Category Archives: Faith Community

A Special Grandparent’s Day

Lessons from an old tree.

You might be wondering why a picture of an old tree? This tree caught my attention while on a walk through a nearby forest preserve. I studied its shape, holes, splinters, and ragged edges. I didn’t know then why it captivated me so, but it did.

This tree, such as it is, a shell of itself from long ago still stands. How miraculous is this? Despite the trauma over the years, damaging winds, hail, heavy snow and ice, it still stands. Indeed, time is stamped on this tree, and its roots are weaker and deteriorated.  But it stands proudly, majestically demonstrating its resilience and strength.

I’ll call her Matilda (my grandmother’s name). Imagine the experiences she lived through and the stories she could tell. If only we had the opportunity to learn from this wise old oak. I would love to know what this forest preserve was like 50 or maybe even 100 years ago.

I speculate that sometimes Matilda had to dig deep for water and call on strength to brace against the hard times. But, she also got to bask in the glory of the nourishing sun and gentle rains and was probably thankful for the good times.  Her wisdom is unmatched in the forest, I am sure.

Matilda likely housed many critters over the years and created a safe space for them to call home. How many different species did she encounter over time? Insects, rodents, mammals, birds, canines felines, all in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Some may have taken advantage of her, but hopefully, most treated her with kindness and respect.

A Little Extra for Grandparents Day

This tree personifies grandparents for me, and that’s why I admire it so much.  I think it is true that you don’t know what you had until it is gone.  Three of my grandparents didn’t see me graduate from high school, and the last, my grandfather, died when my daughter was six years old.  She has only a faint memory of him.

It’s not too late to extend Grandparent’s day.   I know I would if I could.

I attribute my love for working with and advocating for the welfare of older adults to the loving relationship I had with both sets of grandparents. The memories I have of them all fill my heart with that longing to have just one more conversation.

Grandparents deserve to be celebrated! Congress had this right in 1978 when Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation.

If you have the good fortune to have a living grandparent, learn all you can from your beautiful, wise tree.

 

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Dementia-Friendly Faith Communities: Let’s Get Started

Faith communities should start to think about creating a culture of acceptance for persons with dementia.

Many faith communities find themselves investing in worship experiences that will attract younger members.  However, it is just as essential to keep older members engaged and attending worship services, including those with dementia.

Faith often plays a vital role in the lives of persons with dementia and their family members.  But, the presence of dementia can greatly interfere with a person’s ability to actively engage in their faith community.

Becoming a dementia-friendly congregation will create an open and welcoming environment for all.  It is an initiative that can be embraced by all members, regardless of age.  Faith communities are stronger when they recognize the value of multi-generational connection and interaction.

Dementia-Friendly Transformation

Church leaders can begin by calling upon professional community resources to educate congregational members about the needs of persons with dementia.

We should dispel notions that people with dementia are incapable of benefitting from worship.  As a result,  persons with dementia can be more easily understood and accepted with compassion and lack of judgment.

Recognizing when someone stops attending is a good first step.  Leaving the house alone as the disease progresses is very overwhelming and leads to isolation. Mobilizing volunteers to reach out and offer transportation could help them hold on to their faith a little longer.

Start with Small Changes

Begin with simple changes to assist persons with dementia to better navigate their way around the church. Therefore, consider forming a group of volunteers, with specialized training, to serve as ambassadors to escort or sit with someone in need.

Create opportunities for purposeful engagement to keep them connected.  Serving as a greeter, wiping down tables after fellowship, or telling a bible story in Sunday school may be a possibility.

Dementia-friendly worship is best when it is inclusive and engaging.  In doing so, we help them stay close to God and honor the mothers and fathers of our faith.

Beth is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a compassionate professional with decades of experience as a Registered Nurse, caregiver, patient advocate, educator, and trainer.  Early in her career, Beth found her passion for working with elderly populations and their caregivers.  Living in the Green Bay/Fox Valley area with her husband, she enjoys driving a ski boat for barefoot or slalom water-skiers, playing board games or creating a new quilt.

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  she provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving to private and professional caregivers.  She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Is it Possible for Doctors to Provide Compassionate Care?

The Physician’s Oath promises to approach all patients with integrity, candor, empathy, and respect.  I believe that most doctors take their oath seriously.  I believe most doctors study very hard because they truly want to help other people and make a positive difference in the field of medicine.  Doctors have a tremendous responsibility in today’s messy healthcare environment.  They work long hours, have many patients and deal with lots of complications to ultimately deliver the care that their patients need.  So, is it really possible for doctors to provide compassionate care?

I will speak only from a patient and patient advocate perspective, after having been a caregiver to my aging parents for many years.  Most doctors want to listen to their patients and get to know them beyond their medical conditions.  I really believe that.  I think most doctors would agree that the complexities of healthcare take away from the time they would like to spend with their patients and families so that they can be a source of compassion and guidance.

For doctors to provide compassionate care, they must have time.  Unfortunately,  this is rarely a luxury, if at all.  Treating patients medical needs is first and foremost when it comes down to it.  Having the time to converse and get to know their patients is almost unheard of these days.  So how can doctors provide compassionate care when the odds are stacked against them in so many ways.

In dementia training, we teach the importance of eye-to-eye contact,  slowing down, speaking with respect to another person, gently holding one’s hand to provide comfort among other simple gestures. These are signs of compassionate care that take no more time than the alternative.  Sometimes a smile or caring concern is all it takes to quickly make another person feel like they are important to another person – even if it’s brief.

Doctors are fixers, and it’s natural in their hurried days to be focused on fixing what’s wrong.  And no doubt that is monumentally important.  As healers, though, a doctor can and should practice compassionate care even though the odds are often stacked against you.  Compassionate care can be taught, learned and passed on to others. It’s an emotional, spiritual and transformational gift that you give another person shown with the simplest of gestures.

Compassion can be felt by another just by the gift of your genuine presence.

Pam Brandon is President of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  She is the creator of the Dementia Live® Simulation and Awareness Program.  

Recognizing the Work of Long-Term Care Ombudsman

In recognition of National Volunteer’s month,  I’d like to honor the people who serve as long-term care ombudsman.  Many people do not realize the important role they play in keeping our elders safe by advocating for their rights.

The long-term care ombudsman program is mandated by state and federal law and funded by the Older Americans Act  (OAA) through the Executive Office of Elder Affairs.  Under this Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system.

According to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC), each state has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (Office), headed by a full-time State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (Ombudsman) who directs the program statewide. Across the nation, staff and thousands of volunteers are designated by State Ombudsmen as representatives to directly serve residents.

What is the Responsibility of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman? 

The Ombudsman program advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities, and other similar adult care facilities. State Ombudsmen and their designated representatives work to resolve problems individual residents face and effect change at the local, state, and national levels to improve quality of care. In addition to identifying, investigating, and resolving complaints, Ombudsman program responsibilities include:

  • Educating residents, their family and facility staff about residents’ rights, good care practices, and similar long-term services and support resources;
  • Ensuring residents have regular and timely access to ombudsman services;
  • Providing technical support for the development of resident and family councils;
  • Advocating for changes to improve residents’ quality of life and care;
  • Providing information to the public regarding long-term care facilities and services, residents’
  • rights, and legislative and policy issues;
  • Representing resident interests before governmental agencies; and
  • Seeking legal, administrative and other remedies to protect residents.

We are honored to train many long-term care ombudsman on our programs.  Their dedication and passion to help older adults are admirable.  As our aging population swells, more people will reside in care facilities and the need for more ombudsman is growing.  We encourage others to consider volunteering for this organization.  You may contact your local Area Agency on Aging or the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Center to learn more.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.