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Get Your Wishes In Writing

“National Healthcare Decisions Day. Your decisions matter.”  

On April 16, You're Encouraged To Begin "The Conversation"

There are hundreds of excuses to avoid talking about advance care planning or end-of-life care. The top ones: "it’s uncomfortable" and "there’s never really a right time to talk about it." However, it’s one of the most important conversations you or a loved one can have when it comes to following through on medical related wishes. Dr. James Lackey, an obstetrician-gynecologist who has delivered more than 6,000 babies and is also the Medical Director for Utilization Management for Integris, has seen this unthinkable scene play out during his years of practice. “Our goal is for people to think about what they want and to communicate that to the people who will be taking care of them.” 

To help get the conversation started, April 16th has been named National Healthcare Decisions Day. It’s a national initiative to encourage adults of all ages to make plans ahead of a health crisis. When people make decisions ahead of time and put their wishes in writing, it helps bring peace of mind to you and the rest of your family. It also helps to avoid the difficult situations that are so common when a person becomes seriously ill and your family is left guessing on decisions of life and death. “It’s a gift to the people who love you. When we get to the end of our days and are often unable to communicate making a bad situation worse for loved ones and it can be made better with some advanced planning,” shared Dr. Lackey.

There are two key advance care planning forms: a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney form. The Living Will is used to used to help direct the person in charge of your care to make decisions on future medical treatments if you were to become incapacitated, typically at the end of life. A Healthcare Power of Attorney is used to appoint a person to make medical decisions upon your behalf if you are incapacitated. Both forms are recommended and don’t expire. The only costs that are associated with these forms are for attorney or notary services. 



Building Bonds Through Books

“I’ve just really been impressed with the relationships my students have built with the grandmas and grandpas.”

The Book Buddies Program at Grace Living Center Jenks 

Building bonds and cherished memories through books is just one of many shared moments between students and their elders throughout the weekday. A nearly two decade long partnership with the Jenks Public Schools has helped bridge the generations through a intergenerational school located inside Grace Living Center Jenks. 

AT LEFT: Book buddies Nancy Reeves and Henry taking part of #ReadAcrossAmerica in honor of Dr. Seuss Day!


The Book Buddies Program at Grace Living Center Jenks works by pairing students each morning with a grandma or grandpa, as the students lovingly refer to them as, to read a book. Not only are they able to talk and share stories and let their imaginations run free, but this time also helps these small students learn more about how to hold a book, turn pages and gain confidence to read aloud. “Book buddies has really helped grow my students as readers because a lot of them now have gotten to where they have the confidence to go and read the book to the residents. This has been really great because there are some residents who can’t see the words so those residents can still come and interact with our students and my students can read to them,” shared Kindergarten teacher Katharine Wilson.

However, it’s just not about books, these special bonds build character within the kindergarteners and pre-K students while helping to bring joy to their elders. “I’ve just really been impressed with the relationships my students have built with the grandmas and grandpas. When we go to do something with them and they’re not there, they’re asking where they are. They are worrying about where they are. They really are really good friends with them and really have a great relationship with them,” shared Wilson.

A similar program, Reading Buddies, is also helping to connect young students and their elders while adding some whimsy to everyday life at The Springs. Now, in its fourth school year, a partnership with the Muskogee Public Schools has helped build many memorable bonds through an intergenerational school located inside The Springs. These positive experiences are not only helping to build character, but memories our elders and their littles will cherish for a lifetime! “It thrills me to see how at the end of life you can still make such a big difference with our students. And, that’s something that will last with our students for the rest of their lives. You know how tolerant they are and just understanding,” shared Benjamin Franklin Stem Academy’s Principal Donna Pillars. 


AT RIGHT: Reading buddies times two with grandfriend Connie Davison at the Springs!



Therapy Success Story: Overcoming Multiple Back Surgeries to Walk Again

Seeing her face as the entire therapy gym clapped for her first steps was very emotional.


It’s unimaginable, something no one ever dreams of happening, an injury leaving you immobile, but for Katherine Crain this was her new reality. She broke her back in February of 2016 then had surgery the following month to fix the injury. “Three to four days later, I sneezed and broke my back again,” she shared. She was then scheduled for a second surgery that would involve two screws to be placed in her back to stabilize it. After this procedure, Katherine says she was able to walk again without assistance. However, all of this changed once again in the Fall of 2017 when one of the screws slipped. At this point, she needed help to get around and started using a walker. Her doctors scheduled a third back surgery. “I was scheduled for my third back surgery to put five more screws in to try to stop my discs from breaking. Two days later I had to have emergency surgery because a screw slipped again. After this surgery, I was not able to walk,” she shared.



Katherine Crain working with Physical Therapy Assistant Andy Goodnight at The Springs.



Once the surgery was complete, Katherine started undergoing Physical Therapy at Tahlequah Hospital. “I didn’t make much progress so I was transferred to The Springs in November of 2017. For the first six weeks I worked with physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, but I wasn’t able to even stand. I started thinking I would be crippled for the rest of my life. I did not think I would ever walk again. I couldn’t even move my toes.” In this trying time it can be hard to keep your spirits up, but Katherine had help celebrating those small victories. “We look for small successes. I encouraged and helped Catherine write down any new progress on her calendar because sometimes it’s hard to remember how far you have come. We talked about how important it’s to keep a positive outlook. I also brought her favorite soda from Sonic a few times. We built a personal connection where she felt she could share when she was frustrated and we could discuss options,” said Rhonda Stabler, Speech Therapist with Rehab Source at The Springs.

An emotional time that would have discouraged anyone, but soon it was all about to change! “One day, I could move my big toe on the left foot. My other toes on my left foot started moving shortly after, but not on my right foot. I felt a little hope,” Katherine shared. She kept working with the skilled therapy team at The Springs and she began to regain more and more movement. After about three week when her first toe started moving, she was up and walking 119 feet with a walker without talking breaks. “I feel like a miracle happened. I feel like the therapists who worked with me gave their all and I did too and together we made it happen.” Katherine’s therapists feel honored to be part of her incredible journey. “I feel honored to be a small part in her recovery. The therapy team she had at The Springs along with her motivation all made her success possible. Seeing her face as the entire therapy gym clapped for her first steps was very emotional,” shared Stabler.


Alzheimer’s or Normal Aging?

That’s the hardest thing about having a parent that has Alzheimer’s Disease. 

After Diagnosis, Understanding What To Do Next

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, it’s in that moment the world stops, then your mind goes in to overdrive trying to figure out what to do next. The first step is to take a deep breath because there are several paths to find support and information. Within this blog, we hope to empower and inform you with the tools needed to put you and your family more at ease. 

Several Grace Living Center communities – both skilled nursing facilities and Assisted Living centers – feature Alzheimer care units where our staff receives training to understand the disease process and care strategies. 

Bill Luta, Activity Director for Grace Living Center Northwest

“My Dad died of Alzheimer’s. We noticed little things like his boots were on backwards, his cowboy hat was all dirty and cowboys are very meticulous about their cowboy hats. The big thing was we woke up one morning and Daddy wasn’t in the house. We figured he was out riding. I got the tractor and starting feeding the horses then found him by our pond in his underwear, not talking. I was like, ok, this is not my father. That’s the hardest thing about having a parent that has Alzheimer’s Disease,” shared Bill Luta, the Activity Director at Grace Living Center Northwest. Bill Luta was called to be a caregiver for those with Alzheimer’s after losing his father to the devastating disease. He now strives each day as the Activity Director at Grace Living Center Northwest to bring happiness to each resident and loved one who has been touched by the brain disorder. 

Cleo Lane has been a resident at Grace Living Center Northwest for around 5 years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She is one of the happiest people you will meet. During the interview she was very upbeat, smiling and laughing. A laugh that couldn’t help, but paint a big smile on your face. “I enjoy the singing, I enjoy helping other peoples and enjoy cooking if I can,” she said. Before Ms. Lane came to Grace Living Center Northwest she lived a very isolated and sedentary lifestyle. Now, she’s become more active. “I feel like I was somebody special,” she shared. One of Ms. Lane’s favorite activities? “I love to dance!”

The numbers are jaw dropping: every 66 seconds someone in the United States will develop this devastating disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s not a normal part of aging and does worsen over time robbing the person of their most prized possessions, their memories. Currently, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease and that number is only expected to get higher. Experts predict by 2050 as many as 16 million Americans could be living with this irreversible, progressive brain disorder. 

Carla Scull, the Education Coordinator for the Oklahoma Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, shared with us some of the most common warning signs and symptoms for loved ones questioning if it’s Alzheimer’s or normal aging. 

If you notice any of the Alzheimer’s warning signs in yourself or a loved one, schedule an appointment with a medical professional right away.

“We have support groups all over the state. Visit our website at alz.org/oklahoma and enter your zip code to see support groups and educational classes that we offer in your area. I have attached a flier for an upcoming event in February that everyone is invited to join. You can also call 800.272.3900 for more information,” shared Carla Scull, the Education Coordinator for the Oklahoma Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

Download A PDF of The Upcoming Alzheimer's Educational "Savvy Caregiver" Series at MetroTech in February 2018


Cherished Christmas Memories from Yesteryear

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.

~ Peg Bracken

It’s a time to be cherished as we laugh, smile and even shed some tears of joy with family and loved ones while celebrating the holiday season. And it’s these heart warming moments we will look back on and cherish one day. For many of our elders, Christmas brings back treasured moments and traditions spent with family. Some heartfelt and some funny, but all these precious memories will warm the heart. During the month of December we wanted to showcase our residents’ memories of Christmas in our #31DaysOfGrace. These are a few of their stories.

A December birthday makes this story even more special! Happy Birthday to Jessie Lingenfelter, an elder at The Brookfield, who turned 103 years young on December 11th. “I always remember Christmas being a special time; going to the school house to sing and getting to wear the pink silk dress my mother had made for me. The prettiest dress at school,” she said. Jessie also shared with us a memory from her childhood about how her family would all go down to the creek to cut down a Christmas tree. They would then drag it home and decorate it with popcorn and cranberries. One of her all-time favorite gifts you ask? “When my grandmother got me and my sister a porcelain doll. I named her Pansy,” she shared. Such wonderful memories! Thank you Jessie for taking the time to share them with us.

When asked about a special Christmas memory, Iva Appleton, a resident at Grace Living Center Buffalo replied with a story about a Christmas surprise. Iva grew up in a small farming community outside of Buffalo, Oklahoma near her extended family. As soon as she graduated from high school, Iva Chase, married the love of her life, Joe Bill Appleton. Soon after, her husband Joe was sent to World War II where he served for more than 3 years. During that time, their first child was born. “My father-in-law would come to the house and say it’s time for you all to come stay with us,” shared Iva. Her family would tell her the same thing. Iva would spend time with both her husband’s family and her family which was a huge blessing. “I was so fortunate and blessed for the help my extended family provided during those years,” she shared. Iva stayed in touch with her husband Joe Bill while he was serving overseas by writing letters and sending photos of the baby so he would know his son. One special Christmas, Joe Bill was able to come home since his tour had ended. Iva’s sister somehow connected with him and was able to coordinate picking him up from the bus station on Christmas without anyone knowing. Her sister brought Joe Bill home and surprised everyone! “There were lots of tears that Christmas, but more joy than can be put into words,” said Iva. Thanks so much for sharing this heartfelt story of yesteryear!

A Santa tale told by resident Mary Toliver and her brother Kevin Long! One Christmas long ago, Kevin decided to buy a Santa suit to dress up for his nieces and nephews on Christmas. He loved the joy it brought to the family so much, he decided to do it again the following year. Now every year Kevin dresses up as Santa and even rides around in a corvette! His sister Mary really enjoys seeing her brother's custom made costumes each year. Kevin (we mean Santa) helped spread Christmas cheer to all of our elders this year at Plantation Village Nursing Center!

What makes this season so special for many people is the time spent with loved ones! Same goes for Everette Smithson, a resident at Grace Living Center NW 10th. When asked about his favorite Christmas memory from yesteryear, he replied "being around family." He was very excited for this family photo taken this season surrounded by his kids, grandkids and great grandkids! "Not bad for almost 90," he shared! Beautiful family, Mr. Smithson!!

As the saying goes, a photo is worth a thousand words. We currently have 3 generations at Grace Living Center Del City. Ms. Luther Simmons is one of our residents, her daughter Tracey Roberts and granddaughter Shemika Simmons both work for Grace Living Centers. They all agree, the best thing about Christmas is the time they spend together. One of their holiday family traditions is making homemade Gumbo and biscuits. Sounds delicious!