HIDDEN OR OBVIOUS DISABILITY? THESE WORKAROUNDS MAY HELP YOU COME BACK TO AN ENJOYABLE LIFE. (LAST OF A SERIES)
Hidden Disability Sunflower(Sunflower) is the second of two organizations that work together to modify the way airports, airlines, and even the TSA do business to make the skies more friendly for those disabled by dementia. We featured Dementia Friendly Airports Working Group (DFAWG) last week.
Hidden Disability Sunflower
Sunflower is a business that uses a lanyard decorated with sunflowers to connect persons with hidden physical and mental disabilities -from dementia to MS to vertigo- to a business member trained to meet the special needs of disabled persons. It began in the UK at London’s Gatwick Airport in 2016 and now serves over 230 airports in over 30 countries.
Albert J. Ellis*
Abraham Lincoln Capital*
Albuquerque International Sunport
Boston Logan International*
Central Illinois Regional at Bloomington-Normal
Chicago Rockford International
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International
Dallas/Fort Worth International*
Dallas Love Field
Dane County Regional*
Daytona Beach International
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County
El Paso International
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International
Fort Wayne International
Gerald R. Ford International*
Green Bay-Austin Straubel International*
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International*
John Glenn Columbus International
Lehigh Valley International
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International
Melbourne Orlando International
Milwaukee Mitchell International
Minneapolis-St Paul International
Myrtle Beach International
Newark Liberty International
Northwest Florida Beaches International*
Omaha Eppley Airfield
Orlando Sanford International*
Palm Beach International*
Piedmont Triad International
Quad Cities International*
Rapid City Regional
Rhode Island T. F. Green International
Rouge Valley International
Salt Lake City International
San Antonio International
San Jose International
San Luis Obispo County Regional
Southwest Florida International
South Jersey Regional*
Syracuse Hancock International
South Bend International
Ted Stevens Anchorage International*
Vero Beach Regional*
Washington Dulles International
West Virginia International Yeager
Wilkes-Barre Scranton International
William P. Hobby Houston*
The World Health Organization reports that 16% of the world’s population, or 1 in 6 of us, is disabled. That figure is increasing due to a growing and ageing population combined with medical advances. For many that disability is not visible and is acquired at some point in their life. It’s the largest minority group in the world, and it’s one that any of us can join at any time.
According to its website, Hidden Disabilities Sunflower was created to encourage inclusivity, acceptance and understanding because “(S)ome disabilities, conditions or chronic illnesses are not immediately obvious to others. For some people, this can make it hard to understand and believe that someone with a “non-visible” condition genuinely needs support. Some people question whether you have a disability because you don’t look “like you have a disability".
“Simply by wearing the Sunflower, you’re just letting everyone know that you might need extra help, understanding, or just more time.”
Concern about leaving his home can become overwhelming and send a disabled old goat down the dark path of inactivity and loneliness toward additional serious medical problems. It will be easier for him to travel or shop if he puts on his sunflower lanyard and visit the Sunshine member knowing that the staff will treat him with understanding and respect.
Here is how disabled persons and businesses join.
The disabled person can pick up a free lanyard at a member’s location or buy the lanyard online for $3.50. You need not divulge the nature of your disability. That is all. There are no additional forms to fill out or membership fees. The online store has other products bearing the sunflower image.
This is the 5-step process for a business to join:
Become a Sunflower Member in five easy steps
*Access restricted dependent on Sunflower Membership level
For additional information go to the helpful website at https://hdsunflower.com
HIDDEN OR OBVIOUS DISABILITY? THESE WORKAROUNDS MAY HELP YOU COME BACK TO AN ENJOYABLE LIFE. (FIRST OF A SERIES)
My two favorite words in this title are “workaround” and “comeback.” You work around a computer problem and carry on. You come back from a disabling injury and carry on. Neither the computer problem nor the injury went away. In both cases, they found other ways to get on with their lives.
In this series, oldegoats.com will point you in directions that may allow you to work around your hidden or obvious disability and come back to something that brings joy to your life. You may find the same joy in helping a loved one or friend work around their disability.
Dementia disables many old goats. According to a 2017 study, 26.9% of men 70+ will develop dementia. Workarounds can override many of the adverse effects of this hidden disability.
As an example, assume Jack, a healthy old goat, and his wife Diane were just invited to join the rest of the family at their grandson’s wedding two time zones away. They would have to fly. They are veteran travelers, but they are reluctant to make the trip because Diane has dementia which has caused disruptive memory lapses and decreased good judgment. Jack is concerned that she may have difficulty remembering how to travel and may not be able to be safely left alone or go to the bathroom. They need to work around Diane’s problems so they can stage a comeback to traveling and attend their family gathering.
Fortunately, because these problems exist frequently, two organizations work together to modify the way airports, airlines, and even the TSA do business to make the skies more friendly for those disabled by dementia. We will feature Dementia Friendly Airports Working Group (DFAWG) now and Hidden Disabilities Sunflower (Sunflower).
Dementia Friendly Airports Working Group (DFAWG)
This Group concentrates on airports in the United States. Sara Barsel, a former special education teacher in Minnesota, started it in 2018 after she learned of the first dementia-friendly airport in Brisbane, Australia.
For the traveler, the DFWAG website is an extremely helpful encyclopedia containing excellent, detailed "How To" information from trip planning to arrival at the destination for persons with dementia. Go to https://www.dementiafriendlyairports.com and, on the Home page, click on Resources for Travel for a menu of related topics and visit the remainder of the website for additional valuable information.
Jack decided to get a wheelchair for Diane to be close to reassure and to better control her whereabouts. He followed this advice, which met his concerns, from the website:
Arriving at the Airport
Use the services offered, such as curbside check-in, customer service desks, airport volunteers, and wheelchair assistants, so you can expedite the process and focus on your flight and the person living with dementia.
Some of these services must be requested in advance, such as curbside wheelchair assistance or an airport volunteer to accompany you from arrival to departure.
As a backup, Jack bought two smartwatches as suggested by the website:
Smartwatch technology is evolving, including simple smart watches for children. Using a smartwatch with 2-way communication and tracking capacity should reduce the chances of lost contact between a person living with dementia and their care partner/travel companion inside an airport.
Depending on the model, features include:
DFWAG’s collection of workarounds enabled Jack and Diane to enjoy the wedding and gave them the confidence to resume their travels.
To date, DFWAG has convinced these 12 US airports of the merits of transforming into a dementia-friendly airport.
According to DFWAG, a dementia-friendly airport accommodates the needs of persons living with dementia and their care partners to navigate throughout the airport safely and comfortably.
1. Environmental considerations to assist persons living with dementia and their care partners to use the amenities and resources (restaurants, lavatories, waiting areas, shops, transportation to gates and terminals). These considerations include:
• Clear signage and wayfinding
• Minimizing visual and auditory stimulation
• Provision of quiet areas, including in restaurants and gate waiting areas (dedicated rooms or seating away from noise/crowds)
• Readily accessible toilets (i.e., family restrooms) • Avoiding floor surfaces with glare
• Well-lit walkways and common spaces
• Entrances, exits, elevators, escalators, staircases, people movers, and trams should be clearly identified and easy to use
2. Having protocols or procedures in place for settings where more assistance may be needed to help persons living with dementia and their care partners navigate the airport, board, and deplane in a timely and low-stress manner (e.g., check-in, baggage check, baggage claim, and security).
3. Airport personnel, TSA staff, volunteers, vendors, and airline employees who are trained about dementia and can support the needs of persons with dementia and their care partners.
4. Resolving dementia-related crises in a competent and caring manner utilizing readily available staff who have received dementia-friendly training.
5. Encouraging airlines to accommodate the needs of persons with dementia.
These commendable modifications should ease the minds of travelers with dementia and of those who love and care for the travelers. Next oldegoats.com will feature Sunflower, an international organization that helps airports, airlines, and retailers improve services worldwide for those with hidden and obvious disabilities.
THE VA'S COMPASSIONATE CONTACT CARE PROGRAM (CCC)
The Compassionate Contact Corps Program(CCC), the Veterans Administration’s signature program to reduce loneliness in Vets, pairs trained volunteers with willing Vets by phone or video. Over the last three years, the number of hours of compassionate contact has more than tripled from 3,430 to 11,672 hours.
A Vet can easily enter the Program. Here’s how it works:
· The Vet asks his or her health care team for a referral to the CCC.
· The CCC social worker verifies the Vet’s eligibility which requires that the Vet be enrolled at a VA facility and be willing and able to participate in a volunteer’s visits by phone.
· The social worker also asks about the vet’s history and interests to match the Vet with the best fitting volunteer.
· The process can take as little as a few days, depending on the availability of a good volunteer match.
The U.S. Surgeon General recently labeled loneliness as a serious problem among olde goats. We consider any program that successfully gets 70+ men to socialize as Good News. We asked the VA for details. Susan Carter, Director of the Office of Media Affairs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, responded to our questions in the following Q&A:
Q1: What questions will a Vet be asked when s/he calls to be assigned a volunteer?
A1: Any Veteran enrolled as a VA patient can ask their health care team for a referral to the Compassionate Contact Corps Program if they would like to have a volunteer. The CCC social worker would then contact them and ask questions about their history and interests, which would help to find a compatible volunteer. The social worker would also do a chart review to confirm the Veteran is appropriate for the program. It takes as little as a few days from referral to match a Vet with a volunteer, depending on the availability of a good volunteer match.
Q2: What information must the Vet provide to be eligible?
A2: To be eligible, a Veteran must be enrolled in care at a VA facility, be interested, and be willing to receive and participate in volunteer “visits” via phone. A Veteran can choose to communicate with their volunteer over the phone or video call, using either a cell phone or a landline. CCC coordinators and volunteers can provide basic support for setting up video calls. VA audiologists can evaluate Veterans with hearing impairments for hearing aids.
Q3: What training do volunteers receive?
A3: CCC volunteers clear a background and fingerprint check, and all VA volunteers receive training on facility policies and procedures, safety, confidentiality, privacy, ethics, suicide prevention, etc. CCC volunteers complete additional training specific to their role as a CCC volunteer, including good communication and listening skills, boundaries, additional privacy and security, emergency procedures, abuse & neglect, suicide prevention, and Veteran culture. Volunteers also receive information about Veteran resources and the best ways for Veterans to connect with appropriate resources.
Q4: How do volunteers encourage a Vet to talk openly?
A4: Volunteers are often matched with Veterans with common backgrounds, interests, or similar personalities. Volunteers are reliable, consistent, empathetic, and good listeners. This makes them adept at building rapport with their assigned Veteran, allowing conversations to flow smoothly. Time and patience are required. Usually, the first call or two is really feeling out of the situation (possibly even a bit awkward). But the longer they talk, the more comfortable they become, eventually leading to the Veteran talking openly to the volunteer.
Q5: How are volunteers selected?
A5: Volunteers apply to become a member of the CCC. The program identifies a good CCC volunteer as people-oriented, friendly, pleasant, non-judgmental, respectful, and sincere in their desire to help Veterans. Those who are not a good fit are usually identified quickly throughout the onboarding and training process.
Q6: How do you measure whether the calls are successful?
A6: The best measurement of a successful call is one that ends with the scheduling of the next call. The frequency and length of the calls vary depending on the Veteran’s preference and the volunteer availability. Volunteers are asked to commit and be consistent with their Veteran contacts. Most matches end due to an unexpected change in circumstances for the Veteran or volunteer. On occasion, a match ends because it is unsuccessful. Luckily, this isn’t often, and when it does happen, there is usually another Veteran/volunteer ready to be the next match.
Q7: Can you share statistics on the program such as the number of calls, the number of successful calls, and the numbers showing the program's growth?
A7: The data provided is based on VA's fiscal year, which runs from October 1 of a calendar year and lasts through September 30 of the following calendar year. Nationally, in fiscal year 2020, we had 225 CCC volunteers serving 3,430 hours of phone calls with their matched Veterans across 14 locations. Over the last three years, we've almost doubled the number of CCC volunteers from 225 to 516, serving 11,672 hours of phone calls with their matched Veterans across 68 locations.
Q8: Do you have two or three summaries(without names) of examples of successful calls?
A8: “We matched a Veteran who served in South America. He was stationed on an airstrip located near cliffs on the South Atlantic Ocean. The volunteers were matched, and after sharing and exchanging experiences about their time in service, they realized that they had served in the exact same obscure location. They started fact-checking to ensure they served at the same location. They started mentioning natives by name who were from the nearby village close to where they had been stationed. As they served 40 years apart, it was shocking to find that they both met the same natives and some of their families. Originally, the Veteran had lived in Georgia but moved to Southern Illinois after serving in the military. The Volunteer Veteran returned to Southern Illinois, where he was originally from after his service. They both were thankful and felt their match was providential. The relationship was cemented, and they have been buddies almost since CCC began."
“If I could possibly think of one good thing to come out of the pandemic, it would certainly be the CCC. I have been talking on the telephone with my Veteran, Louis, for two and a half years and my other Veteran, Bobby, for one and a half years. These two gentlemen have become a part of my life, as well as I have become a part of their lives. Sometimes, we go over the Giant circular together. Bobby sits at his kitchen table with the paper Giant grocery store circular in front of him while I look at it online, and we pick out the bargains of the week that might be something he would like to buy on Thursday. I suggest vegetables and maybe some fruit. Bobby thinks a pie or cookies sound much better. I feel so blessed to know these men. Thank you for this opportunity.”
I would like to hear from anyone who participates in a similar socialization program. Dan
The photo says it all