Care Teams – engaged as investigators, and solution finders

“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” ~Dalai Lama

“You are a miracle! You have dropped down from heaven to be here with me.” Those are the words I heard from an elder living with Alzheimer’s disease a few weeks ago. I shared with the team earlier in the day that I am doing aromatherapy research. We sampled a few essential oils on cotton balls during a short morning stand up meeting. Later a care team member came to me and asked to experiment with the oils to see if we could relieve agitation for a woman she was caring for. As I approached the elder, made eye contact, and spoke to her, asking permission to put a drop of lavender oil on a cotton ball to put in her pocket, she said those amazing words, “You are a miracle!”  We held hands and talked for a few minutes….. she made my day.

It truly does feel like magic or a miracle when I connect or I can support a care team member to connect with an elder who is longing for the touch, the voice, and the love of another person.

When I do dementia training in a community, I usually first do classroom instruction teaching an empathetic communication approach that is person-centered and elder-directed.  For several days after the classroom training, I live in the community, doing hands-on coaching and role modeling the methods. I am present on all 3 shifts, and I learn so much from the elders and the care teams.  This is a reciprocal learning laboratory, with real-life situations.

What warmed my heart that day was that the care team members were fully engaged as investigators, and solution finders.  They had learned about the basic human needs as defined by Maslow, and how to identify unmet needs.  They understood the power of touch and being present.  They had learned how to utilize empathetic speech, touch, and approaches. They were using the tools and tips that they had learned on that first day; recognizing that they had the ability to do critical thinking to determine ways to support and guide elders who are trying to find their way in a confusing world.

This work can be empowering to care team members – filling them with joy and the deep knowing that they touched another soul and made a significant difference.

  • The care team member has the opportunity to be instrumental in calming the unknown fears of an elder.
  • The care team member truly makes an amazing connection with a 90-year-old who feels alone.
  • The care team member recognizes that the very nature of caregiving rituals: washing others, holding others, feeding others and dressing others – is intimate and sacred work that brings with it gifts of dignity, respect, intelligence, and kindness.
  • The care team member can be so in touch with another person, that they are seen as a miracle – as a gift from heaven!

I got an email from one of our communities with a note from a family, that said in part:

“Our prayers were answered! Your team  made our mother feel comfortable and loved from the moment she moved in.  As her family, we felt included throughout her stay. Thank you is not enough to express how appreciative we are to all of you for making her last months of her 89 years the easiest it could be as she transitioned to her heavenly home!  Forever Grateful, the family. P.S. Keep making a difference for people who need you.”

This is good work, hard work, rewarding work.   The world needs caregivers and leaders who are enthusiastically supporting families and elders and one another at the crescendo of an elder’s life as they prepare for their next great adventure.  In our communities, we are guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.    It is also important that we are guided by love for one another and for the work we are all called to do.

Love, Love, Love – All you need is Love – All you need is Love, Love. Love is all you need!

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 healthcare 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

You Only Live Once – Right Millennials?

The first time I saw ‘yolo’  was when I was texting with a colleague as we were discussing a decision.  When I questioned the possible costs, he texted back ‘yolo’.      I learned later that he had learned that acronym from his teenaged son.  YOLO = You only live once!   Maybe we do have something to learn from Millennials!

Millennials and Zillennials (Generation Z) are the next generation of workers in eldercare!  They will reshape the workplace, bringing with them energy and a desire to make a difference, with YOLO as their mantra!  We have an opportunity now to connect with these next generations to work alongside us as innovators and shapers of the future!

The reality is that 78% of new hires in senior care in the United States are Millennials as reported by McKnight’s Long-term care survey in 2016.

It is time for us, as Senior Housing Leaders, to reexamine and understand these generations, and time for us to embrace new leadership styles and cultures as thought leaders in the industry.

Millennials were raised to be confident individuals.  That’s good,  right?  Yet this confidence can be off-putting to their more seasoned co-workers. If you have a care team that is predominantly millennials, it works well to have a more seasoned mentor working alongside them. This mentor should be someone who guides, working parallel to them, allowing them to maintain their confidence and independence while receiving the reassurance that they crave.

Millennials’ have admirable attributes, including  that they are more accepting of diversity than were past generations, have capabilities with advanced communication and information technologies, have the ability to see problems and opportunities from fresh perspectives, and are more comfortable working in teams than were past generations.

Today, we have 4 generations working together in long-term care, serving our greatest generation (average age 85 years old). This gives us opportunities to harvest and unleash the power and creativity of a multi-generational team that may inspire and transform eldercare into a vibrant, interesting, and forward-thinking community of people.

The Millennials and Zillennials, along with the Boomers and Generation X have the honor to work and learn together to support elders on their life journey at 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 Greatest Generation  (born between 1900 – 1945 – The elders we serve! ages 72 – 100+)
  • The Boomers ( ages 53 -71 in 2017)
  • Generation X (ages 37-52 in 2017)
  • The Millennials (ages 23-36 in 2017)
  • The Zillennials (ages 5 – 22 in 2017)

As I have been teaching, listening, and learning with the millennials, and their younger counterpart, the Zillennials, I  recognize that they have some particular characteristics that will reshape the workplace, and make us better leaders.

  1. Ambition and desire to keep learning and move quickly upwards
  2. Collaborators – love to work in teams toward a common goal
  3. Embracing innovation and social and ethnic diversity
  4. Willingness to champion new ideas and take creative risks – YOLO!
  5.  Flexible approach to work
  6. Very regular feedback and encouragement.
  7. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognized

The companies that have already been the most successful in attracting talented Millennials are naturally innovative employers who are never restrained by ‘how things used to be done’. These companies are not specifically targeting Millennials, but their culture, leadership style, and approach to recruitment and retention naturally appeal to the Millennial generation. And because of that, they are able to take their pick of the best younger talent around.

It is not too late for those of us in senior housing to gain the loyalty of Millennials  who seek employers with similar values according to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016. Thus, those organizations that are guided by strong core values may be less likely to lose their Millennial employees.

We have an opportunity now to connect with these next generations to work alongside us as innovators and shapers of the future!

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 healthcare 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.

Naughty people need love too!

“You better watch out, you better not cry! Better not pout, I’m telling you why…Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s making a list, and checking it twice; gonna find out who’s naughty and nice…Santa Claus is coming to town.” ~ J. Fred Coots, Henry Gillespie – 1934

As the holidays’ approach, I begin humming the old childhood songs as I go about my day.   This year as I listened to the words and the messages in my little-girl-mind, I realized that this was, indeed a strong message that was given to my generation.

  • Be a good girl or boy
  • It is best to be seen and not heard
  • Don’t cry!
  • Wipe that pout off your face!
  • You are naughty!
  • Be nice

But you know, as I have grown up, I have learned from the Elders that even those who are naughty need love! Sometimes we need to cry or pout, and express our anger and hurt!

The elders have taught me that

  • All human beings have basic human needs.
  • If those basic human needs are not met – we ‘act naughty’.  Some people say we have  ‘disruptive behaviors’ or we are ‘not being nice’.
  • If we recognize that ‘naughty behavior’ is merely an expression of unmet needs, we can respond with empathy to fill that need for the other person, and in doing so, give grace and connect with love and kindness instead of being annoyed.

Dr. Abraham Maslow created the hierarchy of needs in 1943, and I am teaching families and care team members to notice especially if a person living with a cognitive challenge is exhibiting what some people would consider  ‘naughty behavior’, to analyze and determine what basic human need is not met.

Maslow Hierarchy of needs

  • Is the person in pain?  (Physiological need)
  • Is the person frightened or afraid? (safety need)
  • Is the person lonely and longing for companionship? (Love and belonging need)
  • Is the person distressed at the loss of their purpose and status in life?  (Self-esteem need)

If you and I can understand the unmet need behind that ‘naughty behavior’ we can respond with empathy and help the person find peace.

Let me tell you a story of a man  living with dementia who was expressing  his unmet needs through outbursts of behavior, and how we discovered the solution to his needs utilizing Maslow’s hierarchy as a guide.

Paul is spending the entire morning walking the halls crying and calling out his wife’s name. “Dolly, Dolly, Dolly!”  A well-meaning care team member says, “Dolly went shopping, she will be back later.”  Paul begins to wail and scream her name, “Dolly, Dolly, Dolly!”   He is looking for her everywhere and is upset that he can’t find her. Another care team member recognizing his distress as an unmet need for the love of his wife says, “Paul, tell me about Dolly.  What color are her eyes?  What do you miss most about her?”   After a few minutes of expressing his love for Dolly, Paul says very quietly, “She has been gone a long time, I really miss her hugs.”      

The first well-meaning care team member told a ‘therapeutic lie.  Paul knows deep inside that Dolly did not go shopping, and his anxiety increased.  Paul is trying to communicate to someone that will listen that he misses Dolly.   When he was invited to share and release his deep feelings and heartbreak to the second care team member his unmet need for love and belonging was met – and he had peace.

  • Listening with empathy to determine the unmet need builds trustreduces anxiety and restores dignity
  • Painful feelings that are expressed and acknowledged by an empathetic listener will diminish.
  • Painful feelings that are ignored or suppressed will gain in strengthThe power of empathy to connect and to relieve pain that is pent up inside can bring peace of mind.

How many of us label or are labeled as  ‘naughty or nice’ based on our behaviors?  We are good just as we are.  It is ok to cry. It is ok to pout. We have been told since childhood to be happy, to be nice, to be a good girl or boy, and not to be naughty!  But sometimes, we are not happy, and we simply want someone there to hear us, and listen with empathy, and let us cry and release those painful feelings.  We can be the empathetic listener  for the elders we care for.  We can do this for family members, and we can do this for one another.

If you have friends or loved ones that are grumpy this holiday season… before you get annoyed at their ‘naughty behavior’  – think about it.  Are they expressing an unmet need?  Are they hungry and tired? Do they need a hug? Are they worried about money and finances? What is their unmet need?  Give them a little grace and a lot of love. Be there to listen with empathy, and support them to express their painful feelings.  You will make their day!

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 healthcare 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


Practice Gratitude – Attract good things to your life!

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

A few years ago I was traveling with a colleague, Amira.  We had a series of misfortunes, as happens sometimes in travel.  As Amira and I traveled together, enduring delayed flights, and grumpy travelers, we talked about how grateful we were to be together to make a presentation at the Washington Health Care Association about new dementia research and techniques.   At one point near the end of our trip, I commented, “Amira, this has been a long trip with lots of delays –  but have you noticed how nice everyone is – from the concession stand workers to the TSA, and beyond?”  We both stopped and looked at one another and then burst out laughing and proclaimed, “Maybe it is because we are so nice to everyone.”

I do believe that we attract what we give.  Being in a state of gratitude no matter what the circumstances is powerful! It gives us the courage to be and do anything – and it opens our hearts to creativity, kindness, and solution finding.

Many scientific studies, including research by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional well-being and physical health than those who don’t.

If you want more happiness, joy, and energy, gratitude is clearly a crucial quality to cultivate.

  • Gratitude is a fullness of heart that moves us from limitation and fear to expansion and love.
  • When we’re appreciating something, our ego moves out of the way and we connect with our soul.
  • Gratitude brings our attention to the present.
  • The deeper our appreciation,  the more our life flows in harmony with creative power.

Here are three powerful gratitude practices for you to try.

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal: One of the earliest advocates of a daily gratitude practice was Dutch philosopher Rabbi Baruch Spinoza. In the seventeenth century, he suggested that each day for a month, we ask ourselves the following three questions:

  1. Who or what inspired me today?
  2. What brought me happiness today?
  3. What brought me comfort and deep peace today?

2. Write a Thank You Letter: Make a list of at least five people who have had a profound impact on your life. Choose one and write a thank you letter expressing gratitude for all the gifts you’ve received from that person. If possible, deliver your gratitude letter in person.

  • In studies of people who have practiced this form of gratitude, the results have been amazing.
  • Often the recipient of the letter had no idea what an impact he or she had had on another person and were deeply touched by the expression of such authentic gratitude.
  • While we may often thank people verbally, the written word can often be even more powerful because someone has taken the time to write their appreciation.
  • A letter can also be re-read and treasured, creating joy and love.

3. Take a Gratitude Walk. Set aside 20 minutes (or longer if you can) and walk in your neighborhood, through a park, around your office, or somewhere in nature. As you walk, consider the many things for which you are grateful. Breathe, pause, and be grateful for the air that is filling your lungs and making your life possible.

Gratitude is a powerful process for shifting your energy and bringing more of what you want into your life.  Be grateful and you will attract more good things!

Enjoy this 7-minute video about an experiment in Gratitude. A beautiful example of Gratitude practice number 2 – writing a letter expressing gratitude for all the gifts you’ve received from that person.


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 healthcare 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


Giving – perspective of a wise elder


We give, don’t we, for all kinds of reasons.

The doorbell rings or we are stopped at the grocery store and we make a token gift because we find it less embarrassing than saying “no.” And we don’t miss it.

Appeals for donations flood our mailbox weekly, if not daily, and we put them aside until, on impulse, we chose one or two and send a check fearful that by so doing our name will appear on some other mailing list, and we will learn of some other life-threatening cause. And life goes on.

As Christmas approaches, we check our card list to be sure that we don’t omit anyone who sent to us last year, or as we plan a small gathering we fit in the “Smiths” because we “owe them a favor.” And the world understands.

Once in a while, we are moved by the look in the eye of a starving boy in Somalia or the sobs of an elderly woman whose home has been destroyed by a hurricane and we feel uncomfortable in our comfort and want to lift their burden just a bit. And the world draws closer.

Occasionally, there emerges a desire to do something for someone for no reason except that we care: an anniversary or birthday, flowers to a friend, a computer for our daughter, a special surprise gift chosen with care for your spouse. And the world smiles.

Perhaps we give ourselves gifts, too, from time to time. Rewarding ourselves with chocolates or a steak dinner. And we feel we deserved it. And the world nods its head in approval.

But from time to time, we want to do something really significant. In our church or in our community: a new hospital or an addition and we stretch ourselves and give a bit more generously than usual and maybe then, we really are convinced that it is necessary and we celebrate the results. And the world is better for it.

Sometimes, we give until we can feel the impact on our own lives. A major purchase must be delayed or trip postponed, or the whole budget is pinched in order to tithe. And the world, if it knows and it seldom does, does not understand for it can relate to obligations and tit for tat and visible rewards but it does not comprehend the deep need each of us has to give. It makes us human.

Close to home

I am grateful. That, in itself, is a good reason to give. I am grateful that my dad taught me there are many good reasons to give: someone is hurting, seeing a child sitting in the wreckage of a hurricane, or a need just wells up within us and we want to respond. My dad taught me the fun of giving. Is fun the right word? Maybe it is joy, satisfaction, or even guilt. I think fun feels best.

When I was about 10. My dad said, “I think it’s about time you thought about giving regularly to the church.” I had a paper route making about $6 per month. A nickel a week sounded good to me. Then he talked about tithing. Ten percent! Sixty cents a month! That was a weekly movie! Or six ice-cream free milkshakes! But it made me feel like an adult.

I have never looked back.

At this season, especially, we are offered a myriad of opportunities to give. Some will be scams, so be careful, but most will be valid needs bringing health, wholeness, and hope.

There is one relevant to where we live. How do we recognize those who serve at our table, clean our rooms, fix our plumbing, and watch our safety? We need to put that in perspective. We are not encouraged to tip. But in our combined gifts we can recognize and thank those who enrich daily.

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

20161216_130223Dick and Harriet Smith have been part of the Florence, Oregon community for the past thirty years and live at  Shorewood Senior Living. Dick 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. Dick 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 67 years. They say, “Life is good basically – we both agree on that.”

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


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.

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.

You may say I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”

~~ John Lennon

Baby circus elephants spend the first year of their lives tethered to a stake in the ground by a 6-foot length of rope around their leg.  After that, a trainer can control them with a thin nylon cord tied to the same leg because the elephant thinks it can’t go any farther than the rope allows.

How many good people feel tethered to caregiving jobs, having personal desires for the future, but feeling hopeless and helpless, directed by the ringmaster – disempowered and unable to break free to grow, learn, and explore their own dreams and aspirations?

Four years ago we had a dream for our company, and we had goals to create a Senior Housing Organization guided by goodness, loyalty, faith, and fun.  It has been a successful and a beautiful journey, growing and learning together personally and collectively.   Like many senior housing companies, while we have had rewarding successes, we have also struggled with the employee retention dilemma in some of our communities.

Our executive leadership has attended conferences and webinars, read books, brainstormed at corporate retreats, studying the numbers, and taking a hard look at employee retention strategies. Some of us have read the book by Matthew Kelly, Dream Manager.  Kelly says,  “An organization can only become the best-version-of-itself to the extent that the people who are driving that organization are striving to become better-versions-of-themselves.”    From Kelly, I got new insight and raised questions.

We have defined our company hopes, dreams, and aspirations – What are the dreams of our care teams?

We are imagining how our team members would feel about a recruitment, hiring, and onboarding process where they  not only learn about the vision, mission, values, and expectations of the new company they are joining – but are also invited to share their own hopes, vision, values, and dreams  for their own lives. Paying a fair wage, employee appreciation programs and bonus structures are all good. But the bottom line is that our leaders must connect heart-to-heart with our teams.  To do that, we must become well-known to one another.

Care team members at Desert Peaks Assisted Living, Las Cruces, New Mexico

All of us want to work in places

  • Where we feel immediately part of a nurturing team.
  • Where we are excited about making a significant impact on the world.
  • Where we are working and playing with people who have our back.
  • Where we are sharing our personal dreams and goals with the organization and one another.
  • Where we are encouraged and supported to reach for our dreams to be the-best-version-of-ourselves.

Finding a way to create an environment that helps employees-become-the-best-version-of-themselves – while at the same time growing each Senior Housing Community to-be-the-best-version-of-itself may seem like the purposes are diametrically opposed.  But they are actually complementary.

We can ask “What is the purpose of the employee?”   most would answer, “to help the company achieve its purpose.”  But this actually misses the point.

The employee’s purpose is to become the best-version-of- him-or-herself.  Popular opinion is that the people exist for the company.  The truth is that the company exists for the employee.

A new breed of company loyalty

Years ago, company loyalty was based on hanging around for a certain number of years in order to get a pension or a benefit.

Matthew Kelly says “The new breed of company loyalty will be built on the principle of ‘adding value.’ An employee is responsible for adding value to the life of the company, and the company is responsible for adding value to the life of the employee.” 

As a leader, I am not here simply to motivate, set expectations, produce results, and inspire.  I do this, certainly – but my greater goal (and dream) is to add value – to help my company and our employees to thrive!

I believe there is wisdom in Matthew Kelly’s observation that people who are driving organizations must be striving to become better-versions-of- themselves.  We as transformational leaders are looking to unleash the power of our teams, connecting them with our company’s vision, mission, purpose, and dreams. – and helping each person set goals for their own dreams, achieving more than they ever thought possible.  It’s a win-win!

When a company forgets that it exists for its customers, it quickly goes out of business.  Our employees are our first customers and our most influential customers.    Our company can only become the best-version-of-itself to the extent that we as leaders are striving to become better-versions-of-ourselves.”  

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 healthcare 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.


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.

Wisdom from Annie – Give life a second chance

Annie G lives at Peachtree Village Retirement Community in Roswell New Mexico and is our guest author today.

Annie teaches us that hearts can bloom suddenly bigger, and that love can open like a flower out of even the hardest places.  Annie is a beautiful woman who has experienced trials, struggles, loss and has found her way out of the depths.  It’s about overcoming obstacles; that’s the key to happiness.

Giving Life A Second Chance: Believing In Yourself And The Power Of Love – Annie G.

I often think about how I got to where I am today and how somehow everything that has happened, big or small in my lifetime has made me a better, happier, wiser and stronger person.

Now, this is coming from someone who’s lost a parent, struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts among a boatload full of other things. If you have ever heard the saying, “you can learn and grow from every experience,” I want you to know that this is indeed true.

When I look back to some of the hardest moments of my life, I can tell you that honestly each of these experiences has taught me some of the most important things you’ll ever learn:

  • Love can heal.
  • There are good people out there if you allow them in.
  • Memories of loved ones live on forever.
  • You cannot love anyone until you love yourself.
  • You alone are good enough.
  • Words can kill.
  • Friendship is sometimes bitter sweet.
  • You cannot please everyone.
  • And most of all, never settle or give up because life is a journey full of roadblocks and failures but the best comes when you refuse to let one closed door break you down and acknowledge that there is a purpose for everything.

When people ask my age, I say, “I’m 14 turning 15 in September!”

Whenever I tell people my story, they often ask me “Why are you so resilient? How can you be so strong?  What makes you so positive?” I usually laugh or smile in response. The truth is sometimes you don’t have a choice.

When you fall into really bad situations, you cannot waste a second feeling sorry for yourself. You have to survive, build a wall around yourself and push on.

Whenever people ask me, “How did you get through losing your dad at such a young age?” I always say “Sometimes you don’t get through it.” There were so many days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I was a mess always breaking down and other times I felt nothing at all. Grief spiraled me into so many different directions. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t living, just floating around like a lifeless fish.

For me, I found peace and happiness through the kind hearts of friends, teachers, counselors and other who kept me going.

Even though I still struggle with grief and many insecurities, I find so much joy in knowing that I have a purpose. I am meant to do amazing things, not just because that’s what my dad wanted, but because I know that I am good enough.

I want anyone out there who may be at a bad point in their lives or have been through similar experiences to know that life isn’t all a dark cloud.

There is light at the end of every tunnel and sometimes the rainbow you were looking for was right in front of you all along. Never ever give up on yourself because I promise you that there are people out there who care.

You are meant to be who you are. So never give up on your dreams or your goals.

Picture this – all of the hard stuff you’ve gone through is not what powers the stove. They are rather minor parts of the elements on the stove top that allow you to run smoothly. Their experiences do not define or dictate who you are. Never forget your past or where you came from but use them as motivation to be a better person.

Thanks to the Author:

We are grateful for the wisdom of Annie and the gift of her life-lessons.

In ancient times, the Elders carried the wisdom of the tribe. In today’s world that tribe is fractured and dispersed, as families are more transitional, and may not have elders to call upon.  The world needs the wisdom of our elders more than ever!

I have discovered a nonprofit organization named ElderWisdomCircle™ that was made possible in part through a generous grant from Google.

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

The Elder Wisdom Circle is an online inter-generational program pairing advice seekers with a network of seniors (“Elders”) who provide free and confidential advice on a broad range of topics.  Their mission is:

  • Provide an opportunity for all seniors to utilize their life experience and wisdom to help others.
  • Offer thoughtful and helpful advice to younger generations.
  • Elevate the value and worth of our senior community.

I encourage you to ask advice of the elders around you. If you work in senior housing, you have a lot of opportunities to learn. Or you may meet an elder at the supermarket or in your church. Most are willing to support your growth.  You may be surprised to learn that elders are still growing, and learning and evolving…just as we all are!

If you are an elder, I invite you to share your wisdom as a True North Elder in this forum as well.   You may contact me by email to submit a story.