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.
April is National Poetry Month. I truly enjoy reading poetry. I have written some poetry myself. I suppose it is because I like music so much. As I looked through many collections and books of poetry, I found odes to love, seasons and even family pets. But there was an entry I found that I thought was especially fitting for this blog. May we all find time this month to enjoy the beauty around us. Look at the beautiful flowers…the azaleas are the most beautiful this year that I have seen in my life! Also, look for the beauty in the people around us.
A Tribute to the Elderly
I thought upon the elderly
And whispered a prayer,
Giving thanks to God
For their sojourn here.
Such kind and gentle souls
From generations ago,
What they are to us,
They will never know.
A sure and beaten path.
A guide along the way.
The dedicated laborer
Who’s now old and gray.
Patriarchs and matriarchs,
And early pioneers.
The bridge that has brought us
As we’ve journeyed here.
Soldiers of great sacrifice,
Treasured more than art.
We honor, love and cherish them
Deep within our heart.
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. 😉
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
June is National Safety Month. For seniors, safety takes on many different shapes. In Assisted Living, we find that some of these safety issues are the primary reasons families will reach out for help for their elderly loved ones. One of the primary safety concerns is that of medications.
Heads on Meds
If you are worried that your loved one is not taking their medications as prescribed…or too much…or not at all…then it may be time to consider assisted living. We all know that misuse of medications can cause all sorts of problems, or in some serious cases even death. Assisted Living communities can provide residents with assistance with their daily and as needed medications. Residents must meet the requirements for admission to a community, including being able to identify your name on your medications. Staff are trained to assist residents in taking their meds using the:
- The right route.
- The right time.
- The right resident.
- The right documentation.
Medication management also helps prevent against a loved one taking a medication that has expired.. Looking out for the safety of your elderly loved ones in regards to their meds is one way that residing in an assisted living can help families find peace of mind.
For more information on one of our assisted living communities visit our website:
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
- 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.
- Knowledge is power. Continue your education because that is something that no one can take away from you.
- 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.
- Think before you speak. Run it through your head before it comes out of your mouth.
- 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.
Pictured above is Great Oaks Management resident,
Sara Hamrick and her granddaughter Victoria.
According to a recent article by Good Housekeeping, living longer life may have something to do with Assisted Living Communities! The article states, “Beyond inviting our older relatives and friends into our homes, it’s important to encourage elderly relationships — which is why, despite popular belief, older folks tend to thrive in independent or assisted living environments. These living arrangements provide more ways to mingle, to connect, to thrive.”
This holds true for Mrs. Carrie Miller. Mrs. Miller celebrated her 103rd birthday this past December. As we sat down to talk with her we learned a little bit about her Southern charm and grace. Mrs. Miller is from Georgia and moved to the Gardens of Clanton in 2010. She grew up with five siblings, one of which was her twin brother named Jay. She has made a wonderful life and has been blessed with 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
A former homemaker, she enjoys going to parties and her favorite holiday is Christmas. She is quite the fashionista and when she was ready to greet us, she showed us several of her outfit choices before selecting the perfect one that was one of “her” colors. She looked quite lovely of course. She has always been a social butterfly and when asked what makes her happy she said it was her children, family, friends AND…listening to the Chosen Two singers that share music at the Gardens of Clanton. She loves life and hearing a message in song. She shared that her favorite part about living at the Gardens is having wonderful help always there for her and having friends to talk to. So blessed to have her charm and grace. Grateful that her life has been enriched by her time at the Gardens of Clanton.
As children, many of us feel that we could live forever. In this day and age, thanks to modern medicine and other interventions, many are living to be 100 years old and older! The thought of living to be Centenarian intrigues me. But after a recent interview with Gardens of Wetumpka resident Mrs. Bennie McDonald, I was more than intrigued…I was inspired.
When Mrs. Bennie moved to the Gardens of Wetumpka, she very easily could have propped up her feet in an easy chair and rested on all of her many accomplishments. She had been a loving wife and mother and spent a very fulfilling career in education. She has painted a beautiful life all without the stroke of a brush….that is until she attended an art class at the Gardens of Wetumpka. You see, Mrs. Bennie hasn’t just been biding her time in the assisted living. She has been living life to the fullest. Mrs. Bennie began painting as a result of this activity at the assisted living. Today her artwork graces the halls of the building and is actually in high demand. She has even sold many of her paintings. With a careful hand and an artist’s eye she paints many beautiful pieces on her canvases. When asked what she thinks is the key to living a long life she explained that the Lord has carried her through many trials in life and that she wouldn’t be anywhere without Him.
She also explained that besides her artwork, the thing that makes her smile the most is her “wonderful children and the memories of her husband.” She expressed her delight that many former students have told her that she was a good influence on them. She continues to be an encourager as she has always been an avid gardener and now she has passed along her green thumb to one of her neighbors at the Gardens of Wetumpka. So amazing to think you may find a new talent in your life in your golden years. Mrs. Bennie is an inspiration for all of us to live each day fully, never stop learning and paint a beautiful life. Mrs. Bennie celebrated her 100th birthday on October 23rd.
I think that the hardest part of being a caregiver is dealing with the guilt. There is never enough time in the day. You bought the wrong kind of soap, stamps or razors or whatever it is…you just can’t catch a break. I think that life in general can sometimes be structured to wear us down. We think we are so smart being so connected and so able to communicate and work and multi-task. Sometimes we just need to stop, push back and say…no. I am the world’s WORST at this. I don’t want to let anyone down. In my mind…my goal is to help everyone. But if I (or you) don’t take time to rest then how can we be good for anyone? So here are some tips to de-program and reduce caregiver stress.
- Ask for help. You know the help you have been providing. But write down what that help entails. No one person can do it alone. It may even be time to consider the move to an assisted living. Asking for help doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you are not going to be part of the team. It just means you care enough to reach out.
- Realize your limitations. It’s impossible to be all things to all people. Sometimes our mindset that “only we can provide the help” is actually damaging for our loved ones. You may be thinking that you are helping someone by enabling them to stay alone…when in actuality they may do better in a community setting and your “help” may be depriving them of a better situation. Meanwhile it may also be running you ragged!
- Take time for you. If you think that only taking your loved ones to their doctor visits and cancelling your checkups is going to serve you well…think again. You need time to recharge your batteries and make sure that you are healthy both mentally and physically. Many caregivers suffer serious health issues while taking care of others. Be sure to take care of you!
- Talk it out. Phone a friend.. Have dinner with your spouse or seek the counsel of a peer going through the same situation. You can even find support groups for caregivers. Your stress is not in your head! Not to mention that it is not good to keep it all inside. Having a friendly chat can prove therapeutic and can also be a way to give and get advice for those sharing similar experiences.