Green House Blog

Louis "Lou" DeLucia — a very special Elder who inspired so many

Saying goodbye is never easy.  Saying goodbye to a particularly adventurous soul – one who embodied so much of our vision to lead and inspire a shift in society’s views of elderhood –- is especially difficult.  Louis “Lou” DeLucia was a friend, a wise elder, an independent spirit, an advocate, and a shining example of what is unique and beautiful about the Green House model of skilled nursing care.

Lou challenged staff and fellow residents to “think outside the box.”  Earlier this year, he came to the table at one of St. John’s community-based Green House homes in Penfield, NY and said, “We should get a dog.”  Lou had the insight to see how this pet could enhance their quality of life.  Alexandra, or Lexi, as she’s called, moved in on June 24, and has become a cherished companion. Says elder Dorothy Carcelli, first-time dog owner at age 89, “She (Lexi) brings a lot of joy to everybody.”

Lou insisted on going outside every day, even throughout the winter.  We worried for him, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.  He made friends throughout the adjacent Arbor Ridge community and when they hosted their holiday party, Lou was the elder they invited. After his passing on August 12, they came together to give a gift in his honor.  They wrote, “Lou was a good neighbor and friend, and quite a character as well!  We in Arbor Ridge will miss his presence and remember him fondly.” This gesture is evidence of the community connections and relationships Lou formed because he had the opportunity to be a part of something beyond the traditional nursing home and took advantage of it each and every day.

Lou reminds us to keep celebrating and keep seeking these non-traditional approaches to meaningful days for our elders.

He has left a valuable legacy.

Rhythms of the Day, Evening Time

Sometimes it’s not as complicated as it seems.  Sometimes it just takes a closer look at a situation and the solution might not be as challenging or impossible as we may believe.  “Sundowning” has long been a complicated issue for those who care for the elderly.  It is the term used to describe agitation, irritability, disorientation that some people with dementia experience during the late afternoon or evening.  But is it the dementia that causes the “sundowning”?  Eden Mentor, Dr. G. Allen Power, from St. John’s Home in Rochester, New York says “No” and offers a different perspective on the issue:

“Dementia simply “fans the flames” by making people (1) more sensitive to their environment, (2) more easily fatigued, and (3) less able to cope with having their biorhythms shifted into artificial schedules that better suit our nursing home operations.

This is a small distinction, but a very important one. Here’s why: We cannot cure dementia, but we can cure almost all cases of “sundowning” without medication, by shifting operational patterns and staff behavior.”

You may wonder if it could be that simple.  Dr. Power suggests that we take a look at the latest issue of the NYC Alzheimer’s Association newsletter which tells a compelling story about how a care home in Phoenix made just those changes and have been virtually “sundown-free” for over a decade.  Jane Verity, Founder and CEO for Dementia Care Australia, fully agrees with Dr. Power.  

“Sundowning is not a symptom of dementia. To me it is a symptom of an environment that does not feel like home. Our job is to make the place where people with dementia live – one of genuine kindness, love and compassion, where each and everyone has opportunity and is encouraged to contribute, feel needed and useful, have opportunity to care, self esteem boosted and the power to choose (which is different from having the ability to choose). As you write, the challenge for us is to shift focus from our routines and hurry to their emotional and spiritual needs. However the end result is so rewarding for everyone.”

Judy Berry, Founder of the Lakeview Ranch specializing in dementia care in Minnesota echoes the same message. 

Many times, in an effort to change a specific behavior, care partners try to distract or redirect the person without first validating the feeling or emotion they are trying to communicate. This devalues their feelings and often they become more agitated.  By making the effort to learn each individual’s lifestyle, developing a trusting relationship, respecting and validating their feelings and meeting their needs, most so called behavior is eliminated.”

Dr. Power encourages all of us to take a look at our teams and challenges us to create a more natural experience that honors the individual rhythms of our elders.  A great way to show that culture change not only improves the quality of life, but clinical care as well.  What better way for all of us to start out 2012!