Category / Careers

How to Recharge Your Job or Career in 2019

February 6, 2019

A noted life and career coach offers her five-step plan
By Allison Task

Would you like to make 2019 a remarkable year for you?

A new year has begun. It’s is as exciting and fresh as the first day of school and a brand new lunchbox. You’re past those school days, of course, but you aren’t past embracing the new and possibilities to recharge your job or career this year.

As a career and life coach, I help people set — and more importantly — achieve life-changing goals. It’s what I do: identify what isn’t working, clarify what could be better and help people pursue a life they’d rather lead. I’d love to help you make 2019 a remarkable year.


What you’ll need:

A 2018 calendar, filled out (or your memories of 2018 fresh in your mind)

A 2019 calendar, fresh and new

Blank paper (or a Word doc if you’re more of a  computer person)

What you’ll get: A remarkable year.

There are five parts to this exercise — reflection, selection, envisioning, planning and sharing. Here’s how it works:


For this part, pull out that 2018 calendar if you have it or rely on your memory.

Write down the names of the months on three pieces of paper. Put four months down on a page, in separate quadrants. January, February, March, April on one, May, June July, August on another and September, October, November and December on the last page.

Now, review 2018 month by month. Let’s start with the trips you’ve taken. Where did you go, in which month? Short trips, overnights and longer trips. Write them down on the calendar.

Next: were there any landmark events for you? A new job, a promotion, weddings, graduations, births and deaths? What big events happened in your life, and the life of loved ones?

Sit with this for a while, as you start remembering one thing, which leads to another. As you start filling up the months, you may realize that you need more pages. Enjoy the memory trip.

You’re ready for phase two.


Once you’ve got a thick set of memories from 2018, take out another piece of paper. On one side, write “coming” and on the other side write “leaving.”

Imagine that you are packing your bag for 2019, and you can choose five things that come with you, and five things you’d like to leave behind. Maybe you hired a terrible contractor last year; leave him or her in the past. More importantly, what incredible things happened? New relationships or experiences that you could pick as the “best of” 2018?

Keep that list of five things you treasured from 2018 and want to bring with you and five things you’d prefer to leave behind.


You’ve just taken stock of 2018 and my guess is that it was more extensive and powerful than you may had remembered. So many things happened. And 2019 will be the same. Right now, you can choose those things.

Look at your top five treasures from 2018. If you were to elevate these, build on the joy they delivered and create even more joy, how could you do that? How could you plan that into the coming year? If you improved your health, how could you celebrate that or take that to the next level? If you became closer to an old friend, is there a new old friend you’d like to connect with this year?

Write it down. Acknowledge and elevate your top achievements from 2018.

Is there something missing that you’d like to be sure to add to this year? Think about what that would be

Maybe you’d like to start meditating more, or get off medications that you think are slowing you down.

Maybe you’d like to travel more, or nest more. This is your life; your choice.

Write it down. Add new goals for 2019.

Next, look at the four seasons and the month at the center of each: February, May, July and October. When you think of these seasons, what do you love most? Is it apple picking in October, and the beach in July? How can you embrace the upcoming season with a new or well-loved experience or person you’d like to have in the center of the season? What is the treasure you’d like to look forward to?

Write it down. Make sure to add your favorite parts of the year to 2019.


Now take out that 2019 calendar. What is already in place? Have you booked any travel already? When is your birthday? Any upcoming weddings, graduations or other events? Put those on the calendar.

Your 2019 treasure map is starting to take shape.

And now (drumroll please)… add in those extras: those bigger dreams and seasonal joys. Add in the items you identified in the “envisioning” phase. If you can dream it, you can build it. You’ve dreamt it, so put it on the calendar.

Have fun with this. You may find there’s too much to do in one year; some items may need to wait until 2020. Others that seemed important may not seem as urgent now that you’ve raised your game, so they can be replaced.


Onto Sharing. This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s time to share your dreams and your calendar with your friends and family members. Make a list of the top five items you want to do this year (that you’ve always done) and top five new objectives (that you’ve never done). Identify something, each month that you are looking forward to doing.

On the first of the month, announce the thing that you’re excited about. You may be telling your loved ones, but what you’re REALLY doing is telling yourself, reminding yourself how sweet your life is, and then sucking every last bit of sweet off your finger tips.

You have now created a treasure map for 2019 of the things you’d most like to do. Pursue that treasure. You’ve created a powerful vision. It can be as remarkable as you let it be.

Allison Task, is a Montclair, N.J. life and career coach whose business is Allison Task Career & Life Coaching. She is a author of Personal (R)evolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life and Do That Thing You’ve Always Wanted to Do.

A Nursing Career Inspired by MASH

January 24, 2019

We love when our team members share their stories, especially when a childhood dream becomes reality!

Read about Chris Plyler, a RN Neighborhood Manager at Oakwood Heights, our Oil City campus, and how her favorite TV show led her into nursing.  

“I always wanted to be a nurse. As a young child, the television show MASH was big. At the same time, my uncle went into the Marines—the perfect storm happened! I connected with Margaret Houlihan, “Hot Lips.” So my story begins. I would play hospital and I was always the nurse. If you watched the show, “Hot Lips” was tough. In the scary times, she took control, orchestrated the work in the OR and worked hours upon hours. She took time to hold the hands of the wounded. The expectation of myself is to be strong as needed, but gentle at the same time. My experiences are vast from starting at a nursing home as a CNA to being a nurse in a 1000 bed hospital ICU, then making the circle back home to Oakwood Heights. I get to hold hands and make memories with some of the most beautiful people in the world. I feel as part this team, I make a difference.”

Like Chris, do you have a story about Presbyterian SeniorCare Network that you would like to share? We would love to hear it! Click here to visit our web page. Once there, please click on the button, Share My Story.

Once you have submitted your story, you will automatically be entered into a random drawing to win a $50 Visa gift card! Winners will be pulled the first Monday of every month.

All Ages Make a Difference

November 28, 2018

Submitted by Haley Chiusano, dining services aide at Longwood at Oakmont

I have been around older adults my whole life. When I was born, my Mom was the Director of Recreation at the Presbyterian SeniorCare Network Oakmont campus. When she would go to work on the weekends or on a holiday, I would go with her. From summer picnics to trick or treating at Halloween to Thanksgiving dinners and of course, Christmas caroling, I was right there enjoying my time with the residents. Being that I was little, I did not understand what was actually transpiring or why my Mom took me with her, but I was having fun so I didn’t mind.

My favorite memory from when I was little was every Fourth of July, the band Dr. Zoot would play outside before it got dark enough for the fireworks. I would stand in between the band and the residents and do cartwheels and flips until I was so tired I could not stand anymore. To this day, which is about 12 years later, when I walk through the halls, there are still a few residents that know me as “the little girl who did the flips.”

When I got older, my Grandma moved into Westminster Place at the Oakmont campus. Anytime I was home with my Mom and she had to go into work, I would ask to go along to visit with her. I would spend hours in my grandma’s apartment playing Sega and pulling YouTube videos up on her computer, singing and dancing around the room for her. When it was time to go to dinner, I loved going with her. She lived right across the hall from the café, so as soon as she opened her door and the other residents saw me, they all got very excited. Whoever was there that day would sit at my Grandma’s table because they liked when someone new was there to talk to (especially someone as young as I was). We would sit in the dining room for hours after dinner, just talking about what I did for fun and how school was going. My Grandma and I always dreaded the “time to go home” phone call from my Mom. It came too soon every time.

When I turned 12, it was a big deal. I was finally old enough to volunteer! I had this project in school called the “Pay It Forward Project.” The project meant that I was supposed to do something good for someone, and then that person was supposed to something good for someone else and so on. So I decided to make this project a bit bigger. Instead of just me going to volunteer, I took some friends with me. That summer, myself and four of my friends would go all day every Wednesday and help in the Recreation Department. We did things such as rewrite special events on the whiteboards in the resident neighborhoods and take residents to the Corner Store. Our favorite thing to do was B-I-N-G-O! Sometimes, we would host three different Bingo games in one day. There was one resident in particular from The Willows who just loved us, and we loved her too. She never missed one of our bingo games. She would help us set up and take down, and she would even bring snacks for us and the other residents attending. Every time, right before a game would start, my friend Shannon would say “Okay, we are going to get started, is everyone ready?” And she would say, “Ready for Freddy!” We do not know where “Ready for Freddy” came from, but it made us laugh every time she said it!

When I started sixth grade, my Mom became the Administrator at Woodside Place of Oakmont, a specialized dementia care community. I remember being a little nervous to go help out there at first because I was not used to interacting with residents living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. My Mom and I talked about the disease and she reassured me that I would be fine with my social skills, and as soon as I walked in, I was. The Woodside Place residents soon became some of my favorites.

In my ninth grade Civics Class, we had to have at least an hour of volunteer work each nine weeks. All my friends would ask to come with me to Woodside Place to get their volunteer hours completed. They were nervous at first too, but I told them they would be fine, just like my Mom did for me. They all ended up loving the residents right away, just like I did.

Right after I turned 17, I applied for a job as a Dining Services team member at Longwood at Oakmont, the Presbyterian SeniorCare Network independent living community in Plum. Working three to four times a week, and spending an hour with them every time, the residents started to remember my name. This was a big deal to me. Whenever I would volunteer and hear a resident call a nurse or an aide by their name, I would get a little jealous because I always wanted them to remember my name too. But, being there only once a week and not seeing all of them every time made it hard. Now, at Longwood, most of the residents know my name, because after they have finished eating, we will have conversations while I clean up. We talk about anything and everything. One resident told me about how he and his wife started a business. That business did so well that when they retired they were able to travel the world together. Every night at dinner he tells me a different story about the incredible adventures they went on. He reminisced about their long nights in Brazil and their hot days in Cairo. It is amazing to me how he can recall any detail from any city. I look forward to these stories and it is still one of my favorite parts about my job.

I believe that intergenerational partnerships are so very important. Even though we have different lifestyles, we can still enjoy things as simple as sharing a conversation. I have learned so much from our seniors over the years, and I’m sure I have taught them quite a bit too. I enjoy going to work to be with my residents every day, and honestly, isn’t that is what it’s all about?

If you are like Haley, and want a career where you can spend your days bonding with our residents, explore careers at Presbyterian SeniorCare Network! 

An Employee Pipeline That Starts With Schooling

November 20, 2018

Presbyterian SeniorCare Network, a full-continuum provider serving 10 counties in western Pennsylvania, has accepted that challenge by creating a program that not only recruits young people as employees, but actively partners with schools to educate and train them for the purpose.

Click here to read more of this LeadingAge Magazine article about how Presbyterian SeniorCare Network is building an employee pipeline. 

5 Retirement Pitfalls You’ll Want to Avoid

November 5, 2018

Advice from the author of 'The Retirement Dreammaker'
By Matthew Jackson

(The following article is adapted from The Retirement Dreammaker: Master the Art of Retirement Abundance by Matthew Jackson.)

I’ve interviewed more than 1,000 retirees over the years and have observed retirees defaulting to a retirement lifestyle lacking excitement, positive challenges, contribution in significant ways, personal growth, and, ultimately, fulfillment. Below are five retirement pitfalls I’ve witnessed. I believe that those who understand the circumstances, situations and events they may encounter in retirement have a better chance of avoiding the snags and of feeling fulfilled in the third chapter of their life.

Let’s unpack each, so you can identify whether you are experiencing any of these thought patterns, and start on a path to self-correction.

1. Lack Of Money

There are few things that frustrate me more professionally than watching good people get paralyzed by the feeling of not having enough. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that we don’t have enough when other people’s abundance is constantly shoved in our face. 
Rather than looking inward for personal satisfaction and happiness, we are constantly and subconsciously told we must measure our happiness in terms of our possessions or the events that take place in our lives.

No matter how much money you believe you have or will make, if you are spending more than you are earning, you may very well find yourself with this retirement pitfall. Being content with where you are and living within your means is both empowering and freeing. Don’t be locked in a cage because of a lack of money.

2. Lack Of Permission

Feeling like you lack financial resources leads to the belief that you lack permission to follow your passions and live your life with confidence.

A couple recently came to my office feeling frustrated. They told me they had found their dream retirement home, a few miles from their current home. When they were done explaining the details of the property and all they could do with it, I told them I couldn’t wait to see it. That’s when the tone of the meeting changed. With a little embarrassment, humility and wonder in their voices, they told me they didn’t know if they could afford the extra cost of purchasing the property.

I watched their bodies and faces physically tighten as they explained their concerns. No one had given them the financial permission and the confidence they needed to believe they could live this retirement dream. We all experience these insecurities.

This couple had come to get my permission that their retirement plan could handle the extra expense of buying their dream property. As we ran the hypothetical stress test models, I could see that they would be able to handle it. I’ll never forget the day they came into my office to review the results. They walked in looking serious and sat very straight in the chairs. It was if a weight had been lifted from their shoulders. The tightness in their lips and chests disappeared instantly. My permission was met with a simultaneous sigh of relief and smiles on their faces.

I often wonder how many people don’t fully live a life true to their dreams because they haven’t heard a simple word of permission or encouragement to help them do so.

3. Isolation

I’m sure there have been times in your life, sitting at your work desk, that all you can think about is getting away from it all. It’s healthy to have a little isolation. Being isolated helps us to decompress, rejuvenate our physical and mental energy and to gain the mental clarity we need to solve problems we are experiencing. However, extended isolation with little social interaction has been well documented to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, some forms of cancer, depression and memory loss.

Isolated individuals are up to 50 percent more likely to develop cognitive decline. They are less likely to exercise, eat right, and develop hobbies. Compared to people who have regular social interactions, isolated individuals are more likely to need long-term health care and to be victims of elder abuse.

Many retirees fall into isolation by no fault of their own. Here’s a list of circumstances to be aware of that can cause isolation.

  • Financial changes in retirement
  • Friends moving away
  • Getting stuck in old daily habits
  • Loss of optimism about the future
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of mobility caused by health complications
  • Grief resulting from loss of a spouse or close friend
  • Physical and emotional pain
  • Decreased sense of personal safety
  • Problems with memory recall

I highly doubt that people ever anticipate how deeply isolation can affect their life in retirement. It’s my hope that your new awareness of the negative effects of isolation helps you to avoid it in any shape or form.

4. Waiting For Milestones

Milestones are the measuring stick we use to analyze our progress in life, compare ourselves to others and fit into the construct of the life we believe we should be living at the time we are living it.

From the time we are infants we hear statements like: 
When you’re old enough you can…
When you graduate high school you can… When you go to university you are a…. 
When you get married…
When you buy your first house… When you have your first child… When you have your second child… When you are xxx years old…

I can see how easy it is to measure life in terms of milestones, given the way we’ve been taught to get past them or to want to fulfill what others expect of us.

Milestones are an important part of human growth and development because they do give us feedback if we are on track, behind, or need help with our own growth and development.

A few examples of retirement milestones are:

  • Age 59 1⁄2: This is the first time you can take distributions from an Individual Retirement Account in your name without a 10 percent early withdraw penalty.
  • Age 62: This is the age we can take our first elected Social Security payment.
  • Age 65: This is the age you are eligible to enroll in Medicare health plans.
  • Age 66 to 67: This is the Full Retirement Age for Social Security, when you they may be able to receive your check with no reductions. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full Social Security retirement age is 66. If you were born in 1960 or later, it’s 67. For individuals born between 1955 and 1959, your full Social Security retirement age is somewhere between 66 and 67.
  • Age 70: This is the age you are eligible for your maximum Social Security benefit. If you’ve delayed collecting Social Security until this age, you have been enjoying the maximum 8 percent increase in your check since the time you elected to suspend payments (elected at ages 66 to 67).
  • Age 70 1⁄2: This is the age that you are required to take Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your tax-deferred retirement accounts. The penalty for failure to take your RMD at the correct time is 50 percent of the RMD amount. You don’t want to miss this milestone!

So these milestones seem pretty positive in our lives. How can they hurt or prevent a person from having the most fulfillment in retirement? Quite simply, they can be the reason we put off doing important things.

Here are a few examples of negative milestones in retirement:

Children’s Milestones –Have you ever heard someone say, or thought to yourself, “When my child finally does “X,” we are all going to take a family trip. “X” can be a move, a job promotion, a wedding, a divorce, the birth of a grandchild, a work promotion or an advanced degree. But what if Johnny isn’t motivated to accomplish “X” or just can’t quite get it? You’ll never take that trip. What would be more important to you, making family memories on a vacation or waiting for Johnny to accomplish something you don’t have control of? Trust me…it’s the memories and connection that are much more important in the long run.

Personal Health Milestones – I believe it’s very important for all of us to have the courage to face the reality of our own good and poor health. Doing so can help us to make important decisions about delayed gratification of experiences, events and opportunities.

If you have heard a person you care about say he’s waiting for his or his spouse’s health to improve before they visit a place they’ve wanted to go, please encourage them not to wait. And if you’re waiting for your health to improve, don’t put off the trip.

Even though a health challenge may keep you from physically doing all you want, do whatever you can. It’s more important you do it now rather than wait for your health to be perfect. It may never be!

5. I Have Nothing Of Value To Contribute. I’m Not Relevant

Feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem affect many retirees. In a time when twentysomethings have hundreds or thousands of followers and “friends” on Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and Facebook, how can retirees not feel left behind in some ways? How can they find relevance in the modern age?

We all know that people don’t suddenly lose the talent and experience gained over a lifetime with passing of a birthday. But, somehow we are expected to believe that the world has outpaced our knowledge and experience. We’re told through media channels that the “new” is what is relevant. Experience is irrelevant.

The prospect of having to reinvent and learn new skills is frustrating for many people because even if they get more training and education, they believe there will still be a mark against them on their application… age.

This spills over into retirement. Imagine your psyche if you were downsized because of age, just prior to retirement. Would you feel as if the skill set you sharpened for 30+ working years meant anything? Would you have a great sense of relevance in the world?

The truth is that retirees have more value than they think. Just because it doesn’t fit into the traditional construct of how value is measured doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

Finding new value in your experience will require a shift in thinking.

By Matthew Jackson

Matthew Jackson is author of The Retirement Dreammaker: Mastering the Art of Retirement Abundance.  He is also an investment adviser representative of Royal Fund Management.

It's Never Too Late to Learn Something New

October 16, 2018

Don't just watch the kids go back to school this fall

By Patricia Corrigan 

Lunchbox? Check. Backpack? Check. New outfit for the first day? Check.

So you’ve helped get a grandchild or other youngster ready to go back to school. But what about you? Staying mentally active after 50 stimulates neural networks, increases knowledge, enriches life and provides opportunities for social interaction and fun at the same time.

Maybe you’ve secretly always wanted to speak Italian or learn to quilt or try your hand at landscaping. Maybe you’re ready to take up Scuba diving or acting. Perhaps if’s time you developed a new skill that will boost your productivity at work. Or maybe you’re eager to go deep with Shakespeare’s history plays, take up memoir writing, better appreciate opera or learn to make beer.

And maybe now you have the time.

Educational opportunities abound for people 50 and older, in settings that range from traditional classrooms to senior centers to the back room in ceramics shops. You can opt for semester-long courses with or without tests, short-term “quick hit” classes or a scheduled lecture series that provides entertainment as well as education. Some opportunities are free and others are available at discounted prices.

Any learning opportunity can change your life for the better. Consider the Seattle woman I know who waited until her kids were grown to enroll in college. The junior college near her home had just one class available, on geology. She took it, got hooked and went on to earn a master’s degree. Now she is a naturalist with National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions, and she writes poems about basalt and other rock formations.

Here are some ideas on where to look for learning opportunities:

Traditional Schools

Most universities, colleges and junior colleges welcome older adult students. The Penny Hoarder, which started as a blog in 2010 and now claims to have 16 million readers and 1.5 million email subscribers, has located free or cheap college classes for older adults in all 50 states.

“While some institutions only allow senior students to audit classes, many offer the chance to earn credits toward a degree at a reduced — or completely waived — tuition rate,” says the website. Look for opportunities in your state here.

One 70-year-old man in St. Louis first started auditing classes a decade ago at a junior college near his home. “When I retired, I wanted to learn about Photoshop. In a one-day class, sometimes you get too much information at once, so I signed up instead at the junior college,” he said. Since then, he has enrolled in courses on web design, videography and horticulture.

Auditing classes costs him as little as half the regular tuition; sometimes, classes that aren’t full go for even less. “I feel right at home in class, and I always get an ‘A’ for audience participation because I always have a lot of questions,” he said. “I’m learning for the sake of learning.”

Some high schools offer evening classes for adults. On the south shore of Long Island in New York, the Merrick Central High School District offers “a wide array of courses selected to meet the educational, vocational, cultural and recreational needs and interests of adult residents of the community.” Check with a high school near you for learning opportunities.

Osher Centers for Lifelong Learning

The Bernard Osher Foundation supports 120 lifelong learning programs on college campuses everywhere from Huntsville, Ala., to Fairbanks, Alaska. The foundation, founded in 1977 and based in San Francisco, funds at least one non-credit educational program in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Each program welcomes adults age 50 and older with “a diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating courses.” And each is required to operate with “robust volunteer leadership” and have established mechanisms for evaluating classes offered and participant satisfaction. To find an Osher-funded program near you, go to the Osher Foundation site.

This spring, Steve Thaxton, executive director of the National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, spoke with Next Avenue about adult learning trends in the future. 

The Oasis Institute

Founded in St. Louis in 1982, Oasis promotes “healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles and volunteer engagement.” The nonprofit educational organization serves adult learners in 40 cities and is said to reach more than 50,000 individuals each year. Find out at this part of the Oasis site if Oasis is available where you live.

In addition to developing national programs and providing training and support for individual Oasis education centers, the Oasis Institute also works with hundreds of partners interested in lifelong learning, including health providers, corporations, senior centers, community organizations, libraries, colleges and senior living organizations.

Local Community Centers and Shops

Many city parks and recreation departments offer classes and activities for older adults. In Austin, the city’s website says, its activities for people 50 and older include “pursuing old hobbies and learning new ones, socializing with friends, meeting new people, increasing knowledge, becoming and staying physically fit, supplementing income and contributing to the community.”

Jewish Community Centers (JCC), with more than 350 locations across the country, welcome one and all to a variety of classes in everything from pottery to yoga to painting to mindfulness-based stress reduction to dance. Some JCCs also sponsor book clubs and provide lectures by art museum docents about current exhibits around town.

Community-based senior centers often provide classes on topics that interest participants, including everything from chair caning to current events to working with mosaic tiles. If a center near you doesn’t teach what you want to learn, propose the topic and help find an instructor.

In your quest to learn something new, don’t overlook local shops owned by artisans. If the owner doesn’t offer classes in his or her specialty, ask about a trial apprenticeship so you can determine whether, say, woodworking or knitting or glass blowing suits you.

Classrooms on the Move

If hands-on learning about other countries, other cultures or just the geology of your own state interests you, look to an educational travel program. Road Scholar, formerly known as Elderhostel, offers more than 5,500 study tours throughout the U.S. and Canada and in 150 other countries, all geared to older adults and led by experienced guides.

Group size, activity levels and prices vary according to the trip, and some scholarships are available. Destinations include The Kentucky Derby, several national parks, “signature cities” of the world and a cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers following the path of Lewis and Clark.

Also, some colleges sponsor educational travel opportunities for alumni. Check with yours and say that you are ready to go back to school. No new outfit required!

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5 Life Lessons From End-of-Life Experts

August 23, 2018

By Lisa Fields

(Editor’s note: This story is part of a special report for The John A. Hartford Foundation)

You’ve heard it countless times: Life is short, so appreciate each moment.

People with life-limiting diagnoses know this intimately: When they come to terms with their mortality, their priorities often change, and they may try to squeeze as much substance into their lives as they can. This often involves trying to resolve long-standing problems with loved ones and strengthening important relationships.

Very few healthy people live this way, though. We get caught up in the details of our busy lives and often forget to put things in perspective, believing that we’ll have time to sort everything out. But end-of-life experts believe that everyone should adopt some of the attitudes and values that dying patients embrace.

“It’s easy to put something off into the future,” says John Mastrojohn III, chief operating officer of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “For some, that future may not be as long as we’d like. Having meaningful conversations, or doing other things that bring joy, can have a profound impact on how we feel about ourselves and others.”

You may be inclined to delay these types of conversations if you don’t sense an imminent need. But they can positively impact your relationships and help you realize what’s most important.

“Those of us who work with people who are seriously ill have found that [saying] ‘Please forgive me,’ ‘I forgive you,’ ‘Thank you’ and ‘I love you’ — that almost always has value to people, whether relationships are fractured or strong,” says Dr. Ira Byock, a palliative care physician in Torrance, Calif., and author of The Four Things That Matter Most.

End-of-life experts believe that the following advice — which they often share with patients who are in the final weeks or months of their lives — is surprisingly well-suited for active, healthy people, too:

1. Adjust Your Priorities

You may take your friends and relatives for granted because you’re focused on a work project, your upcoming kitchen renovation or the number of “likes” that you received on a Facebook post. But it’s important to periodically stop to appreciate the meaningful relationships in your life.

“The things that matter most to people aren’t things; they’re other people,” Byock says. “Ask somebody who’s facing cancer or chemotherapy for the third or fourth time what matters, and the answer they give will always include the names of people they love.”

2. Make Time for Loved Ones

Your schedule may make it difficult to see friends or relatives as often as you’d like, but you can change that. Giving priority to your most important relationships should make you feel less frazzled and more grounded.

“There is not a single seriously ill patient I know that worries about all the current items populating their calendar when they receive a life-threatening diagnosis — their thoughts go immediately to their time with those they love,” says Dr. Cory Ingram, a palliative-care physician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “There are some things in life to postpone; however, relationships with those who matter aren’t on that list.”

3. Have Meaningful Conversations

Most people don’t apologize, seek forgiveness, offer gratitude or extend feelings of love to their closest friends and family members on a regular basis. They may believe that their feelings are tacitly understood by their loved ones. Or they may feel that the topics are too significant to broach in everyday conversation, so they keep their feelings inside.

But putting words to your feelings can boost your relationships significantly. It’s particularly important for parents who may not have shared their thoughts with their children — especially adult children.

“It’s worth taking the time to sit with each of your children and let them know how proud you are to be their mom or dad,” Byock says. “[Or tell them] ‘I love you more than I can say.’ Who else on this planet can give that gift in your voice? I’ve counseled many children who were crying after the death of a parent, who never heard words of that nature. Some of those children were in their 60s.”

4. Don’t Hesitate to Share Deep Feelings

In many families, people don’t discuss emotions unless there’s a crisis, but you can work to change that. Consider how you’d feel if you or a loved one died suddenly, before you had the chance to share what was in your heart. Revealing your feelings can help to alleviate that sentiment and bring you closer.

“Some people say, ‘My kids know that I love them,’” Byock says. “’I say, ‘Great! Then it will be easy for you to say it.’ No excuses and no mumbling.”

It can be particularly difficult for some men to talk about their feelings, especially if they’ve maintained a gruff, stoic reputation. But once they open up, their words can deeply move the people in their lives.

“Most of them aren’t so tough — they just learned to cloak their feelings in a hard shell,” Byock says. “We guys aren’t as verbal about our emotions. We have emotions. We just don’t talk about them. Talking about this stuff can be very impactful.”

5. Prepare for the Worst

Many terminally ill people create advance directives, which are documents that name a loved one to make medical decisions on their behalf in case they are ever unable to speak for themselves.

But two-thirds of healthy people don’t have advance directives, perhaps because it requires them to consider their own mortality. Advance directives are invaluable for everyone, however, since we never know what may happen.

“It’s a way of taking care of your family,” Byock says. “I have an advance directive. Not because I have a serious illness, but because I have a family. I’m a dad, and if I’m in a car accident or have a stroke, if my wife and daughters would struggle, I can give one of them clear authority to speak for me, with no ambiguity. I can give them some sense of what I think I want, to lift a little bit off their shoulders.”

After you designate someone to speak on your behalf, let them know.

“Completing the document is only part of the requirement,” Ingram says. “The real work of completing an advance directive is having a conversation about your values, preferences and priorities for health care with those you named.”

Lisa Fields is a writer who covers psychology and health matters as they relate to the workplace. She publishes frequently in WebMD and Reader’s Digest.

Longwood at Oakmont Intern Implements Beneficial Program at Wellness Center

August 22, 2018

Internships not only help individuals gain exposure and experience a field of study, they also make candidates more competitive and help them stand out more in the job market. In 2014, there were about one to two million interns in the United States. Since then, that number has nearly doubled. At Presbyterian SeniorCare Network, we embrace the idea of hiring interns and helping them to build their resume. While we employ many interns across the Network, we were able to showcase Baylee Eaton, one of our interns and how she is gaining meaningful work experience.

Longwood at Oakmont Intern Implements Beneficial Program at Wellness Center

Baylee Eaton is a summer intern who works in the lifestyle engagement department at the Longwood at Oakmont Wellness Center. After completing her internship, she will officially be a Slippery Rock University graduate, earning not only a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy, but becoming a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS).

She learned of the internship at Longwood at Oakmont during her final spring semester when she visited the Presbyterian SeniorCare Network Oakmont campus and Longwood at Oakmont campus with her professor and classmates in the Recreational Therapy for Older Adults course. Knowing that she wished to work with older adults, Baylee decided to apply for the internship, feeling that it would grant her the opportunity to learn more about recreational therapy in a senior living environment.

As an intern, her duties include assisting team members with their daily work and helping to lead exercise classes. However, in order to become certified through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC), Baylee must also develop and implement a program during her internship.

Over the past several weeks, Baylee has developed a falls prevention program protocol that she called, “Slip, Trip, Falls Prevention.” The program aims to educate independent living residents about falls and how to prevent them, as well as to motivate and encourage participants to apply what they have learned during the program to their daily lives.

Baylee’s fall prevention program, which began on July 24, consists of five sessions for two groups of older adults that will be offered twice a week. These sessions will include baseline assessments, educational presentations, discussions, strength training, aerobic fitness, balance exercises and post-assessments to help track participant and program outcomes.

Baylee loves interning at Longwood at Oakmont, and she hopes to continue building connections with the residents.

“Presbyterian SeniorCare Network is an awesome and friendly organization, and my experience has been good so far,” said Baylee. “All of the employees and residents have made me feel comfortable and welcome. It is truly an awesome community!”

After completing her internship and becoming a CTRS, Baylee plans to find a job in her field, with the hopes of being able to help those in need and provide the best services possible.

Hole in One:

August 21, 2018

Golfing Creates Bond Between Team Member and Resident

Lori Mittereder, lifestyle engagement team leader at Westminster Place, the personal care community at our Oakmont campus, has a special bond with John Eisenmen, or “Coach John,” as she likes to call him. John has lived at Westminster Place for three years and when he moved in, he brought his clubs with him.

Lori noticed this, and knowing a little about golf herself, thought it may be a good time to learn more about the game and learn a little more about John.

She found out that John, who is 90-years old, has been golfing at local courses for over 25 years. After talking with John, Lori wanted to hit the course and get back in the golf game. She asked John if he would join her, he agreed, making them instant golf buddies. This past summer, the duo played golf at least two times a week.  

Lori shares, “Coach John gives me guidance on how to slow down, and hit through the ball not at the ball.” John’s tips have helped Lori improve her golf game, and while they two golf for fun, they do keep score. As for who usually wins after a nine holes, Lori laughs, “I keep score and John adds it up.” John slyly added, “as long as I add, I win.”

When John is not golfing, he enjoys tending to the community garden in the Courtyard at Westminster Place.  

This story is a perfect example of our person-centered culture. By taking just a few moments to get to know each other, Lori and John have started to create a lifetime of memories.

Elder Care...It's So Boring...

August 13, 2018

With 2018 being the 90th anniversary of Presbyterian SeniorCare Network, we want to show how person-centered is the heart and soul of our organization. All year long, we are asking for stories from anyone who has an experience with Presbyterian SeniorCare Network that they’d like to share - from our team members, to our partners, to our residents and family members -- tell us what moments that have touched your heart. Your stories help to bring our person-centered culture to life!

A great example of how Presbyterian SeniorCare Network team members go above and beyond is the story of Taylor McMahon. Taylor has been a team member with Presbyterian SeniorCare Network for almost five years. She began her career as a LPN, continued her education and became an RN, and is currently a personal care assessment coordinator at Westminster Place, the personal care community at our Oakmont campus.

Taylor shared a touching story of how forming a relationship with a resident, as well as special attention to detail, proved valuable to family members during a residents last hours. Her story highlights how our team members make a difference.

I never thought I would want to work in the geriatric nursing field. Throughout nursing school, the stigma that comes with working with the aging population is that it’s so boring. My fellow classmates and I thought it may be a good first positon, we could gain experience before going to work at a big, exciting hospital. There we could finish our degrees and enjoy the fast paced setting of the ER. While that all sounded exciting, my views have since changed. Two years later, I am right where I should be and doing what I was meant to do, as a personal care assessment coordinator, at Presbyterian SeniorCare Network.

My ah-ha moment came while I was caring for a resident at Westminster Place who was a former doctor, and was very special to me. He had moderate dementia and was well into his late nineties. Every day he would dress in a suit and tie and bring the warmest smile to breakfast. I would often let him use my stethoscope to auscultate my lungs and heart. He would tell me how healthy I sounded and said, “The bill would be in the mail.” As he declined, my emotions got the best of me. I would go home and cry because I knew what was coming. With the support of hospice we were able to give him the best care we could. With comfort as the goal, he received medication and we offered  him the spiritual support he desired. One day, toward the end of my 3 pm-11 pm shift, I went to check on my buddy. I noticed his breathing was slightly different. Clinically, as a new nurse, I doubted myself at times, but tonight I didn’t. I called his daughter and told her what my assessment was. She said, “Taylor, do I need to come in.” I paused, “I will be right there,” she continued. I stayed late that night; and brewed her some fresh coffee and placed snacks outside of the resident’s door. The next day, I received information that he had passed away peacefully that night, with his daughter and son at his bedside. From that moment, it all made sense, I knew that caring for seniors is what I was meant to do.

A few days later, with tears in her eyes, his daughter came into the nurse’s office and hugged me. She held onto me for several minutes and repeated, “thank you” over and over. She said that she could never repay me for making that phone call that night. She said that she held his hand all night until he passed. Yes, I was doing my job. I notified a family member that her father had a change of condition. However, to me this was much more than just a job responsibility. This was a blessing.

Like Taylor, do you have a story about Presbyterian SeniorCare Network that you would like to share? We would love to hear it! Click here to visit our 90th anniversary web page. Once there, please click on the button, Share My Story.

Once you have submitted your story, you will automatically be entered into a random drawing to win a $50 Visa gift card! Winners will be pulled the first Monday of every month through January 2019.

Active on social media? Follow our hashtag #countlessmoments to see featured stories on Facebook throughout our 90th anniversary yearlong celebration.


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