Becoming a parent was like Christmas for me

I always wanted to be a mom.

As children, my sister and I would pretend to be pregnant, placing balls under our shirts. As a fourth-grade teacher, I saw my future child in my students. And following marriage, I dreamed about what it would be like to be a parent.

Despite those dreams, we were unable to conceive and then an emergency hysterectomy forced me to face a truth—if I wanted to be a mom, I would have to take a different path.

Although many foster and adoptive parents have children born to them, for some of us these services offer a means not only to help children but also to become the parents they need and we want to be.

When short-term rehabilitation becomes long-term care

When older adults face an illness, the need for recovery from a hospitalization or support with daily activities, loved ones may think short-term rehabilitation is the perfect option.

Often, it is.

But we may also need to consider what happens if the loved one is not able to regain abilities fully. Where do you turn next at that point?

Organizations such as Diakon Senior Living Services can help. If you have an aging parent preparing for short-term rehabilitation, making slow progress or not meeting goals, you may want to consider discussing long-term care before it is needed.

Virtual racing: Easy, fun and flexible

A few years ago, I began a program of walking and running to help lose weight and improve my health. Eventually, I focused on running, gaining confidence to participate in a few 5K races—that is, 3.1 miles. Next, I tackled half-marathons, which are 13.1 miles.

And I always picked races for organizations whose mission I support and that benefit our local community.

My latest challenge? Virtual racing … which isn’t much of a challenge at all!

Five exercises to improve balance and mobility

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many older adults have been staying at home and communicating with family members via electronic means.

That’s certainly a good way to stay safe. But changes in activity levels may mean those same older adults are concerned about losing independence through a fall, which not only can result in serious injury, but also lessen mobility and rob seniors of the things they most enjoy.

While there are numerous steps one can take, including having a healthy diet, being especially careful and increasing activity levels, one of the most important actions is to adopt an exercise routine that enhances balance and mobility.

Although it can be tempting to jump right into a new exercise program, please keep a few things in mind:

Masks – which one will you wear today?

When I was a kid back in the day, masks were a bad thing. In the movies, in the news, masked people meant trouble, unless of course you considered the Lone Ranger, or Zorro, or Batman and Robin—but even then, they were misunderstood and assumed to be lawless until proven otherwise.

Now the law is to wear masks, mostly. I’ve been pondering on the way that masks have flipped to being a good thing. A keep-out-of-trouble thing. A protection for the wearer and for those around them. Both/and.

I am troubled when folks who insist “I am not sick” forget that they can indeed be sick and not know it, and spread virus to others when they forgo their masks. Such a simple thing it is, to wear a mask. Please!

There are so many styles and shapes of masks out there now, a cottage-industry, almost a new form of art. So many choices…

But there are also masks, in this time of COVID-19, that we should not wear. One is the mask of indifference to those around us who may be struggling to put food on the table, or pay their mortgages, or continue to work in dangerous settings to provide care or necessities for the rest of us. We are in this together. No longer what I want or need, but what is best for all.

Another is the mask of ignorance and assumptions. Truth is sometimes difficult to ferret out, but it is each of our jobs in life to discern fact from fiction, hype from help, certainty from “spin.” This COVID climate may make that more difficult, but no less essential. Check facts. Dispel rumors. And if you assume, try to assume the best instead of the worst.

And the third mask that we should not wear is the mask that hides our feelings. In a time of physical distancing, finding ways to connect is even more important. Share your feelings with a loved one or friend. Open your heart to those who are experiencing loss. This is hard; admit it, and we will get through it together.

What mask will you choose, or not choose, to wear today?

—The Rev. Dr. Colleen Kristula                                                                        Chaplain, The Lutheran Home at Topton

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Exploring senior living and lifestyle options

Although the COVID pandemic still occupies the news, older adults continue to explore living and lifestyle options.

And when it comes time for retirement, experience shows they seek a lifestyle that allows them to sit back, relax, live life as they please and enjoy peace of mind. Often, that peace of mind comes from selecting senior living communities that offer health-care services on-site.

These are just some of the reasons older adults choose to live where services are on campus and always available:

•    With a range of services, the community can meet your needs and preferences for years to come, especially if those needs change.

Click here to read more….

Allowing a different story to take shape …

Dan and I married 17 years ago, when I was newly out of college. I graduated in December of that year with an education degree. Being mid-school year, it was difficult for me to find a full-time teaching job.

At that time, there was a family from our church adopting a sibling group who needed child care. I became their nanny during the day—my first experience working directly with children in the foster-care system.

I believe God used this experience to foreshadow an intended story, one very different from Dan’s and my own plans.

They were great kids and I loved my time with them. In the evenings, Dan and I would have conversations about doing something similar, welcoming a sibling group into our home someday.

We decided to start a family but five years passed before I became pregnant with our first son. Because of continuing challenges with conception, we believed God was telling us to close that door.

We moved on and started to consider adoption again. We researched, prayed and both felt called by God to foster a sibling group. It broke our hearts to hear about siblings not being able to be together. Both Dan and I had siblings growing up and are still close to them. We went through classes, interviews and a home study. After that home study, I apologized to Dan for being cranky and exhausted. It turns out I was pregnant with our second son.

God had pressed the pause button on foster care.

After our second son was born, we moved to Pennsylvania so Dan could finish his dissertation and earn his doctorate. Once settled, we felt God was telling us to press “un-pause” and we did. We included the boys in our conversations about fostering siblings and possible adoption.

They were excited about it.

We have friends at church with four kids, three of whom became part of the family through foster-adopt with Diakon Adoption & Foster Care, so we reached out to Diakon to begin classes.

We planned to seek two foster two girls, no older than 5. We got several phone calls over six months. During that time, one of those phone calls was to provide respite care for a sibling group of three, two girls and a boy, ages 6 through 18 months. It was just for five days, so we said sure!

The way they interacted with our boys showed us that limiting our foster-care choice to under age 5 wasn’t necessary (another nudge from God to allow Him to write our story).

After that respite placement, we contacted Diakon and increased our age limit. Shortly after that, we received a phone call about two girls, ages 7 and 3. They are now our adopted daughters.

Yet God’s story had another unexpected chapter. A Diakon adoption specialist contacted us nearly two years later and told us the girls’ birth mother was pregnant again and asked us to be a resource family for this newborn. How could we resist? Their baby brother was born and he is now our adopted son.

God just wrote our story so perfectly. Flexibility is so important. We learned it wasn’t about us growing our family; it was about meeting the needs of these kids.

We learned not to try to control every detail and to allow God to direct us. That story is so much better than how you might want to write it yourself.

—Trista Herrlin

We’re all in this together – and need to stay that way!

With the visitor restrictions, the enhanced safety measures and even the way we interact with one another, all implemented in response to COVID-19 disease, it’s obvious we are in a changed world, especially in terms of senior lifestyle and health care services.

While the many changes may have been unsettling, what I have witnessed in my newer role as vice president of operations for a number of Diakon senior living communities is a staff response I can characterize no other way than incredible.

Diakon staff members have constantly gone above and beyond in their efforts to meet head-on the challenges we face. Although each Diakon senior living community is unique in some ways, the approach to safety for both residents and staff, the ways we clean, disinfect and protect, are consistent across the board.

In addition, our staff members have become very creative in efforts to engage residents through technology. In addition to using FaceTime, Facebook Live, Skype and telemedicine visits, we have encouraged family members to talk with residents on their phones or connect virtually because we understand the importance of making personal connection possible as we work to ensure residents’ physical and mental well-being.

All of which points to a critical message as the regions in which Diakon senior living communities are located transition from “red” to “yellow” and even from “yellow” to “green.” Pent-up energy to be with family members will undoubtedly fuel an increasing desire to see loved ones within our senior living communities. That is absolutely understandable and we welcome these reunions.

At the same time, we need to remind everyone that we cannot let our guard down. Older adults are particularly susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19 disease. That caution pertains not just to residents in personal care, assisted living or nursing care, but also to those who live in independent-living homes and apartments on our campuses, especially in light of reports that indicate the relative ease with which this virus sometimes can be transmitted.

For that reason, even as we begin to plan how to ease visitor restrictions, we need to remain extremely vigilant, adopting new practices and emphasizing the tried-and-true measures with which we all have become familiar:

• Wash your hands frequently

• Wear a mask as appropriate to the occasion, but particularly in public. You are not only protecting yourself, but others as well

• Maintain physical distancing

• Monitor yourself for potential symptoms of the virus

• Try to avoid crowded places, particularly where others are not following safety measures

I recently read of people who object to the phrase “new normal,” because they believe we can soon return to what we considered normal. I certainly hope we can eventually resume the lives we experienced before COVID-19. But I also read an article by an epidemiologist who indicated that, even with a vaccine, this virus—which he hoped would eventually weaken—may be with us a long time.

We want your loved ones also to be with us a long time.

That is why we will continue to underscore the need for caution and vigilance even as we take first steps toward the new senior-living landscape.

Robert Musser serves as senior executive director of Buffalo Valley Lutheran Village, Lewisburg, and is vice president of operations for Diakon Senior Living –Hagerstown, Maryland, and three Diakon campuses in Pennsylvania: Cumberland Crossings, Carlisle; Frey Village, Middletown; and Ohesson, Lewistown.

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More than heroes

It was 4:50 a.m. when the phone rang, waking me from a dream immediately lost. There was a death and the family had requested the chaplain come in to offer a blessing prayer with their loved one.

That is not an unusual request but these are unusual times, and the call was from our red zone—that is, our COVID-19 positive unit. Deep breath. A prayer of thanksgiving for the official “fit-testing” of my new N-95 mask yesterday.

Then a mental review of the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) I would need: gown, mask, goggles, gloves. Another prayer to calm my anxiety about a task I have done many times before during six years of ministry here, a task now made entirely new and, to be truthful, more than a bit scary.

Prayer finished, divested of PPE other than the ever-present mask, I stopped to check on the nursing staff and to offer them words of affirmation, because they wake up every morning choosing to set aside apprehensions and don their PPE and work long shifts caring lovingly for residents who have this devastating illness.

As they enter our building, they pass by signs naming them as “heroes.” They are.

Oh, but it is so much more than that one word can possibly encompass! I call them the faithful—faithful to the mission of this skilled nursing home’s stated purpose: “…to demonstrate God’s command to love the neighbor through acts of service.”

They are faithful to the vows of their vocation as nurses. But most of all they are faithful to each resident, one by one, whose lives are precious to them, and in danger of slipping away. Courage mixed with compassion.

It is an awesome calling. It is a fearsome responsibility. I am humbled by their faithfulness, brought to tears by their courage, and so very proud to be in their presence.

Thank you to all of them for all you are, and all you do for the people we serve. 

—The Rev. Dr. Colleen Kristula                                                                        Chaplain, The Lutheran Home at Topton