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In the News

Schreck delivers economic expertise to region

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chris Schreck, the Capital Area Council of Governments’ Economic Development Manager, wants to bring economic growth expertise to every jurisdiction in the region. He is eager to lend expertise but also is seeking to learn more from the region’s communities.

“I’m a big believer in development initiatives that begin with the community,” Schreck said. “People have their priorities and places have their unique assets. Economic development that begins by taking an inventory of those items can reveal really unique opportunities to create growth and jobs while preserving or creating a distinct sense of place.”

Schreck already is meeting with jurisdictions throughout the region, such as Eanes Independent School District, to present on economic development opportunities.

Before coming to CAPCOG in October, Schreck provided economic and technology policy consulting for SRI International, where he focused on technology-based economic development, higher education, and economic data analysis.

Schreck also is developing the next Capital Area Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy with the CAEDD, which creates and supports goals and objectives the region should seek to continue economic prosperity. 

> Contact Chris Schreck, CAPCOG's Economic Development Manager.
> Learn more about the Community and Economic Development Program.

CAPCOG seeks projects for Homeland Security Grant

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) is accepting requests from counties and cities in the CAPCOG region for projects to be funded through the FY 2015 Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP).

As in previous years, it is anticipated that Fiscal Year 2015 HSGP funding will continue to be limited and will focus on sustaining capabilities developed during prior funding cycles. CAPCOG is awaiting additional guidance about specific federal and state priorities and will make this information available on the CAPCOG website as it becomes available.

This grant is being administered in accordance with the “Capital Area Council of Governments FY 2015 Homeland Security Program Regional Grant Process,” as approved by the CAPCOG Executive Committee Sept. 10, 2014.

> Read the FY 2015 Homeland Security Program Regional Grant Process.

To apply, each jurisdiction must submit a project worksheet form for each project no later than 5 p.m., Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Instructions for completion of this form are contained in it. Late or incomplete submissions cannot be accepted.

In addition, jurisdictions planning to apply for this funding must complete a survey regarding their implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Failure to complete this survey by the deadline, Dec. 4, 2015, will disqualify jurisdictions from consideration for Fiscal Year 2015 HSGP funding. Jurisdictions are encouraged to complete this survey even if they do not plan to apply for HSGP funding.

> Take the survey.

For any questions or request for additional information, please contact Ed Schaefer, CAPCOG’s Homeland Security director.

> Download the FY 2015 project worksheet form.
> Read the grant announcement.

AAACAP accepts medication screenings by mail

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area is expanding its free medication screening capabilities so more seniors and caregivers can access the service and prevent possible negative effects of combining medicines.

Screening applications are now available online. Elderly caregivers and people who are 60 or older can download the form and mail it to 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165, Austin, Texas, 78744.

> Download the applications here.

Allowing digital access to the free medication screenings will let people across the 10-county region receive the benefit of their prescriptions and other medicines being reviewed for negative reactions, cost savings and effectiveness.

Since St. David’s Foundation and Department of Aging and Disability Services awarded the grant, AAACAP has provided 417 medication screenings.

> Discover more services provided by AAACAP.
> Learn more about medication screens and download the forms to mail.

RETF cameras catch illegal dumpers in the act

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Using a camera purchased by the Capital Area Council of Government’s Regional Environmental Task Force, Williamson County Deputy Constable Eric Thomas is on the verge of closing four illegal dumpsite cases in two months. He has issued two warrants, made one arrest, and one case is still outstanding.

CAPCOG purchased 10 SpyPoint cameras to assist with illegal dumping surveillance in earlier 2014, and an additional 10 cameras are on order. The current cameras, which have already spent almost 1,000 hours in the field, have helped apprehend illegal dumpers and cleaning up dumpsites.

> Learn more about the RETF.

Because the cameras have worked so well for Thomas, Williamson County Constable Kevin Stofle purchased two additional cameras to assist the deputy’s efforts.

“They have been very effective in showing what was going on at these dumpsites,” Thomas said.

In some cases, the use of surveillance in the area has led the Constable’s office to create deterrents for people using an illegal dumpsite, such as where to post signage or showing how and why people access the site. In other instances, the equipment captured video of non-environmental criminal activity which helped the Williamson County Sheriff’s office make arrests.

One of the most important parts of having access to the cameras is they become a force multiplier, said Sgt. Douglas MacDougall, an investigator for the Travis County Attorney’s office.A SpyPoint camera, which is being used by the RETF to help catch illegal dumpers, is hung in a tree as a demonstration.

Twenty-four hour surveillance on an illegal dumpsite at minimum would require three officers, but it should have six, said MacDougall. That costs law enforcement agencies time and money.  A camera however can drastically decrease the personnel resources and time spent at a scene.

One officer can spend three hours or less getting the information from a camera and reviewing it in a sped up manner, MacDougall said.

“With the case load I carry, I can set it up in the area and come back in a week’s time to check the activity,” Thomas said. He normally replaces batteries and gets the footage at the same time. “It definitely gives us a tool to better utilize our time.”

Being the only person, who works environmental crimes for Williamson County precincts 2 and 3, time is important. Thomas currently has 75 active cases spanning on issues of nuisance to illegal dumping to hazardous waste complaints.

> Help stop illegal dumping by reporting incidents.

MacDougall, who serves a third of Travis County and assists with cases in the nine other CAPCOG counties, visits and works investigations on about 20 illegal dumpsites a week.

“There is not a ton of us that do environmental crime work,” MacDougall said. “But now we have 10 camera systems that are expandable that we can give to people in the 10 counties. It is to their benefit and ultimately to the region’s benefit, because ultimately solid waste dumping affects the whole region and enters the water system.”

RETF members can reserve a camera and schedule a pickup or drop-off time for the equipment.

> Contact Ken May, CAPCOG Regional Services Director.
> Contact Matt Holderread, CAPCOG Solid Waste Program Planner.
 

Workshops set for strategic criminal justice plan revisions

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments and its Criminal Justice Advisory Committee (CJAC) are coordinating two meetings for input on Regional Strategic Criminal Justice Plan revisions.

The plan identifies gaps and prioritizes needs related to direct victim assistance, juvenile justice, mental health, and criminal justice services. Regional criminal justice stakeholders developed the plan last year.

> Read the current Regional Strategic Criminal Justice Plan.

Agendas for the meetings will include a presentation and review of the 2014 plan, an analysis of data on past state funding to the region, and small group discussions to identify needs and suggest plan priority revisions. Topics will include training; direct services; education and outreach; housing, sheltering, or other facility needs; investigation and/or prosecution; support technology and equipment; and personnel support.

Criminal justice planners can attend the meetings at the following times and locations:

  • 9 to 11 a.m., Nov.  14, at J.B. Hallie Jester Building, 1801 Old Settlers Blvd., Round Rock, Texas.
  • 9 to 11 a.m., Nov. 19, in the CAPCOG Pecan Room, 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165, Austin, Texas.

A complete analysis of regional input and data from the meetings will be provided to CJAC in December to develop plan revisions.

> Contact Chad Coburn, CAPCOG manager of community development planning.
> Read more about the CAPCOG Criminal Justice Advisory Committee.

EPA offers technical assistance workshop for sustainable economic growth

Monday, November 03, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is soliciting letters of interest from local governments, so it can provide technical assistance for up to 25 communities about ways to promote sustainable economic growth.

The Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program helps increase a community’s capacity to implement smart growth and sustainable approaches by demonstrating to local communities how to use various tools. The growth techniques in the program strive to protect the environment, improve public health, create jobs, expand economic opportunity, prepare for the effects of climate change, and improve overall quality of life.

The program will provide technical assistance through a 1- to 2-day workshop on a specific smart growth development topics to include:

  • Bikeshare Planning
  • Equitable Development
  • Infill Development for Distressed Cities
  • Sustainable Strategies for Small Cities and Rural Areas
  • Flood Resilience for Riverine and Coastal Communities

The deadline to apply to participate in the program is Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014.

> Learn more about and apply for the program.
> Read about CAPCOG’s Economic Development Program.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Solid Waste Planning Program.

Got questions about text-to-9-1-1? Get answers

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Source: Answers are compiled from the FCC and CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Director, Gregg Obuch.

If cellphone users in the Capital Area text their emergency to 9-1-1 today, they would receive a message telling them to call. But soon those messages will be answered by a live operator who can dispatch the proper emergency responders.

While a few areas in the United States already rolled out a text-to-9-1-1 service, the Capital Area Council of Governments and the Capital Area Emergency Communications District anticipate responding to text-to-9-1-1 reported emergencies in 2015.

But what is text-to-9-1-1, and why would someone want to use it?
Text-to-9-1-1 is the ability to send a "short message" (SMS) or other kind of text message to 9-1-1. Texting during an emergency could be helpful if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, or if a voice call might otherwise be dangerous or impossible. However, those who are able should always call 9-1-1.

Do area phone companies support text-to-9-1-1, and do regional Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) have the equipment and training to use it?
The "Big Four” wireless carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile – began providing text-to-9-1-1 capabilities in mid-May of this year. Under current FCC requirements, other service providers have until Dec. 31, 2014 to provide the service. The PSAPs in the CAPCOG region have the necessary equipment in place. Training for call takers will be provided before text-to-9-1-1 is activated in the region. Planning for the deployment of text-to-9-1-1 currently is underway.

Why is it important to plan the implementation of text-to-9-1-1?
Text messaging is one of the primary ways people communicate today, especially younger people and people with hearing and speech disabilities. Several studies estimate more than 6 billion SMS text messages are sent daily in the United States. To ensure emergency texts are routed to the proper 9-1-1 center; it requires proper coordination with each service provider.

What are issues CAPCOG and the emergency communications district want to avoid when implementing text-to-9-1-1?
A key challenge in activating text-to-9-1-1 in our regional call centers is selecting the text-to-9-1-1 platform that works best in the emergency call centers. CAPCOG is conducting extensive research and reviewing methods used by other 9-1-1 areas that participated in the testing phase of the deployment and were the first to activate text to 9-1-1 in their areas. This will help CAPCOG and the regional call centers select the best option that fits our needs.

If I am able to text-to-9-1-1, will the 9-1-1 center automatically know my location?
Texting 9-1-1 is different from making a voice call. During a voice call to 9-1-1, the call taker will typically receive a phone number and the phone’s approximate location automatically. This is called "Enhanced 911" or "E911." However, in most cases when texting 9-1-1 from a wireless phone, the call taker will not receive this automated information. For this reason, it is important to give the 9-1-1 call taker an accurate address or location as quickly as possible when using text-to-9-1-1.

If text-to-911 is available to me, why should people use it only when calling 9-1-1 is not an option?
Voice calls to 9-1-1 are usually the most efficient way to reach emergency help. For example, voice calls allow the 9-1-1 operator to more quickly ask questions and obtain information from the caller, while two-way communication by text can take more time and is subject to limits on the length of text messages.

> Read more about CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division.
> Learn more about text-to-9-1-1.

CAPCOG seeks nominations for Jack Griesenbeck Award

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments will accept nominations for its annual Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award until Nov. 7.

Named after Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenback, who was CAPCOG’s first chairman, the award traditionally honors someone that consistently advocates a regional and multijurisdictional approach through their work with local governments, nonprofits, and other organization. Nominations can be either an elected official or a volunteer who has played a pivotal role in bringing the spirit of regionalism to the 10-county CAPCOG region.

CAPCOG has honored individuals with this award for more than 10 years. Previous recipients of the award include:

  • Mayor Kirk Watson, City of Austin
  • Dr. W. Neal Kocurek
  • Robert J. Huston, Chair of Texas Commission of Environmental Quality
  • Mayor Ray Sanders, City of Lockhart
  • Bob Daigh, Texas Department of Transportation Austin District Engineer
  • Texas Senator Gonzalo Barrientos
  • Mike Simpson, City of Austin and Texas Radio Coalition
  • County Judge H.T. Wright, Caldwell County
  • Police Chief Mark Whitacre, City of Marble Falls
  • Texas Senator Troy Fraser
  • Mike Fisher, Emergency Management Coordinator of Bastrop County
  • Seth S. Searcy, Attorney at Law

To submit nominations to CAPCOG, download the form and submit it to Mason W. Canales, the CAPCOG member services coordinator, by email or fax, 512-916-6001, by Nov. 7. The recipient of the award will be announced at the Dec. 10 CAPCOG General Assembly meeting.

> Download the Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award nomination form.
> Contact Mason W. Canales, the CAPCOG member services coordinator.
> Read about last year’s honoree, Seth S. Searcy.

Schreck joins CAPCOG to aid economic development across the region

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chris Schreck has joined the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) staff as its economic development manager. In the position, he will assist with regional economic planning and provide analysis support for entities in CAPCOG’s 10 counties.

Schreck looks forward to helping area communities take advantage of economic opportunities as the region’s technological, demographic, and competitive landscapes continue to develop.

Prior to starting at CAPCOG, Schreck provided economic and technology policy consulting for SRI International, where he focused on technology-based economic development, higher education, and economic data analysis. He also worked for the US Treasury Department and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and provided wireless market forecasting for IMS Research.

Schreck earned a master of public policy from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.

> Contact Chris Schreck, CAPCOG’s community and economic development manager.
> Read more about CAPCOG’s community and economic development program.

AAACAP aids residents with Medicare enrollment

Friday, October 10, 2014

Benefit counselors with the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) are prepped to assist those in the region with Medicare open enrollment that starts Oct. 15.

Medicare open enrollment is the one time of year people who use Medicare can switch their Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage plans. There are so many choices involved in selecting a Medicare program; it can be hard for people to determine what provides the best savings for them.

AAACAP counselors are available to help navigate those tough decisions. They also provide screening for qualification into the Medicare Savings Program and low-income subsidies for every person they counsel during the open enrollment period.

Residents can receive assistance from AAACAP benefit counselors at 512-916-6062 or toll free 888-622-9111, ext. 6062.

> Learn more about Medicare open enrollment.
> Discover more about AAACAP benefit counselor services.

Bastrop County and its students promote sustainability

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Several Bastrop County entities teamed up to improve proper household hazardous waste disposal and recycling awareness and reduce the amount of trash entering landfills.

In September, Bastrop County, the cities and school districts of Elgin and Smithville, and Keep Bastrop County Beautiful began creating an informational campaign that will educate the public about their local waste disposal options.

Students around the county will be the primary movers and shakers by creating the campaign, which is anticipated to be completed before the end of the school year.

Bob Haisler’s high school marketing class in Elgin ISD will develop print materials such as bookmarks, advertisements, and other traditional media to distribute to students, place in public buildings and hand out at events.

Smithville ISD students will create videos about how to reduce, reuse, recycle, and, when all else fails, keep hazardous waste off garbage trucks and out of landfills. The videos will be posted on several social media sites operated by entities throughout the county.

 “I am so very proud to see Bastrop County students working together and using new media to educate the public about the importance of proper disposal of hazardous household waste,” said Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. “This program enables us to continue achieving the goals we established in our regional Solid Waste Management Plan (back in 2007) to reduce improper disposal of hazardous materials and stop illegal dumping in our beautiful county.”

The Capital Area Council of Governments administered about $7,500 in grant funds for the project through its Solid Waste program, which selects local projects to receive state funds acquired by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“This grant supports our commitment to sustainability in Bastrop County, and we appreciate the confidence and support from the Capital Area Council of Governments,” Pape said.

The projects also will update Keep Bastrop County Beautiful’s interactive website and the companion “Talking Trash in Bastrop County” guidebook.

The program continues a long partnership between Bastrop County and its cities and school districts. The entities worked on the Recycling in the Schools project in 2010, which provided recycling resources for Smithville and Cedar Creek schools, and the Household Hazardous Waste Clean Up in 2013. Both were funded in part by the CAPCOG Solid Waste program.

> Visit Keep Bastrop County Beautiful’s website.
> Read more about the CAPCOG Solid Waste Program.
> Contact Jill Strube, Bastrop County grant administrator, or Jack Page, Smithville public works director

General Assembly approves CAPCOG FY 2015 Budget

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Capital Area Council of Governments General Assembly representatives in September approved a $23.8 million budget for expenses during the 2015 fiscal year.

The FY 2015 budget will continue to support CAPCOG’s numerous programs such as nutrition assistance of older adults, air quality planning, and the regional law enforcement academy. But it also allows for the expansion of other programs to include the creation of an Aging and Disability Resource Center and a Homeland Security Emergency Management disaster debris management plan.

Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area’s portion of the budget included $7.9 million in expenditures and the Capital Area Emergency Communication District’s budget included $11.9 million in expenditures.

The General Assembly also appointed the nominating committee that will help select CAPCOG’s 2015 Executive Committee.

The next General Assembly meeting will be Dec. 10.

> Download the CAPCOG Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Budget and Work Plan.
> Read more about the General Assembly.

Regional Law Enforcement Academy graduates 23

Thursday, October 02, 2014

CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy cadets of the No. 72 Basic Peace Officer Course prepare to enter their graduation ceremony at the Texas Capitol on Sept. 26.

Eight of the 23 cadets from the CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy No. 72 Basic Peace Officer Course filled positions in area policing agencies right after graduation on Sept. 26. The remaining cadets are expected to also obtain jobs in the region after completing testing for peace officer positions in area communities.

With the region’s growth, there are plenty of opportunities for cadets to serve the public as law enforcement officers. CAPCOG and the academy are honored to help fill that need by providing practical training and exercises to ensure cadets become TCOLE certified before serving their communities.

The cadets also learned about opportunities outside the region when police departments from Houston, College Station, Flower Mound, Pasadena and Lubbock pitched their agencies to the cadets during the five-month course.

Other departments coming to the academy is a testament to the training CAPCOG is offering, said Mike Jennings, RLEA director. “I would like to think that it says our academy is recognized as one of the best for producing a quality police officer.”

The eight cadets will become officers for San Marcos and Llano police departments, Caldwell and Williamson counties sheriff’s offices, and the Travis County Fire Marshall’s Office.

Another full-time, day class is accepting registration for a course beginning in January 2015.

> Learn details about the January 2015 Basic Peace Officer Course.
> Discover more training opportunities offered by CAPCOG.

Lee County Commissioner earns statewide leadership award

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lee County Commissioner Maurice Pitts poses with Penny Redington, Texas Association of Regional Councils executive director, after receiving the TARC Regional Leadership Award given in honor of Wilbur R. Dunk.

The Texas Association of Regional Councils (TARC) in late September presented Lee County Commissioner Maurice Pitts with its 2014 regional leadership award.

Pitts earned the award, which is given in honor of former Kimble County Judge Wilbur Dunk, because he has shown extraordinary dedication to the purposes and possibilities of regional cooperation through his work with councils of governments, stated TARC.

Commissioner Pitts, having served on Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) boards and committees for more than two decades, is a true advocate and spokesman for regionalism, said Betty Voights, CAPCOG executive director. Pitts always has been a board member who is consistently active in CAPCOG's programs and committees.

Pitts, a current CAPCOG Executive Committee member, is the 19th person to earn the award since its inaugural year in 1995. Elected officials on the TARC Board of Directors and members of its Executive Directors' Council selected Pitts after soliciting nominations from all 24 regional councils in the state.

TARC is a statewide organization established in 1973 that provides training, outreach, legislative representation and other support to area councils of governments.

CARTPO selects U.S. 290 projects as top regional transportation priorities

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Elected officials from eight counties selected two U.S. Highway 290 projects to be the highest ranking priorities for the Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization, a rural planning organization.

The number one ranked project proposes to widen and reconstruct U.S. 290 in Lee County from the Bastrop County line to Navarro Street in Giddings as a four-lane, divided highway. The proposed project would span about 7.5 miles and has an estimated cost of $31.1 million.

A U.S. 290 project in Bastrop County earned the second highest ranking based on elected officials’ scoring. The Bastrop County project, with an estimated $12.6 million cost, would stretch about 3 miles from Ranch to Market 2104 to the Lee County line. The project also would make the highway a four-lane, divided roadway.

Both projects ranked the highest during CARTPO's previous prioritization in March 2013. They were selected this year among 23 submitted projects from eight counties.

By prioritizing the projects, CARPTO is providing Texas Department of Transportation with guidance on the region’s most pressing transportation needs, so the state agency can make informed decisions about funding highway construction.

County and city officials from Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Lee, Llano, and Williamson counties ranked the 23 projects. They scored the projects based on six criteria: safety enhancement, congestion relief, air quality improvement, system preservation, economic opportunity and local participation in the project.

> Find out how the remaining 21 projects ranked.
> Discover more about CARTPO.

CAPCOG promotes vehicle grant opportunities to improve air quality

Monday, September 22, 2014

Area grant opportunities for purchasing or retrofitting vehicles to help improve the region’s air quality now can be found in one location on the CAPCOG website.

> Visit the Drive Clean webpage.

The Drive Clean: Get help buying a cleaner vehicle webpage provides information on multiple grants residents, businesses and governments can use to purchase, lease or retrofit vehicles, so they can replace their old vehicles with newer, cleaner ones.

Purchasing newer, cleaner model vehicles is only one way to help improve air quality by reducing emissions that can produce ground-level ozone.

> Read more about ground-level ozone and CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

Justice Department launches website for crimes relating to elderly

Friday, September 19, 2014

The United States Department of Justice launched the Elder Justice website earlier this month. The site provides the elderly and people who support them with information about crimes affecting older Americans.

Justice.gov/elderjustice/ is a resource for victims, their families, practitioners, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and researches seeking to understand and address elder abuse and financial exploitation, stated the website.

The website hosts a number of databases for each group to include a searchable list of local resources for reporting crimes, thousands of articles and reviews with information about elder abuse and financial exploitation, and information and resources on how to prevent elder abuse and assist older crime victims.

> Go to the Elder Justice website.
> Discover other resources for older American and their families.
> Learn about Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area.

CAPCOG uses homeland security grant for cyber-attack recovery

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments will use a recently awarded $135,000 State Homeland Security Program grant to assist in preparing the region to respond and recover from cyber-attacks.

Funds from the grant will be used to perform a cyber-attack vulnerability analysis for CAPCOG’s 10-county region. The analysis will help identify how such an incident could affect business processes, critical infrastructure, and the financial stability and viability of businesses. It will have an emphasis on small and medium-sized businesses.

Determining the impact of such an attack is the initial step in the planning process which will help the region and its businesses and governments develop a stronger, more responsive approach to handling cyber-security and cyber-attack recovery.

Ultimately, the work performed in the analysis could be used to facilitate the creation of economic recovery plans for individual businesses.  After the analysis is concluded, CAPCOG plans to facilitate workshops with businesses and local governments during the 2015 year. The workshops will help businesses and governments identify their own risks and plans for economic recovery to include job restoration.

Cyber terrorism was identified as one of six possible threats to the region in the 2013 Regional Threat and Hazard Identification and Ricks Assessment.

> Discover more about CAPCOG's Homeland Security Division.

A caregiver’s balanced life provides for better care

Friday, September 12, 2014

Everything seemed to be happening all at once for Cheri and Barry Krockover. In 2009, Cheri lost her job as a software analyst and tester, and Barry, her husband of 22 years, started to show behavioral changes related to memory loss.

By 2010, Barry, who is now 78, was diagnosed with dementia.Cheri Krockover

“In 2010, I officially felt like my life was over,” said Cheri, who is now 64. “Then I came to the realization, that ‘no, my life is not over. It is just going to be different.’ What I have learned during the last four years is that your love for your spouse continues, but it also is very different… but it is still a powerful force.”

In hindsight, Cheri sees losing her job as a blessing. It allowed Cheri to notice the signs of dementia early and Barry and her to spend the next few years being active together. But outlining a support system, learning about resources, and handling stress ensured Cheri stayed her positive, fun and happy self. More importantly, it helped her remain a great caregiver for her husband.

Early during her caregiving years, Cheri joined a job club where she discovered other unemployed caregivers. Rallying around their commonality, the caregivers created a second support group that let members share resources about caregiving. It also provided an outlet to discuss the common problems they faced and had to overcome.

“We shared ideas on how to cope, and other caregivers can find humor in some of the stresses and issues that arise while providing for a loved one,” Cheri said. Having a connection with people who are going through similar trials and tribulations is almost priceless, she said.

The support group led Cheri to programs such as the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area’s Stress Busting Program for Family Caregivers. The nine-week course helped explain the grief Cheri felt, she said. It also let her accept her role as a caregiver and taught her techniques to manage the pressures of providing for an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia patient.

> Become a Stress Busting Program for Family Caregivers volunteer.
> Discover more about AAACAP.

To further mitigate stresses, Cheri created a resource wheel to organize her support system. Each person or group in the wheel is a different spoke that helps manage a different stress in life such as money, your spirit and caregiving.

Communication plays a key role in using a resource wheel, Cheri said. Telling your friends and associates about their role, lets them know exactly how they can help. It also lets them understand your situation. Some friends can help you relax during daily routine stresses such as shopping. Others, such as fellow caregivers, can make awkward caregiving moments funny, which helps you stay optimistic.
“That is a key to being a healthy caregiver, holding onto that optimism,” Cheri said. “The better my own mental outlook it is, the more able I am to care for him. I was always the fun person in our marriage, and he still needs me to be the fun person.”

Cheri is now a Stress-Busting course master trainer and will be speaking during the Striking a Balance 2014: the 13th annual conference for nonprofessional caregivers. Barry is doing well in a living and caregiving facility. The Krockovers see each other almost every day and still laugh with and love each other.

> Register for Striking a Balance 2014: the 13th annual conference for nonprofessional caregivers.

NCoA and AAACAP remind seniors about flu shots

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Flu season can begin in October, last until May and peak in January and February. With the start of the season nearing, the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) and the National Council on Aging (NCoA) wants to remind seniors to get their flu shots.

Seniors, 65 and older, are one of the demographics at risk of experiencing complications after contracting the contagious respiratory illness caused by the flu virus.

Annually between 5 to 20 percent of U.S. residents become infected with the virus, but people 65 years of age or older make up 9 of 10 flu-related deaths and 6 of 10 flu-related hospital stays, according to NCoA and flu.gov. Getting a flu shot is the best preventive against the virus.

It is recommended that older adults receive one flu shot, preferably the high dosage shot, before flu season begins. The shot is free for people with Medicare who uses a provider that accepts the assignment. Medicare Advantage members also cannot be charged for the flu shot if it is given by an in-network provider.

> Read more about the flu shot and other routine vaccines.
> Learn more about the flu.
> Discover more resources for seniors to stay healthy.

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