The support that family caregivers need

By Marguerite Ro

More than 48 million Americans, including 820,000 here in Washington state are family caregivers. It is one of the most important jobs we will ever do, and one of the most difficult. Family caregivers help their older parents, spouses and other loved ones live independently – managing medications, preparing meals, helping with bathing and dressing and so much more.    

These individuals are the backbone of our long-term care system. Washington’s dedicated family caregivers provide 770-million hours of care every year, adding up to $16.8 billion in unpaid labor per year, saving Washington taxpayers billions. The physical, financial and emotional toll on them is great. Many family caregivers work full or part-time at paying jobs, and many cut back their hours or quit their jobs entirely to make sure their loved one gets the care they need.

November is Family Caregivers Month. Family caregivers deserve our recognition, but simply saying thank you is not enough. That’s why AARP is advocating for commonsense solutions to save caregivers time and money and provide more support.

If you’re new to family caregiving, we encourage you to check out AARP’s “10 Tips for Family Caregivers,” which provides advice and resources from experts and fellow caregivers. Among the most important:

Don’t go it alone. Being a family caregiver can be exhausting and intense; look to fellow caregivers for support.

Build a support network. Enlist family, friends and community members to assist with caregiving tasks; don’t be shy about asking for help and accepting assistance.

Make a budget. Family caregiving expenses can quickly deplete your savings if you’re not careful; create a financial plan and stick with it.

Get paperwork organized. Organizing medical information and legal documents provides peace of mind, and it’s a real time-saver when you need that info on a moment’s notice.

Know your limits. Although it isn’t easy, sometimes being a family caregiver means knowing when it is time to seek professional help to care for your loved one. 

For far too long, family caregivers have gone unnoticed by many lawmakers. That’s why AARP is launching I Am a Caregiver, a nationwide movement to support family caregivers and the loved ones they care for. We’re tapping into the power of family caregivers to urge elected officials to pay attention to this important constituency. But we need your help. To find out how you can raise your hand and join in the effort, visit 

Marguerite Ro is AARP Washington’s state director.

Make room for family


By Christina Clem

AARP surveys consistently find that older adults want to remain in their current homes and communities for as long as possible. There are some new developments at the community level that will help provide additional housing choices for older adults, and recommendations for how to make any home safer for us and our loved ones. 

This past state legislative session, new housing bills were passed that will open the market to new housing options that have been difficult to find in the past.  Legislation to reduce barriers to building accessory dwelling units (ADU) or “mother-in-law” spaces, gives homeowners the ability to adapt their property to meet their current and future needs.  ADUs can fill many roles, like providing a place for an aging parent to live instead of a nursing home. They can also be used as living quarters for a caregiver or a relative who requires care, or for an adult child who may need to return home after college. ADUs can also provide a steady income stream for homeowners on a fixed income.

In addition to easing the path to ADU construction, new “Missing Middle” legislation will allow for smaller housing units and multi-family housing, like duplexes, fourplexes, and cottage courts.  These more modest-size homes can be tucked into existing neighborhoods and provide more options for folks, including empty-nesters and older adults who want to downsize and stay in their community. Creating more affordable housing for low-income and moderate-income levels is critical to achieving the state’s housing goals. This may also help family members who would like to live closer to loved ones who would benefit from having support nearby.

Most houses and apartments aren’t designed to meet the physical changes that occur as we age and are generally not designed for people with disabilities. But there are plenty of tips to make them safer. Adapting a home for aging involves making modifications and adjustments to accommodate the changing needs of elderly individuals. AARP has a program called HomeFit, which includes a room-to-room guide with more than 100 tips and suggestions to make a home more livable for the long run. It includes several no-cost to low-cost ideas, along with projects that will require a handyman or contractor. Here is a list of modifications that are doable regardless of housing type (single-family house, apartment, mobile home, etc.) or ownership status (owner, renter). 

  • Eliminate tripping hazards. Secure rugs and carpets to the floor or remove them altogether to prevent tripping. Keep the floor clutter-free and cords out of the way. 
  • Lever-style door handles. Replace doorknobs with lever-style handles, which are easier to use for individuals with limited hand strength or dexterity.
  • Bathroom modifications. Install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower or bathtub to prevent slips and falls. Place non-slip mats inside the bathtub or shower to prevent slipping while bathing.
  • Proper lighting. Improve lighting throughout the home to reduce tripping hazards. Use brighter bulbs, add task lighting, and consider motion-sensor lights in key areas.

You can learn more about housing options for caregivers and other tips to aid in your caregiving at

Christina Clem is a communications analyst for AARP Washington.

Right crops give gardens good cover in fall and winter

By Melinda Myers

Put your garden to work over winter by planting a cover crop this fall. Covering the soil with plants that are turned into the soil or smothered and allowed to decompose in spring provides many benefits.  

Fall-planted cover crops protect the soil from erosion over winter and reduce stormwater runoff into nearby waterways and storm sewers. They also help reduce weeds by forming a dense mat that increases organic matter, adds nutrients, and improves the soil quality for your plants. These crops also help conserve soil moisture, and many provide welcome habitats for pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Oats, winter rye, winter wheat, crimson clover, and hairy vetch are common fall cover crops. The crimson clover and hairy vetch are legumes that can add a lot of nitrogen to the soil when they decompose. Try combining these with non-legumes when possible. Consider purchasing a cover crop mix like the True Leaf Market no-till pollinator-friendly cover crop mix, which contains both and helps support pollinators.
Most cover crops go dormant over winter and resume growth in spring. Annuals like daikon radishes and oats are killed by cold winter temperatures. This makes oats a good choice if you want to get an early start to planting in spring.

  • Plant fall cover crops at least four weeks before the first killing frost to give them time to establish. Cereal rye can be planted right up to the first frost. You can plant the whole garden bed or just the area between vegetables that are still growing.
  • Remove weeds, plants, and mulch when planting garden beds. Loosen the soil and rake it smooth before seeding..
  • Check the seed packet for the amount of seed needed to cover the area you are planting. Spread the seed by hand or with a broadcast spreader and gently rake the seeds into the soil. Make it easier to evenly spread tiny seeds by mixing them with compost and then spreading them. Once the seeds are planted, gently water using a fine mist.

Annual plants will be killed by cold winter temperatures, but the perennial cover crops will put on vigorous growth in late winter or early spring. Suppress this growth and kill the cover crop before it sets seed and at least two to four weeks before planting your garden. This allows microorganisms time to decompose the plant residue and avoid nitrogen deficiencies in spring plantings.

In the spring, use your mower or weed whip to cut the cover crop to the ground. Till the residue into the soil or cover the area with a black tarp or weed barrier for at least two weeks. Remove the tarp, then incorporate the residue into the soil or plant your vegetables through the dead plant remains.

Avoid working wet soil that can result in hard-as-rock clods and take years to repair the damage. Do a moisture test before working the soil. Grab a handful of soil and gently squeeze. If it breaks into smaller pieces with a tap of your finger, it’s ready to work. If it remains in a mud ball, wait a few days.

Two weeks or more after the cover crop has been killed or tilled into the soil, you can begin planting. Planting any earlier can result in nutrient deficiencies that will require a light spring fertilization.

Adding cover crops to your gardening routine will improve the soil, plant growth and is good for the environment. Like any new gardening practice, it can take time to adapt it to your space, climate, and gardening style. The cover crop growing guide at can help.

Melinda Myers ( is the author of 20 gardening books and host of.a DVD series and the “Melinda’s Garden Moment: TV and radio programs.

Puyallup Tribe going airborne with Kenmore Air

Members of the Puyallup Tribal Council and Kenmore Air leadership recently touched down at the Puyallup Tribal Air Terminal for the first official seaplane flight into Ruston Way, marking the start of flights from Tacoma’s Commencement Bay.

The first public flights began in August and are continuing at a new seaplane dock positioned between the RAM Restaurant and Brewery at 3001 Ruston Way and the site of the former C.I. Shenanigan’s restaurant. Tickets are on sale at

Tribal Council and Kenmore Air representatives attended a grand-opening that included a blessing, drumming and dancing. Council Chairman Bill Sterud spoke about the significance of the terminal to the tribe’s economic development, and Kenmore Air president David Gudgel shared his thoughts about the seaplane operator’s partnership with the tribe and expansion into the South Sound.

“This is a fun day, a historic day,” Sterud said. “Not to brag, but we like to think big, we like to think out of the box, and you never know where we’re gonna go. We’re going up in the air now.”

Other elected officials at the ceremony included U.S. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, state Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, and Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier.

Kenmore Air’s current scenic-flight season will run until Oct. 15, with planes taking passengers on a 20-minute flight over the South Sound. The flights will then resume in April, and flight operations may expand with service to the San Juan Islands and Victoria, B.C., officials said.

Expanded air service would also open the tribe’s casinos and hospitality venues to visitors from British Columbia and beyond. In May 2020, the tribe opened its $400 million Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma next to Interstate 5 and an accompanying 155-room hotel in December 2021. More recently, the tribe inaugurated sports betting at its Tacoma casino and its EQC location in Fife through a partnership with BetMGM.