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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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.

Letters to Santa

Have you written your letter to Santa Claus?  What about the children in your life?  For my first blog post of December I was asked to share a special letter written by one of my sweet residents.  In it, she captures the essence of Christmas and offers a glimpse back into days gone by.  So grab a cup of hot cocoa and settle into an easy chair and enjoy this precious letter to Saint Nick!  This may just become another one of my holiday traditions.

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-and-santa

 

Being Santa for Seniors

It’s a bit surreal to think we are already bracing for another Black Friday!  Now some of us might be scouring the Internet for the best cyber deals or some are still pinning DIYs to our Pinterest boards.  But when it comes to being Santa to the seniors in our life, we have a gift giving guide to help save the day!

Picture This!

When I visit the rooms of most residents, the things that they typically want tophotoalbum-elderly share aren’t THINGS…they are photos or mementos from loved ones.  So, take a little time and put together that scrapbook.  Or for those that are more computer savvy, an online photobook that you design and print is always a hit!  Even a picture book that gives a family tree type storyline is a great idea!  Another way to share snapshots is through the calendars that feature family members for every month of the year.  You can find great sites to create these items online.  These are treasures that residents love to receive and share.

Warm and Soothing

fuzzy-socksAs you probably already know, most elderly people like to stay warm.  So, any type of crocheted blanket or even store bought throw is always well received.  Other items that seniors love to have are those cozy socks with rubber gripped soles.  Those are both warm and help protect against falls!  You do want to stay away from electric blankets and personal heaters as these items can be unsafe and/or violate state regulations.

 

A Group Effort

One thing that I have seen a trend in recently is when families/groups decide they want to
do something for the entire community.  Many assisted living communities are relatively santa-kisssmall and they become a very tight knit group.  So, families, volunteers or church groups will ask what is something they can do for everyone.  I say talk to your Administrator.  They can talk to the residents and let them decide.  The residents may want seasonal plants for the porch, a new set of puzzles, large print books or even a pizza party!  I even know of one group that got a Karaoke Machine!  I think that is great!  If you decide to do a group approach and want to do food or treats, remember that you need to remember there may be diabetics so you may want to go for sugar-free items.

Wrapping It Up

In a season of giving it is always more of a blessing to give than receive.  Time can be the most precious and hard to find commodity.  But when you can…stop by.  Bring the young ones when they are out of school.  Join us for an activity.  The residents are so appreciative of everything.  I have seen it live and in living color.  In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, stop in and say hello.  The gift you will receive in return will be priceless.

 

Scamming Seniors

If you want to get my blood boiling, you let me hear about someone trying to scam an elderly person.  Now you may be thinking, seriously who does that?  Case in point, was the day one of my former residents came knocking on my office door (with his phone in hand) telling me that he was just informed that he was going to be arrested for an unpaid ticket.  Immediately my senses went into “Mama Protective Mode” and I asked could I speak to the person on the phone.  The threatening caller who had previously told my resident that “he would not hang up and that he would be happy to hold for his credit card or checking account information to take care of the outstanding debt” naturally had decided to hang up when I unmuted the phone and said, “Hello this is the Administrator, can I help you”?  Now this was not before rattling my resident into thinking that this person was legit.  Mind you, this resident informed me that he had NEVER received a traffic ticket in his life.  As expected, the number that showed up on the caller ID was neither able to be reached or traced.  I promptly called the local authorities to alert them of the call as the person calling claimed to be from our local sheriff’s department.  Sadly, they informed me that I was not the first or even the fifth person who had called in that day.  I saw an article printed in our local paper the next day notifying locals to be aware of the scam.  You may think that this is just something that happens in larger areas or that it won’t happen to you or your elderly loved ones.  Well let me assure you, it is a very REAL threat and that if it hasn’t happened yet, it more than likely will.

scam-alert

The True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse 2015, reveals “that seniors lose $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse — more than twelve times what was previously reported. It goes on to say that the highest proportion of these losses — to the tune of $16.99 billion a year — comes from deceptive but technically legal tactics designed to specifically take advantage of older Americans.”  So thieves are finding more and more ways to target seniors and they are crooked enough to figure out ways to get away with it.  So what can you do?

 

The first thing is to let someone know if you have been a target!

As the Administrator at my community, I announced (the day of the aforementioned call) as everyone gathered for lunch to please be aware of the threat of SCAMS.  The resident whom I wasn’t going to identify, chimed in to let everyone know what had happened to him.  He said that he wanted them all to be aware.  He told the other residents that he knew something was up when the caller asked for sensitive information and that he knew better than to do that.  He said he asked “the crook” to hold on the line and that was when he muted the call and came to let me know what was going on.  So while things turned out okay in this situation, I think that the other important take away for the day, was that we talked about it so that folks had their radars ready!

 

Be Radar Ready!

Knowledge is power!  Don’t assume that just because YOU know that something sounds

fishy, that others will assume the same.  Often times our older generation was raised to be polite and trusting.  Sadly, these are traits that crooks prey upon.  The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to help protect seniors from scam-logoscam artists and fraud against elders:

  • Warn against the dangers of giving out personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers to someone who has called. Popular scams include promising information on new health miracle product, a charitable donation, or confirmation of a sweepstakes.
  • If someone calls from a “government agency” requesting money, ask for a certified letter on an official letterhead.
  • If a salesperson will not provide written information about his or her company–including the company’s name, address and telephone, do business with someone else.
  • Never make an “on-the-spot” decision. If the person says you have to take the offer immediately or you will miss the opportunity, it is likely a scam. Legitimate companies do not pressure people to act without taking the time to look into the deal.
  • Avoid investments that promise huge profits with no risk. “High-return” investments are not guaranteed and legitimate companies will tell consumers about possible risks involved.
  • Put phone numbers on the National Do Not Call registry by phoning 1 (888) 382-1222 or visiting http://www.donotcall.gov (this will help to limit phone calls from telemarketers.)

Sadly, we live in a day and age where scammers are doing anything they can to rip off anyone they can.  No one demographic is exempt.  Arming our seniors with the valuable information to protect themselves from these predators can help them avoid becoming another senior scam statistic.

Don’t Go Viral

I have to admit I was one of them.  You know the ones that boasted they had NEVER had the flu shot.  Now we would probably have to call my Mom to fact check me on this.  But to date, I have NEVER had the flu either.  But my mind was completely changed on the flu shot in 2010.  Why you ask?  Well, my entire household with the exception of yours truly got hit hard by the nasty flu bug.  How did I dodge the bullet?  Well, that was the first year that I took the shot as recommended by my boss since I had just started working in an assisted living.  The thought of what it meant to get an elderly person sick really made me realize I must do my part.  AND… I believe wholeheartedly the flu shot kept me WELL!!  My family was bedridden for days and I never had a sniffle.  With this week (October 16-22, 2016) being Infection Control Week, I thought it would be a great time to give a few tips to remember in reference to visiting assisted living communities during flu season.

When I missed the flu by getting the flu shot that made me and my family believers in the flu shot.  I have heard nearly every excuse in the book about why folks don’t want to get it.  But hear me out.  Senior citizens have reduced immune systems so they can’t mess around.  Actually, we have already had our flu shot clinic in our community.  The reason being is TIP NUMBER ONE:

  1. According to the CDC getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

The BEST way people!  So all those skeptics need to realize that the flu shot is your best defense.

The CDC goes on to say that flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.

Another important thing to keep in mind during flu season is if you are sick, please avoid visiting assisted living communities.  Sure we want visitors…but sickness that can be passed on is never a welcome guest.  Please come back when you are well!  We would love to see you then.  Honestly, the flu can be life threatening to seniors.  Sure, it’s no picnic for anyone.  But for seniors, it can be quite serious!  So remember TIP NUMBER TWO:

  1. If you have any flu-like symptoms, please take care of your health and come back to visit senior communities when you are well.   

senior-wash-hands

Also, it is extremely important in the infection control process to WASH YOUR HANDS!  Listen Mama was right when she told you to keep your hands clean and keep them to yourself!  During flu season I have even observed folks at church exchange a friendly hello instead of a handshake.  Poor manners…NO!  Good hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that between 50 and 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations every year are attributed to seniors and the over-65 demographic accounts for 90 percent of flu-related deaths annually.  So it is extremely important to do your part in the infection control process.  So follow TIP NUMBER THREE:

  1. Keep hands clean, avoid touching your face and mouth and also cover that cough with a tissue.

senior-sneeze

The CDC gives these infection control suggestions.  “Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.  Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.  Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.”  Following these tips will help better protect you and your loved ones during this flu season.  When it comes to the flu, this is definitely not an area where we want to go viral.

For more information, visit http://www.flu.gov

Think Pink at Any Age

breast-cancer-ladyI would be lying if I said that this was an easy post to write.  As a matter of fact, it is one of those times for me when I am at a loss for words.  No, it doesn’t happen much.  But the harsh reality is that even as I write this post I have had the conviction to stop and check on a friend.  You see, she is at her follow up appointment after finding a lump in her breast and having a biopsy performed.  We all know someone.  Maybe it’s your mother, sister, best friend, aunt or even brother.  It might even be you.  But there is one thing for certain, most of us know someone who has had to fight this terrible disease.  There are many statistics that have been compiled from the ages of those affected to the effectiveness of the treatment.  But one of the most overwhelming and important things that I have seen in the numbers is that early detection and treatment are the most important ammunition in the battle.  Seniors are also at a heightened risk.

According to the National Cancer Institute, 80% of all breast cancer occurs in women over 50, and 60% are found in women over 65. The chance that a woman will get breast cancer increases from 1-in-233 for a woman in her thirties, to a 1-in-8 chance for a woman in her eighties.

Those numbers are alarming for senior woman.  Keep in mind that these numbers are greater for this age bracket for many different reasons.  One is because many in this demographic don’t drive anymore thus making appointments for treatment therapies difficult.

You are still the greatest advocate for your own health at any age so take charge of your breast health by trying the following recommendations:

older-lady-mammo

Be sure to have all three types of breast examinations conducted frequently: self-exam, clinical exam and mammogram. Do the self-exam regularly to look for changes or lumps.   Have a clinician do a yearly exam and request a yearly mammogram screening.

holding-pink-ribbonDon’t let other medical factors or your own age deter you from discussing your breast health with your physician. The American Geriatrics Society recommends regular mammogram screenings for women up to age eighty-five.  Get the screening you are entitled to and know that most insurance companies will pay for annual mammogram screenings.

If breast cancer is detected, there are a number of treatment options available.  Information is power when considering your own breast health. Be an advocate for yourself when it comes to breast cancer awareness.

If the Shoe Fits

As I continue my discussion about falls, I thought I might provide a little comic relief to share my most embarrassing fall.  Picture this.  It’s my little girl’s dance recital dress rehearsal.  Mamas, Grandmas, and some Dads are all up in arms trying to make sure they have their little Susie’s right shoes with the right costume and heaven knows we must have on ENOUGH makeup to be “stage appropriate” too.  Well amongst all this chaos we had a routine (or at least a performer) that was about to be cut because one of our senior level dancers was sick and was not able to partner with the junior performer for this cute little number.  Well as they say “the show must go on” and our ever improvising and quick thinking director called out from the curtain…” Is Heather Bradley in the building”?  SAY WHAT??  Oh dear woman, you do jest.  Nope, she was quite serious.  And within moments this child with big crocodile tears that was about to have to sit out was being twirled and tossed by yours truly.  So I fell on my face on the stage during the routine right?  No…wait for it.  We got through the routine and I was feeling pretty good for a washed up former tap dancer.  So as I slipped back into my wedges and started bounding down the stairs…it happened.  I fell down the steps with such graceless effort that I literally fell flat on my face.  Well, I fell on my hands to be more specific.  My friend Renee said I jumped back up so quickly though that I looked like a cartoon character.  So as I jump up to quickly assure everyone that I am truly okay, I make a discovery.  My shoe is broken, my watch is broken and I soon discover at the ER (where my friend Sam insisted I get checked out when she sees blood coming from my wrist) that my hand is also quite broken.  So when I speak to you about falls, trust me I am a professional.  It takes a pro to fall off a stage in front of an auditorium packed full of people.

shoes

So the shoe.  Let me tell you it was the source of the fall.  So when I tell you that ill-fitting shoes can be a hazard, I know from first-hand experience.  Now granted most elderly adults are not bounding down the steps of a stage.  But if your shoes don’t fit properly you can be stepping off a curb or standing up for that matter and the shoes can become a fall hazard.  Another important thing to consider is foot care.  Many seniors don’t have the ability to trim their toenails anymore.  Throw in the fact that many are diabetic and this adds additional risk and you can see how toenails can wreak havoc and up the ante in the fight against falls.  Foot pain and poor footwear have been cited by the Center for Disease Control as one of the major contributing factors for falls in the elderly.  So be sure that you check your loved ones’ shoes and make sure that they fit well and are in good condition.  Also, check their toenails and see that they are trimmed regularly by someone that knows what they are doing and especially if they are diabetic.  Regular checkups are important, right?  It is equally important to get your feet checked out too!

foot-exam_thumb

Be an advocate if Mom’s feet have been missed in the examination.  Most physicians include this in a comprehensive check.  But believe me, I have seen it be missed.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and make sure that foot health is a consideration.  While my middle aged broken hand healed up nicely after my fall, a fall for a senior can be much more devastating because as we age we become more frail.  Taking proper precautions can help your loved one from being one of the 2.8 million older Americans that is treated in the ER annually for falls.  So be smart and evaluate these issues and it will help everyone keep one foot safely in front of the other.

Falling For You

Before I began working in the senior living industry the word FALL didn’t strike fear into my heart.   No on the contrary it would spark images of leaves turning to brilliant hues of gold and crimson and the sound of them crunching under our feet as me and the neighborhood children would play flag football in the yard.  It would spark memories of the delicious smells of the season from my favorite pumpkin spice candles to Mom’s homemade chili brewing on the stove.  Ah yes, the innocence and tranquility of it all.  But I digress.  And who am I kidding that football usually turned into an all-out brawl anyway.  But seriously FALLS as we know them and how they relate to our seniors are a very big deal!

By the numbers…

  • According to the CDC “each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.”  The CDC also reports that “adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $31 billion annually.  Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total.”

It is imperative that we take measures to try and help prevent falls if at all possible.  Sure this seems very idealistic!  But it is also helpful if we take a practical approach.  You may not can prevent all falls.  But you can take appropriate measures to keep someone safe.  So where do you start?   This is an important question no matter where you live.  Today we will start with the first thing you can do.

Keep your area safe…

I remember a friend from church once asked me to come over and look at their parents’ home and see if anything jumped out at me as to why their parent kept falling.  Walk with me if you will….we start up the concrete steps to the home that has no handrail.  This takes us to the kitchen where a cute blind dog nips at your knees.  We cross down to the living area that is situated on the split level property across from the bathroom.  In the tiny bathroom there is a sliding glass door shower/tub with no handrails and a towel bar that is dangling from the wall.  I can’t make this stuff up.  Did I mention that the home was also poorly lit?  I really couldn’t see why they needed my help discerning the safety issues within this home.  The entire place was a hotbed for concussions and broken hips!  So always ASSESS your FALL RISKS within your living space.

Key things to pay attention to include:

Clutter-get rid of it!  Make sure you don’t have junk making an obstacle course for you to maneuver around.

Lighting-make sure you can see!  Also make use of nightlights.  What you CAN’T see CAN hurt you.

And also watch for HOME HAZARDS such as:

  • broken or uneven steps,
  • throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over, and
  • no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.

There are absolutely multiple risk factors and reasons for falls to occur.  But if you do your best to make sure your space (or your loved one’s space) is as safe as possible, you are increasing your odds of NOT becoming a statistic in the fight against FALLS.

Whenever I See Your Smiling Face

In this day and age, there is literally an app for everything.  If you look for it, you will even find an app for how to tie your shoes.  Seriously!  Now while apps are a great concept, obviously some things can’t take the place of real life application.  But that is where technology steps in!  Working with members of the senior adult population, I find that many of them truly appreciate the marvel and wonder of the Internet, email, and social media.  No, not too many have their own accounts…but some do!  I cannot tell you the number of times I have had children and grandchildren ask to email or text me pictures to share with their family member that lives in our community.  And it is a wonderful feeling to download or even print these images to share with them!  Oh, how they light up to see the face of new great grandbaby or pictures from a graduation.

As we continue our theme of CONNECTING…I encourage families and assisted living professionals alike to embrace the idea of helping your elderly continue to connect!  Now, of course, sending anything or receiving anything must be HIPPA compliant and agreeable by all appropriate parties.  As with all types of communication, you want to respect your resident’s rights and encourage them to navigate safely.  I find that many just want help getting to a certain comfort zone.  We have residents that like to do crossword puzzles or other brain games on their iPads and some just want to be able to see the pictures that a family member emailed or posted on social media.  Another thing that can be valuable for them is reading on electronic devices allows for the font to be much larger that some print books.  Who am I kidding…it helps me too!!

So even if you find that Mom is Facebook savvy or maybe, on the contrary, your Dad wouldn’t touch a computer if you bought him the latest and greatest…do them a favor and strive to KEEP CONNECTED!  And senior living professionals…so long as you have the proper permission paperwork in place, take time to take pictures and send them to your resident’s families.  Pictures don’t have to be just for marketing.  We all have those residents that have family that is far away.  Help close the distance by sending a smiling pic of their loved one.  It will brighten their day and yours!

 

For information on Internet Safety for seniors check out this link from the Department of Homeland Security https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Cybersecurity%20for%20Older%20Americans_0.pdf