Thankfulness and Gratitude

With the Thanksgiving Holiday occurring tomorrow, this PLTC Blob post will share some thoughts on gratitude.  Practicing gratitude is a tool that not only is helpful for our therapy clients (of all ages and in all settings) but is also a tool that can improve our own wellbeing, resiliency, and positive affect.

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has.  Practicing gratitude is an active, conscious, activity of recognizing the good things in one’s life that are independent of monetary worth (Psychology Today:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/gratitude).     

Research has consistently shown the benefits of practicing gratitude, including boosting happiness, fostering both physical and psychological health, and leading to physical and biological changes in our brain chemistry.  “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships (Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier).” Research studies also show that practicing gratitude reduces the use of words expressing negative emotions and shifts inner attention away from negative emotions and ruminating over them (Psychology Today).     

Practicing gratitude is something we, as clinical providers, can do ourselves to support enhanced self-care and increase our own well-being.  Practicing gratitude can also be utilized as a clinical intervention with our long-term care clients to help them cultivate more positive coping mechanisms and adjustment to their age-related losses and decline.

Consider these suggestions below to foster gratitude (in ourselves and our clients):

  • Keep a “gratitude” journal.
  • Write down (or even say or simply actively think about) “three good things” daily (these can be small moments).
  • Write thank you notes to others.
  • Engage in “mental subtraction,” which entails imagining what your life would be like if some positive events had not occurred.

Below, please find a more in-depth description on gratitude and how it pertains to the practice of psychology services. 

Articles and Resources on Gratitude:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/gratitude

https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/

November 2021 Diversity Calendar

On behalf of PLTC’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee (DEI) please see the below select holidays and dates for November 2021 that are important to individuals and communities from diverse backgrounds. We hope you find this November calendar helpful to your work in long-term care and other settings.

November is Indigenous Peoples’ Heritage Month, also called National Native American Heritage Month or American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

Resource: https://www.diverseelders.org/who-we-are/diverse-elders/aian-elders/

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to give recognition and support to the 78 million people who dedicate their time, often unpaid, caring for a family member in need.

Resource: https://www.mhanational.org/national-family-caregivers-month

For a free screening of Dr. Jessica Zitter’s Caregiver: A Love Story on November 2, 2021 at 5:30pm CDT: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/healthy-perspectives-caring-for-caregivers-tickets-185186095597

November is also National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, which recognizes those in our communities impacted by Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Other month-long commemorations include: Epilepsy Awareness Month, National Diabetes Month, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, COPD Awareness Month, Hunger Awareness Month, and “Movember” (Mustache November) for Men’s Health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and suicide.

Below is a list of other special dates in November 2021:

October 31-November 2: Día de los Muertos

November 7: Birth of Baha’u’llah

November 11: Veterans Day/ Armistice Day

November 16: International Day for Tolerance – A day that promotes respect for diverse religions, languages, cultures, and ethnicities.

November 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance – A day to memorialize those murdered as a result of transphobia.

Resource: https://forge-forward.org/resources/aging/

November 25: Thanksgiving

November 28- December 6: Hanukkah

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Written by: Cecilia Poon, Ph.D., ABPP, HSP, on behalf of PLTC’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Committee

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month #NDEAM in the United States.  This year’s NDEAM theme, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” highlights the need to ensure that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement as the nation continues to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although more than a quarter of the population has a disability, people with disabilities continue to be the largest minority group that have limited representation in our workforce. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17.9% of people with disabilities were employed in 2020, compared to 61.8% of people without a disability. Recently, Dr. Kathleen Bogart, current co-chair of APA’s Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology, along with psychologist Dr. Lisa Aspinwall and student Afrooz Ghadimi, wrote a comprehensive article discussing “Why Do There Seem to Be So Few Disabled Psychologists?

Long-term care (LTC) and healthcare settings, by default, are designed with accessibility in mind. With existing tools and equipments available, one would assume that these settings are more welcoming and inclusive of employees with sensory, mobility, and other types of disabilities. While I have seen volunteers, therapists, case workers, nurses, and physicians who use hearing aids, walking sticks, crutches, and wheelchairs in these settings in Asia and North America, they are often the exception rather than the norm.

In the last two decades, I have witnessed dedicated and competent LTC workers with hearing loss, chronic pain, ADHD, and other conditions leave their profession or retire early because their work environment was no longer supportive of their wellness. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provide a framework and resources to support disabled healthcare workers. However, even when a workplace is able to provide appropriate and reasonable accommodations, there remain a lot of public and internalized stigma, as well as microaggression.

As we acknowledge the devastating impact of staffing shortage on the LTC population, it is high time we considered whether LTC settings are accessible and inclusive places of employment, especially when the lingering effects of the pandemic prevail. Research is beginning to show that a notable percentage of healthcare workers have “long COVID syndrome,” which invovle symptoms similar to ME/CFS and may require certain job accommodations. Others may be coping with complex PTSD, which may warrant reassignment of duties and time-off for mental health treatment.

Ageism and ableism often go hand-in-hand. As more and more of our population are aging with disabilities or becoming disabled as they age, psychologists who serve older adults and disabled adults have the responsibility to combat implicit biases and systemic barriers facing disabled and older clients, trainees, and colleagues. It is up to each and everyone of us to become aware of and help change the potentially ableist culture in healthcare settings.

The issue of a “leaky pipeline” for disabled students in psychology is real. Amplifying, elevating, and centering the experiences of disabled colleagues is a first step. Perhaps we could learn from advocacy groups that support disabled healthcare workers, such as Dr. Lisa Meeks’ social media campaign #DocsWithDisabilities, and the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities. If you identify as a psychologist or student with disabilities and would like to network, advocate, mentor, or be mentored, the Disability Advocacy and Resource Network (DARN!) for disabled social, personality, and health psychologists and allies is a great resource.

For those of us who are allies and/or have the power and privilege to promote systemic change and provide support to students, trainees, and staff, here are some resources to make our recruitment, training, and workplace more accessible, equitable, and inclusive:

A Brief Disability Accessibility Guide by Haben Girma

APA Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology

JAN: Job Accommodation Network

UK Health, Disability and Becoming a Health and Care Professional

October 2021 Diversity Calendar

On behalf of PLTC’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, we would like to share notable October holidays and dates important to diverse groups we serve in LTC.  We hope this list helps inform your clinical, supervisory, teaching, and leadership efforts in LTC and other settings. 

October is notable for being a celebration of Filipino-American, Italian-American, Polish-American, and German-American heritages! In addition, other month-long commemorations include:

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is designed around a campaign to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. 

National Down Syndrome Awareness Month was established to raise public awareness of Down syndrome, celebrate people’s abilities and accomplishments, and advocate for acceptance and inclusion of people with this common disorder. LGBT

History Montis an observance of LGBT history and the history of the gay rights and related civil rights movements. It is celebrated in October to commemorate the first and second marches on Washington in 1979 and 1987 for LGBT rights.

October 1: International Day of Older Persons aims to raise awareness about issues that older adults face and the need to ensure that people can grow old with dignity.

October 10: World Mental Health Day focuses on global mental health education, advocacy against social stigma, and awareness about the major effects mental health issues have on peoples’ lives worldwide.

October 11: National Native-American/Indigenous People’s Day celebrates the culture, heritage, and history of Native American people. It is recognized in several states and is gaining popularity in the rest of the nation as a replacement for the Columbus Day holiday. The increasing awareness that colonization by Spain and other European nations spelled disaster for the indigenous peoples has led to a shift in focus toward those who were here in the Americas before Columbus’s time.

October 11: National Coming Out Day is grounded in the liberation movement idea of the “personal being political,” that is, that one of the most basic but powerful tools for activism is to come out and live a life as an openly LGBTQ+ person. Today, the day celebrates the bravery of individuals to speak up and serves as a reminder that homophobia thrives in silence and ignorance: once people know that they have a loved one who is LGBTQ+, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views and instead become a supporter of equality under the law.

October 15: White Cane Safety Day celebrates the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired and the importance of the white cane as an important symbol and tool for independence. White Cane Safety Day laid the precedent for equal rights to access roads for the sighted and the blind. The canes are painted white as a visible indicator for sighted people that the user is visually impaired.

October 17: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty owes its roots to this date in 1987, when over a hundred-thousand people gathered in Paris in a Call to Action for victims of extreme poverty and hunger. Today, the day mobilizes awareness to continue to address issues of global poverty and promote dialogue and understanding among people who live below the poverty line and their communities.

October 20: Birth of Guru Granth Sahib is a holy day in the Sikh religion that commemorates the day the Granth, the scripture considered to be the revealed Word of God, was given its permanent gurudom. Sikhs view it as their perpetual living Guru and guide. 

October 21: Spirit Day was started as a way to speak out against a rash of widely publicized bullying-related suicides of LGBTQ+ students in 2010. On this day, millions of Americans wear purple as a sign of support to LGBTQ+ youth and solidarity against anti-LGBTQ+ bullying.

October 22: International Stuttering Awareness Day raises public awareness about stuttering, which affects approximately one percent of the world’s population. The day also serves to let people know that help is available, challenge negative attitudes and discrimination, and celebrate the many notable figures who stutter and have made a mark on the world.

September 2021 Diversity Calendar

On behalf of the PLTC DE&I Committee, we are pleased to share below notable holidays and dates important to diverse groups across the USA. We hope these dates and resources help inform your clinical, supervisory, teaching, and leadership efforts in LTC and other settings where you have influence. 

September 2021

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  Here’s a webinar that may be helpful to you: “Insights and Strategies for Reducing Suicide among Older Adults” https://acl.gov/news-and-events/announcements/webinar-suicide-prevention-month-insights-and-strategies-reducing

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 to October 15. This month corresponds with Mexican Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16, and recognizes the revolution in 1810 that ended Spanish dictatorship.

September 4-11: Paryushana Parva, a Jain festival lasting about eight to ten days that is observed through meditation and fasting. Its main focus is spiritual upliftment, pursuit of salvation and a deeper understanding of the religion.

September 6: Labor Day in the United States. Labor Day honors the contribution that laborers have made to the country and is observed on the first Monday of September.

September 6-8 (sundown to sundown): Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration, marking the creation of the world.

September 10: Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu holiday lasting around 10 days, where the elephant-headed Hindu God is praised and given offerings.

September 11: 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks.  Special commemoration, programming, and events held across the nation.

September 12: Grandparents Day.  https://grandparentsday.org/

September 15-16 (sundown to sundown): Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, a day of atonement marked by fasting and ceremonial repentance.

September 18: International Equal Pay Day, celebrated for the first time in September 2020, represents the longstanding efforts towards the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value. It further builds on the United Nations’ commitment to human rights and against all forms of discrimination, including discrimination against women and girls.

September 20-27: Sukkot, a seven-day Jewish festival giving thanks for the fall harvest.

September 22: Ostara Mabon, a celebration of the vernal equinox commemorated by Pagans and Wiccans.

September 24: Native American Day, a Federal holiday observed annually on the fourth Friday in September in the state of California and Nevada and on the second Monday in October in South Dakota and Oklahoma.

September 27-29 (sundown to sundown): Shemini Atzeret, a Jewish holiday also known as The Eighth (Day) of Assembly, takes place the day after the Sukkot festival, where gratitude for the fall harvest is deeply internalized.

September 28-29 (sundown to sundown): Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday, marks the end of the weekly readings of the Torah. The holy book is read from chapter one of Genesis to Deuteronomy 34 and then back to chapter one again, in acknowledgement of the words of the Torah being a circle, a never-ending cycle.

August 2021 Diversity Calendar

PLTC’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee respectfully continues our monthly sharing of notable select holidays and other important dates for diverse groups.  We hope you find this August Diversity Calendar helpful as you provide services to older adult clients in long-term care and other settings.  

August 9: International Day of the World’s Indigenous People 

On this day, people from around the world are encouraged to spread the message of protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples.  

August 9 (evening) -August 10: Al-Hijri  

Hijri New Year (also called the Islamic New Year or the Arabic New Year) is the day that marks the beginning of the new Islamic calendar year. 

August 16-August 23: Paryushana Parva 

A Jain festival lasting about eight to ten days that is observed through meditation and fasting. Its main focus is spiritual upliftment, pursuit of salvation and a deeper understanding of the religion. 

August 17: Marcus Garvey Day 

Celebrates the birthday of the Jamaican politician and activist who is revered by Rastafarians. Garvey is credited with starting the Back to Africa movement, which encouraged those of African descent to return to the land of their ancestors during and after slavery in North America. 

August 19: Hijri New Year 

The day that marks the beginning of the new Islamic calendar year. 

August 18-19 (sundown to sundown): Ashura 

An Islamic holiday commemorating the day Noah left the ark and the day Allah saved Moses from the Egyptians. 

August 22: Obon (Ullambana) 

A Buddhist festival and Japanese custom for honoring the spirits of ancestors. 

August 23: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition  

Also the anniversary of the uprising in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) that initiated the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean.  This holiday pays tribute to all those who fought for freedom and to continue teaching about their story and their values. On the night of 22 to 23 August 1791, men and women sold into slavery, revolted against the slave system in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) to obtain freedom and independence. The uprising set forth events that eventually led to the abolition of the slave trade. 

August 26: Women’s Equality Day 

Commemorates the August 26, 1920, certification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave women the right to vote. Congresswoman Bella Abzug first introduced a proclamation for Women’s Equality Day in 1971. Since that time, every president has published a proclamation recognizing August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.  It honors the hard-fought victory of the women’s suffrage movement.  

8/29-8/30: Janmashtami 

Krishna Janmashtami, a Hindu celebration of Lord Vishnu’s most powerful human incarnations, Krishna, the god of love and compassion. Celebrations include praying and fasting. 

Submitted on behalf of the PLTC DE&I Committee 

July Diversity Calendar

Submitted on behalf of the PLTC DE&I Committee.

The Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee of PLTC respectfully continues our monthly sharing of notable dates and holidays important to diverse groups whom we work with and among.

July Holidays and Important Dates:

July 8-9: The Martyrdom of the Báb is an observation in the Bahá’ís Faith on the anniversary of the 1850 execution of the Báb, a prophet who is considered the forerunner of the religion, in Iran at age 30.

July 14: International Non-Binary People’s Day is observed to celebrate the contributions of non-binary people around the world. Non-Binary Awareness Week is held the week before and is designated to raise awareness and organize around the issues faced by non-binary individuals.

July 18: Nelson Mandela International Day is a celebration of the life’s work of Nelson Mandela in ending apartheid in South Africa and serving as its first post-apartheid president. The commemoration was inspired by a call he made for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices. 

July 19-20: Eid al-Adha, or the “Festival of Sacrifice,” is the second of the two great festivals in the Islamic faith. It commemorates the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim to follow Allah’s command to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience. 

July 24: Asalha Puja is a Theravada Buddhist celebration in Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Laos, and Myanmar that commemorates the Buddha’s first pivotal teachings that came to him following his enlightenment. 

July 24: Pioneer Day is observed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to commemorate the 1847 arrival of Brigham Young and the first group of Latter-day Saint pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah after their exile from Illinois.

July 26: National Disability Independence Day celebrates the anniversary of the 1990 signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the first comprehensive legislation in the world to prohibited discrimination based on disabilities. The day also calls attention to the barriers to access and opportunity that remain and advocates for areas of reform.

The mission of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee is to promote deeper understanding of, and respect for, the intersections of identity and culture, especially considering age and disabilities, when working with long-term care residents, staff, and colleagues. We strive to build a diverse, inclusive, and empathically minded community that advocates for equity and social justice in long-term care settings.  

Exploring the Caregiving System Theory in Our Grandparents

Written by: Vanessa Cuppari

Perhaps my four feet three-inch-tall memory is biased, but the tomato plants towered in the air, drooped over my head, and tickled my shoulder as we moved between the walls of the garden. Immersed in overgrown vegetables, I followed my grandfather as he lumbered ahead, careful to stay on slabs of cardboard lining the dirt. We were checking the status of the blackberry bush again: this time, he kneeled in the soil and clasped one in his burly fingers for inspection. Heavy creases around his forehead and temple drowned out his eyes—only ever really opening in surprise—so I could never tell if he is squinting or just looking. Whether he knew it or not, his grip was a little too tight, and a few tears leaked slowly down the side of the berry. He mumbled something excitedly in a language I did not understand and signaled me over his shoulder.

After a few rounds of pneumonia at this point, he was about to stop smoking, but overall, PopPop was in surprisingly good health. By his late seventies, his hair showed more pepper than salt, and he maintained a perpetual bronze skin tone; most of his time was spent tending the garden or cementing the cracks in the driveway, the wine cellar, and the basement kitchen. He and my grandmother immigrated to the United States sixty years earlier, but his English, fragmented and unclear, routinely melted into an obscure Italian dialect. He tried; what wisdom he could not verbalize he compensated for by sneaking fifty-dollar bills into our fists (“for ice cream,” he’d say) and walking us to the park around the corner. And yet, he had a few signature phrases: “eat,” “get strong,” and “we love you.”  Somehow, my grandfather managed to avoid chronic medications until he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018. He passed a few months later at eighty-six.

A century ago, when the average life expectancy for American men was a mere sixty, hitting eighty-six was unlikely. Today, his age (the “oldest-old”) and cause of death are unsurprising among gerontologists, given that the older adult population has exploded 14-fold since 1900. Coupled with waning fertility rates, the proportions slant heavily toward older adults. In a thirty-year span, the median age of the U.S. population rose from 28 to 37.8.

But how can this age cohort grow at such a rapid pace? Simply put, they are staying alive longer than they ever have. Medical advances successfully reduced early mortality rates as well as championed vaccines and antibiotics to fight once-fatal diseases. As a result, older adults’ chances at survival increased significantly. Indeed, there are fifty times more “oldest-old” Americans (85+) than there were in 1900, and the proportions are projected to continue growing.

Even so, modern medicine is not the only means of achieving longevity in old age, as gerontologists are beginning to approach health through a holistic lens. Although the treat-and-discharge practice is more prevalent among physicians currently, care using social services makes a difference. Patients restructure their behaviors to promote a healthier lifestyle and, in the long-term, prevent their chances of illness. Beyond the medical necessities, meeting physical, social, psychological, and cognitive needs helps older adults live longer.

Consider the social needs that the grandparent role satisfies as the grandchild’s historian, nurturer, and friend. Could the building of intergenerational bonds (and alternatives, for those without biological grandchildren) enhance one’s life expectancy? Although some grandparents who act as primary caregivers to their grandchildren experience greater pressure and stress, the majority benefit from non-intensive provision of care, or involving themselves at their own pace.

Living across town, Nanny, my maternal grandmother, entwined herself in our lives easily with surprise visits. Sometimes she dropped off Entenmenn’s cakes (for me) and three boxes of Cheerios (for my mother) that she found on sale at ShopRite; sometimes she sought black coffee and conversation after work; sometimes it was an invitation to get mani-pedis at Kim’s, or chocolate chip pancakes (for me) and a root beer float (for her) at the diner. She was my safe place—the first person who listened to me as if she had endless time and as if I were truly the most fascinating person she knew. She passed at eighty-seven.

What drives this selflessness? Researchers understand the motives behind non-intensive grandparental caregiving (“helping behavior”) through an evolutionary lens, pointing to the ancestral goal of furthering longevity. Indeed, data from a 2017 Berlin Aging Study revealed that mortality hazards for grandparents providing non-intensive care were 37% lower than those who did not. Some reference the grandmother hypothesis, where post-reproductive women ensure their own genetic transmission by helping raise their grandchildren and teaching them prosocial behaviors in the process. Over the course of evolution, the rewarding practice of grandmothering, alongside the increasing older adult population’s influence, slowed the somatic aging of humans overall and developed a generalized neurohormonal circuitry deemed by Brown et al. as the “caregiving system.”

According to the caregiving system theory, humans are deeply sensitive to the needs of those who are blood-related or otherwise familiar to us. The orbital frontal cortex (OFC) in the brain analyzes viscerally emotional stored memories to detect social bonds in our lives. In our case, positive interdependency (genetic linkage) solidifies the bond between two individuals – meaning that increases in one’s wellbeing lead to increases in the other, and vice versa. Once the bond is established, the amygdala identifies when one member of the bond is in need and quickly activates the medial-preoptic area of the hypothalamus (MPOA) into “auto-caregiving mode.”

Because our behaviors and cognitions are inherently self-preservationist and avoidant to danger, activating the MPOA suppresses those competing impulses to ensure the wellbeing of the other. Individuals prioritize the allocation of resources not to themselves, but the person they care about. Brown et al. connect this maternal override to animals protecting their endangered cubs, but could it not also exist in the self-sacrificial nature of grandparents?

Social bonds, based on trust and positive fitness interdependence, also release oxytocin, the “love hormone” strongly associated with not only trust and empathy, but also helping behavior and stress-regulation. This neurotransmitter reduces activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls stress reactions, lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels, and accelerates stress-related recovery.

Intergenerational bonds bolster older adults with a sense of purpose, physical activity and continued cognitive and social wit. While the social act of caregiving for grandchildren is just one of several factors contributing to an individual’s life expectancy, extensive evidence argues that the benefits of non-intensive grandparenting extend beyond grandchildren. We enhance their quality of life just as richly as they do ours.

The day I returned home from a month studying in France—my first time away at sixteen—I saw, from the backseat, Nanny’s petite figure waiting at the door, her varicose veins under white embroidered capris and sandals. She had cataracts, so in the moments before she could detect me I saw her perched in front of the glass, as if on guard, and surveilling the yard intensely. When I came into view, she pushed the door open, and weeping as I bent to hug her first, her baby.

I keep her and PopPop’s prayer cards on hand. Perhaps it was not merely luck that kept them in my life for so long, as I had once believed.

About the Author:

Vanessa Cuppari is a psychology student at Loyola University Maryland. As an undergraduate, she explores the geropsychology field through coursework, research, volunteering, advocacy, and, of course, PLTC. When she has extra time, she enjoys solving crossword puzzles and writing. 

Works Cited:

Brown, Stephanie L. “The Human Caregiving System: A Neuroscience Model of Compassionate Motivation and Behavior.” Moving Beyond Self-Interest: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience, and Social Sciences, edited by Michael Brown, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 75–89.

Cameron, Kathleen. “100 Million Healthier Lives.” Social Determinants of Health | Grantmakers in Aging, 2018, www.giaging.org/issues/social-determinants-of-health/.

Hilbrand, Sonja, et al. “A Study of the Associations Among Helping, Health, and Longevity .” Elsevier Social Science and Medicine, 2017, pp. 109–117., doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.06.035.

Hilbrand, Sonja, et al. “Caregiving within and beyond the Family Is Associated with Lower Mortality for the Caregiver: A Prospective Study.” Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 38, no. 3, 2017, pp. 397–403., doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.11.010.

Hooyman, Nancy R., and H. Asuman Kiyak. Social Gerontology: A Multidisciplinary Perspective. 10th version, Pearson, 2017, Revel Social Gerontology, revel-ise.pearson.com/courses/5febb3cd51ff03001a9e2d6e/pages/urn:pearson:entity:729a781d-1821-4d72-9c3f-528568071c03?source=contents.

Sands, Roberta G, et al. “Factors Associated with the Positive Well-Being of Grandparents Caring for Their Grandchildren.” Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 2005, pp. 65–82., doi:https://doi.org/10.1300/J083v45n04_05.

Simpson, Kathy. Grandparent’s Role With Grandchildren and Fulfillment for Everyone, 16 Oct. 2020, extramile.thehartford.com/family/grandparenting/grandparenting-role/.

UC Berkeley. “Life Expectancy in the USA, 1900-98.” Life Expectancy in the USA, 1900-98, u.demog.berkeley.edu/~andrew/1918/figure2.html.

The Month of May: What are We Recognizing and Celebrating?

May is a big month both for mental health awareness as well as for diversity celebrations.  The month of May includes: 1) Mental Health Awareness month, 2) Older Americans Month, and 3) Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  It also includes national nurse’s week (from May 6th– May 12th), which is very relevant to those of us who work in long-term care settings.  Below, we would like to delve a little deeper into May’s week- and month-long events.

Mental Health Awareness Month:

Millions of Americans live with a mental illness each year.  Specific to older adults, nearly 1 in 5 older Americans have at least one mental health or substance use condition.

At the heart of this month-long awareness initiative is to fight stigma associated with mental health, provide support to individuals and family members coping with symptoms of mental illness, and to educate the public and advocate for policies that support individuals living with mental illness.  This is true for individuals in the community, but for those of us working in long-term care, also true for persons residing in skilled nursing facilities and other residential settings.  

Specific to long-term care, excluding those individuals living with dementia, over 500,000 persons with mental illness reside in U.S. nursing homes on any given day1.   Psychiatric and behavioral symptoms of mental illness are often a primary factor contributing to nursing home placement.  Individuals with serious mental illness ([SMI], e.g., schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) are increasingly aging into older adulthood, and are overrepresented in residential long-term care settings. Individuals with SMI in residential settings are more likely to be younger (i.e., over half are between 18-64 years of age) and have more behavioral challenges compared to individuals in the community with the same diagnosis 1, 2.    

Since 2018, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) and the US Administration for Community Living (ACL),  designated one day in May as  National Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Day.   Their goal is to raise awareness of older adults’ mental health needs, identify available mental health services, and promote evidenced based prevention, treatment, and supportive services.  

Older Americans Month:

While recognition of mental health needs is an important focus in may, May also represents “Older Americans Month” in general, which aims to recognize the contributions of older adults across the nation.  It also increases awareness for the needs of our growing older adult population and encourages increased services and community involvement to support our nation’s older adults. 

 Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month

During May, we also recognize the Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, where we celebrate the history and achievements of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) across our Nation. According to census data, there is an 81% projected increase in Asian older adults in the general population from 2016 to 2030 (SAMSA, 2019). Echoing the statements made by the U.S. Whitehouse.gov, “Asian Americans, and Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders make our Nation more vibrant through diversity of cultures, languages, and religions.  There is no single story of the AANHPI experience, but rather a diversity of contributions that enrich America’s culture and society.”  This year, this heritage month is more than just a celebration, but also a recognition of the historical and ongoing racial discrimination that exists for AANHPIs, as well as the heightened fear felt by many Asian American communities in the wake of increasing rates of anti-Asian harassment and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The voices of our Asian American clients, colleagues, friends and family are calling out for all of us to stand with them and disavow violence and discrimination happening to Asian Americans, making this year’s Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month both a celebration and a call to action.

National Nurses Week:

National Nurses Week is observed each year from May 6-12 to acknowledge and pay tribute to the vital role nurses play in society. The last date marks Florence Nightingale’s birthday. 

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing professionals of all kinds–nurses, CNA’s, and nurse practitioners–were one of the few points of contact for patients in nursing homes and other care settings. These colleagues served a critical role caring for and protecting residents’ physical health and emotional needs, with many risking or losing their own lives as they upheld these duties. They facilitated communication between isolated residents and their loved ones, and at times, were the only ones able to be with them at the end of life.

On this year’s Nurses Week, PLTC honors the contributions and sacrifices of nursing professionals on the frontlines of care both in the U.S. and globally during the worldwide pandemic.

References:

1.        Grabowski, D. C., Aschbrenner, K. A., Feng, Z., & Mor, V.  (2009).  Mental illness in nursing homes: Variations across states.  Health Affairs, 28: 689-700.

2.        McCarthy, J. F., Blow, F. C., & Kales, H. C. (2004). Disruptive behaviors in Veterans Affairs nursing home residents: How different are residents with serious mental illness? Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 52: 2031-2038.

SAMSA, 2019. Older Adults Living with Serious Mental Illness. https://store.samsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/pep19-olderadults-smi.pdf

-Submitted on behalf of the PLTC DE&I Committee

May Diversity Calendar

Submitted on behalf of the PLTC DE&I Committee.

The Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee of PLTC respectfully continues our monthly sharing of notable dates and holidays important to diverse groups whom we work with and among.

May happens to be Older Americans Month. We wanted to share the following information about the National Council on Aging’s 4th Annual Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Day Symposium being held on May 6th. Registration is free and includes a full day of sessions on how to best meet the mental health needs of older adults. For more information, please visit https://connect.ncoa.org/oamhad

May Holidays and Important dates:

May Month Long- ALS Awareness Month

May Month Long- Jewish-American Heritage Month

May Month Long- National Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

May Month Long- Older Americans Month

May Month Long- Haitian Heritage Month

May Month Long- Mental Health Month

May 2- Orthodox Easter

May 5- Cinco de Mayo

May 8- Laila Al-Qasr (Islamic)

May 8- Time to Remember Lost Lives from WWII

May 9- Mother’s Day

May 9- Laylat al-Qadr (Muslim)

May 12- Eid al-Fitr (Muslim)

May 17- Shavout (Jewish)

May 17- International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia

May 18- National Older Adults Mental Health Awareness Day

May 21- World Day for Cultural Diversity

May 22- Declaration of the Bab (Baha’i)

May 23- Pentecost (Christian)

May 24- Pansexual & Panromantic Awareness Day

May 25- Africa Day

May 26- Visakha Puja/ Vesak/ Buddha Day

May 19- Agender Pride Day

May 29- Ascension of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)

May 29- Lag B’Omer (Jewish)

May 31- Memorial Day

The mission of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee is to promote deeper understanding of, and respect for, the intersections of identity and culture, especially considering age and disabilities, when working with long-term care residents, staff, and colleagues. We strive to build a diverse, inclusive, and empathically minded community that advocates for equity and social justice in long-term care settings.