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.
Across the state at our communities we are making time for tea to celebrate! We are planning these tea parties to toast our excellent communities and the residents, staff and families that make them so special. In honor of this Tea Time, this week the blog will feature a recipe that is a must for your party menu. Many thanks to Donna Burch the daughter of our resident Opal Newsome for sharing this delicious recipe with us.
STRAWBERRY PRETZEL SALAD
2 C. pretzels, coarsely crushed ¾ c. melted butter or margarine
3 T. sugar (for crust) 1 (6-oz.) pkg. strawberry Jello
1 c. sugar 2 (10-oz.) pkgs. Frozen strawberries
1 c. boiling water
1 (8-oz.) ctn. Cool Whip
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
Mix crushed pretzels, butter and sugar; press into bottom of a 9X13-inch pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool completely. In another bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Stir in carton of Cool Whip. Then spread onto cooled crust. Dissolve Jello in 1 cup of bowling water. Then stir in strawberries and let stand 10 minutes. Pour this mixture on top of cream cheese mixture in pan. Chill in refrigerator. Makes about 12 servings.
Pictured are Mr. Charles Burch, our resident, Mrs. Opal Newsome and her daughter Mrs. Donna Burch
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.”
The holidays are all about giving and one of my favorite gifts to give is a sweet treat called Christmas Trash. Now while this may sound strange, it is DELICIOUS and so easy to make! We are preparing for Holiday Open House Celebrations and Christmas parties at many of our properties across the state. In our community, I already received the request from several of our residents for me to make my addicting treat of TRASH! With that being said, I thought I would share this holiday favorite. Here’s to your happy holiday baking and treat making! I hope you enjoy!. You can also look below the recipe for some presentation inspiration for gift giving your treats.
- 3 cups Rice Chex
- 3 cups Corn Chex
- 3 cups honey nut Cheerios toasted oat cereal
- 2 cups small pretzels
- 2 cups salted peanuts
- 1 (12 ounce) bag of holiday M&M’s plain chocolate candy (red & green)
- 1 (12 ounce) bag of holiday M&M’s peanut chocolate candies (red & green)
- 2 (12 ounce) bags white chocolate chips
- Mix all ingredients but the white chocolate morsels in a large bowl.
- Melt white chocolate morsels according to directions on the package.
- Pour melted white chocolate over the cereal mixture and toss well to coat.
- Spread on waxed paper and let sit until the white chocolate hardens.
- Store in an airtight container.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Mississippi Mud Recipe by Shirley Hartley
2 sticks of margarine
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
3 cups miniature marshallows
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
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!
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