What Does “Getting Old” Mean?

What is the definition of “Getting Old”?  Is “getting old” about a person’s age or maybe it really has nothing to do with the number of years a person lives? 

There are good and bad connotations about “getting old”.  There are true hallmarks of becoming older, such as doing things slower than usual, forgetting more easily, getting wrinkles, and needing more rest than before.  No doubt, age usually begets a breakdown in our physical and mental capabilities; but, does that actually mean we are “getting old?”.  Does “getting old” really have to do with declining health and succumbing to its struggles or is it more about life experiences and the value of what you have to offer? 

Maybe “getting old” has more to do with the characteristics developed after being around for a long time.  After battling through the thicket of life’s circumstances and succumbing to the many bumps along the way, what kind of outlook does an older person develop over the years?  Of course, we are all different and respond uniquely as we journey down the road. 

Those who have aged have a choice of “getting older”.  Maybe “getting old” is when you are absorbed with the loss of what you had before or what you don’t have now?

Or, maybe the choice is to experience the maturity and thoughtfulness of this life.  There is definitely some truth to the saying, “Wisdom Comes with Age”, although this is really determined by the one “getting old”.  Wisdom is about looking through the lens of what really matters; yielding to a backlash of experiences, seeing the forest and not just the trees, summarizing life’s issues, and deriving conclusions by gaining perspective or a well-rounded view of what is important. “Getting old” can be about building tolerance, patience, fortitude, understanding, focusing on what truly matters, having more confidence and feeling a calling or moral responsibility to speak up for the sake of the upcoming generations.  “Getting older” may be a beautiful thing.  What a ripe moment to enjoy life, if you choose to. 

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

May is Mental Health Month

Quotes from Known Authors:

  • “There is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In” – Leon Cohen
  • “In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” — Abraham Maslow
  • “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” — Fredrick Douglass
  • “Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents people who need help from seeking it. But that simply doesn’t make any sense. Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there shouldn’t be any distinction. We would never tell someone with a broken leg that they should stop wallowing and get it together. We don’t consider taking medication for an ear infection something to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t treat mental health conditions any differently. Instead, we should make it clear that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness — it’s a sign of strength — and we should ensure that people can get the treatment they need.” (Huffington Post)  … “Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain.  It’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction” Michelle Obama
  • “Since that day (I opened up about my emotions).  It’s just been so much easier to live and so much easier to enjoy live”.  Michael Phelps
  • “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation” – Glenn Close
  • “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow” – Helen Keller

  • “So many people look at [my depression] as me being ungrateful, but that is not it— I can’t help it. There’s not much that I’m closed off about, and the universe gave me all that so I could help people feel like they don’t have to be something they’re not or feel like they have to fake happy. There’s nothing worse than being fake happy.” – Miley Cyrus

Compiled by:

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

COVID-19: Proactive Testing By National Guard at St. William’s Living Center

At St. William’s, we abide by one, simple rule: Provide the highest quality health care and services to seniors.

The rise of the recent COVID-19 pandemic is no exception to the rule. We refuse to allow this global catastrophe to compromise the quality of service we offer.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 82% of all COVID-19 deaths in our state were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. That chilling statistic puts us on high alert to protect our vulnerable residents.

We have had no positive cases of COVID-19 at our facility. Keep reading to learn the measures we’re taking at St. William’s to ensure the safety of our residents and employees.

Proactive Testing

The best way to mitigate the dangers of this disease is prevention. We’ve done this by following strict social distancing guidelines and practicing high levels of personal hygiene. But another important factor in preventing an outbreak is testing.

The State of Emergencies Operations Center (SEOC) in collaboration with the Minnesota National Guard are making a plan to test all long-term care residents and employees throughout the state. They will be at St. William’s on the following dates:

  • May 29, 2020
  • June 5, 2020
  • June 11, 2020

National Guard members will be on-site during those days to test all residents and staff. This is great news because it will help us in our fight to keep St. William’s free from COVID-19.

Extra Precautions

Infection prevention has always been one of our top priorities, but since the outbreak, we have taken more proactive measures to isolate and prevent the spread. Visitation remains restricted until further notice. We have also restricted all communal dining and activities, instead opting for activities that residents can do from their rooms including traveling happy hour and daily movies.

All St. William’s staff members wear masks during their shifts and direct care staff members also wear protective goggles. Our supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are healthy as we have large numbers of masks, gowns, and eye protection on hand. We also have ample amounts of cleaning and sanitation supplies.

Employees are screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the beginning of each shift. Residents are also screened twice per day to detect symptoms early.

In a proactive move, we have hired plenty of extra staff members so we can continue to provide the highest quality of care for our residents as the pandemic reaches new heights. We have also been in contact with a nurse staffing agency should staffing levels drop due to infections.

Plan for the Future

Again, there have been no positive cases at St. Williams and our goal is to keep it that way. However, we must remain realistic. As this disease spreads and the economy opens again, we will see positive cases rise and it will impact our residents and staff members.

If we do have a resident test positive for the disease, we have an action plan to care for them until they are no longer contagious. We have been following the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines and our staff members are well-versed in the proper infection control procedures. We will take swift action to ensure the disease doesn’t spread and that the resident gets the best care possible while they recover.

Family members, residents, and staff will be updated immediately if a positive test result occurs at St. William’s.

To Our Staff Members

St. William’s wouldn’t be the exceptional facility it is without our amazing staff members. Over the last few months, they have been especially important as they are at the front lines of this pandemic, caring for those who are the most vulnerable.

Wearing a face mask and eye protection every day is a burden. Taking multiple tests to rule out infection is a burden. Dealing with the stress of the pandemic while continuing to care for others is a burden.

Our staff has handled these burdens with exceptional poise and we are greatly appreciative of every one of them!

Questions? Give Us a Call

At this time, St. William’s has no positive cases of COVID-19 and we plan to do everything we can to keep it that way. If you have any questions about how we’re dealing with this crisis, please feel free to contact us: Tim Kelly, Administrator at 218-338-1001, or Lori Roers, Director of Nursing at 218-338-1009.

MENTAL HEALTH CORNER

With Social Distancing, showing compassion or hugging would be a long stretch.  It may be awhile before we can hug again, but the need is still there.  It’s Good for your Mental Health.

Did you know that hugging someone you care about not only makes you feel more connected to the other person; it also contributes to both your mental and physical health?  Dr. Kathleen C. Light at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, noted in NIH News in Health, February 2007, studied oxytocin levels in loving couples as well as mothers and their infants. Although the research is preliminary, she notes that as love and affection are expressed, a hormone, oxytocin, mostly made in the area of the brain called the hypothalamus, is released into the bloodstream through Dopamine, a brain chemical that plays a crucial part in how we perceive pleasure.  Released oxytocin has been found to bring about increased satisfaction and enjoyment in life.  It makes us feel good and improves our mood.  In addition, increased oxytocin tends to lower levels of stress hormones in the body as well as reduces blood pressure, increases pain tolerance, and may speed recovery from illness.  In fact, there is good research indicating that without the release of oxytocin, there is a greater chance of serious depression and other mental illness! 

We remain at social distance status.  However, hugging can be a miracle medicine that relieves many physical and emotional problems people struggle with.   Hugging is healthy.  It relieves tension.  It combats depression.  It reduces stress.  It improves blood circulation.  It generates good will.  It offers comfort and sustains self-esteem.  It brings warm fuzzies to the soul.  It also doesn’t require a license or registration.  There are no insurance costs or co-pays, and it actually saves on medical bills.   It is tax free and not dependent on the market.  It does not threaten the environment, nor does it require batteries or electricity.  Frequent use brings about increased benefits; the more you give, the more you receive.  It is something that just keeps on giving.  It can’t break down, although it is fully-refundable.  It is life-time guaranteed.  And, there are no unpleasant side effects, except during a world-renowned virus! 

With all the technology out there, inventing a software program that allows for virtual hugs seems like a worthwhile consideration. 

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

St. Williams Mental Health Center

Going Backwards may Help Us Go Forward

With COVID-19, many have been forced to return in some format to the customs of previous generations; without access to outings, social visiting or even money to purchase types of entertainment devices.    Is there any silver lining in going backwards? 

According to experts in the mental health field, the lives many of us lead today show more anxiety and depression compared to 50 years ago.  Back a generation or two, children used to play outside games, such as “Annie Annie Over” where two groups of kids on the opposite side threw a ball over the house to the kids on the other side. The goal was to tag the person catching the ball, or catch the ball and tag someone from the opposite side.  It is a simple game; one without much pizzazz, but fun none-the-less.  In contrast to today’s rapid pace and techy world, kids back then stayed home more and shared hours of creative playtime, be it dress-up, “Kick the Can”, Tag, Hop Scotch, marbles, or Chinese Jump-Rope.  Yes, this is the generation that ranked high to smelling the flowers and having neighbors over for Sunday afternoon get-togethers.  These happy-go-lucky times are of a simpler world which has nearly passed us by.

With time, we have become more multifaceted beings.  Our society has given way to the technical world and the rapid pace of it all, with expectations higher and the competition greater.  Our brains have stretched to saturate more and more advanced data of which we strive to understand so that we can function in today’s world.   As we are in a progressive generation that requires the mastery of such operandum, we become accustomed to a fast-paced, complicated operational culture. 

We all are adjusting to a new normal; one that allows for more pause and breathing space, giving way to waning schedules and tasks mostly limited to home projects.  Maybe this is a time for reflection on the lives we live.  What would be the silver lining in all this?  Maybe there is some benefit to taking a wider lens to a fast-paced lifestyle while also being homebound and forced to live more simply.  Could it be that we come to a new truism about the lifestyle we choose once this virus is behind us?  While we capture ourselves in an advanced era, maybe we will seek a new balance; one that supports good mental health.  Truly, relaxing is a necessary key to reducing our mental health symptoms while also reducing chronic pain and improving your overall physical health.  As we have become consumed with the fast pace of this generation, it is doubtful that our kids will learn “Annie Annie Over”.  However, possibly we all will come to see that taking a breath, slowing down or just settling is a good thing.  Going backwards may help us move forwards.  

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

The Pathway Through Uncertain Times

Who would have thunk it?  Most of us have never experienced anything like COVID 19.  As many of us in our country, even throughout the world, have been obstructed and disturbed by several gigantic turbulences in their lives (e.g., world wars, gigantic volcano eruptions, drastic ups and downs of financial markets), this is unique.  A virus?  Impacting the entire world?  Yes, we haven’t experienced anything like this in our life time, although history shows that we have gone this way before.  Most of us have felt the crunch that has taken place along the way; and without a certainty of what’s best next, we each have a choice as to what path forward we will take.  There are many paths, yet we all must ask ourselves which one will lead us to the best one.

What path will you take?  When people become anxious or stressed, it is common to react with either/or a mixture of “flight, fight or freeze”.  These are the common responses to anxiety. 

What is “flight”?  It is running away from it all.  The hype of the virus becomes so overwhelming and unstoppable that it can’t be reckoned with.   As emotions of anxiety or fear reach a new height, logic may not be at the forefront and running away is the primary mode of operation.

“Fight” is another pathway some follow.  Here, the emotions of anger/blame come forward.  It is an effort to ensure there is justice or that those in authority be held accountable for poor leadership.  The individual finds justification through efforts at opposition with feelings of being wronged.   Again, emotions run the show and finding the path may be secondary.

“Freeze” is a reaction oftentimes felt by those who are stunned or shocked with the trauma and their emotions paralyze them so that moving forwards or backwards is not considered.  Panic is the primary emotion, and staying still without a course of action is common-place.

Emotions have a hay-day with disturbances we have to face, such as this virus.  We can allow our emotions; like anxiety or fear or anger/blame or guilt, to guide us down a path that allows our passion or reactions to lead. 

We can also allow our own biases or personality traits to dominate our choice of paths, be it burying your head in the sand with a sei la vie’ attitude, fighting for power or control, reacting with a sense of being victimized and dependency, or sharing a full force of drama.

Resilience is a path that oftentimes is left forgotten.  Resilience allows for a brighter ending – being logical about the reality of the virus, appreciating the challenge of it all, seeking emotional and spiritual endurance, over-powering the temptation of reacting with raw emotion, and building inner strength may all be keys to finding the right path. 

Most of us believe that at some point we will return to a new normal but one we can accommodate with.  How are you going to get there?  In paraphrasing one author, “We all get off the train at the same time; but the experience of it all is up to us”.  Indeed, these are uncertain times.    Be aware of the path you choose.  

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

Spring is in the Air, so COVID-19 Has to Share

No one can take away our spring!!  It is that time of year that we have long been waiting for; the warmth of the sun, the popping of greens, the airborne freshness and fragrance of the season – a delight to our souls. 

Being outdoors is a huge benefit to mental health.  For the most part, through COVID 19 and during this Minnesota’s late winter, we have become destined as indoor creatures. As our brains have attempted to survive isolation with these long cold days, many of us have turned to exploring and operating technological advances.   However, as time has gone on, many of us have sunk into the grasp of these operative systems.  We have lost control and now suffer with its innumerable phone calls, time warps with computer over-indulgence and extended TV/movie successions, and then there are the inundating  tagalongs of sequential advertisements from all over, paperwork, political inquiries, fund raising requests; and all sorts of overwhelming information.  What happens to the brain with all this chaos?  It becomes frazzled, or exhausted, or drained, and weary.  It sinks into an android-like state, quivering and drooling, and half-stumped over.  What does it need?  It needs the outdoors!!  Especially in the spring!!  Enough of this swarm to this technological magnet! 

Going outside seems to be a natural remedy.  It reduces mental fatigue and washes away stress, at least for a while.   In fact, just 20-30 minutes a day outside in nature can meaningfully reduce cortisol levels and lower your stress level.  Spending time in nature has also been shown to improve symptoms of depression or prevent it from occurring.  And, of course, there is the sun – the natural light that has been shown to be beneficial, not even to improved moods but now studies point to higher self-esteem, especially when combined with outside exercise.  Getting a breath of fresh air, being in the sun, feeling the warm breeze, watching the season of life begin again; a true stress-reliever! 

Yet, we have to share this spring with COVID-19!!  No parks or recreational areas are open, walking is done mostly in isolated places, and no scurrying about with others as we see distant masked faces looking away to avoid contamination.  So, how do we sustain our mental health with the disappointment of limited access to the air we breathe and the outdoors we cherish this time of year?  Well, like it or not, we bulldoze ourselves right through.  That’s how!!  There is room in the air for both!!   We draw up some plans to help us get through.  We find some ways to make it work.  We can’t ignore either the reality of COVID-19 and the need for good mental health by being outside.  This is a big world.  We can do both.  COVID-19 just needs to share ‘cuz spring is in the air and good mental health is a key!!

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

Rumination is like a Hamster on the Wheel – A Never-Ending Loop that Takes you Nowhere

Lots of times, we get stuck with a plethora of unending and overwhelming thoughts.  They are usually negative, lined with bad memories, triggered by our mood, focused on past regrets or “what if’s”, and hold a distorted or pessimistic perspective of ourselves or others.  Some find negative emotions and thoughts as simply being a healthy and natural process of working through issues.  Others find their ruminations burdensome, and if left unchecked, breed more gloom and gather more speed, blasting away any withering positive inner voice, hiding some place in the wilderness.

As the mindset adapts to pessimistic thoughts and negativity, the software program in your head becomes routine and increasingly one-sided.  You may find yourself to be the person you never wanted to be, or you become the one your mother warned you about; you are unhappy, negative, depressed, and your mind no longer captures positive thoughts, or a more objective perspective in dealing with its difficulties.  There is no insight gained.  There is no problem-solving.  It is simply a matter of mind control from within.  Your inner voice needs some repair!!

Most negative ruminations are truly an unending journey and a waste of time.  So, how can you stop the spinning of the hamster treadmill?

  1. The first step is to recognize or gain insight into your ruminating.  Be an observer of yourself and watch when you ruminate?  How often?  When?  Where?  What about? Are there any solutions conjured up while you ruminate, or does it lead to a dead end, and likely picked up later? How does it impact your mood?  Does it bring about depression, or worry, or anger; and if so, how helpful are those emotions?  How much don’t you get accomplished by your ruminating?  What are the triggers?  What other things does it impact – your sleeping? – your relationships? – your self-esteem? – your happiness? 
  2. Take back your life!  Once you realize you are ruminating, remove that thought NOW!!  Definitely not easy, but it helps for the moment; – use distraction – focus on the opposite emotion and strive towards it, go to another topic or activity, talk to someone about something else or create or expand your hobbies and interests
  3. When you are ready, commit to changing the software program one step at a time; think differently, challenge old negative thoughts, locate those positives that have been hiding in the wilderness way too long,  stop worrying and focus on what you can control, work on forgiving yourself or others, learn from vs. obsess on regrets, live today and enjoy the moment.  No one said it was easy to change software programming, but truly it has got to be better than having a fatalistic, non-stop, never-ending wheel of burdening thoughts.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

Life as it Could be with COVID-19

As time passes, we become weighed in with the reality of it all.  This virus, as has been the case for so many contagions before us, could last for much longer than we had initially anticipated.  It may become a way of life for a while.  Working on managing the virus with social distancing, wearing masks/gloves, and being home-bound may be the beginning of a long process.  How do we move beyond interrupted anxiety about “what could happen?”; or lingering isolation with deepening loneliness and depression; or ongoing family or relationship conflicts with no individual space; or heightened stress about how to pay the bills or put food on the table?

How do we endure?  How do we use this time as a way to challenge ourselves with what we actually can change?  As well, how can we embrace our suffering so it doesn’t overcome us?  Indeed, it would be quite the challenge to allow ourselves to suffer without being run over by our negative thoughts and fears, much less the certainty of the realness of this crisis.  

What is it inside of us that brings ourselves to a sense of calm when the world is spinning around us?  Of course, it can be denying or minimizing the true effect of the spinning.  But beyond this, what characteristics or values or beliefs or vision does one hold to truly not give way to all of the chaos around us?

Is it a sense of who we are or how we define ourselves that makes a difference, or how we put together the real meaning of life?  Maybe a goal is to have an internal locus of control vs. reacting to what happens outside of ourselves.  Maybe it is redefining our purpose that drives us throughout our lifetime, regardless of the circumstances that befall upon us.  Maybe it is a time to turn in and look at what shapes our own principles or values, and sense of resolve, or true Faith beyond ourselves that gives us resolution?     Maybe that is what will help us endure – coming back to our roots; asking ourselves what life is supposed to be all about.  Maybe that is the way we can challenge ourselves with what we can actually change – a sense of serenity during a time of chaos.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

Need a Job During COVID-19? Consider Working at a Nursing Home

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you and your family?

The answer to this question is often complicated. Many of us find ourselves out of work and unable to leave our homes or visit with family and friends.

Isolation is difficult for many people to deal with, and losing your only source of income can put added stress into an already stressful situation. Fortunately, we’ve got an answer to both of these problems.

Keep reading to learn why you should consider working at a nursing home.

Top-Notch Pay and Perks

At St. William’s Living Center, we offer competitive pay and an excellent benefits package. During this pandemic, you don’t need the added stress of worrying about health care coverage for you and your family. At St. William’s we offer affordable health insurance to our employees including options for dental and vision coverage.

Our employees receive paid time off (PTO) which begins accruing on the day you start work. We also offer every employee a life insurance policy and we contribute to retirement accounts. If you’re considering moving up in the nursing field, we offer scholarships to continue your education and further your career.

Healthcare Jobs are Recession-Proof

One worrisome aspect of the global pandemic is not knowing what will happen with the economy. Fortunately for healthcare workers, our jobs are normally recession-proof. No matter what the economy looks like at the end of this pandemic, there will always be a need for people to take care of others.

With the threat of COVID-19 looming, it’s more important than ever that we have a full staff at St. William’s. By ensuring we have plenty of healthy workers to take care of our residents, we can prevent coronavirus infections and ultimately save lives.

Lots of Available Opportunities

You don’t have to be experienced or have an advanced degree to work at the nursing home. We currently have openings for housekeeping, resident support, dietary aides, and cooks. These openings are both part-time and full-time and we have temporary or permanent work options available.

If you’re interested in starting a new career in the nursing industry, we will help you get started by registering you for classes to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). If you already have a degree, we’re actively looking for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and mental health workers.

Make a Difference In Your Community

Helping others in the community is an excellent way to keep up morale. If you’ve lost your job because of COVID-19, working at the nursing home might be just what you need to stay healthy and active. There’s never a boring day when you’re caring for others.

You’ll know at the end of the day, you made a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. That’s a great feeling!

Start a Rewarding Career Working at a Nursing Home

Whether you’re looking for temporary work or a career change, working at a nursing home is an option for you! At St. William’s Living Center, we care about our residents and employees first and foremost, and we’re doing everything we can to keep everyone safe and happy.

Visit our Careers Page today to find out what jobs are available and how to apply. We’re always here to answer questions, so feel free to call us anytime!