Monday, December 12, 2011

End of Year Charitable Giving

If you are like me, you can hardly believe that the end of the year is almost here.  In addition to thinking about the holidays, it is also a good time to review important financial matters, including your charitable gift plans. As the calendar year comes to a close, some donors are considering tax reduction strategies.  Giving is much more than tax brackets and charitable deductions – your gifts also provide a meaningful difference to the organizations who receives them. 

American’s are very giving people.  In fact, individuals in the United States contribute more than 80% of the funds raised by charities. For many, the end of the year is a time to express thanks for the blessings they have received in the past and to plan for the future.  It can also be a time for sharing with others.   

To help donors make wise decisions about contributing, the Council of Better Business Bureaus has developed some tips on charitable giving:

1) It is best to make your contribution with a check (not cash) which is made payable to the charity, not the individual collecting the donation. 
2) Keep records of your donation, such as receipts, cancelled checks, and bank statements, in order for you to document your charitable giving at tax time.
3) Be wary of names of organizations that closely resemble the name of a well known organization but are not affiliated.
4) Check out the organization before giving.  Always take time to ask who they are, what they are doing, and how they spend their funding.  A legitimate organization will be happy to answer your questions.
5) It is illegal to demand payment for unordered merchandise.  If items such as calendars, greeting cards, etc. are enclosed with an appeal letter and you did not order them, you are under no obligation to pay for or return the merchandise.

Many people are not aware that gifts other than cash can be given to non-profit organizations. Those that do donate gifts of securities, gifts of life insurance, gifts of retirement assets, charitable gift annuities and/or make a bequest can receive tax benefits for such planned giving.

We all have things we are grateful for, causes we believe in, and experiences that have enriched our lives.  In appreciation we donate time and money.  The end of the year offers an opportunity to reflect on those things we appreciate most and for many completing their charitable goals is a natural and satisfying part.


We are in the midst of a longevity revolution – with the average life expectancy increasing.  Instead of the rare individual reaching age 85 and older, most of us have an excellent chance of making it to this age.  Today’s active adult is more vital, remains mentally stimulated and physically active as a result of participating in various recreational, educational and social activities.

What couldn’t be further from the truth is the perception that as soon as a person is old,  they are automatically considered of little value, or a burden on society, or slow to accept change, or a whole myriad of negative images.  The sooner we combat the negative societal perceptions of older people as non-valuable and non-productive the sooner the better. Older people are part of the cycle of life and positive perceptions should replace the traditional pessimistic stereotype of the aging. 

This is a time to acknowledge the significant contributions of older adults and renew our commitment to the well being of older adults and the living of their golden years in good health.  I have the pleasure of spending my days with many, many older adults who have made a real difference and a distinct positive contribution to this community. 

Not only are people living longer, a greater percentage of the population is older, and that trend will continue - with the emergence of the national “Elder Boom” that will result over the next 10+ years. By 2020, the over 65 population in the U.S. is projected to double and the number of Americans over 85 is expected to be more than quadruple in the same time period. There will soon be more older people in the U.S. than younger people.  

Winter Driving Safety

Following a few simple driving habits like planning ahead, driving at a safe speed, driving alert and buckling up could ensure that you safely make it to your destination.

Safe Winter Driving Tips:
  • Clear snow and ice from all windows and lights – even the hood and roof – before driving.
  • Pay attention. Don’t try to out-drive the conditions. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.
  • Leave plenty of room for stopping.
  • Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows – stay back and don’t pass on the right.
  • Use brakes carefully. Brake early. Don’t stomp on the brakes. It takes more time to stop in adverse conditions.
  • Watch for slippery bridges, even when the rest of the pavement is in good condition. Bridge decks will ice up sooner than the adjacent pavement.
  • Don’t use your cruise control in wintry conditions. Even roads that appear clear can have sudden slippery spots and the short touch of your brakes to deactivate the cruise control feature can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
  • Don’t pump anti-lock brakes. If your car is equipped with anti-lock brakes, do not pump brakes in attempting to stop. The right way is to “stomp and steer".
  • Look farther ahead in traffic than you normally do. Actions by cars and trucks will alert you quicker to problems and gives you that split-second extra time to safely react.
  • Remember that trucks are heavier than cars. Trucks take longer to safely respond and come to a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
  • Go slow! Drive according to conditions.
Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter Driving:
Reliable transportation is especially important in the winter. Not only should you keep your vehicle in top operating condition all year round - for safety and fuel economy - it is especially important to get it winterized to avoid any unpleasant or dangerous situations while traveling in frigid weather. Check the following:
  • Ignition system
  • Fuel system
  • Belts
  • Fluid levels
  • Brakes
  • Exhaust system
  • Wiper blades and windshield washer fluid
  • Snow tires
  • Tire tread and pressure
  • Defroster
  • Proper grade oil
  • Cooling system
  • Battery
  • Lights
  • Antifreeze
Always fill the gasoline tank before entering open country, even for a short distance, and stop to fill up long before the tank begins to run low. Keeping your tank as full as possible will minimize condensation, providing the maximum advantage in case of trouble.
  • A cellular phone can be very useful to you or another stranded motorist in case of an emergency.
  • Drive with your headlights on.
  • Stock your car with basic winter driving equipment: a scraper and brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction.
  • Include road flares, a blanket, heavy boots, warm clothing, and flashlight with batteries.
Allow Extra Time:
Give yourself some extra time to reach your destination. Roadways get slick when freezing air circulates above it. Remember bridges and overpasses typically freeze before other road surfaces so you don’t want to do any hard braking or quick accelerations. When snow falls, time and resources are focused on the most heavily traveled routes first, so sidestreets may not see a snowplow right away.
Wash Your Car:
Keeping your vehicle clean during the winter keeps snow and road grime from caking on your head and taillights, which makes it easier for you to see and be seen. Salt and anti- icing chemicals can cause corrosion so you want to wash them from your vehicle.
I hope these tips keep you safe this winter.

Managing Holiday Stress

Maintaining good health throughout stressful times is directly linked to a positive mind set.  Improving your mood need not be time consuming or expensive – try these simple strategies to distract your attention from the hectic pace of life around you and restore the energy you need.

Make sure you are well rested.  According to the National Institute on Aging, an estimated 30 percent of middle aged Americans don’t get enough sleep.  Factors that can help you get a good night’s sleep are sticking to a regular bedtime, sleeping in a cool and dark room and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine after mid-afternoon.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.  Moderate exercise is an activity that leaves you feeling warm, but still able to talk.  And don’t forget routine activities like mopping the floor and raking leaves are considered moderate exercise.

Music has the ability to alter your mood.  If you want to relax, listen to slow, soothing classical music.  To energize yourself, pick something that is faster such as jazz or pop.  Or consider making your own music by playing a musical instrument. 

Because the holidays may be one of the few times that the family gathers during the year, caregivers often feel a sense of sadness or loss if familiar traditions cannot be celebrated as they were before a disabling condition started it course for the one they are caring for.  It’s understandable if family caregivers experience difficult emotions and conflicting feelings, or find themselves feeling particularly sad during the holidays. All of the suggestions above (having a positive mind set, being well rested, doing moderate exercise and using music to uplift mood) apply to caregivers, too.  I’d also like to share some additional tips for managing holiday stress for caregivers. 

Often the relatives you see least can be the family members who try your patience and sanity the most.    Keep in mind that these relatives can’t understand or appreciate the role you play as caregiver.  Because they pop in and out, they don’t understand the difficulty you face in trying to be the best caregiver possible.  But, with a little education and information, you might be able to open their eyes and their hearts.  Although you regularly update your family about your care recipient’s condition, sometimes the truth of your words hits home during a relative’s visit.  When a family member first schedules a visit, begin the process of re-educating them about your loved one’s current illness or condition.  Your local association’s, such as The Cancer Society, Alzheimer’s Association or Arthritis Foundation have excellent brochures and flyers that can help you inform family members.

Your family members may be freightened by the condition of their once-virile and healthy loved one.  If they are familiar with the disease’s progression and condition, they will be more comfortable and understanding of their loved one.  Also, recommend they read books that you found particularly helpful.  Include a list of techniques you found useful when dealing with your care recipient’s repetitive questions, loss of bladder or bowel control, or confusion.  Also, if your loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or a similar dementia, include a list of triggers, events or actions that seem to create a negative reaction or behavior.  Share your learning experiences with them – how you adapted to the changes due to your loved one’s illness.  Communicating your knowledge and experience will be helpful for you, your care recipient and your family members.

You might worry your loved one will be overwhelmed at a large family event.  Be honest and open with your family and friends about your loved one’s limitations.  Consider visiting family early in the day when your loved one is alert and sociable.  You might ask small groups of guests to visit your home.  This can be less overwhelming for your loved one who may be more comfortable in familiar surroundings.

Some family caregivers may choose to go to holiday gatherings without their loved one, and this is an understandable choice.  Someone suffering from dementia may simply be too confused or agitate to enjoy the event.  If you do bring your loved one, take turns attending to him or her so that you don’t have to do all of the caregiving yourself.

With reduced expectations of the holidays, it can be helpful and even enjoyable to focus on what you still share with your loved one.  Try reminiscing about family and friends from past holidays.  Watching movies, listening to songs or looking at old photos connected to holiday memories are other good ways to share and re-experience the warmth with your loved one, even if he or she is no longer able to communicate with you. 

Lastly, it is normal to feel sadness and loss as a caregiver during the holidays and it probably will not be helpful to ignore or deny these feelings.  The loss you experience with your loved one is real, and despite your efforts to lift your own spirits and plan ahead, your can still run into the “holiday blues”.  Finding someone understanding who you can talk to about such feelings can be one more important step to lift your spirits.  

I wish you a tranquil holiday season and Happy New Year.

The Dale Association is a unique non profit organization which has been responding to needs of adults in our Niagara community for 60 years.  It has been said many times that our services help make lives better and we are proud to be able to do this for people with so many different needs. The sole purpose of our variety of services is to enhance the potential of each individual to live life fully and in harmony with family, friends and community.