You and the Flu

Last week we had our annual flu shot clinic at our community.  I’ll admit that I never started getting a flu shot until I went to work in the assisted living sector.  I had experience with kidney stones, sinus infections, broken bones, and surgeries.  But no flu.  But the first year I got the flu shot….NO…I didn’t get the flu, but my husband and daughter…both (who did not get their flu shot that year) got the flu and it was rough.   But as rough as it can be on school-aged children and middle-aged adults…it can be much more serious for the elderly or those with compromised immune systems.  Here are a few helpful reminders to consider as we approach flu season.

Get your Flu shots!

In our communities’ we offer flu shots annually to protect our residents and staff.  It is something that we take very seriously as it can be a dangerous situation for an elderly person to get the flu.  Nowadays you have options!  You can get your shot with your family physician or many pharmacies have flu shots available onsite.   Remember that when you get the flu shot, it takes about two weeks for it to begin working.  So, you want to get your shots ahead of the flu season curve.

Sniffles?  See you next time!

What may sound rude, is just smart advice.  If you don’t feel well or you have a child that doesn’t feel good…find another time to visit an assisted living community.  What we can shake off easily may prove a huge obstacle for a senior citizen to bounce back.  The CDC provides this list of flu symptoms to watch for:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, plan to visit another time when you are well.

Clean up Your Act!

The CDC states that:

People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.  That is why hand washing is key!

It also is important to wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. However, use caution with these type sanitizers and children.

So, use good judgment this flu season and do your part to protect yourself and others.  We love to have visitors in our communities.  But if you are sick, we will just plan to see you when you are well!  When you see our healthy visit reminder signs posted at your local Great Oaks Management Communities, just know it is part of our mission for seniors – to be happy and healthy.

 

 

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The Greatest Gift

Have you ever considered working or volunteering with seniors? One of the greatest joys that an individual can experience is to be able to enjoy the work that they do. Working in assisted living, is not a career it is a calling. One of the first things that I tell potential employees in the interview process is that if you don’t feel that you have the capacity to truly care about the folks that live in our communities…then this is probably not the career for you. In this setting we get to help the residents that live in our communities, but many times we receive more of a blessing from them, than we could possibly ever give. As we approach National Assisted Living Week, I have had many different people from many different walks of life ask what they can do that the residents would enjoy. While there are multiple ways or even multiple things that I have seen bring joy to the faces of residents through the years…there is one that stands out as having the most impact. It is time. Here is a short list of things that you can do that can make someone’s day in an assisted living community.

Share your talents! If you sing, dance, play guitar or whatever gift you have plan a day to come and share with our seniors.

Take time to play! Do you love dominoes? Are you a whiz at Skip Bo? Are you great at calling Bingo? Stop in and spend some time playing games with a group. It will be good for you and them too?

Are you a chatterbox? Even the gift of gab is appreciated. Be prepared to listen too! Our folks love to talk and share.

***Here are some additional ideas that I really like from sharethegood.org

Uncover THEIR skills: If you don’t already know the kind of career your friend had, find out! Ask questions about their biggest lessons or favorite moments. Don’t forget to ask them about their skills and hobbies outside the job, too—sewing, woodworking, writing. Request that they teach you a thing or two.

Log the memories: Bring along a photo album, scrapbook or journal on your visit, and encourage your friend to sit and compile their memories with you. Use narrative, photos, captions, doodles and more. You’ll be turning their oral stories into a documented history book in no time!

Make some artwork: Turn select pages of your memory book into wall art for their room. Simply photocopy the best pages with photos and captions, then hang them up so your friend can continuously recall good times. Plus, colorful photos are sure to brighten any room.

It truly is the time that is given in each of these opportunities that is appreciated the most. Look for ways that you can volunteer and stop by and see us. You can coordinate your visit with your local community administrator. They may have other ideas that can make your visit a success as well. If you are looking for employment opportunities, check out our individual community pages. You can see current openings and get other information by clicking on the career section of the websites.

http://www.greatoaksmanagement.com

Look Out

Did you get your approved solar glasses earlier this week?  I did not.  For me, I make it a practice not to look directly at the sun.  Millions of people, (per the sales of solar eclipse glasses) have been in tune with recommendations about protecting their vision from the solar eclipse.  Now that the hysteria has passed…there is something that we should all set our sights on that affects us on a regular basis and that is our vision changes.  Since August in National Eye Exam Month, here is a list from the American Optometric Association of age related illnesses that we can look out for that can have a serious impact on your eye health and vision.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects the macula (the center of the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye) and causes central vision loss. Although small, the macula is the part of the retina that allows us to see fine detail and colors. Activities like reading, driving, watching TV and recognizing faces all require good central vision provided by the macula. While macular degeneration decreases central vision, peripheral or side vision remains unaffected.

Cataracts are cloudy or opaque areas in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending upon their size and location, they can interfere with normal vision. Usually cataracts develop in both eyes, but one may be worse than the other. Cataracts can cause blurry vision, decreased contrast sensitivity, dulling of colors and increased sensitivity to glare.

Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition that occurs in people with diabetes. It is the result of progressive damage to the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina. These damaged blood vessels leak blood and other fluids that cause retinal tissue to swell and cloud vision. The condition usually affects both eyes. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. In addition, the instability of a person’s glucose measurements over time can impact the development and/or severity of the condition. At its most severe, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness.

Dry Eye is a condition in which a person produces too few or poor-quality tears. Tears maintain the health of the front surface of the eye and provide clear vision. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerve resulting in vision loss. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans and older adults have a higher risk of developing the disease. Glaucoma is often painless and can have no symptoms. Over time, it can take away peripheral (side) vision.

Retinal Detachment is a tearing or separation of the retina from the underlying tissue. Retinal detachment most often occurs spontaneously due to changes to the gel-like vitreous fluid that fills the back of the eye. Other causes include trauma to the eye or head, health problems like advanced diabetes, and inflammatory eye disorders. If not treated promptly, it can cause permanent vision loss.

eye test

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that folks 65 years of age and older have a full exam every year or two.  Be sure to contact your doctor if you have concerns so that you can be focused on maintaining good health and vision.

Sleep On It

There’s an Irish Proverb that says: “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”

I’m no morning person and if I don’t get my rest…I am even less charming.  It’s so true that sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on anyone.  According to the National Institute on Aging, “Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as all adults—7 to 9 hours each night. But, older people tend to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier than they did when they were younger.”  Lack of sleep isn’t good for anyone.  But in the elderly it can be particularly troublesome.

Senior citizens with sleep deprivation are at a higher risk for:

  • Having more cognitive issues and memory problems
  • Mood problems such as depression and irritability
  • Increased risk of falling and other accidents

But just because you are in the older age demographic does not mean that you can’t be proactive about your sleep.

Here are 6 Steps to Better Sleep from the Mayo Clinic.

1. Stick to a sleep schedule

Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don’t need more than eight hours in bed to achieve this goal.  Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink

Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Your discomfort might keep you up.  Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too.

  1. Create a restful environment

Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Exposure to light might make it more challenging to fall asleep. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.

4. Limit daytime naps

Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day.  If you work nights, however, you might need to nap late in the day before work to help make up your sleep debt.

5. Include physical activity in your daily routine

Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. Avoid being active too close to bedtime, however.  Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too.

6. Manage worries

Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.

 

Working towards developing good sleep patterns can result in better health.  But always be sure to report your sleep concerns to your physician.  They can help determine if medications or a medical condition are a factor that may need intervention.

 

 

Beat the Heat

As I write I have been watching the rain fall onto the scorching blacktop streets of my neighborhood.   It feels good on the porch in the evenings.  But, the middle of the day is a bit unbearable for me.  Summertime is no joke in Alabama.  I remember moving South the summer of 1985.  July to be exact.  Being that I moved from way up North…it seriously took me two entire weeks for my system to adjust.  Heat is not anything for anyone to play around with. It can be particularly concerning for the elderly.  Here are some tips to help our seniors keep their cool this summer.

Drink Up! The key to staying healthy is to stay hydrated!  Drink eight or more 8-ounce glasses per day of water every day.  Be aware of the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The most common signs of dehydration in the elderly are thirst, confusion, irritability and poor skin elasticity.  So, don’t wait…HYDRATE!

walking man sweat

Block the Rays!  Protect your skin from sun damage by wearing hats, sunglasses and don’t forget the sunscreen!  Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.  Remember as we age, our skin becomes more sensitive to the sun.

 

Dress for Sunny Success!  When selecting what to wear go with loose-fitting clothes in light colors that will reflect the sun and heat instead of darker colors that will absorb heat.  This will help you avoid a sunburn and stay cool.

couple biking

It’s important to know that extreme heat can wreak havoc on older adults.  According to healthinaging.org, “Every summer, nearly 200 Americans die of health problems caused by high heat and humidity. Hot weather is more likely to cause health problems for older adults for a variety of reasons. These reasons include aging-related physical changes in the body, chronic health conditions, and even side effects of taking some medications.”  Remember heat and dehydration may make seniors more prone to dizziness and falls and can cause/increase confusion. But the proper precautions can help set them up for success. If the heat is too extreme…stay inside with air conditioning!  Keep you and your elderly loved ones safe this summer and do your part to help them beat the heat.

Mama Said, Mama Said

Mother’s Day is a time of year when we reflect on the ladies that helped mold and shape us into who we are today.  To get some real pearls of wisdom we reached out to some of our resident mothers to ask them, “What was the most important thing that your Mother taught you?”  The answers are advice that is timeless for all of us today.

Gardens of Wetumpka Resident Juanita Royall said:

“My mother taught me to always be a lady and be truthful because God is watching.”

Gardens of Pelham Resident Carolyn Hayes said:

“My Mother always said never mistreat anyone or it will come back and bite you and to always be kind.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Dimple Zorn:

“My Mama taught me how to cook and she taught me how to be a good Mother to my children.”

Gardens of Madison Resident Carole Kleis said:

“My Mother taught me to make the best out of what you have and to love and take care of your family.”

Limestone Lodge Resident Elease Barksdale said:

“My Mom taught me not to be selfish.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Mildred Vickers said:

“My Mother always told me to tell the truth and be a good friend.”

Limestone Manor Resident Avis Fox said:

“My mother instilled in me a good, hard work ethic.  I always had a lot of responsibilities even at a young age.  My Mom was a single mother and watching her made me realize what hard work was all about.”

Gardens of Clanton Resident Mary Nell Jones said:

“My Mom taught me to work hard and take care of my family.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Betty Sutton said:

“Being an only child gave me a unique perspective.  My Mother was 30 years old when I was born.  When I had my 3 boys, we learned how to care for three small children at the same time together.  She was also a business woman that taught me the importance of never burning bridges in business or in friendships.”

Gardens of Daphne Resident Anna Speer said:

“My Mom taught me to be nice and always act like a sweet southern belle and to give respect to everyone.”

 Limestone Manor Resident Jackie Bridges said:

“My Mom taught me to be the best you can be in everything.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Merilyn Crapps said:

“I was taught by my Mother to show love and always respect your elders.”

Gardens of Clanton Resident Lucille Mims said:

“My Mother taught me to raise my children right and have respect for others.”

Gardens of Madison Resident Nancy Melton said:

“My mother instilled family values in me and to love one another.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Margaret Slade said:

“I’m thankful for my Mother teaching me to read at age 5 because I always enjoyed reading and getting into a book.”

Gardens of Wetumpka Resident Bennie McDonald said:

“My Mother taught me to be honest and respectful at all times.”

Gardens of Pelham Resident Lula Mae Ott said:

“My Mother said to hold your character up because no one else will do it.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Sara Hamrick:

“My Mom told me back when I was a young girl of dating age to remember to always cross your legs and act like a lady.  I think acting like a lady is still important today.”

Gardens of Daphne Resident Shirley Hartley said:

“Mama believed we should follow the Golden Rule and also love everybody the way you want to be loved.”

Limestone Lodge Resident Kay Armstrong said:

“My mother taught me to be fair.”

Gardens of Wetumpka Resident Lily Keener said:

“My Mama taught me to always remember, this too shall pass.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Opal Newsome said:

“My Mama always taught us to take care of your responsibilities.  Don’t expect others to do it for you.”

vintage-mother-and-daughter kitchen

Pet Perks

GOC Pet Therapy01.jpgI will never forget my first pet.  Well…let me rephrase that.  I will never forget the first pet that I picked out that we had long term.  I grew up on a farm so there were many farm cats and other animals.  But my first true furry companion was a dog named Rusty.  To be perfectly honest I can’t remember where Rusty came from.  We got him when I was in middle school and he stayed in the family until I graduated from the University of Alabama and he passed away.  Rusty was a source of comfort for many a sickness, sadness and just an all-around “good dog.”  Now that I am all grown up and work with the elderly I see more now than ever the benefits of pet ownership.  And yes…you can have a pet in assisted living.

pexels-photo-233220.jpeg
Great Oaks Management’s Policy states that “The goal of each facility is to allow residents to benefit from the pleasure of pet companionship, while ensuring that the presence of pets in the facility does not infringe on the rights of all residents to live in a clean, quiet and safe environment.

Great Oaks Management Procedure:Pets may visit the Residence if the following conditions are met:

  1. The pet owner provides verification of current vaccinations.
  2. The pet is clean, properly groomed and healthy.
  3. The pet’s owner is responsible for the pet’s behavior and maintains control of the pet at all times.
  4. All pets residing in the facility must provide verification of current vaccinations, and must update the vaccination record annually. Dogs may not exceed 25 lbs in weight. A non-refundable pet deposit will be required prior to a pet moving into a facility.
  5. All resident pets must reside in the resident’s room. Pets will be allowed in the common areas of the Residence only when under the control of the owner or handler. Resident pets are not allowed in the dining room at any time. Residents who wish to keep pets in their rooms may do so provided they abide by the policies of the facility.
  6. Common household pets (including dogs, cats, fish, birds, guinea pigs, and hamsters) may reside in the facility, upon approval of the Administrator.
  7. The resident is responsible for providing care to the pet and the following:
    •  Purchasing food and other needed pet supplies
    • Feeding, grooming and/or cleaning up after the pet
    • Providing for toileting (e.g., emptying the litter box, taking the pet outside at regular times, etc.)
    • Arranging for/providing access to needed veterinary services
    • Exercising the pet as appropriate
  8. Pets must not be allowed to toilet on the floor (all dogs shall be toileted in an outside area). Litter from litter boxes or cages must be disposed of in a sealed plastic bag and placed promptly in a trash container. Pet waste and/or litter may not be disposed of in toilets.
  9. Pets may be fed only in the resident’s room.
  10. Pets shall not be allowed to interfere with an enjoyable living environment for all residents by barking, howling, biting, scratching, and/or whining. The facility shall ensure that pets pose no risk to residents, staff or visitors.
  11. If the conduct or condition of a resident’s pet constitutes a nuisance or a threat to the health and safety of other residents, staff, and/or other individuals, the resident will be responsible for permanently removing the pet from the premises. The final decision about a pet residing in a facility rests with the Administrator.

So, if your old school like my Granddaddy was and don’t want to even fathom the thought of an animal in the house then never fear…the policy protects you too!

 

Pic 1 - Lula Mae Ott.jpgThere truly are so many benefits to pet ownership.  For example:

Having a “fur baby” can:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Relieve stress
  • Combat loneliness
  • Ease depression
  • Encourage activity for seniors
  • Offer a greater sense of worth
  • Offer security to their owners

So check out the pet perks and what they could mean for you or your loved one today!

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!

Social Seniors

reillyI can still see her face and hear her laugh.  She was the first social director I knew at an assisted living.   Was she on the staff?  Oh no!  She was a sharp dressed lady named Geraldine with an even sharper wit.  Affectionately known to her family as “Gigi” she was one of the first ladies who taught me that residents in an assisted living have lots of living left to do. Ms. Geraldine would keep me apprised as to the latest “goings on” with the royals.  Gigi loved Will and Kate and a good game of Skip Bo.  She and the other ladies that made up her Skip Bo group were the first group I affectionately referred to as my sorority rush committee.  Ms. Geraldine would be the first to tell you…life in assisted living is not about bingo and bedtime.  It is much more and can be so fulfilling.  She spent her golden years of life loving her family and her friends and living each day to its fullest.  So, if you are looking at assisted living for yourself or a loved one…what are the benefits of the social aspects?

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found evidence that “elderly people in the U.S. who have an active social life may have a slower rate of memory decline. In fact, memory decline among the most sociable was less than half the rate among the least sociable.  Senior author Lisa Berkman, chair of the Department of Society, Human Development and Health, went on to say, “We know from previous studies that people with many social ties have lower mortality rates. We now have mounting evidence that strong social networks can help to prevent declines in memory. As our society ages and has more and more older people, it will be important to promote their engagement in social and community life to maintain their well-being.”

Studies show that lack of socialization is linked to negative impacts on health and well-being, especially for older people. Having a variety of social opportunities and activities vastly improve the psychological and physical health of seniors. The benefits include reducing stress, increasing physical health, and defeating psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.

Senior couple having fun in parkAssisted living promotes socialization with everything from a robust activities calendar to dining together in a community setting.  Engaging in activities and other community events allows seniors to bond with new friends while promoting physical and mental health. This can prolong their quality of life and overall life expectancy.  Does this sounds like something that would benefit your elderly loved one and you want to know more?  Check out our latest Activities Calendar to see what is going on at one of our communities near you at www.greatoaksmanagement.com or call us today at 1-888-258-8082.

*In memory of former resident Geraldine Reilly.

Thank you to her family for allowing us to share this in her memory.

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.