A friend "sent a notice of a book she thought might interest us. It is 'Embracing Age: How Catholic Nuns Became Models of Aging Well' by Anna Corwin, published by Rutgers Press.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Thursday, September 2, 2021
What word are you inclined to pair with aging?
Some very common pairings may come to mind because we hear them frequently from retreat directors, university professors, noted writers and/or presenters, even consultants to religious communities. The following often-heard pairings come to mind quickly for me:
Aging and diminishment
Aging and loss
Aging and decline
Aging and illness
Aging and poor health
Aging and letting go
Just this morning I read an article by a Sister who stated her age as 57. The thesis of her piece was that as we age, we should acknowledge that we will be moving on from employment to retirement for one reason or another, and that we should do so "with grace".
The author gave several examples of signs that tell her, "I really am getting old." She notes trouble with her knee and hip; a loss in her hearing acuity; her need for trifocals. She ends that listing by noting, "I can still do everything I used to do, but I do notice I'm slowing a bit."
Our culture has oppressed us with the social construct of equating aging with decline. I would say to this Sister, "With your 57 years of life, 57 years of experience, what do you experience within yourself beyond the physical changes that you note?" I can imagine Sister could tell me of her long-term, meaningful friendships she has garnered over the years, both inside her community and beyond, and how they have enriched her life. She would acknowledge the deepened skills, insights and nuances of navigating her ministerial role as a high school classroom teacher that only years and experience can provide. She might be aware that because of her life experiences, she reads a novel, or the newspaper, or a biography with much more insight than she was capable of twenty or thirty years ago.
Gene Cohen, in his book, "The Mature Mind: The Power of the Aging Brain" depends on years of research around aging to reach his conclusion that we must turn our present paradigm of aging on its head! Cohen doesn't just give us a "positive" view of aging, in the sense that what he says is said to make us feel good. Yes, it does make us feel good. The important factor is that his work and his conclusions are based on data!
Another Sister spoke about aging in my reading this morning. She sees with a different lens, not the social construct of aging and decline. Sister Mercedes L. Casas Sanchez, FSpS , of Mexico, addressed the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in August and her comments included this: The nuns (and it applies to every old person) "walk like trees loaded with fruit, bent over with fruitfulness."
Friday, August 20, 2021
In a post some months ago, I introduced my readers to Pogo. The pictures accompanying the post showed one Sister after another, each with a warm smile, interacting with or just appreciating Pogo.
What I did not include in that post was a little more information about Pogo himself. I didn't remark that Pogo is an old dog. And another thing, Pogo has only three legs. He's crippled. When he was still a puppy, he was hit by a vehicle, necessitating the amputation of his right leg at the hip. When he was adopted from the shelter, Pogo had already lost that leg.
Are those harsh words, not-to-be-used words, 'old', and 'crippled'?
The word crippled is considered offensive because it describes, Pogo in this case, in terms of his limitations or disability. It is an ableist term. Ableism discriminates against persons with physical limitations in favor of able-bodied persons.
Of itself, the word old is neutral, neither offensive nor unwarranted in its use for a person or, in this case, Pogo who has lived a long time. It is society's view of old age that make this word unacceptable in the eyes of some. You know, the attitude that 'old is bad and young is good' screamed to us in our culture every day through every possible medium.
If one would ask any of the Sisters about Pogo, I daresay that, to a person, the response would be an immediate smile and some words of affection for that little dog, that little dog that brings so much joy and happiness. Not a single person would say, for example, "Oh, that poor dog. He's old, you know. And he is crippled. He just needs to be someplace where somebody can take care of him. The poor thing. It's really sad --- old and crippled."
The universal outlook is to see and experience Pogo first and foremost for his strengths, his lovability and the joy and the richness he brings to all he meets. Not a bad perspective! Why don't we react the same way about old people? Do we first and foremost see "decline" and lock our view of old people into that terrible, negative little prison?
There is a growing awareness among thought leaders in the aging services profession that it is a much more valid and certainly a healthier, life-giving perspective to see older adults in their communities first in terms of their strengths and their gifts. Prior to the sheet in the medical record that lists diagnoses and comorbidities should be a sheet with the narrative of the gifts and strengths which that person brings to the community. How will their gifts, talents, skills and passion contribute to a more vibrant community? And how will the community provide an environment that encourages and facilitates the use of those gifts?
Jill Vitale-Aussem is one such thought leader. She is quite passionate and articulate around this concept of recognizing and honoring strengths in older adults. Moments ago, I stepped away from my blog and went to check my Facebook news. By God's Providence (no coincidence!) Jill had just posted a piece on this very topic of seeing and honoring the gifts that older adults bring and want to utilize. Jill writes about a letter she had gotten from a woman who had moved from her community to another State. In that letter, the writer shared with Jill her memories of life in that retirement community. Spoiler Alert! The woman did not talk about all the fine services available to her in this retirement community. She wrote about the joy and sense of contentment that comes from having purpose and meaning in life -- yes, even in a retirement community.
It is less than a two-minute read, and you can find it here.
Friday, May 21, 2021
Pogo lives in a happy convent home on our motherhouse campus with Sister Bernadette. Pogo spreads happiness much beyond that one household, however, when Sister Bernadette takes Pogo over to the main convent building to visit the Sisters who live there. See for yourself!
It is trite to reiterate the fact that animal companions bring us joy, or to point to the voluminous research documenting the psychological and physiological benefits bestowed on us humans by non-human animal companions.
But I don't write about that today. I show the joy Pogo brings to my Sisters, the gift that Pogo is.
In my next post, I offer a few other thoughts about Pogo and those who love him within the context of how unconscious social constructs influence our responses.
Unil then --
Thank you, Pogo, for being who you are and for what you have always and continue to bring to all those you meet. You are so loved!
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Last Spring, early into the pandemic, we Sisters of Divine Providence were invited to share our "Providence Reflections". Twice a week we find a response to this invitation on our electronic bulletin board. Many times the short message refers to thoughts about life, prayer, Providence values, compassion, or ministry during the pandemic; at time a members of our elected leadership team may send a message of an administrative update, or a reflection.
Recently Sister Ramona, who lives at our motherhouse, shared a reflection and I have her permission to share it here. When I read this message, I was so aware that these signs, these marks of pandemic time, circumscribe life in so many motherhouses and provincial houses today. And what I also know to be present still is an ongoing intentionality of seeking ways to be of service to others. What shape does this service to others take? I've read of mask-making, phone calls to one's 'pandemic partner', and letter-writing. A major communal effort is the private and communal prayer for justice, equality and foro comfort for so many suffering and oppressed as a consequence of the pandemic,
Sisters' lives have been lives of service to others through some exercise of the physical and/or spiritual works of mercy. I believe that one of the major frustrations of this pandemic time is looking for ways to continue this service as we are confined to our physical spaces and physical distancing. We are a resilient group, though, and we will find a way!
Meanwhile, my gratitude for being a part of this global circle of women.
From Sister Ramona:
To "read the signs of the times" is a common practice of ours. We have done it for years. Some signs remain relevant: poverty is all around us, family life cries for support, discrimination and racism are alive and well in our country.
But now there are very different signs unique to these pandemic times. Everyone in our building wears a mask. Some wear shields or plastic cover garments. Employees wear gloves and carry bottles of Sanitizer. Our place of worship looks strange when we come together to pray. Worshipers sit far apart; the chapel looks empty – almost vacant. Yet some have to go to another space to worship via technology. Signs throughout the buildings control the movement of people within. The masks, the distances, the sanitizing. I ask myself: what do these signs say to me? Am I hearing God's call? What is it? Have I connected all these signs to our Chapter Statement: "To hear the cry of pain and anguish of the poor, the immigrants, women and Earth"? Some tough questions to answer. Yet there they are.
Friday, October 30, 2020
In the effort to keep nursing home residents safe, there have been strict guidelines resulting in -- 7 months now -- of isolation, or these older adults being confined to their rooms. Period. The results of this prolonged isolation show themselves in the physical, mental and emotional decline. The link to both a video and the printed transcript of the 3-minute news clip illustrates this in the stark reality that it is.
For those who have appointed or elected authority for the care of their Sisters, these months have been very stressful with a full focus on "keeping our Sisters safe". That sense of safety and security also applies to one's sense of well-being, of being connected with others, of finding joy and comfort in what the day brings. It is a tall order to fill in this time, but that does not lessen the mandate that care must go beyond physical well-being. It is stated well in the words of a beloved labor song, "Bread and Roses" -- "Hearts starve as well as bodies. Give us bread but give us roses too."
The link to the video is here
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Thursday, May 14, 2020
As the days of quarantine continue, Action Pact, a Culture Change training and consultant organization reminds us that although we practice social distancing, we do not want those living in nursing homes to experience social isolation. Each week Action Pact offers resources for this very purpose. Here is a link for this week's issue. Scroll down the page to access this week's flyer.
Please feel free to share with persons who are Administrators or "Activity Directors" for use in the nursing home where they work.
Monday, May 11, 2020
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Steep learning curve
Friday, March 13, 2020
Does reading that 'sign' make you gasp or recoil? If so, it is because of the dichotomy between what that sign signifies and your mental concept of those persons living in that nursing home. The flip side of this is that when we use such words without thought or intentionality, they deepen our dehumanizing reflection of personhood. Along with a dehumanizing reflection of aging -- ageism in action.
So -- as a reminder of my post on March 4th -- gather your team, your peers, your staff next Friday and participate in the Action Pact-sponsored webinar.
See my March 4th post on instructions for registration.
If we change our words, we can change the world!
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
The one-time payment makes this webinar available for as many people as can fit around the computer, or can see it projected onto a larger screen. It is also available for viewing for thirty days after the actual presentation. I urge you to register for this event and to encourage all individuals engaged with elders in any official capacity to view it.
March 20, 2020
The Power of Language to Create Culture
Presented this month by our hostess, Carmen BowmanUnfortunately, the language of long-term care can be institutional. Even CMS notes this by encouraging the elimination of labels at Tag F550.
Are institutional words like these heard in your culture?
work the floor,
Consider a personal and community-wide commitment to use softer, more dignified language. The great news is that changing language costs no money yet does wonders to shift an institutional culture to a natural, normal, culture of home instead.
Join Hostess Carmen Bowman as she shares from the paper of the same title, which she co-authored.
Non-institutional language raises the bar: it drives practice, improves life satisfaction, and is required by CMS requirements.
Join us to talk about how we talk!
$99 per community
Register one person, view as a group (live and/or recorded show).
Fit your group around your computer monitor, or project it on the wall and fill a room.
Go to this website to register:
Meet Carmen Bowman
Carmen owns Edu-Catering: Catering Education for Compliance and Culture Change turning her former role of regulator into educator. Carmen was a Colorado state surveyor for nine years, a policy analyst with CMS Central Office where she taught the national Basic Surveyor Course and was the first certified activity professional to be a surveyor.
Carmen co-developed the Artifacts of Culture Change measurement tool and is the author of several Action Pact workbooks.
Action Pact | 7709 W. Lisbon Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53222
Thursday, January 23, 2020
Friday, December 20, 2019
Thursday, December 5, 2019
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Do you recognize those as the words spoken by Senator Bernie Sanders following his recent heart attack?
Monday, October 7, 2019
Thursday, August 1, 2019
Jill Vitale-Aussem is not only President and CEO of the Eden Alternative, she has authored a recently-published book entitled Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift (© 2019 Health Professions Press, Inc.)
The story in this excerpt revolves around a series of thefts in an Assisted Living Community. It has a happy ending because of the sensitive insights and strong sense of advocacy the administrator exhibited.
Read the story here.
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
For my readers who may not know who Ashton Applewhite is, she is an author and a leading figure internationally in the movement to raise consciousness about ageism and to end it!
On Tuesday, June 25 at 2:00 EST, Ashton will be a guest for the Pioneer Network webinar. It is free, but registration is required. You can register here
If you are not available to listen at the presentation time, your registration will allow you to access the webinar at a later time.
I encourage my readers to go for it!
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Monday, September 17, 2018
© Imelda Maurer, cdp September 17, 2018
"You see them in most aged-care facilities, seated on pastel-colored lounges, being babysat by a TV they are mostly not watching. Some are asleep, some are sedated, some are cognitively impaired. Seeing them like this, it’s hard to remember they were once young, vital and independent. What’s harder is thinking that it might one day be you."
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
It goes by several names: Culture Change; Transformative Nursing Homes: Resident-Centered Care; Person-Centered Care; Green House Model; Household Model, Wellspring
What all these terms have in common is a philosophy that holds to the following values and attitudes:
• The resident is put back into the driver’s seat, making as many choices about his/her daily life as possible. One implication is that activities and care revolve around the resident as much as possible, as contrasted with an institutional model where schedule and staff convenience take precedence.
• It is an environment that honors the culture of aging as life-affirming, satisfying, humane and meaningful.
• The place has the feel and look of HOME. Just two evidences of change in the environment:
No medical carts rumbling down the hallways.
No centralized nurses' station
Culture change is a deep, challenging transformation of attitudes and values which is dependent on strong, knowledgeable leadership. The leader must have a deep belief in these transformative values and the leadership ability to shape staff so that these values permeate every cell of their being. Anything short of this is not transformative change and the result will not be ‘culture change.’
The win-win part of culture change is that this transformative mode of operation costs no more than traditional, institutional care. In fact, there are many reasons why the cost is probably lower. That’s a topic for another day.
Steve Shields, CEO of a transformative community in Manhattan, KS speaks of what made it possible for him and his staff to move forward in their journey of transformative change. He is quoted in Beth Baker's book, Old Age in a New Age: When Action Pact consultants first introduced the concepts of culture change, "The vision was painted so strongly and in front of everybody that it became holy. Truly."