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Participants on the Housing Study Tour at Cathedral Square.

The IAHSA and LeadingAge Housing with Services Study Tour was inspiring, informative and interesting.  Each of the five communities we visited brought something new to the table and showed what dedication and commitment can do for senior living.  

The most important lessons we took with us are seldom taught, and less often shared.  The leaders of Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, Hebrew Senior Life, Sanborn Place, Cathedral Square and Hearth Inc taught us the following:  

1)          You can make anything happen with volunteers.

  • Many of the services we saw including fitness, educational initiatives and caregiving were conducted not by paid staff, but by willing volunteers.  Students, retired seniors, community centers and relatives can be found all around us.  Why not utilize their talents and time to enrich your community? 

2)          Maintenance Staff are the eyes and ears of your community.

  • All of the sites we visited recognized the value of their maintenance staff, and for good reason. While it may take time for residents to warm up to nurses and staff, maintenance personnel are invited right into the home.  They are there in a time of need when something goes wrong, they have daily contact with the residents which helps them identify risk concerns and can report incidents as they occur. 

3)          If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.

  • Finding funding opportunities is an arduous task of piecing together various resources.  A large support can come from private donors, annual pledges, rotary clubs and old fashioned fundraising.  People love to make a difference, help them find a way by talking to them about it.  One donor at Hebrew Senior Life said “I wanted to give back to an organization that gave my mother so much happiness in the later years of her life.”

4)          Take risks.

  • Jacqueline Carson, CEO of Sanborn Place in Reading, Maryland, has a unique and bold approach.  As her residents age, she remains flexible to adapt her community to their evolving needs.  If something doesn’t work, she finds an alternative that does. 

5)          Intergenerational programs are essential, not optional.

  • These programs aren’t just for seniors.  Intergenerational programs strengthen communities by enhancing the lives of youth and children, spread positive thinking about ageing, encourage cultural exchange and can even maximize your financial resources through partnerships.  They can also help you with point #1.

6)          Invite your greater community in.

  • While your senior community may not be able to parade around the town, your local leaders can certainly tour your facilities and get to know their supporters – after all, seniors vote! Nancy Eldridge frequently hosts events in her buildings and identifies concerns for her local leaders to address so that they stay involved and stay committed.  Her program, SASH (Supports and Services at Home) is an exemplary framework for coordination a the community level.
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This notion of offering specialized culture-specific hospice and palliative care programs is spreading quickly.  There are many communities that already offer culture-specific teams to care for particular ethnic groups or those sharing common languages, religious affiliations or traditions.

Now, Hospice of the Good Shepherd in Boston, Massachusetts, is accommodating Russian-speaking residents by offering a Russian-speaking team composed of a social worker, nurse, home health aides and art therapist.

Residents are presented with care options in their native language, meals of traditional foods, and medical advice within a culturally sensitive framework.  The program has been received with open arms and hearts by the patients and their families.

This program is of particular significance for the Russian-speaking community because of the infrequency of such practices throughout Russian history.

“The lack of palliative and hospice care for people with terminal illnesses in Russia is a problem that has not been addressed for decades.” says Olga I. Usenko, a Russian physician, “In addition, palliative medicine is still not recognized as a specialty in the Russian Federation medical system and the majority of medical professionals do not have adequate knowledge about modern methods of pain management.”

Anna Sonkin recently highlighted the challenges of accessing palliative care and the lack of resources in Russia, which is affecting children as well as the elderly.

Hospice of the Good Shepherd recognizes this need and is doing more than its part for the Russian-speaking community by expanding its initiative internationally.  In Moldova, for instance, they are helping to purchase equipment, conduct training exchanges and develop hospice programs which have only begun to grow in the last 10 years.

IMG_5862.jpg

[Photo Credit: Tom Page, Flickr]

For a list of hospice and palliative care in Russia and CIS countries, see the list from Pallcare.ru (in Russian).

My garden does not whet the appetite; it satisfies it. It does not provoke thirst through heedless indulgence, but slakes it by proffering its natural remedy. Amid such pleasures as these have I grown old.
– Epicurus

A recent study in the American Heart Association’s Journal Circulation, found that heart health can be improved by regularly engaging in leisure and household activities such as gardening.

Gardening is not new to rehabilitation.  Spending time outdoors, embracing nature and actively engaging in an pastime seems intuitive to good health.

Still, it is sometimes overlooked as one of the best natural remedies that can help in fighting health problems associated with old age and dementia. Gardening can provide the health and fitness a person requires to stay active. The effects of gardening are rejuvenating for the elderly.

Unlike previous research, Circulation  tracked participants for over 10 years and demonstrated that activity over the long haul consistently  reduced inflammatory markers and therefore may be important in preventing physical effects related with ageing.

Previously, Virginia Tech had issued a related study on the benefits of horticulture therapy. It concluded that the benefits included:

  • improvement in attention
  • reduction of pain symptoms
  • lessening of stress
  • modulation of agitation
  • reduction in medications needed
  • improvements in symptoms of dementia
  • reduction in number of falls

These successes are popping up in the news more and more.  Today, for instance, a U.K. man shared his ability to overcome depression through gardening.

However, one report found that not all gardens are equally beneficial. “Among their findings: users mostly visited gardens seeking relaxation and restoration from mental and emotional fatigue. Tree-bordered vistas of fountains or other water features, along with lush, multi-layered greenery of mature trees and flowering plants, appealed most.”

Other researchers found that creating a standard checklist of features can ensure the healing power of gardens.  These elements include:

  • Lush greenery
  • Sculptures and variety in views
  • Atmosphere that facilitates interaction
  • Interactive engagement of multiple senses
  • Accessible entryways and pathways
  • Relaxing sounds

In addition to adapting garden spaces, tools and equipment too can be modified or adapted to help the elderly or disabled begin or continue gardening while reducing physical stress.

Please share your gardening health successes with us and tell us what gardening means to you.

Conflict of interests

[Photo Credit: HyperBob, Flickr]

many faces of the Hopi [Photo Credit: wikimedia commons]

In honor of the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, it’s essential to pause and consider the social fabrics that dictate our understanding and perception of the field of ageing. An article from Indian Countryon North American indigenous peoples’ reaction to dementia within their communities helps us learn from one another.

While Alzheimer’s occurs at about the same rate among older Native Americans/Alaska Natives as it does within the continental United States, the approach to treatment is unique.

David Maes, of Hopi/Apache descent, is establishing a nonprofit in Denver, Colorado called Taawa Energy Center (Taawa) – meaning “sun” in Hopi.  The center will care for elders living with dementia through an approach that seeks and uses ‘the essence of the person’ for healing.

His focus in treatment changes from management of disease to caring for the whole person. “Specialists think they are treating the whole person, but in fact they’re fragmenting the person,” says Maes.

There is something that everyone around the world can learn from the Native approach.  Native Americans do not share the stigma and ageism associated with caregiving to elders.  In fact, it is associated with normal aging in the Indian community.  The community shares their input and support, traditional healing practices and traditional medicine with the elderly.

Maes says “among aboriginal and Native people, those with dementia [of which Alzheimer’s is one form] are the spiritual people, beginning to leave this world to enter a world where everything is positive and good. There’s no judgment in that world.”

To read the full story, visit: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/07/23/native-approach-to-dementia-stresses-human-spirit-124684#ixzz234x1rUBr  

The month of Ramadan is about compassion and giving for Muslims around the world.  This makes it an especially important time to reach out to the elderly who are lonely, without companionship or family.

In Qatar, as part of the Reach Out to Asia (ROTA) initiative, volunteers are reaching out to the elderly at the Qatar Foundation for Elderly Care.  Last weekend, ROTA volunteers shared iftar (meal breaking the fast) and interacted with residents.

A UK based organization is donating food packs for iftar to vulnerable people in the community or those who cannot attend events on their own.

In Indonesia, the Jakarta Family Welfare Movement (PKK) in cooperation with the Red Cross is providing donations for the elderly in Jakarta and is offering a venue for socializing.

Even if you yourself do not observe Ramadan, perhaps your loved ones, elders or caregivers are fasting during this month.   It is important to note that the elderly do not have to fast.  According to the Emirates Home Nursing Senior Care Service, “The Quran exempts sick people from the duty of fasting – Muslims with chronic diseases may not perceive themselves as sick and are eager to fast.”  Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems are common ailments which increase health risks during fasting.   Find out if any of the elderly in your community will be fasting and offer guidance and support.

The holiday this year spans from around July 20 to August 19. (These dates vary from country to country depending on traditions, the lunar calendar, and by region.)

Celebrating or not, take this opportunity to connect with the elderly in your community.

1er plat de ramadan

Traditional Ramadan Feast [Photo Credit: amekinfo, Flickr]

As the International AIDS Conference winds down, the culmination of the event anticipates that one message is clear: Ageing with HIV is an urgent matter that requires a lot of attention.

As one man put it, “I fear that if I need to be cared for, the carer would be as ill-informed and prejudiced about HIV as the general public.”

A number of integral sessions were conducted with regards to HIV and ageing. Andrea Beal of Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN) in Canada presented “One Day an Army of Grey-Haired Women may Quietly Take over the Earth”.

Global experts from around the world served on a panel on “HIV and Aging: The Challenge of the Epidemic’s Fourth Decade” covering topics such as ageism, stigma, prevention and the critical role of caregivers.

Judith Currier presented on the “Intersection of non-communicable diseases and Ageing in HIV” discussing a global action plan.

Here is what we learned from the AIDS2012 conference:

  •  It is expected that 50% of all persons with HIV in developed nations will be age 50 or older as early as 2015
  • Increased life expectancy for treated HIV now approaches survival rates similar to the general population.
  •  Older people with HIV have twice as many age-related health conditions as their HIV negative peers
  •  Discrimination, ignorance and poor clinical treatment continues to ensue about AIDS illness
  • Many health systems are not ready to cope with the influx of ageing HIV-positive people requiring medication and care
  • Older adults accounted for 15% of new cases of HIV in the US
  •  HIV positive people are at a greater risk for illnesses common in old age
AIDS awareness in Chimoio

AIDS awareness ad in Chimoio, Mozambique [Credit: Ton Rulkens, Flickr]

Global Connections

Margie Van Zyl (left) making Global Connections with Debra Rose (2nd from left), Jan Montague (2nd from right) and Rayne Stroebel of GERATEC (right)

Margie van Zyl, Direct of Strategic Partnerships at GERATEC, gave a presentation on Global Connections made to date at the recent IFA conference in Prague.  

The starting point for the Global Connections began in Trondheim, Norway when Margie met with IAHSA’s former Executive Director, Ginger Nuessle, to set up the country support network through IAHSA.  “We started emailing each other sharing ideas and thoughts” recalls Margie.

Following the IAHSA Conference in London in 2009, partnerships began to develop: Staff visited across countries, donated equipment, and supplied one another with training materials.

At the IFA in Prague, Margie made more connections. She is currently working on linking them to organisations in South Africa.  These programs include computer clubs for senior networks in Australia and South Africa, and a project on hope in long-term care in Canada. 

Then there was Jan Montague, President of Whole-Person Wellness Solutions, Inc. and Dr. Debra Rose, professor of Kinesiology Department and director of the Center for Sucessful Aging at California State University, who came to South Africa on holiday early in July.

Margie asked Jan and Debra if they wouldn consider running a workshop for staff in and around Cape Town. They agreed and about 80 nurses, social workers, carers, administrators attended the presentation on 3rd July 2012. Jan presented on Advancing Whole-Person Wellness and Debra on Fall Risk Reduction as a Pathway to Whole-Person Wellness.

They then went to visit Ekuphumleni, an old age home in KwaZulu Natal, and they were able to see first-hand the struggles of South Africa’s ageing.  Jan returned to the U.S. very committed to speaking to people at home to encourage support abroad.

Another successful connection was with Dan Dixon of Guardian Angels of Elk River, whom Margie met in Washington DC.  Volunteers from Elk River had visited Tanzania to work on an elder care project. Dan and Margie have been exchanging ideas and Dan is now raising funds through Rotary and getting matching grants for this project.

“For me the potential is limitless – it just takes passion and commitment!” says Margie. “It is IAHSA that gives the impetus for such global connections.  Thank you IAHSA!”

The Global Connections Program continues to inspire team work.  We look forward to welcoming new connections and international partnerships this year.

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“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
― Mother Teresa

By Jackie Pinkowitz, M.Ed.; Board Chair, CCAL-Advancing Person Centered Living

[To support dementia initiativedementia care and learn more about research and practices, register for the International Alzheimer’s Disease Study Tour Today! ]

On Friday, June 29, 2012, The National Dementia Initiative, gathered in Washington DC at LeadingAge for their first meeting to form  recommendations on person-centered non-pharmacologic strategies to address behavioral and emotional aspects of caring for individuals living with dementia in home and community-based settings.

The meeting’s participants included nearly 60 dementia experts spanning research, policy and practice from around the United States. CCAL-Advancing Person-Centered Living is one of the leaders of this initiative.

Like most significant efforts, The National Dementia Initiative “will take a village” to achieve its lofty purpose which began in 2011 with the germ of an idea:  it should gather a leadership team representing research, policy and practice sectors that would:

  • Work diligently to connect dementia experts from all three sectors across the United States and beyond
  •  Who will volunteer their time and expertise
  • To collaborate virtually and in person reframing dementia care  by using a person-centered holistic well-being philosophy and approach
  •  In the context of understanding and responding to “difficult or challenging” behaviors through person-centered non-pharmacologic practices.
Dementia initiative, caregiving

All photos credit of CCAL

In the ensuing months, “sixty villagers” heeded the call and began virtual communications in preparation for our all-day gathering on June 29th, 2012 — a gathering that can only be described as passionate, intense, and singularly focused on our common purpose.  Today, the villagers are back home, enthusiastically volunteering for three  workgroups being formed  to advance this effort.

The aspiration of the recent meeting was to come together on key principles and practices of person-centered dementia care and provide input for a comprehensive White Paper, which will focus on how to support individuals living with dementia.  A workgroup of volunteer participants will be assisting in disseminating and distributing the final paper come September 2012.

To truly understand What Matters Most in our Initiative, you need to gaze upon some of the faces in this blog: faces of those we love, care for, and caringly assist with utmost respect and dignity.

When I opened our all-day gathering, framed photos of “Those who Matter Most” decorated every table and a beautiful kaleidoscope of faces flashed across the screen as I acknowledged:  “Clearly the most important people in our village are not here today—the people living with dementia, their families, and their care partners.  But they are with us in spirit and we honor them through all the wonderful pictures so many of you provided.  I know that if we continue to work together with open hearts and open minds, we will have an incredibly meaningful and productive meeting; and we will succeed in advancing this most important Initiative for these most important people.”

Dementia Initiative

So I urge you, regardless of whatever Change Effort you may be conceiving or currently leading,  to truly understand what drives your amazing villagers (i.e. What Matters Most  to them; what motivates and energizes them to give their all for a greater good) so that you may tap into it throughout your entire fascinating future-focused journey of change…

IAHSA provides an opportunity to join the conversation on What Matters Most and engage in dementia care best practices on October 15-20, 2012 in LA and San Diego, California. IAHSA, in partnership with Alzheimer’s Disease International, will host the International Alzheimer’s Study Tour which will explore the research and treatment protocols for early stage dementia as well as provide a shared learning experience through site visits with communities.

Register today!

IAHSA is very proud of all of the volunteer program initiatives around the world that our members offer and wanted to share these with you!

Christie Gardens – Toronto, Canada

Christie Gardens Apartment & Care, Inc., a member of IAHSA in Toronto, is a retirement community that has long been serving residents physically, socially and spiritually for over 25 years.

The success of Christie Gardens has been volunteerism, among other unique programs. Its volunteers have remained an integral part of the culture of Christie Gardens. Christie offers flexible daily, weekly or monthly duties in various areas of service, including assisting with events, church services, programs on floor one, calendar delivery and folding, and weekly or monthly duties like mail delivery, decorating and plant maintenance. They look forward to expanding their program in 2012, and welcome any interested applicants.

Reaping Hope – Kathmandu, Nepal

Reaping Hope, IAHSA’s first member in Nepal, is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that creates opportunity for global awareness through its volunteering programs. Its programs work with needy and vulnerable groups and are always looking for people with a health-care background for placement in elderly homes (Briddashram) and disability centers.

Volunteers of all backgrounds and skill levels can work at the Ni Shahaya Sewa Sadran (an old age home) or The Pashupati Old Age Home in Pashupatinath.  Reaping Hope invites volunteers to help seniors with daily chores and activities while seeing the beautiful and spiritual landscape of Nepal.

Tape m'en 5

[credit: Jonas Boni, daoro]

In February 2012, Student British Medical Journal revealed a study on rising STI and STD rates, including HIV, in seniors. “Sexual Health and the Older Adult” estimated that in the US, UK and Europe rates of transmission doubled in the last 10 years.  

For instance, in Britian, HIV among the 50-90 age group comprised 20% of the reported infected population.

Some may shy away from this taboo subject, or turn a blind eye so as not to get involved. But if the health of the aging community is a primary concern of providers and care givers, sexual health is equally important.

One organization, Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University in Pennsylvania, USA, has taken matters into their own hands and is providing education, safety instruction and guidance for professionals.  They have released numerous ads in public places to increase awareness and have caused a stir with their risqué YouTube videos.

In the media, the issue has come to attention in a more-light hearted article in June’s issue of The Atlantic about the re-release of the classic film Harold and Maude (1971), a film in which a woman pushing her 80’s is shown enthusiastically kissing and caressing a younger man.  The article explores senior sexuality through the eyes of pop-culture and the stereotypes of aging.

This week, the Journal of Medical Ethics published a report dealing with the subject of sex and seniors in a more serious tone. The report exposes lack of safety and discretion in nursing homes in protecting sex among seniors.  It discusses the difficulties in grappling with consensual sex, primarily in elderly with dementia, and the complexities providers must deal with regarding the subject.

How are care givers around the world responding to the sensitivity of this issue?
Hand in Hand

[credit: garryknight, flickr]

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

Questions? Email us at iahsa@leadingage.org.

Authors

Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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