NOTE: Since 2006, Jeanne Doney and her therapy dog, Bentley, have volunteered at Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown/The Ravenwood Campus. Together, the duo offers residents a special relationship that only two hearts, two hands and four paws can give.
Jeanne Doney shares her experience:
You might say that my dog, Bentley, is giving back to the community—especially since the community saved him. You see, Bentley is a rescue dog. He was once neglected, but now he not only receives an overabundance of love at home, but he is the center of attention on the Ravenwood campus of Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown most Friday mornings.
Although Fridays are my days off—I work as a State of Maryland office supervisor in behavioral health—I tell Bentley that we have to go to “work.”
It is hard for me to remember a time that I didn’t love art.
In fact, I have been pencil sketching since I was a kid. Ironically enough, I used to draw pictures of airplanes. Little did I know that after college graduation, I would become a pilot—a profession that would take my sketching skills to new heights.
I flew for Pan American Airways. Traveling internationally for a living, I never left home without my sketchpad. It was my companion during layovers. Together, we ventured to some of the most stunning cities around the world. Sketching primarily with charcoal pencils, I captured the beauty of churches in Frankfort, the Opera House in Vienna, Ireland landscapes and street scenes in Warsaw, Africa and Tokyo.
The holidays, with all their hustle and bustle, can add additional stress and strain for caregivers, particularly people caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or a similar memory-related illness.
I hope the following tips and ideas will help keep your holidays merry and bright.
Simplify the season
Make this the season to simplify. Instead of the usual six-course family dinner, maybe you can do a potluck or a simple brunch. One caregiver—who always had her holidays cards in the mail on Thanksgiving Day—decided instead to send an email to her family and friends wishing them a happy holiday.
She explained she would not be sending out cards because her focus this holiday was on caring for her parents—and herself. Good for her!
Halloween is behind us, yes, but it’s still with us, too, and in a bad way: The treats of trick-or-treating can easily be the start of holiday seasons full of unhealthy eating.
That’s because those overflowing trick-or-treat bags are soon followed by turkey and stuffing and pies and Christmas cookies—well, you get the picture.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, significant weight gains occur right after major holidays and can take up to five months or more to reverse.
At many of Diakon’s senior living communities, we have wellness coordinators and committees to encourage both residents and staff members to make healthy choices.
When I arrived at Luther Crest in 2011, at the age of 76, I had no idea I’d end up writing a book. But it was, after all, a period of starting over.
I had lived in New York State all of my life before my move and had experienced numerous new beginnings: leaving my parents’ home to marry; moving from Brooklyn to Long Island as a young mother; getting divorced; meeting my life partner and moving to his home; retiring from my job as a social worker in the domestic violence field; seeing my partner through his final illness and then moving into a kind of transitional housing situation until Dan the Moving Man carried me off to my new, and probably final, destination, Luther Crest.
I was happy and excited about starting over again.
I loved my small apartment, crammed too full of precious items from my past lives, and I was excited by the novelty of no longer having to eat solitary dinners in front of the TV.
I had heard the name Virginia “Ginny” Ebersole numerous times after the 2000 creation of Diakon that brought The Lutheran Home at Topton into my work-life, typically as the guardian of The Lutheran Home’s history as an orphanage.
Because I had a similar role in safeguarding the records of the children’s home operated by Tressler Lutheran Services—my former organization before the Diakon merger—I felt a sort of kinship with Ginny, even though the similarities ended there.
Ginny, after all, had actually grown up in the children’s home and then returned in retirement to the place of her childhood, living in one of independent-living cottages at The Lutheran Home, now a senior living community.
Although I had the privilege to work with Ginny the past two years, I wish I had learned to know her personally sooner because her commitment to protecting and preserving the history of the home was both outstanding and amazing. When someone wanted to know the history of a child who had been served by the home, everyone immediately turned to Ginny for that information.
But no longer. Virginia B. (Baer) Ebersole passed away last Sunday, July 24, at the age of 88.
Ginny lovingly told stories of her time at the home, to which she moved in 1933 when her mother passed away; her father’s work schedule made it difficult for him to take care of his family.
Some believe that knowing your life’s journey is coming to an end can be a blessing of sorts. You have an opportunity to say goodbyes and perhaps even let go on your own terms—but knowing certainly does not always make the process easier.
At Manatawny Manor, we recently helped a chronically ill resident and her family members face such a struggle. Our chaplain, the Rev. Roxi Kringle, has a special way of discussing end-of-life issues. She engages in a heartfelt conversation with individuals and their loved ones, asking about wishes and goals. Is there something the person would like to do, a place to visit, favorite foods?
The deepest learning often happens when students are able to connect the classroom experience with the “real world.” Our winter-term partnership with Manatawny Manor for a project called “Storied Lives” allowed my students to put a face to our learning and make it personal.
My students and their residents cried together and laughed together; they exchanged personal stories, shared life advice, and sat in thoughtful silence together; they held hands and emotionally embraced each other. Their interactions were emblematic of a deep connection that these partnerships built over the course of seven weeks.
What images or feelings come to mind when you hear that term? Is retirement something you anticipate? Or something you fear?
As with many topics, retiring means different things to different people. For some older adults, retirement means more freedom and the ability to focus on activities for which there was little time in the past. For others, however, retirement can sometimes represent a break with familiar ties and a resulting sense of isolation.
With these thoughts in mind, we asked some of the residents at Luther Crest, a Diakon senior living community in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to tell us a few things they learned about retirement and how their daily routines and life in general changed.
If there is one common thread, it’s the idea life is what you make it and that activities such as volunteering and taking up interests for which there was limited time in the past can be key to successful later years.