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Flu Season – Preventing Illness

After the sparkle of the holiday season has flickered out and the decorations are put away, then begins the “flu season”. With so many gatherings with friends and loved ones, there is the seemingly inevitable spread of various colds and flu germs. You are not destined to get sick though.

There are several critical things that can be done to prevent the spread of cold and flu germs. The Center for Disease Control is a reliable resource for prevention tips to keep yourself and those around you healthy this time of year.

They advise 3 actions to help fight the spread of germs.

  1. Get the flu vaccine
  2. If you show signs of the flu, seek treatment early
  3. Practice preventive actions to decrease the spread of germs

Here are their everyday preventive tips that will go a long way to keeping everyone as healthy as possible:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you or your child gets sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you (or your child) stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
  • If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.

The following link offers a wealth of information to keep yourself and those you love healthy:

Memory Care – Enriching LIFE

Within an assisted living community there is often another area that is available. That community is a memory care area. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are diagnoses that create care giving needs that go beyond the physical. It is a difficult care-giving task. There are many benefits of looking at the need for a memory care community for your loved one.

I am often asked “What is the difference between assisted living and memory care?” Memory care communities usually have a higher staff to resident ratio and have controlled access. They are usually a smaller setting as well. This simplifies the resident’s experience and creates a comforting setting that prevents feeling overwhelmed. Often with memory loss the individual may not feel comfortable in larger settings. The busier setting may cause a resident to withdraw or become agitated. Memory care staff is specially trained to work with residents who have memory loss.

Spectrum Health Companies has a very specific memory care program in our communities. It is a LIFE Enrichment program. This program focuses on Loving, Individualized and Fulfilling Experience. This provides our residents the quality of life they deserve.

The LIFE™ program employs a resident focused approach that’s based on the personality, history, likes and dislikes of each individual. We have found taking the time to know each resident personally, we incorporate aspects of family, work, hobbies and interests into their day. By focusing on pleasant times and experiences from their past, we help maintain the highest possible level of ability. By proposing choices, we help them preserve dignity and independence. By forming warm, sincere relationships, we help them feel at home Our philosophy of memory care is directly tied to meeting each individuals physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Meeting people where they are and helping them find the best activities that meet their needs is vital. If someone was a homemaker and spent many years caring for their family, finding things in the community for them to do similar to those activities provides satisfaction in their day to day life. If someone has been involved in business and the corporate world, they may need to have activities that are different in light of their life history. Having a daily “meeting” they attend that highlights the news and current events may meet the social needs of those residents better than other activities.


Creating Independence in Assisted Living

Our previous post looked at steps to stay successful and safe at home when considering the needs of aging loved ones. Let’s discuss today the option of assisted living and how this option is a successful choice when the time is right for your loved ones.

Assisted living is an option that is available that creates independence for those in need of some assistance, yet are still very independent in many other areas. Assisted living provides a blend of care and independence that for many families is the best solution. If a loved one has not been motivated to be cooking or keeping up with daily housekeeping, assisted living may fill that need. It will also allow a loved one to be completely independent in all other areas. Often times aging loved ones are concerned with burdening their families with day to day needs that only take a small amount of time. When they look at their children’s busy lives, they are hesitant to ask for help. We have heard from many individuals who have moved into our Carefree Living communities their only regret is that they did not do it sooner as it is the perfect blend of minimal services and independent living.  Once someone becomes a part of a community that provides companionship and care while still allowing independence and a personal home, they find out they did not know what they were missing.

For a family that is not living near their loved ones, assisted living also provides for community and relationships that fill the social needs they are not able to fill for their family. People are relational. We all need interaction with others to be healthy and happy in spirit. One of our assisted living residents who is in their mid-90’s shared “I never thought I would develop new friends here that mean so much to me at this stage of my life. This has been such a blessing! I love it here.” We have also heard from family members that the activities and events that are going on in the community make such a big difference in the well-being of their loved ones. When you look at the success of aging it is important to find out what is needed to meet the needs of the whole person.

Our Carefree Livings have various life enrichment activities that are tailored to meet the needs of our residents. Looking at what each individual resident is interested in and working to create opportunities to engage in those areas is the main focus of our Life Enrichment Coordinators. They add sparkle to our communities that help our residents thrive each and every day.

Memory care is another specialty of assisted living that provides care in unique ways. We will talk about those next time.

Caring for Your Loved Ones

Hello! Welcome to our blog. I am Shawn Franklin, Senior Vice President of Northern Operations. If you want to learn more about me or my background, take a moment to look at “Our Team” page under “About”. My biography is out there. We are going to spend some time looking at many different topics that revolve around caring for your loved ones both in the home and in other community settings.

As we look around our communities both locally and state wide, we see that we are an aging population. Billboards, television commercials, and even a trip to the grocery store constantly bring this to our attention. This is a sign of our area’s rich history. It is also a sign that we have difficult decisions to make for our loved ones as they are going through the aging process. As we or our families are aging we are faced with a multitude of decisions.

Individuals and families often feel overwhelmed with the decision about how to proceed and help aging loved ones. That feeling can lead to not making decisions or delaying a decision until there is a crisis situation. Neither of these options are ideal. At Spectrum Health Companies, we see this every day. I would like to discuss some of the things we have found helpful in working with families to determine the best course of action for loved ones in need of care in one form or another.

First off, it is very important to remember there are options and there is not a one size fits all solution. We are blessed to have many providers of care that can meet the needs of our loved ones. These providers supply everything from Meals-on-Wheels, Groceries to Go, skilled medical home care, non-medical home care, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities. There are many options and often it is a blending of these options that may be the best solution for your loved ones. The next thing to consider is where to begin. It is key to look at the situation and determine first what are the pressing needs?

A few questions to ask to determine this would be the following:

  • Are they safe in their current living situation?
  • Are they managing their medications and care well?
  • Are they able to maintain their independence?
  • What can be done to help them maintain their independence and ensure their needs are being met?
  • Are they lonely?
  • Are they vulnerable on their own?
  • Are they happy, or as happy as they have ever been?

We will discuss these questions a little more in depth through our next few blog posts. The first question is the most important. Is your loved one safe in their current environment? There are a few simple things that can be done in the physical home that will greatly improve the safety of our loved ones. These simple things can make a huge difference. If there has been a history of falls or tumbles for your loved one, it may be good to evaluate the environment of their home. Are there throw rugs that are a hazard? Is there adequate lighting to ensure steps and pathways are easily maneuvered? Is there clutter that is posing a hazard in a walkway? Would a few grab bars in the bathroom or by the shower provide a safe solution? Often times after a fall a doctor may order Physical Therapy through home care. A physical therapist can help evaluate a home to see what environmental changes can be put into place if a family feels inadequate to make those decisions.

Beyond the physical home, it is important to look at the mental and emotional well-being of a family member to determine if they are safely able to manage their cares and medications. As we age the medical needs we have and medications we take are more complicated. Is your loved one able to order, set up and take their medications safely? Often, we find spouses and family members are a help to each other in this regard. This is a wonderful solution if family is available to assist in this way. Medication management is vital to the health and well-being of an individual. One of the main reasons elderly individuals are admitted to a hospital is due to medication errors. If family is not available to help in this manner, there are many solutions that can be put into place to assist with these needs. Homecare nurses are able to set up medications for an individual and work with a physician to help manage the refills and ordering of medications. There are medication dispensers that are available to dispense and provide reminders for someone who may be able to take their medications safely with a reminder. Having something like that in place can ease fears about taking medications on time which would provide a higher quality of life and ease the burden for caring for loved ones.

Staying independent is a very important need for anyone. Sometimes being independent at home is successful and things go well. Sometimes there comes a point where staying at home alone may not be the best situation. If a loved one is fearful of being alone or having difficulty with their day to day routine, it may be time to start looking at some of your other options. These options can meet the needs of a loved one who may not be safe to be alone all the time but are still mostly independent. Many people choose to move into an apartment or assisted living community. When someone no longer has the need to mow grass or shovel snow and worry about home maintenance, it can help eliminate anxiety around being alone with the cares of a home. It also can give them the freedom to come and go as they please without worrying about the day to day chores.

Our next blog post will look at the option of assisted living and how it unexpectedly helps create independence for our loved ones. If you have any questions please reach out to us and we will be happy to walk through any questions you may have regarding your loved ones and how to care safely for them.