Five ways rehabilitation promotes independence

Everyone wants to be independent.

That’s true no matter your age.

But it can be especially important when you face the physical challenges that sometimes accompany aging.

In fact, one of the most common desires among older adults is to remain as independent as possible, as long as possible.

While many people achieve this goal by staying healthy, sometimes accidents or unforeseen illnesses can threaten independent vitality.

When a physical injury limits your mobility, or an illness disrupts daily life, taking advantage of rehabilitation services can help you to get back on your feet and remain independent much longer.

Rehabilitation services at Diakon Senior Living Services cover a variety of therapies and meet the needs of adults in less-than-their-best health. In fact, many seniors turn to rehab following a hospital stay if they’re not yet able to return home. Others seek outpatient rehab to continue therapy after an injury or surgery.

Whether physical, occupational or speech therapy, such programs can help you to regain optimal abilities and well-being.

If you face an illness or injury with the risk of loss of independence, rehabilitation can help you maintain independence longer and to the extent possible.

1.    Allows you to maintain your daily routine. Recovery can be a long road for older adults, but rehabilitation can help you get back on your feet—and back to your regular lifestyle—much faster. Those who opt out of rehab or therapy might not heal as quickly or suffer from subsequent injuries, making it harder to maintain a daily routine. For example, if a shoulder injury doesn’t heal correctly, you may always need help lifting heavy loads or reaching above your head. Rehabilitation services can help you to meet your goals for continuing your normal way of life.

Click here to read more about what rehab can do!

Are you ready to foster or adopt?

Diakon Adoption & Foster Care staff members work diligently each day to recruit and support resource families, along with the children and youths referred to us by county agencies.

These staff members are knowledgeable and experienced in knowing what works, what doesn’t and how to try to make the transition into foster care or adoption as smooth as possible.

If adoption or foster care is something you think you may be interested in, here’s some honest advice from our staff members.

What skills or qualities do you believe are important for resource families to have?

Flexibility, compassion and patience were the responses that almost every staff member mentioned. They also said it’s important to have a sense of humor, realistic expectations, good communication skills, reliability, awareness of biases and a willingness to be challenged.

Attentiveness, the willingness to work as a team, to support the child through any loss or grief, and the capability to show unconditional love were also suggested.

One staff member specifically said it’s essential to have the ability to act in a non-judgmental way toward the child’s birth family and the circumstances that prompted out-of-home placement. Additionally, understanding how to deal with behaviors the child may exhibit because of past traumas is helpful.

What are some unexpected issues?

• Some children do not wonder much about their story when placed or adopted, but begin to ask questions as they get older.
• Children and youths aren’t typically “grateful” they’re in foster care.
• The level of grief that children feel about the loss of their birth family can come as a surprise, and it may take time to make reconnections.
• Negotiating relationships with various members of the child’s birth family.
• Families can be surprised by the number of appointments children have that can arise from a routine physical or dental exam.
• Transportation requirements for medical appointments, visitations, therapy and/or daycare, if applicable, are sometimes overwhelming at first.

Our adoption and foster care staff help to overcome such challenges!

Our staff members will help to put the proper services in place, including therapy, medication management, and so on.

In fact, they note, “we assist resource families with ideas on how to show a child not comfortable with affection how to receive it. We also help resource parents to understand the reasons behind negative behaviors without taking the behavior personally. We help families realize that their desire to have a family and their excitement over a placement occur just as the child is losing everything.

“A big challenge we help resource parents to overcome is their fear of the legal-risk component; most families worry they can’t do foster care or legal-risk placements because they worry about the pain or hurt they, resource parents, will feel. We help to encourage them that it’s less about the hurt/pain/loss that they might feel if a child leaves rather than the hurt/pain/loss the child might experience without their family stepping in to help!”

Staff members encourage building a positive relationship with a child’s biological family, by having a more engaging attitude toward the birth family both verbally and nonverbally.

“We provide an outlet for resource families to vent and talk about their frustrations, feelings and questions at any time and in any place in a case,” they say. “We offer advice such as picking your battles—often, it’s more about encouragement, encouragement and encouragement! And we have a variety of post-permanency services and support groups available. Our resource families never have to feel as if they are alone on their journey!”

If you are looking for more information about becoming a resource parent or to attend an information session, please click here.

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Everything you need to know about CCRCs

Continuing Care Retirement Communities, or CCRCs for short, are one of the most popular choices for older adults seeking a carefree community home.

These communities attract so many seniors for numerous reasons, but before you determine if a CCRC is right for you, it’s helpful to understand everything you can about this type of community and what it offers.
 
●    Continuum of care
The “continuing care” part of CCRCs refers to the variety of senior lifestyles and care the community provides. In addition to maintenance-free retirement or independent living, these communities may offer personal care/assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing care, rehabilitation or any combination of these. Some may also offer minor support for independent living residents or allow personal care services to be received in an independent living home. Residents of any type of lifestyle typically have access to the additional services offered on campus, should the need arise.

You can read more about CCRCs by clicking here.

Traumatic past turns to strength and guidance

“Who knew from concrete a flower could grow?”

I faced every type of horror imaginable as a child, but I have overcome that trauma and turned it into strength. But I didn’t always recognize that ability.

From the time I was 12 until I was 18 years old, I was in and out of foster homes, placements, residential programs and shelters. Separated from my siblings and my home, I was constantly looking for a place to plant my feet.

One of the first stops was a month-long wilderness challenge-based experience for troubled adolescents with Diakon Youth Services.

Transported to South Carolina with several counselors, we were expected to hike the whole way back to Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, I was homesick, dealing with anger and not emotionally ready for the experience, so on day 16, I decided I was done. I set my backpack down and refused to move. As a ward of the state, I felt I had nothing to lose. Eventually, they would call my case worker and send me back on a plane.

Years later, with time and a different perspective, I was able to see the value of that experience. But at the time, all I understood was that if I allowed myself to feel, bad things would happen.

For the next six years, I bounced from placement to placement. Just before my 18th birthday, I met the first foster parents who, despite my resistance, would not give up on me and encouraged me to do the right thing. They became a huge part of my life. With their encouragement, I spent the next few years figuring out who I was and what I wanted, enjoying life and making my own choices.

After two years living in Arizona, I returned to the area and threw myself into work as a server and cook. When I was 26 years old, I struck a conversation with a couple about my career goals that would set me on my current path. The woman invited me to visit her at the Diakon Wilderness Center, where she worked. When I arrived on the mountainous campus, it immediately took me back to my first wilderness experience. This time, however, I was ready.

The program director encouraged me to stay the weekend, shadow the counselors, work with the kids and see if the work would interest me. Of course, it did! What better place than here to show these youths that there are people who care. Being able to make a positive experience for other kids has made me realize why I went through all the trauma I did as a child.

If I hadn’t experienced it, how would I connect with these kids and help them get past their trauma?

I have been with Diakon Youth Services a little more than four years, and I still feel strongly that my work here as a counselor has purpose. Working with youths is not always easy, but when you experience those moments when a kid truly opens up, it is all worth it. We get to show them there are people who care, who want them to succeed and who see the better part of them.

That has been especially true for me here at Diakon, where I have been supported and encouraged by people at all levels of the organization. Because of them and Diakon’s tuition assistance program, I recently enrolled in college and am pursuing a degree in psychology. They helped me realize that my passion and life experience, combined with a college education, will improve my work with the youths as well.

For most of my life, I felt I wasn’t doing anything for myself. I questioned the reason for the pain and trauma I had experienced and wondered what my purpose in life was. Now, I understand that I am able to give back by helping people, using what hurt me to inspire others. I want them to understand that while our pain does shape us, it is up to each of us to choose what that shape becomes.

Christina created this artwork to visualize what it is like to live with depression and anxiety.

By Christina Bowers
Counselor, Diakon Youth Services

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Why you deserve a time out!

You need a time out!

Well … not the type you might assign your child!

Your time out is from caregiving.

Caring for a loved one who requires daily support is a full-time job. No one doubts that.

And that job can be especially involving if your loved one has a chronic health condition such as Alzheimer’s disease. Often, providing care can take its toll on you as well, affecting physical and emotional well-being.

As with any job, you deserve an occasional timeout to rest, recharge and return to your role with renewed energy.
 
Unfortunately, many caregivers ignore the need for a break. Whether they feel fully responsible for meeting every one of their loved one’s needs—or they simply don’t know how to obtain help—caregivers can quickly burn out.

If that occurs, the situation can affect other aspects of your life, including not only your physical health but also emotional stability, family relationships and more.

Moreover, when you’re drained, it’s hard to give your best to the person depending on you for care.
 
Respite care is an ideal solution for busy caregivers hoping to avoid burnout and practice some necessary self-care.

Respite care is frequently offered by senior living communities, such as those within Diakon Senior Living Services, on a day-by-day basis, or by such programs as Diakon Adult Day Services, which has locations in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and Hagerstown, Maryland.

Using respite care for a few days or weeks can help you to take care of yourself, while knowing your loved one is being cared for by professionals in an environment that promotes socialization and engagement with others.
 
In “Respite Care for the Elderly Is Important for Family Caregivers,” author Shelley Webb, RN, describes the benefits of taking a time out:

Click here to read more.

Patient turned faithful volunteer

I volunteer two days a week at Frey Village, but it’s just not long enough.

After I spent several weeks recuperating from back surgery in the village’s health care and rehabilitation center, I knew I wanted to return. I sympathized with the patients and residents who didn’t have many visitors and jumped at the chance to volunteer when asked. My job is to help with activities, deliver mail and make visitations.

The part I like best is visiting with people. I ask how they are doing, talk about their hobbies, anything to break up their day a bit. I really enjoy the connections I have made and have found I have a lot in common with many of them. We get to talking, and it makes the time fly for both of us!

I know from personal experience that when you lie in bed all day with nothing to do, it makes for a long day. While I was recovering from my back surgery, I initially had difficulty walking. With the help of physical therapy, I improved to where I could use a walker. That was a game-changer and I soon was getting get out of bed and walking in my walker all over the building!

It was during those walks that I met some of the people I visit today now that I am fully recovered. One woman, for example, knows my sister-in-law. She would talk with her whenever she visited the grocery store where she worked. I know another man’s whole family—I went to school with one of them and lived down the street from the other. In fact, some of residents were surprised to see me come in—because they knew me as a patient!

I empathize with many of them who are struggling with physical challenges, and I sympathize with those who feel forgotten by family and friends. That is why at the end of my six- or seven-hour shift, I often feel as if that wasn’t enough time to do everything I wanted to do.

I’d go every day, if I could. In fact, I wish I had started volunteering sooner.

I’m retired so I have the time to give and the desire to help. But it is the big smiles that greet me every visit that motivate me to do more. They all ask me to return, but they don’t need to worry.

I’ll be back.

Frey Village Volunteer Gary Shomper is a retiree who lives in Highspire, Pennsylvania.

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Choosing warm-hearted care for your parent

Sam knew his mother needed care and daily assistance; his family’s holiday visit had revealed just how dangerous it might be for her to remain at home by herself any longer.

But the idea of finding a senior living community offering the type of care his mother needed seemed daunting and Sam was not certain he was comfortable with this sudden role-reversal.

However, as parents age, children often find their roles shifting from earlier ones receiving care and support to now ensuring care and support for their parent.

In fact, the decision may fall to you to make the decision on where a parent moves or who comes into the home to provide care.
 
Fortunately, many people have already made this journey, and experienced professionals in senior living can be a valuable resource.
 
Typically, it helps to focus on the priority of finding care—giving a parent the best quality of life possible.

Sadly, not every senior care community stands up against the scrutiny of family members seeking compassionate, dignified care for their loved ones.

So, as you evaluate options, keep in mind the following considerations that can help to give your parent the warm-hearted care he or she deserves…

Click here to learn more.



Milestones for the mission

Last year, I celebrated my 10-year work anniversary at Diakon. As the social media and digital communications manager, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much my job has evolved over the years. When I started here, Facebook was just gaining momentum, my phone wasn’t “smart” and faxing was still common!

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is my enthusiasm to work for an organization that serves so many people. What’s even more important and humbling is the fact those sentiments are shared by staff throughout Diakon. We recently implemented a new way of recognizing staff anniversaries, asking staff members to discuss their experiences being one of Diakon’s Many Hands, guided by One Heart of compassion and care:

“Simply put, Diakon’s mission is to serve. One thing I find neat about Diakon is that we serve two different populations. We serve children through [such programs as] adoption and foster care and then also serve older adults. Additionally, I have great admiration for all the charity care Diakon gives, and the fact no one has to leave what is their home due to [financial challenges]. These two aspects make Diakon stand out from other facilities and make me, as an employee, glad to say I am a part of helping Diakon fulfill its mission. Reminding myself of these exceptional services … and that I am a part of fulfilling this mission to serve … has helped me push through any tough times during my 10 years with Diakon. It also helps me to continue to give back the highest quality of work I am able to perform to ensure this mission continues to be fulfilled.” – Amanda Reinhard, Luther Crest, 10-year anniversary

“I wear many hats here at the Diakon Ministry Support office, but my favorite is overseeing the benevolent care program. I enjoy working with residents and families when the resident no longer has the funds to pay privately for care. It’s a great feeling to be able to tell the resident or family that they do not have to leave their facility just because they can no longer afford to stay. As long as they meet all of the criteria for the program, they can remain where they are …. In addition, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. By everyone, I mean our residents, family members and co-workers that we see every day and those that we interact with only occasionally. I do everything I can to treat others as I would like to be treated.” – Vonnie Hinds, Ministry Support, 5-year anniversary

“A favorite aspect of my role is developing relationships with children and families. I feel honored to help those in need and I’m proud of the work that I do.” – Kelly Smith, Diakon Adoption & Foster Care, 15-year anniversary

As you can see, Diakon’s mission truly does inspire the work we do each day. And that is one more reason, as you’ll note, our anniversaries are not just of one or two years but very often of 10, 15 or 20 years … or even more.

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

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Amenities enrich life in a senior living community

“We knew we’d love the maintenance-free living we’d experience when we moved here—but we never dreamed how busy we’d be with all the events and activities the community offers.”

That’s a comment we often hear from new residents of Diakon Senior Living Services communities and I make sure I impress upon prospective residents the importance of an active lifestyle.

Not only do the residents gain access to a beautiful new home, but they also get to enjoy all the amenities available on site!

In fact, many residents initially do not realize how integral a role supportive, enriching activities are to the lifestyle we offer. Some even tend to think of them as “icing on the cake” of senior living, but they are far more than that.

From welcoming venues across the campus to exercise classes, social programs and more, amenities help residents to experience daily joy and activity, adding to overall well-being and fulfillment.
 
Click here to learn about just some of the life-enriching amenities you can find at various senior living communities, dependent on location…