‘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.

Veterans tell their stories at Diakon Veterans Day events

Editor’s Note: In recognition of Veterans Day, Diakon held events at senior living communities honoring the dedication and service of residents who served in the military. The following post is a compilation of comments made by one of the residents interviewed at the events.

See our eDiakonnect article for more photographs and stories about other military Veterans.

In addition, a link to news about the events is listed at the conclusion of this post.

“As far as we could see, there were American and English ships and boats, then planes going back and forth bombing the French Coast,” Richard Schermerhorn recalls of his time on the English Channel June 6, 1944.

“As we got closer, naval ships started opening up the big guns.”

Welcome to D-Day, when the Allied invasion of Normandy at Omaha Beach turned the tide in World War II with Operation Overlord, the largest seaborne invasion in history. The day became the springboard for the liberation of German-occupied France and set the bedrock for the Allied victory on the Western Front.

“As we got closer, the water was over my chin,” says Richard, 97, and a current resident of Luther Crest, a Diakon senior living community in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Richard remembers seeing the bodies of many troops on the beach as he and another soldier operated a mine detector, one of them sweeping and one of them probing. Later, as they worked by a road, they saw a one-star general approaching. 

The officer was Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of the former president of the same name.

“‘Are you finding many mines, boys?’ he asked. At the time, we had not. He was like on a picnic and this was the biggest invasion we’d ever gotten into!”

Richard recalls that paratroopers had arrived during the night, one landing on the roof of a church, Sainte-Mère-Église. The paratrooper, John Steele, survived, and today a replica of a paratrooper hangs from the church spire in commemoration of the event.

“Our main objective was to establish a beachhead, making it safe so more troops and supplies could come in.”

Richard then transferred to the combat engineer outfit and spent the rest of the war in Germany, “sweeping mines and blowing things up.”

He was a part of the effort to cross rivers to bring supplies, but not over the Elbe River. “That was the biggest river. We never crossed it because Russia had taken Berlin.”

The war over, Richard found himself in France awaiting transportation home when he was sent to a contiguous area of Germany. The country had been partitioned into four zones and Richard had to get American equipment out so that the French could come in. He also spent some time in Salerno, Italy.

Richard recalls that he enlisted in Syracuse, New York, in 1942, but was allowed to finish his college semester, reporting for regular duty in 1943 and serving until Jan. 1, 1946.

“I was a corporal when I went over and was busted to a private,” Richard laughs, “for talking to the Germans.” He had accompanied a friend, another soldier, on a visit to the soldier’s girlfriend in the Rhineland during a blackout night. Richard concluded his service as a private first class.

“I wanted to go to Jack Dempsey’s in New York City” on his first peacetime New Year’s Eve, “but you couldn’t move in the streets. It was so crowded, everyone was hugging each other; it was crazy.”

Richard married after the war and had a son; however, his wife died when their son was 10 months old. Three years later, he remarried and had a son and four daughters, one of whom has since passed away. His wife died two years ago; he has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Today, he also faithfully attends nearby Nativity Lutheran Church and helps with worship each Sunday afternoon at Luther Crest.

To read news of the Veterans Day celebrations, click here.

Weighing options: personal care or home care?

The ads on television are insistent: choose this home care program to help your loved one.

And, certainly, everyone wants to remain at home as long as possible, but circumstances sometimes make that unlikely. Your choice—or the choice of a loved one—can therefore be difficult.

Do you choose to remain at home, because you don’t need an extensive amount of care, or do you decide to move and choose a personal care community (assisted living in Maryland)? The correct answer is not always the same for everyone; in fact, the answer typically depends on a number of factors:

Personal preference. Some older adults want to remain in their homes as long as possible, so they choose home care by default. However, as care needs increase, this choice may necessitate a later move to personal care. By considering options before a need arises, you can help to ensure you don’t need to make a more difficult decision at the last moment.

Abilities and needs. In-home care can cover only so many of a senior’s needs. As care needs increase in complexity, more intensive personal care may be necessary.

You can read more about choosing home care or personal care by clicking here.

The emotional rollercoaster of being a foster grandparent

In 2009, I was a new immigrant to the U.S. I was living with my daughter and son-in-law as I settled in my new country. At the time, they were foster-to-adopt parents, awaiting a placement of a child or children through five years of age, with the hope of eventually adopting.

I discovered that when you are registered to be a foster parent, things can happen quickly, suddenly in fact. My daughter and son-in-law were at work and I was in the house when I got a call from my daughter telling me it was highly likely two young girls would be arriving within a few hours.

My daughter and son-in-law soon came home and within a short time, a social worker arrived with the girls, ages 4 and 3. It was that quick! One moment we were a family of three, the next a family of five!

I have a lasting memory, one burned into my mind, of these two frightened little girls, standing in the kitchen, wearing very thin clothes—T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops—with a small plastic bag containing a couple of dollar-store toys in it. That was all they had.

They had literally just been removed from their home and had been given no time to bring anything else with them. If my experiences up to that point had not brought home the reality of what fostering meant, this most certainly did. It is a moment I will never forget.

Over the course of the next few days, we gradually got to know the two girls, whom I will call Sara and Vicky. They were full of questions, understandably a little scared. But my daughter and son-in-law did amazing things to make them feel at ease, answering their questions in a positive way, establishing a loving and safe environment for them and buying both of them clothes and toys.

Gradually, things settled into a routine and the girls seemed to adapt to their new environment. While I got along with both children, Sara and I seemed to hit it off especially well. Sara wanted to learn to dance but had never had the opportunity, so we bought her an outfit and some dance shoes and every week I took her to classes. I came to really enjoy our time together and remember those dance classes with great fondness.

I was more than a little shocked at how quickly it ended. Once again, it was all very sudden. It felt as if one moment they were with us, the next they were gone. (Of course, there had been weeks of pre-reunification visits, court dates and so on, but from where I stood it was as if I was a grandpa one minute and the next I wasn’t anymore.)

I saw the mixed emotions on the faces of my daughter and son-in-law. They knew the children were going back home—which, of course, is the goal of foster care!

But it was also painful as they had given these girls their love and were now saying goodbye. That caused mixed emotions in me as well, seeing what my daughter and son-in-law were going through as well as having to say goodbye to children who, in every sense, had become my grandchildren.

And just as Sara was about to walk out the door, she turned and ran to me and jumped into my arms. I will admit I had tears then and now as I think of that moment, but that also is a memory I will treasure forever.

I would love to know how the girls are today, but know that is not possible. I just hope they have as fond memories of me as I have of them. I feel it was an honor and a privilege to have been grandpa to these girls, even if only for a few months.

I have many warm memories of my first experience of being a foster grandparent. I saw the commitment of my daughter and son-in-law doing everything they could to make this a safe transition for these girls, facilitating the process of getting them reunited with their biological family. Even though they knew this arrangement was temporary, they gave their all.

My own father grew up in foster care. He spoke very little of his experience but he did say just how much his first foster mom meant to him. I never really understood that until I became a foster grandpa myself and then I was able to understand completely.

People say all the time, “I could never foster, I would get too attached.” But as a grandpa who lived in the home with his foster grandkids, I can confirm you will, in fact, get attached. You will love these kids like your own.

But, even if you have to say goodbye, it is all worth it! It is worth becoming attached to make a difference in a child’s life.

My dad spoke of his first foster mom with great fondness, even 70 years after he said goodbye to her. She was his mom for just a period of his life, but the impact of her love and care lasted an entire lifetime.

—Lester Wills

How independent living helps older adults stay socially active

My father, a pharmacist, retired in his late 50s when he sold his independent drug store. And then he went right back to work.

He did what is called “relief work,” meaning he worked a day here and a day there for other pharmacists who needed relief from the daily 9-to-9 grind.

In fact, he worked into his late 70s, by then working for a mail-order pharmacy. He wasn’t fond of computers but he liked compounding prescriptions—that is, filling capsules by hand—which a lot of younger pharmacists eschewed, a perfect match. That schedule also afforded plenty of time for travel and play with grandchildren.

For many older adults, retirement is much more than choosing senior independent-living accommodations and then spending one’s days just relaxing. For most, retirement is about staying physically active, remaining engaged within the community and learning new things. These older adults view retirement as an opportunity not only to do some part-time work—if that’s what they would like to do—but also everything they’ve always wanted to do but never had time for.

All of these pursuits lead to staying socially active—one of the best parts of independent living. In fact, being socially active has a wide range of health benefits. According to an article in Psychology Today, research outlines potential concrete benefits for older adults, including:

Improved physical health. It’s suggested that social engagement helps to ensure a stronger immune system, helping seniors to fight off colds, the flu and, according to the article, some types of cancer.

A longer lifespan. The article notes that those who spend more time with others and have supportive relationships—and are therefore not isolated—tend to live longer than others who are frequently alone.

To read more about the benefits of seniors being socially active, please click here.