Tuesday, October 30, 2012


“EMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL.” “She was free to have her disease ... and not constantly fight her decline,” expressed the daughter of a woman with Alzheimer’s who had recently moved to a care community. The transformative experience was shared by the daughter in a recent Sacramento Bee article (“Fear, stigma make Alzheimer’s patients slow to seek help,” 10-13-12). The daughter also noted how refreshing it was when someone recognized the person still living inside the disease. “I learned to go into my mother’s world, because she wasn’t coming into mine. ... You have to recognize the childhood of the disease but not be condescending about it.”
Though the mother’s care provider is not named, the daughter’s sentiments do reinforce the fundamental goal of Eskaton’s approach to caring for individuals suffering the devilish manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease.
Webster’s defines empathy as “the ability to share in another’s emotions, thoughts or feelings.” In Eskaton’s “Dawn of a New Day” Memory Care, an empathic approach distinguishes the commitment of its caregivers who:

§   Make personal connections with residents.

§   Engage residents in activities that promote self-expression and cognitive challenges.

§   Partner with families; and provide support and regular communication.

§   Respect the physical environment of individuals and the community.

“The success of Eskaton’s Dawn of a New Day program is based on establishing very personal connections between our residents and our care team,” explains Teri Tift, Eskaton’s director of quality and compliance. “This is why we place a great deal of significance on recruiting, training and retaining staff who inherently and intentionally embrace this empathic approach.”
Eskaton also engages memory care residents in very unique ways. The Kids Connection buddies residents with local elementary school children who make regular visits; ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimer’s helps residents explore their creativity; and urban gardens provide individuals with a constant, growing sense of purpose.
Empathy in memory care is about discovery. Not finding what is lost, because that may never be found; but rather about seeking new ways to communicate, connect and not condescend.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


THE “AGE OF LONGEVITY.” Historians give contextual reference to eras of civilization by defining centuries or periods of time as “ages.” Starting around the 16th century, these great ages include the “Age of Reason” (roughly 1600-1700), “Age of Enlightenment” (1700-1800), “Age of Political Revolution” (1800-1850) and “Age of Social Revolution (1850-1950 or beyond) and the “Information Age” (roughly the past half-century). The chronology takes into account cultural movements, social philosophies, historical events and major accomplishments.

The academics, historians and publishers (such as Smithsonian and Time, which compiled the series of texts from which this information was excerpted) apply these labels as a retroactive perspective. This makes sense; humans are much more adept at reflection than anticipation or for that matter conscious of what they are experiencing.

The “Age of Longevity,” though, this is a new great age that we can actually appreciate in the moment. We’re experiencing it right now, all of us. And undoubtedly it is the most significant accomplishment of our time, maybe ever.

“In fewer than one hundred years, human beings made greater gains in life expectancy than in the preceding fifty centuries,” Dr. Robert N. Butler explains in his seminal text The Longevity Revolution. "... since the beginning of the twentieth century in the industrialized world, there has been an unprecedented gain of more than thirty years of average life expectancy from birth to over seventy-five years of age.” In just a little more than a decade from now, the number of people in the United States ages 65 and older will nearly double.

Humankind’s triumph of longevity deserves to be an era for the ages, no pun intended. Much to our benefit, if we embrace this momentous, experiential period, we are more likely to value and even influence its impact rather than passively reflecting on how history changed us.

Edward L. Bernays (right), the founder of modern public relations who died in 1995 at the age of 103, embodied the ages of Information and Longevity.

Friday, October 19, 2012


NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION. And on a related note, shouldn’t classes to improve stability and mobility be called “gait enhancement” or “walking safety” or “movement improvement” -- anything rather than “fall prevention,” which sounds like an antidote for seasonal affective disorder.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


IT’S US, NOT THEM. Older adults are not a special-interest group. In fact, we all are aging; and we all should hope to become older adults. Though the advantages of embracing “aging” as an all-inclusive process that we all experience resonates with an ever-increasing segment of society, further enlightenment is required for a few professional sectors still lost in the dark ages.

WITHIN ACADEMIA AND MEDICINE. In academia and medicine, the approach that seems most reasonable is the one put forth by Dr. Robert N. Butler in his book The Longevity Revolution. “I favor an academic specialty of geriatrics rather than a practice specialty. ... All doctors should have a basic training and knowledge to care for older adults.” This addresses the practicality of growing old rather than the stereotypes, and does not perpetuate the misconception that aging is an illness.

WITHIN THE WORKFORCE. More than simply repurposing them as greeters and publicity hires, many businesses now recognize the value of recruiting and retaining older employees for their experience, mentorship and exemplary productivity. It’s a maturing trend, one that hopefully will be validated by a positive impact on the bottom line.

WITHIN NEWS MEDIA. Media outlets are heading in the right direction. Local “senior” tabloids are expanding content to include news, entertainment and healthy living sections to balance the plethora of medical supply, aging services and estate planning advertorials.

One local television station produces a series titled “Sensational Seniors.” In fact Eskaton residents have been profiled on multiple occasions -- an artist, a model ship builder, a marathoner and a MENSA member, among others. With Eskaton’s encouragement and the station’s best of intentions, the stories focus on what these sensational older adults are doing, not what they’ve done.

Also notable, The Sacramento Bee, which regularly covers issues related to the aging process (independent living, remote caregiving, assistive technologies) assigns one of its premier staff writers, Anita Creamer, to such stories. Better still, The Bee often features the pieces on the front page of the Sunday edition for readers of all ages to appreciate.

WITHIN ADVERTISING AND ENTERTAINMENT. Stereotypes in advertising, marketing and entertainment are fading as well. These industries are more responsive than most to follow the dollar. It is becoming increasing clear that older adults, and particularly the 78 million Boomers, buy as much or more stuff than any age group, and have as much or more time to watch TV and see films.

WITHIN POLITICS. The California State Assembly has a standing committee, Aging & Long-term Care. In the State Senate, Aging & Long-term Care is a Health subcommittee. Neither body is particularly aggressive with attempting to expand in scope or authority. And certainly their subordinated influence hardly reflects the vast real-world impact their designations suggest.

Sooner rather than later the Legislature needs to acknowledge the broader context of “aging” concerns and either upgrade the stature of these committees or, perhaps more appropriately, intentionally integrate their agendas into those of the multiple other committees with influence over these issues.

WITHIN PUBLIC OPINION POLLING. For starters, it would good to scrutinize the intentions and survey instruments for public attitude surveys about aging. More emphasis needs to be placed on the interpretation and eventual application of the findings. Too often the wrong questions are asked and wrong people surveyed; and then the answers become the basis for bad decisions and flawed initiatives.

Polls should be our servants, not our masters. For example, it does not make sense to ask healthy middle-aged adults whether they desire to live in an older adult community or age-in-place. Better to ask them when their circumstances -- age, health, access to caregivers, etc. -- are more applicable. Or, to really hammer this point home, ask us, the individuals currently residing in older adult communities whether they aspired to this lifestyle when they were younger and healthy. And, besides, as any ambitious public relations professional up to the challenge will encourage: Public opinion is malleable and can be influenced by campaigns based on goals that represent the public interest.

WITHIN CONFERENCES. The laggards in the us-not-them movement, ironically, are the very organizations and conference planners who represent older adults. Workshop presenters and panels of authorities routinely offer their keen insights on what older adults need today and will want in the future. Yet, with one quick glance around the room -- at attendees and presenters -- it becomes painfully evident that the subjects of these insights are not represented. Yet they are accessible and certainly not lacking of opinions ... and no doubt would agree that information is best when it comes “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

WITHIN OURSELVES. Call it indifference, condescension, denial or any other aspect of ageism, but characterizing older adults as “them” is at very least counterintuitive.  As The Beatles so profoundly suggested, “We are you and you are we and we are all together.”  This spirit of inclusivity is something for everyone who is aging -- for us -- to embrace in anticipation rather than hindsight.

Monday, October 15, 2012


KEEP CONNECTED ... WITH ESKATON. Now Eskaton is making it easier than ever for our residents to stay in touch with family and friends -- anytime, from anywhere. Our private “Keep Connected” online video service is free to all new residents and even includes complimentary setup and support for one family member or friend.
The program is being piloted at Eskaton Village Roseville, a multiservice community with an assisted living and memory care lodge, and independent living cottages. 
Specifically, Eskaton offers each new resident and one designated family member or friend our “Keep Connected” package, which includes complimentary equipment and tech support as needed for online video communication using Eskaton’s eLiving or other similar options. Our community offers free Wi-Fi, so all that’s needed is a broadband connection for participating family members and friends.

Friday, October 12, 2012


EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY. It’s a new school year and that means Eskaton Kids Connection students are buddying up with residents in Eskaton’s communities throughout Northern California. More than 500 pairings in 17 locations -- including older adults in independent living, affordable apartments, assisted living, care centers and memory care.

"The children are so excited,” explains teacher
Bobbi Donovan, one of the program’s co-founders. "Yesterday we rehearsed our songs and packed our buddy bags with art supplies and crafty presents in anticipation of meeting our new friends at ’Eksaton.’ It was like the day before Christmas for the kids.”

Remarkably, the events of the day, the initial connections of the intergenerational pairs, always exceed the hype.

A magnetic field seems to draw the buddies together in the community’s common living room. Within moments of being introduced, the kids are reading to their older adult buddies, presenting them with art projects, answering questions and telling stories.

As the passel of 30 first graders respectfully maneuver around, over and under wheelchairs and walkers, the older adults (in their 80s, 90s and 100s) clearly appreciate the youngsters’ familiarity and close proximity. The closer the kids snuggle, the easier it is to hear and see the joy they bring to the community today.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


PERFECT! TWICE AS NICE. Rarely do you “capture lightning in a bottle.” But, twice in one year, that’s quite an accomplishment.

2012 is a banner year for Eskaton’s survey results. Eskaton Village Carmichael Care Center earned a “zero-deficiency” perfect score in its just concluded State Licensing Survey by the California Department of Public Health. And Eskaton’s Adult Day Healthcare program also earned a perfect score on its Medi-Cal Certification Renewal.

“Eskaton’s expectation is always zero-deficiencies,” according to COO Betsy Donovan, “still the rarity of this occurring with the incredibly complex process makes such a score quite an accomplishment.”

For skilled nursing, Title 22 regulations govern the operation of all facilities. The stringent annual surveys focus on administration, care policies, quality assurance and environmental status.

For adult day healthcare -- referred to as Community Based Adult Services -- the state’s Certification Renewal Survey determines compliance with Medi-Cal certification requirements and is conducted at minimum once every two years by the California Department of Aging.

The extensive ADHC survey includes chart reviews for compliance with requirements of care and documentation; interviews with program participants and staff; review of required therapy; review of dietary services; and review of psychologist and pharmacist hours and documentation. Billing records are compared to chart records for accuracy. Staffing patterns, personnel records and licenses; and training requirements are checked. Transportation records and facility safety are scrutinized as well. In other words, the survey is very thorough. “They can check hundreds of things in one chart alone,” explains program director Jill Yungling.

“We do not spend a lot of time preparing for surveys,” Yungling noted. “The culture at the center is to do it right the first time. The staff does a really nice job of balancing their time with the participants and also getting the huge amount of documentation done accurately. It takes everyone doing their part to achieve this great outcome.”

Eskaton also earned a perfect score for the 2010 survey of Eskaton Care Center Fair Oaks. The surveyor at that time said, according to administrator Stephen Fife, that the “Golden Survey” was the first deficiency free survey she had issued in her nine years in the position.

By no means to minimize Eskaton’s accomplishment, but Major League Baseball recorded three perfect games during the 2012 season. This trilogy brings the total number of such extraordinary feats to just 23 in the 132 history of baseball.

In baseball, there are 27 opportunities (batters and outs to be recorded) per game for something to go awry and muck with perfection. In surveys for skilled nursing and adult day healthcare, there are several hundred challenges to perfection. Clearly, both accomplishments deserve to be celebrated.

Friday, October 5, 2012


ON EXPECTATIONS AND SCHADENFREUDE. Not as a rule, but occasionally it’s better to lower your expectations. This visual reminder from today’s morning commute happens every few years when a big rig gets stuck under the 16th street underpass on the way out of downtown Sacramento. Happy Friday to the rest of us ...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


“REUNITED AND IT THRILLS SO GOOD.” Getting the family together for the holidays will have special significance this season for Millie Watts. On September 12, the Eskaton Roseville Manor resident was surprised by a secretly orchestrated reunion with her younger sister, Patty Geayson, from whom she has been separated for more than 30 years.
Nearly two years in the making, the staff of Eskaton’s affordable apartment community used Google searches, genealogy websites and old-fashioned letter writing to eventually track down Patty in Merced, California. With little coaxing required, the surprise reunion was scheduled and tickets purchased for Patty’s train and bus rides to Roseville. For both sisters it would become, literally, a Thrill of a Lifetime -- the theme of Eskaton’s initiative to help make dreams come true for its residents.
“We lost touch after our mom died,” Patty explained, adding. “But I thought about her all the time.” The emotional reunion was celebrated with dozens of Millie’s neighbors, her surrogate family of “brothers and sisters” at Eskaton.
Beyond the remarkable Thanksgiving treat for Millie, 74, and Patty, 65, the impending family gathering also will reunite the sisters’ with two older brothers, Alfonso, 88, and Robert 87. Thus extending the Thrill to epic proportions, since the two brothers, living in Merced and Redding, respectively, had lost touch as well. For the first time in three decades, the reunited siblings (the four of 11 children still living) will be together as family. “I could not be any happier,” Millie declares. “Mom would be so thrilled.”