November is Family Caregivers Month

Each November, we celebrate our military veterans on Veterans Day and give thanks for our blessings on Thanksgiving Day. But did you know that during November, family caregivers are recognized and celebrated? Caregiving is one of the most important jobs someone can do. Whether you are taking care of a loved one, friend or neighbor, it is essential to educate and take care of yourself.

This year, the Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is encouraging family caregivers to explore options and discuss topics that affect the health and well being of their loved ones. Below are some topics shared by CAN:

Your Loved One’s Goals:

You know your loved one better, and spend more time with them than anyone else. Talk to them about their goals regarding their care and treatment. It can be challenging to talk about goals when facing a disease. But these talks help make sure your loved ones are receiving the care they want.

Treatment Options:

Is your loved one responding well to treatment? If not, ask their health care provider if there are other options available. Discuss possibilities for different dosages, alternative medications, or a new procedure. Speak up and ask their health care provider if there are options you and your loved one should consider.


The internet is an excellent research tool, but there is often conflicting and even dangerous advice – so don’t stop there! Be curious about the articles you read and ask questions. Is it from a reliable source? Talk to friends, family and doctors and ask as many questions as possible to learn about your loved one’s condition and treatments.

The Care Plan:

If your loved one is hospitalized, be sure to ask what happens after discharge. Will they need home care? Are there medications or procedures that will need to be managed at home? Some care may be complex and you may need to be trained on how to provide that care or make arrangements for qualified professionals.


Don’t be afraid to ask questions about insurance coverage, such as: Is their current Medicare plan the best option or should you change coverage during open enrollment? Was a medication changed for medical reasons, or because their insurance no longer covered it? If coverage was denied, can it be appealed or are there other options that can help pay their costs?

One of my favorite quotes is from former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” Which one are you?

Jason W. Swanson, HSE
Executive Director

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Powerful Tools for Caregivers and the Aikido Style of Communication

Family caregivers continue to be the backbone of long-term care services and support for older adults in Minnesota. Unfortunately, many family caregivers are not aware of the negative impact of caring for an older adult relative or friend may have on their health.

In the Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes we teach a section on communicating effectively with others. In a recent class a caregiver son – we’ll call him Richard, was frustrated and sad that he was unable to communicate effectively with his widowed mother because she was so angry with him for having moved her to an assisted living facility. During the class on communication we introduced the Aikido style of communication. Aikido is a communication tool that can help another person to feel that we understand his/her feelings and point of view. A person who feels heard and validated is more likely to work with us to find solutions to problems and concerns. The goals of Aikido are to create or regain a feeling of harmony between ourselves and the other person, to help the other person feel we have heard him/her, and to help the person meet some of his/her needs without sacrificing our own.

What Richard discovered was that instead of listening to his mother express her anger and empathizing with her he was defensive and argumentative. After learning the Aikido style of communication and role playing with other class participants, Richard felt he was ready to try to have a pleasant visit with his mother. This time, instead of being argumentative, Richard responded with empathy, “I’m sorry you are so unhappy here, mom.” Richard reported back to the class the following week that just saying those few words and responding with empathy defused his mother’s anger. Richard finally understood that his mother needed him to understand and empathize with her.

As a caregiver, we must rely on our communication skills to obtain and share information, to adapt to change, to ask for what we need, and to stay connected with others. Problems related to changing care needs are usually laden with emotion. If you reflect the other person’s feelings you communicate understanding, acknowledgment and acceptance. Once you address a person’s emotions it’s easier to discuss the facts and details of a problem.

To find out more about Powerful Tools for Caregiver classes call the Senior LinkAge Line.

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Aging Mastery Program Update

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent.”

-Carl Sandburg

Aging Mastery LogoMNRAAA has begun its journey with the Aging Mastery Program® (AMP). AMP is a product of the National Council on Aging and is offered in two unique ways: classroom style and independent self-starter kits. Both options have courses that focus on exercise, sleep, healthy eating and hydration, financial fitness, advanced planning, health relationships, falls prevention and more.

All AMP program materials and resources align with the overarching goal of helping people enjoy meaningful, good lives. With more people participating in the quest for Aging Mastery, MNRAAA hopes to gradually change societal expectations about the capacities, roles and responsibilities of older adults and to create fun and easy-to-follow pathways for staying healthy, aging in place and getting more out of life.

This program is currently being offered in three communities within the MNRAAA service area: Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop Community Education, Graceville Community Center and Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council. Future programs will also be scheduled in additional MNRAAA communities. AMP starter kits are available at both MNRAAA office locations.

If interested in learning more about the Aging Mastery Program or bringing it to your community, contact Kelly McDonough at 507-387-1256 x110.

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Minnesota Voter Information

November 5, 2019 is Election Day! I voted sticker

Not every community has an election this year but many Minnesota voters do have school district, county commissioner, municipal and special elections on their ballots. Check to see if your community is having an election and what will be on your ballot using the Polling Place Finder tool at

Early voting in communities with elections continues until November 4. Minnesota has “no excuse” absentee voting, which means that you can vote absentee for any reason! Request your ballot by mail or in person at an early voting location in your county. If you live in a nursing home, assisted living facility or are unable to go to your polling place due to an incapacitating health reason or disability you may designate someone to pick up and deliver your absentee ballot for you, which is called “agent delivery.”

Do you have an election in your community but are unsure if you’re already registered to vote? Check your voter registration status at If you need to register to vote you can do so on Election Day at your polling place. Just remember to check the proof of residence requirements beforehand. To vote in Minnesota you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old on Election Day, lived in Minnesota for 20 days, and completed all parts of a felony sentence.

If you need assistance with voting, there are many ways to get help. You can bring someone to help, ask an election judge, use a machine to help you mark your ballot or even vote from your car.

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