Celebrating Mom

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.

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Dealing With Diabetes

Both average life expectancy and the prevalence of diabetes are continuing to rise.

For seniors, type 2 diabetes is a growing problem, and a larger proportion of newly diagnosed diabetics are older in age. Treating and diagnosing diabetes amongst the elderly can be a challenge. Since April is National Defeat Diabetes Month, let’s look at how this impacts seniors specifically.

So, what are some differences in diagnosing diabetes among the elderly when compared to diabetes in the young?

1. Elderly people who are at risk of developing diabetes, or who have already developed the disease, may not exhibit the classic symptoms expected.

2. Age-related changes can mean that some symptoms will be masked, or harder to spot.

All diabetes complications can occur amongst older patients. Cognitive complications are more common amongst the elderly. Further problems may include pre-existing or co-existing health problems. Many elderly diabetic patients are pre-disposed to hypoglycemia. Understanding diabetes is an important step. Education, of both the patient and caregiver, can be important in recognizing warning signs before a crisis occurs.

According to the American Diabetes Association, “Diabetes is a common disease, yet every individual needs unique care. We encourage people with diabetes and their families to learn as much as possible about the latest medical therapies and approaches, as well as healthy lifestyle choices. Good communication with a team of experts can help you feel in control and respond to changing needs.” It is important to have regular checkups with your primary care physician and communicate any concerns. Dealing with diabetes will be so much easier when you have a team approach.

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!

 

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.