Aging Parents and the Importance of Communication -

Aging Parents and the Importance of Communication

Conversations between an aging parent and their grown child can be frustrating as the parent ages. Roles have reversed and the grown child is now taking the place as the caregiver for their parent. Instead of asking a parent a question such as, “How was your day?” or “Can you give me advice on…”, grown children will ask “Did you take your medicine today?” or “Why would you do that?”

When communicating with aging parents it’s important to remember their life is rapidly changing and they are trying to maintain a sense of independence. It’s difficult for seniors to rely on others for care and to help solve their problems when they maintained control of their own life before.

Here are helpful tips to keep in mind when communicating with aging parents to keep your relationship healthy and to make the most of your time together.

  1. Take time and be respectful. While adult children are caught up in the demands of family, work, and finances, their parents’ lives have slowed down. They have less of a sense of urgency to get things done and may take time to make decisions. It’s not always about being slow or a diminished capacity. This can be frustrating, but remember, parents have a lifetime of experience to draw from and want to make the best decision, instead of the fastest. Be respectful of their slower approach so they won’t think you are trying to control them.
  1. Make time and listen. A quick phone call to check-in or help out with chores is helpful for your parents, however, these aren’t quality moments to build your relationship. Make time to have quality days with your parents, even one-on-one, to talk and listen. Let your parents guide the discussion and listen and ask open-ended questions. You’ll be surprised what you will learn about your parent, their life and present concerns

Aging Parents and the Importance of Communication -

  1. Reminisce about life. Adult children may think they know their parent, but when you take the time to reminisce about life with them you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn. Ask questions to learn more about the situations they faced, people they met or places they lived or visited. These life stories are important for families to understand and appreciate who they are.
  1. Ask for advice. Parents are used to their children coming to them for advice or help, and it’s tough to no longer be consulted by your grown children as you age. While the type of advice a grown child is looking for may have changed, look for opportunities to ask “What do you think of this Mom?” or “Dad, what’s more important to you?”

While these are simple tips, these will help you understand more about your parent’s past and what they are going through day-to-day as they age.

Napoletan on a mission to end Alzheimer’s

Ann Napoletan was presented with the “Spirit of Philanthropy” award by Jeff Wolf, National Church Residences Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and Mission Impact, at the organization’s national conference in September.

By LANCE CRANMER                                                     

COLUMBUS – It was a bit of a shock when Ann Napoletan’s daughter put a hand on her shoulder during the awards presentation at the National Church Residences national conference.

“I didn’t know why she was there,” recalled Ann, an Treasury Manager at the home office in Columbus. “I thought maybe something was wrong.”

Ann was sitting at a table full of colleagues, who had suspiciously made sure their table was toward the front of the room. Little did Ann know that she was the only one at the table – including her daughter – who did not know she was about to receive the National Church Residences “Spirit of Philanthropy” award from Jeff Wolf, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and Mission Impact.

“I had absolutely no idea,” Ann said. “I was just blown away. Absolutely blown away. I still am.”

From 9 to 5 (and sometimes even longer) Ann crunches numbers as part of the team of accountants who manage National Church Residences’ budgets. But it is the tireless work she does on the side that truly embodies the organization’s “Spirit of Philanthropy.”

Four years ago Ann lost her mother, Marilyn, to Alzheimer’s Disease shortly after her 76th birthday.

“My mom was the most lively, full-of-life person,” Ann said, sitting for this interview on what would have been Marilyn’s 80th birthday. “My daughter doesn’t want to see the words Alzheimer’s or dementia. I’m the opposite.

“I have to know there’s a greater purpose. For me that’s advocating, teaching, writing, helping other families. It’s almost like a second career.”

After her mother’s passing, Ann began a blog called, “The Long and Winding Road” at

“The best way I can keep mom’s memory alive is to keep telling her story,” Ann said.

As her writing gained popularity, she was asked to contribute to the online content for organization’s that dealt directly with Alzheimer’s care.

In 2013 she was asked to co-moderate an online support group called, “Us Against Alzheimer’s.”

“This year I launched a non-profit in my mom’s name,” she added. “I had done so much fundraising for other groups, I just wanted to have a little more control of where the fundraising dollars were going.”

Marilyn’s Legacy: A World Without Alzheimer’s is Ann’s non-profit that is focused on not only finding a cure for Alzheimer’s but also providing unique opportunities to benefit individuals currently living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“I know that I’m making a direct impact on these people’s lives,” Ann said.

The fact that National Church Residences made a point to recognize Ann for her work made it a little more special.

“It was a great experience to be recognized,” she said. “To be at a company that cares about things like that … that it’s not all bottom-line oriented. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Ann added that it is because of her experience in facing her mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease that she found her way to National Church Residences in June of 2014.

“I am at National Church Residences because of my mom,” she said. “I was at Nationwide for 27 years. I was in a good place financially and career-wise, but I wasn’t fulfilled at all.”

With a background in treasury, Ann said that it was like divine intervention that the position she currently holds became available at the exact time she felt the need to make a change.

“This treasury job almost fell into my lap,” she said. “This is where I’m meant to be. Even on a bad day, that over-arching mission is still there. I gave up a lot, but I’m so happy here.”

Mill Run Announces Plans for Alzheimer’s Memory Gardens

HILLIARD, OH – Each year, Alzheimer’s disease slowly steals memories away from the nearly 5.1 million Americans who live with the condition.

For the families and loved ones who feel the effects of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, finding a way to help them remember is a crucial part of providing them with care.

At National Church Residences Mill Run, a senior community located in the Columbus suburb of Hilliard, a plan was unveiled to residents at the annual Christmas celebration on Thursday, December 11, for a one-of-a-kind facility that will provide residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia a chance to re-experience happier times.

“The true beauty of everything we do involves life and death. It’s an evolution,” said Linda Roehrenbeck, Executive Director of Mill Run, at the announcement of the plans for Mill Run’s Alzheimer’s and Dementia Memory Gardens. “This project will evolve. Just like our lives do.”

Scheduled to break ground in 2015, the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Memory Gardens at National Church Residences Mill Run will be constructed in multiple phases, eventually culminating in a beautiful outdoor area complete with a park, a garden, a therapy and art wall and a patio for dining and relaxing.

“This garden is grace. There will be moments of serendipity. It will be a way to bring back moments of their lives that were joyful,” said Roehrenbeck. “It has meaning and purpose.”

To design the Memory Gardens, Mill Run enlisted the services of Linda Wilson, a landscape architect with MKSK, who found special meaning in helping with the project.

Wilson’s husband Ron passed away a year ago at the age of 58 from complications due to early onset Alzheimer’s.

“I first came into contact with National Church Residences because I had my husband in their adult day services,” Wilson said. “(That facility) was (previously) an outdoor garden center that had a nice outdoor space. For me a major concern was the quality of life outside of the four walls.”

With the care her husband received in mind, Wilson began designing early plans for an Alzheimer’s memory garden but did not initially have a plan for its location. Mill Run became the ideal spot after Wilson was introduced to Roehrenbeck through a mutual friend who also had a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“Linda talked to me and asked, ‘What do I know about Alzheimer’s Memory Gardens?’” Wilson said. “We developed a plan for this facility and here we are.”

Wilson’s design for the phases of the Mill Run Alzheimer’s and Dementia Memory Gardens was on display for residents and their families to see during the Christmas celebration. Seeing so many people admire her work meant a great deal to Wilson.

“I teared up,” she said. “It was like, ‘Wow, it’s eventually going to come together.’”

Joining Wilson in the presentation of the Memory Gardens was Pete Trombetti, a commercial builders and one of the project’s initial major donors.

Trombetti’s wife, Maggie, had been a resident of Mill Run from June 2013 until her passing in July 2014.

“We were married for 20 years,” he said. “We traveled the world, the two of us.”

After Maggie’s passing, Trombetti kept in touch with Roehrenbeck at Mill Run.

“I came in to see Linda and she said something about creating a Memory Garden,” Trombetti said. “I said, ‘I’m in!’”

Trombetti said his late wife had a love for gardening and the outdoors in general and that his involvement in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Memory Gardens was on Maggie’s behalf.

“A few of you knew my wife,” he told the audience. “This is for her.”

Trombetti said he was grateful to the staff at Mill Run for the care they gave his wife during her final months.

“Definitely. People like this here,” he said, greeting a Mill Run nurse he knew with a hug. “These are the gems. That’s the reason.”

The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Memory Garden at Mill Run will be constructed in phases as funding becomes available. To make charitable contributions to the project, please contact the National Church Residences Philanthropy team at (614) 273-3582 or Roehrenbeck at (614) 771-0100.

Volunteer opportunities in developing and maintaining the garden will also be available.

(Written by Lance Cranmer, Media/Public Relations Specialist at National Church Residences. Cranmer can be reached at

Validation Therapy for Alzheimer's Sufferers -

Validation Therapy for Alzheimer’s Sufferers

By: Linda Roehrenbeck

There have been years of trial and error as we look retrospectively at the practice of caring for an individual with Dementia. Reality orientation, redirection, and restraint are no longer the most effective methods of caregiving for people with Dementia.

Research is still in its infancy. Evidence-based, best practices of care are being identified, providing support for families and caregivers. One such practice is Validation, developed by Naomi Feil, M.S.W., A.C.S.W. Validation theory explains that many very old disoriented people, who are often diagnosed as having Alzheimer type dementia, are in the final stage of life trying to resolve unfinished issues in order to die in peace. Their final struggle is important and we, as caregivers and family, can help them.

Validation is built on an empathetic attitude and a holistic view of individuals. When one can “step into the shoes” of another human being and “see through their eyes,” one can step into the world of disoriented very old people and understand the meaning of their sometimes bizarre behavior.

Validation is a theory that very old people struggle to resolve unfinished life issues before death. Their behavior is age-specific.

Validation techniques offer disoriented elderly an opportunity to express what they wish to express whether it is verbal or non-verbal communication. Validation practitioners are caring, non-judgmental and open to the feelings that are expressed. When unresolved feelings are suppressed for many years, they grow more powerful. When we listen with empathy for these expressions, the intensity of emotion lessens and the person with dementia communicates more freely and is less likely to withdraw further.

Based on the collaboration with health care providers and with family members the resulting findings need to emphasized and translated into best practices for healthcare environments, home, hospital, adult day care, assisted living and long-term care.

Family caregivers of people with dementia carry the weight on their shoulders, and often developing stress, poor health, and financial strain as a result. While many caregivers want to “live in the moment” and hope that they will not have to face the challenges posed by the dementia progression, most ultimately will. Therefore, we believe that these family caregivers of persons with dementia deserve the same level of anticipatory guidance to ensure that they are prepared for each new transition. Using the Validation theory as a framework for the development and implementation of clinical and educational approaches, we can play a pivotal role in the health and well-being of persons with dementia and their family.

The Principles of Validation Therapy are that:
1. All people are unique and must be treated as individuals.
2. All people are valuable, no matter how disoriented they are.
3. There is a reason behind the behavior of disoriented old-old people.
4. Behavior in old-old age is not merely a function of anatomic changes in the brain but reflects a combination of physical, social and psychological changes that take place over the lifespan.
5. Old-old people cannot be forced to change their behaviors. Behaviors can be changed only if the person wants to change them.
6. Old-old people must be accepted nonjudgmentally.
7. Particular life tasks are associated with each stage of life. Failure to complete a task at the appropriate stage of life may lead to psychological problems.
8. When more recent memory fails, older adults try to restore balance, in their lives by retrieving earlier memories. When eyesight fails, they use the mind’s eye to see. When hearing goes, they listen to sounds from the past.
9. Painful feelings that are expressed, acknowledged, and Validated by a trusted listener will diminish. Painful feelings that are ignored or suppressed will gain strength.
10. Empathy builds trust, reduces anxiety, and restores dignity.

Linda Roehrenbeck, BSN MBA, is the executive director of National Church Residences Mill Run, and a Certified Validation Worker. Linda provides in-house guidance, support and small group presentations in the practice of Validation.