Those Who Need a Voice

This is an excerpt written  for The American Red Cross when a fire left many families homeless:
     It is a rainy Monday morning and it marks the third week where a 24-7 Red Cross shelter has remained open in Bergen County, NJ.  Volunteers and staff silently file into a stark room to debrief on the status of the shelter. The sole volunteer who was on duty through the night is bleary eyed. Styrofoam cups filled with coffee clutter the meeting table and business begins.
    They recap how two-hundred people were left homeless from a 5-story apartment fire. Seventy-five children are among the population. There were no injuries, but all property was destroyed: clothing, furniture, toys, books, and all items relied upon for day-to-day living. The subject of whether donations are tapped out is discuss while so much is needed to bring these families back from the ashes.
     The day's orders include distribution of funds, vouchers, and emergency clothing. Each client who walks away is grateful and thanks the volunteers.  One in his halting English stammered, "God blez you, America Red cruz."

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Excerpt from "Yes We Can" - Louise who earned a college degree and fought challenges:

Thirty-two years ago Louis was suspended from school at the age of 16 for smoking in a nearby park.  She vowed to never return.  High school meant little to Louise since she was already struggling with reading since middle-school, being pushed through the system. She was deliberately misguided and told to just get a GED.
“I could have stayed after the suspension, but I was discouraged. I wasn’t passing in any of my classes. I didn’t understand the work and I was embarrassed. I could barely read. The school just passed you even though you weren’t doing well because they wanted to get rid of you.”Louise eventually married and began raising her own family, only to discover quickly she was  trapped in an abusive relationship.  The tirades of  verbal, physical and mental abuse continued for 15 years.  Each time he slammed Louise against the wall, chips of paint fell from the walls but could not chip away her determination to leave. “It took me along time to realize that I didn’t need this bad treatment.  There’s a saying  ‘I can do bad by myself’ and I didn’t need him.  I learned from my abusive marriage and I am sorry that my daughter witnessed it.  But I believe God delivered me away from the abuse.”Finally free of her husband’s abuse in 2003 Louise decided that it was time for her to study for her GED.  The Metropolitan College had a program where she could earn her associate’s degree and GED at the same time  Mission accomplished in 2005. Prior to that she didn’t understand how to pass the GED test.  The teachers helped her through the rough patch. By now she was working for the NY Board of Education as teacher’s assistant for all grades Kindergarten through high school. Louise began the Organizational Management Degree Program at Nyack College. Her biggest challenge was writing because her primary education had gone neglected     "I  wanted the diploma so I could be a teacher who doesn't simply push students through the system. I tell people all the time if you’re not going anywhere, the only way is through an education.”Louise graduated from Nyack College in May 2010.

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 "Manage Loss as We Age" Interview excerpt with  Dr. Patricia Marino, Weill Cornell Medical College Dept. Psychiatry.

     Carol became widowed, lost her beloved pet Irish setter, and her best friend moved to California all in a span of 14 months.  She became reclusive, easily fatigued, and continued to decline social invitations. Carol’s losses continued to immobilize her.  She came down with a case of shingles, and , if she continued on this negative trajectory; soon her physical health would be another loss.
Types of Losses
     The loss of roles can be devastating.  Suddenly, a woman is no longer someone’s wife but now a widow.  A retired executive’s opinion carries little weight.  A sandwich-generation caregiver feels displaced once the aged parent has passed. The loss of health and mobility can be slow or sudden. Hearing loss can impact friendships and less socializing.
     “Seeking support and remaining connected to your community during times of loss can be helpful.  Additionally communication of emotions and needs during this time can be of help to many who may feel isolated and alone following a loss.”

Lifestyle Changes

     Recognizing and admitting loss is the first step in its management.  If the losses are relationships while general health remains intact, this can be a time for exploration of new interests, friendships, senior clubs, and if finances permit, travel.  There are community gardens, library book clubs, continuing adult education classes, walking groups, church groups and senior day-trips.  The key is to remain engaged with the local community, gaining from it and giving back.
     However, when someone becomes immobilized psychologically and becomes isolated, then depression may rob confidence, sleep, focus, and produce psychogenic illnesses.  That is the time to consider professional help. “Isolation during these times can be challenging. Older adults who find themselves having a difficult time managing their emotions associated with loss or change may also benefit from mental health treatment, and seeking support from family and peers can be helpful,” Dr. Marino stated.


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