Rhyme and Reason

April is National Poetry Month. I truly enjoy reading poetry.  I have written some poetry myself.  I suppose it is because I like music so much.  As I looked through many collections and books of poetry, I found odes to love, seasons and even family pets.  But there was an entry I found that I thought was especially fitting for this blog.  May we all find time this month to enjoy the beauty around us.  Look at the beautiful flowers…the azaleas are the most beautiful this year that I have seen in my life!  Also, look for the beauty in the people around us.

A Tribute to the Elderly

I thought upon the elderly

And whispered a prayer,

Giving thanks to God

For their sojourn here.

Such kind and gentle souls

From generations ago,

What they are to us,

They will never know.

A sure and beaten path.

A guide along the way.

The dedicated laborer

Who’s now old and gray.

Patriarchs and matriarchs,

And early pioneers.

The bridge that has brought us

As we’ve journeyed here.

Soldiers of great sacrifice,

Treasured more than art.

We honor, love and cherish them

Deep within our heart.

 

Walterrean Salley

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Eggstra Fun for All

Every year we look for different ways to enjoy the holidays and come up with new activities to keep our seniors engaged.  One of the ways that we can be certain to have a sure-fire good time for all is to include children or young people in whatever we have planned.  The inter-generational activities prove to be a good time for all.  Last week one of my sister facilities shared some photos of coloring Easter eggs using shaving cream.  Such a fabulous fun!  Something, where everyone can get their hands a little dirty and be creative at the same time, is a great idea for all ages.  We are planning is to invite some local children who are out on Spring Break this week and do Shaving Cream Marbled Easter Eggs.  Want to make some of your own?  Here is what you need and what to do.

SHAVING CREAM MARBLED EASTER EGGS

Items You will Need:

Hard-boiled eggs

Shaving cream

3 or 4 colors of liquid water or food coloring

Jelly roll pan or disposable pan

Paintbrush or pencil to swirl your colors

Tongs

Cooking cooling rack

Paper towels or wax paper for under the cooling rack to catch the paint drips

Towel to clean up messes

Apron or old shirt

 

Procedure:

Set your cooling rack up with paper towel or wax paper below

Fill a section of your pan with shaving cream – I did 3 sections, each section had two colors that gave us 3 different color combinations

Sprinkle several drops of each color of food coloring on the shaving cream

Swirl your shaving cream and food coloring. Don’t over swirl or the colors will mix too much and will not be as bright.

Place your egg in the pan, and swirl the egg around until is covered with colored shaving cream

If shaving cream becomes overly mixed just make another section and add food coloring and swirl again

Allow eggs to dry overnight. Shaving cream will partially dry, leaving a nice mess that needs to be cleaned up.

Using a paper towel rub off the dried shaving cream from each egg.

Show your beautiful eggs off!

 

 

Epidemic Proportions

Recently I was helping a young lady prepare an answer for a pageant onstage question.  The question was, “What is a news story that you are following and what is your opinion on the matter?”  After digging into the headlines, I landed on a topic that for me hit a little close to home.  The topic…opioid addiction.  I have typed this out and backspaced and stared at the words more times than I care to admit.  Years ago, I went to great lengths to make sure that absolutely no one knew that opioid addiction was a subject I knew anything about.  But sadly, I know all too well.  Not on a personal level.   But I guess observing the effects of addiction ravage your father’s body and mind are a bit personal.  My Dad died in 2001 at the age of 56 years old.  Now that I am 42 years old…I realize just how young he was when we lost him.  His official cause of death was renal carcinoma (kidney cancer).  But I know that his life was cut short due in part to the large amount of prescription pain killers he took every day.  He was an addict and he knew it.  We all knew it and it wreaked havoc on our lives.  Opioid addiction is an epidemic that affects many different age groups and the elderly are not immune to this problem.

Agingcare.com reports that 40 percent of the prescription drugs sold in the United States are used by the elderly, often for problems such as chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety. According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, as many as 17 percent of adults age 60 and over abuse prescription drugs. Narcotic painkillers, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers are the most commonly abused medication types.  When drugs come from a doctor’s prescription pad, misuse is harder to identify. We assume that pharmaceutical drugs are only used for treating legitimate medical conditions, and this is typically how seniors begin using these drugs. Doctors often prescribe older patients medications to help them cope with age-related physical and mental changes, such as depression, limited or painful mobility, and shorter, more irregular sleep cycles. Over time, seniors may develop a tolerance to a drug, so achieving the same “coping” effect requires larger and/or more frequent doses. The result is an inadvertent addiction to a specific medication.

Questions to Ask if You Suspect Prescription Misuse or Abuse

  • How much are they taking? If Mom used to take one or two pills a day, but now she is taking four or six, that’s a red flag. Looking at the dosing instructions on the pill bottle or container can give you a clue whether they are abiding by the prescriber’s instructions.
  • Has their behavior or mood changed? Are they argumentative, sullen, withdrawn, secretive or anxious?
  • Are they giving excuses as to why they need their medication?
  • Do they ever express remorse or concern about taking their medicine?
  • Do they have a “purse supply” or “pocket supply” in case of an emergency?
  • Have they recently changed doctors or drug stores?
  • Have they received the same prescription from two or more physicians or pharmacists at approximately the same time?
  • Do they become annoyed or uncomfortable when others talk about their use of medications?
  • Do they ever sneak or hide their meds?

 

How to Help a Loved One Manage Their Prescriptions Responsibly

  • Stay as connected as you can and make sure you know what medications your loved one is taking and why.
  • Check that they are following the prescribed dosage(s).
  • Encourage them to use painkillers and sedatives only when necessary and to taper off as soon as they can.
  • Look for alternative treatments. If a senior has an ongoing problem with pain, for example, a pain management specialist may be able to suggest strategies for controlling it without drugs.
  • Remind them to always avoid alcohol when taking painkillers or sedatives.
  • Encourage them to bring all their medications to their doctor when they go for their annual checkups, so the physician has an up-to-date record of exactly what they are taking.

If you suspect your loved one may be misusing or abusing their medications, consult with their prescribing physician to devise a solution. It may be useful to inquire about psychological tests to check for mood or behavior disorders and research treatment facilities that specialize in programs specifically for seniors. Many insurance plans cover stays at in-patient addiction centers.  It is difficult to face these problems, but the repercussions of sticking your head in the sand is worse for them and you.  Addiction is not something that happens only to the addict.  It affects the entire family.  Don’t just try to sweep problems under the carpet.

Need help???  Get help!!

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA’s) (National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357),(also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senior Savings

With Spring in the air, many people of all ages are looking to hit the road.  Elderly travelers need to be sure to plan appropriately.  Medications, meal planning and safety are a few of the concerns.  But once you have the perfect plan and an ideal destination in mind…what about the budget?  Where can you get the most bang for your buck?  Here is a list of travel discounts specifically for seniors when you are ready to “hit the road jack.”

Alamo Car Rental has discounts and deals ranging up to 25% for AARP members.

Alaska Airlines was 10% off for ages 65+. It is now reported to be 50% off. Other fees, however, are unknown. Airlines like to wiggle out of things; call first to ask about the discount and fees before making plans or booking.

American Airlines has discounts and deals for seniors 62 and up. Various discounts can reach up to 50% for non-peak periods (Tuesdays through Thursdays). Other fees, however, are unknown. Airlines like to wiggle out of things; call before booking.

Amtrak has a 15% discount for seniors. But they have a whole bunch of restrictions to go along with it.

The Avis car rental company has discounts and deals ranging up to 25% for AARP members.

Best Western motels have a 10% discount for seniors age 55 and over.

Comfort Inn motels have discounts ranging from 20% to 30% off for seniors age 60 and over.

Southwest Airlines is reported to have various discounts for ages 65 and up. But the usual warnings apply: call first, find out about other fees, etc.

Tick, Tock…Time to Move that Clock!

Spring forward sounds so chipper.  My last blog detailed the fact that I don’t sleep very well. I’m not so sure how much “pep in my step” I will have when we lose that hour of sleep this coming weekend either.  But it’s not just the grogginess that comes with the time change.  According to statistics, due to the loss of sleep and increased stress from exhaustion, automobile accidents and heart attacks increase dramatically. Scientists have found that on the Monday after Daylight Savings Time begins heart attack rates increase by an astonishing 24 percent.  But take heart! These practical tips can help avoid knocking your natural circadian rhythm completely out of whack.

Tips for adjusting to daylight saving time from agingcare.com

  • Get some sun: Exposure to natural sunlight helps regulate your body’s natural rhythms. Depending on where you live, the weather may be too cold to spend too much time outside, but you can at least pull up the shade and sit in front of the window for a few minutes.
  • Work up a sweat: Engaging in some form of cardiovascular exercise (walking, jogging, biking, swimming) in the late afternoon or early evening may help you fall asleep easier.
  • Develop an appetite for good sleep: Eating and drinking can actually disrupt your sleep. Plan to finish meals and snacks 2 to 3 hours before bedtime because digestion wakes up your body. Alcohol and caffeine are also “sleep interrupters” when consumed before bed. Limit caffeine to the morning and finish your alcohol consumption by early evening. Smoking before bed can also stimulate your body and make it hard to sleep.

It’s important to keep in mind that seniors may need more time to adjust to the transition. What is a minor annoyance for most adults could present a significant obstacle in the routine of older adults, particularly those living with dementia or other cognitive impairments.  Be sure to check on these individuals and make sure that they are getting adequate sleep and seek medical advice if you notice a problem.  Take small steps to prepare for the change for you and your loved ones and enjoy the longer hours of daylight and the warmer days.

 

 

Benefits of the Blooms

Across the state at our different properties we have communities that have gardens right on property.  We even have some residents (at their choosing) that manage the porch plants at their properties.  As a person that lacks a green thumb, I’m so grateful!  Gardening is good for you, and research confirms that the health benefits are striking for those who have reached the age of AARP eligibility. Routine activity — such as a little bit of gardening every day —promotes a longer, healthier life.  So, what are the benefits?

Some benefits of GARDENING include:

  • Helps mobility and flexibility
  • Encourages use of all motor skills
  • Can improve endurance and strength
  • Helps prevent diseases such as osteoporosis
  • Reduces stress levels
  • While there are many wonderful benefits of gardening, you still must be SAFE and use precautions!

There are a few cautions for senior gardeners.  They should:

  • Wear a hat and protective clothing to protect from damage to the sun
  • Wear sunscreen on all exposed skin and reapply it every two hours
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • Be careful not to be out in the hottest part of the day

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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.

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.