Twelve years ago when we moved to this retirement community, there were no wheelchairs, one walker, and two motorized carts. Notice the change in the enclosed photo of our annual Cancer Walk.  Only one person without assistance, the others on Hoverounds, walkers, or a cane, who  participated  in the Cancer Walk! It looked like a  line of the handicapped and they were the most active in the community!   Such is the  real change in retirement communities. The persons entering CCRCs now are much older, and with few exceptions, have health issues. So they join us who have aged in place, in a “community of the disabled.”  A   chaplain friend in Ohio told me  the retirement community where he serves has converted a whole wing of independent living to assisted living rooms.   The Baby Boomers, if they are affluent, may seek expensive Villas. Others will downsize,  move to one-floor homes or stay where they are with home health.  The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once wrote, “The only that that is constant is change.” So health providers need to be proactive to meet these changes. Some people make things happen; others watch things happen, and others wonder what happened!

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If you visited our campus last night and spied the large tent outside our apartment, you might have thought it was a sign of a tent revival. My maternal grandfather, Milford, Lyon, worked with the famous Billy Sunday ,master of   tent revivals and “hit the sawdust trail.,” religon.  Those were  the days when evangelists spoke of sin and preached “hell fire and damnation.” No, it was a tent installed for a wine and jazz to attract possible new converts, a far cry from the days of  double-fisted  evangelists warning of the evils of drinking and gambling.  However, I was  reminded of Biblical tents,  the tent of meeting where God was supposed to dwell, and Paul , a tent maker and his immortal words, “If this earthly tent we live is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, For in this tent we groan . ..”  Instead we heard loud music sounding into the night and a few stray dogs in the distance,  barking at the noise.  As they took the tent down today, I realized we do live in a fragile tent that will eventually be taken down. But we are promised ” a house not made with hands. which will never be destroyed.”

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An ancient Greek philosopher once wrote, “The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.” In other words, given time, justice will prevail. I applaud the recent decision of Medicare ( beginning January 2016) to fund doctors to counsel their patients about options involving end-of- life care. Among many others, I have urged such counseling. for some time. Advance care planning is critically important to ensure that patient’s goals and needs are met. I have been privy to far too many end of life situations, where such plan were not made, and the person suffered terrible results. The assumption is that the more patients understand their options, the more likely  medical costs will come down as patients decide against expensive medical interventions that don’t help quality of life. This action of medicare ends the silly nonsense of “death panels,” suggested  by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin which fueled opposition to the Affordable Care Act. The Institute of Medicine IOM) produced a provocative report, Dying in America, which states that advance  care planning can begin at any age and should center on frequent conversations with family members and care providers. We have filled out the FIVE WISHES and given copies to all our adult children. Despite their reluctance to talk about such a difficult subject,  we feel at peace about doing this. As  I said to one of my sons, “You don’t think I will live forever, do you?”And we have given copies to our primary physician too. Making these end of life decisions now will ensure that end-of-life care  is affordable, compassionate.  and sustainable. The IOM Report hopes that such end-of-life planning will become a national priority.  Let’s hope so!

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Every once in a while we sneak off to see a movie. However, it is becoming extremely difficult to find  anything worth our time. We sat through six horrendous previews, and vowed we would boycott all of them. It’s a shame that unbridled violence and  lust occupy the cinemas. BUT, we  went to see Me and Earl and  The Dying Girl. What an incredible movie of real life and death. Filmed in nearby Pittsburgh, it tells the story of an awkward Schenley High School senior Greg,  who forms a friendship with Rachel, a girl dying from leukemia. Despite neither one of them really  desiring each other’s company, they make plans to meet on a regular basis.. Greg introduces Rachel to his lifelong friend, Earl, who convinces Greg to show Rachel their collection  of short films. When Rachel begins chemotherapy, and her condition worsens, Greg begins spending less time with school, and more time caring for her. A  crisis occurs when Rachel realize her treatment is doing more harm than good and decides to discontinue  treatment.  Upset by her decision, Greg leaves, devastated he can no longer help her. Later he learns Rachel is on hospice. and visits her in the hospital. The final scene is touching and terribly real. In a society that craves the unreality of horror and violence at the cinema, this is a powerful film, vibrant with reality, and making the viewer aware  of the issues of life, reconciliation, and caring for the dying.

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What a memorable night. Our 18 year old granddaughter, Brannon, drove us to Pittsburgh to see the Davidson-Duquesne game. I have  followed the Wildcats basketball team since 1947!  I know I had to be the oldest alum present  There is nothing so special as an old alumnus, still rooting for his Alma Mater. The “Cats did not disappoint me as they swished 30 three pointers and skunked the Dukes 107-78.  Someone from the Alumni Office took my  photo, just when the “Cats hit  the 86th  point,  as it was my 86th birthday. What made the night even sweeter was that it gave Davidson undisputed possession of 1st place, a remarkable achievement,  since all the sports pundits picked them for last! I loved the way my granddaughter got into the  flow of the game and joined me in leading a “We’re No #1 cheer!”  After the game I had a chance to congratulate Coach McKillop, and all he could say was, “35 assists, a record.”Memories are made of moments like this. On to March Madness.!

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The apostle Paul wrote, “We have this treasure in clay pots…..” But I found the treasure in the magnificent paintings of Lester Potts. Lester never painted a picture or showed any previous artistic ability or interest. But when he suffered Alzheimer’s and was a resident at Caring Days, he began painting, and in four years painted over a hundred water colors to the amazement of family and friends. Some of his art (including the cover) is found in the book, Seasons of Caring. Our activity director, Wendi, showed his art to some of the residents. One lady who rarely spoke, loved the painting of the snow man on skis, and  chuckled as she said, “There he goes.”  Lester’s son, Dr. Danny Potts, sent me a portfolio of many of his Dad’s paintings. Last Sunday I sat down with two ladies. locked down in our memory care unit, because they both had dementia. As we flipped through the pages, their faces brightened, as if Lester’s art resonated with their lives. One lady who loved his paintings of flowers said “Those flowers made me feel so good.” I knew the other lady had grown up on the coast, and she became fixated on Lester’s paintings of the sea and sea birds. She spied a lighthouse, and said “Yes. yes. I remember I climbed up a lighthouse at the  coast when I was a little girl. …..” as the past became present and memory was rekindled. They went through the album a second time, enraptured by his paintings which not only expressed his life story, but, theirs, too.  This will be a beginning of many visits to these dear souls with Lester’s paintings. “He, being dead,” yet speaks.” A genuine  treasure without words.

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