September 2013

Spirit logo

A newsletter from the
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View
Centers for Spirituality and Aging

In August I experienced two powerful events where the collaboration in planning and execution was the key to their success.  Together they were a reminder to me of something that I know, but tend to forget:  collaborative planning and execution of programs creates energy, joy and positive feelings that last long after the event.


The first event was my daughter's wedding.  She chose to have her wedding in a community neither one of us has lived in since 1989.  But her step-mom does live there, as does her grandmother, as well as good friends.  Many other extended family are also within easy driving distance and both she and her husband have friends in the area.  In the course of the wedding planning offers of help came from all sides-from the friend who offered her barn and pasture for the site, to the friend who volunteered her husband and herself to be my "home team," to her step-mother who grew all the flowers, from family and friends who showed up the morning of the wedding to do sheep dropping scooping in the pasture, and her brother-law who became the de facto wedding coordinator as the caterer and others showed up!  My daughter is a master planner, but so many contributed so much, the whole weekend became a joyous celebration that all were able to enjoy.  As she said the day after the wedding, "It was everything I'd planned and hoped for, and so much more."


After coming home from the wedding I experienced a summer event at the retirement community where my office is located.  Planned jointly by community staff and the community volunteer auxiliary, this "Village Faire" was a festive and fun event that included residents from all levels of care with the help of many volunteers and village staff.  In addition staff from the community's corporate office as well as the retirement community staff pitched in to run game booths and serve cotton candy.  It was greatvillage fair fun to watch residents intently aim their beanbags at the trolls they were trying to knock down. No matter their score they received a prize.  They also gleefully threw balls toward the target that would dunk their favorite staff member.  Residents, family members and staff clapped and danced to the musical entertainment and everyone enjoyed the picnic dinner.  The mood of fun and joy persists even now in this community. All of this came to be because of the joining of forces and collaborative planning and execution.


When I talk to those who plan programs for senior adults in both congregations and senior living and care settings, I am struck by how often they are doing the planning (and often the execution) all by themselves.  I am also struck by how often they are tired and discouraged and how they are finding it hard to find the energy and passion they need to do this job well.  From my own experience in a congregation and a retirement community, I know that planning as a team makes all the difference.  As new ideas are generated enthusiasm and energy emerge.  And once the plans are made there is shared ownership and commitment to pulling it off.


So what does this have to do with spiritual care?  Here is the definition of spirituality that I work from: 

Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature and to the significant or sacred.[i]  


Did you notice the part about connectedness?  If we want to facilitate and encourage the older adults we serve to greater connectedness with themselves, others, the wider world and the sacred, doesn't it make sense to provide programming that comes from a process that includes connecting and collaborating?  And when we do that I think it will spur us on to think about how we can encourage resident-to-resident, staff-to-resident connectedness and collaboration through the programs we plan and through the everyday interactions of life.   And as we collaborate and connect, we will find that we are energized and that the climate where we serve becomes more often than not, one of joy and gladness. 

[i] (Definition from Consensus Conference: Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care as a Dimension of Palliative Care, held Feb. 17-18, 2009, Pasadena, CA. Sponsored by the Archstone Foundation.)  


2013-2014 Spiritual Care Workshops

For those of you in California, this event offers the opportunity to learn about collaborative programming as well as receive many other ideas about addressing the problems of helplessness, loneliness, and boredom in older adults. These are spiritual issues and yet we often don't think about spiritual resources or practices when creating programs for older adults. 

This workshop was created by presenters Nancy Gordon, director and Don Koepke, director emeritus of the CLH Center for Spirituality and Aging, to assist all those who plan and create programs for older adults  in senior centers, residential communities, long-term care settings, and in congregations.  Nancy and Don believe that looking at programming through a spiritual lens will help all those who desire to create and provide programming for older adults that goes beyond entertainment and "keeping them busy."

Make plans to attend this workshop, now offered in four locations, three times in November and once in January, 2014.  Use the links below to learn more and to be among the first to register!

The Rev. Dr. Jade Angelica
Rabbi Dayle Friedman


 A Communication, Connection & Care Experiential Workshop

Save the Dates:

February 19, 2014 in Anaheim

February 20, 2014 in Cupertino.

 Through presentation, experiential exercises, discussion, and reflection, Jade Angelica, founder of Healing Moments,  provides caregivers (family, lay and professional) with the opportunity to learn and practice creative, effective methods for communicating and connecting with and caring for persons with Alzheimer's and dementia.  Using techniques from improvisational theater this workshop is designed to creatively breathe life into the communication process in order to enhance quality of life and reduce caregiver stress.

Rev. Dr. Angelica's program, Healing Moments was awarded a "Best Practices" award by NICA (National Interfaith Council on Aging) in 2010.  She is a Unitarian Universalist minister, provides long distance spiritual direction to those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers, and has a book in publication about her journey caring for her mother who suffered from Alzheimer's.

Save the Dates:

April 9, 2014 in Anaheim

April 10, 2014 in Cupertino.

Rabbi Dayle Friedman brings a look at life review and its importance and necessity in the spiritual journey of aging.  Using the tool of Midrashic inquiry she will teach us techniques to to help us deepen our understanding of  our current life story and techniques and questions that we can use as we provide spiritual care for older adults.  The second half of the day will be spent exploring how caregivers can nurture their own resiliency as they care for and support elders. 

Rabbi Friedman served as founding director of Hiddur: The Center for Aging and Judaism of Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, has many years of experience as chaplain and trainer of chaplains for older adults, and is author of many articles and two books.  You can learn more about her and her programs at her website, Growing Older.
Events to Help on the Aging Journey
Saddleback Church's Mind, Heart, Soul Ministry is offering "A caregiver's journey through dementia and memory loss" presented by Vic Mazmanian on Saturday, September 7, 2013, 10:00 a.m. - 12 p.m. at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA.  No registration required.  View the flyer for this event here.
St. John's Hospital and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans are offering a two hour workshop on Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 9-11 a.m. at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, California.  "Hard to Swallow:  Diseases of Mentation" will feature faculty from several disciplines, including Chaplain David Knapp, BCC.  The organizers are inviting clergy and lay-caregivers to come to examine the issues and needs of patients and families who are coping with late stage Alzheimer's and other dementias.  If you pre-register at 805-839-5852 by Noon on September 11, you will receive a copy of the book, I'm Still Here by John Zeisel. 
The San Gabriel Valley End-of-Life Care Coalition is offering a one-day workshop, "Partners in Caring: A Seminar for Faith Leaders on End-of-Life Care" on October 10, 2013 at Westminster Gardens Retirement Community in Duarte, CA.  The seminar is designed to help faith leaders gain greater confidence in supporting their members at life's end.  It will help to bridge medical and ethical concepts with the spiritual aspects of end-of-life care.  Click here for more information or to register.

The CASA Network International Leadership Conference is November 6-8, 2013 at First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas.  The Christian Association Serving Adult (CASA) Ministries conference is for congregational leaders who want to learn how to serve all age groups, focusing on ways to form inter-generational connections and ministry to and through those 50+.  The event website is here.  

The Martin De Porres Center is presenting the Institute for Maturing Spirituality, live events in Columbus, Ohio and also offered as webcasts for faith communities, health care centers and senior residences.  The series of four events/webcasts runs from late September to mid-November.  In the interest of full disclosure, I will be the speaker on Thursday, October 17 on "Ten Practices for the Spiritual Journey of Aging."  To see the whole schedule of dates, presenters and topics go to the series website here.  For information on ways to subscribe to one or all of these webcasts, contact Christina Butler at 614-416-1920 or email her here
Center Resources
good shepherd Sensing the Sacred, a worship program for persons with Alzheimer's and dementia, is being discovered by more and more people who want to offer a dementia friendly worship experience.  Presently several chaplains are using this in their nursing care ministries and at least one church has a team taking it to a memory care unit in their community.   Check out the Sensing the Sacred tab on our website for information about this well-tested program.  Kits with everything you need to present a story are available for $50 plus the cost of postage.  When you purchase a kit you will receive the link to a series of  training workshop videos that will help you train yourself and others in this significant ministry.
Congregational Older Adult Ministry
For new ways to think about and frame older adult ministry, please enjoy my article,  Re-imaging Older Adult Ministry, that uses images from Psalm 92 (flourishing, growing, fruitful and full of sap) to describe the kind of qualities we want to encourage in our ministry to and with older adults.  For a step-by-step guide to developing a sustainable older adult ministry, read Ministering to Older Adults: The Building Blocks, a book written and edited by director emeritus Don Koepke.  To order the book ($30 plus postage), email me a request.
Parting Thoughts
The 5th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality was held in Edinburgh, Scotland in July.  One of the major presenters was Dr. Susan McFadden who with her husband was a recent presenter of workshops for our Centers.  Susan's lecture, "Maintaining the Fabric of the World, Spiritual Gifts of Persons with Dementia," explores the rich gifts of dementia care from her perspective as a psychologist and a Christian.  It is hopeful and inspiring and I hope you'll take the time to read it.  Her lecture text and her slides are found here.

And I would like to shamelessly ask you to like our Facebook page.  We provide photo quotes twice a week and a link to some of our resources once a week.  You will not be overwhelmed with posts.  But we do hope that you'll be inspired and encouraged.  We're at 73 likes and I'd love to see us get to 100!  Use the link below in the "Staying Connected" box to go to the page and to like it!

Many blessings in this busy fall season,

Nancy Gordon, Director
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View Centers for Spirituality and Aging


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