I have to admit I was one of them. You know the ones that boasted they had NEVER had the flu shot. Now we would probably have to call my Mom to fact check me… More
Before I began working in the senior living industry the word FALL didn’t strike fear into my heart. No on the contrary it would spark images of leaves turning to brilliant hues of gold and crimson and the sound of them crunching under our feet as me and the neighborhood children would play flag football in the yard. It would spark memories of the delicious smells of the season from my favorite pumpkin spice candles to Mom’s homemade chili brewing on the stove. Ah yes, the innocence and tranquility of it all. But I digress. And who am I kidding that football usually turned into an all-out brawl anyway. But seriously FALLS as we know them and how they relate to our seniors are a very big deal!
By the numbers…
- According to the CDC “each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.” The CDC also reports that “adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $31 billion annually. Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total.”
It is imperative that we take measures to try and help prevent falls if at all possible. Sure this seems very idealistic! But it is also helpful if we take a practical approach. You may not can prevent all falls. But you can take appropriate measures to keep someone safe. So where do you start? This is an important question no matter where you live. Today we will start with the first thing you can do.
Keep your area safe…
I remember a friend from church once asked me to come over and look at their parents’ home and see if anything jumped out at me as to why their parent kept falling. Walk with me if you will….we start up the concrete steps to the home that has no handrail. This takes us to the kitchen where a cute blind dog nips at your knees. We cross down to the living area that is situated on the split level property across from the bathroom. In the tiny bathroom there is a sliding glass door shower/tub with no handrails and a towel bar that is dangling from the wall. I can’t make this stuff up. Did I mention that the home was also poorly lit? I really couldn’t see why they needed my help discerning the safety issues within this home. The entire place was a hotbed for concussions and broken hips! So always ASSESS your FALL RISKS within your living space.
Key things to pay attention to include:
Clutter-get rid of it! Make sure you don’t have junk making an obstacle course for you to maneuver around.
Lighting-make sure you can see! Also make use of nightlights. What you CAN’T see CAN hurt you.
And also watch for HOME HAZARDS such as:
- broken or uneven steps,
- throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over, and
- no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.
There are absolutely multiple risk factors and reasons for falls to occur. But if you do your best to make sure your space (or your loved one’s space) is as safe as possible, you are increasing your odds of NOT becoming a statistic in the fight against FALLS.
In this day and age, there is literally an app for everything. If you look for it, you will even find an app for how to tie your shoes. Seriously! Now while apps are a great concept, obviously some things can’t take the place of real life application. But that is where technology steps in! Working with members of the senior adult population, I find that many of them truly appreciate the marvel and wonder of the Internet, email, and social media. No, not too many have their own accounts…but some do! I cannot tell you the number of times I have had children and grandchildren ask to email or text me pictures to share with their family member that lives in our community. And it is a wonderful feeling to download or even print these images to share with them! Oh, how they light up to see the face of new great grandbaby or pictures from a graduation.
As we continue our theme of CONNECTING…I encourage families and assisted living professionals alike to embrace the idea of helping your elderly continue to connect! Now, of course, sending anything or receiving anything must be HIPPA compliant and agreeable by all appropriate parties. As with all types of communication, you want to respect your resident’s rights and encourage them to navigate safely. I find that many just want help getting to a certain comfort zone. We have residents that like to do crossword puzzles or other brain games on their iPads and some just want to be able to see the pictures that a family member emailed or posted on social media. Another thing that can be valuable for them is reading on electronic devices allows for the font to be much larger that some print books. Who am I kidding…it helps me too!!
So even if you find that Mom is Facebook savvy or maybe, on the contrary, your Dad wouldn’t touch a computer if you bought him the latest and greatest…do them a favor and strive to KEEP CONNECTED! And senior living professionals…so long as you have the proper permission paperwork in place, take time to take pictures and send them to your resident’s families. Pictures don’t have to be just for marketing. We all have those residents that have family that is far away. Help close the distance by sending a smiling pic of their loved one. It will brighten their day and yours!
For information on Internet Safety for seniors check out this link from the Department of Homeland Security https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Cybersecurity%20for%20Older%20Americans_0.pdf
Prior to working in Assisted Living, I was of the mindset that most people in their golden years just sit around crocheting and rocking in chairs. While both of these activities are wonderful in their own right…I have come to find that this is not even close to the way that senior citizens pass the time. Quite the contrary, I have found that many members of our communities have yet to slow down. Their vigor and zest for life is inspiring to those around them.
Take for example one of our precious ladies that currently moved to our property from Florida. She has the sweetest smile and loves to sew. But she’s not just your typical lady that can thread a needle a run a stitch or two. No, this philanthropy driven woman makes blankets practically every day for the organization Project Linus. The organization’s mission is to “provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer blanketeers.” Such an amazing inspiration to see individuals using their talents for the greater good and not letting age be a barrier or an excuse.
This giving attitude is what set the tone for our communities as we decided how we wanted to celebrate National Assisted Living Week 2016. So many churches, clubs and individuals donate their time and energies to our residents throughout the year. So when asked what they wanted to do for National Assisted Living Week…many residents stated that they wanted to give back! So as you peruse our Facebook pages, checkout our residents reading to local school children or having lunches with our First Responders. Let their dynamic attitudes and giving spirits be an encouragement and inspiration for us all.
Check out www.projectlinus.org
As we bid goodbye to Labor Day and all things summer this past Monday, I had one of those moments that made me stop and smile. Most of us know that Labor Day was created to honor the working folks. Per Wikipedia it honors “the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to strength, prosperity, and well-being of country”. It was this frame of mind that triggered my memory of a National Assisted Living Week we celebrated at my community two years ago. We had our (now traditional) election of our King and Queen that were crowned by our local hometown beauty queens followed by a declaration from our Mayor. As the Mayor stood up to give the speech that was to proclaim that week National Assisted Living Week, he stopped and thanked each resident for their contribution to our hometown or in some cases the hometowns the individual moved from to our area.
He thanked them for their hard work and sacrifice that they made in helping make our country strong. He thanked the workers, the mothers, the Veterans…he included everyone. As I looked around the room, I saw many eyes with tears in them. My heart was bursting with pride for the contribution that these wonderful residents had made in their lifetimes. It reminded me how blessed I am to be able to serve each one in my occupation. Not a year goes by that this Mayor hasn’t taken the time to thank the residents for all they have done. So as National Assisted Living Week approaches with the theme of “Keep Connected” don’t miss your opportunity to give thanks to this very important generation. As the National Center for Assisted Living states as part of their campaign for 2016, “Keep Connected is about more than technology.” I believe it’s a way that each of us can connect face to face and these are the kinds of connections that can last a lifetime.
Naturally we all want to keep connected with our loved ones. That is one way we stay rooted in who we are and where we came from. This year the theme for National Assisted Living Week 2016 is Keep Connected. I think the original context that they planned the theme to represent was to explain how exciting it is to see our senior communities making such great use of the new technologies that are available to be connected on multiple levels. But being connected to an Assisted Living community can be that…and so much more!
Social Media and Beyond
I have had multiple family members of residents in our communities tell me how wonderful it is to see their loved ones smiling faces on social media. Some of these family members live across the country and it means so much to them to see their loved one engaged in an activity with a smile on their face. While it is important to remember that communities must follow certain protocols when taking and posting photographs including permission forms, etc. It still can be a wonderful resource of CONNECTION! I had to laugh recently when I had a resident ask me, “How many likes did my picture get on the computer?” I seriously almost fell out of my chair when he told me that he thought his picture might blow up Facebook! The “senior set” really like the idea of their picture reaching out to their loved ones and are thrilled when I share with them the comments they receive on the posts from friends and family near and far.
Another wonderful thing about working in this industry is that you have wonderful volunteers and people that want to show love to those that live in our communities. I am constantly asked “what can we do” or “what can we bring” that the residents’ might like? So with National Assisted Living Week right around the corner…here are some suggestions for you to KEEP CONNECTED.
Food items are always nice. Everyone loves a treat right?? But remember that there will be folks in the communities that may be diabetics so if possible, bring a sugar free option. Fruit is always an easy choice. If you have a group or club that wants to do something, consider coming onsite to do a project WITH the residents. We have seen everything from sewing clubs, dominoes and Skip-Bo card groups to painting door hangers. A popular activity that residents typically love is changing out seasonal flowers in containers outside the building. Sure some may want to just observe. But trust me…you will probably have some that will want to get their hands dirty with you.
The best way to connect is by giving the thing that doesn’t cost a dime…TIME! Sharing a cup of coffee or talking and traveling down memory lane is a fabulous way to connect with the folks in a community. Never underestimate the value of sharing a laugh. Taking the time to share and listen to memories will result in the CONNECTION and creation of your own.
School bells are ringing and many children are headed back to class. But before they break out those new No. 2 pencils, they probably had to have some health checkups. You are one smart cookie if you know that this is also a good time to get those checkups done for your senior! No not your son or daughter who plays Varsity sports! Rather your elderly parent who is planning a move to an assisted living community.
Now you may already know that part of the process to gain admission to an ALF is to have a physical examination completed by your primary care physician. During this visit the doctor (among other things) will complete the facility paperwork with the potential resident moving to assisted living and in most cases coordinate with the family member to discuss the best care plan to have put into place. This ensures that the assisted living staff knows the diagnoses, that the resident is free from communicable diseases, etc. However, I have seen several family members go a step further to make sure that their loved one is set up for success for the transition to assisted living. And going that extra mile makes a huge difference in most cases.
So what are those extra steps? It’s as simple as ensuring that your loved ones can see and hear as best as possible. It is very important thing to talk with them about the importance of their eyesight and their hearing during this time. As studies show, one half of people age 85 or older have hearing loss. Also when compared to Americans 18 to 44 years of age, Americans 75 years of age and over are nearly three times as likely to report vision loss. Therefore it is of utmost importance that they are regularly checked out. However…you would be surprised how many residents come into assisted living with the same pair of old glasses they were prescribed years ago. And what did you say??? Their hearing hasn’t been checked in ages. Say what?? I said THEIR HEARING HASN’T BEEN CHECKED IN AGES!!! Whew…you get the point. I have seen residents that shy away from the dinner table because they can’t hear well. Why you ask? Well, if your table mates are trying to talk to you and you are having trouble hearing… this can be cause for confusion and (sadly as I have seen this happen before) embarrassment. And the reality is in some cases, hearing can be helped by hearing aids or simple wax removal.
Eyesight is super important in the transition as well. Moving to a new place means maneuvering around a new area. If you can’t see this can be scary and the recipe for a fall! So be sure to have Mom’s eyes checked out to be sure her glasses are still the right prescription. The ALF should care plan any vision issues as to ensure the safest environment as possible.
Sure you are still going to have sight impaired and hearing impaired individuals in assisted living communities. That’s a no brainer! Sometimes there is absolutely nothing that can be done for hearing or sight issues and that is okay! Assisted living staff members are trained on caring for folks with these issues and have ongoing in-services to cater to their needs. But just as you wouldn’t send Johnny off to school without his supplies…be sure your loved one is ready for the transition to their new community and get their eyes and ears checked out! That way they can keep their eyes (and ears) on the prize.
Most of the time when rules are written it is usually because someone along the way created a need for the rule. In Assisted Living in the State of Alabama did you know that it is against the Alabama Department of Public Health Rules and Regulations to have LIVE chickens in the kitchen?! I know what you are thinking…well DUH??? But, I have to think that somewhere at sometime someone decided that it was a good call to have a live chicken in the kitchen! Seriously people??!! NO!! But rules are intended to protect. Rules are a way to keep residents and staff in all buildings safe. There also things that you can do right from the start to make sure that you are keeping your loved one compliant in their new place.
Packing it Up
When you are figuring out what to move to your loved one’s community it is so important to be familiar with the ADPH Rules and Regulations as well as your facilities’ Policies and Procedures. This is your first guideline as to what is acceptable. For instance, it’s good to know that in Alabama that it is prohibited to have open flame heaters or portable heaters in resident rooms because of the potential risk of fires. In our properties we do not allow throw rugs without non skid backings. Extension cords that are not grounded or extension cords which cross a walkway or pathway in a resident room are a “no-no” as well. These prohibited items are because of the fall or safety risk that these items present. Knowing this up front keeps you from hauling stuff back home. There are other items that are not allowed. This link can take you to the Alabama Department of Public Health Rules and Regulations. Your facility will be more than happy to provide you with another copy of their policies and procedures if you need them as well. Remember these guidelines are in place to protect. When you read them, they all make sense and are there for the safety of your loved one.
Another hot button topic in the assisted living world is medication. Yes, assisted living is setup for residents to either manage their own medications or to have staff ASSIST them in the management of their medications and who does the management will be SPECIFICALLY indicated in the Medical Exam and Plan of Care by their PHYSICIAN. The specifics for how these areas are handled and the “nitty gritty” details as to WHO can do WHAT and HOW are found in the ADPH Rules and Regs and your facilities’ policies and procedures. One thing I find myself reminding families is that if you are bringing ANY medication into the facility…please make sure that the Administrator and staff are aware of it. There is certain protocol that must be followed to make sure that we are compliant. Communicating with your Administrator will help ensure that there is an order for any and all medications and that they are kept in the building according to the rules. Just dropping off gas chewables in the room because Daddy said he felt gassy is not a minor or acceptable thing. It is something that must be first run by the Administrator. Again ANY and ALL medications need to go through the proper channels. The rules are in place for the safety and protection of everyone.
Leave it at Home
If you have questions or concerns about the things to bring or not to bring your Administrator is more than happy to help. Keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to follow the pathways to success in assisted living. Remind family members not to minimize their loved ones feelings about the changes they are facing. It’s also a good time to remember family to leave the negative feelings at home. Yes, this is change for everyone in your family. However, it is important to try and help provide emotional support to the loved one that is facing the move. Typically senior adults don’t like change. So do your best to address it with them but keep it positive! One of the most beautiful things I have experienced is watching other residents in a community reach out and provide emotional support to new members in the community. They are often times one of the most understanding resources…because they have been there! So reach out and be positive because a good attitude can be one of those things like the old commercial catch phrase advised…never leave home without it.