Each January and February, senior living facilities often notice an increase in phone calls requesting information about admission requirements. Inquiries come from family members who have observed differences in a loved one’s personality, memory or daily routine during holiday visits.
It’s common for family members to begin using both “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” to describe their loved one’s changing state of mind, but the medical conditions are not the same. The article from AARP below will help caretakers begin to understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s and provide talking points for discussions with medical professionals about your loved one’s health.
Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: Which Is It?
How to understand the difference — and why it matters
The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” have been around for more than a century, which means people have likely been mixing them up for that long, too. But knowing the difference is important. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (accounting for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases), there are several other types. The second most common form, vascular dementia, has a very different cause — namely, high blood pressure. Other types of dementia include alcohol-related dementia, Parkinson’s dementia and frontotemporal dementia; each has different causes as well. In addition, certain medical conditions can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia.
A correct diagnosis means the right medicines, remedies and support. For example, knowing that you have Alzheimer’s instead of another type of dementia might lead to a prescription for a cognition-enhancing drug instead of an antidepressant. Finally, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s if you’ve been specifically diagnosed with the disease.
What it is…
In the simplest terms, dementia is a nonreversible decline in mental function.
It is a catchall phrase that encompasses several disorders that cause chronic memory loss, personality changes or impaired reasoning, Alzheimer’s disease being just one of them, says Dan G. Blazer, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.
To be called dementia, the disorder must be severe enough to interfere with your daily life, says Constantine George Lyketsos, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center in Baltimore.
It is a specific disease that slowly and irreversibly destroys memory and thinking skills.
Eventually, Alzheimer’s disease takes away the ability to carry out even the simplest tasks.
A cure for Alzheimer’s remains elusive, although researchers have identified biological evidence of the disease: amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain. You can see them microscopically, or more recently, using a PET scan that employs a newly discovered tracer that binds to the proteins. You can also detect the presence of these proteins in cerebral spinal fluid, but that method isn’t used often in the U.S.
How it’s diagnosed…
A doctor must find that you have two or three cognitive areas in decline.
These areas include disorientation, disorganization, language impairment and memory loss. To make that diagnosis, a doctor or neurologist typically administers several mental-skill challenges.
In the Hopkins verbal learning test, for example, you try to memorize then recall a list of 12 words — and a few similar words may be thrown in to challenge you. Another test — also used to evaluate driving skills — has you draw lines to connect a series of numbers and letters in a complicated sequence.
There’s no definitive test; doctors mostly rely on observation and ruling out other possibilities.
For decades, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease has been a guessing game based on looking at a person’s symptoms. A firm diagnosis was not possible until an autopsy was performed.
But that so-called guessing game, which is still used today in diagnosing the disease, is accurate between 85 and 90 percent of the time, Lyketsos says. The new PET scan can get you to 95 percent accuracy, but it’s usually recommended only as a way to identify Alzheimer’s in patients who have atypical symptoms.
Closing Thoughts from St. Anne’s…
As a caretaker, the most important thing is noticing a difference in your loved one’s behavior – and not trying to diagnose the condition or the cause on your own. Make notes of your observations, have conversations with other family members and ultimately schedule an appointment with a doctor who can provide guidance regarding your love one’s changing health. It’s also helpful to contact senior living facilities about admission requirements, waiting lists and other information related to your loved one’s care.
Source: AARP, June 25, 2018
We’ve all been there. While our vision for the holiday season is one of intimate gatherings, delicious meals and bliss, the reality can be much the opposite. The volume of activities, shifting of schedules, decadent food and potential for conflict can put added strain on the entire family. Especially older adults.
If you’re an older adult, or if you care for someone who is, you can make the holidays more manageable by taking just a short amount of time to plan ahead. By considering some of the factors you can control this season, you can make the holidays safer, healthier and merrier. Holiday activities for older adults. Here are tips for surviving – and savoring – the holiday season.
1. Set realistic expectations.
Most people have a tendency to romanticize the holiday season. They yearn for the movie-scene, stress-free experiences where everyone is happy and healthy. Where everything is easy and there are no mishaps. But the reality is that, for most families, the holidays don’t go exactly as planned. They bring some stress. And they may even be a source of conflict. By expecting the unexpected during the holidays, you can be prepared for whatever they hold and eliminate the disappointment that can come with inflated expectations.
2. Plan ahead for dietary needs.
The holidays are the time of extravagant menus. Decadent treats. And favorite traditional foods. But older adults may have dietary needs that prevent them from indulging. If you’re planning a holiday meal or event, be sure to ask your guests about special dietary needs in advance. If you’re the person with the special needs, consider bringing your own dish. Or modify elements of the meal you’re served.
3. Be aware of safety risks in unfamiliar homes.
For older adults with disabilities or mobility challenges, an unfamiliar place can be loaded with hidden hazards. Be aware of things like throw rugs, door mats, barriers in doorways or hallways, and cords or loose items that may present a fall risk for older adults. Keep rooms and hallways illuminated. And if a holiday event is being hosted in the home of an older adult with any type of cognitive condition or memory loss, consider how moving furniture or changing the configuration of a room might effect their experience.
4. Be prepared for quickly changing weather conditions.
December is a month that, in many parts of the country, can bring extreme fluctuations in temperature and weather. Layering can help ensure older adults are comfortable during the holidays. And appropriate outerwear – including hats, gloves and boots – can help protect them from the elements as they make their way to all of their holiday events and activities. If you live in colder climates, be sure you’re armed with shovels, salt and other supplies that will keep porches and walkways safe.
5. Recognize the signs of seasonal depression.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 7 million adults over the age of 65 experience depression. Why? Because depression can be triggered by certain health conditions, and even medications. It can also become more likely when an older adult is adjusting to a significant change, such as a loss, illness or home relocation. The holiday season can intensify depression and its symptoms for older adults. If you or someone you love is experiencing deep feelings of sadness or anxiety, a change in eating or sleeping habits or loss of interest in daily activities and/or personal hygiene, see your doctor.
6. Try to maintain a schedule and routine.
While it may not be possible to maintain every routine during the busy holiday season, keeping some structure can be invaluable for older adults. Predictability and consistency in schedule and routine can help improve quality of life. And studies have shown that routines can help reduce stress and anxiety; enhance feelings of safety, security and confidence; and aid in better sleep. While some routines can have some degree of flexibility, there is one that cannot – and that is the medication schedule. Be sure to keep it on track as holiday activities take hold. Consider calendar reminders, alerts or alarms to help ensure older adults continue prescribed dosage and schedule for important medications.
7. Get adequate sleep.
Getting effective, restorative sleep can be a challenge for older adults. The aging process, chronic health conditions and certain medications can disrupt sleep. And contrary to popular belief, people don’t need less sleep as they age. Older adults require about the same amount of sleep as their 20-year-old counterparts. Sleep deprivation can effect mood, memory and cognition – among other things – in older adults. And it can have an impact on their ability to enjoy the holiday season. So don’t shortchange sleep in favor of more holiday activities. And be sure older adults get plenty of rest after traveling, when the body may need extra time to recover.
8. Find ways to include everyone in activities.
It can be difficult – and even emotional – for older adults whose age or health prevent them from participating in activities or playing their traditional holiday roles. Think about new ways to get them involved. For example, break down meal-preparation tasks and assign appropriate roles to family members young and old. Plan games or activities that can be enjoyed by everyone. Tag-team on gift wrapping or shopping.
9. Don’t do it all alone.
For many older adults, they no longer have the health status or stamina to manage the holiday activities they once could. If you’re an older adult, ask for help. If you care for an older adult, be sure to check in to identify needed help or support. And don’t forget that there are resources – like home care – that can help you manage all of the demands on the holiday season, and beyond.
10. Enjoy your time together.
Regardless of how the meals, parties, gifts or activities of the holiday season play out, remember to enjoy the time spent with family and friends. Connecting and engaging with loved ones can be meaningful and fulfilling for older adults, contributing to overall happiness and well-being.
Source: FirstLight Home Care LLC
Most seniors live on a fixed income. When you are in that situation, you will want to do everything that you can to make the most of your money and to maximize your benefits. Regardless of what kind of Social Security benefits you receive – disability, retirement, auxiliary, or survivors’ benefits, you will want to choose wisely so you can maximize your benefits and get the highest amount of monthly benefits that you can receive. Here are a few things to consider when applying for Social Security benefits.
The full retirement age is 65. If you start taking retirement benefits earlier – such as at age 62 or 63 – you will not receive your full amount. If you become unable to work because of a medical problem before you reach age 65, you should apply for disability benefits. When you get disability benefits, you will get your full benefit amount. When you reach full retirement age, you will switch from disability to retirement and get your full benefit amount.
Looking at Auxiliary Benefits and Survivors’ Benefits
If your spouse is receiving disability benefits and you are not yet retired or receiving Social Security, you may be eligible to receive auxiliary benefits from his or her account. Auxiliary benefits are paid to dependent children and the spouse of the disabled individual, but there are specific family limits as to how much the combined family can receive. If you were married at least a year, or if you have been divorced after having been married 10 years or more and your spouse or former spouse dies, you may want to apply for survivors’ benefits.
If you are eligible for retirement benefits, you will want to take the highest paying benefit – either draw from your work history and take retirement benefits or draw from your spouse’s history and take survivors’ benefits. You cannot draw benefits from two different Social Security programs or accounts at one time. You should take your time to talk with the representative at your local Social Security office to determine which benefits would pay you more so you can maximize your monthly benefits.
Wait for Retirement
If you are eligible for some other kind of benefits – disability, survivors’ or auxiliary benefits, it is best to go ahead and take those benefits and wait on your retirement until you reach full age. When you do this, you will draw your full benefit when you turn 65. You will want to plan so the transition can happen immediately when you turn 65.
Applying for Social Security Benefits
When you are ready to apply for Social Security benefits, you should plan ahead and review the application process. Contact your local Social Security office. You can start your claim online at www.ssa.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213. The process does take some time, so file your claim in advance so you can get your benefits started promptly. If you or your spouse is applying for disability benefits, you will want to consult with a Social Security disability attorney who is licensed in your state.
Auxiliary Benefits: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/auxiliary-benefits
Local SSA Office: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp
Social Security Disability Attorneys by State: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/social-security-disability-attorney
While you’ll find an amazing number of retirement community types these days, it’s true that many people still have the misconception that all of them are the same—and not in a good way.
Thoughts of being stuck in a hospital-like atmosphere where sad people spend most of their hours cooped up in small shared rooms (never with a roommate they like, either) or confined to bed still come to mind for a majority of folks facing retirement.
Luckily, nothing could be further from the truth in 2019—especially for retirees who don’t have current regular care needs and are looking to downsize in order to maximize their free time and enjoyment of life. Independent living communities, like the Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) and Life Plan Communities served by Explore Retirement Living, offer comfortable and innovative housing options and fun things to do for active adults every day. And they expect and encourage residents to come and go as they please!
But how do you determine whether retirement community living is right for you?
FAQs about Independent Living Retirement Communities
This post features a few frequently asked questions about the benefits of relocating to an all-inclusive retirement community as an active, mature adult. As you consider whether you plan to stay where you are as a retiree or move to a more retirement lifestyle-friendly place, answers to these big questions can help you decide.
What do retirement communities have that I don’t at home?
With apologies to your current home, even if it is beautiful and well-appointed and you love everything about it, the answer here is “quite a lot.” Modern independent living communities tend to be almost resort-like in their amenities, offering chef-prepared meals, excursions, and learning experiences, in addition to other life-enhancing features like:
While the range of specific services available varies by community and sometimes also by the type of accommodations you choose within a community, maintenance is almost always included in the fees you pay. You won’t have to fix things that break around the house, care for a large yard, or worry about things like painting interior and exterior surfaces.
Additionally, you may even have benefits like housekeeping and linen services (no more cleaning toilets or washing bedding!), included utilities, and appliance repair and replacement.
Safety & security
Retirement communities take their residents’ safety seriously and employ security personnel who will guard against crime like trespassing and break-ins. Since most communities also include nursing care resources on campus, 24-hour emergency call systems for medical events are common, as well.
Health & wellness facilities
Do you enjoy swimming, walking for exercise, or taking fitness classes, but wish the gym was more conveniently located to where you live? Because healthcare is often the centerpiece of many retirement communities, they often establish health and wellness centers or form a relationship with local clubs.
St Anne’s offers free membership at one of Lancaster County’s most popular tennis, aquatic and fitness centers because we understand the importance of staying active.
Many independent CCRC and Life Plan retirement communities are dedicated to providing scheduled programming that makes it easy for residents to pursue their interests and explore new ones, too.
LeadingAge.org describes a comprehensive life enrichment program in a retirement community as including “all five dimensions of wellness—emotional, social, spiritual, physical and educational.” The goal of life enrichment is to improve and maintain individuals’ quality of life in mind, body, and spirit.
What living options are available? Will I have to downsize into an apartment?
While many retirement communities offer an array of smaller-scale dwellings like private apartments and “households” in which only your bedroom, bathroom, and a small living area are private, plenty of these campuses also feature detached cottages, bungalows, and carriage homes. Some communities even have separate “off-campus” neighborhoods with full-size homes available that still offer many of the services you would expect if you lived in the heart of campus.
Check with individual communities to find out what your options are. In short, you won’t have to downsize into a living space that you don’t love. The choice is yours!
Can I have pets?
As we talked about in a previous post here on the blog, the number of retirement communities with favorable pet policies is on the rise, which is good news. Research continues to prove that pet ownership is life-enhancing and may make us healthier. To make their communities more enticing, many not only allow pets today, but they may also even provide services or amenities to keep pets safe and well (and their owners happy).
As with other policies and features of individual communities, you should check with those that are most appealing to you to find out what their specific rules are.
What about health care? Is nursing available if I need it?
Yes, various levels of healthcare will be available if you need it. Campus-based independent CCRC and Life Plan communities often offer what’s known as a continuum of care, which allows you to access care when you need it, as you need it without leaving the community.
Some communities even now have programs that allow you to receive care within the living accommodations you’re already in. So, if you do require more in-depth care at some point as you age, you won’t need to make a physical move to another location on campus, such as a personal care wing or memory care unit even if you need to receive those levels of care.
How can I tell if a specific community is the right fit for me?
You’ll want to consider individual communities’ philosophies and stated values, which may include religious affiliations or connections to different cultural groups. Whether your personal beliefs align with the community’s mission may indicate how comfortable you will feel being associated with it.
Remember helping your children (and perhaps your grandchildren) choose a college? This process is not unlike that one. The easiest way to get to know different communities is to visit their campuses and facilities—and on multiple occasions, if you’re having a difficult time deciding. Get on their mailing lists, but also explore the public buildings and overall campuses yourself. Bring trusted family members along with you to get their perspectives, and talk to current residents who may be willing to share their experiences, too.
It’s true that there are many benefits to retirement community living, but the decision to make a move can be a difficult, emotional journey. By taking your time and exploring all your options, you may take the stress out of the process. After all, retirement is a time to celebrate all of the hard work you’ve accomplished in your life and take some much-deserved time out for yourself.
St. Anne’s Retirement Community is a Continuing Care Retirement Community with many options for adults seeking an active, safe community with easy access to all Lancaster County has to offer. For more information, or to schedule a tour, please call 717-285-5443.
Source: Explore Retirement Living, www.exploreretirementliving.org
Throughout the course of our life, we all need help in one way or another, but how we define it changes as we age. It might come as insight on homework as a young student, or collaboration with an office colleague as an adult, or assistance with grocery trips as a senior because as The Beatles sang it, we “get by with a little help from (my) friends.”
Yet as we age, it often becomes harder to admit we need help – especially when it means asking for assistance from those for whom you’ve always been the caregiver. Because of this, it is important to be able to identify signs that a parent or loved one may be struggling with daily tasks or unable to safely live alone. Although the signs may seem obvious, the call for help is often silent.
Is your loved one…
- Forgetting to take daily medication, supplements or vitamins
Are they dependent on you or their spouse to remember?
- Struggling with home maintenance
Is their spotlessly clean kitchen or pristine landscaping looking messy?
- Contacting family members about the same issue multiple times.
Have they called you about an upcoming appointment more than once in a day?
- Falling or having unexplained bruises on their body
Are they falling more often or do you have concerns about falls they don’t tell you about?
- Suffering from multiple conditions that make regular tasks more difficult
Does your loved one have arthritis and poor vision which can make it difficult to navigate their home?
- Receiving late notices or calls about unpaid bills or bounced checks
Are they neglecting to pay their monthly bills on time or losing track of personal finances?
- Displaying signs of poor personal hygiene or a decline in personal appearance
Do they have body odor, bad breath, or unclean and disheveled clothing?
- Driving a vehicle with new or unexplained dents, scratches or missing parts
Are they having difficulty maneuvering their car because of limitations with eye sight and/or mobility?
- Showing signs of depression or loneliness
Would they benefit from socializing with people their same age at a retirement community or organization
While the signs your aging loved one may need help can be easy to spot, having a conversation to address them is often difficult – especially when there is denial from your aging loved one, family members or caregivers.
If your aging loved one is beginning to show signs of decline…
Take time to address home safety concerns with all family members or caregivers like cleaning cluttered rooms, clearing outdoor pathways, installing more stair rails or adding bars in the bathrooms.
Talk about areas of decline as you see them instead of saving it for one big conversation or allowing it to become an emergency situation. You can also plan to discuss areas of concern at doctor’s appointments, as it may be easier for a doctor to have or initiate the dialogue.
Begin to explore a continuing care retirement community (CRCC) and other assisted living options as it is beneficial to understand application and admission processes in addition to any waitlist requirements for communities or home care services. Plus, speaking with an admissions team at a CRCC or home health care service can help you determine exactly what your aging loved one needs to make every day a safe and happy one.
At a continuing care retirement community (CRCC), like St. Anne’s Retirement Community, your loved one can find all the levels of care they may need in one place – from independent living, to assisted living, to personal care, to rehabilitation services, to skilled nursing care and memory support. For more information about St. Anne’s Retirement Community, or to discuss the needs of your aging loved ones, please call 717-285-5443.
Whether you’re hosting Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day brunch or a holiday open house, our tips can help you make help make the season bright…and a little greener too!
- Simplify the day. Celebrate being with those you love. Don’t overdo the cooking – and savor whatever you make. Linger over dessert, play games, watch football or a favorite movie, take a walk. Revive special traditions from the past and create new ones you can turn to next Christmas and other holidays in the future.
- Use the good dishes and cloth napkins. Disposable dishes and plastic utensils create a ton of waste. If reusable won’t work, choose disposable plates, cups, napkins and utensils made from 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper, sugarcane and corn—they are compostable, too.
- Decorate with boughs and berries. Head out to your yard with a pair of shears and find tree branches, bush stems loaded with berries, flowers whose seed heads have dried on the stem, and flowering grasses to fill tall vases or holiday baskets.
- Let there be light. Illuminate your table with candles of varying heights and widths.
- Serve locally grown food. Even in colder, northern climates, farmers markets are still selling locally grown greens, potatoes, apples, pears, spices, breads, and cheeses.
- Offer organic beverages. From apple cider to wine and beer, you have plenty of organic drinks to offer your family and friends.
- Eat all the food you make. Send guests home with leftovers in glass jars rather than wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil. Freeze leftovers in easily re-heatable portions.
- Use reuseables. Serve your meal on cloth tablecloths and napkins, accompanied by “real” silverware and plates. Worried about cleaning up after a large crowd? Let everyone pitch in – that’s half the fun!
- Simmer cinnamon. Roasting vegetables and baking pies should infuse your home with delicious holiday aromas. For even more fragrant smells, simmer a few sticks of cinnamon and a few cloves of allspice on the stove. Dab a few drops of pine oil or other favorite fragrance on stones or pinecones that are part of your centerpiece.
- Prepare less food. Everybody feels compelled to make a huge meal and prepare numerous courses. This year, if you’re serving turkey, choose a smaller bird and skip some of the less-popular dishes to reduce food waste.
- Turn down the heat. If all your holiday cooking doesn’t heat up your house, your guests will. Turn your thermostat down 3-5 degrees – no one will notice the difference.
- Recycle and compost. Keep a bin handy for glass, plastic and paper trash you can recycle rather than toss. Make soup from vegetable peelings, leftover meat and bones. Picked-over vegetables can be composted, though remaining meat and bones will need to be thrown away.
Compiled by the Green Committee at St. Anne’s
As the leaves begin to change colors and the weather is (finally) cool and crisp, here are twenty tips for fall from the Green Committee at St. Anne’s!
Outside Your Home:
- Check the air pressure in your tires. Cooler temperatures lower tire pressure and that, in turn, lowers fuel efficiency. Test your tires and make sure they are properly inflated.
- Examine your roof for any missing or damaged tiles or shingles.
- Clean the roof gutters and make sure downspouts are pointed away from the house.
- Consider installing a rain barrel to direct the water from downspouts to where it’s most needed instead of draining into one spot.
- Bring in any houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. They’ll help clean the air indoors.
- Rake your leaves instead of using a “blower”.
- Use the leaves as mulch to protect plants throughout the winter.
- Add leaves to a compost pile to use throughout the year.
Inside Your Home:
- Clean and test the furnace.
Did you know? Your furnace collects all kinds of dust and debris, which not only affects its performance, but could cause a fire. Before you really need the heat, get out your owner’s manual for instructions on how to clean it. If you have a gas furnace, have it professionally inspected once a year.
- Move furniture or any obstructions away from vents, baseboard heaters, registers on the floor or radiators to allow air to move freely. This is also a good time to vacuum these areas to remove any dust or debris.
Tip for Homes with Radiators: Place a reflecting panel behind it – either purchase one at a home center or make one yourself with a plywood panel and aluminum foil.
- Remove window air conditioners for the winter. If they can’t be removed, seal them with caulking or tape and cover them with an airtight, insulated jacket.
- Give your refrigerator some TLC:
- Vacuum the refrigerator coils to keep the compressor running efficiently.
- Verify the refrigerator is level (the door should automatically swing shut instead of staying open).
- Check the seal on the door by closing it on a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, it’s time to replace the gaskets.
- Throw away old food contents and don’t over-fill your refrigerator. Allowing room for cool air to circulate will keep everything at the right temperature and help it run more efficiently.
- Don’t leave your dryer out to dry:
- Clean the ducts and area behind the dryer.
- Empty the lint catcher after each use, and every once in a while, give the filter a good wash.
- Ensure your windows and doors are ready for the cold weather!
- Check windows for proper caulking. If you have single-pane windows, add storm windows. Even a plastic film over windows will reduce heat loss.
- Examine doors for adequate weather stripping and replace as necessary. If drafts sneak in under exterior doors, replace the threshold or block the drafts with a rolled-up towel or blanket.
- Electrical outlets, especially on outside walls, and light fixtures are prime places for cold air to leak into your home. Add foam gaskets behind covers and switch plates and use safety plugs in unused outlets. **Remember to shut off the power at the fuse box or circuit panel before working with covers and switch plates!**
- Install foam covers over outside water spigots to prevent freezing.
- Check for water leaks both inside and outside your home.
- Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.
- If you have a ceiling fan, reverse the direction for cold weather:
- Fans should run in a clockwise direction in the fall and winter to push the air up against the ceiling and down the walls. By doing this, the fan gently re-circulates the warm air without creating a cooling “wind chill effect.”
- HINT: Stand under the fan and if you feel a breeze, reverse the direction so that air is being drawn upwards.
- Do you have a fireplace? This is a good time to have the chimney cleaned and vent systems checked.
- If your home has no sidewall insulation, place heavy furniture like bookshelves, armoires and sofas along exterior walls, and use decorative quilts as wall hangings to help block cold air.
- Before packing away those summer clothes, go through them and determine which items to keep, which items to repurpose into something else (cleaning rags, craft projects, etc.) and which to donate.
Tips compiled from reducefootprints.blogspot.com by The Green Committee at St. Anne’s
Retirement living is one thing, but moving to retirement community living is quite another. The subject can generate a lot of resistance – the “elephant in the room.”
The elephant in the room points to an issue that is not being addressed. The elephant in the room is a hard subject that is easier to avoid.
Aging: The Elephant in the Room
As it turns out, in the matter of aging, there is a huge elephant in the room. We at St Anne’s call that elephant “Annie,” and she is so common that many, if not most of you reading this, already know what is meant:
- Aging parents, relatives and friends who are unable to recognize their own situation.
- Loved ones, otherwise responsible people, who are unable or unwilling to take personal responsibility for their aging.
Pro-active aging or pro-aging is to anticipate and plan for the “next step” of life. It is a measure of personal maturity and, in pro-aging families, there is little or no Annie in the room. However, we are living in a time when people are living longer than in previous generations and the responsible thing to do is often met with resistance…even though the answer is obvious to most everyone: the elephant in the room.
We must respect the resistance of our loved ones, even as we must do what needs to be done. We must seek understanding, and where that is not possible, seek counsel regarding best care guidelines.
The decision is not easy and often not black or white…it’s gray, just like an elephant.
How to Manage the Elephant in the Room
St. Anne’s Retirement Community understands the elephant in the room. Every day, families seeking a safe home environment for relatives come to our door and see Annie, our elephant who stands seven feet tall. Her friendly expression brings smiles to faces and serves as a reminder that we are not alone in dealing with Annie, the elephant in the room.
How to Approach the Elephant in the Room:
- Do not avoid Annie, as it only makes the outcome more averse to all.
- Gather all parties and make a plan of care for your loved ones.
- Include your loved ones in every step of the process.
- Meet with an expert to help facilitate a difficult conversation and make sure you are clearly seeing the options.
St. Anne’s Retirement Community promotes proactive aging by encouraging and facilitating conversations about Annie, the elephant in the room. To meet with our Admissions team and discuss plans for you or a loved one’s future, please call 717-285-5443.
When it comes “community,” the care and compassion one finds at St. Anne’s Retirement Community reaches far beyond our doors along Columbia Avenue. Over the past four years, our Catholic-Centered senior living community has been involved in the Brown Bag Lunch program at St. Anne’s Catholic Church.
Located in Downtown Lancaster, St. Anne’s Catholic Church distributes lunches, free of charge, to community members in need. The Brown Bag Lunch program serves approximately 80 to 120 individuals, Monday through Friday, with the help of countless volunteers from organizations throughout Lancaster County.
“The program is utilized by people who are down on their luck. Volunteers don’t ask questions and the recipients are very respectful and thankful for the meal,” says Dan Lytle, who coordinates St. Anne’s Retirement Community’s involvement in the program.
Four times a year, volunteers from St. Anne’s Retirement Community roll up their sleeves to help with the Brown Bag Lunch program on the last Friday of each quarter. Meals are packed in the retirement community’s kitchen by a crew of employees, Residents and Sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ on Thursday for distribution on Friday. When Dan Lytle asks for help with preparing the lunches, the response from the retirement community is so great, he usually has to turn away volunteers.
“I enjoy packing the lunches because so many people here want to help do it. There is love, a lot of love, packed into each of those brown bags. I am always amazed at all the people who want to pitch in,” says Dan of the Residents, Employees and Sisters who volunteer to help with the program.
St. Anne’s Retirement Community takes pride in providing its Residents with compassionate
care, and participation in the Brown Bag Lunch program as an extension of that mission. As for our Employees, Residents and Sisters who assist with preparing and distributing the meals, they too feel special to be a part of it.
The Brown Bag Lunch Program offers an afternoon meal to local residents in need on weekdays at St. Anne’s Catholic Church on Duke Street in Downtown Lancaster from 11:30AM to 1:00PM. For more information about the program, visit http://stannechurch.org and select “Brown Bag Lunch” under the Outreach menu.
Courtesy of Schreiber Pediatric
Alice “Skip” Steudler sat in the middle of a circle of toddlers leading them through musical games.
Over with the preschool-age kids, Betty Kuhn watched in one corner as a boy sprawled out on the floor with dozens of toy cars. Next to them, Joe Finger and his little buddy Grayson Pavlichko worked on pictures they were painting together. Several kids lined up to talk with Loretta Drolet about their little toy animals.
And out on the playground, Leon Hutton tended to a pile of sticks that served as a make-believe fire.
The unusual thing about these volunteers? They are all at least 79 years old. Skip is the youngster of the group. And the oldest? That’s Loretta, who turned 100 in August.
They come from St. Anne’s Retirement Community in West Hempfield Township, and their visits are coordinated by Hope Long, activity director at St. Anne’s.
All of the St. Anne’s volunteers are parents and grandparents, and they all said they enjoy the visits to Schreiber because they like being around the kids.
Loretta was impressed by how smart the kids are. She recalled one of the children showed her the little animals she had been playing with.
“I said, ‘That’s a doggie.’ And she said, ‘It’s a Dalmatian,'” Loretta said.
Her friends from St. Anne’s are just as impressed with Loretta.
“When I expanded our volunteer base,” Hope said, “I knew Loretta would be perfect. She’s kind and gentle. I knew she would be a good fit.”
“Loretta is my inspiration,” said Leon, who is still basking in the glow of recently being named St. Anne’s King of Hearts for 2017. “I thought if she can do this, I can do it, too.”
Leon admitted he needed a little bit of inspiration in the past year. His wife, Irene, passed away in January of 2016. They had been married 62 years.
“The time at Schreiber has been therapy for me,” he said. “When a person comes out of themselves and gives time, there’s nothing better.”
That’s exactly the kind of reaction Christina Kalyan hoped for when she introduced the program about a year ago. Christina is director of Circle of Friends. She said she thought the kids and the St. Anne’s folks could all benefit from getting together.
“There are a lot of families that don’t have a grandparent figure in their life,” Christina said. “And I wanted to offer (the seniors) a chance to get up and move around and do something that might add a little more meaning to their lives.”
The initial group was made up of a half dozen or so St. Anne’s Residents who have come over once a month (missing occasionally because of weather or schedule). Hope has brought in more Residents for the visits, and she and Christina both said they’d like to add a second visit each month.
“Our Residents love helping others and still have a strong desire to be needed and useful,” Hope said. “Schreiber is the perfect opportunity to allow this to happen. It really is a wonderful partnership and allows everyone the freedom to be who they are with no judgments or expectations from either group. It warms my heart to know that the universal language of love knows no age barrier! We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the Schreiber family.”
Back in the preschool-age room, Joe and Grayson had finished their paintings, exchanged them and gave each other a hug. These two formed a special bond from Joe’s first visit. Grayson is more than happy to sit on Joe’s lap and just hang out. And Joe’s gruff exterior crumbles away when he talks about his young friend.
“When we see each other and I leave, he makes me cry,” Joe said.
No, this is definitely not your typical volunteer group.
Originally published on February 28, 2017 on schreiberpediatric.org.