Tag: senior living 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.

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.

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Insights on fad diets

From keto to gluten-free to vegan and more, fad diet options abound. But are these eating plans a healthy choice for older adults?

And the question has become especially important, as more people eat in and cook at home as they shelter-in-place related to the current pandemic from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Two registered dietitians with Morrison Community Living, Diakon’s culinary services partner, Samantha Griffith, RD, LDN, the nutrition care manager at Ohesson in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, and Connor Forlini, MS, RDN, LDN, nutrition care manager at Cumberland Crossings near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, provide insights. As in most cases, if you have specific questions about your own diet, please consult your health-care professional.

One common theme among many fad diets is that something must be eliminated for the diet to be successful: cut carbs or eliminate wheat or eat virtually no fats.

“That’s the first red flag,” says Griffith. “As dietitians, we promote the idea that everything is okay in moderation. People don’t like to hear that, though. They think it’s easier to cut just one thing and magically lose weight.”

Take the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet, for example. According to Griffith, the diet calls for reducing carbs so drastically that you are tricking your body into starvation mode and producing ketones from fat to create energy.

“The problem is that it’s awful for your metabolism; you start to feel fatigued and it’s just not sustainable for the long-term,” she says.

Or the gluten-free diet. Unless you have celiac disease, Griffith says, there’s no advantage to cutting out gluten.

“Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye and barley with no caloric value,” she says. “If you can’t tolerate it, gluten can create serious digestive issues. But a lot of people follow the diet and cut out grains. If you do that, you cut out an important source of B vitamins, fiber and other nutrients. Grains also often are fortified with iron, which a lot of older adults struggle to get enough of. Getting iron from dietary sources, including fortified grains, helps you avoid taking iron pills.”

Griffith’s advice is to instead modify your diet to reduce your carbs overall, but not completely. Not all carbs are bad.

Forlini adds that carbs are often misunderstood. Older adults may just need more education on them, he says.

“Your doctor may tell you to limit your carb intake,” he says. “That really means empty carbs, like sugar. And it doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a sweet dessert. Just have a smaller piece,” although that advice may vary for people with diabetes, who should follow physician recommendations on carb-intake.

Because many older adults deal with health issues such as heart disease and high blood pressure, Forlini notes that culinary services at Diakon vary menus, with less red meat and meatless options. Most foods are prepared in-house from scratch, he explains, and use low-sodium products or are made only with naturally occurring salt and no added sodium.

“We learn about residents’ diet history, their medical history, what foods and drinks they like,” he says. “We don’t tell them they can’t have this or that food. We always offer alternatives.”

Griffith and Forlini agree that fad diets aren’t the answer if you’re trying to eat healthier. Here are five suggestions they make for greater success:

Forget the word “diet.” Think lifestyle changes, Griffith says. “You are changing habits versus cutting things out.”

Make small changes, gradually. You are more likely to stick with the diet than if you overhaul your entire way of eating all at once.

Don’t cut out complete food groups. If you’ve read that fruits are high in sugar, that doesn’t mean you stop eating them altogether. “Many fruits are good sources of minerals, fiber and anti-oxidants,” Forlini says.

Have pizza or a slice of your friend’s birthday cake—just don’t do it every day and pay attention to the carb count if you are diabetic. Good nutrition is not made or broken in one day, Griffith says. “I call those kinds of food good for the soul; we all need those.”

Think of the foods you eat as helping you fight disease. “The American health-care system is more reactive, treating people after they get sick,” Forlini says. “Dietitians and nutritionists are “pro-active,” using food to prevent or reduce the disease state.”

If you’re looking for a tried-and-true approach to healthy eating, Griffith and Forlini recommend the Mediterranean food plan. It focuses on eating smaller portions of meat, more seafood, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains.

‘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

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…

 

 

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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‘Care conversations’: Common phrases caregivers need to know

If you’ve just begun caring for an older adult, it’s easy to be confused by the jargon of senior-focused health care.

And if you’re searching for a senior living community, the various terms and phrases to describe different levels of care require building a new set of vocabulary just to navigate literature you receive.

In addition to the terms about your loved one’s health conditions, there are a handful of phrases all caregivers should know while they are providing care and when choosing a senior living community.

Finding Order in the Acronyms

Many senior living communities refer to their levels of care services with acronyms. When you are familiar with these common terms, you’ll find it easier to determine which services different communities provide.

Click here to read this helpful information.

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GIVING BACK—Two hearts, two hands and four paws

NOTE: Since 2006, Jeanne Doney and her therapy dog, Bentley, have volunteered at Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown/The Ravenwood Campus. Together, the duo offers residents a special relationship that only two hearts, two hands and four paws can give.

 

Jeanne Doney shares her experience:

 

You might say that my dog, Bentley, is giving back to the community—especially since the community saved him. You see, Bentley is a rescue dog. He was once neglected, but now he not only receives an overabundance of love at home, but he is the center of attention on the Ravenwood campus of Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown most Friday mornings.

 

Although Fridays are my days off—I work as a State of Maryland office supervisor in behavioral health—I tell Bentley that we have to go to “work.”

 

As soon as he hears those words, he knows exactly where we are going. The 45-pound Labrador Retriever and Beagle mix calmly wags his tail in excitement. Although he can’t swim or track animals—traits that most labs and beagles have—Bentley is known for his big loving, loyal heart, one he opens up to residents and staff at Diakon Senior Living.

 

Immediately after I found him at the shelter 11 years ago, we began visiting the campus, so Fridays on the Ravenwood campus are a routine we both know well. Bentley patiently waits for the foyer doors to open. Once they do, he pauses while I sign the visitor book and put on his leash. Of course, his first stop is the beauty parlor, where he visits Sharon, the beautician, for a treat and to see the ladies who are getting their hair done.

 

Although he has a regular visiting routine and has taken a fond liking to specific residents, he attracts attention wherever he goes. He always has people reaching out to him and I give him the “go closer command,” so that they can pet him. We visit the sunshine room, see rehabilitation patients and often help out with activities.

 

In Bentley’s presence, residents often reminisce about the pets that they once had. Petting Bentley cheers people up, gives them comfort, or helps them recover. Bentley has a way of taking residents’ minds off their pain and worries. At the same time, I can see how attached Bentley is to the residents. It’s very hard on him when a resident moves on—it just goes to show how much a dog can love someone. It is apparent that love is mutual.

 

In August 2015, residents threw Bentley a 12th birthday party complete with his favorite treat—vanilla ice cream!

 

Bentley, who regularly wears holiday-themed kerchiefs throughout the year, also participates in the annual Halloween party. With a trunk of doggie costumes, the residents dress him up. Last year he wore an orange-and-yellow ballet tutu around his neck—he looked like a lion.

 

He goes to parties and picnics where he enjoys hot dogs and hamburgers off the grill—a treat he doesn’t get at home because I don’t eat meat. We also watch the annual Wagon Train parade with the residents. The horse wagon train comes up Rt. 40 and stops at the Ravenwood campus. Bentley enjoys watching the parade with the residents. He even had a “nose-to-nose” with a horse—but they were just sniffing each other. The residents thought it was funny and they still laugh about it today.

 

When you hear the laughter and see the joy that results from Bentley’s presence, it is apparent that he is part of the Diakon Senior Living family.

 

Abby, the director of community life, even made him an official pet visitor badge. It’s as if he is the employee and I am his handler.

 

Being part of this volunteer opportunity is so rewarding. Bentley gets a lot out of it and so do the residents—it’s gratifying for everyone—including me.

 

In fact, it is embarrassing how much I get out of it. I am so pleased that Diakon Senior Living allows me and Bentley to do this. It is our way to give back.

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An honor, a privilege

Some believe that knowing your life’s journey is coming to an end can be a blessing of sorts. You have an opportunity to say goodbyes and perhaps even let go on your own terms—but knowing certainly does not always make the process easier.

At Manatawny Manor, we recently helped a chronically ill resident and her family members face such a struggle. Our chaplain, the Rev. Roxi Kringle, has a special way of discussing end-of-life issues. She engages in a heartfelt conversation with individuals and their loved ones, asking about wishes and goals. Is there something the person would like to do, a place to visit, favorite foods?

“Jane”—her name has been changed because of health-care rules—had been a resident of Manatawny Manor for several years but, some months back, we could see that she was declining rapidly. We also noticed that she and her family were having a tough time facing this decline and so we made plans for them to speak with our chaplain.

In that conversation, Roxi learned of Jane’s passion for horses and her desire to be around them one last time. Jane’s daughters very much wanted to make that happen for their mother, in spite of the challenges involved in taking her on such an outing.

But by some miracle—maybe Janes’s guardian angel was pulling a few strings—everything began to fall into place for her wish to become true.

I have a friend who volunteers at Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines in Pottstown, a place for “retired” horses—mostly race horses and those used by police—to live out their days. And so on a Sunday afternoon I accompanied Jane and her husband in Manatawny’s transport van to the horse farm, where we met extended-family members. Although it was late winter, the day was sunny and somewhat mild.

Jane was able to pet, hug and feed the horses.

Two days later, she passed away. Her family held a memorial service at our senior living community and, in her honor, chose to sponsor a horse at Ryerss Farm for a year.

It was an honor and a privilege to have helped Jane and her family, not only by providing daily care to her but also by helping to give her a special day so near the end of her life’s journey.

Kelli Brown, RN
Director of Nursing
Manatawny Manor

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Seniors sharing compassion and creating connections

Even in retirement many people remain active in their communities, especially as volunteers. Our Diakon Senior Living Services campuses are home to many of these caring individuals. Two Twining Village residents offer their experiences on why they share their time and talents with others in need of compassion and connection…

I really had no background or training in volunteering when I came to Twining Village in May 2014, but I’ve been glad to be able to serve. I actually started as soon as I got here.

I visit the residents who have Alzheimer’s disease or similar memory-related illnesses and say the Rosary and the Our Father with them. But I don’t just say it and leave; I stay until I make contact. I touch their arms or look into their eyes. They may not be able to talk, but I’m sure many of them appreciate knowing they have someone there just for them.