Benefits of Cooking with Older Americans

Cooking with Older AmericansMost people like to gather around a table to enjoy a good meal with those they love, but not enough people gather in the kitchen to cook with those they love. Making food together can be just as special as eating together and that is especially true when cooking with older Americans. If you have yet to cook a meal or three with an older American in your life, we have a few reasons why you should consider changing that right away.

You Might Learn Something

Especially if you end up in the kitchen with someone who has been cooking for decades, you might be surprised how many things you can learn from them: the right way to hold a whisk, chop an onion without crying, or crack an egg with one hand. These are the skills acquired over many years in the kitchen, and if you have been wanting to learn any of these techniques, there is no one better than the family member who has spent the most time in the kitchen perfecting them.

Bonding

Bonding certainly happens when we eat together, but there is something particularly intimate about helping someone prepare a meal. It requires teamwork and communication that are absent when consuming the meal, and that teamwork can forge surprisingly strong bonds.

Family Recipes

If you are cooking with a family member, you can learn how to make that dish they always made on your birthday because they know it is your favorite. Or the recipe they brought out every Thanksgiving that is a staple of your family’s holiday meal. Learning these recipes is a right of passage in many families and it is a great way to keep traditions alive. Not only does it ensure you can still have your favorite meal after your loved one has gone, but making that recipe is a great way to keep their memory alive because you will think of them and the times you shared with them every time you make it.

Lifelong Memories

Because cooking together can create such a strong bond, it is also a great way to create memories you will treasure long after the other person has passed on. You will be inclined to think of them every time you make one of their recipes or use a special technique they taught you. Maybe you will also remember a joke they told you the first time they taught you that technique, or a rhyme they taught you to help you remember a certain recipe. All those memories will be sweeter than anything you could ever whip up in the kitchen.

Helping to create as many memories like these as possible is one of the driving factors behind why we have kitchen space available for residents who are still able to cook for themselves, either on their own or with others. If you have a loved one who might need some help with their housework or remembering to take their medication, but they still know their way around a kitchen, you might want to consider one of our assisted living suites for your loved one’s next home.

Do I Need Assisted Living or Memory Care?

assisted living or memory careThere are some distinct differences between assisted living and memory care, so if you or a loved one is no longer able to live on their own, it might be time to consider whether you need assisted living or memory care. But that can be easier said than done. If you are unsure how to determine whether you need assisted living or memory care, we can go through some questions to help clarify which type of care you or your loved one needs.

How Much and What Type of Assistance Do You Require?

If you just need help with certain chores around the house, but your memory and cognition are as stable as ever, than you need assisted living.

If you keep losing things, have trouble keeping your finances organized, and keep losing track of conversations, you need memory care.

Not only do memory care communities offer an extra level of care from staff, they also include other precautions built into the residents’ surroundings to help them stay safe. These precautions include door alarms to alert staff when a resident is leaving their room or wandering outside the perimeter of the building; motion-sensor lights so residents do not have to fumble to try to find the light switch or remember how a light switch works; one-touch sinks so residents do not have to fumble with handles to turn their water on and off. Not only are these amenities designed to increase safety for residents with dementia, they also enable them to live more independently.

Which Activities Do You Need?

Both assisted living and memory care communities offer a variety of activities to keep their residents as engaged and active as possible for as long as possible. While assisted living offers activities that entertain residents and encourage them to stay active and interact with each other, memory care offers activities that are designed to stimulate residents’ minds and support their mental health. For example, music has been shown to have certain benefits for those with dementia, so memory care communities are more likely to have activities that include just listening to music, whereas assisted living communities might offer something more interactive, such as game night.

Patients with dementia are more likely to feel anxious when encountering new situations and stimuli, so memory care communities are more likely to keep those experiences to a minimum, while assisted living might introduce novel experiences to their residents as a way of keeping them entertained and engaged.

What Kind of Diet Do You Require?

While everyone needs to make sure they are getting healthy amounts of the right nutrients at every stage of life, patients suffering from dementia have unique nutritional needs. Both assisted living and memory care neighborhoods have dieticians on staff to make sure their residents are getting all their required nutrients, but memory care neighborhoods are staffed with dieticians who understand the specific nutritional needs of dementia patients.

At Stillwater Senior Living, our new memory care neighborhood is designed to keep patients safe while slowing the progression of their disease as much as possible. We do this through a combination of nutrition and physical therapy.

Tips for Keeping Your Bones Strong All Your Life

Tips for Keeping Your Bones Strong

Osteoporosis is one of the biggest concerns for older Americans, especially women. Loss of bone density leaves bones brittle, which reduces strength and leads to an increased risk of fractures and broken bones. For example, the best case for a broken hip is surgery to repair it before you return to normal life. But when combined with another health risk, such as dementia or heart problems, older Americans who break their hip are significantly more likely to die within the year.

But aging is not all doom and gloom. You can reduce your chances of bone damage at all ages with these simple health tips:

Get Plenty of Calcium

We often think of milk when we think of getting calcium, and while milk and cheese are certainly high in calcium, it is important to remember that there are other sources of calcium, including bone broth, which can be used to make soups, sauces, and gravies, or just drunk on its own. Winter squash, such as butternut squash and spaghetti squash, are also high in calcium, as are edamame, almonds, canned sardines and salmon. And remember to eat your dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, because they are also high in calcium.

Get Plenty of Vitamin K

Calcium tends to get all the attention when it comes to bone health, but it is important to remember that, while calcium is the building block of bones, vitamin K is the carrier that takes calcium from your bloodstream to your bones. A diet high in calcium will not do you any good if you do not have enough vitamin K to carry it to your bones, so make sure you eat plenty of dark leafy greens: kale, spinach, collards, swiss chard, mustard greens, bok choy, etc.

Collagen

In addition to making sure our bones have the nutrients they need, we also need to make sure the muscles and connective tissue around our bones are strong so they can support our bones. Collagen is the main building block of connective tissue, and while bone broth is naturally high in collagen, you can also buy collagen by itself and add it to your diet. It comes as a white powder without much flavor so you can add it to your coffee, tea, or smoothie and get a nutritional boost without even noticing its presence in your beverage.

Strength Training

Strength training is not just for building and maintaining strong muscles – it is also vital for building and maintaining strong bones. If you have access to a set of weights, use them, but you do not necessarily need fancy gym equipment to build strong bones. Just some daily squats and pushups will be enough. The more you can do, the better.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we recognize the importance of diet and exercise in the health of our residents, which is why we have nutritionists on staff to make sure our residents have all the building blocks they need to build and maintain healthy bodies. We also have exercise equipment so they can keep their strength up (and even build up their strength) to reduce their risk of accidents or illnesses. If you have any questions about the care we provide our residents, just reach out now to have a conversation.

What Should Seniors Be Drinking to Stay Healthy?

dehydration in seniorsStaying hydrated is critical for staying healthy, especially for seniors. Dehydration can lead to a variety of other health problems, including headache, dizziness and lightheadedness, fatigue, and confusion. It can be hard enough for most of us to remember to drink our eight glasses of water every day, and it can be especially challenging for seniors who often do not feel thirsty until they are already suffering from dehydration.

To prevent that from happening, here are a few beverage ideas you can give seniors to keep them hydrated.

Water

Water is always the best option, and sometimes the best way to prevent dehydration is simply to have water readily available at all times. If you notice your loved one has not had anything to drink for a while, offer to get them a glass of water, or remind them they already have water if there is a full glass sitting in front of them. Sometimes that is all it takes to remind them they are thirsty and to prompt them to take a drink.

If your loved one finds still water by itself to be too bland, sparkling water is a great option for making water seem like a treat. Add a squirt of lemon juice and it can be so refreshing your loved one will sip it all day long.

Orange Juice

In addition to being a healthy fluid your loved one can get into their body, orange juice is also a great source of vitamin C, which can help boost their immune system so they can stay healthy all year long. Just remember to buy orange juice that has not had any sugar added to prevent a spike in blood sugar.

Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit juice is another tasty option your loved one can drink all day long. Like orange juice, grapefruit juice is packed with vitamin C, but also like orange juice, it can be high in sugar, so whenever possible, you should buy grapefruit juice that has no added sugar.

Unsweetened Green Tea

Many older Americans got into the habit of drinking coffee or black tea all day long, but caffeine is a diuretic that can leave you more dehydrated than hydrated. Instead of coffee or black tea, try to get your loved one to drink green tea. It is low in caffeine and full of antioxidants so it can boost their immune system while keeping them hydrated. As with juices, buy unsweetened green tea whenever you can to avoid excess sugar.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we keep nutritionists on staff to make sure our residents get all the nutrients they need to keep their bodies as strong as possible for as long as possible, and that includes making sure they stay hydrated. Whether that means they have ready access to water at all times or offering healthy alternatives to water that will keep them hydrated and nourished, we cater to each resident’s individual preferences and nutritional needs. If you have any questions about the care we provide, feel free to reach out to have a conversation.

How Assisted Living Can Help You Age Gracefully

Assisted Living Can Help You Age GracefullyOne of the biggest misconceptions about assisted living is that it means losing your dignity, but it is just the opposite. Assisted living is designed to help residents live as freely as possible for as long as possible while maintaining their dignity. If you are on the fence about assisted living, just consider these facts about how assisted living helps its residents age more gracefully.

Keeping You Active

Exercise is one of the most important ingredients to maintaining good health, especially as we age, yet many of us still find it difficult to make the time to exercise or to find the right equipment (or go someplace that has the right equipment).

Assisted living makes maintaining an active lifestyle easy by providing all the equipment for you, plus scheduled classes and activities. We can even modify activities so everyone can participate regardless of their physical abilities or skill level.

Providing group activities also makes residents much more likely to participate. Joining in a class that all your friends are taking is much easier than getting up and exercising by yourself.

Keeping You Social

One of the biggest benefits of assisted living is the social aspect. As older Americans age and watch their friends and family either die or move out of town and on with other aspects of their lives, loneliness and depression are major risk factors. By contrast, assisted living residents are constantly surrounded by people their own age with social activities planned for them. If you are someone who likes to be around other people, but does not like to plan events or send out invitations, you do not have to worry about any of that in assisted living. We take care of all the planning so all you have to do is show up and enjoy yourself.

Keeping You Free

The misconception that assisted living restricts your freedom could not be further from the truth. On the contrary, we help ensure our residents’ freedom by providing cars for those who can drive, and for those who cannot drive we can provide a driver to take you anywhere you want to go. You can still run your own errands and meet friends and family for coffee or lunch any time you want. We will not stop you – we will help you.

Keeping You Healthy

Eating right is also crucial to staying healthy, but it can be much easier said than done when there are so many tempting goodies and so much conflicting information about what is and is not healthy. Assisted living communities have nutritionists on staff who have been educated on all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to stay strong – and which foods contain those nutrients. They can help you avoid confusion and keep on track to eat healthy when you are tempted by junk food.

If you have been thinking about assisted living, but you are wary because of all the misinformation about assisted living out there, why not talk to an assisted living professional? Reach out now and we can clear up any misconceptions you might have and explain how moving into assisted living could end up being the best thing you have ever done.

5 Ways to Ring in the New Year in Assisted Living

ring in the new yearCelebrating the end of one year and welcoming the beginning of another has a lot of meaning. It has to do with taking stock of what we did over the past year and what we hope for in the year to come. We all have much to look forward to as we start a new year, so let us take a look at some of the best ways to ring in the new year in assisted living.

Get Crafty

Crafts are always a big hit at assisted living communities, so rather than buying headbands for the new year, why not make your own? The best part is that it allows everyone to personalize their own headband with their own shapes and colors. You can even choose to apply glitter or make fun patterns out of different materials and/or paper of different colors.

Write Wishes for the New Year

The past couple of years have been tough of everyone, but rather than focusing on what went wrong, how about we focus on the things we want to go right in the year to come? It is a great way to maintain a positive mindset, which is important at all stages of life.

Play Games

Games are always a great way to bring people together, especially since there are games you can play to include people of all ages. If you want something for the adults and older kids, why not a challenging game of Scrabble? If you have younger kids, you might want to stick with something like Chutes and Ladders or Pretty, Pretty Princess, which has the added bonus of getting you all dressed up just in time to ring in the new year!

Eat Breakfast for Dinner

One of the best things about the holidays is that it gives you a chance to switch up your routine. Eating breakfast for dinner can be a fun way to do that, especially since celebrating the new year often involves staying up late. Sometimes some sugary breakfast food can provide that extra boost of energy needed to make it all the way to midnight, especially if it comes with a cup of coffee or tea.

Travel the World … at Home

Themed parties are always a hit, so if you want your New Year’s celebration to be extra special this year, you can “travel” to France by making crepes, coq au vin, and café au lait. You can also buy croissants from a local bakery and snack on them all day long.

If you would rather “travel” to Italy, be sure to include some espresso, artisan pasta, maybe even a good chianti.

You can make the adventure extra fun by putting up photos of your desired locale all over your walls to help everyone feel like they are really there.

We are always excited to ring in the new year with our residents, so if you need any more ideas on how to celebrate with the older Americans in your life, just reach out and ask. We have more than a few ideas, and we are always happy to help.

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.

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.

What Does Memory Care Entail?

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.

4 Communication Strategies for Dementia

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.