Much Love

During this month of love, I thought it a perfect time to discuss the most loved things about assisted living.  It has been interesting over the years for me to get the perspective not just from the families, but from the residents themselves on what was their favorite.  So here is the TOP THREE FAVES of Assisted Living Communities.

  1. Peace of Mind

There is something to be said for having someone there to look out for you, day or night.  It is also very reassuring to know that communities have emergency response systems.  Another very beneficial help is transportation assistance.  Some of our residents find that driving later in life becomes stressful. Having someone to take them safely to appointments is a huge help and comfort to them and their families.

  1. Enjoying Eating Again

Not only do you have someone there to cook three home-cooked meals a day, plus snacks….but eating with other members of the community makes the dining process so much more enjoyable.. Seeing new friendships form as residents fellowship around the table is a very gratifying part of my job.

  1. Handing Over the Housework

I don’t think I have EVER had one single resident that was sad to hand over the cooking, cleaning or the laundry.  It is a huge perk of moving into an assisted living! I laughed when my husband came to my community the first week I started.. His exact words were, “they do your laundry, cook your food and clean your room? I don’t get that at home!!”.  He’s a real comedian.

With so many things to love, it may be time to look into assisted living for your loved one.  These are just three of many reasons that our communities are loved by our residents.  Schedule a tour today and check out first hand what may be a perfect fit for you and yours.

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Challenges and Choices

As I have watched the latest rollout of promos for the Winter Olympic, a common theme is challenges.  It made me think about the challenges in the daily lives of our many residents.  Just as an athlete must push against all odds to achieve Olympic status, a senior must face challenges on a daily basis to overcome their own adversity.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Life expectancy is increasing for Americans. The fastest-growing segment of the population is the 85-and-older age group. Despite advances in health care, however, many elderly people have chronic, incurable progressive diseases and need assistance with the activities of daily living. The greatest challenge facing us as we age is the prevention of physical disability and the extension of “active life expectancy.” Fortunately, recent studies suggest that healthy (“successful”) aging is achievable, with sound planning for old age.”

SO SOUND PLANNING….LIKE WHAT???

It’s no secret that the biggest factor in overcoming the challenges that come with the aging processes includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  But even though:

eating right, exercising, watching your weight, avoiding tobacco products and limiting alcohol intake and seeing your doctor regularly seems like…gosh..shouldn’t that be enough??  It just isn’t.

Planning for success in aging must include stimulation of our social being as well financial planning, research and making your wishes known.  We can’t be certain of what MIGHT happen.  But if you address the issues early on, it can make the later much easier for you and your children.  Over the years I have comforted many an adult child of an elderly person, who was tasked with making difficult choices for their parent.  Choices that could have been decided and discussed.  Are the conversations difficult?  EXTREMELY.  No doubt, this conversation will not be comfortable.  But making sure your wishes and decisions are respected as best as possible will make those moments somewhat easier for your children to know they are honoring your choices

 

Rising to the Challenge of Successful Aging

Here is a list from the Cleveland Clinic to help you plan for the unknown challenges to come. 

Keep Yourself Stimulated:

Enjoy hobbies and interests with passion, particularly social activities, such as dancing.

Strengthen family relationships.

Engage in adult educational activities to challenge your mind.

Identify any physical limitations, such as difficulty walking or problems with balance. Actively start a discussion about these limitations and use medical resources to overcome them. Use nearby resources such as community support and local senior centers.

Be smart with financial planning:

Plan in advance for retirement.

Carefully manage investments and assets.

Assure adequate insurance coverage.

Decide on your future living arrangements.  (See reference at the end of the article.)

Work to Maintain Dignity and Good Health in Old Age:

Choose a doctor knowledgeable in the medical care of older adults.

Communicate your goals of care to your family and physician.

Check about long-term care insurance.

Express your advance directives in writing.

 

It is wise to look ahead into an assisted living community.  We would love to have you tour one of our communities today.  Visit www.greatoaksmanagement.com today to research one that is just right for you and your plan!

 

Tea Party Treat

Across the state at our communities we are making time for tea to celebrate!  We are planning these tea parties to toast our excellent communities and the residents, staff and families that make them so special.  In honor of this Tea Time, this week the blog will feature a recipe that is a must for your party menu.  Many thanks to Donna Burch the daughter of our resident Opal Newsome for sharing this delicious recipe with us.

STRAWBERRY PRETZEL SALAD

2 C. pretzels, coarsely crushed                       ¾ c. melted butter or margarine

3 T. sugar (for crust)                                       1 (6-oz.) pkg. strawberry Jello

1 c. sugar                                                        2 (10-oz.) pkgs. Frozen strawberries

1 c. boiling water

1 (8-oz.) ctn. Cool Whip

1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

 

Mix crushed pretzels, butter and sugar; press into bottom of a 9X13-inch pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes.  Cool completely.  In another bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended.  Stir in carton of Cool Whip.  Then spread onto cooled crust.  Dissolve Jello in 1 cup of bowling water.  Then stir in strawberries and let stand 10 minutes.  Pour this mixture on top of cream cheese mixture in pan.  Chill in refrigerator.  Makes about 12 servings.

Opal and family

Pictured are Mr. Charles Burch, our resident, Mrs. Opal Newsome and her daughter Mrs. Donna Burch

Preparation for the Situation

When it comes to emergency room visits, I probably have been more times than the average person due to the nature of my job.  But this year with the flu hitting near epidemic levels not only just in Alabama but also nationwide, emergency room visits have been experienced by many.  Trips to the ER can be a scary situation at any age.  The ER can prove particularly challenging for the elderly.  Here are some suggestions to help you keep it cool when you find yourself in the hot seat taking a senior loved one to the ER.

Emergency Files

The first week on the job as a brand-new administrator I found myself headed to the ER following an ambulance with one of my residents who I had obviously just met that week.  Now mind you, I had called their family and notified the proper folks of the situation.  But for a short time, it was just me and this resident (who was experiencing chest pains) in a room in the ER as they were being seen by the doctors and nurses.  I was grateful for a paperwork process that was in place in our community so I had the answers to the questions that were being asked by hospital personnel.   We use what we call an Emergency Red File for each resident in our community for such an occasion.  Inside we keep copies of the residents’ most recent medical exam and plan of care, insurance cards and other ID as well as advance directives and Power of Attorney documentation if they have them.  It is called a red file because well, it’s red in color.  Our local hospital staff has gotten very acclimated to our “red files” and it makes registration and getting medical staff some initial information on the resident so much easier.  It also helps keep the resident calm because they aren’t having to give answers to so many questions.  Our families appreciate this as well. They are usually a barrel of nerves at the call that their loved one is being taken to the ER anyway.  It is a relief for us to go ahead and have all of this information readily available.  Most regulations require assisted living communities to have this as part of the chart and way.  It is so much easier to have this type of file ready to go at a moment’s notice versus stopping to make copies.  We just make sure to secure them in a safe location, update them as appropriate and add the most recent medication list at an emergency occurrence.

Pack like a Pro

In addition to an emergency file, having a small bag packed is a huge help. I have been in situations where family members couldn’t get to the hospital that day due to travel outside the country, illness and more.  I’m typically going to ensure that the resident has someone with them to be there and comfort them and so that I can get the information to pass along to the family.  That is why having a bag packed and ready is a huge help.  Now, this bag doesn’t need to be big and bulky or loaded down and cumbersome.  But there are a few items I would suggest to take to help the resident and you be set up for as smooth “as possible” visit to the ER.  Some things to consider packing include:

  • Depends (pads, etc) for residents that require them
  • Snacks (for both you and the resident)
  • Phone charger
  • Small blanket
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Wipes
  • Ziplock bag

Now I know that most hospitals can provide you with many of these items.  But it doesn’t take much preparation to have these things ready to go. Sure, there are some emergency situations that emotions will be high and some of these items will be the last thing on your mind. But if you make gathering this and your emergency file part of your process, they can make a tough situation a little more bearable.  Remember that these items may be necessary for your resident and you.  So, pack accordingly.  I suffer from migraine headaches.  My triggers for them include multiple things.  But ranking up pretty high include:  stress, dehydration and skipping meals.  I’m no good to anyone else and can’t take care of them if I don’t take care of myself.  I say all of this to say that proper planning can help you be more effective to your residents and their families.

Blog note*

At present date, the Alabama Department Health has made the following recommendations regarding visiting the ER or doctor’s office for FLU RELATED ISSUES:

“For people with mild to moderate flu or flu-like symptoms, please do not go to your doctor’s office without calling first and do not go to the emergency room. Please call your doctor to see if you are eligible for antivirals without an appointment. Many insurance companies now have a “call a provider” service to help with mild to moderate illnesses; please take advantage of this service before going to doctor or hospital.  Mild to moderate cases of the flu usually do not require a hospital visit. Patients who do visit an emergency department or outpatient clinic should be aware of long wait times.” 

As with all emergency situations use your best judgment, especially when it comes to an elderly person who may have a reduced immune system.

 

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.

hold ornament

 

 

 

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!

clanton peach

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.

Mims grand

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.