Social media: Being Sir Galahad and not Daenerys Targaryen

The emails come in daily: How to use social media to promote your organization or business.

Of course, the interesting thing is that the companies selling their social media-focused services are using email (direct-to-you communication) to promote their products.

To be fair, they are probably promoting them as well via social media but their best line of marketing, at least for me, is to direct their pitch to my email inbox.

No question, though. Social media is a wonderful thing. (The grammarian in me wants to write “social media are wonderful things” … but that phrasing just sounds strange.)

Social media have aided democratization in various parts of the world and given voice literally to everyone willing or motivated to use it.

Diakon’s various social-media channels—we have many, many Facebook pages, for example, because the best social media are local—allow us to reach people directly and in ways that most interest them.

And there’s quite the variety: people discussing the care they received at a Diakon senior living community … others inquiring of Diakon Youth Services’ wilderness greenhouse about the availability of a particular native plant … and still others wishing the best for a youth in need of foster care or adoption.

Sometimes, the discussions are heart-warming.

I have my own Facebook account, of course. I like to post witty observations and occasionally, as over the Memorial Day weekend, an update on activities: my son and I worked three longs days doing major outside projects at his and my house.

About two years ago, though, I eschewed commenting on or posting anything political. I’ve broken that rule once or twice but overall stuck with it.

This topic is one that has been debated by countless others so I most likely am not adding anything new but the tone of some political posts—from both “sides”—makes me occasionally question the long-term impact of social media.

Now I’m no Chicken Little “the-sky-is-falling” person and recognize that most people can differentiate a personal rant from true news.

What occasionally gives me pause, though, is that some people reportedly get most of their news or commentary on politics and other important topics via social media or engage in debates that quickly deteriorate into anger. And that often serves no useful purpose.

A few years back I did get into a heated political discussion on Facebook with another Diakon staff member. Fortunately, we were smart enough to stop, pull back and recognize that our friendship is more important than engaging in such a debate in this particular forum.

And that was one more plank in my decision to pull back from such discussions.

At the same time, I continue to recognize the engagement value of social media, the wonderful connections organizations make with their publics via social media, the reconnections we personally can develop with people we haven’t seen in years and, yes, even the ability of social media to inform.
I just believe we need to be as smart—and as civil—as possible in how we use it.

By William Swanger, MA, APR
Senior Vice President
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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The therapeutic difference …

Injured yourself? Or face another health-care issue related to aging?
 
If so, it’s important to determine if therapy can help. It’s equally important to understand the differences among therapies.
 
What is occupational therapy?

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., some accidents, injuries or diseases can make it difficult for older adults to participate in the daily activities they enjoy. Occupational therapists help to evaluate the situation and create individualized goals so you can resume or pursue personal goals. These therapists may ask what activities you enjoy participating in and how you would like to pursue your goals.
 
Occupational therapy can help with:  
 
●     Achieving goals seniors set for themselves
●     Remaining healthy and independent in spite of a chronic medical condition
●     Rebuilding independence through assistive devices
●     Improving the ability to participate in daily activities such as driving, visiting friends, socializing and pursuing hobbies
 
What is physical therapy?

Click here to read more of the differences between physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Mapping out a career path one step at a time

My friends were receiving college acceptance letters and comparing SAT scores, but I was barely keeping my head above water my final months of high school. I had loosely planned on attending college, but at the start of my senior year in high school, my parents suddenly divorced.

My world was turned upside down.

And if I had received any guidance about my future, I truly don’t remember it. My family shifted into survival mode and I had no idea how to sign up for SATs and absolutely no motivation to keep up my grades. College wasn’t even on my radar.

I’m not bitter about it; however, it was not the picture-perfect plan I had envisioned in my younger teen years and watching my friends head off to college that fall stung a bit.

Fast forward a few years to my early 20s: While working multiple jobs, I attended a community college part-time and earned my associate’s degree. Then, at the age of 40, I returned to college to earn my bachelor’s degree. I graduated five years ago with a BA in Communications and I would never have been able to do it without the support of my family, friends and work colleagues.

My next major career goal is to earn my accreditation in public relations, signified by the initials APR. Which brings me to the point of this post: There is no one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach when it comes to a career path.

I think it’s important to understand this as we find ourselves in high school and college graduation season. Young people may be feeling lots of pressure as they transition and we need to encourage they see beyond whatever limitations they face, self-imposed or otherwise.

I joined Diakon nearly 11 years ago as a part-time administrative assistant. I had the opportunity to be mentored in public relations and communications by my supervisor and take advantage of Diakon’s Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, which is offered to staff members. It helped to offset some of the costs of college I never would have been able to afford, especially while having a family to take care of!

I think it’s important for businesses and organizations to invest in their employees. One of those ways is to offer tuition assistance, as well as opportunities to grow. Not only have I had the opportunity to use TAP funds, but I also am currently enrolled in a program called Leadership Diakon.

Leadership Diakon presents participants with opportunities to meet fellow team members and participate in meaningful educational offerings. It has been so valuable learning about all aspects of the organization from finance to business development and even how to better understand and work alongside people who have different personality traits.

My advice to those just starting out in their careers is to never settle. There is something to be learned in every position and at every level in the workplace. We just have to be willing and open to learning new things. And college or no college, what you have to offer is extremely valuable, so keep growing and exploring!

By Melissa Kindall
Manager, Social Media and Digital Communications Manager
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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Making that vision of the future come true!

From the time we are young, we tend to look forward to a time when we can enjoy a lifestyle in which we don’t necessarily have to work and can relax and have time to pursue passions we may have put aside.

We envision this time, and the activities we’ll enjoy with family and friends, but we often don’t consider how we’ll ever achieve that.

And we may couple that vision with a desire to remain in our own home as long as possible. What we don’t consider is the fact living in that home typically comes with restrictions and responsibilities.

Consider this: A snowstorm is coming. You need to grocery-shop, make sure you’re ready to shovel a driveway and sidewalk, and check to see if you have ice-melt for the outside steps so that you don’t fall.

Or perhaps you want to visit family or take a vacation. Typically, you need to find someone to check on your house, maybe pick up your mail or water the garden.

And these are just a few of the responsibilities you need to worry about—instead of having that time to do all those things you postponed. This situation doesn’t match that vision you had of retirement.

That’s exactly why many older adults seek out a vibrant senior living community to call their new home, a home without maintenance worries or other responsibilities.

At Diakon Senior Living Services, older adults can enjoy the lifestyle they envision. Instead of worrying about housekeeping and maintenance, they can focus on what truly matters to them.

Click here for a brief listing that gives meaning to the phrase “maintenance-free” living!

Everyone deserves a family

May is National Foster Care month. According to Pennsylvania’s Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network, or SWAN:

“Most children are in foster care for a short time, with the majority of children returning to their family of origin. A foster home can be an important haven, keeping children safe, helping them to cope with their grief and loss and helping to prepare them for the eventual return to their family. Because of these challenges, foster parenting requires special people—people who can take children quickly and without hesitation into their homes knowing that, when the time comes, they will need to lovingly let them go.

“Although most foster children are returned to their biological family, if such a return is not in the best interest of the child, the court may order that the parents’ rights be terminated and the child be placed for adoption. Should that happen, foster parents should play a key role in a child’s transition to an adoptive family, or they may consider adopting the child” themselves.

Sadly, each year more than 23,000 young adults age out of the foster care system. Diakon Adoption & Foster Care staff members work tirelessly to recruit and support resource families for these young adults, along with the children and youths referred to us by county agencies.

Those staff members share why it is so important to find families for all ages, including young adults:

• I primarily work with older youths and see firsthand what happens when they age out of care without locating an adoptive home. Unfortunately, I have seen youths be arrested within only a few months of being on their own. I have seen others become homeless. I have seen youth so desperate for love and belonging that they end up in unhealthy relationships, resulting in domestic abuse.
• Teens who age out of foster care with no identified adult resources tend to do poorly in life. In general, they have higher rates of homelessness, poverty and even incarceration than their peers who have family support. They also are more likely to have children of their own earlier, but may not have the resources to care for their children, thus perpetuating the likelihood of poor outcomes in future generations.
• Situations vary and depend on support systems. Some youths continue living with their resource (foster) family and some return to birth family members. Others may move on to post-secondary education, while others find their own apartment if they have the financial means. Unfortunately, some end up homeless and without necessary support.
• These young adults often become involved with negative influences because they are vulnerable.
• Unfortunately, many have nowhere to go. They might couch-surf with friends, rent substandard housing or return to families who, unfortunately, have not resolved the issues that caused the youth to come into care in the first place.

Our staff agrees that having the love and acceptance of a family is critical to the success a young person experiences.

• They need permanency, a place to call home and the support of a family to help them with things such as applying to colleges, applying for jobs, getting a driver’s license and various other things.
• Teens are never too old to need a family! Without a family, from whom do they seek guidance? Who will be there to cheer them on and encourage them? One teen stated that he cried through his entire high school graduation because there was no one there for him. A teen girl has asked who will walk her down the aisle when she marries? When they are in college, where will they go for holidays when the dorms close?
• No one is ready to enter the world on their own when they turn 18. Young adults need the guidance and structure of family to help them navigate the world.
• Everyone needs a family they can share life with.
• At any age, individuals need a place they can call “home” and call “family.”
• It is still important for these youths to have a family. A support system is crucial to young people, especially at that transitional point of life.

And although there aren’t as many success stories of older teens being adopted as we might home for, here are a few examples our staff members recall:

• A young adult who was adopted as a teen has been able to secure a part-time job while going to college. She has a place to live and a family to help her with finances until she can afford to be on her own.
• A delayed, paralyzed young man found a home at the age of 19. He started smiling when he found parents.
• We helped one older teen find her birth mother, whom she hadn’t seen since birth. That family welcomed her in and even though she was never adopted, she has connections!
• A medically challenged youth was adopted by a teacher.

You can help be a part of the success story for a child, youth or young adult! Please consider attending an upcoming information session; you also can request an information packet here.

Life after total shoulder-replacement surgery

If you or someone you love has done serious damage to his or her shoulder, a total shoulder replacement may be necessary.

A total shoulder replacement is major surgery that can keep you or your loved one in the hospital for several days, in addition to requiring weeks or months of physical therapy to fully recover.

If you’re preparing for shoulder-replacement surgery, it helps to know what to expect.

After surgery

When you have your surgery, you can expect to stay in the hospital for two to five days to recover. The time will depend on how well you progress and whether you experience any complications from the surgery.

During this time, you will experience swelling and pain in your shoulder joint. Your physician will prescribe pain medication to help make you comfortable and ice to reduce the swelling. Your arm will be in a brace after surgery to keep you from moving. However, you will likely begin physical therapy during your hospital stay.

Coming home

Post-surgery, you will have very limited movement in your arm.

As you prepared for surgery, you may have arranged to have a family member or close friend help afterward if you live alone or if your spouse is unable to help you.

If not, it may be best to book a short stay at a rehabilitation center until you can do more things on your own.

In fact, it may be several weeks before you can lift much of anything. Consider how you might rearrange items in your home to make life easier as you recover. For example, think about your daily routine and set items on your bathroom sink so they are easily reachable, rather than tucked away in drawers.

Consider all the activities that require two hands and, if someone isn’t available to help, develop an alternative or find a way you can accomplish the task single-handed.

Physical therapy

Generally, you will continue to have physical therapy throughout your recovery. In addition to therapy sessions with a professional, you’ll likely be assigned exercises to do at home between sessions.

As you do these, remember not to push yourself too hard. Recognize that recovery takes time and rushing the process could result in a subsequent injury.

Physical therapy will play a vital role in recovery by limiting pain and improving the function of your new joint. Click here to read more about what your physical therapist will most likely teach you!

The good we do beyond the good we set out to do

Somewhere along the line I came up with the phrase “the good we do beyond the good we set out to do.”

While that almost makes that “secondary good” seem unintentional, it’s not. “Doing good”—that is, having a positive impact on society beyond direct service to people in need—is a special and significant responsibility of nonprofit organizations, particularly in lieu of certain taxes. Doing good beyond what we set out to do through our service programs and senior living communities is something of which we are very proud.

That positive impact is called community benefit.

We began calculating Diakon’s community benefit for the first time six years ago and are now readying our sixth community benefit report, this time for 2018. Typically, Diakon’s community benefit amounts to approximately $20 million.

Community benefit is quite different from annual reporting. We don’t count people served or provide financial summaries of what we spent during the prior year. Rather, we look at such factors as offering free meeting space to community groups, providing mentoring or other support to students in the health care or social services fields, donations of unused medication to help people in need and support groups we offer the public free.

Community benefit also includes the subsidized service we provide, so that we can help many people with limited financial resources.

Part of me dreads this time of year because, based on national guidelines, calculating community benefit can be, well, math-intensive.

In the case of free meeting space, for example, I have to know the cost-per-square-foot-for-maintenance of a Diakon facility, the size of the room in which an outside group held its free meetings and how many hours the group was there during the year!

You get the picture. It’s calculator time.

But another part of me truly enjoys the effort, calculations and all, because doing so underscores the amazing impact we have on society—the good we do beyond the good we set out to do!

You can view our 2018 Community Benefit Report by clicking here.

 By William Swanger, MA, APR
Senior Vice President
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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Five ways rehabilitation promotes independence

Everyone wants to be independent.

That’s true no matter your age.

But it can be especially important when you face the physical challenges that sometimes accompany aging.

In fact, one of the most common desires among older adults is to remain as independent as possible, as long as possible.

While many people achieve this goal by staying healthy, sometimes accidents or unforeseen illnesses can threaten independent vitality.

When a physical injury limits your mobility, or an illness disrupts daily life, taking advantage of rehabilitation services can help you to get back on your feet and remain independent much longer.

Rehabilitation services at Diakon Senior Living Services cover a variety of therapies and meet the needs of adults in less-than-their-best health. In fact, many seniors turn to rehab following a hospital stay if they’re not yet able to return home. Others seek outpatient rehab to continue therapy after an injury or surgery.

Whether physical, occupational or speech therapy, such programs can help you to regain optimal abilities and well-being.

If you face an illness or injury with the risk of loss of independence, rehabilitation can help you maintain independence longer and to the extent possible.

1.    Allows you to maintain your daily routine. Recovery can be a long road for older adults, but rehabilitation can help you get back on your feet—and back to your regular lifestyle—much faster. Those who opt out of rehab or therapy might not heal as quickly or suffer from subsequent injuries, making it harder to maintain a daily routine. For example, if a shoulder injury doesn’t heal correctly, you may always need help lifting heavy loads or reaching above your head. Rehabilitation services can help you to meet your goals for continuing your normal way of life.

Click here to read more about what rehab can do!

Are you ready to foster or adopt?

Diakon Adoption & Foster Care staff members work diligently each day to recruit and support resource families, along with the children and youths referred to us by county agencies.

These staff members are knowledgeable and experienced in knowing what works, what doesn’t and how to try to make the transition into foster care or adoption as smooth as possible.

If adoption or foster care is something you think you may be interested in, here’s some honest advice from our staff members.

What skills or qualities do you believe are important for resource families to have?

Flexibility, compassion and patience were the responses that almost every staff member mentioned. They also said it’s important to have a sense of humor, realistic expectations, good communication skills, reliability, awareness of biases and a willingness to be challenged.

Attentiveness, the willingness to work as a team, to support the child through any loss or grief, and the capability to show unconditional love were also suggested.

One staff member specifically said it’s essential to have the ability to act in a non-judgmental way toward the child’s birth family and the circumstances that prompted out-of-home placement. Additionally, understanding how to deal with behaviors the child may exhibit because of past traumas is helpful.

What are some unexpected issues?

• Some children do not wonder much about their story when placed or adopted, but begin to ask questions as they get older.
• Children and youths aren’t typically “grateful” they’re in foster care.
• The level of grief that children feel about the loss of their birth family can come as a surprise, and it may take time to make reconnections.
• Negotiating relationships with various members of the child’s birth family.
• Families can be surprised by the number of appointments children have that can arise from a routine physical or dental exam.
• Transportation requirements for medical appointments, visitations, therapy and/or daycare, if applicable, are sometimes overwhelming at first.

Our adoption and foster care staff help to overcome such challenges!

Our staff members will help to put the proper services in place, including therapy, medication management, and so on.

In fact, they note, “we assist resource families with ideas on how to show a child not comfortable with affection how to receive it. We also help resource parents to understand the reasons behind negative behaviors without taking the behavior personally. We help families realize that their desire to have a family and their excitement over a placement occur just as the child is losing everything.

“A big challenge we help resource parents to overcome is their fear of the legal-risk component; most families worry they can’t do foster care or legal-risk placements because they worry about the pain or hurt they, resource parents, will feel. We help to encourage them that it’s less about the hurt/pain/loss that they might feel if a child leaves rather than the hurt/pain/loss the child might experience without their family stepping in to help!”

Staff members encourage building a positive relationship with a child’s biological family, by having a more engaging attitude toward the birth family both verbally and nonverbally.

“We provide an outlet for resource families to vent and talk about their frustrations, feelings and questions at any time and in any place in a case,” they say. “We offer advice such as picking your battles—often, it’s more about encouragement, encouragement and encouragement! And we have a variety of post-permanency services and support groups available. Our resource families never have to feel as if they are alone on their journey!”

If you are looking for more information about becoming a resource parent or to attend an information session, please click here.

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