Realistic and Optimistic

While many have sworn off New Year’s Resolutions, it may not be a bad idea to consider what areas may need improvement in our lives. And improvements apply to all ages!  However, it is important to be realistic in tackling our individual concerns.  I can’t help but think of some of those home improvement shows.  A couple looks at tackling this punch list of things that must be fixed…but when the budget or other “things” complicate the completion…they must settle on what can be accomplished.  So, as you consider your own self renovation project, give yourself a break.  Be realistic and optimistic.  Here are 3 things to consider if you have made a list…or even if you feel like you have jumped ship from the resolutions you started on earlier this week.

Number One

Give Yourself a Break!

Nothing says that just because you may have already stopped what you started on January 1st that you can’t achieve your goal.  Michael Jordan once said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something.  But I can’t accept not trying.”  Like the rest of us, Michael Jordan has had his share of failures and mistakes but one way NOT to accomplish a projected goal is to quit or not even make the effort.  Take time out and focus on being realistic with your expectations.

Number Two

Avoid Comparisons

No two people are completely alike.  Even twins have their differences.  Don’t look at a situation and expect your result to be like someone else’s.  Your goal should be just that…YOURS.  Your road to results, may have guidance and perhaps similarity to someone else’s situation, but you want to look at it with realistic eyes.  I remember two ladies discussing their aches and pains one day.  One lady was barely seventy and the other in her nineties.  The seventy-year-old said that knee replacement changed her life!  The next thing I knew I had a ninety-year-old lady calling her daughter wanting to get her knees done!  Set goals that are attainable and healthy.  Take small steps to set yourself up for success.

Number Three

Reward Yourself

One of my favorite phrases that I hear people say is “Treat Yourself!”  I think this especially applies if you are working towards a goal.  Now while this may not mean go and pig out and derail a healthy eating plan once you complete one successful week.  It DOES mean to be sure and give yourself a pat on the back for small steps along the way towards your goal.  Develop a reward system that works for you.

In researching and thinking about the blog this week, I looked back at some of the best advice some of our seniors had to give this past year.  I will close with these thoughts and want to wish you all the best in 2018!

  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.
  2. Knowledge is power. Continue your education because that is something that no one can take away from you.
  3. 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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM GREAT OAKS MANAGEMENT!!

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Transforming Traditions

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.”

gran and daughter

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

 

 

 

The Not So Young and Stress Less

I think that the hardest part of being a caregiver is dealing with the guilt. There is never enough time in the day. You bought the wrong kind of soap, stamps or razors or whatever it is…you just can’t catch a break. I think that life in general can sometimes be structured to wear us down. We think we are so smart being so connected and so able to communicate and work and multi-task.  Sometimes we just need to stop, push back and say…no.  I am the world’s WORST at this.  I don’t want to let anyone down.  In my mind…my goal is to help everyone.  But if I (or you) don’t take time to rest then how can we be good for anyone?  So here are some tips to de-program and reduce caregiver stress.

caregiver-stress

  • Ask for help. You know the help you have been providing.  But write down what that help entails.  No one person can do it alone.  It may even be time to consider the move to an assisted living.  Asking for help doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you are not going to be part of the team.  It just means you care enough to reach out.
  • Realize your limitations. It’s impossible to be all things to all people.  Sometimes our mindset that “only we can provide the help” is actually damaging for our loved ones.  You may be thinking that you are helping someone by enabling them to stay alone…when in actuality they may do better in a community setting and your “help” may be depriving them of a better situation. Meanwhile it may also be running you ragged!
  • Take time for you. If you think that only taking your loved ones to their doctor visits and cancelling your checkups is going to serve you well…think again. You need time to recharge your batteries and make sure that you are healthy both mentally and physically. Many caregivers suffer serious health issues while taking care of others. Be sure to take care of you!
  • Talk it out. Phone a friend.. Have dinner with your spouse or seek the counsel of a peer going through the same situation. You can even find support groups for caregivers.  Your stress is not in your head!  Not to mention that it is not good to keep it all inside.  Having a friendly chat can prove therapeutic and can also be a way to give and get advice for those sharing similar experiences.

caregiver-timeout

 

Putting on the Brakes

I remember the day I drove by myself for one of the first times. I remember in vivid detail driving to my grandparents’ house that day in Shorterville, Alabama. To ensure I drove safely…my parents sent my little brother to tag along. I had another friend in tow and after the three of us enjoyed my grandmother’s fried chicken and fixin’s on a Sunday afternoon we were soon on our way. A couple things I would have done differently given that opportunity again today. One I would have stayed longer. As an adult now with my grandparents both passed away for over nearly 20 years, I realize the importance of slowing down. The other thing I would have done differently is listened to my granddaddy when he said to “drive safely” as I waved bye and honked the horn. Had I listened, I probably would have avoided the little fender bender I had on the way home. It only took one little scare and I was convinced safety had to come first when I got behind the wheel. Driving at any age seems to some like having the keys to independence. But in many cases just having those keys doesn’t mean we SHOULD drive. Having this discussion is difficult no matter if you are discussing it with your teenage child or your aging parents. Many adult children are faced with the role reversal task of talking to their elderly parent about whether it’s time to put the car in park.

So, when do you know when it’s becoming time to talk to your aging loved one about putting on the brakes? According to the AARP, here are some of the warning signs that indicate a person should begin to limit or stop driving.

1. Almost crashing, with frequentred-light-stop “close calls”

2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.

3. Getting lost, especially in familiar locations

4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings

5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals

 
pexels-photo-68624If you find these troubling issues are the case for your loved one and you don’t see any possibility for improvement, then it may be time to have the tough discussion about letting others do the driving. AARP also has a great resource in the “We Need to Talk” program, developed by The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab that according to their site, “helps drivers and their loved ones to recognize warning signs. It also helps families initiate productive and caring conversations with older adults about driving safety.”

Age alone is not a predictor for poor driving skills. It is important to remember that medications, cognitive issues or physical limitations can impair driving ability. These factors must be considered for driver safety. Finally, if you drive with an aging parent or loved one and have concerns, don’t wait to initiate your concerns about whether it might be time to stop driving. Be an advocate for their safety and the safety of others. For more information on things to watch for if you have driving concerns see the Caring.com Checklist: 8 Ways to Assess Someone’s Driving. If you think they are a good candidate for assisted living please visit our website at http://www.greatoaksmanagement.com. Our properties offer transportation to appointments and for other outings.

Call today to get more information 1-888-258-8082.

Ways to Have “The Talk” With Your Loved One

Are you currently trying to figure out the best way to have a difficult conversation with your parent or loved one?  Is it about giving up driving, selling the house, moving to an assisted living, or maybe hiring a nurse/help?  Whatever the conversation is, our friends over at Caring.com have come up with some great “best practices” for opening up a dialogue concerning difficult topics with an aging parent or loved one.

“Start by realizing that there are fundamentally two different types of parents,” says Caring.com senior medical editor Ken Robbins, a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Those with whom you have a relationship in which you can be straightforward and they welcome your ideas and feedback, and those who tend to be more self-conscious or private and don’t welcome this kind of discussion — and may even find it somewhat insulting.”

Even if, in the past, your parent was sharing and receptive, this can change due to aging-related issues such as depression, creeping dementia, lowered self-esteem, or other frustrations. On the other hand, a close-lipped parent may be relieved to talk because he or she is worried, too.

What to say about sensitive subjects can also be tricky because you have different goals. Geriatric communication expert David Solie, author of How to Say It to Seniors, notes that adult children want to solve the problem and move on. Their parents, however, want foremost to maintain a sense of control and dignity in a season marked by many losses. Your goal in how to have “the talk”: Balance both sides’ needs by moving forward slowly and with care.

Do some homework

Before you say a word, take time to collect some information and research possible solutions, Robbins says. Ultimately, the goal is to problem-solve together through a dialogue with your parent (not to dictate the solution or to convince through arguments). But if you gather facts first, you’ll be able to help in a way that’s better informed and less stressful for everyone.

  • Moving/Assisted Living
    Check out a few places on your own so you have concrete examples to talk about. “In general, most people have more difficulty with abstract conversations about assisted living,” Robbins notes. If you live in a different city, you can read reviews about options and make appointments to check them out when you’re there, or consult a local geriatric care managerto get recommendations. Don’t think of it as being “sneaky” — it can be less anxiety-provoking for your parent if you present winnowed options. You can always go through the whole list of choices together if he or she prefers.
  • In-home care
    Closely observe what activities your parent is having trouble with. Look around the house for concrete signs he or she may not be faring well independently. Start to research sources of in-home care help and costs.
  • Driving
    Watch your parent drive, looking for signs of an unsafe driver. Research the alternatetransportation services in your parent’s area or explore other ways he or she might get aroundif there’s no personal car.
  • Health issues
    Observe what specific kinds of limitations you’re seeing: Trouble climbing stairs? Cooking? Managing finances? Grooming? Thinking in terms of specifics helps you figure out the best solutions, as well as be able to describe the problem accurately to your doctor (and your parent).

 

Test the waters

Also before you start the conversation, take time to get a sense of whether your parent is open to it. You can do this by first introducing an unthreatening related topic — by phone before a visit or, if you see your parent often, in a separate visit. This isn’t yet the time for hot-button topics, criticism, or anything contentious.

Stick to the positive and general. Does he or she respond openly? Defensively? Evasively? This will give you important insight into how to proceed.

Say something like:

  • “How’s the house? It must be hard to keep this place in good shape.”
  • “How’s your health? What’s the doctor saying these days?”
  • “How’s the car? Still driving to the city every weekend?”

If your parent sounds interested, say something like:

  • “Is there some way I can be helpful?”
  • “Yes, I can see why that would bother you. Let’s talk about it more when I see you.”

Even if, in a test-the-waters chat, your parent sounds receptive to discussing a tough issue, it’s usually best not to plunge in yet, Robbins says. In this first talk, you just want to float the issue, not problem-solve. You want to show in a respectful way that you can be a helpful, nonjudgmental resource.

If he or she asks you, “What should I do?” say something like:

  • “I’ll be there soon; let’s work on it together then.”
  • “What are you thinking? Give me some time to think about that, too.”

What not to say:

  • “Yup, that’s a problem. I’m going to do X and Y to take care of that for you.”
  • “Sounds like it’s finally time to move to an assisted living place.”
  • “You sound mixed up; I’m going to call your doctor.”

 

Choose the best messenger

What if your parent resists any talk about his or her future? Pause to consider whether this conversation is best had by another party. Robbins says that a neutral third party — a doctor, a family friend, a cleric — is often better suited to bring up tricky topics like driving or whether to live independently.

These people can lay the same groundwork, explaining what seems to be wrong and suggesting options for fixing it, without risking a strained relationship in the way an adult child does when a parent is especially resistant or feels manipulated.

Set the right tone

So you’ve done some homework and gotten a sense of how ready (or indifferent) your parent is. How do you take the plunge? Plan to start the conversation on a different day from your test-the-waters chat, in person if possible. This feels less threatening and overbearing, and more natural.

“Don’t get critical the minute you walk in the door. Focus on connecting and having fun,” Robbins says, “while also using this time to observe.” You may be on a mission to resolve the problem, but you’ll have a more ready audience if you first take the time to enjoy one another’s company before diving in.

Try opening with compliments — say something like:

  • “I like how you’ve . . . “
  • “Wow, looks like . . . “

 

Look for an opening

The best time to segue into a serious conversation is when your parent brings it up first and asks for your help. Failing that, look for an opportunity when everyone is relaxed. Then take the plunge. Describe what you’re seeing.

If a direct approach feels welcome, say something like:

  • “I see the steps are a problem for you and you almost fell this morning. Is that happening a lot?”
  • “It looks like you’re having trouble getting off the couch, and you seem a little lonely and mixed up when you’re tired. You know they say that people do a lot better where there’s a lot of activity going on, and things to enjoy.”
  • “Mom said you got another ticket, and I noticed the rear fender of the car is bent again. What do you think is going on?”

If an indirect approach feels better, say something like:

  • “I read about this man in the paper who lost control of his car and killed some kids on the sidewalk. He was about your age. It made me think we should consider what’s in your best interests with the car now.”
  • “Lauren’s parents just sold their house on Elm Street and moved to a retirement community — you should have heard her mom rave about not having to do any more yard work.”
  • “Remember Jack, my friend who became a doctor? He told me that his whole family has living wills and I’m thinking we should all do that, too.”

What not to say:

  • “The house was a mess last time I was there. You need a housekeeper.”
  • “Mom, Dad looks awful! We need to go to the doctor when I get there, because you obviously are having trouble looking after him.”
  • “When are you going to give up driving? I heard you had another accident.”

 

Listen and Follow Your Parent’s Cues

Use reflexive listening, an effective communication technique for difficult conversations. Rephrase what your parent says, as a way of playing back that you understand — making your parent feel supported — and then move the conversation forward.

Say something like:

  • “I hear you saying . . . but it’s also worth thinking about this. . . .”
  • “Yes, I agree that . . . on the other hand. . . .”
  • “I know you’re really worried about. . . . Me, too — but if X doesn’t happen. . . .”
  • “That sounds upsetting for you. . . . Have you thought about. . . ?”

Realize that some older adults can’t articulate the real issue. They may shy from change, perhaps because they fear what it would be like or they lack the energy to deal with it. Often they avoid making a change not because of their own preferences but because they worry about upsetting someone else.

If she’s anxious, say something like:

  • “You’re right that moving is a huge hassle. But we’ll help you sort and pack and you won’t have to do much. We’ll set up your new bedroom to look just like this one.”
  • “I know we’ve always spent the holidays in this house, but we’d love to have Thanksgiving at our house this year. You can still make your special pies there without having to worry about all the getting ready or cleaning up.”
  • “You may call them ugly old grab bars, and that’s what they used to be. But I was reading howuniversal design is really trendy, attractive home design right now.”

Find ways to be reassuring, talk up the positives, or stress how the solution is good for everyone.

If she’s resistant, say something like:

  • “Bob says he’ll pick you up for Breakfast Club every morning so you won’t have to miss it, and I’ll get your groceries.”
  • “Let’s make a list of pros and cons.”

To help with resistance, focus on the solution. Or, look for the underlying cause. Some people push back for a specific unmentioned reason, which may be emotional, physical, or cognitive. Maybe Dad doesn’t want to talk about moving because he thinks he can’t afford it. Maybe Mom lacks the cognitive ability to realize she can’t live alone. If the person is very resistant, “the most successful person to have the conversation is not usually the adult child,” Robbins says. A family friend or doctor may have better luck.

If she’s interested or agreeable, say something like:

  • “What would it mean to you if you stopped driving/had someone to cook meals/moved?”
  • “What would be the most difficult thing about. . . ?”
  • “Let’s make a list of what you can do about this.”
  • “Let’s think through the pros and cons of each situation.”
  • “Why don’t you try doing X for a couple of months and see how it works for you?”

The goal is to encourage more input and to keep the discussion positive and collaborative.

If you want a parent to consider an assisted living option, Robbins says that with some people, one option is to casually drive by the best place you’ve identified through prior research, and suggest dropping in together to have a look. Better yet if you have a logical pretext — visiting a friend’s parent, stopping to see a “friend” who works there, participating in an activity or meal you’ve prearranged. Make sure it’s a place you’ve prescreened so that you’re pretty sure your parent will find things to like.

Even if there’s not much choice, lay out the options and their pros and cons, strategize solutions to the biggest problems, and let your parent draw his or her own conclusion (assuming dementia is not an issue).

Follow Up

Let it percolate awhile

Whatever you do, don’t launch an aggressive “sell” on your favorite option the minute you get back home or the next time you talk. Don’t push for making a decision right away. Try not even to hint or nag at first.

What not to say:

  • “I hope you’ve been thinking about our idea of bringing in some help.”
  • “So, selling your car — have you done anything about it yet?”
  • “Wasn’t that place we saw nice? We need to get you out of here!”

 

Be ready to continue the conversation at any time

If your parent mentions the conversation at all, use this as a wedge to revisit the matter in a supportive way.

If he or she offers something positive, say something like:

  • “Yes, I could see you being happy there. What do you think it would be like to live there? Let’s think about what we’d have to do to make that happen — I can help.”

If he or she expresses a concern:

Take it as a positive sign that he or she is at least aware of the issue and thinking about it. Go over the facts as well as the solutions again in a nonthreatening way.

If he or she says something negative:

Don’t fall into an argument. Be patient and try to get at the underlying concern. Is it fear of running out of money? Is it a feeling that admitting help is necessary is also admitting failure of some kind? Look for ways to address and support the concern. Maybe you give a weekly cleaning service as a Mother’s Day gift “because I don’t know what else to get you and you deserve to be treated like a queen,” for example.

Test the waters (again)

After some time passes, if your loved one doesn’t give you an opening, you can try bringing up the issue again in a test-the-waters way.

Say something like:

  • “How’s the car?”
  • “What did the doctor say?”

 

Know when to bring in help

Total resistance means it’s time for a third party (not the adult child) to try, Robbins says. “This conversation may need to be more direct,” he says. “It may have to include a discussion of the risks and the possibility that if they don’t voluntarily yield, say, their driver’s license or residence — there is a risk that others will take over because of the dangers involved, and then they may have less say in what comes next. They can be told it’s better to work on it voluntarily with someone who loves them and only wants to help them get what they need.”

If the issue is critical and the person still won’t make a safe choice, it may be time to get a family doctor and lawyer involved to evaluate competency and, if appropriate, activate a power of attorney or appoint a guardian who can make safe choices on the person’s behalf. See How to Make Difficult Decisions When Your Loved One’s Mental Capacity Is Failing.

Make it clear that you’re comfortable with any decision

If your parent is of sound mind but just making decisions that you disagree with (not endangering ones), all you can do is continue the conversation in a positive way. Any choices are ultimately his or hers. You may not like the choice, or you may end up needing to revisit the matter later, but you can’t make the decisions for him or her in that case.

What you can do, Robbins says, is to remain upbeat and supportive, even if you’re frustrated or worried. This keeps you a welcome sounding board as your parent moves, however slowly, toward resolution.

Remember that transitions involve an ongoing dialogue. Difficult as that first conversation about a sensitive topic is, it’s only the first of many you’re likely to have as you strategize your way toward a solution that everyone can feel better about.

For more useful information like this and more, visit us at GreatOaksManagement.com and check out our “Education” tab!