Senior Living Blog

Do You Judge Yourself As a “Caregiver”

Coping strategies to help banish caregiver’s remorse and guilt 

Being a caregiver to a senior family member is a valuable service and a great responsibility, performed out of love and devotion, and the task does have its rewards. Still, it is a hugely demanding job, often requiring round-the-clock responsibilities.

The enormous challenges of caregiving can bring forth many conflicting and unpleasant feelings, causing caregivers to believe they may not be up to the task. It’s common to fall into a pattern of self-judging, constantly criticizing yourself for the many ways you feel you’re not doing the job well enough.

How can you help chase away the constant self-judgment you hear in your head and reclaim your sense of competence in performing this praise-worthy function?

Acknowledge your negative feelings. All caregivers experience a range of emotions and reactions as they try to cope with their day-to-day duties. Common feelings include:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Grief
  • Loneliness
  • Boredom
  • Resentfulness
  • Annoyance
  • Irritability
  • Jealousy of others’ freedom
  • Resentment of lack of appreciation for all you’re doing

And then add guilt for having these feelings! Guilt also arises when you feel you’re falling short of your ideal of the “perfect” caregiver.

The first step in managing these feelings is realizing that they’re normal and justified—and all caregivers experience similar feelings on a regular basis.

Notice damaging self-talk. Try to notice when you’re talking to yourself negatively. Keep a notebook and jot down whenever you have a self-judging thought: “Snapped at Dad this morning. I’m a bad daughter.” Or “Forgot to pick up Mom’s favorite juice. Why can’t I remember the simplest things?”

These thoughts may constantly run through our heads and we don’t notice how severely we speak to ourselves. Paying attention and writing them down will help you realize how often you’re doing it, and what you’re telling yourself. Ask yourself if you would judge someone else as harshly as you judge yourself.

Redirect negative thoughts, and look at the big picture. After you’ve been noticing your self-criticism, you’ll learn to recognize when it’s happening. Redirect your thoughts by focusing on something you’ve done well (no matter how small), or listing something you’re grateful for.

Instead of criticizing yourself for your trivial failures, look at the bigger picture. So what if the house isn’t spotless? So what if you served lunch later than usual?

Keep in mind what’s really important to you. Chances are you’ve delayed your household duties because you’ve chosen to spend quality time with your loved one to keep him engaged in life and boost his mood.

Keep in touch with other caregivers. Talking to other caregivers can give you fresh perspective. Caregiver support groups are ideal for sharing stories with others in similar situations. Many of their experiences, questions, and challenges will mirror your own. You may realize that you’re doing your best under difficult circumstances, there is no one right way to do the job, and you’re not alone in your situation.

To find a caregiver support group, check with local hospitals and community centers and senior living communities such as an ISL managed one. An online resource is the Eldercare Locator (http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx) where you can enter your zip code to find the Area Agencies on Aging in your area. Call or go to the websites of the Area Agencies on Aging (sponsored by the federal Department of Health and Human Services) that are near you.

Ways to Help Seniors Drink Enough Fluids on Hot Summer Days

Fun tips for staying hydrated in warmer weather  

To stay healthy, all humans need water to keep joints moving, protect organs and tissues, regulate body temperature, and overall make the body work better. On hot days, our bodies lose water more rapidly than usual. Also, senior adults have risk factors that can cause problems in the heat, including a reduced sense of thirst and decreased kidney functions, hindering the body’s ability to adapt to extreme temperatures or low hydration.

If you observe signs of confusion, dry mouth, slurred speech and altered behavior in your older adult, especially in warm weather, you might mistakenly attribute these symptoms to age, instead of the health-threatening effects of dehydration. 

Studies show that even a 2 percent reduction in body water weight (only 3 pounds on a 150-pound person) can lead to difficulties with short-term memory, attention spam and visual-motor tracking. For good health during the summer months, including optimal cognitive function, here are some fun tips for helping your senior loved ones stay well hydrated.

Infuse water with flavors. Add slices of lemons, limes, oranges, berries or cucumbers to pitchers of fresh water, and then refrigerate it. You’ll have a tasty, refreshing, natural beverage with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives. 

Include other fluids. All fluids contribute to hydration, including tea, coffee, juices, milk and soups (but excluding alcohol, which is very dehydrating). The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect, says a report by the National Research Council’s Food and Nutrition Board.

Get water from foods. Eat foods that naturally contain water. Research shows that only 70 to 80 percent of our daily hydration needs to come from water; 20 to 30 percent can come from foods. All whole fruits and vegetables contain water, but these contain the highest amounts:

  • 97% water: Cucumbers
  • 96% water: Celery
  • 95% water: Tomatoes, radishes
  • 93% water: Red, yellow, green bell peppers
  • 92% water: Cauliflower, watermelon
  • 91% water: Spinach, strawberries, broccoli
  • 90% water: Grapefruit

Provide a reusable water bottle. Avoid throwaway plastic water bottles that harm the environment—20 percent end up in landfills. Instead, buy a BPA-free refillable water bottle to help your senior adult keep track of his or her water intake each day. Try to make sure your loved one keeps the bottle nearby. With fluids right at hand, your senior is more likely to sip throughout the day.

Daily Dining is a Highlight at Senior Living Communities

ISL communities serve up superior dining experiences that prioritize healthy, delicious foods and enjoyable occasions to socialize

At any age, we all look forward to a good meal, and our expectations for healthy, delicious, and engaging dining choices are higher than ever. Residents at today’s senior living communities expect more when it comes to dining. To meet residents’ desire for better quality and variety, communities such as those we manage making the entire culinary experience more progressive. Gone are the days of cafeteria-type offerings. Today’s residents are served freshly prepared, homemade meals in a restaurant-style setting complete with extensive healthy menu choices, flexible meal times, resident input on menu planning, tableside service, and special events.

The Culinary Directors at our ISL communities are fully engaged in providing a restaurant dining experience. This includes offering a wide variety of menu items and preparations, specials of the day, and alternative menus. Some residents want grilled fish, some baked, poached or even sushi—we offer all those choices. In addition, we look at seasonal varieties of foods. In the fall there is more squash and pumpkin on the menu; in the spring and summer, fresh fruits. Local produce is always highlighted.

Local and Regional Foods. Whenever possible local and regional foods are sourced from local and regional suppliers to provide the freshest products available. In addition, ISL participates whenever possible in the “farm to table” experience. Residents are  served regional favorites that appeal to the community, and meals incorporate in-season foods that are common to the area.

Specialty Menus and Thoughtful Preparation. To help seniors maintain healthy diets according to their needs, specialty provisions are offered, such as gluten free, allergy specific, low sodium, low sugar, low fat, low carb, low cholesterol, as well as pureed foods. Religious and cultural restrictions are also taken into account. To ensure great taste as well as freshness, authenticity, and health benefits, communities often use locally grown herbs, assorted spices, and other healthful substitutes to create delicious and nutritious offerings.

Social Dining Experiences. The dining experience does more than feed a hungry resident, it feeds the mind and soul when enjoyed in a communal setting. Many ISL communities stress the social aspect of dining and take it to another level. They offer special themed dining events that take dining to a new level, events that residents look forward to. “Our goal is to transport our residents to a destination dining place, to create an event complete with decorations, entertainment, activities, and, of course, delicious food. For example if we are doing a Hawaiian theme residents may enjoy a roasted pig, hula dancing and tropical drinks as just part of the experience,” adds Zeug.

Varied Menu Selections. Today’s residents want a variety of selections to choose from any time of day. No longer is it acceptable to only have a few menu choices. Now ISL communities provide full-service restaurant-style dining programs that rely on residents’ input on menu offerings, including food choices and preparation. Communities have culinary committees comprising groups of residents who offer advice on menus, and sometimes use residents’ recipes and food-preparation tips. Community dining staff members are innovative in menu selection and customizing offerings for their residents.

Flexible Dining Schedules. The dining experience no matter what time of day is a significant contributor to resident satisfaction in senior living communities. Many senior communities offer flexible mealtimes so that residents can choose a routine that fits their preferences and lifestyles. Those communities that don’t offer all-day dining often make fresh, well-prepared snacks throughout the day. Many communities have more than one location for dining, offering a fine dining area as well as casual dining locations within the community.

At ISL communities, we are creating new and exciting dining experiences for our residents. We strive to provide culinary experiences that residents not only look forward to but also enjoy. Our directors are present in the dining rooms, our chefs ask for residents input, and staff are always seeking new ways to improve our dining programs to best fit residents’ needs and preferences.

Bon Appetite!

Fun Things To Do with Grandkids This Summer

Summertime offers plenty of opportunities for families to connect—kids are out of school, vacation days are scheduled, and warm weather brings us out and about. When your grandkids (or great-grandkids!) come to visit, do you need some activities that are fun for all ages? We have a few suggestions for residents and their families—simple ways to have a good time together, anytime, anywhere.

Teach your grandkids a favorite hobby. Can you play the guitar? Do you know how to knit or crochet? Are you a good cook? Perhaps you’ve got a knack for crafts. A sport you love? Most of us have at least one thing we’re pretty good at. Give your grandkids a few lessons. Or else just let them gather round while you show ‘em how it’s done!

Take a slow walk around the neighborhood. Point out interesting things you’ve noticed: old trees, pretty plants, unusual houses, and cute pets. Ask your grandkids to tell you what catches their eye.

Ride the bus. Take the train. Does your city have a trolley car? Light rail? Head downtown, uptown, crosstown—or just choose a route and go. Even a short trip can be an adventure.

Make iced tea. Brew your own tea and add ice cubes. Bring the pitcher outside or serve it inside, depending on the weather and everyone’s mood. Have an iced tea party.

Go to a yard sale. Check the classifieds on Craigslist or in your local newspaper for neighborhood sales: garage, yard, estate, and tag, moving. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure! If your grandkids or great-grandkids are small, give them a few dollars to spend on special trinkets.

The Groves of Tustin Embraces a “Vibrant Life”

Integral Senior Living knows well that living a vibrant life at any age is a life worth living. Now the senior living management company is taking the idea of vibrant living a step further by making it easier for residents at all its communities to be vibrant through its new Vibrant Life® program.

Recently ISL rolled out its innovative program Vibrant Life® to all its communities, and the response has been amazing. Residents, staff, family, and friends are taking part in making life more vibrant for residents through a variety of initiatives. At The Groves of Tustin, one component of there Vibrant Life program is called“This is Your Life” which helps create a sense of social connectivity between residents and families. Individual residents are showcased throughout the year to share their life stories and personal accomplishments. The first resident showcased was Rose Mary Landre. Her recognition took place on her 100th birthday. The Mayor of Tustin, John Nielsen presented her with a proclamation at an event recognizing Rose held at the community in her honor.

Rose was born in Philadelphia and moved to California as a young girl. She is a very talented singer, and would sing for weddings in her church as well as the church choir. She married in 1940 Rose worked for the Social Security Administration typing out the very first social security cards. She also worked as an electronic assembler and an apartment manger. She retired in 1988 and moved to Tustin gardens where she lived for 26 years. She has been residing at the Groves of Tustin for over two years. Rose is a mother, grandmother and great grandmother and she describes herself as “small but mighty.”

The Groves like all ISL communities is assisting residents to find their purpose, to search out how each can better incorporate the seven components to living: Be Inspired, Be Well, Be Challenged, Be Adventurous, Be Family, Be Social and Be Connected.

ISL’s mission is to optimize health and well-being by passionately promoting a Vibrant Life® filled with joyful experiences, meaningful endeavors, and abundant opportunities so that our residents connect with family, friends and the local community.

Cheers to Rose and the wonderful life she has lived.

Ways to Help Seniors at Visits to the Doctor

Going alone to a doctor’s appointment can be stressful at any age, but older adults often feel especially intimidated. Having a loved one come along as a healthcare advocate during a doctor’s visit can help seniors get better care. As an advocate, you can provide moral support as well as help seniors talk about sensitive health issues, ask questions, take notes, and, if needed, coordinate care if multiple doctors or specialists are involved.

Here are some sensible ways to help make a senior’s visit to the doctor more productive and less intimidating.

Prepare for the visit. Make a list of all current medications, including prescriptions and any over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins and herbal supplements. In the days before the visit, start talking to your older adult about how they’re feeling and whether they have bothersome symptoms. Make a list of questions for the doctor, and any issues your senior wants to mention.

Take notes during the visit. It’s a challenge for anyone to understand and retain all the doctor’s information given during a visit—especially for seniors with memory loss, hearing impairment, and feelings of being confused and overwhelmed. Write down what the doctor says so you and your older adult can understand (and later remember) diagnoses, treatment recommendations, and medical decisions.

Ask for a medication review. At least once a year, ask the doctor to make sure whether all the senior’s medications are being taken properly, working well together, and are still needed. Here’s where your list of all your older adult’s current medications (prescription, over the counter, and vitamins and supplements) will prove invaluable.

Help manage your senior’s entire medical team. Many older adults see multiple doctors or specialists to manage all their health issues. Often, though, these doctors, nurses, and technicians may not communicate with each other. Help your senior keep track of what each health professional says, recommends, and prescribes. Share the information with all members of the medical team. Doing so will help ensure treatments don’t conflict and cause undesirable drug interactions.

July is the Month to Celebrate Independence

Take a Look at All the Freedom Offered In Senior Living Communities

This July consider looking into the benefits of declaring independence from the burden of day-to-day duties that come with running a household unassisted. Seniors and their families can be anxious about moving into a senior community— fearing a loss of independence. In fact, the opposite is often true. Residents of senior living communities can attest to the new freedom they experience because of all the services and amenities available in these communities.

Residents in ISL communities are often delighted to discover the joy of living in a community where they no longer have to do the day-to-day chores but instead have access to dining rooms, laundry services, transportation, onsite staffing, recreational facilities—and many other services that make life easier and better everyday.  Our communities offer a mix of lifestyle options that are tailored to residents’ needs and preferences. Active residents are free to choose from all the activities, services, and amenities available to them, giving them independence to choose what how to spend their days.

Senior living communities offer residents different levels of assistance and amenities, depending on individual abilities, requirements and lifestyles. While communities differ in the types of services they offer, here’s an overview of some common types of senior living choices and what they offer residents.

Independent Living

Independent living communities offer active seniors the comforts of home with the convenience of resort-like amenities. Residents can enjoy freshly prepared meals in a dining room, laundry services, housekeeping services, convenient transportation, 24-hour staffing, and group activities in a common area. A full social calendar includes outings, cultural events, educational programs and clubs. Neighbors are also active and independent, and may share common interests.

Residents are free to cook for themselves and guests, or to eat in the dining room. They can choose to entertain in their own living spaces, or to join community activities. Active senior living means just that—as active as each resident chooses.

Assisted Living

Assisted living comprises housing, services, and personalized assistance and care based on the needs of residents who need help with daily activities. Support services meet scheduled and unscheduled needs in a way that offers utmost dignity and independence to each resident, and always involves the resident’s family and friends. Assisted living communities provide support with daily activities like bathing, grooming, dressing and escorting. Residents and their families can choose from an array of services and amenities designed to meet individual needs.

Memory Care

Some senior living communities provide specialized memory care for residents with memory loss and other forms of dementia. At communities that offer Alzheimer’s/dementia care, residents are provided secured spaces that create a warm and calming atmosphere with familiar sights, sounds, and aromas. Trained staff provide person-centered care through socialization and activity-sensitive programming, as well as education and counseling support for family members.

Choosing the best senior living situation is a process that hinges on each individual’s capabilities and preferences, and emphasis is always placed on balancing independence with needed care and services. Instead of restricting residents’ activities, senior living communities provide the types of amenities that free residents to enjoy life to the fullest. Contact ISL today to find a community near you.

Should You Join a Caregiver Support Group?

How support groups can help caregivers, and what happens during group meetings 

Are you a caregiver or do you know a caregiver who’s feeling stressed, overwhelmed, burned out, or depressed? Attending local caregiver support group meetings can be an effective way to reduce stress and boost spirits because participants can interact with others in similar situations, get useful advice, and find out about helpful local resources.

Studies have shown that support groups have a significant positive effect on caregivers’ well-being, depression, and feelings of being overwhelmingly burdened.

But it might seem intimidating to walk into a room full of strangers and feel obligated to share personal details about your caregiving situation and your less-than-positive feelings about your day-to-day challenges.

Here’s a summary of reasons that joining a caregiver support group can be well worth your time, and how typical meetings work. 

The benefits of caregiver support groups

  • Get valuable caregiving tips and resources from social workers, health-care professionals, and experienced caregivers
  • Share and receive advice on managing challenging behaviors
  • Get and give support and advice on making difficult decisions or dealing with family conflicts
  • Learn how other caregivers cope with their situations and make time for themselves
  • Laugh and cry with other caregivers who truly understand your situation 

How caregiver support group meetings work 

  • A facilitator, often a social worker, leads the meetings
  • Each group has a regular schedule, usually weekly or monthly on the same day, and at the same time and location
  • Meetings usually last about two hours, but don’t let that stop you from attending. Tell the facilitator if you need to arrive late or leave early.
  • If you miss a meeting, no problem. You are not required to go regularly. Attend when you can or when you need extra support.
  • It’s completely optional to share. If you’d rather not speak, that’s OK—just let the facilitator know. Once you become more comfortable with the group, you’ll likely feel more inclined to share your experiences and knowledge.
  • During meetings, the facilitator usually asks participants to briefly introduce themselves and summarize their caregiving situation. Participants are then encouraged to ask questions, solicit advice about specific situations, or suggest topics for discussion.

How to find a caregiver support group near you

Check out the ISL community in your area. Many of our communities host caregiver support group meetings monthly and would love to see you join.

Father’s Day

June is a month filled with activities that indeed warm the heart and soul. A pinnacle point of the month for our communities is the celebration of Father’s Day, a day that gives us a great opportunity to honor all the Dads we love to care for each and every day.

The many fathers who live with us in our communities have experienced a lifetime of living and through it, all have sustained the strength and wisdom fathers so willingly impart. Fathers take great pride in their families and in the America they helped build.

Dad’s always offer up sayings and quotes they become famous for revealing. They often contain a hidden message or push you to succeed at a difficult task, or simply to signal that questions were now over.

We recall some of those “Dadism’s” that may sound quite familiar to you.

  • Because I said so, that’s why!
  • Go ask your mother…..
  • The sooner you learn to stand on your own two feet, the better off you’ll be.
  • That’s just the way life is, son.
  • Do you think money grows on trees?
  • I haven’t developed gray hairs for nothing!
  • My dad would always try to get me to eat my dinner by saying “It’ll put hair on your chest.” I never understood this because I was a little girl.
  • When where I could find a helping hand, father replied, ” At the end of your own arm”.
  • “Be sure you leave things better than you found them.” 

Happy Father’s Day!

Great News! New Study Shows Retirement Is Good for Your Health

People become more active, sleep better, and reduce their sitting time when they retire, says a new study published in March 2016 by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study, “Retirement—A Transition to a Healthier Lifestyle?,” followed the lifestyle behaviors of more than 25,000 adults age 45-plus for about three years, tracking such factors as physical activity, diet, sedentary behavior, alcohol use, and sleep patterns.

“Our research revealed that retirement was associated with positive lifestyle changes,” said lead researcher Dr. Melody Ding, senior research fellow at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health. “Compared with people who were still working, retirees had increased physically activity levels, reduced sitting time, were less likely to smoke, and had healthier sleep patterns.

Dr. Ding said that a major life change like retirement creates an opportunity to make positive lifestyle modifications—to set aside negative routines and develop new, healthier behaviors.

Study data showed that retirees:

  • Increased physical activity by 93 minutes a week
  • Decreased sedentary time by 67 minutes per day
  • Increased sleep by 11 minutes per day
  • Decreased smoking (50 percent of female retirees quit smoking)

The differences were significant even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, urban/rural residence, marital status, and education.

Dr. Ding said retirement gave people more time to pursue healthier lifestyles. “The lifestyle changes were most pronounced in people who retire after working full-time,” she said. “When people are working and commuting, it eats a lot of time out of their day. When they retire, they have time to be physically active and sleep more.”

In terms of sedentary time, researchers found that the largest reduction in sitting time occurred in people who lived in urban areas and had higher levels of education.

These findings include everyone in the study who retired. When researchers looked closer, they found that those whose health was not the prime reason for quitting work made the most dramatically positive lifestyle change—but those who retired for health reasons still improved their health habits quite a bit.

Dr. Ding said she hopes the research will encourage people to think positively about retirement.

The new research suggests that retiring as soon as you’re financially, physically, and emotionally able will likely lead to a healthier and happier time of your life.