Don Lowrey stands next to the telescope at Lake Hefner; remembering the past and looking to the future.

Story and photo by Vickie Jenkins

Have you ever prayed for something, not sure if your prayer would be answered?  That is what Don Lowrey did 40 years ago.  Little did he know that his prayer in 1975 would be a lifetime blessing.
The weather was in the low 20’s on the morning of February 12, 1975 in Oklahoma City.  Working as an electrical apprentice, Lowrey had just gotten to work.  Still in the parking lot, his attention turned to a man tapping on his car window, asking for help with a flat tire.
Moments later, Lowrey was hit over the head and put in the trunk of his car by three men.  Driven to a wooded area, a gun was put to Lowey’s head.  The gun malfunctioned and didn’t fire.  Lowrey was then hit over the head and knocked out.
Driven to another site, Lowrey was dumped out of the car.  The three men hit Lowrey with pieces of concrete blocks to his face.  His body was scarred with boot marks.  His right hip was dislocated and his left knee was severely injured.  He was then dragged over rocks and broken glass to an outhouse, located behind an abandoned shack.  Propping Lowrey against the wall, a pistol was put to the back of his head as a bullet was fired into his skull.  Both eyes swollen, a broken nose, a broken left jaw, smashed right cheek and a .22 caliber bullet lodged in his head, teeth knocked out and a fractured skull, the three men assumed Lowrey was dead.  Hours later, barely able to move, Lowrey began crawling to the abandoned shack 50 feet away, leaving a trail of blood.
It was three days later; a passerby saw movement through a window in the small shack.  The police and FBI were called.  Left for dead, Lowrey was still alive!   Lowrey was taken to Midwest City Memorial Hospital but later moved to Deaconess for safety reasons due to Lowrey being the only witness to the three fugitives.
The following days consisted of multiply surgeries and over 500 stitches in his head.  Surgery to remove the bullet was too risky; the bullet still remains.  Lowrey is thankful for the many doctors, nurses and friends that worked with him, encouraging him along the way.
What had Lowrey prayed for?  He asked God to give him a testimony.  His prayer was answered.   Lowrey continues to share his testimony to others through his book, I Didn’t Have a Prayer, but that’s What Saved Me and Lowrey will be releasing another book, Officially Christian August 2015.  Lowrey is active as a speaker for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, churches, schools, civic organizations, prayer breakfasts,  book clubs, prisons and retirement centers.
Now, a retired electrician, Lowrey is a veteran basketball and football official with the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association and a licensed minister.  His hobbies include golfing, writing books, poetry and songs.  A remarkable man, Lowrey has a miraculous story to share.  To order Lowrey’s book, call 405-816-8220 or email

Rick and Denise Guttenberger own Senior Care Referral Services, a company that matches seniors with the care they need.

by Jason Chandler
Staff Writer

Rick and Denise Guttenberger help families who are faced with finding senior care options, navigate to find those options.
“It can be confusing and complex at times, so we help them do that at no cost to them,” Rick said.
The Guttenbergers are the owners of Senior Care Referral Services, a company based in Edmond and serving the greater metropolitan area of Oklahoma City. Their service area ranges from Edmond to Norman and from Mustang to Midwest City.
“We get to say, ‘We can help you,’” Denise said.
Whether seniors need independent living communities, assisted living, memory care or at home care, Senior Care Referral helps seniors find the resources they need.
“For the past couple of years, we have felt called to work with the senior community,” Denise said. “I can’t really explain it other than it was a calling and we needed to do something and we started looking at different options that might be available.”
Rick recalled the common conversations with his peers before they founded the company. Friends would say, “Gosh, I’ve got to do something with mom. She can’t live at home anymore.’”
He recognized a need for guidance to establish a place to start.
“We really felt there was a need locally for a trusted group that could provide that information for them,” Rick said.
They found their niche with Senior Care Referral Services. It is a wonderful way to walk with families, providing them ease of mind by simplifying their search for answers.
“What does it cost? What kind of care am I going to find? Does my insurance pay for it?” are typical questions posed by their clients.
Oftentimes when approached by a prospective client, the Guttenbergers will hear, “We don’t know what to do.’”
Helping seniors to navigate, making their life easier with a myriad of answers, brings joy to both the Guttenbergers and their clients.
When a client needs home health, then Senior Care Referral Services will provide referral services to companies they recognize as senior-friendly leaders in the field.
“We spent quite a few months visiting almost all the communities in the greater Oklahoma City area,” Denise said. “We took the tours.  We talked to the marketing people and the director, looked at reviews, so we could feel confident that any place we would take a family is a place we would take our own family.”
Primary caregivers can reach a point in their lives when there are more questions than solutions. Their own energy becomes spent in trying to do more than they can handle. Senior Care Referral Services allows the Guttenbergers to find solutions for seniors.
“Sometimes it’s just time. Sometimes it’s, ‘Gosh, I think mom would be safer if we helped mom find a community she could live in and where meals are prepared and the maintenance is done. She doesn’t have to get out on the roads to drive.’”
A fall or injury with a loved one may prompt a son or daughter to make a decision to enhance their parent’s quality of life for the better.
The first determination made by Senior Care Referral Services is to determine the level of care a client needs, Rick said. It could be independent living, providing meals and a safe environment.
Others may need assistance with daily living activities, he said, such as dressing, eating and medication management.
“The next thing is — do they have a geographical preference?” Rick continued. “Do they want to be in Norman. Do they want to be in Midwest City or northwest Oklahoma City?”
One’s budget is the third consideration, because prices vary significantly, Rick said. There are average prices for certain levels of care, so Senior Care Referral Services helps clients to understand what services can fit their budgets.
“The fourth thing is timing,” Rick said. “When someone is coming out of skilled nursing Tuesday, and they need a place Tuesday because they can’t go back home — that may limit their options with the availability in different communities.”
All of these considerations are fine-tuned into an understanding of choices that are best suited for the individual clients’ needs. Services provided by Senior Care Referral Services are free to the clients. Service providers in the community pay for the cost.
“We can help narrow their option choices pretty quickly,” Rick said. “What might take them months to figure out on their own, we can help them figure that out in a 20-minute phone call.”
Sometimes, Rick and Denise will work with the seniors themselves, who have become isolated. Churches have asked them to help some of their members.
“We’ll go and get them and help them go on tours, and find their new home,” Denise said.


At 60, Jodi Riddle, RN, case manager took up running for the first time and she hasn’t stopped since.

by Mike Lee, Staff Writer

Jodi Riddle, RN, has worked at Norman Regional for 19 years and served as a nurse for 22.
But it’s something she’s done for slightly more than a year that really has the 61-year-old veteran nurse excited.
In November 2013, Riddle turned 60. She picked up running as a post-midlife crisis.
“When you have a major birthday, when you leave your teens and turn 20 or turn 40 I think milestone birthdays are different for different people,” she said. “Sixty is a pretty big milestone birthday for most people.”
Riddle now has eight races under her belt. Every time she stands at the start line she wonders if this is going to be the race she doesn’t finish.
“Starting something and finishing it is a really good feeling especially if it’s something outside of your comfort zone,” she said. “For me that’s something physical like running because it’s something I’m not used to doing.”
Don’t call her a distance runner. Riddle even shies away from being called a runner at all.
It’s a distance for me,” Riddle said. “Real runners wouldn’t call it a distance. I’ve never run a marathon or anything like that but I started running 5Ks last year. That’s a distance for me.”
Nearing 60 was something new for Riddle so she decided to do something she had never done.
Riddle’s supervisor, LeAnn Richardson, RN, had just spent an entire year working herself into shape through Crossfit.
“It made such a difference in her and her life and how she felt,” Riddle said. “I was approaching this milestone birthday and I had always been a person with my nose in a book. I had never been athletic or done any kind of sports or anything.
“I wanted to be strong and healthy going into this next decade in life.”
Riddle started the month of her 60th birthday doing Crossfit. Several people in the department also started on a weight-loss journey.
A few months later a charity walk was embarked on.
“We did the fun walk and like an idiot I ran it and I lived,” she giggled. “I thought I could run. This was interesting.”
A couple weeks later she was approached by a coworker who told her about an upcoming race in Moore. The race was to be run in dedication of the Oklahoma spirit and what that community had just gone through with the tornado.
“I was at Moore when the tornado took the hospital out,” Riddle said. “I thought I was going to do that. I didn’t know if I could run the whole way but I knew I would start and hopefully finished.”
Not only did Riddle start, she finished and won first-place in her age division.
“Mainly it makes me feel strong,” she said. “It’s always a good feeling when you accomplish something you’re not quite sure whether you can or not.”
With runners never being satisfied, the natural progression for Riddle would be longer distances.
She runs in the morning 3-4 miles most days.
“My husband says if you’re getting up at 4:30 so you can run before you go to work then you’re a runner,” Riddle said. “So I’m trying to keep that mindset. I’m not looking at a half marathon but I’m thinking my next challenge might be a 10K. I’m thinking about it and that’s the first step.
During her nursing career, Riddle has worked in the flex pool, which is basically a per diem nurse position that took her all over the hospital.
And Riddle has never been one to shy away from a challenge, volunteering to tackle the hospital’s move to electronic medical records.
Knee deep in technology she struggled to understand, Riddle remembers wondering what she had gotten herself in to.
“Unfortunately, during my career I’ve frequently thought that when I’ve been changing positions,” she said with a laugh. “Getting out of your comfort zone can sometimes be a little frightening.”
Physically, Riddle says running has helped her in so many ways.
“I always looked at people doing sports and thought that was a huge amount of effort,” Riddle said. “The surprising thing to me was after that first run I wasn’t wiped out and could still function. I had scheduled nothing for the rest of the day because I thought I would be in bed.
“I just feel like I have more stamina. I feel like my day starts better when I run in the morning.”
When she’s not running she’s chasing seven grandchildren courtesy of her three daughters and one son.
Riddle is planning on running with one of her daughters in the near future.
There’s a plan for her daughter to run the OKC Memorial Marathon and for Riddle to do the 5K. Prior to that Riddle will run the Health Dash 5K in March.
And she has no idea what she plans on taking on at age 70.

Seniors in Oklahoma can find help for hunger through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

by Mike Lee,
Staff Writer

Statistically, one in six Oklahoma seniors is hungry in our state.
It’s a tragedy that can be avoided, according to Angie Doss, director of marketing and communications for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma,
“It’s a huge problem,” Doss says of hunger in Oklahoma. “A lot of seniors are on a very tight and limited income. They may receive $600 per month. By the time you take out housing, utilities and transportation there’s not a lot left for food or medicine.
“A lot of our senior clients have faced the choice whether to pay for medicine or food.”
Oklahoma continues to rank among the top 10 states in the nation for food insecurity among seniors.
This spring, Oklahomans can double the impact of their gifts to help feed even more seniors struggling with hunger.
Through April 30, the Charles and Cassandra Bowen Charitable Foundation and the Anderson Charitable Foundation have teamed up to match donations to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to fight senior hunger – up to $130,000.
Donations will help provide food for seniors in central and western Oklahoma.
“After a lifetime of work, many seniors are living on fixed incomes and may not have enough money to purchase food at the end of the month,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank. “About 700,000 seniors, age 60-plus, live in Oklahoma and one in six face hunger every day.”
In a recent study by Feeding America, 27 percent of seniors in the Regional Food Bank’s service area have had to choose between buying food and buying medicine. Limited mobility and dependence on outside assistance makes seniors particularly vulnerable to hunger. In Oklahoma, seniors are 25 percent more likely to be have inconsistent access to food than the national average.
Seniors facing hunger are also forced to choose between buying food and paying for utilities. Additionally, they are more likely to have lower intakes of food and major vitamins; be in poor to fair health; have limitations in activities of daily living and have increased risk of stroke.
“At the end of the month, most seniors are out of money and depend on the Regional Food Bank,” shared one senior client. “If they did not come, many seniors would be without food at the end of the month and it would affect them all. We’re just so awfully grateful for what we get.”
The Regional Food Bank serves seniors through food pantries, emergency shelters, soup kitchens, and senior nutrition programs. Additionally, the nonprofit’s Senior Feeding program fights senior hunger through Senior Mobile Pantries, Senior Home Delivery, and Senior Mobile Markets.
Through the Senior Mobile Pantry program, the Regional Food Bank provides food each month to seniors living in nine Oklahoma City Housing Authority sites and one Norman Housing Authority site. Approximately 850 senior residents receive a sack of nonperishable food items along with produce, refrigerated items, meat, and bread.
The mobile pantry is set up as a “client choice” program, where seniors choose which items they need.
The Senior Home Delivery Program is at 32 sites in the Regional Food Bank’s 53-county service area. Seniors who, receive home delivery sacks, receive a nutritional supplement at the end of the month. These sites serve an average of 1,000 seniors a month.
The Senior Mobile Markets provide a monthly distribution of food that is set up farmer’s market style, where participants select the food they want. A typical mobile market provides a bag of non-perishable foods like fruits and vegetables, cereal, shelf stable milk, and other easy to prepare foods. Items also include protein, fresh produce and bread.
The program currently has 18 locations in the Oklahoma City metro and serves over 1,100 seniors a month.
“Sadly, many older Oklahomans have outlived their families, outlived their income or have simply been forgotten,” said Charlie Bowen with the Charles and Cassandra Bowen Charitable Foundation. “That is why this match is so important.”
Traditionally, the Regional Food Bank provides five meals for every dollar donated; however, thanks to this generous match, a dollar donation will provide the equivalent of 10 meals to seniors facing hunger.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is the state’s largest private hunger relief organization.  The nonprofit provides enough food to feed more than 110,000 hungry Oklahomans each week through a network of nearly 1,200 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Since its inception in 1980, the Regional Food Bank has distributed more than 538 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry.
For more information you can contact the Regional Food Bank at 405-600-3136 or online at

Grapevine Texas:  Festivals All Year Long

Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn

In late fall of last year, I had a delightful and fun filled December weekend in Grapevine, Texas, during their Christmas Celebration.  You know Grapevine is the Christmas Capitol of Texas, and everything seems to be bigger in Texas?  Between sips of wine, main street shopping and a couple of theatrical presentations, I discovered that Grapevine  is filled with festivals and celebrations through the year. Now is a good time to schedule your favorite Grapevine event.  With the listings below you can see how Grapevine is officially recognized as a World Festival & Events City by the International Festival & Events Association. Grapevine welcomed more than one and a half million visitors to the city’s festivals and special events in 2014.
Some of Grapevine offerings are:
• 12th Annual Day Out with Thomas™, April 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19: Take a journey with Thomas the Tank Engine™ at the 12th Annual Day Out With Thomas on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.   The train ride is approximately 25 minutes.
• 11th Annual ChocolateFest, April 24 and 25: Sweeten up your weekend at the 11th Annual ChocolateFest, benefiting Travelers Aid D/FW. On Friday, April 24, delicious delights await at An Evening of Chocolate and Wine at the all new location of Austin Ranch, 2009 Anderson Gibson Rd. (located near Grapevine Mills), 7 p.m. Guests must be 21 and above. On Saturday, April 25, sample an array of chocolate treats paired with beautiful works of art at A Day of Chocolate & Art at Austin Ranch from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
• Grapevine Farmers Market and Grapevine Market, April 9 – October 17: Experience shopping at the festive open-air European-style Grapevine Market for an eclectic array of items including handmade jewelry, distinctive home décor, quality antiques and locally-grown produce and other products at The Grapevine Farmers Market. Located behind the Town Square Gazebo, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. or
• 23rd Annual Blessing of the Vines and New Vintage Wine & Gallery Trail, April 11: For centuries, Old World grape growers marked the beginning of the growing season with the ceremonial Blessing of the Vines and this tradition continues in Grapevine. After the Blessing of the Vines, enjoy the New Vintage Wine & Gallery Trail, featuring tastings at each participating winery, food samplings and beautiful works of art at all of Grapevine’s art galleries.
• 14th Annual Spring Into Nash, April 18: Celebrate life on the farm like Grapevine’s earliest settlers. Held at Grapevine’s historic Nash Farm, the event features heritage toys, kitchen gardening, cotton planting, authentic heritage animal breeds, tractor-drawn wagon rides, field cultivation, wood carving demonstrations, jump rope making, cooking demonstrations on a wood burning stove and blacksmith demonstrations. 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
• 31st Annual Main Street Fest, May 15, 16 and 17: Tap into three full days of festival fun at Grapevine’s Main Street Fest – A Craft Brew Experience. Events include craft brew tastings, pre-festival craft brew and dining experiences, live entertainment, KidCave, Carnival and Midway, Texas Wine Terrace, artisans and vendors, festival food and much more.
• 7th Annual SummerBlast, May 22 – September 4: Blast off with family-friendly summer fun in Grapevine, the perfect destination for  all ages. Some of the exciting activities include Summer Bash at Gaylord Texan Resort, Friday Night Fireworks Over Lake Grapevine, perfect poolside relaxation, shopping, wineries, dining and much more. Fireworks happen every Friday night at 9:30 p.m. over Lake Grapevine. And don’t miss the special 33rd Annual Fireworks Show on July 4th.
• 29th Annual GrapeFest®, September 17, 18, 19 and 20: GrapeFest, the largest wine festival in the Southwest United States, celebrates the best of Texas wines, West Coast varietals and International offerings. This four-day family-friendly festival also features events such as the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, GrapeStomp, the Texas Wine Tribute, pre-event wine and food pairing dinners, the Champagne Terrace, KidsWorld, GrapeFest Golf Classic, GrapeFest Tennis Classic, ItalianCarFest, five stages of live entertainment and much more!

18th Annual Butterfly Flutterby, October 17: Flap your wings with the southern migration of the Monarch butterfly at the Grapevine Botanical Gardens. Guests help release more than 600 tagged butterflies during three scheduled releases throughout the event. Children and pets are invited to participate in the colorful Butterfly Parade and in the costume contest. Free admission. Activities also include plant sales, arts and crafts and more.

Hallo-Wine Trail, October 24 and 25: Scare up some fun along Grapevine’s Hallo-Wine Trail! This spooktacular event features three tastings and food samplings at each participating Grapevine winery tasting room, a souvenir wine glass and a bottle of premium Grapevine wine.

And of course don’t miss out on the over the top Holiday celebration of the:
Christmas Capital of Texas®, November 2015 – January 2016: Unwrap the magic of the season in Grapevine, the Christmas Capital of Texas! Grapevine celebrates Christmas with more 1,400 events in 40-plus days and is the perfect place to celebrate with your family and friends this year. Millions of magical lights, enormous decorations, Christmas events and more perfectly capture the spirit of Christmas in Grapevine. Events include North Pole Express® November 27, 28 and 29; December 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23) ICE! and Lone Star Christmas at Gaylord Texan Resort (November – January), Bass Pro Shop’s Santa’s Wonderland, Light Show Spectacular, Carol of Lights (November 23), Parade of Lights (December 3), Snowland at the Great Wolf Lodge, Main Street LIVE’s Christmas Shows and classic Christmas movies at the Historic Palace Theatre, Christmas Wine Trains (December 10 and 17), after Christmas train rides and much more.

Many of Grapevine’s hotels offer special rates and packages during annual festival and events. For hotel information, tickets or more information regarding Grapevine’s festivals and events, you may contact the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-457-6338 or 817-410-3185 or visit

I can personally attest that Grapevine, Texas offers big city events with small town hospitality!DSC_0032-crop

A Hughes County funeral home director turned himself after an investigation by the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Anti-Fraud Unit. Donald Williamson is accused of embezzling almost $75,000 from 28 families who set up prepaid funeral trusts.
“We take crimes like this very seriously,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “People are very vulnerable when it comes to funeral planning. They need to be able to trust their funeral home workers. I commend the investigators of our Anti-Fraud Unit. They will continue to bring justice to Oklahoma consumers.”
Williamson owns Williamson-Spradlin Funeral Home in Wetumka. He admitted to investigators he accepted money for prepaid funeral trust accounts and deposited the money into a bank account for his funeral home from November 2011 to December 2014. By law, prepaid funeral trust account money should go into a separate trust account and not be used for any other purpose.
On Friday, officials from the Oklahoma Insurance Department will be available to meet with anyone who bought a prepaid funeral trust from the Williamson-Spradlin Funeral Home. Residents are asked to bring prepaid funeral trust paperwork to the City of Wetumka Council Board Room at 202 N. Main anytime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Meetings are confidential.
“Our Anti-Fraud Unit worked closely with the Hughes County District Attorney’s office on this investigation. They have been very helpful to our case and aggressive in bringing Mr. Williamson to justice,” said Rick Wagnon, director of OID’s Anti-Fraud Unit. “We have seen cases like this before. In 2011, a Creek County funeral home director was charged with fraud after a similar investigation.”
Williamson will face felony counts of embezzlement and violations of the Prepaid Funeral Act.
The Anti-Fraud Unit is a commissioned law enforcement agency that conducts investigations of various white-collar crimes related to insurance fraud. Oklahomans can call to report fraud at 1-800-522-0071.

Dear Savvy Senior, What kinds of legal documents are suggested for end-of-life plans? I would like to get my affairs in order before it’s too late. Getting Old


Dear Getting,
Every adult – especially seniors – should have at least four essential legal documents to protect them and their family. These documents will make sure your wishes regarding your estate are legal and clear, and will help minimize any conflicts and confusion with your family and your health care providers if you become seriously illness or when you die. Here are the key documents you need, along with some tips to help you create them.
A Will: This document lets you spell out your wishes of how you’d like your property and assets distributed after you die, whether it’s to family, friends or a charity. It also allows you to designate an executor to ensure your wishes are carried out, and allows you to name guardians if you have minor or dependent children.
In addition to a will, if you own real estate or have considerable assets, another option you may want to consider is a “revocable living trust.” This functions like a will but allows your estate to avoid the time and expense of probate (the public legal process that examines your estate after you die) and helps ensure your estate’s privacy.
Durable Power of Attorney: This allows you to designate someone you trust to make financial, tax and legal decisions on your behalf if you lose your decision-making capacity.
Advanced Health Care Directive: This includes two documents that spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment. The two documents are a “living will” which tells your doctor what kind of care you want to receive if you become incapacitated, and a “health care power of attorney” which names a person you authorize to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to.
If you have a simple estate and an uncomplicated family situation, there are several good do-it-yourself guides that can help you create all these documents for very little money.
For creating a will, a top resource is the Quicken WillMaker Plus 2015 software (available at that costs $50, works with Windows personal computers and is valid in every state except Louisiana. If you use a Mac, offers an online will maker for $35.
Or, if you only need to create an advance directive you can do it for free at (or call 800-658-8898), where you can get state-specific forms with instructions. Or for only $5, an even better tool is the Five Wishes document (, 888-594-7437), which is valid in 42 states and will help you create a customized advance directive.
Get Help
If, however, you want or need assistance or if you have a complicated financial situation, blended family or have considerable assets, you should hire an attorney. An experienced lawyer can make sure you cover all your bases – especially when writing a will or living trust – which can help avoid family confusion and squabbles after you’re gone.
Costs will vary depending on where you reside, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $200 and $1,000 for a will, or $1,200 to $5,000 for a living trust.
The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel ( and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys ( websites are good resources that have directories to help you find someone in your area.
If money is tight, check with your state’s bar association (see to find low-cost legal help in your area. Or call the Eldercare Locater at 800-677-1116 for a referral.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

By Greg Schwem


Upon my death, please continue to ‘like’ me


My immediate family huddled on a couch in the funeral home’s parlor room. My wife and I held hands while my daughters stifled urges to check their cell phones. A box of tissues sat on the coffee table. None were needed. Not yet.
A kind looking man emerged from a small office. “Greetings, Mr. and Mrs. Schwem. Girls. I’m Herb Blansky, social media grief coordinator for Blansky & Sons. We specialize in assisting families with the social media accounts of a family member who has passed on. You specifically had questions about Facebook?”
I reached for a tissue. The mere thought of who would handle my eight-year collection of backyard barbecue photos, Kim Kardashian memes and ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE videos of dogs wearing sweaters after jumping into laundry baskets produced a lump in my throat. My wife gripped my hand tighter.
“As you know, Facebook recently added a legacy feature, authorizing someone to take over the account once its owner has passed.” Shifting his eyes between my wife and daughters he added, “Someone you trust. At Blansky & Sons, we can assist you with this process.”
“Like, don’t you just click one button at the bottom of your page?” my eldest asked. “Why are we here?”
“Because I haven’t decided who my legacy contact should be,” I said. “Mr. Blansky, do you have a suggestion.”
“Well, it should be somebody familiar with the nuances of posting, responding, wall updates, friend acceptance, group messaging, commenting, ‘liking,’ and the Facebook mobile app.”
“That counts me out,” my wife said.
“She never got into Facebook,” I informed Blansky.
“Girls, how about you?” Blansky asked, looking at my daughters. “Keep in mind it’s a big responsibility.”
“We’re no longer on Facebook,” my youngest said. “We use Instagram.”
“Yeah, we wouldn’t be caught dead using Facebook,” her sister replied. “Wait, that didn’t come out right. Sorry, Dad.”
“What do we do?” I asked Blansky.
“This is an unusual situation,” he replied. “Have you considered a Facebook power of attorney?”
“I’m not mentally incapacitated,” I said defensively. “I just want my Facebook account to live on when I’m gone. I enjoy steak every Sunday and I ALWAYS post a photo before I consume it. Is it wrong to have somebody continue posting photos of my favorite meals? In my memory?”
“Yes,” my daughters said in unison.
“Not at all,” Blansky said.
“And what if I pass before the next presidential election,” I said, reaching for another tissue, “who is going to post disparaging comments about GOP candidates?”
“All valid questions,” he said. “Obviously, Mr. Schwem, your Facebook account is very important to you. Have you considered having a ‘Celebration of Life’ for it?”
“Excuse me?”
Sliding a brochure across the table, he said, “This is where Blansky & Sons can help.” “You invite people to our funeral home, and they spend time reading all your Facebook posts and looking at all the photos and videos you’ve uploaded. They can comment and ‘like’ until they feel a sense of closure.”
“What’s that going to cost?” my wife said.
“Right now we’re having a prepay special of $5,475, including four hours of free Wi-Fi and up to a dozen iPads placed around the premises.”
“And then?”
“At the ceremony’s completion, an iPad of your choosing will be lovingly wrapped and handed to whomever you choose as your legacy contact. And we do sell iPads. Mr. Schwem, a man of your stature looks like you’d be most comfortable with our top of the line ‘Steve Jobs original.’ Note the cherry trim and the 128GB memory.”
“I think we have some decisions to make,” I said.
“I understand. Just remember, these prices won’t last forever,” Blansky said.
We rose to leave as Blansky produced a business card from his pocket.
“Call me any time,” he said. “And remember, at Blansky & Sons we’re here for your posthumous Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and blogging needs as well.”

‘Really?” I said. “I think we’re going to need a few more appointments.”

(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of “Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad,” available at Visit Greg on the web at

There are times when family members, who have a loved one in a nursing facility or an assisted living center, are uncertain about how to advocate on behalf of the resident. Advocacy is basically problem-solving. Learning the basics of the problem-solving process and steps to take along the way will benefit both the resident and family member.
Stage 1 is defining the problem. What exactly is the issue, be able to describe the problem with as much detail as possible. Include the five “W’s” – who, what, where, when, why in your description.  What information do you have from direct observation, discussion with a loved one or a staff member? Keep written notes which are dated to document your personal observations and discussions so you can refer to them as needed. Use objective, factual language to address the concern.
In Stage 2 determine what your goal is. What does the resident want to happen? What is an acceptable resolution? What outcome will benefit the resident? Make sure the goal is realistic and benefits the resident. Identify what action steps you could take to try to solve the problem at this point. Determine if there is a designated person on staff to handle concerns such as the administrator, the director of nurses or the social services director. Think through the “pros” and cons” in analyzing your approach to address a concern. Once you have taken action and addressed the issue, follow-up with the staff person you spoke to by sending a note summarizing the discussion and include any specific steps the facility said it would take to resolve the issue. Lastly, evaluate the outcome of your efforts. What was the result of your action? Is the problem resolved, partially resolved or not yet resolved? If the problem is only partially resolved or not resolved at all, repeat the above steps to re-address a second time.
If you are still not successful, identify where you could turn for assistance by contacting the local ombudsman or the state survey agency.
If your own attempts are not successful and you would like assistance with advocacy you may contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at Areawide Aging Agency (405)942-8500; search our website at or visit us on Facebook.

The Oklahoma Assisted Living Association (OKALA) joined 35 of its state peers this week in Washington, DC in a meeting hosted by the Assisted Living Federation of America to discuss strategic relationships that promote excellence in senior living throughout Oklahoma and the nation.
The group engaged in fruitful dialogue focused on credentialing, standards, and public policy in the senior living industry that enhance levels of care while creating consistent, meaningful regulatory and legislative reform. Oklahoma and its state partners agreed that some of their most pressing issues include addressing the increasing acuity of residents in senior living communities and current life safety codes. OKALA also looks forward to serving in a leadership role within the state to help unite senior advocacy groups on the state level.
“This meeting between ALFA and its state partners really shows the spirit of partnership and collaboration that will lead us all too even greater success,” said Oklahoma Assisted Living Association Executive Director, Melissa Holland.
Many seniors and their families turn to assisted living to have the necessary supports they need to continue caring for their loved ones. While providing excellent quality of care, it is quality of life that has made assisted living such a popular option. Seniors who were isolated in their own homes, without friends or purpose of life, thrive after moving into an assisted living community.
A 2013 poll shows that 94% of assisted living residents say they are satisfied or very satisfied with the overall quality of life in their community. Today, 99% of senior living residents say they feel safe or very safe in their community.
“There was strong recognition among the group that the senior living industry has changed since ALFA was founded 25 years ago,” ALFA President and CEO James Balda said. “The senior living industry is successful when we’re successful together. This meeting helped us all move the discussion forward so that our new efforts in branding, credentialing and standards can be well integrated with the efforts we’ve seen by our state partners.”
Assisted living is home for our residents and typically 50% less expensive than a skilled nursing facility. Over 80% of senior living residents pay from their own private resources. There are many assisted living options available at various price points including large or small, urban or rural, high-rise or single level.

The Oklahoma Assisted Living Association (OKALA) is dedicated to the preservation of dignity and choice for older Oklahomans and to the quality of their care in the senior living setting. For over 18 years OKALA has been providing educational opportunities including an administrator certification course; representation with state department of health; and legislative advocacy for Assisted Living communities and those who provide services to them. For more information visit or on facebook.