In the past 7 years, I have given MANY tours at our assisted living community. I’ve even given tours at some of our sister communities. I’ve read guides that industry pros have posted. I’ve listened to feedback from residents, families, staff and upper-level management. I’ve moved residents into our property from every setting you can imagine. Now, it’s not that I think that I have all the answers. That is laughable and would be impossible. But how about I just offer you as Paul Harvey would say “the rest of the story” and give you my humble insights. I like working with lists of 3s. So, here is a list of my top three suggestions for finding the assisted living community that is the right fit.
Suggestion Number One
Remember WHO is the Consumer
One of the most surprising things that I ever experienced in my senior living career was the opportunity to move a resident into our 16-bed community from a place that I swear resembled a resort at the beach. It was, however, also an assisted living community. As I drove onto the property I honestly mouthed the words…WOW. Inside was the latest of color schemes and decor. I honestly wanted to ask the lady at the desk in the lobby the name of the gray paint on the walls. I loved it. But my grandmother would have hated it. I have residents that would have hated it. And you guessed it…so did the resident that I moved out of this fancy pants place and into our community. This huge place was also overwhelming to the resident. The resident had vision issues and that typically doesn’t pair well with a monochromatic color scheme or a giant campus. Bottom line…think of the loved one whom you are considering living in a community and be sure that you are shopping for them and not YOU.
Suggestion Number Two
Meet and Greet
It didn’t take me long to realize when I started working with senior adults exactly who was in charge and it was NOT me. Now naturally, I make sure that we are being regulatory compliant and we don’t do anything that is unsafe. But the phrase that I remind our staff and how we approach the care in how we treat our residents is “this is their house and we work for you”. It’s not just something that we say, it is how we do our best to approach the things that we do. If you are looking at a community that doesn’t treat your loved one as an individual, look elsewhere! When it comes to tours, I offer our current residents the opportunity to meet and greet some of our prospects. It gives the prospective family and potential residents a chance to hear first-hand information from the consumers who know it best. It also invites the members of our community to be part of the place they call home and it is truly heart-warming to see the way that they communicate. Who else would know better than the ones who have been in the exact same shoes as the prospect!
Suggestion Number Three
Another thing (that yes, even as an administrator) I would suggest is drop in without an appointment. Now, of course, this needs to be at a decent hour. Most properties love to schedule a tour so that a marketing person or administrator can help you through the process and that is a truly effective way to get the answers to most of your questions. But dropping in on a Saturday or taking up the offer to join the community for a meal are great ways to get a good feel for how a community functions. Now the meal “invites” do typically need to be scheduled so that enough food can be prepared, but it is a wonderful opportunity to sample the “fare” and observe the staff and community. Also, don’t forget to let the prospective resident be part of this process. I have witnessed many families try to avoid bringing their loved one along for fear of upsetting them. I say start slowly. This change is hard for everyone…even for the adult children that are trying to do what is best and safe for their aging parent or loved one. Making the decision to move to an assisted living community is not easy. Change isn’t easy. But making the decision to keep someone safe is the right move.
If you would like more information about one of our Great Oaks Management Properties or would like to set up a tour at a property near you, please call us today at 1-888-258-8082.
Depression is a condition that affects many people of all ages around the world. Over the years, I have experienced within our community just how difficult and debilitating it can be for some of our elderly in the winter months. Winter SADness…or Seasonal Affect Disorder is not just a bad or sad mood. It is a real health issue and as with any type of depression, it is important to be aware and seek medical intervention when necessary. The National Institute of Mental Health gives this explanation and as well as symptoms and treatments:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not considered as a separate disorder. It is a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern. To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years. Seasonal depressions must be much more frequent than any non-seasonal depressions.
Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:
- Having low energy
- Weight gain
- Craving for carbohydrates
- Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)
Treatments and Therapies:
There are four major types of treatment for SAD:
- Light therapy
- Vitamin D
These treatments may be used alone or in combination. Along with the difficulties that a chronic illness can bring, seniors are also likely to experiences losses in the social networks, which can contribute to the formation of clinical depression. Not everyone who experiences Seasonal Affect Disorder is clinically depressed, but SAD can increase the effects of those who do live with chronic depression. Families and caregivers should be on the lookout for indicators of SAD in their older loved ones during the winter months.
It is important to talk with your loved ones if you have concerns about their mental health and seek medical attention when necessary. Be supportive, be loving and help them remain calm as they cope.
One definition of the word tradition is “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation”. Many of us enjoy celebrating the holidays by continuing our time-honored traditions. But as our family dynamics change and our loved ones start to age, we may need to adapt our traditions to the changing needs of our families. We all can get “put out” by the holiday hustle and bustle, but the stress that the holiday season can bring can be particularly difficult for the elderly.
Remember that travel may be easier for you than it is for them. Yes, you may have always met at Aunt Martha’s for Christmas Day, but this year that may not be realistic if getting to the destination requires catching a flight or a six-hour drive. The important thing is to do your best to involve your senior loved ones. Spend time with them and don’t add any guilt if they just can’t do what they once could.
If your loved one lives in an assisted living community check with the management and see what holiday events are planned. Making room at activities for family members and joining residents for meals is usually as easy as a phone call and making a reservation. This provides an easy time to enjoy food and fellowship without the fuss.
Many residents are very independent and enjoy getting out and enjoying your company. But when it comes to making plans, consider simple things like how far they may be expected to walk. Do they need walker access? Even considerations for stops for bathroom breaks need to be in the game plan. Mom might have been a power shopper just a few short years ago, but consider that with age, quick trips might not be so quick anymore. Planning ahead will make times together less stressful for you and your loved ones.
As each year passes, we grow to understand just how important making the most of times spent together can be. Modifying traditions and keeping the most important part of them intact is crucial. But remember the most treasured part of a tradition is the people that we share them with. As Charlie Brown once said, “It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.”
This week we will celebrate and honor our Veterans. Veterans Day 2017 will be on Saturday, November 11th, 2017 and designated as a Federal Holiday on Friday, November 10th, 2017. As the daughter, granddaughter and sister of Army men, this topic is close to my heart. I was reading up on the observance and read that there is even a Veterans Day Poster contest. This year’s poster features the Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial located at the National Mall in Washington D.C. The inscribed quote on the poster is from Abraham Lincoln and is also the VA motto which reads “To care for him who shall have born the battle.” This motto made me proud of the many Veterans that we have had the opportunity to care for in our assisted living communities. In a Veterans Day Proclamation from 2001, Former President George W. Bush said, “Throughout the course of American history, courageous men and women have taken up arms to secure, defend, and maintain these core principles upon which our Nation’s freedoms depend.” It is because of this bravery that we enjoy those freedoms.
We pause and say thank you and recognize the brave and selfless men and women that have served this great nation. We also want to remind our Veterans that there is a very helpful resource available to many of them based on eligibility that can help pay for the cost of assisted living. Per veteranaid.org, hundreds of thousands are eligible for this little-known VA benefit, including spouses of veterans. These funds can be used for assisted living at many facilities. To learn more you can contact your local Veterans Affairs Office or check out www.benefits.va.gov
Learn more about your local Great Oaks Management Property and VA Benefits by calling us today at 1-888-258-8082.
Autumn is my favorite season of the year. The trees show off their brightest and boldest colors as the leaves start to change. We break out the fall clothing (well, perhaps on some days…let’s be honest I live in the South). My favorite sport of college football is in full swing and I love the local Friday Night Lights as well. So, in honor of this beloved season, I wanted to share a delicious recipe to get you in the mood for fall food. And when we think of FALL, many of us think of pumpkin spice everything! Pure pumpkin is considered a SUPER FOOD as it is low in calories and fat and is a naturally rich source of fiber and Vitamin A (AN ANTIOXIDANT). So here is a delicious and easy recipe for Pumpkin Spice Muffins that is sure to be a crowd pleaser and bring in the wonderful taste and fragrance of FALL!
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups granulated sugar
1 can (15 ounces) 100% Pure Pumpkin
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water or orange juice
PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Paper-line or grease 30 muffin cups.
COMBINE flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, and juice in large mixer bowl; beat until just blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture; stir just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.
BAKE for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store muffins in a covered container or re-sealable plastic bags.
FOR 72 MINI MUFFINS:
PREPARE as above; filling 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.
FOR 12 JUMBO MUFFINS:
PREPARE as above; filling 3/4 full. Bake for 33 to 36 minutes.
The other day I had one of those moments. You know…those times when you are becoming exactly like your mother, grandmother, father, etc. We were out to eat and I said to my husband that I wished I could order off the “kids menu” because I wasn’t that hungry and it was cheaper. It was like I had instantly become my grandmother. The memories came flooding back. How many times had I heard her ask a server if they had a “child’s plate” she could order? I was always embarrassed and never quite understood her frugality. Now as an adult I get it. Especially for those who are in the age bracket who qualify for a senior discount…pinching pennies is important. So, in memory of my grandmother (who we affectionately called Mama Clifford), here is a guide to some popular restaurants that feature savings for seniors. These are only some of the eateries that offer discounts and with all promotions it may vary by location. But save where you can and as Benjamin Franklin would say, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
Applebee’s Senior Discount: 10-15% off (varies by location) MAY require Golden Apple Card (60+)
Bonefish Grill Senior Discount: AARP members 10% off
Burger King Senior Discount: 10% off (60+) plus additional discounts on coffee and soft drinks
Captain D’s Seafood: “Happy Wednesday Offer” Choice of 8 meals + drink for $4.99 or less- varies by loc. (62+)
Chick-fil-A Senior Discounts: Chick-fil-A offers a free refillable senior drink, not including coffee. – Varies by location.
Chili’s Restaurants Senior Discounts: Chili’s offers a 10% senior discount (55+)
Denny’s: Senior discount varies by location, 15% off for AARP members
McDonald’s: Discounts on coffee everyday (55+)
Outback Steakhouse: 10% off AARP members for meals (alcohol excluded)
Sonic: 10% off or free beverage (60+) varies by location
Subway: 10% off (60+) varies by location
Taco Bell: 5% off; free beverages for seniors (65+)
TCBY: 10% off (55+)
Assisted living is more than just a place to live. But for one family, it is actually a tradition. Resident Betty Sutton shared a picture with us recently of her mother at the Gardens of Eufaula. The part that makes this story so unique is that her late Mother was also a former resident at the Gardens of Eufaula. We sat down with Betty and asked her a few questions about her unique perspective as a former sponsor and now resident at the Gardens of Eufaula. Here is our five question Q & A session.
Question: Betty, what is your fondest memory of your Mom at the Gardens of Eufaula?
Answer: “I loved how we celebrated her birthdays at the Gardens! My late son Chip would bring his grill and he would cook for everyone and we would have a wonderful time. Birthdays are always special at the Gardens.”
Question: What was something that you remember that your Mom enjoyed at GOE?
Answer: “My Mother made a very special friend named Mrs. Teal when she lived at the Gardens. They were so close and it was so sweet to see their bond. I remember coming to pick Mother up to go for a ride and her always insisting that Mrs. Teal ride with us. We took many trips out for ice cream and even to see Christmas lights. We had a ball!”
Question: What is your favorite part about living at the Gardens?
Answer: “My new “sorority sisters” that I have met at the Gardens that I affectionately call the “Golden Girls”. These ladies out here are such fun. We love to pick at each other. They are really special to me.”
Question: What do you like at the Gardens that really surprised you?
Answer: I was truly surprised how much I would enjoy the friends that I have made. That may sound odd, but I have many wonderful friends and never imagined that I would find more that would become so dear to me.”
Question: What would you tell someone that might be considering moving to an assisted living?
Answer: “I would tell them to go ahead and take the leap. You will surprise yourself how well you will adjust. I know I did. Don’t hesitate if you have the opportunity to move here.”
Spring has sprung and one of the most therapeutic things for me is getting out and tending to flowers in the yard. Sadly, this only comes in small doses because my hectic schedule leads to the demise of many of my plants. I love to tell the story of how my Mom came for an extended stay and made it her business to water my neglected yard. She started spraying the plants on my front porch as I stood watching barefoot in the parched grass. “See how I’m reviving the porch plants? You must water them!” I nodded in approval, barely having the heart to tell her that she was doing an excellent job of knocking the dust off those fake plants. But given the chance, I love to plant, prune and water with the best of them. Being that many of our facilities have the name “The Gardens” in them it only makes sense that we have flowers and other plants on the grounds of our communities. Through the years I have learned valuable advice from many of my resident gardeners. Here are a couple invaluable tips I have discovered over the years.
Knock back the Knock Out Roses
One of my former residents, Mrs. Betty, had a lovely rose garden placed in her memory in front of our community by her family. After the garden had been there a little over a year, I was instructed by one of our sweet lady residents to cut the bushes back if I wanted them to grow. Cut it back?? But why?? It had some blooms. She explained that the blooms had become scarce and that the bush would be more full with blooms and leaves if I cut it back. So, paired with some thick leather gloves and long clippers I got to work. In no time at all the roses were prettier than they had ever been. Mrs. Betty would be so proud!
Pile Up the Pallets
In several of our other communities we have had fabulous gardens built up high so that residents do not have to stoop over to tend to them. These pallet gardens are a wonderful way to let residents get their hands dirty and show their skills. I love to get tips on when and how to grow vegetables in these gardens. One of the best tricks that a resident in Daphne once told me was to always check your Farmer’s Almanac on when and how to grow seeds or plants in the garden. Now you can access the Farmer’s Almanac online and it will allow you to pull up your location in Alabama and get tips specific to your region.
So, for some of the best therapy around, get down and dirty in the soil. Plant some pretty flowers or vegetables like our residents. It is a wonderful way to get cheap therapy and bloom where you are planted.
According to a recent article by Good Housekeeping, living longer life may have something to do with Assisted Living Communities! The article states, “Beyond inviting our older relatives and friends into our homes, it’s important to encourage elderly relationships — which is why, despite popular belief, older folks tend to thrive in independent or assisted living environments. These living arrangements provide more ways to mingle, to connect, to thrive.”
This holds true for Mrs. Carrie Miller. Mrs. Miller celebrated her 103rd birthday this past December. As we sat down to talk with her we learned a little bit about her Southern charm and grace. Mrs. Miller is from Georgia and moved to the Gardens of Clanton in 2010. She grew up with five siblings, one of which was her twin brother named Jay. She has made a wonderful life and has been blessed with 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
A former homemaker, she enjoys going to parties and her favorite holiday is Christmas. She is quite the fashionista and when she was ready to greet us, she showed us several of her outfit choices before selecting the perfect one that was one of “her” colors. She looked quite lovely of course. She has always been a social butterfly and when asked what makes her happy she said it was her children, family, friends AND…listening to the Chosen Two singers that share music at the Gardens of Clanton. She loves life and hearing a message in song. She shared that her favorite part about living at the Gardens is having wonderful help always there for her and having friends to talk to. So blessed to have her charm and grace. Grateful that her life has been enriched by her time at the Gardens of Clanton.
As children, many of us feel that we could live forever. In this day and age, thanks to modern medicine and other interventions, many are living to be 100 years old and older! The thought of living to be Centenarian intrigues me. But after a recent interview with Gardens of Wetumpka resident Mrs. Bennie McDonald, I was more than intrigued…I was inspired.
When Mrs. Bennie moved to the Gardens of Wetumpka, she very easily could have propped up her feet in an easy chair and rested on all of her many accomplishments. She had been a loving wife and mother and spent a very fulfilling career in education. She has painted a beautiful life all without the stroke of a brush….that is until she attended an art class at the Gardens of Wetumpka. You see, Mrs. Bennie hasn’t just been biding her time in the assisted living. She has been living life to the fullest. Mrs. Bennie began painting as a result of this activity at the assisted living. Today her artwork graces the halls of the building and is actually in high demand. She has even sold many of her paintings. With a careful hand and an artist’s eye she paints many beautiful pieces on her canvases. When asked what she thinks is the key to living a long life she explained that the Lord has carried her through many trials in life and that she wouldn’t be anywhere without Him.
She also explained that besides her artwork, the thing that makes her smile the most is her “wonderful children and the memories of her husband.” She expressed her delight that many former students have told her that she was a good influence on them. She continues to be an encourager as she has always been an avid gardener and now she has passed along her green thumb to one of her neighbors at the Gardens of Wetumpka. So amazing to think you may find a new talent in your life in your golden years. Mrs. Bennie is an inspiration for all of us to live each day fully, never stop learning and paint a beautiful life. Mrs. Bennie celebrated her 100th birthday on October 23rd.