Minimize Holiday Visit Stress

Posted by in Holidays, Expert Advice.

The holidays are here, and at Senior Lifestyle we know that holidays can become difficult to manage when your loved ones are aging. Whether you are a caregiver or a relative traveling to Mom’s house for a short visit, either scenario can become stressful. If you’re a caregiver you may struggle to enjoy the time together while managing your loved one’s medications and daily schedule, and if you’re traveling to visit, y0u may notice changes in your loved one that weren’t apparent at your last visit, overshadowing the joys of the season.

The excitement of having friends and relatives visit often comes with an increase in anxiety for seniors and their caregivers. Everything from changes in routine to meal planning for a crowd can cause holiday stress. If you’re a caregiver, there are ways to keep the holiday season from becoming overwhelming for both you and your loved one. Mayo Clinic provides some practical tips to help keep the joy in the holiday season while minimizing holiday stress:

  • Grief can be a stressor for seniors during the holidays. For seniors who’ve lost a loved one, the holidays can trigger difficult memories. Many find that talking about those loved ones who are no longer present and reminiscing about holidays spent with them can be a joyful experience. Acknowledging the loss helps to ease the pain and can become a meaningful activity.
  • Dietary concerns seem to affect nearly everyone over the holiday season. The temptation to overindulge is ever-present and can be especially worrisome for seniors who are on multiple medications or need to follow a restricted diet. Eating a healthy snack prior to a large holiday meal can help to ease temptation and the effects of overeating. Staying hydrated and avoiding excessive alcohol intake also helps maintain healthy habits.
  • Upholding traditions can become a point of contention and stress for seniors and their family members. When a senior can no longer take charge of the holiday meal or the decorating, it may be time to create new traditions that allow your loved one to remain an active participant. Going “potluck” for holiday dinners can limit the stress on one family member; additionally, scaling back on decorations can keep the tradition from becoming overwhelming. Gift-giving can even be accomplished with online shopping for those who can no longer manage the chaos of holiday-season malls.

Holiday stress is manageable. With some extra forethought, the holiday season can be a joyful occasion for seniors and caregivers, as well as visiting friends and family. Simplifying, planning ahead and managing expectations can ease anxiety for everyone involved. At Senior Lifestyle, we believe building new traditions and finding new ways to celebrate can add meaning to the season!

Resources for Families

Posted by in Expert Advice.

November is National Family Caregivers Month and at Senior Lifestyle, we understand how difficult becoming a family caregiver can be. The Family Eldercare website notes that as Roslyn Carter once said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”

The reality of “parenting our parents” can be a sobering one, as traditional family roles change and needs evolve. Senior loved ones may feel resentful of their need for help and angry at the “intrusion” into their personal lives, siblings may feel unsure of their responsibilities in the new order of things or unprepared to take on those responsibilities, and the primary caregiver may feel overwhelmed by the entire process. While these changes can be stressful for all involved, there are resources to help navigate the family caregiver journey successfully.

Resources are readily available for family caregivers, from online support groups to books written by authors with direct experience as a family caregiver:

Providing care for a loved one is a demanding job where frustration often walks hand in hand with fulfillment, but it doesn’t have to be done in isolation and there are resources available to families dealing with the practical realities of caregiving. For more information on local resources or care available at a Senior Lifestyle community in your area, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.

Tools for Financial Planning

Posted by in Expert Advice, Personal Finance.

Talking to Mom and Dad about money can be difficult, and not just when you’re young and need $20 for dinner and a movie. As parents age and need more care, the conversation may become a necessity between adult children and parents. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always get easier to talk about money, and sometimes the financial picture an elderly loved one paints is a bit more rosy than the reality. Additionally, seniors often consider finances completely private information and any attempt at learning more about what options are available can be seen by a senior loved one as prying. To help start the financial planning conversation, Senior Lifestyle has compiled a list of resources and tips to utilize when you’re unsure if your loved one’s finances are sufficient for the care they need.

Learning more about your family’s unique financial situation and needs is the first step to finding a senior housing solution. To facilitate that important first step in financial planning, many of our communities have partnered with Elderlife Financial, an organization that specializes in helping families navigate the senior housing journey and understand financing options available to them. Elderlife can provide education and additional resources on applying for Veterans Benefits and Long Term Care Insurance, as well as valuable information on bridge loans prior to the sale of a home. Contact a Senior Lifestyle Community Advisor for more information, or visit the Elderlife Financial website to get started.

Another financial option for some seniors is the conversion of an existing life insurance policy to pay for a loved one’s stay at a Senior Lifestyle community. To determine if your insurance policy can be converted into a Life Care Benefit Plan to cover expenses of care, simply visit the Life Care Funding website for information on conversion. There is no cost or obligation for this financial planning service and the information may well provide a valuable option for senior housing and care.

At Senior Lifestyle, we understand the value of companionship as well as financial health, so we also offer the affordable option of Shared Suites for seniors. This option provides newcomers to communities with a friend right at the outset and residents are matched based on personality, interests and backgrounds to ensure compatibility. In addition to the resources note above, this option can make senior living much more affordable and comfortable.

For a comprehensive list of these resources and tips, as well as a senior financial planning calculator, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com. Our website also provides contact information for our senior communities in your area, where a visit with one of our senior housing professionals is just a click away!

Staying Ahead of Scams Aimed at Seniors

Posted by in Expert Advice.

With the holidays and a new year around the corner, Senior Lifestyle wants to provide awareness of common scams aimed at seniors as well as ways to avoid these scams. We also encourage our residents and families to speak up if they feel they’ve been a victim of fraud. The earlier a scam is detected, the higher the chance of making any kind of financial recovery as well as stopping the perpetrator from victimizing another person.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, fraud against seniors is becoming more prevalent and is often difficult to combat. Many seniors who have been victims of con artists are reluctant to report the fraudulent activity out of embarrassment or fear that they will be seen as unable to manage their financial affairs. Seniors can also become easy targets for scammers because of their inherent belief that others are as honest as they are, and their perceived susceptibility to products that promise improved cognitive function, renewed health or immunity to diseases such as cancer.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) notes that seniors are seen as good targets because of the perception that they have a sizeable nest egg. NCOA shares some valuable tools to avoid scams aimed at seniors by highlighting several of the most common scenarios:

  • Lottery/Sweepstakes scams

This trick, while old, still circulates regularly. Victims are told they have won a sweepstakes or lottery, but that they must make a payment to cover “taxes and fees” on their winnings. Often, seniors who fall for the ruse are sent a check that initially appears to have great value, and only a few days later, bounces. During that lag time, the con artists will pocket the money for “taxes and fees.”

How to Avoid: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that if you have won any kind of prize, you shouldn’t be asked to pay mysterious and suspicious fees within a day or two of the award.

  • Charity scams

In the wake of natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes and wildfires, we can often feel helpless to provide aid to those impacted. One particularly repugnant scam often occurs in the aftermath of major disasters. Callers claim to represent a charity seeking money to help pay for disaster recovery or aid for the victims. The money is then misdirected to the scammer’s account. Some charity scammers will send emails soliciting donations as well. Often the email contains a link to a purportedly legitimate charity organization which sends unsuspecting seniors to a bogus website that looks just similar enough to the actual organization’s website to scam would-be donors.

How to Avoid: If you wish to donate to charity following a disaster seek out the charity yourself. Do not make donations to organizations that cold-call you.

  • Medicare Card and Medicaid Card ID Theft Scam

Callers claiming to represent various government agencies or organizations tell seniors that their Medicare or Medicaid cards must be replaced. This is merely a ruse to get a senior’s personal information to perpetrate identity theft. This information is then used to bill Medicare for fraudulent charges.

How to Avoid: Never give personal information like your social security number or banking information over the phone, and be suspicious of calls from people who claim to represent official agencies and then request personal information.

Be sure to warn senior family members and friends to practice caution when sharing information over the phone or the internet and to ask for advice if they are unsure whether to share private information. By staying alert to scammers and being vigilant about personal information, as well as reporting when a scam is suspected, we can make a con artist’s job much more difficult and eventually impossible! To learn more about this topic or others covered at Senior Lifestyle communities, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.

Get Ahead of the Winter Blues

Posted by in Health and Fitness, Expert Advice.

Do you get the winter blues? If you do, it turns out that you are not alone. Feelings of sadness that seem hard to shake during the winter months are more common than you might think. While it isn’t winter yet, the cold days are quickly approaching, and for many, the cold and dark of the winter months make life a misery. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that cycles with seasonal changes, typically causing symptoms such as a loss of energy, an increased appetite, and an overall feeling of tiredness. Since our goal at Senior Lifestyle is to optimize the overall health and well-being of seniors, our communities use specific tools and activities designed to lessen the effects of SAD.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic say that the decline in the amount of daylight during fall and winter is to blame for SAD, and note that this form of depression is more common in northern areas. While hazards like slips and falls and hypothermia often top the list of concerns for caregivers of seniors during winter months, our older loved ones are also at risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder, as well as vitamin D deficiency, both linked to lack of exposure to the sun. For some seniors, this is compounded by fears of being outside in the icy cold weather and risking a fall. If a senior is homebound or uses an assistive device like a cane or a walker, getting outside for some sunshine in the winter can be very difficult. Many of our Senior Lifestyle communities are designed specifically to maximize natural light, an important element in combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder. Since isolation is a factor in depressive symptoms for many seniors, light-filled common areas abound in our communities, perfect settings for conversation and games.

The good news is that there are some simple things caregivers can do to mitigate the effects of the “winter blues”. Mayo Clinic recommends making lifestyle changes to manage SAD with some easy home remedies. Sometimes, small changes in the indoor environment can help. Moving a bed closer to the window, opening curtains and blinds to allow in more natural light, and adding bright colors and plants can help. Some people find that adding physical exercise like walking is a good remedy, along with eating a well-balanced diet, which helps to combat vitamin D deficiency as well. Certainly if the weather permits, taking a stroll outside in the sunshine is also a great idea! Popular features of many of our Senior Lifestyle communities are the outdoor courtyard sitting areas and walking paths.

For sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder who can’t get out, light therapy is an alternative. This therapy uses a “light box” which is just a fluorescent lamp that mimics natural sunlight. The user simply turns on the lamp and sits in front of it for a specified time each day. It’s important to speak with a healthcare professional as you look into purchasing a light box to learn which one will work best for you and your situation.

While it’s more than just a case of the “winter blues”, Seasonal Affective Disorder can often be controlled with some lifestyle adaptations and easily managed changes. To learn more about our fall and winter activities at a Senior Lifestyle community near you, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.

embrace Autumn

Posted by in Expert Advice, Awards, Programs.

Autumn is in the air and on the calendar, which means leaves are falling, the days are getting a bit shorter, and school is back in session. For many, this means a return to the regular routine after a long, lazy summer where schedules were flexible and plans changeable. Returning to a set schedule is comforting for some and a hassle for others, but for seniors with dementia a routine is vital. At Senior Lifestyle, our award-winning memory care philosophy, embrace, is built around comforting daily rhythms and activities that foster a sense of purpose for the individual with dementia.

For families caring for a senior loved one with dementia at home, a routine is vital as well. It is critical that all family members know what plans are in place in order to maintain the level of care needed and to lessen the stress not only on the caregivers but the senior with memory loss as well. Knowing the routine and the schedule of care can bring a sense of security to a senior who is dependent on others for his or her care. Back-up plans are also a necessity; planning for emergencies helps to keep things running smoothly. When the need arises for care beyond what can be provided in a home setting, Senior Lifestyle is here to provide memory care in a homelike atmosphere dedicated to honoring each resident’s individuality and personal story.

When memories fade, it’s the moments that matter most. Memory loss is difficult to navigate, and the aim of embrace is to provide a lifestyle that is in harmony with the interests and abilities of each resident while addressing the unique challenges arising from memory loss and cognitive impairment. To achieve that goal, each new resident meets with a team member to share their personal history, an embrace narrative that details specific life experiences, allowing caregivers the opportunity to truly connect with residents. This narrative and our innovative, award-winning small group programs provide a comprehensive approach to memory care that is unique to Senior Lifestyle.

While the needs of our residents change, our dedication to providing exceptional care for our residents in any season of life is perennial and constant. Senior Lifestyle’s commitment to providing innovative approaches to memory care is the foundation of the embrace philosophy, and it’s a commitment we’d love to share with those looking for exceptional care for a loved one. To learn more about embrace or any of our Senior Lifestyle communities, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.

Downsizing

Posted by in Expert Advice.

The decision to move to a senior community has been made, the community chosen and a suitable living space secured; what happens next? Most families face this question after the initial decision-making is complete. At Senior Lifestyle, the goal is to make each move as seamless and stress-free as possible for new residents and their families, and with over 30 years of experience helping families manage the move-in process, we’ve identified some tips that may provide additional guidance during the potentially trying process.

Quite often, the most daunting task that faces seniors or their loved ones when contemplating a move to senior living is tackling the issue of “stuff”. Identifying what stays and what goes is a difficult process for many, and most times this difficulty is magnified by the years and memories attached to each treasure. For most, the process is an emotional one to begin with, and this sorting just adds to the burden. Even the home itself holds memories and can be hard to leave. It can help to have family members step in to move this process forward, especially those who understand the emotional attachment to certain items.

 

Some key tips for downsizing

 

 

  1. Be clear on the size and layout of your loved one’s new living space. Keeping an item only to find that it just doesn’t fit into the new home’s area can be frustrating and time-consuming.

 

  1. Start with the least-used areas of your loved one’s home. The items in these areas may have slightly less sentimental value; therefore, decision-making will be a bit easier.

 

  1. Have a family get-together! If certain items are to be distributed to family members, sharing the history and memories attached to each object can be a meaningful way to pass them to new owners.

 

  1. Take photos. In addition to sharing the sentimental value of items shared, photos of the item with its new owner can ease the burden of parting with that item. Knowing that a cherished treasure will be well-loved may also aid in the “letting-go” process for your loved one.

 

Remember, making a move can be a stressful event for seniors, but with some patience and a clear understanding of your loved one’s needs in a new home, the downsizing process can be a positive experience for everyone involved. Sharing memories is a wonderful start to a new beginning in a senior community, so make the most of this opportunity! For additional information on any aspect of the move-in process, or to learn more about a Senior Lifestyle community in your area, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.

Pets Help Us Stay Healthy

Posted by in Expert Advice.

Anyone who has owned a pet knows that coming home after a rough day and sharing quality time can help melt the stress away, but did you know that there are health benefits associated with having a pet? Surprisingly, researchers are only recently learning what many pet parents have known for years: our pets provide emotional support and unconditional love, having done so throughout recorded history. Researchers, though, have only recently begun studying the connection between pet ownership and health. “When you see how long we’ve had pets in our lives, and how important they are to us today, I think it’s amazing that the study of human-animal interactions is still so new,” says Dr. Sandra Barker, director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Researchers have only recently begun to explore this wonderful relationship and what its health benefits might be.”

The emotional and social benefits of sharing our homes with pets are fairly clear, but how does owning a pet affect our physical health? For dog owners, it comes as no surprise that they specifically are shown to get more exercise on a daily basis than those without a canine companion. This exercise in turn leads to greater cardiovascular health. Daily walks with our four-legged friends also help prevent obesity, and in older adults, can help maintain mobility. Additionally, dog owners have been reported to have lower heart rates and blood pressure, as well as faster stress recovery.

While dog owners outnumber cat owners in the United States, we certainly can’t leave our feline friends out of the health benefit conversation! Cats have some unique qualities that are beneficial to their owners’ health. Although most cats don’t require the same amount of physical activity from their owners as dogs, their purrs have been proven to lower blood pressure and stress. The purring of a contented cat also resonates at a frequency rate between 20 and 140 Hz, a range that is considered medically therapeutic and has been shown to lessen recovery time from muscle injuries and broken bones.

You don’t have to actually own a pet to reap health benefits; therapy animals have become more and more common in settings such as hospitals and senior communities, with patients and staff reporting positive results after interacting with them . At Senior Lifestyle, we’ve seen the connection between pet ownership and health firsthand, and some of our senior communities even have a permanent pet resident! These special ambassadors of goodwill welcome visitors to our communities and provide residents and staff with companionship each day. To learn more about any of our pet-friendly senior communities near you, please visit our website.

Keeping our Residents Healthy with Vaccinations

Posted by in Expert Advice.

August is back-to-school month, with children returning to class and young adults leaving for college. August is also National Immunization Awareness Month, an opportunity for people of all ages to make sure they are protected against dangerous or even deadly diseases. While vaccinations for school-age children are often the focus in August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that adults need immunizations as well. Vaccinations against the flu, measles, and pneumonia provide protection to not only those immunized, but their communities as well.

At Senior Lifestyle, the health of our residents is our highest priority. Our communities take every opportunity to promote recommended vaccinations for residents, families, volunteers, and members of the surrounding community. Whitney Lane, RN, BSN, MSW, a Senior Lifestyle Divisional Director of Health and Wellness, shares that each Senior Lifestyle community holds an annual flu shot clinic, that also offers the pneumococcal vaccine. Timely immunizations against these and other diseases is a vital part of preventing widespread outbreaks and maintaining the health of our seniors.

Vaccinations produce immunity to disease by introducing a weakened form of the antigen of the disease, causing the body’s immune system to create antibodies against that antigen. When faced again with that particular antigen, our body’s defenses are able to act quickly to contain the threat and limit or avert that illness. For those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, avoiding infections like the flu can help limit complications of the underlying disease.

For seniors, keeping up with vaccinations is imperative. As we age, our immune system can weaken, increasing our susceptibility to certain diseases and illnesses. In addition, certain vaccines lose their efficiency over time, making booster shots necessary. Wellness visits for adults should include a discussion with your doctor about what immunizations are recommended.

For more information about health and wellness topics, or to learn more about a Senior Lifestyle community near you, please visit our website.

The Importance of Friendships | Senior Lifestyle

Posted by in Expert Advice.

Here at Senior Lifestyle, we think that, of all the awesome holidays in August, Friendship Day may in fact be our favorite! We like this holiday so much that we feel it should be Friendship Day every day, because every day in our senior living communities, friendships are developed or even re-kindled when new residents move in. We often hear stories from family members and residents about the discovery of long-lost friends “just down the hall” and we’re delighted when friends re-connect! New friendships are wonderful too, and often happen when residents welcome new neighbors to take part in an activity or a social hour. There’s an old song that says “Make new friends, but keep the old…” and we feel there’s no better advice!

According to the official Friendship Day website, in 1935 the United States Congress declared the first Sunday in August to be National Friendship Day. The idea caught on, and Friendship Day became an annual event. The day has become so popular that it is now celebrated internationally, and in 1997 Friendship Day gained a world-renowned Ambassador of Friendship when the United Nations voted none other than Winnie-the-Pooh to this prestigious role.

Congressional proclamations and celebrity endorsements aside, research from Harvard Medical School shows that frequent social interaction and strong social connections are healthy, no matter your age. Quality over quantity appears to be a key to this health benefit, as individuals with a limited but strong social support system seem to fare as well as those with a vast group of connections. The effects of these strong social bonds appear to be as powerful in their influence of long-term health as a good diet, adequate sleep, and a non-smoking lifestyle. Studies show that this benefit is especially meaningful for seniors, as it decreases the risk of dementia significantly.

When asked what factors led to a search for senior living, many residents at Senior Lifestyle communities say that a need for more social interaction was a deciding factor. Additionally, the availability of group activities is often a source of satisfaction for these residents. What does all this mean? In a nutshell, it means that forming (and maintaining) strong friendships and social connections not only feels good, but it IS good! As health strategies go, it doesn’t get much easier than being a friend: no weights to lift, no special equipment, and no membership required!

To learn more about Senior Lifestyle, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.