How to Choose The Best Assisted Living Facility

How to Choose the Best Assisted Living Facility

Overview

As you’re about to send out your aging loved one for care, you would want to search for a place where he or she will feel comfortable, happy, safe, and well cared for the rest of their life. However, many families would not begin their search unless they’re faced with a health crisis that needs urgent action. This situation is oftentimes associated with time pressure, and you may not find the best facility/community for your loved one if that is the case. The particular community that you want for your aging parent may have waiting lists as well.

Older Adults in an Assisted Living Home

Older Adults in an Assisted Living Home

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a facility/community for older adults who are not capable of living on their own, but do not require full-time medical care. According to assisted living expert Peggy Flannigan, PhD, assisted living residents typically need help with at least three activities of their daily living activities, such as transferring to and from a wheelchair, toileting, bathing, eating, and dressing. Older adults who need less assistance may want to consider a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or an independent living community.

Making it to the best assisted living facility can be challenging even when you’re being realistic about the necessity to look for a facility/community for your aging parent. There are innumerable assisted living services available. You might be thinking of ways on how to choose the best assisted living facility for your aging loved one.

Finding the Best Assisted Living Facility

When looking for the best assisted living facility for your aging parent, location is one of the most important decision factors. You have to decide whether to choose a facility in the community where your aging loved one is currently living or maybe you want her/him to move close to supportive friends or relatives who can visit and coordinate with the staff.

Once you have decided on the location, you can begin your search and create a list of facilities in the area. Then using the ideas we’ve set below, you can begin your strategic assessment. Although you can find potential facilities on the Internet, it’s still better to ask your family and friends, faith communities, and agencies that advocate for the aging if there are any residential facilities they can suggest.

With a solid list of facilities, you can start with the following steps before you visit and tour facilities.

Living Spaces

The decision to help your loved one move out of the home she has lived in for years can be bittersweet. Your aging parent will also likely be downsizing, which can contribute to their sense of loss.

It’s a great idea to see some of the available rooms of the facility and ask about what decorations your aging parent can bring with them.

Activities of Daily Living Assistance

Your aging parent’s inability to manage independently throughout the day is sometimes the main reason to decide to move to assisted living. Activities of daily living include cleaning, undressing, laundry, hobbies, bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and shaving. During your visit, it is important that you ask for the services provided and whether it has extra costs. You would want a cheerful and helpful community staff to assist your aging parent; thus, assessing the mood of the facility is also important.

Food and Dining

One of the top concerns of many resident families is their aging parent’s meals. 

Fortunately, most facilities today provide various eating options for residents, like chef-prepared meals in a shared dining room; others even provide kitchenettes so your aging parent can make her own snacks or meals. It would be even better if you try and experience eating at the available locations in the community during your tour/visit.

Exercise and Fitness

Assisted living services often include fitness options for its residents who want to find low-impact ways to stay fit, become more active, or stay active. Don’t forget to look for walking paths or tracks, fitness rooms or gyms, or group exercise classes for all abilities during your tour to the facility. Some facilities also provide access to a pool or other fitness programs as well.

Social Activities

During your visit to the community, take a look also at their activity calendar and ask about specific activities that your aging parent is interested in. If they’re not available, feel free to talk to the activity director about requesting new activities. Socializing is essential and it will be more comfortable for your aging parent to be with people in a similar mobility level or similar age range; thus, considering the age of the residents you see is also helpful.

Medical Assistance

It is highly important to ask about the medical assistance provided as your aging parent might need it on an as-needed basis. Make sure you understand which of the services are covered in the residence base cost and which may entail extra cost.

Transportation and Parking

Check also for parking lot availability as your aging loved one may still be able or want to drive.

Housekeeping Services

Assisted living communities typically include cleaning and laundry services. Be sure to ask about the housekeeping schedule and if there’s any add-on cleaning services that may cost more.

Other Assisted Living Services

You can also find a number of other services in assisted living facilities, including café or bank, faith services, a beauty salon or barber. Some services offered on site might be permanent, others have professionals to visit the facility on certain days to provide those services.

After you’ve visited all assisted living facilities you desire, you should have a better look at what is important to you and what is available. Make sure you’ve taken good notes of the details of the assisted living you are considering to select the best match for your aging loved one.

What to Ask and Look For During Your Search

It’s challenging to hunt for the best assisted living facility. After all, you want to choose the best place for your aging parent—a place that is well managed, clean, and within your price range. You need to know what the community is really like, and not just what the advertisements show.

Although it’s challenging, it does not need to be overwhelming or intimidating. To help you narrow down the choices of the best facility, we’re giving you three simple steps you can follow:

Step 1:  Do research (online or by phone) of the assisted living facilities for your consideration.

Step 2: Visit and tour each community to personally know what it really feels like.

Step 3: Follow up for more in-depth information for the communities you like best.

You’ll have these checklists for moving into assisted living to come back to over time: the Assisted Living Research Checklist, Assisted Living Tour Checklist, and Assisted Living Follow-Up Checklist.

An Assisted Living Research Checklist

Online Research

You can begin your research online to find communities near you or your aging parent using the following search terms: “assisted living facilities near me,” “assisted living near me,” “senior assisted living facilities near me,” “list of assisted living facilities near me,” “top rated assisted living facilities near me,” “list of assisted living near me,” “senior assisted living near me,” and “assisted living near me now.”

Other than online research, you can also find communities through word-of-mouth recommendations or in the phone book.

You can narrow down your options with these questions:

  1. Is the location of the facility convenient for the resident’s loved ones to visit? To help you figure out driving distances to and from the community, use Google Maps.
  2. Is the facility near hotels, doctor’s offices, a pharmacy, shops, and other important places? To explore the facility neighborhood virtually, you can use some features on Google Maps.
  3. Is the facility neighborhood considered safe? To evaluate neighborhood crime rate and safety, check with Trulia, Neighborhood Scout, and Crime Reports.

Phone Research

The first question to ask as you speak to providers over the phone for the first time is whether they’re still accepting new residents. If they respond on the affirmative, good; otherwise, ask about their waiting lists.

You may also want to know early on about how expensive the facility is. Assisted living pricing can significantly vary based on the location as well as your aging parent’s needs. It’s also important to know what the modes of payment of the provider are and when and how long do tours last. You’d also want to know what they will show you during your tour—will you be allowed to meet with other residents or try the meals provided.  

Assisted Living Facility Tours

Other facilities with a little paint missing can be cheerful, and some with beautiful facilities can be a dreary place. To know what the assisted living facility really feels like, going for several visits can help you determine if that particular facility will be the best for your aging parent. Don’t forget to take copious notes of the details of each facility and capture photos as well.

It’s worthwhile to tour a number of communities first before bringing your aging parent to see the top 3 best facilities on your list.

Review your checklist first before making a visit/tour. Make sure to underline the questions most relevant to you and cross off those that are not.

As you’re on your way to the assisted living community, consider the following questions below:

  1. Is the facility providing safe places for your loved one to walk and socialize?
  2. Is the facility providing a parking lot should you want to visit your aging parent in the residence?
  3. Is the exterior and interior of the building clean and attractive?
  4. Are the grounds filled with plants and trees?

The Walking Tour

When you’re walking around, pay attention to what you’re feeling, seeing, smelling, and hearing in each of the spaces. Try to talk not only to the marketing director, but also to the staff members and different residents so you get a fuller idea of what the community is really like. Also keep an eye to the common spaces, residents’ living spaces, foods, activities, staff, care plan, and most especially, its cost.

Conclusion

Choosing the best assisted living facility for your aging parent can be challenging plus the decision to help her move out from the house she’s lived in for decades can be bittersweet.

Your Aging Parent with a Caring and Cheerful Staff Member

Your Aging Parent with a Caring and Cheerful Staff Member

Although the task is challenging, imagine sending your aging loved one to a community where she is accompanied and well taken care of by the caring and cheerful staff and can feel comfortable, safe, and happy. Isn’t it worth it?

 

Good Grief

As we get older, it is a fact of life that we will lose more people who are dear to us.  It is a part of how life works.  Those we've grown up emulating are getting older, those we've grown up with are aging.  Many of our elderly friends and family have already lost a large number of loved ones.  The problem with death is that it never comes at an opportune time.  And grief?  Grief doesn't come at an opportune time either.  It is a complicated and untimely beast.  So how can we help our friends and loved ones who are grieving?  How can we recognize grief when it strikes us or someone we love?

There are several common stages of grief.  These stages seem easy to understand and in  a logical order on paper, but remember that they are not easy to go through.  They also do not seem to come in a logical order in most people.  Recognizing them may help as you grieve, and they may also be beneficial as you help someone else navigate the grief process.

Denial is often the first stage of grief.  Some people describe it as unbelief that the loved one has passed on.  Others describe it as “surreal” or as if they're walking around in a daze or a fog.  It is really shock that they are experiencing.  It takes one's brain a bit of time to catch up with reality.  If your reality has included a living person  for a great number of years, it will be very difficult for your brain to understand that they are no longer alive.  This stage can be helpful if it comes first, as it might buy you some time, without emotion, to attend to funeral preparations or travel plans.

Another stage is called bargaining.  This is usually when you wonder what you could've done to prevent the death of a loved one.  Or you wish that it could have been you instead of them.  This is natural as we tend to self-evaluate if everything that should have been done was done for them.  Did we give our best effort to save them, did those who were with them give their best effort?

Anger might come next, especially if we perceive that more should have been done by ourselves or someone else.  Anger also is sometimes directed at the loved one for leaving us in this world with no recourse  but to accept that they are gone.  They may have left many things undone, in our estimation, and it seems unfair that we have to pick up the pieces of their death.

Depression is common after this because we realized that we can't remain  angry forever with them, with ourselves and with others.  Anger is also a very exhausting emotion .  When the anger is spent, a deep weariness can come in waves.  Extra sleep might be required.  An inability to just move on with life is common.  Getting over-tired can sometimes result in an inability to sleep at all or to eat properly. This is a stage to have a strong support system in place.

Finally, acceptance is the final stage.  There is no set period of time to determine when acceptance will occur.  It is different for each person.  It might make it easier if you knew of someone's imminent death because they had a terminal disease, but not always.  Some people hold on to such hope despite prognosis that it is still a great shock to them at the time of death.

If you are helping someone else deal with grief, be sure to listen to the words and stories that they are telling you.  Taking the time to listen and care about the memories and relationship that they had with that person will encourage them to talk and process the memories.  Encourage them to let emotions out without using phrases like, “Everything happens for a reason” or “They're in a better place”.  Those statements might be true, but they are entirely overused and might not seem genuine to the person that is grieving, especially if they are in the anger stage.  If you notice that the person you are supporting seems stuck  in a state of depression for an extended period of time, suggest that they might want to see a therapist just to get help processing what is happening to them.  Finally, show that you love them in whichever way they can best accept it.  If they want to sit in silence, it is perfectly acceptable to sit with them .

Grief is a strange and slippery thing.  Finding life on the other side of it is possible.  It just may not look the same as it did before.

Technology and Aging-Adapting To Change

Things have changed greatly in the last 200 years.  We have gone from people groups that are largely confined to one geographic location, to individuals who traipse across the globe at high speeds and for various reasons.  We’ve been to space.  We no longer depend upon our own feet or the feet of animals to travel.  We do not need to be in the same room in order to communicate with someone else, or even write something via a paper letter with envelope.  Technology has come a very long way in areas of convenience, but also in areas of need.  Medical advances are remarkable when you consider what even one disease would do to people 75 years ago.  In those days, if you were diagnosed with cancer, it was a certain death sentence.  Now, cancer survivors are numerous.  Technology has made many beneficial changes to our lives, but it has also come at a price.  Those who are younger do not understand the price that has been paid, because they do not remember what life was like before.  They speed headlong into the “biggest, newest, greatest” without understanding the implications.

Somehow, though, those of us who are aging are still here despite all these changes.  We can resist the change by not using any new technology, but it will come at a higher price to us and our families.  We can say that we’ll not learn to use a computer or even a smart phone, but we will miss much of what is going on in our grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s lives if we do.  Adaptation to change, as well as resistance to change both come with high prices, so we need to have some guidelines in place in order to decide which things we’ll take a stand on & which things we’ll decide to be flexible and learn from.

One of the most important guidelines is ethics.  If your conscience is burdened by something that is happening, the right response is to abstain from its use.  For instance, if there is a treatment that is using cells obtained by an aborted baby, and you are against abortion, you would stand against that treatment even if it would benefit you.  There is not much you can do about other people using it, if it is legal, but for yourself, you can still make that decision in the US.  If you are against cloning or even hybrid plants and some of the advances being made use that technology, you are not required to use them.  Your decision not to buy them and your advocacy against them can make a difference as to whether others choose to use them.

Many newer technologies are not necessarily moral or immoral in nature, however.  Take social media.  Its ethical use is dependent upon the person who is using it.  It can be used for ill, in things like bullying, accusation or even human trafficking.  It can also be used for good in keeping up with friends and family who live far from us & keeping in touch with younger generations.   If you decide not to use it because other people are possibly using it unethically, you will also be closing yourself off from several of your friends and family that might truly enjoy having closer contact with you.

Another guideline you might like to set is use of time.  Some newer technologies promise to make life easier, & they can, if you are willing to put the initial time into learning how to use them.  If not, they can suck away your time and energy in frustration.  Decide how much time you’d like to expend while using that technology and stick to it.  Do not allow it to take over your life or it will surely smother out the other things that you used to love doing.

Being adaptable is a hallmark of the human race.  We’ve had to learn to adapt over time so that we could survive and thrive in the environments that we chose to live in.  It does not change just because we get older and would prefer that things stay the same.  Ask yourself today what these changes mean to you and whether you should consider being more adaptable in certain areas.  Also ask yourself which changes you see serious implications with and that you need to warn the younger generations about so that they could potentially avoid some pitfalls that you foresee.  We all need one another, whether young or old.  Adaptability will serve us well as we try to bridge the span between our history and our future.

Cultivating Friendships

  Some people say blood is thicker than water.  Family is important, that much is certain.  One thing about family, however, is that it cannot be chosen.  You are born or adopted into a family, it is not your choice. With family, it is chosen for you & it is an amazing thing, but even more astounding is when you can make choices regarding with whom you’d like to spend your time.  Some people use the word “friend” loosely.  They use the term to describe any acquaintance with whom they come into contact.  Real friendships, however, are those that are intentional & in which you invest your time and energy.  Your meeting may be coincidental, but a long-lasting friendship will need more than a chance meeting.  It will require time, care and consideration in order to grow.

Just as soil needs to be cultivated or loosened in order to grow plants, so also do we.  We need to be able to be relaxed in order to focus our attention on another individual.  If you are extremely stressed, you may need a friend to lean on, but that is not the time to try to make new friends.   You’ll be unable to focus on their needs.  Because friendship is reciprocal, you can use a stressful situation to deepen a relationship, but do not begin a new one in that way.  If you do, your relationship may continue to follow the same pattern of one friend always advising and the other friend always needing advice.  Instead, start your friendship when things are relatively normal and stable.

Set aside time to talk.  Whether it is on the phone or writing back and forth, you’ll need to communicate if you want to get to know someone better.  Be sure that that communication involves asking many questions of the other person and showing interest in what they have to say.  Even if they have interests that are directly opposite to your own, you can still be interested in them.  Ask questions like, “Why do you like football so much?” or “Why is orchestral music your favorite type?”  Once you know a little bit more about the subject, you’ll be able to ask more directed questions and perhaps eventually be able to dialogue somewhat intelligently on that particular subject.  If you do not know anything about the subject, do not act as if you do, but rather admit that you do not.  There is no shame in not knowing about something.  It simply means that you’ve not been exposed to the subject material yet.   If you know nothing about something that they are passionate about, just be honest.  In reality, they’d probably be very excited to share their passion with someone else. 

Make an appointment to get together to do something you’d both enjoy.  While it is true that friendships can be maintained long-distance, most relationships can benefit through some quality time spent together.  If you live a great distance from one another, make arrangements to meet in the middle at an inexpensive location to spend the weekend.  Or, take turns hosting the other person.  Whichever way your choose to work it out, be sure that your costs are split evenly and that the activities are things that you’ll both enjoy.  If it ends up being a good experience, you’re more likely to repeat it.  If it is boring or annoying for one of the parties, they’ll not want a repeat & you’re sure to grow apart.

Help one another grow.  If you recognize certain destructive behaviors in a friend, find out from them if they’re willing to talk about it with you.  Sometimes this is a good thing to discover at the beginning of a friendship so you know whether they will be a life-time friend that will help you grow into a deeper person or more of an acquaintance.  Start a conversation by saying, “I tend to be very direct with my friends if I notice that something is off or if it seems like they are making choices that may harm them.  Will it annoy you or offend you if I do that with you?”  Also let them know that you would expect them to do the same with you if they notice things that are not good.  This lets them have an option of deciding that they would not like to be that close & also prepares them for a more direct approach in the future so that you will not need to tiptoe around difficult subjects.  Often, people are uncomfortable with this type of honesty, especially if they’re dealing with addictions.  It is always better to be aware of this before you invest loads of energy and time with a person.  If they will end up resenting you for the perceived interference, you do not want to begin.

Pay attention to how your friend shows that they care.  If they complement you with words often, they probably appreciate words.  If you shower them with gifts and never say positive words they may not perceive it as care.  If they like you to spend time with them & instead you send notes all the time, they may not consider you a caring person.  People often will show you how they want to be treated by how they treat you.  Pay attention & care for them in the way they need to be cared for.

Friendships are sometimes difficult, but are always worth it in the end!  Keep up the good fight!

 

 

 

Consideration

Do you know how to remain considerate when all those around you seem to be losing their minds?   No?  Me either!  It is incredibly difficult to rise above the pettiness that I’ve been experiencing lately while going about my business in the world around me.  But, this is where the older generation has much to offer.  They have the wisdom of the years in them coupled with the wisdom of many years before that that was handed down to them through stories and lessons.  So, here is a very incomplete list of areas where I’ve learned consideration for others from those a generation (or three) ahead of my own.

 

 

Speak clearly, politely & respectfully.  When others are speaking angrily, it can be very difficult to control the rising anger in ourselves.  If we give in to that anger, however, the situation usually escalates.  Be clear about your position, do not be bullied, but be polite in the process. Generations preceding our own knew how to argue in a more respectful way than ours, even if it came to major issues.  After the Revolution, for instance, there were a series of discussions in the papers which ended up being called “The Federalist Papers” and “The Anti-Federalist Papers” which discussed the pros and cons of a central Federal government.  They argued their points concisely, thoroughly, and with passion, but they did not stoop to the level of denigrating the intelligence or character of their opponent.  There is much to be learned from this in our day of social media.  The issues we face are every bit as flammable, but if we do not walk with consideration for our fellow man, we will all go up in smoke.

Stand up.  If someone is older than me, sick, weak or tired & there is only one seat available, I’ve been taught to stand and offer my seat.  This is not about my right to sit because I arrived first, it is about what is right.  Consideration for another is basic decency.

Be timely.  Sometimes it’s not possible.  In some cultures being on time means being 10 minutes late.  Whatever the standard is for the area you live in, do your best to live by it.  If you cannot, then call to communicate, but do not expect others to wait for you.  Consider that another’s time is more important than your own and try to plan for it.

Look for areas in all parts of your life in which you can show consideration to those around you.  Open doors for someone else (this does not have to be a male only activity).  Let someone with tired children cut in front of you in the grocery line, even if they have more items than you do.  Give people a wave if they accidently cut you off instead of honking angrily.  Help someone else carry things that appear to be a struggle for them.

There are countless ways that we can all be more considerate of those around us.  The generation that suffered through WW2 has much to teach us on this subject.  Perhaps because they saw how humanity can quickly become de-humanized, they decided that they could do better, one person at a time.  Being considerate is not just being polite.  It means to consider [to think about, ponder] another person.  Take a look at those you come into contact with.  Are they struggling to make ends meet?  Share with them something from your garden.  Are their kids watching far too much television for their age, but the mom is so tired she can’t find her way out?  Purchase a game or activity that the children are able to play on their own so she can have a reprieve without the television.  Or if you cannot do that, simply not judging her is a good step in being considerate.  Is there an elderly person near you who loves children but has no grandchildren of their own?  Bring yours to visit regularly & offer to help out with anything they need.  Does someone not have a car?  Offer a ride to town occasionally.  This list could be endless.

In being considerate, it is not necessary to become a doormat.  If you are unable to do something for someone, do not feel guilty.  But, if you are able to do something, go ahead and do it.  It might be small to you, but it will mean the world to them!

Caregivers

According to one survey, 16% of Americans have been caregivers to another person in the past year.  That may not seem like a lot, but consider that this is only one year, and that most people have become an unpaid caregiver to someone at least for a short while throughout their lifetime.  Senior care giving can be incredibly challenging, both for the one offering and for the one receiving care.  Those who undertake this task need to go into it with their eyes wide open, with a well thought-out plan and with an excellent support team.

The caregivers that I'm specifically writing about in this article are those who are providing care for  elderly or disabled adults without monetary compensation for themselves.  In other words, they are working many long hours without pay.  This may seem like a small thing, but the numbers listed on www.caregiveraction.org suggest otherwise.  “The value of the services family caregivers provide for "free," when caring for older adults, is estimated to be $375 billion a year.”   $375 billion per year!  Their work certainly is not without value, they are simply not getting paid for it.  The work of a caregiver is grueling at times, even while being incredibly rewarding.  But, because of our culture's emphasis on all things monetary, these people who are giving of their lives, time & energy, may not be getting the acknowledgment or support that they need.  Below I will list a few things to be aware of and some ways to help avoid burnout for those who find themselves in a care-giving position currently.

First, remember who you are.  Sometimes in the daily grind of caring for others,  it is easy to forget who we are apart from that.  This type of work is physically demanding and terribly exhausting.  At times it may seem that there is not time to shower, let alone do something that we once enjoyed.  It is, however, terribly important that you hang on to little bits of time with which you can do this.  Even if it is 30 minutes that you look forward to to read a book you've been looking forward to or a bit of time to do some baking or painting.  Maybe you enjoy nature & could take regular walks to clear your head and breathe again.  Whatever it is, be sure that you are taking time to remember what it is that you enjoy and continue doing it & advancing in it.  You are filling the roll of a caretaker, but that is not the only part of you.  You need to remember who you are apart from that, because that task will not always be before you.

Second, remember to rest.  Getting adequate sleep can be challenging if you are caring for someone who does not rest well or is in severe pain.  Try as you might, rest might not be an option on a regular basis.  So, practice something that new mothers are always told since their newborns will not sleep regularly either.  Sleep when they sleep.  You may think, “this is impossible, I cannot sleep during the day” or “I have so many other things to get done, there is no way I can do that!”   But consider what your temperament and care is after you've gone for a substantial amount of time without sleep.  Are you as compassionate and kind?  Do your words come out sharp and biting?  Rest is fully necessary for each of us, whether we like it or not.  You can find someone to do laundry or cook a few freezer meals much more easily than you can find someone to take on the care of you or your loved one.  Admit when you are spent and need sleep.  Ask for help with other tasks from someone in your support group.  Then, go take a nap!

Third, be sure to have adequate support.  This is easier said than done, but you cannot do this alone.  If you are part of a church or synagogue, it is a good place to start looking for support.  If not, find a community of people that care & might be willing to help.  Oftentimes in putting yourself out there & talking about what is going on, you will come across others who have already walked that road & who have been caregivers themselves.  They are the ones who are most likely to remember and to offer real help in your time of need.  If they offer to help, take them up on it!  Ask if they could make a meal so that you have a little time to rest or accomplish some other task that only you can do.  Ask if they'd be willing to sit with your loved one for a couple of hours so that you can run errands. No matter how stoic and hardworking you are, you need to have a good support system to remain healthy while you are caring or others.  Take the help that is offered to you during this time.  I promise, you'll have opportunity in the future to “pass it on” wit someone else who needs a bit of support in their care-giving journey.

Last, don't lose heart.  The season that you're walking through right now is just that, a season.  It had a beginning and it will have an end.  Do your best to enjoy the current season, even while looking forward to the next one.  Allow yourself to have the feelings that you have, but be careful not to let them rule you, especially in times of weariness.  Things always seem to have a brighter outlook after a good cry and a long rest.  The one for whom you are caring for is most likely also very weary of their journey.  Try to guard against “compassion fatigue” just because you're both walking on a difficult path right now.  There is much to hope for, much to be grateful for and many people who are willing to shoulder the load with you.  They may not t know specifically how to offer what you need, but sometimes even having someone to talk it out with helps tremendously. Don't lose hope that things will improve.  Don't let your love grow cold in the process of caring for others.  Rest, ask for help, take a break.  Then come back to what you need to do with renewed vigor and purpose!

 

Pass Down The Good

Family history is something that can really go either way.  Sometimes people are awfully proud of the roots that they come from.  Others can be deeply ashamed.  It has little to do with money or prestige, for there are certainly times when those with both attributes have mistreated others to the point that the family name is blemished beyond repair, & conversely there are times when those with humble beginnings go on to do great things.  If there is something  to be learned from all of the family histories that are passed down verbally & in print, it is that many things are lost in just a few short generations.

The bad will be passed down, as well, and that may be necessary as a warning against morals gone askew.  Health problems also need to be discussed.  But the focus of family histories should be the good things that have gone before.  Take time to talk about these good things with those in your family (whether related by genetics or adoption). It's perhaps even more important for those who have been adopted to know the new family tree that they've been grafted into.  In most cases, the good far outweighs the bad but the stories have been lost by lack of people ready to tell them.  If your grandmother could throw bales just as fast as the men in your family, tell about her.  It may inspire a girl who feels ashamed of her size or strength.  If your grandfather was compassionate with animals & could cure almost anything that ailed them, tell about him.  It may inspire a young man who is struggling with not being great in sports.  If your family tends to be generous to a fault, discuss it as a good thing & that you'd rather be generous than miserly any day of the week.
Having a knowledge of your family history can give you roots from which to grow.  When times get tough, you can look back and say, “I'm a (insert family name here) and we do NOT give up,” or any other such attribute that is looked upon as good in a particular family.  For children who come from humble beginnings, this is perhaps even more important.  Knowing that your family once had money, but it was given away during the depression, or knowing that your family was known for being the best at raising horses in a 4 state area can give children something to aspire to.  Inspiration is necessary for everyone.  Having the bar set high is not a bad thing.  Of course we must not use it as a source of pressure or comparison, but knowing that they have come from greatness helps those of younger generations to know that they, too, can rise to greatness, even if it doesn't happen to be in the family business.

  We all know that we pass on to the next generation far more by genetics & nature than we ever pass on through intention, nurture or education.  Let those things that we pass on be looked upon in the kindest light that they can be looked upon.  The people of yesteryear were just like us.  Trying their best to make it in difficult times, & doing their best to raise another generation with hope instead of bitterness of heart.  Perhaps they succeeded, or perhaps they left a void in that area.  If they did, we can certainly begin to fill the void & begin good stories to be passed down.  Let our stories be those that will inspire a younger generation & give them hope for a better future & a stronger family line for years to come.

Preparing Your Home for An Elderly Relative

 

Are you considering having an elderly family member move in with you?  This is often a transition step that people take to save money on nursing home or other expenses or in order to assist them emotionally in a transition such as the death of a spouse.  But, how difficult is this change, and is it even advisable?  Hopefully you'll find some help below.

The first thing that you need to consider is whether your relationship can withstand long periods of time together while being enjoyable for both of you.  Be honest when you answer this question.  If you've always struggled with resentment against a parent or relative or if they've struggled with the same thing from you, make sure that you do not enter into this arrangement without a GREAT deal of forethought.  Financial or other kinds of stress can sometimes make us do things that we would normally not consider to be good choices.  If your choice to have someone join you in your home is due to feeling so compulsion or obligation, resentment will only grow into bitterness & worse in the years to come.  Neither of you will be healthy & your relationship could go from rocky to horrible very quickly.

Next, if you both feel that your relationship can withstand this arrangement, set up some ground rules.  Talk about how you will handle any conflict that comes up.  Consider having a protocol in place where either individual can feel free to say, “I feel like we need to talk, will it work for us to talk tonight after dinner,” or something similar.  If there is a standard in place, neither of you will feel it necessary to yell to be heard & both will feel that they can talk in a healthy way.

Another ground rule to have in place is that you'll both have responsibilities.  It's important that everyone in a household feel useful, from the smallest member to the oldest.  Perhaps your older relative is not physically able to do much, but they can help in other ways.  If there are youngsters (grandchildren/great-grandchildren) that come to visit, it could be their responsibility to sit with them for a time after dinner & read stories or teach them a card game.  They could put photographs into books or boxes that need to be sorted.  They could crochet or mend, look for grocery sales/coupons, or perform some small effort that would genuinely be valuable to the household, yet not be physically demanding.  If they're unable to read because of poor eyesight, or write anymore, ask them to record a verbal family history so that you & the rest of the family will have it for the future.  Your responsibilities should also be clearly in place.  Talk about who will cook, clear, & wash dishes.  Mundane things can often make or break relationship.

Discuss finances before any moving takes place.  It will be on the minds of the both of you, so you might as well “air the laundry” in advance.  Discuss who is responsible for what.  If you are fine with them living in a guest home that you have free of charge, are you also fine with covering utilities.  If you'll be eating every meal together, who will pay for the groceries?  Discuss these things in detail & don't forget things like insurance costs and other things that are uncomfortable.  Might as well get all the discomfort out of the way from the first so that you can all be comfortable afterward!

Schedules.  Talk about this too!  Schedules are nearly as important as finances when it comes to daily tasks. If you work full or part-time & they tend to have many appointments for medical needs, discuss an arrangement that might work for driving to & from, or find a local shuttle service that might be able to transport.

Consider their comfort.  Our bodies change dramatically as we age, so if they'll be sharing the same quarters as the rest of the family, consider things that might help them to feel more at home in a foreign place.  Room darkening curtains so that they can get the rest they need when they need it (this might include a nap...even if it makes you jealous!)  Finding a way to make their area of the home the right temperature for them can be a big help to both of you.  If you like it very warm or very cool in your home, make accommodations for them if they are opposite.  Ask BEFORE they move in what they usually keep their thermostat at in the house so that you can prepare.  Also, be sure that you have a heating pad & blankets close to their favorite chair.  Find out what type of chair & bed they use for comfort.  If their current ones are too difficult for them to maneuver on their own, consider getting a different one that will work better to keep them as self-sufficient as possible.  Install a shower chair, shower head with a hose, gripping bars, etc. in the bathroom for ease of use.  Consider the entrance to your home, stairways & other potentially hazardous spots.  How will you make those things safe for the newest member of your family to stay with you?

Finally, talk with them about their will & if they have any living will, as well.  If they'll be spending their waning years with you, you will need to know what types of life support they are okay with, should their medical needs come to that.  After their death, you'll need to know whether they have funeral arrangements made somewhere & which parts are already taken care of.  None of us likes to think about these things in advance, but having it squared away in advance gives us the time we need to go through the grieving process without additional anxiety about arrangements.  It's also very comforting to know what your loved one wants when they are unable to speak for themselves.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list, as every situation will be different.  Communication is key when it comes to every area of life, and this is no different.  Make these years spent together be a gift for both parties to hold in their memories.

Your Quick Pocket Guide To Medical Titles

Admit it.  Unless you've grown up in a medical environment (or worked in one for several years) medical titles can sometimes be a bit daunting for most of us.  Gone are the days when there is simply a doctor and a nurse.  We now have doctors who have names according to their area of expertise, different assistant titles that make you wonder how much advice you should really take from that professional, and a myriad of titles that were not even in existence 25 years ago.  Think about this from your loved one's perspective, especially if they are in their late seventies or early eighties.  It has got to be difficult for them to try to navigate all of these professional titles alone when there is a chance that they've not even spent much time with a standard medical doctor.  This list will by no means be comprehensive, but should give you a quick guide to the more common titles used by medical personnel & make it easier for your loved one to navigate the system, understand who is giving which advice & hopefully make sound decisions for their health.

Medical Doctor (MD) - This is a standard doctor with a general practice.  They are qualified to make certain diagnoses & also to give referrals to specialists that can guide you in a more specific way.  Think of this doctor as your first step in the process of finding out what is wrong with you.  They can treat common ailments, but if you have a more complicated medical history, you should also be seeking the advice of a specialist in your particular problem.

Physician's Assistant (PA) – This is a medical professional that practices medicine in the same way that a medical doctor would, except that they make their diagnoses & recommendations with the collaboration of a team of physicians.  They are still qualified to make diagnoses & refer patients to specialists.

Nurse Practitioner – This is a registered nurse that has the authority to treat certain ailments and complaints apart from a medical doctor. If visiting a nurse practitioner, you would need to know whether or not your ailment fits under the scope of what that practitioner is qualified to treat.

Registered Nurse – A registered nurse is qualified to help a medical doctor with a number of things, including administering medications, keeping account of medical records & providing excellent patient care.

Nurse's Assistant – This person is usually involved in the daily tasks that are required in patient care, such as feeding, changing dressings, & various other help as needed.

Oncologist – A doctor that treats people who suffer from cancer.

Cardiologist – A doctor that treats patients with heart issues.

Endocrinologist – A doctor that treats patients with glandular or hormonal problems (think thyroid/diabetes/hormone issues/bone health)

Geriatric Medical Specialists – A doctor that specializes in treating the elderly, & is qualified to treat them out-of-clinic, such as in their home, at an assisted living facility or in an elderly care home.

Gastroenterologist- A doctor that treats stomach, intestinal & colon issues. 

These are some of the most common medical titles you will run into in general care situations. This list is by no means comprehensive.  As with all things medical, please assure your loved one that it is perfectly acceptable & even encouraged to ask questions.  If they are unsure about someone's title & what they are about to do, help them to advocate for themselves and ASK!  A nurse or nurse's assistant should be able to let you know what a “hematologist” is, what an “anesthesiologist” does & make you feel far more comfortable during your trip to the doctor or hospital.  Your loved one should never feel embarrassed about asking questions regarding their health or the people who are treating them!   The best quality of care will come when the patient is able to ask the right people the questions that they have.  If they better understand the functions of each of the people treating them, they'll understand why the oncologist is not willing to give advice on their heart condition, etc.  It should make their trip to the doctor much more productive & assure that the care they receive is, indeed, the best that can be afforded to them!

 

 

 

Lightheartedness Is Great Medicine!

We've all heard the phrase, “laughter is good medicine”.  Good, pure laughter is so incredibly good for us that people from almost every culture in the world recognize it & are thankful when it happens.  In the 1980's it became so popular that there were laughter groups & classes that people could take in order to improve their health.  I won't comment on the merit of a class that offers “how to” tips on laughing (it may work) but we can all attest to feelings of well-being after a stint of genuine, hearty chuckles or giggles.

Laughing releases endorphins into your body.  Endorphins are natural pain killers.  So, laughter can relieve symptoms of chronic pain, while simultaneously improving your immune system by increasing T-cells.  It can give you a big boost for up to 45 minutes after a good bout of laughing.  While it is releasing all of those good things, it also arrests the production of stress hormones, like cortisol.  Suffice it to say that all of these things have positive effects on your health, your blood pressure & your general state of mind.  But how do we make natural laughter a bigger portion of our lives?

-Start by reducing the amount of pressure that you place on yourself.  While it's true that we can laugh at the most stressful times in our lives, we can also crack at those times!  Reducing stress is an important first step in bringing lightheartedness & laughter back into our lives.  This can begin with something as simple as saying no to commitments that we are feeling obligated to do.  When our schedule becomes too full, we are not able to fulfill commitments with the joy & energy that we normally would approach them with.  Saying no to several things & freeing up space on your calendar can bring a lightness of heart that is unexpected.

-Saying what you really believe can also be an avenue to bring about lightheartedness & even laughter. There are far too many situations in life when we feel that we can't be open & honest about how we're feeling or what we're thinking.  Feeling the need to constantly edit our feelings or thoughts can cause a myriad of problems, but one of them is the inability to laugh.  You can't shut down your emotions in one area of life & expect them to be normal in other areas.  It just doesn't work that way.

-Hang out with lighthearted, happy kids. Observe how they approach their world.  They do not plan too far in advance.  They take genuine delight in the things happening right now.  They do let others know if they're overstepping their bounds.  They do become absorbed in what they're working on, to the point of not hearing other people.  They also laugh OFTEN about many things!  Watch them & learn from them.

-Own up & let go.  Work on letting go of things that you do not have control over.  If there are circumstances that you're avoiding dealing with that you really have a bit of control over, take care of them, beginning with the most daunting.  For the rest that you cannot control, let go.

-Take time to do the things you love.  If you enjoy reading.  Set aside time to do so...a few times a day.  If you enjoy action movies, make time to watch one this week.  If it is painting, paint.  Playing music, do it!  If you've been overwhelmed by too much going on recently, you may feel guilty doing these things, but there is no replacement for the relief that comes from inactivity.

-Turn off the news.  Yes, you may end up being a bit less informed (I promise you that you will not be able to escape hearing about the major issues going on in the world).  The benefits are that you can forget about all of the bad in the world & start looking at the good in your neighbor.  As you see the good in others, it can begin to give you hope again that things are not quite as bad as what you hear or read.

-Take time to be with those you're close with.  Laughter comes more naturally with those we feel close to, especially if we've spent some eventful years with them.  We can look back and laugh at things that were absolutely NOT funny at the time!

  All of these tips may not make you laugh constantly, but they can help lighten your load & the load of others.  Emotions are often contagious.  If you are lighter, chances are, those around you will feel more at ease in your presence.  If you are laughing, those around you will probably start to laugh, too.  The benefits to your health & the health of your loved ones could be greatly affected by your choice to approach life in a lighter way.

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