The Art of Presence for People Who Need to Know We Care

presence2Each time a friend or acquaintance experiences an illness or death in the family, I go through the same thought process. When should I call?  What should I offer? Will I intrude?

What it really comes down to is this: I should stop dithering around and just do something — just about anything, really — to demonstrate that I am thinking about my friends. It all comes down to being present for the people who need to know that their friends care.

In a thoughtful January op-ed piece New York Times columnist, David Brooks, wrote about The Art of Presence. All of us, he explains, need to develop the ability to understand how and when and be near people who need our assistance and support, especially during times of great stress or loss. Many of us of are not that adept at responding appropriately when people need our help.

“There are no uniformly right responses,” Brooks writes. He also describes how blogger Catherine Woodiwiss shares her family’s experience with trauma and offers what Brooks calls collective wisdom — how to help others in need and the importance of being present (and maybe it’s just being around) when things go wrong in people’s lives.

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Great Green House Homes Article in Mass General Hospital Publication

Green House Homer MGHAn in-depth article about the Green House Home model appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of Proto Magazine, a publication of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston. The article, The New Nursing Home, by Cathryn Delude, describes the Green House model at the  Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, MA. The report also goes into considerable detail about the Green House Homes model, quoting Dr. Bill Thomas who came up with the concept in 2003.

The MGH Proto article also includes facts about the cost of building a completely new Green House community and provides an overview of the elder care culture change that is happening in other parts of the country. Author Delude points out that widespread success in culture change may depend on the staffing issues in elder care communities. Factors such as the huge turnover of elder care staff, their low pay, and the way that for-profit facilities maintain a staff that is about a third below the number of people that a non-profit nursing community hires.

Most Interesting Quote from the Article                  Continue reading

Do We Owe Our Parents?

I’ve just finished reading an interesting article, What Do We “Owe” Our Parents?, over on Next Avenue. In the September 12, 2013 online article author Suzanne Gerber discusses the motivations of adult children when it comes to aging parents and caregiving roles and describes a nationwide on-line survey conducted for More magazine, a publication aimed at mature women.

More info graphic

One small section of the info graphics. Read the description of the survey and see more info graphics in the magazine or visit the More website.

Intrigued by the Next Avenue article, an NBC Today Show interview about the survey, and More magazine’s brief on-line description (the full results will not be posted on-line until late October), I purchased the magazine. The most interesting survey result is that 81 percent of the 751 participating men and women say that they expect to help their parents when the time for helping out arrives.                             Continue reading

Green House Homes Featured on NPR

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I chatted with Dr. Bill Thomas during the grand opening of the Green Houses in Virginia.

In case you missed it, listen to this terrific All Things Considered segment, Move Over Nursing Homes — There’s Something Different. The July 23, 2013 radio story describes a visit to a Green House community in Baltimore and features Dr. Bill Thomas, the geriatrician who created the concept of elder care communities that help  residents maintain as much independence as possible.

The reporter also interviews staff members and residents who describe their daily lives the Baltimore community.

Interesting Points in the NPR Story Continue reading

New Yorker Article on New Models of Long-term Elder Care

This is the issue where the article appeared.

This is the issue where the article appeared.

If you can locate a copy of The New Yorker May 20, 2013 article The Sense of An Ending by Rebecca Mead, it’s well worth reading because of its focus on new models of providing care to fragile elders with dementia illnesses in nursing homes. The article extensively describes the Beatitudes Campus in Arizona, but it also mentions The Green House Project and the Pioneer Network. The Beatitudes model and The Green House Project  share many approaches.

So I was excited during dinner with friends last month when one of the people at the table, a neurologist, mentioned The New Yorker article, saying how excited he was to learn about new models that completely change the way we deliver care  to fragile elders, especially those with memory impairments. After he spoke at length about the article — which I had not read yet — I shared information and my blog posts about the new Woodland Park Green Houses in Harrisonburg, VA. Our physician friend seemed really eager to learn a lot more.

I”ve spent the past several years learning as much as I can about The Green House Project, primarily because my parents live at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), where the Woodland Park community recently welcomed new residents. However, I’ve been so focused on this small Virginia project (but huge in spirit and dedication) that I’ve not thought much about how people can share information on the amazing changes that are taking place in long-term nursing care.

Certainly educating neurologists — the physicians all over the country who provide medical care to people with dementia and Alzheimer’s and who may, in the long run, be asked for their thoughts on the types of memory care that are available to families is a path to consider.

Musician Amy Grant on Caregiving for Her Dad

Amy Grant

Visit Amy Grant’s website.

If you help to support an aging parent and also like listening to folk music with strong spiritual themes (also called Christian pop), take a few minutes to listen to singer Amy Grant talk about caregiving for her aging father, a retired physician, and how these experiences influence her music.

During the program, broadcast via AARP radio, Grant also speaks about her mother, who had dementia. Grant’s newest album, How Mercy Looks from Here, came out this past spring (2013), and the music is shaped, in part, by the time she has spent supporting her parents.

In a short NPR story Amy Grant talks a bit more about the inspiration for her newest album. Read her Wikipedia bio. Grant offers a few of her caregiving tips on this YouTube video, and a Huffington Post story, Caregiving Can Be Such a Lonely Process, links readers to  Grant’s 2012 conversation on Katie Couric’s program.