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:

older-lady-mammo

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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Keep Connected-Highlighting National Assisted Living Week 2016

Naturally we all want to keep connected with our loved ones.  That is one way we stay rooted in who we are and where we came from.  This year the theme for National Assisted Living Week 2016 is Keep Connected.  I think the original context that they planned the theme to represent was to explain how exciting it is to see our senior communities making such great use of the new technologies that are available to be connected on multiple levels.  But being connected to an Assisted Living community can be that…and so much more!

Social Media and Beyond            

I have had multiple family members of residents in our communities tell me how wonderful it is to see their loved ones smiling faces on social media.  Some of these family members live across the country and it means so much to them to see their loved one engaged in an activity with a smile on their face.  While it is important to remember that communities must follow certain protocols when taking and posting photographs including permission forms, etc.  It still can be a wonderful resource of CONNECTION!  I had to laugh recently when I had a resident ask me, “How many likes did my picture get on the computer?”  I seriously almost fell out of my chair when he told me that he thought his picture might blow up Facebook!  The “senior set” really like the idea of their picture reaching out to their loved ones and are thrilled when I share with them the comments they receive on the posts from friends and family near and far.

Direct Connect

Another wonderful thing about working in this industry is that you have wonderful volunteers and people that want to show love to those that live in our communities.  I am constantly asked “what can we do” or “what can we bring” that the residents’ might like?  So with National Assisted Living Week right around the corner…here are some suggestions for you to KEEP CONNECTED.

Food items are always nice.  Everyone loves a treat right??  But remember that there will be folks in the communities that may be diabetics so if possible, bring a sugar free option.  Fruit is always an easy choice.  If you have a group or club that wants to do something, consider coming onsite to do a project WITH the residents.  We have seen everything from sewing clubs, dominoes and Skip-Bo card groups to painting door hangers.  A popular activity that residents typically love is changing out seasonal flowers in containers outside the building.  Sure some may want to just observe.  But trust me…you will probably have some that will want to get their hands dirty with you.

The best way to connect is by giving the thing that doesn’t cost a dime…TIME!  Sharing a cup of coffee or talking and traveling down memory lane is a fabulous way to connect with the folks in a community.  Never underestimate the value of sharing a laugh.  Taking the time to share and listen to memories will result in the CONNECTION and creation of your own.

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.

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.

Healthy Aging: What can I control?

As we look to the future and think about getting older, one of the common concerns is that we all want to be healthy as we enter our senior years.  Some of us come from a long line of ancestors who live a long time and have very few health problems.  Others have ancestors who tend to have chronic health issues and while they live a long time, are challenged with maintaining good health later in life.  What can I do if I didn’t hit the genetic lottery?  How can I take action today to improve my chances of being healthy and active as I age?

Take a good look at the lifestyles of your ancestors.  Some of us think we inherited a strong history of heart disease, but when we look closely we see a strong history of lifestyle behaviors that contributed to the heart disease like smoking, obesity, and an inactive life style.  Lifestyle is a big factor in accounting for our likelihood of having chronic health issues as we get older.  Taking some basic steps today can help you overcome some of your genetic history.  Below is a list of ideas to help you control what you can to increase your chances for an active healthy life as you age:

  1. Don’t smoke, if you do smoke, quit.
  2. Exercise, even walking 3 or more times per week helps improve y our overall health.
  3. Eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Drink water; try to limit sodas and soft drinks.
  5. If you drink, do so in moderation.
  6. Stay active and engaged with friends, social support helps our mental health.
  7. Keep your mind active and challenged. Read, do puzzles, take up a new hobby, play cards or games.

While we can’t change our genetic makeup, how we live our lives can have a big impact on how we age and whether we develop chronic diseases.  Get busy and take control of your future!

For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com!

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!

Are You Taking Too Much Medication?

Does it seem like everyone you know is taking medication for something?  Since 1 in 5 Americans age 45 and older have some type of chronic medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes, chances are you have friends who are on long term medication.  Perhaps you are also taking a daily medication for a chronic medical condition.

Unfortunately, this trend gets worse as we get older.  76% of people over age 60 in the United States take at least 2 medications daily.  37% take 5 or more medications daily.  It’s easy to slip into this when we are often seen to specialist for specific health problems.  Before we know it, we may be seeing several specialists in addition to our primary care physician.  How do we know when we are taking too many medications?

All medications have side effects.  Sometimes a medication that is given to help a specific medical problem can make us have side effects that we don’t recognize as being caused by the medication.  The more medications you take, the more likely you are to have side effects, especially if there are interactions between the medications you take.

One way to address this is to do a “Medication Checkup” with your primary care physician.  Make an appointment for this and bring ALL the medications you take including those which are only as needed and any over the counter medications, vitamins or supplements.  You may find you are taking a medication you no longer need, or that switching to a different medication for a chronic medical condition can reduce or eliminate any side effects.

Another way to help prevent side effects caused by medication interaction is to make sure you use only one pharmacy.  Your pharmacist should have a complete list of all medications as well as over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements.  Ask your pharmacist before starting a new over the counter medication to make sure it doesn’t interact with the prescription medications you are currently taking.

Keep an up to date list of all prescriptions, over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements and make sure you update the list with any change.  Double check with your primary care provider at each visit to make sure their list is up to date as well.

When bothered by a new problem like insomnia, consider a non-drug approach to manage the problem. Getting some exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime, sticking to a schedule for going to bed each night, limiting caffeine in the evening and limiting electronic screens just before bed can be a non-medication way to help improve sleep.