November is National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month. The theme for 2015 is “Respite: Care for Caregivers.” This theme is set as a reminder that caregivers need to also care for themselves.

The Caregiver Action Network has written out ways for caregivers to find respite:

R is for Rest and Relaxation

E as in Energize (or reenergize)

S as in Sleep

P is for Programs that can help you (finding support)

I as in Imagination (let your mind run free; read a book or see a movie)

T as in Take Five (take a few minutes for yourself)

E is for Exhale (taking a few deep breaths can give you more energy, reduce stress and lift your mood)

More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for people with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or aging family members during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. About 13% of family caregivers provide 40 hours of care a week or more. A majority of family caregivers, about 73%, also have a part-time or full-time job.

Family caregivers are under extreme stress which has been show to age them prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life. This could be in part due to the fact that nearly 72% of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves.

Research has also shown that caregiving for a person with dementia can impact a person’s immune system for up to three years after their caregiving ends which increases their chances of developing a chronic illness. About 23% of family caregivers caring for loved ones for 5 years or more report their health is fair or poor.

Research has shown that 20% of employed female caregivers over age 50 report symptoms of depression while only 8% of their non-caregiving peers report symptoms of depression. Between 40% and 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with approximately a quarter to half of these caregivers meets the diagnostic criteria for major depression.

All of these facts lead to the need for respite. So if you know someone who is a caregiver, encourage them to rest and relax, reenergize, sleep, find support,  let their mind run free, take a break, and take a breath.

Social Security Benefits to Remain the Same

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has come out saying there will be no automatic cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for 2016. SSA has said the reason there will be no change is because inflation is too low to warrant an automatic benefit hike.

Since 1975, federal law has mandated that Social Security benefits adjust upward annually to account for increase in inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. There have been only two other years (2010 and 2011) without a COLA.

Without an adjustment, the maximum federal Supplemental Security Income benefits for individuals will remain at $733 per month.  Couples can receive $1,100 per month. Across the nation, over 59 million people receive Social Security benefits and 8 million rely solely on SSI.

October is Bully Prevention Awareness Month

October is Bully Prevention Awareness Month. Bullying impacts children of all ages all over the world. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or happen online. School dropout rates and absences among children who are bullied are much higher than other students. In fact, more than 160,000 students in the USA stay home each day because they are scared of being bullied.

The group of students with the highest risk of being bullied is students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers without disabilities. Researchers have also discovered that students with disabilities were more worried about school safety and being injured or harassed by other peers compared to students without disabilities.

One out of every four students reports being bullied during the school year. Students who experience bullying are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties and poor school adjustment. The students who do the bullying are at an increased risk for substance abuse, academic problems and violence later in adolescence and adulthood. In fact, by age 24, 60% of students who bullied others in grades 6-9 had one or more criminal convictions. The students at the highest risk for both mental health and behavior problems are students who were both bullied and bullied others.

Not only does bullying lead to mental health problems, but it can also lead to suicide. There is a strong association between bullying and suicide-related behaviors. Youth victimized by their peers were 2.4 times more likely to report suicidal ideation and 3.3 times more likely to report a suicide attempt than youth who reported not being bullied. Students who are both bullied and engage in bullying behavior are the highest risk group for adverse outcomes.

So what can be done? School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25%. Students reported that the most helpful things teachers can do are: listen to the student, check in with them afterward to see if the bullying stopped, and give the student advice. Students reported that the most harmful things teachers can do are: tell the students to solve the problem themselves, tell the student the bullying wouldn’t happen if they acted differently, ignored what was going on, or tell the student to stop tattling.

The best way to stop bullying is to engage bystanders. Students who experience bullying report allying and supportive actions from their peers as the most helpful actions. Students also said that they find peer actions to be more helpful than educator or self-actions.

While October is Bully Prevention Awareness Month, it isn’t the only time we should talk about bullying. Bullying happens all year long and impacts people every single day. It’s important for us to not only talk about bullying, but to also work to prevent it from happening in the future.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Workplaces welcoming of the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, are a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and a strong economy. This is why the National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. However, the true spirit of NDEAM lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. Employers of all sizes and in all industries are encouraged to participate in NDEAM.

Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways they can promote its messages by visiting

Winter Energy Saving Tips

None of us want to think about winter just quite yet, but it’s just around the corner. The time has come to start thinking about winter heating costs. Here are a few tips to save money this winter and still stay toasty and warm.

  • A humidifier can help control heating costs because the moist air will feel warmer, allowing the thermostat to be set at a lower temperature.
  • Use draperies, blinds, curtains or shutters on all windows to slow the loss of heat through the glass. Keep window coverings open on sunny days to let in the sun’s warmth.
  • Rearrange furniture, placing it next to inside walls and away from windows. Avoid blocking heat registers with furniture, draperies or carpet.
  • Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans sparingly. In just one hour, these fans can exhaust a houseful of warm air.
  • Closets and cabinets on outside walls can leak a great deal of cold air, so make sure the doors fit snugly and keep them tightly closed.
  • When you’re not at home, turn the thermostat down 10 degrees. It can save you around 10% a year in heating costs if done for 8 hours a day.

Bill to Increase Access to Special Needs Trusts

Last week, the U.S. Senate approved legislation that may soon make it easier for people with disabilities to save money. The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act would allow individuals with disabilities to establish a special needs trust for themselves. Current law states that such trusts can only be created by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or a court.

Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, stated, “Those who want and need a trust to help pay for their care shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to do it.” He went on to say that this bill allows individuals to act in their own interests with their own assets without having to rely on a family member or the courts.

For people with disabilities who rely on government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, a special needs trust can be vital. To qualify for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income, individuals cannot have more than $2,000 in assets at any given time. However, money saved within a special needs trust does not count against the asset limit.

Separately, states are working to implement the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, also known as the ABLE Act, which offers people with disabilities another way to save money. Under that law, individuals with disabilities will be able to establish ABLE accounts where they can accrue up to $100,000 without compromising their government benefits. However, it is thought that because of the deposit limits, many people will continue to rely on special needs trusts as well.

The Importance of People First Language

For too long, people with disabilities have been subject to devaluation, marginalization, prejudice, and much more. The first way to devalue someone is through language. By using words or labels that identify a person/group as less than or consider them the others, we begin to devalue them. When a person or group has been identified in this way, it is easier to justify prejudice and discrimination. Just as our language shapes our attitudes, our attitudes shape our language. These two things are intertwined and together they control our actions.

People first language is when you put the person before the disability. This can help to eliminate old, prejudicial, and hurtful descriptions. This isn’t about being politically correct, but instead, is about being polite and respecting others. Not only does the way we speak about a person change how we view them, but it also changes how he/she sees him/herself. When we use a diagnosis as a defining characteristic of a person, we create prejudice, and rob the person of the opportunity to define him/ herself.

Too often, we forget just how our words affect our attitudes, drive social policies and laws, influence our feelings and decisions, and affect people’s daily lives and more.

Here are some easy ways to begin using People First Language:

Instead of referring to someone as disabled, refer to them as a person with a disability.

Instead of referring to someone as slow, simple, moronic, etc. refer to them as a person with an intellectual, cognitive, or developmental disability.

Instead of referring to someone as wheelchair bound, refer to them as a person who uses a wheelchair