Monday, April 22, 2013

National Decision Making Day

The New York State Bar Association’s Elder Law Section is sponsoring National Healthcare Decision Making Day 2013.  What is National Healthcare Decision Making Day? It is a volunteer, public-service project which will involve attorneys speaking on topics relevant to older New Yorkers, their family members and caregivers.

The National Healthcare Decision Making Day initiative is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations committed to ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity in the United States have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions.

Despite recent gains in public awareness of the need for advance care planning, studies indicate that most Americans have not exercised their right to make decisions about their healthcare in the event that they cannot speak for themselves.  The National Healthcare Decision Making Day will help people understand that making future decisions includes much more than deciding what care they would or would not want; it starts with expressing preferences, clarifying values, identifying care preferences and selecting an agent to express healthcare decisions if patients are unable to speak for themselves.  According to a recent research study: 71% of Americans have thought about end-of-life treatment preferences, 95% have heard of a living will, but only 29% have a living will.

The public is invited to attend a free session of National Healthcare Decision Making Day 2013, which is being held locally on May 22nd, starting at 11:00 am, at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport.   The program will last approximately one hour, will include a question and answer session, and a “legal checklist” with an overview of legal documents every New Yorker should be aware of. 

Topics will include:
            Health Care Proxies
            Powers of Attorney
            Organ Donations

What are healthcare proxies and powers of attorney?  How do they differ? How can these documents help avoid problems regarding guardianship, DNR orders and organ donation requests?

Why do I need a will?

What insurance, pension and financial documents should I have?

What must be done to complete and maintain these documents?

It is important for everyone to understand the importance of having these documents in order, it doesn’t matter what your age is.  When people are unprepared, it can be emotionally devastating, financially costly, and an obstacle for people to take care of everyday dealings.  I encourage everyone to take advantage of this free service on May 22nd.  For more information or to register for the session, please call 433-1886.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week is April 21st – 27th this year; it is a time to celebrate people doing extraordinary things through service. Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week focuses national attention on the impact and power of volunteerism and service as an integral aspect of our civic leadership. The week draws the support and endorsement of the president and Congress, governors, mayors and municipal leaders, as well as corporate and community groups across the country.

National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals.  It is the perfect opportunity to seize the moment and share the national spotlight that National Volunteer Week deservedly receives.

Dick Gregory, American comedian and civil rights activist said, “One of the things I keep learning is that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people”.  This is most appropriate for National Volunteer Week.  Volunteering is a key aspect of civic responsibility and a cornerstone of the American way of life. People who volunteer are concerned about the quality of life in their communities.  They want to participate in a meaningful way and by giving something back; they feel they can have a direct and personal impact on their world.  It is in fact a form of philanthropy involving time and talent instead of money. 

Trends in volunteering show:  nationally, 109 million people volunteer; corporate volunteering is up – 81% of companies surveyed connect volunteering to their overall business strategies, compared to only 31% who did so in 1992; and 28 million senior volunteers gave approximately 5 billion hours of time annually, which is a value of $71.2 billion to non-profit organizations and causes in the United States. According to a recent survey, 44% of American adults volunteered their time in some way with an organization.  Traditionally, women are more likely to volunteer than men.  Today’s volunteers are aware of the value of their contributions and they are selective about where they invest their time and energy.

Volunteering is an activity most likely to be cultivated early in childhood and during teenage years – in fact, adults who report volunteering in their youth are twice as likely to volunteer as adults.  Volunteerism among young people is on the rise, with 55 percent of American teenagers volunteering.

America was built on the spirit of volunteering.  Without the efforts of millions of volunteers who give their time to help others in their communities, our country would be a different place.  That same concept holds true for The Dale Association; originally founded with volunteer staff only, we still count on about 400 volunteers each year to help run or sustain many of our programs, special events, and assist with office work. 

Volunteers were asked a series of questions about the reasons they volunteered, and the findings confirm what is already well known. The most important reasons given were: 

Feeling compassion for those in need 86%
Having an interest in the activity or work 72%
Gaining a new perspective on things 70%
The importance of the activity to people that the volunteer respects 63%

People volunteer for various reasons; some of which are more obvious than others. The tradition has long been that volunteering is a form of charity and the best volunteering does involve the desire to help others.  It is okay to want to benefit yourself from volunteering, too. Deciding to volunteer can be a personally rewarding experience while making a difference in your community.  Finding the right volunteer opportunity and making the most out of your volunteer activities can be crucial to making a real difference and having a positive experience.

Think about your motivation to volunteer and how much you receive when you give your time.  Consider some of the following reasons that people volunteer: to feel needed, share a skill, get to know community, to keep busy, to learn something new, to help a friend or relative, to feel proud, to make new friends, because you believe in a cause, for fun, to have an excuse to do what you love, to feel good, because you were asked, or you probably have a special reason of your own.  Once you are a volunteer, stay as long as your efforts are accomplishing something, that you are appreciated and that you make a difference.

Volunteers are the heart of our services at The Dale Association – thank you to everyone who volunteers.  One of the most visible volunteer opportunities is that of a long-term care Ombudsman.  If you are looking for a volunteer experience where you can have a direct impact on the quality of life for people in long-term care facilities, consider becoming a Niagara County Ombudsman.  As a trained Ombudsman, you have a positive impact on the quality of the residents’ lives, in as little as four hours a week and you’ll set your own hours. Ombudsmen exemplify the dedication and caring we look for in our volunteers.  In Niagara County, Ombudsmen serve 15 facilities as advocates for residents of long-term care facilities. Ombudsman is a Swedish word for “mediator”. Responsibilities of an Ombudsman include advocating for residents and their families in resolving problems or complaints, monitoring the residents’ quality of care, helping protect residents’ rights and assuring safety and fair treatment with dignity and respect.  New York State’s Long-term Care Ombudsman program is sponsored in Niagara County by The Dale Association and helps approximately 2300 residents county-wide.  I’ve had the privilege of meeting most of the volunteer Ombudsman; as volunteers, they are an extension of The Dale Association and I am honored to have such a wonderful group of people helping support The Dale’s mission in our community.  We greatly appreciate our Ombudsmen and the wonderful, caring support they provide.

To everyone who has given so generously of his or her time volunteering this past year, THANK YOU!  Keep up the good work, you are so needed.  The Dale Association Volunteer Recognition event takes place on May 16th.