Tuesday, March 27, 2012


STUDENTS TAKE WELL TO AGING EXPERIENCE. If three first-semester nursing students from California State University, Sacramento who recently volunteered at an Eskaton assisted living and memory care community are an indication, the future of aging services is in good hands.

The students’ follow-up letter to Eskaton acknowledges the quality of aging services today. But just as importantly, these future nurses’ enthusiasm offers encouragement for how we are inspiring a new workforce.

Their letter begins: “THANK YOU for the wonderful opportunity you gave to me and my friends today. Volunteering at Eskaton was not only fun, interesting and sometimes even challenging, but it was also a great learning experience for us first semester nursing students.”

About their staff guide, the volunteers wrote: “She really took her time with the Eskaton residents and provided a nurturing environment that made it feel like it was an Eskaton family. We really felt the caring energy radiate from her.”

The students’ letter concludes: “Your staff and residents have made our volunteer opportunity at Eskaton an unforgettable experience, and we are looking forward to coming back for the summer.”

“Welcome home to Eskaton.” And, “Welcome home to a new aging experience and great learning opportunity.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


CONTEXT IS BETTER THAN MORE TEXT. It used to be said that “information is power.” Now that we’re deluged with more information (reports, articles, proposals, documents of all sorts) than we can ever practically assimilate, what matters more is effective quality control.

For a piece of information to “break through the clutter” competing for readers’ limited attention, the essence of its message must be presented simply and with context.

Ironically, two of the most complex thinkers in history preached simplicity. Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Steve Jobs’ fundamental principle of “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” was elaborated upon by his lead designer Jonathan Ive, who said, “You have to understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”

Einstein also taught us mathematically that what we observe depends on where we stand in space and time. In earthly terms, context defines the relativity and relevance within the expression of ideas, commentaries, advertising ... all attempts at persuasion.

There is a stronger than ever case to be made for simple, traditional journalistic writing; highlighting the key points in the first paragraph -- the who, what, when where ... and why -- and then including the rest of the text in descending order of importance (in an inverted pyramid). This respects the readers’ judgment to decide whether the information is worth the time, and demonstrates the writers’ confidence that it is.

Monday, March 19, 2012


CREATIVITY IS IN THE MIND OF THE BEHOLDER. “Individuals with Alzheimer’s have a way of seeing things in art that we don’t see,” explains Tiffany Paige, who directs the Sacramento chapter of ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimer’s. The national nonprofit and Eskaton have partnered to bring “ARTZ Delivers” art appreciation workshops to Eskaton Memory Care communities; and this summer to coordinate public tours of Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum and California Museum for residents of the communities.

Research documents that engaging in creative activities – like making art and touring museums – can help dementia patients with concentration and communication skills.

“Tells about the future,” said one resident when describing a painting of the American River during a recent ATRZ Delivers presentation at Eskaton Lodge Gold River. “In the picture the way things will be. All things on earth will be like they are in heaven. Keep on with your work and you will be happy,” the resident shared further.

About a painting of a rustic farmhouse, a 100-year-old resident exclaimed, “It’s the story of America. It’s where I came from. It tells about life.”

Eskaton sponsors Artists for Alzheimer’s and a number of other creative therapies in its Memory Care communities within Eskaton Village Carmichael, Eskaton Lodge Gold River, Eskaton FountainWood Lodge, Eskaton Village Roseville and Eskaton Village Placerville. Plans are being made to bring ARTZ Delivers to The Parkview in Pleasanton later this year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


POLST CONFRONTS DEATH; COMMUNICATES DYING WISHES. The recent California Healthcare Foundation survey, “Final Chapter: Californians' Attitudes and Experiences with Death and Dying reported that 70 percent of people say they would prefer to die at home. Of deaths in 2009 in California, however, only 32 percent occurred in the home, while 42 percent occurred in the hospital and 18 percent in a skilled nursing facility.

Of course where one dies cannot be as predictable as where one prefers to die. Which is perhaps what was on Woody Allen’s mind when he said, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

Californians surveyed also overwhelmingly reported that when they die they do not want to be a financial or emotional burden to their families. Yet, less than 1 in 10 report having a conversation with their doctor about end-of-life care, including just 13 percent of those ages 65 or older. Less than one-quarter have put their wishes in writing; and more than half have not had a conservation with their families about the kind of care they want at the end-of-life.

Nearly two-thirds of Californians polled on the subject have stated they would complete a POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form if they became seriously ill.

POLST is a standardized medical form that indicates the specific types of life-sustaining treatment a seriously ill patient does or does not want. Signed by both the patient and doctor, POLST becomes a set of medical orders that moves with the patient from home to hospital to skilled nursing facility.) “This is the perfect tool for encouraging conversations between families, patients and their doctors,” explains Chris Evans, a registered nurse and chair of the Sacramento Area POLST Coalition.

So, there is at least one tangible takeaway from these reported contradictions about death and dying. It’s the bright pink POLST form. You and Woody may not want to be there when it happens, but death is inevitable ... and can be that much less painful for your survivors when you help unburden them from some of the associated emotional and financial burdens. Talk with your doctor about whether POLST is right for you.
Final Chapter: Californians’ Attitudes and Experiences with Death and Dying,”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


LONGEVITY IS A NATURAL RESOURCE WORTH “EXPLOITING.” Eskaton’s commitment to natural resources includes energy efficiency, ridesharing, recycling and waste management. But, undoubtedly, the most respected natural resource within Eskaton’s 30 communities is our resident population -- the 3,500 older adults with energy, time and wisdom to spare.

Longevity truly is a rare asset, one worth conserving and “exploiting.” It has the capacity to fuel the economic engine, concentrate brainpower on innovation, add stability in unstable times, and provide safety in numbers (at a rate of 10,000 people turning 65 every day.)

“The shame is that we’re only looking at the problems,” said Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in a recent interview with the Stanford Report. When, in fact, she reminds us, “the number of older people in the world is the only natural resource that’s actually growing.”

Carstensen is among a handful of authorities on longevity who gives applicable context to facts and numbers, rather than simply reporting them for dramatic effect. And, more importantly, she focuses on solutions rather than problems. For example, with respect to “retirement,” she makes the case in the SR interview that “money from 40 years of work can’t fund 30 years of retirement.” Instead, she proposes to spread out work for more years, cut the number of working days per week and the hours worked per day, and to integrate more sabbaticals into working schedules to give more time to other obligations.

This exemplifies the transformative thinking that values older adults and longevity as a natural resource, and as a benefit rather than a burden. Science, government and too many people associate age with decline. When instead we should appreciate that with age comes knowledge, experience, perspective and contextual thinking; as well as emotional stability and purposeful engagement.

Eskaton’s residents exploit their resourcefulness daily through volunteerism, mentoring and “encore careers.” It’s inspiring to witness, though they would claim it’s only natural.