Meditation for SeniorsWhat started out as a fringe practice used by a few to maintain a sense of calm has become widely adopted, with scientific evidence to support the idea that it provides many more benefits than just helping you calm down when you’re stressed. While meditating regularly provides benefits to people of all ages, it can be particularly beneficial to seniors. So, whether you’re an older American and/or you have loved ones who are older Americans, consider these benefits when thinking about adding meditation to your daily routine … or convincing them to add meditation to their routine.

Delays the Onset of Dementia

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, or any other form of dementia, but studies show that, by meditating regularly, we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Because meditation is a way of clearing the mind of distracting thoughts, it’s also a way to increase focus, which requires an increase in brain activity. By “exercising” the brain with meditation, we can delay some of the brain cell death that results from of a condition such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s similar to the way other mentally stimulating activities, such as gardening and crossword puzzles, also help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Helps Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a common symptom of aging, and a dangerous precursor to things like stroke and heart attack. By actively meditating for a few minutes every day, seniors can keep their blood pressure under control. It’s not a replacement for blood pressure medication, but it’s a great addition to any routine prescribed by a doctor to get and keep your blood pressure down to a healthy level. As with Alzheimer’s/dementia, meditation might not cure you of your high blood pressure, but with regular practice, it might be able to delay the need for medication for a while.

Reduces Your Risk of Contracting a Stress-Related Illness

Many of the most common chronic illnesses are at least partially due to stress. We mentioned high blood pressure (a.k.a. hypertension), but other illnesses, such as high cholesterol and diabetes also seem to have roots in stress, at least to an extent. Meditation can’t necessarily cure you, but when practiced regularly, it can delay the onset of stress-related illnesses, and help mitigate the effects of a stress-related illness after you’ve already started showing symptoms.

Increases Energy and Boosts Your Immune System

By helping you stay calm, meditation can help keep your cortisol levels low. Cortisol is the hormone produced and released by your body when you’re under stress. It’s also known as the “fight-or-flight” hormone, but with many of us feeling stressed in ways that involve neither fighting nor fleeing, we end up in a near-constant state of stress, which means our body is pumping out cortisol continuously. Since cortisol inhibits the immune system’s ability to respond to threats to the body, those of us who constantly feel stressed are significantly more likely to get sick than those who meditate on a regular basis.

Meditating is just one brain exercise that provides health benefits to seniors, and as experts in assisted living, we don’t stop at meditating. Our new memory care wing has a host of mental activities to help mitigate the effects of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. If you want to know what else we do to keep our residents safe and healthy, don’t hesitate to reach out.

celebrate love in assisted livingCelebrating Valentine’s Day in assisted living can be challenging at the best of times, and let’s face it, these are not the best of times. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate love and the people who matter most to us. This year we have some ideas as to how you can celebrate love with those closest to your heart, even if they’re in assisted living and you have to physically keep your distance.

  • Send Them Gifts

You might not be able to give them gifts in person, but you can still send them a care package. Whether it’s the traditional box of chocolates, something new they’ve had their eye on, or a box of their favorite homemade cookies, sending them a gift is the perfect way to let them know you’re thinking of them and they’re still as special to you as ever.

  • Call Them

Just because you can’t visit them in person doesn’t mean you can’t give them a chance to hear your voice, and that can mean more than you might realize. Sometimes a good old-fashioned phone call really is all it takes to lift someone’s spirits and make them feel connected to you (and for you to feel connected to them). You don’t have to talk about anything big, so don’t feel like you should only call when you have major news to share. It’s often sharing the small events of day-to-day life that really bring people together, so don’t hesitate to call them just because you’re thinking of them.

If your loved one can manage a Zoom call or FaceTime, even better. It can’t match meeting up in person, but it’s as close as we can get these days, so use video chat to connect with your loved one whenever possible.

  • Send Photos

Sending photos of you and your family is also a great way to help your loved ones in assisted living feel connected to you and the rest of the family, especially if you have kids. Grandparents always love seeing photos of their grandkids, especially given how fast they grow. Video conferences are great, but sending a physical photo gives them something they can hold onto and keep, and if you do it regularly, they’ll get to see their grandchildren’s progress as they look over their photo collection.

  • Send Gift Cards

You might not be able to take your loved one out to lunch or dinner for Valentine’s Day this year, but you can send them a gift card to their favorite restaurant, especially if it’s a restaurant that’s doing deliveries. That way your loved one can order their favorite meal as a special treat and know you were thinking of them.

If you want more ideas for expressing love and gratitude to your loved ones on Valentine’s Day, don’t be afraid to reach out to get some recommendations directly from the experts. You can also ask us what we’re doing here at Stillwater Senior Living to celebrate love with our residents.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited our new Memory Care Neighborhood is now open.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

What Should Seniors Be Eating to Stay Healthy?We should all be doing our best to maintain a healthy diet all year long, but it’s especially important for seniors to eat healthy, since a nutritious diet can help keep both their body and mind strong, avoiding or delaying the effects of dementia, and reducing the chances of breaking a bone if they should fall or bump into something. While fruits and vegetables are necessary ingredients in any nutritious diet, seniors need to take extra measures to make sure they’re getting certain vitamins and minerals in their daily diet, as well as loading up on some of these foods:

Calcium and Vitamin K

We talk a lot about the dangers of seniors breaking bones due to the fact that their bones tend to lose density as they age, making them more brittle and therefore more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Calcium is obviously an important nutrient our bodies need for building strong bones, but a lot of people forget about vitamin K, which the body needs to transport calcium from the blood stream to the bones. So, while it’s important to include a healthy amount of milk and cheese to make sure you get your calcium, it’s equally important to make sure you eat some dark leafy greens with your dairy to get the benefit of vitamin K.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another important ingredient for building strong bones. Our bodies make vitamin D from sunlight, but as we age, our bodies start to lose the ability to made vitamin D, making it necessary for us to get it from food. There are plenty of vitamin D supplements on the market, but you can also get milk enriched with vitamin D, and bone broth and mushrooms are both natural source of vitamin D, so make sure your older loved ones are getting at least one of those things in their diet on a regular basis.

Collagen

Collagen is an essential nutrient that a lot of Americans are missing from their diet, especially seniors. It’s necessary for building and maintaining strong tendons and ligaments, which means getting enough collagen can also prevent fractured and broken bones by building a strong support network for those bones.

Collagen can be found naturally in bone broth, but they also sell powdered collagen as a supplement. It dissolves easily in liquid and doesn’t have much flavor, so you can just add it to your cup of coffee or tea in the morning as a quick and easy way to get this nutrient.

Healthy Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for building and maintaining both a strong brain and a strong heart. They’re found in a variety of foods, but fatty fish, such as salmon, are especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t like fish, you can take fish oil as a supplement to make sure you get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids.

Some correlations have also been found between the consumption of coconut oil and brain health, although there is not currently enough data to definitively say whether coconut oil is capable of preventing, much less curing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. What we do know is that coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MTCs), a kind of fat that is easily digested and used by the brain for energy. Regular consumption of coconut oil, combined with a low-carb diet, can also prompt the liver to make ketones, which the brain uses for energy when there is no sugar available, and there is evidence to suggest that these ketones promote a healthier brain function.

As part of our services as an assisted living community, we offer customized meals for our residents, so they can maintain their dietary preferences, even if they aren’t the ones doing the cooking. If you’re curious about what we serve in our dining hall, you can view our weekly menu here.

Alzheimer’s Caregiver SupportCaring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is easier said than done. At first, it might involve nothing more than some light housekeeping and making sure all the bills get paid on time, but as the disease progresses, the patient will need more and more support, and so will their caregiver.

There are a lot of benefits to being a caregiver, but it can also be extremely stressful and time consuming. Unfortunately, too many caregivers get so caught up in their role as caregiver to someone else that they forget to take care of themselves, either because they don’t have the time, or they simply don’t think they’re a priority. We have a few reasons you should think differently about making sure you have the proper support if you’re a caregiver – or giving support if you’re not a caregiver but you know someone who is.

Taking Care of Yourself = Taking Care of Your Loved One

If your loved one depends on you to take care of them, then neglecting your own self-care is a form of neglecting your responsibilities as a caregiver. If you don’t take time off to rest and recharge from your caregiver responsibilities, the stress will catch up with you one way or another. Better to plan your time off and make arrangements for someone to cover for you, than to get sick or injured unexpectedly and run the risk of leaving your loved one without a caregiver.

Taking time to rest and recharge also means you’ll be better at your job. When you’re tired and stressed, you’re more likely to make mistakes and forget things, which could potentially be dangerous when it comes to things like administering medications. By regularly scheduling time off from your caregiving responsibilities, you’ll be able to provide better care when you are on the job.

You’ll Have More Appreciation for the Job

While there’s no denying that being a full-time caregiver can be stressful and overwhelming, it can also be extremely rewarding. But it can be hard to appreciate the good things that come with such a special role when you’re just struggling to make it through the day. By scheduling time off for yourself, you’ll ensure you’re more present when you are fulfilling your role as a caregiver, and in addition to making sure you’re better at your job, it will also ensure you find the role more fulfilling.

Joining a caregiver support group can also help you look on the bright side by giving you a chance to vent any negative emotions you may have about the job. Caring for someone who will likely experience greater mood swings at a higher frequency can be particularly challenging, especially if it’s a close family member. Having a support group where you can vent your grief and frustration in a safe space will keep those emotions from spilling out when you’re on the job, which goes back to the fact that the more support you have, the better you’ll be at your job.

If you can’t balance being a caregiver with everything else you have going on in your life, ask about how we can provide state-of-the-art care to your loved one in our new memory care neighborhood.

memory careMost people are familiar with the idea of nursing homes and assisted living, but what about memory care? Some (but not all) assisted living communities offer memory care, and some (but not all) nursing homes offer memory care. So, what’s the difference? How do you know when to look for memory care, and what should you look for when researching your options for memory care?

Specially Trained Staff

Any time you’re looking for assisted living, one of the first things you need to look at is the training of the staff who will be taking care of your loved one. This is true regardless of whether you need memory care, but it’s especially important if your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia because extra precautions will need to be taken to keep them safe, calm, and happy.

Memory care also requires ongoing training, so it’s not enough for staff to have gone through memory care training once a few years ago. When researching your options for memory care, make sure they have a system for continuously training their staff, not only to remind them of best practices, but to help them keep up to date with new developments in the world of memory care.

You should also make sure that the relevant training extends beyond just the nurses – every member of the staff who interacts with residents, including janitorial and maintenance staff, need to be trained on how to interact with memory care residents to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort.

Staff-to-Resident Ratio

A lower staff-to-resident ratio is always desirable because it means more attention can be paid to your loved one’s needs, but it’s especially important to keep that ratio low in memory care because residents with dementia require a higher level of attention and care than other assisted living residents. So, while you’re asking about the staff training provided, you should also ask about the staff-to-resident ratio and make sure it’s at a level with which you’re comfortable.

24-Hour Supervised Care

While assisted living usually requires a fairly low level of care – making sure residents remember to take medication, helping with certain daily tasks, etc. – memory care requires a much higher level of care and supervision. Not only do residents with dementia require a higher level of attention and supervision to make sure they don’t wander off, but they also require more care as the disease progresses and they start to lose some of their physical capabilities, as well as their mental capacity.

Cognitive Treatments and Therapies

While there is no cure for dementia, certain cognitive treatments and therapies have been shown to slow the progression of the disease, so make sure the memory care provider is up to date with all the relevant cognitive treatments and therapies, and that they provide them to their residents.

Stillwater Senior Living is proud to announce the opening of its brand new memory care wing! If you’re looking for memory care for your loved one, reach out now to ask about availability.

communication strategies for dementiaThere are many struggles that come with a diagnosis of dementia, but one of the most painful can be the struggle to communicate with your loved one. As their brain deteriorates, your loved one will experience a reduced ability to do all kinds of things, including the ability to communicate effectively. This can be frustrating for you as well, so it’s important to keep these strategies in mind.

  • Patience is Key

We know how hard it is to sit quietly while a loved one struggles to find the right words to express themselves, but it’s important to resist the urge to interrupt and try to guess what they’re saying because that will only increase their frustration. Instead, wait patiently until they’ve finished before you try to respond.

If you get frustrated, they’ll get frustrated, so you need to remain calm at all times. Keep your voice low and level, and while your body language should convey that you’re engaged in the conversation, it should never communicate frustration because your loved one will pick up on that and it will only increase their frustration.

  • Become an Interpreter

While it’s important not to interrupt your loved one when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves, sometimes they’ll ask for help or just give up trying to speak, in which case you can offer a guess based on context. Even if you guess wrong, you might be close enough to the mark to lead them to the right words (or for them to lead you to the right words). But if you’re way off base, it might just frustrate them further, so it’s important to know when to back off and change the subject.

  • Use Gestures

As the disease progresses, communicating visually will become easier than communicating with words. For example, instead of using words to ask your loved one if they want a certain object, you can point to it and watch their reaction. If they nod and reach for it, it’s a good indication that they want it.

  • Show Respect

Although our golden years are sometimes referred to as a “second childhood”, your loved one is not a child and will not appreciate being treated like one. Avoid using babytalk or demeaning phrases, such as “good girl”. And never talk about them as if they’re not there because, even if they have trouble communicating, they can hear you, and they know when they’re being ignored or overlooked.

When you are communicating with them, show that you’re engaged by maintaining eye contact. You can also hold their hand, which can help keep both of you calm when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves.

You can check out our blog for more tips on how to care for a loved one with dementia. If you’re looking for an assisted living community that offers memory care services, we recently opened our own Memory Care Wing and we would love to answer any questions you might have regarding memory care.

alzheimer's care tipsCaring for an aging loved one is always challenging, but it can be especially challenging if they have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. They forget things and get confused, and that can be frustrating for everyone. But getting frustrated only makes the situation worse, so get creative with ways to alleviate, or even avoid that frustration. Doing so can require some creativity, so we’ve come up with a few ideas we hope will help and might even inspire you to come up with some other creative ideas for caring for a loved one with dementia.

Display Old Photos

Patients in the later stages of dementia tend to lose both the power of speech and the ability to process language (although those two things are separate and don’t necessarily happen at the same time). To try and compensate for it, using pictures whenever possible is a great way to keep your loved one happy and engaged. You can load hundreds of photos onto a digital picture frame and have it display them on a loop. Some digital picture frames even play music alongside the photos, which is another great way to keep your loved one calm.

Use Photos Instead of Names When Possible

Smartphones are great for their ability to pair pictures with names in our contact list, making it that much easier to identify the people we’re trying to reach. If your loved one doesn’t have a smartphone, see if you can find a phone that has space for pictures instead of names on the speed dial list so your loved one doesn’t have to struggle with names they can’t remember when they need to reach someone.

Don’t Fight Their Reality

Things tend to be most frustrating when you try to convince them something they know is not the case, or tell them they can’t do something. Rather than fight it, accept their reality and come up with reasons not to do something that fits their reality. For example, if they want to reach someone who is long dead, just tell them the person is unavailable. If they want to drive, tell them the car is in the shop instead of arguing with them. It will make things so much easier and more pleasant for everyone.

Get a “Dementia Clock”

A “dementia clock” is a clock that displays the date and day of the week, in addition to the time, and can be seen from across the room. This way your loved one doesn’t have to constantly ask what time it is or what day it is, they can just look up and act like they knew the answer all along.

Eliminate Tripping Hazards

We did a whole blog post on how to avoid falling hazards, but lighting is also key to avoiding falls and injuries, so get lights with motion sensors that light up when someone enters the room. This avoids fumbling for switches and makes it less likely your loved one will try to make do in the dark when they can’t find the switch.

Get them a cane and/or a walker, too. Even if they’re steady on their feet now, that can change quickly, so make sure you’re prepared now.

We have a lot more tips for caregivers responsible for a loved one at home, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some more pointers, or if you think it might be time for assisted living.

Watch this video to get a sneak peak of our Memory Care Neighborhood!

 

FMLA Facts for CaregiversCaring for a loved one who is aging and/or sick can be a full-time job, but many family members can’t afford to quit their jobs to become a caregiver for a loved one. They’ll need a job to come back to when their caregiving responsibilities have come to an end, and that’s what the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees. Unfortunately, a lot of people are still unsure of what, exactly, the FMLA provides and how it works, so we’re going to go over everything you need to know:

What Does the FMLA Provide?

The FMLA guarantees employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work if they or someone in their family has a qualifying health issue. The time off from work is unpaid, but employers are required to provide the same group health insurance benefits at the same premium while you’re on leave. Once you return to work, they are required to offer you at least your old job, or an equivalent position.

Although the federal law does not require employers to pay workers during their FMLA leave, many employers do offer at least partial payment during FMLA leave, and some states require employers to provide some form of payment during FMLA leave, so check your local laws to make sure you know everything you’re entitled to receive.

But not everyone is eligible to take leave under the FMLA, so let’s take a look at the requirements:

Who Is Eligible to Take Leave Under the FMLA?

In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA you must first work for a school; a public agency; a local, state, or federal employer; or a private employer who employs 50 or more workers for at least 20 workweeks of the year. You also need to work at a location that has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, which means you can’t work for an employer that has a small team at your location and more workers throughout the country, even if the total number of their workers adds up to 50 or more workers.

Second, you need to have worked for that employer for at least 12 months. The 12 months do not need to be consecutive, but you do need to have worked at least 1,250 hours within the last 12-month period before taking your FMLA leave – if you’re a full-time employee, this means you need to have worked full time for your current employer for at least 32 weeks before you can be eligible to take your FMLA leave.

When Can I Take FMLA Leave?

The FMLA allows workers to take time off if: they are unable to work due to a serious health condition; they need to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition (siblings, grandparents, and in-laws are not covered); they recently gave birth, adopted, or are fostering a child; or if they have certain urgent situations, such as caring for a family member who is on active duty or on call in the military and suffers from a serious injury or illness.

If you’re caring for an aging parent and you’re unable to take leave under the FMLA, or your 12 weeks of leave is about to expire, it might be time to consider assisted living. We’d love to answer all your questions about the assisted living services we provide, so reach out now to learn more. Watch this video to get a sneak peak of our Memory Care Neighborhood!

 

celebrate summerSummer is officially here, but as our older loved ones age, they lose the ability to do a lot of the things that mark a traditional summer vacation, such as camping, hiking, swimming at the beach, and volleyball tournaments. Now this pandemic has even taken away our barbeque parties and large family gatherings. What’s a senior to do?

Just because we’re stuck inside and a few of our loved ones may have started to lose some of their physical and/or mental capabilities doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun this summer. We have a few ideas you can use to celebrate summer with your loved ones in assisted living.

  • Geography Competition

Can you name all 50 states without looking them up? Can you accurately locate all 50 states on a blank map? Do you know where Mount Rushmore is located? Compare your knowledge to that of your friends and family and you might be surprised to find out how much you don’t know about your own country.

  • Got Kids? Send Pix!

Few things engage seniors like pictures of the grandkids, so send them pictures early and often, especially if your kids are at an age where they’re growing quickly. Keep the grandparents up to date with recent photos, as well as letters detailing the kids’ development and what they’ve been up to these days.

  • Send Hand-Written Letters

Phone calls are great, but there’s something about a hand-written letter that just makes someone feel extra special. You can write about whatever you would normally tell them over the phone: give them updates on what you’ve been doing; tell them funny stories; reminisce over old times, etc. The fact that they can keep a letter and read it over and over whenever they feel bored or lonely makes it priceless.

  • Crafts

Even while social distancing, we can still bond over the age-old custom of crafting. You can buy a paint-by-numbers kit (or freestyle a painting, if your talents lie that way) and send it to your loved one to hang in their apartment. You can make them jewelry that they can wear to feel special and remember you, even when you can’t be in the room with them.

They can also make their own crafts and send them to you. Swapping crafts might not be the same as making crafts together, but it’s still a great way for each of us to remind the other that we’re thinking of them.

  • Decorate!

Depending on what stage of reopening your state is in, you may or may not be able to go in and physically visit your loved one in assisted living, but you can always make decorations they can hang in their apartment or outside their window. You can make your handmade decorations around a theme, such as your loved one’s favorite movies, songs, or summer activities to make it extra fun!

If you’re looking for more ideas on how you can celebrate summer with your loved ones in assisted living, we have plenty of ideas. Reach out now to start a conversation.

caregiver burnoutIf you’re the sole caregiver of a parent or loved one, you’re at risk of burning out. Depending on the level of care your loved one needs and your other responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time to take care of yourself, but trust us when we say that doing so is absolutely necessary for your wellbeing, as well as that of your loved one.

If you’re constantly running around, attending to the needs of your loved one, you might not even notice if you’re burned out, so take a minute and see if any of these sound familiar:

  • You’re Always Tired

It’s one thing to feel tired at the end of a long day, or if you didn’t sleep well the night before, but if you find yourself feeling tired all day, every day, no matter how much sleep you got the night before, you could be suffering from caregiver burnout.

Sleeping more than normal is also a symptom of caregiver burnout, so if you’re sleeping more than usual and still feeling tired all the time, it’s time for a break.

At the same time, sleeping too little could also be a sign of caregiver burnout. If you’re always tired, but unable to sleep, it could be a sign of stress and an indication that you need some time off.

  • You’re Easily Irritated or Angry

If you find yourself snapping at your loved one and/or anyone else around you over the smallest inconveniences, it could be a sign that you’re burned out. Becoming consumed with anger when someone cuts you off in traffic or makes a simple mistake is also an indication that it’s time for a break.

At the extreme end, this can lead to thoughts of harming your loved one and/or yourself, in which case it’s definitely time to take some time for yourself and maybe find a professional you can talk to about your feelings.

  • Your Clothes No Longer Fit

Gaining or losing weight in significant amounts can be an indication that you’re stressed out and overworked. This may or may not go along with changes in eating patterns. Loss of appetite is commonly associated with both stress and depression, both of which are markers of burnout. On the other hand, if you find yourself stress eating, that’s also an indication that things are not going well and you need to take some time off.

  • Your Health is Declining

If you find yourself getting sick more often, developing headaches and/or other aches, pains, and/or indigestion, then it’s time to take a break before you become the one who needs a caregiver. New or worsening health problems are an indication that your body is unable to carry the load of stress and work you’re carrying and it’s time to get some help. Whether that means calling in friends or family members to take some of the load, or considering assisted living for your loved one, it’s important to get some kind of help before your health deteriorates irreparably.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited to open our Memory Care Neighborhood in the Spring of 2020.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.