National Football League (NFL) players are like super-humans. Only a select few athletes ever make it to the NFL “big time” because of the extraordinary athletic skills and stamina needed to compete with the “best of the best.” In reality, even super-humans get old. Silverado Senior Living has partnered with the NFL to make sure these impressive athletes are granted golden years worthy of their cultural and athletic contributions.
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Back in 2008, the NFL organization approached Silverado Senior Living in order to secure “services of the highest quality for dementia care,” according to Silverado CEO, Loren Shook. The NFL had done their research and was impressed with Silverado’s quantifiable benefits, including reduced number of falls, reduced medication levels and lower re-admittance rates for their residents. So representatives from Silverado met with the Medical Director and the Executive Vice President of the NFL, the NFL Player’s Association and their legal departments to form a relationship for aging NFL players who are in need of hospice care, dementia care and geriatric care management—on a nationwide basis.
Shook, an easy-to-talk-to, passionate advocate for quality senior care discussed how Silverado will “go anywhere in the nation to help a player in need.” On top of that, they’ll bring-in experts, such as top neurologists and life care managers to cater to each aging athlete’s individual needs, and provide them with the “highest quality of life”—whether that means finding an appropriate place in independent living or more supervised care at home, or in a specific care situation. “It all depends on the diagnosis and presenting life circumstances,” according to Shook, “Providing stimulating, interesting activities and care for these residents helps to give them back control of their life… Have meaning in their life.”
And how does an NFL player qualify for this generous and top-notch care that covers all expenses for the rest of their life? He has to play for three years.
Shook took this question with grace and humor as aging athletes are human beings, after all, who have just led extraordinary and athletic lives. “Silverado takes care of people who are very successful in their lives and careers. I have noticed that many of the retired NFL players naturally have a competitive drive. But their competitive spirit equaled to a lady who has raised five kids.”
Again, the concept of letting residents participate in activities that add meaning and purpose to their lives is crucial, in Shook’s opinion. Whether someone is still physically capable of being active or requires more creative stimulation, is where the specialized, expert care comes in. A good example? 84-year-old retired defensive back who played for the Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins and LA Rams—Don Doll. This four-time NFL Pro-Bowl player came to Silverado in 2008 when his dementia was quite advanced. His wife, Diana, had taken care of him for several years and was worried he would fall and injure himself, as he suffered from multiple medical issues and required more specialized care.
Don started with Silverado At Home care, and when his disease progressed, he became a resident at Silverado – San Juan Capistrano and enjoyed his memory box with football and family memorabilia, as well as, resident activities and family visits, before he passed away in 2010. The music, pets and outdoor areas appealed to Don, but Silverado took his quality of life a step further; they linked Don with a nearby high school football coach. This relationship enabled Don to sit and watch football practice and experience his life’s passion on a regular basis, with the help of Silverado staff. While his body limited some of his activities, Silverado was still able to give him rich life experiences, purpose and fulfillment.
Retired NFL players are able to enjoy a myriad of activities at Silverado, according to Shook. But these activities aren’t limited to NFL players. All Silverado residents are treasured as much as a hall of fame quarterback. Here are a few examples:
1. Nintendo Wii — Wii bowling, tennis, golf and baseball games are a regular entertainment option for residents.
2. Game Outings — Depending on the resident’s functional level, Silverado can take them to games, from professional to high school level.
3. Hockey — This Silverado-created activity includes full-sized hockey sticks and pucks where residents play 3-on-3. According to Shook, these games can get quite active, although even residents in wheel chairs can play.
4. Horse Racing — This “Silverado Style” activity involves dice and horses.
5. Progressive Story Telling — Residents get in a circle and take turns adding to a story, giving residents a chance to exercise their imagination and bond with one another.
6. Various Outings — Silverado takes residents on outings, from speed boat riding to a trip to the zoo. Shook comments on the residents’ zest-for-life during these outings: “It wouldn’t surprise me to see one or more residents sitting on top of an elephant at the LA zoo.”
7. Life-Enriching Experiences — Personalized, meaningful activities and catered care, specific for the resident (see Doll’s story above).
8. Volunteer Work — Silverado facilitates volunteer work with participating community resources and schools across the nation
Above, all, Loren Shook stresses Silverado’s mission to “provide opportunities for people to give back.” Memory impairing diseases are just a detail they deal with to help their residents’ give back to their community and add meaning to their own life.
Watching football on the television is an obvious interest for retired NFL players. Shook comments, “Sports in general appeals to them.” But more than that, Silverado provides other helpful programs, in addition to the activities mentioned above:
Family involvement — This is an integral part of the Silverado program. Visits and family participation in resident care are highly encouraged.
Community involvement — Children, such as boy scouts and girl scouts, visit. Volunteer organizations and live entertainment also help to keep residents engaged and involved. Inter-generational programming helps dementia care residents stay informed and involved in life and community.
Pet-Therapy — Residents often bring their own pets to their communities, and Silverado also incorporates pets into resident care. Shook comments that pets “give residents purpose and meaning.” Silverado often has a staff member dedicated to pet care, such as a pet coordinator, and according to Shook pets have been shown to provide the following benefits to residents:Reduce reliance on psychotropic medications
Silverado has two miniature horses at its Silverado Encinitas community, and some of the other Silverado communities of the past actually had kangaroos and llamas. Of course, all pets have to “meet a certain criteria for approval.”
Shook states that dementia patients are “typically over-medicated.” Because of Silverado’s program and their philsophy of giving freedom to live and freedom of choices, with the support of 24-7, licensed nurses and highly trained caregiving staff, they’re often able to reduce medications. And, in many instances, residents come to Silverado unable to walk. Silverado provides physical therapy, encouragement and treatments that enable more than 4,000 residents to walk again; a huge gain in quality of life freedom.
Silverado never restrains residents and Shook comments that some family members think loved ones “have been cured.” Here are some reasons Silverado stands out when it comes to quality senior care:
Shook says that a trained social worker who was also an Assembly Woman in the California legislature once watched caregivers assisting residents and called it a “symphony in practice,” a powerful image exemplifying the positive environment, care and overall ambiance of Silverado.
Silverado is determined to give residents maximum control of their life, and more freedom to live. By matching activities to a resident’s age and condition, Loren Shook feels that Silverado is able to provide residents and their families with more respect than the average memory care program. Shook notes that Silverado is “honored and appreciative to have the opportunity to serve retired players and their families.”
The relationship between Silverado and the NFL is going strong, as the contract has been renewed multiple times. Shook says they’ve “established a real ‘win-win’ with all parties involved, and Silverado looks forward to serving more players.” Also, Shook would like to get the word out there to other retired NFL players who may not be aware of this awesome benefit. “The NFL will pay for retired players. This is an important benefit for these players to be aware of.”