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.
With Spring in the air, many people of all ages are looking to hit the road. Elderly travelers need to be sure to plan appropriately. Medications, meal planning and safety are a few of the concerns. But once you have the perfect plan and an ideal destination in mind…what about the budget? Where can you get the most bang for your buck? Here is a list of travel discounts specifically for seniors when you are ready to “hit the road jack.”
Alamo Car Rental has discounts and deals ranging up to 25% for AARP members.
Alaska Airlines was 10% off for ages 65+. It is now reported to be 50% off. Other fees, however, are unknown. Airlines like to wiggle out of things; call first to ask about the discount and fees before making plans or booking.
American Airlines has discounts and deals for seniors 62 and up. Various discounts can reach up to 50% for non-peak periods (Tuesdays through Thursdays). Other fees, however, are unknown. Airlines like to wiggle out of things; call before booking.
Amtrak has a 15% discount for seniors. But they have a whole bunch of restrictions to go along with it.
The Avis car rental company has discounts and deals ranging up to 25% for AARP members.
Best Western motels have a 10% discount for seniors age 55 and over.
Comfort Inn motels have discounts ranging from 20% to 30% off for seniors age 60 and over.
Southwest Airlines is reported to have various discounts for ages 65 and up. But the usual warnings apply: call first, find out about other fees, etc.
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
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.
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.
Last week we had our annual flu shot clinic at our community. I’ll admit that I never started getting a flu shot until I went to work in the assisted living sector. I had experience with kidney stones, sinus infections, broken bones, and surgeries. But no flu. But the first year I got the flu shot….NO…I didn’t get the flu, but my husband and daughter…both (who did not get their flu shot that year) got the flu and it was rough. But as rough as it can be on school-aged children and middle-aged adults…it can be much more serious for the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. Here are a few helpful reminders to consider as we approach flu season.
Get your Flu shots!
In our communities’ we offer flu shots annually to protect our residents and staff. It is something that we take very seriously as it can be a dangerous situation for an elderly person to get the flu. Nowadays you have options! You can get your shot with your family physician or many pharmacies have flu shots available onsite. Remember that when you get the flu shot, it takes about two weeks for it to begin working. So, you want to get your shots ahead of the flu season curve.
Sniffles? See you next time!
What may sound rude, is just smart advice. If you don’t feel well or you have a child that doesn’t feel good…find another time to visit an assisted living community. What we can shake off easily may prove a huge obstacle for a senior citizen to bounce back. The CDC provides this list of flu symptoms to watch for:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, plan to visit another time when you are well.
Clean up Your Act!
The CDC states that:
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose. That is why hand washing is key!
It also is important to wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. However, use caution with these type sanitizers and children.
So, use good judgment this flu season and do your part to protect yourself and others. We love to have visitors in our communities. But if you are sick, we will just plan to see you when you are well! When you see our healthy visit reminder signs posted at your local Great Oaks Management Communities, just know it is part of our mission for seniors – to be happy and healthy.
The other day I had one of those moments. You know…those times when you are becoming exactly like your mother, grandmother, father, etc. We were out to eat and I said to my husband that I wished I could order off the “kids menu” because I wasn’t that hungry and it was cheaper. It was like I had instantly become my grandmother. The memories came flooding back. How many times had I heard her ask a server if they had a “child’s plate” she could order? I was always embarrassed and never quite understood her frugality. Now as an adult I get it. Especially for those who are in the age bracket who qualify for a senior discount…pinching pennies is important. So, in memory of my grandmother (who we affectionately called Mama Clifford), here is a guide to some popular restaurants that feature savings for seniors. These are only some of the eateries that offer discounts and with all promotions it may vary by location. But save where you can and as Benjamin Franklin would say, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
Applebee’s Senior Discount: 10-15% off (varies by location) MAY require Golden Apple Card (60+)
Bonefish Grill Senior Discount: AARP members 10% off
Burger King Senior Discount: 10% off (60+) plus additional discounts on coffee and soft drinks
Captain D’s Seafood: “Happy Wednesday Offer” Choice of 8 meals + drink for $4.99 or less- varies by loc. (62+)
Chick-fil-A Senior Discounts: Chick-fil-A offers a free refillable senior drink, not including coffee. – Varies by location.
Chili’s Restaurants Senior Discounts: Chili’s offers a 10% senior discount (55+)
Denny’s: Senior discount varies by location, 15% off for AARP members
McDonald’s: Discounts on coffee everyday (55+)
Outback Steakhouse: 10% off AARP members for meals (alcohol excluded)
Sonic: 10% off or free beverage (60+) varies by location
Subway: 10% off (60+) varies by location
Taco Bell: 5% off; free beverages for seniors (65+)
TCBY: 10% off (55+)
I will admit that until I began working in the senior living sector, I knew very little about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. It was not something I had seen on a personal or family level. That has changed. Now I know and care for people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia. I understand that they are not all one in the same. There are even different types of dementia. I have come to know some of the devastating effects they take on lives. Since June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I thought I could help do my part by shining a purple light.
Did you know that according to the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Alzheimer’s is fatal. It kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
- Alzheimer’s is not normal aging. It’s a progressive brain disease without any cure.
- Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. It appears through a variety of signs and symptoms.
Per the website alz.org, “A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Experts are not certain about the reason for this association. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.”
During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks you to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Share your story and take action. It may be as simple as bringing awareness via social media. Alzheimer’s disease awareness is represented by the color purple, and in June, thousands of Americans will turn their Facebook profile purple with an “END ALZ” icon. If you need help or more information on ways you can raise awareness of the truth about Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/abam to get started.