A Father’s Day Reflection

As I look back on our adoption journey, I realize that our non-traditional family is happy not only because we went into the process with our eyes wide open, but also because we expected nothing from our children and yet we got everything in return.

Steve and I had been together for about 10 years when we started to think about adopting a child. We were at a point where everything was really good for us—we had a great relationship, a nice home, supportive families and we traveled quite a bit. While an infant or toddler was out of the question, we wanted to share our life with an older child.

Although we were initially concerned that our non-traditional family might face some challenges to adoption, we are glad we chose to work with Diakon Adoption & Foster Care.

Despite the fact they had not worked with a lot of same-sex couples at that point, it was never an issue for them or the children. Part of the preparation process was explaining to the children that they may go to a family different from their birth family. What they found was that we weren’t defined by our relationship. They saw us as fun—and we treated each other with respect.

Our first son was 12 years old when he arrived. Although we thought we were prepared, the reality was much harder. Fortunately, we were open to the coaching and support that comes from Diakon and, over the next eight years, we opened our home to three more sons between the ages of 8 and 12. Each of them had been placed with traditional families before coming to us, but those placements did not work out.

While Steve and I both had stable family lives and had never been in trouble, there isn’t anything we haven’t been involved with because of our kids—police, probation, trauma counseling, regular counseling, you name it. At the same time, we never made them into something they weren’t. As a same-sex couple, we have always had to depend on people accepting us for who we are, and we did that with our kids.

If there is any advice I can offer to someone considering adopting older, at-risk kids, it is that you can’t expect them to come into your life and fill a void for you. You can’t put that pressure on them. They need you to be 100 percent in this for them. That takes patience and a willingness to go through a lot of trial and error.

Our goal was to see our sons graduate high school. We taught them good work ethics and that, despite their obstacles, they could become anything they want to be.

What we found is that while it may have taken longer and been tougher than we expected, we got there together.

Wayne Hopkins and Steve Renninger are the adoptive parents of four young men who continue to challenge and enrich their lives, most recently with the addition of their first grandchild.

When is it time for personal care?

As people age, many adult children and their families wonder how long their older loved one should live alone.

Common questions and worries include:

• Are they eating enough?
• Are they gaining enough socialization?
• Are they taking their medications and paying their bills on time?

If you aren’t with your loved one every day, it can be hard to be sure, leaving you increasingly worried.

One thing is certain, though: Your loved one is unlikely to let you know he or she needs additional help!

That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out and check in often to ensure loved ones are getting the support they need while living the lifestyle they deserve.

However, if you are beginning to suspect a loved one may need personal care, here are a few telltale signs you could be right:

Common questions and worries include:

•    Are they eating enough?
•    Are they gaining enough socialization?
•    Are they taking their medications and paying their bills on time?

If you aren’t with your loved one every day, it can be hard to be sure, leaving you increasingly worried.

One thing is certain, though: Your loved one is unlikely to let you know he or she needs additional help!

That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out and check in often to ensure loved ones are getting the support they need while living the lifestyle they deserve.

However, if you are beginning to suspect a loved one may need personal care, here are a few telltale signs you could be right:

●    Declining hygiene. Does your loved one not appear as neatly groomed as before? If family members or friends used to take pride in their appearance and don’t appear to care anymore, make note of that. If you visit the next day and they are in the same outfit as the day before, it’s likely a sign hygiene has declined.

Please click here to read about more the telltale signs…

Social media: Being Sir Galahad and not Daenerys Targaryen

The emails come in daily: How to use social media to promote your organization or business.

Of course, the interesting thing is that the companies selling their social media-focused services are using email (direct-to-you communication) to promote their products.

To be fair, they are probably promoting them as well via social media but their best line of marketing, at least for me, is to direct their pitch to my email inbox.

No question, though. Social media is a wonderful thing. (The grammarian in me wants to write “social media are wonderful things” … but that phrasing just sounds strange.)

Social media have aided democratization in various parts of the world and given voice literally to everyone willing or motivated to use it.

Diakon’s various social-media channels—we have many, many Facebook pages, for example, because the best social media are local—allow us to reach people directly and in ways that most interest them.

And there’s quite the variety: people discussing the care they received at a Diakon senior living community … others inquiring of Diakon Youth Services’ wilderness greenhouse about the availability of a particular native plant … and still others wishing the best for a youth in need of foster care or adoption.

Sometimes, the discussions are heart-warming.

I have my own Facebook account, of course. I like to post witty observations and occasionally, as over the Memorial Day weekend, an update on activities: my son and I worked three longs days doing major outside projects at his and my house.

About two years ago, though, I eschewed commenting on or posting anything political. I’ve broken that rule once or twice but overall stuck with it.

This topic is one that has been debated by countless others so I most likely am not adding anything new but the tone of some political posts—from both “sides”—makes me occasionally question the long-term impact of social media.

Now I’m no Chicken Little “the-sky-is-falling” person and recognize that most people can differentiate a personal rant from true news.

What occasionally gives me pause, though, is that some people reportedly get most of their news or commentary on politics and other important topics via social media or engage in debates that quickly deteriorate into anger. And that often serves no useful purpose.

A few years back I did get into a heated political discussion on Facebook with another Diakon staff member. Fortunately, we were smart enough to stop, pull back and recognize that our friendship is more important than engaging in such a debate in this particular forum.

And that was one more plank in my decision to pull back from such discussions.

At the same time, I continue to recognize the engagement value of social media, the wonderful connections organizations make with their publics via social media, the reconnections we personally can develop with people we haven’t seen in years and, yes, even the ability of social media to inform.
I just believe we need to be as smart—and as civil—as possible in how we use it.

By William Swanger, MA, APR
Senior Vice President
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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The therapeutic difference …

Injured yourself? Or face another health-care issue related to aging?
 
If so, it’s important to determine if therapy can help. It’s equally important to understand the differences among therapies.
 
What is occupational therapy?

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., some accidents, injuries or diseases can make it difficult for older adults to participate in the daily activities they enjoy. Occupational therapists help to evaluate the situation and create individualized goals so you can resume or pursue personal goals. These therapists may ask what activities you enjoy participating in and how you would like to pursue your goals.
 
Occupational therapy can help with:  
 
●     Achieving goals seniors set for themselves
●     Remaining healthy and independent in spite of a chronic medical condition
●     Rebuilding independence through assistive devices
●     Improving the ability to participate in daily activities such as driving, visiting friends, socializing and pursuing hobbies
 
What is physical therapy?

Click here to read more of the differences between physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Mapping out a career path one step at a time

My friends were receiving college acceptance letters and comparing SAT scores, but I was barely keeping my head above water my final months of high school. I had loosely planned on attending college, but at the start of my senior year in high school, my parents suddenly divorced.

My world was turned upside down.

And if I had received any guidance about my future, I truly don’t remember it. My family shifted into survival mode and I had no idea how to sign up for SATs and absolutely no motivation to keep up my grades. College wasn’t even on my radar.

I’m not bitter about it; however, it was not the picture-perfect plan I had envisioned in my younger teen years and watching my friends head off to college that fall stung a bit.

Fast forward a few years to my early 20s: While working multiple jobs, I attended a community college part-time and earned my associate’s degree. Then, at the age of 40, I returned to college to earn my bachelor’s degree. I graduated five years ago with a BA in Communications and I would never have been able to do it without the support of my family, friends and work colleagues.

My next major career goal is to earn my accreditation in public relations, signified by the initials APR. Which brings me to the point of this post: There is no one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach when it comes to a career path.

I think it’s important to understand this as we find ourselves in high school and college graduation season. Young people may be feeling lots of pressure as they transition and we need to encourage they see beyond whatever limitations they face, self-imposed or otherwise.

I joined Diakon nearly 11 years ago as a part-time administrative assistant. I had the opportunity to be mentored in public relations and communications by my supervisor and take advantage of Diakon’s Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, which is offered to staff members. It helped to offset some of the costs of college I never would have been able to afford, especially while having a family to take care of!

I think it’s important for businesses and organizations to invest in their employees. One of those ways is to offer tuition assistance, as well as opportunities to grow. Not only have I had the opportunity to use TAP funds, but I also am currently enrolled in a program called Leadership Diakon.

Leadership Diakon presents participants with opportunities to meet fellow team members and participate in meaningful educational offerings. It has been so valuable learning about all aspects of the organization from finance to business development and even how to better understand and work alongside people who have different personality traits.

My advice to those just starting out in their careers is to never settle. There is something to be learned in every position and at every level in the workplace. We just have to be willing and open to learning new things. And college or no college, what you have to offer is extremely valuable, so keep growing and exploring!

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

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Making that vision of the future come true!

From the time we are young, we tend to look forward to a time when we can enjoy a lifestyle in which we don’t necessarily have to work and can relax and have time to pursue passions we may have put aside.

We envision this time, and the activities we’ll enjoy with family and friends, but we often don’t consider how we’ll ever achieve that.

And we may couple that vision with a desire to remain in our own home as long as possible. What we don’t consider is the fact living in that home typically comes with restrictions and responsibilities.

Consider this: A snowstorm is coming. You need to grocery-shop, make sure you’re ready to shovel a driveway and sidewalk, and check to see if you have ice-melt for the outside steps so that you don’t fall.

Or perhaps you want to visit family or take a vacation. Typically, you need to find someone to check on your house, maybe pick up your mail or water the garden.

And these are just a few of the responsibilities you need to worry about—instead of having that time to do all those things you postponed. This situation doesn’t match that vision you had of retirement.

That’s exactly why many older adults seek out a vibrant senior living community to call their new home, a home without maintenance worries or other responsibilities.

At Diakon Senior Living Services, older adults can enjoy the lifestyle they envision. Instead of worrying about housekeeping and maintenance, they can focus on what truly matters to them.

Click here for a brief listing that gives meaning to the phrase “maintenance-free” living!

Everyone deserves a family

May is National Foster Care month. According to Pennsylvania’s Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network, or SWAN:

“Most children are in foster care for a short time, with the majority of children returning to their family of origin. A foster home can be an important haven, keeping children safe, helping them to cope with their grief and loss and helping to prepare them for the eventual return to their family. Because of these challenges, foster parenting requires special people—people who can take children quickly and without hesitation into their homes knowing that, when the time comes, they will need to lovingly let them go.

“Although most foster children are returned to their biological family, if such a return is not in the best interest of the child, the court may order that the parents’ rights be terminated and the child be placed for adoption. Should that happen, foster parents should play a key role in a child’s transition to an adoptive family, or they may consider adopting the child” themselves.

Sadly, each year more than 23,000 young adults age out of the foster care system. Diakon Adoption & Foster Care staff members work tirelessly to recruit and support resource families for these young adults, along with the children and youths referred to us by county agencies.

Those staff members share why it is so important to find families for all ages, including young adults:

• I primarily work with older youths and see firsthand what happens when they age out of care without locating an adoptive home. Unfortunately, I have seen youths be arrested within only a few months of being on their own. I have seen others become homeless. I have seen youth so desperate for love and belonging that they end up in unhealthy relationships, resulting in domestic abuse.
• Teens who age out of foster care with no identified adult resources tend to do poorly in life. In general, they have higher rates of homelessness, poverty and even incarceration than their peers who have family support. They also are more likely to have children of their own earlier, but may not have the resources to care for their children, thus perpetuating the likelihood of poor outcomes in future generations.
• Situations vary and depend on support systems. Some youths continue living with their resource (foster) family and some return to birth family members. Others may move on to post-secondary education, while others find their own apartment if they have the financial means. Unfortunately, some end up homeless and without necessary support.
• These young adults often become involved with negative influences because they are vulnerable.
• Unfortunately, many have nowhere to go. They might couch-surf with friends, rent substandard housing or return to families who, unfortunately, have not resolved the issues that caused the youth to come into care in the first place.

Our staff agrees that having the love and acceptance of a family is critical to the success a young person experiences.

• They need permanency, a place to call home and the support of a family to help them with things such as applying to colleges, applying for jobs, getting a driver’s license and various other things.
• Teens are never too old to need a family! Without a family, from whom do they seek guidance? Who will be there to cheer them on and encourage them? One teen stated that he cried through his entire high school graduation because there was no one there for him. A teen girl has asked who will walk her down the aisle when she marries? When they are in college, where will they go for holidays when the dorms close?
• No one is ready to enter the world on their own when they turn 18. Young adults need the guidance and structure of family to help them navigate the world.
• Everyone needs a family they can share life with.
• At any age, individuals need a place they can call “home” and call “family.”
• It is still important for these youths to have a family. A support system is crucial to young people, especially at that transitional point of life.

And although there aren’t as many success stories of older teens being adopted as we might home for, here are a few examples our staff members recall:

• A young adult who was adopted as a teen has been able to secure a part-time job while going to college. She has a place to live and a family to help her with finances until she can afford to be on her own.
• A delayed, paralyzed young man found a home at the age of 19. He started smiling when he found parents.
• We helped one older teen find her birth mother, whom she hadn’t seen since birth. That family welcomed her in and even though she was never adopted, she has connections!
• A medically challenged youth was adopted by a teacher.

You can help be a part of the success story for a child, youth or young adult! Please consider attending an upcoming information session; you also can request an information packet here.

Life after total shoulder-replacement surgery

If you or someone you love has done serious damage to his or her shoulder, a total shoulder replacement may be necessary.

A total shoulder replacement is major surgery that can keep you or your loved one in the hospital for several days, in addition to requiring weeks or months of physical therapy to fully recover.

If you’re preparing for shoulder-replacement surgery, it helps to know what to expect.

After surgery

When you have your surgery, you can expect to stay in the hospital for two to five days to recover. The time will depend on how well you progress and whether you experience any complications from the surgery.

During this time, you will experience swelling and pain in your shoulder joint. Your physician will prescribe pain medication to help make you comfortable and ice to reduce the swelling. Your arm will be in a brace after surgery to keep you from moving. However, you will likely begin physical therapy during your hospital stay.

Coming home

Post-surgery, you will have very limited movement in your arm.

As you prepared for surgery, you may have arranged to have a family member or close friend help afterward if you live alone or if your spouse is unable to help you.

If not, it may be best to book a short stay at a rehabilitation center until you can do more things on your own.

In fact, it may be several weeks before you can lift much of anything. Consider how you might rearrange items in your home to make life easier as you recover. For example, think about your daily routine and set items on your bathroom sink so they are easily reachable, rather than tucked away in drawers.

Consider all the activities that require two hands and, if someone isn’t available to help, develop an alternative or find a way you can accomplish the task single-handed.

Physical therapy

Generally, you will continue to have physical therapy throughout your recovery. In addition to therapy sessions with a professional, you’ll likely be assigned exercises to do at home between sessions.

As you do these, remember not to push yourself too hard. Recognize that recovery takes time and rushing the process could result in a subsequent injury.

Physical therapy will play a vital role in recovery by limiting pain and improving the function of your new joint. Click here to read more about what your physical therapist will most likely teach you!

The good we do beyond the good we set out to do

Somewhere along the line I came up with the phrase “the good we do beyond the good we set out to do.”

While that almost makes that “secondary good” seem unintentional, it’s not. “Doing good”—that is, having a positive impact on society beyond direct service to people in need—is a special and significant responsibility of nonprofit organizations, particularly in lieu of certain taxes. Doing good beyond what we set out to do through our service programs and senior living communities is something of which we are very proud.

That positive impact is called community benefit.

We began calculating Diakon’s community benefit for the first time six years ago and are now readying our sixth community benefit report, this time for 2018. Typically, Diakon’s community benefit amounts to approximately $20 million.

Community benefit is quite different from annual reporting. We don’t count people served or provide financial summaries of what we spent during the prior year. Rather, we look at such factors as offering free meeting space to community groups, providing mentoring or other support to students in the health care or social services fields, donations of unused medication to help people in need and support groups we offer the public free.

Community benefit also includes the subsidized service we provide, so that we can help many people with limited financial resources.

Part of me dreads this time of year because, based on national guidelines, calculating community benefit can be, well, math-intensive.

In the case of free meeting space, for example, I have to know the cost-per-square-foot-for-maintenance of a Diakon facility, the size of the room in which an outside group held its free meetings and how many hours the group was there during the year!

You get the picture. It’s calculator time.

But another part of me truly enjoys the effort, calculations and all, because doing so underscores the amazing impact we have on society—the good we do beyond the good we set out to do!

You can view our 2018 Community Benefit Report by clicking here.

 By William Swanger, MA, APR
Senior Vice President
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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