Recognizing Red Flags

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

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

Red Flag Number One

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

Red Flag Number Two

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

Red Flag Number Three

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

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

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

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Grateful Gatherings

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

Schedules and Timing

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

Food and Options

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

Time Away

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

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

elderly african american man enjoying coffee with his granddaughter

Sweet Talk

Ah yes, we are now possibly tearing open the wrappers of many a piece of candy and finishing off those sugary treats as we enter November and the month of the Thanksgiving Feast!  Perhaps that is why November is considered National Diabetes Month.  This observance was created so individuals, health care professionals, organizations, and communities across the country can bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans.  The American Diabetes Association reports that “half of all Americans age 65 or older have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. An estimated 11.2 million (nearly 26 percent) Americans over age 65 have already been diagnosed with diabetes, a figure that will continue to increase if we do not act to prevent diabetes in this population.”

There are many things the “experts” tell us to do to get to and stay at a healthy weight and prevent type 2 diabetes: Choose healthy foods, make healthy meals, be active 30 minutes a day. But where should you start? It’s can be overwhelming. And it can be even harder if you have a lot of changes you want to make.

It’s easier to make lifestyle changes one step at a time. Think of each small step as one piece of your effort to change your habits. Making changes one step at a time gives you the best chance to reach and stay at a healthy weight and prevent type 2 diabetes.

The good news is that making just a few small changes can make a big impact on your weight and health. Learn how to make these changes step-by-step.

Things that you want to consider are:

  • Weight: Staying at a healthy weight can help you prevent and manage problems like prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease, high blood pressure, and unhealthy cholesterol.

senior scale

  • Diet: Always ask your healthcare provider about healthy eating plans and what you can and can’t have in your diet. Each person is different and industry standards have changed.
  1. You may want to check with your health care provider or dentist if you find chewing difficult, don’t want to eat, or have trouble with your dentures.
  2. You feel that life events such as the death of a loved one or moving from your home are keeping you from eating well.
  3. You think your medicines may be making your food taste bad or affecting your appetite.
  4.   You think you should take a daily vitamin like iron or vitamin C.

 

  • Exercise: Physical activity can do a lot for your health, even if you haven’t been very active lately.  Take a walk, do chair aerobics, just get up and move if you can!  As with all health changes, discuss your exercise plan with your primary care physician.
seniors exercise
Exercise is good for the body and soul

Pt for Me?

It’s been about four years since I had my shoulder surgery.  It was by far not my first surgery, but it was the first procedure that I recall having intensive physical therapy.  Now granted, I’m in my 40s, but I truly believe that the success that I experienced with my shoulder recovery was due largely in part to my “buy in” to doing physical therapy. October is National Physical Therapy Month.  Physical therapy for the elderly can be such an important part of the healing process as well as a factor in continued health.

The following is helpful information for seniors and the advantages of physical therapy interventions per medicine.jrank.org:

  • Physical TherapyPhysical therapy has an important role in healthcare delivery and relates to maximizing function, preventing decline, decreasing pain, and treating physical illnesses. For elderly individuals, who often have decreased physical reserve, any medical illness or injury can lead to decline. Inactivity and bedrest, a common consequence of illness or injury, contributes to and intensifies muscle weakness, causing deterioration in walking and loss of function.

 

  • Illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease, fracture, or stroke, can affect walking and balance directly. Chronic diseases, such as arthritis, may cause pain or restriction of movement. Exercise, activity, and other physical therapy interventions can, therefore, have a profound effect on overall health, restoring an individual’s ability to perform the daily activities required to live independently in the community.

 

  • The physical therapist typically works closely with other healthcare professionals, such as nurses, physicians, social workers, and occupational therapists, to refine both diagnosis and treatment. This interdisciplinary approach allows for the integration of all domains of health to more fully address the needs of the elderly.

 

If you or someone you know can benefit from physical therapy for strength and healing contact your primary care physician to see what options may be best for you.

 

Fun For All Ages

Now that I feel like I have caught my breath after National Assisted Living Week, I want to share something that I have known about for quite some time.  As a matter of a fact, I benefitted from it as a child myself.  See…as a little girl, my Mom would take me with her to work.  My Mom has always been a pro at styling hair and in my younger years, this was her profession.  As a beautician, she would do hair for her regular customers, but she also did hair at the local nursing home and assisted living.  Now in my single digit years, my trade was singing and tap dancing.  This proved to be quite the asset to my mom with her scissors, perm rods and hairspray.  She would always plan for me and some of my other performing arts sisters to put on a show for the older folks.  I loved every opportunity to perform (and to talk) so I was game.  Little did I know then, but these residents were as happy to see me as I was to see them.  I remember the performances of course.  But I also remember eating gingerbread cookies, looking at pictures and having a captive audience to whatever I wanted to talk about.  I also remember the stories.  At almost 42 years of age, I still remember Hazel.  Mrs. Hazel was my friend.  She always wanted me to sing and tap dance for her.  Mrs. Hazel didn’t have grandchildren of her own and it was her delight to have our little visits.  But it was something I enjoyed very much as well.  I think it was this type of friendship in my formative years that led me to where I am today.  I may not be tap dancing anymore…well, come to think of it…maybe I do.  I am an Assisted Living Administrator, so technically I sing and tap dance for seniors on a regular basis.  Just to whatever tune they are requesting I suppose. 😉 But it is a joy.  A joy that started a very long time ago for me.  I witnessed the most beautiful visits this past week from a class of preschoolers with our residents at the Gardens.  It was wide open, head back laughing FUN!  Literally fun for all ages.  The new rage is intergenerational involvement.  But the concept is not new at all.  Studies have shown that these type of interactions prove beneficial for both sets of people…young and old.  Below are the benefits for seniors and children according to legacyproject.org.

Senior Benefits:

  • Active, involved older adults with close intergenerational connections consistently report much less depression, better physical health, and higher degrees of life satisfaction. They tend to be happier with their present life and more hopeful for the future.
  • Young and old can fulfill the role of student and teacher for each other, and it’s not always the older person who does the teaching. Children like to feel needed, and they can teach elders lots of things – like how to find some pretty cool stuff on the Internet! Children can also help older people, particularly those facing health challenges or other losses, see the world anew again, through a child’s eyes.

Benefits for Children

  • In general, children develop higher self-esteem, better emotional and social skills (including an ability to withstand peer pressure), and can even have better grades in school.
  • Through sharing in an older adult’s interests, skills, and hobbies, children are introduced to new activities and ideas. Through their life experience, older adults can often bring with them a tremendous amount of patience. Knowledge, skills, and attitudes children pick up from elders tend to stick with them through life more than those picked up from other sources.

 

As a product of this type of intergenerational impact, I can tell you that you are missing out if don’t find your own Mrs. Hazel.  I also now see this type of influence through the eyes of my residents and for them as well, it is a beautiful thing.  Thank you to those precious children that shared bubbles and ice cream with your new friends at the Gardens last week.  We look forward to seeing you again real soon!

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*Photograph from my personal archives circa the early 80s.  I’m the brunette in the front.  No, I’m not a natural blonde. 😉

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Independence Day

Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.”  In recognition of the birth of our great nation we also make a parallel to the independence of our great residents.  Seniors full of life and vitality, have so much living to do and want to enjoy it to the fullest.  To begin each day refreshed and full of life is the ultimate goal of our communities.  If you are looking into assisted living for yourself or a loved one…I want you to consider who we are, what we do and what we provide…straight from our website.

“Each of Great Oaks Management’s retirement communities provide an enhanced senior living environment focused on active aging – an approach that aims to maximize the quality of life and well-being of seniors while fulfilling their individual needs and promoting purposeful living.  Our care options and life enrichment programs allow our residents to live to their greatest potential in communities that are ideal for sharing past experiences and making new memories with neighbors, friends and loved ones.

Over the years, Great Oaks has developed an enthusiastic and determined team of healthcare leaders whose knowledge of the industry has allowed us to meet the diverse and changing needs of today’s active senior adults.  Our mission has been to fulfill for seniors what we all want each and every day – to be happy and healthy, to focus on family, friends, and fun, and to maintain a sense of independence.”  As we celebrate all the freedoms we have to enjoy this week, we want to thank our service men and women both past and present.  If you would like more information on how to make the most of independence for you or your senior, visit our website at:  http://www.greatoaksmanagement.com or give us a call today at 1-888-258-8082.

Shine a Purple Light

I will admit that until I began working in the senior living sector, I knew very little about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.  It was not something I had seen on a personal or family level.  That has changed.  Now I know and care for people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.  I understand that they are not all one in the same.  There are even different types of dementia.  I have come to know some of the devastating effects they take on lives.  Since June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I thought I could help do my part by shining a purple light.

Did you know that according to the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Alzheimer’s is fatal. It kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
  • Alzheimer’s is not normal aging. It’s a progressive brain disease without any cure.
  • Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. It appears through a variety of signs and symptoms.

Per the website alz.org, “A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Experts are not certain about the reason for this association. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.”

AlzheimersTable

During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks you to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Share your story and take action.  It may be as simple as bringing awareness via social media.  Alzheimer’s disease awareness is represented by the color purple, and in June, thousands of Americans will turn their Facebook profile purple with an “END ALZ” icon.  If you need help or more information on ways you can raise awareness of the truth about Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/abam to get started.

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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.