Category: Senior Living

Even in 2020, there were things to be thankful for …

The dates may have varied in each senior living community, but the outcome was the same. For us, it was March 12 of last year. The day everything changed.

That was the day the Diakon senior living community of which I am chaplain closed its doors to visitors and most family members to protect our residents from the virus that can cause COVID-19 disease. In an instant, most of my tasks as chaplain fell away.

Five tips for talking to an aging parent about long-term care

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, not every older adult is able to shelter at home indefinitely.

There are some older people who need long-term care to continue to thrive. Sometimes, that situation may be apparent when family members who live at a distance visit for the holidays. Today, those visits may occur via Zoom or other online means, but the need for long-term care may be apparent nevertheless.

So how do you talk with an aging parent about the need for long-term care?

Certainly, we recognize that we want to care for our parent as well as they cared for us. After all, it’s the least we can do for all the sacrifices they’ve made for us. However, for a variety of reasons, it may be impossible for us to care for an older adult ourselves. That realization is often what brings many adult children and aging parents to consider long-term care as an option. But, again, how best to do that?

Preparing to talk about long-term care …

This may be a difficult conversation, so be sure to keep an open mind, do your research and talk somewhere private. It’s also important to remember this will be a conversation you may likely have more than once, so be patient as well.

Try following these tips to help ease your parent into talking about long-term care while having a successful conversation.

1. Choose the right time and place. It’s often best to bring up the subject of long-term care naturally as opposed to springing it on a loved one. Choose a time of day that your loved one is often in a good mood and ensure there are few distractions present. Then, make sure to talk in private.

To read more tips, please click here.

10 questions to ask when choosing a personal care community

The pandemic has upended so many aspects of life and, for some families, it has underscored the need for personal care and the individualized lifestyle and services it offers.

Nevertheless, determining that you or a loved one needs personal-care support is never an easy decision. Unfortunately, the process doesn’t end there. In fact, some people say the hardest part comes after the decision: Choosing the right personal care community.

This decision can take a while, but that’s okay. It’s not a decision to be made in a rush, but sometimes situations require a decision sooner than we might want. Research upfront can be especially helpful because what might be important to you or another family member may not be to your loved one.

Because personal care communities differ in size, configuration and offer, here are 10 questions you can ask that may ease your decision-process:

1. How are care plans created? The term “personal care” can encompass many things. Some older adults require only a little extra assistance, such as help with cleaning, cooking or transportation. Others may require more extensive assistance for medication management, dressing and bathing and even mobility assistance. When choosing a personal care community, be sure you are selecting one that carefully considers the needs of each resident rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach.

2. What floor plans are available? Different communities may have different approaches to personal care. If your loved one needs light care, he or she may be able to live in a private-style suite; other suites may have a shared bathroom or other adaptations based on need. Review various options so that you find accommodations that fulfill both physical and personal needs.

3. Does the community have a wait list? Many personal care communities have full residency and maintain a wait list for prospective residents. If you find several communities you like and they’re full, it’s a good idea to put your name on a waiting list so that if accommodations become available, you can be ready to move. This is another reason it’s important to start looking for a community before it’s medically necessary; that way, you don’t have to settle for “good enough”; you can settle for “exactly what I want.”

Click here to read more questions to ask in the decision-making process! 

The true costs of homeownership …

We recently held several events focused on de-cluttering your home.

It’s amazing how much stuff we can accumulate over the years so de-cluttering can be important, particularly as people age.

At the same time, some of that “stuff” often is what may make a home special to us. It makes the home “ours.”

According to industry data, nine out of 10 adults—and not just older adults—say they want to remain in their homes as they age. Typically, they want to stay close to family and friends, are satisfied with their current home and find comfort in their community.

Finances come into play, too. After having lived in a family home for decades, many older adults are comfortably mortgage-free and have no desire to go back to paying one. Living in a home you already own is much more affordable—right!

Maybe. But maybe not.

Certainly, when you start looking at the costs of senior living communities—particularly Continuing Care Retirement Communities, sometimes called CCRCs—the price tag can make you pause. Not only is there a monthly charge, but CCRCs also have an entrance fee that must be paid to become a resident.

However, after you review those initial figures, you may be surprised—and a little shocked—at how affordable a CCRC can be when compared to traditional homeownership. Let’s use an example.

Retired for several years, Peggy and John are in their mid-70s and have owned their current family home for more than 25 years. The home is paid off. However, they’ve been thinking about the future and wondering whether staying in their current home is the right choice.

Click HERE to read more about the true costs of home ownership and how that can compare to a CCRC….

When is staying at home no longer safe?

No one doubts the impact Alzheimer’s disease and similar memory-related illnesses have on older people—and their families.

One of the key issues families face is safety.

Not only do memory-related illnesses make it more difficult for older adults to make safe decisions, but they also can make living alone increasingly difficult. Many times, seniors need a family member to care for them, or families may need to hire someone to ensure their loved one is safe, their needs are being met and they are living the best life possible.

Unfortunately, older adults with dementia may no longer be able to live alone after a time. If you have a loved one currently living at home and you find yourself wondering if that arrangement is still safe or when it may be time to plan a move to a memory-care community, here are signs that may help you in determining a plan:

A loved one is becoming increasingly depressed, agitated and aggressive. Dementia can cause loved ones to act out, feel isolated and even be suspicious of others. In such cases, it may be time to consult a professional about a move. Those who work in senior living communities are trained to deal with this situation, calm behaviors and tailor programming, socialization and more to meet specific needs.

Wandering is beginning to occur more frequently. Those with memory-related illnesses can tend to forget where they are, wander or try to find a place that’s less noisy, crowded and more comfortable.

Click here to read more about the signs to look for to determine if it’s time to plan a move to a memory-care community.

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.

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:

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….

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.

Because we review comments, they do not appear immediately. Please do not submit each comment more than once.

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