Preventing deaths that are preventable

In the early days of my career, I remember hearing stories that made me question whether behavioral health was really for me. As mental health and substance abuse professionals, we see and hear a lot.

Ultimately, though, I realized that helping people in their darkest moments comes with a heavy weight but not an unbearable one. Soon, I was getting used to hearing stories that, before, I wouldn’t have fathomed could be true.

“Used to” seems an odd way to put it, but I do not know how else to say it. As therapists, we get used to hearing stories of trauma, used to late-night calls from an individual in crisis, used to advocating for change and then hearing why change didn’t occur. We gladly take on these challenges.

What we don’t get used to is people dying.

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.

Supporting colleagues during a stressful time

Workplace stress can be a serious issue—even without a pandemic.

Now, COVID-19 presents additional and unique mental health stressors, particularly for health-care and frontline workers.

But it’s also likely to affect you, either personally or indirectly, no matter your occupation. Disregarding your or a coworker’s stress is an option, but it’s probably not a good one.

So what can you do?

Counseling staff members with Diakon Family Life Services offer suggestions in response to typical questions:

What are warning signs that a coworker may be overly stressed?

1. A notable change in appearance, mood or personality

2. Negativity

3. Being overly sarcastic

4. Missing sessions or meetings

5. Not responding to emails, calls or texts after multiple attempts

6. Irritability

7. Being excessively fatigued

8. Becoming withdrawn and isolated

How can you be helpful and address your concern with a coworker without seeming critical?

Ideally, you may have a relationship with your co-workers or team member that allows a conversation to happen along these lines …

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.

Defeat? No way! Adoption and foster care proceed despite pandemic

It’s been a tough year for everyone. But imagine, during this pandemic, trying to find families for thousands of children and youths across the nation without a safe, permanent place to live.

That task seems unsurmountable; I can tell you it’s not.

As a family support specialist with Diakon Adoption & Foster Care, I know it’s possible to bring permanence to the lives of waiting children despite the added challenges of COVID-19—because I see it happening.

Through foster care, foster-to-adopt (often called legal-risk placements) and special needs and domestic adoption, we continue to find forever families for children and youths.

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! 

Reducing cyber threats at home

My wife is continually on the lookout for deals on disinfectant sprays and wipes as she works to keep our home free of viruses and bacteria, which today can result in a cold—or a potentially life-threatening illness.

Like many people, she relies on the Internet and email to track down best prices and availability.

Wearing face covers, physically distancing and, in some cases, working remotely have no doubt had an impact on the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The spread of cyber threats, however, continues to rise as workers and their families spend more time at home on home networks that are typically easier to break into. IT departments typically implement many security measures to protect workplace computing environments, but most people do not take these same measures at home or even know where to begin.

To make your home computing environment more secure, here are six security “must-dos” that I use to secure my own home network and make it more difficult for cyber criminals and hackers to attack, in hopes they will look for an easier target.

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….

Maintaining mental wellness during times of stress

World Mental Health Day 2020 feels like the most significant version of this day yet. The months of loss and isolation have affected all of us differently and prioritizing mental health has never been more important than it is now.

Mental health pertains to resilience and our ability to meet life’s challenges in a manner that enhances our chances at mastery of situations and adaptation to them. Just like physical health, mental health requires activities that promote wellness, flexibility and strength.

Mental illness describes the many afflictions that can affect our thoughts and mood. These illnesses, in turn, affect our emotional state and sense of well-being. As with physical illnesses, mental illness can have a significant impact on our ability to reach personal goals in our work, education and relationships.