Napoletan on a mission to end Alzheimer’s

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Ann Napoletan was presented with the “Spirit of Philanthropy” award by Jeff Wolf, National Church Residences Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and Mission Impact, at the organization’s national conference in September.

By LANCE CRANMER                                                               lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

COLUMBUS – It was a bit of a shock when Ann Napoletan’s daughter put a hand on her shoulder during the awards presentation at the National Church Residences national conference.

“I didn’t know why she was there,” recalled Ann, an Treasury Manager at the home office in Columbus. “I thought maybe something was wrong.”

Ann was sitting at a table full of colleagues, who had suspiciously made sure their table was toward the front of the room. Little did Ann know that she was the only one at the table – including her daughter – who did not know she was about to receive the National Church Residences “Spirit of Philanthropy” award from Jeff Wolf, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and Mission Impact.

“I had absolutely no idea,” Ann said. “I was just blown away. Absolutely blown away. I still am.”

From 9 to 5 (and sometimes even longer) Ann crunches numbers as part of the team of accountants who manage National Church Residences’ budgets. But it is the tireless work she does on the side that truly embodies the organization’s “Spirit of Philanthropy.”

Four years ago Ann lost her mother, Marilyn, to Alzheimer’s Disease shortly after her 76th birthday.

“My mom was the most lively, full-of-life person,” Ann said, sitting for this interview on what would have been Marilyn’s 80th birthday. “My daughter doesn’t want to see the words Alzheimer’s or dementia. I’m the opposite.

“I have to know there’s a greater purpose. For me that’s advocating, teaching, writing, helping other families. It’s almost like a second career.”

After her mother’s passing, Ann began a blog called, “The Long and Winding Road” at www.ALZjourney.com.

“The best way I can keep mom’s memory alive is to keep telling her story,” Ann said.

As her writing gained popularity, she was asked to contribute to the online content for organization’s that dealt directly with Alzheimer’s care.

In 2013 she was asked to co-moderate an online support group called, “Us Against Alzheimer’s.”

“This year I launched a non-profit in my mom’s name,” she added. “I had done so much fundraising for other groups, I just wanted to have a little more control of where the fundraising dollars were going.”

Marilyn’s Legacy: A World Without Alzheimer’s is Ann’s non-profit that is focused on not only finding a cure for Alzheimer’s but also providing unique opportunities to benefit individuals currently living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“I know that I’m making a direct impact on these people’s lives,” Ann said.

The fact that National Church Residences made a point to recognize Ann for her work made it a little more special.

“It was a great experience to be recognized,” she said. “To be at a company that cares about things like that … that it’s not all bottom-line oriented. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Ann added that it is because of her experience in facing her mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease that she found her way to National Church Residences in June of 2014.

“I am at National Church Residences because of my mom,” she said. “I was at Nationwide for 27 years. I was in a good place financially and career-wise, but I wasn’t fulfilled at all.”

With a background in treasury, Ann said that it was like divine intervention that the position she currently holds became available at the exact time she felt the need to make a change.

“This treasury job almost fell into my lap,” she said. “This is where I’m meant to be. Even on a bad day, that over-arching mission is still there. I gave up a lot, but I’m so happy here.”

Residents laugh, cry and sing with Java Music Club

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By LANCE CRANMER                                          lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It’s a place to sing, to socialize, to feel comfortable.

Designed with the intention to provide support for loneliness and depression across the long-term care spectrum, Java Music Club has been a continued success across National Church Residences’ facilities.

“Ever since our clients were presented with the Java Club, our clients have fallen in love with it,” said Kimberly Johnson, the Life Enrichment Leader at National Church Residences Center for Senior Health North in Columbus.

She said that one of her clients told her that, “This group helps me come to an understanding about my life, and makes me appreciate my mom more and more.”

Currently there are multiple Columbus facilities offering Java – including CSH North, Avondale and Commons at Third, among others.

“I’ve been doing Java for about a year now and the experience has been very rewarding,” said ThaiShann Fain, the Employment Coordinator for Commons at Third, a permanent supportive housing site in central Columbus. “I was asked to assist a case manager, that’s how I got involved.”

Thai’s Java Club is a smaller group that comes together on the third Wednesdays of each month.

“We’ve had the same residents come and participate in Java and they seem to love it,” she said. “We laugh, we cry and sometimes shout ‘Amen!’ when it gets too good. But most of all we come together for a good time.”

As participants eat lunch, Thai begins the meetings by telling club members that what they talk about in Java stays in Java, and that everyone is welcome to share their thoughts and feelings.

“Java is a place where you can let your innermost thoughts out and no one will judge you,” she said. “The topics that are chosen seem to mirror what some of us are going through so we sing and discuss what is on our minds.”

At Commons at Third, the Java Music Club morphed from its original form when the Willis Group, an international risk advisor and insurance company, got involved.

“The Willis office in Columbus wanted an opportunity to give back,” said Brian Foy, Vice President of the Columbus Willis office. “We all made the decision, this is our chance to give back. The National Church Residences location (Commons at Third) is two minutes from our office. It gives us a chance to bring some lunch and meet some new friends.”

Brian said a group of around 10 Willis staffers attend the club, now known as the Willis Lunch Bunch and Java.

“We’ve enjoyed the company and we look forward to continuing it in the future,” he said.

After the club gatherings begin with an introductory song, the topic of the day is announced and members get a chance to open up and talk.

When it’s an individual’s turn to speak, they are handed an aboriginal talking stick.

The topic during this particular session was helping others and what have members done in the past and what can they do in the future to accomplish this.

“You know you touch someone when everyone in the group starts crying,” Thai said. “Neither the residents or the folks from Willis have any idea what topic will be chosen, but we have been blessed to pick the right topics and it seems to be at the right time for most.”

After everyone has the chance to speak – some speak at length, other choose to simply listen – the music books open and everyone joins in for a song.

Each Java Music Club is different. But each one operates under the same guiding principle listed in the books: “To share our experience, strength and hope, to support one another and have fun.”

While the group at Third has around a dozen people at each meeting, Kimberly said that an average group at CSH North is around 40.

“We had to make our groups larger,” said Amber Adkins, the Center for Senior Health Site Manager at Avondale, in the northwest Columbus suburb of Dublin. “Clients have shown great interest in listening to each other share stories, thoughts and feelings. Singing is a huge hit around Avondale as well.”

With the success of Java at so many National Church Residences sites, plans are in the works to expand the program to three other sites in Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia.

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Java Group

Aging parents and the importance of communication

Conversations between an aging parent and their grown child can be frustrating as the parent ages. Roles have reversed and the grown child is now taking the place as the caregiver for their parent. Instead of asking a parent a question such as, “How was your day?” or “Can you give me advice on…”, grown children will ask “Did you take your medicine today?” or “Why would you do that?”

When communicating with aging parents it’s important to remember their life is rapidly changing and they are trying to maintain a sense of independence. It’s difficult for seniors to rely on others for care and to help solve their problems when they maintained control of their own life before.

Here are helpful tips to keep in mind when communicating with aging parents to keep your relationship healthy and to make the most of your time together.

  1. Take time and be respectful. While adult children are caught up in the demands of family, work and finances, their parents’ lives have slowed down. They have less of a sense of urgency to get things done and may take time to make decisions. It’s not always about being slow or a diminished capacity. This can be frustrating, but remember, parents have a lifetime of experience to draw from and want to make the best decision, instead of the fastest. Be respectful of their slower approach so they won’t think you are trying to control them.
  1. Make time and listen. A quick phone call to check-in or help out with chores is helpful for your parents, however these aren’t quality moments to build your relationship. Make time to have quality days with your parents, even one-on-one, to talk and listen. Let your parents guide the discussion and listen and ask open-ended questions. You’ll be surprised what you will learn about your parent, their life and present concerns.
  1. Reminisce about life. Adult children may think they know their parent, but when you take the time to reminisce about life with them you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn. Ask questions to learn more about situations they faced, people they met or places they lived or visited. These life stories are important for families to understand and appreciate who they are.
  1. Ask for advice. Parents are used to their children coming to them for advice or help, and it’s tough to no longer be consulted by your grown children as you age. While the type of advice a grown child is looking for may have changed, look for opportunities to ask “What do you think of this Mom?” or “Dad, what’s more important to you?”

While these are simple tips, these will help you understand more about your parent’s past and what they are going through day-to-day as they age.

Korean War vet overcomes racism, finds life’s true calling

US ARMY - GEORGE McCREE COLOR PICTURE

By LANCE CRANMER                                         lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

In honor of Black History Month, National Church Residences put out the call to our thousands of employees and residents to share their amazing stories of success and overcoming adversity. This story came to us from Tonya Dillard, Property Manager at Pecan Villa, in Ruston, Louisiana, about one of her residents, George McCree.

“He is noble, quiet spirited, he won’t volunteer anything, but he shares with those he cares for, and I am honored to be one of those people,” said Dillard. “He speaks volumes without many words. He is humble and the most respectful person I have ever encountered.”

George Arco McCree joined the Army in 1949 as an 18-year-old man living in Los Angeles. Sent to Ft. Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, for training, McCree found himself in an all-black platoon. However, as McCree noticed, all of his commanding officers were white.

McCree completed his eight-week basic training at Ft. Jackson and was rewarded with a 14-day leave. Once that was done, McCree was shipped out – headed for the Korean War.

“Corporal McCree saw many, many unspeakable things. Things that he continues to deal with to this day,” said Dillard. “Yet he shared with me that the young 18-year-old boy was now a real man, who had the opportunity to fight with all colors, creeds and religions without a second thought.”

McCree served his country in Korea for three years before returning home.

“Mr. McCree explained that, ‘color seemed insignificant,’ except for one consistency, ‘all the officers were Caucasian.’ There was no way that he would be an officer,” Dillard said. “He shared that, ‘I saw a lot of death and had to do a lot to survive.’ This still impacts him to this day. His duty was to fight – for his country and his life, with his fellow soldiers, with no regard for color, race or religion.”

When McCree arrived back in the United States, he was stationed at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

“It was there where his service in battle seemed to almost have no value,” he told Dillard. “It was the color of his skin that would determine his new war.”

In the still-segregated South, McCree went from fighting alongside his fellow Americans for a unified cause, to fighting for equal rights as an African-American man.

“Mr. McCree, for the first time, encountered the KKK, racist comments and bold racism daily, until it finally affected his rank,” said Dillard. “A decorated Corporal Sergeant, Mr. McCree was placed in the dark stockades for defending himself against a racist/bigot taunting him and he was demoted from Corporal to Buck Private. Yet he survived, and he stood strong and continues to stand strong. It didn’t break him.”

Following his time in the stockades, McCree eventually returned to his duties as a Drill Sergeant until his honorable discharge in 1956.

After leaving the military, McCree struggled for a time to find the right career path before finding a good job at Providence Hospital as a janitor.

“But that’s not where the story ends,” said Dillard. “Mr. McCree discovered that he had a desire to do even more, so he went to school and became a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant).”

In 1964, McCree fell in love with a woman named Patsy Ann, and two years later they were married. In the years that followed, the couple was blessed with two children, a daughter named Gwen and a son named Larry – who has since made the McCrees grandparents.

As McCree’s life flourished, his career did as well. He continued his education, first becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse and then a Registered Nurse as a graduate of San Francisco State.

In 1984, the McCrees made the decision to move to Louisiana.

“As he has told me often, a smart man will follow his wife,” said Dillard. “So that’s what he did. Upon moving to Louisiana, he worked at North Louisiana Regional Medical Center for years in the ICU/CCU and on the floor.”

Dillard said that McCree believes that working in the medical field was his calling from God. He continued working as a health care provider until it was time for him to retire.

“Eventually, the strain of days past started to wear on Mr. McCree. The Korean War and the pain of his military service continued to plague him,” Dillard said. “With the support of his loving wife, he decided to call Pecan Villa home in 1997 and has been a family member ever since.

“Every morning he greets me with a smile and a, ‘Good Morning!’ What a blessing he is. Behind that smile, no one would know all the pain that he has endured or that he deals with on a daily basis. But it is evident that God gives him and extra dose of Grace to share that quiet spirit with us daily.”

(Cranmer is the Media/Public Relations Specialist for National Church Residences. Contact him at lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org)

Xenia’s Legacy Village offers a full continuum of care

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By LANCE CRANMER                                            LCranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

XENIA – Pat Acker’s phone rang sometime after 3 a.m. Her 89-year-old mother, Jeanette had fallen in her apartment and fractured her hip.

Jeanette Acker was taken to a Dayton-area hospital and the decision was made for her to immediately undergo surgery.

“The doctors said if they let it heal the way it was, she would be crippled and bed-bound the rest of her life,” Pat said. “Even though she is 89, they decided to go ahead and do the surgery. She has a pace-maker, so they weren’t sure if she would make it through. But she did OK.”

Jeanette stayed several days in the hospital, but eventually her doctors said it was important that she seek out a facility that could help her with the rehab process.

“I’ve been a social worker for 30 years and 16 of those were with hospice,” said Pat, who is also the author of the book, “The Dying Teach Us How to Live.” “I have been to most of the assisted living facilities and nursing homes in this area, from Cincinnati to the north of Dayton – everywhere. The one that I thought was the best that I wanted my mom to go to was Legacy Village.”

Opened in October 2014, Legacy Village is a National Church Residences’ facility in Xenia that specializes in short-term rehabilitation for those individuals in need of services after a brief hospital stay.

“I was a hospice worker working with patients in the facility,” Pat said. “The facility was very home-like. They have excellent care.”

Jeanette Acker entered Legacy Village barely able to stand. Twenty days later, when she checked out, she was walking on her own.

“She had physical therapy and occupational therapy. She was scared and she had a lot of pain initially,” said Pat. “They were very patient with her. A lot of that was helping her to have the confidence that she was going to get better in the future and it’s not going to be like this forever.”

At first, Jeanette began standing with a walker. Soon she began making daily trips to the dining room and back. Eventually, she no longer needed the walker at all.

“For only 20 days, for someone who is 89-year-old, to go from fractured hip to walking on her own, that’s wonderful,” Pat said.

Pat credits the individualized care provided at Legacy Village for her mother’s quick recovery.

“She got lots of attention and the staff were really good with helping her,” she said. “Everybody was very patient and kind. That meant a lot to me. I didn’t want to feel like I had to be there all the time to make sure everything was OK with her. They were very kind to me also and listened if I was concerned about something.”

“We have had about nine or 10 people recover and be able to return to their homes since we opened,” said Margery Jones, the Director of Admissions at Legacy Village. “We have a full continuum of care now including independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled rehab. We’ve only gotten real positive feedback.”

Legacy Village’s skilled nursing center was designed for people over 65 who had hospital stays for knee or hip replacement, planned surgery, stroke or heart attack, or any patient who has recovered enough to leave the hospital, but is not quite ready to go home.

The center offers 24-hour care by licensed nurses, wound treatment, medication administration, IV therapy and physical, occupational and speech therapies.

Daily physical, occupational or speech therapies, and one-on-one individualized treatment plans by a dedicated care management team are features of the center.

The center has 15 private rehab suites for those patients in need of a short stay after a hospitalization. All private rooms have walk-in showers, free Wi-Fi, phones, a flat screen television, and cable connection. The facility also features restaurant-style dining services and a 1,500-square foot state-of-the-art therapy gym.

Legacy Village is located just minutes from downtown Xenia off State Route 68 on Wycliffe Road. For more info about National Church Residences Legacy Village, contact Jones at (937) 372-0359.

(Cranmer is the Media/Public Relations Specialist for National Church Residences. Share your story with him lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org)

A grateful daughter reflects on her father’s care

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Benny Sauls

By LANCE CRANMER                                         LCranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

Each morning, Benny Sauls left his apartment, went downstairs and socialized with the staff and the other residents in his building.

“He was an interesting man,” said Jenny Cotton, Benny’s National Church Residences Service Provider. “He would come down every morning just speaking to people and didn’t have a care in the world.”

Sauls and Cotton met when Benny arrived at Vintage Crossing, a senior living complex in Cuthberth, Georgia, where National Church Residences is not the building owner, but instead staffs the facility with a Service Provider.

On Tuesday, January 6, Cotton remembered Benny making his usual morning rounds.

“He came down here and sat down and wanted to talk. I asked if he wanted to call his brother and he said, ‘No, it’s too early. I’ll wait,’” Cotton said. “He loved to eat. He was skinny. Looked like he didn’t eat at all. But he had a big appetite. And he liked to cook. That’s why he set off the smoke alarm all the time. The fire department knew him well.”

On this morning, Benny was hoping his brother would bring him a meal, but he was willing to wait until a little later in the day. While he waited, Benny went back to his apartment.

“Looked like he had just gone upstairs to sit down,” said Cotton. “He had a brand new recliner he bought from the furniture store here, but he’d always rather sit in his old broken-down chair. And that’s where his brother walked in and found him.”

Benny Sauls passed away that morning at the age of 66. He spent his final three years in the care of Jenny Cotton.

It was Cotton who had to break the news over the phone to Benny’s daughter, Nicki Bentley, who lives in Tennessee.

“As hard as this call was to receive, she was so compassionate and was able to give me the news about my Daddy without making me feel as though he was just another resident who had passed,” Bentley said. “She truly cares about her residents.”

After a long span of not being able to visit with her father, just weeks earlier, Bentley brought him to her home to spend Christmas together.

“At Christmas, my Daddy came to stay here in Tennessee with me, and the only person he wanted to say Merry Christmas to was Jenny,” Bentley said. “He thought a lot of her and made the comment she always looked out for everyone and never took time for herself.”

Cotton said it was important for Benny to get a few things he wanted taken care of before he made the trip to Tennessee – a trip he’d delayed a few times in the past.

“I had set up for him to go to an eye doctor. He needed a cataract off,” said Cotton. “One thing about him, he always just wore old blue jeans and old tennis shoes. But that morning he’d put on dressier shoes and he’d gone out to wait for the bus. But the transportation never showed and he came back in and had me call them to complain.

“Later he told me, ‘The best thing about them not showing up is that now I can go take off these shoes!’”

When the doctor’s visit fell through, Cotton said Sauls was suddenly excited to plan his trip to see his daughter in Tennessee.

“Just like he knew something,” Cotton said. “This was going to be his last chance.”

Not long after returning to Georgia, Benny passed away in his favorite chair.

Since then, Bentley said Cotton stayed in touch.

“She has made a point to call and check in with us. She was the only one from the apartments who came to Daddy’s viewing and funeral even though it was in a different county and after work hours,” Bentley said. “I am thankful she was there, I know Daddy would have wanted her there.”

Cotton remembers Benny as a well-liked man, who could occasionally be trouble, but was always fun.

“I got a couple of (marriage) proposals,” she recalled. “He probably didn’t remember.”

Bentley remembers Cotton as a caregiver who was always friendly, compassionate and caring toward her father.

“She always made my Daddy feel welcome in her office and when he would set off the fire alarm or do something he should not have, she would call me and together we would talk to him,” Bentley said. “She has so much concern in her voice for every person I see her with, especially the elderly, and I am thankful she was a part of our lives the past three years. I know Daddy is gone, but I also know that he left this world knowing that Jenny Cotton was an amazing woman, who went above and beyond for him, as well as every other person in the complex.”

(Cranmer is the Media/Public Relations Specialist for National Church Residences. Contact him with a story that you would like to share at 614-273-3809)

Mother’s ‘Royal Treatment’ inspires holiday donation

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Nurse Sondra Clancy (left) and Adult Day Manager Carey Dodrill (right) smile with Virginia Fuller at National Church Residences Chillicothe. In honor of the care they provide for her mother, Fuller’s daughter made a donation to the Center for Senior Health Foundation in the caregivers’ honor.

By LANCE CRANMER                                                                                           LCranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Placing a loved one in a senior care facility can be a stressful decision. But having confidence that your family member is being loved and cared for can make that difficult time significantly easier.

Early last year, Virginia Fuller began coming to the Center for Senior Health at National Church Residences Chillicothe facility.

“She started with home care and hospice,” said Carey Dodrill, the Adult Day Manager at National Church Residences Chillicothe. “She’s had our therapy services. She’s benefitted from our outpatient therapy. She’s received a lot of care.”

Dodrill said that Fuller has told her more than once that she receives the “royal treatment” from her caregivers.

“We bus her to our assisted living building on a weekly basis to get her hair done in our beauty salon. And we do her nails,” Dodrill said. “If she asks for something, we try to figure it out.”

Dodrill said that since Fuller began coming to National Church Residences Chillicothe, the staff has seen a great improvement in her condition.

“She is able to walk with her walker now. She was able to be strengthened and could continue living at home,” she said. “We helped her maintain her independence.”

To Dodrill, caring for Fuller is a pleasure, and all in a day’s work.

To Fuller’s children, what the Chillicothe staff does for their mother is nothing short of special.

Just before Christmas, Fuller’s daughter, Leslee Miraldi, along with her husband David, contacted Dodrill about a “Thank You” gift for the people who take care of her mother.

Since health care providers at National Church Residences cannot accept direct gifts, the Miraldis instead donated $250 to the Center for Senior Health Foundation in the names of Dodrill, nurse Sondra Clancy, and the many other caregivers and drivers who help her mother on a daily basis.

“They have contributed significantly not only to my mother’s joy at this time in her life, but also to my peace of mind and that of my family,” said Leslee Miraldi. “I cannot tell you the difference that these people have made in our lives and that of our mother.”

Dodrill was understandably moved by the kind notion.

“It was really sweet,” she said. “They’re good-hearted people and they want what’s best for her.”

By making a donation to the foundation, the Miraldis will help make it possible for National Church Residences to continue to provide comprehensive day care services to physically and/or cognitively impaired adults, regardless of their ability to pay for services.

“We use foundation money to pay for days for the people who can’t afford them,” said Dodrill. “So they can receive the same benefits.”

Karen Steinbrook, the Executive Director at National Church Residences Chillicothe, said that clients benefit greatly from those who donate to the Center for Senior Health Foundation.

“We’ve had a lot of donations this year with people saying, ‘Don’t tell anybody, just take this,’” said Steinbrook. “Obviously we can’t, so our staff takes them and turns them in and they go to the foundation.

“This $250 donation could mean five days that someone else could come and receive care.”

Donations can be made to the Center for Senior Health Foundation, or one of the several foundations and services offered by National Church Residences at http://www.nationalchurchresidences.org/donate.

(Cranmer is the Media/Public Relations Specialist for National Church Residences. Contact him at LCranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org)