Once upon a time, when bacon and eggs was a regular Sunday morning ritual, planning food seemed like a simple affair. Now, there are so many new diets flying around it’s hard to know what to put on your plate. Should you scrap your frying pan and dive into raw food eating? Or do you follow the Paleo diet philosophy and ditch grains and processed foods?
Then too, you may have heard about whole-food plant-based eating, which is getting is getting so much good press that it influenced the recent revision of Canada’s Canada Food Guide (a counterpart to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate). In this revision, meat and dairy were downplayed, in an attempt to reduce heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Evidence does seem to be mounting that following a healthy plant-based diet (we’re talking tofu and quinoa, not French fries and cookies) can reduce your risk of heart disease. A major study published in 2017, which examined the dietary data of about 209,000 adults over two decades, found that those who followed such a diet had a lower risk for heart disease than other participants.
If the thought of never again biting into a juicy hamburger makes you despondent, read on. According to Dr. Ambika Satija, who led the above study, you can reap heart-healthy benefits, simply by reducing animal foods. “A moderate change in your diet, such as lowering your animal food intake by one to two servings per day and replacing it with legumes or nuts as your protein source, can have a lasting positive impact on your health,” says Satija, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in this Harvard Medical School article.
The article emphasizes the importance of eating more of the right plants, getting rid of unhealthy foods, and moderating the intake of animal products. It also highlights the health benefits of three food plans: the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND diet. All three of these diets– which are not completely meat and dairy-free–are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals .This helps lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes.
What’s more, by eating a heart-healthy diet, you can also lower your risk for brain problems such as dementia. For instance, the MIND diet trial found that those who closely follow a MIND diet, may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 53 percent.
Sunshine Retirement Living was so impressed by the results of this study it decided to base meals at its memory care communities (and increasingly at its independent living communities) on the MIND diet. (If you pop by for lunch or dinner, you’ll likely find dishes based on MIND diet recommended foods like green leafy veggies, berries, nuts, whole grains, beans and poultry.)
But let’s get back to the Canada Food Guide, which espouses some of the same foods recommended by the MIND diet. An interesting side note about this food guide is that it also recommends that seniors eat meals with others as this “may encourage you to eat more of the foods that you need to stay healthy.”
At Sunshine communities, residents would indeed agree that the social aspect of dining is just as important as delicious and nutritious meals. If you’ve grown accustomed to eating a can of soup in front of a TV screen, you might just find that chatting with others over an after-dinner cup of tea can be as good for your spirit as it is for your body.
*This is Part 2 of this article: https://www.sunshineretirementliving.com/worried-about-your-loved-ones-aging-brain-brain-boosting-diet-may-delay-decline/
If you’ve ever stood at an open fridge for three minutes trying to figure out if you were heading for an apple or last night’s leftovers, no doubt you’ve noticed the effect of aging on your brain. Anyone over 45 has been there–but is cognitive decline inevitable? Or is there something you can do about it?
Although there’s no sure-fire way to prevent dementia, we think there is something you can do. That’s because of the mounting evidence that suggests that healthy habits may delay cognitive decline. Chief among these healthful practices is eating foods that boost the health of your brain.
In fact, chefs at Sunshine Retirement Communities prepare many meals based on one of the world’s healthiest diet, the appropriately named MIND (or Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurogenerative Delay) food plan. Created and studied by researchers at Rush University Medical Center, this diet was ranked among the top five diets by U.S. News & World Report for the fourth consecutive year. (It ranked #4 in Best Diets Overall (tied), Best Diet for Healthy Eating (tied), Best Heart-Healthy diet and Easiest Diets to Follow.)
We chose the MIND diet because of the spectacular results shown in the MIND diet trial. For this study, researchers tested more than 900 older adults, who filled out food questionnaires and underwent repeated neurological testing. They found that those closely following a MIND diet, a hybrid of the highly regarded DASH and Mediterranean diets, may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 53 percent. Results, which were published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia in 2015, showed that those who strictly adhered to the food plan had the cognitive function of someone 7.5 years younger. The study also revealed that participants who didn’t rigorously stick to the diet still lowered their risk for cognitive decline by a significant 35 percent.
MIND emphasizes foods linked to improved cognitive function like kale, berries, fish and beans. In addition to recommending 10 groups of food to eat, the diet discourages five kinds of food that have an unhealthy effect on the brain like butter, fried foods and red meat.
At Sunshine’s memory care communities and, increasingly, at our independent living, you’ll see dishes based on vegetables (especially green leafy veggies), berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, beans, and poultry. Our chefs avoid or limit ingredients such as butter and margarine, cheese, red meat, fried food, and pastries and sweets. “The MIND Diet has proven to be exceptionally beneficial for overall brain health and our culinary team has ensured that the dining program is not only healthful and nutritious but also delicious,” says Luis Serrano, CEO, Sunshine Retirement Living. “At all of our senior living communities across the country, we are continually researching and implementing advanced new programs and services that aim to improve the health and wellbeing of our residents.”
Our chefs work to accommodate each residents’ various desires and dietary restrictions. In addition to creating meals that foster brain health, our chefs also offer gluten-free and vegetarian options. Dining programs at our communities always offer residents several menu choices as well as a selection of fresh and healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon refreshments.
Although the effects of aging are unavoidable we believe that eating brain-healthy food, exercising moderately and participating in our Memory Care programs, will keep memory issues at bay for as long as possible.
This year, Audrey Pierce, a resident at The Landing at Behrman Place in New Orleans, plans to work out more often to help her right leg get better.
At Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Life Enrichment Director (LED) Cindy Smith reports that Carol Wilkins plans to improve her mobility by taking the stairs three times a week, Wilma Kuenzel is taking steps (literally) to be able to walk a mile by herself, Nancy Jordan will be eating healthier, and Sue Tucker intends to drink more water.
At The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Gaye Viccellio promises to start exercising, Helen (Pug) Derbonne is going to do Sit & Fit every day, and Elaine Howerton says she’ll try not to eat so much ice cream.
And at Waterford Terrace in La Mesa, California, Doris Tillett says, “I want to be able to just keep going the way I am and do my best to live my life."
From California to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, Sunshine Retirement residents have made dozens of different resolutions for the new year. Yet they all have one goal in common: to improve their level of wellness. And once again, Sunshine’s Wellness Director Lauren Dubay has a plan to help them.
“Every year, Sunshine’s 21-Day Wellness Challenge aims to inspire our residents to create goals to help them achieve a better quality of life,” says Dubay. “Whether they’re related to physical fitness, diet, relationships, greener living or whatever, those goals may be different for every resident and we certainly don’t try to dictate them. We simply provide the tools and the encouragement to make it easier for them to achieve.”
Studies show that it takes three weeks to form a new habit. With that in mind, this month’s Wellness Challenge gives all Sunshine residents who want to make a real change in their lives a clear 21-day support program. The program involves just three simple steps:
According to Dubay, some communities, like The Landing, do group fitness goals, where they have introduced a weekly 20-Minute Walking Club Challenge. For residents with individual goals, our dedicated LEDs help assist every step of the way.
“In the spirit of the new year, the 21-Day Wellness Challenge empowers our LEDs to try new things that can be added to the schedule throughout the year,” says Dubay. “Especially after the high stress of the holidays and the often chaotic schedules that came from those special events, January is a great time for our residents to refocus.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the community provides extra incentives like prizes and recognition for people who participate in the group challenges and do at least one healthy thing for themselves every day. At many communities, the resident who accumulates the most points at the end of the 21 days will earn a special gift for being crowned “Wellness Champion.” But most residents find that the rewards of feeling better both physically and mentally are more than worth the effort to continue the Challenge, and they start looking for other ways to improve themselves.
“One of the added benefits of the 21-Day Challenge is that it motivates our residents to be more involved in all of our activity programs,” claims Dubay. “Throughout the month, we see an increase in participation across the board, not just in our daily fitness classes. And this invigorated spirit continues well after the Challenge is over!”
If that’s the case, it should be easy for John Vignes, a resident of The Landing at Behrman Place, to fulfill his New Year’s resolution, which is simply, “to be friendlier.”
This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, January, 2019.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, December, 2018.
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Outside many Sunshine Retirement communities across the country, residents are enjoying the vivid yellows, reds and oranges of fall. Inside, they’re excited about a different fall color: Bright pink.
Ever since National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was introduced to the world in October of 1985, pink has become a favorite color for clothing and accessories worn by everyone, including entertainers, professional athletes, politicians and of course, breast cancer survivors. The annual campaign was organized by major breast cancer charities to increase awareness of the disease and raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.
From the outset, the aim of the NBCAM has been to educate people about the importance of early screening and to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer. In the fall of 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors. Shortly thereafter, Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies, founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as its symbol. And pink has been popping up everywhere ever since.
Every October, a variety of Breast Cancer Awareness events are scheduled throughout the world, including walks and runs, and the pink illumination of landmark buildings in countless cities. In the United States, the National Football League promotes breast cancer awareness by incorporating pink on and off the field. And even comic strip artists use pink on one day this month.
Within the world of Sunshine Retirement communities, there are several acknowledgements of Breast Cancer Awareness, including one at Summerfield Estates in Tigard, Oregon, where they commemorated the month with their “Pink Is the New Black” Breast Cancer Association Fundraiser Social & Sale last Friday.
Meanwhile, at Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas, NBCAM has a special significance to no less than six residents who have been diagnosed with the disease. Office Manager Angela Ring has ordered pink t-shirts for the ladies and she and her staff will be running in the Race for the Cure in Little Rock on November 3.
Resident Joy Russo is currently going through treatment for metastatic breast cancer, which means the cancer has spread beyond the axillary lymph nodes. Despite the prognosis of requiring treatment for the rest of her life, she has gotten through with persistence and a lot of family support.
“I am not a survivor,” says Joy. “I’m a thriver.” Joy strongly encourages women be vigilant and get their mammograms early to give themselves the best chance of survival.
After getting out of the shower and detecting a lump on her breast, Jean Gade was diagnosed in 1976 and had to undergo a mastectomy. Thankfully, she has been cancer-free ever since and recommends reconstructive surgery to anyone in need of a mastectomy.
A routine mammogram detected Dorothy Shaw’s cancer in 1991. She had a lumpectomy, went through radiation treatment five days a week, and needed cancer medication for six years. Yet with the help of her husband and inspiration of her children and grandchildren, she made it through and even was up driving within two days of surgery. Now at age 94, she doesn’t give much thought to being a survivor, though she knows that she is blessed.
“I didn’t advertise it,” says Dorothy. “I went on with my life and continued with regular check-ups.”
Carolyn Fletcher had a much easier time when diagnosed in 2003. She had radiation treatment and a lumpectomy, but was extremely fortunate.
“I didn’t have many struggles,” say said. “I went through it like a breeze! No problems with radiation, only six weeks of it. And I didn’t have to go through the process of losing my hair.”
Carolyn’s family was also a great support system.
“My mother died before I was diagnosed,” she said. “I was glad that she passed before so she didn’t have to worry about me.”
Wanda Chastain’s maternal grandmother died of breast cancer as did her oldest sister at the age of only 48. But she wasn’t about to give in easily when diagnosed in 1993 through a doctors’ routine exam. She had a lumpectomy and lymph node surgery with reconstruction, which still gives her discomfort every day. She also had an allergic reaction to the medication, which she believes would have killed her if her daughter had not been there.
In addition to cancer, Wanda fought her way through a heart attack, a stroke and back surgery that put her in a wheelchair for six months. She owes a lot to family and friends.
“It’s very important to have a support system and to take care of yourself,” she says. “A diagnosis does not mean you’re on your death bed. Trust and believe in God.”
Some family history with cancer also encouraged Donna Belyeu to get a mammogram and probably saved her life. For years, she always refused the mammogram at her annual check-up. But after she lost her son to testicular cancer in 1988, she changed her mind.
“I felt that he took me by the hand, even though he had passed away, and led me to get my mammogram,” she said. Sure enough, “the year I decided to have it performed, it showed I had cancer. It was my savior!”
Luckily, she didn’t have to go through any treatments, but made it through by taking meloxicam for five years.
“My husband was my support system,” says Donna. “I lost my niece to breast cancer, so it means a lot to me to be a survivor.”
Her advice today is: ”Always get that mammogram!”
We at Sunshine are very grateful to have many breast cancer survivors still with us today. And by supporting the cause of NBCAM, we expect to keep countless other residents “in the pink” for years to come.
Well•ness – noun, the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.
If you’ve been following us at Sunshine Retirement Communities for a while, you know that Wellness is more than just a health care buzzword. In fact, we’re so committed to helping our residents achieve an ongoing state of good health, we devote the entire month of August to the active pursuit of Wellness every year.
Sunshine’s 6th Annual Wellness Month began with a Kickoff Party on August 1 at most of our 26 communities. As usual, each community has provided opportunities throughout the month for residents to learn Wellness practices from local professionals based on four different categories – Get Informed, Get Fit, Get Restored and Give Back.
We live in a changing world where information about new ideas, policies, problems and solutions constantly arise. Getting informed and learning about these new things can help us live healthier lives. A few examples of opportunities to Get Informed this month include:
For those who have been watching life from the sidelines for a while, the thought of getting fit may seem daunting. But the payoffs of living a longer, healthier life are well worth it. The first step is to develop a good attitude and set achievable fitness goals. Then keep track of progress and get into a sustainable routine. To make things easier, residents are encouraged to buddy up with a friend to support and challenge each other, then switch things up and try new things together. Some of this month’s Get Fit offerings have included:
Complete with opening and closing ceremonies, the Senior Olympics is one of the perennial highlights of Wellness Month at both The Continental in Austin, Texas and at Deer Park in Novato, California. The Continental has hosted their friendly crosstown rivals from The Clairmont for the past five years. According to Life Enrichment Director (LED) Olga Rosalez, the competition breeds an amazingly warm and friendly camaraderie, while bringing a lot of enjoyment to their Wellness campaign.
Steven Cartacki, LED at Deer Park concurs: “It was fun! The residents like to be competitive once in a while and have something to play for. But ultimately, they enjoy laughing and being active with their peers.”
Getting physically and mentally restored is essential for your health. With our hectic lives, we are constantly on the move and over time this has caused damage to our quality of life. We need to reclaim balance and give ourselves some much needed peace of mind, body and soul. Some ways Sunshine residents have been Getting Restored this month include:
Volunteering services or donating goods and money are not only beneficial for the recipients, but for the givers as well. Doing good for others and paying it forward does wonders for self-esteem, and having money to donate is not a requirement. This year, Sunshine’s Give Back activities feature:
At the beginning of the month, residents received a special Wellness Calendar and a Wellness Stamp Card. Since then, they have been rewarded with a stamp on their card every time they attend a Wellness event highlighted on the Calendar. As the month ends this Friday, most of the communities will be hosting a Wellness Awards Ceremony where every participant will be recognized and awarded. The resident who receives the most stamps on his or her card at each community will win a customized $50 Visa Gift Card for their efforts.
As you can see, August has been a very active month for Sunshine residents. In fact, Wellness Month has become so popular, many of them are celebrating it all year round.
This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, August, 2018.
As our parents and loved ones get older, life throws them many a curve ball – downsizing to a smaller home, financial scams, and increasingly complex technological gadgets, just to name a few. But certainly nothing is nearly as disconcerting as the onslaught of health-related issues, including the sneakiest of all: dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Unlike many health problems that are discovered quite suddenly, dementia comes on gradually, often with signs that are confusing and easy to miss. What’s more, the symptoms most people associate with dementia – memory loss, confusion, and disorientation, etc. – are not the only indications that Alzheimer’s or dementia is taking hold. Other symptoms may include delusions, agitation, sleeplessness and extreme personality changes that can drastically impact an individual’s living situation.
Whether your family member is living independently or is already in a retirement or assisted-living community, you may realize she or he has specific needs that aren’t being met. That’s a good indication that it may be time to start investigating whether your loved one could benefit from a Memory Care facility – one that’s structured, licensed, and staffed to handle the increased demands of patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
In the first of our two-part series on Memory Care, here are the top signs that it may be time to move your loved one to a Memory Care facility:
The number-one concern family members have about a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is their physical safety, caregiving experts say. People with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss become confused, wander, and become agitated and even physically violent very easily. These problems can put them into all sorts of situations where they endanger their health and safety. When evaluating your loved one’s situation, ask yourself how often each day you worry about them and check on them. If your loved one has fallen, had a driving accident, or suffered an unexplained injury, these are additional red flags.
Managing medications can be hard enough for the average person in their 50s. For someone with memory loss, failing to take prescribed medications on schedule — or taking too much — can be life-threatening. Dementia also affects your loved one’s ability to prepare and eat a nutritious diet. Your family member may forget that they’ve just eaten a meal and eat another one right after or skip meals altogether. You may notice food on the counter that hasn’t been properly put away or dirty dishes left in the refrigerator instead of the sink or dishwasher.
Is your loved one’s coffee table cluttered with untouched magazines? Are the bathroom shelves stacked with unused bars of soap? Are there little packets of sugar piled up in the kitchen or dining room? Repeatedly purchasing or collecting multiples of the same item is often an early sign that someone’s mental faculties are declining. Your loved one might buy something at the store then not remember on the next shopping trip and buy it again. An unwillingness to throw things away (“because I might need that someday”) can also be a sign that their grip on reality is fading. And, of course, if your loved one is showing signs of hoarding, that’s an even more serious warning to seek a safer living situation.
Does it seem like you can’t take your mom out to eat, shop, or exercise because her behavior is so unpredictable. But at the same time, is she even more likely to be disruptive if she doesn’t have ways to be active and work out her energy? More often than not, the result is: she rarely goes out and is frequently restless and lonely. Welcome to the dilemma that leads many families to consider memory care. Professional memory care staff are trained to use distraction, redirection, and other techniques to keep residents calm and safe. Their programs are designed to provide activities and stimulation – including trips and outings – that can help your loved one be active without you or others turning to medication to calm her down. Another symptom of dementia is the fear of driving which isolates individuals even further. In a memory care facility your loved one will have supervised transportation whenever it’s needed.
When you hug your family member, does she or he feel different? Weight changes, frailty, hunched posture, and moving with difficulty can all indicate that your loved one’s ability to navigate the world is declining. Forgetting to eat or gaining weight because of eating again and again, as mentioned before, can change appearances very rapidly. Hunched posture and moving slowly can be signs of uncertainty — does she know where she’s going?
Oddly enough, one of the strongest clues that your loved one is losing the ability to care for herself or himself may be right under your nose. Specifically, body odor if they have neglected to shower for a while. If your usually clean-shaven father starts sporting a few days of stubble like an actor, he may be forgetting to shave or even how to shave. Likewise, if your formerly well-coiffed mother begins to look shaggy, she may be missing or forgetting to make her regular hair appointments. Look for other changes in appearance as well, such as unwashed or wrinkled clothes, or maybe putting clothes on backwards or inside out.
Falling behind on financial matters is one of the first signs of dementia for many people. Look around. Is mail piling up unopened? Or worse, do you see creditor envelopes or collection notices? Look for unpaid bills and check to make sure that taxes and property taxes have been paid. If possible, examine bank statements for signs of unusual activity.
People with Alzheimer’s and dementia are easy targets for hucksters, scammers, and unscrupulous salespeople. If you notice that your loved one is making strange purchases, giving to new charities, or investing in questionable financial products, these can all indicate the onset of memory loss and other dementia-related issues. Some shady charities will approach seniors over and over again, especially if they detect a hint of dementia. If your loved one doesn’t remember donating, he or she may contribute each time out of the goodness of their heart.
Whether your loved one lives independently or in senior living, keep a close eye on the physical environment as well as your loved one’s hands and arms for burn marks. Memory loss makes it much more likely that someone will leave a burner on or drop a dishtowel on top of a pilot light and not notice the smoke. If your loved one smokes cigarettes, check blankets, mattresses, floors and counters for scorch marks from dropped cigarette butts. Also look for stains, mold, and other signs of water damage that could indicate water running until a sink or bathtub overflows. Even spills that haven’t been wiped up suggest loss of attention. And if a garden or houseplants die because no one remembers to water them, that’s a telltale sign as well.
No matter what the signs or symptoms, a loved one’s memory loss is a very difficult topic to approach. Even if they frequently repeat themselves or forget your name, he or she might simply deny any problems or refuse to discuss the situation, as they almost never recognize the symptoms themselves. To complicate matters, your siblings might not see the same evidence and disagree about whether there is a problem or not.
If you feel it’s time to make a move, keep trying to have the conversation about memory support and ask your loved one’s doctor for a respected neutral opinion. Once you weigh the options and consider the pros and cons of home care vs. a Memory Care community, we think you’ll agree that Memory Care can provide your entire family with greater peace of mind.
Check back next week when our two-part series on Memory Care focuses on how to choose the right facility.
By now you probably know that many Sunshine Retirement residents share an appetite for healthy and haute’ cuisine. Some have a passion for poetry and reading books. While others have a desire for dancing and exercise. Of course, it’s natural for thousands of people from all walks of life to have a diversity of interests. But we’re on a mission to see that every single Sunshine resident has a thirst for one specific thing: Water.
On average, more than 60% of the human body is made up of water and adults lose more than 80 ounces of it per day through normal activity. With advancing years, seniors naturally undergo physiological changes that lessen their intake of water and increase their risk of dehydration – a phenomenon that happens when a person uses or loses more fluid than is consumed, and the body doesn’t have enough water to carry out its normal functions.
In general, seniors are not as physically active as they once were. They typically lose their sense of thirst and tend not to drink enough. Furthermore, as age slows down the metabolic rate, appetite decreases and they get less fluids from solid food sources. That is especially problematic for the elderly since most people get about half of their daily water requirement from solid foods, fruits and vegetables.
We at Sunshine believe it’s extremely important for our residents to stay hydrated, especially in the warm summer months ahead. So, to encourage them to drink more water and juices throughout the day, we gave all of them a shiny new 16-ounce stainless steel travel mug for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
“I drink a lot of water,” said Garl Neel, a resident of Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “It’s good for your immune system and flushes you out.”
Fellow Country Club Village resident Dennis Ray agrees. “If you don’t hydrate, you will dehydrate,” he says.
Not surprisingly, elderly adults are the most at-risk for dehydration. In fact, it is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization after age 65 and brings several potentially serious consequences. The most common signs and symptoms in the early stages of dehydration include:
Severe dehydration can become life threatening to the elderly because there is no longer enough fluid in the body to carry blood to the organs. Signs and symptoms of dehydration can be virtually identical to symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, the most common of which include:
If you know a senior who exhibits any of these symptoms persistently for two to three days, have them see a doctor immediately. Frequent or chronic dehydration may cause even more serious complications, including:
Obviously, the way to prevent dehydration in elderly adults is to make sure they are drinking enough liquid, and the right kinds of liquid. You’ve probably heard it said that all adults, including seniors, should drink at least eight glasses (64 ounces) of water a day, which is a lot, considering caffeinated beverages and alcohol don’t count. (Both cause frequent urination, which actually promotes dehydration.)
The good thing is, water can also be found in many fruits and vegetables, which is why Sunshine menus throughout the day frequently include fruits like melons, berries, apples, oranges and peaches and vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery and cauliflower. We also sweeten the liquid intake by frequently offering popsicles, milk shakes and smoothies.
They say you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Well, now that Sunshine residents have their own special mugs, everyone is clinking and drinking to each other’s health.
This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, June, 2018.
Ah, Spring! The time of year when we welcome back the birds, the flowers and the warm sunshine. And as the grass and trees outside each Sunshine Retirement community become greener, the thoughts of the residents inside also become greener – in terms of being more considerate toward our environment.
For the entire month of April, all Sunshine communities are celebrating our 4th Annual Go Green Give Back program, where every resident is given incentives and useful tips to help them practice sustainable, earth-friendly habits. Each resident has received a flyer listing numerous ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and give back.
They’ve also received a “Pledge to Go Green” card, which includes green footprints, that represent those four categories (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Give Back). When residents do something beneficial in one of the four categories – like carpooling, shopping with reusable bags, and properly disposing of used batteries and light bulbs – they get their card punched. When all four footprints are punched, they will be recognized and awarded a green prize.
It’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Earth Day/Earth Month happenings. Many communities have been organizing activities like art & craft programs with recycled materials, garage/rummage sales, workshops to eliminate junk mail, planting projects, eye-glass donation drives and “dark hours” when all electronic devices are turned off.
For example, on April 4, The Clairmont in Austin, Texas, hosted Cub Scouts Troop 159 for their first-ever Garden Plant & Play. Together they planted seedlings and flowers, and then rewarded themselves by playing games.
At Summerfield Estates in Tigard, Oregon, they planted an organic herb garden and began composting on April 5. This week, they also started having weekly Garden Gatherings where they will discuss sustainable practices on Tuesdays throughout the summer. Then, to top it off on April 26, Executive Chef Robert Parker will be doing his Farm-to-Table Cooking Demo, featuring a Corn Panna Cotta w/ Salted Dulce De Leche, all created with products from local farm stands.
On April 17, Fountain Crest in Lehigh Acres, Florida will celebrate the re-opening of their beautiful butterfly garden with an Earth Day Workshop. Residents will learn how to start their own butterfly garden complete with a personalized terracotta pot with milkweed seeds.
The following day, Carriage House at The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana will kick off their Recycled T-shirt Bag Project, a creative way to turn outgrown or unwanted T-shirts into colorful and handy tote bags.
“I chose to use this idea because it falls under the ‘Reuse’ category of our Go Green Event,” said Merry Beth Grant’s, Life Enhancement Director at Carriage House. “I ask each resident to bring in their own shirt for the project. The great thing is, it only takes one shirt to make the bag and it doesn’t require any sewing at all. The residents can use the tote bag to carry their crochet or knitting materials, or it can handle light-weight groceries.”
Finally, every Monday this month, Waterford Terrace in La Mesa, California is working on their own “Reuse” project that they call “In Stitches.” They’ll collect thousands of used plastic grocery store bags and recycle them into sleeping mats for the homeless. The bags are cut and made into plarn, a strong yet foamy substance. Then residents use a crochet needle to weave it into a mat. It requires over 2,000 small bags to create a seven-foot mat and takes a person about 40 hours to complete one mat.
“Residents participate because they enjoy giving back to the community,” says Muzit Sebhatlab, Life Enhancement Director at Waterford Terrace. “Additionally, it’s a very easy and fun project for those who enjoyed knitting and crocheting but are unable to do so due to physical limitation.”
At the end of this month, the mats, as well as toiletry/personal hygiene bags and sandwiches, will be donated to the Newbreak East County Church, who will be responsible for distributing them to the homeless.
“Even though many grocery stores are charging for plastic bags or not offering them at all, more than a trillion of them are used and discarded worldwide every year,” claims Sebhatlab. “Considering that it takes about 300 years for each of those bags to biodegrade, our residents are very happy to do their part in keeping a significant number of them out of our landfills. And knowing that their mats will be helping those in need too, it further demonstrates that going green and giving back at Sunshine is a win/win for all of us on this little planet.”
No wonder Mother Earth always likes us best.
*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April, 2018.