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Lisa with residents of Sunrise Assisted Living
Lisa presented on Handling Life's Changes
Lisa Athan, MA, Grief Recovery Specialist, conducts programs for assisted- living facilities and nursing homes.
She can conduct any or all of the following programs for your center:
1. A staff in-service program on grief, loss and healthy ways to cope.
Lisa focuses on the many types of loss that so many of the residents deal with on a
daily basis including loss of skills and abilities, loss of youth, loss of
independence, loss of friends and family, loss of control, loss of familiar
surroundings and so much more. It is vital that staff is aware of all of the many
layers of loss that so many of the residents are coping with. It is also
imperative to know the normal signs of grief and what is helpful to say and
what is best to avoid saying. Lisa will discuss those ambiguous losses
such as having a loved one who is suffering from a stroke, Brain Injury, or
Alzheimer's disease. It has been found that the more uncertain a family member is about
the patient's status as absent or present, the greater the family member's symptoms of depression.
Staff also needs to learn how to practice self care techniques so that they don't become
"burned out" or suffer with "compassion fatigue".
2. A program on grief, loss and healthy ways to cope for residents.
So often the elderly population has their grief overlooked and ignored.
It has been called "disenfranchised grief". We live in a "get over it" and "move on" society
which rarely take the time to listen and talk with those who could really benefit from sharing about their lives.
Acknowledging loss is crucial to healing loss. This program will allow the residents to listen as
well as to share what they would like to about their own losses or coping skills.
The focus is on strengths and helping those residents to find healthy outlets
for their feelings and ways for them to honor their losses.
3. A program for families to help them with their own loss. "My Loved one is Living in a Good Place, then Why do I Feel this Way?"
A separate program is just for families who are dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer's disease called: "Goodbye without Leaving"
So many families today are having to deal with so much in terms of sadness, guilt, regret, anger, loneliness, worry, and confusion when it comes to their loved one now living in a new place such as assisted living or a nursing home. They may have less access to their loved one and feel less in control of their care. They may take out their feelings on their loved ones, staff or those around them. They need support now as well. This program is for them to have the
opportunity to hear that many of the feelings, fears and concerns that they have
are perfectly normal and natural. They too need to know healthy ways to cope.
4. A six week program for residents called "Healing our Grief"
This 6 week group meets weekly for an hour at a time to explore different aspects of
grief and loss as well as to give each participant a chance to use the activities
to do their own healing. They will learn that each person grieves in their own
way. Some grieve more emotionally and cry and talk a lot about their losses,
while others prefer to do it more privately and think more about their losses or
turn to actions that help them process their feelings.
5. Program for families with children and teens.
More and more young people are coming to assisted living facilities to visit loved ones and often
are not prepared for what they may experience. Children need preparation in advance to know
that their mom, dad, grandmother, aunt or other loved one, may not look as
she did the last visit. They need to know if the person shares a room or not,
and about any health updates. Children tend to visit for shorter times and
need things to do to distract themselves from their own grief. Often bringing a
gift is a great idea, as it is something for the child to focus on as he or she
gives it to his/her loved one. Also teens have a tough time visiting especially if
the loved one's health is compromised. They then feel guilty if they don't visit.
It is important that teens also be prepared and allowed healthy outlets for
venting their emotions. Great to have some handouts on teen grief available
for them to read on their own when they get home.
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