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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Keep It Clean

There are many reasons that family members become concerned that an elderly loved one is not doing well.  One issue that is a cause for concern is bathing or rather the lack thereof.  A parent not bathing is a topic that many families are reluctant to discuss as they may be uncomfortable bringing it up. But be assured that this is an issue that many people face.  It is common…but there may be multiple root causes.  It is important to understand why they are reluctant.  Only when you understand that the underlying reasons can you better approach and address successfully.  Let’s look at some of the more common reasons.

 

  1. Fear of Falling

The bathroom can be a very dangerous place. If you have every slipped in the shower, you can relate. Now you pair the environment with physical issues like foot problems, balance issues, arthritis and more…and you have a recipe for disaster and fear.

 

  1. Depression

Often elderly have issues with depression that can zap their get up and go. When you lack motivation, bathing and concerns for your grooming often go by the wayside.

 

  1. Cognitive Issues

Another reason that is very common are memory issues. If your parent has dementia or other cognitive decline, keeping up with a bathing schedule can be extremely difficult.  Realizing that you haven’t taken a bath is not something they may be able to keep up with easily.

 

While it may be a difficult subject to approach, you must develop a plan. For some simply adding grab bars or safety equipment may help. Some may be able to follow a chart.  But if it is a depression or memory issue, it may be time to consider getting help.  As always discuss your concerns with a doctor.  A physician may want to consider medications to help with depression.  It may be time to enlist the help of a caregiver or look into an assisted living community where your loved one can have daily assistance with their activities of daily life like bathing and grooming.  But don’t avoid the topic because it is messy and uncomfortable.  The health benefits of cleanliness are far too important to ignore.

Medication Matters

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:

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  • 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.

hug dad

For more information on one of our assisted living communities visit our website:

www.greatoaksmanagement.com

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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Aunt Dimp’s Chocolate Cake Recipe

cakeI don’t think there has ever been a time in my life that someone offered me chocolate that I refused.  That may be why I typically keep a pair of Spanx close by.  But I must say that one of all-time favorite chocolate treats is a slice of chocolate layer cake.  We have a precious lady at the Gardens that makes the absolute best chocolate cake that I have ever put in my mouth!  So… when she agreed to put the recipe out to share on the blog, I jumped at the chance.

But before we get to that…here is a little background on the lady we affectionately refer to as ‘Aunt Dimp”

auntdimpDimple Zorn grew up just outside of Clayton, Alabama. She is a former Gardens of Eufaula queen and I tease her that she keeps the roads hot staying on the go… She has a love for life and is the mother of 3 wonderful children as well as the grandmother to 5 grandsons and 2 great grandsons and 2 great granddaughters.  She was married to her late husband, Willie Ray for 66 years.  Aunt Dimp told me that she started learning from her Mother how to cook at the age of 9 or 10. She says that she has always loved baking.  She has agreed to help us learn to bake her special chocolate cake during an activity this week at the Gardens of Eufaula. This recipe has always been a requested favorite in her family.  I hope you will take this recipe and share it with someone you love.

 

 

Aunt Dimp’s Chocolate Layer Cake

Batter

6 eggs

2 cups sugar

3 cups self-rising flour

1 cup oil

1 cup milk

Mix above ingredients together. Spray pans well with Bakers Choice (with flour).  For 9 inch pans use ¾ cup of batter and for 8 inch pans use ½ cup of batter. Bake at 350 degrees until done.  Cake layers will not brown much.

Filling

3 cups sugar

½ cup cocoa

19 oz. can evaporated milk

2 ½ sticks margarine or butter

Mix above ingredients together.  Let them come to a boil for 3 ½ minutes.  Stack each layer and cover with filling. Then stack again until all layers have been stacked together with filling in between each layer.

Years of baking this cake taught me to add 3 extra tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon Karo light syrup to the remaining filling.  Boil until thick, approximately 1 ½ to 2 minutes.  Cover the entire cake with this mixture.  Doing this makes a pretty cake.

Depending on the size cake pan you use, this cake will be 11 to 13 layers.

 

 

 

The Not So Young and Stress Less

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.

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.

caregiver-timeout

 

Use it or Lose It

While strumming his guitar my Dad once told me that when it came to singing or playing an instrument that you must use it or lose it.  That’s crazy I thought.  I mean if you have an ability, you have an ability… right?  WRONG!  Try singing after not having done it in a few years and you might be shocked at the quality or tone that you produce.  It’s not pretty, trust me.  Just in the way that you must utilize a talent to keep it going, you also must work your brain to keep it healthy.

According to John E. Morley, MD, director of St. Louis University’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and author of The Science of Staying Young, “simple games like Sudoku and word games are good, as well as comic strips where you find things that are different from one picture to the next,”In addition to word games, there are other brain stimulating activities.

working-puzzle

  1. Socialization to improve the brain situation!  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, studies show that seniors who regularly participate in social interactions can retain their brain health. So keep connected with others. For those friends and family that live far away, correspondence by e-mail or social media or even writing letters can keep you connected.  Don’t stay holed up in your house alone.  This is not healthy for you on multiple levels including your brain.
  2. Keep Moving!  A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that, among seniors, “moderate physical activity is associated with a reduced incidence of cognitive impairment after 2 years.” Simply taking a walk or doing chair exercise is a great way to get that heart pumping and keep the blood flowing to the brain.
  3. Lay Your Cards on the Table  Playing games with others is another way to maintain and increase brain health. Regularly playing board or card games, or engaging in other intellectually stimulating games with others helps keep your mind active.

The vitality of your brain is the superhighway to your overall health.  There are also many brain healthy foods that physicians recommend.  Check out the following list from healthable.org for a list of Foods to Keep Your Brain Fit!

brain-foods

For information on one of our properties visit http://www.greatoaksmanagement.com

Social Seniors

reillyI can still see her face and hear her laugh.  She was the first social director I knew at an assisted living.   Was she on the staff?  Oh no!  She was a sharp dressed lady named Geraldine with an even sharper wit.  Affectionately known to her family as “Gigi” she was one of the first ladies who taught me that residents in an assisted living have lots of living left to do. Ms. Geraldine would keep me apprised as to the latest “goings on” with the royals.  Gigi loved Will and Kate and a good game of Skip Bo.  She and the other ladies that made up her Skip Bo group were the first group I affectionately referred to as my sorority rush committee.  Ms. Geraldine would be the first to tell you…life in assisted living is not about bingo and bedtime.  It is much more and can be so fulfilling.  She spent her golden years of life loving her family and her friends and living each day to its fullest.  So, if you are looking at assisted living for yourself or a loved one…what are the benefits of the social aspects?

Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found evidence that “elderly people in the U.S. who have an active social life may have a slower rate of memory decline. In fact, memory decline among the most sociable was less than half the rate among the least sociable.  Senior author Lisa Berkman, chair of the Department of Society, Human Development and Health, went on to say, “We know from previous studies that people with many social ties have lower mortality rates. We now have mounting evidence that strong social networks can help to prevent declines in memory. As our society ages and has more and more older people, it will be important to promote their engagement in social and community life to maintain their well-being.”

Studies show that lack of socialization is linked to negative impacts on health and well-being, especially for older people. Having a variety of social opportunities and activities vastly improve the psychological and physical health of seniors. The benefits include reducing stress, increasing physical health, and defeating psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.

Senior couple having fun in parkAssisted living promotes socialization with everything from a robust activities calendar to dining together in a community setting.  Engaging in activities and other community events allows seniors to bond with new friends while promoting physical and mental health. This can prolong their quality of life and overall life expectancy.  Does this sounds like something that would benefit your elderly loved one and you want to know more?  Check out our latest Activities Calendar to see what is going on at one of our communities near you at www.greatoaksmanagement.com or call us today at 1-888-258-8082.

*In memory of former resident Geraldine Reilly.

Thank you to her family for allowing us to share this in her memory.

Insider Information

Not too long ago, I had lunch with a friend of mine that also happened to be a sponsor of one of my residents.  She is also my neighbor, but I digress.  As we sipped sweet tea, I asked her what was one thing that she wished she knew more about before she moved her Dad into assisted living.  Here are a couple useful tips regarding doctor visits that she suggested that will make life easier if you are considering or have made the transition to an assisted living community.

Prep Doctor Visit Steps

Not only do assisted living communities offer scheduling and transportation to appointments for our residents…but we also provide useful tools for communication.   We all know that for every physician on the planet they all typically want us to bring our list of meds with us.  But here are some things that our staff will provide if you (or if we) are taking your family member to the doctor:

Pills

  • A current list of medication for all residents for doctor’s appointments (typically we can make a copy of their medication record from that day that ensures they have the most current info available)
  • Physician Communication Form (this form is an excellent tool where the doctor can detail their findings and diagnosis information as well as prescriptions or requests for follow-ups etc.  This helps provide a written outline of the doctor visit so that the sponsor and resident can communicate fully the needs the resident may require.  This form is typically stapled to the copy of the resident’s medication record and given to the sponsor/staff that will be going with the resident prior to the appointment.  Upon return to the community following the appointment, the sponsor can just give this to the Administrator or designee.  If a staff member took the resident to the appointment, they will then call the sponsor to provide the details from the appointment.  This is another reason that this tool is so useful.)

We also can help assist by providing documented weights and other health information that a physician may request.  Health information is protected per HIPPA guidelines.

older-man-dr-visit-daughter

Hopefully this prep will help make doctor visits less daunting.  As my friend explained, “when you have been the sole caregiver for an aging parent or loved one, you know them probably better than anyone.  But by allowing the staff at the assisted living to join forces with the resident, the sponsor and the physician…we become a team”.  This is an excellent analogy!  This TEAM is always looking out for the resident.  And the vital key is communication.  Another important thing that you need to know is that the medications should be in unit dose packaging if they will require staff assistance.  So just running a prescription to the pharmacy and picking up a bottle is NOT the way to go.  The ADPH rules and regulations are in place to protect.  So be sure to get the prescription to the administrator or contact them if you have any questions.  This will ensure that you or the staff have them filled properly and that the staff have the proper documentation for the resident chart.  Following these simple suggestions can make life easier for you, the staff at the assisted living and most importantly the resident.

Shifting Gears to the New Year

After all the fun and festivities that the holidays bring, it is commonplace for most to begin thinking of making changes to begin a new year.  New Year Resolutions are a good thing for folks of all ages.  Making resolutions regardless of our age, creates a sense of purpose for all of us.  It helps us to focus on the things that are the most important.  Seniors can especially benefit from this if resolutions are made to prevent illness and injury. Making resolutions such as participating in a new physical activity, developing a new exercise routine, or eating better are all good goals for seniors.  But what is the best way to do this and succeed?

Write it Down

Writing down your resolution is only half the battle!  Chart it and not only seniorwriting-052313-vr-tifdocument your defeats, but celebrate your victories!  According to a study by the University of Scranton research shows that only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.  Writing it down puts it in black and white and gives a sense of accountability.  Trying to lose weight or exercise more?  Writing it down or having someone chart it for you will help you track your success.

Keep it Simple

Now most of us have heard of the KISS system.  You know, Keep It Simple Stupid!  Now while this may sound ridiculous, it is rather ingenious.  If you have a simple and small goal that you want to achieve….and you have written it down…well, then it is more likely to stick with you!  According to psychologist Lynn Bufka, “it’s more sensible to set simple small attainable goals, rather than a singular overwhelming goal”.  A resolution to lose weight is a bit more daunting than to just cut out soft drinks.  It’s less restrictive and much more clear cut.  So, pick something small to change and work on that.

Give Yourself a BreakSenior couple having fun in park

If you do have a slip up, don’t give up!  Remember that you are only human.  Have you been dieting and feel like you could eat your weight in chocolate??  Well…don’t do that and try to A-V-O-I-D feeling deprived.  Eat a small piece of chocolate.  Have a cheat day.  Are you trying to exercise more?  Start slowly.  Don’t feel like you must exercise every day if this is new to you.  Maybe your target is walking two or three times a week to start with.
Set yourself up for success and keep your goals realistic.

By taking small steps, making your goals clear and realistic you stand a better chance of making 2017 your best year yet.  You also want to check with your physician first before making any changes to your diet and exercise plan.  If you feel like Assisted Living is a goal for you or a loved one this year, reach out to us today.  Our staff is trained to help our residents with the activities of their daily life.  We would love to welcome you home to a Great Oaks Management Property in 2017.