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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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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Employees key to ‘gracious dining’ experience

fapm_angie_august2016When residents come into our dining room, we want them to feel like they’ve stepped into a full-service restaurants, with servers who are attentive to their needs and tastes. Employees like Angie Evans help us fulfill our “gracious dining” vision.

Angie came to Farmington Presbyterian Manor at the beginning of this year, but it’s not the first time she has worked in a senior living community. In high school, she also worked in dining services for a small nursing home.

“I really enjoy being with the residents and talking to them. I’ve always loved it,” Angie said.

Her main priority in the dining room is beverage service, and she sometimes helps make salads. But she’s not just filling glasses. Sometimes, she makes sure to fill an empty seat. Angie recalls once noticing a resident, who she calls “the nicest lady ever,” who had recently lost her husband. Her usual meal companions were absent that day, and she was unhappily sitting alone. She helped the woman find others to dine with.

“Even if I have a bad day, if I can make their day, it makes me feel better,” Angie said.

That’s a great example of our “gracious dining” philosophy, which includes consistent, high standards in meal delivery, food choices and presentation, customer service, table decorations and, of course, taste and nutrition. Our focus on resident-centered senior living also means that residents can order from a menu for more flexibility in their food choices.

Angie said she was also delighted to learn about Presbyterian Manor’s annual chicken and dumplings dinner to benefit the Good Samaritan program. “I love that they do it for the community. It helps let them know we’re here. I love it. I never really knew they did that until I worked here,” she said.

Away from work, Angie spends as much time as possible with her husband and their daughter, who just turned 2. She was a joyful surprise that Angie said they never expected, because Angie is a thyroid cancer survivor. Four years ago, she had surgery to remove her thyroid and nearly all of the lymph nodes in her neck.

“She’s my everything,” Angie said of her daughter.

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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One teacher, one student equals two Art is Ageless® winners

FAPM21 - The Teacher's Apple When Wanda Webb entered her painting, “Teacher’s Apple,” in the Art is Ageless® competition at Farmington Presbyterian Manor, she had a specific teacher in mind. Wanda has been taking classes with local artist Vada Galvan for about 10 years.

Wanda dedicated her entry with the sentence, “The best apple goes to Vada.” Now, both Wanda and Vada are celebrating. Both women will have pieces in the 2017 Art is Ageless calendar. After winning at the local level, both artists went on to win at the masterpiece level, where they competed with works entered at 16 other Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America communities.

Vada and Wanda missed each other at the exhibit in Farmington, but Vada saw what her student had FAPM9 - Odd Man Inwritten on her entry.

“It almost made me cry when I got over there that day and saw it. She’s the most giving person,” Vada said.Vada began painting in her 30s when she attended a decorative arts class for painting on objects. She grew to enjoy making her own creations on canvas more. Her winning piece, “Odd Man In,” was inspired by a contest for small paintings that she saw in an art magazine.