Look Alzheimer’s in the eye this year.

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

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

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

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

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


About the Author:  

Photo on 9-7-17 at 4.53 PM

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

Jon Morgan being presented with his award

Jon Morgan: An Inspiring Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Cultures of Caring

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

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

Employee appreciation day at Sun Oak in Citrus Heights, CA

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

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

 

Caring for furry friends

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

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

Caring for eldersouting at Carolina Assisted Living in Appleton, Wisconsin

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

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

Take a look at the week in review here.


About the Author:  

Photo on 9-7-17 at 4.53 PM

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

elders painting class

#TrueNorthElderhood and #NALW

What does it mean to be a True North Elder? 

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

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

Celebrating our ‘family’

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

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