Candid reflections on cancer, family, his role on “Jeopardy!” and finding peace.
By Richard Harris. Provided by Next Avenue.
Candid reflections on cancer, family, his role on “Jeopardy!” and finding peace.
By Richard Harris. Provided by Next Avenue.
(Editor’s note: This article is part of an editorial partnership between Next Avenue and the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, a Cleveland-based nonprofit whose mission is to advance support for older adults and caregivers.)
Most of us know eating right is one of the most important aspects of healthy living. We recognize that bad eating habits contribute to obesity and chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure) and type 2 diabetes, and that by taking steps to eat healthy, we can use food as a preventative medicine against these risks to our long-term well-being.
The medical community is leveraging this “food as medicine” concept one step farther by — in some cases — prescribing specially tailored diets to recently hospitalized patients in an effort to speed recovery and reduce readmissions. Doing so among older adults, however, presents some unique challenges, according to Lisa Weitzman, WeCare administrator and manager of business development at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.
Recuperating older adults are often frail or struggling physically, which may be a barrier to their ability to shop for and prepare post-discharge meals themselves, Weitzman said. Issues of social isolation and food security — particularly among low-income older adults — are also at play.
Nationwide about 5.5 million adults aged 60 and over, or 7.7% of the older adult population, are food insecure, meaning they lack access to a sufficient amount of healthy food on a day-to-day basis. An inadequate diet can lead to functional disabilities among older adults, exacerbate vulnerability to infection and illness and increase hospital admissions.
In many cases, social isolation compounds the problem. One only has to reflect on the social nature of eating — “how often we eat as a family or share meals with friends,” Weitzman said — to understand the impact of losing that interpersonal connection.
“What we find is that older adults who are living alone and don’t have regular social interactions with others may lose that inclination to eat or to eat healthy,” she said.
A Way to Provide Nutritional and Social Support
To address these issues, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging is currently studying the impact of providing free home-delivered medically tailored meals and social support to at-risk older adults. Physicians at Cleveland, Ohio’s South Pointe Hospital, the Institute’s pilot partner, refer low-income and socially isolated older adults with heart disease, hypertension and/or diabetes to this program, Nutrition Solution, upon discharge. Registered dieticians then create meal plans based on the patient’s specific needs. These medically tailored meals are then home delivered via the Institute’s existing meal delivery service.
“A poor-quality diet can have a negative impact on things like medications, energy, balance and sleep- all of which can make older adults more susceptible to injuries, illnesses and readmission.”
Previous research suggests that medically tailored meals have a positive impact.
In a study published by JAMA Network Open in 2019, people who received medically tailored meals had 49% fewer hospital admissions and 72% fewer nursing home admissions than those who did not receive meals.
A 2018 study, published in Health Affairs, found one insurer saved an average of 16% in monthly medical costs on patients who received medically tailored meals compared with a control group who did not. The savings were derived from fewer ambulance trips, emergency department visits and hospital admissions.
What sets the Benjamin Rose pilot study apart from the earlier studies is the addition of wellness phone calls to combat social isolation and monitor recovery.
“Nutrition Solution volunteers spend approximately 20 minutes each week talking with their matched older adult, reviewing nutritional education materials and helping to reduce the older adult’s social isolation,” Weitzman said.
If medically tailored meals are not available in your community, as a caregiver, you may need to take a more active role to ensure your older loved one has proper nutrition after a hospitalization.
Weitzman says that nutrition should be an essential part of a holistic treatment plan following any older adult’s hospital discharge.
“A poor-quality diet can have a negative impact on things like medications, energy, balance and sleep — all of which can make older adults more susceptible to injuries, illnesses and readmission,” according to Weitzman.
She offered a few more tips for older adults and their caretakers:
Get help with special dietary needs. If you or your loved one suffers from a chronic health issue, ask a physician or dietician for guidance on how to structure meals appropriately. Weitzman noted a diabetic’s nutritional needs are different from someone who is suffering from kidney disease or taking a blood thinner. Health professionals can help ensure you or your loved one’s diet matches any pressing medical concern.
Pay close attention to issues of access. Many times, Weitzman said, “we assume Mom eats pasta and white bread because that is what she likes.” But, maybe it’s all she can afford. Or, maybe Dad eats snacks and sweets rather than meals because he can’t stand at the stove to cook. Identify issues of access that are impeding older adults from making healthy food choices.
Be present. Isolation and lack of support contribute significantly to food insecurity. Consider how you can interact with isolated loved ones during meal times. If you can’t be there in person, perhaps you can dine virtually via a video chat. “Find a way to make that eating experience more social,” Weitzman said.
Finally, if finances are preventing you or your loved one from getting enough healthy food, don’t hesitate to look into public assistance for support. There are several avenues to explore; learn more about the application process for your state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or seek out the nearest Meals on Wheels provider.
By Judy Stringer-Holman
Judy Stringer-Holman is a freelance writer and editor with more than 25 years of experience contributing to media outlets. Many of her frequent articles appear in Crain’s Cleveland Business, where she also writes for the paper’s custom content division, Crain Content Studio. In addition to business, she covers community news and oversees special sections about senior living, wellness and home improvement for ScripType Publishing, a collection of nine monthly magazines in Summit and Cuyahoga counties in Ohio.
Stay-at-home orders were put in place throughout the country to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and “flatten the curve” to prevent the health care system from becoming overwhelmed. In initially hard-hit areas of the country such as New York and New Jersey, these measures have worked and there has been a sharp decline in the number of new coronavirus cases.
But as businesses start to re-open, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 is still a threat. According to The New York Times’ live map, more than half of the country has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases since states began to lift shelter-at-home restrictions.
Dr. Romilla Batra, chief medical officer at SCAN Health Plan in Long Beach, Calif., says, “As friends, family and community members re-emerge into public life, please don’t let your guard down.”
Next Avenue readers have been asking questions about what re-entry means for daily life, so we reached out to a group of experts for answers to 10 of them:
If I wear a mask, but others are not, am I at risk of contracting the virus?
Dr. Elsa Thomas, of Atlantic Medical Group’s Internal Medicine Faculty Associates in New Jersey, explains, “When we wear a mask, we reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to people around us. The mask also creates a layer of protection to the wearer by reducing the likelihood of touching one’s nose and mouth.”
If you are out and someone is not wearing a mask, you can either ask them to put one on (many stores will require it for entry), keep more than 6 feet away from the maskless person or leave the area altogether. Also, remember to use hand sanitizer before and after going anywhere and to thoroughly wash hands when you return home.
When can I start babysitting my grandchildren again?
It’s been especially hard these past few months for grandparents not to visit with their grandchildren. It is okay and emotionally beneficial to spend time together if both you and your grandchildren are doing a good job social distancing from others.
Babysitting usually requires a lot of hands-on care. Unless the children are highly independent, it is too risky right now.
However, it is probably not a good idea to babysit, especially for young children. Dr. Faisel Syed, national director of primary care, ChenMed in Lakeland, Fla., says, “Older adults with a weakened immune system must be careful around children who understandably are likely to be less effective in coronavirus infection prevention behaviors (and can transmit the virus inadvertently).”
Can I safely hug my adult children, grandchildren or friends?
Unfortunately, hugging loved ones outside of your household is still considered risky.
Mary Ann Hart, an associate professor within the Online Master of Health Administration Program Director at Regis College in Weston, Mass., explains: “As long as COVID-19 is still in your community and there is no vaccine available, avoid physically touching someone who is not an immediate household member, even if you are both wearing a mask. Throw kisses and give virtual hugs.”
If you do choose to embrace a loved one, Batra says, “Use the utmost of caution. Wear masks, wash your hands carefully before and after, and avoid speaking or coughing while hugging to limit the likelihood of transmission.”
Do I need to quarantine if I travel between states?
On June 24, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued a “joint travel advisory,” mandating a 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling to their states from many states, including Florida and Texas. If you are traveling from one state to another (especially one where COVID-19 is on the rise), see what rules, if any, have been put in place.
Can I safely bake for a friend or eat baked goods someone makes for me?
Thomas says” “I think it is absolutely safe to bake for a neighbor and exchange baked goods. This is a great way to maintain social connections that we all need.” Just be sure to use general food safety rules, including washing your hands, keeping cooking surfaces clean and not preparing food if you are feeling unwell.
Hair salons and barbershops are open, but is it okay for me to go?
Salons and barbershops should look very different when they re-open. Precautions should include everyone (staff and clients) wearing masks, limited occupancy, sanitizing surfaces and using barrier methods to keep patrons separated.
Dr. William Dale, director of City of Hope’s Center for Cancer and Aging in Duarte, Calif., says, “Ask a lot of questions to see what steps they have taken. Personally, because of the close proximity of these spaces, it may be better to wait a while, especially if you have underlying health conditions.”
Consider asking your stylist if he or she would make a house call and conduct your service in your backyard (with both of you still wearing masks).
Can I go on a vacation?
This summer, a staycation may be a better idea than going away.
Batra explains: “Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19, regardless of the type of transportation you choose. Airplanes, buses, trains, airports, stations and rest stops are all places where travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. These are also places where it can be challenging to keep 6 feet apart from other people.”
If you do choose to travel, follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. When you return from your trip, monitor your health for signs of COVID-19 before visiting others.
Is it safe to go out to eat?
Yes, with precautions. Thomas says, “Sitting outdoors and enjoying a nice dinner is something I consider safe. If you have dinner with another couple, make sure they have also been practicing social distancing and are symptom-free.”
Servers should wear masks, the menus should be online or disposable and tables spaced out.
If you are concerned, consider picking up take-out and eating with another couple in your backyard. This way, you can enjoy each other’s company without being exposed to restaurant patrons.
When can I get back to playing bridge and other games and going to group exercise classes?
Dale says, “Better to avoid activities like playing bridge.”
This also includes games like mahjong. “Players touching tiles will be exchanging droplets that sit on the surface and inadvertently spread the virus,” notes Dale.
Instead, do individual brain-boosting activities such as jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles or playing card games on the computer.
As for group exercise, choose outdoor activities such as golf, tennis or going for a walk (with masks) over indoor activities. Water aerobics classes seem like a good option since pools are relatively safe, although Dale suggests avoiding public pools and larger groups.
Should I go to the doctor?
Emphatically, yes! Thomas says, “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking care of your health. Your doctor and local hospital are ready for you.”
If you are sick or have had contact with a person with COVID-19, stay home until you are better and symptom-free (and if you need medical assistance, use the telehealth option health care providers offer.)
“You can’t rely on others to protect you, you have to protect yourself.”
Otherwise, don’t put off seeing your doctor for routine exams and tests such as colonoscopies and mammograms.
Dale says, “Many patients have avoided seeking treatment, ordering their medications or seeing their doctors due to COVID-19 fears. It is time for patients to re-engage with their providers. Cancer won’t stop for a pandemic and neither will heart disease, diabetes or other non-COVID 19 health issues.”
There have also been new procedures put in place in hospitals and medical offices to ensure patient safety when people come in to seek treatment. Thomas explains, “Most practitioners have eliminated the waiting rooms, so you go directly from your vehicle to the physician exam room or the appropriate room to have your test/study. We have screened everyone who enters our buildings with questions and temperature checks. We have created safe, clean environments so that there is little to no risk of virus transmission.”
Be Proactive and Minimize Your Risk
Overall, it’s essential to be mindful.
Dr. Eric Mizuno, internist and Medical Director of Admiral at the Lake, a senior living community in Chicago, says, “When it comes to minimizing your risk of COVID-19, you have to be proactive regardless of your age. You can’t rely on others to protect you, you have to protect yourself. Assume you have it and assume the people around you have it.”
But being cautious does not mean avoiding socialization altogether.
Social isolation itself is a major health concern, especially for older adults. Dale explains, “I have been trying to eliminate the phrasing ‘social distance’ because it gives the wrong message. We need to protect both physical health and emotional health and this means being physically distant but socially close to those we love.”
It’s about accessing and minimizing your risk, while staying active, maintaining relationships and enjoying your life.
Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer specializing in a wide range of topics from parenting to pop culture to life after 50.by
Our world has learned a lot through the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ve learned that life is very different when things we have taken for granted for so long are stripped away unexpectedly. Some of us have learned what a financial loss can do to our household; Essential workers have learned to sacrifice in ways they never imagined. And it’s just human nature that most people would yearn for comfort from their loved ones and friends in these times of uncertainty – to visit with them, to get a big hug, to shake someone’s hand. Just being able to stand less than six feet from someone would be nice. Unfortunately, this is a luxury that’s been taken away for the time being.
Luckily, we live in the age of technology where communication is literally at our fingertips. While calling or texting someone is nice, there’s nothing quite like actually getting to see the faces of your loved ones and friends in a time that feels so lonely. With the help of apps like Skype, Zoom and FaceTime, we can see children’s dimples when they smile, the growing baby bump of our first grandchild, and life events that we would have otherwise missed out on.
These times are especially challenging for long-term care residents and Sunset Home, a program of Lutheran Sunset Ministries, has been working to keep people connected. “The activities staff at Sunset Home have coordinated Skype calls with my mother weekly since we haven’t been able to visit her,” says Ron Eberhardt. “Skype has allowed us to show my mom video greetings from the four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren every week. Our hearts are blessed by seeing the joy on my mom’s face as she watches the greetings from the little ones and waves back to them on the screen.” The family enjoyed a bitter-sweet Skype call to celebrate her 95th birthday, and it was all smiles.
Sandra Smith, a family member of another resident, agrees this communication has been a blessing. “I did FaceTime with my mom with the help of the activities staff and there’s no better feeling than being able to see her and talk to her,” says Sandra. “She does not totally understand, but my time with her is precious and I look forward to being able to see her in person one day soon!”
Ron stated, “We appreciate Lutheran Sunset Ministries for providing assurance to us that they are thoughtfully and lovingly caring for my mother. You ALL, including nurses, their assistants, therapists, wound specialists, food preparers, housekeepers, doctors, maintenance, activities staff, and administrative staff, are truly an answer to our prayers and a tremendous blessing to our family!”
Article by Andrea Hampe, LSM Marketing Director and Independent Living Manager.by
A variety of techniques can help calm the mind for better sleep
By Patricia Corrigan, Next Avenue Contributing Writer, March 2020
Sleep is always important for good health, and that’s especially true in this challenging time. When you rest well, you’re better equipped to face the day. But right now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, heightened anxiety and unstructured time may cause insomnia even in those accustomed to a full night’s sleep.
That’s not good, for more than the obvious reason.
“It’s possible that sleep plays a role in strengthening the immune system and its response to infection,” says Dr. Rachel Darken, the sleep medicine fellowship director in the Department of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “That could be part of the reason why sleep has been preserved in our evolutionary development.”
These days, many people who are used to going to work and living active lives are spending more time at home, and that has consequences. Darken says that scientists think there is a “bi-directional relationship” between insomnia and anxiety.
“Anxiety influences sleep and sleep deprivation influences anxiety — they feed on each other.”
“Anxiety influences sleep and sleep deprivation influences anxiety — they feed on each other,” she says. And, “even if you’re not particularly anxious about the new coronavirus, the disruption in your routine can lead to difficulty sleeping,” Darken adds.
More bad news for insomniacs: Losing sleep can lead to a level of immune dysregulation, “a kind of pre-inflammatory situation,” Darken says. “That can put the body in a bad state and keep it from responding appropriately to infection or make you more prone to chronic diseases. That’s not good for you.”
An Expert’s Tips on How to Sleep Better
What can you do about insomnia?
First, establish a routine, even if there is no reason to get up or go to bed at your usual time each day. “It’s important to maintain consistency,” Darken notes. “That may decrease some anxiety and help you sleep better.”
She also recommends these standard “sleep hygiene” practices:
At the end of your day, Darken suggests, keep the lights dim and avoid anything that involves the outside world. That means social media, news reports and emails. Read a book, she says, take a relaxing bath or listen to music you enjoy or a soothing podcast.
Set Aside a ‘Worry Hour’
Leslie Davenport agrees. A licensed integrative psychotherapist based in Tacoma, Wash., Davenport recommends setting aside a “worry hour” each day to address anxieties.
“That helps us develop a strength, just as you would strengthen a muscle, over our mental habits,” she says. “Designate a specific time to let yourself be with your fears, a time when you can write, think or talk with a friend. That allows you to honor your feelings and give them an outlet, and it also gives you more influence over your feelings.”
If your mind is reluctant to restrict gloomy thoughts to just an hour each day, Davenport cautions, you’re not likely to get a good night’s sleep even if you follow the recommended sleep hygiene steps.
She recommends staying attuned throughout the day to when your mind starts to race and then “reeling yourself back” to the present moment.
Davenport offers this metaphor: “If you’re driving 60 miles per hour all day, you don’t keep going at that speed as you pull into your garage,” she says. “Whenever you catch yourself making up a doom story about the future, slow down. Try to let go of projecting, and just be in the moment.”
That can be a challenge, especially because we’re all subject to the “negativity bias,” Davenport says. “Research shows our brains are more tuned in to bad news than good news. And a negative event is amplified five times over a positive one in terms of how our brains or bodies react. That’s another reason why being intentional at this time is so important, so we can get our thoughts and feelings back to a neutral place.”
Try Relaxation Exercises Just Before Bed
A master yoga teacher based in Oakland, Calif., Margi Young teaches classes, trains yoga teachers and leads retreats all over the world. But sometimes, when she slides under the covers at night, her fears for the future rise up.
“Just as we lie down, ready for sleep, sometimes our minds wake up and race toward terrifying thoughts,” Young says. “It’s so easy to put ourselves in a contorted posture and start catastrophizing.”
Young knows how to call a halt to that and her tips are useful for anyone, whether or not you’ve ever practiced yoga. “To calm anxiety and avoid insomnia,” Young says, “I recommend a quieting of the body and the mind through a yoga pose called “shavasana,” which brings mindful relaxation.”
You can do the pose on the floor or in your bed. “With a pillow under your head, lie on your back in a neutral position, with your arms resting slightly away from your body and your legs a little apart,” Young says. “Then scan your body, noticing places that feel tense. Let that tension release until you feel your body softening, melting into the bed or the floor.”
Next, Young recommends, pay attention to your breathing. “This is science; breathing mindfully helps calm your nervous system and helps slow your heart rate and your metabolism,” she says. “Inhale deeply to a count of four, breathing all the way to your fingertips and to the tips of your toes. Then exhale to a count of six. Do this six times, and you should feel yourself sinking into sleep.”
Some people fall asleep easily enough, but awaken long before morning. Others can’t get back to sleep after getting up at night to use the bathroom. “That’s when I always want to think terrifying thoughts, but I make myself breathe with the longer exhale again,” Young says. “Without fail, I put myself back to sleep.”
Article by Sherrie Bradley, RN,BSN, Heckmann Assisted Living Manager
Depending on where you are located and what community you and your family decide is best for you, could mean different levels of care for you. While some communities are large and stand-alone, they may be able to offer much deeper levels of care and price may range according to that care and staffing. Here at Heckmann Assisted Living, we are smaller and a part of a very large campus where different levels of care needs are met by where you live. Some are able to live in our independent community, Rainbow Retirement, and have their own outside help to come in daily or weekly. Some may even be able to stay home with the help provided by our Sunset Companion Services department. Then others, who are not quite in need of daily medical care or a memory care unit, will find themselves at home here in our Heckmann Residence Assisted Living.
We strive to provide person-centered care based on Christian values that are focused on maintaining independence in as many areas as possible, while having someone here day and night to assist them. We strive to promote continued learning and physical, mental, and spiritual growth by offering different types of scheduled activities, outings, and pastoral services all while allowing our residents to maintain their privacy and independence.
A move to assisted living does not mean you have to give up everything. Many find that the things they end up giving up, results in them being able to do more things they enjoy rather than maintaining a home and all that entails. As a resident here, you are able to bring your own furniture, personal effects and decorate your apartment as your new home. This helps to promote your dignity, privacy, choice and continued independence.
We assist by serving dining room style meals three times daily, which is served hot and comes from our campus kitchen where it is prepared fresh daily. You are able to choose your meal the evening before by making your personal selections from the menu provided by Dietary. There is always an open snack bar with coffee, ice, water and other items.
Besides meals, we handle most resident’s medications which helps you to stay on a schedule and maintain health and well-being. Some find that just being here and taking their medications on schedule and getting those fresh, hot prepared meals daily makes a world of difference in how they feel physically as well as mentally and emotionally.
We also provide weekly laundry and linen change services. This seems to be a big one for most of our residents. Along with this, there is weekly apartment cleaning and daily trash services. No more stress over cleaning, taking out the trash, changing the bed linens or working on laundry. I could be happy with all of that myself! With all of this taken care of for you, that leaves more time for you to enjoy family, friends, activities, outings, bible studies, worship services and many other things that we tend to put off to do all of our chores at home!
Our residents are free to come and go and we promote being independent and participating in events in the outside community as well as our own. We highly encourage family and friends to continue to come and visit as you wish, stay and have a meal in our dining room, participate in activities, and bring new ideas to us that their loved one enjoys as others may enjoy as well.
We understand that making a move like this, whether it’s from home/independent living to assisted living or to nursing home, is huge for you and your family. Our goal is to help this move and transition be as smooth as possible and a positive experience to the best of our ability. I have mentioned many positives but a huge positive is the ability to make new friends with your neighbors who will be here to help you as well! They were once new to the community and most are very ready and willing to get to know you and help you to be happy here! No more eating alone or just not eating because you don’t want to make a meal for one! Meal times and activities are the best times to get to know others.
During the holidays, we try our best to make things festive, homelike, and family friendly here at College Hill Assisted Living – Heckmann Residence. We know holidays can be a very difficult time for some. We highly encourage visitors, activity participation, and participation in outside community events as each is able, to help the holidays remain a positive enjoyable time for all of our residents and staff alike. We do our best to help our community to reflect an expression of faith and God’s love every day.
We are thankful daily for our community members, staff members, volunteers, and family and friends who strive to make Heckmann a great place to live!
The Mayo Clinic will let you know right quick that medicine is quite literally going to the dogs—and for good reason! Animal-assisted therapies continue to gain traction as researchers learn that recovery is faster and more fun in the presence of animals. Retirement communities have grown to rely on this non-pharmacological approach for treating an increasing number of health conditions to include anxiety, depression, cancer and heart disease.
The retirement communities of today are full of residents that grew up on a farm. What better way to make a place feel like home than to bring pets into residences? On any given day, you can find several furry (or feathered) friends visiting residents throughout Lutheran Sunset Ministries.
Rainbow Retirement Community, our independent living neighborhood, houses a number of pets living alongside their owners. After all, they’re part of the family. Heckmann Assisted Living houses Shelly, the shepherd mix. Shelly is relatively new and has been a big hit! And it’s safe to say that with very little persuasion, Sunset Home has bought completely in to the idea of pet therapy. Juliette and Fowler, the labradoodles, can be found making their rounds throughout the different neighborhoods on most days. The Sales Family Hope Center, Sunset’s secured neighborhood, has a live-in dog named Bruno. He’s a big ol’ black and brown teddy bear. Additionally, a finch aviary and a large fish aquarium provide visual stimuli in the Hope Center. On most days, we are also joined by two employee-owned Yorkshire Terriers (Diva and Paublo) to ensure additional smiles are created for the day. Each year during the spring or fall, Sunset Home welcomes day-old baby chicks to live with us for a few weeks. Without fail, the topics for those few weeks include, “Do you think they’re big enough to fry yet?,” and, “I think this one and this one are roosters, but I’m pretty sure those 3 over there are hens.” Resident-led stories follow about the kinds of chickens the different families raised over the years. Sitting back and watching, one can literally see blood pressures drop and frowns turn to smiles as residents interact with the animals. There’s something about running your fingers through a dog’s coat when you’re keyed up and stressed out that seems to send a sense of calmness over a person.
I’ll let you in on a little secret— soon, Sunset Home will be adding some unique, feathered friends to the mix for a little while. Our plans are to start rotating some variety throughout the neighborhoods for folks to enjoy.
The field of medicine in evolving rapidly—practitioners and operators are constantly looking for alternative treatment options. While medication is inevitable in some circumstances, the health care community is learning that more holistic approaches, such as pet therapy, carry far fewer negative side effects. We are witnessing firsthand the positive impact animals are having on so many lives at Lutheran Sunset Ministries.
Stop by for a visit—we’ll let Juliette and Fowler show you which rooms have the best snacks.
Article by Sunset Home Administrator Lance Allen, a program of Lutheran Sunset Ministries.by
I know you‘ve all heard the old cliché, nothing is guaranteed in life except death and taxes. Most of us plan to an extent for our taxes every year. Whether it is coming up with a plan to pay them or planning what we are going to do with our refunds, we plan. If you think about it, we plan for almost everything in our lives. We make plans for college; we make wedding plans; we plan for vacations; when to start a family; we plan what we are making for dinner; what we are going to do for the weekend; we make plans for retirement. If death is as much a guarantee as taxes in life, why don’t we plan for that?
Do we not plan for our deaths because it isn’t fun to think about and plan like weddings, college or vacations? Taxes aren’t fun, but they come around every year whether we are ready or not. As a society, we need to change the concept of death. It only comes around one time for us. That means we have one chance at getting it right. I know that sounds odd to think about getting death right, but let me tell you it is the truth. If we don’t start planning for our deaths and share our wishes with our families, the act of dying can be horrific for us and our families.
Death is a natural part of life and is someday coming for all of us. I used to be afraid of death and dying. Not that I didn’t know where I was going, but the whole idea of dying scared me. Now that I have worked in Hospice, it is not the idea of death that scares me, it’s the process of dying, and the journey to get there that scares me. I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to be alone nor want my family to be alone. I don’t want to die in a hospital and be hooked up to a bunch of machines. If I had my wishes, I want a peaceful death at home with my loved ones beside me. None of us get to choose the way we die, and obviously those things are out of our control.
Talking about death is not something that is typically brought up on family holidays or talked about around the dinner table. If we don’t share our end of life wishes with our families, then they will be the ones to have to make those difficult decisions for us, not really knowing what we truly want to happen as we get close to dying. They will be making those decisions under a very emotional and stressful time. Difficult decisions which could haunt them for a long time, because they did not know what their loved one would want.
I encourage every one of you to have those difficult conversations with your loved ones and make your wishes known. None of us are promised another day. If your loved ones know your wishes, hopefully it can make a difficult transition a little easier for everyone. If your heart should stop, do you want the doctors and nurses to perform CPR and attempt to bring you back? Do you want to die in a hospital or at home? Do you want to be hooked up to machines or do you want a quiet peaceful death at home?
If you do not want CPR if your heart stops, I recommend talking with your doctor and healthcare team about obtaining Do not Resuscitate (DNR) paperwork. This will protect you and ensure that CPR is not performed if your heart should stop. So many different factors should be taken into account when considering obtaining a DNR. I always recommend looking at the overall quality of a person’s life to help make that decision. If the patient is terminal, seems to be suffering and is quiet frail the odds of CPR being successful are low, as well as recovery from injuries that can occur while performing CPR. Patients and families need to consider if the CPR attempts are successful, what quality of life that person will be returning to. Are they comatose and not going to return to a higher level of functioning? This is each individual’s choice of whether they want CPR or not when that time comes. Please tell your family your wishes so they don’t have to make those difficult decisions for you when they time comes.
Something else I would consider is after discussing your wishes with your family; appoint someone as your Medical Power of Attorney that will carry out decisions on your behalf once you are no longer able to make those decisions. When stressful situations come up, families don’t always agree on the best course of action for their loved ones. Appointing someone as Medical Power of Attorney gives that one person the ability to speak on your behalf to alert medical staff of your wishes. Medical staff will also turn to the Medical Power of Attorney to make those difficult decisions when needed.
Please note that a Medical Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney are two different things. The Durable Power of Attorney is the person you appoint to handle financial things. The Medical Power of Attorney handles everything medical. A lot of people do not realize that there is a big difference between the two.
If you have a terminal prognosis of six months or less and don’t want to be hooked up to machines or die in a hospital, I would recommend Hospice care. Hospice can ensure an easier death with comfort and dignity and ensure support is there for your families. Hospice will come whenever the patient calls home and provide care. Hospice can be provided at home, Nursing Facilities and even Assisted Living Facilities.
Hospice is a scary word for many. So many people think of Hospice as a death sentence and think Hospice is brought in when there is no hope. But that is just the thing … Hospice care brings hope for dignity, comfort and peace and allows patients to spend quality time with their loved ones for however much times is left in this journey of life. Hospice focuses on living life and enjoying life to the fullest.
A referral to Hospice should be viewed as a referral to a specialist. Just like the cancer patient sees an Oncologist, a heart patient sees a cardiologist and someone with urinary tract disorders sees a Urologist, why not see a specialist for end of life care – a specialist who can help you and your loved ones walk through the most difficult journey of living.
Hospice neither hastens nor prolongs life. Studies have shown patients with Hospice lived an average of one month longer than those without Hospice, and the quality of life was consistently higher. Studies conducted by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization show that Hospice patients experience less depression and improve mentally, emotionally and physically over chronically ill pts who are not on hospice.
Once patients and families come on Hospice they usually say, “I wish I would have known about this sooner,” or they will say, “I wish mom/dad would have come on Hospice sooner.” There are many benefits to coming on Hospice services at the early stages of a terminal prognosis. The most important benefit is reaping the benefits sooner rather than later. Hospice can ease financial burdens by providing medical equipment and supplies that the patient needs and also covers the cost of medications related to the terminal prognosis and meds for comfort. For elderly patients on a fixed income this can be a huge benefit. As well as the fact that the cost of medical equipment and medications can add up very quickly.
Another benefit of Hospice services is that Hospice becomes your new 911. Hospice staff are available 24 hours/day for any questions, concerns or changes in condition that may arise. Hospice can alleviate unnecessary trips back and forth to the hospital. This is especially important now that the weather is getting cooler, and the time changed causing it to get darker earlier. It is hard on those with failing health to get out at night and especially in the cold or heat. Hospice staff will come to you at your home and perform assessments, then contact the doctor as needed for any concerns or medication needs.
Death and dying is inevitable for us all. We don’t get to choose how we die. Sometimes it comes unexpectedly and other times it comes with an illness and can be a long process. Regardless how it comes, death is a guarantee. Talk with your family and let them know your wishes for when the time comes. It’s a natural part of life that we all must endure. It will make the journey a little easier knowing they honored your wishes.
Being a grandparent often means passing along traditions, making memories and building family bonds. But this isn’t the reality for many families, especially those affected by estrangement.
It’s difficult to say exactly how many parents are estranged from their adult children, but experts agree that when grandchildren are involved, the situation grows even more complex.
“It’s far more common than most people realize,” said Tina Gilbertson, a Denver-based psychotherapist and author of Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children.
“While it’s hard knowing your grandchildren are growing up without knowing you, the best use of your time is to strengthen your bond with their parents,” Gilbertson said. “Being the older person, you have a lot of power to influence the tone of that relationship. But you may need to be strategic, rather than emotional, about mending fences.”
Respecting rules and boundaries “creates goodwill between the parents and grandparents.”
But if you can’t repair the relationship with their parents, it still may be possible to build and maintain relationships with your grandchild, despite the estrangement. Experts say it will just take time, emotional intelligence, respecting boundaries and setting realistic expectations.
Keep Emotions and Expectations in Check
For a grandparent-grandchild relationship to survive an estrangement, everyone involved must display emotional intelligence, which refers to how we recognize and handle our own emotions and respond to others’ emotions, said Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist in Sonoma County, Calif., and author of Aging Joyfully.
Emotional intelligence means putting differences aside, agreeing to disagree and swallowing pride for the benefit of the child and the grandchild-grandparent relationship.
Manly acknowledges that emotional intelligence isn’t always easy, saying, “It takes quite a lot of inner strength to get there.”
Gilbertson urges grandparents to be “introspective” and have a “growth mindset” to build authentic relationships with grandchildren through estrangement — and to avoid placing too many expectations on the situation.
“Expecting your child to accept you based solely on your status as their children’s grandparent doesn’t usually work,” she said. “As long as your emotions are clouding your behavior, you may not be as strategic as you need to be.”
Letting emotions get in the way could lead to missed opportunities to see the grandchildren, Gilbertson said.
It’s Up to Parents to Allow the Relationship
Grandparents will likely need to approach the child’s parents about building or maintaining the grandchild relationship. Manly said parents ultimately decide what that relationship will be like.
However, in families with a history of abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, or other reasons for a parent to worry that the child would be in danger when around the grandparent, a relationship probably isn’t possible, she said.
Karen Forsthoff, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Francisco, said any grandchild interaction surrounded by estrangement should be child-led and focused on “developmentally appropriate” activities, which vary depending on the child and family situation.
“Keep it safe; keep it simple,” Forsthoff said. “And don’t expect too much in regard to affection being shown, especially depending on the age and time limit when you’re going to be able to see that child.”
Age-Appropriate Suggestions for Estranged Families
The age of the child will dictate how to build the relationship:
Children under 8. For babies, toddlers and the youngest children, grandparent interaction will likely occur with the parents around. Manly suggests grandparents avoid commenting on a grandchild’s sleep or eating patterns, or anything that seems to question the parenting. Focus, instead, on generalities, like a child’s toys or outfit. Grandparents could try to take the child, once a little older, to the park on a set schedule, for example, to build familiarity.
9- to 13-year-olds. The older a child gets, the less receptive the child may be to building a relationship with a grandparent, especially if a foundation wasn’t set early on, Manly said. In this age group, grandparents could attend the child’s sports events or school activities, when possible, and try to build a friendship by going out together to get ice cream afterwards, for example.
Teenagers. Grandparents shouldn’t try to force relationships with teenage grandkids, Manly said. Simply be present, take an interest in the teen’s interests and attend activities when the child is participating.
General Guidelines for Grandparents in Estranged Families
Don’t buy the child’s affections. At any age, Manly warns against indulging the grandchildren too much by buying them things or spoiling them in other ways that go against their parents’ rules. This may heighten tensions with the parents and develop inauthentic relationships.
Never bad-mouth the parents. As kids get older, they will likely sense the estranged relationship between their parents and grandparents. Gilbertson stresses that grandparents should never talk badly of the grandkid’s parents, complain about the relationship or ask the child to be a go-between.
But Forsthoff urges grandparents and parents to agree on how to discuss the estranged relationship in case the child asks questions. The explanation should be truthful and age-appropriate — for example, everyone makes mistakes sometimes and people don’t get along all the time.
Communicate in any way possible. Forsthoff suggests grandparents stay in contact with grandchildren however they can, whether by text, phone calls, in person or by writing letters. If communication is completely cut off, she urges grandparents to write letters to their grandchildren and save them to deliver once the grandchild grows up.
Keep interactions positive. Manly encourages positivity in all interactions with grandchildren and their parents, even when hurt feelings exist. That means avoiding judgmental, sarcastic or passive-aggressive comments or actions.
Respecting Boundaries Can Make or Break Relationships
Since parents dictate how grandparent-grandchild relationships exist, it’s up to grandparents to respect any boundaries the parents set, such as bringing the child home on time, allowing or not allowing certain foods or talking about sensitive subjects.
A successful relationship depends on honoring boundaries, and not doing so can worsen the already estranged relationship and jeopardize access to the grandchildren, Manly said.
Grandparents may perceive parent’s rules as unfair or frustrating, Forsthoff said, but boundaries serve as an important reality check when navigating their family’s estrangement situation.
“Really understand what it is to have compassion for yourself and to accept the reality of the situation as it is, not as we wish it would be or hoped it would be, but to really sit with that,” she said.
Respecting rules and boundaries “creates goodwill between the parents and grandparents,” Gilbertson said, and sometimes, grandparents have to do whatever it takes to bond with the grandchildren.
“That’s unfortunate for grandparents,” she said. “I have sympathy for grandparents in this situation, and it’s a lot more common than people realize. If this is you, please know that you’re not alone, and reach out for support wherever you can find it.”
Erica Sweeney is a freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade.com and more.
Many of the common fears people have simply aren’t true
By Acts Retirement-Life Communities
Relocating to a new community has its challenges no matter what stage of life you find yourself in. It’s normal to feel all kinds of emotions ranging from excitement about your new surroundings to fear of the unknown.
But when it comes to independent living communities, many of the common fears people have simply aren’t true. There are some myths that seem to live on despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Here are five of those myths. Each is a commonly-held belief about what it’s like to be part of an independent living community, and all are untrue. If you’re thinking about independent living either for yourself or for a loved one, you’ll want to take note of these top myths so you can make the best decision — a decision that’s based on facts, not fiction.
Myth 1. Independent living communities are just too pricey for most people
Even if you’ve paid off your home and you’re mortgage-free, there are still a number of monthly costs that add up. Between utilities, insurance, taxes, repairs and other home ownership costs, the price of staying in your old house isn’t as low as you may think. Click here to read about the hidden costs of home ownership.
If you consider that down the line you may need some in-home services or medical care, you’ll only be adding to that budget. That’s why the price of independent living can favorably compare to the cost of staying in your own home as you age. Consider this: The average monthly cost of typical homemaker services, which do not include personal care, was about $4,000 in 2017. Combine that with the homeowner fees mentioned above and any medical care you may need as you age, and independent living communities are suddenly affordable in comparison.
Myth 2. ‘Independent living’ is really just another way of saying ‘nursing home’
People who believe this myth don’t understand what ‘independent living’ means. If you’re one of these people, you’re not alone. So much has changed with senior living in the past couple of decades that it’s understandable if lots of folks aren’t aware of all the new options out there.
‘Independent living’ is community living all right, but it’s for people who simply want a more carefree lifestyle. These communities are set up so that residents don’t have to worry about home maintenance, for example. Lawn care, snow removal, home repairs — all things of the past, as they are taken care of by management.
If you’ve ever lived in a community where there’s a homeowners’ association (HOA), you can think of independent living in a similar vein. Independent living is just more comprehensive and geared toward the needs of the 55+ crowd. Then add to that extra benefits like daily activities and events, fitness and hobby clubs like yoga and art classes, etc., and what independent living really means is a community of people who want to enjoy their retirement to the fullest without having to deal with unwanted responsibilities.
Myth 3. Moving to a senior community cuts you off from your friends and family
Unless you move out of state, the only way you’ll be cut off from friends is if you purposely make it a point to do so. Independent living communities do not place restrictions on having guests in your home and they provide more options for visiting them in their homes.
You’ll have more options for entertaining because you can not only invite your friends over to your home, you can also hold a gathering in your community’s common spaces. Many have clubhouse-style common areas that are available for social events. Picture a picnic by the grill, a game of water volleyball in the pool or a book club in the clubhouse.
You may even find that it’s easier to visit old friends after a move to independent living. If driving is a problem, many communities have all sorts of transportation options that help residents get where they need to be. Want further proof? Read about how Acts Retirement-Life Communities has addressed the importance of socialization and made it a priority within its communities.
Myth 4. Moving to independent living means you lose your independence
There’s a lot of irony in this myth — that should be a giant tip-off that it’s completely untrue. One of the major fears of Americans 65 and older is that they will lose their independence. It’s a prime reason that many older Americans resist moving to any type of senior living community, even one that’s designed for independent living.
This myth probably arises from confusion about all the different types of senior living communities that are available today. The spectrum ranges from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing, each vastly different from the others.
There are independent living communities where people live in their own homes and the only communal aspect to their arrangement is that home maintenance and lawn care are taken care of. They’re free to cook their own meals, have overnight guests and keep their pets.
There are also independent living communities where some residents opt for meals in a central dining location, or they partake in social activities sponsored by the community. Sometimes residents sign up for housekeeping services, too.
The point is: The choice is up to each resident of how many services they want to add to their own arrangement and how independent they want to be.
With assisted living — a different type of senior living community — things are different. Assisted living communities offer a higher level of care for older adults who need it. For example, most offer an on-site caregiver who’s there every day, 24 hours a day. These communities also serve meals and provide assistance with dining for those who need it. Residents often receive medical management, personal care and a wide range of wellness programs and life enrichment programs designed for those who may find it more difficult to travel outside the community regularly for socializing.
As you can see, independent living is vastly different from assisted living.
Do you want to learn more about independent living but also have the option to move to assisted living or skilled care in the future, if necessary? You should learn more about Continuing Care Retirement Communities. CCRCs provide residents a wide range of living options based on their current and ongoing needs.
Myth 5. There’s nothing to do
This myth might be the most unfounded yet. The truth is, lots of people who make the move to independent living communities find their schedules are more packed than ever before.
Not having to worry about chores tends to free up your time for better things. With more time for socializing and exercising, people who move to independent living have far more opportunities to stay busy, active and social.
Most communities provide access to organized social events, classes and outings. Hobby groups are common, too, and many of these activities are open to your family members as well.
With all there is to do and with all the freedom from not having to worry about home maintenance or chores, lots of people who make the move to independent living find their new home to be more exciting than they ever imagined. Now that these top myths have been debunked, you can begin to see all the benefits of this exciting new type of community and maybe even envision yourself enjoying the carefree lifestyle of an independent living community.by
Celebrating 65 years of ministry and service to the seniors of Clifton and Bosque County, Lutheran Sunset Ministries offers inspired retirement living options at every life stage. Our 32-acre campus is designed as an intimate setting of neighborhoods that accommodate residents at various levels of care. In addition to quality health and wellness opportunities, Lutheran Sunset Ministries provides an enriched lifestyle through innovative programs, interdisciplinary activities, and a focus on physical, intellectual, social and spiritual growth.
Providing the only full continuum of care available in Bosque County—including independent living, assisted living, long-term care, rehabilitation and therapy, memory support, hospice services and companion services—Lutheran Sunset Ministries is a cornerstone of the region. With a state-of-the-art healthcare building, an increase in services and amenities, and a rededication to providing services that allow people to live full and enriched lives, Lutheran Sunset Ministries has created a quality of life unparalleled in the region.
Call us at 254.675.8637 to learn more about becoming a resident at Lutheran Sunset Ministries.
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P.O. Box 71
413 Sunset Avenue
Clifton, Texas 76634
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