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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Talking Trash

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.

INGREDIENTS

  • cups Rice Chex
  • cups Corn Chex
  • cups honey nut Cheerios toasted oat cereal
  • cups small pretzels
  • cups salted peanuts
  • (12 ounce) bag of holiday M&M’s plain chocolate candy (red & green)
  • (12 ounce) bag of holiday M&M’s peanut chocolate candies (red & green)
  • (12 ounce) bags white chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix all ingredients but the white chocolate morsels in a large bowl.
  2. Melt white chocolate morsels according to directions on the package.
  3. Pour melted white chocolate over the cereal mixture and toss well to coat.
  4. Spread on waxed paper and let sit until the white chocolate hardens.
  5. Store in an airtight container.

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

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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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.

harmonica manmusic stevie

 

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

Mama Said, Mama Said

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

Gardens of Wetumpka Resident Juanita Royall said:

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

Gardens of Pelham Resident Carolyn Hayes said:

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

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Dimple Zorn:

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

Gardens of Madison Resident Carole Kleis said:

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

Limestone Lodge Resident Elease Barksdale said:

“My Mom taught me not to be selfish.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Mildred Vickers said:

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

Limestone Manor Resident Avis Fox said:

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

Gardens of Clanton Resident Mary Nell Jones said:

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

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Betty Sutton said:

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

Gardens of Daphne Resident Anna Speer said:

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

 Limestone Manor Resident Jackie Bridges said:

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

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Merilyn Crapps said:

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

Gardens of Clanton Resident Lucille Mims said:

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

Gardens of Madison Resident Nancy Melton said:

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

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Margaret Slade said:

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

Gardens of Wetumpka Resident Bennie McDonald said:

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

Gardens of Pelham Resident Lula Mae Ott said:

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

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Sara Hamrick:

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

Gardens of Daphne Resident Shirley Hartley said:

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

Limestone Lodge Resident Kay Armstrong said:

“My mother taught me to be fair.”

Gardens of Wetumpka Resident Lily Keener said:

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

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Opal Newsome said:

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

vintage-mother-and-daughter kitchen

Pet Perks

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Having a “fur baby” can:

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

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

A True Merry Maker

For most centenarians, long life is a precious gift and not a burden. At 103 years old, Sue Clark remembers most everything from her life – names of old friends, growing up IMG_0676on a farm in Giles County, Tennessee, details of her husband’s transfer to Redstone Arsenal, receiving a teaching degree from Martin College, enjoying a good golf game, and memories of watching her students grow. The Limestone Manor resident and retired kindergarten teacher has remained happy and healthy by staying busy (and motivating others to join the fun). She recently celebrated her birthday on March 3 with neighbors, friends, family and the mayor!

IMG_0675 copyListening to Sue Clark share fun memories was fascinating. After moving to Athens, Mrs. Clark started a home kindergarten in 1963 that helped mold and shape many a student.  She created the foundation for students to use their imaginations and grow their intellect. With a twinkle in her eye, she talked about her 20 year career in teaching and the various activities she did to make learning fun.  Her stories included everything from building a playhouse in the backyard to train-rides, to “Hobo Hikes” and eating a sack lunch in an open field. It was obvious that she loved children and motivating them was her biggest reward. You could tell that Mrs. Clark was having fun too!

Another thing that she enjoyed was music and being involved in church. Mrs. Clark was part of a singing group, The Merry Makers.  After closing her kindergarten, she told a friend…”I have all of these band instruments left over from teaching, what can we do with them?”  They organized a group that performed around town. The Merry Makers and their entertainment is what originally brought her to Limestone Manor Assisted Living, where Mrs. Clark now resides.

IMG_0680Sue Clark first visited the senior community singing and spreading cheer to everyone.  As a resident, she now enjoys the varied activities and especially the music that Limestone Manor has to offer.  But truth be told she still loves to tell stories.  These she now shares with the other residents, staff, family, friends and many visitors at the Manor.  Her walls beautifully display a lifetime of memories.  But the true beauty of the trip down memory lane…comes straight from the source.

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