Category Archives: Family & Caregivers

How caregivers can let go of the burden of guilt Senior living: A guilt-free way to get your life back

You’ve always been a woman of your word. So, when you told your mother you’d take care of her when she grew old, you meant it.

But, now, your words are coming back to haunt you.

If truth be told, back then you had no idea how fragile your mother would become or how much support she would need. Or that looking after your mother’s house, health and finances, would cut into your own health, career and family life so much.

Before your own life unravels something’s got to change. And luckily, amazingly, you’ve hit upon an answer you both can agree on–namely, moving your mom to a senor living community.

There’s just one problem. Instead of feeling relieved, you feel twisted inside after listening the self-critical voices that are screaming: You didn’t do enough. You’re letting her down. You’re asking Mom to leave her home, make new friends and trust new caregivers, when she’s at her most vulnerable.

If this is where you’re heading, put a brake to the self-condemnation now.

Guilt helps neither you nor your mother, and the consequences of indulging in it can be devastating to your health and your life. (For starters, studies have found that feeling guilty can lead to a decline in concentration, productivity, creativity, and efficiency, according to this article from psychologist Guy Winch in Psychology Today.)

So, how can you rid yourself of guilt?

There’s no magic solution to absolving yourself of guilt, but a good start is to recognize that you are only human. Try to forgive yourself for your imperfections. And, as the Family Caregiver Alliance advises, consider changing guilt into regret. For instance, reword “I feel guilty over my impatience” to “I regret that I am impatient sometimes, like all human beings.” Remember that providing elder care is such a demanding, complex job, Mother Theresa herself could not do it perfectly.

It also helps to know that you are not alone. Try talking about your feelings with supportive friends or book a session with a counsellor. Attending an online or in-person caregivers support group can also provide huge relief as it allows you to talk with people who understand and empathize with your situation. (Check out the Family Caregiver Alliance’s Caregiver Connect page, which provides links to support groups as well as caregiver stories.)

You can also counter guilt by taking actions that boost your physical, emotional and spiritual self. Try walking in a park, taking an aerobics class or practicing yoga poses. Other activities include meditating in the morning or journaling about troubling feelings like guilt or fear.

Focus on the positive

As well, it’s crucial to remember the many benefits that a move to senior living will bring. For starters, think of all the social contacts your mom will make (which can especially boost her spirit if she has lost a partner) and the many activities she can enjoy on-site. Not only that, at a community, like those offered by Sunshine Retirement Living, you can rest assured that your mother will receive three nutritious meals each day plus round-the-clock individualized care, if needed. To top it off, she (and you) will no longer have to deal with home maintenance, and time will be freed up that you can devote to your much-neglected family and career.

What’s more, at Sunshine Retirement Living, you can get involved at your mother’s community, an enjoyable way to support her and to see for yourself the advantages of independent and assisted living. You could help with daily activities like museum trips, art classes and exercise programs or you could share your special skills or knowledge with residents at a special workshop.

Furthermore, whether your mom plans to move to independent living or assisted living, Sunshine’s “Easy Move Program,” provides advice on downsizing, moving companies, even loan applications. Additionally, the community’s move-in coordinator will ensure your mother knows where the dining room, activity room, movie theater and other community amenities are located and has everything she needs to feel at home. The community’s resident ambassador will also make sure she has a special place to sit with other welcoming residents in the dining room for her first week.

No one’s saying senior living will erase all your ugly emotions, but if you give it time, you and your mom may be surprised at how sweet the transition can be.

About the Author

Katherine O’Brien is a Toronto-based health writer who specializes in writing about healthy aging and dementia. She understands firsthand the experience of being a dementia caregiver. Have a question or story idea for Katherine? Email us here.

How To Help Your Elderly Loved One Keep Socially Connected. Growing Old Doesn’t Have To Mean Growing Lonely

Ah, loneliness, an emotion so painful the very thought of it may make you squirm. Nevertheless, when you are a caregiver of an elderly loved one, it’s one condition you may have to look square in the eye.

The fact is that older adults are often susceptible to isolation. When someone is 80-plus, chances are good they have lost lifelong friends and relatives. And when you add in the loss of a beloved partner, they may be left feeling alone in the universe.

What is more, declining health can also play a role in loneliness. For instance, if your parent has dementia, or hearing or vision loss, it may be harder for them to connect with others. If they suffer from a chronic condition like arthritis, the associated pain and fatigue could throw a wrench into their social life. And, if they need a mobility aid, the logistic issues that come along with this could also hamper their socializing. Indeed, simply losing the ability to drive is enough to keep some seniors homebound, especially if there are few transportation alternatives in their area.

The profound impact of loneliness

Although the affect of loneliness can easily be downplayed, the reality is, it’s no small issue. It may be no surprise that isolation is associated with depression, but did you know that it can harm one’s physical health? In fact, one meta-analysis of research into loneliness found that people who were socially isolated have a higher mortality risk than those who are obese or inactive. On top of this, loneliness is linked to decreased resistance to infection, dementia, and increased emergency admission to hospital, according to this review of research on seniors and isolation.

Mitigating the loneliness factor

So, is there anything you can do to lessen your loved one’s seclusion? The answer is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. In the best-case scenario, it might simply be a matter of encouraging your mom or dad to volunteer for a cause, sign up for a class, or join a book club. Likewise, adopting a pet might provide much needed companionship–and taking a dog out for a walk is an almost surefire conversation starter. (if your loved one has health and mobility issues, a robotic pet that doesn’t need any feeding, toileting or walking might do the trick.) Another step would be increasing your in-person, phone or Skype contact with them, though you’ve got to make sure you’re not already giving more than you’ve got.

When your loved one needs more support

If your loved one does need more social engagement than you can offer, you need to look at other alternatives. For instance, consider an adult day care center, which provides transportation, meals and social activities, ranging from group conversations to movies and stretching. Many adult day programs operate within senior centers, medical centers or in senior living communities such as Sunshine Retirement Living.

Finally, if your loved one wants to be surrounded with like-minded companions on a more regular basis, moving to a retirement community might be the most attractive option of them all. Senior living would allow them to live in a community where they can regularly mingle with peers over meals or in common areas, a natural way for friendships to develop. These communities typically provide special social events as well as group activities, all of which offer excellent opportunities to bond with others. Sunshine’s retirement communities, for example, have daily calendars that include activities like games, social hours, outings to parks and restaurants, Tai Chi and other exercise classes, and more (These programs are either included in the resident’s monthly rent and free or low cost to the public).

Although living alone is trending in America, the truth is, humans are very social animals and living with a community of people might add years to your loved one’s life.

About the Author

Katherine O’Brien is a Toronto-based health writer who specializes in writing about healthy aging and dementia. She understands firsthand the experience of being a dementia caregiver. Have a question or story idea for Katherine? Email us here.

Simple Tips And Tricks To Ease The Angst Of Financial Caregiving

Does the idea of dealing with mom and dad’s finances send you into spasms of anxiety? Afterall, financial caregiving is a delicate undertaking, especially if your parents are private about their affairs and fiercely independent. Luckily, for you, we’ve come up with a few guidelines to help smooth the process.

Don’t put off the discussion about money

Before taking over your parents’ finances, you must, of course, initiate a talk with your family about money. Yes, the conversation might be awkward but too much is at stake to let to let it slide (think unpaid bills or financial fraud). To excel in the financial caregiving role, you must understand how your parents think about money and what their wishes are.

Another pointer: Don’t presume your family will get everything settled in one big discussion—it can be more peaceful to have several small conversations over time. And never wait until your parents are in a crisis and your hand is forced. If you see signs of cognitive decline, act swiftly–it’s far easier to put processes in place when mom and dad can still sign a power of attorney (POA) for property document. This piece of paper is crucial if you want to make financial transactions on behalf of your parents. (If your parents haven’t planned their estate, find an estate planning lawyer who can draw up a POA for property as well as a health care advance directive and a will.)

Get a grasp on your parents’ finances

Once the POA is in order, gather up relevant financial documents, like bank and credit card statements, bills, tax returns, pension statements and insurance to find out your parents’ source of income and expenses. (Also check whether your parents have long-term care insurance, an additional income source should they require care– “regular” health insurance plans don’t cover the cost of senior living with round-the-clock skilled nurses on staff.)

Your next step: Create a net worth statement that clearly shows the difference between what your parents own and what they owe. After that, set up a budget that includes expenses such as mortgage payments, heat, electricity, telephone, Internet, cable TV and car payments.

Make sure you keep clear, detailed and accurate records of all financial transactions, especially those that involve expenses incurred by you or your siblings on behalf of your parents. And to save yourself time, set up online banking including automatic deposits for income and automatic withdrawals for regularly recurring bills.

Think about the future

You also need to size up your family’s financial resources and make a plan that takes into account future healthcare costs. Even if their health needs are low now, keep in mind that someone turning age 65 today has a 70 percent chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports, according to the Administration on Aging. If mom or dad loses mobility, it can be costly to renovate a home or pay for home care. (The average cost of a full-time home health aide is about $4,000 per month, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2018.) Of course, senior living is another viable option (it costs about the same as a full-time paid caregiver) especially if you and your siblings live long distance and mom and dad can no longer drive.

One final piece of advice: don’t forget to ask your siblings to share the caregiving load and do contact a financial planner if you’re in over your head. Although helping your parents may be top of mind, don’t block out others when you need support yourself.

About the Author

Katherine O’Brien is a Toronto-based health writer who specializes in writing about healthy aging and dementia. She understands firsthand the experience of being a dementia caregiver. Have a question or story idea for Katherine? Email us here.

Five Golden Ways To Keep Your Holidays From Being Grinched

Faster than Santa’s Sleigh, the holidays are upon us in all their glory. Along with tidings of good will and merry-making, this time of year can also bring sadness to seniors who are no longer able to celebrate as they did in their youth.

While Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa bring togetherness and happiness to many, we shouldn’t forget that they can also be a time of stress, confusion and loneliness for older adults, especial those beginning to experience age-related ailments and memory loss. That’s why we at Sunshine Retirement Living communities take extra care to make sure all our residents in our assisted living, memory care, and personal care communities are well equipped to deal with sometimes unsettling events of the holidays and prepared to experience tidings of comfort and joy instead.

For Jennifer Gross, Executive Director at The Haven at North Hills, this is the time of year that she is reminded that no two residents are alike and there no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. She says:

“We like to remind our staff and families that the holidays may be a joyous celebration for some and distressing or sad for others. Some have visitors and some are alone. Let’s be respectful and learn about our residents so we can provide opportunities for them to celebrate the holidays according to their own preference.”

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at five specific challenges that seniors face at this time of year and how to address them.

  1. Food for thought on the big feasts.

    Starting with Thanksgiving, a major part of the holidays at this time of year is the opportunity to break bread with family and friends, not to mention carving turkeys, hams and lots of sugary, high-calorie desserts. It can be quite challenging for seniors who are on special diets or simply don’t indulge in food as much as they used to. Here are some ways to keep palates and stomachs happy:

    • Just because a retirement community or family has whipped up all kinds of delicious meats, side dishes and desserts doesn’t mean seniors should dive into all of them. A good rule of thumb for healthy portion control – for seniors and non-seniors alike – is to have guests choose three or four items and then step away from the table, that way they are not tempted to eat more than they would normally. Better yet, use a smaller plate to reduce the amount of food that can be piled on a plate.
    • Before filling up plates with carbs and fats, place out fruit and veggie trays first to reduce hunger for more fattening foods.
    • Avoid cooking with salty foods that can cause high blood pressure and water retention.
    • If your senior loved one has a sweet tooth and doesn’t want to pass up the opportunity to enjoy the yummy chocolates, cakes and pies, have them make a conscious effort to leave room for dessert. You can also opt for low-sugar or sugar alternative desserts.

    As for the chefs at Sunshine Retirement communities, many keep a watchful eye out for our residents with the philosophy shared by Santos Barrientos, Executive Director at The Gardens at Brook Ridge:

    “Our chefs don’t cook much with salt and we always offer sugar-free desserts for those with diabetic diets. We’re also happy to provide softened or chopped servings and pureed meals per doctor’s orders.”

  2. One is the loneliest number.

    It’s no secret that instances of depression rise across all generations and across the globe during the holidays, especially among the elderly.

    “Some folks absolutely love and have no trouble coping with all the added activity; others can become withdrawn, fearful and want to be isolated,” says Beverly White of Heritage Point in Mishawaka, Indiana.

    On top of that, many seniors have no family nearby often feel more alone during the holidays when their closest friends are off visiting relatives.

    “All staff members need to be extra full of love, hugs and compassion,” adds White. “We need to be diligent in paying close attention to body language, unusual tearfulness, extra fidgeting and anxiousness so that we are able to keep our residents calm.”

    Of course, Sunshine Life Enrichment Directors make a point of including residents who are not away with family in all their community holiday activities. But there’s more to it than that, as Gross from The Haven, points out:

    “I remind the staff to pay attention to the person sitting alone in their room or who does not get visitors. Take time to stop with a smiling face or provide them with a holiday card.”

    Together, we do our best to make the holidays a joyous and positive experience for every resident.

  3. Can a big happy family be too much of a good thing?

    If your extended family doesn’t get together all that often, Grandma or Grandpa may not realize how much the kids have grown and become more rambunctious. Likewise, the younger generations may not be prepared to see Grandma or Grandpa exhibit accelerated signs of aging, fragility and frailty, and loss of memory. And an intense get-together can easily trigger some unexpected reactions or behaviors related to those issues.

    For most seniors, we suggest having the grandkids come visit the retirement community for a meal or a Christmas activity. This will allow everyone to get reacquainted and caught up in the grandparent’s most familiar and comfortable environment.

    “In those cases,” says Barrientos from The Gardens, “notify them of the importance of being mindful of other residents in the community and making sure the kids are well behaved while visiting loved ones.”

    If you choose to take older loved ones away from the retirement community for a visit, plan an outing that everyone can enjoy – maybe a holiday concert, a play or a sleigh ride. Or arrange an activity at home that keeps all generations engaged, such as decorating the tree, baking cookies, building a gingerbread house, or singing Christmas carols.

  4. Planes, trains and automobiles – keeping holiday travel manageable.

    For families arranging to have older loved ones come visit during the holidays, Michelle Ledford, Executive Director at Windsor Heights in Beachwood, Ohio offers several excellent precautionary suggestions.

    • Before anything else, check with the doctor to make sure travel is okay for the older adult. If they are in an assisted living community, make sure the doctor has issued an order for a Leave of Absence.
    • Make a list of all medications and doctors to keep with you and make sure all prescriptions are filled prior to leaving for your visit.
    • Check with the community’s health services director to get the latest updates on resident’s health concerns, such as incontinence issues, changes in medications and schedules, any unusual behaviors that may arise while outside of the community.
    • Be patient and allow extra time while traveling as our older adults take a bit longer to get from here to there.
    • Pack appropriate snacks and check ahead for places to stop and eat a well-rounded meal.
    • If traveling by airplane, be certain to call ahead for help with long walks and wait times in security lines. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and if necessary, request a wheelchair.
    • If staying in a hotel make sure there is handicap access or a walk-in shower for safety. Be aware of noise conditions that can cause anxiety and nervousness.
    • Remember, seniors tend to get colder much easier. Look ahead at weather conditions and pack appropriate clothing, outerwear and footwear.
  5. Above all, enjoy your time together.

    After you have ensured that your older loved ones are safe and happy, relax and focus on making the most of the holidays and your time together. Encourage group activities to get your family moving. Dance to some favorite holiday tunes or take an evening stroll through the neighborhood to see the lights. By all means be merry, but be mindful that alcohol may dangerously interact with medications.

    Also, many of our fondest memories from childhood revolve around holidays past. Encourage Grandma and Grandpa to wax nostalgic and reminisce about the holidays. Even seniors with advanced memory loss retain long-term memories and may be able to speak vividly about a Christmas more than 50 years ago.

    “Relaxing reminiscence is a goal that will set you up for success,” says Jennifer Gross. “Pull out photo albums, watch familiar holiday movies, play familiar holiday music, bring out the old favorite decorations, and rekindle family traditions that bring the past to life.”

    It may be a recipe for coaxing a few tears for all seated around the table. But much like the Grinch who couldn’t steal Christmas, it will help everyone discover the true meaning of the holidays that never fades away.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, November, 2018. Some content was provided by www.allaboutseniorsinc.net and www.aplaceformom.com

Like A Relentless Zombie, Sunshine Halloween Celebrations Are Back For More Thrills And Chills

We may not have any skeletons in our closet. Or bats in our belfry. Come to think of it, we may not even have a belfry. But what Sunshine Retirement Communities do have this October are more tricks and treats than you can shake a broomstick at.

While Halloween may seem like a macabre celebration conjured up for children, costume makers and candy companies, around most of our communities, it’s the time of year that brings out the kid in our residents more than any other.

Here’s a quick tour of some of the Halloween Happenings from one “spooctacular” setting to another:

Brandi Limbaugh, the new Life Enrichment Director (LED) at Creekside Pines in Dallas, Georgia, is experiencing her first Halloween there after taking over for one of Sunshine’s most imaginative LEDs. She kicked things off with a highly competitive pumpkin-carving contest with prizes for the winners. Then, with dozens of freshly made jack-o-lanterns decorating the lobby and fountain area, the residents dressed up to the theme of “The Witches of Creekside” on October 25 and kicked up their heels with live music.

“They tell me it’s the biggest party of the year,” says Brandi.

To top it off, on October 27, Creekside Pines will be welcoming local day care facilities and pre-schools for Safe Trick or Treating.

Both Allegheny Village and The Haven at North Hill in Pittsburgh had their annual Halloween parties last weekend for residents, family and staff complete with crafting, costumes, live entertainment and trick or treating for the grandchildren.

Out West at Summerfield Estates in Tigard, Oregon, LED Anthony Nosen has had all kinds of tricks and treats up his sleeve this month, including:

  • Annual Halloween Candy Bingo on October 20.
  • Tours of the supposedly haunted Pittock Mansion and the freaky-but-true Peculiarium Museum in Portland on October 24.
  • Pre-school Trick-or-Treaters on October 29.
  • The 3rd Annual All Hallow’s Eve Haunted Hallway Spookhouse for all ages on October 30.
  • Costume Contest and Halloween Feast with singer Molli Paige on October 31.

Down South at The Landing at Behrman Place in New Orleans, they won’t let construction in their kitchen keep them from having their Halloween fun. According to LED Stacy Harrison, residents are still carving pumpkins, playing Ghostbusters Bean Bag Baseball and “Boo 3 Strikes You’re Out” (ghost piñata), and kicking back with root beer floats.

Meanwhile, at The Carriage House in nearby Lake Charles, Louisiana, LED MerryBeth Grant will not only be organizing games, pumpkin decorating and a costume contest for both residents and employees, she’ll also present their Pet Costume Parade.

“Residents look forward to this annual tradition of seeing all the pets in their costumes,” says MerryBeth. “Our pastry chef even makes doggie bone cookies for the pets.”

While everybody is a winner at the Pet Costume Parade, the competition gets pretty intense at Fountain Crest in Lehigh Acres, Florida. Every Halloween, they have a traditional Pumpkin Decorating/Carving Contest between the residents and the staff. The staff breaks into departments and become very competitive with each other. Many of the residents enjoy the spirited competition too.

“I bought trophies so the winners could have bragging rights,” said Fountain Crest LED Debbie Whiteaker. “Last year’s winners will need to give up their trophy if they don’t win again.”

Winners will be announced at the annual Halloween Party on October 31, where they’ll enjoy refreshments, music, games and prizes.

“Residents say they can’t wait to see what everyone has done,” says Debbie. “Seems like every year the competition gets better and better. I love to see all of the creative costumes.”

Last but certainly not least, at The Continental in Austin, Texas, LED Olga Rosalez has put together more than a fortnight of Halloween Happiness, including:

  • Pumpkin painting for the Fall Harvest Fest on October 15.
  • The Harvest Fest with games, face painting, a Build-Your-Own Caramel Apple Bar and petting zoo on October 19.
  • A Halloween Parade with children from SW Austin Ridge Church on October 26.
  • The “Monster Mash” Residents’ Costume Parade and a grueling costume volleyball game on October 31.

Of course, it’s all in good fun and a great way to help residents continue to feel young at heart. And the best part is, come November 1, we can bury all of those zombies, demons, goblins, witches and skeletons in our basements and not worry about them anymore. Until next year.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, October, 2018.

Sunshine Communities Put The “Grand” In “National Grandparents Day”

Last month, we told you all about National Senior Citizens Day – a date set aside to recognize the elder states-people of our country – and how we were celebrating at various Sunshine communities. Today, we’re approaching another significant date for many of our residents: National Grandparents Day.

National Grandparents Day was established as a holiday by President Jimmy Carter on August 3 40 years ago and is always celebrated on the Sunday after Labor Day. It is also celebrated on various days of the year in a number of other countries and some have both Grandmothers Day and Grandfathers Day. You might be surprised to learn that the United State was not the first country to acknowledge the importance of grandparents in nurturing, educating and supporting their descendants. Poland got the jump on everyone else by creating Grandma’s Day on January 21 in 1964 and Grandpa’s Day was added on January 22 the following year.

Here in the U.S., we can thank Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade and her husband Joseph of West Virginia for initiating Grandparents Day. After more than 60 years of marriage, they had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. With families that size, Grandparents Day could’ve been an even bigger gold mine for Hallmark and FTD than Mother’s Day. But thankfully, the McQuades never intended for the holiday to be accompanied by cards and flowers. Their vision for Grandparents Day was simple:

  • To honor grandparents.
  • To give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children.
  • To help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.

With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for how you can join in the celebration, especially if the grandparents and grandchildren are close by:

  • Get together!
  • Discuss why grandparents should be appreciated and what there is to appreciate about each generation. The best way to do this might be to have a meal together.
  • Create a personal card thanking them for specific help they have been in the past and what they mean to you today.
  • Interview your grandparents like you’re writing their biography. Ask about their childhood, their courtship, their marriage. They love reminiscing and telling stories.
  • Plan a special event for the grandparent(s). Take them to lunch or cook dinner. Go to a jazz concert. Take a walk in the park. Or go out for ice cream. Indulge them! And don’t worry. If Grampa goes along, he’ll insist on treating.

Grandparents Day at Sunshine

As you can imagine, Sunshine communities have plenty of grandparents who enjoy the outpouring of attention and affection on Grandparents Day, both from their respective families and from the communities themselves.

At Creekside Pines in Dallas, Georgia, Life Enrichment Director Brandi Limbaugh encourages residents to invite their grandchildren and great grandchildren to enjoy a plate of goodies prepared by the kitchen this Sunday afternoon. They are also doing a Show & Tell this month where the residents can bring pictures of their grandchildren and share experiences with everyone.

Fresh-baked goodies are also on the docket Heritage Point in Mishawaka, Indiana, where Life Enrichment Director Lillian Spice is planning a Grandparents Day Tea this Sunday. She plans to reveal background information on Grandparents Day, including the official song (A Song for Grandma and Grandpa by Johnny Prill) and the official flower (the forget-me-not). Each resident will receive a greeting card, a handkerchief and a chocolate bar. Resident Norma Walter says she likes Grandparents Day because, “It gives me another chance to enjoy seeing my grandkids.”

At The Continental in Austin, Texas, Grandparents Day is always celebrated with a special meal and some good fiddle music. Life Enrichment Director Olga Rosalez awards prizes to the oldest grandparent, the youngest grandparent and the one with the most grandkids. Chances are, the latter award will go to resident Margaret Dyer who has 13 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren. She says she delights in receiving all their E-Mails.

According to Olga, Beverly Olson adores hearing her grandchildren say, “I love you Grandma.” Jo Fredrick likes reading to her great grandsons and discussing the stories. Ruby Ogden loves receiving homemade cards from her grandchildren. Wendell Sharpton has fun swimming with his grandson who is a better swimmer than he is and acts as his personal lifeguard. Doug and Ann Huber enjoy being close to their grandchildren and participating in their activities. And Frances Tomlinson appreciates her granddaughter who just made her a great grandmother.

Obviously, Grandparents Day gives Sunshine residents a lot to love. Whether they have grandchildren or great grandchildren, it’s sure to be a grand and great day.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, September, 2018. Some information provided by nationaltoday.com, Wikipedia.com and The Farmer’s Almanac.

Helpful Thoughts For When It’s Time For A Memory Care Facility

If you visited these pages last week, you may have read our exploration of the signs and symptoms to look for when a parent or loved one is beginning to suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This week, in part 2 of our review, we’ll take a deep dive into the next logistical step: What to look for in a Memory Care facility.

Memory Care units, also known as Special Care Units (SCUs), are often housed within an assisted-living or skilled-nursing facility. At best, they can offer a home-like environment, activities that improve residents’ quality of life, and a staff extensively trained in caring for people with dementia. But at worst, they may offer little more than a locked door.

Common services to look for include 24-hour supervised care, medical monitoring and assistance with daily living tasks, in addition to a pleasing environment that is easy for residents to navigate.

“There are no consistent standards for Memory Care,” says Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care.

What’s more, according to Scott Mayeda, a Southern California resident whose father has dementia, there are no Trip Advisors in the Memory Care world, referring to the popular website and app for travelers.

“You can’t just go online and find nearby facilities rated in terms of their quality of care and costs with frequently updated testimonials,” he says. “I learned that the hard way with my dad’s first facility.”

Ultimately, Mayeda discovered someone locally who acted as a consultant and directed him to the home his father is in now.

But if you’re considering memory care for a loved one, you need to do your homework to find out exactly what services are being offered at each facility. That means:

  • Thoroughly reviewing each facility’s website and narrowing it down to a few finalists.
  • Making multiple visits, including unscheduled ones at night or on weekends, when the staff is more likely to be stretched thin.
  • Talking to residents’ families to determine if the community is the right fit for your loved one.
  • And finally, asking a host of questions about staff training, daily routines, methods of dealing with challenging behavior and other issues.

Important Questions to Ask When Choosing a Memory Care Community

Here is an extensive list of categorized questions to ask to help make the decision easier.

The basics:

  1. Is the facility able to accommodate people at all levels of dementia, or only at specific levels?

  2. What is the monthly rate for housing and care? What services does that rate include?

  3. Who assesses residents’ health and cognitive functioning? How often is that assessment repeated?

  4. Does each resident have a formal, written plan of care?

  5. Does the facility help with all ADLs, including bathing, toileting, and eating?

  6. What is the policy for handling medical emergencies?

  7. How does the facility communicate with families about a resident’s well-being?

  8. What is the discharge policy? Why might a resident be asked to leave the facility?


  1. If the facility is part of an assisted living facility or continuing care retirement community, is the memory care section separate from other areas?

  2. Is the memory care area all on one level?

  3. Are the residents’ rooms private or shared? How do prices vary for each?

  4. Is the facility laid out with circular hallways so that residents aren’t frustrated by cul-de-sacs?

  5. Is there an enclosed, secure outdoor area with walking paths?


  1. Does the facility feature even, good lighting in hallways and common areas?

  2. Does the facility feature nonslip floor surfaces in all rooms, including bathrooms?

  3. Is the interior and exterior of the facility secure?

  4. What methods are used to keep tabs on residents and make sure they don’t wander out of the building or off the grounds?

Orientation and comfort:

  1. Are doors and rooms labeled clearly, both with words and pictures, to help residents orient themselves?

  2. Do residents have “memory boxes” outside their rooms to help them identify the right room and to help staff members get to know them better?

  3. Does the facility feature good natural or faux-natural lighting in residents’ rooms and common areas?

  4. Is the facility generally pleasant, clean, and peaceful?

  5. Does the facility accommodate special care needs, such as physical aggressiveness and wandering?

Staff members:

  1. What kind of dementia-specific training do staff members have?

  2. Do staff members seem to know each resident’s name, personality, and background?

  3. Do staff members seem kind and attentive to residents’ needs?

  4. What is the staff-to-resident ratio during both day and night? (The ratio should be at least 1 to 5, especially for later-stage dementia. “If you don’t have that, you end up with people placed in front of the television,” McFatrich says.)

  5. Is there an RN, LVN, or CNA on staff?

  6. Do most of the staff members have a long history there? Or has there been a lot of turnover recently?

  7. How do the staff members deal with difficult behaviors, like aggression, mood swings, and sundown syndrome?

  8. What is the facility’s policy on the use of restraints — both physical and chemical?

Food, activities, etc.

  1. What meals are provided? Are special nutritional needs and dietary requests, such as kosher meals, accommodated?

  2. Does the food look appetizing and taste good? Do residents seem to enjoy it?

  3. Is there adequate staff to assist those who need help eating? Are there residents calling out who are being ignored?

  4. How does the facility encourage eating among residents who are uninterested in food — or how does it encourage residents who tend to overeat not to be unhealthy?

  5. Does the facility offer spiritual or religious services that your loved one would enjoy attending?

  6. Does the facility allow pets? Does the facility have any of its own pets?

  7. What activities are offered to residents (exercise, physical therapy, social, etc.)? Do they seem like they would engage your loved one?

  8. Does the facility offer regular exercise sessions for residents who are physically able to participate?

  9. What resources are available to engage residents’ long-term memories?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, consider the one factor that patient advocates say can all but guarantee more successful residencies: proximity to family and friends. Even a good facility can’t make your loved one a happy camper without you and other family members being there on a regular basis and being very involved, even though they may not remember who you are.

“It’s definitely sad that I’m no longer able to reminisce and share memories with my father,” says Mayeda. “But I find that we can still laugh and enjoy each other’s company just by being in the moment together.”

Sunshine has Memory Care facilities in Pharr, Texas, Beachwood, Ohio, and Mishawaka, Indiana, all of which offer programs and specialized care that are designed to ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. To find facilities in your area that offer memory care for your loved one, go to CommunityResourceFinder.org. Also, A Place for Mom can help you devise a plan and offer local expertise on the communities available in your area. Think about talking to friends and others you may know who have gone through this decision-making process. Their insights can help you in your search and give you much-needed support in what can be a very trying time for your family and your loved one.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, July, 2018. Some information sourced from alzheimers.net, aplaceformom.com and Kiplinger.com.

Sunshine Fathers Are Definitely Not Fit To Be Tied

It should come as no surprise that both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are celebrated in a big way at Sunshine Retirement communities. Just like Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, we go all out to make sure that family members of all generations are welcome and well fed. But that’s pretty much where the comparison between these two gender-related special days ends.

You see, whereas mothers generally like to be pampered with massages and sweet-smelling gifts, and enjoy good conversations with lots of hugs, Sunshine fathers are a different animal altogether. They don’t want another tie or a pair of slippers. They love reliving the good old days as well as tackling new adventures. So with that in mind, here’s a taste of what a few Sunshine communities have cooked up for Father’s Day this year.

The Old Ball Game

The Verandah at Lake Charles, Louisiana got things off to swinging start a little early with a Beanbag Baseball Tournament yesterday afternoon. According to Merry Beth Grant, the dads enjoyed Italian sausage on hoagies with ice-cold Dad’s Root Beer. Prizes for the Tournament featured bags filled with Cracker Jacks, peanuts, Big League Chew bubble gum and Baby Ruth bars. Brunch on Father’s Day will follow a New Orleans-style theme.

Sports and Shots

In response to some vibrant newcomers who enjoy having a cocktail or two at some of the local establishments, Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas is pursuing a sports bar theme. Chef Joseph is cooking up some of his famous chicken wings, while Life Enrichment Director, Angela Ring will share her knowledge about whiskey and scotch.

Hot Rods for Hot Dads

Olga Rosalez, Activity Director at The Continental in Austin, Texas, also decided to steer her Father’s Day celebration toward the many new gents who have recently settled in. She invited Sweet Rides of Texas to come show off their extraordinary collection of classic cars. And what goes better with hot cars in Texas than a smokin’ barbecue and live music. Of course, all of the classic car owners from Sweet Ridges are invited for photos and discussion.

Close but no Cigars

Way back when their kids were born, most fathers passed out and lit up cigars in celebration. At Dunwoody Pines in Dunwoody, Georgia, Life Enrichment Director Ashley Hurd is bringing back that tradition with a Cigar Lounge Theme for Father’s Day this year. Brown leather chairs and a vocalist accompanied by a piano will set the scene. After a delicious meal, the dads will enjoy glasses of bourbon with chocolate cigars. Actual smoking is not allowed in any of Sunshine’s indoor public areas, of course. But real cigars will be given to the fathers for smoking elsewhere. Or for sharing when their next grandchild is born.

Wherever you may be and whatever you may be drinking – bourbon, whiskey or root beer
– here’s a toast to all the Sunshine fathers out there. Stay adventurous, my friends.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, June, 2018.

What To Do When You Are The Official Destination For “Spring Break 2018”

March may be roaring in like a lion in your neck of the woods. But with the Olympics behind us and Daylight Savings Time just ahead, the words “Spring Break” will soon be on everyone’s lips. While that conjures up images of college students frolicking on the beach for many, in your family, it may mean a phone call from your daughter or son desperately looking to get a “spring break” from your grandkids or unable to take a week off from work. Your job, should you choose to accept it, will be to make sure the little rascals get entertained, enriched and returned to their parents safe and sound like gentle lambs.

Whatever age your grandkids may be, Spring Break can be an excellent time to shake off the winter doldrums and get out in the sunshine again. We’ve got a few excellent ideas on how to keep the kiddos happy. And don’t let a few rain showers dampen your spirits. Many Sunshine Retirement communities have playrooms with toys and kid-sized furniture. And with a little

Here are a few kid-approved activities that are guaranteed to be fun and promote a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

Go on a Treasure Hunt

Chances are, there’s a park or playground within easy walking distance of your community. But why not turn that ordinary walk into an adventure by making it a treasure hunt? Make a list of things to collect or spot for each child — an acorn, a squirrel, a feather, etc. — and start hunting. If the kids are older, make the objects tougher to find or give rhyming clues that are harder to figure out. Take a camera with you and have kids take a photo of something that begins with each letter of the alphabet.

If it’s not a good day to be outside, set up a scavenger hunt at your retirement community by having the kids collect things – a piece of candy, a coin, a cookie, a mint – from your friends up and down the hall.

Break Out the Baby Books

Not your grandchild’s baby books. Your kids’ baby books. Grandchildren love seeing their parents as peers rather than the person who tells them to clean up their room and go to bed. Tell them about what their mom or dad was like as child; first words, fears and failures; things he or she did that were naughty or funny. They might be amazed to learn that their mom or dad wasn’t much different at the same age.

Go to the Library

As long as everyone is in the mood for looking at books, take the grandkids to the public library. Encouraging reading, of course, is a great thing at any age, and no matter how many books they have at home, there’s always something new (or old) that they’ll love at the library. Most libraries will have regular story hours and special Spring Break events that are great for youngsters of all ages. While you’re there, pick up some books in the children’s section with your grandchild and start your own mini-book club together.

Bake Cookies and, of course, Eat Them

If you have access to a kitchen at your community, this is a no-brainer. Not only do kids love to be included in grown-up activities, like cooking and baking, it’s important to pass on family traditions and history. So while your grandchild is measuring and stirring, you‘re teaching how to plan, follow instructions, and develop patience, and maybe even sharing how your mother or grandmother taught you how to bake. The rewards go far beyond having a tasty treat with milk.

Open Your Jewelry Box

Speaking of family history, your jewelry box is like a mini-time capsule of your life. Almost every piece Inside could have an interesting story attached to it and kids — especially tween and teenage girls — will eat them up. If you trust them, let them try on some items. They’ll feel like royalty and ask to see the jewelry box every time they visit.

Boats, Trains and Automobiles

If you have access to a car and enjoy driving, the possibilities are endless for taking trips to the beach, going to the zoo, or taking an extended road trip. Plus, you have an almost automatic nap-inducer for the little ones in the back seat. But a boat ride or an out-and-back train ride can be even more enjoyable when you all can watch the scenery go by, have a snack, and play cards or “I Spy.”

Get Ready

Spring break is just a couple of short weeks away, so get your plans into shape. If you are a member of AARP or AAA, check their travel sites, because you may be eligible for discounts on lodging, car rentals and tickets to theme parks. Pay close attention to the age requirements listed when calculating prices. Sometimes age 50 is considered a senior; sometimes it’s 70. And “children stay/eat/play/free” can have age restrictions too.

The bottom line is, we want you to have a great time with your grandkids so that everyone gets back refreshed. And anxious to do it all over again this summer.

Read more: Spring-Break Vacations for Retirees: Bring the Grandkids | Investopedia

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, March, 2018.

Sunshine Sheds Light On The Often-Cloudy Picture Of Senior Living

Whether it’s you or your parents who are emerging into the senior years, the decision to make a change in living situation can be quite a quandary. Should you consider downsizing into a condo, townhome or apartment? Or Is it time for a retirement (independent living) community, a nursing (assisted living) home or perhaps a memory care facility?

To answer the latter question, it’s essential to understand the difference between the three options. There is a common misconception that retirement communities are pretty much the same as nursing homes. This stems from the younger generation’s belief that they both accommodate older people, have a staff of energetic caregivers, and often look similarly serene stately and beautifully landscaped grounds on the outside.

The primary difference, however, is that retirement villages and nursing homes are designed for different stages of life, and different types of people. Retirement village residents live independently, while nursing home residents require daily assistance with personal care. Let’s take a closer look…

Independent Living

Retirement or independent living communities can best be described as residential, multi-unit complexes designed for people aged 55 years or older. They offer a range of health, leisure and support services, typically in single-level villas or multi-story “hotel-style” buildings with elevators to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. The majority of residents are capable of living independently and are generally not dependent on staff for daily help with dressing, bathing or cooking. They typically pay the monthly or annual fees themselves.

Assisted Living

Assisted living or nursing facilities provide supported living for seniors who need daily personal assistance and cannot live alone. Assisted Living frequently covers laundry and cleaning services, assistance with personal care, meals, and medication. Entry is restricted by need, and accommodations as well as services are routinely inspected to make sure they adhere to state licensing regulations.

Memory Care

Memory Care facilities are designed for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other types of memory problems. More and more Memory Care programs are being developed throughout the country to meet this growing need. Sunshine provides 24-hour assisted and health-related Memory Care services in a safe, secure, relaxed environment. We harness the power of music and other unique activities to create an environment of trust.

Everything under the Sunshine

From coast to coast, Sunshine Retirement Living hosts a variety of communities to meet your needs. In addition to Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care, all of our communities also offer temporary Respite Care and Adult Day Care when space is available for regular caregivers or seniors needing relief and assistance in transitional situations.

Sunshine’s diverse communities and various levels of care ensure that you will find a community that fits your current or long-term situation. Each of our communities also partners with local third-party care providers to make additional care available when necessary. This customization of care allows many Independent Living residents to stay longer in their chosen community as their needs change.

Stay tuned for our next installment in this series, when we’ll take a closer look at some convincing reasons why you should specifically consider whether an independent living retirement home is right for you.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, January, 2018.