Recognizing Red Flags

Without fail, following a holiday season, assisted living communities will see an increase in calls and inquiries from concerned family members looking for help.  What happens that makes this such a pivotal time?  Well like most of us, we live in a fast-paced world.  We don’t see each other as often as we would like.  Getting together, taking time to travel and perhaps having your senior loved one out of the comfort of their own home to celebrate a holiday creates obstacles.  During these visits, we might discover that simple tasks become difficult.  Things that we thought were okay, truly are not.  It may be time to consider the fact that Mom or Dad being at home alone just isn’t the best scenario anymore.

What are some of the BIG things to keep an eye on?  Let’s call these the BIG 3 RED FLAGS.

Red Flag Number One

Physical Changes:  The first things that come to mind here are weight and balance.  Has your loved one had a significant change?  Don’t miss the obvious signs.  Watch for changes in sleeping patterns too.  I also remind adult children to be sure and go with their parent to a doctor visit when they can.  Be sure the physician is aware of your concerns.  Role reversal is SO DIFFICULT!  But remember you can help be an advocate for the physical well-being of your loved one.

Red Flag Number Two

Mental Health:  This can be related to the sleep factor.  Too much or too little will obviously affect mental health.  But ask yourself and your loved one…how much interaction do they have with others?  Have there been changes in hygiene?  Is the home that was once spotless now in complete disarray?  If there is an obvious change in things that were once important or if they seem like they are disinterested in social activity, don’t just chalk it up to the aging process.  This may be a sign of a physical issue or they just may need more socialization.  Again, talk with them and their primary care physician to decide what will be the best intervention.

Red Flag Number Three

Medications:  Have you ever visited someone and they literally have medication all over the place?  It is a scary thing for someone to think that their loved one is unsure or unsafe when it comes to medications.  You want to be sure that the right medications are taken by the right person, the right route at the right time and the right dosage.  If you question this even for a minute, you don’t need to turn a blind eye.

It is not going to be easy.  As I said above ROLE REVERSAL is not for the faint of heart.  The hardest part may be just starting the conversation.  But it is a conversation that you don’t want to put off until “something happens”.  Here is an extremely useful tool that you can download now or check out on our website that will help open the conversation.  The “How Do I Know When It’s Time” checklist is a wonderful resource to help shed light on the option of Assisted Living.  Check it out today at http://www.gardensofeufaula.com/docs/Resources/HowWillIKnowWhenIamReadyHandout.pdf

The holidays are a great time to visit our communities.  For information on how to set up a tour at one of our Great Oaks Management properties call us today at 1-888-258-8082.

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Grateful Gatherings

As we prepare to give thanks and gather around the table…I remember.  I remember that it was just last Thanksgiving that we experienced a “first” in our community. It was the first time that all 16 of our residents were out with family at the EXACT same time.  It was a strange feeling for the folks that were working that day.  I remember them calling to tell me about it.  Oh, there is always plenty to be done and the staff was happy for the residents to be spending quality time with family and loved ones.  It was just a new first for our community.  What about you?  Is this the first year that you will be planning Thanksgiving after having moved a loved one into an assisted living? Are you concerned with all the preparation and worried about the visit?  Here are a few tips to help you stress less and enjoy Thanksgiving with your elderly loved ones.

Schedules and Timing

As much as you don’t want to plan out every little detail, you do want to give it some thought. Remember that if they are residing in an assisted living they may now be accustomed to a more structured routine.  You will want to check with the staff regarding medications and proper protocol.  You want to be sure to keep everything on track.

Food and Options

Our residents live very active and independent lifestyles.  They enjoy making their own choices and directing their care.  But it is important to consider their dietary needs.  Be mindful of food options.  Remember if Mom doesn’t need the extra salt or Dad needs alternative dessert options.

Time Away

One of the most common comments I hear from families is that they are shocked when not long after eating ….the elderly loved one is ready to go back to their community (new home).  Now naturally this makes an administrator very happy that a resident has come to feel comfortable in their community.  But don’t let it make you feel down.  Remember they have gotten on their own time schedule.  They are enjoying your company, but like many people after a gathering may need some rest.

As with all time together…just enjoy.  Make it special but don’t put too much pressure on your family member or yourself (for that matter) to meet unrealistic expectations.  Incorporate them into the conversation.  Maybe call ahead of time and get their special recipe for a favorite dish.  Spend time talking, relating and making treasured memories.  Savor these moments together and you ALL will come away from the gathering feeling grateful.

elderly african american man enjoying coffee with his granddaughter

Check It Out

I spend more time than I would like to at hospitals and clinics.  I guess it is just part of the job.  But last week I had to go for a visit for my own health.  It was time for my annual mammogram.  Now my tween-age daughter might say this is “TMI” or too much information.  But I think…that this is actually the opposite.  I think it is necessary for us to discuss important health issues at any age.  And being informed and keeping the lines of communication open regarding breast health should be a priority.

According to Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, half of newly diagnosed women with breast cancer are over 60, and more than a fifth are over 70. Although the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age, the chance of dying from it declines steadily. “Women who have lived to an advanced age do very well when treated for breast cancer,” says Dr. Hal Burstein, senior physician and breast cancer specialist at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

But the path to early detection and effective treatment isn’t always clear for older women; once you’ve reached 75, there is no hard-and-fast schedule for screening or protocol for treatment. Instead, how often you should get a mammogram or the kind of treatment you undergo for early breast cancer is a decision for you to make with your doctor.

What are the risk factors?

The Mayo Clinic and National Cancer Institute list these primary risk factors:

  • Age
  • Chest radiation as a child
  • Start of menarche before the age of 12
  • Adolescent weight gain
  • No pregnancy or late pregnancy (after 30)
  • Lengthy use of oral contraceptives
  • Post-menopausal weight gain
  • Late menopause (after age of 50)
  • Increased breast tissue density

It is important to keep your appointments for all regular checkups for women and men of all ages.  What may be uncomfortable or inconvenient for a day can save your life.

You can find more information at http://www.cancer.org

 

Family is Forever

The past two weeks we have been collecting pictures of our residents to do a game of “Guess Who” as a part of our National Assisted Living Week celebrations.  It has been such a joy for families and residents to share their pictures from “way back when”.  It has caused me to pause and reflect on life.  When our residents think of themselves, they may picture that younger self that served in the Army or was a homemaker or helped on the farm.  Their children may envision the Mom or Dad that helped shape their childhood and their memories of growing up.  To the staff at the communities that these folks live in now, we may see them differently.  But it is always wise to stop, look back and remember.  As we all age we may see ourselves in many different lights.  We grow and become many things to many people.  So have our residents.  As we celebrate National Assisted Living Week and the beauty that comes from this environment, I want us all to remember that each of us has a history and we impact so many different people.  The theme of National Assisted Living Week is Family is Forever.  I know for me over the last 8 times that I have celebrated this week that it has seen many different faces and many different memories.  I have helped crown many different Kings and Queens of the Gardens.  But I think that what I realize today that each year…my family has grown.  Sometimes it can be hard to let people into your life with the understanding that they may not be able to stay for long.  But as Garth Brooks once sang, “I could have missed the pain, but then I could have missed the dance.”  Thank you assisted living for what you have meant to me and my family.  I know my family has grown forever and my heart is much more full as a result.

 

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Peachy Keen

Today we are honoring Gardens of Clanton resident Lucille Mims.  Mrs. Lucille is 94 years old and thoroughly enjoys being a resident at our Clanton community.  Most folks when they think of Clanton, immediately think of peaches.  Clanton is famous for their delicious peaches and their water tower in the shape of a peach. August is National Peach Month and in honor of Mrs. Lucille Mims, the Gardens of Clanton and the delicious fruit…we are sharing a delicious recipe for Peach Cobbler. We hope you all enjoy this delicious taste of summer!

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Peach Cobbler Recipe

  • 8 fresh peaches – peeled, pitted and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • MIX TOGETHER:
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. In a large bowl, combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and cornstarch.
  3. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 2 quart baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.
  5. Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of topping over them. Sprinkle entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.

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Pictured is Mrs. Mims and her loving granddaughter

Keep It Clean

There are many reasons that family members become concerned that an elderly loved one is not doing well.  One issue that is a cause for concern is bathing or rather the lack thereof.  A parent not bathing is a topic that many families are reluctant to discuss as they may be uncomfortable bringing it up. But be assured that this is an issue that many people face.  It is common…but there may be multiple root causes.  It is important to understand why they are reluctant.  Only when you understand that the underlying reasons can you better approach and address successfully.  Let’s look at some of the more common reasons.

 

  1. Fear of Falling

The bathroom can be a very dangerous place. If you have every slipped in the shower, you can relate. Now you pair the environment with physical issues like foot problems, balance issues, arthritis and more…and you have a recipe for disaster and fear.

 

  1. Depression

Often elderly have issues with depression that can zap their get up and go. When you lack motivation, bathing and concerns for your grooming often go by the wayside.

 

  1. Cognitive Issues

Another reason that is very common are memory issues. If your parent has dementia or other cognitive decline, keeping up with a bathing schedule can be extremely difficult.  Realizing that you haven’t taken a bath is not something they may be able to keep up with easily.

 

While it may be a difficult subject to approach, you must develop a plan. For some simply adding grab bars or safety equipment may help. Some may be able to follow a chart.  But if it is a depression or memory issue, it may be time to consider getting help.  As always discuss your concerns with a doctor.  A physician may want to consider medications to help with depression.  It may be time to enlist the help of a caregiver or look into an assisted living community where your loved one can have daily assistance with their activities of daily life like bathing and grooming.  But don’t avoid the topic because it is messy and uncomfortable.  The health benefits of cleanliness are far too important to ignore.

Just Breathe

Recently someone said to me that I seemed to always have it together.  Me?  Together?  Now that is funny!  Most days I feel like I am chasing my tail.  Did they know my day that morning started with dry shampoo??  But isn’t that life?   Most of us are convinced that everyone else always has it TOGETHER.  We envision everyone with cleaner houses, perfectly cooked dinners and flawless families.  In reality, we are all doing our best…to do our best.  One thing that will de-rail our “best” in a hurry is stress.  It is very common to hear from families of seniors dealing with “role reversal” that it is one of the most stressful tasks they have ever endured.  It’s one thing to raise and help our children…but when it comes to helping our parents…this is no easy task.  We don’t want to disrespect, but we also want to keep them safe.  Here are some tips to help you be proactive and avoid making situations frustrating for both you and your loved ones.

Don’t forget your Vitamin ZZZZZ

It sounds simple, but get your sleep!  According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health, and safety. The Foundation advises: “When we don’t get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to “pay back” if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior.”  Getting a good night sleep is important to your health and will help you be more effective in helping others and that includes your elderly parents.

Track Down a Paper Trail

According to AARP, an important part of getting things untangled for your elderly parents is organizing paperwork and documentation.  “The first thing to do is ask your parents where they store important papers. It may be in a file cabinet at home, or in a safety deposit box or with an attorney. You can’t get organized if you can’t find anything, so come up with a checklist to write down where everything is. Documents that should be assembled and accounted for include”:

  • birth certificate
  • marriage certificate
  • death certificate (for deceased spouse)
  • divorce papers
  • military records
  • driver’s license/organ donor card
  • passport/citizen papers
  • will
  • living will
  • durable power of attorney
  • health care power of attorney
  • trust
  • letter of instruction — with funeral arrangements, important contact information such as insurance agent or broker.
  • insurance policies (life, disability, long-term care)
  • information about safety deposit boxes (e.g., location, number, key)

 

Remember to Enjoy Each Other

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In this fast-paced world that we all get caught up in, it seems we can lose sight of the things that are important.  Yes, making sure that everyone is safe and sound is huge!  But Mom may also really enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with you.  Dad may want to talk about the weather.  Take time to enjoy the blessings each day.  These small moments together will become larger than life soon enough.  Make time to take time and as my Mom reminds me when I feel I’m at my wits end…just breathe.

If it is time to help Mom or Dad look at the option of Assisted Living please give us a call today.  We would love to have you and your loved one come have lunch with us and see all that our communities have to offer.

Get more information at www.greatoaksmanagement.com

Take it from the Senior Class

Ah yes…you can hear the commencement speeches filling the air.  It’s the time of year when young men and women close one chapter of their lives and start another.  So aside from the wisdom that they have gained from their educations up until this point…we thought it might be intriguing to get some advice from a generation that has already been there and done that.  Here is some advice to the Senior Class of 2017 from some of our assisted living seniors.

5 Life Lessons from our Assisted Living Senior Class

  1. Keep your mind open and don’t stress if you have to start at the bottom to work your way up.  You can do it!  Learn the value of hard work.
  1. Knowledge is power.  Continue your education because that is something that no one can take away from you.
  1. Wake up each day with an open mind and a full heart.  Everyone will not always have the same values as you.  Stay rooted to what you know while still showing kindness.
  1. Think before you speak. Run it through your head before it comes out of your mouth.
  1. Save your money.  You don’t have to have everything you want right now.

Good luck to the Class of 2017 from everyone at

Great Oaks Management and our communities.

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Pictured above is Great Oaks Management resident,

Sara Hamrick and her granddaughter Victoria.

Conversations with Betty

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.

 

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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.”

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Making Steps in the Right Direction

One of the highlights of the many varied activities that we have in our Assisted Living community has nothing to do with entertainment.  It does have everything to do with health and prevention.  When it comes to taking care of our feet, it is no small matter.  Yet many seniors lose the ability to safely trim their toenails or inspect their feet for other issues.  That is why the periodic visits from a podiatrist keep our residents feeling one step ahead!  Since the feet are closely tied to our overall health…here are some simple tips excerpted from GREAT FEET FOR LIFE: FOOTCARE AND FOOTWEAR FOR HEALTHY AGING by Paul Langer, DPM to keep your feet headed in the right direction.

loofahs-jpg-838x0_q67_crop-smartFoot Hygiene   The single most important thing one can do for foot health is good foot hygiene. This means washing the feet daily, wearing clean socks and caring for the skin and nails on a regular basis.

Skin Care  The skin of the feet must be resilient enough to withstand thousands of footsteps each day. Bathing the feet daily, applying moisturizing lotions to dry skin and managing calluses with lotions and a pumice stone helps our skin hold up to the demands of an active lifestyle. Never ignore rashes, painful calluses or skin that is red or tender as this can be a sign of infection. For those whose feet sweat excessively, foot powders and socks with less than 30% cotton are best for keeping the skin dry.

ca5c5fa4-12a5-404b-86bc-05c404b1a623Nail Care  Toenails tend to become thicker, discolored and more brittle as we age. This can make it more difficult to trim the nails and contribute to painful nail conditions such as ingrown nails or fungal nails. Nails should be trimmed straight across and rough edges or nail thickness should be reduced with a nail file.

Footwear   For those who are vulnerable to foot pain whether from arthritis, previous injuries or toe alignment issues such as bunions or hammertoes, it is imperative that you wear shoes that fit well, provide proper support and are not excessively worn. Poorly fitting shoes contribute to many of the most common causes of foot pain. Take the time to visit a reputable footwear retailer and spend the time necessary selecting a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes.fuzzy-socks

Falling Risk and Your Feet  Risk factors for falls include: poorly fitting shoes, shoes with elevated heel height, excessively worn shoes, sandals or shoes with an unsecured heel.

April is Foot Health Awareness Month.  So step up and make good choices for your foot health!  It will help keep you feeling footloose and fancy free!