There are 42 million people in the U.S. aged 65 years or older. With aging comes new changes, challenges and opportunities. Grace Smith, executive director of the Council on Aging of Middle Tennessee, joined us on a recent episode to explain Older Americans Month, healthy aging and available resources. View her segment here.

For more than 30 years, the Council on Aging has worked to address the unmet needs of older adults and caregivers through information, advocacy and education and by being a catalyst for comprehensive solutions. The organization has taken action on issues affecting seniors including community engagement, consumer fraud, elder abuse, end-of-life planning, retirement and much more.

The Council’s current top priority is improvement of senior transportation. Plans to reduce this growing problem include the implementation of a door-to-door transportation service similar to Uber and other ride-sharing tools.

Beyond transportation, the Council assists with many day-to-day issues and obstacles that older adults face including:

  • Declining health
  • Uncertain housing options
  • Worry about financial security
  • Becoming the target of scams
  • Loneliness and lack of social support

If you are a caregiver of a senior citizen, the Council on Aging’s number one piece of advice is to help your loved one avoid isolation. Always encourage seniors to stay connected to their community, whether that means regular interactions with their neighbors, faith community, local establishments or a senior assistance service like Meals on Wheels. When a senior becomes isolated, they are at the greatest risk of falling victim to a scam.

For more information about senior services in your area, the Council publishes a Directory of Services for Seniors. Free copies are available through all public library branches, the Council office and online at To learn more about healthy aging and available resources, visit the National Council on Aging’s website at

Understanding Hospice

Hospice isn’t simply about end-of-life care – it’s about helping patients improve their quality of life and make the most of the time they have left. Anna-Gene O’Neal, president and CEO of Alive Hospice, joined us on a recent episode of Community Health Matters to discuss the importance of hospice and end-of-life care. View her segment here.

Entering hospice care does not mean an individual has given up on life; rather, it indicates a change of focus. The goal of hospice care is to improve the quality of life for persons and their families faced with a life-limiting illness. Hospice is person-centered treatment focused on each individual’s values and preferences. It provides comfort, relieves physical suffering, offers emotional and spiritual healing, promotes dignity at the end of life, and often helps patients create lasting memories with loved ones.

Offered at an individual’s home, hospital or nursing facility, hospice care is tailored to each patient’s unique physical and emotional needs. This allows patients to choose the type of care they receive based on their own beliefs and desires. Family members can rest assured their loved one is comfortable and free of pain. Additionally, hospice offers bereavement support as families begin their journey to overcome grief. For hospice providers, it is truly a privilege to give patients and families the support they need during this difficult time.

Anna-Gene spoke about Ira Byock, known as the founder of palliative care, and his belief that hospice care gives patients the ability to embrace the end of life, and to come to terms with the events of their lives. She shared Byock’s “four things that matter most” – four simple phrases that help patients resolve their relationships with loved ones as they approach their final moments:

  • Please forgive me
  • I forgive you
  • Thank you
  • I love you

When cure is no longer an option, hospice surrounds patients with a care team that includes a hospice physician or medical director along with the patient’s primary care doctor, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains, volunteers and bereavement coordinators.

Alive Hospice is a nonprofit organization that provides compassionate end-of-life care, palliative care, bereavement support and community education. Founded in Middle Tennessee in 1975, Alive Hospice serves more than 3,400 patients and their families annually and provides grief support services for more than 600 adults and children. For more information, visit

Did you know the next generation of seniors is predicted to have 25 percent higher prevalence of obesity and 55 percent higher prevalence of diabetes? United Healthcare’s Dr. Karen Cassidy joined us on a recent episode of Community Health Matters to discuss important findings from America’s Health Rankings and its 2016 Senior Report, and how we can use them to take small steps toward better health. View her interview here.

America’s Health Rankings is the longest-running annual assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis. It is an actionable report that gives a holistic view of the nation and allows each state to see areas of opportunity for improving the health of its citizens. America’s Health Rankings is the result of a partnership between the United Health Foundation and other organizations.
The Senior Report focuses on the health of older Americans – and serves to drive individuals and organizations to take action to improve senior health. It analyzes 35 individual measures of health, such as smoking rates, prevalence of diabetes, obesity rates, availability of physicians, food insecurity and flu vaccination coverage.

Tennessee’s overall rank for 2016 is 43 out of the 50 states, which is an improvement of one place compared to last year’s senior health rankings. The report also illuminates many Tennessee-specific measures where our state excels and where it needs to improve.

The positive:

  • Low prevalence of excessive drinking (No. 1 in the nation)
  • A significant improvement in the obesity rate of our seniors (No. 5 in the nation, up from No. 34 last year)
  • High vaccination coverage (No. 6)

The negative:

  • High prevalence of smoking (No. 49)
  • High prevalence of frequent mental distress (No. 49)
  • High rate of food insecurity (No. 46) and limited availability of home-delivered meals (No. 48)

Looking to the future, this year’s Senior Report examined middle-aged Americans who will become seniors over the next 14 years and how their health challenges will impact our future senior population. In comparing today’s middle-aged population to their peers of 1999, it revealed the senior population of 2030 will:

  • Smoke 50% less
  • Have 54% increased prevalence of diabetes; and
  • 25% increased prevalence of obesity

Based on these finding, the report shows us we need to focus on weight by eating balanced, nutritious diets and being as physically active as possible. There is a direct correlation between preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain types of cancer. Also, we need to create a sense of community for our seniors to combat the growing prevalence of mental health issues.

If you would like to view the America’s Health Rankings reports in their entirety, visit If you’re looking for a great resource for improving the health of yourself and your family, visit the state’s Healthier Tennessee website at

Caring for an aging, ill or disabled family member takes an enormous toll on all aspects of an individual’s life.


An estimated 34 million people nationwide provide unpaid care to someone age 50 or older – 1.6 million in Tennessee alone. Our recent Community Health Matters guest, Kirk Pion of UnitedHealthcare Innovation Centers of Excellence, discussed the challenges, solutions and resources for caregivers. View his segment here.

According to Pion, caregivers in the U.S. average 24.4 hours a week spent supporting a loved one, providing an estimated $470 billion of unpaid care annually. This commitment of time significantly impacts caregivers’ professional lives, as well. Caregivers lose approximately $300,000 in personal wages and social security over the course of a lifetime.

Additionally, “presenteeism,” the problem of employees being present at work but unable to focus or be productive, results in a nationwide average of $33 billion in lost productivity annually. For this reason, it is vital employers identify caregivers in the workplace and take steps to support them. That’s why UnitedHealthcare developed Solutions for Caregivers to help employers support the needs of the growing caregiver population in their workforce, and to provide resources to help individual caregivers manage their caregiving.

It requires time and energy to understand a loved one’s medical needs, and to support their ability to live safely and independently. Even remote caregivers – people providing caregiving efforts from a distance – spend significant time coordinating the resources needed to care for someone in need. There are many technological advances that aid in remote caregiving. Social media and online support groups, for example, allow caregivers to connect with people experiencing the same pressures. Remote monitoring allows caregivers to learn more about what’s going on in the home. And better organization around professional caregiving services is helping people match needs with the correct professional services.

Pion’s number one tip to caregivers is to remember to take care of yourself. Find time to do something to take your mind off of the situation and do something that helps you relax. You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself as well. Caring for a loved one is rewarding – and challenging. But it’s not a journey you have to travel alone.

For more information or resources, visit

Did you know caregivers are at risk of developing “caregiver burnout”?

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a negative change in attitude. It can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or when they try to do more than they’re able.

Signs of caregiver burnout can include:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Trouble sleeping

If you’re a caregiver, visit Solutions for Caregivers for helpful information and resources. Caring for a loved one is rewarding – and challenging. But it’s not a journey you have to travel alone.

Did you know caregivers are America’s number one long-term care provider? Family caregivers provide 90% of long-term care in America.

More than 1.6 million Tennesseans are caring for family, friends, neighbors and loved ones, providing more than 1 million hours of help per year, according to AARP

If you are a caregiver, you have to take care of yourself. If you are not keeping yourself healthy and happy, it’s doubtful you will be able to provide the best care to your loved one.

For helpful information and resources, visit Solutions for Caregivers. Caring for a loved one is rewarding – and challenging. But it’s not a journey you have to travel alone.


May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. On the show today, Dr. Lorien Sites from Saint Thomas Health and Nashville Skin & Cancer talks about preventing and detecting skin cancer. Kirk Pion  from the UnitedHealthcare Innovation Centers of Excellence talks about tips and resources for caregivers. Audiologist Diane Nens discusses the importance of hearing health care and how hi HealthInnovations is providing access and affordability to help more people with hearing loss.

On the other end of the spectrum, caregivers ages 75 or older are typically the sole support for their loved one. Overall, the typical caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who is supporting a parent or in-law and working at a paid job. She reports spending an average of about 24 hours a week providing personal assistance such as bathing or dressing or helping with activities such as shopping. To learn more about caregiving in the U.S. and resources for caregivers, visit

Did you know respite care provides caregivers a temporary rest from caregiving?


It’s important for caregivers to take time for themselves, and using respite services can support and strengthen your ability to be a good caregiver. To learn about respite support and resources, visit