Proud to Be an American

Did you know that the man determined to be the “Father of Veterans Day” is from Alabama?  As a tribute to our Veterans, I thought I would include a little bit of history.  According to Wikipedia, in 1945, World War II Veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, AL had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I.  Weeks led the efforts and presented them to General Dwight Eisenhower who supported the idea.  The first national celebration of Veterans Day as we know call it, was in 1947.

So how will you honor this day?va-logo

I’m so excited that a group of folks from my hometown have worked extremely diligently to have a special Veterans Day parade this year.  I’m thrilled that World War II Veterans and several of our other Veterans will be honored during this event.  These courageous folks and so many across others across our great nation are so proud of their service to our country.  They also have amazing stories to share.  They are truly living national treasures.

One of the things that stands out to me the most is the pride that I hear when I have listened to residents speak of their service.  I have been told of lands that I have never seen and how we in the United States of America, live in the greatest country on earth.  It is so amazing to hear the first person retelling of their great stories.  The stories of writing and waiting on handwritten letters seems like a lifetime ago in our broken down communication age where we text people in the same room.  The stories of lifelong friendships that were born in the service of our country are remarkable.  Not once have I heard of protest or disdain. The nobility of their acts are shown in their actions and love for this land in their speech as well.  Even to this day.

militaryappreciation5-17-16So I invite you…take time to thank a Veteran for their service to our country. Take time to talk with them. Take time to listen. It is because of their sacrifice and that of those serving today that we are able to enjoy our freedoms.  Because of the brave, we live in the land of the free.

If you are interested in checking into VA Benefits for Assisted Living, please click on the VA Benefits section of our webpage.

In Good Taste

 

plate-of-foodI guess it never really dawned on me until I starting working in the senior living industry that just as our hearing and eyesight are impacted as we age…so are our taste buds.  SERIOUSLY!!  Those go away??  Well, that is just fabulous, right?  Now don’t go thinking all is lost!  But believe me when I say that there is a GREAT DEAL of time and energy that is spent in planning meals for Assisted Living Communities.  And what is on the plate is not what you would expect!  We are not talking cafeteria style boredom.  Sure it may be difficult to appeal to a crowd of differing tastes and disappearing taste buds.  It can be a tall order!  But we have more than one approach to take on the task.  While bearing in mind that Assisted Living residents are given a type of diet that their physician suggests…but remembering that the resident is the captain of their own ship.  They have resident rights to direct their care and this includes their nutrition.  Our job is to do our novel best to offer food to meet their dietary needs.  It is also helpful to know that ALF communities have regulations in place that cover food from everything from receiving and storing to cooking and serving.  By following these best practices, we can offer safe, delicious and nutritious meals.  Here are some ways we aim to please.

eating-sandwich

  1. Always Available Menus. So today is Taco Tuesday and Mexican food doesn’t agree with you?  No problem!  In our communities, we offer Always Available Menus that will give you options that are designed to please.  With a little head’s up, the dietary staff can make sure that your mealtime doesn’t go South of the border.
  2. Menus that change with the Season. Guided by our Dietitian Consultant, we create menu suggestions that offer variety and nutrition to attempt to appeal to any palate.
  3. Another approach that we have incorporated is resident suggestion! Got a great recipe for your favorite dessert?  Then we want to hear about it!  We will do our best to submit it for approval to add to our menu.  From the beginning intake process, we do our best to find out what you like and what you don’t like when it comes to food.  No two tastes will be the same.  But by treating everyone as an individual, it helps set the situation up for success.

Check out our menus at http://www.greatoaksmanagement.com

 

 

Scamming Seniors

If you want to get my blood boiling, you let me hear about someone trying to scam an elderly person.  Now you may be thinking, seriously who does that?  Case in point, was the day one of my former residents came knocking on my office door (with his phone in hand) telling me that he was just informed that he was going to be arrested for an unpaid ticket.  Immediately my senses went into “Mama Protective Mode” and I asked could I speak to the person on the phone.  The threatening caller who had previously told my resident that “he would not hang up and that he would be happy to hold for his credit card or checking account information to take care of the outstanding debt” naturally had decided to hang up when I unmuted the phone and said, “Hello this is the Administrator, can I help you”?  Now this was not before rattling my resident into thinking that this person was legit.  Mind you, this resident informed me that he had NEVER received a traffic ticket in his life.  As expected, the number that showed up on the caller ID was neither able to be reached or traced.  I promptly called the local authorities to alert them of the call as the person calling claimed to be from our local sheriff’s department.  Sadly, they informed me that I was not the first or even the fifth person who had called in that day.  I saw an article printed in our local paper the next day notifying locals to be aware of the scam.  You may think that this is just something that happens in larger areas or that it won’t happen to you or your elderly loved ones.  Well let me assure you, it is a very REAL threat and that if it hasn’t happened yet, it more than likely will.

scam-alert

The True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse 2015, reveals “that seniors lose $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse — more than twelve times what was previously reported. It goes on to say that the highest proportion of these losses — to the tune of $16.99 billion a year — comes from deceptive but technically legal tactics designed to specifically take advantage of older Americans.”  So thieves are finding more and more ways to target seniors and they are crooked enough to figure out ways to get away with it.  So what can you do?

 

The first thing is to let someone know if you have been a target!

As the Administrator at my community, I announced (the day of the aforementioned call) as everyone gathered for lunch to please be aware of the threat of SCAMS.  The resident whom I wasn’t going to identify, chimed in to let everyone know what had happened to him.  He said that he wanted them all to be aware.  He told the other residents that he knew something was up when the caller asked for sensitive information and that he knew better than to do that.  He said he asked “the crook” to hold on the line and that was when he muted the call and came to let me know what was going on.  So while things turned out okay in this situation, I think that the other important take away for the day, was that we talked about it so that folks had their radars ready!

 

Be Radar Ready!

Knowledge is power!  Don’t assume that just because YOU know that something sounds

fishy, that others will assume the same.  Often times our older generation was raised to be polite and trusting.  Sadly, these are traits that crooks prey upon.  The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to help protect seniors from scam-logoscam artists and fraud against elders:

  • Warn against the dangers of giving out personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers to someone who has called. Popular scams include promising information on new health miracle product, a charitable donation, or confirmation of a sweepstakes.
  • If someone calls from a “government agency” requesting money, ask for a certified letter on an official letterhead.
  • If a salesperson will not provide written information about his or her company–including the company’s name, address and telephone, do business with someone else.
  • Never make an “on-the-spot” decision. If the person says you have to take the offer immediately or you will miss the opportunity, it is likely a scam. Legitimate companies do not pressure people to act without taking the time to look into the deal.
  • Avoid investments that promise huge profits with no risk. “High-return” investments are not guaranteed and legitimate companies will tell consumers about possible risks involved.
  • Put phone numbers on the National Do Not Call registry by phoning 1 (888) 382-1222 or visiting http://www.donotcall.gov (this will help to limit phone calls from telemarketers.)

Sadly, we live in a day and age where scammers are doing anything they can to rip off anyone they can.  No one demographic is exempt.  Arming our seniors with the valuable information to protect themselves from these predators can help them avoid becoming another senior scam statistic.

Don’t Go Viral

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 on this.  But to date, I have NEVER had the flu either.  But my mind was completely changed on the flu shot in 2010.  Why you ask?  Well, my entire household with the exception of yours truly got hit hard by the nasty flu bug.  How did I dodge the bullet?  Well, that was the first year that I took the shot as recommended by my boss since I had just started working in an assisted living.  The thought of what it meant to get an elderly person sick really made me realize I must do my part.  AND… I believe wholeheartedly the flu shot kept me WELL!!  My family was bedridden for days and I never had a sniffle.  With this week (October 16-22, 2016) being Infection Control Week, I thought it would be a great time to give a few tips to remember in reference to visiting assisted living communities during flu season.

When I missed the flu by getting the flu shot that made me and my family believers in the flu shot.  I have heard nearly every excuse in the book about why folks don’t want to get it.  But hear me out.  Senior citizens have reduced immune systems so they can’t mess around.  Actually, we have already had our flu shot clinic in our community.  The reason being is TIP NUMBER ONE:

  1. According to the CDC getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

The BEST way people!  So all those skeptics need to realize that the flu shot is your best defense.

The CDC goes on to say that flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.

Another important thing to keep in mind during flu season is if you are sick, please avoid visiting assisted living communities.  Sure we want visitors…but sickness that can be passed on is never a welcome guest.  Please come back when you are well!  We would love to see you then.  Honestly, the flu can be life threatening to seniors.  Sure, it’s no picnic for anyone.  But for seniors, it can be quite serious!  So remember TIP NUMBER TWO:

  1. If you have any flu-like symptoms, please take care of your health and come back to visit senior communities when you are well.   

senior-wash-hands

Also, it is extremely important in the infection control process to WASH YOUR HANDS!  Listen Mama was right when she told you to keep your hands clean and keep them to yourself!  During flu season I have even observed folks at church exchange a friendly hello instead of a handshake.  Poor manners…NO!  Good hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that between 50 and 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations every year are attributed to seniors and the over-65 demographic accounts for 90 percent of flu-related deaths annually.  So it is extremely important to do your part in the infection control process.  So follow TIP NUMBER THREE:

  1. Keep hands clean, avoid touching your face and mouth and also cover that cough with a tissue.

senior-sneeze

The CDC gives these infection control suggestions.  “Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.  Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.”  Following these tips will help better protect you and your loved ones during this flu season.  When it comes to the flu, this is definitely not an area where we want to go viral.

For more information, visit http://www.flu.gov

Think Pink at Any Age

breast-cancer-ladyI would be lying if I said that this was an easy post to write.  As a matter of fact, it is one of those times for me when I am at a loss for words.  No, it doesn’t happen much.  But the harsh reality is that even as I write this post I have had the conviction to stop and check on a friend.  You see, she is at her follow up appointment after finding a lump in her breast and having a biopsy performed.  We all know someone.  Maybe it’s your mother, sister, best friend, aunt or even brother.  It might even be you.  But there is one thing for certain, most of us know someone who has had to fight this terrible disease.  There are many statistics that have been compiled from the ages of those affected to the effectiveness of the treatment.  But one of the most overwhelming and important things that I have seen in the numbers is that early detection and treatment are the most important ammunition in the battle.  Seniors are also at a heightened risk.

According to the National Cancer Institute, 80% of all breast cancer occurs in women over 50, and 60% are found in women over 65. The chance that a woman will get breast cancer increases from 1-in-233 for a woman in her thirties, to a 1-in-8 chance for a woman in her eighties.

Those numbers are alarming for senior woman.  Keep in mind that these numbers are greater for this age bracket for many different reasons.  One is because many in this demographic don’t drive anymore thus making appointments for treatment therapies difficult.

You are still the greatest advocate for your own health at any age so take charge of your breast health by trying the following recommendations:

older-lady-mammo

Be sure to have all three types of breast examinations conducted frequently: self-exam, clinical exam and mammogram. Do the self-exam regularly to look for changes or lumps.   Have a clinician do a yearly exam and request a yearly mammogram screening.

holding-pink-ribbonDon’t let other medical factors or your own age deter you from discussing your breast health with your physician. The American Geriatrics Society recommends regular mammogram screenings for women up to age eighty-five.  Get the screening you are entitled to and know that most insurance companies will pay for annual mammogram screenings.

If breast cancer is detected, there are a number of treatment options available.  Information is power when considering your own breast health. Be an advocate for yourself when it comes to breast cancer awareness.

If the Shoe Fits

As I continue my discussion about falls, I thought I might provide a little comic relief to share my most embarrassing fall.  Picture this.  It’s my little girl’s dance recital dress rehearsal.  Mamas, Grandmas, and some Dads are all up in arms trying to make sure they have their little Susie’s right shoes with the right costume and heaven knows we must have on ENOUGH makeup to be “stage appropriate” too.  Well amongst all this chaos we had a routine (or at least a performer) that was about to be cut because one of our senior level dancers was sick and was not able to partner with the junior performer for this cute little number.  Well as they say “the show must go on” and our ever improvising and quick thinking director called out from the curtain…” Is Heather Bradley in the building”?  SAY WHAT??  Oh dear woman, you do jest.  Nope, she was quite serious.  And within moments this child with big crocodile tears that was about to have to sit out was being twirled and tossed by yours truly.  So I fell on my face on the stage during the routine right?  No…wait for it.  We got through the routine and I was feeling pretty good for a washed up former tap dancer.  So as I slipped back into my wedges and started bounding down the stairs…it happened.  I fell down the steps with such graceless effort that I literally fell flat on my face.  Well, I fell on my hands to be more specific.  My friend Renee said I jumped back up so quickly though that I looked like a cartoon character.  So as I jump up to quickly assure everyone that I am truly okay, I make a discovery.  My shoe is broken, my watch is broken and I soon discover at the ER (where my friend Sam insisted I get checked out when she sees blood coming from my wrist) that my hand is also quite broken.  So when I speak to you about falls, trust me I am a professional.  It takes a pro to fall off a stage in front of an auditorium packed full of people.

shoes

So the shoe.  Let me tell you it was the source of the fall.  So when I tell you that ill-fitting shoes can be a hazard, I know from first-hand experience.  Now granted most elderly adults are not bounding down the steps of a stage.  But if your shoes don’t fit properly you can be stepping off a curb or standing up for that matter and the shoes can become a fall hazard.  Another important thing to consider is foot care.  Many seniors don’t have the ability to trim their toenails anymore.  Throw in the fact that many are diabetic and this adds additional risk and you can see how toenails can wreak havoc and up the ante in the fight against falls.  Foot pain and poor footwear have been cited by the Center for Disease Control as one of the major contributing factors for falls in the elderly.  So be sure that you check your loved ones’ shoes and make sure that they fit well and are in good condition.  Also, check their toenails and see that they are trimmed regularly by someone that knows what they are doing and especially if they are diabetic.  Regular checkups are important, right?  It is equally important to get your feet checked out too!

foot-exam_thumb

Be an advocate if Mom’s feet have been missed in the examination.  Most physicians include this in a comprehensive check.  But believe me, I have seen it be missed.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and make sure that foot health is a consideration.  While my middle aged broken hand healed up nicely after my fall, a fall for a senior can be much more devastating because as we age we become more frail.  Taking proper precautions can help your loved one from being one of the 2.8 million older Americans that is treated in the ER annually for falls.  So be smart and evaluate these issues and it will help everyone keep one foot safely in front of the other.

Falling For You

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.