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.”

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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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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. 😉

 

 

 

Family is Forever

The past two weeks we have been collecting pictures of our residents to do a game of “Guess Who” as a part of our National Assisted Living Week celebrations.  It has been such a joy for families and residents to share their pictures from “way back when”.  It has caused me to pause and reflect on life.  When our residents think of themselves, they may picture that younger self that served in the Army or was a homemaker or helped on the farm.  Their children may envision the Mom or Dad that helped shape their childhood and their memories of growing up.  To the staff at the communities that these folks live in now, we may see them differently.  But it is always wise to stop, look back and remember.  As we all age we may see ourselves in many different lights.  We grow and become many things to many people.  So have our residents.  As we celebrate National Assisted Living Week and the beauty that comes from this environment, I want us all to remember that each of us has a history and we impact so many different people.  The theme of National Assisted Living Week is Family is Forever.  I know for me over the last 8 times that I have celebrated this week that it has seen many different faces and many different memories.  I have helped crown many different Kings and Queens of the Gardens.  But I think that what I realize today that each year…my family has grown.  Sometimes it can be hard to let people into your life with the understanding that they may not be able to stay for long.  But as Garth Brooks once sang, “I could have missed the pain, but then I could have missed the dance.”  Thank you assisted living for what you have meant to me and my family.  I know my family has grown forever and my heart is much more full as a result.

 

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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

All in the Family

We are right around the corner from National Assisted Living Week.  Every year this tradition is a very special time for our residents, staff, families and our entire community.  As we busy ourselves with plans and preparation to make this event a success, I wanted to stop and reflect on why this year’s theme means so much to me personally.

 

I started working in assisted living in 2010.  I am truly amazed how quickly time has passed.  Through these last years, I have met some truly amazing people.  I have laughed and I have cried.  I have learned about others and I have learned about myself.  Rick Warren once said, “while it is wise to learn from experience, it is wiser to learn from the experience of others.”  The people that live and work and volunteer in our communities are true blessings.  I have learned many life lessons from so many of these wonderful people.  The wisdom that the residents share is invaluable.  The families of our residents are treasures as well.

 

National Assisted Living Week will be the week of September 10th through the 16th and the theme this year is “Family is Forever”. This year’s theme is inspired by a quote from the poet Maya Angelou: “Family isn’t always blood, it’s the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

 

I feel this theme truly represents what I see on a daily basis.  It’s in the encouragement of a staff member, the smile of a volunteer or the laughter of a resident.  The people that you will find here truly are family.  Find out more about our communities at the links listed below.  Schedule a tour at one of our properties today.  Find out why we believe Family is Forever!

 

Harmonica Happiness

According to the article entitled, “When Music Becomes Your Medicine” by Bart Astor, “Music therapy has been around for a long time — Hippocrates was known to have played music for his patients as early as 400 B.C. — but only recently became a recognized medical discipline with board certification.

It is a helpful tool for therapists in treating mental health disease, developmental and learning disabilities, dementia, and acute and chronic pain.”

Our blog this week honors Gardens of Daphne volunteer Patrick Kenny.   Mr. Kenny delights the residents with his harmonica tunes and brightens their days.  As there is a delightful tune played on the harmonica called the “Missippi Mud”…we are including Gardens of Daphne resident Shirley Hartley’s recipe for Missippi Mud.   Mr. Kenny…look for the Gardens of Daphne to be fixing up a sweet treat just for you!  Thanks for your time and dedication to bring joy to all the residents and staff at the Gardens of Daphne.

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Mississippi Mud Recipe by Shirley Hartley

2 sticks of margarine

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa

1 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

dash of salt

3 cups miniature marshallows

Icing:

1 stick margarine

1 box powcered sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 cup chopped nuts

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Sift together the flour and 1/3 cup cocoa.  Fold this into the creamed mixture.  Add pecans and vanilla.  beat well.  Pour into greased and floured 9×13-inch pan.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes.  Sprinkle top with marshmallows.  Bake until marshmallows are melted and starting to turn brown (about 10 minutes).  Remove from oven and cool in pan about 30 minutes.  Icing:  Melt butter in saucepan.  Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa.  Stir sugar mixture into butter along with nuts and milk.  Spread over cake.

Yield:  12 or more servings

Serving Up Sweetness

Elizabeth Andrew once said that “volunteers do not necessarily have the time…they have the heart.”  With that being said I wanted to shine light on one of our many volunteers that brighten our days at Great Oaks Management.  Ellen Dewberry has been volunteering at the Gardens of Eufaula since 2010.  She brightens the days of our residents and shares the word with Bible Study on Wednesday afternoons.  Mrs. Dewberry is one of our shining stars!  In honor of her sweetness we are going to share her delicious recipe for Turtle Cake!  Thank you Ellen Dewberry for your kindness and your servant’s heart.  We at Great Oaks Management love our volunteers who are always being willing to share!

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Turtle Cake

¾ cup butter

½ cup canned milk (use small can)

1 (1lb) bag caramels

1 cup chocolate chips

1 German chocolate cake mix

 

Mix cake mix according to package directions.  In 9 X 13 inch pan that has been greased and floured, pour ½ batter.  Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  While this is baking unwrap caramels.  Put in bowl and add the butter and milk.  Microwave one to two minutes until melted.  When cake is done, pour mixture over cake.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of that.  Pour rest of batter over this and bake for 20 more minutes.

Recipe Courtesy Ellen Dewberry

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Take it from the Senior Class

Ah yes…you can hear the commencement speeches filling the air.  It’s the time of year when young men and women close one chapter of their lives and start another.  So aside from the wisdom that they have gained from their educations up until this point…we thought it might be intriguing to get some advice from a generation that has already been there and done that.  Here is some advice to the Senior Class of 2017 from some of our assisted living seniors.

5 Life Lessons from our Assisted Living Senior Class

  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.
  1. Knowledge is power.  Continue your education because that is something that no one can take away from you.
  1. 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.
  1. Think before you speak. Run it through your head before it comes out of your mouth.
  1. Save your money.  You don’t have to have everything you want right now.

Good luck to the Class of 2017 from everyone at

Great Oaks Management and our communities.

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Pictured above is Great Oaks Management resident,

Sara Hamrick and her granddaughter Victoria.

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