The Wonder of Christmas

We are living in an age of constant change.  Technology advancements, the political climate, and the function of the healthcare continuum create a state of flux and unsettledness that can dim our view of their impact on our lives.  We lose our ability to wonder at the significance of these things.  One thing I appreciate about celebrating the Christmas season every year is the opportunity that we have to experience the wonder that can accompany its true purpose.  Like my granddaughter’s rapt consideration of the beauty of her first Christmas tree, when I pay attention to the God of Creation’s arrival to earth as a helpless infant child, I can’t help but feel wonder.  The concept of “God with us” is an amazing demonstration of love and humility and sacrifice.  I hope that I never lose the significance of what that means as I celebrate Christmas each year.

Norman Vincent Peale once wrote, “I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.”  Since I begin listening to Christmas music in September, I heartily endorse this perspective!

There will be many opportunities in the Messiah Lifeways ministries to express and receive the joy of the season this year, with things like decorating our campuses and homes, attending Christmas concerts and the Live Nativity, and eating all those holiday goodies we create and seem to receive in abundance this time of year.  I hope that you’ll take advantage of the opportunities available as you are able in the weeks to come, both on the Messiah Village campus and wherever your sleigh may take you.

On behalf of the Messiah Lifeways family, I wish each of you a Christmas season filled with wonder, and that your year in 2019 will be fruitful and enriching for you.

Music Therapy

Close your eyes and try humming your favorite song. Perhaps it’s a song from your wedding day or a children’s tune learned on Grandma’s lap. Is it a hymn? A piano sonata? A classic love song from a special high school dance? Music surely evokes powerful memories but its power reaches far beyond nostalgia – music heals. A growing body of medical research asserts that music therapy improves quality of life and can decrease pain perception, reduce the use of opioid painkillers, restore lost speech, reduce agitation, and more.

Messiah Lifeways at Messiah Village is delighted to announce the launch of The Snelbaker Music Therapy program. Established in 2018 by Carlyn B. Snelbaker, in memory of her late husband, Richard Snelbaker, Esq., the program brings a board-certified music therapist to our skilled nursing neighborhoods to offer personalized, clinical service to improve outcomes, behaviors, and holistic wellness for residents. While Messiah Village has a rich legacy of using and appreciating music in clinical and social settings, The Snelbaker Music Therapy program marks a considerable turning point in our therapeutic approaches. According to Ike Schlossberg, social worker and Community Life Leader, the advent of a formalized music therapy program will “take music beyond art form and entertainment, and help residents creatively express their memories and feelings.” Schlossberg, an avid musician, met Dick Snelbaker on the day Dick moved into the memory care neighborhood and remained in touch with him until his passing in January. As a key influencer and coordinator of this new program, Ike is pleased to know that this offers a wider range of clinical approaches for caring for residents, far beyond pharmacological interventions or managing difficult behaviors.

In September, Messiah Lifeways began its contract with WB Music Therapy, LLC based out of Harrisburg, PA. Co-owner Kristyn Beeman, MTBC, has begun weekly visits to our skilled nursing neighborhoods as she combines her passion for the healing power of music with her training as a certified dementia practitioner. Contracting with a local specialist means immediacy and expertise, although our long-term aspiration is to create our own music therapist position and allow the program to flourish into other areas, from Enhanced and Residential Living to Adult Day. Fortunately, The Richard C. and Carlyn B. Snelbaker Endowed Music Therapy Fund will provide a perpetual source of funding to ensure that this exciting new program will continue to grow and thrive year after year.

One need only spend a few minutes with Kristyn to discover her deep-seated love for older adults and how musical expression can unlock their memories and bring purpose and joy to their day. “Music therapy really seeks to achieve nonmusical goals. While I work with all ages, I really love this population.” She will conduct group sessions and individual sessions as she builds rapport and meets Messiah Village residents. Stay tuned for outcomes and updates as the Snelbaker Music Therapy program begins making its full impact. If you are interested in learning more about the Snelbaker Music Therapy program, or if you would like to support this life-enhancing program with a charitable gift, please contact Rachel Pease, Director of Development, at rpease@messiahlifeways.org or 717.591.5598.

‘Ask The Undertaker’ with Bob Buhrig on the Coach’s Corner podcast Ep.19

Talking about and pre-planning for one’s funeral, burial and death are not easy topics to discuss. But in this episode we talk with Bob Buhrig, owner and operator of Buhrig Funeral Home & Crematory in Mechanicsburg, as he answers questions with grace and compassion, and offers his expert advice and insight to help understand, embrace and plan for these touchy subjects. Learn about the five critical questions your survivors want you to answer before your death, along with insight into cremation, pre-funding and veterans benefits. Click below to listen.

www.nfda.org (National Funeral Directors Association)

www.buhrig.com/5-critical-questions

Buhrig Funeral Home & Crematory
37 East Main Street
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055
Tel: (717) 766-3421

www.buhrig.com

What does it mean to “Love Generously?”

“Surprise!”  “Happy Birthday!”   These are the words shouted at me several weeks ago when I walked into what I expected to be a departmental meeting.  Instead, a room full of Messiah Village residents and team members had gathered to help me usher in my 60th birthday.  I am not easily surprised, but this was a shock to me, albeit a very nice one!  I became a bit emotional as I looked around the room and saw the many smiling faces focused my way.  What a blessing that was, and it will be a memory I cherish for a long time.  I experienced it as an expression of love at the time, and especially as I read the many cards people had brought.  I am grateful for those who organized and participated in this surprise, and the many well-wishers who spoke to me afterwards.  Love expressed openly can be a powerful thing!

Appropriately then, the focus of my blog today is the core value we summarize as “Love Generously.”  What does it mean to show love in this way?  I believe the best model is that of God’s love expressed through Jesus Christ.  This standard of generous love is very high.  The psalmist indicates the concept of eternal love.  “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  (Psalm 118:1).  Paul expressed the incomprehensible and limitless nature of God’s love in Ephesians 3, when he expresses, “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.” (Ephesians 3:18-19).  So then, this is an ideal we have to determine how bountiful our expressions of love should be.

In a workplace like we have at Messiah Lifeways, there are many opportunities to share generous love.  It can be in our interactions with our residents and clients, and in how we treat each other as team members.  Perhaps it is as simple as a smile and friendly greeting, or as complex as it sometimes can be to give someone the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are pure.  It can even be expressed in the celebration of a significant birthday!  In any case, it is an expectation for each of us as we live out our values.  Our values statement regarding this is as follows.

Love Generously

  1. Shows Christ-like love by providing tender, compassionate care
  2. Places emphasis on the person and relationships rather than on tasks alone
  3. Offers support and volunteers to help others
  4. Looks for the best in each person and can identify individual strengths and interests
  5. Acts in ways that help everyone feel welcomed and included

I think we can recognize that it is not always easy to exemplify this kind of love.  In society today, there is a lot of conflict and division that is often expressed in unhealthy ways.  There aren’t many expressions of generous love that people experience, especially in the political arena in recent years.  I believe we still have a responsibility to rise above the fray and set an example for others.  I like how Henri Nouwen expresses this in Bread for the Journey.  He writes,

“How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it?  We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity.  A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit—all these are little steps toward love.

 Each step is like a candle burning in the night.  It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness.  When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.”

As we think about our plans for the day, let us take time to express our love generously to each other, to those we serve, and even to ourselves.  Let that expression of love be the “candle burning in the night” for someone.  Based on my experience on the receiving end of this, it can make a huge difference in brightening up the world!

Autumn: Time for Pumpkins, Football and…. Medicare Open Enrollment

 For most, the fall season is synonymous with football, the beauty of autumn and everything and anything pumpkin flavored or scented. However, fall now includes a new seasonal tradition- shopping for the right Medicare plan during open enrollment season running October 15 through December 7.

Medicare provides health insurance benefits to over 52 million seniors and disabled people in the US¹. And that number continues to balloon as nearly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every single day, thus becoming eligible for Medicare. Due to this surge, Medicare is continually changing and must evolve to remain sustainable. The health insurance landscape for seniors really began to change in 2006 with the implementation of the Medicare Part D drug program and proliferation of Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage plans were created as a more cost-effective type of Medicare health plan offered by private insurance companies that contract with and serve as a substitute for original Medicare, which then provides recipients with their Part A and Part B benefits.

The new normal

This “new normal” was meant to give Medicare recipients more choice and the capability to do cost comparisons between plans that fit individual need and budget. However, the benefit of vast choice actually creates frustration and confusion for many and may cause “decision-making paralysis.” Research has found that because of this, many Medicare recipients just go with last year’s plan because they feel it’s too much effort to switch plans. That decision could come back to haunt them. Their plan, that was perfect last year, now may have higher premiums and co-pays or may no longer really meet their specific healthcare needs.

Medicare’s labyrinth of terminology, benefit options, rules, penalties, and a myriad of forms can be staggering, especially if you’re technologically challenged due to much of the research and registration options being online. But again, annual open enrollment is said to encourage Medicare recipients to spend their money more wisely, take better care of themselves, and get better personalized health coverage. It may also be said that our health and welfare should at least be worth this effort once a year. These are all great points, but we must find a happy medium.

Medicare recipients should take more responsibility for their choice of healthcare coverage and should feel fortunate to have these choices. However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and private insurers need to streamline the process and make it a little easier, especially for seniors. Congress needs to enact legislation to consolidate Medicare Advantage and Part D plan choices and standardize options in order to facilitate informed decision-making by Medicare plan enrollees.² Granted it is not an easy fix, but MedicareRights.com shares an interesting article,”50 Wishes for Medicare’s Future,” which details a number of ideas and solutions to fix Medicare and its delivery system.

Until then, those eligible for Medicare can find help on sites like MedicareInteractive.org, which provides a number of resources and tips such as:

  •   If enrollees want to join a stand-alone prescription drug plan (PDP), they can use the Plan Finder tool on Medicare.gov. The Plan Finder tool compares plans based on the drugs you need, the pharmacy you go to and your drug costs. And remember coverage changes every year. The cost of your medications may look very different from the year before.

  •   If enrollees want to join a Medicare Advantage Plan, they can call 1-800-Medicare or go to Medicare.gov to find out what plans are available in their area. Once they receive the list of plans, they can check the plan websites to see which best fits their needs and budget.

  •   Call or visit the website of your State Health Insurance Assistance Program or SHIP. Your state SHIP can help you to understand all of your Medicare coverage options, and counselors are available to meet with enrollees one-on-one, in person at no cost. In Pennsylvania, the APPRISE Program offers SHIP.

Lastly, Messiah Lifeways Coaching will be hosting 2 open enrollment events on Oct. 25 and November 15. APPRISE counselors will be on hand to offer FREE 1 hour one-on-one counseling sessions. If you live in the Cumberland County area, please schedule an appointment by calling 717.240.6110. Slots are going quickly! For other counties and locations, call the State hotline at 1.800.783.7067 or call your local Area Agency on Aging. 

For additional resources on Medicare, check out the links below:

¹CMS.gov
²medicarerights.org/50wishes/streamline-enrollment

Revised form Oct. 2017

 

Supporting Adult Day Clients and Caregivers

It is not an easy thing to walk alongside and provide care for a beloved spouse or loved one as he or she suffers the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. As we all know, Alzheimer’s disease is a thief – it steals not only memories, but also a person’s sense of identity and purpose as he or she loses the ability to do the things that have long been part of daily life.

Bob Gates lived this journey first-hand after his wife of more than 60 years, Audrey, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in July 2011.

Bob and Audrey met in 1st Grade and had their first date at the young age of 16. After graduating from high school, the couple married in 1954 and built a life together as best friends and partners. Bob’s career with Bell of PA and Bell Atlantic, which we now know as Verizon, spanned more than 40 years and took the couple to Sunbury, Pottsville, and Altoona before they settled permanently in the Harrisburg area. Audrey was a full-time mother and homemaker, raising their three children and actively helping with grandchildren as well. The couple’s favorite hobby was traveling. They traveled to many different places on the east coast, but returned time and again to Myrtle Beach, SC where they camped right on the water. An outdoorsy family, the Gates enjoyed camping, fishing, hunting, and time spent together around the campfire. The close-knit family also practiced a strong faith, which led them to serve their church and the community out of love for the Lord.

It is no surprise then, that after receiving Audrey’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Bob and family banded together to care for Audrey at home for as long as possible. As Audrey’s needs increased and became overwhelming, Bob found respite and support through the Adult Day program on the campus of Messiah Village where Audrey became a client in January 2017. Bob’s objectives in enrolling Audrey in Adult Day were to provide her with increased socialization, keep her physically active and stimulated, and slow the progression of her mental decline. Additionally, Bob knew that enrolling Audrey in Adult Day would allow him to recharge and renew himself as her primary caregiver and give him time to downsize their home and prepare for the next stage of life – the couple’s move to their apartment in Village Square.

“Adult Day is a godsend,” Bob says. “The team members are the most compassionate, caring, professional people I have ever seen. They are genuine – it is not an act. It takes a special kind of person to do what they do, and they are just that…special.”

The Gates moved into Village Square in November 2017, and Bob continued to take Audrey to Adult Day every day until February 2018, when Audrey was discharged from Adult Day and welcomed to the Manchester neighborhood. Now, Bob visits Audrey daily, often utilizing Kibler Bridge, which connects Village Square to Village Center. In the Manchester neighborhood, Audrey continues to receive top-notch care, and Bob is grateful for the ways that team members show love and compassion to Audrey each day.

Despite the challenges and – yes, the sadness – of Bob and Audrey’s journey, Bob is grateful. “We are highly blessed,” he says. “I have met so many people at Messiah Village that I treasure, and I am blessed to be in a beautiful community surrounded by friendly, helpful, compassionate, Christ-like people.”

Written by: Rachel Pease, Director of Development at Messiah Lifeways
Originally published in “Spolight” A Newsletter for Donors and Volunteers, September 2018

 

New Vice President of Mission Advancement Named

Messiah Lifeways President & CEO Curt Stutzman recently announced that Alicia B. Titus will join the Executive Team as Vice President of Mission Advancement on October 22.  Alicia will oversee Marketing, Donor & Volunteer Development, and the Welcome Centers.

Stutzman shared, “Alicia comes to this role with a deep understanding and knowledge of the senior living industry and important market trends. She has indicated that she appreciates our culture, our mission, and core values and looks forward to putting her expertise into action at a senior living community where she can forge relationships with residents and team members alike.”

Titus comes to Messiah Lifeways from LeadingAgePA where she was Senior Vice President of Education and Research. She’s earned two undergraduate degrees in Marketing & Information Systems from Penn State University and is pursuing an MBA with a concentration in Healthcare Management from Lebanon Valley College. An alumnus of Bishop McDevitt High School, Alicia lives in Harrisburg with her husband and son.

Pumpkins and Leaves and Hay Bales . . . Oh My!

I came home from a weekend away last week to discover pumpkins, colored leaves, and hay bales adorning the neighbor’s porch. A sudden sense of sadness and indignation washed over me. It’s not fall yet! Don’t make me say goodbye to summer until I have to!

There is nothing inherently wrong with fall – crisp air and apples, comfy sweaters and boots, vibrant foliage and mums, football tailgating and soccer are all lovely reasons to embrace this season.

However, fall in Pennsylvania also means that cold weather and winter are around the corner. And for that reason, I will always have a love-hate relationship with fall.

I can already feel the dread rising up like bile in my throat. Dramatic? Ok – forget the bit about the bile.

But in all seriousness, I fight that dread throughout the cold months. I find it all too easy for complaint after complaint to roll off my tongue, for discontent to lodge itself like a stubborn splinter into my heart.

What’s a girl to do?

Gratitude is the only antidote. No, gratitude doesn’t change the weather or how I feel about the cold, but it does change my heart and my focus.

Practicing gratitude can happen in countless ways: keeping a journal or gratitude jar, thankful praying, meditating on God’s goodness, mindfully walking, writing thank-you notes to those you appreciate, and the list goes on.

Turning our focus from the negative to the positive provides a wealth of benefits – other than a cessation of grumbling. According to an article in Forbes Magazine [click here],  scientific research reveals that gratitude increases empathy and reduces aggression. It also improves

  • physical health
  • psychological health
  • sleep patterns
  • self-esteem
  • mental strength

Instead of whining about how cold it is this year, I resolve to express gratitude in some way every day.

 

We’re delighted to have Kerry Hoke, Director of Pastoral Ministries, join the blogging team. Kerry has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Messiah College, graduate credits from Asbury Theological Seminary, and a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Leadership from Spring Arbor University. She and her husband Bryan, who is the Bishop of the Atlantic Conference of the Brethren in Christ Church, have three daughters.

Messiah Lifeways Names Central PA CEO as New Board Chair

 

Mechanicsburg, PA —Messiah Lifeways® named Mona S. Engle to lead its non-profit board of directors. Engle has been a board member for 8 years, serving most recently as vice-chair to outgoing chair, Glenn P. Heisey, Esq.  Engle is CEO of Susquehanna Valley Women’s Health Care (SVWHC), a 50 provider, multi-site OB/GYN private practice located in Central Pennsylvania.  Mona is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky School of Nursing and has been in management roles for the past 30 years.

“I look forward to partnering with Mona as we lead this ministry into a new era,” says President & CEO Curt Stutzman. “She has deeply connected roots to our ministry and is a vibrant, articulate advocate for our mission.”

In the late 1970’s, Mona and her late husband, Dale Engle, often visited Messiah Village with their young children.  Dale was then the pastor at Crossroads Brethren in Christ, just across the street from the campus of Messiah Lifeways at Mount Joy Country Homes.  Engle shares, “When I consider my history with Messiah Lifeways, I think about belonging – belonging to a community where you are respected, appreciated, celebrated & above all, able to live life to the fullest during all of life’s journey.”

In addition to her role with Messiah Lifeways, she is a board member of the US Women’s Health Alliance and an active member of Living Word Community Church in York.

In her spare time she enjoys her 3 grandchildren, traveling, playing golf, and watching her favorite sport teams, the University of Kentucky and Penn State University.

Retirement Planning: Beyond Dollars & Cents

“Retirement is a time of great change, and a chance to begin an exciting new phase of your life. But like anything done well, it takes planning. While everyone thinks they are ready to retire, not everyone is truly prepared.” – Retirement Options Coaching

Financial planning for retirement is crucial. It takes center stage in retirement preparedness, as it should. Concerns such as, “have I saved enough, will I be able to cover [my/our] medical bills, or will I have enough to leave to my family?” are tough questions to plan for and to truly answer. To compound things further, despite the average life span in the U.S. continually climbing in the last 50+ years, retirement age has not kept pace. Therefore, an increasing number of people are living well beyond their expectations in retirement – sometimes 20 to 30+ years longer. And because they were not expecting to, they were wholly unprepared. A number of recent studies, including one from GoBakingRates.Com show that 1 in 3 Americans have no money saved for retirement, and the large majority don’t have enough saved. So without question, many of us need to do more (maybe a lot more) to get prepared. Hop to it!

But to narrow the point for this article, let’s be positive and assume you’re not a part of the unprepared mass, and you’ve taken the necessary steps towards financial preparedness. Now it’s on to the next step in retirement planning.

Embracing non-financial retirement plans and expectations

There are many other significant areas in retirement life that also require attention, planning and consideration aside from finances. We know many are financially unprepared, so it’s likely, many including those who are financially prepared, have done little to no planning or even considered asking other questions about their own retirement. ”What will I do to fill that time with purpose, meaning, and productivity? How do I plan to stay healthy, engaged and even flourish in retirement? Can I or must I reinvent myself? Do I need to work? What will that journey look like for possibly 10, 20 or 30+ years in retirement?”

Part of finding this balance and ensuring a positive experience in retirement is changing our attitude toward aging and embracing it as a time of gain, not loss. Messiah Lifeways, Coaching in particular, believes in changing the conversation about aging. In late 2016, we began to offer the Retirement Options Coaching (ROC) program to reinforce this ideal. ROC helps retirees plan for their next phase of life by assessing, focusing, and guiding retirees through a Life Options Profile™ which concentrates on 6 key life arenas:

  1. Career and Work
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Finance and Insurance
  4. Family and Relationships
  5. Leisure and Social
  6. Personal Development

A Life Options Profile evaluates these six parts of retirement and provides personal, practical, and a relevant self-portrait of one’s lifestyle needs and strengths. It also provides insight and guidance on transitioning from your current lifestyle to a new retirement lifestyle. Suggested reading, powerful questions and client exercises work in conjunction with the Life Options Profile, which enables retirees to examine and plan for a more fulfilling, healthy, and productive lifestyle and can help balance many of the other attributes vital to a successful retirement.

How can you tell if you are prepared? Answer these eight short, seemingly straight-forward questions to help you determine if you are retirement ready.

In retirement, do you have a plan for…

…exercising your mind for continued, personal learning? Yes or No

…changes in income, health and/or lifestyle that may affect your financial security?  Yes or No

…maintaining your sense of purpose and self-worth? Yes or No

…how you will purposefully spend your time with fulfilling activities and interests?  Yes or No

…interaction with others to build and maintain enjoyable relationships? Yes or No

…managing family commitments to aging parents, children and grandchildren? Yes or No

…where you will reside? Yes or No

…making adjustments to ensure a healthy attitude towards life and retirement? Yes or No

Give yourself 1 point for each question you answered ‘yes’ and zero for ‘no.’ Then add up the total. If you scored a 6 or under, you could benefit from taking the Life Options Profile assessments and working with a Certified Retirement Coach to develop a personal retirement plan. To learn more about this valuable program, rates, or to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, contact the Messiah Lifeways Coaching office at 717.591.7225 or email Coach@MessiahLifeways.org.