Our Wesley Ridge resident, Dr. John Kirker has some definite ideas on the key to a long and happy life. And at 97, he’s an expert on the topic. Read his tips here!
Amy Shaffer, marketing coordinator at Wesley Ridge, explains her experiences with end of life decisions. Take a moment to read her tips for discussing advance directives and end of life decisions with your partner, your parents and your closest friends.
By: Peg Carmany
I first began to work in senior housing in 2002, and it’s remarkable to me how fast those 15 years have flown by. As I look back, I think my biggest misconception at the beginning was that I was here to help them. In reality, they have given me invaluable gifts of knowledge and friendship.
Here are but a few of the things I have learned from my residents over the years:
- Adversity does not have to define you. If you get a chance to live into your 80s (or 90s) (or 100s!), life will definitely throw you some curve balls. Poor health. Unexpected loss of a loved one. Financial troubles. You name it. And at some point (and I’m not entirely sure at what age, but it will happen), you grieve, you adjust, and then you accept that everyone is carrying around something that is burdensome.
- Once you realize #1, you are kinder to others as a result.
- Gratitude is important. It sounds trite, “Count your blessings.” But it is not trite, it is important. Almost always, there is something, oftentimes more than one thing, to truly be grateful for, and to acknowledge.
- If you become a good listener, most people will think you’re a terrific conversationalist.
- Life is short, and it goes by quickly, and none of us are getting out of here alive. Don’t waste a day lost in meaningless details. Know that “This too shall pass,” eventually.
Now in 2018, I continue to remind myself how much our residents have helped me grow as a human being. I am better at handling the curveballs that life throws my way, whether it’s at home or at work and I strive, every day, to express my gratitude in a variety of ways. But most importantly, I truly enjoy spending time with the people who have taught me so much. There’s always room to grow.
As I sat listening to Mr. A work his brain out, on the Dakim BrainFitness machine, he turned to me and said, “You know your memory is a very important thing. You will see so much in this life and your memory keeps track of it all.” I pondered this for a moment. He’s right. Every important event, face, and activity is all stored in my memory. Could you imagine losing it all?
Unfortunately, a decline in memory is a reality with age. As people age, their ability to remember often declines, even if they don’t suffer from dementia or another mental illness. This could be due to many factors including:
- The shrinking of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a small organ in the brain that is involved in memory, especially long-term memory.
- The repair process declines. Brain cells often need repaired but, the hormones that repair them decline with age. This could lead to fewer functioning brain cells and an impaired memory.
- A decline in blood flow to the brain is also common with age. This can impair memory but, it can also affect cognitive skills such as reading.
Luckily, progress has been made to prevent these changes. In a clinical trial conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine, Dakim BrainFitness was shown to significantly improve the two most important cognitive functions — memory and language abilities — and users strengthened attention, focus, and concentration.
And let me tell you, it works for Mr. A! As he and I continued our conversation, he sang his favorite song (Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue, 1925), recited a bible verse starting with every letter of the alphabet, and told me vivid, detailed stories from when he was a teacher.
Our residents have fun working on the Dakim BrianFitness machines and they keep their memory in tip-top shape! We are proud to have some of the few machines in Ohio.
Resources: apa.org, helpguide.org, ucla.edu
A poem to Ann from Joan:
O Ann, Ann, our comedian;
Our hostess with the mostest; our Samaritan.
You’ve united us beyond compare
With cards and costumes debonair.
The get-together meetings for new residers
And appetizers are grand providers
PDR dinners for new neighbors are great.
They help make it easier to relate.
Your current events really keep us more sane
As we discuss the happenings that rattle our brain.
How much we owe you, our very dear friend,
For making our lives comfortably inter-blend.
So let us be thankful for your intercession
Making a compassionate, caring population.
I like to meet people, talk to them and learn something unique about them. I learned early on from my father the art of being social. As I look back on my life, I realize that I have met some amazing people. Think about those individuals you knew in your neighborhood, your high school, college, maybe even your first job. We have crossed paths with people who have impacted our lives in some way. But I think the most interesting people I have found are in my own family.
My niece Emma Grace is a freshman at a local high school and was assigned a special project: interview someone and document the conversation. She had to write a list of questions based on who her subject was, and she was even going to videotape it. This is coming from a generation that spends time with their heads down, buried in their phones, and fingers madly typing a thousand miles an hour, not readily engaged nor seeming to care what anyone thinks or says.
And Emma? She chose a subject very near and dear to my heart: her grandmother, my mother. We set everything up in the living room of my sister’s home: lights, camera, chairs and had the microphone ready to capture grandma’s responses. I couldn’t wait to hear what Emma was going to ask her. What was her favorite food? Who was her favorite grandchild? Surprisingly, I was not even close.
Emma had thought diligently about her questions. She knew my mother grew up poor, the seventh child of eight children in a coal-mining town. She knew that she had traveled to Austria a few summers ago to visit her mother’s town. She knew she lost her husband to cancer at a young age. I sat there while Emma interviewed my mother and was captivated. There were things I did not know about my mother. “Grandma, tell me when you knew HE was the one?” “How did you deal with the death of your husband at such a young age?” “What do you hope that your children or grandchildren learned from you?” Yes, these were some of the questions dear Emma asked my mother. I was overwhelmed by emotion.
Too often we wait to acknowledge what someone means to us after they pass away or leave us. And what we miss is the simple fact that someone so close to us fell in love, had dreams, fears and philosophies that we never knew. But we can ask them…now. I ask my mother a lot about her life, and I have many memories tucked away, but I learned so many things that day.
I challenge you to take a moment and go on a verbal journey with someone you love, respect or maybe always wanted to just know more about. Don’t be afraid to ask them thought-provoking questions or just about what makes them tick. We all have that inside each of us. It is amazing what you can learn and how you feel afterwards. One journey in a conversation. Take that trip. If you would like to share a life-changing conversation, share with us.
Hold on to your political hats, Ohio. The 2016 Presidential Campaign is about to get real and will make many stops right here in our home state. It has already started — Super Tuesday comes to Ohio on March 15th. Do you know the candidates and what they stand for?
The 2016 election campaign is already shaping up to be one for the record books. Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, your vote for our next President of the United States will go down in the record books and is more than likely to change your life in some way. From Social Security to Medicare to healthcare and everything in between, the platform of your chosen candidate or that of the opponent will change the face of America moving forward.
And once again, national eyes are on Ohio. When Ohioans head to the polls on March 15th, they will have the opportunity to cast their votes for a former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or another U.S. Senator who touts many years of expertise in Washington and refers to himself as a socialist. Interestingly enough, Bernie Sanders is gaining a lot of traction with the millennial generation. On the flip side, the GOP brings a whole other element with business tycoon Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. And let’s not forget our very own Governor John Kasich, who just this past weekend announced he is just ramping up his campaign to a whole new level. Hang on. It’s going to be one interesting campaign year.
As part of the population heading toward retirement, there are a few topics the candidates are drilled in on that should have you on alert:
Medicare & Healthcare: Both have serious impact on the aging population as the funding and affordability of private and public healthcare plans, drug companies and programs will directly affect long-term care, health insurance and so much more. Pay attention and make sure you understand every nuance of not only your candidate, but also the opposition.
Social Security: Baby boomers are aging out of the system at a rapid rate. Many are heading towards retirement. The system was created to provide secure retirement for Americans who have paid into it throughout their work life. It also has been critical as income for those individuals who may have suffered the loss of the main breadwinner. In 2013 alone, 22 million Americans were kept from living at poverty level because of Social Security. But, as we know, this system is in trouble. Updating Social Security for future generations is crucial and a primary focus for candidates. Want more info? Check out www.2016takeastand.org.
In addition, focus on our foreign policy, minimum wage, college affordability and the effects of global warming and environment changes and needs are all topics that will have impact to not only you, but also to your family, your grandchildren and future generations. Remember, voting is your American right. Choose wisely.
And on a personal note: Rest in peace, Mrs. Reagan. Thank you for your service.
February 8, 1926. That is the day she was born. She is Helen Jean, and she is my mother’s sister, my aunt and my Godmother. She grew up in the tiny coal-mining town of Glen Robbins, Ohio in a four-room house with her seven siblings and parents. Yes, ten people in a four-room house. She lived there for 88 and a half years until we moved her to a memory care center and sold her house.
Last week, my mother and I visited her. When we walked in she was sitting in the common room with other residents. She greeted us and told us she was going to a dance. She introduced her “sisters” and we walked back to her room. We sat on the edge of her bed and sang “Happy Birthday” to her. She smiled and said we sang so well we should be on television! Then she opened the gifts we brought her and ate some of the candy, especially the Tootsie Pops. She loves the cherry ones the best.
Why do I tell you this? As I grew up, my family always made a big deal about birthdays. We still do. And my dear Aunt Helen never missed one. Not for my four sisters or me. She always sent us a card in the mail, brought us a little gift and stood in our kitchen and sang our family birthday song. Memories. My family celebrates our birthdays and those of our friends, co-workers, etc. Why? Because we believe that each person is brought into this world with a unique gift to give…. Themselves…. and that they should be celebrated.
My aunt is 90! That is almost a century of living…..of moments and memories, of snapshots and dreams. And everyone has their own. How wonderful is that? Individuals who are residing in senior communities, assisted living or nursing centers should especially be celebrated. They have so many stories to tell and knowledge to share.
It does not take a lot to recognize someone on his or her special day. Send a card, make a phone call and sing into the phone, arrange a lunch or dinner with friends, bring a cake to a neighbor or just pick up a bouquet—do something even if it as simple as showing up and saying “Happy Birthday”.
So I ask you to think about someone you know who is celebrating a birthday soon. Celebrate with them. You will enjoy it. I promise. Do you have a favorite birthday memory? Share it with us.
Happy Birthday, Aunt Helen. I love you.
What Is #GivingTuesday?
By now, most of us have probably heard about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These “holidays” following Thanksgiving can be great ways to find some items on sale before Christmas, and you can end up saving a lot of money by heading to a local business on Small Business Saturday or by surfing the web on shopping sites on Cyber Monday.
What Is #GivingTuesday and What Day Is It?
Giving Tuesday is the day following Cyber Monday that encourages giving to different organizations or community programs instead of spending money on commercial needs. You can give to any nonprofit organization that interests you, and then share how it helps others on your social media pages. This year in 2015, it takes place on December 1st. This newly-christened day is a way for people to give back when they might not have known about organizations that need funds in order to continue their services.
How Can You Help?
Consider donating the amount you saved on your Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains to our organization this year on Giving Tuesday! Many folks are not aware that it can be difficult to pay for daily living expenses as a Methodist ElderCare resident. These struggles can make daily life stressful and uncomfortable for the residents here—even after they might have been saving for years, they might have experienced a setback or two that would have drained their funds. Many find themselves struggling to pay for services or daily needs, lowering the quality of their lives and health care. Your donation will be sincerely appreciated by our residents.
How Do These Donations Help Others?
In 2014, we at Methodist ElderCare offered 56 residents $1.4 million in care. This money goes directly to helping the residents at either the Wesley Glen or Wesley Ridge location, and goes into the Charitable Care Fund. Each situation is looked at, and the money from the Charitable Care Fund fills in the gaps between what the resident can pay and how much is needed in order to stay there. One year in a nursing home can cost over $80,000, so there’s always a need for more assistance.
Nursing home care also manages to become more expensive every year. Last year, 4% was the five-year annual growth rate for the cost of living in a nursing home. When you are thinking about spending your money on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday, think about putting it to a different use and donating money to your favorite charity or the Methodist ElderCare Services. By giving a little money on Giving Tuesday, you can increase the quality of someone’s life.
To learn more about #GivingTuesday or to make a donation, please visit www.methodisteldercare.org/giving-tuesday.
Whether you call it a random act of kindness or paying it forward, doing something unexpected for someone else feels good. If you know someone who gives their time taking care of a loved one or friend, you have an opportunity to give back to him or her. November is officially National Family Caregivers month and the perfect time to make a difference in the life of a caregiver.
Being a caregiver can start out as small as just raking leaves for an elderly neighbor or balancing your mother’s checkbook. But most times, and especially for those of us with aging parents or relatives, it comes at you unexpected, like an out of control train. Such was the case of my 75-year-old mother who never expected to be a caregiver for her two siblings, still living in the family home. My uncle was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. My aunt was healthy but always taken care of, and she was unable to deal with household chores, much less taking my uncle to chemo treatments. So my mother stepped in. As a former nurse, it was natural to her, but over time it took a toll on her physical, mental and emotional health.
Because we lived several hours away, my sisters and I looked for things we could do to alleviate anything extra our mother needed to do around her own house and ways to help her relax. As expected, the last person a caregiver takes care of is often himself or herself.
So what can you do? It’s the little things. Here are some ideas:
- Rake their yard or shovel snow from driveways and sidewalks
- Bake some cookies or a pie
- Buy her a certificate for a massage or day at a spa
- Cook a meal or stock up on groceries
- Be the driver for the caregiver to help run errands or take her client to doctor’s appointments
- Not using your sports tickets? Extend them to your friend for a night out
- Drop off a nice bottle of wine
- Send them a card just letting them know you are thinking of them
- Take their car to get an oil change or tires checked
- Fix things around their house: a leaky faucet, clogged drain or clean the carpets
- Buy him/her a Kindle and download the latest books or just buy several new paperbacks
- Put a care package in the mail
Pay attention to things that are unique and personal to the caregiver and extend those random acts of kindness to them. I guarantee that any gesture, no matter how small, will go a long way. Caregivers are extra-special people who may be doing something that takes the burden off of you and your family. Let’s show them we care.
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