25 percent of hospitals whose rates of hospital-acquired conditions are the highest. Conditions caused by falls in hospitals are among those being measured, so there’s money at stake.

It’s well known that the risk of falling and being hurt increases with age. The CDC’s Injury Prevention and Control Center reports that every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in a hospital emergency department for injuries related to a fall. About 20 percent of the elderly who have a major fall are likely to die within a year, according to national studies.

But not all falls involve seniors. No one of any age or situation is immune.

Falls are even an occupational hazard for health care workers. Many have been injured due to slipping, tripping or sliding while on duty in health care facilities. This is especially true for nursing assistants and nurses, says a recent report from the CDC.

The lead author of that study, Dr. Ahmed Gomaa, says that “occupational injuries including slips, trips, and falls among health care workers are prevalent and serious — but more importantly they are preventable.”

National figures from 2013 on the 10 leading causes of nonfatal injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms show how prevalent falls are. In every age category but one, falls were the leading reason for the ER visits. And for the one exception, the 10-to-24 age group, falls came in second.


Keeping falls from happening


“A lot of work on fall prevention is being done in Georgia,” says Elizabeth Head, program coordinator for injury prevention at the Georgia Department of Public Health. “It’s very important that we let the public know what’s available to help our seniors.”

Head is speaking about programs at senior centers that may not receive the attention they deserve: Matter of Balance and Tai Chi for Health.

“Tai chi has been researched using randomized control trials,” Head says. “Studies have found tai chi can reduce falls by as much as 30 percent.”

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art with low-stress training techniques beneficial for physical fitness and mental focus. In the past several decades it has spread worldwide, and many programs, especially those geared to seniors, concentrate on exercise and health improvement rather than self-defense.

Both the tai chi and balance programs meet high levels of evidence in terms of being effective, Head says. “In fact, the Matter of Balance has shown a reduction in the fear of falling.”

Head says a major problem with falls is “as we age, no one thinks a fall can happen to them.” And the surprise is what happens when they do fall: fractures, hospital bills and an increased chance that they will fall a second or third time, according to hospital reports.

The Southwest Georgia Council on Aging (SOWEGA), which covers 14 counties, is in the process of testing a vigorous approach to prevention.

Although the SOWEGA studies were statistically small (21 patients in 2013 and 12 patients in 2014), both years showed reductions in falls with the use of tools like grab bars, flashlights, shower chairs and safety education.

“Flashlights have been a big hit,” says Babs Hall, SOWEGA program manager. Clients may not want to wake a spouse during the night, but need to get out of bed for one reason or another. A simple item like a handy flashlight can make a big difference, she says.


Innovative ideas


Since 2008, hospitals no longer receive payments for treating injuries caused by in-hospital falls, based on a 2007 final CMS rule. This serves as a strong incentive for health care facilities to focus on prevention.

Preventing falls “is a top priority throughout the Georgia hospital field,” says Kevin Bloye, a Georgia Hospital Association vice president.

Kathryn McGowan, GHA vice president of quality and patient safety, leads the charge on helping hospitals prevent patients from falling.

“The problem is multifaceted and super-challenging,” says McGowan. GHA looks at patient safety as well as worker safety, she says.

Georgia participates in a network agreement that engages hospitals throughout the state to improve patient safety and lower costs simultaneously. Network hospitals are encouraged to work together to make hospitals a safer place.

One North Georgia hospital, Northridge Medical Center in Commerce, has been especially successful with its prevention plans, says McGowan.

“Our plan was straightforward,” says Selina Baskins, a registered nurse at Northridge.

A fall-injury “prevention tree” serves as an incentive to the staff. The artificial tree is made of a wallpaper-type material and laminated, Baskins says. “It has the name of every nurse or nursing assistant on a removable leaf.”

If a patient falls, the nursing team member who had responsibility for that patient sees his or her leaf removed from the tree branch and placed on the ground. The hospital administration has a small monthly rewards plan for leaves that stay on the tree.

“It is simple, but works well,” says Baskins. “It certainly has made the staff more aware of falls.”

Even more important to the plan is a risk assessment for every Northridge patient. “If we note a patient is likely to need extra assistance with walking or getting out of bed, they receive an orange bracelet based on their medications, diagnosis, and balance abilities,” she says.


Nursing homes

“Patients in a nursing home are there for skilled nursing care or possibly rehabilitation,” states Linda Kluge, a program director for Alliant-GMCF, Georgia’s Quality Improvement Organization (QIO), a federal program dedicated to improving the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries.

“Georgia has 360 nursing homes now,” says Kluge. Of those, 43 had no falls within a six-month period using specific falls prevention tools.

Among other initiatives, Georgia’s QIO addresses opportunities for health care improvement, such as looking at the overall quality of care for nursing home residents. Falling is only one issue, but it is critical.

Dr. Adrienne Mims, vice president and chief medical officer at Alliant-GMCF, says, “We measure mobility in many ways.”

Gait training and strength training play an important part. “Our geriatric management tool looks at how to address patients on a personal level,” Mims says. “Vision, medications and the environment are all items to be considered in the assessment.”


Judi Kanne, a registered nurse and freelance writer, combines her nursing and journalism backgrounds to write about public health. She lives in Atlanta.


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Date Posted: April 23, 2015
Golden K Kiwanis Honor Veterans

ALBANY — Albany residents now have another reminder of the sacrifices veterans have made for the country thanks to new memorial placed at the SOWEGA Council on Aging’s Kay Hind Senior Life Enrichment Center Wednesday.

Organized by the Albany Golden K Kiwanis Club, the new memorial, which consists of a freshly planted red maple tree and a granite marker, was planned to honor the men and women who have served in the United States armed forces.

“Every year the club does an April One Day activity,” said Golden K President Bill Graff. “This year I was president and I decided on April One Day we were going to do something and this sort of dawned on me to do something in remembrance of the people who served.”

The Kay Hinds Senior Center was the ideal place for the monument due to the fact that Golden K’s membership is made up of senior citizens, many of whom are supporters of the center as well as being members of the armed forces, like Graff, who is retired from the Air Force.

“Being a retired military person, this makes me proud,” said Graff. “It will be here forever.”

Graff said he is also proud of two area companies that lent a hand in making the memorial a reality, Matthews Funeral Home, which donated the granite marker, and Mark’s Greenhouse which donated the tree.

Coy Crowley, landscape manager with Mark’s Greenhouse, who was on hand for the dedication of the memorial, said when members of Golden K inquired about the cost of purchasing the tree, company officials decided it would be best to show their support and donate the tree.

“We just wanted to be a part of the community and give back,” said Crowley. “It’s a good cause for the citizens of Albany.”

Crowley added that the tree, which is a native variety in south Georgia, will have a long life span and will eventually grow to an average height of 60 feet. He also said that even though the tree is beautiful when it blooms in the spring, it will also be striking in the fall, when it’s leaves change to golden, orange, red and brown.

The natural beauty of the tree is also one of the reasons the SOWEGA Council on Aging is pleased to about having the memorial on the grounds of the senior center.

“We’re honored they contacted us to have a memorial on our site,” said SOWEGA Council on Aging ADRC Program Manager Babs Hall. “We requested a red maple because it will be a beautiful tree and we’ll be able to look out and see it all the time. In fact, it will be here long after we’re gone. It will serve as a wonderful reminder of those who have served.”

SOWEGA Council on Aging Assistant Director Debbie Blanton concurred with Hall’s assessment, saying that she’s proud of what the memorial means to the community and what it will mean in the future.

“It is a symbol of the service of the men and women that have served and are serving our country,” said Blanton. “It reminds us again that freedom is not free and that the sacrifices these men and women have made and are making is what makes this country great. We hope that the future generations will sit here as we put benches under this tree, that they’ll have a place to sit in the shade and look at this and reflect back on just what the military has meant to this country.”

The SOWEGA Council on Aging is a nonprofit organization working to serve the physical, mental and spiritual needs of older people in a 14 county area around southwest Georgia, through a wide range of services. For more information on the organization visit


Date Posted: April 16, 2015
Registration Deadline is April 27 - register online on EVENT tab


Date Posted: April 16, 2015
Gary Barg article, Today's Caregiver Magazine
Georgia on My Mind
- Gary Barg, Today's Caregiver Magazine

Earlier this month, I was in Albany, Georgia, for our first annual Albany Fearless Caregiver Conference co-hosted with the good folks at the Alzheimer’s Outreach Center and SOWEGA.  It was a remarkable event for me in so many ways.  It was my first time back in Albany since my college days (somewhere way-way back in the last century) when I was at FSU in northern Florida. 

I would on occasion want to take my car out for about 90 minutes out just to get out on the road and inevitably, the destination was always Albany, Georgia. (Or as an old-timer told me way back when, “Call it Albinny or leave”). My friends there now kind of chuckle and point at me derisively when I do that, so I don’t say that anymore. Much has changed there, but the friendliness and nice town feel remains the same to this date.

One of the great changes that have happened in Albany is the construction of the brand new Kay H. Hind Senior Life Enrichment Center where we were lucky enough to hold the event with Kay H. Hind herself in attendance.  When I started running around the country talking about Today’s Caregiver magazine twenty years ago and trying as much as possible to be of service to family caregivers, one of the first people who took me under their wing was Kay H. Hind. I will never forget her kindness.

By the way, our keynote speaker was none other than Leisa Easom, PhD, RN, Executive Director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving and Pope Eminent Scholar. What a day!

There were so many lessons that I learned from these two icons, but also from the family caregivers in attendance. The first I want to talk about is an extension of something I always say to caregivers. And it has to do with the doctor’s office visit.

We all have memories of waiting in the exam room with our loved one counting up the important questions we need to ask the physician, only to find those questions and the will to ask them evaporate into thin air as the doctor walks through the door.  But there are things we can do to get those questions answered.

To recap some of the tips I have learned from family caregivers about partnering with your loved ones doctors:

  • Try limiting the questions to one or two that can’t be answered elsewhere.
  • As the doctor walks in, mention you might need a few minutes to ask the questions. 
  • Bring a small digital tape recorder or use an audio recorder on your smart phone, so you don’t drive away wondering what it was that he or she just said. 

A caregiver in Albany raised her hand and, in fact, added a very important tip to the list when she said that she always has good luck by sending, in writing, her concerns and questions to the physician’s office in advance of the appointment date. 

Hmm, successfully partnering with her loved one's family physician staff to get her questions answered. There’s a whole lot of Fearless Caregiving going on in South Georgia! 

Now you know why I always have Georgia on My Mind.

Gary Barg





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