Giving Up the Keys

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

For many young adults, obtaining a driver’s license is a symbol of freedom and an outward sign of independence. Unsurprisingly, many older adults feel the same way about retaining their driver’s license. For seniors who live in areas with little or no access to public transportation, the ability to drive provides more than just a symbol of independence; it often serves as a lifeline. This circumstance can make it difficult for families to discuss giving up driving with a senior loved one, as it often necessitates outside help or even a move for the senior. Senior Lifestyle communities offer transportation options for residents who choose not to drive or are unable to do so safely. Many of our resident who still drive themselves also choose to take advantage of the transportation option and let someone else do the driving for them on occasion.

A recent Consumer Reports study notes that 40 million Americans aged 65 and older carry a valid driver’s license; 3.5 million of that group are still behind the wheel at age 85 and older. While many drivers are able to manage to the physical requirements of driving well into their senior years, there are some warning signs from Helpguide.org that a senior driver may need to consider giving up the keys:

  • Frequent close calls or increased citations
    • A noticeable increase in dents and scrapes on the vehicle
    • Traffic tickets or warnings from law enforcement
  • Eyesight or hearing problems
    • A need to drive closer to signs or traffic signals to see them clearly
    • Inability to hear horns honking or emergency sirens
  • Trouble managing the mechanics of driving and limited range of motion, slower reflexes
    • Sudden lane changes and erratic braking and accelerating
    • Inability to react quickly when necessary to traffic changes
    • Lack of range of motion that prevents turning head to look back

If giving up the keys becomes necessary, it’s important to understand the frustration and even humiliation that your senior driver may experience; treating them with respect and dignity while having this difficult conversation is imperative. If a loved one is reluctant to admit that driving is becoming a problem for them, you may need to enlist the help of an impartial person such as their physician. It’s also important to provide alternatives such as public transportation or rides from friends and family members. For some seniors, the loss of this symbol of independence can cause depression; preventing isolation is an important part of the transition as well. At Senior Lifestyle, residents are often surprised and delighted to learn that social opportunities don’t require time behind the wheel; events and activities are always available in the community.

If you notice signs of impaired driving in your loved one, it is vital to have a conversation with them about your concerns; they may be feeling concerned as well, but worried about the logistics of giving up driving, and your efforts to broach the subject may in fact be a relief to the senior driver. For information about transportation options at a Senior Lifestyle community near you, or more information about tackling difficult conversations with your loved one, please visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.

A Labor of Love

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

A project started by Lake Barrington Woods residents in 2016 is growing! Last year, residents at Lake Barrington Woods began creating woven sleeping mats made from plastic grocery bags, a community activity aimed at helping the homeless. With the aid of local organization Kids.Kare, they distributed sleeping mats and food to areas of downtown Chicago. The response was overwhelming, and with the donation of grocery bags from friends, employees, local businesses and families of Lake Barrington Woods residents across the country, residents at Lake Barrington Woods decided to continue the project as part of their Active Aging Week celebration. This year, the mats will be donated locally and will again be accompanied by lunch bags packed with nutritious food. Lake Barrington Woods residents plan to make the donations in person at local shelters.

Mirka Biegunska, Director of Residents Programs at Lake Barrington Woods, notes that she was brainstorming with residents about activities for this year’s Active Aging Week theme, “Ignite Your Passion” when the idea to continue the project took hold. “We were thinking of different ideas for this, like learning different painting techniques, learning how to make pizza, learning a new language or even learning about new technology. In the end, we all agreed, “A Labor of Love” is our passion passion and we would share this with you.” Active Aging Week promotes quality of life for seniors with purposeful, meaningful activities and events that showcase the positive elements of aging, a celebration Lake Barrington Woods observes yearly with a week of new experiences.

Mirka calls this project a Labor of Love with good reason: each mat takes about 50 hours and nearly 1000 shopping bags to complete, with residents sorting and cutting bags while others crochet the bags into clean, lightweight, portable sleeping mats. Different colored bags are highly sought after, says Mirka, as the weavers have started creating patterned mats. So far they’ve created 25 new mats for distribution and she says, “Residents say that once they’ve started, they just don’t want to stop! They love this project and the fact that it represents help for those in surrounding communities.” The community is working with shelters in the local area to arrange donations of mats and food, while some of the mats have already been distributed locally by residents. To see the Youtube video highlighting the production of the mats, as well as the first day of distribution, please click here: https://youtu.be/VXgrIe6Th2U.

Lake Barrington Woods residents are proud to be able to meet a very real need in their surrounding communities and hope to continue their Labor of Love project through winter, but that goal will require supplies. If you have clean plastic grocery bags that you’d like to donate to the cause, Lake Barrington Woods is happy to put them to good use. Donations to aid the #LBWLaborOfLove project may be dropped off at the front desk at the community. If you have questions about this project, or would like to visit Lake Barrington Woods, please call 847-842-8900 or visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.

Be Our Guest

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

One of the most difficult aspects of providing care for a loved one is dealing with the need for occasional breaks in care. Whether those breaks are dictated by the caregiver’s need for time off to recharge, help after a surgery or illness, or a trip out of town, the change in routine can be troublesome to manage. Short term care is often a great option in these situations, especially when a caregiver doesn’t have a back-up, or an unexpected situation arises. A respite stay at a Senior Lifestyle community can provide peace of mind for family members, a change of scenery and social stimulation for a loved one, and a much-needed break for a primary caregiver.

Senior Lifestyle Short Term Care offers excellent solutions for a number of circumstances, whether planned or unexpected. Senior Lifestyle communities provide quality respite care for our guests, no matter the length of their stay. Short term guests enjoy the same amenities as long term residents, including delicious meals, activities, and a caring clinical staff that utilizes a Personalized Service Plan to meet each guest’s unique needs. A short term stay at a Senior Lifestyle community can also serve as a delightful introduction to the carefree lifestyle enjoyed by our residents for those considering a move to a senior community.

Short term care doesn’t have to be specifically for a respite stay; sometimes a short term visit to a Senior Lifestyle community can provide a guest with a sneak peek into the benefits of life at a senior community! The decision to move to a senior community can be difficult, even for those who feel ready to make a lifestyle change. Variables such as the location of the community, the level of care provided, and financial considerations will need to be factored in to a final decision on where to call home.

With over 30 years’ experience in senior living, Senior Lifestyle understands the factors that make a move successful and has developed the “Be Our Guest” program which allows a trial stay opportunity to “test drive” the lifestyle. Guests can join us for a few days’ visit before making a move to see if the community feels right to them, enjoying activities and events, dining with new friends, and meeting our team. The program truly allows guests to get a complete picture of life in a senior community and to see what daily life looks like for residents.

For more information on the “Be Our Guest” program or any of our short term stay opportunities at a Senior Lifestyle community in your area, please visit the Senior Lifestyle website at www.seniorlifestyle.com.

Memory Care: Embracing the Moments that Matter Most

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

What happens when commitment meets compassion? Embrace happens. Senior Lifestyle’s innovative embrace memory care program combines the most recent research in memory care with real world best practices identified by Senior Lifestyle over three decades of work with individuals in all stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The guiding principles of embrace – Wellness, Enrichment, Challenge, Connection and Creativity – provide the foundation for our memory care philosophy, focused on creating a connection with memory care residents on an individual level. Small-group embrace programming that addresses the individual needs of these residents includes:

Thymeless: a garden-to-table program designed specifically for older adults with dementia, focusing on empowering memory care residents to grow and prepare healthy, fresh food. The ongoing use and development of preserved habits, skills, and passions in the garden or food preparation can help residents to feel productive, successful, and accomplished.
Essence: an award-winning sensory stimulation program based on aromatherapy principles and specifically designed to support residents with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Through the use of essential oils, residents will enjoy a positive sensory experience that can incite positive emotional and physical results.
Bookmarks: a reading program designed to support residents with Alzheimer’s and related dementias through the exploration of the written word. During monthly meetings, residents will have the opportunity to socialize in small group settings, and develop friendships with their neighbors.
Spark: a lifestyle enrichment program designed to promote social engagement, cognitive stimulation, and connection among residents. The program offers a variety of initiatives aimed at encouraging physical activity, better nutrition, restful sleep, relaxation strategies, social interaction, and mental stimulation.
Snapshots: supports the emotional wellness of both the resident and their loved ones. We work to provide opportunity for continued connection between our residents and their loved ones through specially designed programs, support and education. We are committed to supporting residents and families with their emotional wellness at each stage and with each challenge they face.

Hollie Kemp, Corporate Director of Resident Experience at Senior Lifestyle says: “Self-efficacy, compassion, and memorable moments underpin everything that we do in embrace. We are not only committed to caring for our residents, but supporting them on their unique journey. It’s our mission to help them feel worthy, loved, and purposeful. Memory loss is devastating, but it’s not the end of a person’s journey, it’s the start of a new path. We at Senior Lifestyle want that path to be one filled with loving relationships, compassionate care, purpose, and joy. That is what embrace is all about.”

The embrace philosophy recently garnered an Argentum Best of the Best award for its Essence sensory stimulation program, a vital component of embrace programming. To learn more about embrace or any of the life enrichment programs at our Senior Lifestyle communities, please visit our website.

The Importance of Connection in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

Don’t you love it when you meet someone and have an immediate connection? There is something quite comforting in finding another human who shares the same background, favorite food, or even similar quirks. At Senior Lifestyle we’ve often noticed a common thread when families tour our communities: we ALL want to feel connected to the people around us, to discover a mutual interest or friend, and to feel a bond with our neighbors. Visitors to our communities often remark on the strong sense of family they see between residents and staff, and many times that sense of family is a deciding factor in their decision to move into a community. A recent visitor noted that his time at our community reminded him of a family reunion he attended this summer where he re-connected with cousins he hadn’t seen in over forty years. He said of their shared memories, “I realized that although we are separated by distance, our memories of childhood still connect us in a very tangible way.”

Researchers have found that social connections are healthy in ways we didn’t previously understand. Strong social connections have proven to lessen the risk of some forms of dementia, as well as mitigating the early effects of cognitive impairment in some people. Unfortunately, in the early stages of dementia, the person suffering often withdraws socially due to a fear of humiliation, isolating themselves in an effort to “cover” the emerging symptoms. It is especially important for friends and family to continue to stay connected and continue to engage their loved one during this time, but it is usually quite difficult to do so in the face of the progressing illness.

How do we stay connected when communication becomes difficult due to Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia? In many instances, communication becomes stressful for the person with dementia as they struggle to interpret verbal cues. Due to this, non-verbal communication, in the form of touch and eye contact, becomes vitally important. Learning to interact with a loved one suffering from dementia can make caregiving more fulfilling and less frustrating for both the caregiver and the cared for, leading to better engagement and quality of life.

At Senior Lifestyle, we’ve created a unique memory care philosophy, embrace. The embrace program combines the most recent research in the field of memory care with the real world best practices identified by Senior Lifestyle, which has worked with those that affected by Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia for over three decades. The guiding principles of embrace – Wellness, Enrichment, Challenge, Connection and Creativity – provide the foundation for Senior Lifestyle’s memory care philosophy, focused on creating a sustained, holistic approach to connecting with memory care residents on an individual level. If you’d like more information on how to truly connect with a loved one suffering from dementia, or would like to learn more about embrace, please visit our website. We’d love to connect with you!

The Pastime of Porch Sitting

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

Rumors abound about the fate of the fine tradition of porch sitting: some says it’s a lost art; others claim that a renaissance of sorts is in the works. At Senior Lifestyle, we know that for a dedicated group of folks, both young and old, porch sitting is a thriving activity. Back decks and patios are great for barbecues and poolside parties, but everyone knows that the front porch is where the action is! For people-watching, lemonade-drinking, and story-telling, a front porch is vital. Our communities are proud to have some world class porch sitters, and we are always on the lookout for recruits to join the ranks. The benefits are awesome!

Coincidentally, there is actually a Professional Porch Sitters Union. Legend has it that Claude Stephens, an avid front porch sitter, founded the union in 1999 in Louisville, Kentucky, rather by accident. According to Claude, membership in this esteemed organization is easy. He says, “Starting your own chapter of PPSU is simple. You simply declare yourself a local chapter, pick a number to represent your Local Chapter identity and then sit back with friends and neighbors to celebrate with an interesting story or two. Meetings can be called at any time by any member and attendance is optional.” Who wouldn’t want to join a club with no dues, no rules, no agendas, and no scheduled meetings? Membership would only be limited by the number of chairs on the porch, and meetings would be impromptu, starting any time a member or two decided to sit a spell.

No front porch? No problem! The Porch Sitters Union website states, “We look at Porch Sitting as a broad term. While a classic Porch can be ideal, we believe it is not entirely necessary to enjoy Porch Sitting. Whether you are on a smaller portico, a veranda, a terrace, front porch, back porch…even the garage with the door open while watching the kids at play, that counts.”

We at Senior Lifestyle believe in the power of activity to keep minds and bodies healthy, but we also understand the benefits of simply “sitting a spell” with good company, conversation, and a cold drink! Our residents and families know this as well, and can often be found enjoying the benefits of membership, with or without a porch! For more information on your local Senior Lifestyle community, visit our website at www.seniorlifestyle.com, or simply drop by for a visit! Chances are, we’ll be on the porch.

National Nursing Home Week

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

Walk into a nursing home in your community and you’re likely to see a mixture of staff, residents, family members and volunteers. They might be engaged in activities, listening to live music, or preparing to take a sightseeing trip – in short, not what most people envision when they picture nursing homes. Today’s nursing homes, or skilled care facilities, as they are also called, have evolved into vibrant communities for senior living with purposeful activities, entertainment and daytrips to local destinations of interest to residents. Providing levels of care tailored to the individual needs of residents, these centers for senior living are an integral part of the continuum of care that is vital to communities large and small across America. Senior Lifestyle recognizes and applauds these nursing centers for their contribution to senior living by celebrating National Nursing Home Week.

From May 14th through May 20th, we’re celebrating this year’s theme for the event: “The Spirit of America.” Each nursing center reflects the theme in its own way, with proud veterans, immigrants, and residents and staff of many faiths and backgrounds working together to create a sense of community. Established in 1967, this celebration honors the contributions of each of these groups to create a unified senior living environment as vibrant and diverse as it is beneficial to the community at large.

How can you celebrate National Nursing Home Week? Take flowers to the community, offer to volunteer at an event, share your talents with residents, or simply stop in and say hello at a nursing center when you have time. For more ideas, visit the National Nursing Home Week website at www.nnha.org. To learn more about how Senior Lifestyle communities celebrate in your area, visit our website to find one of our nursing homes near you.

Helping Is Healthy

Posted by in Mind and Spirit, Holidays.

Every day across America, volunteers can be found sharing their time and talents with their communities, supporting causes they find worthwhile, and providing aid to those in need. On April 20th, Volunteer Recognition Day, Senior Lifestyle salutes these helping hands who give time and energy to promote the health of their communities.

While the positive impact volunteers have on their communities is clear, what they may not realize is that they are in fact also helping themselves. Research indicates that we reap numerous benefits when we help others; volunteering can improve one’s physical well-being by reducing heart rate and blood pressure, recharging the immune system, and buffering the impact of stress. Socially, volunteering provides the opportunity to meet like-minded people and form new connections, while also raising self-confidence and self-esteem. Simply put, when we do good, we feel good!

Good news: senior volunteers are highly likely to benefit from volunteering, in part because it provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose. Studies also show that volunteering may actually increase life expectancy while improving quality of life as well. For many seniors, lending a hand can provide an important link to their community at a time when they may be struggling to find meaningful ways to contribute to that community.

More good news: nearly everyone can volunteer in some capacity, whether by lending talents or lending time. Delivering meals to shut ins, making hats and blankets for newborns, and reading to children at a local school or library are all things that may seem small but have a big impact in the community. If you want to volunteer but aren’t sure where to start, call your local United Way or Salvation Army; these local resources can point you in the right direction and may in fact be looking for someone with your exact qualifications!

RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) is a volunteer network for people aged 55 and older. This network matches senior volunteers with diverse service opportunities in their communities, from tutoring and mentoring to renovating homes and assisting victims of natural disasters. Whether you can give an hour per week or an hour per month, it is time well spent and will make a difference in your community!

Volunteer Recognition Day celebrates those who donate their time and abilities for the benefit of others. At Senior Lifestyle, we believe volunteers are a vital part of healthy communities, and while those who volunteer don’t often seek accolades for their service, we believe they deserve to be thanked! To find out more about volunteering, please visit the Senior Lifestyle website and find the community nearest you.

World Health Day

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

Each year on April 7th, the World Health Organization (WHO) spotlights a health issue that affects people worldwide. This year, Senior Lifestyle is joining the conversation, which is focused on depression with the theme “Depression: Let’s talk.” WHO estimates that over 300 million people worldwide struggle with depression, an 18% increase from 2005 to 2015.

Why the increase? Several factors may be responsible, including the fear of stigma, a generalized misunderstanding about what depression really is, and for some, a lack of access to support for the condition. Many people delay seeking treatment due to a combination of these factors. While statistics often focus on the effects of depression on young people, older adults are often found to be at an increased risk for depression as well.

For older adults, additional ailments such as arthritis and heart disease often complicate treatment for depression in seniors, giving rise to the notion that it is a normal reaction to the life changes associated with aging and illness. However, depression in seniors is NOT a normal part of aging, but is common and treatable with medications and psychotherapy, according to the CDC. At Senior Lifestyle, our focus is not just on physical health, but the emotional, mental and spiritual health of the seniors we serve; we get to know our residents on a personal level to provide the best care possible.

Caregivers need to be aware that changes in circumstance can be quite stressful and difficult for a senior to accept, and watch closely for symptoms of depression. Knowing the signs of depression in seniors allows for early intervention and positive outcomes for loved ones. For more information about World Health Day, or for information on resources for depression in seniors, please visit the Senior Lifestyle website to find the community expert nearest you.

Books and Support Groups for Caregivers of Elderly Parents

Posted by in Mind and Spirit.

Being the caregiver for your mother, father or both can be a tough task. From rolling around wheelchairs to making sure medications are taken properly, caring for elderly parents can be both physically and mentally draining. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to you to help you through this time in your life. Many other caregivers have experienced the same joys and struggles as you have. Check out our recommended books and support groups for caregivers of elderly parents:

Books
When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions by Paula Span
Described by the author as “a support group in print,” this book contains stories, interviews and other relevant information for caregivers of elderly parents.

A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents — and Ourselves by Jane Gross
In this book, Gross describes moving her mother into an assisted living facility and the valuable lessons she learned in the process.

Caring for Your Parents: The Complete Family Guide — Practical Advice You Can Trust from the Experts at AARP by Hugh Delehanty and Elinor Ginzler
From locating quality health care to making your parents’ house elder-friendly, this book contains in-depth advice from experts at the AARP for caregivers of elderly parents.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chas
This quirky, cartoon-style memoir humorously recounts the author’s experience of dealing with elderly parents, along with all of the laughs and tears that come along with it.

The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making: Making Choices for Those Who Can’t by Viki Kind
It’s hard making decisions for another person, especially if that person is your parent. This book contains tools and techniques to help you make decisions as a caregiver.

Coping With Your Difficult Older Parent: A Guide for Stressed-Out Children by Grace Lebow and Barbara Kane
Being the caregiver isn’t always easy. This book contains advice on how to de-stress when your elderly parents are driving you crazy.

For information on support groups:

The National Family Caregiver Support Program
Family Caregiver Alliance
Alzheimer’s Support Association
Caregiver Action Network
National Alliance for Caregiving