Everyone is a former baby with a distinctive birthright

Trusting relationships are the most basic of human needs and the strongest foundation for caring for one another. Despite that belief, it’s easy to get caught up in a one-woman hamster wheel of working, consuming media, and just being busy with the many tasks on my to-do list.

  • I teach our care teams about the power of human connection through eye contact, touch, music, and conversation.
  • I teach them that each person has a unique worth from birth through the end of life, as fully capable human beings.
  • I teach our leaders about the power of creating a culture of caring in a person-centered workplace in their responsibility to care for their care teams and families while becoming well-known to one another.

Yet, I acknowledge that I sometimes take human connection for granted; I forget its value and forget to nurture it.

I was reminded again of the power of human connection this week when I was at Desert Peaks Assisted Living in Las Cruces New Mexico, teaching Adriana, a new Life Enrichment Coordinator about the power of human connection in the  ‘Circle of Friends‘.  As Adrianna began to invite elders who are living with cognitive challenges to our circle on the patio outside in the beautiful New Mexico sunshine, one was falling asleep, another in a grouchy mood, another who didn’t talk much, and a fourth person who was confused, but engaged and eager to connect.

As we sat close to one another in the circle we sang  “You are my sunshine” making direct eye contact with each person, and we saw the energy began to increase.  After singing several rounds of the song we welcomed each person, saying their name as we made eye contact and a handshake. “Good Morning Albert, thank you for coming today.”  Then we began discussing the beautiful day, and some of the elders began to talk.  We talked about family and times spent outside.  I said, “I love New Mexico, it is called the land of….” three of them responded quickly, “Enchantment!”   “Right”, I said, “New Mexico is indeed the land of Enchantment.”

Suzy had her eyes closed but began to smile.  We switched up the energy a bit, as we talked about playing together outside, and played balloon volleyball.  After about three minutes, Suzy’s eyes popped open, and with a big smile on her face, she joined the fun!  As the balloon bounced off some of our heads or went flying into the bushes, we all laughed.  The balloon landed on a sharp thorn and made a loud pop!  We all laughed even harder. One of the care team came outside and asked, “What’s all the laughing about out here?”  We ended the exercise when it was suggested we pop the other balloon, so I put it in the chair and sat on it until it popped!  Another loud round of laughter.

Then we talked about how important family,  friends, and connections are, and everyone except Suzy spoke – but she had the biggest smile!  We closed by saying each person’s name and expressing gratitude for them.  To each person, I said, “Thank you for being a part of our circle today, You made my day!”  Then we held hands and sang ‘Amazing Grace’ together.

It was almost time for lunch, and the care team came out to escort our now very connected group into the dining room.  But, you know what?  They didn’t want to leave. They had experienced a powerful human connection with one another and with us. They felt valued as whole and capable, They felt loved. They felt safe. They contributed with a purpose in making another person’s day better.

We can all begin today to recognize and value the power of human connections.   We can clean up the relationships that matter to us now.  We can have the courage to offer a part of our soul and to seek it in another.  We can do this with our residents, our family members, our co-team members, our bosses, our siblings and our mates and our friends and our colleagues.

We can all do this – even with the disconnection and the discord all around us. We can do this for the soul of the world.


Elizabeth Lesser challenges us to “Say your truth, and seek truth in others“.  She says       “Be like a new kind of first responder… the one to take the first courageous step toward the other.” Elizabeth Lesser starts her talk in the Ted Talk in this post with the lessons she learned from being a midwife. “Everyone in this room is a former baby with a distinctive birthright,” she says, and we are all possessed of a “unique spark.

I invite you to take 15 minutes this weekend to reflect on the relationships in your life.  Authentic, genuinely caring relationships are at the core of everything that matters in the world. What greater gift can we give to another than the gift 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 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.

Human connection ~ at the core of everything that matters in the world

I  believe that trusting relationships are the most basic of human needs and the strongest foundation for caring for one another. Despite that belief, it’s easy to get caught up in a one-woman hamster wheel of working, consuming media, and just being busy with the many tasks on my to-do list.

I teach our care teams about the power of human connection through eye contact, touch, and conversation. I teach them that each person has a unique worth from birth through the end of life, as fully capable human beings.  I teach our leaders about the power of creating a culture of caring in a person-centered workplace in their responsibility to care for their care teams and families while becoming well-known to one another.    Yet, I acknowledge that I sometimes take human connection for granted; I forget its value and forget to nurture it.

This 15 minute Ted talk by Elizabeth Lesser “Say your truth, and seek them in others”  touched me, and I found new ways to strengthen authentic relationships in my life.    Lesser challenges us to “Be like a new kind of first responder… the one to take the first courageous step toward the other.”

Elizabeth Lesser starts her talk with the lessons she learned from being a midwife. “Everyone in this room is a former baby with a distinctive birthright,” she says, and we are all possessed of a “unique spark.

In this busy holiday season, I invite you to take 15 minutes to reflect on the relationships in your life.  Authentic, genuinely caring relationships are at the core of everything that matters in the world.  What greater gift can we give to another than the gift of ourselves?


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. 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

Empathy – An expression of non-judgemental love

You never really understand another person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. –Harper Lee

All we need is love ~ especially working in eldercare.  The basic human need for  love and belonging is an imperative to life!

According to the latest neuroscience research, 98% of people (the exceptions include those with psychopathic tendencies) have the ability to empathize wired into their brains – a capacity for stepping into the shoes of others and understanding their feelings and perspectives.

Empathy is a key ingredient of nurturing relationships and can forge loving and safe connections.

Here are some stories of  empathetic communication break-through moments I have observed working with those living with dementia:

Paul is spending the entire morning walking the halls 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 very upset he can’t find her. Another care team member utilizing empathetic communication says, “Tell me about Dolly.  What color are her eyes?  What do you miss most about her?”   After a few minutes, Paul says, “She has been gone a long time, I really miss her hugs.”      

The first well meaning care team member has sympathy for Paul and told atherapeutic lie.  Paul  knows deep inside that Dolly has been gone for 20 years, and he is communicating that he misses her.  He was invited to share and release his deep feelings and heartbreak to  the second care team member who listened with empathy and love.  

Madeline starts pacing at 4:30 every afternoon to go home to her children. “I want to go home! I need to get home to my children!”  A well-meaning care team member  says, “Sit down. Everything’s OK.  Let’s go  have a cookie.” Madeline  gets more and more nervous, agitated, and upset.Another care team member utilizing empathetic communication asks Madeline, “What is the worst thing that will happen if you can’t get home?”  Madeline expresses her vivid memory of having left her children alone. Her fears are expressed to a trusted empathetic listener, and her painful feelings are diminished. 

The first well meaning  care team member has sympathy for Madeline, and she usedre-direction to try to calm Madeline’s fears.   Madeline is reliving a vivid memory of leaving her children alone at home.  She needs to express her fears to an empathetic listener who is willing to enter Madeline’s reality to relieve her fears.

Listening with empathy builds trust, reduces anxiety and restores dignityPainful feelings that are expressed and acknowledged  by an empathetic listener will diminish.

Painful feelings that are ignored or suppressed will gain in strength. The power of empathy to connect and to relieve pain that is pent up inside can bring peace of mind to those living with dementia.  

Empathy is an expression of non-judgemental love and a connection to another human being.  Yes, indeed, love does belong in the workplace! 

If these 8th graders, below, can define and act with empathy, we are all capable of acting with empathy. Listen to the wisdom of these children.

Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes. –Theodore Dreiser


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. 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

FIVE really cool gifts to buy for Grandma and Grandpa!

Black Friday  is at the end of this week after Thanksgiving.  What to get for grandma and grandpa?    The lists of things to buy are usually lotions, and socks, and slippers, and grocery gift cards – all which are good!   But I was thinking…. what do elders really want?

My grandchildren say I am ‘really cool’ because I stay connected with them on Facebook, Instagram, texting, phone, and Snapchat.   I don’t know about cool, but I am grateful that in my elder years I can continue to be part of the greater community and my family even when the day comes that I cannot travel as I can now. So I asked the elders I come in contact with around the United States What do you want?   And their answers were the same as mine!

  • To spend quality time with friends and family.
  • To have a purposeful life.
  • To maintain independence in choice.
  • To  continue learning and growing.
  • To have joy and spontaneity.
  • To have peace of mind.

The greatest gift you can give is a way for your loved one to stay connected.   You might be surprised how savvy elders can be with a quick tutorial on tablets and iPads and smart phones.

There are some things that are important to consider, if you are thinking about technology gifts.

  • Wi-fi must be set up in the senior’s home.  If living in a senior housing community, most have free wi-fi.
  • It is important to have someone to to tutor and  build a relationship during the learning process to navigate the device.  Grandchildren, friends, or if in a Senior housing community, the Millennial care-team members and their volunteer teams are great resources.

FIVE REALLY COOL GIFTS FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA

  1. TABLETS AND IPADS: These all-in-one devices are in many ways perfect for seniors with their touch-screen technology and large print options.   The touch screen allows the elder to access apps easily with a tap of the finger.
  • Facebook–  In our senior housing communities, I have seen the joy on the faces of elders who are connecting with Facebook website on computer screengrandchildren and long lost friends.  One of our Millennial care team members showed an 87 year old elder how to do a video chat on Facebook with her son.  It made her day!   The next morning, when I came into the community, she told me, “I got 8 likes last night!”  Friends she had not connected with in 40 years had found her and connected!
  • Learning and researching–  I talked with a 92 year old man  sitting in the living room with earphones and the tablet watching youtube videos about how to care for plants, as he advised us on the landscaping.  He told me, “This has opened a world of new information to me!”
  • Google earth– Want to ‘walk down the street’ of your childhood home, or visit places in the world?  Some of our teams have hooked a laptop or a tablet to a computer and taken a tour of the world. One woman, who was born in France was able to virtually visit her home town!
  • Cost: Tablets cost between $129$300 depending on the brand.

2.  SMART PHONE: Phones are not only important for keeping the social connection, and necessary for quality of life — but also give elders peace of mind. Many smartphones  offer large buttons, speed dial, visual rings and more.

  •  Samsung Jitterbug is available on Amazon.com for $60.
  •  If your family has a a ‘family plan’ with your provider, you can add grandma or grandpa for $20 – $40  a month, and purchase the phone on an installment plan.
  • Several residents and care team members were chatting with Mrs. Jackson who had just received  a new iPhone from her family.   Jasmine, a care team member,  talked about ‘Face time’, so  we asked Mrs. Jackson if she had her grandson’s phone number in her phone.  She did, and Jasmine showed her how to make a Facetime call.  When the grandson answered he saw faces of  of his grandma and all of her friends and  care team members  excited about the connection!
  • Add ear phones to the gift, and show grandma or grandpa how to access their favorite music too!

3. DIGITAL PHOTOS:  With most of our photos on social media these days, we don’t often take the time to print photos.

  • Digital photo frames are available from $34 to about $110 (which also supports video), depending on what size and capacity you want.
  • Another nice option is to use Shutterfly, where you can upload your photos from Facebook or other social media, or directly from your phone or computer to create a traditional photo album with captions. The photo book  can be mailed directly to your grandpa and grandma to enjoy.  Depending on the size of the book, the cost can be $25 – and up.

4.  IPOD OR MP3 PLAYER & HEADPHONESStudies have proven that music has a powerful therapeutic benefit for all people, and particularly elders.

  • Purchase head phones for $15+ depending on the quality.
  • Purchase an MP3 player or iPod shuffle.  The cost is between $20-$50.
  • Download a song list of music you know that your grandparent loves.

If you haven’t seen the documentary ‘Alive Inside’, it is available on Netflix, and we have seen the power of music to alleviate depression, improve memory, and enhance life!

5.  AMAZON ECHO DOT: Cost  $50.   This is my newest best friend, and I have one in my home office.    In the morning I can say, “Alexa good morning, what is the weather like today?”  She gives a weather forecast.  I can ask what the time is.  I can ask Alexa to play my favorite music.  I can even order through my Amazon Prime account.  “Alexa, add sugar to my cart”.    I can also say, “Alexa, tell me a joke” (they are not very funny!), or “Alexa, what’s in the headlines today?  or  “Alexa set a timer for 10 minutes”.   This week, as I was experimenting with this, I thought this might  be nice for an elder to have in his or her home, especially if visually impaired.  If you have a ‘smart home’, you can also say, “Alexa, turn on the lights in the living room”, or  “Alexa, lock the front door.”

I found a funny video of elders learning to talk with Alexa.

I had to add this  to my “Cool list” today


Technology is here to stay, and the elders I talk with are excited about the possibilities of leading a more vibrant connected life in this new era.  Yes, some say, “I am too old for this.”   But as soon as a connection is made, it is amazing to see how purpose, connection, spontaneity, and joy is evident in their lives!

Another documentary available on Netflix I have been following is ‘Cyber Seniors”  watch the trailer here.   Happy Holiday Shopping!


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.  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.

What I have learned so far – Be ignited, or be gone.

What I Have Learned So Far:
by Mary Oliver

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of — indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver, age 81 inspires young and old with her poetry.

A private person by nature, and born in a small town in Ohio, Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of 28; No Voyage and Other Poems.  As a young woman Mary Oliver lived for several years at the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay in upper New York state. Over the course of her long and illustrious career, Oliver has received numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984.

As Mary Oliver has entered elderhood, she maintains her fiery passion  for life, and continues to write poetry that inspires all ages. Now at age 81, Oliver has published “Upstream”, a book of essays that provides deep insights and delightful anecdotes as she examines her role as a writer, reader and a spiritual seeker who constantly practices what she describes as the redemptive art of true effort.

As I work with young people and older people considering a career in eldercare,  many tell me how passionate they are about the opportunities to support the continued growth and purpose of  elders that we are honored to learn from and with.   The very nature of caring rituals: washing others, holding others, feeding others and dressing others – is intentional, intimate, and sacred work requiring a code of ethics, dignity, respect, empathy, intelligence and kindness.  The work of  supporting elders with these physical acts allows them  to focus on self-actualization and spiritual and emotional growth, so they may harvest their legacy and wisdom for future generations.

And I remember Mary Oliver’s words when talking to those who have chosen eldercare as a career.  Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.”    This is hard work, important work, human work – inspiring courageous efforts.

The work of upholding the ideals of a person-centered, elder-directed culture requires leaders and care team members  with the passion, the skills,  and the willingness to put their hearts and hands into the work.

Elderhood is about the gifts that age bestows; gifts unique to those who have lived long enough to have learned much of what life is all about, and remain curious about what’s yet to come.   All of us are elders, or elders-in-waiting! We are defining our own future elderhood.  Let us now passionately promote  and embrace a culture that encourages the wisdom of elders to guide us.   Let us ignite, or be gone.


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.  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.

Be the fountain

You can be the fountain, or you can be the drain. This is what the keynote speaker said during the opening keynote of the 2016 Oregon Health Care Association conference. Someone else had said it to her and she used it in her presentation titled Get what you want with what you’ve got. Most of the talk was quips and ideas you’ve maybe heard before or may have in a slightly different fashion. This sentence struck me though. I hadn’t heard it before. It so simply creates an image, a visual, succinctly representing one thing–choice. You have a choice in everything you do–we all do. It doesn’t mean we won’t have bad days or annoyances or times we just want to scream. It just means we have the choice to let them flow through us and be repurposed into something beautiful or let it drag us (and those around us) down.

She went on to relay a story about how her son was attempting to get an autograph from a Harlem Globetrotter after a performance. He kept getting shoved to the back and, after realizing there was a player on the side, he went over to the gentleman that wasn’t as protected by the crowd. When the young boy asked how the player “was doing” the player smartly said, “better because you’re here”. She was struck by the glow on her son’s face. How special he felt because of that comment.

Senior Housing News recently published an article about “relational marketing vs. transactional marketing“. The idea is that instead of treating your marketing and sales efforts like a transaction (i.e. I provide X, you pay Y), senior living needs to treat marketing and sales like a relationship (i.e. we’re working together to get you the care and services you really need). I must admit, this is not a new concept to me. The senior living companies that I’ve been the marketer for have subscribed to this philosophy for years. I recognize, though, that its hard for some to transition out of the “sales” mentality. How do you do it?

I’m reminded of a Maya Angelou quote which I’m sure you’ve all heard: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Fountains are possible because of a simple use of one of the most basic elements on Earth–and yet they can produce amazing joy and fun. Feeling special is possible because of a simple word said in the right way and a person with the where-with-all to choose that they are going to be the fountain.

I hope in your day to day, you can find a moment to ask–how can I make this person feel special today? That’s the “holy grail” in filling a community and making those “sales”–by filling it with love and commitment to the people (all people) that make up the community.

How do you make residents, families, and employees feel special? I invite you to comment and share what you’ve experienced.


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

Speak Up! – We all need an advocate in our lives!

“We can, all of us stand up for care.  We can change how we think, how we talk, how we plan and work and vote.  We can come together as women and men. We can finish the business that our mothers and grandmothers began and begin a new revolution of our own.” Anne-Marie Slaughter, author, Unfinished Business

As a young mom, I advocated for my children’s care.  As a wife, I advocated for my husband’s care.  As a daughter, at the end of my mother’s life, I advocated for her care.  We all need advocates and people in our lives to advocate for us. We need each other!

I have been thinking about the sacred and honorable act of caring for a long time.  My daughter Carol and I have talked about this for years.  My work is in elder care and elder empowerment, and hers is early childhood.

We both feel passionately that caring for others is the most honorable, rewarding and challenging work imaginable.  We recognize the vulnerability of humans at each pole of life – early childhood and elderhood. We value the care required to enter and exit this life. We celebrate the wholeness, dignity and competence of the vulnerable. We talk about burn-out and together we have been seeking to understand self-care and how to glean the joy and nourishment that we believe caring can yield to ourselves, to our profession and to our society.

We dream about how different the world will be as we facilitate a shift in society’s thinking regarding the way our culture views caring for human beings at the beginning of life and the end of life.

Here are the commonalities we discuss:

  • In both fields, the important caring types who do the direct work are often under appreciated.
  • Relationships are the key to doing this human work well. We look for people who can make connections and form real relationships.
  • In both elder care and child care, the caregivers must also be responsive and supportive of the whole family – realizing the individual is part of a family system.
  • The very nature of caring rituals: washing others, holding others, feeding others and dressing others – is intimate work and requires being present with goodness, dignity, respect, intelligence and kindness.
  • At the beginning of life and the end of life – humans are dependent upon others to care for them. Caring for others comes with a great responsibility and a commitment towards service to others.

Creating a culture of caring is important in our families, in our work, in our cities, our towns, in our country, and in the world.   It starts with us advocating for one another.  Speak up!

 The video above is courtesy of Speak Up! This  information is used for public service announcements, websites, community newsletters, health fairs, closed circuit patient education television, and staff education. The popular animated videos have been downloaded by organizations in more than 70 countries.


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 carol.mom 4Alternative 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.  She spends her leisure time with her husband Art, her dog Max, her cat Molly, and a 50-year-old desert tortoise named Myrtle. Jean is pictured here with her daughter Carol.