Mid-Shore Hospice Care: The Special Needs of Vets with Deborah Grassman

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It’s hard to think of anyone more qualified to talk about the needs of war veterans as they enter their final stages of life than Deborah Grassman. A nurse practitioner by training, Deborah has had a remarkable record of working at the Veterans Administration specifically focused on hospice care for 30 years, and has directly participated in the final days of over 10,000 veterans.

Those experiences led Grassman to start her own organization, Opus Peace, to educate family members and hospice volunteers to be more aware of the very different emotions many aging vets have at the end of their lives when wartime memories involuntarily surface after years, sometimes decades, of suppression.

That was the primary reason Talbot Hospice invited Deborah to the Mid-Shore so she could share those stories and what she learned a few weeks ago. The Spy sat down with her before her evening lecture to talk about the extraordinary coming to terms to take place with many veterans as a come to the close of their lives and what families can do to help facilitate an honorable and peaceful death.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Talbot Hospice please go here

Senior Nation: A Chat with Upper Shore Aging’s Gary Gunther

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While it is true that the Mid-Shore has benefited significantly from the number of affluent couples who have chosen to retire in Kent, Talbot, or Caroline Counties, there are an equal number of those over 65 years old who are some of the region’s most frail and at-risk elders with their physical and mental health. With an estimated total of over 22,000, these individuals now faced even greater hardship as the threat of both federal and state funding caps on essential programs make it even more difficult keep pace with the cost of living and inflation.

This funding gap directly falls on the shoulders of one particular agency to fill these much-needed services to Mid-Shore elders, and that would be Upper Shore Aging, who has been doing just that for the last 43 years.

The Spy thought it would be a good time to sit down to check-in with Gary Gunther, who has been leading Upper Shore Aging for close to three decades, to understand more clearly their role in helping seniors. Gary has been one of the most consistent senior care advocates on the Shore as he and his agency face the ongoing challenge of providing essential services to the aging, manage three senior centers in Chestertown, Denton, Easton (and very shortly in St. Michaels) while continuing to run such well-used programs like Meals on Wheels and low-cost warm lunch meals to thousands in the region.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information or to make a donation to Upper Shore Aging please go here

Mid-Shore Health: The Future of Memory Loss on the Delmarva with Dr. Terry Detrich

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Showing his strong native roots on the Mid-Shore, the first thing Dr. Terry Detrich notes about the establishment of the Samuel and Alexia Bratton Neurocognitive Clinic at Bayleigh Chase in Easton was his long-festering grievance that the center’s location had replaced his favorite goose hunting spot. Growing up as a boy in Easton, he and his friends had used the farmland east of Route 50 for that purpose before leaving the Shore to attend college and medical school to become a neurologist.

Dr. Detrich returned to Talbot County after that intensive training to become the Delmarva’s first general neurologist and since the 1960s has been watching his field go from “diagnosis and adios” to stunning new breakthroughs in eldercare treatment for cognition disorders.

And while there have been peaks and valleys in the understanding of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease since the doctor started his practice forty plus years ago, he noted in his recent Spy interview that he has never been more encouraged than over the last two years as he and his colleagues began to see an evolution in how patients are treated with better results and more precise tools for prevention.

That was one of the reasons that led Dr. Detrich to join the staff of the Bratton Clinic this year and the Spy caught up with him on first day on the job late last year to talk about this new phase of Neurocognitive work and his renewed faith that real progress is being made.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Samuel and Alexia Bratton Neurocognitive Clinic at Bayleigh Chase please go here

The Artists of Heron Point

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Members of the Heron Point Art Interest Group in front of large canvas painted by HP residents in an art therapy class. L-R Standing Joanne Scott, vice-chair; Olga Owens; Karen Fitzgerald, treasurer; Collette Moffatt, chair; Barbara Finneson, secretary; Seated – Leslie Baldwin, head of permanent collection; Linda Atcheson, studio chair & coordinator for outside artists

Chesertown is a thriving arts community, with many active and well-recognized artists. But while the local tradition of art goes back a long way, it has certainly gone to a new level at Heron Point. Shortly after the retirement community opened some 25 years ago, a group of residents formed an art group — which quickly established itself as one of the focal points of the local arts scene.  And now artists at Heron Point are looking forward to a new, purpose-built, studio, currently under construction by Yerkes construction of Chestertown and scheduled to be completed by spring 2018.

Collette Moffatt, chair of the Heron Point Art Interest Group, in the current Artists Studio.

Collette Moffatt, the current chair of the Art Interest Group, said in an interview that artists of all levels of experience are members. The gamut runs from former art teachers and professional illustrators to neophytes  — like herself — who decided to pursue an interest in art after retirement. There are classes for all levels of artists. One class is “Zen Art,” which is designed to give aspiring artists a chance to try their hands at creating work without some of the more intimidating aspects of a typical art class. Moffatt said about 16 members have signed up for space in the new studio when it becomes available.  The art group as a whole has 44 members, though not all work in the studio.

Joanne Scott with one of her paintings in the Heron Point studio

Joanne Scott, whom the Heron Point artists consider their “artist in residence” because of her extensive experience – including exhibits of her work at Chestertown RiverArts and nationwide — is perhaps the best known of the group. (Click here for a Spy feature on Scott from 2012.)

Scott, a retired professional artist and art teacher who lived in Annapolis for 30 years, has given classes to other Heron Point residents for about 5 years, and has been instrumental in encouraging other residents to take up art for the first time. She also continues to exhibit regularly, with a show, “Elements,” scheduled for Chestertown RiverArts Feb. 1-24. An opening reception for the show will take place Feb.2, First Friday.

Several Heron Point artists, including Linda Atcheson, Jack Fancher, and Olga Owens, have works in the current members’ exhibit at RiverArts.  The exhibit will be on display through the end of January.

The hallway along the administrative wing of Heron Point regularly features a rotating exhibit of Heron Point artists, including Fancher, long a fixture of the local arts community and now a Heron Point resident. While the hallway is currently being refinished, with fresh paint on the walls, a new exhibit will be up as soon as the work is completed. And there are pictures spread around Heron Point from artists who belonged to the group from the early years of the program — Anne Frye, Hilda Green and Loraine Hall among them.

Other works by the resident artists hang at various points around the facility – a large painting by Scott is above the stairway leading to the dining room, and a triptych by Fancher is on the wall outside the current studio. A large abstract canvas done by members of the art therapy program hangs at the foot of the main stairway.

As the latter painting indicates, art is a pervasive feature of the Heron Point community, with an active art program available for residents in the assisted living section of the facility. “Even dementia patients can paint,” said Scott, noting that the ability to express oneself often survives past the point where verbal communication becomes difficult.

The paintings shown here are from a display of Heron point residents’ art last fall.  In addition to regular shows of artwork by Heron Point residents, the Art Interest Group also arranges for visiting exhibits by outside artists.

All this is in addition to the permanent collection of art which is displayed throughout the main building and outside on the grounds.  While most of the artworks are paintings, there are also statues, ceramics, and large installations such as the wooden boat which sails the ceiling of the lobby and the whimsical “larger than life” Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel that currently sits beside the main staircase.

Main parlor in lobby of Heron Point with sail boat

The current studio also hosts a weekly bird-carving group led by the  Bill Reinhold. A display cabinet with some of their work is visible on one wall of the studio.

The artists are especially excited at the news that they are about to get a new, larger, purpose-built studio.  Leslie Baldwin, one of the members of the Art Interest Group, said there is now studio space for about 10 artists. Also, the limited space doesn’t allow sufficient ventilation for some media, notably oils and pastels, which can generate dust and odors that bother many people. Even so, when visitors from one of the other retirement homes in the Acts group visited Heron Point, they were “very jealous” of the local artists. Heron Point is the only facility in the chain with a dedicated studio space. Linda Atcheson said the studio is “a big selling point” for prospective residents. “Many Chestertown people see Heron Point’s art program and want to come here because of it,” she said.

At present, the art studio is in an unoccupied apartment along the river side of the complex – offering permanent working space for about 10 members, though others get to share the facility. Because apartments in the facility are in high demand, the location of the studio has changed three times since it was set up. However, about two years ago when planning began for the new permanent studio began, Heron Point’s executive director, Garret Falcone, promised the artists that they wouldn’t have to move again until the new permanent facility is completed.  And now that time is almost here.

The new studio, being built on the front of the building near the main entrance, will have room for about 14 artists at a time – and will have upgraded ventilation. It will also have generous windows in the “bump-out”, allowing plenty of “wonderful light” for the artists to work in. There will also be space for classes and other individual and group projects.

The studio space, being built by Yerkes Construction, is expected to be ready by Spring 2018.

Photo Gallery – photography by Jane Jewell.

Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel guards the staircase at Heron Point

Statuettes of herons grace the circular drive in front of main Heron Point building.

Architect’s rendering of Artists Studio at Heron Point as it will look when completed in spring 2018

Map of Heron Point main building

Carved wooden bird in display case in a corner of the Heron Point art studio

Carved wooden bird in display case in a corner of the Heron Point art studio

 

 

 

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Senior Nation: Londonderry’s Jammers and the Power of Music to Remember

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One Jammer remembers singing for the Pope; a couple were encouraged to join when a son became a music professor, another sang professionally to pay for college, while a native Chestertownian got the itch to sing by listening to the Sutton Brothers quartet while growing up around Kent County. In total there are twenty-seven stories like these that have led them to join the Jammers singing group at Londonderry on the Tred Avon.

What first started out as a local drumming circle, the Jammers reorganized quickly into a singing group that gathered to harmonize and enjoy that special zone that only music can provide.

But recently the Jammers have taken an entirely new role. Beyond their singing get-togethers, they have started to take the “show on the road,” as they began to realize that the musical zone they enjoy could also benefit those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, allowing many in the audience to recall words and other memories that bring a remarkable level of joy into their lives.

Starting with their next-door neighbors at Heartfields, where the Spy recently caught up with them, the Jammers have scheduled a few Easton-based concerts aimed at those that suffer from these chronic memory loss conditions.

The Spy spent a few minutes talking to Jammer members Ed and Jean Brown, Nancy Burns,Peggy Sloan, Elaine Utley and Londonderry director Irma Toce about this special kind of performance “gigs” at the Londonderry dining room and wanted to share some highlights.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Londonderry on the Tred Avon please go here

 

Senior Nation: Updating Dixon House with Residents in Mind

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For Don Wooters, co-owner of Dwelling and Design, taking on a large manor house’s interior and creating a totally new environment for its occupants is nothing new. For years, Don has traveled the country doing just that for dozens of clients who have purposely sought out his unique eye for design.

What is new is that one of his most recent clients, the historic Dixon House, the assisted-living residence on North Higgins Street in Easton, was seeking more than a fresh look. With most of its residents well over 90 years old, Dixon was asking to use a new design with colors, fabrics and textured wallpapers that were both comforting but also stimulating to the eighteen men and women that call it their home.

And now that the paint is dry and the work crews have left, the Spy thought it would be a good time to check in with Don, and with Dixon House’s director, Linda Elben, to talk about this particular project.  Challenged to ensure that the non-institutional feel of Dixon was preserved, Don and Linda speak in their interview about their selection of colors, getting feedback from residents, and how the new look has dramatically changed for this group-living space.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Dixon House please go here

Inside the Sandwich: Muscular Dystrophy Carnivals and Annual Giving By Amelia Blades Steward

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During the 1960s and 70s, it wouldn’t be summer if we didn’t hold a Muscular Dystrophy Carnival in my neighborhood near the high school in Easton. A group of about 10 kids from my neighborhood looked forward to these backyard carnivals, to benefit “Jerry’s kids.” The Muscular Dystrophy Carnival kits came in the mail and included tickets, posters and an idea pamphlet to help us raise the funds to help find a cure for the disease. It was an important and noble cause. We had watched for hours the Jerry Lewis Telethons on the television and wanted to do our part to help the kids we saw in the images on the screen. We didn’t have many children in wheelchairs in our school, so it seemed particularly important to reach out to those who were unfortunate enough to be in that situation.

We used each other’s backyards to host the carnivals and rotated from house to house each year, based on the parents who agreed to having their card tables placed in the grass outside and their clotheslines strung with sheets, providing backdrops to the games we played. The O’Briant family’s yard was the most popular one in which to hold the carnivals. We each had aluminum wash tubs to contribute for bobbing for apples or for the floating duck game, where you picked a duck and got a prize based on the number on the bottom of the duck. There were magic shows, fortune-telling booths, and Kool-Aid stands. Everything required a ticket and the tickets cost about five cents each.

We assembled our props and got the carnival set up, borrowing from each other’s households. An alley connected our backyards, so it was easy to get things from one place to another. There was Kool-Aid to be stirred, cookies to be baked, and we had to get out the word so people would come to our carnival. The nearby

Elks Club pool provided the perfect place to share our news. Word spread among the kids when the carnival would take place. Of course, we counted on our mothers coming – they helped fill out our numbers and usually donated extra money.

The carnival started around 11 a.m. and went until 1 p.m., when the pool opened. We didn’t like to miss our pool time. We took our carnival jobs seriously, whether running a game, performing, or selling drinks or food. We knew the more we smiled and encouraged our patrons, the more money we would make. As the day wore on, however, so did we. The sun shone high overhead and the humidity rose. Some of the excitement waned and my friends and I grew weary.

Once we had drunk the Kool-Aid and eaten the cookies, we were ready to pack up the games, return the tables, chairs and props and head to the pool. Before we did, however, it was exciting to see how much money we had raised. If we made over ten dollars, we were excited! We weren’t old enough to have checkbooks, so one of our parents would deposit the money and write a check to be mailed to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. We waited anxiously for the return “thank you” letter in the mail from Jerry. It confirmed our hard work had paid off and showed we did something meaningful with our summer. These backyard carnivals instilled in us a compassion for helping others, something that still rings true today as the annual appeal letters arrive in the mail. While I no longer get that personal letter from Jerry, I still find satisfaction in anticipating the “thank you” after my annual donations are made – a confirmation that we can still make a difference, no matter how small the gift.

 

Senior Nation: When Dad is 106 Years Old with Nina and Peter Newlin

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It seems unfathomable to imagine what it must feel like to be 106 years old. In the case of Shipley Newlin, You continue to wear your favorite shirt, you are still surrounded by loving children, and you can still make others chuckle around you using your unique brand of humor. But Shipley, who only just lost his independent living at age 102, is also aware that he is an infrequent exception in the world of mortality statistics.

That exceptionalism is also shared with his children. Nina, a curriculum administrator with the Kent County Public Schools, and Peter, an architect in Chestertown, also acknowledge the rarity of their family trait, which includes their mother, who still plays tennis at aged 97, and grandparents that were also in “Century Club” themselves.

In fact, the Newlin children (three other sons are scattered around the country) have never hesitated to celebrate their father’s longevity. They also encourage him to flex his memories and find other ways to engage the former mechanical engineer like trade jokes with him and laugh at his puns as all three of them carry on their day-to-day lives.

Now living with son Peter, and his wife Gail, Shipley and his “kids” gathered around the dinner table last week to reminisce and talk about what it’s like when dad is 106 years old and going strong.

This video is approximately three minutes in length.

 

 

 

Commentary: The Passage of Time by Philip Hoon

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The Passage of Time And so it goes, hour to hour & day to day . . . before long, it is week to week & year to year . . . and then it is gone with the wind.

We live in the now, but at the same time the history of our own lives, as well as the society in which we live. The future is an eternal mystery.

There are those many things that matter . . . friends & foes, cars & kids, things new & old, high tides & full moons, the Pirates & the Steelers.

And yes, family, hopes & disappointments, new experiences & old routines, challenges & successes, goals & failures, the Cardinal Virtues & the Deadly Sins.

The scope and scale of the perspectives of life can thrill & intimidate . . . ancient Greece & Rome, the Renaissance, Shakespeare, The Greatest Generation, the now.

All of those things are reflected in and embraced by the generations of families & friends, a universal truth for all but the unfortunate for whom it is elusive.

As our lives and living history march on, the death of a loved one causes an interruption for consideration on the meaning, perspective and temporary reality of life.

Albeit brief, that moment is one for reflection that the passage of time marches on . . . what was, what is and what might be.

And as our Founding Fathers expressed about the course of human events, some truths are self-evident, timeless and immutable.

Among them are the gifts of a father to a son . . . wisdom, humility, gentility and personal responsibility.

And then the stormy seas at the end of a voyage of life become the calm of eternity.

And so it goes . . . the passage of time and its gentle winds, with the memories of a loved one and the hopes for the future.