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:

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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.

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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

 

 

Eyes (and Ears) on the Prize

School bells are ringing and many children are headed back to class.  But before they break out those new No. 2 pencils, they probably had to have some health checkups.   You are one smart cookie if you know that this is also a good time to get those checkups done for your senior!   No not your son or daughter who plays Varsity sports!  Rather your elderly parent who is planning a move to an assisted living community.

Now you may already know that part of the process to gain admission to an ALF is to have a physical examination completed by your primary care physician.   During this visit the doctor (among other things) will complete the facility paperwork with the potential resident moving to assisted living and in most cases coordinate with the family member to discuss the best care plan to have put into place.   This ensures that the assisted living staff knows the diagnoses, that the resident is free from communicable diseases, etc.  However, I have seen several family members go a step further to make sure that their loved one is set up for success for the transition to assisted living.  And going that extra mile makes a huge difference in most cases.

So what are those extra steps?  It’s as simple as ensuring that your loved ones can see and hear as best as possible.  It is very important thing to talk with them about the importance of their eyesight and their hearing during this time.  As studies show, one half of people age 85 or older have hearing loss.  Also when compared to Americans 18 to 44 years of age, Americans 75 years of age and over are nearly three times as likely to report vision loss.   Therefore it is of utmost importance that they are regularly checked out.  However…you would be surprised how many residents come into assisted living with the same pair of old glasses they were prescribed years ago.  And what did you say???  Their hearing hasn’t been checked in ages.   Say what??  I said THEIR HEARING HASN’T BEEN CHECKED IN AGES!!!  Whew…you get the point.  I have seen residents that shy away from the dinner table because they can’t hear well.  Why you ask?  Well,  if your table mates are trying to talk to you and you are having trouble hearing… this can be cause for confusion and (sadly as I have seen this happen before) embarrassment.  And the reality is in some cases, hearing can be helped by hearing aids or simple wax removal.

Eyesight is super important in the transition as well.  Moving to a new place means maneuvering around a new area.  If you can’t see this can be scary and the recipe for a fall!  So be sure to have Mom’s eyes checked out to be sure her glasses are still the right prescription.  The ALF should care plan any vision issues as to ensure the safest environment as possible.

Sure you are still going to have sight impaired and hearing impaired individuals in assisted living communities.  That’s a no brainer!  Sometimes there is absolutely nothing that can be done for hearing or sight issues and that is okay!  Assisted living staff members are trained on caring for folks with these issues and have ongoing in-services to cater to their needs.  But just as you wouldn’t send Johnny off to school without his supplies…be sure your loved one is ready for the transition to their new community and get their eyes and ears checked out!  That way they can keep their eyes (and ears) on the prize.

No Live Chickens In The Kitchen

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Most of the time when rules are written it is usually because someone along the way created a need for the rule.  In Assisted Living in the State of Alabama did you know that it is against the Alabama Department of Public Health Rules and Regulations to have LIVE chickens in the kitchen?!  I know what you are thinking…well DUH???  But, I have to think that somewhere at sometime someone decided that it was a good call to have a live chicken in the kitchen!  Seriously people??!!  NO!!  But rules are intended to protect.  Rules are a way to keep residents and staff in all buildings safe.  There also things that you can do right from the start to make sure that you are keeping your loved one compliant in their new place.

Packing it Up

When you are figuring out what to move to your loved one’s community it is so important to be familiar with the ADPH Rules and Regulations as well as your facilities’ Policies and Procedures.  This is your first guideline as to what is acceptable.  For instance, it’s good to know that in Alabama that it is prohibited to have open flame heaters or portable heaters in resident rooms because of the potential risk of fires.  In our properties we do not allow throw rugs without non skid backings.  Extension cords that are not grounded or extension cords which cross a walkway or pathway in a resident room are a “no-no” as well.   These prohibited items are because of the fall or safety risk that these items present.  Knowing this up front keeps you from hauling stuff back home.   There are other items that are not allowed.  This link can take you to the Alabama Department of Public Health Rules and Regulations.  Your facility will be more than happy to provide you with another copy of their policies and procedures if you need them as well.  Remember these guidelines are in place to protect.  When you read them, they all make sense and are there for the safety of your loved one.

Medication Roundup

Another hot button topic in the assisted living world is medication.  Yes, assisted living is setup for residents to either manage their own medications or to have staff ASSIST them in the management of their medications and who does the management will be SPECIFICALLY indicated in the Medical Exam and Plan of Care by their PHYSICIAN.  The specifics for how these areas are handled and the “nitty gritty” details as to WHO can do WHAT and HOW are found in the ADPH Rules and Regs and your facilities’ policies and procedures.  One thing I find myself reminding families is that if you are bringing ANY medication into the facility…please make sure that the Administrator and staff are aware of it.  There is certain protocol that must be followed to make sure that we are compliant.  Communicating with your Administrator will help ensure that there is an order for any and all medications and that they are kept in the building according to the rules.  Just dropping off gas chewables in the room because Daddy said he felt gassy is not a minor or acceptable thing.  It is something that must be first run by the Administrator.   Again ANY and ALL medications need to go through the proper channels.  The rules are in place for the safety and protection of everyone.

Leave it at Home

If you have questions or concerns about the things to bring or not to bring your Administrator is more than happy to help.  Keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to follow the pathways to success in assisted living.  Remind family members not to minimize their loved ones feelings about the changes they are facing.  It’s also a good time to remember family to leave the negative feelings at home.   Yes, this is change for everyone in your family.  However, it is important to try and help provide emotional support to the loved one that is facing the move.  Typically senior adults don’t like change.  So do your best to address it with them but keep it positive!   One of the most beautiful things I have experienced is watching other residents in a community reach out and provide emotional support to new members in the community.  They are often times one of the most understanding resources…because they have been there!  So reach out and be positive because a good attitude can be one of those things like the old commercial catch phrase advised…never leave home without it.

Making the Move-Somewhere Over the Rainbow

You have had the tough conversations.  Everyone is on board.  You have found the ideal community and they have a spot that is perfect for your loved one.  Your aging parent has been evaluated and deemed appropriate for assisted living.  So with the completed required physician paperwork in hand you are headed down the yellow brick road to assisted living happiness!  But wait…what exactly DO you DO now?  Daddy HAS to have his favorite chair and Mama isn’t going ANYWHERE without her beloved bedroom furniture.  Sound familiar??  I’ve had multiple residents say the transition was so much easier when their new apartment felt like home because they were able to bring significant pieces from that home with them.  So don’t fret…with courage, heart and the knowledge that you need, you can click your heels together and help your family member get comfortable in their place.

Based on the floor-plan that you choose, you can help them decide what furniture will fit best in their room.  On all of our property webpages and the Great Oaks Management website, you can find the dimensions and layouts for the rooms.  This can help you visualize how you want to set up the area.  As each resident is unique in their personality-their room can and should reflect their style and taste.  Does Dad like having his cup of coffee while sitting in his recliner watching the evening news?  Try taking photos of the current setup for your loved one and trying to match the arrangement as best as possible to set them up for success.

You also want the room to be familiar but also functional.  Reducing clutter and being mindful of any transfer devices such as walkers or wheelchairs is a key component.  Now you don’t want to be considered the “Wicked Witch of the West”!  So don’t get stressed about HOW to start the process.  We have a helpful list below of What To Bring to get you started.

 

For more information about Great Oaks Management and its communities, please visit www.GreatOaksManagement.com.

Getting There – Renting in Retirement

So you find yourself in the unfamiliar waters of helping your aging loved one find a new space to call home.  Before you feel the need to jump ship-take heart!  There are many PROVEN benefits to charting the course towards the move to an assisted living community.

The first step in helping your family member tip their toe into the water is reminding them of the commitment.  Based on the reality of the service that is being provided in assisted living, it doesn’t make sense for communities to require long term commitments.  This is miles apart from sending the kids off to college.  So that means you are not talking six month or year long leases.  Don’t get me wrong it’s not uncommon for someone to live in a community for a long time.   We have had residents live in our properties for 10-15 years.  But the beauty of our assisted living contracts is that they offer the option of a 30 day notice.  Now that’s enough to make everyone breathe a sigh of relief. Taking away the anxiety of “buyers remorse” helps you and your loved one feel much easier about the reality of making the transition to an assisted living community and sets the course for smoother sailing.  It also opens the door to the discussion of the possibility of what day to day life can look like for Mom or Dad in a community.   Setting the course towards the goal of getting there now becomes more approachable and less daunting.

Balance Problems

Have you ever felt suddenly dizzy or felt the room spinning or you feel light headed?  It is a very scary sensation when it happens.  You are not alone; you may be one of 33 million Americans who had a balance problem in the past year.  Balance problems are one of the most common reasons senior adults seek medical care each year.

Good balance is important, especially in senior adults as it often leads to falls and more serious injuries.  An intact sense of balance allows us to do simple things like walk without staggering, get up from a chair without falling or bend over to pick something up without falling. Often issues with the inner ear create problems with balance, or cause dizziness or feeling light headed.

Weight loss can also contribute to balance issues, especially in senior adult women.  Weight loss, even a small amount, can shift our center of gravity and cause balance issues, especially when standing up from a chair.  This can often lead of falls in senior adults.

Good balance is important to our ability to get around, stay active and independent.  If you are having concerns about dizziness, light headedness or feeling unsteady, especially when rising from a chair, talk to your primary care provider.

I’m Afraid My Parents Are Forgetting To Take Their Medications

As our parents age, we often become concerned that they aren’t able to manage simple things, like remembering to take their medications.  Sometimes remembering to take medications is especially hard if our loved one has chronic health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure and takes several medications each day.  What can we do when we are concerned that our parents are forgetting to take their medications?

An easy first step is a trip to the physician to make sure that the medications our parents have are the ones they need to take.  When going with our parents to see their physician, be sure to take all the medications in their original prescription container for review by the physician.  Ask the physician if all the medications are necessary and also if it’s possible to schedule them to be taken no more than twice per day.  Simplifying how many times each day medications have to be taken will help streamline the process.

After the medications are reviewed and streamlined as much as possible, invest in a medication organizer.  These are inexpensive and available at most drug stores.  Fill the organizer with the medications for the appropriate time of day and familiarize your parents with how to use them.  Using the organizer shows at a glance whether medications have been taken and make keeping up with the correct dose much easier.  When looking for an organizer, make sure to obtain one that your parents can easily open and close and make sure that the dose times correspond to the dose times on the prescriptions.  For the first few days using the organizer, a reminder phone call may also be helpful.

If medication organizers, phone call reminders and other steps have failed, it may be time to consider an assisted living community.  Assisted living communities’ help individuals remember to take their medications at the time and correct dose ordered by their physician.  They also monitor individuals for any problems with medications and notify the physician and family if there is a problem.  This is especially important if the individual has chronic health problems.

 

For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com!

Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Appointment: How to Prepare for Your Visit

In today’s healthcare climate, we often find the time that our physicians are able to spend with us during our visits are short and can feel rushed.  There are things we can do to make the most of our time with our physician and that will help our physician in working with us to plan our care.  Below is a list of 5 things to do to prepare for next physician appointment:

  1. In preparing for our visit, gather any information from visits to other healthcare providers since our last visit with our primary care physician. Any test results, reports or other paperwork is important to share with your primary care physician.
  2. All prescription medications, in their original bottle should be brought to each physician visit. Point out any new medications that may have been prescribed by another healthcare provider so your physician can add it to your record.
  3. A list of all over the counter medications, vitamins, herbs or other supplements you are taking.
  4. A list of any new health problems you are having or questions. We often get into the physician office and completely forget to tell our provider about new health problems.
  5. Ask questions. If your physician discusses something that isn’t clear or sounds confusing, ask questions or ask for more information.

Our physicians are our partner in helping us improve or maintain our health.  It is important that we share information that our physician needs to have a full picture of our needs and any medications or supplements we are taking.  Writing down our questions before the visit will help us remember the things we are concerned about and will make sure our physician has a chance to address our questions.  Preparing in advance will help make the most of our time with our physician.

 

For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com!

Mom Is Forgetting Things, Could She Have Dementia?

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Everyone is forgetful from time to time especially when it comes to things like remembering where we put the car keys or forgetting to pick up something at the grocery store.  Adults over 65 say they are more forgetful than when they were younger, sometimes having a “senior moment” when they forget something.

Occasional forgetfulness is different than dementia and as our parents age, sometimes we wonderful is the forgetfulness we see is a part of the natural aging process or the beginning of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  As the child of a senior adult, how will I know the difference?

Research has shown that the early warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may begin to occur years before our parents get the diagnosis, sometimes as much as 10-15 years before the diagnosis.  That’s why it is important to pay attention to early signs of forgetfulness and consider a trip to the physician for a medical work up if we are concerned about the possibility that our parents may be developing dementia.  Forgetting a friends name or missing a lunch date is something that people without dementia do from time to time. Someone with early dementia, though, might repeatedly forget names or plans, and forget all about the incident soon afterward. It may seem strange but while someone with early dementia may forget something that happened the previous evening, they may recall in detail events that happened in the more distant past, last year, say, or during their childhood.

The Alzheimer’s Association has published a list of 10 warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  They are:

  1. Forgetfulness and memory loss
  2. Lack of concentration and confusion
  3. Losing things
  4. Difficulty doing familiar tasks
  5. Language and speaking problems
  6. Problems with simple math
  7. Poor judgment
  8. Personality changes and mood swings
  9. Changes in grooming and personal hygiene
  10. Withdrawing from friends and family

If you are concerned about your parent, make an appointment to see their primary care physician.  There are medications available which slow the progression of some forms of dementia, but they work better if they start early in the disease.