When Claire Lucas entered a nursing home for the first time, she was anticipating walking into a room filled with smiling faces with laughter echoing throughout the halls. She expected to see nurses walking alongside Elders as they’d wave hello to her, their faces gleaming with happiness and joy. She thought she’d see something resembling a real home. Instead, she was greeted by unpleasant fumes and the sound of someone calling numbers for bingo. A group of Elders were huddled around the nursing station and the atmosphere was unsettling. Almost instantly, Claire felt like leaving – but thankfully, she stayed.
Although gerontology was never a field Claire thought to consider, the need to bring cultural change to the field was something Claire knew she had to help to achieve. Growing up listening to her grandparents stories and witnessing their love and affection, Claire knew the current way in which traditional nursing homes were run was not acceptable. To Claire, Elders held a certain value for which they needed to be appreciated. Thus, she decided to dedicate her efforts to helping reshape Elder care by working toward empowering and helping them at a time in their life when they needed it most.
Throughout her years Claire has worked in various capacities to assist people in Elderhood and at the end of life. As Director of Facility Based Hospice & Bereavement for The Denver Hospice in Colorado, Claire oversaw hospice services including opening a new patient care center and helping The Denver Hospice apply for The Eden Registry. Prior to her work with The Denver Hospice, Claire served as the Vice President of Operations for Vivage Quality Health Partners. Today, Claire serves as a Project Guide at the Green House Project and continues to contribute her skills and experience to help establish Green House homes across the nation.
- 19 years of experience as a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, opening new facilities and assisting in specialty program development
- Masters of Science in Gerontology, emphasis in Direct Service
- Regional Vice President for nine skilled nursing facilities in Colorado
- Eden Educator and LEAP Educator
- Presenter at numerous national conferences, including her special interest in Alzheimer’s Disease and culture change
- Board Member Colorado Culture Change Coalition
Claire has been incredibly active in her passion toward assisting those with Alzheimer’s. She has worked on developing some of the earliest Special Care Units and continues to remain active with those projects.
Claire enjoys international travel and visiting new places. She also enjoys theater, the arts along with the outdoors and hiking.
In a recent blog on ChangingAging.org, Kavan Peterson discusses the need to build an elder friendly future. According to Jim Diers, internationally renowned community-builder and former director of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, it means that we’ve created a world in which we’ve separated “the built environment from the natural and social environment, even though that’s not how we live. We separate our elders and our young people and people with disabilities. We can’t create community when we’re breaking up.”
Under the Aging Your Way initiative created by Denise Klein, CEO of the Seattle non-profit King County Senior Services, individuals came together and were asked to envision the lifestyle they’d want as elders. While individual answers varied, there were several themes which matched those of the Green House homes.
One of the themes was the need to be recognized as more than just an elder with needs. Instead, they wanted to be seen as individuals who could contribute their knowledge and wisdom, continue to learn and also be able to participate in outdoor activities. Earlier this year, residents and staff of the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community took to the outdoors and did some woodwork. The results were several pieces of furniture for each home in the Woodland Park neighborhood: a dining room table which seats 14, a hutch, a game table, side table and matching bookshelves. Green House homes empower Elders to actively participate in meaningful activities, giving them the autonomy and control to plan their day as they choose. Not only does this eliminate the structure of institutionalized care, but it also works to shape an elder-friendly world outside the home.
As the process of aging begins, the need to be surrounded by loved ones grows even stronger. This feeling of belonging is grows even stronger when Elders remain connected to their community in a purposeful way, and with intergenerational engagement. With the initiatives set up by Peterson and Klein and with Green House homes working to empower Elders, the potential to fully integrate Elders and the community is not only a possibility, but a necessity for a rich and robust world.
The effects of Alzheimer’s disease hit close to home for many people and remain a global issue effecting over 35.6 million people worldwide. This September, World Alzheimer’s Month focused on global advocacy with researchers in all parts of the world working to help people affected and their families in not only finding a cure, but also a way to help prevent the disease. Although the month is over, these efforts have continued.
As strenuous as Alzheimer’s and other dementias may be on elders and their families, the financial burdens of covering treatments and other medical costs that come along with it can be more exhausting. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, payments for treatment and overall healthcare costs for Alzheimer’s and other dementias will increase from $203 billion in 2013 to $1.2 trillion in 2050. More than half of these payments will come from either middle-income or low-income countries whose citizens face other financial struggles along with the added Alzheimer’s treatment costs.
As these statistics continue to rise, it’s vital that those affected by Alzheimer’s disease be seen as whole people, who are deserving of meaningful lives. The Green House Project has consistently recognized the unique needs of every Elder, including those living with dementia related illnesses. Residents of Green House homes experience a real home setting with smaller groups of 6-12 Elders. This feeling of being at home helps Elders to remember familiar patterns of behavior thus helping to reduce any anxiety or uneasiness they may have. A highly trained staff works alongside elders and caters to their every need. Specially trained with an additional 128 hours of education beyond what’s typically required for the CNA certificate allows the staff to put more emphasis on person-directed dementia care.
Earlier this year, researchers in Sweden were able to detect changes within nerve cells which occur during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. By discovering this, researchers may be able to fight the disease using new approaches and may possibly be able to create new treatments. More recently, researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found links between different proteins responsible for characteristic plagues and tangles in aging brains which may lead to Alzheimer’s.
It goes without saying that these findings and those of other researchers around the world are due in large part to the donations and funding they receive. On September 21st, the World Alzheimer’s Action Day sought to bring awareness and knowledge to this pressing global issue, emphasizing areas in which both time and monetary donations can help with Alzheimer’s research. There is much that can be done to help with awareness campaigns and the growing need for increased research funding. Whether you wish to help at a local level or play your role in spreading global advocacy, there is plenty of opportunity available. Contact your local Alzheimer’s organization or visit the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America or the Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America: http://www.alzfdn.org/
Alzheimer’s Association: http://www.alz.org/