Beat the Heat

As I write I have been watching the rain fall onto the scorching blacktop streets of my neighborhood.   It feels good on the porch in the evenings.  But, the middle of the day is a bit unbearable for me.  Summertime is no joke in Alabama.  I remember moving South the summer of 1985.  July to be exact.  Being that I moved from way up North…it seriously took me two entire weeks for my system to adjust.  Heat is not anything for anyone to play around with. It can be particularly concerning for the elderly.  Here are some tips to help our seniors keep their cool this summer.

Drink Up! The key to staying healthy is to stay hydrated!  Drink eight or more 8-ounce glasses per day of water every day.  Be aware of the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The most common signs of dehydration in the elderly are thirst, confusion, irritability and poor skin elasticity.  So, don’t wait…HYDRATE!

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Block the Rays!  Protect your skin from sun damage by wearing hats, sunglasses and don’t forget the sunscreen!  Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.  Remember as we age, our skin becomes more sensitive to the sun.

 

Dress for Sunny Success!  When selecting what to wear go with loose-fitting clothes in light colors that will reflect the sun and heat instead of darker colors that will absorb heat.  This will help you avoid a sunburn and stay cool.

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It’s important to know that extreme heat can wreak havoc on older adults.  According to healthinaging.org, “Every summer, nearly 200 Americans die of health problems caused by high heat and humidity. Hot weather is more likely to cause health problems for older adults for a variety of reasons. These reasons include aging-related physical changes in the body, chronic health conditions, and even side effects of taking some medications.”  Remember heat and dehydration may make seniors more prone to dizziness and falls and can cause/increase confusion. But the proper precautions can help set them up for success. If the heat is too extreme…stay inside with air conditioning!  Keep you and your elderly loved ones safe this summer and do your part to help them beat the heat.

Medication Matters

June is National Safety Month. For seniors, safety takes on many different shapes. In Assisted Living, we find that some of these safety issues are the primary reasons families will reach out for help for their elderly loved ones.  One of the primary safety concerns is that of medications.

Heads on Meds

If you are worried that your loved one is not taking their medications as prescribed…or too much…or not at all…then it may be time to consider assisted living.  We all know that misuse of medications can cause all sorts of problems, or in some serious cases even death. Assisted Living communities can provide residents with assistance with their daily and as needed medications.  Residents must meet the requirements for admission to a community, including being able to identify your name on your medications. Staff are trained to assist residents in taking their meds using the:

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  • The right route.
  • The right time.
  • The right resident.
  • The right documentation.

Medication management also helps prevent against a loved one taking a medication that has expired.. Looking out for the safety of your elderly loved ones in regards to their meds is one way that residing in an assisted living can help families find peace of mind.

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For more information on one of our assisted living communities visit our website:

www.greatoaksmanagement.com

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.

 

Thankful

November is typically the month where we stop and give thanks.  This year in our community we have a Thankful Tree.  Thanks to the talent and creativity of my staff members, this beautiful notion has come to life.  But the real beauty that you will find are the comments that are attached to the branches of this tree.  Residents and staff have given thanks for everything from health and happiness to family and friendship.  So, as our hearts and minds turn to the holiday season, here are some suggestions to help you prepare for those times we treasure the most.  Thinking ahead will make you thankful you did when it comes to sharing the holidays with your loved one that lives in an assisted living.

Stick to the Schedule

I have had families tell me time and time again that they were amazed that their parent was ready to go back home (to their ALF community) almost immediately after Thanksgiving or Christmas lunch or supper was over.  While they were surprised, in many ways it was comforting for them.  They realize that their loved one had made their community their home.  I am reminded of my own Granddaddy.  He was a man of routine.  He didn’t vary much from his schedule.  That is what I remind the families of our residents.  They have the tendency in some cases to become creatures of habit.  Trust me…they like a decent dose of predictability.  Don’t believe me?  Try canceling bingo!  But just try and be as flexible as possible with their expectations.  Plan ahead when it comes to medications and other necessities.  If you are prepared in advance it will be more Norman Rockwell and less National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

Don’t forget to Include Me!

Does Mom have a recipe for everyone’s favorite Caramel Cake?  Does Grandpa have a story that he loves to tell?  If you have ever had to suffer the loss of a loved one, you know that things like this will one day become a treasured memory.  If Mom is able, include her in some of the preparation process for the meal.  Or even just ask her advice.  Everyone likes to feel included.  Maybe you have heard Grandpa Pete’s story about his days in the war a hundred times.  Maybe this year is the time to write it down.  In our culture, we get so caught up in being in a hurry.  Heaven knows we all can be glued to electronics.  Take time to turn off and tune in to loved ones.  Your conversations will be priceless to you one day.

Conversation Starters

While the holidays can be a time for sadness for some, it is best to keep conversation light.  But many forget that while seniors may be older, they still like to engage.  We all love looking at pictures on our social media accounts, right?  Share with your elderly loved one the photos from the high school playoffs or the trip to the pumpkin patch.  The pictures can be made large enough for their viewing on most devices.  You may even want to let everyone in your family go around the room and tell what they are thankful for.  You may find as we did with our Thankful Tree that what you hear will bless you more than you ever imagined.

Great Oaks Management communities will observe holiday meals during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  If you would like to join your loved one for a meal, call and make your reservation today. 

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.

Mom’s Doctor Says She Has Dementia. Are There Medications To Help?

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Getting that initial diagnosis of Dementia is often such a shock, it may take some time to begin to gather information and formulate a plan with your physician.  While the medications available today don’t cure dementia, they can help lessen the symptoms like memory loss or confusion.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications cholinesterase inhibitors like Aricept, Exelon and Razadyne and memantine (Namenda) to treat cognitive symptoms of dementia like memory loss, confusion and problems thinking and reasoning.  While these medications can’t stop the damage done by dementia, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages in the brain’s nerve cells.

Cholinesterase Inhibitors: Prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine a chemical messenger important for learning and memory.  There are three medications in this category:

  • Aricept: Approved to treat all stages of Dementia, delays worsening of symptoms for 6-12 months on average.
  • Razadyne: Approved to treat mild to moderate Dementia.
  • Exelon: Approved to treat mild to moderate stages of dementia. Same type of drug, but comes in a patch.

Memantine: Regulates the activity of glutamate, a different messenger chemical involved in learning and memory.  There is one medication in this category.

  • Namenda: Approved to treat moderate to severe dementia.

A New combination drug: Namzaric has just become available in 2015This medication is a combination of Aricept and Namenda for moderate to severe Dementia.

If you or a loved one has gotten a diagnosis of dementia, talk to your doctor about which medication would be the best fit to help lessen the symptoms of the disease.  If the doctor prescribes one of these medications, make sure the medication is taken as directed by the doctor and make sure to let the doctor know how the medication is working.

What Is An Advanced Directive And Do I Need One?

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None of us like to think that a time may come when we have a medical emergency, but are unable to tell the healthcare team what our wishes are.  An Advanced Directive is a document that can speak for us when we are unable to speak for ourselves and tell a healthcare team and our family our wishes.

An Advance Directive describes the kind of treatment you would want depending on how sick you are. For example, the Advanced Directive would describe what kind of care you want if you have an illness that you are unlikely to recover from, or if you are permanently unconscious. Advance Directives usually tell your doctor that you don’t want certain kinds of treatment.

There are several kinds of Advanced Directives.  A Living Will is one type of advance directive. It is a written, legal document that describes the kind of medical treatments or life-sustaining treatments you would want if you were seriously or terminally ill. A Living Will doesn’t let you select someone to make decisions for you.  A durable power of attorney for health care is another kind of advance directive. A durable power of attorney for healthcare states whom you have chosen to make health care decisions for you. It becomes active any time you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions. A durable power of attorney for healthcare is generally more useful than a living will, but a durable power of attorney for healthcare may not be a good choice if you don’t have another person you trust to make these decisions for you.

Any time you go for healthcare, your healthcare provider will probably ask if you have an Advanced Directive.  If you do execute an Advanced Directive, make sure that your primary healthcare provider has a copy in your record.  More importantly, discuss you wishes with your family.  It is important that your family understand your wishes and can be supportive of the healthcare decisions you wish.  Spelling out our wishes makes it more likely that they will be followed, and it also lessens the likelihood of conflict within the family when difficult decisions need to be made.