Friday, December 21, 2018

A Christmas Letter from Ellin Ostler, resident at Vista del Monte

Merry Christmas. I have decided to send you a Christmas letter about "Service" this year instead of a card. Service has brought a lot of joy into my life and I hope it will for you. Below are words I wrote in the 1980s as I was pondering on the meaning of service. They still represent my beliefs today.

"Service given freely with no expectation of something in return is one of the greatest sources of true joy and happiness. However, service which is not given freely and unconditionally will bring resentment and unhappiness."

I have hired, trained, and supervised hundreds of employees during my life. During their training, I told them a story about how I learned to make a seemingly boring job fun. The story goes like this:

I had a part-time job as an usher at the BYU Marriot Center where the BYU basketball team play their games. I was assigned, the VIP entrance each year. Most of the people had season tickets and sat in the same seat each year. It was a boring job because everyone knew where his or her seats were and I did not have anything to do.

One year, I decided I was going to do something different. As people came to my entrance, I stood right in front of them as they came in, looked into their eyes, gave them a big smile, and said, "Hi, how are you tonight?" They were shocked and surprised. I am sure they thought I was a little weird. I continued to do it each game during the basketball season;

To my surprise, after a few games, many of the people tried to beat me to the punch by saying "Hi," and wishing me well first. After a few games, they began to treat me as if I was one of their good friends. Some of them even brought me food to eat during the game.

Sometimes, I would see these people downtown away from the Center, and they would come up to me and wanted to know how I was doing. They often had to remind me where I had met them. I was shocked about how something as simple as a smile and saying hi could make such a difference in my relationship with people. I learned from this experience that I could make a boring job fun just by smiling and saying hi. I also learned that it is impossible for me to give more than I receive when I freely give of myself.

I had another experience when I was working at UCSB. I supervised a group of students who were responsible for the student union building when it was open. The only time we could all meet for a weekly staff meeting was at 7:00am. Most of the students at UCSB stay up late and are not use to going to a meeting so early in the morning. I decided to show my appreciation to them by bringing them something to eat. At first, they were very appreciative of my gesture.

These students also worked with the student union catering manager. The manager decided to show his appreciation by fixing them a breakfast for .the meeting.

Before long, the students started to complain when they didn't get what they expected. What started out to be gift of appreciation turned out to be an obligation for me and the catering manager. We decided to stop giving them food because it had become an expectation. The students were disappointed, but I think they learned an important lesson about being grateful. I experienced the joy of giving until it became an obligation.

I have decided to experience the joy of giving as often as possible by freely giving of my time and talents. I have also decided that when giving becomes an obligation or an expectation, I will find another way to give. I hope you experience the joy of giving this Christmas.

May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

-Ellin Ostler, Vista del Monte resident

Vista del Monte Retirement Community in Santa Barbara’s Hidden Valley serves seniors from all walks of life in Southern California.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sunny View and Summer House Residents Make Connections Through Memory Bridge

Gennie Waters has a special moment with her friend Maxine.
Sunny View resident Gennie Waters remembers her longtime friend Maxine as a talkative, vibrant, funny person. But in the past several years, dementia has compromised Maxine’s ability to express those qualities, as she would have in the past. However, Gennie is still able to connect with her friend, a resident of Summer House, Sunny View’s memory care neighborhood, but in a different way using techniques she learned from Memory Bridge, an empathetic form of communication.

 “I am a Bridge!” Gennie exclaims, who learned how to “be with” Maxine and how vital being together is to her and Maxine’s lives, regardless of cognitive capacities.

“We may not communicate in the same way but our time together is just as special to me as always,” Gennie said. “Some days when I visit, Maxine does not recognize me and that’s OK. Other days I can see her light up as soon as she sees me. That’s the special part. At first, I thought I was helping her but then I realized she was helping me learn patience. This has changed my life.”

 Memory Bridge training at Sunny View is funded by resident Jean Eckert through Sunny View Foundation and spearheaded by Sunny View Chaplain Pastor Carol Been. About 15 staff members, residents, family members and volunteers participated in the initial training that teaches non-verbal ways of empathic communication, or ways of “being with” people with cognitive impairment. The techniques are meant to combat emotional isolation that often affects those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

 According to the training course, one of the biggest mistakes people can make is to stop communicating with those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia because of the erroneous belief that they are “gone.” This counter productive approach to communicating with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia not only negatively impacts the individual living with memory loss by making them feel lonely and depressed, but it also deprives those who have stopped communicating from learning valuable lessons from these individuals, like the importance of presence and patience.

 Chia-Liang Li visits his Memory Bridge “buddy” at Summer House at least once a week. “We are both Chinese and both Christian so we have that in common,” Chia-Liang said. “I just don’t want her to be lonely. I do the best I can to let her know I care about her and her son appreciates that.”

“A one-on-one approach is the focus,” said Sunny View Volunteer Coordinator Julia Earley, who participated in the training and visits her buddy Marie, regularly. “We learn to be in the moment and let our buddies guide us during our visit. Sometimes a simple touch is all that’s necessary to get a positive response.”

With additional funding from the Sunny View Foundation, Sunny View hopes to expand training to more volunteers.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Pioneering physician, veteran, family man, detective novel enthusiast, 60-year Santa Barbara resident and amateur astronomer all describe Vista del Monte resident Dr. Dean Vogel.

“I have a full life -- a somewhat exciting life -- and I’m looking forward to experiencing new things at Vista del Monte,” Dr. Vogel said.

Dr. Vogel was born in a small town in Indiana but moved to southern California when his brother received a basketball scholarship to play at USC. After graduating from medical school, he was an associate member of the Mayo Clinic before coming to Santa Barbara. He was instrumental in bringing coronary care to southern California in 1968 when the field was in its infancy.

Although the retired internist likes to keep up to date on the latest medical news, he spends most of his time enjoying the simple pleasures of life with his wife Mary at Vista del Monte.

“The last few years I’ve been the cook in the family so I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore,” Dr. Vogel said with a smile. “The food here is excellent. And whenever we go to dinner here we end up sitting with someone with a PhD, or someone who performed on the New York stage or someone with an interesting hobby or story. The people here are just fantastic!”

He describes his wife Mary as a crossword puzzle expert. They both appreciate the newly landscaped grounds. “I don’t think there is another retirement community in the area that has such a wonderful garden as we have here.”

When Dr. Vogel wants some quiet time, he listens to detective novels using books on tape or gazes at the stars from his balcony through his telescope – lifelong hobbies that he has plenty of time to savor.

 “Living at a continuing care community was important to us at this time of life.” Dr. Vogel added. “We looked at several communities but Vista del Monte is by far the best choice for us.”