Spotlight On…. Steward & Sheridan, PLC with James Steward

elder law, U.P. wellness publication Steward& Sheridan PLC
James Steward, Steward& Sheridan, PLC

What does Steward & Sheridan, PLC offer, and what is your role?

Our practice area relates to estate planning as a major starting point in many cases, and, whether or not we’ve done that for the particular client, we also handle Medicaid application work related to long-term nursing home stays. So maybe that client or other person who contacts us ends up in a nursing home, and it looks like they’ll have to stay longer than their Social Security benefits provide for, and they should consider the possibility of Medicaid benefits, especially if married. Rules are very different for couples. Medicaid nursing home stay expenses are quite high, $11,000/month. Most over 60 need to consider possibly needing longer-stay nursing home care at some point. This can be taken into account with the estate planning process, and provide some protection for the person’s assets. It’s important to have these discussions early so decisions can be made, or at least evaluated, as there are quite a few different options that should be addressed.

We also offer probate and trust administration—dealing with the assets, paying the bills, and distributing to the beneficiaries, which sometimes can be simple, and other times not.

Clients meet with me or Angela Hentkowski. We’re the only actively practicing certified NELF (National Elder Law Foundation) attorneys located in MI’s Upper Peninsula. We’ve both been certified for quite a while. There’s a level of expertise and knowledge that goes into that rather than someone who just occasionally goes into these areas. Our knowledge base addresses elder law, and we keep up with it on a very regular basis, as things change quite often.

We have many clients with disabled beneficiaries—their children or grandchildren. In many cases, a disabled person will need to rely on government programs to provide services, particularly medical services, so in most cases it’s best to establish a special type of trust that will be there for their lifetime but can be used for the beneficiary. Advanced planning is needed to put this into place.

How did you get into this line of work?

The firm I was in forty years ago needed somebody to do the probate and trust work. I was interested even in law school, so I started doing that work way back then. That depth of experience is very helpful in today’s world.

In 2010, a substitute statute replaced Michigan’s 1978 probate law, making it more comprehensive, and it has been modified since. I worked on the 2010 MI trust code substantially, and a bunch of other statutes and statutory amendments. Over the years after that, I was directly involved in the probate planning section.

I was also directly involved with membership in committees related to the elder law and disability rights section of Michigan’s state bar. Angela and I have been very active because we feel it’s important to keep up on what’s happening and be part of the process so when changes are being discussed, we have input into those considerations.

Medicaid is largely driven by federal stature that the state is supposed to follow but in many cases does not, resulting in litigation. Recently, Angela and I were directly involved in litigation on Michigan’s Department of Health & Human Services applying a federal statute in a way we felt was wrong. This went through the Court of Appeals. Some situations become way more involved than you want them to be. It’s necessary to have knowledge of statutes that apply and their wording, especially in Michigan, because sometimes Michigan feels it does not have to follow federal requirements.

What stands out about your firm?

We have a depth of knowledge and explain stuff. When we meet with a client the first time, we review their total assets because that’s driving elements. They must be taken into account regarding options we’re recommending or pointing out, as well as the family situation, including whether or not there’s a disabled child or grandchild, and whether or not the client is a veteran of the U.S. military. That can open up additional benefits the client may be eligible for in the future. As people get older, those disabilities can change, so that’s something to consider.

We always start with the client’s concerns, their family situation, and what they’d like to accomplish regarding the distribution of their assets. We spend quite a bit of time discussing factors going into making it all work, I think more so than most attorneys, so clients get a better sense of the overall complexity, and why an estate plan is needed. So there’s an ongoing discussion. It’s important for clients to revisit their estate plan every several years so it still fits their situation. People live longer now than their parents and grandparents did. The chances of disability are much greater than when they didn’t live as long. The chance of outliving one or more of their children is greater. Quite often people don’t think of this. That’s something we worry about all the time because we keep seeing it.

You don’t have to be wealthy to need estate planning.

In the U.P. in particular, your family may have a camp or other real estate that’s been in the family a very long time. Many will a property or camp to all of their children. That’s often asking for long-term problems. Everybody’s got to get along and do what they’re supposed to do. Forever. And if the kids ever have any credit issues, or divorce, now the property’s at risk.

I developed a special type of trust over many years specifically to deal with that. It’s something others don’t have. We go over its pros and cons with the client to see if it fits with their present and long–term goals.

We also helped with the correction of a Michigan Health & Human Services interpretation of federal Medicaid law in the Hegadorn case. This was a big deal that took many years to get done. It ended up being a unanimous decision by the Michigan Supreme Court, which is somewhat remarkable.

What do you find most challenging about your job?

One challenge is keeping up with all the changes. Another is dealing with the state of Michigan not following Federal rules for Medicaid. Also, sometimes a client believes they can find out this info on the internet and do their own plan. The thing is you don’t know what you don’t know. You can find some info online that may or may not be correct, and you don’t know how it all fits together. That’s our job—figuring out how it all fits together and making that work.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Helping people, and helping them prepare for the future. In some cases, helping them deal with a medical crisis, nursing home practice, and especially issues affecting the spouse, and otherwise trying to protect for the benefit of their ultimate beneficiaries.

Most people don’t want to make donations to the government that they don’t plan for. And if they don’t plan, the risk of this is much greater, just as with your income tax return. We’re always working with what the law provides and what’s permitted to minimize this.

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

Here Ye, Hear Ye: Is Bluetooth Technology For You? by Carol Rose

Bluetooth is a wireless technology used for exchange of data over short distances between devices such as cell phones, personal computers, televisions and radios, and other sound devices. It also presents some helpful alternatives for the hard of hearing.


While the information in this article is aimed at those who have hearing aids equipped with a t-coil, hard-of-hearing people can still benefit from the products described by listening via headphones or ear buds to help boost the sound.  The advantage of listening with t-coil equipped aids, however, is that the sound is transmitted directly to both ears at a level programmed specifically by the audiologist for their individual hearing loss.


What’s a T-Coil?

As the name implies, t-coils are simply tiny coils of wire mounted inside the hearing aids. They are also referred to as telephone coils, tele-coils, audio coils or t-switches. If you’re getting hearing aids for the first time or are in the market for new ones, I encourage you to talk to your audiologist about equipping them with a manual t-coil. While auto t-coils can help with telephone connections, manual ones are powerful enough to connect to a Bluetooth neckloop, whose advantages I describe below.  If you have aids and do not know if they have t-coils, call your audiologist. You might have t-coils already and just need them activated.


Hiding in Plain Sight

You’ve probably seen business people walking down the street or sitting in the airport, talking with no phone in site.  Their cell phones are most likely in their pockets, purses or briefcases. Depending on the size, you may or may not see the earpieces themselves, which connect wirelessly to cell phones via Bluetooth technology.


As a person with a profound hearing loss, I too carry on a phone conversation with my phone in my pocket.  However, my “earpiece” is my hearing aid, and I wear a Bluetooth neck loop. The loop is equipped with a wire that can send sound waves to my t-coil equipped aid.  A small device connected to the end of the loop is paired with a Bluetooth enabled cell phone.  (Nearly all cell phones made after 2007 are Bluetooth compatible.)


What Can This Loop Do?

A Bluetooth neck loop can be paired with other Bluetooth compatible devices, such as any standard Bluetooth enabled cordless phone, any radio device that has a standard Bluetooth transmitter, certain iPods or MP3 players, and Bluetooth enabled computers. With this equipment, those of you with hearing loss can more readily enjoy phone conversations on a land line, music, and movies played on your computer. And if your TV or other sound system isn’t Bluetooth compatible, you can hook a Bluetooth transmitter up to it.


Recently a friend excitedly showed me her Christmas present – a small speaker about the size of a Pringles potato chips can. She turned it on, connected her computer’s Internet to a music website, pressed the Bluetooth icon on her computer, and music poured out of this speaker… wirelessly.  If I’d been wearing my neck loop, I could have easily paired it to the speaker, turned on my t-coils,  and enjoyed the music in both my ears at a sound level designed for my particular hearing loss.


quattro, bluetoothShopping for a Neck Loop

I’ve checked out many different Bluetooth neck loops on the Internet, and if you’re interested in pursuing this method of hearing phones, music, TV and more, I urge you to do the same.  One that impressed me is the “Clearsounds Quattro Amplified Bluetooth Neckloop.”  It’s small and has earphones for the hard-of-hearing person without t-coil enabled aids. Clearsounds also has a complementary product called the QLink for converting a non-Bluetooth enabled device to Bluetooth.  The price wasn’t bad either, ranging from $108 from one company for the neckloop alone, to $159 from another company for the neckloop, earphones and transmitter.  So shop around and be sure to find out about returns and possible restocking fees, as well as shipping and handling charges, before making your final decision.


Everybody’s Doing It!

As described on, another advantage of Bluetooth technology is that the stigma once associated with wearing visible electronic devices has nearly disappeared. Today, many wear earpieces, headphones, and other devices for hands-free cell phone, portable game, and MP3 player use. These accessories have become cool, with attractive colors and flashy styles that are meant to be seen. This trend has helped ease hearing aid wearers’ concerns about standing out or looking odd because of wearing something on or in their ears.


Take It Outside!

Speaking of wearing something on your ears… if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, check out the colorful protective sleeves for your hearing aids at  I believe my aids will sport a pair next time I embark on a canoe trip!


And if we’re still experiencing wintry weather when you read this, or to help prepare yourself for next winter, check out this blog on hearing aids and WINTER –!


Carol Rose is a writer/photographer living in Grand Marais.  She also writes for the Grand Marais Pilot and Pictured Rocks Review.  With the advent of spring, she is looking forward to hiking, canoeing and driving her 1995 Jeep on the back roads of the U.P.


More to Consider When Purchasing a Hearing Aid:


Some aids are too small to allow a t-coil to be added, so make sure the ones you’re considering are large enough for this option. I also suggest making sure your t-coil has both the “t-coil” setting and a “t-coil/mic” setting.  Both allow you to hear information direct to your aid, but the “t-coil” setting shuts out other sounds, while the “t-coil/mic” setting allows you also to hear additional things at the same time, such as conversation in the room and, most importantly, traffic sounds when you are driving.


This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.


Senior Viewpoint: Going Through Extremes, by Barb Dupras

One thing I love about the U.P. is the unpredictability of the weather.  As they say, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.  I also love the contrasting seasons.  But this winter’s subzero temperatures have shown us what it feels like to be in such an extreme condition.  Our bodies deal with these temperatures in their own ways, but people of later years need to pay particular attention in order to stay safe and healthy in this type of weather. Extreme summer temperatures also can be an issue.  This article will describe ways to help the elderly with challenging winter and summer temperatures .

Changing weather affects conditions that are common in seniors such as arthritis.  Do you ever wonder why joints seem to hurt more at certain times, especially when there is a change in the weather?  Dr. Mark Gourley of the National Institute of Health explains that the pressure in the joints changes as the weather changes.  Think of the tissues surrounding the joints as balloons.  When the air pressure decreases, the balloon expands a little, putting pressure on the joints which can create discomfort.  Some say they can predict changing weather by pain in their joints and they are right!  Dr. Gourley suggests the following to ease the discomfort when the temperature goes down:

  • Keep warm by bundling yourself in several layers from head to toe.
  • Be sure your home is kept warm and also preheat your car before entering it.
  • Warm your clothing by putting it in the dryer before dressing.
  • Sleeping with an electric blanket can be helpful.
  • Drinking hot liquids also keeps the body warm.
  • Before going out in the cold, exercise the affected joints.
  • Maintaining a regular movement program is helpful for loosening stiff joints while helping to prevent winter weight gain and the stress this can add to painful joints.

Respiratory problems such as rheumatoid lung disease and asthma can be affected by breathing extremely cold air.  If you have any condition that affects your lung capacity, wearing a face mask and/or covering your mouth to help warm the air you breathe may help you cope with frigid temperatures.

Often seniors fear slipping and falling on ice.  For those with osteoporosis, this is of even greater concern because more porous bones can fracture easily.  It’s probably best to stay indoors when conditions are icy.  If you need to venture out, prepare yourself.  Putting ice grippers on the bottom of boots, shoes and canes is a wonderful way to help prevent falls.  Call your local medical supply store to inquire about these.

Over time, burrowing inside to escape low temperatures can negatively impact one’s mood. Depression can affect anyone, but seniors are especially at risk in winter as they’re less active and more confined to their homes.  The lack of sunlight in our area during winter can also be a factor. If you or your loved one typically feel low in the winter, you may want to try using a full spectrum light for a period of time daily to improve mood and energy level.  I use the Verilux Happy Light, which can be found online.

Planning stimulating indoor activities before winter hits can also assist. Really delve into your interest.  Stained glass?  Painting?  See what online and community classes are available to you.

Keeping in touch with loved ones is also uplifting.  Try Skyping, a free video conference call over the computer with your loved ones.  Look into different ways to keep in touch.

Another way to beat the blues is to exercise.  Whatever your activity level, even if you’re in a wheelchair, find a program that suits your needs and keeps your body moving.

So plan for a better winter – make an intention!!   Hindsight is always good, but foresight is even better!

Now for the other side of the weather spectrum – heat!  Seniors frequently have a medical condition or are on a medication that can affect the body’s cooling system and ability to perspire. Certain psychotropic medications can also affect a person’s ability to feel extreme heat.  It’s important to check on senior loved ones frequently during this time. Here are some guidelines that may be helpful:

  1. Make sure the senior rides out the heat in an air-conditioned environment – if not at home, then at the senior center, neighbors home, library, etc.
  2. Encourage your senior loved one to drink plenty of water.
  3. Check on your loved one twice a day.  If you are at a long distance, you can Skype to know he or she is safe.  Seeing your loved one sometimes is better, as one can hide distress in the voice.
  4. Have a back-up plan and transportation arranged in case the power goes out.
  5. Check on those seniors in your neighborhood who may not have family or anyone close to do so.

To keep yourself or your loved one cool during extreme heat, take cool baths/showers, avoid heavy meals and strenuous activity, keep shades down and blinds closed but windows slightly open, keep electric lights off or turned down, and wear loose, lightweight clothing.  Muscle cramping can be the first sign of a heat-related illness.   Pay attention; if you suspect a senior could be too hot – take action!

You may want to keep this article handy as an informative reminder. Knowing what to do to keep yourself or your loved one safe in extreme weather is invaluable for the coming years!

Barbara Dupras is a retired senior center social worker who also is an energy practitioner and enjoys her home on the Chocolay River. She can be reached at


This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Hearing & The Holidays, by Carol Rose

In the past two issues of Health & Happiness, I’ve written about hearing loss and cited some hearing assistive technology (HAT), which can make hearing easier, whether or not you wear hearing aids or have a cochlear implant.

This time I’m writing about a time when hearing is difficult, just plain difficult no matter what device we might be using, with or without our hearing aids and/or cochlear implant – THE HOLIDAYS!

Crowds, noise, football games, conversation, background music, many people around the table all talking at once; shopping in big stores with noise not only from the crowds but from the “music” and blaring announcements…

Noisy kitchens…  Dinners out…   long travels…   airports… understanding people whose voices are not familiar…

But we want to see family and friends and celebrate the festiveness with them. We, with hearing loss, want to be part of the happenings. 

What to do? You might consider some of the following…

First, be proactive!  Let your needs be known. Let your friends and family know you not only want to be with them over the holidays, but you want to HEAR them. 

If plans involve a dinner out, see whether you can help reserve a table in a quiet part of the restaurant, away from the kitchen, bar, wait service stations, etc.

If the restaurant has background music playing, make sure your table is not near a speaker, and don’t hesitate to ask that the music be turned down.  If you are part of planning where the dinner will be, pick a quieter restaurant over a noisy sports bar.

If the holiday dinner is at someone’s home, ask the hostess/host ahead of time whether they can scratch background music and schedule the dinner at a time a noisy football game or other program is not on the television set. If the happening is in your own home, maybe you could invite fewer people.

Holiday parties are not the best time to try to get to know strangers, as their voice and facial expressions will be foreign to you and make it much more difficult to lip read, also known as speech reading (a technique of understanding speech by visually interpreting the movements of the lips, face and tongue). You can say, “I have a hearing loss, and I’m not understanding you.  Perhaps we could find a quiet place to talk.”  

If it’s not possible to move to a quiet place, and you’d really like to get to know the person better, consider asking him or her to write down contact information and call, text or email them later to set up a time to talk in a quieter environment.

If the holiday activity involves watching a program or movie, consider using closed captioning.  Don’t be shy about asking for this service if you’re watching the program in another’s home.  Remember, be proactive!

It’s probably not possible to have the music and announcements turned down in large stores, but if you wear hearing aids, you can turn them down or OFF!  If you are shopping with others, let them know what you are doing and invite them either to text you, (even if they are standing right beside you), or hand write notes.  I have successfully used this method in noisy restaurants.  This can also help with extremely loud home gatherings, and it can sometimes be fun to text or write notes with the person who is sitting right next to you.  It helps to share this method of communication with others at the gathering so they won’t think you are being rude and can join in the “conversation.”

When at dinner, whether in a restaurant or a home, consider placing yourself at the head of the table so you can see everyone’s face and lip read.   A problem with relying on lip reading is only 30% of speech can be seen, the other 70% is inferred by context clues.  It is a LOT of work! For that reason, I suggest you consider shortening the length of your social times so the gatherings stay enjoyable.  And if possible, plan attending gatherings at least a few days apart.  Give yourself some recoup time.

When attending an event where hearing conditions might be stressful, I often drive my own vehicle, enabling me to leave when needed, without interfering with others.  I also touch base with others in my party and/or the host/hostess to let them know I might leave early and why.  That allows for a graceful, quiet exit, without causing a disruption in the flow of others’ conversations.

I urge you to bring a good nature, sense of humor and patience with you this holiday season!  This can be your gift to others!

And if you’re looking to make a charitable donation this season, consider the Superior Alliance for Independent Living (SAIL), a Marquette-based, non-profit organization serving people with disabilities, their families, and the wider Upper Peninsula community since 1998. The staff provides information, referrals, support, and advocacy services to people with a wide variety of disabilities, including hearing loss. They also work on a larger scale, helping governments, businesses, and other organizations make changes that improve life for everyone in the community.

To donate, call (906) 228-5744 or toll free (800) 379-7245, or mail a check (payable to SAIL) to 1200 Wright St. Suite A, Marquette, MI 49855.  To learn more about SAIL, go to

*For more tips on facilitating communication between those with hearing loss and those without, go to

Carol Rose is a writer, photographer, found object artist and outdoor enthusiast living in Grand Marais. Wondering about bluetooth technology and HAT (Hearing Assistive Technology)? Carol will discuss this in a future issue of Health & Happiness! In the meantime, she wishes you Happy Hearing!

This article was reprinted with permission from the Winter 2013 – 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Elder Care: Here Ye, Hear Ye! (Part 2) by Carol Rose

As I mentioned in the previous issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, there are many devices on the market to help hard-of-hearing persons function better in their world.  Many of these devices can be used with or without an aid. In this issue, I’ll describe a specific part of a hearing aid – the telecoil, commonly referred to as the “t-coil,” and devices designed to work with this important hearing aid element.

How do I know about all this? I am 71 years of age and have a profound hearing loss.  I am also one of the fortunate 15% of the estimated twenty-seven million Americans age 50 and up, including two-thirds of men and women aged 70 years and older with a hearing loss, who wear hearing aids.

And I am a Hearing Technology Resource Specialist, (HTRS), which is a volunteer position with the Hearing Loss Association of Michigan, a group composed mainly of hard-of-hearing persons with the goal of helping others with the same disability achieve the best hearing possible for them.

In talking with hard of hearing people with hearing aids, one of the first questions I ask is “Do your aids have t-coils?”  The most common answer is “I don’t know.  What’s a t-coil?”

As the official website of the Hearing Loss Association of America, explains, the telecoil is a small copper coil that functions as a wireless antenna linking to sound systems, delivering customized sound to the listener.

It was originally used to boost the magnetic signals from the telephone handset. The telecoil is activated by a t-switch on the hearing aid or cochlear implant. All landline and some cell phones are designed by law to be compatible with a telecoil.

For whatever reason, some audiologists opt not to put a t-coil in a client’s aids.  Others don’t tell the client about the t-coil when they first get the aid.

Why some do not put a t-coil in, I don’t know.  Possibly the aid is too small?  Some of the advertisements say “So small no one will know you are wearing a hearing aid.”  Possibly so small it cannot fit a much-needed device?

One reason I’ve heard as to why audiologists will not tell the client about the telecoil is they feel the person getting a new aid may be too overwhelmed with it – the new sounds, buttons to push… they will wait until a future visit to tell and instruct about the t-coil.

So when would you use a telecoil? Increasing the volume on your hearing aid or cochlear implant won’t necessarily increase the clarity of what you hear. Hearing assistive technology combined with a telecoil can improve your understanding of dialogue at work, in a meeting, in the classroom, theaters, places of worship, tour buses, and other places. Some people use telecoils at home with the TV while keeping the TV volume low for the comfort of others. Many public places are equipped with hearing assistive technology.

The most common hearing loop is a wire that circles a room and is connected to the sound system. The loop transmits the sound electromagnetically. The electromagnetic signal is then picked up by the telecoil in the hearing aid or cochlear implant. To use a hearing loop, one easily flips the t-switch on the hearing aid or cochlear implant. No additional receiver or equipment is needed. Using a telecoil and hearing loop together is seamless, cost-effective, unobtrusive, and you don’t have to seek out and obtain special equipment.

Traveling in airports is difficult for me.  I cannot understand the noise that is coming over the loudspeakers.  Not so in the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, MI.  A sign on the door as one walks in tells the hard-of-hearing person to turn on his or her t-coil.  And upon turning it on – wah -la!  All the announcements go direct to my hearing aids!  Now I can not only hear, but I can understand! For those in the medical world, there are stethoscopes designed to connect directly to the telecoil; for the home, there are induction loop pads which will connect the hard of hearing person with t-coil equipped aids directly to a sound system, such as a TV.

One of my favorite pieces is the Clipboard Portable Induction Loop.  It looks like an ordinary clipboard but it contains a piece of wire inside it, which connects to the what? You guessed it! The t-coil in the hearing aid! Perfect for the hard-of-hearing college student, professor, or the hard-of-hearing counselor, doctor or nurse.

Telecoils can also improve hearing on hearing-aid-compatible phones, and can be used with neckloops to replace headphones. A neckloop is similar to a hearing loop, except it is worn around the neck and can be plugged into other audio devices, (such as an MP3 player, computer, or FM or infrared receivers), to transmit the audio signal directly to the hearing aid telecoil, bypassing the need for headphones.

Don’t assume that your hearing aid will automatically come with a telecoil or that it will be recommended. Or, if a telecoil is present, don’t assume it has been programmed to suit your individual needs. Today, approximately 65% of all hearing aids dispensed in the United States have telecoils. Yet, few consumers are told about them and know how to use them.

Use the Consumer Checklist, which contains information about t-coils, published by the Hearing Loss Association of America when purchasing a hearing aid (available on

Note: Automatic telecoils are available but work only with telephones, not hearing loops, so ask your audiologist or hearing instrument specialist to include a manually-operated telecoil in your hearing aid and ask for advice on how to use it. Also, see for information on registering for Sept. 27th’s free Kooser Program, The Hidden Impact of Hearing Loss, which includes vital information on choosing hearing assistive technology.

Carol Rose is a writer, photographer, found object artist and outdoor enthusiast living in Grand Marais. Wondering about Bluetooth technology and HAT (Hearing Assistive Technology)? Carol will discuss this in a future issue of Health & Happiness! In the meantime she wishes you “Happy Hearing!”

This article was reprinted with permission from the Fall 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Elder Care: Here Ye, Hear Ye! (Part 1), by Carol Rose

Did you know that hearing loss affects an estimated twenty-seven million Americans age fifty and up, including two-thirds of men and women aged seventy years and older, but only fifteen percent of those sufferers use hearing aids?

And that older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal?

In a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins, volunteers with hearing loss and normal cognition undergoing repeated cognition tests over six years had cognitive abilities that declined thirty to forty percent faster than in those with normal hearing. Levels of declining brain function were directly related to the amount of hearing loss, the researchers say. On average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.

I am seventy years of age and have a profound hearing loss.  I am also one of the fortunate fifteen percent mentioned above.

I am a Hearing Technology Resource Specialist, (HTRS), which is a volunteer position with the Hearing Loss Association of Michigan.  We are a group of mostly hard-of-hearing persons with the goal of helping others with the same disability/handicap achieve the best hearing possible for them.

Our goal as HTRS’s is to demonstrate Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT), in order to help those with a hearing loss hear better, make their environment safe, and increase independence.

Possible explanations for the cognitive slide described earlier given by senior study investigator, Johns Hopkins otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., include the ties between hearing loss and social isolation, with loneliness being well established in previous research as a risk factor for cognitive decline. Degraded hearing may also force the brain to devote too much of its energy to processing sound, and at the expense of energy spent on memory and thinking.

Now I am aware some people choose not to wear a hearing aid out of embarrassment, others because they are not quite ready for them; some because the aid they paid for just doesn’t work or feel right, and many others because they cannot afford the high cost, as most insurance plans do not cover the cost of hearing aids.

But the results of the above study make it even more imperative to HEAR! I know I do not want to be one of the people whose cognitive abilities decrease because I can’t hear.   And it makes me even more devoted to educating other hard-of-hearing people and their families as to possible solutions.

There are many devices on the market to help hard-of-hearing persons function better in their world.  Many of these devices can be used with or without an aid.  High quality headphones and ear buds are available for those without aids.

Start out with a list of your current needs/situation.  Do you have to have the TV or radio on so loud that others complain?  Are you unaware when someone rings the doorbell or knocks on your door? Are you unable to hear the phone ring?  Do you not hear the person on the phone? Are you concerned about hearing devices such as smoke and carbon monoxide alarms?  Or even the alarm clock?

I’ve spent a great deal of my senior life living alone and relying on blinking lights to alert me to some of the above situations.  There are also vibrating wrist watches and a device you can put under your pillow. The latter is sure to wake even the soundest sleeper! While I have chosen systems that make my household lights blink, there are other, more aggressive systems that work with strobe lights.

Please note that as a HTRS, I do NOT sell anything.  I have a list of companies selling Hearing Assistive Technology that I can get to you and I demo products. Below is a written “demo” of some equipment that can make your life easier.

For the TV watcher, there are several devices that can be worn with headphones or ear buds and connected either directly to the sound device via a cord, or wirelessly via infrared or FM.

Many devices meant for TV sound also work for hearing conversations. Two items that enable the hard-of-hearing person to hear conversations, as well as connect to the TV and telephone, are the Williams Sound Pocketalker or Pocketalker PRO and the Comfort Duett, by Comfort Audio, both currently priced under $200.

These are easy-to-use amplifiers, which help eliminate background noise for one-on-one conversations, indoor/outdoor activities, TV or radio listening, restaurants or small groups, or listening in a car.  These products can be used with hearing aids or with headphones or an ear bud.

One alerting system is the Alertmaster ALERT10 Complete Notification System. (I use a sixteen-year-old version of the Alertmaster which still works well and serves my needs.) The current system is affordable, versatile and wireless. Installed in your home, it uses flashing lights and a bed shaker to alert you to the doorbell, telephone, alarm clock, or loud room noises. It plugs into a telephone jack for telephone notification. It has a wireless doorbell button that just mounts outside your door. No wiring is necessary. Plug a lamp into the back of the master unit, and it will flash. Distinct flashing patterns and lighted icons identify each activity. A large lighted button lets you turn the lamp on or off. Turn on the bed shaker for night time alert. Optional accessories even notify you of a crying baby or the presence of an intruder. An optional remote receiver lets you put a lamp signal in another room.

Another alert system is the AC-operated Sidekick table-top receiver, which is equipped with a flashing strobe light and jack for an optional bed vibrator. When the Sidekick receives a signal from a transmitter, the strobe light is activated for fifteen seconds and the bed vibrator, (if connected), is activated.

The Sidekick System is wireless and uses advanced electronics to monitor a wide variety of important household devices. One major benefit is that you may purchase the complete system all at once or build it one transmitter and/or receiver at a time. You can custom configure a system to fit your lifestyle and needs.

There is so much more… items to help you not only hear the phone but also be able to converse on it; Web access to phone calls that you can READ rather than hear; items for those who wear aids and those who don’t.  I’ll be featuring some of these in upcoming issues of Health & Happiness. In the meantime please call or email me with your issues and concerns, (906-494-2041,, and I’ll help point you in the right direction.

As you look for Hearing Assistive Technology for yourself or a loved one, check that the company has a thirty-day return policy with no restocking fee.  You might be asked to pay the return postage, but that’s all the expense you should have to incur for trying out their product.

What works for one hard-of-hearing person might not work for another.  Take your time, try out aids or hearing assistive technology, and make sure you have a return policy in place.

Helpful Websites: and (This site was recently hacked and is being rebuilt – hopefully before this issue of Health & Happiness reaches your hands!)

Carol Rose is a writer, photographer and glass, rust and other found object artist, residing in Grand Marais.  She enjoys skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, canoeing, gardening and driving her ’95 Jeep on back roads. Carol’s determined to maintain her cognitive ability regardless of hearing loss.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Summer 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Caregiver to the Caregivers, Waino Liuhas

By request, we’d like to share with you the following article from the current issue of Health & Happinesss U.P. Magazine.

Each person is unique, leaving his or her own particular mark on the world, some more subtlely, some less so. At the end of 2012, our area lost someone whose mark was so very positively noticeable to those in the know that we’d like to honor his legacy here with some stories of the man – Waino Liuhas, an elder who looked out for many others in many ways, leaving quite an inspiring example.

Waino was a World War II veteran, a Tracy Mine worker, Michigan social worker, husband, father and tireless volunteer. Below are what just a few people had to say when asked to share the words, stories or remembrances that come to mind when they think of Waino.

Negaunee Senior Center Director Kristy Basolo responded, Since Waino has been gone, I find myself asking more and more, “What would Waino do?” He was the face of the Lions Club eyeglass recycling project, Aging Services, RSVP, every Veterans program known to man, the back pew of my church (Immanuel Lutheran). But he was so much more. The part of him that remains with me most is his simplicity. If there was a need in the community, he would simply find a way to fulfill it. He didn’t think in terms of liability and red tape the way things sometimes go today. If someone needed something, he would simply make it happen.

Basolo added, “If he felt there was any sort of injustice going on, he would expose it.”

“His simple honesty knew no political correctness. He would say what was on his mind in plain, but polite, terms. And if he didn’t get satisfaction from you, he’d find someone up the chain who would make something happen. Some may have thought of him as a pest, but in my eyes he was the most pure advocate for those people and agencies in need that I have ever known. So now, when I am faced with a conundrum, I simply ask myself, “What would Waino do?””

“Waino is my mentor.  Constantly on the go, and always working to help form connections    between agencies, shared clients and people in his life,” explains Amy Mattson, Director of    the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, (RSVP).

“We were chatting in the office one afternoon last year and he told me he drove more than 7,500 miles back and forth in the course of his volunteer work in the previous twelve months.  Impressed with his dedication and worried about his wallet, after he left, I submitted a mileage reimbursement request for him.  A couple weeks later he stopped in again and handed me the check, saying he did not need the mileage reimbursement and we should give it to someone who did.”

“From January 1 to the end of November, 2012, Waino reported 736 hours of service through RSVP.  This total does not include uncounted (and probably numerous) hours for agencies that are not connected to RSVP, or his work with many service agencies and private individuals.  As you can see by the list of places for which Waino volunteered, he was interested in helping people of all ages – if people were in need, sooner or later they (or someone who was trying to help them) would cross paths with Waino.”

“From the time he joined RSVP in 1994, Waino reported 10,022 hours of service at AMCAB, Lions Club of Negaunee, Lutheran Social Services, Pioneer Kiwanis, Tracy Mine Retirees, VFW Post 3165 of Negaunee, Thrivent Financial, D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, Eastwood Nursing Center, Ishpeming Senior Center, Mather Nursing Center, Marquette County Medical Care Facility, Marquette Range Iron Mining Heritage Museum, National Ski Hall of Fame, Negaunee Public Schools, Habitat for Humanity, Lake Superior Community Partnership, Alzheimer’s Association, Marquette Adult Day Services, Marquette County Aging Services Advisory Committee, Marquette County Community Foundation, Negaunee and Ishpeming Area Community Funds, Department of Human Services, Medical Care Access Coalition, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program – with Triad, as a special projects volunteer and as an advisory council member, Salvation Army of Ishpeming, St. Vincent de Paul of Marquette, United Way, and the  YMCA.”

Mattson continued to report, “In 1996, Waino was selected as one of the Northern Michigan University

President’s Award Recipients for Distinguished Citizenship.  In 2007, he received the Claude Pepper award, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Senior Advisory Committee, for his work and strong concern for senior citizen rights.  And in 2008, he was chosen as the U.P. Veteran of the Year and honored at the U.P. State Fair.”

“I met Waino two years ago through his service on the Board of Directors at Marquette Adult Day Services,” describes this organization’s director Melissa Luttrell. “I truly appreciated his service to our agency; he asked many a good question and kept us all thinking. Besides those decadent cashew clusters, I loved his smile, his enthusiasm for life and for giving to others, and his ever present questions – “Do you have what you need?”, “Are you getting that raise you deserve?” He was always looking out for those of us serving the community and for those we serve. I loved him and will greatly miss having him in my life.”

“A kind and personable gentleman, he was so gracious and funny!” Tendercare Munising administrator Pamela McKenna declares. “The first time I met Waino, I was attending the Aging Services Advisory Committee meeting regarding my involvement with the State Advisory Council and was a little nervous sitting in the waiting area. Waino went out of his way to introduce himself to me, joking with me and really putting me at ease. He was so kind and funny. I really appreciated that. He was a strong advocate for veterans, always speaking up for those who came back and are coming back from serving our country.  He was truly a “voice” for many people and spoke with eloquence for what he believed in.”

AMCAB Food Service Manager Brenda Mattson says, “What I admired about Waino was his dedication to people serving in our military.  In meetings with local and state politicians, I often heard him ask the question, “How will this help the people serving our country?”  He had a heartfelt concern for the future of all military personnel and their families.”

Mattson adds, “One memory that I have is seeing him standing alone showing support for the men and women marching in the 2012 Labor Day parade. I couldn’t help but think that after all the good deeds this man has done, he is still humble enough to rally for his community.  How great is that?”

AMCAB CNS Director Lori Stephens-Brown describes Waino as “tireless, kind, giving, and humble.  The closest to a saint I have ever had the pleasure to be around.  Waino was a role model for all of us working in the human services field.  And if you didn’t have Waino’s support on a project, it probably wasn’t going to fly.”

“Waino encouraged so many of us to best serve in our programs.  He would always ask how specific things were going, issues that I had mentioned that were challenging me.  Every time I would see him, he would check up on that issue until it was solved.  Waino was always there for us.”

“Questions. Waino always had the questions.  And there was a lesson in every one of his questions, but not everyone got them,” Stephens-Brown continued.

I made sure my teenagers worked side by side with Waino, so they could learn from him, and for them to see what a true hero is.  My daughter got to work in the ‘fry tent’ with him, my son helped him haul donated books every year for the RSVP Recognition Dinner, and we all picked up trash at Mattson Park after the July 4th festivities every year.  I think I also wanted Waino’s approval that I was raising ‘good citizens.’  Thanks, Waino.”

This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Health & Happiness’s 2012 Donation

We’re thrilled to announce the recipient of Health & Happiness’s 2012 donation, as part of year one of our five-year commitment to supporting a different area of community life each year, beginning with Elder Care this year.

Our recipient private, non-profit organization is in its twenty-fifth year of providing quality, caring assistance to a growing need of local elders and their families, regardless of their ability to pay.

Specially trained staff at Marquette Adult Day Services, located in Marquette’s First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Front and Bluff Streets, provide those with memory impairment, Alzheimer’s Disease or other related dementias, as well as elders who would otherwise be isolated and lonely, with meaningful social and recreational activities in a safe and supportive environment.

Puzzles, music, singing, arts and crafts, exercise, bingo, Game Day, birthday and holiday parties, reminiscence group, creative storytelling, sensory stimulation, bingo, even table volley ball, are just some of the creative, helpful activities offered.

Local resident Jane Van Evera appreciates that “The staff are intelligent, optimistic, and caring people who bring education, common sense and community mindedness to our area.”

For those wishing to participate, an intake and assessment interview with the caregiver and/or participant is scheduled. Staff members then work with the family to determine a successful experience for their loved one, and caregivers can attend with their loved one until they feel comfortable leaving him or her in MADS expert hands. Fees are  on a sliding scale basis, and no one is ever turned away for inability to pay.

Free transportation is also available from the Marq-Tran bus service, with Marquette Adult Day Services staff assisting with pick-up and drop-off, and riding on the bus with participants.

Approximately half of Marquette Adult Day Services funds come from UPCAP/the Area Agency on Aging, one-fourth from caregiver fees, and the remainder from small local grants, (11%), individual donations, (6%), and the Marquette County senior millage, (5%).  Additional forms of assistance are also provided by the First Presbyterian Church, Pathways, Marquette General Hospital’s Neuroscience Center, Marquette County Aging Services, and the Great Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Marquette Adult Day Services programs run Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 am to 4 pm, and can include up to thirteen participants a day; however the agency is currently seeking a larger space to rent or possibly own that would allow it to be open five days a week and serve more of this growing portion of our population.

If you have a special talent to share with participating seniors, you would be welcome to do so. For example, various musicians have come in, as well as a tai chi expert and a massage therapist providing foot massages monthly. among others. Local jewelry-maker Beth Millner has recently designed a pendant she is selling with 50% of the proceeds going to support Marquette Adult Day Services. Direct financial donations are also greatly appreciated to assist with rising costs and needs.

And a big congratulations and thank you to Marquette Adult Day Services for all it does!

For more information on Marquette Adult Day Services, or to schedule a visit, contact (906) 226-2142, or go to their website,

This article was reprinted with permission from the Winter 2012 – 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Where Should the Money Go?

In honor of our 5th Aniversary, Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine has made a 5-year commitment to additional support for a particular area of community life each year, beginning this year with Elder Care. As part of this commitment, we will be contributing money to a local Elder Care non-profit agency or project. There are many worthy candidates to choose from, so we need your help! Please tell us where you think the money should go and why by using the comment box below or emailing by November 1st, 2012. And please ask your friends and neighbors to weigh in too!

With thanks & best wishes,

Roslyn Elena McGrath, Publisher

Caring for the Caregiver

by Phil Puotinen

I read an article in the Kansas City Star recently that had some rather astonishing facts.  According to the American Medical Association, elderly care-giving spouses have a 63% higher chance of dying than people their same age who aren’t caring for a spouse.  A study by the American Geriatrics Society found that they are six times more likely to develop dementia themselves compared with people whose spouses don’t have dementia.

If you are a part of the Baby Boomer generation, as many of us are, this means that there is a strong likelihood that one of your parents may be in this situation.  It may even mean that you are a participant in the caregiving.  Worldwide, there are over 35 million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  In the United States, there are over 5.3 million diagnosed and, to bring it even closer to home, in the U.P. there are over 8,000 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. There are 10.9 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. providing care for the 5.3 million persons diagnosed, according to the most recent data from the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Alzheimer’s Association, Upper Peninsula Region of the Greater Michigan Chapter, is committed to providing education and support to caregivers in the Upper Peninsula.  Programs and services are available to help caregivers manage their situations and to help reduce their stress.

One of these programs is the Creating Confident Caregivers Workshop.  These free workshops are offered in partnership with UPAAP, the U.P. Area Agency on Aging.  They are designed to assist persons caring for family members with dementia.  They have been found to reduce stress and to help empower caregivers.  The workshops are two hours long, once a week for six weeks.  They are available at various locations throughout the Upper Peninsula.

Persons participating in the workshops learn strategies to reduce caregiver stress and to learn and practice ways to find time to care for themselves.  These goals are accomplished through:

Gaining information and knowledge – learning more about the illness they are dealing with and how it impacts the person with the disease.  Things as simple as making sure that lighting is adequate or minimizing distractions to allow the person with the illness to be able to focus on tasks more effectively can have a big impact on managing daily activities.

Developing skills – for the complex and often new tasks they need to perform. Learning how communication changes with the progression of the illness, and how to take these changes into account to help the person with the disease maintain a contented, calm and secure life.  The course also hopes to improve self- care skills for the caregiver, which in turn helps to reduce their stress.

Developing an improved outlook or attitude – As the caregiver learns and develops additional skills and knowledge, they become more confident in their role.  As they gain confidence in what they are doing, the tasks become less stressful.

These classes offer an excellent opportunity for caregivers to learn and develop new skills and techniques.  They also offer opportunities for support from other caregivers who share common experiences.

We all can make a difference in the lives of caregivers and the people for whom they are caring.  Caregiving is a demanding job requiring 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week attention.  We can make a difference by keeping in touch with the caregiver. By doing something as simple as making a phone call, or stopping by for a visit, we can offer the caregiver some relief.  The main thing is, let’s not forget the caregiver, or stay away because we don’t know what to do.

Each year, World Alzheimer’s Day is celebrated on September 21st.  This day was established in 1994 as a way to bring awareness to this illness that affects so many people.  It is also a time to recognize the efforts and sacrifice of caregivers, and an opportunity to advocate for greater support and commitment of resources.  This year, celebrate World Alzheimer’s Day by making a commitment to support those you know who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

For more info. on this or other programs offered by the Alzheimer’s Association, or for more info. on how you can help, contact: Alzheimer’s Association – Greater MI Chapter, UP Region, 710 Chippewa Square, Suite 201, Mqt.,  906-228-3910, 800-272-3900,

Phil Puotinen has a degree in Social Work from NMU and is the Alzheimer’s Association’s U.P. Program Coordinator and Wraparound Facilitator.  Phil and his wife Carol, of Laurium, MI, cared for his dementia-debilitated mother for two years until other medical complications required nursing home care.