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How Best to Develop a Corporate Strategy That Generates Results

As you look around your office, is everyone just like you? Probably not.
The demographics of the American workforce have changed dramatically over the past 50 years. In the 1950s, more than 60% of the American workforce consisted of white males. They were typically the sole breadwinners in the household, expected to retire by age 65 and spend their retirement years in leisure activities. Today, the American workforce is a better reflection of the population, with a significant mix of genders, race, religion, age, and other background factors.
The long-term success of any business calls for a diverse body of talent that can bring fresh ideas, perspectives, and views to their work. The challenge that diversity poses, therefore, is enabling your managers to capitalize on the mixture of genders, cultural backgrounds, ages, and lifestyles to respond to business opportunities more rapidly and creatively.
Diversity is no longer just a black/white, male/female, old/young issue. It is much more complicated and interesting than that. In The Future of Diversity and the Work Ahead of Us, Harris Sussman says, “diversity is about our relatedness, our connectedness, our interactions, where the lines cross. Diversity is many things — a bridge between organizational life and the reality of people’s lives, building corporate capability, the framework for interrelationships between people, a learning exchange, a strategic lens on the world.”
A benefit of a diverse workforce is the ability to tap into the many talents which employees from different backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and disabilities bring to the workplace. An impressive example of this is found on the business cards of employees at one Fortune 100 technology company. Employees at this company have business cards that appear normal at first glance. On closer inspection, the raised Braille characters of employee information are evident.
Many companies, however, still face challenges around building a diverse environment. Part of the reason is the tendency to pigeonhole employees, placing them in a certain silo based on their diversity profile. If an employee is male, over 50, English, and an atheist, under what diversity category does this employee fall? Gender, generational, global, or religious? In the real world, diversity cannot be easily categorized, and those organizations that respond to human complexity by leveraging the talents of a broad workforce will be the most effective in growing their businesses and their customer base.
So, how do you develop a diversity strategy that gets results? The companies with the most effective diversity programs take a holistic approach to diversity by following these guidelines:

Link diversity to the bottom line. When exploring ways to increase corporate profits, look to new markets or to partnering with your clients more strategically. Consider how a diverse workforce will enable your company to meet those goals. Think outside the box. At a Fortune 500 manufacturing company, Hispanics purchased many of the products. When the company hired a director of Hispanic markets, profits increased dramatically in less than one year because of the targeted marketing efforts. Your new customers may be people with disabilities or people over the age of 65. How can your employees help you reach new markets?

Walk the talk. If senior management advocates a diverse workforce, make diversity evident at all organizational levels. If you don’t, some employees will quickly conclude that there is no future for them in your company. Don’t be afraid to use words like black, white, gay, and lesbian. Show respect for diversity issues and promote clear and positive responses to them. How can you demonstrate your company’s commitment to diversity?

Broaden your efforts. Does diversity at your company refer only to race and gender? If so, expand your definition and your diversity efforts. As Baby Boomers age and more minorities enter the workplace, the shift in demographics means that managing a multigenerational and multicultural workforce will become a business norm. Also, there is a wealth of specialized equipment available to enable people with disabilities to contribute successfully to their work environments. If your organizational environment does not support diversity broadly, you risk losing talent to your competitors. How can your recruitment efforts reach out to all qualified candidates?

Remove artificial barriers to success. The style of interview — behavioral or functional — may be a disadvantage to some job candidates. Older employees, for example, are less familiar with behavioral interviews and may not perform as well unless your recruiters directly ask for the kind of experiences they are looking for. Employees from countries outside the U.S. and non-Caucasian populations may downplay their achievements or focus on describing, who they know rather than what they know. Train your recruiters to understand the cultural components of interviews. How can your human-resources processes give equal opportunity to all people?

Retain diversity at all levels. The definition of diversity goes beyond race and gender to encompass lifestyle issues. Programs that address work and family issues — alternative work schedules and child and elder care resources and referrals — make good business sense. How can you keep valuable employees?

Provide practical training. Using relevant examples to teach small groups of people how to resolve conflicts and value diverse opinions helps companies far more than large, abstract diversity lectures. Training needs to emphasize the importance of diverse ideas as well. Workers care more about whether or not their boss seems to value their ideas than whether they are part of a group of all white males or an ethnically diverse workforce. In addition, train leaders to move beyond their own cultural frame of reference to recognize and take full advantage of the productivity potential inherent in a diverse population. How can you provide diversity training at your company?

Mentor with others at your company whom you do not know well. Involve your managers in a mentoring program to coach and provide feedback to employees who are different from them. Some of your most influential mentors can be people with whom you have little in common. Find someone who doesn’t look just like you. Find someone from a different background, a different race, or a different gender. Find someone who thinks differently than you do. How can you find a mentor who is different from you?

Measure your results. Conduct regular organizational assessments on issues like pay, benefits, work environment, management, and promotional opportunities to assess your progress over the long term. Keep doing what is working, and stop doing what is not working. How do you measure the impact of diversity initiatives at your organization?

In the book Beyond Race and Gender, R. Roosevelt Thomas defines managing diversity as “a comprehensive managerial process for developing an environment that works for all employees.” Successful strategic diversity programs also lead to increased profits and lowered expenses.
The long-term success of any business calls for a diverse body of talent that can bring fresh ideas, perspectives and views and a corporate mindset that values those views. It’s also no secret that the lack of diversity can affect your ability to communicate effectively with diverse clients.
Link your diversity strategies to specific goals like morale, retention, performance, and the bottom line. Build your business with everything you’ve got, with the complex, multi-dimensional talents and personalities of your workforce, and make diversity work for you.

Judith Lindenberger, principal of the Lindenberger Group, LLC, and Marian Stoltz-Loike, CEO of SeniorThinking, provide human-resources learning and consulting; www.lindenbergergroup.com; www.seniorthinking.com

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Strategies for Navigating the Uniform Probate Code

Imagine that your spouse or parent is in an accident or develops an illness that renders them incapacitated. Certainly, you would be dealing with worry and fear due to their situation, and you would most likely want to do all that you could to assist them. Unfortunately, when adults lose capacity to make their own decisions, if they do not have the proper documents in place, it is necessary to petition the court to have a guardian and/or conservator appointed. In order to have a guardian and/or conservator appointed, the court must first declare the incapacitated person to be incompetent.

While guardianship and conservatorship laws have existed in the Commonwealth for many years, the laws changed dramatically with the enactment of the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) on July 1, 2009.

Recently, the Probate Court has endured harsh criticism. Many felt that guardianships and conservatorships were obtained too easily, and that there were not enough due-process protections in place for the incapacitated person. With the enactment of the Uniform Probate Court, additional safeguards have been put in place to protect the incapacitated person and to ensure that their rights are protected throughout the process. While this is beneficial to the incapacitated person, it means additional time, expense, and consternation for the petitioning party.

Prior to the UPC, a guardian could be appointed to handle personal and financial decisions for an incompetent person, or a conservator could be appointed to handle financial decisions. Under the new law, a guardian is empowered only to make personal decisions, such as those involving support, care, education, health, and welfare, and a conservator is empowered only to make financial decisions. As such, if a person is seeking to be appointed to handle both personal and financial matters, this person will have to request that the Probate Court appoint them as both guardian and conservator. Under the new law, this requires two separate petitions to the court.

Some of the terminology that has been used for many years has also changed. While in the past all incompetent people were called ‘wards,’ the term ‘ward’ is now reserved solely for guardianships of minors. Under the new law, a person under guardianship is called an ‘incapacitated person,’ and a person under conservatorship is called a ‘protected person.’ Court personnel, attorneys, and the public will need some time to master the terminology now used in these matters.

The UPC has also established priority as to whom should be appointed as guardian or conservator. The highest priority is given to the person named in the incapacitated person’s health-care proxy or durable power of attorney, unless good cause can be shown as to why they should not be appointed. The order of priority differs depending on whether a guardianship or a conservatorship is sought, but in either case, the court may pass over a person having priority and appoint a person having lower priority or no priority.

A new provision also ensures that a person who is being investigated, or who has charges pending, for committing an assault and battery that resulted in a serious bodily injury to a minor or otherwise incapacitated person cannot be appointed as a guardian or conservator. The court will run a criminal-record check to determine a petitioner’s status and to ensure that they are not prohibited from serving.

Prior to the UPC, completing the petition to appoint a guardian or conservator was fairly simple. The entire petition consisted of one double-sided page. Under the UPC, the petition has increased to seven pages, and the information requested therein is much more comprehensive. The court is seeking information that would allow the court to restrict the guardian or conservator to making only those decisions that are absolutely necessary, while allowing the incapacitated person to maintain as much independence as possible.

At the time that a guardian or conservator is appointed, it is necessary to provide the court with a medical certificate completed based upon an examination of the alleged incapacitated person that occurred within 30 days of the hearing. In the past, the medical certificate consisted of one double-sided page, and the physician could complete it with information that the physician believed to be pertinent. Now, a medical certificate spans six pages, and the physician must answer specific questions detailing the incapacity.

Under the new law, a medical certificate meeting the same requirements must also be filed when the petition is initially filed. It is generally impossible to have a guardianship or conservatorship allowed within 30 days of filing. As such, this new rule essentially guarantees that two examinations and two certificates will be needed, which translates into added expense and increased time pressures.

Once a petition is filed, notice must be given to all interested parties, including the alleged incompetent person. This notice provides a date by which the person could object to the petition. Under the new law, the alleged incompetent person has a right to counsel, which would likely be exercised if they desire to object. Under the new law, it appears that the appointment of counsel can be requested by anyone, even if they are not involved in the case. If the alleged incompetent person is indigent, then their counsel will be paid for by the Commonwealth.

The UPC has also restricted some decisions typically made by a guardian that were not restricted in the past. For example, the guardian must receive court approval prior to revoking a previously executed health-care proxy. In addition, the guardian must receive court approval prior to admitting the incapacitated person to a nursing home.

This provision is extremely problematic, as it prevents incompetent individuals who have been hospitalized and who are in need of rehabilitation from being admitted to the rehabilitation facility without a prior court order. This requirement could easily delay the needed admission to the rehabilitation facility for as much as 30 days or longer.

With respect to substituted-judgment determinations, in which the court places itself in the incapacitated person’s shoes in order to make the decision that the incapacitated person would make if competent, the new law requires the incapacitated person to attend the hearing thereon. The most common substituted-judgment determination is related to whether the incapacitated person should be treated with anti-psychotic medications. In the past, it was possible and fairly easy to waive the appearance of the incapacitated person. Now, the court must find that extraordinary circumstances exist requiring the incapacitated person’s absence from the hearing.

In the past, it was the duty of a conservator or guardian of an estate to file an account with the Probate Court on a yearly basis. If the account was not filed, it would not be uncommon for this failure to go unnoticed. The new law mandates that, within 60 days following their appointment, a conservator must report all assets that may be coming under their control in addition to filing an account on an annual basis.

With the use of new software, it is understood that the court will be proactive and will require conservators to file accounts in a timely manner. If an account is not filed, the court may order the account to be filed. In the event that the conservator does not file his account in a timely manner, or if the judge is not satisfied with the account, the conservator could be removed and a successor conservator appointed by the court.

Given the increasing difficulty involved in appointing and maintaining a guardianship or conservatorship, it is increasingly important for competent adults to execute health-care proxies and durable powers of attorney. A health-care proxy is a document in which someone is designated to make health-care decisions in the event of incapacity. A durable power of attorney is a document in which someone is designated to make financial decisions in the event of incapacity. Executing these two documents allows a person to avoid the need for guardianship or conservatorship, as the documents cover the two areas in which the court would appoint a decision maker — personal and financial.

Ultimately, the enactment of the UPC has vastly changed the legal landscape with respect to incapacity. The easiest way to avoid having to navigate this landscape is to plan ahead for incapacity. By executing a health-care proxy and durable power of attorney now, you can put a plan in place that can be carried out without court intervention. n

Gina M. Barry is a partner with the law firm Bacon Wilson, P.C. She is a member of the National Assoc. of Elder Law Attor-neys, the Estate Planning Council, and the Western Mass. Elder Care Professionals Assoc. She concentrates her practice in the areas of estate and asset-protection planning, probate administration and litigation, guardianships, conservatorships, and residential real estate; (413) 781-0560 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (413) 781-0560      end_of_the_skype_highlighting;[email protected]

Class of 2010 Difference Makers
Diffrence Makers

Introducing the Class of 2010Their contributions to the community vary, from work to transform elder care to donations of time, energy, and imagination to a host of nonprofit agencies; from philanthropy that far exceeds grant awards to work to improve the lives of some of the most downtrodden constituencies in our society; from multi-faceted efforts to spur economic development in the region to simply inspiring others to find ways to make an impact. They are the Difference Makers Class of 2010. Their stories are powerful — and compelling.

The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation
Ellen Freyman
Shareholder with Shatz,Schwartz and Fentin, P.C.
James Goodwin
President and CEO of the Center for Human Development
Carol Katz
Chief Executive Officer of Loomis Communities
Robert Holub
UMass Amherst and Chancellor
Sections Supplements
How to Save Your Nest Egg From Nursing-home Costs

You have spent the majority of your life working and building your nest egg so that your retirement will be well-funded. Unfortunately, retirement comes at a time when the possibility of catastrophic illness is more likely.

Of all Americans age 65 or older, approximately 43% will enter a nursing home during their lifetime. Given that the average yearly cost of nursing home care is $90,000, and that the average stay will last two and a half years, planning for long-term-care costs is crucial, as these costs will deplete your nest egg at an alarming rate. Planning ahead, which is planning several years prior to nursing-home admission, will mean the difference between spending your nest egg to finance your care and preserving your nest egg for your family.

Long-term nursing-home care is not paid for by Medicare or Medicare supplemental insurance. While Medicare may provide benefits for a short time period, once Medicare benefits end, the nursing-home resident must find another source of payment. Medicaid benefits are available to help pay for nursing-home care, but they are available only after eligibility requirements, which include strict asset limits, have been met.

Recent changes in Medicaid law have significantly reduced last-minute asset-protection opportunities. While there are still a few beneficial options available if you fail to plan ahead, they apply only in very specific situations and are much less fruitful than plans completed several years in advance. The only surefire way to maximize the assets protected for your family is to begin planning at least five years prior to a nursing-home admission.

Obtaining long-term-care insurance can alleviate the draining of assets and provide increased financial stability. Most long-term-care insurance policies will pay for long-term nursing-home care, although some pay benefits only for home care. Benefits are paid according to what is specified in the contract purchased.

A wide range of policies is available, including unique combinations of benefits and pricing structures. For example, some policies will pay for nursing-home, assisted-living, or home-health-care expenses, thus increasing one’s long-term care options.

Some policies provide that, if long-term care benefits are not used, the premium may be refunded as a death benefit. In order to purchase long-term-care insurance, you must be insurable, which means that you must not have a health condition that would prevent the insurance company from providing you with insurance.

Assuming you do not purchase long-term-care insurance or that you are already uninsurable, you should consider purchasing assets that will not count toward the asset limit for Medicaid benefits. Non-countable assets presently include an irrevocably prepaid funeral, a burial account of no more than $1,500, a minimal amount of life insurance, a car, and, in some cases, a home. The payment of outstanding debts, such as a mortgage or credit-card balances, can also be beneficial in some cases.

Assuming that five years will pass before your admission to a nursing home, a gifting plan may be considered. When applying for Medicaid benefits, the Division of Medical Assistance will look at the five-year period immediately preceding the application to determine if you made any gifts. If gifts are found within this time period, a penalty period will be assessed, during which time the division will not pay any Medicaid benefits on your behalf. If at least five years and one day have passed since the date of the gift, under the current rules, the gift will not need to be reported when applying for benefits. Hence, no penalty period will be assessed.

A gifting plan may consist of outright gifting to your beneficiaries, usually your children, or to an irrevocable trust that can continue to provide you with income until you pass away. There is danger involved in gifting, as you may be admitted to the nursing home prior to the expiration of the five-year-and-one-day period. You must plan for this possibility before beginning any gifting.

As opposed to a gifting plan, if you are presently being cared for by one of your children, you might consider establishing a paid-care agreement with your child. Rather than gifting assets, you pay your child for the care provided to you according to the terms of the agreement. As you pay for care, you are spending down your assets to purchase the services, as opposed to gifting the assets, and you are also benefiting your child by providing him or her with additional income. These agreements must be reasonable and fair to you and your caregiving child.

The planning strategies mentioned in this article are extremely complex and contain various benefits and detriments. Should you wish to determine which strategy, if any, is best for your situation, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of your elder-law attorney before you take any further steps. Do so now to avoid paying later. n

Gina M. Barry is a partner with the law firm of Bacon Wilson, P.C. She is a member of the National Assoc. of Elder Law Attorneys, the Estate Planning Council, and the Western Mass. Elder Care Professionals Assoc. She concentrates her practice in the areas of estate and asset-protection planning, probate administration and litigation, guardianships, conservatorships, and residential real estate; (413) 781-0560;[email protected].

Sections Supplements
Bequeath Your Values Along With Your Valuables

‘To my daughter, I leave my love of laughter.’ ‘And to my son, I leave my passion for knowledge.’

As a responsible provider, you want to ensure the future financial stability of your loved ones. As such, you may have already drafted a last will and created an estate plan that transfers your worldly possessions; however, your estate plan should not end there.

What steps have you taken to ensure that you also pass on your values, ideas, and beliefs? What wisdom and life lessons do you want to share with those you care about? Do you want to be remembered for your values rather than for the possessions you have left behind? If so, you may want to consider drafting an ethical will.

As the name suggests, ethical wills are the spiritual counterparts to traditional wills that distribute wealth. Ethical wills pass on intangible assets such as blessings, life lessons, dreams, and hopes, as opposed to tangible possessions. While ethical wills are not binding legal documents, they can be an invaluable gift to friends, family members, and other loved ones.

Although ethical wills have recently gained in popularity, the concept is not new. Medieval models of ethical wills have been found in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures. In the days of illiteracy, last wills were read aloud so that all concerned could hear. Thus, it became common practice to attach one last communication to a captive audience.

Today, ethical wills are increasingly being created alongside traditional wills as part of the estate-planning process. Like traditional wills, they are often revised to reflect turning points and transitions in the writer’s life, i.e. the birth of a child, a marriage, or end-of-life planning. Additionally, while traditional wills are filed in probate court and become public documents, ethical wills become privately treasured family heirlooms. Indeed, rather than wonder what you might have done in response to a specific situation, loved ones may continuously glean nuggets of advice as they read your ethical will many times throughout various stages of their lives.

Preparing to draft an ethical will often involves serious consideration of your values and morals, important lessons learned, hopes and dreams for the future, advice to loved ones, invaluable memories, and important events in your life. You may also contemplate themes, such as regrets and forgiveness, personal love, mentors and teachers, cultural beliefs, ancestry, or how you would like to be remembered by others.

Creating an ethical will does not need to be an individual endeavor. You may choose to review your ethical will with your loved ones. Indeed, by encouraging input from family members, an ethical will may serve as a tool to give those family members insight regarding your wishes and intentions. Thus, the joint process of creating an ethical will serves to promote a cohesiveness that can last well beyond your lifetime.

Although writing an ethical will is a serious endeavor, it need not be a complicated process. Unlike traditional wills that are bound by statutory constraints, there is no set form or procedure for creating an ethical will. Each ethical will is as unique as the individual that creates it. An ethical will can be a letter to loved ones or to grandchildren not yet born. It may also be a set of instructions regarding the family business or a detailed account of a life journey. It may choose to develop and impart a family mission statement or provide blessings for future generations. Additionally, an ethical will does not need to be limited to writing. It may incorporate multimedia messages, such as photos, drawings, music or videos. Your personal preferences are the only constraints.

There are various resources available to assist with creating an ethical will, and professionals that specialize in this area will assist you. They may provide individual consultation or writing workshops. They will help you to ascertain what is most important for you to express and then guide you along in the process so that you will be certain to create an ethical will that is a true reflection of you. If you are inclined to work alone, an Internet search will provide a variety of free resources and examples that you may use as you write your ethical will.

Creating an ethical will forces you to contemplate end-of-life issues, which can admittedly be very difficult; however, this should not be a deterrent, because the benefits of completing an ethical will far outweigh the detriments.

It will help you gain a great deal of insight into what you really value and, in turn, pass that on to your friends, family members, and loved ones. Bequeath more than your valuables. Create an ethical will and bequeath your values, too.

Gina M. Barry is a partner with Bacon Wilson, P.C. She is a member of the National Assoc. of Elder Law Attorneys, the Estate Planning Council, and the Western Mass. Elder Care Professionals Assoc. She concentrates her practice in the areas of estate and asset protection planning, probate administration and litigation, guardianships, conservatorships, and residential real estate; (413) 781-0560;[email protected]

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Memory Care Poses Specific Challenges for Assisted-living Residences
Lois White (center), with Wendy Murakami (left) and Laurie Kenney

Lois White (center), with Wendy Murakami (left) and Laurie Kenney, says the Garden at Ruth’s House offers its residents more help than the general assisted-living population — and their own slate of activities.

It’s more than free groundskeeping.

Laurie Kenney, director of residential care at Ruth’s House, recalled a man who had loved working in his garden when he lived independently. So an area was cleared for him outside the assisted-living home to tend a garden. For someone with Alzheimer’s disease, she said, that kind of connection to one’s past can help keep the mind as sharp as possible.

“With Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s important to keep the mind active,” added Lois White, executive director of the East Longmeadow facility, one of several assisted-living complexes in Western Mass. to offer a specialized program for residents with memory diseases.

The program at Ruth’s House is called the Garden — appropriately enough for the man with the green thumb — and it’s a separate level of care than normal assisted living. It’s not nursing care, because assisted-living facilities are barred by state regulations from providing that, but reflects the additional struggles people with dementia or Alzheimer’s face with daily tasks.

“The residents in the Garden neighborhood need more support, directions, reminders, more one-on-one help,” said White. “They definitely require more care than our other residents do.”

Ruth’s House isn’t alone; the model of a memory-care program within a general assisted-living setting is one that’s gaining momentum throughout the region and nationwide.

“We’re assisted living, and everyone receives a certain level of care, but there’s another level of care, a higher level,” said Mary Phaneuf, director of marketing for the Arbors, a chain of four assisted-living homes, all with a distinct memory-care unit called Reflections.

“Someone might assume that higher level of care is nursing care, but it absolutely is not,” she continued. “The difference is, it’s a structured, no-fail environment. What that means is that folks with memory impairment have difficulty initiating activities, always feeling, ‘what do I do next? What’s happening?’ We try to prevent those feelings of anxiety by structuring the day for them.”

And it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, Phaneuf added. “We have a program director whose job it is to get to know each individual personally and design a program around their needs and their hobbies, what they would enjoy doing. They basically get them in a program from morning to early evening that’s structured with their needs in mind, and try to eliminate feelings of loneliness, confusion, and fear.”

In this issue, BusinessWest examines the benefits and challenges of memory care in assisted living, and why it has many residents and families a lot less anxious.

Peace of Mind

Staying involved in different forms of activity in order to keep the mind sharp has been a hot topic in Alzheimer’s circles for the past few years, and Kenney said she has seen the benefits first-hand.

“When residents move in, we do a mini-mental test that measures their cognitive abilities and impairments,” she said. “After six months, they generally improve on it. That’s because they don’t have the structure at home; they don’t do enough. Here, they’re stimulated and have that structure they need to keep their minds going.”

White agreed. “If you take someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia and keep their mind active and keep them engaged socially, they will in many cases have a slower decline; it does kind of stave off the progression for awhile,” she said. “If you’re an older person and you’re closeted in your home or apartment, just watching TV and not engaging in life, your mental status will deteriorate faster.”

That goes for all seniors, she noted, but it does pose a greater challenge to those with memory diseases, and it’s why assisted-living facilities tend to create a separate, intensive activity program for their memory-care residents. “You have to keep their minds engaged, keep them learning.”

Still, programs like the Garden and Reflections, while keeping their own activity regimen, do encourage residents to mix with the general population for many occasions, such as birthday parties, entertainment events, and even some day trips.

Wendy Murakami, wellness coordinator for the Garden at Ruth’s House, said the ‘use it or lose it’ maxim applies strongly to the dementia population. “I think the goal for them is to maintain their function,” she said — “not necessarily to make gains, but at least to keep their quality of life.”

These goals are much easier to reach within such a structured environment, White said, noting that the most well-intentioned families can’t possibly keep their loved ones occupied in meaningful activities throughout the day.

“Family caregivers are kind of the unsung and often unpaid heroes in this because they give up careers, they spend their own finances and resources, they often don’t have a lot of support and help,” she said. “So assisted living is intended to be a partnership between the resident, the family, the doctor, and the facility. It takes a lot off the family caregiver and allows them to be a son, daughter, or grandchild, because they know we’re taking care of safety and meals, and checking in on Mom to make sure she’s OK.”

That’s true of any resident in assisted-living care, but moreso for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, who need more attention at a level that’s usually extremely difficult to provide if they live in their own home.

“It’s hard to find someone to be with your parent 24 hours a day,” White added. “It’s even hard to find a private-duty nurse to make that commitment. That’s where we come in.”

Asking the Right Questions

Hyman Darling, an attorney with Bacon Wilson, P.C. in Springfield who specializes in elder care issues, told BusinessWest that no two assisted-living facilities are the same.

“You want to find a place that meets the needs of the client,” he said — and those needs are highly individualized from resident to resident.

“Some places assist with feeding,” he continued. “Some have higher levels of client care. Some let you pay additional caregivers to come in, while some only allow you to use their own. Some facilities don’t like people taken our overnight or on vacations and make a rule against it, while some allow a client to leave the premises if they’re signed out properly.”

According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, an advocacy group, families interviewing assisted-living facilities should look for specific elements in a memory-care program, including:

  • A structured routine for residents in comfortable, familiar, and safe surroundings;
  • A compassionate staff that takes time to gather specific lifestyle information about residents in order to individually cater to their needs;
  • Activities that reflect the routines that each individual resident has established over a lifetime, and that help people succeed at familiar tasks, whether it is making their bed or baking cookies, giving them a feeling of satisfaction and productivity;
  • A slate of outdoor activities, such as secured walking paths and waist-high gardening boxes for people to do their own gardening without bending over;
  • A proven ability to deal with difficult situations and behaviors, and stated examples of how the staff deals with them; and
  • An emphasis on preventing wandering.
  • That last point is an important one, Phaneuf said, because people with dementia often become confused as to their surroundings, and that confusion can be exacerbated at night when fewer people are around. Therefore, the memory community is secured to prevent wandering.

    “Some people use the word ‘lockdown,’ but I don’t like that,” Phaneuf said. “They’re not locked in; they can come and go as they please, with an escort. I like to use the term ‘secure.’ They’re living in an environment where they won’t wander out the door in February at 2 in the morning.”

    Meeting a Need

    Assisted living has been around only 25 years or so, said White, and has transformed the way older people are cared for — particularly those who struggle somewhat to live independently, but don’t yet need nursing-home care. Models like Ruth’s House and the Arbors — and other facilities in the region, such as Landmark at Monastery Heights in West Springfield and Reed’s Landing in Springfield — that add memory care to the mix are becoming attractive options.

    Part of the reason is the ability to provide a continuum of care, White said. While some residents are immediately placed in the Garden, others move there from the general assisted-living population at Ruth’s House, meaning families don’t have to find another home for their parent or grandparent when their dementia progresses.

    “Nursing homes serve their purpose, and they do a good job for people who need skilled nursing,” Phaneuf said. And, of course, many residents eventually do need specialized nursing care, and have to leave assisted living.

    “But many people in the early stages of dementia don’t need skilled-nursing care — not yet, anyway,” she continued. “They just need someone to help them, and provide them with a comforting environment, give them opportunities to develop friendships and enjoy life. And that’s what we do.”

    Joseph Bednar can be reached at[email protected]

    Sections Supplements
    A Primer on the Emerging Trend of Pet Estate Planning

    Some people consider their pets to be members of their family. Other people have made a career out of breeding, raising, and/or sheltering animals. When animal owners pass away, if they have not made provisions for the continuing care of their animals, the outcome can be disastrous.

    Often, the recipient of the animal does not want to, or is not prepared to, take on the responsibility of providing ongoing care. As a result, the animals are then euthanized, neglected, or abandoned. In order to provide for the ongoing welfare of their animal after their demise, the estate plan of the animal owner should specifically address the disposition and care of the animal.

    When an animal’s owner passes away, the animal will pass through the decedent’s estate as personal property, just as would a lamp, a couch, or a bedroom set. As such, the ongoing ownership of the animal should be addressed in the animal owner’s last will and testament. In addition to distributing the animal to a new owner or caretaker, most often, an animal owner will desire to establish a trust for the benefit of their pet.

    Although approximately half of the 50 states do recognize ‘pet trusts,’ unfortunately, at this time, Massachusetts is not one of them. While it is not possible to create an enforceable trust solely for the benefit of an animal, it is possible to establish an enforceable trust for the benefit of the animal’s caretaker.

    One of the most important decisions when planning for an animal is determining who will serve as the animal’s caretaker. It is also important to name at least one alternate caretaker, if not several, who would provide care if the originally named caretaker was unable to do so. The most commonly named caretakers are relatives, friends, the animal’s veterinarian or breeder, or an animal shelter or sanctuary.

    A number of animal sanctuaries have emerged that will provide care for an animal until its demise. These facilities vary greatly in terms of the environment they provide, the cost of placing an animal within the sanctuary, and the type of compensation accepted. Some sanctuaries may accept only cash donations, while others are willing beneficiaries of a charitable remainder trust. The animal owner should approach the intended caretaker to ensure that the caretaker is willing to accept this responsibility and on what terms, because nothing destroys a plan faster than when the intended caretaker refuses the responsibility.

    The next important decision is determining how the caretaker will be paid. The caretaker may receive funds to cover all verified expenses associated with caring for the animal. Normal and customary expenses would include housing, food, veterinary care, grooming, and burial and cremation fees. Another alternative is to provide a lump sum to the caregiver based on the care to be provided until the animal’s demise. Providing a lump sum may encourage the caretaker to skimp on the animal’s needs in order to allow the caretaker to retain the funds personally. In this regard, an independent party should be empowered to inspect the animal to ensure that it is being properly maintained. Inspections should take place in the animal’s home environment and should also be permitted to be made randomly.

    The animal owner should also address the final disposition of the animal and of any funds remaining when the animal has passed away. Here, the inclusion of strict guidelines concerning euthanasia should be considered. If the caretaker retains the funds remaining upon the animal’s passing, an unscrupulous caretaker may seek to euthanize the animal without cause simply to retain the funds.

    A comprehensive estate plan will also provide for the ongoing care of the animal should the owner lose the capacity to handle his own affairs, whether due to physical or mental illness. The health care proxy, which is a document naming someone to make health care decisions for the owner, and the durable power of attorney, which is a document naming someone to make financial decisions for the owner, should contain special provisions acknowledging the animal and providing for the animal’s ongoing care.

    Most often, a durable power of attorney will authorize the person named to handle a laundry list of financial transactions. When an animal owner is incapacitated, the animal must be placed with a custodian, and money must be spent to provide ongoing care. To avoid any controversy regarding the care and custody of the animal, the power of attorney should authorize the person named to take custody and control of the animal if need be. The document should further authorize the person named to arrange for someone to provide care for the animal, even to the extent that said care would require additional monetary compensation to the caretaker.

    The health care proxy should notify the person named and/or medical personnel that the incapacitated person is an animal owner and that the animal is dependent upon that owner for care. While medical personnel will certainly first attend to the owner’s care, if the owner remains incapacitated, the language of the health care proxy will remind the person named, and should alert medical personnel, of the need to ensure the ongoing care of the animal.

    When an estate plan takes into consideration the issues raised here, the owner has taken the steps necessary to ensure the ongoing care of their pet. The animal will then receive the best substitute care possible for that of their original owner. Without such a plan, the fate of the animal is at best uncertain, and at worst unspeakable.

    Gina M. Barry is a partner with the law firm of Bacon Wilson, P.C. She is a member of the National Assoc. of Elder Law Attorneys, the Estate Planning Council, and the Western Mass. Elder Care Professionals Assoc. She concentrates her practice in the areas of estate and asset protection planning, probate administration and litigation, guardianships, conservatorships, and residential real estate; (413) 781-0560;[email protected]

    Sections Supplements
    Providing Care for Aging Parents

    When an aging parent needs assistance to live at home, many children opt to provide the care personally. Often, the parent will not agree to hire health care professionals to provide care due to their inability to appreciate the decline in their ability to live independently. Occasionally, the parent has concerns regarding privacy or safety, and the only caregiver they trust is their child.

    Regardless of the circumstances, the ‘caretaker child’ arrangement conjures up a variety of legal issues.

    A caretaker child arrangement begins when either the parent begins residing with the child in the child’s home or the child begins residing, or continues to reside, in the parent’s home while receiving care similar to that of a facility.

    hen the child resides with the parent in a caregiver capacity, it is common for the parent’s home or other assets to be transferred to the child as compensation. When the parent begins residing with the child, normally the parent’s home is sold and the proceeds are used to build additional living space for the parent in the child’s home or given to the child in exchange for the services the child agrees to provide.

    In either situation, it is best to establish a care agreement. This is a contract between the parent and the child and possibly the child’s spouse, in which the parent agrees to pay the child (in either a lump sum or on an ongoing basis) or to finance an improvement to the child’s home, and the child agrees to care for the parent until the parent either passes away or is no longer able to perform two of the activities of daily living. These include bathing, eating, dressing, transferring, and toileting.

    When establishing a care agreement, value must be associated with the services provided. One approach involves valuing the services as a package like those at a board-and-care facility, and this is only feasible when the services rendered are substantially the same as those rendered by such a facility. In this situation, the average monthly cost of the facility may be used in the agreement as the monthly cost of the care provided by the child.

    An alternative approach involves valuing each service individually. This approach should be used when a child is performing only some of the caretaking activities or when there are indications that a non-caretaker child may challenge the agreement. Tasks performed by the child may include, but are not limited to, grocery shopping, meal preparation, accounting services, driving the parent to medical appointments, housecleaning, laundry services, etc. When using the individual pricing method, the child must keep a record of the services performed and receive payment based on the actual amount of service reflected on the time sheet.

    In addition to valuing the services provided, there are various other provisions of the care agreement that are equally important. The purpose of the agreement should be clearly stated and should set forth the exact services that the child will provide as well as the location at which they will be provided. The parent’s space, as well as any common areas, should be described in detail. Additionally, the agreement should set forth whether the parent or the child is responsible for paying monthly utility charges, such as gas, water, and electricity, as well as yearly expenses, such as property taxes and homeowner’s insurance.

    It is imperative that the parent and child decide under what circumstances the child is willing to care for the elder. The agreement should specifically state the terms and conditions upon which the parent or the child is allowed to cancel the contract. In order to avoid the appearance of an illusory promise on the child’s behalf, the agreement should provide that cancellation shall only occur upon the occurrence of specified conditions, such as when it becomes unsafe to continue to provide care in the home.

    The services that the child provides with respect to housekeeping, laundry, meals, and personal assistance should be as detailed as possible. The agreement should detail a schedule for cleaning the parent’s room and establish parameters regarding the parent’s transport to and from medical appointments by the child.

    The agreement should also address any property maintenance duties the child will perform, including, but not limited to, ensuring repair of the premises or its mechanical components as needed, mowing the lawn, additional landscaping and snow removal.

    In addition, a formula should be provided to determine how increased costs will be calculated whenever anticipated. For example, if the elder pays $50 per month to cover the cost of food, any increase should be tied to the annual consumer price index increase or calculated in some other definable manner so that its application is precise. Without such a provision, a disagreement may arise between the parent and the child, which could, in turn, disrupt the ongoing performance of the agreement.

    Any comprehensive care agreement should also address the disposition of the parent’s property upon passing or admission to a nursing home. As the parent’s last will and testament will govern the distribution of any remaining assets, the care agreement should mandate the execution of estate-planning documents by the parent.

    The impact of a care agreement with respect to the parent’s long-term care financing options is substantial.

    At present, the most common options for financing long-term care include obtaining long term care insurance, privately paying for care, or obtaining Medicaid benefits. When applying for Medicaid benefits, the Division of Medical Assistance will ask whether the applicant has made any gifts during the applicable look-back period. If gifts are found, the Division of Medical Assistance will assess a penalty upon the applicant. This penalty prevents the applicant from obtaining benefits for a certain time period based on the amount of the gift. When assets are transferred to a child as payment for care provided, it may be possible to avoid this penalty as the money was transferred to pay for services provided and was not merely a gift.

    Although there are many issues to address when establishing a care agreement, the benefit of such an agreement far outweighs the effort involved in establishing one.

    Outlining the responsibilities of each party will prevent most disagreements during the pendency of the agreement. Ultimately, working through the issues raised in a care agreement will lay the framework for a successful arrangement between the parent and the caretaker child.

    Gina M. Barry is an associate with the law firm of Bacon & Wilson, P.C. She concentrates her practice in the areas of estate and asset protection planning, probate administration and litigation, guardianships, conservatorships, and residential real estate. She is a member of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys, the Estate Planning Council, and the Western Mass. Elder Care Professionals Assoc.; (413) 781-0560;[email protected]

    Sections Supplements
    More People Are Choosing Hospice Care in Their Final Days
    Joanne Schlunk

    Joanne Schlunk says a multi-disciplinary team makes sure not only a hospice patient is comforted and supported, but the patient’s family, too.

    Joanne Schlunk recalled a man who was told he had two weeks to live. His volunteer hospice aide asked him if he had any regrets, and he said he wished he had written his memoirs.

    The aide offered to write down his thoughts for him. The dying man was skeptical, but convinced himself that two weeks’ worth of memories might have some value to someone.

    A year later, the memoirs were finished. The author? Far from it.

    The story demonstrates the unpredictability of the final days of life, said Schlunk, director of the recently launched Mercy Hospice in Holyoke. Hospice services are available to people whose illnesses are no longer responding to treatment — who are, in their doctors’ estimation, dying.

    And there’s no reason not to accept the comfort, companionship, and relief that hospice care can offer, Schlunk said — because predicting the end of life is a tricky business, and that two weeks, or six months, might not really be the end.

    “The focus of hospice care is comfort and quality of life, symptom management and support,” Schlunk said — all with the recognition that the patient has finally begun to succumb to his or her illness, and the end of life would no longer be a surprise.

    Robert Engell, vice president of Allegiance Hospice in Springfield, said hospice care marks a significant distinction from traditional health care in terms of its goals.

    “For most of us, when we go to the hospital, the focus is on curing us, fixing us. It’s acute intervention,” he said. “For people going into hospice, the recognition has been made — or is in the process of being made — that there is no cure for this life-limiting illness. So hospice is not a place; it’s a philosophy of care.”

    It’s also one that increasing numbers of Americans are tapping into, as it enables them to receive care where they’re most comfortable, usually at home. This issue, BusinessWest examines the philosophy behind hospice and how it’s benefiting not only the dying, but those grieving for them as well.

    New Concept

    Engell said the hospice concept emerged during the 1960s and 1970s, as pioneering studies of the dying process by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and others were getting serious attention.

    “There was a lot of work being done around that time on the needs of the dying person,” Engell said. The first hospice program in America was launched in New Haven, Conn. during the mid-1970s.

    “That was the start of it,” he continued. “In the 1980s, Medicare recognized the value of it and lent it credence as one of its benefit programs. As people became more aware of a hospice benefit, they started taking advantage of it as an alternative to more aggressive treatments.”

    Schlunk has witnessed the same trend, having spent 23 years in the field of hospice care. She helped launch one of the Bay State’s first such programs at Franklin Medical Center in 1985, and was excited to do the same for the Sisters of Providence Health System.

    “This system stands for providing care at all phases of life and serving the needs of the entire community,” she said. “They stand behind that mission, so this was a logical development for us.”

    Other area hospitals and health systems have similar affiliations, and Schlunk said it makes sense, allowing people to stay within the health system that might have served them for decades. One difference between 1985 and 2006, of course, is that many more people know what hospice is, and how they can access it.

    “There’s much more awareness today of what hospice can provide and the value it has,” she told BusinessWest, recognizing at the same time that moving to hospice care is a significant emotional hurdle for families, since doing so explicitly recognizes that the end of life may not be far away.

    “It’s a big step, a huge psychological step,” Schlunk said. “The timing has to be right for each family. Sometimes that’s a few days before the end, and sometimes it’s years before.”

    Engell said there are some 3,000 hospice programs nationwide, and about 50 in Massachusetts. Typically, programs feature an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, therapists, counselors, and volunteers, all working together to make sure the patient is as comfortable — and at peace — as possible.

    Changing Perceptions

    Engell tells of hospice patients who wish they had started sooner, if only to have a chance to rest peacefully at home, where most hospice care is delivered.

    “It’s really all about the relationships that are established between these professionals and the patient and family,” he said. “As with all good relationships, they take time to develop, so there’s a better benefit to those who access it early.”

    However, compared to other models of elder care, such as nursing homes, hospice care is still relatively new. As a result, many people still need to be educated about what hospice is and isn’t, Engell said.

    “Back in the ’80s and early ’90s, the majority of people who went into hospice care — about three-quarters — had some form of cancer diagnosis,” he explained. “Many people still have the impression that it’s just a benefit for people who have cancer, but that’s not true.” Still, he said, perceptions are changing; cancer patients now comprise just under half of all those in hospice.

    The other major public-awareness hurdle involves communicating how much of a benefit hospice care is not just to the dying person, but his or her loved ones. The philosophy of hospice is closely tied to giving emotional and other support to the entire family — and those benefits, which are paid for by both Medicare and Medicaid, continue for a full 13 months after the main care beneficiary has died.

    Why more than a year after? “Think about it,” Engell said. “All of us have a life cycle of events that run throughout the course of a year. Think about the first Thanksgiving that your mother’s not at the end of the table, or the first time your child celebrates a birthday and his favorite uncle isn’t there.”

    Providing services throughout a full year, he explained, allows a family to access support as they encounter each holiday, special day, or other key event that might prove to be a surprisingly emotional challenge.

    “We’ll receive a call out of the blue from someone we haven’t heard from in awhile,” Engell said. “They’ll say, ‘I thought I was OK, but I just need someone to talk to.’ That’s what’s really wonderful about hospice — it’s there to give relief, whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or psychological. It allows patients and their families to have comfort and dignity.”

    Into the Sunset

    Engell mused that, as awareness of hospice increases, more people will demand the service. “It’s a holistic form of care that allows for people to reconnect with their families in very significant and meaningful ways.”

    Recalling the man who lived long enough to dictate his memoirs, Schlunk reflected on the futility of running out a clock that’s never accurate. Instead, the hospice team helps the patient focus on the goals of care — and of living.

    “They’ve documented that the person is declining, or is expected to decline, but they don’t have to discuss that at length with the patient,” she said. “We don’t want to take away hope — and hope can take on many forms. It can be hoping that a miracle happens — and they do — but it may just be hoping to see a son graduate, or see a grandchild born. That’s OK. We want to hope right along with people.”

    Even if there’s nothing left to hope for but a peaceful — and regret-free — end.

    Joseph Bednar can be reached at[email protected]

    Departments

    The following Business Certificates and Trade Names were issued or renewed during the month of September 2006.

    Agawam

    E & M General Cleaning Service
    55 Royal Lane
    Edward G. Filkoski

    Gerry’s Painting
    38 Pheasant Hill Road
    Gerald Auby

    Jay’s Barber/Styling
    Dba Shear Illusions
    497 Springfield St.
    John Contrino

    Karrah Creations
    43 Beekman Dr.
    Karen Rahilly

    R & K Marketing
    350 Meadow St., 28
    Kim Parent, Richard Parent

    Rock Daddy Cycles
    830 Springfield St.
    Rocco Basile Jr.

    Sara’s Beauty Salon
    28 Southwick St.
    Sara Torres

    X-Fusion Products
    702 Barry St.
    Nicholas D. Tassone

    Amherst

    Business Alliance Services
    1278 Bay Road
    Legrand Hines Jr.

    Cherewatti Farm
    575 Northeast St.
    Ilona Cherrewatti

    John B. Erskine Podiatry, PC
    Dba Pioneer Valley Podiatry
    20 Gatehouse Road
    John Erskine

    Leonard Farm
    150 Sunderland Road
    Scott A. Leonard , Marilyn Leonard

    MHP-Massachusetts Housing
    Partnership Fund Board
    462 Main St.
    MHP-Massachusetts Housing
    Partnership Fund Board

    Nails with Kocut
    233 North Pleasant St.
    Elaine Lanoue

    East Longmeadow

    4C property Services
    91 Pease Road
    Carl H. Otto III, Mary E. Otto

    A-M Styles
    2 North Main St.
    Emanuela Hernandez

    Bach Towing Inc.
    174 Shaker Road
    James Lawrence

    Banner Residential Remodeling Co.
    4 Elmcrest St.
    Ralph Butler

    Colson & Colson General
    Contractors Inc.
    714 Parker St.
    Colson & Colson General
    Contractors, Inc.

    Curves
    632 North Main St.
    Susan Kozlik

    Dan Chrisis
    84 Oak Brook Dr.
    Dan Chrisis

    Douglas White Electrical
    Services
    245 C Shaker Road
    Mario A. Cardinale

    Facial Cosmetic & Maxillo
    Facial Surgery, P.C.
    382 North Main St., Suite 202
    Dr. Richard J. Fraziero

    House & Grounds Care
    426 Porter Road
    Gregory M. Thompson

    Landmark Partners Inc.
    60 North Main St.
    Thomas Avezzie

    Latulippe Construction
    151 North Main St.
    Yvon Latulippe

    Newbury Associates
    264 North Main St., Suite 9
    Dorothy A. Patrakis, Michael P. S. Patrakis

    Realistic Physiques
    P.O. Box 623
    Heather M. Sanford

    Texcel LLC
    55 Deer Park Dr.
    Deborah Parys

    Wingate at East Longmeadow
    32 Chestnut St.
    SRC East Longmeadow, Inc.
    c/o Scott Schuster

    Yummy Dough Inc.
    53 North Main St.
    Mike Change

    Easthampton

    Circle of Angels
    13H Northampton St.
    Kathy S. Grey

    CWC/Hedgepeth Group
    20 Kingsberry Way
    Royster C. Hedgepeth

    DEJ Custom Plastics
    8B Orchard St.
    Douglas E. Dionne

    Hampshire Colon Hydrotherapy
    25C Holyoke St.
    Linda Whitford

    Thomas E. Kelley, EA
    184 Northampton St., Suite J
    Thomas E. Kelley

    Pioneer Valley Roofing
    30 Garfield Ave.
    Vincent Tortoriello

    Pop Designer
    26 Spring St.
    Lynzi Williams

    Roots Without End
    13H Northampton St.
    Kathy S. Grey

    Sea-Scape Designs
    116 Pleasant St., Suite 450
    Brian Michael Hale

    Valley Elder Care Management, LLC
    359 Main St., Suite 27B
    Patricia A. Knightly

    Hadley

    Designers
    127 East St.
    Chester E. Abel Jr.

    Robert M. Burke
    4 Bay Road, Building B
    Robert M. Burke

    Sibley Mechanical
    3 Birch Meadow Dr.
    John T. Sibley

    Silverleaf Tyre Inc.
    dba Hadley Tire
    44 Russell St.
    Stephan W. Gochinski

    Workhorse Painting & Construction
    115 River Dr.
    Rebbecca Susan Woods

    Holyoke

    ABC Mini Storage
    621 South Canal St.
    Robert J. Celi

    Andy Ramos Electric
    52 Beacon Ave.
    Andy Ramos

    Atlas Automotive
    8 Lynwood Ave.
    Anthony Santiago

    Carlex Inc.
    D/B/A Auto Express
    933 Main St.
    James E. Balise Jr.

    Dairy Mark
    160-162 Lyman St.
    Amir M. Paracha

    Dairy Market
    1552 Dwight St.
    Amir M. Paracha

    Dairy Market
    96 Maple St.
    Sagheer Nawaqz

    Dillon & Edward F. Day
    Funeral Home
    124 Chestnut St.
    Donald Shewchuk

    Dollar Plus Home Décor
    116 High St.
    Muhammad Sabi

    Fashion Nails
    293 High St.
    Tai Di Do

    Forever 21 Retail
    50 Holyoke St., Suite C333
    Do Won Chang, President

    Freshly Dipped
    345 High St.
    Shawn Marsh

    M & H Construction
    635 Homestead Ave.
    Mark Haradon

    Ngoc Minh Thi Le
    D/B/A Subway
    50 Holyoke St.
    Ngoc Minh Thi Le

    Shoeland Plus
    166 High St.
    Anthony Vazquez

     

    The Barber Pole
    117 High St.
    William J. Kowal

    LONGMEADOW

    Golden Dragon Star, LLC
    D/B/A Longmeadow Package Store
    400 Longmeadow St.

    Joanna H. Rosenthal
    D/B/A London Theatre Tour
    111 Woodsley Road

    LUDLOW

    AJ Electric
    109 Lavoie Ave.
    Nidal Abeid

    Bay State Duct Manufacturing
    26 Kirkland Ave.
    Michael Gaudreau

    Gillespie Car Care
    407 West St.
    Brian Gillespie

    Port USA Entertainment
    81 East St.
    Maria F. Mendes

    Scott’s Sprinkler Service
    58 Duke St.
    Scott Fortin

    United Wireless
    65 East St.
    Jamie Kalagher

    Westside Pizza
    103 West St.
    Vedat Kan

    NORTHAMPTON

    Lee Tower Real Estate
    37 Averebrook Dr., Florence
    Robert T. Doyle

    New Outlook Construction Inc.
    44 Massasoit Street
    Peter G. Post

    SOUTH HADLEY

    AFC Improvements
    23A High St.
    Jason Patruno

    Bloo Solutions
    92 Lyman St.
    Jeremiah Beaudry

    Daniel Stebbins Bed & Breakfast
    25 Woodbridge St.
    Jean Foley

    IB Cleaning & Sandblasting
    315 Hadley St.
    Irena Binczyk

    Legowski Landscaping
    49 Westbrook Road
    Renata Legowski

    Lewinski Lawn Care
    197 Mosier St.
    Craig Lewinski

    Wendy Urban
    470 Newton St.
    Wendy Urban

    Whitman Properties
    29 Cariden St.
    Anthony Whitman

    SOUTHWICK

    Berry Construction
    73 Will Palmer Road
    David W. Berry

    Bonnie View Antiques & Collectibles
    6 Bonnie View Road
    Edward J. Deveno

    Curves
    320 College Highway
    R. Craig Samuelson

    Good Morning Building & Repair
    6 Two States Ave.
    Glen Gresham

    LP Document Services
    71 Berkshire Ave.
    James E. Phelps, Laurie Phelps

    Skilled Home Services
    12 Secluded Ridge
    Rick L. Bengston

    SPRINGFIELD

    A Basket to Remember
    2058 Wilbraham Road
    Julie Fiore

    AD a Pt Publishing
    456 Canon Circle
    Andrea D. Piits

    Auto Discounters
    109 A Mill St.
    Yehuda Schecter

    Baez Property Services
    558 Newbury St.
    Jesus Baez

    Boston Realty
    489 Worthingon St.
    Ritesh Patel

    Builders Home Remodelers
    185 Mill St.
    Vincent Guiel

    Charter Oak Insurance &
    Financial Services
    1500 Main St.
    Peter S. Novak

    Colon’s Touch of Elegance
    154 1/2 Main St.
    Lisandra Colon

    Crosse Custom Graphics
    34-40 Front St.
    Corey R. La Crosse

    Daddsyboy Music
    164 St. James Ave.
    John P. Morgan Jr.

    Dave’s Express
    41 Lancaster St.
    David Lamarche

    Direct-Tech
    105 Jefferson Ave.
    Bertrand Favier & Frantz Edouard Laporte

    Excellent Cuts
    538 Page Blvd
    Willie A. Evans

    Faith Unlimited Institute Inc.
    39 Oakland St.
    Edith Kaye

    Ferrari Auto Sales
    79 Carver St.
    Francis K. Njorge

    Finishmasters
    102 Burn Ave.
    Manuel Silva

    GMCA Inc
    D/B/A Finnegan’s Tavern
    751-755 Liberty St.
    Christopher Arillotta

    Handy Man
    71 Thompson St.
    Jose A. Lopez

    Jolie & Associates
    130 Glenmore St.
    Jacobs Olotu, Leah Kimani

    WEST SPRINGFIELD

    Allied Pest Control
    380 Union St.
    Walter Misialek

    Attailus Delivery
    1241 Elm St.
    Collin Abebrese

    Caring Solutions, LLC
    632 Westfield St.
    Patricia Lee Baskin

    El Bohio Store & Deli
    204 Balwin St.
    Miguel A. Martinez

    Intelistaff Healthcare Inc.
    39 Van Deene Ave.
    Tanya Clark

    Kay Bee Marketing Resources
    104 Brookline Ave.
    Karen F. Blinderman

    Kuhnel’s Auto Repair
    2309 Westfield St.
    Barry L. Kuhnel

    Lampro Racing
    2017 Riverdale St.
    John J. Lampro Sr.

    Mayimbe’s Auto Repair
    55 Exposition terrace
    Luis H. Martinez

    Phiber Com
    83 York St.
    John W. Bryant

    Red Light Lounge
    125 Capital Dr.
    Capital Liquors Incorporated

    S.A. Processing
    148 Chilson Road
    Steve Fiske Ansara

    Star Pizza
    707 Main St.
    Kenan Turkmen

    WESTFIELD

    A & M Small Engine Repair
    77 Mill St., Suite 118

    Brian Millette
    5 Pequot Point Road

    Millrite Design Inc.
    579 Southampton Road

    Onsite Computer Repair
    of Westfield
    66 Janis Road

    Pete’s Renovations & Restorations
    43 Washingon St., Apt. 4

    Sections Supplements
    JGS Continues to Adapt as the Tide Turns in Elder Care
    Resident James Moberg and Director of Case Management Lucy Giuggio

    Resident James Moberg and Director of Case Management Lucy Giuggio share a moment outside of the JGS campus.

    With its 100-year anniversary fast approaching, Jewish Geriatric Services is a mainstay in the Western Mass. landscape with which many people are familiar. However, what people often do not realize is the breadth of JGS services – from home care to comprehensive health and wellness management to day programs. Through them, the organization is redefining the very process of aging for many seniors.

    Lucy Giuggio RN, director of case management for Longmeadow-based Jewish Geriatric Services, often compares the organization to a ship; and the seniors the organization serves, she says, are the captains.

    “There are a sea of options for seniors today,” she said, continuing the metaphor. “The challenge is identifying what the best option is for each person, and recognizing that changes … what’s good today may not be suitable tomorrow.”

    To that end, JGS, which began in 1912 as a nursing home in Springfield called that Daughters of Zion Home for the Aged, has grown in its 95-year history to not only meet the needs of area elders, but also to predict those changes on the horizon.

    “I spend a lot of time answering questions,” said Giuggio, “from seniors as well as their families and caregivers. When need arises, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is a nursing home. But part of my job is explaining that there is a continuum of care today to be utilized.”

     Homeward Bound

    Indeed, many people still equate JGS only with its nursing facility, the Julian J. Leavitt Family Jewish Nursing Home (JNH), a 200-bed facility that serves as the flagship for JGS at its Converse Street location. However, the JGS footprint is much larger than that, including several aspects of that continuum of care, a staff of more than 400, and an operating budget of $25 million.

    In addition to JNH, the non-profit also operates Ruth’s House, a 76-bed assisted living facility; Genesis House, a 109-unit independent living facility; Spectrum Home Health Care, which offers home-based nursing and assistance services to residents in 10 towns, and the Wernick Adult Day Health Care Center, which provides daily acitivities and health assistance to seniors still living in their own homes.

    Alan Rosenfeld, president and CEO of JGS, said keeping people in their own homes will be a driving force behind several new initiatives within the organization in the coming years, as JGS embarks on a new strategic planning phase this year.

    “We’re looking very closely at home-based care and trying to create more opportunities for people that will allow them to stay in their own homes,” said Rosenfeld. “It goes back to our mission. We started as a nursing home, but our mission is much broader — to serve the elderly. We have no desire to bring people into a nursing home that do not need to be.”

    The growing need for comprehensive care that caters to a wide range of seniors at various levels of independence and health is indeed a major focus for Rosenfeld and his team as JGS moves forward. Baby Boomers are aging, and that means all elder care facilities will be facing capacity issues in the next 20 to 30 years.
    But more pressing, Rosenfeld said, is the WWII generation, which although markedly smaller than the Boomers, represents the population with the greatest need.

    “The older Boomers are currently turning 60,” he explained. “But the generation that went through World War II — they’re turning 85. That’s the highest-demand population, although it is one that is shrinking.”

    The strategy moving forward, then, becomes two-fold, added Rosenfeld — maintaining the quality of the nursing home as enrollment numbers dip, and refocusing attention on home and community services, in order to enter the next decade with a strong care model.

    “Baby Boomers will begin turning 85 in 2030,” he told BusinessWest. “And this idea of entering a nursing facility as one’s health declines, I don’t think they’re going to go for that.”

    Diane Mintz, executive vice president for Spectrum Home Health Care, agreed with Rosenfeld that in terms of the broad makeup of care at JGS, Spectrum’s services will be very much at the forefront of new planning initiatives, because the home health agency often represents the entry point for seniors seeking assistance. That in turn can lead to a long-standing relationship with the organization as an elder’s needs change.

    “Spectrum launched in 1994,” she explained, “which makes us relatively young — many visiting nurse services in the area are more than 130 years old. But in terms of our relationship to the entire campus, we represent a big part of the team. Our clinicians are seeing about 80 people a day, offering specific services including nursing care and rehab.

    “And if extended care is necessary due to an acute illness or a fall, for instance,” added Mintz, “there are other services readily available within the same system. I think it’s comforting for people to know that everything is all right here.”

    More importantly, though, Rosenfeld noted that Spectrum allows JGS to extend its services and its mission to a larger audience.

    “We need to be able to address the needs of the aging population while at the same time keeping them independent longer, and we’re making progress in this area.”

    Staying on Course

    The work is multi-faceted — in addition to some program additions and enhancement, Rosenfeld said JGS’ new strategic plan, currently still on the drawing board, is expected to include the creation of a privately operated Hospice program. Also planned are an expansion of home health services, a revamped approach to treatment services, particularly of chronic ailments such as Alzheimer’s Disease and diabetes, and an ongoing effort to streamline the many service aspects at JGS, so they work together as seamlessly as possible.

    The new directions are an extension of similar initiatives taken on in recent years at JGS to address the varied needs of seniors. These include the addition of telemedicine to home health care services, free-standing digital health diagnostic centers in every building on the JGS campus (residents swipe an ID card and can immediately check blood pressure, weight, and other variables), and a remodeling effort at Genesis House two years ago that added 29 units, new elevators, and a community kitchen and meeting room.

    Prior to that project, though, was the notable construction of Ruth’s House assisted living eight years ago, and a renovation of JNH that made the facility more home-like.

    Susan Halpern, director of development at JGS, said those projects were funded largely by a capital fundraising campaign called ReGeneration, which took place from 1995 to 1997 and raised more than $7 million.

    “The ability to meet the changing needs of the elderly and to be able to adjust to a changing health care community were the driving forces behind that campaign,” she said, noting that as JGS embarks on new projects, the mission will remain largely the same.

    The organization conducts an annual fundraising campaign, but also an annual donors’ night, complete with entertainment, and the Kinsler Classic, a bridge, tennis, and golf tournament, among other endeavors. Halpern said the events as well as the annual appeal allow JGS to maintain services and to develop new ones, but in the coming years she expects a greater focus on major gifts and planned giving, in preparation for new additions to the JGS suite of services.

    “Part of my job is to educate the public on the challenges of providing quality care for elders,” she explained. “The task is very taxing on our system, because essentially we are being called upon more and more each year to provide more costly health care with fewer dollars.

    “We are very blessed with a supportive community of donors who understand and embrace our mission,” she continued, “but there is a growing gap between funding and services, and the question becomes ‘where do we look to fill that gap?’”

    Halpern said some of the options she’s experimented with have been some new media initiatives — billboards and other marketing tools that the organization had not used before. She also said JGS recognizes contributors whenever possible through events and inclusion in the community, and through a number of educational projects, meant to better translate the JGS mission to a greater number of people. Naming opportunities — from bricks in the walkway to entire builings on the JGS campus — remain a strong fundraising tool as well.

    “We continually establish new budgets and try to reach new goals time and time again, in terms of major gifts and growing our endowment,” Halpern said of JGS’ fundraising objectives (the endowment currently stands at approximately $22 million). “What got us here today was our ability to remain fluid in terms of fundraising, but also in terms of the entire health care picture.”

    Sailing Away    

    Giuggio agreed.
    “We are a long-term care system that offers most levels of care that people need,” she said, “and that allows us to help others balance care with quality of life.

    “I use the analogy of the sea a lot because of the many options we provide for the elderly,” she continued, “but also because we provide a sort of telescope for them … the ability to sail through those options, and find the best possible outcome.”

    Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

    Sections Supplements
    Keystone Woods in Springfield Scripts a Success Story as Construction Continues
    Joe Roche

    Joe Roche, in front of Grayson House at Keystone Woods, said unit reservations are well above the national average.

    Joe Roche, the local managing partner of the new 17-acre assisted and independent living facility Keystone Woods in Springfield, is particularly fond of the development’s theater-style movie rooms, complete with over-sized, flat screen televisions, leather arm chairs, and popcorn machines.

    “The residents love them, and I’m unaware of any other facility such as ours that includes theaters like these,” he said.

    But beyond being an extra perk for residents at Keystone Woods, those cinemas also serve as an apt metaphor for Roche and his work in the elder care sector. It’s a career that has seen a lot of action for several years, but now, Roche is in the midst of what is likely his biggest blockbuster.

    Roche, president of Roche Associates, LLC of Wilbraham, and his wife Joan, a nursing professor at UMass Amherst, are the largest shareholders of Keystone Woods, which opened its independent living facility last year and recently opened an assisted living building (construction continues at both buildings to further expand services as well as the number of units). They’re also the only local owners, and have been involved in the senior living industry on a national level for more than 25 years, primarily in the areas of market research.

    In terms of Roche’s career in the field, the Keystone Woods development has been a long time coming; despite his involvement with successful projects in other parts of the country, he said he first eyed senior living development opportunities in Western Mass. a decade ago, when some market research suggested a strong consumer base for such services in his own backyard.

    Through perseverance and imagination, he has taken his initial vision to reality.

    Survey Says …

    Roche told BusinessWest that he was first involved in a potential development project at the former Springfield Technical High School property off State Street, but that development never got off the ground.

    “However, at the time we conducted a study that showed us that 75% of the seniors in the area had lived here for 50 years or more, and what that told us was they weren’t going to be quick to leave,” he continued, adding that the immediate challenge was finding a suitable site on which to build.

    Roche’s research of the market 10 years ago has thus far proven accurate — today, 71 of the facility’s 97 rentable units are occupied, and most of Keystone’s residents previously lived within a seven to 10-mile radius of the facility.

    “The majority of our residents are coming from the Forest Park and Sixteen Acres neighborhoods of Springfield, but we’re also seeing many people from East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, and Wilbraham,” Roche explained. “I think people like the concept of a senior living community that has been created specifically to serve their needs and reflect the region.”

    Keystone Woods is managed by Keystone Senior Management Services, based in Indianapolis. Roche said 10 similar properties have been developed by the company across the country; Roche served as a market consultant for Keystone projects in Iowa and Kentucky. When he independently secured an option to purchase land in the Sixteen Acres section of Springfield, his associates at Keystone were open to the idea of managing a new property in Western Mass.

    “They weren’t actively seeking an opportunity in this area,” Roche explained, “but once they visited the site, their interest was piqued. They liked the fact that the property would be located within a city, but would feel like it was in the suburbs. They liked the overall residential appeal of the city.”

    Armed with a plot of land and a positive outlook, the Roches entered into a partnership with three other players at Keystone — Dave Kingen, Tim Eldredge, and Tony Mullen — to begin construction of phase one of the Keystone Woods development, 58 independent living units grouped under the name The Gardens, in the fall of 2004. That aspect of the development was completed about one year later, and phase two, which added 39 more units, was completed last month.

    Similarly, phase one of the facility’s assisted living apartments, dubbed Grayson House and located adjacent to The Gardens, was completed in February, and phase two of the development, which will add 18 units dedicated specifically to the care of residents with memory-related disorders and issues, is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

    The total pricetag on the project to date is $22 million — no small figure in the City of Homes, which has seen few such investments in recent years. But beyond the scope of the actual development, Roche said he and his partners have remained focused on creating a viable suite of services for local residents, one that not only represents the latest in elder care advancements, but also caters to the diverse populations of seniors within the city, particularly from a socio-economic standpoint.

    The People in the Neighborhood

    “This is a high-end development, but one that houses seniors spanning the entire economic spectrum,” he said, noting that Keystone’s size and existing capital has translated into lower rates for residents. Roche characterized those rates — about $2,000 a month for a single- occupancy residence at The Gardens and between $2,000 and $4,000 for a unit at Grayson House — as competitive with similar communities in New England. And beyond an initial rental deposit, residents aren’t asked for large lump sums of money or entrance fees up front.

    “The partnership with Keystone created an extremely good construction value,” he said. “A building of this magnitude under different circumstances could have cost us 20% to 25% more, but with the Keystone partnership, we’ve been able to control our costs that much more. Keystone has some exemplary operating systems.”

    In addition, management has developed a ‘step-down’ option for residents facing dwindling resources for any number of reasons — due to the large number of double-occupancy apartments, residents in single units may opt to take on a roommate for added savings. Similarly, Grayson House welcomes elders enrolled in the state’s group adult foster care system, which provides subsidies for assisted living for qualified residents.

    “Both are ways for us to provide assisted living packages to people in all income brackets,” said Roche, “and to allow people to stay longer.”

    He added that rentals have been brisk in both buildings.

    “It’s been a very exciting time for us. We’re filling The Gardens at a rate of twice the national average, netting more than 10 new rentals per month. The national average for assisted living placements is 2.2 a month, and we’re currently hovering around six.

    “I truly believe that the reason is that we have developed a better product than the norm,” Roche continued, listing some of the services he and his partners chose to incorporate as standard offerings at Keystone. “The standard personal care plan for an assisted living facility is 30 to 40 minutes per day, and we provide an hour and a half. Apartments are fully-loaded, and I like to think we have the best line-up of activities here — everything from health screenings to swing dancing. The overall mission is to ensure that people’s lives are enhanced.”

    Curtain Call

    To that end, Roche remains an active part of all aspects of planning and development at Keystone Woods, from marketing and advertising initiatives to activity direction. He’s a frequent flyer at The Gardens’ Friday night cocktail hours, and has recruited his own daughter to teach swing dance lessons to residents.

    And he personally bought the chicken wings for a recent event held in the movie room at The Gardens. He heard many of his residents had yet to try them, and he bought a box of 150.

    They were gone by intermission.

    Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

    Uncategorized

    The culinary field is booming, and local culinary arts students are heading into an industry with an unprecedented number and variety of career opportunities. While some still eye the restaurant kitchen, others are eagerly exploring options to cook for resort spas, assisted living communities, and even sports teams.

    The lunch menu at Branford Hall Career Institute in Springfield last week was an extensive one.

    Chicken Francaise was the main course, but spinach and Caesar salads were also available, in addition to stuffed Portobello mushrooms, Spanish rice, and two desserts: cheesecake and peanut butter pie.

    Prepared by Branford Hall’s culinary arts students, the meal was indicative of the many skills these students must master before moving on in their careers, everything from pan-searing to puffed pastry.

    But it was also a study of the fast-paced and fast-changing nature of the culinary field. The Spanish rice was made with healthy alternative ingredients, in order to respond to a strong health and wellness trend across the nation. The mushrooms were an answer to a demanding public’s need for gourmet-style food served quickly, and the clean-up of the entire production was a blur of activity, as students tried to wash down countertops and mixing bowls in time for their next class – Spa Cuisine.

    Maggie Gifford, chair of the Culinary Arts program at Branford Hall, said several factors are contributing to the most diverse, and also the most demanding, set of culinary career opportunities the field has seen in years.

    “There is a major trend toward cooking for healthy lifestyles,” she said, “and that is opening up many types of new jobs for people. But the public is also more in the know than ever before; they know what they want and they want it fast, and culinary students have to be that much more prepared.”

    Gifford explained that, in addition to moving directly into posts in restaurants, catering outfits, or bakeries, today many graduates are choosing to follow some very different career paths.

    Salad Days

    The restaurant industry still forms a strong backbone for the culinary sector, but the hospitality and tourism industries are becoming an equally strong arenas. Many graduates are blending degrees in culinary arts with business and management degrees in order to enter the hospitality field at a management or executive chef level, or to open their own hospitality-based businesses.

    The track can open some intriguing opportunities for culinary graduates across the globe, as fine cuisine becomes a greater draw for tourists at many resorts, hotels, and bed and breakfasts.

    Joshua Stevens, a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico currently studying culinary arts at Branford Hall, has his sights set on returning to his home and working in one of the island’s many fine resorts, with the goal of rising to the level of executive chef.

    “There, hotels are a much bigger industry than restaurants, and there are better jobs for people like me,” he said. “Wherever there is a beach, there is a hotel, and people to be served.”

    Stevens added that international tourism hot spots like those in the Caribbean also allow chefs to work with a number of different types of cuisine and to stay abreast of current trends.

    “To get a job in one of the big resorts, you have to know international cuisine,” he explained. “Everything from Asian to Mexican to exotic, tropical foods. The hotels will hire the people with the skills.”

    That’s where the role of higher education in the culinary arts plays a large role, Stevens said. In programs such as those locally at Branford Hall and the culinary arts program at Holyoke Community College, students learn the fundamentals to create a knowledge base, which in turn allows them to branch out into any number of specialties.

    Gonzalo Chacon, a native of Peru living in Springfield and studying culinary arts at HCC, said he has worked in restaurant environments for many years and has learned a great deal through experience. But his education is what he thinks will move him forward into the next level of his career.

    “The culinary profession has become sort of glamorous and celebrated as the field grows,” he noted. “That means many people are entering the field, thinking it will be fun and easy. That’s not the case, and through a formal program like this, people learn that very quickly, and those who truly have a passion for it are the ones who stay and move on.”

    Upon completion of the program at HCC this spring, Chacon plans to earn a bachelor’s in business administration, to hone his skills and techniques and keep a close eye on the trends within the industry, in order to follow one of those new career avenues that are creating new opportunities for chefs and other culinary professionals.

    Power Lunch

    Indeed, there are many paths to be taken in the current market. In addition to more traditional restaurant- and hotel-based careers, many other industries are beginning to incorporate fine cuisine as a major part of their corporate make-up.

    Elder care and assisted living facilities, for instance, are one of the fastest growing areas for culinary job placement. Many such facilities are following the trend toward a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle for residents, and are reorganizing their services to create more-comprehensive, home-like environments. Part of that shift includes abandoning cafeteria-style dining commons for more intimate dining rooms and room service, both with extensive menus.

    Culinary graduates are also increasingly finding unique jobs within both day and overnight spas and other health and wellness-based businesses, many of which are expanding to include complete menus and meal plans for clients, in addition to spa services.

    And in the corporate sector, large companies across the nation are investing in upscale dining facilities for their employees, using the investment as an added benefit and incentive to garner and retain exemplary staff.

    Ken Beauchemin of Westfield, a culinary arts student at HCC who will complete the program this month and move on to higher education at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, has his sights set on capitalizing on that corporate market, eventually as an independent contractor. His ultimate goal is to enter the sports arena, one of the fastest growing markets for professional chefs, and to cook for a professional team – maybe even the Boston Red Sox.

    “Major corporations everywhere are investing in a higher class of dining for their employees,” said Beauchemin, “and sports teams and media franchises such as ESPN are some of the front-runners in the move toward cuisine as part of employee benefit packages. They’re offering an incentive to work hard, and that’s opening up a lot of unique opportunities for people in culinary fields.”

    Beauchemin added that securing a culinary job outside of a restaurant environment isn’t looked at as second best, either. Rather, corporate posts within sports and media franchises, technology companies, and colleges and universities, to name a few, as well as executive chef positions for smaller groups of people – a company’s management team, for instance – allow culinary professionals to develop personalized menus, spend more time on individual dishes, and strengthen their skills.

    Corporate jobs also allow for a new set of entrepreneurial opportunities during a time when opening a restaurant is increasingly difficult, due to competition from chain restaurants offering high-quality meals quickly, at low prices.

    “I hope to use fundamental skills and my own talent to thrive in an environment that is changing very quickly,” said Beauchemin. “The old style of cooking is starting to come to a close, and so is the old style of doing business. That’s the world that this class of culinary students is going to be entering.”

    Maricarmen Alberti of Springfield, a student at Branford Hall who will soon enter her externship – essentially, an apprenticeship in a culinary environment – said she is still leaning toward opening her own family-style restaurant in the future as an ultimate goal. But she, too, recognizes the many options she’ll have upon graduation.
    “Spa cuisine is definitely a business opportunity,” she offered as an example. “I’ve heard of massage therapists and chefs joining forces to open their own businesses. Opening a restaurant with good, hearty food for people is still what I hope to do, but there are a lot of great careers out there.”

    Similarly, Jillian Rosenberg of Amherst, a culinary arts student planning to continue her education at the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vt., added that the wide variety of jobs opening across many industries is also making it easier for culinary students to practice their specialties. Rosenberg will be studying pastry at NECI, and said she feels more secure about the choice given the current climate of the culinary sector.

    “There are many opportunities to use a specialty now,” she said, “There is a lot of information about food and cuisine out there now, on television and in magazines, and people are more aware of different types of cooking.”

    This trend is also creating a larger faction of people experimenting with fine cuisine in their own homes, but she said that’s a positive side-effect of a healthy industry, not a sign of waning business.

    “The more people see,” she explained, “the more they want to learn, and the more they want to try at home. But that’s not nearly enough to make a dent in this industry.”

    Pressure Cooking

    Despite the many windows of opportunity opening for culinary professionals, the field is not without its challenges. In addition to being more discriminating than ever in all types of environments including restaurants and hotels, diners are also more concerned than ever before with convenience and speed as well as quality of their cuisine.

    “Not everyone has a lot of money or time, but everyone wants good food at a good price, and they want to be able to get in and get out quickly,” said Alberti. “That makes it hard to balance the cooking side of things with the business side.”

    Gifford added that, as Rosenberg observed, the average diner today is more knowledgeable than ever before in terms of ingredients and preparation, and also more fickle when it comes to variety.

    “So across all sectors, people’s expectations are that much higher,” she said. “Today’s culinary students are entering their careers at a great time, but their skills are more important than ever.”

    Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

    Opinion
    With cold and flu season upon us, some interesting challenges for employers and employees alike arise. ‘Presenteeism,’ a newly coined term which means being present at work while sick or for some other reason disengaged from your assigned work, can be extremely detrimental to organizations and their workforce.

    Traditionally, the focus of most organizations has been on absenteeism and the opportunities lost when an employee isn’t at work. This focus, however, assumes that when people are at work they are productive. Unfortunately, many times, this is simply an illusion.

    According to a recent survey by OfficeTeam, a staffing service based in Menlo Park, Calif., 80% of employees polled frequently show up to work while sick; with only a mere 8% of the respondents reporting they never come into the office when ill. Performance levels of sick individuals are rarely at peak or even at an acceptable level.

    In fact, employees who come to work when they are ill may be costing employers more in lost productivity than their employers pay for sick days and other medical and disability benefits. In 2004, Cornell University cited in WebMD that presenteeism may account for up to 60% of employer health costs, and found that up to 60% of the total cost of employee illnesses come from people who continue to work despite illnesses that reduce their productivity.

    Morale and contagion are also concerns associated with ‘presenteeism.’ Being in contact with contagious individuals jeopardizes the health and productivity of all employees. According to CCH Inc., a division of Wolters Kluwer, a provider of employment law information and software, organizations with already-low employee morale are at even greater risk of sick workers on the job, with 52% of companies with poor or fair morale reporting presenteeism as a problem.

    But presenteeism isn’t just limited to physical illness such as allergies, headaches, colds, or flu. Burnout, stress, and depression from work/life or work-related conflicts also contribute to loss of productivity while on the job. These causes may include emotional problems, family issues, elder or child care concerns, employee vs. employer distrust, overwork, or workplace distractions ranging from heat, light, or air quality, communication breakdowns, lack of training, and many other variables.

    Curing the Problem

    Employers can take steps to discourage presenteeism and enhance productivity. During cold and flu season, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends individuals to stay home when they are sick. It also provides helpful tips and posters that can be displayed within the workplace. Employers can also create guidelines to help the workforce understand the conditions for staying home, when it is safe to return to work, and when to re-evaluate a company’s absenteeism policies.

    The single most common absence-control program utilized by 91% of organizations surveyed by CCH is disciplinary action. This approach is counterproductive to helping sick workers stay home when they are ill, especially when one considers that most of these programs allow five sick days per year and one bad cold or flu can wipe an individual out for that same amount of time or longer.

    An alternative to traditional sick day policies is paid leave banks, also known as Paid Time Off (PTO) programs. Under a PTO program, personal, sick, and vacation days are combined into a single bank of days that the employee can use in any way he or she needs; allowing the employee to have more control.

    Employers can also work to foster a healthy work environment and set a good example. A 2005 Workplace Productivity Survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) states that poor management is the number-one factor hurting employee productivity. Therefore, managers need to be aware of how not only their words but their actions are being interpreted by employees. Are your employees comfortable in asking for time off when ill or for other necessary reasons?

    What message are you sending when you come to work sick, injured, or distracted?
    Employers should be sure to keep communication open with employees. With many companies experiencing lay-offs, relocation, and expecting employees to do more with less, job insecurity and overwork may compel employees to put in excessive work hours, many unproductive. This can then lead to stress, burnout, or illness.

    Executive and business coaching programs can be very valuable in establishing effective communication throughout organizations and creating engaged and resilient workforces. Coaches work with management and staff to enhance performance, morale and productivity.

    Besides coaching, employee assistance programs (EAPs), and other wellness or work/life balance programs offer employees assistance beyond cold and flu season by helping them maintain focus on work while at work. EAPs provide confidential 24/7 counseling to employees and their families helping them to manage both physical and emotional concerns ranging from addictions to loss and grief.

    Wellness programs, such as flu clinics, blood drives with free cholesterol screenings, etc., create opportunities for workers to receive preventative health benefits while at work. Something they may not otherwise take the time to do on their own and thus maintaining their health and welfare. Because of busy schedules, many work/life balance programs have been initiated that make services and/or resources easily accessible to employees so they can spend their time on work while at work. Child care, elder care, and financial concerns are among the myriad of issues addressed through these programs. Many times these work/life balance offerings can be provided at no cost to the organization.

    Multiple Remedies

    Just as there are many causes for presenteeism, there is no one solution.
    Each organization and its workforce has different needs and requirements. These needs may shift with time, so it is important to re-evaluate your programs periodically. Get employees involved and ask for their input. No one enjoys being unproductive. Adopt healthy, flexible, positive work environments that meet the multitude of personal and professional challenges faced by employees. Investing in your employees will help alleviate this drain on your people, profits, and productivity.

    Lynn Turner is an executive coach and owner of Ironweed Business Alliance, a coaching and consulting firm specializing in leadership development, team building and work/life balance strategies. She is also the host and producer of a local radio talk show/Web site Business Link Radio (www.businesslinkradio.com); (413) 283-7091.

    Departments

    Richard B. Collins, (center) President and Chief Executive Officer of United Financial Bancorp, Inc. presides over the closing bell ceremony at the NASDAQ market. Collins and other executives from United Financial Bancorp participated in the NASDAQ closing ceremony in New York City to celebrate the company’s initial public offering in July. Photo courtesy of NASDAQ Stock Market.

    State Sen. Brian Lees (R-East Longmeadow) speaks to attendees at the annual Senior Citizens Forum held at Western New England College in August. Lees stages the event each year to bring resources and information to the senior citizens of Western Mass.; hundreds of elder care, human services, health care, and community organizations were on hand at the forum.

    The Orlando Magic’s Grant Hill, next to a commemorative locker that will be placed in the Basketball Hall of Fame, answers questions about his career and the game of basketball at the Hall earlier this summer. Hill visited the Hall to donate pieces from his personal art collection, in an ongoing effort to bring fine art to a greater audience.

    Hill speaks to an audience at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as Hall of Fame President John Doleva looks on.