Family is Forever

The past two weeks we have been collecting pictures of our residents to do a game of “Guess Who” as a part of our National Assisted Living Week celebrations.  It has been such a joy for families and residents to share their pictures from “way back when”.  It has caused me to pause and reflect on life.  When our residents think of themselves, they may picture that younger self that served in the Army or was a homemaker or helped on the farm.  Their children may envision the Mom or Dad that helped shape their childhood and their memories of growing up.  To the staff at the communities that these folks live in now, we may see them differently.  But it is always wise to stop, look back and remember.  As we all age we may see ourselves in many different lights.  We grow and become many things to many people.  So have our residents.  As we celebrate National Assisted Living Week and the beauty that comes from this environment, I want us all to remember that each of us has a history and we impact so many different people.  The theme of National Assisted Living Week is Family is Forever.  I know for me over the last 8 times that I have celebrated this week that it has seen many different faces and many different memories.  I have helped crown many different Kings and Queens of the Gardens.  But I think that what I realize today that each year…my family has grown.  Sometimes it can be hard to let people into your life with the understanding that they may not be able to stay for long.  But as Garth Brooks once sang, “I could have missed the pain, but then I could have missed the dance.”  Thank you assisted living for what you have meant to me and my family.  I know my family has grown forever and my heart is much more full as a result.

 

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The Greatest Gift

Have you ever considered working or volunteering with seniors? One of the greatest joys that an individual can experience is to be able to enjoy the work that they do. Working in assisted living, is not a career it is a calling. One of the first things that I tell potential employees in the interview process is that if you don’t feel that you have the capacity to truly care about the folks that live in our communities…then this is probably not the career for you. In this setting we get to help the residents that live in our communities, but many times we receive more of a blessing from them, than we could possibly ever give. As we approach National Assisted Living Week, I have had many different people from many different walks of life ask what they can do that the residents would enjoy. While there are multiple ways or even multiple things that I have seen bring joy to the faces of residents through the years…there is one that stands out as having the most impact. It is time. Here is a short list of things that you can do that can make someone’s day in an assisted living community.

Share your talents! If you sing, dance, play guitar or whatever gift you have plan a day to come and share with our seniors.

Take time to play! Do you love dominoes? Are you a whiz at Skip Bo? Are you great at calling Bingo? Stop in and spend some time playing games with a group. It will be good for you and them too?

Are you a chatterbox? Even the gift of gab is appreciated. Be prepared to listen too! Our folks love to talk and share.

***Here are some additional ideas that I really like from sharethegood.org

Uncover THEIR skills: If you don’t already know the kind of career your friend had, find out! Ask questions about their biggest lessons or favorite moments. Don’t forget to ask them about their skills and hobbies outside the job, too—sewing, woodworking, writing. Request that they teach you a thing or two.

Log the memories: Bring along a photo album, scrapbook or journal on your visit, and encourage your friend to sit and compile their memories with you. Use narrative, photos, captions, doodles and more. You’ll be turning their oral stories into a documented history book in no time!

Make some artwork: Turn select pages of your memory book into wall art for their room. Simply photocopy the best pages with photos and captions, then hang them up so your friend can continuously recall good times. Plus, colorful photos are sure to brighten any room.

It truly is the time that is given in each of these opportunities that is appreciated the most. Look for ways that you can volunteer and stop by and see us. You can coordinate your visit with your local community administrator. They may have other ideas that can make your visit a success as well. If you are looking for employment opportunities, check out our individual community pages. You can see current openings and get other information by clicking on the career section of the websites.

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Conversations with Betty

Assisted living is more than just a place to live.  But for one family, it is actually a tradition.  Resident Betty Sutton shared a picture with us recently of her mother at the Gardens of Eufaula.  The part that makes this story so unique is that her late Mother was also a former resident at the Gardens of Eufaula.  We sat down with Betty and asked her a few questions about her unique perspective as a former sponsor and now resident at the Gardens of Eufaula.  Here is our five question Q & A session.

 

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Question:  Betty, what is your fondest memory of your Mom at the Gardens of Eufaula?

 

Answer:  “I loved how we celebrated her birthdays at the Gardens!  My late son Chip would bring his grill and he would cook for everyone and we would have a wonderful time.  Birthdays are always special at the Gardens.”

 

Question:  What was something that you remember that your Mom enjoyed at GOE?

 

Answer:  “My Mother made a very special friend named Mrs. Teal when she lived at the Gardens.  They were so close and it was so sweet to see their bond.  I remember coming to pick Mother up to go for a ride and her always insisting that Mrs. Teal ride with us.  We took many trips out for ice cream and even to see Christmas lights.  We had a ball!”

 

Question:   What is your favorite part about living at the Gardens?

 

Answer:  “My new “sorority sisters” that I have met at the Gardens that I affectionately call the “Golden Girls”.  These ladies out here are such fun.  We love to pick at each other.  They are really special to me.”

 

Question:  What do you like at the Gardens that really surprised you?

 

Answer:  I was truly surprised how much I would enjoy the friends that I have made.  That may sound odd, but I have many wonderful friends and never imagined that I would find more that would become so dear to me.”

 

Question:  What would you tell someone that might be considering moving to an assisted living?

 

Answer:  “I would tell them to go ahead and take the leap.  You will surprise yourself how well you will adjust.  I know I did.  Don’t hesitate if you have the opportunity to move here.”

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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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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.