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Posted:Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Summer activities can help improve common health complaints

The sun is out! (Most of the time, anyway.)

Not only is this beautiful Whatcom County sunshine good for the soul, it can be quite good for the body, too.

As people age, we start to become more and more concerned with common health topics, such as arthritis, heart health, brain health and falls. These, in fact, are the most common health issues for seniors.

But there are ways to get out in the sun and help improve each and every one of them:

Exercise to relieve joint pain: Osteoarthritis, often referred to as degenerative joint disease, is a common cause of joint pain. It occurs most often in knees, hips, lower back, neck, fingers and toes (particularly the big one). One of the best ways to fight it is to improve circulation, and one of the best ways to do that is to be physically active.

Many seniors are tempted to stay still, because doing so can alleviate arthritis pain in the short term. Down the road, though, inactivity can contribute to worsening circulation, joints and ligaments. As much as possible, grab a partner or a friend and get out and move. You might even consider joining an adult day health program where there are supervised exercise opportunities.

Lift weights for heart health: The American Heart Association recommends exercise not only as a path to a healthier heart, but as a way to reduce risk factors of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and cognitive dysfunction. Here are a few heart-healthy exercises, all of which can be done while seated:

  • Lift one leg off the floor until it’s pointed straight out, then hold it there for a few seconds before letting it back down.
  • With a light weight in each hand and a slight bend to your elbows, lift your arms out to your side until they’re parallel to the ground. Let them back down slowly.
  • Lift your knees toward your chest while squeezing your abdominal muscles. Once your feet are a few inches off the ground, hold them there for a few seconds before letting go.

Dance for brain health: Research has shown that lowered blood pressure and an active social life can prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. One solution? Dance! It’s great for reducing blood pressure, and it helps seniors remain social.

Walk for fall prevention: It may seem counterintuitive to walk more to fall less, but really it’s the only way to build the strength and confidence necessary to prevent falls. One in three older Americans falls every year, and falls are the leading cause of injuries in the elderly. But physical activity can be enormously helpful in preventing falls. As with any activity, seniors always should discuss these issues with their doctors, who will have specific recommendations (perhaps instead of walking, the doctor will recommend water aerobics or physical therapy).

Summer months bring many opportunities for staying active, no matter what your age is. So get out and enjoy the sun and the health benefits of movement!

Posted:Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Three tips for visiting a loved one living in long-term care

Do you have a loved one living in a skilled nursing facility like Christian Health Care Center in Lynden?

CHCC gets a lot of family visitors, and many of them aren’t quite sure how to interact with their loved one, other long-term care residents and even staff so we’re sharing three quick tips.

Personal visits:

Every day, we see how our residents’ faces light up at the sight of a daughter, grandson or special friend! Drop by to socialize with your loved one. Share some cookies (please ask nursing staff ahead of time if there are dietary restrictions), read a book out loud, help them write letters to family members, take them for a stroll in the courtyard or spend time reminiscing.

Share talents:

Christian Health Care Center benefits from the support of volunteers in a variety of areas. You can spend time with your loved one while also brightening the days of other residents at CHCC by volunteering in our facility. Ask to speak with CHCC’s volunteer coordinator about any of these opportunities:

  • Are you a singer or piano player? We’re always looking for people to play live music sessions.
  • Do you enjoy crafts? Sign up as a craft leader to help long-term care residents with various hand-mind activities.
  • Do you have a pet who is social and calm? Talk to a therapeutic recreation staff member about bringing your dog, cat or other pet by the facility to share some special snuggle time with residents.
  • Have you gone on an interesting vacation lately? Our residents would love to see a slideshow presentation of your pictures and stories from the trip.

Communicate with the staff:
When you visit, it’s a good idea to stop by the nursing station to check in before heading to your loved one’s room. The more you know about how they are doing – physically and emotionally — the better equipped you’ll be to spend time with them on any given day.

Note: Remember to be respectful of long-term care staff members’ time. Our nurses and nursing assistants, for example, are quite busy taking care of residents. They are happy to greet friends and family of our residents who are visiting, but they do need to keep moving and attending to those under our care.

With a bit of planning and understanding, visiting your loved one in long-term care can be a meaningful activity you can build into your regular schedule.

Christian Health Care Center’s reception desk is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and we’d love to see you! Please drop by. And, remember that if you have any questions about long-term care or the health and wellness of an aging loved one, our care team of nurses and social workers are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to ask.

Posted:Thursday, April 27th, 2017

NAC program at CHCC named one of best in state

Great news!

The Nursing Assistant Certified training program at Christian Health Care Center has been named one of the top-performing programs in the state of Washington, based on the percentage of students who pass the difficult state certification exam.

Making this announcement was the state Department of Social and Health Services, which invited CHCC’s training specialist, Dianne Anderson, to share info about what makes her program a success. Her feedback and experiences were shared at an April DSHS workshop.

Passing the state NAC test is not easy. Anderson knows that, and she’s structured her classes to ensure the best possible result for her students.

Her primary motto is practice, practice, practice.

“I tell my students that if they don’t practice prior to the state test, they will fail it,” Anderson says. “This has proven to be the truth.”

Anderson’s NAC classes at Christian Health Care Center are broken up into two sections: theory and skills. The state has a long list of required knowledge and abilities for nursing assistants, and Anderson aims to ensure her students ace them all.

Every day in class, Anderson’s students have a theory test: eight overall, plus the final exam. To finish the course, students must pass each test with at least 80 percent. They can only retake one exam, and Anderson says that gives students the motivation they need to study hard.

Related: What does an NAC do? Click here to find out. 

Students also must learn practical nursing skills; they practice for the final state skills test by working with each other in class under Anderson’s supervision. She helps them correct mistakes and gives tips for doing better next time. The students also have floor rotations during which they work with residents and patients at CHCC.

As a teacher, Anderson promises her students that she’ll always give extra help when they need it. Her only requirement: Her students must also give 100-percent effort.

This agreement has led to astounding success in just the short time that Anderson has been running classes.

For NACs who train at CHCC, there’s more at stake than just the state test. Any student who joins the program also has been vetted for a job at CHCC in Lynden. If they pass the class and the state test, many are offered a job.

And what’s more, CHCC pays all class-related expenses (instructor fee, books, testing and application fees, etc., a $1,000 value). There’s no cost to students for the class.

For information about how to get started in the NAC training program at Christian Health Care Center, visit the website (and apply online!) or contact CHCC.


Posted:Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

Tips for battling elder loneliness

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Loneliness can lead to early death. Studies consistently show that the feeling of being alone is a leading contributor to poor physical and mental health among the elderly.

One such study, from the University of California, San Francisco, found that those 60 and older who reported feeling lonely showed a 59-percent greater risk of mental and physical decline than their non-lonely peers. They also were 45 percent more likely to die early.

But the thing about loneliness is that it’s a self-perpetuating problem, meaning that the lonelier people feel, the more likely they are to engage in isolating behaviors. And on top of that, Americans love their independence and aren’t likely to volunteer that they need help.

So, what can adult children and loved ones do if they’re concerned a senior may be lonely?

For starters, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with your parents or loved ones about loneliness. They aren’t likely to ask for help, but it’s likely that they need it. According to the UCSF study, 43 percent of seniors report feeling lonely regularly.

When you have the conversation, consider these possible solutions for elder loneliness. No matter your loved one’s level of independence or activity, there’s a solution that can help him or her thrive.

  • Get involved with a local senior center. The senior centers in Lynden, Ferndale, Blaine and Bellingham all offer good drop-in activities, which can help them make and build important, lasting friendships. In addition, senior centers also introduce the elderly to a whole host of other vital community services.
  • Join a day-health program with structured social activities. Adult day health programs like Northwest Adult Day Health and Wellness Center are especially useful for those who need a bit of medical support. NWADH helps adults and people with long-term illness and disabilities stay social and active while maintaining their independence and ability to safely live at home.
  • Find a nursing home that offers a robust activity program. Keep in mind that the elderly can be lonely even in nursing homes, so it’s important to find one like Christian Health Care Centerthat offers regular social activities with an emphasis on keeping people active and engaged.

If you’re worried about loneliness for an elder in your life and you’d like more information about care options, contact Christian Health Care Center in Lynden. The center’s activity leaders strongly believe that positive, engaged interactions are critical to maintaining and even improving health and well-being, regardless of age or ability.


Posted:Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

CHCC’s resident council lets residents contribute to how the center is run

Once a month at Christian Health Care Center in Lynden, a group of residents gather in the activity room to discuss how life is going for the center’s long-term residents.

They discuss everything of importance to them, from the quality of the food in the dining room to privacy concerns.

Resident council members are an important part of life at the skilled nursing center, says Brett Bajema, interim director of therapeutic recreation at CHCC.

Topics brought up by the resident council can be complex, he says, and CHCC holds the residents’ input in the highest regard. The essence of the council, he adds, is residents representing themselves and making space for discussions.

“Often, concerns or praises arise organically during conversations, and resident council meetings make space for these topics to be brought to a larger audience,” Bajema says.

At each meeting, individuals who are receiving long-term care at CHCC have time in private, without staff present, to discuss any issues and concerns they might have. Then, during a portion of each meeting when department heads are present, the council can discuss matters directly with them.

CHCC department heads work hard to find answers to issues raised at the meetings; typically they’ll provide an update or response at the next meeting, Bajema says.

Resident council meetings are run by members of a resident leadership team, who are voted on by other individuals who live full-time at CHCC. Officers are the president, vice president and board advisors. All residents are invited to each meeting, as are the heads of the dietary, environmental services, administrative, social services and therapeutic recreation departments. Meetings typically consist of updates from each of the department heads on various projects and changes, such as new staff, new policies, new menu items, new activities and so on.

Recently, the council has been discussing dietary options on the menu. Those discussions have resulted in a new omelet cart being available to residents one day per week. Some residents have been stumping for more mentally stimulating games, such as Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, trivia and brain teasers. In response, CHCC has added those games to this month’s activity schedule.

Other recent conversations at council meetings have included availability of TV channels, phone services and privacy questions.

“Resident council groups are vital,” Bajema says. “Having a place where residents can share their thoughts and ideas directly with department heads allows for open communication between the facility and those who live there for long-term care.”

It’s just one more way that the Lynden health-care center works to provide compassionate care in a loving environment for those they serve.

To learn more about Christian Health Care Center or to inquire about admissions to our facility in north Whatcom County, visit the CHCC website or contact 360-354-4434.