I can’t pick just one!

Amy Hynes is the Administrator at Heron Pointe Senior Living, in Monmouth, Oregon.  She celebrates an ‘Employee of the month’ focusing on creating a culture of kindness and grace.  Amy invites the residents to nominate employees for this special recognition, as they are closest to the Care Partners, and will have heartfelt feedback. 

Amy and her leadership team were reviewing nominations, and read this employee nomination letter from Carol Webb, a resident at Heron Pointe.

This is Carol’s Letter to Amy

When I first came here, I was filled with anger, hate, and pain; but mostly I was filled with fear.

I had to leave my home of over sixty years.  I had to leave those that were my friends in my neighborhood during this time.  We raised our children together.

I had to give up my freedom to come and go as I liked because I had to give up driving.  I really felt like I was no longer a person.  Just a thing. Just a responsibility for my kids, both physically and financially.

But as soon as I walked in your door, I was surrounded by compassion and love.  Everyone I came into contact with welcomed and helped me at every turn. All the girls and young gentleman treated me with great respect and kindness beyond my expectations.

When they found me crying, they held me and cried with me. 

When I was lonesome, they took the time to talk with me.

Sometimes they found me playing cards by myself and sat down and taught me a new game.

They bathed me, taking away my embarrassment and shame.  They helped me accept and change my ostomy bag even without gagging as I was inclined to do. 

They helped me get around from place to place, telling me how and where to find the laundry room, dining room, hair salon, and more.

They became my new friends and family.

Each one of them became my dear friend, helping me find the important things when I had lost them – things like my smile and my heart, my hope, and most of all my courage.

God Bless all of the care partners, the housekeepers, the cooks and servers, and all who work here.

I discovered I gave up nothing – and added everything to my life.

I love you all!

Carol L. Webb

P.S.  I can’t pick just one – you are ALL the Employee of the month! 

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead

About Carol

Carol was born in Hood River Oregon and lived there for 10 years before moving to The Willamette Valley where she stayed until moving to Heron Pointe in February 2019.

She married her husband in 1958 after the Korean War. Carol made clothing and blankets for the family to cut costs. Her typical day was spent sewing, taking care of children, and working on the farm. She even drove a wheat truck for 10 years! Carol was a homemaker, a Cub Scout leader and taught Sunday school.  Carol says her greatest accomplishment in life is her 3 children. She said, ”They drove me crazy, but they are sure a blessing.” At Heron Pointe Carol enjoys feeding and watching the birds, sewing or embroidery and listening to old western music. She loves people and helping in any way she can.

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

Are we ever too old to play?

Children have a full-time occupation. It’s called PLAY! Let them be occupied by it from their early years and into their twilight years.”  Vince Gowmon

It is widely accepted that Life Enrichment activities bring vigor and life to senior living, but, nonetheless, you may be surprised to learn what has been the most popular and well-received activity I have led over the years.

As Life Enrichment Directors we are taught that activities should be “age appropriate,” but exactly what does that mean?

Throughout my forty-four-year career in senior care, I have witnessed older people transformed through laughter and play. Of course, individual cognition must be considered, but overall most residents, regardless of cognitive abilities, respond in a positive manner to childhood games.  

Games, songs, and rhymes from our youth generally hold a special place in our memories.

Many of us can easily recall the words to a nursery rhyme but forget what we had for dinner the day before. I have found that most adults find comfort and pleasure when reminiscing about their childhood and the games they played.

I believe we all have an inner child that requires nurturing from time to time, and we must let that child play without judgment. The game doesn’t matter if it brings engagement, laughter, camaraderie and happy thoughts. I experience all these things myself right alongside residents as we play the most popular game.

I was hesitant to introduce this active game for fear of it being considered too childish for independent living residents. I purchased one large beach ball and decided to give it a try after we completed our balance class. Little did I know that it would grow into a twice-weekly occurrence and that I would need to purchase an additional ball to add to the excitement.

So, what is this most popular of games? Kickball!

Yes, kickball, the timeless playground favorite.

In our version, we deploy two large balls into a circle of residents who then hit, kick, punch, and bounce them back and forth. I play along and am able to see the years wash away revealing a room full of happy, laughing inner children. People are moving and stretching and having such a good time that the game’s energy carries on long after we finish. Players often recount their kickball exploits in the dining room and share another laugh with each other.

Since beginning this activity, our group has grown, and we now welcome between twelve and sixteen people each session. Residents have embraced kickball and I am so glad I decided to give it a try and let them judge its age appropriateness.

How about you?  Laugh.  Play. Embrace your inner child.

Leo Buscaglia figured it out when he said, “I am often accused of being childish. I prefer to interpret that as child-like. I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things. I tend to exaggerate and fantasize and embellish. I still listen to instinctual urges. I play with the leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind. I never water my garden without soaking myself. It has been after such times of joy that I have achieved my greatest creativity and produced my best work.” 

Vanessa Uhrig, Life Enrichment Director

About the Author: Vanessa is a “farm girl”,  who was born and raised in Canby, Oregon, and now working at Shorewood Senior Living in Florence, Oregon.  She had a strong bond with her grandparents who taught strong work ethics, morals and the value of honesty. They provided her with love and respect for her elders from an early age. Her grandmother encouraged her artistic and creative side resulting in a passion for cooking, painting, quilt making, crocheting, drawing, crafts of all kinds and a closet full of “bits and bobs” that will be used someday. Prior to coming to Shorewood, Vanessa was a cook at an assisted living community. Vanessa lives in Florence Oregon and is enjoying everything it has to offer. 

Vanessa loves nature and all animals. She currently has two dogs and four cats, all rescued from the humane society. Vanessa is the proud mom of one daughter, Emily, who is, not only her best friend but also a scientist with a Ph.D. in Zoology. When she isn’t at work, Vanessa can be found busy outside in the flower beds or making something crafty. She is happy to be at Shorewood to share laughter, build friendships, and make a difference in the lives of the residents.

Are we “Caregivers?” or “Care Partners?”

“Most people agree that the world would be a better place if we all cared more for one another, but despite that initial agreement we find it is hard to say exactly what we mean by caring.”   – Nel Noddings, Caring and Social Policy    

As an eldercare professional or family caregiver are you sometimes surprised by the amount of time you spend in the caregiving tasks?

Do you ever feel that the snack or meals to prepare, the hands to wash, the shower to give, the transferring into and out of bed or wheelchairs, the assistance with dressing, toileting, and eating, the medications to give, or the laundry to do is getting in the way of engaging in relationship with the person you are caring for?

  • What if we adopted a new way of thinking about care and incorporated it into the heart of our caring rituals?
  • What would our practice look like if we lifted-up the daily chores of caring as honorable rituals and essential caring practices in partnership with one another and the person we care for?
    Care is not a one-way street
    In a culture that typically views aging as a period of decline, I believe that no matter how old we are or what challenges we live with, life is about continuing to grow.  I work with Care Partners and elders and families.  From them, I  have learned that care is not a one-way street, but rather a collaborative partnership.  It warms my heart to see caregivers embracing their person-centered elder-directed roles as ‘Care Partners’ -as active participants in the balance of giving and receiving.  Together, care partner teams strive to enhance the well-being of both the person providing care and the person receiving care.  It is a partnership. It is a relationship.
Caring is not only a physical task. 

Caring requires understanding, relationship, and partnership. In routines such as washing and dressing, feeding and comforting, I have witnessed a transformation of daily caring rituals through care partnerships into opportunities for engaging, connecting and learning.  I have seen  Care Partners and Elders learning every moment the deepest lessons through the caring partnership.

If a person is receiving care and does not have the opportunity to give care or even have a say in his/her own care – they become helpless and hopeless.  In a care partner relationship, the elder adult is empowered. 

In the past, caring may have been viewed as a minimum standard of keeping an elder adult safe and clean, or as something ‘anyone’ could do.  

In the emerging future, care must be viewed as an intentional practice that connects us to one another, requires specialized knowledge about elders, about learning, and human development.  

  • Caring rituals are a science
  • Caring rituals are an art form.  
  • Caring rituals enhance the elder adult’s physical, spiritual, emotional and social well-being.
  • Caring rituals compel us to be intelligent, thinking, respectful, state-of-the-art-care partners.  
  • Caring rituals allow us to be partners in the caring relationship – empowering the vulnerable person to teach us how to care by listening, observing and partnering for that person’s well being as well as our own.

To care we must seek to know many things. We care with plans, purpose, objectives, and heart.

Families trust us with the care of the oldest citizens in our communities.  The caring rituals that elders and families seek from us have the potential to shape our unique identity as Care Partners.  

The best of our Senior Housing Communities become second homes of elders and their families and our care partners.  They receive comfort and confidence in joining us, teaching us, and partnering with us.

 As Milton Mayeroff said, “In the sense in which a man can ever be said to be at home in the world, he is at home not through domination, or explaining, or appreciating, but through caring and being cared for” (On Caring published 1971).  


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

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.

A Saga of the newer shoes – An Elder perspective

Harriet’s gym shoes began to disintegrate at exercise on Friday.  Small chunks just fell on the floor.  Friends recognized what happened before we did and handed some of the scraps to us, with comments about the age of the shoes. . . and us.  Well, we had two days to replace the shoes, before the next class.  Harriet really didn’t want to shop, but reluctantly agreed.

What a hassle for me, a man trying to find shoes for a woman, in a store with no help in sight.  If one considers size, style, brands, color, and price, there were overwhelming options. A friendly customer helped me because I couldn’t read the details on the boxes.  I picked out one that I thought might work.  Without a shoehorn, it took all my best effort to get it on her foot.  I was exhausted.

I searched further.  Same results.  I finally walked to the cashier and asked if someone could help.  A woman introduced herself and said the “shoe person” was out to lunch, but she would try.  That took another twenty unproductive minutes before the “shoe person” finally arrived.

Harriet was not at her best.  Her answers were “I don’t know” or “it doesn’t make any difference to me”.  About an hour later, she agreed to go with a pair: Black, Size 8.5, New Balance brand, Medium width, “Training” shoes.  Whew!

When we reached the cashier, she informed us that in the box were two shoes for the right foot.

The moral of the story:  If at 95, you want to buy new shoes for your wife, aged 96, you need a well-tempered sense of humor.  

(We returned them.  A pair of veteran SAS shoes has been drafted.  They just may last as long as we do)


About the author:  Richard Smith, Minister, and Community Leader

20161216_130223Richard and Harriet Smith have been part of the Florence, Oregon community for the past thirty years and live at  Shorewood Senior Living. Mr. Smith has been involved in countless projects, businesses, and groups.

His mother taught him that if you have leadership ability it will be discovered. There is no need to push yourself into it or brag about yourself. Mr. Smith believes there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.

Mr. Smith attended Yale University where he met his wife. They were both attending the Divinity school there. He is a retired Presbyterian minister and has been married to his sweetheart for 68 years. They say, “Life is good basically – we both agree on that.”

In 1992 Mr. Smith was nominated for the First Citizen award for Florence in recognition for his work and contribution to the many groups and businesses.

 


If you are an elder adult or know an elder adult who has a story to share, please contact Jean Garboden at jgarboden@compass-living.com, or at 503-851-8668.  The voices of the elder generation can make us laugh, inspire us, and inform us!  We want (and we need) to hear from you!


 

My goal is to die young….as late as possible

I have been watching the services honoring President George H.W. Bush this week, and have been moved by the services and honorariums.

It struck me that President George H.W. Bush, who passed away at the age of 94, really understood that as we age, we can continue to grow and learn and strive to be the very best versions of ourselves.

The 41st President once told his granddaughter, journalist Jenna Bush Hager, “aging’s alright…better than the alternative: not being here.”   He felt it was more important to live every day to the fullest, to do the best you can with the information you have, and to take leaps of faith.

Sometimes, those leaps were literal! President Bush made eight skydives in his life, including jumps on his 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays. Those close to him say they expect that he would have jumped for his 95th, too.

Here are some beautiful words I heard from those who loved him, validating that George H.W. Bush accomplished his goal to live a long life and die young!

Memorial from President George W. Bush:

  • “I once heard it said that the idea is to die young as late as possible. … One reason Dad knew how to die young is that he almost did it twice. When he was a teenager a staph infection almost took his life. A few years later, he was alone in the Pacific on a life raft, praying that his rescuers would find him before the enemy did. God answered those prayers — it turned out he had other plans for George H.W. Bush.”
  • “In his 90s, he took great delight when his closest pal James A. Baker smuggled a bottle of Grey Goose vodka into his hospital room. Apparently, it paired well with the steak Baker had delivered from Morton’s.”
  • “He taught us that a day was not meant to be wasted, and he played golf at a legendary pace. I always wondered why he insisted on speed golf — he was a good golfer. Well, here’s my conclusion: He played fast so he could move on to the next event, to enjoy the rest of the day, to expand his enormous energy, to live it all. He was born with just two settings: Full-throttle, then sleep.”

Memorial from Historian Jon Meacham:

  • As vice president, Bush once visited a children’s leukemia ward in Kraków. Thirty-five years before, he and Barbara had lost a daughter, Robin, to the disease. In Kraków, a small boy wanted to greet the American vice president. Learning that the child was sick with cancer that had taken Robin, Bush began to cry.”
  • “To his diary later that day, the vice president said this: ‘My eyes flooded with tears, and behind me was a bank of television cameras. And I thought I can’t turn around. I can’t dissolve because of personal tragedy in the face of the nurses that give of themselves every day. So I stood there looking at this little guy, tears running down my cheek, hoping he wouldn’t see. But if he did, hoping he’d feel that I loved him.'”

Memorial from Senator Alan Simpson:

  • “The most decent and honorable person I ever met was my friend George Bush, one of nature’s noblemen. … Loyalty to his country, loyalty to his family, loyalty to his friends, loyal to the institutions of government and always, always, always a friend to his friends. None of us were ready for this day.”

Guided by Goodness, loyalty Faith and Fun

As I heard these memorials and others, I felt that our 41st president embodies our own Compass mission/values statement –  We strive to be  Guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.

Thank you Mr.President for being a good role model for us and for future generations to come.  You are a True North Leader and an example of True North Elderhood.


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 it breaks your heart – follow that path

 

If it breaks your heart – follow that path     

The role of caring for others can make your heart sing!  It can also break your heart.  I have learned that when you find something that breaks your heart, you know you have found a path leading to your purpose and your advocacy.

When I was a young caregiver in a nursing home in the 1970’s, I felt excited and honored to have the opportunity to care for elders.  I took my CNA class and was ready to begin my journey. Little did I know at the time that this was my apprenticeship into eldercare and would one day become my life’s work.

Nursing Homes in the 1970’s were not like they are today.  Filled with anticipation of this honorable work, I  found that I was forced to line people up, wrapped in bath blankets sitting in ‘potty chairs’ outside the bathing room.  I was assigned the job of ‘bath aide’ and one-by-one the residents were wheeled in, and scrubbed down, and wheeled out.  Some of them screaming, or kicking, or crying, or simply silent.   When I indignantly spoke to the Charge Nurse about how this felt so disrespectful to me, she told me not to get too ‘attached’ to these old people as they are going to die soon anyway.

She said, “The tasks are of primary importance to keep people clean and fed.  Just do what you are told.” My job required turning contracted bodies every two hours, taking vitals, attending to incontinence needs, feeding 6 people at a time at a U shaped table, shoveling the food into their mouths like birds in a nest. I saw the look of horror, sadness, and resignation on the faces of these elders. And I was told it was against the rules to ‘get too attached.”   It was horrifying, and my heart was broken.

One overnight shift, around midnight I decided to ‘break the rules.’   I sat with a a very old woman.  She never spoke, and silently endured her situation. My hurting heart felt drawn to her as she was quietly weeping.  I sat next to her and I held her hand. I looked into her beautiful green eyes filled with tears, and I began to cry. I laid my head on her shoulder and I cried (actually I sobbed).  She began to stroke my hair, and then she began to sing softly. “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mamma’s gonna buy you a Mockingbird…You will be the sweetest little baby in town.” 

It made my heart sing In that moment – feeling her touch – hearing her voice – allowing her to care for me.

As I left work the next morning,  I was filled with a mixture of emotions.  The elder woman made my heart sing in a moment of brokenness.  At the same time, I was filled with anger and sadness.  I was heartbroken!   How could people who had lived long and beautiful lives be treated this way?   I understood that their bodies needed to be cared for, but how that was done was shockingly disrespectful.  It broke my heart to see people sitting alone in wheelchairs, slumped over at tables with no respect for the wholeness of their spirit. I was outraged that as a caregiver, I was not allowed to attend to the needs of the human spirit – the need to connect, to be loved, to be respected, to be self-actualized.

What breaks your heart can define your purpose

I left that job and didn’t return to eldercare until many years later, but this experience ignited a fire in my belly.  My heart went out to caregivers, who are deserving of  kindness, and opportunities to grow too in this important work.  I wanted eldercare workers to be respected as eldercare professionals. And while, yes, the tasks are important, there is no reason why caregivers cannot be inspired to practice care in a way that they can be in partnership and in joy with those they are caring for.

I came back to eldercare in Assisted Living in the late 1990’s.  In 2003 I heard about the work of Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of the Eden Alternative. Dr. Thomas has focused on changing the culture of care since the early 1990’s. His approach to person-centered, elder-directed care initially came to life in nursing homes and has since expanded its reach to all care settings, including Assisted Living and Memory Care.

When Dr. Thomas was the Medical Director of a nursing home in upstate NY, he recognized that older people were dying from “plagues of the human spirit” – loneliness, helplessness and boredom.

Yes!  This was exactly what I had experienced when I was a C.N.A. as a young woman!  I took a  3 day workshop  to learn more about the Eden Alternative, and later I went on to become a Certified Eden Alternative Educator, and an advocate for an elder-directed, person-centered philosophy.

“An Elder-directed community commits to creating a Human Habitat where life revolves around close and continuing contact with people of all ages and abilities, as well as plants and animals. It is these relationships that provide the young and old alike with a pathway to a life worth living.  –  Dr. Bill Thomas from “10 principles of the Eden Alternative.”

I learned, and I now teach the antidotes to loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.  Below are three of the Eden Alternative Principles that reveal the antidote.

  • Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. Elders deserve easy access to human and animal companionship.
  • An Elder-directed community gives the opportunity for elders to give care as well as to receive care.  This is the antidote to helplessness.
  • An Elder-directed community imbues daily life with variety and spontaneity by creating an environment in which unexpected and unpredictable interactions and happenings can take place. This is the antidote to boredom.

Here you may read all of the  10 Principles of the Eden Alternative.

Since that day, many years ago –  when I reflect on how the respect and value of the caregivers reflects directly on the value and care of the elder – it resonates with me and validates that I am on the path that I was called to follow.

Caring is what makes us human. Now, that makes my heart sing!


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

Finding Beauty in Brokenness – “Golden joinery”

“We are all broken.  That’s how the light gets in.”  Ernest Hemmingway

How did you feel the last time a coffee mug slipped from your hands and shattered on your kitchen floor? Probably some combination of surprise and annoyance. If it was an heirloom or a sentimental piece, you may have even felt supremely guilty as you swept up the shards.

In Japan, instead of tossing these pieces in the trash, some craftsmen practice the 500-year-old art of kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” which is a method of restoring a broken piece with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.

Reverance and restoration

The kintsugi method conveys a philosophy not of replacement, but of awe, reverence, and restoration. The gold-filled cracks of a once-broken item are a testament to its history.

We practice this philosophy when we see a broken object’s potential when we upcycle when we repurpose when we reincarnate an object that would otherwise likely be thrown away.  As Shimoda says, “It’s one beautiful way of living, that you fix your dish by yourself.”

Society’s greatest accomplishment – Longevity. What are we going to do about it?

One thing is certain for all of us, if we are lucky – we will age.  In a society that celebrates ‘anti-aging’ products and dialogue – elderhood is still considered a state of  ‘brokenness.’

At age 40 we may get an ‘over-the-hill’ party, and we begin talking about getting old as though it is a curse. If you think you are ‘old and broken’, you are right.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and many people using the stereotypical language are diminishing themselves and missing out on many more years of a life well lived.

If you were born in 1900, you had a pretty good chance of dying by your 50th birthday. Today, thanks to improved health and safety, a dramatic increase in average life expectancy during the 20th-century ranks is one of society’s greatest achievements,” notes a report from the National Institute on Aging.

Most scientists agree that there is, in fact, a limit on how long, physically, we can live: rising averages aside, no one has ever been documented as living beyond 122. Getting to about 110 is really approaching the limit of the human lifespan.

While birth rates are dropping, average life expectancy is still rising, as more and more people live past 80, 90, and even 100. The population of people demographers refer to as the “oldest old” is ballooning relative to other age groups — with no signs of slowing down.

Conscious Aging – Can we apply the concepts of kintsugi or “golden joinery?”

So, with an additional 30+ years of life, can we look at our lives more intentionally?  Can we optimize our life experiences, our ‘brokenness’, and take the opportunity to explore the kintsugi philosophy to recycle our experience to create a life of awe, reverence, and restoration? The gold-filled cracks in our lives can become a testament to our history.

You are never too young to begin preparing to be your best version of yourself into your elderhood.   Below are some tips to practice kintsugi, or “golden joinery,” to experience elderhood as the crescendo of your lifetime!  Begin now!

  1. Developing a willingness to deal with life completion and overcoming the desire to stay in denial of aging.
  2. Coming to terms with your mortality. Yes, we are all going to die.
  3. Acquiring the skills of ‘golden joinery’ to gain courage and strength from the gold-filled  ‘cracks’ and ‘brokenness’ of your life, realizing awe, reverence, and restoration.
  4. Beginning to do life repair:
    • in health
    • in practical matters with wills and testaments
    • in relationships and between generations
    • by reaching into the past and offering release and healing
    • through forgiveness work with release from vindictiveness
    • by finding the pearls in the anxious memories
  5. Doing the philosophical homework by raising questions about the purpose and the meaning of your life.
  6. Serving as elders to others as guides, mentors, and agents of healing and reconciliation on behalf of the planet, the nation, and the family by being wisdom keepers.
  7. Preparing for a serene death and afterlife.
  8. Doing all of this nobly in connectedness with the inner, actualized self,  already realized, individuated, and complete.

 To learn more, Sage-ing International is a community of elders and elders-to-be who are ready to explore new ways of aging.  Beginning as a networking organization for professionals, they have expanded their focus, reaching out to everyone approaching or in the second half of life. Their vision includes teaching/learning, service, and community as three vitally important aspects of the Sage-ing journey.

A beautiful Elder woman fully whole and perfect. A living example of ‘golden joinery’ or ‘kintsugi”

 


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

About the author: Jean Garboden, Director of Education and Innovation,  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

“I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people” – Creating Intergenerational Connections!

I have discussions often with people about senior housing options.  Sometimes the discussion is with family, and sometimes the discussion is with an elder adult.  Even if the elder adult is in his or her late 80’s or older, the biggest downside comment about senior housing I hear is, I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people.”   

In a recent conversation, sure enough, I heard it again.  “I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people – drooling, useless, put away with other old and useless people.”   I reached for the person’s hand, and I said, “That would be a horrible existence! I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people either!”

This opened our conversation to talk about how our society has changed over the past 50 years.  Families no longer live in close proximity to one another.  The adult children of the elder generation are usually in situations where both partners work, and they are also dealing with childcare or college for their children.

Psychologists refer to the cycle of life as an arc.

You are born, you grow, you live, and then at a certain age…40 or 50 perhaps, you have an ‘over the hill party’ and you begin to decline and die around age 70 or so. At least that is what societal norms would have us believe.

However, people are now living into their 80’s, 90’s, and into the next century. The leading thought today is that as human beings we continue to evolve and grow into Elderhood and beyond.  It is not an arc, but a circle. We have more time and opportunity to build communities as we all evolve as human beings.

New Intergenerational Families in Relationship with one another

Today, we have 5 generations working and living together in long-term care, with our greatest generation (average age 84 -87 years old).  A person who decides to move into a senior housing community will today find themselves surrounded by a new intergenerational family.

This gives us opportunities to harvest and unleash the power and creativity of an intergenerational team that may inspire and transform eldercare as a vibrant, interesting, and forward-thinking community of people.

The Millennials and Zillennials (Generation Z), along with the Boomers and Generation X have the honor to connect, build relationships and learn together to support one another on this shared life journey to learn about and experience this wonderful developmental stage of life called elderhood. A bonus for all of us is a chance to learn from the wisdom and experience of elders – the 5th generation in our workplace!

  • The Traditionalist (born between 1900 – 1945 – The elders we serve! ages 70- 100+)
  • The Boomers ( ages 54-73 in 2018)
  • Generation X (ages 38-53 in 2018)
  • The Millennials (ages 24-37 in 2018)
  • The Zillennials (Generation Z) (ages 6 – 23 in 2018)
It is time for us to reexamine and empower these generations, and embrace new leadership styles and cultures as thought leaders in the industry.

Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z – ranging from a generation born in the fallout of the Great Depression to a generation who has never known life without iPhones and social media, there are few commonalities between these five generations.

While each one is increasingly unique, there is one characteristic that each of these five generations shares – they are all co-participants in today’s workforce.

Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to inspire our teams to work together to create an intergenerational family within a culture of caring in our Senior Housing Communities.

Elders do NOT need to feel like they are “living with a ‘bunch of old people’ – but are part of a vibrant, productive, happy family of all ages!

For the first time in history, we have five generations side-by-side in the modern workplace.

Longer lifespans, delayed retirement and an eagerness to begin working earlier are just a few of the reasons we are seeing a greater span of generations working together than ever before.   Each generation is prominent and unique – and have power working together as a family.

  • Generation Z: They may be young, but they are entering the workforce earlier than most.  Gen Z is coming into our communities with a strong entrepreneurial drive. They will be your early adopters and mentors and teachers when you install a new EMAR or Electronic Record system or implement technology for your Elders to stay connected to families.
  • Millennials aren’t just working for the money, but also for a bigger, common purpose, so establishing a core purpose and living the mission as a role model is a sure way to attract Millennials. Show them that their coworkers are intelligent and talented people to work with. Give them more value and opportunities to learn at work, and acknowledge them when they do well and give them feedback when they need to improve.
  • Gen X: To appeal to this generation, it’s best if a leader is direct with them regarding feedback on their performance, allow flexibility for work-life balance and reward hard work. They desire intelligent authority figures to respect and learn from.  Generation X is driven by results and often succeed when given a project deadline with little structure and the flexibility to work when they think is best.
  • Boomers: A teaching opportunity can reinforce the boomer’s importance in the workplace, teach the younger generations, bridge the gap between the two, and promote collaboration – something boomers often value greatly.
  • Traditionalist: One of their most prominent and defining characteristics is a strong work ethic; since they grew up in the aftermath of the Great Depression, they often see working as a privilege.    The Elders are the ‘HEART’ of your Community Family, and they can have a purpose by being included in the interviewing of a new team member, or teaching a life skills class to your care team, or working with a team on a community outreach project. Perhaps they would like to form a ‘Wisdom Circle’ where they can teach and guide some of the care team members. They have a prominent place in the family.

Multiple generations living and working together create a sense of safety, love, and belonging, and builds self-esteem. It gives everyone opportunities to learn from one another and hear different perspectives on the same ideas.

Celebrate the unique strengths of each generation and empower them to learn from each other to create a more collaborative, engaged environment. When care teams, families, and residents care for each other; have more opportunities to learn; are engaged and making a difference – overall happiness increases – now, that is a family to be proud of!

 


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

About the author: Jean Garboden, Director of Education and Innovation,  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

 

 

California Wildfires – Life brings us to unexpected places. Love brings us home

“We are evacuating”   This is the text message I received On Thursday, July 26 at 9:54 pm from Candis Willis, the Compass Senior Living Director of Operations for the SW Region.  Sundial Assisted Living, located in Redding California – where 45 residents needed to get away from the ever-expanding fires, now nearing their address on Hilltop Road.

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Candis Willis, Compass Senior Living Director of Operations and Suzanna Trompszynski, the Administrator at Sundial had attended a  Disaster preparedness Symposium in Sacramento exactly one month earlier on June 26th, 2018.

Little did Suzanna know that exactly one month later she would be in a position to act.

Plan A July 26

The morning of July 26th Suzanna rented a Uhaul to prepare to take the med cart and wheelchairs if an evacuation was needed.  She prepped the residents and the team. She made sure everyone had a change of clothing ready.  Suzanna called all of the family members to let them know that they were preparing in the event they needed to evacuate.

As the fire reports came in during the day, some of the families came and took their loved ones home with them into an area not at risk of the fires.

When the text message came to me from Candis at 9:54 pm, they were leaving Sundial with 24 residents – transporting in employee cars.   They were hoping to find a hotel to check everyone into.  They learned quickly that all hotels south of Redding were fully booked, as many people had already evacuated from their homes to hotels.

Plan B July 26 was to take everyone to our sister Community in Citrus Heights California, Sun Oak Senior Living – east of Sacramento.  The Administrator, Kaye Key indicated they were prepared to take the residents.  About 2 am the weary travelers arrived, and spent the night at Sun Oak Senior Living, safely together.  They were warmly welcomed and comforted by the Sun Oak team.

The next morning, Suzanna got word that the evacuation was lifted and they started the return journey home to Redding.

But – on the way home they learned how unpredictable this fire was and discovered it was not yet safe to go back to Sundial Assisted Living.

Plan C – July 27

Suzanna and seven of her employees decided to take the residents to their own homes. The remarkable courage and commitment of the team was a beautiful expression of care and love. They ate together, played together, and gave great comfort and courage to one another.

Love Brings them home

Saturday, July 28, the residents that had been on this rescue journey were able to return home to Sundial Assisted Living.  By Monday, July 30, all of the residents, including those who were staying with families are expected to come back to their home.

But that’s not all.   Mark Broadhead who grew up in Redding and is now retired from the Airforce wanted to help his hometown.  Mark lives in  Gig Harbor Washington now.  He appealed to the residents of Gig Harbor, and as a result, he arrived on Sunday, July 29th  with over 3000 pounds of water and food and supplies for the evacuation centers in Redding.   Mark, the son of Candis Willis continues to serve his country and his community with acts of love and kindness. His generosity and honorable acts were embraced with gratitude.  

We are all connected – and in trying times heroes emerge, and character is defined.

This is a story of heroism and courage.  It is also a story about being prepared.  This is a call to all of us who have the responsibility for the precious lives of elders to plan, protect and prepare so you can act with confidence, critical thinking, and yes – with love too.

In the end – Love always brings us home!

(There is another Disaster training in September.  Check it out! )


As the time of this posting 98,724 acres are involved, and 20% contained.  720+ homes in Shasta county are destroyed.  over 1,000+ structures destroyed.   6 fatalities (including 2 firefighters), 7 people are missing.  35,000+ people evacuated.  Many in evacuation centers in Shasta County.    Please send your prayers and thoughts to the people impacted by this tragedy.


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