Practicing Gratitude in Assisted Living

Practicing Gratitude in Assisted LivingThere’s no denying that the past two years have been especially trying for us all, which can make it difficult to practice gratitude, either for Thanksgiving, or as a regular practice throughout the year. Nevertheless, we all have things for which we can be grateful, and it’s important to remember those things, because practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress and depression while improving sleep and immune function. If you’re struggling to come up with ways to practice gratitude this year, especially with the older Americans in your life, we have a few ideas to help you turn that around and start experiencing the benefits of practicing gratitude.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

The benefits of gratitude journals have long been recognized by professionals and laypeople alike. Taking just a few minutes every day to remember all the things you’re grateful for can switch your brain from a negative thought pattern to a positive thought pattern almost instantaneously. As a bonus, writing things down helps you remember them better, so you can hold onto the good feelings promoted by your gratitude.

If you and your loved one in assisted living are both new to gratitude journals, you can suggest starting your gratitude journals together. You can check in with each other at the end of each day or week to make sure you’ve both been writing in your journals and to share with each other some of the things you wrote down in your gratitude journal since the last time you spoke.

Write Thank-You Notes or Make Phone Calls

While writing down the things we’re grateful for in a journal for our own use is a great first start, too often we forget to tell the people in our lives how much they mean to us. So if you find yourself writing in your journal how grateful you are to have someone in your life or something they did for you, take some time to call them and let them know. Alternatively, you can send them a thank-you note so they have something to hang on their fridge that reminds them of you.

Enjoy Your Favorite Thanksgiving-Themed Movies

Movies are often treasured because they have the power to awaken certain emotions within us. What those emotions will be will depend on the movie and the life experience we bring when watching the movie, but many Thanksgiving-themed movies have the power to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, so if that’s what you’re going for this year, here’s what we think you should watch:

-A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: Get in touch with your inner child this year with Charlie Brown and Snoopy as they get their table ready for a Thanksgiving feast to serve their friends. Regardless of your age, it’s hard to argue with the heart-warming effects of a Charlie Brown movie.

-Home for the Holidays: Need a laugh? This classic movie about a family of misfits coming together for Thanksgiving is sure to give you all the good belly laughs you need this holiday season.

-Addams Family Values: If you and your loved one like the Addams Family, you’ll love this comedic take on a golddigger tearing a family apart, starring some of the best comedic actors of the 1990s.

-Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: This comedy of errors starring Steve Martin and John Candy is another crowd pleaser with just the right mixture of laughs and heartfelt moments.

If you need some more ideas to help you give thanks with your loved one in assisted living this year, don’t hesitate to reach out. We have lots of ideas, and we’d love to share them all with you.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we always look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving. Want to know what we are doing to celebrate the holidays this year? Just reach out and ask us. We would love to tell you how you can be a part of the celebration this year.

5 Ways to Celebrate the Veterans in Your Life This Veteran’s Day

5 Ways to Celebrate the Veterans in Your Life The people currently living in assisted living and nursing homes have been through a lot of wars in their lifetime, including the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and for the oldest residents, WWII. Many residents actively served in a war in one capacity or another, so if you have been wondering about the best way for you to honor the veterans in your life this Veteran’s Day, we have a few ideas for you.

  • Ask Them About Their Service

Not everyone who served is willing to talk about their service, but some of them do appreciate a chance to talk about everything they did to help their country. Whether it is stories of heroism, boredom, friendship, fear, or just a chance to remember those they served with who did not make it back, talking about it can help keep those memories alive. It also makes them feel that their service is appreciated when people ask to hear those stories. As a bonus, you just might learn something.

  • Do Not Confuse Veteran’s Day with Memorial Day

A common mistake veterans hate to hear about is confusing Veterans Day with Memorial Day. While both holidays are designed to honor those who served our country, Memorial Day specifically honors those who died in service to their country, while Veterans Day celebrates those who have served or are still serving our country and still living.

  • Volunteer at Your Local VA Hospital

Check with your local VA hospital to see what their volunteer policy is like. Many of them have special events to celebrate Veteran’s Day, which can give you extra opportunities to interact with one or more veterans. Even if you do not get a chance to interact with a veteran, volunteering at your local VA hospital is a great way to give back to those who risked everything for our country.

  • Get Outside with a Veteran

Spending time outdoors increases both physical and mental health, so getting outside with a veteran is a great way to improve both their spirits and yours. If you live near a national park, admission is free for all veterans on Veteran’s Day, which is all the more reason to explore the great outdoors with a veteran this year.

  • Adopt a Military Family for the Holiday Season

One of the best ways to honor veterans and their families is to help those who may be struggling, especially during the holiday season. Some veteran families live on very limited incomes, especially if they have a parent who was injured after 9/11. You can make their holiday season a little brighter by checking out the Adopt a Family program, which allows both civilians and companies to sponsor a military family for the holidays.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we always look forward to celebrating our veterans during Veteran’s Day. Want to know what we are doing to celebrate this year? Just reach out and ask us. We would love to tell you how you can be a part of the celebration this year.

3 Activities You Can Do with Dementia Patients

Activities You Can Do with Dementia PatientsWhile dementia is often associated with memory loss, there can be much more to it than that, depending on the type of dementia. As the disease progresses, many patients don’t just lose their memories, they also tend to lose their cognitive abilities, including reasoning, language skills, and their ability to work with numbers. That’s why one of the early signs of dementia is not forgetfulness, but mail piling up and left unsorted, bills going unpaid, and housework left undone as the person forgets how to complete those tasks.

So, if your loved one is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be tough to come up with activities to do with them, since they might not remember how to play what used to be their favorite game. That said, there are still some things they can do, and ways you can help them feel included.

  • Take a Walk

Taking a walk, especially outside, is one of the best ways for just about anyone to feel better. Not only does it give you a chance to move your body, which is good for almost everything, it also gives you a chance to get some fresh air and enjoy the feeling of the sun on your skin. In addition to feeling good, sunshine is an important source of vitamin D, which makes it a nutritional necessity.

When you take your loved one for a walk outside, you can point out different kinds of plants and birds, or pick a spot to watch the clouds roll by and see what shapes you can find in the clouds. Fall is an especially great time to get outside and go for a walk while all the leaves are changing color. Appreciate the foliage while it lasts.

If it’s getting too cold outside for your loved one to enjoy a walk outside, you can always walk around inside. Take a tour of the building and turn it into a game by making a race out of it, or seeing how many landmarks you can spot.

  • Gardening

Gardening is a great way to get older Americans outside in the fresh air and keep them active, while making them feel like they’re being productive and contributing to the community. It also has the added bonus of beautifying the community, so the next time you take a walk outside with your loved one, you can point out all the lovely plants they helped nurture.

  • Toss a Ball

While the rules of some games might start to elude those suffering from dementia, everyone can grasp the concept of throwing a ball back and forth. It’s a great way to get some exercise and make them feel connected to you without performing a task that’s too challenging for them.

If they’re suffering from arthritis, you can make the game even easier by tossing a balloon around and see how long you can keep it from touching the ground.

In addition to our memory care wing, we also regularly schedule all kinds of activities for our residents to keep them active and engaged as much as possible. If you have any questions about how we make sure all our residents feel included, don’t hesitate to reach out.

3 Ways to Make Assisted Living Less Scary for Your Loved One This Fall

relocating your aging parentsThe Spooky Season is in full swing, and whether you’re a lover of horror movies, or you’re more likely to hide under the covers during the scary parts, you probably prefer your horror in fiction rather than your day-to-day life. Nevertheless, most older Americans find the prospect of moving into assisted living to be a scary one, but of all the things you have to be afraid of these days, we don’t think moving into assisted living should be one of them. On the contrary, needing assisted living and not having access to it is one of our worst nightmares.

Whether you’re worried about moving into assisted living yourself, or you have a loved one you’re considering moving into assisted living, we have some tips to help make the transition less scary.

  • Choose the Right Assisted Living Community for You

Making sure you have the right assisted living community on your side can go a long way towards making you and/or your loved one feel better about the move. There are several things to consider when weighing the pros and cons of various assisted living communities including:

  • Cost: Money is far from the only consideration, but an assisted living community that meets all your needs can’t help you if it doesn’t fit into your budget. So, the first thing you need to do is take a good, hard look at your finances so you can determine your budget before you start looking at assisted living communities.
  • Location, location, location: Location is everything, but it’s important to remember that, just because an assisted living community is near your loved one’s current residence does not necessarily mean it’s right for them. They might want to move somewhere warmer, or they’ll want to move closer to their children or other family members so they can visit regularly. It can help to come up with a list ahead of time so you can check it against your various assisted living options to see which one meets the greatest number of your requirements/preferences.
  • Reviews: Reputation matters in everything from business to dating and the assisted living community you choose is no different. While we are always a proponent of good assisted living communities, the reality is that not all communities meet our high standards. The care of your loved one is too important to leave to chance, so do your due diligence ahead of time to make sure your loved one will be in good hands.

 

  • Allow Time for the Reality to Set In

Insisting that your loved one needs to move into assisted living right away is one of the best ways to make sure they dig in their heels and refuse to move. Instead of waiting until the last minute when your loved one absolutely needs assisted living, give them a heads up months, even years in advance of when you actually need them to move into assisted living. Start talking to them about the benefits assisted living can provide. Ask them about their vision for their golden years and suggest ways that assisted living could fit into that vision.

  • Take Them on a Tour

We are often most afraid of the unfamiliar because we build it up in our heads as something terrifying, even when there’s nothing to fear. To prevent your loved one from falling into that trap, take them on a tour of your chosen assisted living community with you so they can see it for themselves and start to see what living there would look like. That’s often all it takes for them to get used to the idea of living there, and once they’ve become accustomed to the idea, they’ll be more accepting of the transition.

Whether you need a tour, or just more general information about what your loved one can expect from the move to assisted living, we’re here to help. All you have to do is reach out to start your transition to a better assisted living community.

3 Ways to Celebrate National Assisted Living Week

national assisted living weekNational Assisted Living Week is an annual holiday in which we take a week during the month of September to honor the residents in assisted living, as well as recognize the value our assisted living staff provides, not only to the residents for whom they are caring, but to the community as a whole. Each year the week has a different theme, and this year, the theme is Compassion, Community, Caring.

Because National Assisted Living Week is an opportunity to celebrate both assisted living staff and the residents they serve, we thought this would be a great opportunity to share some ideas about how you can celebrate National Assisted Living Week with both staff and residents of your local assisted living community.

Adopt a Resident

Many residents of assisted living communities have either lost touch with their family members or even outlived them, which can leave them feeling lonely and isolated. One of the best ways to celebrate National Assisted Living Week is to adopt a resident in your local assisted living community and visit them regularly so they have someone to talk to and they do not have to feel so isolated.

Remember to take some time to show your appreciation for the staff who are taking care of your adopted resident. It could be a small gift or treat, or just a sincere thank you when you come for your visits.

Share Photos

Photos are one of the best ways to save and share memories. The traditional method of presenting a framed photo is always nice, but these days you also have the option of having the photo printed onto a pillow, a blanket, or even clothing.

If you have a loved one in assisted living (or you have adopted a resident) a great way to celebrate both the resident and the staff is to take a picture of the resident with one or more of their caretakers. Then you can print multiple copies of the picture and present one copy to the resident and another copy to their caretaker(s).

Create Art Together

Art projects are always a great activity to do in groups. They allow you to express yourself while having a good time with other people. You can invite both staff and residents of your local assisted living community to participate in your art project. You can paint rocks with inspirational quotes, or paint flower pots to brighten someone’s day. Encourage both the staff and residents to create a piece of artwork they can then exchange to express their appreciation for one another.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we plan all kinds of activities to keep our residents engaged, giving them opportunities to interact with each other, as well as our staff. We get excited about National Assisted Living Week each and every year, and this year is no different, especially with all the challenges we have faced throughout the year. If you are wondering what we have planned for National Assisted Living Week this year, just reach out.

Signs and Symptoms of Sundown Syndrome

sundown syndromeSundown syndrome (sometimes referred to as sundowning) is common among those with Alzheimer’s, so if your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (or they have not been diagnosed, but you think they might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s), sundown syndrome is something for which you should be on the lookout. Whether you have heard a little bit about sundown syndrome, or you are completely new to the concept, here are some things to look out for if you suspect your loved one might be suffering from sundown syndrome.

Agitation

Patients with Alzheimer’s often get agitated for a variety of reasons, but if they have sundown syndrome, they might be more likely to get agitated around sunset and/or throughout the night. Agitation can manifest in the form of your loved one getting upset over little things, or for no discernible reason at all. If it happens around sunset or in the course of the night and appears to get better around morning, it could be a symptom of sundown syndrome.

Agitation can also appear in the form of anxiety, which is another common symptom of Alzheimer’s and dementia. If you notice your loved one is more likely to become anxious around sunset or over the course of the night, it could be a symptom of sundown syndrome.

Restlessness

If your loved one is experiencing sundown syndrome, they might seem more fidgety at night than during the day, whether that means they are just tapping their fingers on a surface, or trying to perform tasks that do not need to be performed, such as packing when they are not going anywhere, cleaning things that are already clean, or cooking a big meal after they have already had dinner. As with agitation, if you notice your loved one appears to be more restless at night than during the day, it could be a symptom of sundown syndrome.

Confusion

As people with Alzheimer’s or dementia lose their memories, it is no wonder they are more likely to become confused, especially as the disease progresses and they lose much of their cognitive function in addition to their memories. While those with Alzheimer’s or dementia tend to have good days and bad days, it is also common for some to have good days and bad nights, especially if they are suffering from sundown syndrome. Keep in mind that confusion can often lead to agitation and restlessness as they struggle to remember where they are and how they got there.

Suspiciousness

Suspicion and paranoia are common symptoms of dementia that may or may not get worse after the sun has gone down. If your loved one is their normal, chatty, sociable self during the day, but suddenly suspicious and paranoid by night, they may be suffering from sundown syndrome.

Because sundown syndrome can often last all night, not only does it prevent the patient from getting sleep, it can prevent the caregiver and/or other people in the house from getting a good night’s rest, in which case it might be time to consider assisted living. If you have questions about assisted living, we are here to answer them.

4 Tips to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

caregiver burnoutBeing a caregiver to an Older American is an incredible gift, but let’s face it, it is also a lot of work, and it involves a fair amount of stress. Every job comes with a risk of burnout, but due to the fact that caregivers often feel like they always have to be on the clock, they are particularly susceptible to burnout. So, if you are a caregiver, whether for a loved one or as a profession (or both) use these tips to make sure you do not burn out.

  • Take a Break

If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, you know the flight attendants always say that, if the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, you need to put your own mask on before helping anyone else with their mask. Since you cannot help anyone if you can’t breathe, it only makes sense to put on your mask first, but we often do not think of self-care the same way in everyday life.

When we get tired and/or stressed and we do not do anything about it, we are more likely to make mistakes that could potentially harm the person for whom we are supposed to be caring. We can also get sick, in which case we can’t take care of anyone – and we might even endanger them by exposing them to bacteria or a virus they cannot fight off if they have a compromised immune system.

So, if you want to provide the best care possible, it is important to take breaks regularly and take some time that is just for you. Get some extra sleep. Watch your favorite movie or TV show. If you feel yourself getting tired, don’t ignore it or try to push through it. Listen to your body and give it what it needs, so you can give your loved one what they need.

  • Ask for Help

This goes hand in hand with our first tip because you need someone you can rely on to take care of your loved one while you are taking time for yourself. It could be a friend or family member, or it could be a nurse or aide you hire part time.

When it comes to caring for an aging parent, the responsibilities tend to get loaded onto one child, so if that sounds similar to your situation, do not be afraid to let your siblings know when you need help. If they are not around, they cannot see what you are dealing with, and they certainly cannot read your mind, so you have to be the one to communicate and let them know when you’re feeling overwhelmed. If your siblings live far away and cannot travel to watch your parent, ask if they can chip in to help with expenses.

  • Join a Support Group

Being a caregiver is a uniquely stressful position, especially when you are caring for a parent, but it can help to talk with other people who are going through the same thing. They cannot solve your problems for you, but they can listen with a sympathetic ear and let you know you are not alone. They can also provide some tips and resources you may not have considered because they’ve been there and done that.

  • Consider Assisted Living

Assisted living ensures your loved one gets the best care possible without risking caregiver burnout. It allows you to spend more quality time with your loved one because you get to be truly present when you’re with them instead of caring for them and worrying about making sure they have everything they need. If you think it might be time to discuss assisted living options for your loved one, reach out now so we can help.

4 Summer Safety Tips for Seniors

dehydration in seniorsThe summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, but it also poses certain risks we don’t encounter throughout the rest of the year. In addition to heat stroke, you also have to worry about dehydration, sun burn (which can cause skin cancer), and bug bites, just to name a few. Older Americans are often more vulnerable than others when it comes to things like dehydration and heat stroke, so if you’re caring for (or just going on vacation with) some older Americans, use these tips to help keep them safe this summer.

  • Keep Hydrated

The first and most important thing to be aware of is their hydration level. Older Americans are less likely to feel thirst, even when they’re losing water, so it’s important to stay on top of their hydration and make sure they’re drinking water regularly. Always make sure they have water handy, especially if they’re spending time outside in the heat. Keep track of whether they’re drinking their water, and if you notice it’s been a while since they’ve taken a drink, suggest they sip some water. Sometimes just the suggestion is enough to remind someone they’re thirsty and that it’s been a while since they’ve had a drink.

  • Stay Inside in the Middle of the Day

The sun is at its brightest (and most damaging) from 10 am to about 2 pm, while the middle of the afternoon tends to be the hottest part of the day. So when it comes to enjoying some time outside in the summer months, you’re better off enjoying the book ends: early morning and evening. Sunrises and sunsets are both beautiful and they’re great times to be outside, but don’t let your older American stare at the sun for too long, which brings us to our next point.

  • Preserve Their Vision

Direct sunlight is very hard on the eyes, so it’s important to protect them with sunglasses, as well as hats with bills or wide brims. If you’re watching the sunrise or sunset with an older American, make sure they’re wearing sunglasses and remind them to look away from the sun every now and then. If you’re out in the middle of the day, make sure they have a hat with either a bill or a wide brim, which will both protect their eyes from the sun and provide shade to help keep them cool, which provides a nice segue into our next point.

  • Watch for Heat Stroke

Older Americans have a harder time regulating their body temperature, so it is particularly important to protect them from the heat whenever possible, and watch for signs of heat stroke, which include headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and high body temperature. If you notice any of these symptoms in your loved one, seek immediate medical attention.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we’re committed to keeping our residents safe throughout the year, come rain or shine. If you have any questions about our programs or the care we provide, reach out now to start a conversation.

4 Alzheimer’s Warning Signs

alzheimer's warning signsMost people experience some cognitive decline and inability to remember events and details as they age, and some of that is normal, but sometimes it can be an indication of something much more serious. If you have an older American in your life, how can you tell if their memory loss is just a normal part of the aging process, or a sign of dementia or even Alzheimer’s?

While the only definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has to be done postmortem, here are some indications you or your loved one might be experiencing some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease.

1) Memory Loss Severe Enough to Disrupt Daily Life

As previously mentioned, a certain amount of memory loss as we age is normal, but if someone finds themselves unable to remember recently learned information, important dates or events, asking the same question multiple times, and/or increasingly relying on memory aids (such as reminder notes or electronic devices) that could be a sign something’s wrong. An increased reliance on friends and family members for tasks they used to be able to handle on their own is also an indication of a serious problem.

By contrast, occasionally forgetting dates or names, but remembering them later, is a more normal symptom of the aging process and not necessarily an indication that anything is wrong.

2) Reduced Ability to Plan or Solve Problems

Someone who struggles to follow a plan or work with numbers might be showing early signs of Alzheimer’s. Even simple, daily tasks such as following a familiar recipe or paying bills can become a struggle to someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Difficulty concentrating and taking much longer to perform familiar tasks are also signs of serious cognitive decline.

We all make the occasional mistake when cooking or paying our bills, but the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s or dementia is when the occasional mistake becomes an inability to make a familiar recipe or manage our finances as normal.

3) Forgetting the Time or Place

Occasionally forgetting the date or the day of the week is normal, but when someone doesn’t even know what season it is or has trouble with the passage of time in general, that’s usually an indication something is very wrong. Forgetting where they are or how they got there is also an early indication of Alzheimer’s.

4) Problems Using Language

We’ve all experienced times when we struggle to find the right word in a conversation or while writing something, and that shouldn’t cause anyone any concern. On the other hand, if someone has trouble following or joining a conversation, that could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Stopping in the middle of a conversation or repeating themselves because they don’t know how to continue the conversation are also early signs of Alzheimer’s.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia requires special training and is not something you should try to deal with on your own. Our new memory care wing is designed to help our residents continue living life to the fullest, regardless of their memory challenges, while delaying the progression of the disease as much as possible. Please contact us today to schedule a tour.

4 Summer Activities for Older Americans

Summer Activities for Older AmericansSummer is a great time to get outside, enjoy the outdoors, and get active, and there is no reason seniors cannot enjoy everything summer has to offer, even if they are not quite as active as they once were. We came up with some ideas to help the older Americans in your life take advantage of this season regardless of their activity level.

  • Play Games

We are always a fan of board games and card games all year long. They are a great way to stay mentally active and social and there is no reason you can’t bring some of your favorite games outside. If you live near a park that has chess sets, play some chess outside, or bring your favorite boardgame and set it up in your favorite spot in the park.

For some of your more active seniors, do not forget to include them in some of your favorite outdoor games. Anything from hopscotch to jump rope can be moderated to their activity level so they can get some exercise and have fun while enjoying the great outdoors.

  • Watch Movies

Summer is a great time for movies. You can watch them indoors and use them as an excuse to escape the summer heat, or, when the weather is more favorable, you can set up a screen and projector outside and enjoy summer while watching your favorite movie. These days, you don’t even need a screen or projector, just bring an iPad or your laptop and you’re good to go.

  • Read a Book

Summer is also a great time for books.  Whether you are going for a light beach read or digging into that classic Russian novel you have always meant to read, summer often means more free time, and that can mean more time to catch up on your TBR list. As with games and movies, one of the best things about a good book is that it’s portable. You can take it to the park on a nice day, or enjoy it in front of the air conditioner when it gets too hot to enjoy the great outdoors.

For older Americans whose eyesight is not what it once was, large-print books are ideal, as are ereaders, such as Kindles. Ereaders let you adjust the size of the type so older Americans can comfortably enjoy their favorite book without straining their eyes.

  • Swimming

Swimming is perfect for older Americans because almost anyone can do it. Even those who are not strong swimmers can hang out in the shallow end of the pool where they can walk around and enjoy the feel of the water around them. Swimming is low impact, which makes it beneficial for older Americans who might have stiff joints, and it is a great way to stay cool throughout the hottest months of the year.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we pride ourselves on helping our residents enjoy all the seasons to the fullest, regardless of their activity levels. If you have any questions about what summer looks like for our residents, just reach out and we would be happy to give you all the details.