Unless you live in a banana belt surrounded by swaying palm trees, you’ve probably noticed a slight chill in the air and a hint of color on the trees outside. That’s because in the wee hours of last Monday morning, the autumnal equinox launched the official beginning of fall. One by one, the leaves on the deciduous trees will tumble to the ground.
This blog post marks the first installment in a series of safety topics an,d autumn seemed like an appropriate time of year to consider how seniors can avoid a fall of their own
According to a recent survey, one in every four Americans over the age of 65 will suffer a fall this year. As seniors reach their 70s, that number increases to one in three. Those are especially alarming statistics, when you consider that nearly 25% of those falls result in serious injuries, such as broken wrists, hips, ankles, and other bones, Fortunately, there are several precautions to help keep those bones, and self-esteem, intact.
As seniors get older, physical changes and health conditions — and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions — can make falls more likely A growing number of older adults fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This social isolation can result in further physical decline, depression and feelings of helplessness.
Get back to enjoying your golden years and consider these simple fall-prevention strategies to keep the fear of falling at bay:
Physical activity can go a long way toward fall-prevention. With a doctor’s approval, consider adding activities into your routine such as walking, water workouts, yoga, tai chi or dancing. Such activities reduce the risk of falls by improving strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.
“Chair Yoga is a great safe foundation of fitness for seniors,” says Tina Bertelle, Life Enrichment Director at The Clairmont in Austin, Texas. “I am certified as a Chair Yoga instructor, I teach Yoga Flow, and I’m a green belt in Taekwondo. So, I incorporate Tai Chi and different kinds of movements into almost every day of our lives. We segue from peaceful Japanese music for Tai Chi into some Country/Western music to stretch out and keep our bodies moving.
“Residents even have homework to practice their ‘CAT’ and ‘COW’ spell-out poses from the chair. It’s a running joke that I tell them to ‘have a Cow’ every Wednesday.”
The results of movement classes at The Clairmont and other communities have been overwhelmingly positive.
“We have seen residents with low oxygen stats get back to normal,” says Tina, “and people who were not able to move or stretch are now able to touch their toes without pain.”
For those seniors who avoid physical activity because they’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, Tina has just a few words of advice: “Move it or lose it!” she says.
Swapping out footwear can be a practical part of any fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers, and shoes with slick soles can cause slips, stumbles, and falls. Properly fitted, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles are best for preventing falls and can even reduce. joint pain when worn over time.
Take a look around your living area and get rid of unnecessary hazards:
Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see. Also:
If you feel dizzy or wobbly occasionally, consider using a cane or walker. Other assistive devices can help, too. For example:
If you have serious concerns about falling, it’s a good idea to talk with your health care specialists and check on the following:
Your doctor may recommend solutions or precautions that may require professional help
or a larger investment. If cost is a concern, remember that an investment in fall- prevention is an investment in independence.
Prevention is the best way to avoid the injuries and other problems related to falls. But
accidents happen despite the best laid plans. In our next installment, we’ll explore what to do if
you or a loved one experiences a serious fall. Until then, stay safe and let the leaves do all the
Wellness – noun, the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.
Centuries ago, early explorers spent the better part of their lives searching in vain for a mythical “Fountain of Youth.” By the looks of things today, many Sunshine residents have found the source of a longer and healthier life right in their own communities.
From coast to coast, our Life Enrichment Directors are putting a wrap on Wellness Month for another year. But after giving residents a good taste of fitness and wellness, they certainly aren’t turning off the desire for them to keep living well. To refresh your memory, here’s how Wellness Month has played out in most communities.
Sunshine’s Wellness Month began with a Kickoff Party on August 1, where each community 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 included:
“An RN from Memorial Hospital came out and talked to the residents about Heat Stress,” claims MerryBeth Grant, LED at The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana. “She gave them the warning signs and symptoms of Heat Stress and ways to protect themselves. The nurse also informed the residents that different medications can impair the body’s ability to regulate body temperature.”
Merry Bethalso talked to the residents about the importance of staying hydrated. They learned about the symptoms of dehydration and ways to prevent it.
“We told them about the five myths and facts of drinking water,” she says. “Since so many of them don’t love to drink water, we also discussed how they could get their water through eating lots of different fruits and vegetables. In the end, they each got a water bottle and a nice cold glass of ginger water infused with honey, lemon, cucumber, and spearmint.”
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 in Austin, Texas. This year, The Clairmont hosted their friendly crosstown rivals from The Continental and 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.
“The Summer Games creates an essential physical activity for body and mind,” she states. “Participating and engaging with a friendly, competitive and fun mode promotes wellness and an overall positive way of life.”
Olga notices a positive change in residents like Wendell Sharptonof The Continental.
“Wendell strives to stay engaged in most activities and outings,” she says. “His overall wellness has improved tremendously in the last five years.”
Wendell wholeheartedly agrees.
“Wellness Month gets my attention and concentration on my wellness,” he says.“I put extra effort to stay hydrated and eat the right foods. Overall wellness is extremely important to me, especially at my age.”
Even without the rivalry of Senior Olympics, residents and staff members had spirited competitions in several communities, including Fountain Crest in Lehigh Acres, Florida. “This is the first time that we’ve had the Wi Bowling Challenge with the residents and staff,” claimed LED Debbie Whiteaker. “My residents are very competitive and wanted to create more interaction between staff and residents. The staff took turns coming out to bowl their games in the activity room and some and the residents who do not participate in many group programs came to watch. We have many residents who bowl very well and achieved perfect scores.”
Stacy Harrison, LED at The Landing at Behrman Place in New Orleans also decided to jazz things up this year with a new twist.
“We actually have spiced up Wellness Month by going back into the ‘50s,” she said.“We were‘Rockin’ Around the Clock’ at the Landing Fabulous ‘50’s Birthday Bash on the 18th.”
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. Sunshine residents have been Getting Restored this month through:
“I really enjoy the pillow spray,” said Wilma of Country Club Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “I made two different ones and used the lemongrass and jasmine scent on my pillows and it helped me relax and have a good sleep.”
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 featured:
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 attended a Wellness event highlighted on the Calendar. As the month ends, most of the communities will be hosting a Wellness Awards Ceremonyover the next few days, and 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.
With wonderful incentives and noticeable results, it’s no wonder Wellness Month is going stronger than ever at most Sunshine communities.
“Wellness Month sets the tone every year for our residents by providing them with great information that helps them gracefully age in place,” said Everett Williams, Executive Director at The Continental, who has witnessed positive outcomes for several years.
Tiffanie Harper, Executive Director at Country Club Village concurs.
“I think that it pushes the residents to be more active and come out of their shell,” she says. “I notice that the residents that don’t normally come to many activities seem to come out during Wellness Month. I think having a healthy competition is good for them and helps them build habits that carry on past Wellness Month, which in turn, leads to a healthier way of life!”
It’s been a real eye-opener for Country Club Village LED Star Longinotti, who experienced her first Wellness Month this year.
“I am enjoying the Wellness tradition!” she claims.“Our morning exercise classes have really increased to 23-25 people most mornings. And we’ve had to increase our water cooler jugs because we’re going through them faster than our delivery schedule.”
That about sums it up. Who needs to search for a Fountain of Youth when there’s always plenty of refreshing Wellness inspiration – and ice-cold water – to go around.
First published on Sunshine Retirement Living, September 2019.
Hollywood has done quite the job giving the public the impression that assisted living facilities are routine, ho-hum, and boring for residents. When many people think of assisted living, they think all that residents have to enjoy are tiny televisions perpetually set to the local news, staring out of windows at the same old views, and, if they’re lucky, the occasional card game. But at Marshall Pines Assisted Living facility in Evans, nothing could be further from the truth.
Marshall Pines Assisted Living & Memory Care facility is located in Evans, Georgia, and boasts that it is “not just a memory care facility, [but rather] a memory care community.” And the staff certainly proved as much during August, when everyone at Marshall Pines celebrated Wellness Month.
The staff at Marshall Pines planned a wide variety of activities for Wellness Month, touching on every area of residents’ wellness: education, arts, exercise, mental wellness, community service, and good old-fashioned fun.
Several educators visited the facility this month to teach the residents about various wellness topics. A Registered Dietitian spoke to residents about the importance of protein in their diet. And during the session, each resident got the chance to sample a natural protein supplement drink.
Another expert educated the community about heart health. Residents got the chance to listen to the instructor’s heart before heading outside to sit in the sun. But they were not just trying to get a tan; they learned that they were activating their skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D when exposed to just a few minutes of sunshine per day.
Residents also enjoyed a variety of opportunities to move their bodies during Wellness Month. Yoga class was certainly a hit, but it seems that dance-based fitness is the fan favorite around Marshall Pines. The group participated in their Toe Tappin’ Rhythm class, a Zumba fitness class, and a “Keep it Moving” exercise class that included music by the Temptations.
But don’t think for a moment that Marshall Pines neglected their mental and spiritual wellness during Wellness Month. The community also got the chance to immerse themselves in art with painting therapy. They also got creative by hand-painting clay pots and creating personalized photo cards. The residents enjoyed listening to classical music and a short story reading, as well.
Marshall Pines residents also had the opportunity to participate in a guided meditation session with CheVonne’s Garden of Healing Arts, a wellness and massage therapy practice. Participants experienced the sounds of music, drums, bells, and chimes during the session, which promoted relaxation and mental well-being.
Wellness Month also included giving back to the community. Residents packed up a surprise gift of school supplies for students starting the year at Sue Reynolds Elementary School in Augusta, Georgia. And they also gave back to their Care Partners by offering them lemonade, cookies, cards, and gifts to show their appreciation.
And, true to their commitment to residents’ total wellness, the staff at Marshall Pines made sure to put the cherry on top of Wellness Month by giving their residents plenty of opportunities to simply enjoy life. Some furry friends visited the community, and it was tough to tell who enjoyed it more: the residents who loved the adorable pets, or the pets who were reveling in the attention. And anyone with an August birthday was lucky to celebrate with a community-wide 50s-themed birthday party, complete with bomber jackets and red plaid tablecloths reminiscent of a classic burger joint.
Marshall Pines’ Activity Assistant explained to the residents that entertainment is more than a chance to take a break, but also a crucial component to overall wellness. The residents learned that laughter can help eliminate stress, anxiety, and sadness, and can increase quality of life and longevity. Upon hearing that lesson, one resident decided to boost the health of the entire community by walking up to the front of the room and sharing jokes that made everyone roar with laughter.
With all of that activity packed into just 31 days, it’s easy to see that Wellness Month, like every other month at Marshall Pines, was anything but routine and boring.
For more information about residency at Marshall Pines Assisted Living & Memory Care in Evans, Georgia, visit:
Arizona’s “dry heat” is famous—or infamous, depending on how you feel about it. Even in January, the coldest month of the year, the average daily high temperature is 66 degrees. But since winter is nearly nonexistent in the state, it is only natural that assisted living in Tucson includes plenty of outdoor experiences for residents to enjoy.
Copper Canyon Assisted Living and Memory Care facility is located in Tucson just north of the Rillito River. And at Copper Canyon, both residents and staff take indoor-outdoor living very seriously. The staff members at the community are on a mission to support their residents mind, body, and spirit. To accomplish this goal, the staff plans an extensive calendar of indoor and outdoor activities for their residents to enjoy.
Copper Canyon celebrated Wellness Month in August, and as one might imagine being in a state with no winter, the activities included connecting to nature in a variety of ways.
This month, residents took to Copper Canyon’s shaded outdoor patio area to try their hand at putting golf balls. Whether the balls made it into the hole didn’t matter; they were all smiles as they putted the balls across the temporary green the staff set up.
Residents also got the chance to get their hands dirty by planting corn and carrot seeds. They plan to experiment, tend the plants, and watch them grow over the warm Arizona fall and winter. And, of course, they hope to enjoy the fruits—or rather, vegetables—of their labor.
Even when no formal activity is planned, the Copper Canyon community still loves to get outside to experience the outdoors. And since no outing in the Arizona heat would be complete without a frosty drink, this month, residents and staff alike enjoyed sipping on icy strawberry slushies to cool down.
Wellness Month also included plenty of opportunities for residents to escape the heat with indoor activities—a necessity during the hot Arizona summer. Copper Canyon’s book lovers took a trip to the Nanini Library for an afternoon of learning and entertainment. August’s roster of air-conditioned activities also included dancing, making music, sunrise yoga hour, and a visit from The Humane Society of Southern Arizona, who brought Jake the ShihTzu to visit. Residents also got creative in art class, throwing it back to the 1960’s by making tie-dye T-shirts.
Copper Canyon also made sure to include relaxation and spiritual wellness in their activities for Wellness Month. The residents and staff made bath bombs both to relax and as a fundraiser to support the larger community. They made the bath bombs in two scents, and after handcrafting each one, the community made them available in Copper Canyon’s main lobby in exchange for a donation to the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Not only did all of these activities celebrate wellness, but the activities themselves also contributed to residents’ well-being. Copper Canyon is an assisted living and memory care facility, which means that the staff provides specialized physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual nurturing to ensure the residents’ well-being in a safe and secure environment. Activities like the ones the residents enjoyed this month are not only entertaining, but also offer benefits such like cognitive stimulation, comfort, relaxation, and the opportunity to connect and socialize with others.
If you or a loved one is seeking a community-focused assisted living facility in Tucson, look no further than Copper Canyon. Not only do the residents enjoy a variety of wellness-promoting physical and mental activities, but they do so with the specialized support of a caring staff.
For more information about residency at Copper Canyon, visit
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.