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.

http://www.greatoaksmanagement.com

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Shine a Purple Light

I will admit that until I began working in the senior living sector, I knew very little about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.  It was not something I had seen on a personal or family level.  That has changed.  Now I know and care for people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.  I understand that they are not all one in the same.  There are even different types of dementia.  I have come to know some of the devastating effects they take on lives.  Since June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I thought I could help do my part by shining a purple light.

Did you know that according to the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Alzheimer’s is fatal. It kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
  • Alzheimer’s is not normal aging. It’s a progressive brain disease without any cure.
  • Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. It appears through a variety of signs and symptoms.

Per the website alz.org, “A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Experts are not certain about the reason for this association. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.”

AlzheimersTable

During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks you to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Share your story and take action.  It may be as simple as bringing awareness via social media.  Alzheimer’s disease awareness is represented by the color purple, and in June, thousands of Americans will turn their Facebook profile purple with an “END ALZ” icon.  If you need help or more information on ways you can raise awareness of the truth about Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/abam to get started.

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Take it from the Senior Class

Ah yes…you can hear the commencement speeches filling the air.  It’s the time of year when young men and women close one chapter of their lives and start another.  So aside from the wisdom that they have gained from their educations up until this point…we thought it might be intriguing to get some advice from a generation that has already been there and done that.  Here is some advice to the Senior Class of 2017 from some of our assisted living seniors.

5 Life Lessons from our Assisted Living Senior Class

  1. Keep your mind open and don’t stress if you have to start at the bottom to work your way up.  You can do it!  Learn the value of hard work.
  1. Knowledge is power.  Continue your education because that is something that no one can take away from you.
  1. Wake up each day with an open mind and a full heart.  Everyone will not always have the same values as you.  Stay rooted to what you know while still showing kindness.
  1. Think before you speak. Run it through your head before it comes out of your mouth.
  1. Save your money.  You don’t have to have everything you want right now.

Good luck to the Class of 2017 from everyone at

Great Oaks Management and our communities.

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Pictured above is Great Oaks Management resident,

Sara Hamrick and her granddaughter Victoria.

Bloom Where You are Planted

Spring has sprung and one of the most therapeutic things for me is getting out and tending to flowers in the yard.  Sadly, this only comes in small doses because my hectic schedule leads to the demise of many of my plants.  I love to tell the story of how my Mom came for an extended stay and made it her business to water my neglected yard. She started spraying the plants on my front porch as I stood watching barefoot in the parched grass.  “See how I’m reviving the porch plants? You must water them!”  I nodded in approval, barely having the heart to tell her that she was doing an excellent job of knocking the dust off those fake plants.  But given the chance, I love to plant, prune and water with the best of them.  Being that many of our facilities have the name “The Gardens” in them it only makes sense that we have flowers and other plants on the grounds of our communities.  Through the years I have learned valuable advice from many of my resident gardeners.  Here are a couple invaluable tips I have discovered over the years.

knockout roseKnock back the Knock Out Roses

One of my former residents, Mrs. Betty, had a lovely rose garden placed in her memory in front of our community by her family.  After the garden had been there a little over a year, I was instructed by one of our sweet lady residents to cut the bushes back if I wanted them to grow.  Cut it back??  But why??  It had some blooms.  She explained that the blooms had become scarce and that the bush would be more full with blooms and leaves if I cut it back.  So, paired with some thick leather gloves and long clippers I got to work.  In no time at all the roses were prettier than they had ever been.  Mrs. Betty would be so proud!

 

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Pile Up the Pallets

In several of our other communities we have had fabulous gardens built up high so that residents do not have to stoop over to tend to them.  These pallet gardens are a wonderful way to let residents get their hands dirty and show their skills.  I love to get tips on when and how to grow vegetables in these gardens.  One of the best tricks that a resident in Daphne once told me was to always check your Farmer’s Almanac on when and how to grow seeds or plants in the garden.  Now you can access the Farmer’s Almanac online and it will allow you to pull up your location in Alabama and get tips specific to your region.

 

So, for some of the best therapy around, get down and dirty in the soil.  Plant some pretty flowers or vegetables like our residents.  It is a wonderful way to get cheap therapy and bloom where you are planted.

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The Changing Face

Someone recently asked me was the face of assisted living changing? Well I wasn’t really sure how to answer that question. I guess mainly because the faces or the people that I know within our communities are all so very different. They are different on many varied levels. Now while they all have to meet the requirements for eligibility…that still doesn’t look like one particular demographic. So if you have in your mind what assisted living looks like…let’s try this on for size. This may not be the case for all residents. But this is a more commonplace that many realize.

 

pink-lady

It is very typical for our residents within our communities to be very vibrant contributing members of society. We have folks that do charity work, volunteer to read at local schools and even pink ladies at the local hospital. I have one lady that I swear travels more during the week than I do. She has plenty of living left to do and she enjoys every minute of it. I heard her tell a friend once, “I know I don’t have to live in assisted living, but for me it is a comfort to know that someone is always there for me if I need them no matter what. She went on to say that since her husband passed away a few years back, she feels that being in our community allows her the freedom to keep going while not becoming a burden on anyone else. It is so amazing to see lives so full and abundant. Assisted living communities provide so much more than assistance with the activities of daily life. What we are able to do in most cases is make sure that the jobs of cooking, cleaning and keeping up with laundry and other tasks are handled so that seniors can focus on the truly important things in life.

So while we certainly pride ourselves in offering as much assistance as we can provide our residents, you may see that your view of what assisted living looks like may be changing for you. We encourage our potential residents and families to not wait. Keeping medications and nutrition scheduled and balanced is such a benefit that we can oversee. The assisted living model may be exactly what you need to keep you on pace with your lifestyle. Want to find out more? Give us a call today. We would love for you to join us for lunch and take a tour. Have your own opportunity to try us on for size.

Letters to Santa

Have you written your letter to Santa Claus?  What about the children in your life?  For my first blog post of December I was asked to share a special letter written by one of my sweet residents.  In it, she captures the essence of Christmas and offers a glimpse back into days gone by.  So grab a cup of hot cocoa and settle into an easy chair and enjoy this precious letter to Saint Nick!  This may just become another one of my holiday traditions.

Dear Santa,

Who are you? Why do you always show up at Christmas celebrations?  We don’t see much of you any other time.

As a child, I saw you as the maker of every kind of wonderful toy in the world.  Creations from baby dolls and teddy bears, to roller skates, scooters, bicycles and balls of every shape and size.

You kept a complete list on every child reminding you of our every deed, both good and bad.  Nothing could make me angry faster than those “smart aleck” kids who claimed you did not exist.

At our house we started a “wish list” early… teaching us not to expect instant gratification, which in some instances allowed us to change our minds!  When the winter nights were getting longer we found ourselves glancing out the window if we saw any movement or strange light.  We knew it was Santa watching us, making sure we were doing as we should.

We got many gifts, but there were always a few things we didn’t find in our stocking or under the tree. This made us wonder if it was because of something we had done wrong, or if you simply ran out before you got to our house.

It took years and a family of my own for me to realize who you really are and why you were created.

The cookies and milk which have kept you “rotund” all these years taught us to show appreciation to those who gave to us.  As children we set them out just before bedtime as our thank you for what we were expecting to receive.  Parents were able to help us develop our imaginations and enjoy “make believe”. They could show surprise and help us enjoy some of the new toys and games.

Most of us, through the little birthday parties we would attend, soon realized that we bring gifts so that other kids will bring gifts to our party, if we bring one to theirs.  That’s the way the big world works.

Jesus’s birthday is so much different.  Jesus’s birth taught us that it is more blessed to give than to receive!

In man’s way of trying to figure out how to accomplish this idea of giving, someone came up with a jolly, round fellow dressed in a red suit trimmed in white fur.  He has been given several names including St. Nicholas, Father Christmas and finally Santa Claus. This is the name we have given the “Christmas Spirit”.  It’s much more exciting than just calling it a gift from an unknown source.

WE all get the joy when we finally recognize who Santa is and God gets all the glory!  I like to think that the idea of Santa always giving gifts without the expectation of a gift in return…is in a small way the essence of Jesus.  Isn’t that why we celebrate Christmas…to give God the glory!  This is my point of view as a great-grandmother looking up from my rocking chair.

Thank you for sharing your love and our joy!

Marguerite Klages

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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.

 

Proud to Be an American

Did you know that the man determined to be the “Father of Veterans Day” is from Alabama?  As a tribute to our Veterans, I thought I would include a little bit of history.  According to Wikipedia, in 1945, World War II Veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, AL had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I.  Weeks led the efforts and presented them to General Dwight Eisenhower who supported the idea.  The first national celebration of Veterans Day as we know call it, was in 1947.

So how will you honor this day?va-logo

I’m so excited that a group of folks from my hometown have worked extremely diligently to have a special Veterans Day parade this year.  I’m thrilled that World War II Veterans and several of our other Veterans will be honored during this event.  These courageous folks and so many across others across our great nation are so proud of their service to our country.  They also have amazing stories to share.  They are truly living national treasures.

One of the things that stands out to me the most is the pride that I hear when I have listened to residents speak of their service.  I have been told of lands that I have never seen and how we in the United States of America, live in the greatest country on earth.  It is so amazing to hear the first person retelling of their great stories.  The stories of writing and waiting on handwritten letters seems like a lifetime ago in our broken down communication age where we text people in the same room.  The stories of lifelong friendships that were born in the service of our country are remarkable.  Not once have I heard of protest or disdain. The nobility of their acts are shown in their actions and love for this land in their speech as well.  Even to this day.

militaryappreciation5-17-16So I invite you…take time to thank a Veteran for their service to our country. Take time to talk with them. Take time to listen. It is because of their sacrifice and that of those serving today that we are able to enjoy our freedoms.  Because of the brave, we live in the land of the free.

If you are interested in checking into VA Benefits for Assisted Living, please click on the VA Benefits section of our webpage.

Whenever I See Your Smiling Face

In this day and age, there is literally an app for everything.  If you look for it, you will even find an app for how to tie your shoes.  Seriously!  Now while apps are a great concept, obviously some things can’t take the place of real life application.  But that is where technology steps in!  Working with members of the senior adult population, I find that many of them truly appreciate the marvel and wonder of the Internet, email, and social media.  No, not too many have their own accounts…but some do!  I cannot tell you the number of times I have had children and grandchildren ask to email or text me pictures to share with their family member that lives in our community.  And it is a wonderful feeling to download or even print these images to share with them!  Oh, how they light up to see the face of new great grandbaby or pictures from a graduation.

As we continue our theme of CONNECTING…I encourage families and assisted living professionals alike to embrace the idea of helping your elderly continue to connect!  Now, of course, sending anything or receiving anything must be HIPPA compliant and agreeable by all appropriate parties.  As with all types of communication, you want to respect your resident’s rights and encourage them to navigate safely.  I find that many just want help getting to a certain comfort zone.  We have residents that like to do crossword puzzles or other brain games on their iPads and some just want to be able to see the pictures that a family member emailed or posted on social media.  Another thing that can be valuable for them is reading on electronic devices allows for the font to be much larger that some print books.  Who am I kidding…it helps me too!!

So even if you find that Mom is Facebook savvy or maybe, on the contrary, your Dad wouldn’t touch a computer if you bought him the latest and greatest…do them a favor and strive to KEEP CONNECTED!  And senior living professionals…so long as you have the proper permission paperwork in place, take time to take pictures and send them to your resident’s families.  Pictures don’t have to be just for marketing.  We all have those residents that have family that is far away.  Help close the distance by sending a smiling pic of their loved one.  It will brighten their day and yours!

 

For information on Internet Safety for seniors check out this link from the Department of Homeland Security https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Cybersecurity%20for%20Older%20Americans_0.pdf

 

 

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.