‘Smart Seniors’ at Diakon Senior Living: The pursuit of knowledge

After retirement, it can be easy slip into habits that don’t always challenge our minds and bodies. Without careers or family to care for, we can become isolated and out of touch if we aren’t careful.

But when we pursue something of value to us, it can give us energy and purpose each day. It can provide goals and reasons to be active members of our community.

For that reason, lifelong learning is an important part of healthy aging.

Not only does continued learning stimulate the mind and battle the risks of cognitive decline, but it also provides individuals with the benefits of new perspectives, social opportunities and a sense of purpose.

Whether you choose to explore something new or continue learning in an area of personal expertise, staying mentally active is a key to a healthy and meaningful lifestyle.

To read more, please click here

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?

* * *

Caring for the medically fragile: Still just a child who needs a loving home

Becky Delp and her husband have fostered children in the past, but for the first time, they are providing care for a medically fragile child. Although she had some concerns at first, those passed quickly as she gained confidence in her ability to manage the little boy’s needs and her family embraced him.

At first, I thought: I’m not qualified, I’m not trained.

Andy* needed to be fed through a g-tube when he first came to us. He was born prematurely and spent his first six months in the hospital and then went to a special facility. He had cancer and a weakened immune system. He has chronic lung disease. He needed physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. It felt overwhelming.

But you’re not on your own. We got training through the hospital and nursing care agency. A nurse stayed at our home every night. Because Andy was under the age of three, his therapy visits were done in our home. We got great support from our Diakon caseworker. Someone was always available to help.

Caring for a medically fragile child does entail extra steps from the foster family. There are lots of appointments. With the nurse there every night, we had to get used to having someone else in our home. But the nurses quickly became like family and their expertise was priceless. As a foster family, you go with the flow anyway.

Overcoming nutritional challenges with older adults

You probably have witnessed it: An older relative who just does not eat the same way he or she once did.

As we age, our bodies undergo inevitable changes, even when we’re at our best health. Many of these changes affect how we consume, absorb and use the nutrients from food.

Without awareness of these changes, we can easily begin to experience a decrease in health because of lack of nutrients.

To stay healthy, older adults—or those caring for them—need to recognize the biological changes as well as habitual obstacles that keep them from optimal nutritional health. They need to know how to adapt their lifestyles and diets to overcome such challenges.

Biological changes that affect nutrition

The simple process of aging can affect many ways our bodies consume and use nutrients from our food. Click here to consider the following…

The chance to change a life

Janice and her husband, Will, recently adopted a brother and sister, ages 13 and 16 respectively. She shares her thoughts and a few lessons she’s learned about first fostering and then adopting teenagers.

I always wanted to adopt. My best friend growing up was adopted and when I was dating my husband, I told him I wanted to adopt. Luckily, he was on board.

I was particularly interested in adopting siblings. I had heard stories about siblings being separated when adopted and thought how sad that is and how terrifying it must be for them. They were just taken away from everything and everyone they know and then to lose their last connection.

When we were ready to adopt, we went to an information session provided by Diakon Adoption & Foster Care.

What does the RAISE Family Caregivers Act really mean?

Every year, tens of thousands of family caregivers deliver support and personal care to loved ones without training, pay or, in many cases, help from anyone.

In fact, family caregivers make up the core of our nation’s caregiving workforce, yet they often struggle with financial challenges, workplace issues, stress-induced health problems and more.

In January, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act became law, starting an initiative to better support family caregivers on both local and national levels.

RAISE stands for Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage. The RAISE Act will create a nationwide strategy to support family caregivers by providing education and resources, fixing workplace issues that limit a loved one’s ability to provide care and assessing current and future health systems to ensure caregivers’ central role in their loved one’s care.

With the act passed, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has 18 months to develop a strategy to bolster family caregivers in their roles. Along with the HHS secretary, an advisory council made up of caregivers themselves, older adults, veterans, adults with disabilities, health and long-term care providers, employers and state and local officials will work together to make recommendations for the new approach.

Click here to read more about what the RAISE Act is supposed to do…

Recovery from addiction

Randall has worked with a Diakon Family Life Services counselor since he left rehab, as he continues his recovery from addiction. He is in his eighth year of sobriety.

I started drinking when I was 16. I stopped at age 51. During those years of alcohol addiction, I also used drugs for a period of time. Drinking and partying became an everyday ritual, something I believed was part of me. When it all got so bad—when I found myself in such a dark place that I was unable to help the people I cared about the most, my family—that’s when I realized I needed help.

Embracing new friendships in a senior living community

If you ask senior living professionals, current residents or their family members, they’ll likely tell you that the social opportunities available in senior living are life-changing.

In fact, before moving to a community, many older adults experience different degrees of loneliness and isolation. Everything changes when they make the move to a senior living community filled with neighbors of the same age-group and friendly, compassionate staff members who build meaningful relationships with residents.

Although the opportunities for engaging in an active social life and making friends are plentiful, that doesn’t always mean the process is easy for everyone.

Many older adults, in fact, may find they’re out of practice in making friends. By the time we reach retirement or decide on a maintenance-free lifestyle, we often assume that our most meaningful relationships have already been made. New residents sometimes go into senior living with the mindset that other residents will be nothing more than neighbors, friendly folks to say good morning to and chat with at the barbershop or hair salon.

However, at Diakon Senior Living, we find that residents often form strong, long-lasting friendships with fellow residents. In our communities, residents truly share life together. They share meals, attend events together and take on leading roles in one another’s lives.

So how can you embrace new friendships in your senior living community? Click here for a few ideas to get you started…

 

 

Special needs redefined

We social workers use a lot of lingo and many acronyms to describe the work we do in the child welfare world.

In fact, that language—most fields, though, have their own jargon—can become confusing to new families as they begin to gather information about the children we place, the foster care or adoption process and whether they want to become foster or adoptive parents or both.

One of the terms we use that people question is “special needs.” Often, when someone hears those words from us for the first time they think about children who are disabled or handicapped, probably needing special educational accommodations. This perception is not, however, what this phrase means to us.