Falling For You

Before I began working in the senior living industry the word FALL didn’t strike fear into my heart.   No on the contrary it would spark images of leaves turning to brilliant hues of gold and crimson and the sound of them crunching under our feet as me and the neighborhood children would play flag football in the yard.  It would spark memories of the delicious smells of the season from my favorite pumpkin spice candles to Mom’s homemade chili brewing on the stove.  Ah yes, the innocence and tranquility of it all.  But I digress.  And who am I kidding that football usually turned into an all-out brawl anyway.  But seriously FALLS as we know them and how they relate to our seniors are a very big deal!

By the numbers…

  • According to the CDC “each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.”  The CDC also reports that “adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $31 billion annually.  Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total.”

It is imperative that we take measures to try and help prevent falls if at all possible.  Sure this seems very idealistic!  But it is also helpful if we take a practical approach.  You may not can prevent all falls.  But you can take appropriate measures to keep someone safe.  So where do you start?   This is an important question no matter where you live.  Today we will start with the first thing you can do.

Keep your area safe…

I remember a friend from church once asked me to come over and look at their parents’ home and see if anything jumped out at me as to why their parent kept falling.  Walk with me if you will….we start up the concrete steps to the home that has no handrail.  This takes us to the kitchen where a cute blind dog nips at your knees.  We cross down to the living area that is situated on the split level property across from the bathroom.  In the tiny bathroom there is a sliding glass door shower/tub with no handrails and a towel bar that is dangling from the wall.  I can’t make this stuff up.  Did I mention that the home was also poorly lit?  I really couldn’t see why they needed my help discerning the safety issues within this home.  The entire place was a hotbed for concussions and broken hips!  So always ASSESS your FALL RISKS within your living space.

Key things to pay attention to include:

Clutter-get rid of it!  Make sure you don’t have junk making an obstacle course for you to maneuver around.

Lighting-make sure you can see!  Also make use of nightlights.  What you CAN’T see CAN hurt you.

And also watch for HOME HAZARDS such as:

  • broken or uneven steps,
  • throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over, and
  • no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom.

There are absolutely multiple risk factors and reasons for falls to occur.  But if you do your best to make sure your space (or your loved one’s space) is as safe as possible, you are increasing your odds of NOT becoming a statistic in the fight against FALLS.

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.

Keeping Warm During the Coming Months

Winter is Coming!

As the days grow shorter the weather follows suit.  Temperatures are beginning to drop, especially at night.  It is important to remember to take precautions to stay warm no matter your age, but these upcoming months can be particularly hard on Seniors.  With that in mind, here are some tips to ensure the cold of winter does not find its way inside.

Tips to Stay Warm:

  • Keep the thermostat at or above 68 degrees.
  • If you venture outside, remember to take a hat, gloves, and a scarf.
  • On cold days dress warm, even if you plan on being inside.  Layer appropriately. You can always take layers off, but it will be hard to add any layers if you have left the house already.
  • Stay active even if you cannot make it oustide.
  • If you live alone, have someone check up on you occasionally.
  • Loose layers are the key to dressing up for chilly days spent outside.
  • Do not stay out in the cold for too long.
  • If you have health problems that make it hard to stay warm, consult a doctor.

For more information on staying warm, be sure to check out this brochure from the National Institute on Aging.

For more information on Senior Care, visit our site GreatOaksMangement.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.

Preventing Poor Nutrition

Eating well is important no matter the age, but it can become increasingly difficult for seniors to get the proper nutrition their bodies need as they age. Health issues and physical limitations play a role in the rising problem of malnutrition in our seniors.  Poor nutrition and malnutrition occur in 15% to 50% of the elderly population.

Let’s look at the causes of poor nutrition:

  • Decrease in Sensitivity – Senses such as taste and smell can decline with age.  Meals that are not appetizing is less likely to be eaten.
  • Medication Side Effects – Side effects of some medications include reduced appetite, nausea, or simply throwing off taste buds.
  • Poor Dental Health – Dentures that do not fit properly, jaw pain, mouth sores, missing teeth, or other dental problems can make eating difficult or painful.
  • Financial Burden – Sometimes finances play a role.  Groceries can get expensive, making the cheaper, less nutritious options seem like the better solution.
  • Forgetfulness – Dementia, poor memory, or alzheimer’s can cause seniors to get off schedule, eat the same foods over and over, or even forget the last time they have eaten.
  • Depression – Life can get harder as you age.  Loved ones might be far away or simply do not visit as often, bodies start to fail; loneliness takes hold.  Depression can decrease appetites or simply cause one not to care.

Ensuring Proper Nutrition:

  • Offer Better Food Options – There are plenty of nutritionally-dense foods such as peanut butter, seeds, nuts, olive oil, brown rice, whole wheat bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, benas, legumes, meat, and dairy products.
  • Aromas and Flavors – Appeal to the senses.  Intensify flavors and aromas with marinades, herbs, and seasonings.
  • Make it Fun – Make mealtimes a social event.  Maybe make dinner a family event or invite friends over.
  • Healthy Snacking – Small snacks throughout the day also help.  Snacks like nuts, seeds, cheese, and cereals are a great choice.
  • Take Care of the Teeth – Proper oral health enhances nutrition and appetites.  If their teeth or jaw is hurting, get it looked at by a dentist or proper physician.
  • Set Reminders – Sticky notes, calendars, alarms… Anything to help set a routine.

For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com.

Preventing Falls

Each year, one in every three adults ages 65 or older falls and 2 million are treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries.  With each decade of life, the risk of falling increases.  Hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries, some of the long term consequences of falls, can impact independence and health.  Today, let’s talk about how to prevent falls and protect our seniors.

 

Tips to Prevent Falls:

  • Exercise –  Weak legs due to a lack of exercise increases chances.  Tai Chi and other such programs strengthen legs muscles and improves balance.
  • Wary of Medicines – Dizziness or Drowsiness can be a side effect of some medicines or combinations of medicines.  
  • Sharp Vision – Routine eye exams and up to date prescriptions for glasses and contacts ensure that seniors are seeing clearly.
  • Remove Hazards at Home – Fifty percent of all falls happen at home.  Identifying potential fall hazards and either removing them or changing them can prevent falls.

 

Home Safety Steps:

  • Remove items that might be tripping hazards from pathways and stairs.
  • Install Handrails and lights on all staircases
  • Apply double sided tape on the underside of small rugs 
  • Items that are used daily should be kept within reach without the aid of a step-stool.
  •  Puthand-bars in tubs and showers and next to toilets
  • Non-slip mats in showers and tubs
  • Always ensure home is well lit inside and out.
  • Wear shoes at all times when moving about.

For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com.  For other tips like these, be sure to visit CDC.gov.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild Cognitive Impairment is the intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.   Research has found that 10% to15% of all adults over the age of 65 have Mild Cognitive Impairment.  Of this percentage, 50% will progress to develop Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.

Symptoms of MCI

The primary sympton of Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI, is memory loss.  Individuals with MCI DO NOT have problems with performing activities associated with daily living, their thinking is clear and normal, they are not depressed, and their “mini-mental” exam score is 23 or higher.   Other symptoms include: asking the same questions over and over, getting lost when driving or walking, forgetting important dates or events, difficulty switching from one topic or tasks to another, and problems multi-tasking.

Cause of MCI

Several medical problems increase the risk of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment.

  • Hypertension
  • Diabeties
  • High Cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Thyroid Problems
  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency
  • Head Trauma or Head Injury

Treatment of MCI

If a medical problem is causing MCI, especially Vitamin B12 deficiency or thyroid problems, resolution of the medical problem will likely improve the mild cognitive impairment.  There is no specific medication that treats MCI.  Other strategies include exercise, educational activities, social activities, and a healthy diet.

Tools and Strategies
  • Carrying a calendar with you to keep up with appointments
  • Daily lists to serve as reminders
  • Social interactions and supports help improve functioning
  • Family/Caregiver support to organize medications and go to medical or other important appointments
  • If symptoms begin to affect activities of daily living, follow up with your physician

For more information, vist us at GreatOaksManagement.com.