Finding Happiness in Community

linda-jackson-headshot

From AAI Program Director Linda Jackson:

For many of us, summer is the season of visiting new and favorite places, and seeing old friends and distant family. It’s also the time we head out to open spaces, enjoying the fresh air and green and gold vistas. I’m accompanied by my summer reading, all about happiness.

My research into ‘happiness’ has several roots. As one of the indicators influencing mental health, isolation affects the ability of older people to age successfully in their community. As we get older, many of us will lose someone closest to us: our spouse or partner, friends and neighbors, work colleagues, and family members. People who live in suburban homes find that when they stop driving, it is much more challenging to do necessary outings for food and time with family and friends. Being “in community,” however we individually define that, is essential for our mental health and our happiness.

A second factor is the understanding that community is a privilege not all of us are fortunate enough to have. The news about families arriving to ask for asylum only to be locked up in separate facilities moves one to despair, the opposite of happiness. In Marin, we stand concerned about our immigrant neighbors. Some of Marin’s immigrants are the clients of AAI partners. They are grandparents, worried about their own citizenship and the precarious situations of their family members. Many AAI partners employ immigrants for administrative and professional support in healthcare and care-giving. One of our partners recently contracted with an immigration attorney to provide consultations for their employees. What a benefit to help their workers have information needed for some peace of mind.

The last source of this deep summer dive into ‘happiness’ is from my own roots: my mother’s parents were from Sweden. I have long been intrigued by the comfortable and happy lives of my cousins and others living in northern Europe. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the greatest life satisfaction is in Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Finland. Other northern European countries are close behind. (The U.S. ranks #15.)

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute (yes, there is such a place!), identifies six components to happiness: togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust, and kindness. Our work in AAI aligns well with these components. We value collaboration, compassion, and respect. We advocate for aging-in-community and economic security. We innovate to improve communication across sectors and address inequities.

This month we highlight a facet of life in northern Europe that we enjoy here in Marin, with our abundant open space. As Dr. Lisa Santora explains this month, “a walk outside” is therapy. Even better is a walk in the woods. To be in nature, in natural habitat, breathing fresh air and experiencing a different setting — together this creates well-being, and yes, happiness.

Check out our greatly-expanded Resource webpage this month. You’ll find research done in Marin and beyond about older adults, and about organizations working with diverse populations. For example, and in honor of being outside, see what the County is planning for its parks in its “Inclusive Action Plan”. Bookmark this site, and use it to find pertinent facts for your grant applications and announcements.

I recently was on a unique walk, on a hunt for a grave marker in the enormous and lovely Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. It was just me and three maps (two from the hand-drawn era), wandering the lanes and gravestones, searching in the heat and shade, hiking over the rises and vales of the landscape, for an elusive stone. With what must have been a dozen restarts, and a pursuit that involved crawling under a bush the size of an elephant and brushing off the pine needles to uncover a granite marker in perfect condition after 83 years, I reached a serendipitous ending. There was my Swedish grandfather’s marker.

John Young

I sat there in the silent shade under the branches for a while, sitting with the memories of stories about this man who died ten years before I was born. With some fruit and water and rest, I was ready for the hike back to the entryway, ready to rejoin the vibrancy of urban Chicago. And, yes, I was happy!

Wishing you the same, and hope to see you on the trails ~

 

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Our Families with Memory Loss

Senior Access

By Dana Pepp and Jim Ward

Everyone knows someone with dementia. It is estimated that up to 8,000 adults in Marin County are currently diagnosed with memory loss, and that number is growing rapidly as our population ages.

Luckily, Marin has various supports for families with memory loss: two high-quality adult day programs — Marin Adult Day Health Center and Senior Access — as well as many home care providers, including JFCS, that provide dementia care.

We say “families with memory loss,” because this journey really does affect the whole family, including friends and neighbors. In a recent survey, we asked respondents how many people are affected by their loved one’s memory loss. One caregiver responded: 24. Twenty-four people directly affected by one person’s diagnosis and journey into memory loss!

This journey is really challenging! There are lots of unknowns: daily ups and downs, plenty of stress and loss, but also plenty of laughs. At Senior Access, we support the caregivers by providing daily respite and support groups. We support clients by creating a loving, fun, engaging, social, and stimulating environment. We have created a program and a culture in which love, respect, compassion, and fun are valued.

Senior Access’ day programs as well as other family support services help loved ones age in place for as long as possible. The challenge we often face is that many families wait a long time — too long — to connect with respite and support services. Denial, resistance, and feeling that a loved one isn’t “old enough” or “ready enough” are common refrains. But the sooner families can connect with support services, the better for all involved.

The community-based programs and medical providers in Marin strive to work collaboratively to provide families with a menu of opportunities for loved ones. We meet quarterly to share best practices, build relationships, and streamline referrals. Through the Family Caregiver Support Program, administered by the Alzheimer’s Association, clients are provided free opportunities to try various support services throughout Marin. There are also currently researchers in Marin, including Drs. Bredesen and Ornish, working on lifestyle protocols to prevent and reduce symptoms of dementia.

Next time you speak with a friend, neighbor, or family member who is concerned about memory loss, please encourage them to visit their doctor for a neurological exam. And know that there are plenty of supports in Marin County for families with dementia.

Senior Access is celebrating 45 years supporting families with memory loss in Marin County. Please check out our video and website at www.senioraccess.org.

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INFORM & CONNECT: ADVANCED RESOURCES

Woman on phone

Wednesday November 1, 2017 | 9 am – 4 pm | FREE Workshop |

A free, daylong interactive training about information and resources specific to older adults 85+ and those who need more resources.

Inform and Connect Logo

This training is designed for help-desk, information hotline, and other front-line volunteers or staff who provide clients with information about programs and services available throughout the county for people who are 85 and older or need more advanced resources. Specialists on the following topics will share their knowledge, expertise and resources through short panel presentations and audience Q&A:

  • Vision
  • Senior Peer Counseling
  • Home Maintenance
  • Pets
  • Meals
  • Telephone Reassurance
  • Care-Giving
  • Dementia
  • Aging-in-Place
  • Residential Care
  • Palliative Care
  • Hospice Care

Attendees will make connections with professional colleagues, build professional expertise, and enhance their service to the community. CEUs available.

Who Should Attend

Front line volunteers and others who support the resource referral needs of people 85 and older and those that need more advanced resources.

REGISTER HERE

Registration problems? Call 415-492-9444

To view/download the flier, click here.


About Aging Action Initiative

The purpose of the Aging Action Initiative is to promote a county-wide age-friendly environment, especially for those in need, collectively created by a strong network of aging service providers through education, policy advocacy, and service coordination. The initiative is a collective effort of over 65 different agencies, grassroots organizations, commissions and neighborhood groups, funded by the County of Marin, and coordinated by MARINSPACE.

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INFORM & CONNECT: A Workshop for Front Line Information Assistance and Resource Referral Staff

Woman on phone

Thursday September 21, 2017 | 9 am – 4 pm | FREE Workshop |

A free, daylong interactive training designed to support those who help older adults access resource referral information.

This training is designed for help-desk, information hotline, and other front-line volunteers or staff specifically tasked to provide clients with information about programs and services available throughout the county. Specialists on the following topics will share their knowledge, expertise and resources through short panel presentations and audience Q&A.

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Financial Abuse
  • Attendant Care
  • Mental Health
  • Nutrition
  • Staying Connected

Attendees will make connections with professional colleagues, build professional expertise, and enhance their service to the community.

Who Should Attend

Front line volunteers and staff who support the resource referral needs of older adults. Up to three people may register per agency or organization for the workshop.

7 Free CEUs provided courtesy of NASW-CA are offered for this workshop.

To register, click here or call 415-492-9444.

For a copy of the event flyer, click here.

About Aging Action Initiative

The purpose of the Aging Action Initiative is to promote a county-wide age-friendly environment, especially for those in need, collectively created by a strong network of aging service providers through education, policy advocacy, and service coordination. The initiative is a collective effort of over 65 different agencies, grassroots organizations, commissions and neighborhood groups, funded by the County of Marin, and coordinated by MARINSPACE.

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Great Advice from a Dementia Care Worker

dementia-image

May 18, 2016 |

16 Things I Would Want If I Got Dementia 

Rachael Wonderlin specializes in long term dementia care. She is the Memory Care Director at Senior Services Of America and blogs at Dementia By Day. Rachael has spent a lot of time fielding questions about the disease and has a heartfelt wish to share.

When you work in dementia care, people tend to ask you a lot of questions. Probably one of the most common questions that I hear is, “Are you afraid to get dementia when you’re older?”

Professionals like Rachael will often tell you that there are many things much more scary than dementia. Rachael doesn’t want to diminish the fact that dementia is a terrible group of diseases. She wants to highlight the positive aspects and help us all understand how to deal more powerfully and compassionately with those who have dementia.

“I’ve been fortunate, however, to see many of the beautiful moments that people with dementia can experience.”

If Rachael gets dementia, she is prepared to advise her family and friends. She has developed a wish called “16 Things I Would Want If I Got Dementia“.

  1. If I get dementia, I want my friends and family to embrace my reality. If I think my spouse is still alive, or if I think we’re visiting my parents for dinner, let me believe those things. I’ll be much happier for it.
  2. If I get dementia, I don’t want to be treated like a child. Talk to me like the adult that I am.
    If I get dementia, I still want to enjoy the things that I’ve always enjoyed. Help me find a way to exercise, read, and visit with friends.
  3. If I get dementia, ask me to tell you a story from my past.
  4. If I get dementia, and I become agitated, take the time to figure out what is bothering me.
  5. If I get dementia, treat me the way that you would want to be treated.
  6. If I get dementia, make sure that there are plenty of snacks for me in the house. Even now if I don’t eat I get angry, and if I have dementia, I may have trouble explaining what I need.
  7. If I get dementia, don’t talk about me as if I’m not in the room.
  8. If I get dementia, don’t feel guilty if you cannot care for me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  9. It’s not your fault, and you’ve done your best. Find someone who can help you, or choose a great new place for me to live.
  10. If I get dementia, and I live in a dementia care community, please visit me often.
  11. If I get dementia, don’t act frustrated if I mix up names, events, or places. Take a deep breath. It’s not my fault.
  12. If I get dementia, make sure I always have my favorite music playing within earshot.
  13. If I get dementia, and I like to pick up items and carry them around, help me return those items to their original places.
  14. If I get dementia, don’t exclude me from parties and family gatherings.
  15. If I get dementia, know that I still like receiving hugs or handshakes.
  16. If I get dementia, remember that I am still the person you know and love.

Originally published for Alzheimer’s Reading Room, we think this is a great list for all dementia care workers to have as a resource.

To learn more about Rachael, visit her blog dementia-by-day.com

Aging Action Initiative (AAI) is a collective effort of over 65 different agencies, grassroots organizations, commission and neighborhood groups, funded by the County of Marin and coordinated by MARINSPACE, collaborating for an age-friendly environment. For more information visit agingactioninitiative.org or connect with us on Facebook.

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