Challenges and Choices

As I have watched the latest rollout of promos for the Winter Olympic, a common theme is challenges.  It made me think about the challenges in the daily lives of our many residents.  Just as an athlete must push against all odds to achieve Olympic status, a senior must face challenges on a daily basis to overcome their own adversity.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Life expectancy is increasing for Americans. The fastest-growing segment of the population is the 85-and-older age group. Despite advances in health care, however, many elderly people have chronic, incurable progressive diseases and need assistance with the activities of daily living. The greatest challenge facing us as we age is the prevention of physical disability and the extension of “active life expectancy.” Fortunately, recent studies suggest that healthy (“successful”) aging is achievable, with sound planning for old age.”

SO SOUND PLANNING….LIKE WHAT???

It’s no secret that the biggest factor in overcoming the challenges that come with the aging processes includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  But even though:

eating right, exercising, watching your weight, avoiding tobacco products and limiting alcohol intake and seeing your doctor regularly seems like…gosh..shouldn’t that be enough??  It just isn’t.

Planning for success in aging must include stimulation of our social being as well financial planning, research and making your wishes known.  We can’t be certain of what MIGHT happen.  But if you address the issues early on, it can make the later much easier for you and your children.  Over the years I have comforted many an adult child of an elderly person, who was tasked with making difficult choices for their parent.  Choices that could have been decided and discussed.  Are the conversations difficult?  EXTREMELY.  No doubt, this conversation will not be comfortable.  But making sure your wishes and decisions are respected as best as possible will make those moments somewhat easier for your children to know they are honoring your choices

 

Rising to the Challenge of Successful Aging

Here is a list from the Cleveland Clinic to help you plan for the unknown challenges to come. 

Keep Yourself Stimulated:

Enjoy hobbies and interests with passion, particularly social activities, such as dancing.

Strengthen family relationships.

Engage in adult educational activities to challenge your mind.

Identify any physical limitations, such as difficulty walking or problems with balance. Actively start a discussion about these limitations and use medical resources to overcome them. Use nearby resources such as community support and local senior centers.

Be smart with financial planning:

Plan in advance for retirement.

Carefully manage investments and assets.

Assure adequate insurance coverage.

Decide on your future living arrangements.  (See reference at the end of the article.)

Work to Maintain Dignity and Good Health in Old Age:

Choose a doctor knowledgeable in the medical care of older adults.

Communicate your goals of care to your family and physician.

Check about long-term care insurance.

Express your advance directives in writing.

 

It is wise to look ahead into an assisted living community.  We would love to have you tour one of our communities today.  Visit www.greatoaksmanagement.com today to research one that is just right for you and your plan!

 

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Happy Hearts

My mother always said that before you can love anyone else, you must love yourself and take care of yourself.  One of the best ways to love yourself…is to take care of yourself.  That can be hard to do if you are always trying to take care of everyone else.  February is American Heart Health Month, which makes it a perfect time for us to hard look at our heart health.  Seniors are at a particular risk when it comes to heart issues.  A staggering 84 percent of seniors over the age of 65 die from heart disease.  Here are the warning signs and steps to take towards better heart health according to everdayhealth.com.

Warning Signs

The warning signs of heart disease often don’t appear until you’re having a heart attack. Symptoms of an emergency or impending heart attack may include:

  • Feeling faint
  • Weakness or a sensation of light-headedness
  • Having a hard time catching your breath
  • Feeling nauseous or vomiting
  • Feeling very full or having indigestion
  • Pain in the chest or an uncomfortable pressure in the chest
  • Unusual pains in the back, shoulders, or neck
  • Sweating
  • An irregular heartbeat

Steps to Take

You can keep your heart healthy no matter how old you are, but it does take effort — possibly even changes in your everyday habits, such as eating a heart-healthy diet and increasing your activity level. Here’s how to get started:

  • Get enough exercise This means at least 30 minutes of exercise almost every day of the week.
  • Quit smoking  If you do smoke, it’s not worth the risk.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet  Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables while limiting saturated fats, salt, and foods containing cholesterol, like fatty meats.
  • Watch your numbers  Get regular check-ups to monitor health conditions that affect the heart, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, and make sure they’re under control with medication.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake  Excess alcohol consumption can worsen health conditions that contribute to heart disease, like blood pressure, arrhythmias, and high cholesterol levels.
  • Minimize stress in your life  Stress can compound many heart disease risks that seniors already face, steering you toward an unhealthy lifestyle. Find healthy outlets to relieve stress and lower your heart disease risk.
  • Watch your weight  Too many pounds can add up to increased heart disease risk. To help prevent heart disease, maintain a healthy body weight for your size.

You can also find more heart health information on the website millionhearts.hhs.gov. They even have a heart age calculator that can be a real eye opener.  There is no better time than right now to focus on your heart health.  If you have concerns talk to your doctor.  Take time to take care of you.

 

Tea Party Treat

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.

Opal and family

Pictured are Mr. Charles Burch, our resident, Mrs. Opal Newsome and her daughter Mrs. Donna Burch

Preparation for the Situation

When it comes to emergency room visits, I probably have been more times than the average person due to the nature of my job.  But this year with the flu hitting near epidemic levels not only just in Alabama but also nationwide, emergency room visits have been experienced by many.  Trips to the ER can be a scary situation at any age.  The ER can prove particularly challenging for the elderly.  Here are some suggestions to help you keep it cool when you find yourself in the hot seat taking a senior loved one to the ER.

Emergency Files

The first week on the job as a brand-new administrator I found myself headed to the ER following an ambulance with one of my residents who I had obviously just met that week.  Now mind you, I had called their family and notified the proper folks of the situation.  But for a short time, it was just me and this resident (who was experiencing chest pains) in a room in the ER as they were being seen by the doctors and nurses.  I was grateful for a paperwork process that was in place in our community so I had the answers to the questions that were being asked by hospital personnel.   We use what we call an Emergency Red File for each resident in our community for such an occasion.  Inside we keep copies of the residents’ most recent medical exam and plan of care, insurance cards and other ID as well as advance directives and Power of Attorney documentation if they have them.  It is called a red file because well, it’s red in color.  Our local hospital staff has gotten very acclimated to our “red files” and it makes registration and getting medical staff some initial information on the resident so much easier.  It also helps keep the resident calm because they aren’t having to give answers to so many questions.  Our families appreciate this as well. They are usually a barrel of nerves at the call that their loved one is being taken to the ER anyway.  It is a relief for us to go ahead and have all of this information readily available.  Most regulations require assisted living communities to have this as part of the chart and way.  It is so much easier to have this type of file ready to go at a moment’s notice versus stopping to make copies.  We just make sure to secure them in a safe location, update them as appropriate and add the most recent medication list at an emergency occurrence.

Pack like a Pro

In addition to an emergency file, having a small bag packed is a huge help. I have been in situations where family members couldn’t get to the hospital that day due to travel outside the country, illness and more.  I’m typically going to ensure that the resident has someone with them to be there and comfort them and so that I can get the information to pass along to the family.  That is why having a bag packed and ready is a huge help.  Now, this bag doesn’t need to be big and bulky or loaded down and cumbersome.  But there are a few items I would suggest to take to help the resident and you be set up for as smooth “as possible” visit to the ER.  Some things to consider packing include:

  • Depends (pads, etc) for residents that require them
  • Snacks (for both you and the resident)
  • Phone charger
  • Small blanket
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Wipes
  • Ziplock bag

Now I know that most hospitals can provide you with many of these items.  But it doesn’t take much preparation to have these things ready to go. Sure, there are some emergency situations that emotions will be high and some of these items will be the last thing on your mind. But if you make gathering this and your emergency file part of your process, they can make a tough situation a little more bearable.  Remember that these items may be necessary for your resident and you.  So, pack accordingly.  I suffer from migraine headaches.  My triggers for them include multiple things.  But ranking up pretty high include:  stress, dehydration and skipping meals.  I’m no good to anyone else and can’t take care of them if I don’t take care of myself.  I say all of this to say that proper planning can help you be more effective to your residents and their families.

Blog note*

At present date, the Alabama Department Health has made the following recommendations regarding visiting the ER or doctor’s office for FLU RELATED ISSUES:

“For people with mild to moderate flu or flu-like symptoms, please do not go to your doctor’s office without calling first and do not go to the emergency room. Please call your doctor to see if you are eligible for antivirals without an appointment. Many insurance companies now have a “call a provider” service to help with mild to moderate illnesses; please take advantage of this service before going to doctor or hospital.  Mild to moderate cases of the flu usually do not require a hospital visit. Patients who do visit an emergency department or outpatient clinic should be aware of long wait times.” 

As with all emergency situations use your best judgment, especially when it comes to an elderly person who may have a reduced immune system.

 

Making the Right Move

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

Visiting Hours

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.

 

 

 

 

Realistic and Optimistic

While many have sworn off New Year’s Resolutions, it may not be a bad idea to consider what areas may need improvement in our lives. And improvements apply to all ages!  However, it is important to be realistic in tackling our individual concerns.  I can’t help but think of some of those home improvement shows.  A couple looks at tackling this punch list of things that must be fixed…but when the budget or other “things” complicate the completion…they must settle on what can be accomplished.  So, as you consider your own self renovation project, give yourself a break.  Be realistic and optimistic.  Here are 3 things to consider if you have made a list…or even if you feel like you have jumped ship from the resolutions you started on earlier this week.

Number One

Give Yourself a Break!

Nothing says that just because you may have already stopped what you started on January 1st that you can’t achieve your goal.  Michael Jordan once said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something.  But I can’t accept not trying.”  Like the rest of us, Michael Jordan has had his share of failures and mistakes but one way NOT to accomplish a projected goal is to quit or not even make the effort.  Take time out and focus on being realistic with your expectations.

Number Two

Avoid Comparisons

No two people are completely alike.  Even twins have their differences.  Don’t look at a situation and expect your result to be like someone else’s.  Your goal should be just that…YOURS.  Your road to results, may have guidance and perhaps similarity to someone else’s situation, but you want to look at it with realistic eyes.  I remember two ladies discussing their aches and pains one day.  One lady was barely seventy and the other in her nineties.  The seventy-year-old said that knee replacement changed her life!  The next thing I knew I had a ninety-year-old lady calling her daughter wanting to get her knees done!  Set goals that are attainable and healthy.  Take small steps to set yourself up for success.

Number Three

Reward Yourself

One of my favorite phrases that I hear people say is “Treat Yourself!”  I think this especially applies if you are working towards a goal.  Now while this may not mean go and pig out and derail a healthy eating plan once you complete one successful week.  It DOES mean to be sure and give yourself a pat on the back for small steps along the way towards your goal.  Develop a reward system that works for you.

In researching and thinking about the blog this week, I looked back at some of the best advice some of our seniors had to give this past year.  I will close with these thoughts and want to wish you all the best in 2018!

  1. 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.
  2. Knowledge is power. Continue your education because that is something that no one can take away from you.
  3. 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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM GREAT OAKS MANAGEMENT!!

Understanding SADness

Depression is a condition that affects many people of all ages around the world.  Over the years, I have experienced within our community just how difficult and debilitating it can be for some of our elderly in the winter months. Winter SADness…or Seasonal Affect Disorder is not just a bad or sad mood.  It is a real health issue and as with any type of depression, it is important to be aware and seek medical intervention when necessary.  The National Institute of Mental Health gives this explanation and as well as symptoms and treatments:

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not considered as a separate disorder. It is a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern. To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years. Seasonal depressions must be much more frequent than any non-seasonal depressions.

Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:

  • Having low energy
  • Hypersomnia
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)

Treatments and Therapies:

There are four major types of treatment for SAD:

  • Medication
  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Vitamin D

These treatments may be used alone or in combination.  Along with the difficulties that a chronic illness can bring, seniors are also likely to experiences losses in the social networks, which can contribute to the formation of clinical depression.  Not everyone who experiences Seasonal Affect Disorder is clinically depressed, but SAD can increase the effects of those who do live with chronic depression. Families and caregivers should be on the lookout for indicators of SAD in their older loved ones during the winter months.

It is important to talk with your loved ones if you have concerns about their mental health and seek medical attention when necessary.  Be supportive, be loving and help them remain calm as they cope.

hold hands

Special Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Who are you? Why do you always show up at Christmas celebrations?  We don’t see much of you any other time.

As a child, I saw you as the maker of every kind of wonderful toy in the world.  Creations from baby dolls and teddy bears, to roller skates, scooters, bicycles and balls of every shape and size.

You kept a complete list on every child reminding you of our every deed, both good and bad.  Nothing could make me angry faster than those “smart aleck” kids who claimed you did not exist.

At our house we started a “wish list” early… teaching us not to expect instant gratification, which in some instances allowed us to change our minds!  When the winter nights were getting longer we found ourselves glancing out the window if we saw any movement or strange light.  We knew it was Santa watching us, making sure we were doing as we should.

We got many gifts, but there were always a few things we didn’t find in our stocking or under the tree. This made us wonder if it was because of something we had done wrong, or if you simply ran out before you got to our house.

It took years and a family of my own for me to realize who you really are and why you were created.

The cookies and milk which have kept you “rotund” all these years taught us to show appreciation to those who gave to us.  As children we set them out just before bedtime as our thank you for what we were expecting to receive.  Parents were able to help us develop our imaginations and enjoy “make believe”. They could show surprise and help us enjoy some of the new toys and games.

Most of us, through the little birthday parties we would attend, soon realized that we bring gifts so that other kids will bring gifts to our party, if we bring one to theirs.  That’s the way the big world works.

Jesus’s birthday is so much different.  Jesus’s birth taught us that it is more blessed to give than to receive! In man’s way of trying to figure out how to accomplish this idea of giving, someone came up with a jolly, round fellow dressed in a red suit trimmed in white fur.  He has been given several names including St. Nicholas, Father Christmas and finally Santa Claus. This is the name we have given the “Christmas Spirit”.  It’s much more exciting than just calling it a gift from an unknown source.

WE all get the joy when we finally recognize who Santa is and God gets all the glory!  I like to think that the idea of Santa always giving gifts without the expectation of a gift in return…is in a small way the essence of Jesus.  Isn’t that why we celebrate Christmas…to give God the glory!  This is my point of view as a great-grandmother looking up from my rocking chair.

Thank you for sharing your love and our joy!

Marguerite Klages

Klages Santa 2017

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.”

gran and daughter

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.