Savoring Life

Do we use our time to really live or do we allow time to use us up? I recently encountered this question in Kathleen Norris’ book, Acedia & Me and it was another reminder that the time we have is a gift from God. The way we use it matters. As a culture we sometimes worship at the altar of productivity. We boast of how many hours of overtime we put in this week or how little sleep we’re running on. We fill every evening with activities and when those brief moments of open time do appear, we pull out our phones.

Jesus was undoubtedly productive during his time on earth, yet it is worth noting how often in the Gospels Jesus withdraws to a quiet place to recharge or carves out time to spend with just the disciples. In a similar way he sought to reclaim the way Sabbath was meant to be observed: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Take some time this month to just “be,” and instead of feeling guilty about it, remember that we honor God’s gift of life by taking the time to truly savor it.

Happy Fall!

The seven wonders of the world are not places, but…

Chaplain’s Corner: The Fear of Fear is Community

I had the opportunity to take our youth group to our biennial church conference in Kansas City several weeks ago. Dustin Gaylon, one of our speakers speaking during a morning worship session, made the comment that “the fear of fear is community.”

In the Gospel of John, as the end of his time on this earth nears, Jesus promises his disciples that he will not leave them comfortless. Before he is taken up into the sky the disciples receive the power of the Holy Spirit. But we should also not forget that as Jesus hung on the cross in John 19:25-27 he also instructs his followers to care for each other.

While the disciples were initially paralyzed with fear cowering and barricaded in a room following the crucifixion, they were soon empowered, not just by the Holy Spirit, but through the community they shared with each other as they spread the Gospel and planted new communities of faith.

The things we fear most, when brought before God and shared with our community of faith, become much more bearable. Community is a gift of comfort from God. Let us embrace it with open arms.
– Caley Ortman, Chaplain

We’re a Cooling Center. Come Beat the Heat!

When temperatures reach 100 degrees or above, from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. come to Sierra View Homes for a place to sit, drink water, and cool down!

The Central Valley of California is in an extremely dangerous heat wave. We are used to summers days where the temperature cools down at night. Lately, however, there has been very little cooling at night. Seniors especially are subject to ill effects of extreme hot weather. Heat exhaustion and or heat stroke become real possibilities when the temperatures soar to 90 degrees and above and there is little relief. Lack of awareness and concern for the high air conditioning bills will slow the response of some seniors in seeking relief.

Sierra View Homes is one of the cooling centers in Reedley.

Hot weather is dangerous without proper protection and preparation. Employers, according to state law, need to be aware of the heat and have plenty of fluids to drink and shade for their employees to stay free of heat related effects. All employees, especially the ones who work out doors, must know how to spot heat related issues such as dehydration, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion

Outdoor employees are not the only ones who have to watch for heat-related issues. It is important to pay attention to the senior population as this heat wave continues. People 65 and older have decreased ability to notice changes in their body temperature. They do not sweat as much as younger adults do. Sweating is an important of the body’s heat regulation mechanism. Chronic health conditions can reduce the body’s ability to respond to heat conditions. Prescription drugs can further impair one’s sense of how hot your body truly is.

Dehydration is the root of many heat-related health problems. Dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and most seriously heat stroke can cause serious health issues up to and including death. When the body’s temperature becomes unusually high, neurological issues can happen and emergency treatment must be sought. It is extremely important to drink plenty of water or juice, even if you are not thirsty. It is a good idea to limit alcoholic or caffeinated drinks as they contribute to dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to drink fluids at every meal and to sip fluids throughout the day rather than drinking a lot of fluid quickly.

If dehydration is not corrected, heat exhaustion becomes a real possibility. Early warning signs of heat exhaustion include excessive sweating, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache and muscle cramps. Heat exhaustion and lead to nausea, vomiting and fainting, which can rapidly lead to a heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke are high body temperature, absence of sweating, confusion, seizures and coma. Heat exhaustion and especially heat stroke are extremely dangerous. If you see someone who appears to be in trouble it is important to get help for him or her a quickly as possible.

Whether or not you are older than 65 there are things you can do to avoid heat-related issues. Some suggestions are wearing light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat. Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day and limit outdoor activities to the early morning hours. Watch the heat Index. If there is a lot of moisture in the air, the body’s ability to sweat is diminished leaving you with less ability to cool down. Seek air-conditioned environments if you do not have air-conditioning in your home. Cooling centers are set up and ready for folks to come in and cool off if the temperature is over 100 degrees. Sierra View Homes is one of the cooling centers in Reedley. From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., we’re open for you to come cool down!

Heat-related issues are real and can be serious. Everyone, especially those over age 65, need to be extra careful and pay attention for the warning signs of heat-related trouble. Take steps to keep cool by dressing in light clothes, drink plenty of fluids and monitor your indoor thermostat to keeping it no higher than 82 degrees. We live in an area that can have extremely hot temperatures; consequently, it is important to understand how you deal with the heat and have a plan to cool down.

Laughter Is Good For You

Laughter is contagious. It is a way to create friendships and give everyone the opportunity to be part of something. Recently, I visited the Sierra View Homes Kings Canyon Dining Room during the evening meal. As I encountered the people at each table, I asked for a “good Joke.” I said I was writing an article about humor and its effects on people and I needed some jokes to add to the mix. There were smiles all around and then the person who always has a joke ready responded “You know I have had several good years in my life.” but they were all tires.” It took a moment for that one to sink in but as each person at the table got the meaning of the joke, you could hear the groan and laughter. All of us knew about Goodyear Tires. I thought it was a good joke and repeated it at several tables that evening. Each time we all enjoyed the laughter.

Laughing makes people feel good. Studies show that laughter boosts the immune system and triggers the release of pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain. The brain then releases powerful endorphins, which are morphine-like compounds that reduce pain, increases our sense of well-being and improves the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream.

Laughter helps to create a positive mood. You cannot stay angry while you laugh. Anxiety and tension release giving way to good feelings. Laughter can become a temporary vacation from everyday problems. Your sense of humor is one of the most important tools you have to enhance your mood and support good health.

If you laugh easily and are pleasant natured you will find people will want to be around you. Being able to laugh at yourself adds to your appeal to those around you.

Laughter stimulates memories and improves mental acuity in the population that have a dementia diagnosis. Studies show clowns clowning around with people help improve memory, language and communication. Maybe it is the red nose that enables these folks to reach back in their memories and bring those memories to the present.

Some of us have to work at laughing and some of us laugh easily. I have a few suggestions on how to work on increasing your ability to laugh.

Do you smile often? If you smile easily, you have a good start in a great sense of humor. Smiling is contagious just like laughter and instantly creates a warmth and a feeling of enjoyment. People gravitate towards people who are smiling. Practice smiling at the people you meet. See if they will smile back at you. You might be surprised at how good this makes you feel.

Counting your blessings helps you look on the brighter side of life. I encourage you to write down your blessings and add to the list as you encounter new ones. This activity will keep you from dwelling on what is wrong in your life and encourage you to search for positive things to add to the list.

You can watch movies or TV shows that make you smile. “I Love Lucy” is a TV show that comes to mind. Some people make a hobby of collecting jokes. I found out the resident who is always ready with a joke collects jokes so he is ready to tell a new one. There are humorous books to read and then there documentaries such as the one Carl Reiner hosted. The documentary is titled, “If you are not in the obituary, eat breakfast.” Famous elderly people talk about how humor has kept them heathy and has helped with their longevity. Mel Brooks, 93, and Betty White, 97, are a couple of the people interviewed.  

I have noticed if I am in a jovial mood with a ready laugh the people I meet easily and quickly relate to me. It is easy to strike up a conversation and people feel comfortable talking with me. They are ready to share a laugh with me. It seems like everyone is waiting for a smile and/or a laugh.

So, have you heard this one?An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and the doctor had him fitted for a set of hearing aids. This allowed the gentleman to hear very well. The elderly gentleman came back to see the doctor a month later. The doctor said, ‘Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.’ The gentleman replied, ‘Oh, I haven’t told my family yet, I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I have changed my will three times!’

P.S. If you need another emergency dose of good feels, just spend some time scrolling through the Creative Commons image search category “LAUGHTER.” So joyful it’s impossible not to smile!

Dementia is Hard Work for Both Sides

Recently, while attending an educational conference, I attended a class taught by Laura Wayman. She has written a book on “A Loving Approach to Dementia Care.”

Dementia is not a specific disease; it is a term used for a group of brain disorders. Many diseases can have a dementia component. Alzheimer’s disease is probably the most prevalent. Recent studies show there are many more diseases that can result in dementia.

What is dementia? How can I tell if my loved one is on this path or could the problem be rectified? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, here are some symptoms that should not be ignored. Symptoms from the list include short-term memory loss when a person’s immediate memory is being challenged. Another issue can be the loss of the ability to process everyday activities which creates difficulty performing familiar tasks such as cooking, making a telephone call or remembering how to play a game. Struggling with words can be a sign of a problem. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often forget simple words or substitute an unusual word leaving the listener confused as to what is being said. Significant mood and/or behavior or personality changes could be a reason to be tested. We all have times when these symptoms are present. It could be brought on by medication, exhaustion, or stress. If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms for an extended period of time, seek help from a doctor who specializes in diagnosing dementia. For most of us, the symptoms will disappear when we take care of ourselves.

Laura Wayman talked about the caregiver of someone with dementia. She spoke about her mother’s journey as her father’s caregiver and shared insights she learned from watching them.

One of the issues for caregivers is the dementia-related person’s lack of ability to process thoughts and/or activities which often leads to trouble when a caregiver is trying to communicate. If a question is asked, an answer is expected. What happens when you cannot process the question? Anger and frustration can flare up. As our loved ones move deeper into dementia, it is important to remember not to ask questions. Wow, is that hard. I came back from my conference and noticed how often I would interact by asking questions of the people in Sierra View Homes Marden’s Place. We naturally want to ask questions. I did find I was successful in just talking with the resident because I got pleasant happier feedback.

The inability to process what is going on also means there is no good way for someone with dementia to tell us what is going on with him or her. Often, their behavior is the only way to understand there is an issue. People with dementia can be mirrors of the emotions of their caregivers. Have you heard the phrase “it is not what you say; it is how you say it”? In life, we all have encountered times when we felt put down or that someone was angry with us. Did the words stay with you or the tone of voice that caused you to take notice? If you are impatient and/or try to rush the dementia-related person, they will slow down. Showing you are frustrated and upset often leads to resistance and aggressive behavior. Laura stressed the importance of staying calm so everyone can have a better experience.

If you are a caregiver, it is extremely important to take care of yourself. You need to educate yourself on what to expect as the dementia progresses and to make sure you ask for help so you can step away for a few hours every so often. It is important that you keep yourself healthy and have the ability to cope with the situation. All too often, the caregiver becomes “worn out” and passes away too early.

Many of our residents’ family members find that interactions with their loved ones become more positive after they have moved into Marden’s Place Memory Care, our dementia-care assisted living. Not worrying about day-to-day caregiving tasks frees family members up for the positive, loving, meaningful interactions that they crave.

There is no cure for people with dementia. Studies show there are many more ways to get dementia than we previously thought. As the Baby-Boomer population ages we will see more people with a disease that has a dementia factor. Laura Wayman shared with those of us in her class the importance of continuing to be educated about dementia. The care of the dementia-related person is difficult, but the approach you use can significantly help you.

Chaplain’s Corner: Embodying Resurrection

It may come as no surprise that I have been reflecting a lot on resurrection this month. This is the season we focus our attention on the event of the resurrection.

Anticipation builds in the church as we near the end of Lent. We sing hosannas on Palm Sunday, take communion on Maundy Thursday, reflect on the seven last words of Jesus on Good Friday, and show up for the highest attended Sunday service on Easter morning to celebrate the resurrection.

But how do we keep from losing that energy when we head back to work on Monday? I believe one way to do so is by understanding resurrection as not only a one-time event found in scripture, but also a reflection of the character of God that we are to carry forth into the world.

Resurrection means seeing the good in people and in situations where the world has long given up. It means being faithful even when the work does not seem to bear fruit or “results.” And it means releasing the logic of our own minds to the mysterious wisdom of God’s plans.

Let us not stop the Easter celebration of resurrection on Easter this year. Let us go forth and embody resurrection as well, so that the world may know the love of God through our actions.
Caley Ortman, Chaplain

Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal – What’s the Difference?

Service and emotional support animals are becoming more and more common. The last time I flew to Kansas, in the Dallas Fort worth airport I counted at least three dogs that the owners kept near and one service dog helping its handler to maneuver through the crowds safely. It seems more and more people are realizing the benefits of having an animal in their life. A bakery in Morro Bay has a whole display case full of doggie treats so people who are vacationing can purchase something yummy for their dog as they sip their coffee and have a sweet roll.

When we opened the Terraces at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community, we decided to become pet friendly. That was a game changer for many people looking for a pet-friendly retirement community. As of today, we have had numerous dogs (must be small dogs) cats, birds and a bunny living in the apartments.

So, what is the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal? A service dog is trained to do specific tasks for the disabled person assigned to them. The disability could be physical, sensory, psychotic, intellectual or other mental disability. Only a dog can be a service animal no other animal can be considered a service animal according to the ADA.

A service dog can be trained to assist an individual who is blind or has low vision and navigating streets are difficult. They can alert someone who is deaf to the presence of people or sounds. Pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, and retrieving items such as medicine are a few of the things a well-trained dog can do. Each service dog is trained specifically for the person who will receive the dog.

Service animals are usually allowed in most public areas as long as the dog is under control. A service animal must have a harness, leash or other tether, unless the handler can control the animal by voice commands or hand signals.

If the animal barks, growls or jumps on individuals, the dog and the owner will have to leave the area. Service dogs help disabled people live a more satisfying lifestyle and helps their handler to live an independent life.

Service dogs are important and have a real purpose but what does an emotional support animal do? Unlike the service dogs there is no formal training to be an emotional support animal. Emotional support animals can be cats, dogs, ducks, and the list goes on. These animals’ primary role is to provide companionship and comfort to their partners who may be suffering from psychological disorders. The psychological disorders could be PTSD, chronic depression, loneliness, or anxiety. Emotional support animals give unconditional love proven beneficial to many people.

The advantage of owning a pet or emotional support animal is the need to care for it gives incentive to get up in the morning. Stroking, holding, cuddling, or otherwise touching a loving animal can have a powerful effect in lowering blood pressure. Touch and movement are two healthy ways to deal with stress. Pets encourage playfulness, laughter, and exercise. Laughing at the antics of a playful pet helps you enjoy life with a sense of well-being. Studies show playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine which calms and relaxes us.

I expect to see more and more service dogs and emotional support animals in my travels and here at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community. I meet and greet residents, who brought their pets when they moved into the Community as they are walking their pets and enjoying the day. Animals do bring a sense of fun as Sassy, the cat, chases after her toy, or Sierra, the bird, tweets out a song, and the therapy dog make rounds just to say “hi.” Be it a service dog or an emotional support animal, more and more people are realizing the benefits of owning and loving a pet.

Chaplain’s Corner: Finding Yourself in the Story

As Christians we believe the Bible is the living word of God. What does that mean exactly? It means that alongside studying the context of what the text meant to its original audience, we are also called to ask what the text is speaking into our lives today. There are many ways to do this, but the way that I have found particularly powerful the last few years is the question, “Where do you find yourself in the story?”

Asking this puts us into a story in a new way, not as the reader, watching passively from a distance, but as a participant. We should be encouraged to ask wondering questions: What was it like to be this person? How would I react if that was me?

But we also should be attuned to knowing when we are to identify with someone other than the main character in the story. Take, for example, the parable of the Prodigal Son: You can read the story and find yourself as the prodigal son. Six months later you might very well find yourself as the jealous brother, or perhaps the forgiving father.

We never stop reading the Bible because it can speak to us differently through different characters as our life circumstances change, meeting us where we are on our faith journey. Embrace the living word and never stop asking, “Where do I find myself in the story today?”
– Caley Ortman, Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: The True Source of Prosperity

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”

These closing words of the very first Psalm lay out the conventional wisdom that we find throughout the books of Psalms and Proverbs. Yet so often in life we are dismayed and frustrated at how often the wicked prosper and the righteous seem to come away empty handed. It offends our sense of what is right and what is fair.

We turn the Bible upside down for the secret key of what we have to do to make sure we have guaranteed security from pain, suffering and injustice. This dilemma was on the minds of the writers of scripture as well.

Of particular interest to me recently has been the book of Ecclesiastes. I recently heard a pastor summarize that Ecclesiastes asks the question: “What if the problem is not God failing to grant prosperity to the righteous, but with our expectation of what prosperity looks like?”

Clinton McCann suggests that “the happiness or prosperity of the righteous is not so much a reward as it is their experience of being connected to the true source of life–God.” May we remember to look for the prosperity that comes not through wealth and comfort, but through the source of life–God, which was present with us all along.
– Caley Ortman, Chaplain