Helpful holiday tips: Visiting loved ones with memory-related illnesses

Holidays can be filled with a wide range of emotions ranging from pure joy to utter sadness when you are visiting someone with a cognitive illness such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Regardless of the emotion, however, accept it and try not to judge your feelings or the feelings of others during this time. Holidays may feel and look different because traditions are not able to be followed exactly as before, but that does not mean you cannot have a meaningful experience.

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Humble and kind

Whenever the Tim McGraw song “Humble and Kind” plays on the radio, I can feel our 8-year-old roll his eyes as I remind him that these lyrics are something I hope he takes to heart:

“Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you / When you get where you’re going, don’t forget to turn back around / And help the next one in line. / Always stay humble and kind.”

It’s important to us that Cayden understands that we have been incredibly blessed to have had so many people help us in our journey to become a family.

•    There were the dedicated, caring social workers who made sure to keep checking on his welfare the first year of his life. These people work tirelessly to try to help birthparents successfully parent and then do the difficult work to place the children with foster parents, if necessary, who will make sure these vulnerable children are safe and healthy.

Stepping back in time—and finding new connections

I traveled into the past this morning.

Figuratively, of course.

We are working on a video to be shown during Diakon’s 150th anniversary celebration next year.

The script I wrote includes scenes of the Rev. Philip Willard—essentially the founder of Lutheran Church operation of what would become the Tressler Orphans Home in Loysville, Pennsylvania—coming to the small Perry County hamlet and meeting with the Tressler family. For ease of filming and availability of horse and carriage, those scenes were shot just outside Gettysburg on two other dates.

Today, we were permitted onto the grounds of the former Tressler home, sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s for use as a youth development center, to film exteriors of some of the historic buildings.

Serving children with special medical needs

Working in the field of adoption and foster care for 42 years, Marcia Moll is a Diakon Adoption & Foster Care social worker with a master’s degree in early childhood development. As the mother of two grown adoptive children, she understands firsthand how unconditional love for a child can transform a family. Below, she discusses a new Diakon foster care program, designed to touch the lives of children with special medical needs throughout eastern and central Pennsylvania.

Medically fragile foster care can change lives!

A little girl was hospitalized for six months in a children’s hospital waiting for an organ transplant. She spent most of her time being cared for by the hospital staff because her birth family was not involved. The county came to us at Diakon Adoption & Foster Care and asked if we had a family who would be a foster family until her transplant. A family stepped forward.

They had adopted a child in the past and, unfortunately, that child had passed away. This family understood that a child should live in a family environment instead of a hospital setting.

A fun way to give back…Dining with Diakon

Jill Kearney, founder and CEO of Senior Moves by Design (a division of the JDK Group, LLC), shares her views on the upcoming Dining with Diakon* event. Senior Moves by Design is a company that primarily moves older adults into senior living communities, helping them to find “treasures” and design their new home around things they love. The company also helps them to sort through their current home so items can be given to family or donated. Further, they stage houses to sell and do a full pack and unpack on moving day.

*On Sept. 28, 12 “celebrity chefs” from business, industry, and non-profit organizations will gather at Bethlehem’s SteelStacks. Offering an enticing menu of dishes and desserts, the chefs raise funds for Diakon Adoption & Foster Care, which serves children and families throughout eastern and central Pennsylvania.

Foster-To-Adopt: God Knew My Heart Needed You

In this post, Lydia Carfagno, an adoptive parent, shares her difficult two-year journey that led to one of the greatest joys of her life—motherhood. She adopted her now-4-year-old son, Trevor, through Diakon Adoption & Foster Care’s legal-risk (foster-to-adopt) program. Legal-risk placements involve children and youths who are in the custody of a county’s children and youth services. Children are placed in foster homes with the intent of reuniting them with their birth families; however, if that does not occur, the foster family often seeks to adopt the child or youth.

Why Foster-To-Adopt?

As I was growing up, my mother worked and volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center. As a small child, I witnessed my mother counseling women and providing them with the necessary resources to maintain their pregnancy. When I was young, I would tell my mother that I wanted to grow up and take care of babies that did not have mommies and open my own orphanage. I remember frequently checking our front door to see if someone left me a baby to care for!

Fast forward: I grew up and obtained a college degree in recreational therapy. As a therapist, I worked in various pediatric hospitals. Throughout my work experience, I witnessed firsthand many children suffering from neglect, abuse and trauma. Each of these children made my desire to adopt grow even stronger; however I knew I was not currently in the position to do that.

Upon marrying, adoption was something we always said we would do “one day.” We struggled to get pregnant and even experienced a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. The topic of adoption that was once on the back burner quickly became a burning desire in my heart.

It was something I believed had to happen immediately. Because of my experience in the health-care field, I was aware of “foster-to-adopt” type programs and I quickly began researching agencies.

Quality adult day care hits a homerun

Blog posts come in all shapes and sizes … sometimes they are personal reflections or ruminations on various topics … at other times, they tell a story, often to demonstrate a key point … at other times, they express heartfelt appreciation for how someone has been helped … as in this recent example:

To the staff of Diakon Adult Day Services at Ravenwood:

I wanted to send you a thank you on behalf of my family for the wonderful care you provide for my father, Robert “Bob” Wilson. I wonder if you know just how much the work you do is valued and how important it is to so many? Daily you have a positive impact on so many lives.

Many Hands. One Heart. Service Excellence.

Someone recently asked me about the importance of various roles within a senior living community.

My immediate response arose from my knowledge of 1 Corinthians: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts … all its many parts form one body … there should be no division in the body, but … its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

In other words, every role is equally important, every staff member critical to the quality service we provide.

The question dovetailed so nicely with our new customer service program at Diakon—Many Hands. One Heart. Service Excellence.—I felt compelled to write about it. One part of that program guides staff members toward the understanding that, no matter what our role is, we are all equally important to our mission. We cannot accomplish our goals any other way!

Choosing words wisely

I am not a fan of political correctness. We have come far astray of the general knowledge that “sticks and stones….” Moreover, the limitations prompted by overzealous word-watchers can sometimes affect the ability to communicate freely and clearly.

However, I also recognize that while words may not physically injure us, they can hurt and often can rob people of dignity.

For example, I often ask students in a class I teach what is wrong with the phrase “the Alzheimer’s sufferer” or “the wheelchair-bound man.”

Know the answer?

Both phrases define people by a characteristic or condition. It’s far better in these cases to write or say “the man with Alzheimer’s disease” or “the woman who uses a wheelchair.”