This weekend I was taking flowers to one of our precious residents for her birthday. When I walked into the assisted living community right away I noticed how beautifully the dining area had been transformed into the perfect setting for a birthday celebration. There were balloons, flowers, Happy Birthday signs, two kinds of cakes and more. (I also later found out that her son made homemade Butterfinger ice cream at his Mom’s request. YUM!) The resident’s family had done a lovely job celebrating their Mom and making her party special. I immediately was greeted by one of the daughters and we shared some friendly conversation and I told her how lovely everything looked for the party. It was during this conversation that it hit me…these adult children were in the phase of life where they still planned celebrations for their own children that were becoming young adults and making sure that their parent was celebrated as well. That is a TOUGH balancing act. Being so many things to so many people can be tough! So, I thought, what would be the best advice for new people coming into this role? The role of having a loved one in assisted living can be a challenge. What would be a good idea for their Mom on Mother’s Day? This family had it all figured out. Now for Mother’s Day of course balloons and birthday décor are not fitting. But taking time to spend time is the best gift of all.
Some of the toughest days for families can be the initial stages of the realization that their aging loved one doesn’t need to be alone. Maybe it’s Dad’s reoccurring falls that are frightening or the scare of an ER trip because Mom accidentally took too much medication. Whatever the cause for concern, don’t beat yourself up. As human beings, the aging process is difficult. Watching our parents or other loved ones’ deal with this is altogether more trying. It becomes at times a battle of wills. It is what many refer to as role reversal. And while it may seem like you are being paid back for your hard-headed childhood days…you must be strong and use good judgment.
First, you must come to terms with the role reversal. It is hard for us to wrap our heads around the idea that we are now the decision maker. Now, with this in mind…tread lightly and respectfully. We still respect our elders. But we must respect them enough to CARE for them and make tough decisions. It’s a difficult conversation when they don’t seem to want our help or don’t want to be a bother. But stay strong. It can be so trying to see our parents or aging loved ones become so vulnerable. If you have siblings try not to allow this time to be one where you pull apart or old sibling rivalries rear their heads. Pull together rather than away from each other. Regardless if you are an only child or have siblings, find a way to talk things out with a trusted friend. This role reversal is tough!
STAY STRONG! This can be hard when a parent becomes angry over independence issues but you are concerned for their safety. Don’t cave in or just put a literal band-aid on a gaping wound. Address the tough issues. Avoid letting them shut you out or try and convince you that everything is fine when you know clearly it is not. Don’t wait until you are in crisis mode before you address the issues that are at hand.
Talk to them with their physician. Go to those appointments and help be an advocate. Many parents welcome time with their children. It may be that during these appointments there is information that family members are not getting the full story. It also could be that the physician may need some information as to what is “really” going on. Your loved ones may not always remember or understand everything their physicians tell them either. As a complete CARE TEAM…you and your parent in conjunction with their primary care physician can make good sound choices.
Role reversal is no walk in the park. But much like raising children can be so incredibly tough…tending to aging parents in role reversal can be gut-wrenching because we view them as well…the parent. Remind them how much you love them. Be nurturing and be kind. Let them know that you want to help take care of them just as they took care of you. Maybe it wasn’t perfect. But life just isn’t. Do the right thing and seek guidance from a physician and trusted friends along the way.
During this month of love, I thought it a perfect time to discuss the most loved things about assisted living. It has been interesting over the years for me to get the perspective not just from the families, but from the residents themselves on what was their favorite. So here is the TOP THREE FAVES of Assisted Living Communities.
- Peace of Mind
There is something to be said for having someone there to look out for you, day or night. It is also very reassuring to know that communities have emergency response systems. Another very beneficial help is transportation assistance. Some of our residents find that driving later in life becomes stressful. Having someone to take them safely to appointments is a huge help and comfort to them and their families.
- Enjoying Eating Again
Not only do you have someone there to cook three home-cooked meals a day, plus snacks….but eating with other members of the community makes the dining process so much more enjoyable.. Seeing new friendships form as residents fellowship around the table is a very gratifying part of my job.
- Handing Over the Housework
I don’t think I have EVER had one single resident that was sad to hand over the cooking, cleaning or the laundry. It is a huge perk of moving into an assisted living! I laughed when my husband came to my community the first week I started.. His exact words were, “they do your laundry, cook your food and clean your room? I don’t get that at home!!”. He’s a real comedian.
With so many things to love, it may be time to look into assisted living for your loved one. These are just three of many reasons that our communities are loved by our residents. Schedule a tour today and check out first hand what may be a perfect fit for you and yours.
In the past 7 years, I have given MANY tours at our assisted living community. I’ve even given tours at some of our sister communities. I’ve read guides that industry pros have posted. I’ve listened to feedback from residents, families, staff and upper-level management. I’ve moved residents into our property from every setting you can imagine. Now, it’s not that I think that I have all the answers. That is laughable and would be impossible. But how about I just offer you as Paul Harvey would say “the rest of the story” and give you my humble insights. I like working with lists of 3s. So, here is a list of my top three suggestions for finding the assisted living community that is the right fit.
Suggestion Number One
Remember WHO is the Consumer
One of the most surprising things that I ever experienced in my senior living career was the opportunity to move a resident into our 16-bed community from a place that I swear resembled a resort at the beach. It was, however, also an assisted living community. As I drove onto the property I honestly mouthed the words…WOW. Inside was the latest of color schemes and decor. I honestly wanted to ask the lady at the desk in the lobby the name of the gray paint on the walls. I loved it. But my grandmother would have hated it. I have residents that would have hated it. And you guessed it…so did the resident that I moved out of this fancy pants place and into our community. This huge place was also overwhelming to the resident. The resident had vision issues and that typically doesn’t pair well with a monochromatic color scheme or a giant campus. Bottom line…think of the loved one whom you are considering living in a community and be sure that you are shopping for them and not YOU.
Suggestion Number Two
Meet and Greet
It didn’t take me long to realize when I started working with senior adults exactly who was in charge and it was NOT me. Now naturally, I make sure that we are being regulatory compliant and we don’t do anything that is unsafe. But the phrase that I remind our staff and how we approach the care in how we treat our residents is “this is their house and we work for you”. It’s not just something that we say, it is how we do our best to approach the things that we do. If you are looking at a community that doesn’t treat your loved one as an individual, look elsewhere! When it comes to tours, I offer our current residents the opportunity to meet and greet some of our prospects. It gives the prospective family and potential residents a chance to hear first-hand information from the consumers who know it best. It also invites the members of our community to be part of the place they call home and it is truly heart-warming to see the way that they communicate. Who else would know better than the ones who have been in the exact same shoes as the prospect!
Suggestion Number Three
Another thing (that yes, even as an administrator) I would suggest is drop in without an appointment. Now, of course, this needs to be at a decent hour. Most properties love to schedule a tour so that a marketing person or administrator can help you through the process and that is a truly effective way to get the answers to most of your questions. But dropping in on a Saturday or taking up the offer to join the community for a meal are great ways to get a good feel for how a community functions. Now the meal “invites” do typically need to be scheduled so that enough food can be prepared, but it is a wonderful opportunity to sample the “fare” and observe the staff and community. Also, don’t forget to let the prospective resident be part of this process. I have witnessed many families try to avoid bringing their loved one along for fear of upsetting them. I say start slowly. This change is hard for everyone…even for the adult children that are trying to do what is best and safe for their aging parent or loved one. Making the decision to move to an assisted living community is not easy. Change isn’t easy. But making the decision to keep someone safe is the right move.
If you would like more information about one of our Great Oaks Management Properties or would like to set up a tour at a property near you, please call us today at 1-888-258-8082.
Depression is a condition that affects many people of all ages around the world. Over the years, I have experienced within our community just how difficult and debilitating it can be for some of our elderly in the winter months. Winter SADness…or Seasonal Affect Disorder is not just a bad or sad mood. It is a real health issue and as with any type of depression, it is important to be aware and seek medical intervention when necessary. The National Institute of Mental Health gives this explanation and as well as symptoms and treatments:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not considered as a separate disorder. It is a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern. To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years. Seasonal depressions must be much more frequent than any non-seasonal depressions.
Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:
- Having low energy
- Weight gain
- Craving for carbohydrates
- Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)
Treatments and Therapies:
There are four major types of treatment for SAD:
- Light therapy
- Vitamin D
These treatments may be used alone or in combination. Along with the difficulties that a chronic illness can bring, seniors are also likely to experiences losses in the social networks, which can contribute to the formation of clinical depression. Not everyone who experiences Seasonal Affect Disorder is clinically depressed, but SAD can increase the effects of those who do live with chronic depression. Families and caregivers should be on the lookout for indicators of SAD in their older loved ones during the winter months.
It is important to talk with your loved ones if you have concerns about their mental health and seek medical attention when necessary. Be supportive, be loving and help them remain calm as they cope.
Who are you? Why do you always show up at Christmas celebrations? We don’t see much of you any other time.
As a child, I saw you as the maker of every kind of wonderful toy in the world. Creations from baby dolls and teddy bears, to roller skates, scooters, bicycles and balls of every shape and size.
You kept a complete list on every child reminding you of our every deed, both good and bad. Nothing could make me angry faster than those “smart aleck” kids who claimed you did not exist.
At our house we started a “wish list” early… teaching us not to expect instant gratification, which in some instances allowed us to change our minds! When the winter nights were getting longer we found ourselves glancing out the window if we saw any movement or strange light. We knew it was Santa watching us, making sure we were doing as we should.
We got many gifts, but there were always a few things we didn’t find in our stocking or under the tree. This made us wonder if it was because of something we had done wrong, or if you simply ran out before you got to our house.
It took years and a family of my own for me to realize who you really are and why you were created.
The cookies and milk which have kept you “rotund” all these years taught us to show appreciation to those who gave to us. As children we set them out just before bedtime as our thank you for what we were expecting to receive. Parents were able to help us develop our imaginations and enjoy “make believe”. They could show surprise and help us enjoy some of the new toys and games.
Most of us, through the little birthday parties we would attend, soon realized that we bring gifts so that other kids will bring gifts to our party, if we bring one to theirs. That’s the way the big world works.
Jesus’s birthday is so much different. Jesus’s birth taught us that it is more blessed to give than to receive! In man’s way of trying to figure out how to accomplish this idea of giving, someone came up with a jolly, round fellow dressed in a red suit trimmed in white fur. He has been given several names including St. Nicholas, Father Christmas and finally Santa Claus. This is the name we have given the “Christmas Spirit”. It’s much more exciting than just calling it a gift from an unknown source.
WE all get the joy when we finally recognize who Santa is and God gets all the glory! I like to think that the idea of Santa always giving gifts without the expectation of a gift in return…is in a small way the essence of Jesus. Isn’t that why we celebrate Christmas…to give God the glory! This is my point of view as a great-grandmother looking up from my rocking chair.
Thank you for sharing your love and our joy!
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.”
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.
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.
- 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!
*Photograph from my personal archives circa the early 80s. I’m the brunette in the front. No, I’m not a natural blonde. 😉
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.