The importance of listening to the person with dementia

We need to hear well before the voice is silenced by the disease

By Mike Good for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

(Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series examining and interpreting a commonly used “bill of rights” for dementia patients.) 

People with Alzheimer’s or other dementia are an invaluable part of our society. Millions of them are brilliant, wise and actively advocating for their rights and needs.

As my friend with Alzheimer’s, David Kramer said, “It’s not something that necessarily makes us idiots.” No it doesn’t, but unfortunately the vast majority of people don’t understand the disease, and therefore, don’t know how to listen to the person with dementia.

Just like anyone else with unique challenges and special needs, people with dementia need to be able to communicate their needs, wants and fears without being judged.

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It happens to the best of us: I’m not cool anymore

Despair turns to hope during a humdrum trip to the grocery store

By Peter Gerstenzang for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

A few mornings ago, I saw a reflection of myself and had to summon every bit of strength to keep from shrieking. What was staring back at me, from a darkened winter window, was sad, morally repugnant and just plain creepy.

As I caught a glimpse of myself on the NordicTrack, wearing a velour sweatsuit and horn-rimmed glasses so I could watch CNBC, I had the most unsettling epiphany: I’m not cool anymore.

I looked beyond the window at my snow-covered suburban lawn and wondered what had happened to my rebellious nature. Where was the guy who once wore mirror shades and motorcycle boots, whose long hair was held in place by a bandana? How did he morph into the guy who was exercising before dawn? Who chugged prune juice? And now dressed like senile mobster, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante? I did not know. And I was bummed about it.

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Art and friendship make powerful tools to fight ageism

College students and older adults become ‘pals’ in this creative arts program

By Linda Bernstein for Next Avenue


Credit: Caption: PALETTE participants bridge the generations

“Whom would I meet? What would I say? Would I seem dorky?” These were Rena Berlin’s concerns before she met her Partner in Art Learning, the new “pal” she’d been matched with through a program that pairs a college student with an older adult to create art.

“For the first time in my life I really felt like a senior,” says the 68-year-old educator from Richmond, Va., with a laugh. “They were transporting a small group of us from the Weinstein Jewish Community Center in a van to the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. A van. That mean’s you’re getting old. I was also nervous.”

It turns out she had nothing to worry about. “After my PAL and I got started, it was amazing,” she says.

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Centenarians celebrated

laura-gann-jpg-currentEvery birthday should be a celebration, but especially one as monumental as a 100th birthday…and then some! Several residents at the Presbyterian Manor have turned or will turn 100 this year, including our “most experienced” resident, Laura Gann.

Laura celebrated her 105th birthday on September 3. She married Lawrence Gann on May 30, 1930. They lived in Arkansas City until 1998 when they moved to Parsons to be near their daughter, Joyce.

Laura was employed by the Joe V. Samford Insurance Agency and Lawrence was a welder for the APCO Pipeline. To their union were born four children. Kenny, and wife, Shirley Grose; Carolyn, and husband, Bud Stacy; Janyce, and husband, Joe Chaney; and Joyce, and her husband, Bob Rhodes. To them were added nine grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and 13 great-great-grandchildren.

Lawrence died May 16, 2004. Laura lived alone until 2011, when she moved to Assisted Living at the Parsons Presbyterian Manor. At 105, Laura continues to be active both mentally and physically. She enjoys the social activities at Presbyterian Manor as well as reading and doing jigsaw puzzles.

Other centenarians for 2016 include:

Doris Brenner (101)

Woodrow Burnett (100)

Helen Carter (100) on 10/24/2016

Laura Gann (105)

Laura Pedlar (101)

We invite all friends to send her a birthday note to any or all of the above named to 3501 Dirr, Parsons, Ks. 67357 to help celebrate their milestone birthdays.

Chaplain: When do we stop counting birthdays?

shutterstock_306984419By Wayne Mason, Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice chaplain

When children are born, we count their ages in days, weeks and months. “He is 6 months old.” When children get a little older and are able to count their own ages, they include the portions of years. “I’m 3 ½.”

As adolescents age they begin to look toward specific goals. “I’m almost 13.” In other words, look out world I will soon be a teenager.

Another one of those special markers is: “I’m about to turn 16.” The interpretation is: “FREEDOM! Give me the car keys.” Additional markers include: 18—“I’m a legal adult.” 21—“I can legally buy any vice I want to.”

Pride of age begins to slow down after that. Many will cringe when they hit the decades. “I’m getting old. I just turned 30.” Or, I like this one. “I’m having the 1st anniversary of my 29th birthday.”

By the time we hit 40, we are cringing more about the gray hairs that are showing up and the waistline that is out of control. By 40, I know many people who no longer share their ages.

Look ahead another 30 years and you will see people restoring their pride of age. “I’m 70 years old, and I have the grandchildren to prove it. Do you want to see their pictures?”

I’m looking forward to the day when birthdays are no longer counted. When is that day? It is the day we begin to live for eternity. No more death. No more sorrow. No more birthdays. Lots of joy and lots of love.

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)

Prayer: “Lord, thank you for the promise of eternal life through Jesus. We look forward to that time without measure and that time without sin and its consequences. Amen.”

The secret to a long marriage

Our relationship is different from our parents’ but just as lasting

By Candy Schulman for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

When I mention I recently celebrated my 40th wedding anniversary, friends stare incredulously as if to say, “How is that possible?” I joke that I was a child bride in an arranged marriage, sold with a dowry to the highest bidder. The truth is I did vow “I do” at 23.

My husband, Steve, and I married young and had a child late.

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4 life lessons from Tony Bennett and other 89-year-olds

Bennett and Dick Van Dyke are going strong and happy

By Liz Fedor for Next Avenue


Caption: Tony with his son Danny, 2007 Grammy Awards

Singer Tony Bennett, at 89, isn’t resting on his laurels.

He recently released a new album, The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern. In an interview with NPR, he recalled how much he loved singing for his relatives as a boy. “It created a passion in my life that exists to this moment as I speak to you, that is stronger now at 89 than in my whole life,” Bennett said. “I still feel that I can get better somehow. And I search for it all of the time.”

Bennett’s not the only 89-year-old who is defying stereotypes of older age.  Actor Dick Van Dyke  just wrote a memoir titled Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging.  Queen Elizabeth continues to carry out the royal responsibilities she inherited in 1952. And Marilyn Hagerty, my friend and former colleague, continues to write regularly for the Grand Forks, N.D., Herald.

Their daily lives offer four lessons for all people of all ages:

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Fiftysomething diet: 7 trendy (and healthy?) foods

They are getting a lot of attention and may even be good for you

By Maureen Callahan for Next Avenue


Credit: Thinkstock

In the never-ending parade of new food products that make headlines every year, there are always a few that catch on and become trendy, almost fashionable. They are options that beg to be included in any healthy diet.

The question is: Are they worth bringing to the table? Put another way, will they help you age more gracefully and do they have unique nutritional benefits?

Here’s a look at seven of the trendiest edible offerings that people are talking about around the water cooler, at book clubs and in the coffee shop, along with details on what they do and don’t offer when it comes to health, nutrition and disease prevention:

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Dad’s gone but his travels to Africa still inspire me

His pictures from the other side of the world set me off on an unexpected path

By Wendy Walleigh for Next Avenue


Credit: Getty Images

Africa has had a special place in my heart ever since I was a little girl looking at my father’s World War II photos. Dad had been a 24-year-old Air Force cargo pilot in multiple countries in east, west and central Africa. And while on the continent in 1942 and ’43, he traveled to Egypt and Palestine.

He sent his photos of these locales home to my mother, who lovingly preserved them, mostly black-and-white, affixing them to the black pages of a photo album with sticky corner-frames. I liked to sit with him looking at these pictures as he told me the stories that accompanied them.

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Chaplain: God’s will for my life

shutterstock_323384795By Wayne Mason, Harry Hines Memorial Hospice chaplain 

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

I’ve never approached that scripture verse from the old side and looking back. I have the advantage now of being able to look back several decades at my teen years. As a teenager, I pleaded with God to reveal His will for my life. I was looking for His direction in pointing me to a job and a career.

Now, I am approaching my retirement years and looking back at what I’ve accomplished. As I look at two different careers, I realize God wasn’t nearly as interested in what I did, as He was interested in who I was. God’s will for me was that I would develop and use a Godly character, that I would become more like Him. God wants to be on display within my life and wants my decisions to be the decisions He would make.

For 25 years, I worked as a pastor of churches. The last 11 years, I have worked as a chaplain for Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice. Those first 25 years, God was getting me ready for the hospice work. In the hospice work, God was getting me ready to care for my wife in her declining health. God’s will for my life was to live as a conduit of His love, compassion and caring. God has always wanted me to live as a Godly man. The job didn’t matter as much as the person I was becoming.

So, the question remains – have I followed God’s will for my life? Am I a Godly man? Yes, I am a Godly man, but I also have a lot of room to grow in that Godliness. How about you, is God’s character being seen in you?

Prayer: “Lord, may You be the person other people see when they look at me. I want Your character to be seen in all my decisions and actions. Amen.”