Comparing Apples and Oranges… A Personal Perspective

apples and orangesComparing apples to oranges is a phrase to describe something which is both the same and different simultaneously depending on your point of view. When someone says “you’re comparing apples to oranges” they’re really saying “Why are you trying to compare those things? You can’t compare apples to oranges, they’re just not the same thing.”

Let’s relate this analogy to  senior care  – with  another story that  hits close to home. Last August, my 91 year-old mother-in-law suffered a massive stroke. Initially, there was little hope of survival let alone any quality of life, as the stroke left her paralyzed on one side, speech was significantly altered and cognitive abilities impaired.  For months her quality of life looked bleak.

The first skilled nursing facility to which she was admitted was lovely with all the latest interior design features, a valet to greet us at the front door. Had I not been far too familiar with what to look for in “quality care”, it would impress anyone.

Unfortunately my first indication that the culture was less than adequate was when my husband and I signed in. We asked politely if we needed a badge and was told by the receptionist that she couldn’t find where they were and “I don’t really care if you have a badge.”

Halls were devoid of any activity (though they were “lovely”), staff was hard to find and I noticed most people lying in bed with TVs blaring. When we entered my mother-in-law’s room she was alone and slumped over in her wheelchair, facing a wall with her food tray nearby. Her “meal” was cold soup and grilled cheese. At the time it was delivered, I’m sure it was warm. Everything was exactly where it was when it was delivered. Why? Because the person who delivered her food did not stay to help her get utensils out of the plastic bag (really?), put sugar in her ice tea, or take the lids off her food. She had a stroke with only one side of her body able to move (and it was not her dominant side). SHE NEEDED HELP! I’m pretty sure this is in the “Caregiving 101” manual of any facility, but now I’m wondering?!?

Weeks went by with my amazing sister-in-law by her side constantly to monitor each and every detail. And at each every turn there were challenges. Weight loss, swelling, bed sores, an apparent lack of trained staff at every juncture. It was clear that this community had problems, the core being there was no culture of care. Nothing was getting better, so things HAD to change.

Being a veteran, she was able to get into the Tennessee State Veterans Home  skilled nursing facility. She was greeted with a warm welcome by a team of healthcare professionals ready to get her better – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Today, she is thriving. She has caregivers that truly care for  her, activities that engage her mind and body, and an atmosphere of teamwork among staff. She is taken to community events, shopping, and other recreational activities. She has engaged with staff and residents and knows practically everyone by name. It is truly a culture that exhibits person-centered values above all else. It would probably not win an award for interior design, but in fact has won awards for the level of care and commitment they have for their residents.

As with so many things in life – It’s not in the packaging.. it’s what’s inside. Comparing apples and oranges when it comes to senior care. You have to look beyond the packaging.

The AGE-u-cated® Care Team, Family Member and Organization

No misspelling here.   Who needs  AGE-u-cation?  Our care teams, family members, elder care providers, hospitals,  business community, churches, non-profits need to be MUCH better AGE-u-cated®!

It’s no secret that the world’s elderly population is soaring, with the number of people aged 65 and over expected to more than double by 2050.
The global population is aging at an unprecedented rate with 8.5 per cent of people worldwide – or more than 600 million – now aged 65 and over,  a report from the US Census Bureau showed.
If the trend continues, then nearly 17 per cent of the global population – 1.6 billion people – will be in the 65-and-over age bracket by 2050.
Many experts agree that we are facing a public health crisis, and we’re just starting the steep climb in numbers.  Frightening?  You bet!  Are we moving fast enough?  Not even near…

I was inspired by our group of new Master Trainers last week who are passionate about training and education for those caring for this vulnerable population.  Bringing new, innovative tools to the hands of direct care staff who are in desperate need, we are aiming to do our part in creating change in attitudes, actions and thinking for a world who needs to better communicate and care for our elderly population.

We applaud those on our team deeply committed to advocacy at the state and national levels,  fighting for pay and benefit increases for those we are entrusting to care for our loved ones, patients and resident; for helping to change policies for the betterment of a healthcare system that is inefficient and wrought with inefficiencies.

AGE-u-cation?  Each and every one of us needs it.  We must train up our young people to understand that caring for elders will and should be a part of their life;  that careers in this field are desperately needed and highly rewarding.

I’ve quoted the wise words of Nelson Mandela before – “It always seems impossible until IT’S DONE”.

We on the AGE-u-cate Tea, want to be a part of GETTING IT DONE!
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You Know What They Say About the Weather…Wait Five Minutes

Dramatic Image of Scruffy Man Freezing in Cold Weather

At least that’s what they say here in Texas, when it’s 80 degrees one day, and hitting the freezing mark the same night.  We’ve barely had a winter to speak of this year, so my recent trip to experience the Boston blizzard was an adventure and a treat.  So what does the weather have to do with aging and dementia you ask?

Yikes –  I think it’s a great analogy!  Have you walked the floors of a Memory Care Community lately?  The sun is shining and people are happy.  But wait 5 minutes… maybe 5 seconds… and the weather  can all change.  The blizzard can move in quickly and chaos panic and disorder can soon be the order of the day.   Time for deep breathing and some quick meditation.    Person centered care… what’s that?!

I love the term  PERSON-CENTERED THINKING. That takes person-centered care to a whole new level.  To me, person-centered thinking implies that our first response, our actions, our thought process is focused on another’s well being.  When we have tools in our belt that allow us to respond to behavioral expression that look like rain, snow, blizzard or tornado – we’re ready.

Are we equipping our care partners in senior care with the right tools to weather the storms?  

I’m going to venture to guess that most of “us”, because we’re all in this together, could do a better job.  After all, there is always room to grow, right?  Innovation, creativity and the will to want to be better at what we do is a part of life.  We all want to be better equipped to weather the storms.

That blizzard that hit Boston a week ago was followed by a bright beautiful sunny day.  Everyone got back to work and life.   I was able to do what I had travelled there to do (training), flew home the next day….

…and the storm hit again!

For information on the University of Minnesota’s Person-Centered Thinking program:




For Better or Worse…Love that Endures the Test of Time

Corinthians 13:7 Love PoemLove is in the air during this week of celebrating Valentines Day. My parents were married on Valentines Day, 1941, so this day always makes me reflect on their 56 years together. Both raised during the tumultuous depression years, they built a successful life together from humble beginnings. True partners in business and life, they raised 5 daughters, and enjoyed many triumphs and together faced many challenges along their journey. Their love certainly endured the test of time.

Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation” talks about this World War II generation’s perseverance through difficult times as a testament to their extraordinary character. These men and women developed values that were rooted in personal responsibility, duty, honor and faith. I reflect on the stories that my parents’ shared of their childhood years, young married life and it certainly was no question where they strength and fortitude to face life challenges were formed.

Nothing however, prepared either of them or our family for their aging years when dementia entered my dad’s world and later Parkinson’s disease for my mother. We witnessed our tall, strong father slowly be swept into another world, while my mother struggled to live with the roller coaster of emotions of each new day.

What seemed to hurt the most was their growing loss of independence. The role reversal that takes place between parents and adult children is not natural or easy in any way. In my parents’ case, it was small signs that alerted us to their need for help. Our constant struggle was when to step in and how to do it with grace. Sometimes it went fairly well, and other times it left all of us hurting – to the core.

My work today is centered on the life changing journey of caring for my parents. Through Dad’s dementia journey and then later walking beside my sweet mom as she gracefully fought the battle of her life with Parkinson’s Disease, I could not be more thankful for experiencing it all with them, and honored in what I was able to do for them.

Their love brought them through the most joyous and darkest of days. And although their aging years were not easy, I was immensely blessed to have been a part of all of it, for the difficult times made me a stronger person and made me realize that..

Deep, strong and faithful love ALWAYS endures the test of time.

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