What Do I Look For When Choosing An Assisted Living For My Mom?

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The process of finding an assisted living environment for your Mom usually begins when you become concerned that your Mom isn’t safe at home alone. This is often an emotional decision and for many adult children, it’s an area where they have little experience or in many cases, really don’t know where or how to start a search.

One first step is to make a list of the areas where your Mom may need help to stay as independent as possible.  Some common areas are help with medications, help bathing or getting dressed, or assistance with ambulation.  Perhaps your Mom isn’t as involved in social activities as she used to be.  Some of our parents aren’t eating well or are skipping meals.

Once you have your list of areas where your Mom needs extra help, explore what senior living options are available in your area.  The Internet is a great place to start and most assisted living communities have websites with information on services offered, apartment sizes and activities and outings offered by the community.

When you see a community that looks like a match for your Mom, call and schedule a visit.  When visiting an assisted living community, be keenly aware of your first impressions.  Is the staff happy and engaged with the seniors who live there?  Are the senior adults happy and engaged in fun social activities?  Are the senior adults appropriately groomed and attired?  Ask the staff how long they have worked at the community; ask the senior adults how they like living there.  Try to schedule your visit during or near meal times.  How does the food look?  Ask the staff how they handle senior food preferences.  Is there assistance with transportation for physician appointments and group outings?  What is the visitor policy; can you drop in unannounced at any time you like?  Can your Mom bring her pet?

If you initial impression is positive, drop back in unannounced.  How do things look when no one knows you are dropping in?  It’s often good to do this late in the day and will give you a better picture of what level of staff is available after traditional “business hours”.  If this visit is positive, schedule a time for your Mom to come to the community and spend a few hours, perhaps eating a meal with the other senior adults and getting a chance to meet some of her potential new neighbors.

When starting your search, identify what services and supports your Mom needs first and then look for a welcoming, safe community that will meet those needs.  Again, your first impressions are important and often key to a successful transition for your Mom.

For more information about assisted living, visit us at GreatOaksManagement.com.

How Will I Know When It’s Time For Mom To Move To Assisted Living?

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As the adult child of senior parents, we often find our roles reversed as we try to help our parents navigate the challenges of getting older.  We find ourselves accompanying them to physician appointments, researching chronic health problems on line and worrying about our parents.  Often we reach a point where we become concerned about our parents safety in living alone and we just aren’t sure what the next step is.  How will I know when it’s time for my Mom to leave her home and move into assisted living?

We usually begin asking ourselves this question when we discover our Mom isn’t able to manage some part of her life in the same way she did previously.  It might be that she isn’t eating well, forgetting to take her medications, has fallen at home, or is just lonely living alone.  Whatever the issue that causes us to become concerned, there is an objective test that we can use to determine if it’s time to make the move.  Below is a quick series of questions to ask yourself (or your Mom) to help make that determination:

YES   NO    Am I bored and lonely at times?

YES   NO    Does my social life revolve around the TV?

YES   NO    Is my circle of friends shrinking?

YES   NO    Could I use more exercise?

YES   NO    Is home maintenance a burden?

YES   NO    Do I avoid driving at night or should I stop driving?

YES   NO    Are housekeeping chores not as easy as they used to be?

YES   NO    Am I caring for a spouse and it’s wearing me out?

YES   NO    Am I eating poorly? Have my eating habits changed?

YES   NO    Am I eating alone?

YES   NO    Do I worry about needing help and not getting it in time?

YES   NO    Do I want to enjoy better health?

YES   NO    Am I relying on friends and family to do things for me?

YES   NO     Is it creating a burden for them?

YES   NO     Do I sometimes forget to take my medication?

If you or your Mom answered Yes to any of the questions above, it may be time to start looking at senior living options, especially assisted living.  While it is stressful to bring up this topic, getting your Mom in a safe place where she can thrive will make your relationship better.  Helping your Mom see that she isn’t giving up her independence, she is actually moving to a place where she can be more independent because she will have extra supports to help her.  Almost 100% of senior adults moving into assisted living comment within the first week “I wish I’d done this sooner”!

For more information, please visit us at GreatOaksManagement.com.

The Importance of Socialization and How It Affects Brain Health

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It’s a good practice to remind us of that there is always something we can do to keep our brain healthy.  While we all read lots of information about eating right and exercising as ways to stay physically healthy, several recent research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and a healthy brain in senior adults.  The same studies showed that social isolation and limited contacts with others increased the likelihood of both poor physical health and the development of dementia in senior adults.  A summary of some of the findings are:

  • Social relationships are consistently associated with bio-markers of good health.
  • Positive indicators of social well-being may be associated with lower levels of interleukin-6 in otherwise healthy people. Interleukin-6 is an inflammatory factor implicated in age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer.
  • Some grandparents feel that caring for their grandchildren makes them healthier and more active. They experience a strong emotional bond and often lead a more active lifestyle, eat healthier meals, and may even reduce or stop smoking.
  • Social isolation constitutes a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality, especially in older adults.
  • Loneliness may have a physical as well as an emotional impact. For example, people who are lonely frequently have elevated systolic blood pressure.

Worried about your parents?  Look for senior centers in the area where you parents live.  Senior centers offer daily social opportunities for senior adults and often provide assistance with transportation in rural areas.  Check out the Church your parents attend.  Many Churches have Senior Adult groups which offer at least a monthly social interaction opportunity.

If your parents like to read, check out the local Library web site.  Many local Libraries have book clubs which meet weekly and share their thoughts on the latest books.  This kind of activity will not only offer a social interaction opportunity, it will also foster a favorite hobby.  Bring the Grand-kids to visit.  Research shows that interacting with children improves the overall health of senior adults.  If the Grand-kids are far away, check out local day care’s for an opportunity for your parents to drop in occasionally to read a book to the children there.

The important thing is don’t give up.  Senior parents are often reluctant to venture out and try new things.  Focusing on how this will help them with their memory and brain health just may be the ticket to getting them involved.

When is it time for Mom to stop driving?

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We all remember how we felt when we got our driver’s license as a teenager, that feeling of “being a grownup”, that sense of independence.  Becoming a licensed driver is the first taste of independence that most experience.  Conversely, when is it time to stop driving?  This question is a difficult one as most of us would see this as a serious loss of independence.  The question looms even larger when the driver is our parent.

Not being able to drive raises practical questions; “how will Mom get to her physician appointments or the grocery store”?  It can also represent another loss at a time of life already buffeted by major losses — of independence, health, and lifelong friends and loved ones.  For practical and emotional reasons, then, giving up driving is a transition that everyone involved wishes to put off as long as possible. It’s no wonder that many adult children and spouses say that taking away the car keys was among the hardest things they ever had to do.  Still, if you are concerned about your Mom and her ability to drive, it’s important not to ignore it.

Below are some questions to ask to help you decide if it’s time for your Mom to stop driving:

  1. Take a drive with your Mom and observe her driving skills. Does she seem anxious; does she lean forward in the seat and appear worried?
  2. Pay attention to see if she is reluctant to drive. Does driving make her nervous or uncomfortable?
  3. Watch for slowed response time when driving.
  4. Notice her awareness of the driving environment. Does she tailgate; does she drift into another lane?
  5. When she’s not with you, walk around her car and look for signs of damage.
  6. If you’ve noticed some problems with driving, ask her if she has gotten any tickets or if her car insurance rates have gone up.
  7. Check with her trusted friends and neighbors. They may not feel comfortable reaching out to you, but if you approach them and they have concerns, they will likely tell you what the issues are.
  8. Does your Mom have health problems that cause weakness or tremors? Does she have problems with vision loss due to glaucoma or macular degeneration?  Does she have hearing loss that may make it hard for her to notice horns or emergency vehicle sirens?

If you notice problems with any of the items listed above, it’s time to sit down and talk to your Mom about what you see.  Expect that Mom will have objections and try to minimize any of the problems you notice.  Remember, this is an issue that will make Mom feel like she is losing her independence.  Be prepared for a long discussion and keep reiterating your concern for her safety.  Also be prepared to address how she can access transportation for basic activities of daily living like trips to the grocery, physician, Church or other events.  It may take several conversations, but be persistent.  In the end, your primary concern if her safety.

Healthy Eating

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It’s no secret that eating healthy is probably a great life choice to make, no matter your age.  But did you know that age does become a factor when selecting which healthy foods are consumed?  Sodium, added sugars, and solid fats become items that need to be monitored more closely as we get older.  You might be asking “Well then what should I be eating?”.  That is what we are going to talk about today!

Nutrients to Know

There are five main food types that the body needs to stay healthy: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, and water.

  • Proteins – Often called the building blocks of the body, good proteins include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Carbohydrates – These are broken into two categories: Simple and Complex. Simple carbs include fruits, vegetables, and milk products as well as honey and sugar. Complex carbs are in breads, cereals, pasta, rice, beans, peas, potatoes, and corn.
  • Fats – These are broken down into four groups: Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, Saturated, and Trans fats.  Monounsaturated fats are in canola, olive, peanut, and safflower oils as well as avocados, peanut butter, and some nuts/seeds. Polyunsaturated fats are found in corn, soybean, and flaxseed oil as well as in fatty fish, walnuts, and some seeds. Saturated fats are found in red meat, milk products like butter, palm oil, and coconut oil.  Regular cheese, pizza, and grain or dairy based desserts are also a souce.  Trans fats are found in stick margarine and vegetable shortening.
  • Vitamins – These help the body grow as well as regulate it.  There are 13 vitamins: C, A, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate). These can be found in vitamins/vitamin supplements as well as in some foods.
  • Minerals – These help the body function.  Some important minerals include iodine, flouride, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Eating a varied diet is the best way to ensure a healthy mineral intake.
  • Water – Seems like a no-brainer, right?  You would be surprised how often health problems can be traced back to dehydration.  Research indicates that seniors are far more likely to experience adverse health effects from insufficient levels of fluid than younger adults. On average, seniors have 10% less fluid in their bodies compared to younger adults.  To read more about staying hydrated, check out our blog post on that topic here!

Here we gave you just a small overview of ways to eat healthier as you age.  If you want to learn more, visit the National Institute on Aging.

For more information on our company Great Oaks Management and senior living communites, visit us at www.greatoaksmanagement.com.

Laughter is Important

No matter your age, language, physical, or mental capabilities one thing is certain:  Laughter transcends all barriers.  It is universally shared among everyone.  If someone is laughing, it is understood that something must be funny to the person laughing and we all want in on the fun!  Even the most uptight people chuckle every now and then.  But laughter does more than provide an escape for the moment; it also has health benefits as well.

What Happens When I Laugh?

There are a number of positve responses that are triggered by laughter:

  • Your entire body relaxes, which relieves muscle tension and stress
  • Cortisol (stress horomone) levels drop, minimizing pain and inflammation throughout the entire body.
  • Endorphins are released.  Endorphins are a natural substances that makes you feel happy and content.  They have also been proven to reduce the perception of physical pain.
  • Blood Pressure levels are reduced and heart rate, blood circulation, and oxygen intake are all increased.
  • Laughter releases T-Cells and salivary immunoglobin A which both stimulate the immune system.
  • Improves overall sense of well-being
  • Stimulates both sides of the brain, which enhances learning.
  • It reduces psychological stress, which keeps the brain alert and allows for the retention of more information.

So rememember to smile today!  Make someone laugh or find some time in the day to seek out something that makes you chuckle.  It does not matter how old you are, you are never too old to laugh!  So go look for humor everyday and find something to laugh about. Remember, it’s good for you!

More Information:

GreatOaksManagement.com

 The Connection between Laughter, Humor, and Good Health.

Bob Hope Jokes and Humor

Everyday Wisdom

Why Flu Vaccines Matter for Seniors

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Flu Basics

Influenza, commonly know as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by influenza viruses.  Common symptoms include: chills, fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headaches, couging, weakness/fatigue, and general discomfort.  Though it is often confused with the common cold, influenza is actually a severe disease.

How Does It Spread?

Influenza is usually transmitted through the air by coughs or sneezes, creating aerosols carrying the virus.  People that have the flu can spread it to others as far as 6 feet away.  People who have the flu become contagious 1 day before symptoms start to show and can be contagious up to 7 days after becoming sick.  Symptoms begin 1 to 4 days after infection.  That means that you can pass the flu to someone else before you know you are evens sick.  

Seniors and the Flu

People 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu.  It is estimated that 90% of seasonal flu-related deaths and between 50%-60% of flu-related hospitalizations in the US happen to people 65 years and older.  This is due to a drop in immune defenses that come with age.

Actions to Take

The best action is to get a flu vaccination.  It is extrememly important for people 65 years and older due to a higher risk for complications from influenza.  There are two flu shots available- a regular dose and new vaccine that contains a higher dose, designed with seniors in mind.  Studies have indicated that the higher dose vaccine was 24.2% more effective in preventing flu in seniors.

Other actions include practicing good health habits which include: covering coughs, washing hands often, and avoiding people who are sick.  If you develop flu symptoms, please seek medical advice quickly to determine whether treatment is needed.

For more information on Influenza, click here.

For more information on Assited Living and Senior Care, please visit us at GreatOaksManagment.com.

The Importance of Staying Hydrated

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I remember going to stay with my grandparents during the summer when I was growing up.  They had a farm and I would spend the days playing outside and “helping” (see: tagging along and asking a myriad of questions) my grandfather with his daily duties.  Whenever I became thirsty and would ask for something to drink he would give me a bottle of water from his truck or the fridge in his workshop.  Like most kids, I would have preferred that water to be some kind of delicious, syrupy carbonated drink instead but I would drink it anyways.

When we would come inside, my grandmother would have two glasses of ice water waiting for us on the counter.  She would ask if we made sure we had been staying hydrated.  As a child, I didn’t really understand the importance of hydration but as I got older and involved in sports I quickly saw the value of drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

I understand that staying hydrated is always going to be a good practice, no matter the age.  In fact, now I ask my grandparents if they are staying hydrated.  Hydration is a key factor in helping seniors lead safer, healthier lives.

 Research indicates that seniors are far more likely to experience adverse health effects from insufficient levels of fluid than younger adults.  As such, they are also more prone to dehydration.  Changes in their bodies related to aging makes it more difficult for seniors to retain water.  On average, seniors have 10% less fluid in their bodies compared to younger adults.

So why should seniors stay hydrated?

5 Reasons to Stay Hydrated:

  • Medical Conditions and Illnesses – Certain medical conditions like influenza, high blood sugar, and digestive problems are more common in seniors and can contribute to poor water retention and dehydration.
  • Medications – Most medications that seniors take are diuretics, which can increase fluid loss.  Medications for high blood pressure, kidney, liver, and heart disease also play a part.
  • Decreased in Renal Function – Kidney function, in general, declines with age and becomes less sensitive to the anti-diuretic hormone our body produces to regulate water balance.
  • Inconvenience of Going to the Bathroom – Incontinence, weak bladders, and frequent urination can cause seniors to be reluctant to consume large amounts of fluids.  As seniors become less mobile, going to the bathroom becomes more of a hassle which also adds to a decline in fluid consumption.
  • Decline in Thirst Response Mechanisms – Studies show that the region of our brain responsible for detecting hydration and controlling thirst levels becomes less active with age, causing seniors to underestimate their level of dehydration.

Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization among people over 65.  So what can we do to ensure that they are consuming the appropriate amount of fluids every day?

Tips for Increasing Hydration Levels:

  • Encourage Fruit and Vegetables with Every Meal – Fruits and vegetables contain over 75% of water as well as essential vitamins and minerals.  Two or three servings of fruits or vegetables with every meal will increase fluid levels.
  • Creative Water Breaks – Look for opportunities to offer water, like after a walk or while you sit in the sun.
  • Sparkling Water and Vegetable Juice – So maybe these alternatives do not taste as good as soda, but they can reduce spices in blood sugar and unnecessary calorie consumption.
  • Be Smart about Where to Use Salt – Not only does the amount of salt matter, but the type of salt you use can also make a difference.  Unrefined sea salt is lower in sodium than most table salt.

The average senior citizen needs approximately 2 quarts of fluids every day to maintain a healthy life.  Remember that the important thing is not changing behavior but getting creative in how you introduce water into their lives.  For more information, visit www.greatoaksmanagement.com.

Early Detection Matters

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily living.  Dementia is not a specific disease, it is an overall term used to describe the changes in mental ability that affect daily living/functioning.  Alzheimer’s Disease is the cause of 60-80% of all dementia.  Vascular dementia is the second most common cause, often after a stroke or severe coronary artery disease.

Symptoms of Dementia

While symptoms may vary, at least 2 of the following must be present to warrant a diagnosis of Dementia:

  • Memory loss/problems—short term memory

Forgetting recently learned information.  Forgetting important dates or information.  Asking the same questions over and over.  Relying on family to remind them of things one used to do on their own.  Getting lost while driving or out shopping

  • Communication and language difficulties

Trouble following or joining a conversation.  Stopping in the middle of a conversation, unable to complete a thought.  Can’t find the right word.  Calling common items by the wrong name (a watch may be called a hand clock)

  • Ability to focus and pay attention

Difficulty staying focused on a conversation.  Difficulty paying attention to TV or Movies.  Having problems following a discussion or conversation.  Having problems understanding what is said to them.

  • Reasoning and judgment

Giving things of value away  .Making poor decisions.  Paying less attention to grooming or clothing selection.  Not taking care of things that have always been valued by the individual.

  • Visual perception

Difficulty reading.  Difficulty judging distance or color.  Not recognizing their own image when passing a mirror, thinking someone else is in the room.

Diagnosis and Early Intervention

If you have a loved one who is experiencing symptoms of dementia, it is critical to get a diagnosis and begin early intervention.  There are a lot of new medications which can slow the progress of some forms of dementia.  This allows other non medical interventions to be more effective and it also enables one to plan and indentify individuals’ desires and needs for long term care.

For Information concerning our assisted living communities, visit GreatOaksManagement.com.

For more information on Alzheimer’s, visit ALZ.org.

Unintentional Weight Loss

Weight loss can be a serious problem for seniors.  While some weight loss is healthy, unintentional weight loss can cause other health problems.  Of all senior adults, 15%-20% lose weight.  Senior adults who have lost 5% of their total body weight are 4 times more likely to develop serious health problems or die within six months of the weight loss.  Of those five percent, 80% are more likely to fall, resulting in hip fractures, brain bleed, or other fractures.

          Causes of Weight Loss:

  • Cardiac Problems
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Depression
  • Medication Side Effects

           Tips to Fight Weight Loss:

  • High Protein Snacks
  • Small, Frequent Meals
  • Nutritional Supplements
  • See a Doctor to Evaluate Medicines as Cause
  • Appetite Stimulant

Remember to weigh every week at the same time, every time.  Report continued weight loss to your doctor.  For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com.