FCA Summer Newsletter

Dr. Teel and the  Full Circle America Team bring you the FCA newsletter.

Summer 2012

Burlington Vermont Welcomes Dr. Teel

Dr. Allan “Chip” Teel was the keynote speaker at the Gerontology Symposium at the Center for Aging at the University of Vermont. Speaking to about 250 medical and care providers he addressed the elder care issues most of us are dealing with on a day to day basis. Many attendees had already read Dr. Teel’s book, Alone and Invisible No More and were looking forward to hearing more in-depth stories and explanations about his “Maine Approach” to elder care. The enthusiasm of his visit continues as we talk to many Vermont agencies about implementing Dr. Teel’s ideas and mission in Vermont. As a UVM graduate he was pleased to be back in Vermont to see familiar faces and sights.

Dr. Teel’s article in the Free Press May 17, 2012
Coming Full Circle: The Lunch Bunch            
The Rockland Lunch Bunch gathered for their monthly rendez-vous at The Atlantic Baking Company on Main St. Organized by Full Circle America’s Kim Fenn, the talent around the table became more and more evident as the conversation continued. On my right, Nancy at 85 just hung 6 art works at that week’s opening at the Park Ave Tire Store, Having worked in oils and watercolor, she’s currently using pastels. She is also a retired teacher who worked with special needs children when she moved to the area in 1970. After hearing about our FCA efforts, she immediately volunteered to do whatever we needed. Gerald our first customer benefited greatly from her roll-up-your-sleeves approach. When I suggested we may have to do dishes as we approached ABC’s 5pm closing time, she chimed in, “Break a few dishes and we’ll be quickly let go.”. Always a bit of a rebel, I’ll bet.
Across the table sat two other volunteers, Marian and Hank. Marian also knew Nancy from having worked together at their church’s school for young children with disabilities 40 years ago, and Hank was on the Board of Directors. They all gave freely of their time then and still do. Their children are grown and live across the country with their own families. Today, all are still very active in their communities, and Full Circle America’s efforts to nurture a network of older individuals supporting each other in a variety of ways resonates completely with them.
Across from me sat 96 year-old Margaret. She had been a church organist since age 12 in far northern Maine. Now retired and living nearer her son, she jumped at the suggestion of a table-mate half her age to get together and play some piano for four hands next weekend. Occasionally, the pace of the conversation around the table outran her, but she regularly caught up and chimed in thoughtful comments about the paintings on the restaurant walls around her.
Next to her sat Patty, a homemaker extraordinaire, next to her daughter Amy, fitting in our group outing around music lessons and her school teaching responsibilities. Understandably stretched juggling her family and work, she’d love to include her mom in her daily world even more. The group around the table reassured Amy they’d be very happy to step up and transport Patty to her school events whenever needed. Patty always beams, her pleasant countenance appearing as an invitation to begin a conversation. With a little prompting, Patty’s skills as a multi-talented craftsperson were recalled. Whether it was hooked rugs, weaving, needlepoint, or making her family’s clothes, there seemed to be no handiwork Patty hadn’t done and excelled at. And across the table sat another Nancy and her sister Asha both in their mid-seventies. They brought us up to the present on their travels and residences prior to landing in Maine. From flower gardens to “Dancing with the Local Stars” to the Metropolitan Opera at The Strand, hardly an event happens in the area that escapes Asha. Her sister Nancy has done well to move to this area in the last couple of years and try to keep up the pace. At the end of the table sat Judy, a local librarian and regular volunteer with our group. She has a wonderful way of encouraging everyone to participate.
So there we were, 3 or 4 Full Circle America customers or “members”, a few family members, some older, some younger, and several volunteers, all getting to know one another in more detail. I was struck by the seamless overlap in the conversations. Lots of laughter. Lots of story telling. Lots of memories. I was equally struck by the blurred distinctions between caregivers and care-recipients. Roles and relationships overlapped in many directions. It was about community, about friendships, about making connections. This group was the perfect embodiment of the FCA philosophy. Instead of needing a volunteer coordinator to orchestrate the details, just put this talented group in close proximity to each other, and the magic starts to happen spontaneously. As other communities try to replicate this model, a cornerstone of their success will be their ability to create their own versions of this Lunch Bunch.
Later in the afternoon, one of the volunteers remarked about her own upcoming eye surgery, and almost before she finished her sentence, another care-recipient had volunteered to help her. The role reversal not only seems natural for this group, but also begins to guide the way for how a new paradigm of at-home community-based elder care is not only possible, it’s happening right before our eyes.
For more information about Full Circle America’s services and volunteer opportunities, please call Kim Fenn at 1-888-873-8817.
Dr. Allan “Chip” Teel
Full Circle America

Dr. Teel’s Book

Alone and Invisible No More is available for purchase.  Books can be found at www.ChelseaGreen.com

Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program 


Serious reader “Lee” (Palo Alto, CA United States)

This book recounts the experience of a grass roots group in Maine that is providing quality care for the elderly, helping many avoid nursing homes. Full Circle America has enabled many people to remain productive and happy citizens in their own homes, through a combination of interactive technology (“virtual assisted living”), home care, volunteers (including the elderly themselves), and organized outings and social gatherings. This book is important because it shows what can be done now within the economic and bureaucratic constraints of our society.
One of the biggest obstacles to providing qualify long-term care has been the insistence, on the part of family and government, of zero physical risk, No one, of any age, can live a risk-free life, and most elderly would rather have a social life than be confined to their beds. The greatest obstacle has been state and federal bureaucrats. Even the backing of Maine’s governor failed to get state bureaucrats to loosen some regulations. One regulation which causes a great deal of stress for nursing home residents is the extreme application of privacy regulations. A resident would disappear overnight, and no one would tell his or her friends what had happened. Had they died? Had they gone to the hospital?
Full Circle America is attempting to export their business model for humane and efficient eldercare – see their website […]. This book should be of interest to anyone who fears growing old, or paying exorbitant fees to keep their loved ones warehoused in unhappy situations.

Review Written by Jennifer Lynch “Jennifer of Independent Blessing (Boston MA)A family doctor’s 25+ years of experience in family care creates a reality show. Crammed with his clinical experience and examples, Dr. Teel`s views and efforts evolved to develop into a reproducible, practicable and desirable model for eldercare. His experience showcases how the combination of technology, volunteerism, and common sense can be reproduced in your hometown. The arguments for “dignity with risk” and the option of independence/aging in place support his prescription for elders: “…they will be living- not just waiting to die.” Most reads only prescribe change without showing us/telling us how. He provides specifics. You’ll want to be first in line to spread his message of “Full Circle America” to make our American communities the better place for everyone especially our Elders.

The Dignity of Risk is an important facet in joy of living, September 13, 2011

Joan C. Scott (New Mexico and Oregon) –
Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program

Allowing patients the dignity of risk is a central concept in this book. Simple though this idea sounds, it literally calls for re-educating our society. Elder care, in current usual practice, is expected to provide care with ZERO risk to the patient — and in attempting to do so, our currently practiced elder care system also removes all joy of living for the patient. Many die simply as a way to escape the living hell of the nursing home (my wording, not the author’s).

After witnessing from out of state my father’s last years — he had apparently signed away rights to have a voice about WHICH section of the retirement facility he would be housed in at any given time (and this was a POSH facility in a chain with a nationwide good reputation) — I commented to my brother (10 years younger than I) that I was going to make a serious plan for suicide at the first sign of any incurable elder illness because I would rather be dead than endure elder “care.” My brother replied that he had come to the same conclusion. And my sister and another brother commented that our father had told THEM he would prefer death to continued existence in this care system.

Dr. Teel, the author, summed up pretty much all that my brother and I thought in the beginning of his book. I was impressed that he was a doctor with a big heart and a big intelligence and a big dedication to then go out and actually DO something significant. He described the “journey” by which he formed a county-wide association dedicated to providing in-home care to 6,000 patients, about 25% of whom would normally be consigned to assisted living or nursing home care — at about 10% of the cost of such institutional care. With a creative use of technology, volunteers, paid personnel who have been retrained to this philosophy of preserving patient dignity and rights, and patients who assist in monitoring and sometimes caring for other patients, he has built a truly innovative approach to elder care. Integral to this approach is the idea that patient desires and hopes are SO important that this system makes it part of their mission to assist patients in getting out to do FUN things, not just for medical appointments.

Dr. Teel also makes the point that elders have been marginalized in much the same way that developmentally disabled people had been prior to the 1960’s-70’s, when their care was de-instututionalized. He says that many of the steps that were taken to allow the developmentally disabled the dignity of risk, the right to try, the right to fail and try again, are the same steps needed to de-marginalize elders with health problems.

It seems that he wrote the book to interest others in joining his effort to create a nation-wide chain of such organizations. He states that a goal of his organization is to spearhead formation of 10,000 such groups in the course of the next ten years. Though he hopes others will join him, he also states that it doesn’t matter WHO does this; what matters is that SOMEONE does it.

I was interested enough to buy a second copy of this book to share with my doctor, a young doctor months away from leaving a corporate medical office in order to open a one-doctor private practice. I think Dr. Teel’s ideas and organization merit more investigation with an eye to being able to do the same things in my area of the country.

Colinda “L.S.W.” (Historic Virginia, USA) –Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program

This is an excellent introduction to a new paradigm in elder care. I wish it were not necessary to come up with a new model, but anyone who has tried to help aging parents knows that it is challenging or even impossible to keep them safe and comfortable.

Dr. Teel does a great job here. The book is clearly written and persuasive. He gives plenty of examples of how individuals and their families struggle with the difficulties of getting old. Everyone hopes to be able to retain their faculties but of course the reality is harsh for many people. Assisted living is expensive and often does not meet the needs of the individual. For those who prefer to remain in their own homes, issues of health and safety can be challenging.

Teel and others have developed ways to keep elders at home longer, using technology and a network of community helpers. Technology includes webcams that make it possible to check on folks with disabilities and temperature sensors to alert the caregiving team if the heat goes off. Teel acknowledges that webcams can seem invasive but points out that moving to an institution usually results in a greater loss of privacy than any camera causes.

The success of the pilot project in Maine has brought about Full Circle America, an organization dedicated to spreading the benefits of “virtual assisted living.” If the concept sounds intriguing to you, I recommend reading this book.

Music Moves Us

We have all had the experience when we hear a song on the radio and we have a flashback to a certain event in our past. Whether it’s the lyrics or the rhythm, that tune has a permanent place in our brain. Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. Music also shows the potential to unearth memories associated with music for patients, even ones in late stages of dementia.
. Patients who can no longer speak due to a left-side brain injury find they are able to sing words, often without trouble or training.  After that, it’s just a matter of time before they’re able to speak simple sentences with practice.   Music has been used in many therapies including aiding in  the detox stage of recovery from drug addiction, and if applied frequently could cut down on the number of pain killers patients need. Music has also  been used as therapy for seizures, to lower blood pressure, treat ADD children, treat mental illness, treat depression, aid in healing, treat stress and insomnia and premature infants.
I had the pleasure of seeing the power of music first hand when I was involved with a Young At Heart music troop here in Damariscotta, Maine. At first many of the participants sat expressionless, I wondered if they could hear the music. But, by the 3rd or 4th week  the magic started, I noticed a slight sway and a little tap of the toe. The following weeks brought on clapping, singing, playing musical instruments and yes, even some dancing. Music brought them back to life. They performed at the Lincoln Theater in June and will give an anchor presentation in September. If you would like to join the group or have questions call 563-3424.

New FCA Platform

We’ve been working hard on our new monitoring Platform. Our new Platform, version 1.0,  is now online. It is designed to be more efficient and user friendly for the volunteers, monitors and family members. We are able to check in on members, access member information, schedules and calendars and emergency information in seconds.  We’re always improving and innovating elder care.

Joining Forces

The Elder Care Netwok (ECN)  of Lincoln County Maine is joining forces with Full Circle America. With their knowledgeable staff at the 7 assisted living homes throughout Lincoln County  ECN will be providing the hands on care for local  FCA members.  “This collaboration makes perfect sense in using existing resources in our communities,” says Eric Winter, FCA’s Business Development Director. FCA members will have the opportunity to attend activities and luncheons at one of the 7 “Greens” in their area. The Greens are located in Boothbay, Jefferson, Waldoboro, Round Pond, Wiscassett, Edgecomb and Damariscotta Maine. By having small, assisted-like homes in various towns throughout the county we are able to keep our residents in the community they are from. Keeping  them close to their church, library, businesses and neighborhood helps them stay involved and  connected to their community.

For more information on FCA services call 1-888-873-8817


A prescription for health

Full Circe America is all about volunteering and being involved in the community. We rely on volunteers to support our grassroots movement, empower elders and visit on a regular basis. Many people volunteer for different reasons; some are looking for companionship themselves, others just want to be active and some like the feeling they get when they do something good for someone else. There are many reasons to volunteer, but what you may not know is that there are health benefits to volunteering. The good news is anyone can do it. If you can’t get out of the house you can be a phone buddy to someone else. You can be available to take a call from a teenager or single mother when they need a little advice. Everyone has something to give. By spending time with someone new you might learn a new game, enjoy stories from their past or find a new favorite place to have coffee. Research shows that volunteering just 2 times a week can:

Lower Blood Pressure
Reduce Heart Attacks
Decrease Anxiety and Depression
Boost Your Energy
Decrease Mortality
  With all the health benefits of volunteering, maybe doctors should start prescribing it. It’s a free prescription with unlimited refills!
If you would like to volunteer in your area email Kim@FullCircleAmerica.com or call 1-888-873-8817.


Webinars will continue on the 1st and 4th Thursday of the month. To sign up for an informational webinar contact Eric at Eric.Winter@FullCircleAmerica.com

FCA hosts young physicians from Baltimore

In June 3 young physicians with a special interest in geriatrics came to FCA to learn about the “Maine Approach” to elder care . They worked with Dr. Teel and his staff and will take the new model back to their community in Baltimore. They were very impressed by meeting several FCA members and their support circle and seeing how two Elder Care Network’s  assisted living homes are run. We enjoyed their perspective, energy and the dedication they bring to geriatric ca. We look forward to helping them develop their  local program.

Keeping Your Cool

With record breaking heat this summer, its important to keep cool, and for some elderly thats not easy to do. Young people adjust to sudden changes in temperature better than elderly people do. Having a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat and taking prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or inhibit perspiration are two more challenges of keeping cool in the summer. Protect yourself and your family from heat related stresses by

  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Use fans or air conditioners to circulate air in your room.
  • Avoid working outside.
  • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
  • Wear lightweight clothing.
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