Need a snow plow? Nah …

Karen watched the snow pile up in the driveway. Soon, she and her husband would no longer have to worry about shoveling or paying someone to do it.

And yet their move would soon be upon them. How would they manage with the weather being so unpredictable?

But Karen quickly dismissed her concern, because she had a number of tips to follow to make their move to senior living accommodations as smooth as possible.

Although moving typically comes with both hassles and stress, relocating during the winter can be rewarding, if you follow some helpful tips to make the process one of warmth and joy rather than icy challenges.

And if you’re still on the fence, here are some of the reasons residents make the choice to move to senior living:

●    Freedom from home maintenance. Winter is one of the hardest times to maintain a home. From snow removal to winterizing your home and ensuring your steps, mailbox and sidewalks are cleared, winter can be downright treacherous. In senior living accommodations, home maintenance is included, so you don’t need to worry about braving the cold or injuring yourself with a fall.

●    Care is on site. Need to go to the doctor in bad weather? In a senior living community, you often can have your care needs met right on campus.

●    An enriching lifestyle is just outside your door. Isolation and depression can increase during the winter, but in a senior living community, there are endless opportunities to engage with others and participate in an array of programs and activities.

●    No fear of high heating bills. In a senior living community, you can leave those worries behind because everything is included in your fees.

If you do decide to make the move now, click here for tips and tricks to ensure the safest move possible.

Keeping their best interests at heart

Her 90-something father, the friend said, had been told he could no longer drive.

He hadn’t been driving much anyway, but the first thing he did upon hearing of his loss of driving-privileges was to steal away in a family vehicle and drive to a grocery store and, later, to a pizza shop.

The account reminded me of my grandfather, who many decades ago rolled his wheelchair to the end of a hall in his residence, unlatched the door and proceeded apace across the parking lot.

When people found him in his overturned wheelchair, he was laughing.

Such stories strike terror in the hearts of health care providers and family members—and rightly so—because both tales could have had vastly different and perhaps terrible conclusions.

Yet, their authors’ escapades also remind us that in any care situation, we are dealing with individuals—individuals with unique personalities and pasts, with, yes, occasional stubborn streaks and often-captivating humor.

And at Diakon we recognize and love that fact!

As an organization that has been successfully serving people of all ages since 1868, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We take time to know each resident and client on the individual level.

Indeed, we must do that—because it’s the only way we can truly uphold a core value of our mission: That “all people are unique gifts of God to be valued.”

Valuing them—according them the dignity they deserve—means we care for our residents and clients as we would care for ourselves, keeping their best interests always at heart, helping to make their worlds whole again to the extent possible and, yes certainly, keeping them safe!

So no unauthorized car excursions and certainly no wheelchair elopements but, yes, acknowledgement and honor of the traits and experiences that underscore each unique lives.

William Swanger, MA, APR, Fellow PRSA
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications

Creating a safe environment for a loved one with Alzheimer’s

I have a friend whose husband developed a form of cognitive illness in his mid-70s. From caring for him to making sure he took his medications, got to physician appointments and ate adequately, she had her hands full.

And evening, which sometimes precipitates what is called sundowning (or “late-day confusion”), brings its own challenges.

Her situation is precisely why creating a safe environment for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or similar cognitive illness is absolutely necessary, especially as care needs and disease progress.

The changes that cognitive illnesses precipitate can greatly affect the safety of those with the disease, notes the Alzheimer’s Association. These changes are often seen most in judgment, sense of time and place, behavior, physical ability and senses.

If a loved one is beginning to spend money foolishly or forgets daily tasks; gets lost on a familiar street; is easily confused, suspicious or fearful; or is experiencing changes in vision or hearing, you may need to add safety to your list of things to manage.

Here are several tips to help ensure safety:

Consider the environment. Is the garage easy for your loved one with Alzheimer’s to access? Can the person get into the basement or other workspace where you place cleaners and other chemicals? These are among the most dangerous for those with Alzheimer’s because use of tools and cleaners requires close and careful supervision. In addition, be sure to watch your loved one closely outdoors, as wandering can become common.

Click here to read more helpful tips to ensure safety.

43 years? Today, more like 43 months …

In a little more than two months, I will begin my 43rd year with this organization.

Tell that to young people today and their eyes grow wide. Very few people work for an organization that long any longer.

In fact, as just one example, my son-in-law, 31, is in his third corporate position—he’s an expert in UX (user experience; that is, how we interact with and use software), a role entirely unheard of when I began my career. I suspect other positions will eventually follow.

That’s simply the way of the world now.

While that change can present stellar opportunities for employees, it brings challenges to employers.

Diakon is fortunate that we have a number of longer-term employees. You might suspect that with an organization that is more than 150 years old, with long-established locations.

And yet we face the same concerns most health-care providers are experiencing: an increasing need for nursing staff and lots of competition for those potential staff members.

Addressing those concerns requires creative solutions. Diakon has adopted a number of them, including new-employee bonuses, referral bonuses, flexible scheduling, a comprehensive range of benefits and such concepts as “Stay Interviews.”

Recently, the organization has made two additional changes. The first is the provision of certain Day 1 benefits such as paid health-care insurance. No longer do you need to wait through a probationary period to receive this important coverage.

The second is a new, tiered approach to tuition assistance, with increased financial assistance for Diakon staff members interested in furthering their education in nursing.

TAP is a great benefit—I used it myself some years ago to gain my master’s degree in strategic communication—and, in fact, was not one offered when I joined a predecessor of Diakon decades ago, one more example of how organizations adapt to changing times.

—William Swanger, MA, APR, Fellow PRSA
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications

‘Pre-Hab’ 101: Maximizing your short-term rehabilitation

Last month I wrote about the value of short-term rehabilitation for people who experience a health emergency, a hospitalization or injury or who just otherwise need help in transitioning to safe living at home.

While short-term rehab features a specially trained team of professionals to help you, it’s particularly helpful—if possible—to know what to do beforehand, to prepare for rehabilitation. Doing so can help you make the most of your short-term stay.

To help you, we’ve compiled a number of ways to prepare. While accidents and emergencies can happen, if you have surgery planned, you may want to consider these questions:

● What program will meet your needs? Do you need to be close to home, or want to be close to family? You are likely to get the most out of short-term rehab if it meets such needs.

● What services will you need? From on-site physical therapy, in-home visits from doctors, special diets and more, a senior living community must offer the services you need.

How will you pay? Savings, insurance and Medicare Part A can help to pay for short stays, through which you receive care for hospital-related medical conditions, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Plus, before choosing a short-term rehabilitation facility, click here to read more to be sure you know what to look for: 

Cultivating gratitude to stay motivated

New Year’s means resolutions, right?

Not this year, at least for me.

Because of a recent trip, I’ve been focused on something better that I think may be more successful than making lofty (and sometimes unreachable) resolutions that focus on my own well-being and, essentially, boil down to a tiresome to-do list.

What if, instead of resolutions, I adopt a mindset of “getting” to do things instead of “having” to do things? That approach may make it easier to see challenges as possibilities and problems as opportunities.

Yes, I know that sounds a little cheesy, but I tested this theory recently when I joined my daughter in India. She is a little past the halfway mark on The World Race, an 11-countries-in-11-months missions trip and the week was the only one parents are invited to participate—bucket showers and all!

The trip was demanding. I think the only times in my life I was so physically exhausted were during childbirth! From the time I left my house to when I arrived at the Hyderabad airport, more than 32 hours had passed. The long journey was not the only obstacle; the 10.5-hour time change proved a hurdle as well.

But it was worth it all to see my daughter’s smile after having been separated so long, lately with no Wi-Fi on her end to talk or text.

Almost immediately, the work began, with long rides into villages, differences in food and sanitation and a language barrier. Each time I was driven out of my comfort zone, I prayed for strength and gained a sense that I didn’t have to do any of this, I had the opportunity to do it; that is, I got to do it. My prayers were answered time and again—and I was able to focus on why we were there in the first place, to show love to orphaned children and offer support to the missionaries and World Racers who would not be coming back to the comforts of America, as I was a week later.

The plane ride home allowed plenty of time to think about how I could take what I had learned and apply it to other areas of my life, especially the ones usually at the top of my New Year’s resolution list:

  • I don’t have to exercise more; I get to because I have the ability to do so.
  • I don’t have to give more; I get to because I have opportunities and resources to bless others.
  • I don’t have to eat healthier; I get to because I have so many healthy options to fuel my body.
  • I don’t have to clean out the spare room; I get to because I have been blessed with a home and a family (who can also help to clean it out!).

Basically, I realized that a mindset of gratitude is what can prompt me to act.

I won’t use resolutions this New Year to start a diet or kick a bad habit. Instead, I am starting the year with a heart overflowing with gratitude, so that when it comes time to tackle a goal or a challenge, I get to embrace it rather than have to do it.

By Melissa Kindall
Manager, Social Media and Digital Communications Manager
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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Five ways short-term rehab can promote a faster recovery

As a long-time executive director of senior living communities, I have seen firsthand the impact short-term rehabilitation can have on people’s health and wellness.

If you’re not familiar with short-term rehab, it offers older adults round-the-clock care and access to therapies that can help them recover more quickly, whether from a fall, joint replacement or other surgery or hospitalization.

Most times, short-term rehab is offered for a few weeks but when older adults need additional monitoring or are not yet ready to return home, services can be provided for a longer time. The decision for length of stay rests with the individual and the care team.

If you are planning surgery, trying to oversee care for a loved one scheduled for surgery or recovering from a recent health emergency or simply trying to stay informed on potential options, we can help. Short-term rehab has numerous benefits:

  1. Consistent access to care. Senior living communities such as those operated by Diakon provide 24/7 access to on-site nursing, medical and pharmacy services, as well as specialty services such as dentists, podiatrists and vision specialists. Visiting physicians also are available, as are physical, occupational and speech therapies. Care teams create individualized plans to help achieve rehabilitation goals, allowing a return to normalcy as soon as possible.

  2. Time to heal and rest. If a loved one tends not to be able to relax or won’t take time to attend rehab treatments, short-term care can be a great option. In that case, the individual will have everything he or she needs in one place, with housekeeping taken care of and plenty of time to regain abilities and relax before returning home.

  3. Programming and activities. Short-term rehab is not without fun. Seniors taking advantage of in-patient rehabilitation also can participate in the senior living community’s interesting programs and range of clubs and activities.

Click here to read more…

Fostering: Following a call into the unknown

I had been a licensed foster parent for only a few weeks when I got the call: “Expect a 5-year-old girl to arrive on your doorstep at 7 p.m. this evening.”

My mind immediately began to race. Instead of focusing on important details, such as buying a car seat and preparing her room, my thoughts quickly jumped to the realization I didn’t have any milk in the house and my carpets needed vacuumed! Here I was in the midst of this big, life-changing moment, and I was thinking about minor details.

During the next few hours, my stress level grew and I began to panic. But when 7 p.m. arrived, I opened the door to be greeted with a big smile and a wave: “Hi,” she said, “I’m Sophie.”

And in that moment, I realized that everything would be okay: This child will be an important part of my life and this moment is special.

As a single parent who worked full-time, I found the next few days especially challenging; they passed in somewhat of a blur. While I made sure Sophie’s basic needs were met, she worked through the shock and emotions that come with a foster placement. Looking back now, I wish I had more clarity so that I could remember everything that happened.

The next six months were probably the hardest, as we adjusted to our new life together. But, to be fair, she is such a joyful child that she made it easy. We have had what I would call the easiest, luckiest journey possible. We just fell in love with each other.

Although we initially thought our time together would be limited to a six-week placement, that milestone came and went with many others. While I worried how I would let go when the time came, I realized the only way to make it work would be to change my outlook and live day-by-day. As someone who thrives on planning, that was difficult to do, but Sophie made the difference.

The entire first year we were together, I kept telling myself: “If this is my only Christmas, my only Easter, my only summer with her, I want to make sure it is right for her and right for me.” I had to keep reminding myself of how grateful I was for every single day we had together, even if it ended at some point.

Fortunately, she never left and two and a half years later, she officially became a Fritz!

Looking back on the process, I can now say it was all meant to be. But before I met Sophie, I wasn’t so sure. The only thing I was certain of was that I wanted to be a mom. Foster care called to me.

And so in the fall of 2016, I reached out to Diakon Adoption & Foster Care and attended an information session. By the following January, I had completed training but quickly hit a wall with the paperwork. I dragged my feet for several months before I completed my licensing in June. While at one time I thought every action was random, I now recognize how things could have turned out very differently.

On June 26, 2017, a little girl walked into my house with a big smile on her face and everything changed. I knew in that instant she was the reason all of those other things didn’t happen for me. I knew in that moment that everything happens for a reason.

—Emily Fritz, Diakon Adoption & Foster Care Parent

Emily and Sophie Fritz look forward to celebrating their third Christmas together this year and enjoying activities from their first shared holiday that are now cherished family traditions.

Emily and Sophie

Five engaging activities for older adults with cognitive issues

My daughter will always remember that one interaction.

My mother—her grandmother—had had a stroke and was doing rehab in a senior living community for the cognitive impairments that can accompany a stroke.

While we were talking with my mother, she tipped her cup of tea, the warm liquid running across the table. Seeing it, my mother let out a mild expletive—somewhat uncharacteristic for her. Her face reddened a bit, but then she chuckled, my daughter joining her.

In an initial bout with cognitive issues—or the initial stages of a longer-term condition such as Alzheimer’s disease—older adults can be embarrassed about changing abilities, or even fearful of judgment, uncertain as well over what is to come.

And as the cognitive illness progresses, abilities to engage in ways easily accomplished in the past can decrease.

While this situation can be difficult to watch and may even make it more challenging to connect with loved ones, there are ways you can increase engagement. For example, to encourage a loved one to engage in conversation or participate in an activity, you may simply want to consider adapting how you normally approach the situation.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, it can help to consider your loved one’s form of cognitive issue, best time of day and comfort level. If the person is uncomfortable, currently ill or doesn’t handle a certain time of day well, you should plan activities for a different time.

It also can be helpful to use easy-to-follow plans, enlarged reading materials and adapted puzzles, if those are of interest. Be sure as well to allow plenty of time to complete activities and respond to conversations. In addition, click here for five possible activities to share with your loved one.