Connections that Last a Lifetime!

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.

Keep Connected-Highlighting National Assisted Living Week 2016

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.

Direct Connect

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.

Eyes (and Ears) on the Prize

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.

No Live Chickens In The Kitchen


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.

Medication Roundup

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.

Downsizing to Assisted Living-Fit, Family, Function and Finance!

The fact that I am writing this article would make most of those in my inner circle chuckle.  If ever there were a queen of emotional attachment…well then that would be me.  Hanging on to those childhood mementos including everything from baby pajamas to those 5000 crayon drawings.  Yeah that’s me, and no it’s not pretty.  It can actually be a frustrating mess.  So for those of you that are charged with the task of helping Mom or Dad downsize to assisted living…I will give you the same golden piece of advice that my Mom gave me.  Cut the clutter, because less is more!

When it comes to making the move to assisted living the first question you need to ask yourself is will it FIT?  A recent move-in to one of our properties involved the resident sitting down with her 27-year-old granddaughter and them actually sketching out her room setup on graphing paper prior to the move.  OCD??  Not at all!  Actually this is a very practical approach.  When you and your loved ones map out the new space, it helps you both decide what items will fit and what won’t make the cut.  Great Oaks Management communities offer room floor-plans on our webpages that make this process so much easier to envision.  Also don’t be afraid to ask for measurements!  If Mom’s custom curtains won’t fit…then she might want to go a different route like donating them or giving them to family.

Another way to help your loved one deal with STUFF is by letting them “gift” their items to family members.  One of my most treasured things that I have is the guitar from my late father.  When I open the case…it even still smells like my Daddy.  Weird??  Well maybe to some.  But for those of us that are sentimental, those family things are priceless.  Maybe Mom has just been waiting for someone to ask for her favorite cookbook.  Maybe Dad would love to know that his tool collection will be used by his grandsons.  This is a much better solution than making them feel like you are hauling their household to the junkyard!  And trust me, if these items don’t seem priceless to you now…they will one day.  Have them set aside piles or boxes of things that they want to give to certain family members.  This will help in the packing process.

I still remember my Mom describing a day when she was helping my grandmother (her mother-in-law), and she asked Mom to grab tea towels for a shower gift out of her “stash” room.  This was more of a hoarders’ closet than a stash room, but I digress.  My Mom went to grab the aforementioned tea towels that literally fell apart in her hands.  See grandma had saved stuff way past its prime and it had dry rotted.  If items don’t function, then it’s easier to help parents realize they gotta go.  (This same scenario was described to me as we cleaned out my toy room.)  But when clocks or old electronics are not functioning and beyond repair then these belong in the junk pile.  You might think…well that’s obvious.  But I can’t tell you how many families I have helped part ways with stuff that just wouldn’t work.  See I can give good advice, I’m not the best at taking it.   There is also the stuff we have that won’t work because it is too big or too cumbersome to work in apartment style living for seniors. Or sometimes you have a set of books that no one in the family needs that might be perfect for donating.  The major donation outlets in our facility areas are church organizations, the Salvation Army and Goodwill.

If you have perfectly good items that you just don’t need, it may be time to organize a garage sale.  A garage sale or an estate sale is a wonderful way to make turn forgotten finds into FUNDS!  Remember that if you have items that are particularly valuable it is always wise to have them appraised.  We will have an article on our Facebook page this week that offers advice on getting ready for a garage sale!

Making the Move-Somewhere Over the Rainbow

You have had the tough conversations.  Everyone is on board.  You have found the ideal community and they have a spot that is perfect for your loved one.  Your aging parent has been evaluated and deemed appropriate for assisted living.  So with the completed required physician paperwork in hand you are headed down the yellow brick road to assisted living happiness!  But wait…what exactly DO you DO now?  Daddy HAS to have his favorite chair and Mama isn’t going ANYWHERE without her beloved bedroom furniture.  Sound familiar??  I’ve had multiple residents say the transition was so much easier when their new apartment felt like home because they were able to bring significant pieces from that home with them.  So don’t fret…with courage, heart and the knowledge that you need, you can click your heels together and help your family member get comfortable in their place.

Based on the floor-plan that you choose, you can help them decide what furniture will fit best in their room.  On all of our property webpages and the Great Oaks Management website, you can find the dimensions and layouts for the rooms.  This can help you visualize how you want to set up the area.  As each resident is unique in their personality-their room can and should reflect their style and taste.  Does Dad like having his cup of coffee while sitting in his recliner watching the evening news?  Try taking photos of the current setup for your loved one and trying to match the arrangement as best as possible to set them up for success.

You also want the room to be familiar but also functional.  Reducing clutter and being mindful of any transfer devices such as walkers or wheelchairs is a key component.  Now you don’t want to be considered the “Wicked Witch of the West”!  So don’t get stressed about HOW to start the process.  We have a helpful list below of What To Bring to get you started.


For more information about Great Oaks Management and its communities, please visit

Getting There – Renting in Retirement

So you find yourself in the unfamiliar waters of helping your aging loved one find a new space to call home.  Before you feel the need to jump ship-take heart!  There are many PROVEN benefits to charting the course towards the move to an assisted living community.

The first step in helping your family member tip their toe into the water is reminding them of the commitment.  Based on the reality of the service that is being provided in assisted living, it doesn’t make sense for communities to require long term commitments.  This is miles apart from sending the kids off to college.  So that means you are not talking six month or year long leases.  Don’t get me wrong it’s not uncommon for someone to live in a community for a long time.   We have had residents live in our properties for 10-15 years.  But the beauty of our assisted living contracts is that they offer the option of a 30 day notice.  Now that’s enough to make everyone breathe a sigh of relief. Taking away the anxiety of “buyers remorse” helps you and your loved one feel much easier about the reality of making the transition to an assisted living community and sets the course for smoother sailing.  It also opens the door to the discussion of the possibility of what day to day life can look like for Mom or Dad in a community.   Setting the course towards the goal of getting there now becomes more approachable and less daunting.