“What matters most?” That’s a question we should all ask ourselves from time to time. And it’s one that is easy to lose sight of in the rush and routine of day-to-day life. So every now and then, it’s wise to take a fresh look at our lives and our resources—be they time, energy or money—to make sure we are dedicating them in a way that aligns with our values, preferences, and life goals.
Famed motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “effective communication is 20% what you know, and 80% how you feel about what you know.” For those facing health care decisions at the end of their lives, effectively communicating how they feel can be hard; and for those trying to do so without a voice, it can be next to impossible.
Many seniors facing end-of-life decisions are battling conditions that render them speechless, and sometimes, too weak to rely on handwritten words. For example, a person diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) may be unable to express their wishes in conventional ways due to complications related to their illness. This can be a huge challenge for the patient, the patient’s family, and the medical team charged with providing care.
At Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL), we are always on the lookout for opportunities to bring seniors and young people together to build relationships and shatter stereotypes. We’re also deeply invested in training future generations of senior care providers. So when the opportunity came along to build a program that would combine the two, we jumped at the chance.
Hebrew SeniorLife has launched a palliative care program available through Hebrew SeniorLife Home Care. A question often asked is “What is palliative care?” and “How is it different from hospice care?”
Palliative care is delivered by a multi-disciplinary team and treats the “whole” patient by providing medical, psychological and spiritual care for people with chronic and/or serious disease. Its focus is on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness, and offering guidance for the patient and family.
Post-op is a difficult time. The body is adjusting to new limitations and trying to heal. It’s not uncommon for patients recovering away from home at rehabilitation centers to feel additional sadness brought on by being without familiar comforts. It comes as no surprise that the care a patient receives in post-acute care can make all the difference between a difficult recovery and quickly meeting the necessary goals to regain independence.
When it comes to LGBT elders, “most 90-year-olds have lived silent hidden lives.” This is one of the reasons that Rev. Mary Martha Thiel created a one-of-a-kind chaplaincy education unit, Spiritual Care of LGBT Elders. It’s part of the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program she directs at Hebrew SeniorLife. “We’re not aware of any other CPE program with a unit focused just on the needs of the elder LGBT community,” says Mary Martha.
A resident who is part of our Enhanced Living environment at Orchard Cove, Hebrew SeniorLife’s continuing care retirement community in Canton, MA, loves to read, but found that retaining the contents of a whole book was no longer possible for her. Through her participation in our Vitalize 360 wellness program, she was encouraged to join a community book club that reads and discusses short stories to help prompt her memories and share her impressions of what she read. She is now a regular attendee and finds she can retain enough to have a meaningful discussion with others in the club.
At CCB, one of Hebrew SeniorLife’s supportive affordable senior housing communities, residents don’t take Zumba lightly. So Sarah, the Zumba instructor, was concerned when Mrs. B. skipped a class. Sarah contacted her to see what was going on.
These days we rely on hand held devices to manage almost every aspect of our daily lives. Alarm clocks? Forget it. We wake up to the beeping of our phones. Maps? Gone. Siri can direct us anywhere we need to go. Whether we’re communicating with our loved ones, reading the daily news, or updating slides for our next meeting, we’re often doing it with the help of a mobile device.
Caring for our elders shouldn’t be any different. For this reason, researchers from Hebrew SeniorLife teamed up with affiliates from Harvard Medical School and several other organizations to create a senior care coordination app called InfoSAGE.