American Society on Aging 575 Market Street, Suite 2100 San Francisco, CA 94105-2869


Remote Caregiver program p. 3 | Caregivers for Minnesota’s rural veterans get respite and relief.

Help for hoarding p. 15 | Signs, symptoms and routes to recovery.


Covering advances in research, practice and policy nationwide

NOVEMBER–DECEMBER 2019 volume xl number 6

the bimonthly newspaper of the American Society on Aging t i t l f t i i t i

Suicide prevention in long-term-care facilities

In this issue

FORUM Immigrants and LGBT elders—what do they have in common? page 3 AGINGWITH OPTIONS The future of work is still powered by humans page 5 IN FOCUS America’s veterans: their

ed living care or board and care, this means approximately 2.5 million older adults reside in long-term-care facilities ( ). In a recent study, over a 13-year period, approximately 2.2 percent of suicides among adults ages 55 years and older were associated with long-term-care settings in some manner ( ). But for many older adults, the opportunity to live in a caring, Too often long-term-care facilities ignore their older adult residents’ mental health and social needs. well-staffed senior living facility may provide the necessary well-being and connectedness that often is absent when elders live independently. Decrease Suicide Risk, Increase Protective Factors In following the public health approach for suicide prevention, the Education

By Jerry Reed

I n 2017, slightly more than 8,500 older adults older than age 65 died by sui- cide. Put another way, 16.85 percent of suicide deaths were older adults ( tinyurl. com/y6sjjy9j ). Without a concentrated ef- fort, and given the growth of America’s older adult population, what is a serious problem nowwill surely escalate. On July 30, 1996, the U.S. Senate Spe- cial Committee on Aging held a hearing on Suicide and the Elderly: A Population at Risk ( ). As a senate staffer for Sen. Harry Reid (D−NV), I at- tended that hearing. At that time, Sen. Reid shared with me and the public that he had lost his father to suicide many years earlier; thus, he wanted to champi- on suicide prevention, especially older adult suicide—both then and now a major unaddressed public health issue. With 5 percent of people ages 65 and older in the United States living in nursing homes, receiving congregate care, assist- America’s veterans—the truths and realities of the military legacy By John Rowan T he truism about lies—there are lies, there are damn lies and there are statistics—is relevant in un- covering reliable numbers about veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. In Washington, D.C., the figure cited by legislators and media for the number of living war veterans is 21 million. Yet ac- cording to the National Center for Veter- ans Analysis and Statistics in the Depart- ment of Veterans Affairs (VA), there were just over 20million living veterans in 2015 and 20.4 million in 2016, as more of those who served in the Global War on Terror traded in their uniforms for civilian garb (the year cited by the VA is the federal fis- cal year, Oct. 1–Sept. 30.) The figures given by the VA, however, tend to be somewhat higher than the totals from the U.S. Census’ American Commu- nity Survey, which numbered the veteran population in 2016 at 18.5 million. This is the same total from the VA for 2017, the last

Development Center’s (EDC) aim is to decrease suicide’s modifiable risk factors and increase protective factors. Risk fac- tors for all older adults include access to lethal means (most often firearms), de- pression and other mental health prob- lems, substance abuse and misuse (including with prescription medica- tions), physical illness, disability, pain and social isolation ( am2z4 ). Protective factors include care for men- tal and physical health problems, social connectedness and skills in coping and adapting to change ( y3qv5emw ).

lives and legacy pages 7–11

ENGAGED AGE One teen’s mission to stem elder isolation page 11 The 4Ms? Not a confection,

but a movement to improve eldercare pages 13–14

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2019 FORSA Award winner Marita Grudzen: a fierce proponent of spirituality and aging

A SA’s Religion, Spirituality and Aging (FORSA) Award recog- nizes outstanding individuals, programs and services in religion, spiritu- ality and aging, in an effort to inspire more spiritual exploration within the field of ag- ing services. The 2019 FORSAAward recip- ient is Marita Grudzen. Marita Grudzen was drawn to religion early on—as a preteen she dreamed of be- ing a nun. She fulfilled this dream in 1959, and although her spiritual path has evolved considerably since then, she is no less passionate, at age 78, about employing her beliefs in service to others, particular- ly older adults. As a nun in the Maryknoll Order, Grudzen spent eight years in formation and then serving poor and disenfran- chised people, and also caring for the Or- der’s older sisters. In the 1960s, wanting more flexibility from the Church in how she did her work, Grudzen, along with a group of her fellow sisters, opted to leave the Order. She eventually met and mar- ried a former seminarian; they have been married for more than 51 years and have

Marita Grudzen

two grown daughters and three grand- children.ThecoupleoftenvisitsGrudzen’s former fellow sisters, traveling overseas to assist them in their charity work. The Stanford Years Now retired after 28 years as a founding member and deputy director of the Stan- ford Geriatric Education Center and as a course coordinator at Stanford’s Center for Education and Research in Family and Community Medicine, Grudzen’s work has focused on spirituality in aging and at the end of life, including ministering to residents in long-term-care facilities and training these facilities’ staffs. In the early 2000s, Grudzen and Stan- ford physician Dr. Bruce Feldstein re-

year for which there are “reliable” figures, although the VA projected that there were 19.6 million living veterans as of the end of July 2019. Of these, women number 1.9 million, or 9.7 percent of the total. Older Veterans—a Fast-Growing Cohort The oldest old—ages 85 and older—com- prise the fastest growing segment of the population. Just about all of our nation’s remaining WWII and Korean War veter-

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