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

 

“Every time an old person dies, a library burns to the ground.”

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”– Rudyard Kipling

The Power to Transform

Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, and challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Our storytelling ability, a uniquely human trait, has been with us as long as we’ve been able to speak and listen. Not only do people love to tell stories, people love to hear stories!

Listen to this tiny story of Betty Meeks, who lives at Peachtree Village in Roswell New Mexico.  What a wonderful tiny story from Mrs. Meeks’ library of her lifetime! (read the transcription below the story)


Betty Meeks, storyteller

Rusty, Dusty, and the shoe

I named the story “Rusty, Dusty, and the shoe.”

Betty Meeks Tiny Stories-page-001[1]I taught first grade and one day, while the children were out playing during the lunch hour I was in my room grading papers. One of my little girls came in crying and I asked her what was wrong. She said, “Rusty and Dusty got my shoe and threw it over the fence!’

So I went out with her and I went over into the vacant lot and got her shoe, brought it back and gave it to her. I was not saying a word to the boys. They had seen me come out, so they knew that I knew what had happened.

So I let them play, and when the bell rang to come in and resume classes I brought my children in, got the rest of the class seated, and assigned them some spelling words to work on. Then I took the two little boys, which were identical twins down to the Principal’s office. They stood before the Principal’s desk, and I stood beside them and told the Principal what had happened. Then I stepped behind them because I wanted him to have their full attention.

So he said, “Did you really do that to Julie?” One little twin said, “Oh we didn’t, we didn’t,” and the other one popped in and he said, “Oh yes we did!” I was so shocked and amused that I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud.

Well, the Principal went ahead and reprimanded the children, and I think he gave them a swat. Then he said, “You boys go back to your room and sit down and get to work, I want to talk to your teacher.” And so they left, and the Principal said, “Mrs. Meeks, in the future, when you bring children down, please do not stand behind them and laugh. Couldn’t you tell how hard it was for me to keep a straight face?” I said, “Yes, I saw it.” Well, we both had a good laugh and I went back to my class.


“Every time an old person dies, a library burns to the ground.”  African Proverb

The Elders are truly ‘human libraries’  with stories ripe for harvesting! I just got back from a community in Illinois and was captivated by the tiny stories I heard.

We have a unique opportunity to harvest the wisdom, the humor, and memories we hear every day. We are in relationship with elders who have journeyed almost a full century on this planet. Through their stories, we connect with one another while giving our resident storytellers the opportunity to reconnect with what was once taken for granted. We give them the opportunity to share their memories for generations to come. And, the tiny stories can be preserved forever in digital media and libraries.

Through the simple process of capturing these adventures, challenges, and wisdom acquired on their life journey –  we create a profoundly enriching experience for both the storyteller and the recorder.


To hear more tiny stories from Elder Storytellers around the United states go to the Tiny Stories Page, and get ready to smile, and be filled with the legacies of elderhood preserved here.

If you are interested in preserving your own tiny stories, or the stories of someone you love, please contact me, and I will be happy to help you save your library of tiny stories too!


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.

What are old people for?

“What are old people for?”

In 2004, a physician named Dr. Bill Thomas asked that question in a best selling book “What are old people for? How Elders will save the world”   Dr. Thomas and his merry band of age disrupters were recently in the Pacific Northwest promoting their Disrupt Aging event.  The stop in Eugene, Oregon was their 110th show.

I am convinced!  Elders will save the world!

It was a  first-of-its-kind event! This immersive and transformational non-fiction theater wove film, music and first-person stories with groundbreaking research. We were challenged to re-frame aging. Dr. Bill asks “What if?” What if everything we knew about aging was wrong?

We invited 88-year-old Mary, who lives at Shorewood Senior Living in Florence Oregon to come to the event that began with a lunch with Dr. Thomas sponsored by AARP. The lunch group was small, giving us quality time with Dr. Thomas asking questions and sharing our passion for being part of a movement to disrupt aging in America.  Mary had learned about Dr. Thomas a few years ago when her husband read about how forward thinking Dr. Thomas was as a world renowned Geriatrician. She was thrilled to meet him in person, as her husband had passed away just 8 months ago at the age of 92.  As Dr. Thomas put his arms around Mary she told him,  “My husband is here looking down on us right now.”  Mary and her husband had embraced a vibrant elderhood together.

We asked Mary to share her experience with us.  She was thrilled to spend this time with Dr. Thomas, and he was honored that she blessed him with her presence!

Mary and Dr T

Mary meets Dr. Thomas.

“When I  was asked if I would be interested in attending a program called Changing Aging by Dr. Bill Thomas in Eugene, Oregon on May 5th, I had heard about the doctor and his specialty in geriatrics. Dr. Thomas was on his “Changing Aging” tour across America.

My first thought was to turn down the offer to attend because it would require sitting in a car for almost an hour to reach Eugene, Oregon and being an elderly woman in my 88th year, the thought of my stiffening body getting out of a car after an hour was not particularly appealing for the start of a long day in town.

My curiosity overcame my thoughts of wondering if I could tolerate the long day ahead knowing that we wouldn’t get back to Florence until almost ten at night.

I am happy to say that the day was a wonderful experience reinforcing what thoughts I had about my aging process. Thinking about all the clichés one could think of, Dr. Thomas fulfilled all of them—“ hit the nail on the head” and others.

He did it with lovely entertainment—stories and wonderful music along with fabulous electronics, the latter, no doubt, standard equipment of this era to the younger generation. As I got into the car to return home, I realized that I wasn’t as tired as I expected to be, I hadn’t thought much about my frailties. I had done something different this day. I had started to do what Dr. Thomas’ program was all about. I was disrupting aging!”

Dr. Thomas is taking his tour to the East Coast in June.  Check out his schedule.

It is truly an amazing social experiment and we were honored to be a part of it!  See the short video below.


jean-garbodenAbout 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.

6 reasons to break a sweat in 2017 – Your Brain will love it!

Last night as we celebrated the beginning of 2017, how many of us made a New Year’s resolution to begin walking, running, and exercising more?

Break a sweat?   Do I have to?  Will my brain really love it?

Running and exercising hasn’t always been an activity enjoyed by the American population. 60  years ago, getting exercise and sweating was not talked about as a health benefit.  People did not have the sedentary lifestyles and jobs we have today, and being outside and moving was part of everyday life.

In the late 1960’s  publications taught and argued for the benefits of jogging as a health benefit. Then in the 1970’s the nation rapidly grew interested in participating in the sport as amateurs.  National athletic celebrities such as Steve Prefontaine and Joan Benoit stimulated interest in the sport. The union of Bill Bowerman and University of Oregon track and field with the creation of Nike marketed the activity. Running became mainstream and fun, and a popular and healthy exercise.   With that phenomena, studies have been done over the years on the benefits of aerobic exercise, such as running.

In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.

This information indicates to me that you and I can actually take action to boost our own  brain health and perhaps be part of reducing the number of cases of dementia in the world.

 Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide.

So, Why should we exercise?  Below are 6 reasons, that I am committed to at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily.  I plan to take my brain health and longevity of life seriously. I do this not only for myself but for my children and grandchildren.  We can make choices for ourselves now that can benefit our families and future generations.

1. Exercise is great for your brain.

Exercise is linked to quicker learning,  less depression, and better memory. Studies also suggest that exercise is, as of now, the best way to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a major fear for many Americans. Scientists don’t know exactly why exercise changes the structure and function of the brain. It’s an area of active research; in fact, next year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will launch a six-year, $170 million study with a group of about 3,000 sedentary people.

2. Exercise can make you age slower.

Exercise has been shown to lengthen lifespan!  A study by the American Academy of Neurology suggests that moderate-intensity exercise may slow the aging process by 10 years!   Exercise appears to slow aging at the cellular level.

3. Exercise can make your skin look better.

Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the skin, delivering oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and even help wounds heal faster. The skin also serves as a release point for heat.  When you exercise, your muscles generate a lot of heat. The heat in the muscle transfers to the blood, which shuttles it to the skin.  (P.S. If you find that your flushed face is accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, sweating more than usual, or nausea, then it could be a sign of heat exhaustion, so if you experience these symptoms, stop exercising immediately, and drink plenty of water.)

4. Exercise can make you happier.

Countless studies show that many types of exercise, such as yoga, walking, dancing, or cycling, make people feel better and can even relieve symptoms of depression. Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain—serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, dopamine—that dull pain, lighten your mood and relieve stress, and give you a sense of joy and well-being – making you a happier person.

5. Your fat cells will shrink.

Yes!   They shrink!  After consistent aerobic exercise training, the body gets better at burning fat, which requires a lot of oxygen to convert it into energy. One of the benefits of exercise training is that our cardiovascular system gets stronger and better at delivering oxygen, so we are able to metabolize more fat as an energy source. As a result, your fat cells—which produce the substances responsible for chronic low-grade inflammation—shrink, and so does inflammation.

6. Amazing things can happen in just a few minutes.

It is amazing that it doesn’t take much movement to get the benefits.  In a study by the Mayo Clinic,  it is recommended that as a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Reducing sitting time is important, too. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems, even if you achieve the recommended amount of daily physical activity. Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bursts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.

So, break a sweat in 2017!  And as you are getting your 30 minutes of exercise in each day, use that time to reflect on emotional and spiritual wellness too. “There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.” ~ Buddha  

Charles, a 96-year-old man living in the UK says,  “Anybody who tells me they are too old to exercise, I say to them –  make an appointment at the crematorium.”  Watch his commentary on old age. Charles says, “Old age is something to look forward to.  It is important to stay fit in old age.

“In my judgment, physical fitness is basic to all forms of excellence and to a strong, confident nation.” Robert Kennedy


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