Honoring my grandmothers – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

in 1957 my young maternal grandmother, Maurine,  (age 45) was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lived in our home with my parents and me and my siblings for 5 years as she underwent the treatment that was available at the time. Treatment included radical mastectomy, hysterectomy and removal of ovaries, and intensive radiation therapy. In 1960, my 78 year old paternal grandmother, Ada, was also diagnosed with breast cancer.  She opted for no treatment.

Dr. Lerner, a breast cancer historian, and author of the book The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, fear, and the pursuit of a cure in 20th century America wrote that in the 1950’s there was an enormous amount of very aggressive surgery done for not only breast cancer, but other cancers. The sense was that cancer grew in a very orderly manner, so if you could remove enough tissue in the area that contained the cancer, you could cure women. There was an operation called pelvic exenteration, in which a woman’s pelvic organs were all removed. And in the area of the breast, the doctors began to actually remove part of the rib cage to try to get to these elusive cancer cells. So there was a dramatic degree of disfigurement for these patients.

I, like many young women in the 1960’s and 1970’s lived in fear of getting breast cancer. As a very young woman in the early 1970’s I discovered a lump in my breast, and when I went into surgery for a breast biopsy, the physician told me that I would be going under general anesthesia, and if the tumor was malignant, I would wake up with my breast removed without having a chance to consult with another physician, or prepare myself.  When I awoke from the anesthesia, I had a bandage over an incision. I still had my breast!

Over the years I have seen the improvements in screening, diagnosis and treatment. The awareness brought forth by the American Cancer Society, and Susan G. Koman has saved lives! I got my mammograms regularly and had 12 more benign biopsies in 20 years – which were done in outpatient surgery or in physician offices.

I am grateful for  Maurine and Ada, who are my grandmothers and my heroes. Their journey and the memory of their spirit and bravery made me and my mother and sisters aware.   I am grateful to all of those who have been part of educating us about early detection and prevention. I am grateful to the scientists and researchers, and the fund raising efforts that have been initiated by passionate advocates for women’s health.  I am grateful for the cancer survivors who inspire us with their stories, and the  example of those who have left a legacy of their courage.

Learn more about breast cancer awareness at the National Breast Cancer Association.

“The goal is to live a full, productive life, even with all that ambiguity. No matter what happens; whether the cancer flares up again, or you die – the important thing is that the days you have had – that you will live.”  Gilder Radner


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living  , located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.

6 tips to creating trusting relationships

I have four grown children, and when they were toddlers,  I always loved that moment when they could let go of my hand and begin to walk on their own.  As babies they had whole and complete trust that I would be there for them to catch them if they fell.  And in the presence of a trusted adult, they gained courage to take that risk on their own and let go.

Believing that trusting relationships are the most basic of human needs and the strongest foundation for caring for one another; we recognize that our teams must work in an environment of trust and kindness in order to grow, take risks, and be the very best versions of themselves.

I have been in Senior Housing since the late ninety’s.    I have seen the evolution of the services, the regulatory standards, and the employees.

Today senior living companies are focusing even more on the people who work with them.  Demand for talented, dedicated employees keeps growing.  We are in an environment where new jobs are being created and unemployment rates are dropping.

We, like other senior housing companies, are stepping up to improve and communicate with our teams.  It is not just about the wages or the benefits, but also about the culture, growth opportunities, and inspiring trust in leadership.


There are many things that we can do to establish trust:

  • Being open and honest about changes that will impact the teams;
  • Effectively communicating by talking to them, not at them;
  • Having an open-door policy, and then following up, and being willing to pitch in to help.
  • Sometimes the smallest gesture of kindness goes a long way.

Below are some tips to develop trusting relationships that I have learned over the years.  These tips have effectively established trust with those I have been honored to serve – and helped me evolve and grow into a better person too.

  1. Offer Your Own Trust First. As Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” If you want your employees to trust you, try trusting them first. Give them a task, even an easy one, and let them complete it on their own. This simple gesture will go a very long way. If your employees believe you will have their back, they will run through walls for you.
  2. Don’t Have All Of The Answers, Even If You Do.    Who do you trust? Typically, it’s someone who allows you to be you and who encourages you to continuously grow, learn — usually by making mistakes — and develop. So be inquisitive and ask lots and lots of questions rather than supplying answers, even — especially — when you know the answer.
  3. Show Them You Aren’t Afraid Of Failure.  Any mistake or struggle in performance will make the leader look bad, so every employee is seen as a threat. This drives selfish, bad behavior and creates an unsafe place for the team. Trust only happens in a fear-free environment. Every leader needs to work on their own fear issues so they can focus on building the team instead of their ego.
  4.  Listen Effectively. Leaders establish trust by asking effective questions, then by actually listening to employees’ answers. Following up with action in a manner that supports employees’ ideas and concerns reinforces that you listened.
  5. Be Respectful. The simplest path to increased trust is respect. It’s respectful recognition of accomplishments and transparency around failure. It’s a connection between leaders and teams. It doesn’t cost anything — but each side needs to make time for it. Practicing daily respect habits like “listen and care, make eye contact, and acknowledge your flaws” will drive engagement, and ultimately performance.
  6.  Lead With Integrity and empathy. You can demonstrate you are trustworthy as a leader by keeping your word with your employees.  Say what you’ll do, and then do what you say. Show them you are leading in alignment with the values of goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.  Genuinely care about your employees. Give trust and ask for their trust in return. Be trustworthy and honorable, and communicate that you expect the same.

When people honor each other, there is a trust established that leads to synergy, interdependence, and deep respect. Both parties make decisions and choices based on what is right, what is best, what is valued most highly.

We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I.’   And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.’ They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit.  This is what creates trust.

Try even one or two of these approaches. Just a bit here and there, and you may be amazed at the miraculous transformation and evolution of not only your team…but of yourself too!


Jean Garboden, Director of Education  

About the author: Jean Garboden is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living in Eugene, Oregon Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

Make the Season Brighter

For many older adults, the magic of the winter holidays has nothing to do with presents, but with presence.

Most of us anticipate with a feeling of excitement the opportunity to share the holidays with our loved ones near and far, even if we aren’t there with them.

We celebrate traditions, special meals, holiday treats and catching up with our family members who travel great (or small) distances to be together and reach out to those with whom we can’t be together.

Unfortunately, it is not all moments of cheer for some, often particularly our elder loved ones. Far too many of our seniors find the holiday season to be a time of remembering losses and feeling sad or depressed.

Traditions change as we transition from childhood to adulthood and into elderhood.  We can create new traditions with our aging loved ones this holiday season. Talk together about the feelings they are having. Sharing these feelings and knowing that someone is listening to them can make seniors feel much better.

Why is Mom So Sad?

Not to get you down over the holidays, but to make you aware of what might be happening around you, here are some statistics on depression.

  • 15 out of 100 adults over 65 suffer from depression impacting 6 million Americans over 65
  • 15-20% of older adults who live in our communities suffer from depression
  • 25-35% of older adults who live in long-term care facilities have symptoms of depression, this number has been estimated to actually be nearer 50%
  • An estimated 2 million adults over 65 in the US have a diagnosable clinical depression
  • 25% of those with chronic disease suffer from depression

Depression, however, is NOT a result of aging as many people believe. We can age without becoming depressed.  Depression can happen to anyone, at any time and any age. Many people don’t seek help because they may feel that it won’t help because whatever is causing the depression will continue. Depression can have many causes such as the death of a spouse or close family member, a severe illness or chronic pain, loss in independence, and loneliness.

Untreated depression in the elderly can lead to a variety of problems, including alcoholism, substance abuse, and even suicide. Someone living with severe pain and depression is four times more likely to attempt suicide.

Every 100 minutes an older adult dies by suicide – – the highest overall death rate of any age group.

Family Activities to Keep the Blues Away
  1. We can help keep older adult loved ones from being part of the statistics by helping them fight off depression over the holidays.
  2. Play favorite music and classic movies during the holiday season to bring smiles instead of frowns.
  3. Technology can create connections!  Set up Skype video calls or Facetime with family members who can’t visit for the holidays so that family can connect, and sing, laugh and share stories together.  This is a meaningful gift to give to one another!
  4. Spend one-on-one time with an elder adult. Find fun things to do to occupy them throughout the season and shortly afterward so that they don’t have time to let their mind dwell on sad times or losses they experience.
  • Make cookies
  • Take a nature walk
  • Write holiday cards and notes
  • Play a game
  • Visit a museum
  • Go to a local event like a parade or church choir
  • Take in a holiday movie
  • Drive around the neighborhood looking at holiday lights and decorations
  • Do a craft project
  • Plan the family meal and shop together
  • Get together to watch old comedy shows that bring a chuckle, like I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners or Laurel and Hardy. Many of these shows can be found on the TV, in DVD form or streamed from the internet. Use these programs to open dialogue to engage their mind and relive memories.
  • Get physical! Go for a walk, dance, hula hoop, go bowling, toss around a ball, chase your dog, or any other physical activity your elder adult loved one can safely participate with other family members. Make it a habit, not just one you do during the holiday. Staying physically active will help keep your senior mentally fit as well.

Remember, depression can have real, negative physical effects on older adults, including fatigue, withdrawing from activities, sadness, abnormal sleep patterns, anxiety or irritability, use of alcohol or drugs, or suicidal thoughts. We can help them avoid it, though.

Keeping your older loved one engaged, being observant to signs of depression and seeking help when it is needed will keep the blues away not just during the holidays but all year long!


Jean Garboden, Director of Education & Innovation at Compass Senior Living

About the author: Jean Garboden is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living in Eugene, Oregon. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

If you can learn, you can do anything.

If you can learn, you can do anything. I’m not sure if I heard this somewhere or if I thought of it myself. It doesn’t matter. The message is true: if you can learn, you can do anything. The internet has changed society and the world—we are a global community. Like it or not, we are part of a blended and mobile universe that is interwoven and interconnected. I recently was privileged enough to hear Deepak Chopra speak in person. I was about ten rows from the front and captivated the entire time. He shared with us how we are made of the exact same things as 90%+ of the universe and how it can have awellness impact on our own health. The exact samesubstances, cells, and molecules as, not just plants, animals, and people on Earth, but stars, cosmos, and the fire of the sun.

We are all connected. The birth of the internet made that even more apparent as now we can talk to people across the globe that we never even knew existed until that moment. Its amazing. It inspires curiosity and wonder—just like the thought of being made of molecules that have come from outer space. And yet, I hear over and over “I’m too old for that” or “If you need to learn how to use a smartphone, find a toddler” or “how come these things don’t come with a user manual?” The answer: because if you can learn, you can figure it out. And, you are NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN (unless you want to be and then, by all means, sit on your couch).

Gary Vaynerchuk says “wake up” to the world that is around you. I appreciate his candor because he is capturing the essence of the argument as to why people over the age of 30 (basically) say “oh, I could never do that” and throwing it into oncoming traffic. REALLY?! Can you learn? How do you want to spend the next 40 years of your life?

GaryVee explains it all: (warning: some foul language is used)

 


amira_chicago
Amira on a trip to Chicago.

About the Author: Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Operations, NW Region for Compass Senior Living located in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to eight years of learning the senior living industry in roles ranging from Administrative Assistant to Director of Sales and Marketing to unofficial IT coordinator. Possibilities also led her into the world of education technology for almost three years. Now, on her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with the people that care for others. She lives in Eugene with her husband, Michael, where they enjoy golf, travel, and volunteering.

Look Alzheimer’s in the eye this year.

Over the last few months our Director of Education and Innovation, Jean Garboden, and I have traveled to several of Compass’ senior living communities to conduct training we call Caring is What Makes Us Human: Empathetic communication with those who have dementia. Its evolved into a powerful and engaging series of stories that reflect the more than 10 years we’ve been working to try to understand dementia and finding a better way to care for those who have it. Our employees are required to attend. It’s those that are not required to attend that inspire me.

For several of the trainings, we’ve had elders and family members join us. In one recent session, I was inspired looking out at the elders’ faces that were engaged in the conversation. They were there because they wanted to be. They aren’t afraid of knowing what Alzheimer’s or other dementias can do. And, with their presence, they are facing it head-on. Elders are the ones that may see this daily amongst their peers and wonder, “am I next”? And yet, they were the ones most interested in learning about how they can care, or at least understand, what it means and how to help others.

These elders inspire me because they are engaging in the conversation that most are too afraid to have. They are arming themselves with the knowledge that will help to eliminate fear. They are building understanding that those with dementia are still there and they are whole human beings to be loved, not feared. They are showing us that age, impairments, and change are not to be feared, but understood and accepted. The elders that engage in this conversation are quiet ambassadors to making a better elderhood for the rest of us that will eventually be there.

Like cancer, the movement to find a cure for Alzheimer’s is growing because most of us know, or have known, someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. If you haven’t yet, you will. By learning about dementia and how we can still communicate with those who have it, you participate in the movement to change the language around “locked units”. These are not prisoners to be locked away. They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, aunts, and uncles. They are in need of being safe and cared for, yes. But, they are not to be feared and avoided. They simply need us to look them in the eye, sing to them, dance with them, and know they still desire to be heard and understood.

As this new year starts please make a resolution that will make real change with one simple act. Resolve to learn more, participate in conversations, and try to understand Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Follow in these elders’ footsteps and learn what you can do to help just one individual. After all, caring is what makes us human.


About the Author:  

Photo on 9-7-17 at 4.53 PM

Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located  in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to what is now a career in serving elders and families. Possibilities also led her into the world of becoming a Certified Eden Associate, Certified Validation Worker, Levels I and II, and a licensed Assisted Living Administrator in Oregon. On her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with, and for, the people that care for others.

World Elder Abuse Recognition Day

“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.” ― Tia Walker

UPDATED: October 20, 2017

The New York Times recently ran this article on How the Elderly Lose Their Rights.  Cases in Nevada were uncovered regarding systemic elder financial abuse that allowed the court to appoint a guardian even though the elder was not cognitively incapacitated and they had family that could care for them. This article points out that, now more than ever, elder rights are worth fighting for–we are all elders-in-waiting and someday, we’ll need someone looking out for us too. Help educate others in what they, too, should look out for and how to spot and combat elder abuse.

 

Watch the short video below, and share this with others.  Caring about one another is what makes us human!

The taboo topic of elder abuse has started to gain visibility across the world.  It remains one of the least investigated types of violence in national surveys, and one of the least addressed in national and international action plans.

The 2017 World Elder Abuse Recognition Day (WEAAD) theme will explore effective means of strengthening protections against financial and material exploitation and ending victimization around the world. Exploitation takes many forms.

  • In developed countries, the abuse often encompasses theft, forgery, misuse of property and power of attorney, as well as denying access to funds.
  • The overwhelming majority of financial exploitation in less developed countries includes accusations of witchcraft that are used to justify property grabbing, ejection from homes of and denial of family inheritance to widows.

Elder abuse is a ‘silent condition.’  Although there are many statistics stated, no one knows exactly how many of our nation’s elders are being exploited, neglected or abused.  Evidence suggests that much abuse is not reported because often the elder does not report or because the general public is not educated about the signs of elder abuse.

  • About 90 percent of perpetrators of elder abuse are family members, including spouses, adult children, partners and other relatives. The incidence of abuse is higher if the family member suffers from drug or alcohol abuse, have some type of mental illness, or feel burdened by the care of their loved ones.
  • Only about one out of every 14 incidents of elder abuse (including self-neglect) in domestic settings actually come to the attention of local or state authorities.
  • Significant financial exploitation occurs at a rate of about 41 out of every 1,000 individuals surveyed in the US. This was higher than the rates of neglect as well as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
  • Only one out of every 25 cases of financial exploitation are reported. These unreported incidents would increase the amount to 5 million victims of financial exploitation per year in the United States.

It is our responsibility to protect the precious lives of vulnerable elder adults in our communities.  If the elder lives in Senior Housing, those working there are mandated to report to the state authorities, and/or the police.

Abuse comes in many forms:

  • Physical: causing physical pain or injury
  • Emotional: verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, and intimidation
  • Neglect: failure to provide necessities, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care or a safe environment
  • Confinement: restraining or isolating the person
  • Financial: the misuse or withholding of the person’s financial resources (money, property) to his or her disadvantage or the advantage of someone else
  • Sexual abuse: touching, fondling or any sexual activity when the person is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened or physically forced
  • Willful deprivation: willfully denying the person medication, medical care, food, shelter or physical assistance, and thereby exposing the individual with Alzheimer’s to the risk of physical, mental or emotional harm
  • Self-neglect: Due to lack of insight and cognitive changes, a person with cognitive challenges may be unable to safely and adequately provide for day-to-day needs, and may be at risk for harm, falls, wandering and/or malnutrition.

Let us take care of the children,
for they have a long way to go.

Let us take care of the elders,
for they have come a long way.

Let us take care of the in-between,
for they are doing the work.

—African Prayer


About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

Jon Morgan being presented with his award

Jon Morgan: An Inspiring Story

Jon Morgan is the Maintenance Director at Compass Senior Living’s communities in Green Bay, Wisconsin. And this is his story.

Dennis Garboden and Will Forsyth, Compass Senior Living principals, traveled to Green Bay last week to present Jon with the newly created Jon Morgan Award. When presented with the award, Jon said, “Thank you all again so much. You caught me off guard but it’s a real honor to have my name attached to your award. Without the support of all of you and my coworkers, who helped me mentally, I couldn’t have done it, so those are the true heroes to me. Thank you so much.”

These are Dennis’s words about how the award came to be:

On Labor Day of 2016 Jon had his foot amputated above the ankle due to unknown circulatory problems.  It was a situation that may have left most people devastated.  Jon was different – demonstrating uncommon optimism and courage.

Jon immediately started talking about learning to walk with a prosthesis and getting back to his life and to work.  As soon as was possible – Jon was visiting the communities – and if not quite able to do a job himself, was supervising and assessing and making sure things got done.  Jon had the attitude of “well, what can you do?”, as well as “other people have it worse”.  He even had a better sense of humor about himself and his situation surrounding this – than most others did.  He jokes about it and has even has a name for his stump:  Odie.   He also said that he thinks his golf game may have improved since!

Jon teaches us that adversity is inevitable, but difficulties or misfortune don’t have to keep us from achieving our intended goals and finding happiness in work and in life.  It’s how we overcome these adversities that can make all the difference. Every challenge successfully conquered serves to strengthen not only our will, but also our confidence, and therefore our ability to confront future obstacles.

Jon Morgan is the inspiration for the new Morgan Hero award.   His selfless acts of goodness for those he serves, inspires greatness, and demonstrates Compass Senior Living’s values of goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun. We have many Morgan Heroes working with us, and we are very proud and humbled to honor Jon as the inspiration for our first Morgan Hero Award.

Jon Morgan, we are grateful for your example to all of us.

For years to come, Compass communities will be given the opportunity to nominate other deserving employees based on Jon’s inspiring story from which the following criteria has been developed:

  • Maintains a strong work ethic and it is recognized by others
  • Has a sense of humor, makes us laugh, and takes things ‘lightly’
  • Takes notice of others and lends a hand to help, expressing kindness
  • Explores and seeks solutions for the greater good
  • Shares the workload and knows what needs to be done–and does it with grace and a generous spirit
  • Has open, spontaneous, comfortable, and uplifting communication with others
  • Gives heartfelt support and encouragement, genuinely caring for the team, families, and the elders
  • Has others’ backs during hard times and good times
  • Is a calm, inspiring leader and friend when things go wrong and when things go right
  • Does not blame or complain, embracing lessons learned
  • Thinks optimistically in the face of challenges encouraging and cheering on the team
  • Sees the True North qualities in other people– demonstrating humility and appreciation for the greatness in others
  • Communicates with goodness, confidence, and a positive spirit– expecting excellence
  • Has a welcoming smile, knows how to have fun and is a good listener
  • Has faith that if we do the right things, the right things happen
  • Takes ownership for mistakes, accepts responsibility, and seeks innovative solutions when things go wrong
  • Views each new situation as an opportunity to take initiative and make a difference or improvement
  • Even when things are stressful, has the ability to focus on what needs to be done, expressing gratitude to others as an example and role model of a True North Leader

 

We look forward to many years of honoring these amazing people in our midst. Thank you Jon for your inspiration!

Our found family is diverse, imperfect, and loving in every single way.

Cultures of Caring

What do you find when you start to look closely at assisted living communities? You find a treasure trove of love, kindness, and caring.

During National Assisted Living Week, I produced a campaign to share the joys, celebrations, and greatness of the people that make up our communities. I asked the administrators of our 20 senior living communities to send me photos, wisdom from their residents, and examples of what living in assisted living can really be like. When we looked at what they were sending and sharing on Facebook–we were overjoyed at the beautiful people caring for one another everywhere we looked.

Employee appreciation day at Sun Oak in Citrus Heights, CA

Caring for employees So often senior living companies call their employees “caregivers”. But, who cares for them? We believe that caring is a reciprocal relationship–that the care team and the elder are in a partnership to care for one another. Where one perhaps benefits from physical support, another benefits from emotional support or wisdom earned through many years of life experience.

PT_grandparents day family photo.jpgCaring for family
Families of elders living in our communities are often providing the hands-on care until mom or dad move into a supportive living environment. That’s when assisted living can really support families–by taking care of the daily needs so they can get back to having a relationship with the elder. Throughout the week, we saw many moments of caring for the families that have become part of our reciprocal care culture.

 

Caring for furry friends

SO_pet daySeveral of the communities recognized the role that furry family members play in our lives through events such as fundraisers to care for homeless pets and bring your pet to work day.  They are the companions that never complain, love unconditionally, and provide that unexplainable emotional care that only a pet can provide.

Elder participating in the Relay for Life in Florence, Oregon at Shorewood Senior LivingCaring for the community
It never ceases to amaze me at how much energy the elders and employees have for giving back to their communities. Alzheimer’s Walk fundraisers, homeless pet fundraisers, school supply drives, Boys’ and Girls’ Club support–the list goes on and on for the causes that our communities support to not only stay connected but care and love the communities that have loved them.

Caring for eldersouting at Carolina Assisted Living in Appleton, Wisconsin

And, of course, we can’t forget the elders that are at the core of what we do. During this week, the demonstrations of love and care for the elders that we learn from and feel loved by was overflowing. And, our teams gave back as much as they could through massages, parties, happy hours, dances, and recognition that we make up this family brought together by a common circumstance. And, have become much more than that.

Thank you to everyone that makes every day a culture of caring day!

Take a look at the week in review here.


About the Author:  

Photo on 9-7-17 at 4.53 PM

Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located  in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to what is now a career in serving elders and families. Possibilities also led her into the world of becoming a Certified Eden Associate, Certified Validation Worker, Levels I and II, and a licensed Assisted Living Administrator in Oregon. On her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with, and for, the people that care for others.

elders painting class

#TrueNorthElderhood and #NALW

What does it mean to be a True North Elder? 

Elders are pushing boundaries and shaking things up every day. Stories are plentiful of elders that are meeting at the gym, playing on basketball teams, or earning their high school diplomas at age 92. They teach us that we as humans can always learn, grow, adapt, and overcome the changes of aging. This is a True North Elder to us. Connecting with these experienced individuals brings us a sense of joy, love, and feeling of reward that is greater than the money we may earn by caring for them. They become part of our families–not by blood, but by relationship. Maya Angelou once said:

Family isn’t always blood, its the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.

Celebrating our ‘family’

This week is National Assisted Living Week® and Compass Senior Living communities are participating by celebrating this year’s theme Family is Forever. Employees, residents, and families are spending time embracing this found family and the True North Elders in our midst. Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing stories, tidbits of wisdom and photos from the events that take place each day– and the lessons that our elder families can teach us.

We invite you to join us for events in your area and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for updates and use #TrueNorthElderhood to share your story about an elder in your life that is a True North Elder in your family–however that may be defined!

The Needs Behind the Disease

“If you could tell her one thing, what would it be?”, I asked. “That I love her very much”, he said, as a tear streamed down his cheek. 

I recently had the opportunity to spend time at a memory care community in Oregon. The day didn’t go as planned–at all. But, the lessons learned were far more valuable than any plan. We were able to get to know these wonderful people with a variety of different types of dementia and help them express themselves in ways they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

One gentleman (we’ll call him Mr. Brown), was not particularly interested in joining the group for an activity. His dementia is progressed enough that he needs full-time care, but can still carry on a conversation. He has moments of lucidity and you may not otherwise know of his impairments until he is frustrated with a situation and lacks the ability to communicate his frustration except in somewhat aggressive tones or outbursts.

I sat in front of him and crouched down, so his head was just above mine and he could clearly see me. I had read through his history and talked with the staff about where he came from, his family, what he did for a living, etc. so I could step inside his perspective. Using the empathetic communication techniques I’ve learned over the years, I asked him a series of questions such as:

  • Tell me about your wife.
  • What is she like?
  • If you could tell her one thing right now, what would it be?
  • What is the best thing about her?

Through this prompting (you’ll notice I only used open-ended statements and questions), he told me about how wonderful she was and how much he loved her. Then, his deep underlying frustration began to show with the fact that he needed memory care and had to be there–when all he had worked for his entire life was to ensure they could spend the rest of their lives together.  He proceeded to repeat a few times that he never took government assistance–a point of pride. He worked tirelessly to provide for his family (which was a rather large one) and ensure they could live a long life together.

He is heartbroken. Heartbroken that they won’t have that experience because of a disease that requires them to be apart. That is frustrating. That is miserable. It is understandable that he may have outbursts when he can’t thoughtfully express that frustration.

Needs investigation

We, as humans, have needs that must be fulfilled in order to be happy. We have needs that, if not met, can manifest themselves in strange behavior–often aggressive, overtly sexual, “inappropriate” for societal norms, or resulting in damage to our overall mental and physical well-being. Abraham Maslow’s (1908-1970) most lasting contribution to the field of psychology was the study of happiness. He determined that there is a hierarchy of needs that, as each of the needs are met, allows the human psyche to reach a state of happiness or self-actualization, as he calls it.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s or similar dementias still have the need to self-actualize, they just can’t do it on their own. One of the most powerful tools in our caring toolbox is to learn to identify the needs that cannot be expressed. Then, help the elder express that need or care for that need accordingly. Mr. Brown wasn’t an aggressive person, he was simply frustrated at the unfairness of the horrible disease that is keeping him from his wife. He has a need for love and intimacy from his wife. He has a need to feel useful in caring for those around him. There are so many ways that we can improve the quality of life for those with dementia–if we only begin to understand.

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About the Author: Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to what is now a career in serving elders and families. Possibilities also led her into the world of becoming a Certified Eden Associate, Certified Validation Worker, Levels I and II, and a licensed Assisted Living Administrator in Oregon. On her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with, and for, the people that care for others.