This year’s Older Americans Conference will be from 8 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, May 10 at the Grace Point Church, 8278 Highway 303, Bremerton.
It will include five speakers. They are
• Palliative Care, by David Bucher, MA, CSW, of CHI Franciscan;
• Communication Across Generations, by Jan Harrison, of JHarrison Solutions;
• The Alphabet Soup of Medicare, by Jennifer Calvin Meyers, of Kitsap County Aging & Long Term Care;
• Situational Depression and Anxiety, by Leatha Goar, MA, DMHP, CCTP, from Kitsap Mental Health Services;
• Medication Management by Albert S. Carbo, doctor of pharmacy at Peninsula Community Health Services.
Each presenter will speak to participants and will answer questions.
Albert Carbo, who had been a pharmacist in Washington state for the past year, has been in the field since 2006. He has taught pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin. He will tell seniors what to watch out for when taking their medications.
Carbo said some times with older patients, they will see more than one doctor, and those doctors won’t know what medications the others have prescribed.
“As pharmacists, we do what we can to help coordinate medications,” he said. “We help seniors know if they are taking something that may interact with something else they’ve been prescribed.”
He also said they watch out for “medication cascade.”
“That’s when patients are prescribed a medication, but because of the side effects, they have to be prescribed another medication for the side effects,” Carbo said. “We watch out for that and try to find other ways to manage side effects.”
In general, seniors are careful about their medications, but have lots of questions. Carbo said he and other pharmacists encourage them to ask questions and be “an advocate for themselves.”
“Seniors can be over medicating,” he said. “People assume that pharmacists want patients to have more medications. But that’s not the case. We want to see that the patient gets the right medications.”
Because he works in a community clinic, he deals with people of all ages. He sees seniors often, and sees that some of them can’t afford their medications.
“We have a referral system and, in most cases, we can help them find the right prescription plan or find help,” he said. “Or we can look for a generic form of the medication that is less expensive and more cost-efficient.”
He said pharmacists can’t give specific advice on insurance, but they can give advice in general, such things as looking for answers on Medicare.gov.
As for making sure seniors take their medications, he knows of several helpful things.
“We can load their medications into the boxes that are marked for the day of the week,” he said. “That is pretty labor-intensive for us and if there is a caregiver, that’s something that they can do.”
Other ideas include apps on smart phones that remind them when to take their medications, alarm clocks, or magnets on the refrigerator with check lists that the person can mark off when they’ve taken their meds.
“Another thing seniors can do if they keep their medicines in the vials, is turn the bottle upside down after they’ve taken the medication that day,” he said.
Although Carbo started out studying anthropology, he found he liked talking with people. He switched to pharmacy and is glad he did.
“I get to help people on a day-to-day basis with the practical side of science,” he said. “And I like teaching, and I do that every day when I talk to patients. Pharmacists take pride in the profession because we get to help people and we treat patients like they are family.”
Jennifer Calvin-Myers will speak about navigating the Medicare system. She is the volunteer coordinator for the SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors) program sponsored by Kitsap County Aging & Long Term Care division.
Additionally, she supervises Senior Information & Assistance and the Family Caregiver Support Program for the division at Kitsap County. She is a licensed social worker with experience providing social work services for three years at a local nonprofit and volunteering at the Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas, prior to starting her work at Kitsap County two years ago.
She will give an overview of the available Medicare benefits including the financial savings program preventative Medicare benefits.
“SHIBA is the place where people who are on Medicare, or who are approaching Medicare age, can go to get their questions answered,” she said. “When they call, they will get a real, live person who will take their question. Then, within two days, usually the same day, someone in their local area will call them back with an answer or information.”
That number is 1-800-562-6900.
Calvin-Myers said she is surprised at the number of people who don’t know that there are resources available that can help them, she said.
“We can help them with Medicare questions, with information about supplemental insurance and Advantage plans if they wish to purchase additional insurance,” she said. “We can also help screen callers to determine if they are eligible for savings programs that can help pay for their health care.”
Some callers are calling for friends or family members and that’s OK, she said.
“We are able to help family or friends who are calling on behalf of someone else,” she said. “Sometimes we get calls from people who live in the state and are calling for someone who is moving to Washington from elsewhere. It can be challenging when you move to make sure your healthcare is in place.”
Callers also call because they’ve seen something on TV or read something in the newspaper and are worried about Medicare cuts.
“With the Affordable Care Act, there were some built-in protections against higher Medicare costs,” she said. “If the Affordable Care Act goes away, Medicare will stay, but the future benefits of Medicare may change.”
One of the reasons why Calvin-Myers went into social work is that she likes working with people.
“I want to help them understand social service programs and how to navigate them and find the resources to meet their needs. I’m really an advocate for people so they’ll know about resources.”
On her own time, Calvin-Myers enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling with her husband and spoiling her two cats.
Leatha Goar will speak about situational depression and anxiety in elders.
“I believe (it) to be a function of multiple stressors which we all face,” Goar said. “This common ground can provide a sense of normalcy around emotional compromise brought on by changes in which one can find support and comfort.”
Some causes of depression and anxiety in older adults are environmental, she said.
“And social demands and norms that do not match a person’s long developed belief system and sense of self, including physical capabilities that diminish as we age,” she said. “Seeking help is a challenge for anyone, but especially for our elders who are so accustomed to caring for themselves and, for many, a lifetime of caring for others.”
Loved ones can encourage elders by volunteering to assist with projects, inviting elders on outings to assist in errand running, and noticing differences in mood, attitude and demeanor while offering encouragement and support, Goar said.
Goar is supervisor of the Kitsap County Crisis Response Team which provides mental health support for those in crisis throughout Kitsap County. The organization serves all age groups and has a variety of specialists on the team including a geriatric mental health specialist with whom counselors rely for consultation.
Goar has a master’s degree in transpersonal psychology with clinical experience in mental health crisis management and trauma recovery.
“As with all mental health services, there is a serious shortage of resources in Washington state to support those in need,” she said. “The prospect of more reductions in funding will continue to hamper our ability as a community to serve those who most need assistance.”
Goar has extensive training in the treatment of trauma and has been certified as a Clinical Trauma Professional since 2014. Her specialty is examining workplace trauma and developing professional resiliency for long term health in the social service fields.
David Bucher, Palliative Care manager for the Franciscan Health System, will speak about palliative care at the “consumer level.”
“I will help people understand what palliative care is and how it is different from hospice care,” Bucher said. “I’ll help them know where palliative care is available and how it can be paid for.”
According to Bucher, palliative care is specialized, relationship centered care for people with serious illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness — whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
Palliative care is provided by a team of health care professionals working together with a patient’s primary healthcare providers to provide an extra layer of support, appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be given with curative treatment.
Palliative care originated in hospitals, Bucher said, when it became clear that dying patients were not aware of the choice they had about their care in their final days, months, or weeks.
“This was a seen as a opportunity to create a different kind of care for those who didn’t want aggressive medical care and who wanted something different, care to keep them comfortable.”
Bucher began his medical career in a New York City hospital in the 1980s, working with HIV/AIDS patients.
“By the time we were seeing these patients, they were already dying,” he said. “We found that they didn’t have what they needed to make their own decisions about their care.”
Hence, palliative care became something that medical professionals began to learn and use.
Although he deals with dying patients everyday, he remains optimistic.
“We never give up on helping those folks,” he said. “We know they can have meaningful years, months, even weeks until they die. This work is quite hopeful, not sad.”
Palliative care is just good communication and good medicine, he said.
“When you see what’s possible for people to achieve at the end stage of their lives, it is quite hopeful.”
Bucher has been affiliated with three health care systems in Washington state since moving here in 1992. Currently his work with CHI Franciscan Palliative Care services includes working with inpatient teams at six hospitals and an outpatient team that makes home visits in Kitsap, Pierce and King counties.
Bucher has been a health care professional for 28 years and 25 of those years have been in the field of hospice and palliative care. He has had leadership roles in three hospice programs in the Puget Sound area and serves on the Washington State Hospice and Palliative Care board of directors.
Jan Harrison, owner of JHarrison Solutions, a consulting practice that specializes in helping organizations clearly define new directions, will speak about “communication across generations.”
“The key (to communication) is simple, but challenging,” Harrison said. “It is this: Use the communication style and vehicle that the other person is most comfortable with. For example, I email some people, text others, phone others, and a couple I need to talk with face-to-face or I never get a response. For some I go into great detail. For others, it’s ‘just the facts, ma’am.’”
If you use the other person’s preferred style, you’ll be more successful, she said.
At the conference, she’ll be talking about understanding, mostly.
“Why those other generations are different; what shaped them into the work habits, motivations, and communication styles they each prefer,” she said. “In other words: What planet did they come from?”
She is a facilitator, trainer, change agent, a pioneer in the field of crisis management and has worked with clients in 49 states (she’s still waiting for Louisiana to call) helping all types from the Girl Scouts to Mötley Crüe.
She works primarily in the Northwest now and has worked on economic development issues during the past five years, watching trends to figure out how organizations can use them to their advantage.
One of her favorite areas of study is that of interactions among co-workers, she said.
“I’m crazy about understanding people and am an expert in helping teams figure out how to work with multiple generations and not go crazy themselves,” Harrison said.
To register for the conference, call 360-337-5700.
Leslie Kelly is special sections editor for Kitsap Living and the Kitsap News Group. This story first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Kitsap Living: The time of your life.