Need Your Opinion: Women and Aging Panel Discussion

Our good friends at Volunteers of America are having their second Women and Aging Panel Discussion.  David Burch of VOA asked me for some input on their panel discussion, but the best people to ask are you!!  Please share your input by commenting on this post, and I will send the consolidated feedback over to David.

Hi Ryan,

Hope all’s well with you. I wanted to let you know about a panel discussion Volunteers of America will host on Tuesday, May 11 at the National Press Club in Washington on the topic of women and aging.

Like we did with our panel last year, we’d like to gather feedback from bloggers like you who write about issues affecting older Americans. The panelists will explore the health care, financial and societal issues affecting older women that will influence workplaces, public policy and the economy for years to come. Some of the questions we’ll explore include:

  • What should be done to care for elderly women who have exhausted their resources caring for others?
  • How can a woman prepare for her own golden years while balancing careers, children and caring for parents or loved ones?

Please feel free to email me any questions you would like to ask the panel.

For those of your who aren’t familiar with the Women and Aging Panel Discussion, you should take it look.  There’s a great line-up planned.

Debra Granich and The Red Hat Society Make Aging Fun

When the topic of aging parents pops up, many people immediately shift the conversation to healthcare, senior living communities or dementia.  And that’s fair, because many people don’t often think of these things until it’s crashing down upon them.

So when I met Debra Granich, the president and CEO of the Red Hat Society, I was delighted at such a refreshing experience.  Without stealing Debra’s thunder in the interview, the Red Hat Society (or Red Hatters) approaches aging with an eye toward support and a requirement for fun.  For many of you who’ve heard me speak, you know that I am a huge believer in the power of friendships and socialization to keep the body and mind youthful.  The Red Hatters have institutionalized this attitude across its very large membership and are realizing incredible results.

In this Leaders in Elder Care podcast, Debra shares the mission behind the Red Hat Society and some news that should make every senior lady and her family excited.  Enjoy!

How does Debra Granich describe the Red Hat Society? Keep reading.

Who We Are:

  • A global society of women approaching the age of 50 and beyond that connects and supports each other in their pursuit of fun, friendship, freedom and fulfillment. By maintaining a thriving social networking community and offering a variety of services and group experiences, the Red Hat Society revitalizes its members, helping them attain renewed confidence, pride and enthusiasm for life.
  • RHS members wear full regalia that includes distinctive red hats and purple outfits if you are 50 or older, pink hats and lavender outfits if you are under 50.
  • Our mission is to connect like-minded women around the world and to encourage them to have fun together. We are a vivacious society of women who celebrate life. Along the way, we develop strong bonds and caring friendships–at the same time raising the respect and visibility of women who are entering their next stage in life.

How It Started:

  • It began with a simple gift. Sue Ellen Cooper gave a dear friend a copy of a poem encouraging women to don a red hat and purple outfit in the face of getting older. She also gave the friend a bright red fedora to celebrate the friend’s 55th birthday in November 1997.
  • The Red Hat Society officially formed April 25, 1998 when Sue Ellen Cooper and a group of five friends, known as The Founding Chapter of Fullerton, California, dressed in purple clothing and red hats and met for afternoon tea.
  • Word quickly spread of these outings after a story appeared in Romantic Homes in July 2000. Since then, hundreds of articles have been published in regional newspapers and national magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Women’s Day.
  • Sue Ellen Cooper never set out to ignite an international phenomenon. She simply wanted to share her light-hearted attitude toward aging with a few girlfriends. In response to national news coverage, the Red Hat Society exploded.


  • Approximately 30,000 chapters exist in all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 25 foreign countries.
  • It is estimated that each chapter averages 20-25 members.
  • The Red Hat Society is made up of a diverse network of women including working women and retirees, grandmothers, golfers, attorneys, teachers, Olympians and entertainers.
  • The Red Hat Society has licensing agreements with a dozen companies to produce quality merchandise available through the Red Hat Society Store and select retail stores throughout the United States. Product is identifiable by a tag bearing the official Red Hat Society logo.

Fun Facts:

  • 2008 is the Red Hat Society’s 10th birthday, which will be celebrated all year long with 4 conventions, 2 cruises, 2 outrageous birthday parties, a parade in London and many more surprises.
  • Exalted Queen Mother Sue Ellen Cooper reaches more than 125,000 Red Hatters each week through the Friday Broadcast, a personal e-mail updating members with news from Hatquarters and escapades of Red Hat Society members around the world.
  • Sue Ellen Cooper also sends a personal monthly broadcast to all Queens entitled Queen To Queen. This is a communique for all queens to share ideas and plans and to ask questions.
  • HATS! The Musical premiered Oct. 11, 2006 at The New Denver Civic Theatre and has since launched in its fifth market.
  • Red Hat Society Day is celebrated April 25th by official chapters worldwide.

About Debra Granich

In her role as chief executive officer for The Red Hat Society, Inc., Debra Granich has been instrumental in leading and building the organization’s international business operations, including membership, product, events, entertainment, travel and more. During her seven-year tenure, The RHS, Inc. has grown into a leading international women’s social organization with more than 30,000 chapters.

Previously, Debra held senior management positions for national retail store Contempo Casuals, then part of the Neiman Marcus Group. She subsequently transitioned to RHS from the Walt Disney Company where she held human resources leadership roles in Consumer Products and Theme Parks divisions. Among her responsibilities was the Disneyland Resort expansion project leading to the successful launch of an additional theme park, hotel and downtown shopping area.

Passionate about women’s health, education and social issues, Debra believes in living the values and mission of the Red Hat Society. An avid traveler, she is committed to changing the traditional notion of aging worldwide.

Debra earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton and continues to be active in many social and business groups associated with her alma mater. Debra and her husband Boris have been married for more than 27 years and together they have two sons in college.

Contacting the Red Hat Society

The Red Hat Society can be reached online or by phone at:

1-866-FUN-AT50 (866-386-2850); or

Back by Demand: Orange County Date for “Assisted Living Saved My Mom”

Ryan Malone will be presenting “Assisted Living Saved My Mom” at San Clemente Villas by the Sea, in San Clemente, California. The Villas have a fantastic view and a high-energy management team, so it should be a great event.

If you missed the standing-room only even in January, this one is something to make time for.  If you have friends or colleagues who are consider elder care for their parents, this is a must see event based on real-world success.

Courtesy of San Clemente Villas, all attendees will receive an autographed copy of the By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living.

A Unique Presentation

Designed for families and industry professionals, “Assisted Living Saved My Mom” is a unique and interactive presentation that shares how families can make a positive experience out of assisted living.  I share  tips for families that you will not hear in other places and can only be said because my family lived it.  In fact, there are a few parts that make the assisted living provider a bit uncomfortable.  Why? Because you’ll learn the tough questions to ask!

Peace of Mind

You’ll leave this presentation confident in your ability to (a) decide whether assisted living is right for your family, and (b) if it is, how you can take the bull by the horns and make it a good thing.

As I mentioned, San Clemente Villas will be providing at no cost autographed copies of my book series “The By Families, For Families Guide to Assisted Living” to all who attend.

Here’s the info – I hope you can join us for this very special and informative event.

San Clemente Villas by The Sea
April 28, 2010 ~ 6:00pm
660 Camino de los Mares
San Clemente, CA 92673

(949) 289-1534

For RSVPs, please email Aileen Brazeau –

How to Choose a Caregiver

The title of caregiver is not as obvious as it may seem.  Caregivers can aid in eldercare on many different levels and depending on your needs their roles can provide key benefits.

Benefits of caregivers

Your eyes and ears: Whether you live close by or far away, a caregiver can observe and update you on areas of nutrition, hygiene, activity level, services and other daily issues.

A concierge: Scheduling and staying current with weekly and monthly activities such as doctor’s visits, shopping, hair appointments, and therapy requires phone calls and follow up.  Allow the caregiver to take some of this off or your mind and your to-do list.

An influencer: Communication and opinions by close family members are sometimes not seen as being objective or carry as much weight as a professional caregiver.  Therefore it may be easier on everyone if the caregiver steps in at times to advise the patient rather than a family member.

Finding a caregiver

Before you choose a caregiver, you should determine the range of services you want so that you are making a decision that covers your predetermined needs.  Consider the following:

Make a list of daily activities: By reviewing the activities of a typical day of the patient you will be able to determine the specific duties required.  It helps to create a timeline of activities so that you plan for meals, naps and regular appointments.

Assess the degree of specialty: If the patient suffers from any degree of dementia or physical disability make sure you look for a caregiver with appropriate knowledge and experience.

Determine the need for meal preparation: Not only should you make a choice for a caregiver on their ability to prepare meals if necessary, but also their understanding and ability to create diet-specific meal choices.

Once you have your specific needs list refined, go to the following resources to be connected to the appropriate pool of caregivers to begin your interview process.

Additional resources:

10 Caregiver Questions

To make the most of your time during the interviewing process, conduct preliminary interviews on the phone rather than starting with in-person appointments.  Describe the job in detail along with the required hours needed and wages available.  If you feel the applicant may be a good match based on their experience and ability to provide references, then schedule the in-person interview.  It is a good idea to have another family member or friend participate in the interview to provide an objective perspective.  Finding that great match may be easier with a second opinion.

In preparation for the interview, create a list of questions pertinent to the job description.  Ask questions relevant to the caregiver’s experience and expertise surrounding the daily activities list you previously created.

  1. Where have you worked before?
  2. What were your duties?
  3. What type of patient medical limitations have you worked with in the past?
  4. What is your experience cooking for other people (including dietary restrictions)?
  5. Is there anything in the job description that you are uncomfortable doing?
  6. Have you had to deal with a patient emergency in the past?
  7. Can you keep track of and administer medications?
  8. Would you be able to transfer someone from a wheelchair into a car or into a bed?
  9. How do you feel about caring for a disabled person? Or a person with memory problems?
  10. Can I contact at least two work-related and one personal reference?

If you need a template for a caregiver interview, download this form as a guide:

Once you narrow down your field of applicants, make sure you observe the applicant’s interactions with your family member on a casual basis before making a decision.  If your family member is able, he or she should be included in the interview process and in making the final decision.

Consider the person most qualified for the job and with whom you feel most comfortable. Always check the references of at least two final applicants. Good applicants may have more than one opportunity at a time, so don’t wait too long before proceeding with an offer.

10 Benefits of Culture Change on Skilled Nursing

Culture Change (also known as person-centered care or resident-directed care) transforms the traditional long-term care model from medical facility to a supportive home environment.  This movement is designed to change the overall mindset and environment of nursing homes into personal communities.  Culture change is designed to nurture the human spirit of aging residents as well as take care of their medical needs.  Its focus is on both quality of care and quality of life as guiding forces for improved life experience and life expectancy.

Within the culture change model, seniors have more privacy and choices, much like they would in their own homes.  They are given more control over their daily lives including meal and bed times and the caregivers are given more autonomy to care for residents in this flexible environment.  Residents’ needs and preferences come first, and care community operations procedures are shaped by this perspective.  Even the physical structures are changing from large hospital-like units to smaller communities resembling more of a group-home atmosphere in which they are cared for by a dedicated team of caregivers.

10 Benefits of Culture Change

  1. Respects the right of the resident to make their own decisions and honors their need for control over choices in their daily lives.
  2. Reduces boredom and helplessness in residents.
  3. Improves mental health (reduces loneliness, depression, behavioral issues).
  4. Encourages a personalized home atmosphere by allowing residents to create their own living style in their rooms.
  5. Increases enjoyment and life expectancy of the patients.
  6. Focuses on using person-centered language that respects and honors the patient by putting the person first and then the characteristic second.  For instance, instead of a wheelchair-bound resident, the description is modified to a person who uses a wheelchair for mobility and instead of a feeder the patient is referred to as someone who needs assistance with dining.
  7. Focuses caregivers on person-centered care, rather than completion of tasks.
  8. Individual care focusing on personalized needs and preferences of the staff and the residents creates a supportive environment that puts people first, over the facility.
  9. Promotes a dedicated team approach rather than rotating assignments for staff thereby creating personal connections and familiarity for the residents.
  10. Creates a team-building environment for the staff based on consistency of staff teams.
  11. Reduces employee turnover which in turn keeps a steady team of familiar faces rather than the need for temporary staffing agencies with training needs and learning curves.

The essence of culture change is about transforming philosophies and management style so that aging is no longer synonymous with decline and illness.  The principles of culture change are founded in a new way of caring and being cared for that is based on choice, creativity, and flexibility.  The future of culture change lies in the commitment to improve resident and staff quality of life through empowerment.

For more information on the culture change movement, visit the Pioneer Network.

Photo credit: K?vanç Ni?

6 Senior Care Consumer Advocacy Groups To Know

There are many consumer advocacy groups both on a state and national level whose mission is to protect the rights and benefits of seniors or anyone who requires long-term care.  They are:

Health Information, Counseling, and Advocacy Program (HICAP): An independent resource established by the California Department of Aging that provides free counseling and advice about Medicare and healthcare insurance options to senior citizens.  To find counseling services in your area go to:

The Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living (CCAL): A national nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs and rights of assisted living patients, their families and their caregivers. CCAL assists consumers with education about their choices for assisted living environments.

American Health Care Association (AHCA): The nation’s largest association of long term and post-acute care providers.  They advocate for quality care and services for frail, elderly and disabled Americans. Their mission is to improve service and administration of nursing homes.

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR): A statewide nonprofit 501(c)(3) advocacy organization, is committed to improving the choices, care and quality of life for long term care patients. Their mission is to educate and support consumers and advocates regarding their legal rights and be a voice long term care reform and humane alternatives to institutionalization.

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care (NCCNHR):  Formerly the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, NCCNHR is a national nonprofit organization of consumers and advocates dedicated to improving care for residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman: An ombudsman is an advocate for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. They provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system. To locate state agencies and citizen advocacy groups by state:

To find additional U.S. government information regarding senior consumers, go to

Photo credit: ktylerconk