Green beer? Green rivers? Green clovers? What does any of it have to do with Spirituality? When I lived in Chicago for many years I never ceased to be amazed when every March 17, Chicagoans would turn the river winding through the city a brilliant emerald green. Countless Irish Americans in the city would wear green from head to toe to honor the memory of their patron saint, St. Patrick. Every year I found it intriguing and endearing as the Irish American Catholics in my neighborhood would petition the Roman Catholic Cardinal for a special dispensation during Lent so that they could enjoy their favorite green beverages!
Yes, St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us. As we await the coming of Leprechauns and green beer, we also look forward to the symbolism of the clover leaf – one with three leaves and not four. Three leaf clovers are used to teach the faithful about the “Trinity” – the three-fold understanding of the nature of God. But what I find most intriguing is how so many folks happily become “Irish” for a day. Only a few generations ago, signs would be in so many stores that stated plainly “Irish need not apply.” Today to be Irish and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is a great source of pride. And even more so, it is a day to welcome with generosity and openness anyone who dons the green. What a wonderful ecumenical Spirit! What a change!
We see this, too, as many of us embrace the Mexican traditions of “Cinco De Mayo” and Day of the Dead. Or marking Hanukah or eating the Seder with Jewish brothers and sisters. I wonder how long it will be before the month long Muslim observance of Ramadan with its daily fasting and nightly celebrations will also be embraced more widely. I love that these cultures and traditions are becoming so engrained and incorporated into our communities and consciousness. No doubt this same process of blending happened with my beloved Swedish heritage with our celebration of St. Lucy in December and the gourmet dish of Lutefisk!
I am thankful that the signs no longer say, “Irish Need Not Apply”, but have evolved into “Everyone Is welcome To Be Irish for a Day.” That is a wonderful spirit of ecumenism. The challenge, of course, is to not only join in the green beer or green clothes and not trivialize or colonize other ethnic and culture traditions. I want not only to experience Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day with a taco or green beverage, but to gain a deep appreciation of the Mexican or Irish Cultures and how these great events are woven into the fabric of their cultures.
Article by: Chaplain Chris Beckman, Director of Spirtual Health Services at Ebenezer Ridges Campus
Eyesight is a gift often taken for granted. As we age, our eyesight can easily deteriorate. There are different kinds of eye diseases. Age related macular degeneration, is one of the most common eye diseases. . Taking precautions early is a great way to prevent disease from progressing too quickly and sometimes even from starting.
Age related macular degeneration is a common eye condition, and leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50. It causes damage to the macula, the area needed for sharp, central vision which lets us see objects straight ahead. The disease varies in how quickly it can progress and can result in loss of vision in 1 or both eyes. Objects may appear to be less bright, or blurred in the center.
This at risk for macular degeneration include individuals who smoke, who are Caucasian, and those who have family members who have had macular degeneration.
We can help our eye health, and slowing of macular degeneration by avoiding smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as eating a healthy diet rich in green leafy vegetables, and fish.
Research has shown a combination of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta carotene, zinc, and copper have proven effective to reduce the risk of age related macular degeneration.By adding lutein and zeaxanthin your chances of slowing this disease improve even more. These vitamin mineral combinations are those found in the dark green leafy vegetables and fruits as well as in fish. If you are not able to consume these items regularly, talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about a specific eye health supplement that may be right for you.
As with any medication, consult your own health care team to assure safety of the products for you specifically.
Entering my father’s house, I shed my coat, my scarf, my gloves, and step out of my boots. Then I turn the corner and see a chickadee through the window, cracking through sunflower seeds in zero degree weather. The chickadee is a familiar sight to me—but it remains a marvel. How can something so small survive out there?
For many of us, winter after the holiday season becomes something to get through. As the lights and decorations come down, the early arriving night presents us with long hours of lonely darkness. Snow and ice (and expectations of snow or ice) make commutes longer and more anxious. Lingering cold exhorts us to stay indoors with windows shut and barely holding drafts at bay.
Though perhaps not as pleasant as the spirituality of feasting that fills early winter, there is spirituality to this seasonal endurance. Even buffered as we are from winter’s power, winter—as beautiful as it can be—still visually remains a season of scarcity, barrenness, and mortality. It is a reminder that hard times simply arrive from outside our control, and they remain longer than we would prefer. Late winter is a lot like grief.
We dwell in it, and find ourselves cooped up with our belongings, our thoughts, and with each other. And so, late-winter becomes a time of cleaning out the house, having poignant conversations and introspection. Like grief.
It becomes an exercise in taking stock and evaluating priorities. Like grief.
It becomes a time of noticing and appreciation. Like grief.
So that I can be stopped short when I see again that, in the leafless, flowerless lilacs, the chickadees are thriving in the short hours of winter sun. They sing that spring will come again, like tiny, bold prophets. Like hope.
-Rev. Jeff Challberg, Director of Spiritual Health, Aurora on France
One out of three seniors will fall this year, but less than half will tell family or physicians. Falls are the number one cause of injuries in older adults, resulting in hip fractures, cuts, and even serious head and brain injuries that can be fatal. And even when there’s no serious injury, a fall can still be so frightening that seniors may avoid certain activities because they’re afraid they’ll fall again.
We're not saying that you need to completely remodel your home or downsize to prevent falls. but you can make your home safe from falls with just a few basic changes. Here are just a few ways:
“Well, of course you_________________”
If you have ever surfed websites of senior housing options, I bet you have frequently run into the term “person-centered care” which we owe to Dr. Thomas Kitwood, a British physician who focused on the importance of remembering that a person with dementia is first and foremost a PERSON with particular needs, challenges, strengths and preferences.
Cannot expect persons with dementia to think like we do
It is also due to Dr. Kitwood’s brilliant work that nurses are no longer trained to try to orient persons with dementia to reality, e.g., “No, no, Mrs. Jones, it’s 2017 now – actually your mother is dead, and the farm has been sold!” Thank goodness for Tom Kitwood! He helped us understand that we cannot expect persons with dementia to think like we do. As I’ve heard nursing home operator and author Megan Carnarius say, “We need to cross to their side of the street.” People with dementia simply cannot come over to ours. We need to give them responses that make sense with the way in which they understand the world.
Dementia expert Elion Caspi encourages us to also think about dementia care as “relationship-based care.” If we do not maintain relationship and genuine connection with persons with dementia, trust wears thin. As a result, it becomes challenging for persons with dementia to accept the care they need.
Lost in the grief
It is completely understandable that care partners are exhausted. They often get caught up in the grief of losing the precise relationship they had with their loved one before dementia was part of the picture. All too often, people become angry and bitter, even to the point of saying things such as “Alzheimer’s is worse than death.” That is a direct quote from the despondent husband of a wonderfully clever woman; let’s call her “Pam,” with whom I worked for some years. What a heartbreaking pronouncement from her husband! At this point, Pam still loved to share opinions and insight, sing Broadway tunes, reminisce, walk, dance, and hold hands.
A person is NOT their Alzheimer's disease any more than a person who has cancer is their cancer!
Those of us who have had family members with dementia or other progressive diseases do understand from whence that sentiment arises. However, it is ultimately not a helpful one. Nor is it accurate. It implies that we might as well give up on a person who is still very much alive. This could not be further from the truth. A person is NOT their Alzheimer’s disease any more than a person who has cancer IS their cancer. The person, an intact spiritual being, is still there, though many of their needs have changed dramatically. We do our loved ones a disservice if we refuse to rise to the occasion of their increased needs.
Maintain connections along the way
There are many gifts to be gained by accepting where the person is at, through each and every phase of their dementia experience. There is connection to maintain all along the way. How we connect will vary with different types and different phases of dementia, but in general, smiling, eye contact, gentle touch and approach, curiosity, acceptance of where the person is, conversation about things that are meaningful to the person, sharing laughter, singing, enjoying simple pleasures, giving compliments, promoting calm, validating the person’s feelings, doing things just the way the person likes, making things easier for them, reminiscing, having fun together, sparking creativity, enjoying humor….well, the list of what can be done to maintain a healthy, nurturing relationship goes on and on.
Responding to the world from an earlier developmental time
In short, we can treat the person like a PERSON, and remember that even though this person is losing skills, even though this person may enjoy and indeed benefit from things that children like, this person is still an adult who is simply responding to the world from an earlier developmental time. This person still has strengths and skills we must actively encourage and appreciate in order for them to have a meaningful life.
Language is powerful
Did you notice that I’ve been using the term “care partner” rather than “caregiver?” Language is powerful. When the relationship between a person with dementia and someone caring for them is viewed more as a partnership, what’s implied is that both persons have something to give. Think about it…What might persons with dementia still have to offer us, their care partners?
Some bonds remain unbreakable
They can give valuable input as to what they like and what they don’t like. They can lend us wisdom from past experience; they can share memories of olden days, with humor and perspective. They can inspire us with their courage and resilience. They can give us love. In this process, we may be surprised at how flexible our own capacity to love may become. Even in the late stage of their dementia, our loved one may remind us how some bonds remain unbreakable. Caring for persons with dementia may give us more patience and more appreciation for wordless communication and for life than we’ve ever known.
We are in this together
Thinking about our relationship as a partnership will help make us more open to a person’s participation and input. We just might respect, value and love this person all the more. We are not the same as this person, and we have each been impacted by dementia and changed forever in vastly different ways, but surely we are in this together.
So you’ve decided to consider an Assisted Living community. Here in Minnesota, you’ve got some great choices. You’re probably trying to decide where you want to live, determining the amenities you want, and which community can best meet your needs. But let’s face it, the biggest concern you have is: “How am I going to pay for this?”
With the average cost of assisted living falling between $2000-5000 per month, and the average Social Security benefit paying roughly $1300 per month, you’ve probably realized Social Security probably won’t cover the whole cost. Here are seven of the most common ways people pay for senior living.
1. Long Term Care Insurance
Do you have long-term care insurance? Most policies cover assisted living. Whether you've got an employer sponsored plan, or a plan you purchased on your own, find out which care settings are eligible for coverage and what costs your policy covers. You could save a bundle! Call your agent to find out more.
2. Veterans Benefits
Did you or your spouse serve during wartime? You may be eligible for benefits. Some assisted living communities even offer special programs for vets. Contact your county veteran's office for more information.
3. Savings, Checking Accounts, CDs, Bonds and Other Investments
These assets may generate interest, gains, and dividends that you can spend on your expenses. Or you may need to use your savings and sell your investments to pay for your living expenses.
If you receive a pension from a former place of employment, union, or other membership organizations, this monthly income can be used for assisted living.
5. Life Insurance Policies
Do you have money invested in life insurance? You can use your life insurance policy as a source of cash if you have a change in your health status or living situation. Cash surrender, death benefit loans, accelerated death benefits and life or viatical settlements are all options for converting your policy to cash--depending on the type of policy you have and how long you've owned the policy. Contact your insurance agent to find out more.
An Annuity allows you to pay a sum to an insurance company in exchange for regular payments over time. This is a great solution if you have assets like cash, stocks, bonds, and other investments, but are worried about outliving your resources.
7. Your Home
You can sell your home and use the money for your assisted living expenses. Or you can get a Reverse Mortgage, which will generate cash, but still allow your spouse to remain in your home.
These are just a few of the many ways to finance your stay in an assisted living or memory care community.
At Aurora on France, we know that everyone's finances are different, and so are their needs. Please explore these funding sources with an estate planner, financial advisor, attorney, or other qualified person as you consider your move.
Remember, we are here to help! Feel free to call us to walk through other resources available as you think through options.
Aurora Senior Living is managed by Ebenezer, Minnesota’s largest senior living operator. Ebenezer is the senior housing division of Fairview Health Services and has 100 years of experience serving older adults.