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Seniors living with Alzheimer’s and dementia at Presbyterian Village North (PVN) recently came together to create a butterfly garden to help monarch butterflies along their migration path flying north for the summer and south for the winter. Interstate 35 is also called “Pollinator Highway,” since the butterflies’ migration correlates closely with the highway’s route as they converge through Texas and then sprawl across North America. However, the monarch butterfly population has declined by 90 percent in the last 20 years. As a result, mayors around the country, including Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and other local government chief executives are taking part in the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge. This is an effort to encourage citizens to create habitats where butterflies thrive, and the goal is to establish one million public and private gardens or landscapes to support pollinators. Residents of Presbyterian Village North are assisting this initiative by maintaining the butterfly garden they recently created. Susan Morgan, a therapeutic horticulturalist, initiated this project at PVN and plans monthly horticultural activities, both indoor and outdoor, for memory care residents.


“I love helping seniors living with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Morgan. “It is therapeutic for them to participate, as it elevates their mood by reducing depression, anxiety and stress, as well as decreasing rumination and negative self-talk. Working in the garden increases their sense of wonder, cultivates creativity, prompts varying levels of physical exercise and engages people in a lot of other ways. A garden is an essential component for overall wellbeing. Creating this garden will be a transformative experience for the residents. They will tend the garden and oversee the lifecycle of caterpillars cocooning up and bursting forth as radiant butterflies.”


The garden includes a variety of plants suitable for the butterflies in all stages of its life, including host plants for caterpillars to feed on and nectar plants for full-grown butterflies. The plants are drought tolerant, heat tolerant, and low maintenance. PVN groundskeepers prepared for the area for the garden by putting in soil suitable for planting. They will provide supplemental care to the gardens in addition to the time residents and staff members spend nurturing it. Morgan is also working to obtain an official butterfly garden and wildlife habitat certification through the National Wildlife Federation.


“For seniors living with memory care, it is imperative to help them exercise their five senses through hands-on activities that rekindle fond memories,” said Lillian Adrian, memory care specialist for Presbyterian Village North. “Smelling the dirt, touching the leaves and the petals, hearing the birds chirp, seeing the vivid colors of the flowers, all help them to reminisce. The ability to recall these memories and feelings helps bridge their rich past with the present. Our goal is to celebrate each day with them, and this is the perfect way to create a positive experience.”


Within the next year, PVN will open a new memory care building, The Terrace, as part of a $93 million expansion project that the senior living community is undergoing to cater to the increased need for senior housing and memory care services. Adrian is excited for the Terrace to be completed, and is eagerly planning a variety of gardening opportunities for current and future memory care residents over the next year. Currently, residents have access to raised flower beds that have been packed with an abundance of beautiful plants that the residents take care of daily. Adrian has also created a program called Blooms of Blessings, in which local florists donate flowers to be used in floral arrangement classes. During the classes, residents focus on creating arrangements for newcomers who move into the community and for fellow seniors in skilled nursing.


Looking ahead, Adrian plans to expand the Blooms of Blessings program so that residents at The Terrace may partake in the classes as well. Adrian also plans on organizing a garden specifically for planting herbs and vegetables, nurturing them from seedlings to plants, then picking them to use in some of the residents’ daily activities. Adrian and Morgan find that everyone engaged in the garden—team members and family alike—thoroughly enjoy working together, learning new things and spending time outdoors together. They believe it is therapeutic not only for the residents, but for everyone involved.


“We are excited to contribute to the pit stops located along “Pollinator Highway” by creating a space that is pollinator-friendly for butterflies to stop by and visit,” said Ron Kelly, executive director for Presbyterian Village North. “We are already a rare pit stop for purple martins during their migration, so we are happy to make our community friendly for the monarch butterflies as well. Our community is situated on 63 acres of beautiful, green, budding land, and we take great pride in maintaining the grounds on which PVN is located. This abundance of land and the outdoor spaces are some of the most unique features that set us apart.”  

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In light of Dr. Suess’s birthday and National March into Literacy Month, Presbyterian Village North, a senior living community in Dallas, decided to host a book drive to collect all types of books for kindergarteners through sixth graders who attend Stults Road Elementary. The book drive was spontaneously organized when Lisa Englander, life enrichment manager of Presbyterian Village North (PVN), learned of the need for books. She put together flyers and shared information to get the word out as soon as she could, and she kick-started the drive on Dr. Suess’s birthday last week. The drive will end on April 7 when PVN residents deliver the books to the students and spend time reading to them.


“Lauren Siler, a teacher at Stults Road Elementary, had reached out to us to see if we could provide volunteers for National Reading Week last week,” said Englander. “During our conversation, she mentioned the school was in need of some new books and said she really wanted to expand the book collection they offer students. I felt this was an opportunity that we needed to jump on immediately. She loved the idea and was thrilled we were so enthusiastic and able to help.”


Originally the drive was going to last all of National Reading Week, but PVN decided to extend the book drive through April 7. This book drive is open to the public as well, so people in the surrounding community may bring children’s books for grades kindergarten through sixth to the community to donate. PVN is urging anyone with extra books to help make a difference in the lives of these students, as reading is such an important skill to attain at a young age when minds are most impressionable. According to research done by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), reading is the single most important skill necessary for a happy, productive and successful life. A child that is an excellent reader is a confident child, has a high level of self-esteem and is able to easily make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.


“Residents and team members are eager to contribute books to our neighboring elementary school,”

said Ron Kelly, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “Reading is a valuable, necessary basic life skill children need in order to succeed, so we are happy to provide books that will help them achieve their literary goals. Lisa has done a phenomenal job getting this organized in such a short amount of time so that we may quickly fill a need that was expressed to her. We are pleased to be a good neighbor to Stults not only by organizing resident volunteers who foster intergenerational connections, but also by addressing scholastic needs.” 

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During National Nutrition Month, Presbyterian Village North is discussing ways seniors can “lighten up” their portion sizes and lead healthy lifestyles. Shannon Radford, wellness director for Presbyterian Village North, has been hosting weekly educational presentations and discussions to highlight ways in which residents can further enhance their wellness and nutritional choices. The meetings are held every Monday at 11:00 a.m. in the Fun and Games Room. These meetings will continue until the end of March.

“For starters, we have grown accustomed to eating larger portions than our bodies need, and overeating as little as 100 calories beyond our recommended daily intake puts an extra ten pounds on our bodies per year,” said Radford. “I recommend starting with a smaller portion, and tell residents to have seconds if they’re still hungry. Drinking water and chewing slowly helps individuals determine when they are actually full. When going out to eat, I always say to take half of the meal home and eat it later. Using smaller plates will give the appearance that they’re full, because when we serve ourselves, we tend to try to fill our plate. A serving of chicken should be about the same size as a full deck of cards, one of fish about the size of a checkbook, sides should be equivalent to half a baseball and cheese should be the size of four dice stacked.”

Some of Radford’s presentations focus on how to differentiate between foods that cause inflammation and anti-inflammatory foods. For example, she recommends avoiding processed sugar, which triggers the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines, saturated fats found in foods like pizza or cheese, trans fats found in many pre-packaged snack foods, anything high in hydrogenated oils, MSG, gluten or casein, as well as excess consumption of omega-6 oils which can trigger the body to produce inflammatory chemicals. Refined carbohydrates found in white flour products (breads, rolls, crackers), white rice, white potatoes (instant mashed potatoes or French fries) and many cereals may trump fats as the main driver of escalating rates of obesity and other chronic conditions.

“Foods everyone should include in an anti-inflammatory diet are fish, fruits and vegetables—especially colorful foods like blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, kale and broccoli, a handful of nuts or seeds, beans, onions are packed with antioxidants, and anything high in natural fiber. Be sure to cut back on the salt, avoid processed foods and try drinking green tea. All of these tips will help people at any age take care of their bodies and become healthier. They’re good for losing weight too!”

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign launched annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Radford is leading discussions that cover a variety of topics, including: foods to avoid, tips for healthy eating, ways to lose weight, arthritis friendly recipes, and anti-inflammatory diet recommendations. In addition to going over helpful topics, Radford will consult with residents to provide tips and advice personalized for them, conduct optional weekly weigh-ins, and deliver guidance on healthy eating and cooking, as well as support for residents’ goals and healthy lifestyle coaching.

“If we take care of our bodies and fuel them with the right energy sources, we will feel healthier as we age,” said Ron Kelly, executive director for Presbyterian Village North. “We are grateful that Shannon has put together engaging discussions that remind residents and team members to maintain healthy habits and be mindful of nutrition and how it impacts daily living. The theme for National Nutrition Month in 2016 is "Savor the Flavor of Eating Right," which encourages everyone to take time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to our lives. We are working as a community to do just that in the healthiest way possible.”

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This spring semester, students at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts pursuing a degree in music therapy will partner with Presbyterian Village North (PVN), a senior living community in Dallas, to lead weekly therapy sessions as part of their degree requirements, which entail that they get firsthand experience with seniors. The students lead sessions on Mondays at 1:00 p.m. with residents living in healthcare services, and on Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. with residents living in memory care. The program was kick-started this month, and will go until the end of the spring semester. Students will make assessments of the attendees, set goals, write treatment plans, work through their plans and eventually conclude them. Mary Ann Hyde, a resident of PVN and a board member for the Meadows School of Arts, initiated the development of the partnership between SMU and the senior living community.


“I feel that music has the ability to touch the heart and soul, evoking powerful responses from the mind and body,” said Hyde. “My husband and I always felt strongly about the importance of education, and I am so excited that PVN and SMU have the opportunity to partner together to educate students and provide beneficial services to seniors. I was talking with Dean Sam Holland, who oversees the Meadows School of the Arts, when he mentioned this program. He put me in touch with Dr. Robert Krout, head of the music therapy department, and we set about bringing the partnership to fruition. We are so grateful that they have chosen our campus to partner with and help enrich the lives of the residents.”


Each group is comprised of 10 to 15 residents, and they meet for an hour each week. This part of the students’ curriculum is based on requirements of fulfilling 1200 clinical hours, 180 of which are done in school, the rest of which are completed through an internship at the end of their coursework. Students in their fourth semester start work on their gerontology rotation. When the students and residents meet, the therapy session begins by having everyone sit in a circle. Then, leaders will begin a “hello” song to help everyone get to know each other. Throughout the course of the session, leaders will work through music therapy interventions that address goals that pertain to range of motion or physical endurance, cognitive or memory skills, self-expression or emotional wellness, problem solving, fine motor skills and socialization. The group then concludes with a “goodbye” song for closure.


“We are studying the effect music has on physiology and neurology, as well as how we can use it to encourage the changes we wish to see,” said Janice Lindstrom, adjunct lecturer of music therapy and clinical supervisor for SMU. “We ask attendees what music they enjoy listening to, and if they cannot speak, we look up music that was popular when they were in their 20s, as this is the time frame that tends to be more meaningful for them. Getting residents to actively make music has the greatest effect, and this is what we use to elicit responses during our therapies. When we begin the session, participants tend to become more alert; there is more engagement and increased socialization on an interpersonal level. While we cannot reverse the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, we can create a space in which meaningful interactions and connections take place.”


Last week Lindstrom began the meeting with the song “K-K-K-Katy,” sung by a man who has a stutter. First they sang the original lyrics, and then took turns putting the participants’ names in the song. This exercise helped residents remember the starting letter sound for the name of the person they were singing about. This led to better name recognition, and it helped attendees make eye contact with the person whom they were singing about. The therapy sessions are focused on creating meaningful interactions in that moment. Most of the students do not have regular interactions with older adults, so this part of their curriculum helps them to see that seniors are just like them, they just have a few more experiences.  


“Music is one of the first things we hear from the time we are an infant, and it grows with us as we grow, changing with the seasons of our lives,” said Jennifer Runnels, director of nursing for PVN. “It is intended to be comforting and to establish connections. Seniors participating in music therapy become more alert because the songs are familiar to them. People who usually sit and do not do much or talk much will awaken and begin to light up with expressions, subtle head shaking, finger-snapping or humming. We are so happy to see the SMU students working with residents here at PVN. It is heartwarming. This is wonderful experience for the students, especially those who have not been around many seniors. They are getting firsthand experience in a community that cares about its residents greatly. They can see the difference we are making together.”


Presbyterian Village North is in the process of implementing additional music programming, and plans to develop additional music therapy sessions in the future with the expansion of its memory care units. Currently, the community brings in many entertainers who perform songs from the genres these generations of seniors grew up listening to, and the seniors themselves have iPods that contain playlists that have been individualized for each resident’s listening pleasure. The iPod program and some of the entertainers are funded by the PVN Foundation whose mission is to enrich the lives of residents. Throughout the week, PVN staff notices a big reduction in disruptive or moody behavior when music therapy is implemented, and because of the positive energy they can reduce medications given to residents in memory care. The music simply improves their overall quality of life.

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The Presbyterian Village North (PVN) Foundation recently made a $2.4 million grant, $740,000 of which has already been funded to Presbyterian Village North, a senior living community in Dallas. The first installment of the grant will be for $740,000 and has been earmarked for the expansion and renovation of the community’s lifestyle fitness center. The lifestyle fitness center is part of a multi-phased expansion project that is expanding and renovating the campus. Overall, the PVN Foundation—an organization developed and governed by residents at Presbyterian Village North—will donate a total of $2.4 million to benefit various aspects of the expansion project. The lifestyle fitness center will be named in honor of Jim and Bess Blanchette who were longtime residents of PVN and exhibits strong, faithful support of the PVN Foundation. Among other things, Jim served as a trustee and officer of the PVN Foundation for many years.  The Foundation recognizes and appreciates the tremendous contributions made by the Blanchettes for the betterment of Presbyterian Village North and its residents.


“This is a significant amount of money that will support the expansion project in ways that will benefit all of our residents,” said Ron Kelly, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “In addition to assisting with a financial contribution to the lifestyle fitness center, the Foundation will also donate money to renovate the Great Room located at the main entrance of PVN. This will include updates to the library, mailroom, lobby, receptionist desk and interior design. For both phases of the expansion, the Foundation also plans to provide funding for the furniture, fixtures and equipment that will comprise the fitness center and main entrance to PVN. We are so thankful for their contribution, and know these additions and transformations will enrich the lives of our residents and further our wellness initiative.”


Presbyterian Village North’s renewed lifestyle fitness center will include an additional swimming pool, Jacuzzi spa, locker rooms, extended group-exercise area and an expanded cardio and strength training area featuring senior friendly fitness equipment. The building will include a spa suitable for massages and other spa-like activities, a clinic for physicians and other clinicians, and a café with light and healthy menu options. The goal of this building is to integrate the different aspects of wellness by creating a space that combines physical and social experiences with relaxation. The lifestyle fitness center is expected to be completed this summer.


In regards to the Great Room renovations, the PVN Foundation has agreed to make a grant for extending the reception desk so that it is more visible to residents, visitors and staff members. This extension will also give the receptionists additional visibility. The Great Room will have all new flooring, furniture, paint, décor, natural lighting and other additional upgrades. With the expansion of the campus, the community will need to add 104 additional mailboxes to accommodate the new residences, so PVN Foundation’s grant will include revamping the mail room by replacing all of the old boxes with new ones for design consistency.


“The PVN Foundation is a separate entity from our community and our parent organization, Presbyterian Communities and Services,” said Kelly. “It is an organization founded and governed solely by residents who believe that the needs and expectations of the residents should be kept at the forefront. Donations are made by fellow residents, as well as by families wishing to gift a memorial on behalf of a former resident of PVN, or by other generous donors in the surrounding community. A large portion of the funds go toward the Resident’s Assistance Fund, which helps qualifying residents who have outlived their means through no fault of their own. When this happens, the Foundation steps in to help cover their healthcare costs. Most of the time this help is for residents in our healthcare center, as they require higher levels of care that consumes more of their resources.”


The Foundation has also supported some capital projects over the years, and finds value in adding new amenities to the campus as well as renovating areas in need of attention. Three years ago the Foundation renovated all of the assisted living common spaces and updated the independent living dining room. They also support smaller projects, such as allocating funds for guest speakers and entertainment each month.


“We are fortunate to have the support of the PVN Foundation for a multitude of reasons,” said Kelly. “First, we would not be able to kick start this next phase of the expansion project without their help. Second, we truly have a voice for residents and an organization that seeks to fill residents’ needs and requests. They are an integral part of what helps our community sustain changes, and they help us grow. We are extremely thankful for their contributions and are excited to collaborate on these new amenities that will positively impact the lives of all of the residents at Presbyterian Village North.”

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In recognition of American Heart Month, residents and team members at Dallas’ Presbyterian Village North (PVN) came together and pushed themselves to new levels during their workout sessions so they could “Dash Out Heart Disease”. The senior living community hosted two wellness challenges, one for residents and one for staff, and will reward participants with a healthy luncheon and other special prizes at the conclusion of the challenge. Hoping to raise awareness of heart health—which can be achieved through a combination of active living and a nutritional diet—these seniors and team members worked on building healthy habits they plan to maintain all year long. 82-year-old Grayce Herring, a resident of PVN, has been rigorously exercising for more than 40 years. While in her 40s, it occurred to her that if she wanted to be active at 100 years old, she had better start exercising more and maintaining an active lifestyle. When her husband had a heart attack at the age of 54, they increased their time spent at the gym, went on more walks and had stricter nutritional plans. She participated in PVN’s four-week challenge to raise awareness for heart health.


“If we have to grow old, it’s better to grow old feeling good, rather than feeling feeble,” said Herring. “Exercise makes a world of difference. If you’re feeling unmotivated, you have to find the energy to just get up and do it. Everyone has something that works for them. I’m not a morning exercise person, so the best classes for me happen after 9:00 a.m. The great thing about this challenge for American Heart Month is that it encouraged more and more people to come and try out the classes, or get more involved with them. We have depositors who do not even live here yet, and they are attending the classes. It’s good for socialization, it’s fun and we keep each other accountable. The staff is enthusiastic too, so that helps tremendously. I’m happy to have helped raise awareness for American Heart Month through this fitness challenge.”


The residents’ fitness challenge pushed seniors to complete at least 30 minutes of activity each day, five days a week for four weeks. They will conclude the challenge with a healthy luncheon. Residents have a variety of classes available to them, including cardio fit, tai chi, yoga, balance, stretch and strengthen and many more. In addition, they have access to a cardio and strength room where they have the option to utilize a variety of exercise equipment. Herring’s favorite form of exercise is Pilates, but she also enjoys aerobic classes, Osteofit, yoga and tai chi. On the weekends she likes to use the elliptical. All in all, Herring spends about five to eight hours a week exercising in various ways. She truly believes exercise is the route to healthy aging, and credits feeling and looking good to her active lifestyle.


The employee fitness challenge was the First Annual Presbyterian Communities and Services Duathlon. In a duathlon, participants run or walk a 5k, bike a 10k and then run or walk another 5k.The challenge was been designed for a variety of fitness levels, allowing participants to complete it at their own pace and in multiple sessions. Those who participated each week and finish the duathlon will be entered into a drawing to have the chance to win several prizes.


“We are trying to encourage people to get up and get moving to raise awareness for American Heart Month,” said Shannon Radford, wellness director for Presbyterian Village North. “This is a great way to help people build and maintain heart healthy habits. Many of our loved ones or friends of loved ones have been affected by heart disease and other heart-related health conditions. It’s important that we educate people on the significance of active, healthy living.”

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Presbyterian Village North (PVN) is pleased to announce that Joy Upton, life enrichment coordinator of PVN’s Joyce Hall, has been selected as the recipient of the Activity Professional of the Year Award by the Activity Professional Association of Greater Dallas (APAGD). Ron Kelly, executive director of Presbyterian Village North, made the announcement. Heather Ashby, director of residential and assisted living for PVN, presented the award to Upton at the organization’s general meeting this month. 

“I am honored to have been selected as the recipient of this respected award,” said Upton. “It brings me great pleasure to coordinate fulfilling and balanced activities for residents at PVN’s Joyce Hall each month. This award is a true testament to the value of creating opportunities for life enrichment through social engagement. It warms my heart to see seniors in this new chapter of their lives exploring a variety of interests and events while developing friendships and making new memories. I am thankful for the support I have received from fellow team members at PVN. Without their encouragement and assistance, this would not be possible. We are a ministry of people serving people, and what a blessing that has been in my life.”

“It is truly a prestigious award, as it is voted on by our colleagues and peers in the activity profession,” said Lisa Englander, independent living life enrichment manager of Presbyterian Village North. “This is wonderful recognition for all that Joy has done for residents within our senior living community. She takes a well-rounded approach to creating and coordinating activities that suit a variety of interests. It has been an absolute pleasure working with her, learning from her and seeing the difference she is making in residents’ lives.”

The Activity Professionals Association of Greater Dallas is a resource group and professional organization for activity professionals, life enrichment coordinators and others who are involved in providing social, emotional, spiritual, physical and recreational care in a variety of environments. The organization also supports life enrichment directors by providing a variety of resources, contacts, social functions and continuing education credits which are required by state regulations. 

“Joy has been serving residents at Presbyterian Village North for more than 17 years,” said Kelly. “We are grateful for her positive attitude, her dedication to enriching the lives of residents, her creative planning and the organization with which she plans activities. Activity professionals truly are the heartbeat of each and every community, and we want to show our thanks to her for helping us improve the lives of the residents we serve.”

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Imagine having an unexpected medical emergency and your family is out of town or isn’t within close proximity to you. Who do you call? Who is not busy? Who will you not burden? For some seniors, these are questions that cannot even be answered because they do not have anyone to call. Wanting to provide residents in this situation with a familiar face and comforting presence during a hospital visit, Presbyterian Village North (PVN) and Grace Presbyterian Village started the Resident Emergency Advocacy Program, which ensures that the residents do not travel to the hospital or stay there alone. When caregivers become a part of the Presbyterian Communities & Services team, they undergo special training on being an advocate. One Christmas Eve, Marion Goodrich, a resident of Presbyterian Village North, had a medical emergency while her family was out of town, so Heather Ashby, director of residential and assisted living, went with her to keep her company and bring her and her family peace of mind. 

“My family went to Austin for Christmas that year, and I stayed behind because I was having stomach issues,” said Goodrich. “I suffered a fall after taking a medication that made me very drowsy. I remember waking up on my floor around 7:30 p.m. with a large bump on my head. I paged my nurses immediately and they called Heather, who left her family on Christmas Eve to come up to PVN and accompany me to the hospital, since my family was out of town. She rode in the ambulance and stayed in the ER with me until they admitted me at 3:00 a.m., and then she agreed to go home. It was so reassuring having her there with me, though I did feel bad that I was taking her away from her family. Heather did a wonderful job keeping my daughter informed about what was going on and made sure I was comfortable. She never left my side. Presbyterian Village North treats residents like their own family members.”

Goodrich was admitted to the hospital for three days to get stitches on her head. During that time, PVN team members stopped by frequently to visit with her and make sure that she had everything she needed, as her daughter, Sally, was still out of town. It brought both Goodrich and her daughter peace of mind. Goodrich says that the other residents are delighted with the program as well. When people come back from the hospital, they’re always asked who accompanied them and how it went. Goodrich has friends who live at other communities, and none of them have mentioned a program like this to her. She believes it is one of the many unique things that makes living at PVN so special.

“I was more than happy to assist Marion and be there for her after having such a traumatic experience,” said Ashby. “I knew I was of extreme comfort to her, and I was able to provide updates to her family, who was not in town at that point in time. I held her hand, we said prayers and I did my best to make sure that she was content. I love this program and am so happy we have it in place. When my grandmother was in a retirement community a few years ago, she experienced a medical emergency when we were out of town. No one went to the hospital with her and she spent her time there alone with just the doctors, and they didn’t know my grandma’s history on a personal level. It was such a scary time for both her and us. I’m so glad we can relieve some of that stress for residents and their families. During all my years in the senior living industry I have yet to encounter another program like this. It is truly unique and further demonstrates PVN’s mission of being a ministry of people serving people.”

The advocacy support program provides active support to a Presbyterian Village North or Grace Presbyterian Village resident/patient during a health crisis at an area hospital ER, usually when family or designated care companions are not immediately available. It also provides a caring presence for the residents and their family by coordinating communication between the hospital and the senior living community. The advocate is used when the resident is an elder orphan, when family cannot be there within a reasonable amount of time and when the medical emergency is determined to be critical and extra support to family is needed. 

“The advocacy program that both Presbyterian Village North and Grace Presbyterian Village offer to their residents was put into place to provide peace of mind in a very difficult time,” said Tom Tickner, minister of spiritual life for Grace Presbyterian Village. “It reminds them that they are not alone, and it is comforting to family members to know that we are providing support if they cannot be there or interim support until they can come.” 

The advocate is responsible for knowing the reason the residents are going to the hospital and which hospital they are being taken to, their room number at the senior living community, whether a family member or care companion is on the way, contact information for medical power of attorney and estimated time of departure from the community if the resident has not left yet. The advocate makes sure that the ER staff is attending to the residents’ needs, such as getting a blanket if they are cold, helping them to the bathroom or getting them a beverage if they are thirsty. If the resident is discharged back to the community, the advocate ensures that the hospital has made transportation arrangements and communicates them to the community.

“The advocacy program is one of the most significant ways that we fulfill our mission to enrich lives,” said Ron Kelly, executive director for Presbyterian Village North. “Many of us have experienced a sudden need for medical care that caught us by surprise.  When family isn’t available to be with us, it makes that surprise even more troubling.  I know that families appreciate knowing that even when they are not physically available, they can trust our team at PVN to always be there for their loved one.”

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We all need reassurance in knowing we are not alone in the way we think or feel or in what we have experienced. This is especially important when someone close to us passes away, and we have to face the process of grieving. Dealing with grief can be especially hard during the holiday season, as the holidays bring back memories of loved ones and are reminders that you cannot share them with that person anymore. Wanting to give residents the chance to share their experiences and discuss the difficult emotions they are feeling, the Spiritual Life ministers at Presbyterian Village North (PVN) started “Journey Through Grief,” a new support group for people who are dealing with any kind of grief in their lives. Carolyn Mitchell, minister of Spiritual Life for PVN, collaborated with Valerie Sanchez, who serves as the director of bereavement and integrated therapies for Faith Presbyterian Hospice, to design a support group that would meet the residents’ needs. Meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 2:00 p.m.

“Previously, residents had to travel to other venues to participate in grief support groups,” said Mitchell. “Wanting to lessen the inconveniences of traveling far and the time it eats up, we thought we would create our own group here at PVN. We begin each meeting by checking in with each other and enjoying coffee and light refreshments. We want the ambiance to be warm and casual. Then we sit together and share our losses and touch on what we are each going through individually. We encourage attendees not to offer advice, as everyone’s situation is unique. This is a private, sacred and safe place where we can lend an ear to each other’s heartaches and pray for one another. Everyone here has a deep understanding of the pain each person is going through because they are experiencing something similar.”

“Grief can be an isolating experience for many, as reactions to grief may be overwhelming and at times frightening,” said Sanchez. “Grief support groups decrease isolation and offer a safe place to fully express emotions. Many times people find it hard to find meaning in their lives without their loved one here, which may give them an additional sense of loss. In the grief support groups, we all work toward the common goal of finding balance in our lives as we discover new meaning. Attendees may tell their story as many times as they need to find the balance they are seeking. I find joy in giving back to those who are grieving by lending an ear, educating them on what to expect, bringing normalcy to the process and validating their feelings. I am happy to have helped Presbyterian Village North start their grief support group and am here to help them in any way I can.”

Most of the participants have lost a spouse, or for some a child; however, there are other causes of grief such as loss of health or parting with something that reminds a person of their family, such as their parents’ house with 40 years of memories. The support group began in October and has been going strong since then. The meetings are held at 2:00 p.m. and are for residents only. A grief support group offers a way to gather and to listen without judgment, without the need to hurry or rush or to “fix”.  Mitchell has received many compliments on the program thus far. In addition to discussing each person’s situation and the emotions it evokes, Mitchell dives into the stages of grief so residents will understand that what they are experiencing is quite normal. The stages do not necessarily happen in order. It is case by case.

“For most, grief starts with shock. You cannot believe the person is gone,” said Mitchell. “Shock is followed by denial. You still expect the person to call or to walk in the door. Then people may get angry–angry at the person for leaving or angry at God for taking them too soon. Eventually you reach the point of acceptance, in which you can accept their death and move forward while keeping their memory in your heart. This process can take a very long time for some. Many times friends and family members urge a loved one experiencing grief to snap out of it, but it is not always that easy. Everyone is different.”

A person may be struck by grief at any point in time. They may be overcome by sadness or tears or anger, even after they thought they had moved past that stage of the process. Signs that you may be experiencing grief are loss of appetite or eating too much, not being able to sleep or sleeping all the time or drastic changes in emotions or emotional well-being. In the meetings, Mitchell discusses ways to help residents deal with grief and move forward. For many, simply having a few people listen to their story does much healing on its own. So far it is an intimate group, consisting of five to eight members, and everyone makes a promise to keep the discussion confidential. The meetings last about an hour and thirty minutes.

“Helen Keller once said, ‘What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us,’” said Mitchell. “Her observance is the key message of our group. The people we lose will always have a special place in our hearts. We do not have to forget them. We can remember them, and in honor of their memory move forward with our lives and try as best as we can to live them to the fullest. In the presence of love and acceptance, a group empathizes with each other’s deep sorrow and supports one another in the hope of the joy that will come.”

“Residents have already expressed that they feel better,” said Ron Kelly, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “We all hope that they improve over time and find themselves in a healthier place emotionally, spiritually and physically. In addition, residents and team members may meet with Spiritual Life ministers to discuss grief at any time. Our sister organization, Faith Presbyterian Hospice, hosts grief luncheons at Presbyterian churches in the Dallas area as well. Its events are what spurred the creation of the grief program at PVN. We are happy to provide these services to our residents who are in need of support, guidance and love. We are considering opening the group to the adult children of residents and eventually the general public.”  

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When team members at Presbyterian Village North heard items were stolen from a local daycare center, they decided to be good neighbors and help. A laptop, nap mats and boxes of snacks and apples that were for the daycare’s carnival went missing from The Greater Cornerstone Academy. Upon hearing this news, Presbyterian Village North’s Spiritual Life committee gathered donations to help the daycare during its time of need. PVN donated a $300 check, as well as a $200 gift card to Home Depot.


“When we heard about these upsetting circumstances, we knew we wanted to help out,” said Brent Ashby, associate minister of Spiritual Life for Presbyterian Village North. “As a Christian organization, we are certainly familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus used to illustrate how we can be a good neighbor to others. This is not something just for individuals to abide by, it’s for businesses and companies to follow as well. A strong, vibrant, healthy community is one in which the individuals and businesses look out for one another. The Bible says faith without works is dead. One way we live out our faith as an organization is to give to community members in need.”


The donations from PVN will assist the daycare in replacing stolen goods and purchasing new supplies and items, as well as with repairs throughout the daycare, such as damaged doors. The senior living community hopes that this gesture will help bridge the generation gap between seniors and toddlers.


“Living in community is important to Presbyterian Village North,” said Ashby. “The senior living community would not be here if it were not for other nearby churches and individuals who recognized the benefits of building a continuing care retirement community in the neighborhood 35 years ago. We hope that we have repaid that kindness through the years by being a good neighbor.”


The Spiritual Life committee has long championed the idea of supporting ministries outside the walls of PVN. The committee donates thousands of dollars every year to ministry agencies in the surrounding community as well as to relief efforts around the world. With the generosity of residents who make donations to the PVN Spiritual Life Department, the community is able to support the good work of so many other groups that touch lives in meaningful ways. In addition to monetary donations, residents serve as tutors, mentors and volunteers to other children in the community.