Category: Miscellaneous

Feeling overwhelmed

I stared at my rambunctious foster dog running circles through my living room wondering how on earth after two weeks she was still living with us.

I did not anticipate having her this long; she was with us strictly as a temporary rescue mission. She’s a great dog, but we just don’t have the space or time to do this long-term.

Around work and my normal commitments, I’ve been helping my oldest daughter organize a benefit concert as a fundraiser for her upcoming mission trip. My youngest daughter is in her post-season playoffs for field hockey, which translates to my being at games, college recruiting visits, making mac and cheese for team pasta parties and helping plan the end-of-the-year banquet.

And now it’s early November. You know what that means. It doesn’t matter that you just handed out candy to trick-or-treaters because now it’s officially the holiday season.

So how is someone who is already feeling overwhelmed head into the most overwhelming time of the year?

During two anniversaries, a different type of looking back

Three for the price of one. That is, three beginnings to this single blog post.

Here’s the first:
The fire scanner squawked across the newsroom. I was on city desk that night and, knowing the lack of fondness my reporter-comrade had for covering fires, I decided to head out. Pretty significant house fire so I never got back to write the story until about 2 a.m.

The next morning I had to make a more-than-one-hour drive to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, for a 9 a.m. interview for a public relations position with Tressler-Lutheran Service Associates. I was barely awake throughout the interview.

Somehow, I was offered the position and, after having spent nearly two weeks driving family and friends crazy with my indecision, I accepted it.

Forty years ago.

Here’s the second:
“Bill,” said the ED at one of Diakon’s senior living communities, “forty years—you should write about that, especially this year, as we celebrate our 150th anniversary.”

“Nah,” I said in return.

But here I go.

And the third and final start:
“You are going to have to be like Yoda,” the Rev. Mark Wimmer, Diakon’s vice president for church relations and ministry partnerships, said to me.

What, I wondered? Small and green?

“Whenever anyone wonders about our history,” he continued, “you will just have to pop out of thin air and tell us about it.”

Okay. I’m game for that. Do I get force?

* * *

Adjusting to your new senior living lifestyle

After all the hard work of planning, narrowing down choices and making the big move, you’re finally settled into your new senior living community. Your family helped you move in. They’ve called almost every day. You’ve met a handful of new people. But community life is still very new—and you wonder how long it will take before you start to feel at home.

This scenario is more common than you might think among older adults who make the move to senior living.

While the relocation process can be exciting, after the hustle and bustle of moving day ends, new residents can feel unsure what to do next or how to integrate into their new community. No matter how old we get, huge changes in our lifestyles inevitably come with an adjustment period.

If your recent move to senior living has you feeling a bit out of place, don’t worry! You didn’t make a mistake—it just sometimes takes time to adjust to a new way of living. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to shorten that adjustment period and start feeling at home. Click here to read more!

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How are those New Year’s resolutions going?

Now that we are almost halfway through the year, it’s a great time to reflect on our New Year’s resolutions.

I think we may find, however, that many of us (myself included) have not changed much. A habit needs more than just a holiday to make or break it. Habits are adaptations—specifically, coping skills—that we create to deal with daily life.

Traditional thinking is that it takes 28 days to change a habit. Whether we are talking about diet, spending habits or some type of rehab, individuals equate change to this magic number.

However, latest research shows that 66 days is the actual number. That is quite a difference!

And merely wishing and waiting till day 66 will not get us to our goals either. If you already quit your resolutions back in February, here are a few suggestions to help get you back on track.

Taking a threat of suicide seriously

To deal with an issue means we need to talk about it.

But, for many, even saying the word suicide can be a challenge. And we certainly never expect someone considering suicide to just tell us about such thoughts—which means we need to be aware of the signs and symptoms if we are to prevent suicide.

In fact, talking about it is the first step to suicide prevention. In fact, one of the most significant things you can do is to talk to someone if you have concerns.

Say that you are worried. That you love them. That you care. And listen.

But when do you say these things? Here are potential questions to consider if you are concerned:

 

  • Is the person starting to give away things?
  • Perhaps starting to say his or her “goodbyes”?
  • Is the person making statements such as, “I am not worried as it won’t be much longer,” or “I know you will be ok afterwards,” or “I just want to get it over with.”
  • Are there increases in substance use?
  • Is the person withdrawing and isolating from hobbies, family, friends, and so on?
  • Are there risk factors present such as mental health conditions, access to weapons (especially firearms) and previous attempts at suicide or a family history of suicide?

 

Always take such statements and threats of suicide seriously.

In fact, asking questions or talking about suicide will notput the idea in someone’s head.  Research shows the opposite often occurs.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (www.afsp.org) notes that the annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals with an average of 123 suicides per day.Pennsylvania’s rate is higher, with 14.66 per 100,000 individuals, ranking 27 in the United States.

There are no magic words, gestures or objects to “fix” an individual, so don’t focus on trying to find a quick solution to an individual about whom you are concerned.

Rather, spend time talking to the person at risk, lock up weapons and offer support. And always take time to listen—and to seek professional help as needed.


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Love delivered!

Five or so years ago, during the Advent season, I was driving on an interstate when I approached a large flat-bed truck.

It was the type of truck that typically transports large pieces of road equipment or sections of a bridge.

As I approach the truck in the passing lane, I assumed it was empty, but as I continued to overtake it, I could see it was carrying something small but wasn’t able to make out what that cargo was until I was side-by-side with the truck.

There, strapped tightly down on that long truck bed, was a single item: A Radio Flyer wagon.

While I was never able to see the face of the truck driver, I could easily imagine the rest of the story: A precious gift was on its way to brighten the life of a young child at that moment missing a working parent.

Love delivered!

I recall that image when I think of all of Diakon’s staff members going about their work throughout the year—but, especially, now during this season. There are so many people involved in helping senior living residents, hurting families, children and youths and so many more.

Diakon is not unlike that large truck—a big, sometimes complex organization that always is focused on delivery of the small, precious cargo of a “red wagon”—acts of service given one at a time … custom-designed for each of God’s children we serve.

Love delivered!

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Helpful holiday tips: How to visit someone with Alzheimer’s disease or similar illness

The holidays can be a very emotional time for everyone, including families and friends who have loved ones dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive illnesses.

For those affected by cognitive degeneration disease, the biggest thing to remember is to be accepting of what people feel.

Holidays can be filled with a wide range of emotions ranging from pure joy to utter sadness. Regardless of the emotion, accept it and try not to judge your feelings or the feelings of others during this time. Holidays may feel and look different because traditions are not able to be followed exactly as before, but that does not mean you cannot have a meaningful experience.

Here are a few tips that can help make your holidays happier:

  • Take a different perspective on the visit

One of the reasons visits can be a challenge is disease progression. Over the course of the disease, attention span changes, interests may vary and memories fade in and out. You may not be able to talk to the person the way you used to. Maybe you used to sit and have tea with your loved one. Now she can no longer sit for long periods of time or maybe she no longer likes tea. This changes our ability to connect, so we have to rethink our approach to the visit.

 

  • Step outside your world

Forget what you know to be true and enter into their world. Often loved ones’ perceptions may be different from yours. For instance, if they can’t remember something in the past, do not argue with them. Arguing or pleading with them to remember something can increase frustration for everyone. Contradicting their reality does not work when you are visiting with someone whose brain has a difficult time making sense of the world around them.

 

  • Be prepared to participate in an activity

Often, an activity such as listening to music or looking through a photo album may help make the visit enjoyable because it allows you to make a connection. If your loved one is in a care facility, reach out to the staff to inquire about fitting activities.

 

For example, a direct caregiver may be able to tell you that your loved one has a newfound love of sitting next to the garden and watching birds, something he or she may have never done before. Or perhaps a loved one has developed a new enjoyment of vanilla milkshakes or hamburgers. Use whatever current interests are to guide the visit.

 

Times can also play a factor in visits. Again, use your facility staff as a resource; they may be able to tell you that your loved one gets tired in the afternoon and when she gets tired, she gets tearful.  Similarly, if you are bringing home a loved one for the holidays, the staff may share with you the best time to take her out and when to bring her back to reintegrate her into her surroundings.

 

Remember, as the disease progresses, likes, interests and best times to visit may change. What may work on one visit may not work on another. Try to stay flexible with your goals and expectations.

 

  • Don’t ask loved ones to do something they can’t do

It is often hard for their brain to recall memories. Do not ask them ‘who am I?’ or encourage them to ‘think harder’ when they cannot recall a person or memory. As much as you desperately want to maintain a connection, asking them to do something beyond their cognitive function may cause stress and aggravation.

 

  • Embrace the present

Cognitive impairments are heartbreaking diseases. It’s difficult to watch someone you love deteriorate and change into a totally different person in front of your eyes.

 

This transition induces grief and prompts questions such as “how do I still love this person if he or she is not the person I knew?” Although it may seem as if your loved one is slipping away, remember that a person with dementia wants to remember you, but his or her brain is just not physically capable of doing that.

 

Although you desperately want to maintain your previous connection, the greatest gift you can give yourself or your loved one is a meaningful visit reflective of the present.

 

Know that, even with these tips, a visit can be difficult. Sometimes, you may not know what to say or do.

 

Regardless, acknowledge that you are doing the best you can. If you “go with the flow,” more often than not you will have a successful visit.

—Michelle Gaugler
Personal Care Administrator
Luther Crest, Allentown, Pennsylvania

With 24 years of experience in long-term care, Gaugler understands the struggles facing residents with memory-related illnesses and their families. Dedicated to enhancing life, she has contributed to memory support for patients in all levels of care.


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A fun way to give back… Dining with Diakon

Jill Kearney, founder and CEO of Senior Moves by Design (a division of the JDK Group, LLC), shares her views on the upcoming Dining with Diakon* event. Senior Moves by Design is a company that primarily moves older adults into senior living communities, helping them to find “treasures” and design their new home around things they love. The company also helps them to sort through their current home so items can be given to family or donated. Further, they stage houses to sell and do a full pack and unpack on moving day.

*On Sept. 28, 12 “celebrity chefs” from business, industry, and non-profit organizations will gather at Bethlehem’s SteelStacks. Offering an enticing menu of dishes and desserts, the chefs raise funds for Diakon Adoption & Foster Care Services, which serve children and families throughout eastern and central Pennsylvania.

How did you feel when you were asked to be a celebrity chef?

When I was first asked to represent my company at Dining with Diakon, I was flattered, but by no means call myself a celebrity. I have a small company with 23 employees. To think that I will be joining a high caliber of corporate heads and local television personalities is kind of funny—but I feel very flattered to be included. This event is a wonderful way to support and donate to the cause. This is my first time going to Dining with Diakon. I am excited not only to attend, but also to be a chef.

Why do you support Diakon Adoption & Foster Care?

Senior Moves by Design believes it is possible to have joyful moves and that what we do is just as much a ministry as it is a business. To me, this is an opportunity to represent my business while ministering to others. In addition, my niece and nephew are both adopted and a few of my best friends adopted children. I have always been pro-life, so from my perspective, we need the help and support from agencies like Diakon Adoption & Foster Care to make sure all children have “forever” homes.
As a business owner, why do you believe it is important to give back?

When you are building a small company, it is easy to get absorbed in the day-to-day tasks that keep your business running. To be able to take a little time and focus on something that you don’t do every day, but that makes an impact on others, is important. In fact, it is a gift. I feel blessed to be able to do it. This opportunity makes us want to do more.

What will you be sharing the night of the event? What are your favorite recipes?

For the event, we were awarded the chocolate table. My favorite food really is a toss-up between chocolate or shrimp scampi. Although I normally cook without recipes, here is an outline of my favorite shrimp scampi dinner followed by my favorite chocolate recipe.

Shrimp Scampi
4 tablespoons Irish butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves of garlic fresh garlic minced
1 teaspoon of salt
½ medium sized yellow onion diced
2 medium sized zucchinis
Pinch of red pepper flakes
½ pound of angel hair pasta
1 pound of peel shrimp and deveined

DIRECTIONS: Boil pasta by placing a tablespoon of olive oil in the water along with a clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. This allows the pasta to pick up the garlic flavor.

In a skillet, melt the butter. Add olive oil and ½ finely diced yellow onion. When the onion is clear, add the garlic. Take 2 medium zucchinis and cut them into half inch cubes. Place them in the skillet with the olive oil, garlic, onion and butter. Once the zucchinis soften and begin to turn slightly brown, add pinch of red pepper flakes and the shrimp. Toss for about 3 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Warm plates. Place pasta on the plates. Top pasta with shrimp mixture. Feeds 2-4 people.

Cappuccino Mouse Cup
http://www.diakon.org/dining-with-diakon-adoption/recipes/details.aspx?recipeId=2288

In closing, I am thankful for this opportunity. Giving back is certainly sweet!

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Many Hands. One Heart. Service Excellence.

Someone recently asked me about the importance of various roles within a senior living community.

My immediate response arose from my knowledge of 1 Corinthians: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts … all its many parts form one body … there should be no division in the body, but … its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

In other words, every role is equally important, every staff member critical to the quality service we provide.

The question dovetailed so nicely with our new customer service program at Diakon—Many Hands. One Heart. Service Excellence.—I felt compelled to write about it. One part of that program guides staff members toward the understanding that, no matter what our role is, we are all equally important to our mission. We cannot accomplish our goals any other way!

Naki Godfrey, a regional sales and marketing director for Diakon and coordinator of our customer service program, wrote this introduction for the program, which so well encapsulates our team focus:

“At Diakon, we touch the lives of our residents, clients, customers, family members, vendors and staff every day. Why? Simply put: We are in the business of providing service and care. That’s what we do at Diakon, no matter which service line you are involved in.

“Many Hands, providing excellent care, motivated by the One Heart of compassion, is one way we describe what all of us do each day as the “many hands” of Diakon.

“Although Diakon has always been a customer-focused organization, our goal in designing the Many Hands. One Heart. Service Excellence. program was to:

•    Help us to see exemplary customer service in new and helpful ways.
•    Provide reminders and tips on how always to focus on our customers—our residents and clients—first.
•    Incorporate a customer service focus into everything we do.

“Even the most customer-focused organizations—including Diakon—must re-emphasize a customer-centric approach in everything they do as health care and related fields continue to change and grow. Our outcomes on customer service are more important than ever.

“So … is customer service new to Diakon? Absolutely not. It has always been at the root of our culture and organization.”

But reminders of that focus remain especially important today. As is the recognition of how important every staff member is to our goal of excellent care and service.

Jennifer Sharp, BSW, NHA, PCHA
Vice President, Operations
Diakon Senior Living Services

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Choosing Words Wisely

I am not a fan of political correctness. We have come far astray of the general knowledge that “sticks and stones….” Moreover, the limitations prompted by overzealous word-watchers can sometimes affect the ability to communicate freely and clearly.

However, I also recognize that while words may not physically injure us, they can hurt and often can rob people of dignity.

For example, I often ask students in a class I teach what is wrong with the phrase “the Alzheimer’s sufferer” or “the wheelchair-bound man.”

Know the answer?

Both phrases define people by a characteristic or condition. It’s far better in these cases to write or say “the man with Alzheimer’s disease” or “the woman who uses a wheelchair.”

In doing so we are not defining the person by a single characteristic—and are affording them the dignity they deserve.

Recently, I wrote an article asking people to support a variety of causes within Diakon. One of those causes is memory care. I used the phrase Alzheimer’s disease once or twice in that brief section, but never used the word dementia.

The person for whom I was writing asked that I downplay the Alzheimer’s phrase and use dementia more prominently. Why? Because Alzheimer’s, she indicated, was just one type of dementia and we wanted to cover the topic more broadly.

She was right about one thing. And “wrong,” I believe, about another.

She was right that Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It is the most common type of the memory-related illnesses grouped under the medical diagnosis of dementia, a term that also encompasses vascular dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and other conditions.

She was wrong, I would argue (and I did), that the use of the word dementia was better.

I agreed that we wanted the article to encompass memory concerns beyond Alzheimer’s disease, but would not agree to use dementia. In fact, I have edited out that word every time someone uses it in their writing.

I prefer the phrase “memory-related illnesses.”

For some reason, I find the word dementia pejorative, a term that negatively characterizes a person, that rings harsher than it should.

I discovered, in trying to buttress my point, that I am not alone.

There are a number of articles online, including one on a webpage that is part of the National Institutes of Health—that propose abandoning, at least in popular writing, the term dementia—which originated from the Latin word “demens,” originally describing “madness”—in favor of various other words or phrases such as cognitive impairment.

Or, I would add to that list, at least for public-focused writing, memory-related illnesses.

There is no question these diseases are harsh. I just think the way we refer to them need not seem that way as well.

What are your thoughts?

By William Swanger
Senior Vice President
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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