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Latest News

FY 2018 Draft Plan Now Available

5/31/2017 11:16am

The FY 2018 Draft Plan is now available. Comments are welcome and will be accepted through June 13, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. through multiple channels (listed below).

The plan (click here to download the plan) includes goals and objectives defining how federal Older Americans Act and state Older Michiganian Act funds will be spent to support home and community-based services for older adults in Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Montcalm, Mecosta, Newaygo and Osceola counties.

Seniors, family members caring for an older loved one, elected officials, advocates and other interested parties are invited to review and comment on the proposed plan by June 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm. Individuals may participate by:

  • Commenting on the website (www.aaawm.org)
  • Responding on AAAWM’s Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/AreaAgencyOnAging)
  • Sending a letter 3215 Eaglecrest Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

The Area Plan will be considered by the AAAWM Advisory Council at their meeting on June 5, 2017.  The AAAWM Executive Board will consider the recommendation(s) of the Advisory Council at their meeting on June 26, 2017, at which time they will make a recommendation regarding the Area Plan to the AAAWM Board of Directors.  The AAAWM Board will consider the recommendations of both bodies and any public comments on the Area Plan at their meeting on June 26, 2017. 

For additional information about the Plan, contact Lacey Charboneau at laceyc@aaawm.org or 616.222.7015.

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Johnson Center for Philanthropy Final Report

5/9/2017 1:43pm

The Older Americans Act requires every Agency on Aging to conduct a needs assessment every three years to ensure the provision of funding and services are meeting the needs of the target population. 

In the spring of 2016, the Johnson Center for Philanthropy’s Community Research Institute (CRI) at Grand Valley State University conducted a community needs assessment on behalf of AAAWM. The purpose of this assessment is to help the agency better plan and align program and services to alleviate poverty, promote well-being, and enhance self-sufficiency for older adults within their service areas. The results of the needs assessment are available to view in the final report. 

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Conquering the Kitchen Returns - Cooking Course for Male Caregivers

4/25/2017 3:48pm

Our cooking course for Male Caregivers "Conquering the Kitchen" returns with a 4-session course. May 1, 8, 15 & 22 from 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. 

Meal time can be very stressful for family caregivers. Conquering the Kitchen 
can reduce that stress and help male caregivers become more comfortable in the kitchen, no matter their cooking skills. Classes are small to allow for interaction with the instructor and other classmates. 

You'll learn:

•    New cooking skills or brush up on old ones
•    How to plan a menu
•    Ways to make meal time less stressful
•    How to follow a recipe
•    Locate community resources

To register call (616) 222-7007 or email staci@aaawm.org. $10 is the suggested donation and complimentary respite services can be arranged at the time of registration.  

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Tips for Holiday Gatherings with Family Members with Dementia

11/29/2016 9:15am

For family members caring for someone with Dementia, the holidays can become an incredibly stressful time. Often caregivers feel pulled in many different directions and also have the difficult task of identifying what their loved one can and can’t handle during the busy holiday season.

“Many family caregivers have confided in me that the holidays can become stressful as many relatives may be in town or available to come see the person with dementia and don’t understand the added strain this puts on both the caregiver and the person with dementia,” says Julie Alicki, LMSW, Certified Advanced Dementia Practitioner and Alzheimer’s Support Group Leader at the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan. “For people with dementia, gatherings with a large crowd may be too overwhelming and changes in their daily routines may cause additional confusion and frustration. Often out-of-town family does not understand these realities as they may not be aware of the cognitive changes that have taken place since they last saw their family member.”

Alicki recommends that family members of those with dementia follow the six tips below to help make the holidays more enjoyable for both the person with dementia and their caregiver.

  1. Practice Patience and Understanding: Those providing care to someone with dementia often are very aware of what may agitate that person or trigger a negative response. Out of town family and friends who do not have the same interaction may not understand why an invitation to attend a gathering is turned down or why their family member with dementia doesn’t recognize them. Practicing patience and understanding with both the caregiver and the person with dementia can make a huge difference. “I tell people to trust that the family caregiver knows what the person with dementia can and can’t handle and don’t try to add guilt about not participating in an event or gathering,” says Alicki. “Also understand that when it comes to dementia a person can have moments of clarity mixed with moments of confusion and it may be frustrating to them as well.”
  2. Provide Alternatives: The activity or gathering you have planned may be too challenging for someone with dementia. If an invitation is turned down try providing alternatives. Some people with dementia may get agitated in large groups, so offer to meet with that person one-on-one or in a smaller setting. For some, a restaurant may involve too many distractions; perhaps a quieter environment would be best. Talk with the family caregiver to find out what would work for them and be flexible.
  3. Offer Respite: Caring for a loved one can be extremely rewarding and often overwhelming. Ask the family caregiver if you can provide them with a break while spending time with the person with dementia. For some caregivers this is the greatest gift you could give them for the holidays- some time off! If you are unable to provide them with a break, ask what they do need. Caregivers might be hesitant to ask for help, but may be able to identify an area where they could use help (i.e. doing laundry, cleaning the home or preparing a meal).
  4. Create Nametags: You may think this sounds silly as everyone in your family knows who people are, but for someone with dementia remembering names can be difficult and may make them anxious or frustrated when they realize they are unable to recall a name. Providing nametags is a simple way to help them feel a part of the festivities and remove that obstacle.
  5. Designate a Quiet Place: For many individuals with dementia, a loud gathering can be overwhelming and may cause agitation. If possible, provide a quiet room so they can take a break if they need some space away from all the commotion. Or, consider having them in the quiet room and have family members come in one at a time or in small groups to visit. Again, talk to the caregiver to see if this would be a beneficial alternative.
  6. Be Prepared for an Early Departure: If the person with dementia is having a difficult time at the gathering the caregiver may have to take him/her home earlier than expected. If gift giving is involved in your celebration you may want to do this earlier in the evening in the event that an early departure is necessary.

By making the changes above to your holiday plans you may be able to provide some relief and more enjoyment to your family member or friend with dementia and their caregiver.

For more information on caregiving, support groups, in-home care, and other senior related services, visit www.aaawm.org or call the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan at (616) 456-5664.

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Dementia Friendly Grand Rapids Host Pep Rally to Raise Awareness and Funds

10/26/2016 4:30pm

Dementia Friendly Grand Rapids, a program of the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan, hosted a pep rally on October 26th to educate attendees and raise funds for future efforts.

The Pep Rally was held at The Dominican Center at Marywood (2015 Fulton St. East, Grand Rapids, MI 49503).

Click here to donate to Dementia Friendly Grand Rapids, or visit the website at www.dementiafriendlygr.com.

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Public Comment Needed!

6/1/2016 12:30pm

The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM) is seeking public comment on eight key areas that the agency will focus on over the next three years. As part of AAAWM’s Draft Multi-Year Implementation Plan for fiscal year 2017-2019, the agency will address healthy aging, access to dental care, person-centered planning, elder abuse prevention, creating innovative programs to reach older adults at all stages of aging, support  for those caring for seniors, access to services for LGBT elders, and making our communities dementia friendly.

These are big goals and AAAWM has outlined ways to meet these goals in the full plan (available here).For example, when it comes to elder abuse prevention, AAAWM will continue to work with the Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition to provide education and trainings on elder abuse as well as provide input on current elder abuse cases. When it comes to addressing access to services for LGBT elders, AAAWM will continue to meet with agencies that serve LGBT seniors to inform them of available services, educate current providers about any specific needs that may relate to this community, and work to ensure all service partners are welcoming to all potential clients regardless of sexual orientation.

“We are asking the public for their comments and questions as they relate to these eight key areas identified as AAAWM’s goals for the next three years,” says Sandra Ghoston -Jones, AAAWM Contract Coordinator and Planner. “We value the feedback of those who live in our nine county region, and hope that people will send in their comments and questions on any of the topics identified in which  they have an interest.”

Written comments will be accepted through June 13, 2016 by 5:00 p.m. Individuals can submit comments below, through the agency’s Facebook page, by email (aiplan@aaawm.org) or by mailing their comment to 3215 Eaglecrest Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525.

A public hearing will be also held on June 6, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. at the AAAWM office (3215 Eaglecrest Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546). The hearing will include a brief overview and highlights from the Multi-Year Implementation Plan (MYP) with the majority of time allotted for public comment.

To view a copy of the MYP, please click here.

Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan serves older adults, individuals with disabilities and caregivers in Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo and Osceola counties.  For more information on the plan, or other services to older adult, please contact Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan at (616) 456-5664.

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Annual Plan Available- Public Comment Wanted

5/5/2016 4:00pm

The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM) is seeking public comment on eight key areas that the agency will focus on over the next three years. As part of AAAWM’s Draft Multi-Year Implementation Plan for fiscal year 2017-2019, the agency will address healthy aging, access to dental care, person-centered planning, elder abuse prevention, creating innovative programs to reach older adults at all stages of aging, support  for those caring for seniors, access to services for LGBT elders, and making our communities dementia friendly.

These are big goals and AAAWM has outlined ways to meet these goals in the full plan (available here).For example, when it comes to elder abuse prevention, AAAWM will continue to work with the Kent County Elder Abuse Coalition to provide education and trainings on elder abuse as well as provide input on current elder abuse cases. When it comes to addressing access to services for LGBT elders, AAAWM will continue to meet with agencies that serve LGBT seniors to inform them of available services, educate current providers about any specific needs that may relate to this community, and work to ensure all service partners are welcoming to all potential clients regardless of sexual orientation.

“We are asking the public for their comments and questions as they relate to these eight key areas identified as AAAWM’s goals for the next three years,” says Sandra Ghoston -Jones, AAAWM Contract Coordinator and Planner. “We value the feedback of those who live in our nine county region, and hope that people will send in their comments and questions on any of the topics identified in which  they have an interest.”

Written comments will be accepted through June 13, 2016 by 5:00 p.m. Individuals can submit comments below in the comments section, through the agency’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AreaAgencyOnAging) by email (aiplan@aaawm.org) or by mailing their comment to 3215 Eaglecrest Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525.

A public hearing will be also held on June 6, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. at the AAAWM office (3215 Eaglecrest Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546). The hearing will include a brief overview and highlights from the Multi-Year Implementation Plan (MYP) with the majority of time allotted for public comment.

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Tom Retires, Jackie to Serve as Executive Director

3/31/2016 11:00am

Thank you to all who came out to Tom’s retirement party earlier this week. As many of you know, Tom’s last day as Executive Director at AAAWM was March 31, 2016. We wish him well in his retirement and he will be greatly missed.

Jackie O’Connor, former Assistant Director, will now serve in her new role as Executive Director. Jackie has been with AAAWM since 1984 and she will provide a continued dedication and commitment to senior issues. Please join us in welcoming her to this new role.

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#1 Kenneth A., said:

Congratulations on Tom's Retirement.

Jackie is the best,whose dedication and professionalism that she has shared over the past 22 years in service here in Region 8 will enable her to move forward with quiet assurance in her position as the Executive Director of AAAWM

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Tom Czerwinski to Retire

3/24/2016 1:30pm

At the end of the month Tom Czerwinski, AAAWM Executive Director for the last 21 years, will retire. Tom has been with the agency since 1979 and has dedicated his career to the purposeful enrichment of the lives of older adults and is a critical partner in ensuring that vulnerable adults have services to meet their most basic needs. For many years he has designed, administered, and advocated for aging services and inspires others to do the same.  Tom has helped AAAWM build one of the strongest aging advocacy programs in the state. 

Tom began working at AAAWM in 1979 and has worked in finance, nutrition, contracts, and as the Assistant Director before being promoted to the Executive Director in 1994.

Under his leadership AAAWM has added a number of new programs including the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver, Kent County Senior Millage services, Nursing Facility Transition, healthy aging programs, and much more.

Tom has been a fierce advocate for seniors and helped to establish the Advocates for Senior Issues as one of the best senior advocacy groups in the state. The group has led a number of statewide advocacy efforts for vulnerable older adults and has been involved in the Kent County Senior Millage campaigns, including recent renewal and increase efforts.

He is well respected not just in the aging network but in our region and throughout the state. Tom has distinguished himself as a lead aging professional and has strived to organize, advance, and innovate for the betterment of aging services. He has fought to increase funding for vital services such as home delivered meals, home care, and transportation.  Thanks to Tom’s steadfast leadership and hard work more low-income older adults live with independence and dignity.    

Please join us in wishing Tom an enjoyable retirement and thanking him for his leadership, passion for advocacy and dedication to older adults.

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Paul Willis, AAAWM Financial Director, To Retire

12/3/2015 8:40am

AAAWM Financial Director Paul Willis will retire at the end of 2015 after 16 years with the agency.  

"Paul has significantly improved our budgeting process and our finance department has grown stronger under his direction," says Tom Czerwinski, AAAWM Executive Director. "Paul will be greatly missed and we wish him the best in his retirement."

Dan Travis will assume the role of Financial Director on January 1, 2016. "Dan has worked as the Assistant Finance Director under Paul for six years and is well prepared to take over these new responsibilities," says Czerwinski.

"Due to Paul's dedication and hard work, the agency is in a strong financial position and I'm confident Dan will continue in this same capacity."

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Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan
3215 Eaglecrest Dr NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Phone: 616-456-5664 or 888-456-5664 • Fax: 616-456-5692

aaainfo@aaawm.org

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