For the Family

It’s that time of year again, the holidays are upon us. With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas around the corner, it’s likely you’ll be seeing a lot of your family members. While it’s always nice to connect with your loved ones, it can also be a good time to have conversations with your aging parents while you’re together.

If you’ve noticed your family members need a bit more help lately, here are a few important conversations to have with your senior parents this holiday season. But first, take a moment to run through the strategies for how to have those talks. Always remember:

  • Be considerate: While you may have noticed slight changes in the lives of your parents, they might not have so, it’s important to be considerate of their feelings. Have these conversations with them thoroughly and explain your point of view respectfully.
  • Listen: It will be helpful to say your point of view but then remember to take the time to listen to their side of the story. It can also help in the future if you all agree that assisted living may be necessary as you’ll know what parts of their lives they struggle with most—from climbing the stairs to cooking meals.
  • Show you care: Conversations like this can always be hard to have but reminding your parents that you love them and you want to talk about this to ultimately help them will allow the conversation to go smoothly. 

Now that you have a few guidelines for how to approach these tough conversations, here are three critical conversations to have with your aging parents.

Wellbeing Conversation:

First, and most importantly, talk about the wellbeing of both or one of your parents. This is a conversation that might be the toughest to have but it’s critical to gauge how they’re feeling overall. Discuss their health—how do they feel on a daily basis? Are they staying active? If not, discuss options for them to get some exercise like, going for walks or joining a gym. These questions will help you learn more about their daily life and how they are feeling they’re doing with daily tasks.

Financial Conversation:

Finances can always be an awkward conversation to have with your parents but, it will help set up the rest of their lives. Discuss their will, is it up to date? Do they have property they have plans for? Offer them assistance with any of the financial questions or concerns they might have.

Living Conversation:

How are your parents doing in their home? Ask them about their living situation—do they have any issues climbing the stairs or keeping track of their personal items like keys or wallets? If they live alone, do they ever feel isolated or lonely? Conversations like this might lead to discussing assisted living or senior living options for your parents. Remind your parents you are there to help them if they do choose to move into a community.

Conversations like these can be hard to have with family members but they are awfully important. Review the strategies provided and keep them at the top of mind while you discuss any of the topics above this holiday season.

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The holiday season is upon us. The best way to spend the holidays is with family.

Unfortunately, some of our family members can be miles away. Traveling in the car or on a plane can make seeing your loved ones a little difficult especially, as you age. Figuring out travel plans and whether or not to make them can be stressful for many people.

Related: Tis the Season: Helping Seniors Manage Holiday Stress

But, not to fret! There are many ways you can still connect with your loved ones even if you can’t see them in person. The main way is through technology—it can be very useful when you want to catch up with your family members. According to the Pew Research Center,

“Around four-in-ten (42%) seniors ages 65 and older now own smartphones, more than double the share that did so in 2013.”

Below we offer you three ways to connect with your loved ones over the holidays.

Schedule a Skype or FaceTime session:

Scheduling a session to Skype with your family members is a perfect way to connect with each other. This way, you get to talk to your loved ones and see them. One way to make it feel even more like the holidays is to open each other’s presents during your Skype/Facetime session. Plan to mail your presents to your family ahead of time so they’ll arrive before your Skype/Facetime session. It will feel as if you’re all there together being able to see everyone’s reactions to their gifts.

Make a video:

Using your phone, wish your family members happy holidays through a video! You can make it ahead of time and send it to them on the day they’re celebrating. This will show them how much you miss and love them.

Give them a ring:

Even a simple can call bring your family members together. Next time you feel like connecting with your loved ones, call them up! It’s a great way to get the inside scoop on all the fun things they have planned for the holidays.

Use technology to stay close to your loved ones over the holiday season and throughout the year. If you feel like you still want more holiday celebrations, bring the holiday cheer to your assisted living home!

Related: How to Bring Holiday Cheer to Seniors in Assisted Living

 

Happy holidays from all of us at American Baptist Homes of the Midwest!

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Did you know? October is National Physical Therapy month. As we age it’s important to remember to prioritize our health. One way to do that is by taking care of ourselves when we are in pain.

Are you wondering how you can accomplish that in order to maintain your health? There’s one answer: physical therapy.

According to Web MD, physical therapy is a non-drug, no-surgery treatment that works for arthritis, cancer pain, Parkinson’s and incontinence and improves your strength and endurance.

General aging can cause many seniors to be in a lot of pain whether they have arthritis, recently fell, have been in an accident, sick, or simply just tired. To help you understand what physical therapy can do for you or a loved one, we’ll walk through four physical therapy types according to seniorliving.org:

  1. Manual Therapy
    Manual therapy is done by the therapist with their hands. The goal is to reduce any pain and relax the patient. This process includes massaging muscles to improve circulation and reduce pain. It also includes slow movements to stretch arms or legs—twisting and pulling joints or bones and making sure they are put into place.
  2. Electrical Stimulation
    This type of physical therapy is when electrical currents are going through the body in hopes to contract the muscles that may not be working as they should. Electrical stimulation is used when someone is experiencing pain, spasms or muscular weakness.
  3. Heat Therapy
    Heat is used when the need is to relax muscles and increase blood circulation. Heat therapy is a great way to loosen stiff joints caused my immobility. Another use of this therapy is to loosen the muscles before further physical activity takes place.
  4. Cold Therapy
    Cold therapy is a great type of physical therapy for those with arthritis. Cold temperatures are used to reduce pain and inflammation. This type of therapy often follows the process, also known as RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapy can restore or increase strength, range of motion, flexibility, coordination, and endurance – as well as reduce pain. Another role is to help the patient to do everyday tasks. If you or a loved one feels they are in pain, physical therapy may be the solution.

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Each year in October, we raise awareness and highlight the importance of education and research of the most common cancer in American women besides skin cancer: breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society’s estimates for breast cancer in the U.S. for 2018, about 266,120 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.

However, if breast cancer is detected early, there are more treatment options and a better chance of survival. Women whose breast cancer is detected at an early stage have a 93 percent or higher survival rate in the first five years, according to the Carol Milgard Breast Center.

As reported by the American Cancer Society, at this time, there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.!

Fortunately, there is one major factor in detecting breast cancer early and that is getting mammograms regularly.

It’s recommended that if you are 50 to 74 years old, you should be getting a mammogram every two years by the United States Preventative Services Task Force. If you are 40 to 49 years old, you should talk to your doctor about when to start getting mammograms.

Many organizations and people are dedicated to raising awareness to this cancer during the month of October and throughout the year. There are many ways you can get involved to help too.

3 Ways to Get involved:

1. Educate yourself and others
Get this free Breast Health Guide to educate yourself and your loved ones about breast cancer. There may be more than you thought to learn.

2. Raise awareness
Spread the word about the importance of detecting breast cancer early through mammograms to your friends and family.

3. Donate
Donating your time or money is a great way to get involved in Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There are many organizations you can donate to like, Breast Cancer Research Foundation or the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. If you want to donate your time, try starting your own fundraiser with your business or school.

This October, how will you get involved during Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

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Memoir 101: How to Write Your Life Story

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Night by Eli Wiesel. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen.

These are all best-selling memoirs, authored by people who felt compelled to remember their past and write it all down. Just like these authors, we all have untold stories within us. Whether you want to leave a legacy, share a life lesson, make sense of a certain time in your life, or help others through your personal experiences, memoir writing is a wonderful gift—therapeutic for you and meaningful to your loved ones. No one wants friends or family to one day think: “I wish I would have asked them about that when I had the chance.”

So, why don’t more people take the time to capture their thoughts and feelings around major life events?

There are a few reasons, and they’re all misconceptions. You don’t have to be a professional writer to write a memoir, just write from the heart. You don’t have to be famous. And you don’t have to detail the entire storyline of your life—that’s an autobiography—and autobiographies can be a daunting idea, whether you’re 40 or 90.

According to Reader’s Digest, a memoir is your version of what happened during a specific time in your life; whereas an autobiography is the chronological telling of your experiences, with a timeline, focused on facts. A memoir is less formal, less encompassing, less obsessed with factual events, and more concerned with “an emotional truth toward a particular section of one’s life.” It’s mostly written from memory—not intended to be an accurate statistical report.

With memoir writing, facts and figures don’t tell the whole story. In order to make your experiences come to life, you also need to include feelings. According to author Bart Astor of Baby Boomer’s Guide to Caring for Aging Parents, “No one else has had your experiences or reacted in the same way.” People connect with emotions, descriptions, dialogue, and personality. It’s YOUR story—no one can tell it the same as you. After you write it all down, your loved ones will want to read it!

But where do you begin?

  • Start by reading memoirs. Just reading about another person’s experiences will help you understand more about tone and theme. A list of the top 50 memoirs can be found here.
  • Think about the pivotal moments in your life. Which ones really mattered? (Remember, this isn’t your autobiography. You don’t have to write about the entirety of your life.)
  • To get the words flowing, look at a photo that evokes a strong reaction. What do you hear, smell, feel, see? Repeat this process with a few different photos.
  • Write the way you talk—in a conversational way. It’s more engaging and easier to read. (Don’t be too formal.) Be honest. It’s ok to show your flaws; everyone can relate to making mistakes.
  • Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or quality. Just get it all down. You can fix it later.
  • Believe in yourself!

If you feel like some of your memories are a little fuzzy, you can always include a disclaimer at the end saying: “These events are my memories. Others may remember events differently.”

If you still need inspiration, these questions might help get the creative juices flowing:

Where were you born? Was there anything unique about your birth?

What’s your earliest memory?

What toy do you most remember getting at Christmas?

Did you have any pets growing up?

What family vacation do you most remember from your youth?

Who was your favorite teacher? Why?

What was your favorite subject?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Were you in any extracurricular activities?

Who were your childhood friends?

What did you do for fun when you were young?

Did you get an allowance? How much? How did you earn it?

What was your first car?

Who were your high school friends?

What did you learn about yourself in high school?

Are you more like your mom or your dad? How?

When was the first time you saw your parents cry?

Who was your first crush?

Who was your first kiss?

Who was your first love?

What’s your favorite city to visit?

What’s the farthest from home you’ve traveled?

What impact has religion had in your life?

Did you go to college? What did you study?

What was the greatest success in your career?

What did you do with your first “big” paycheck?

What was the biggest sacrifice you ever made?

What time(s) in history will you always remember?

Name a time you were on top of the world.

Name a time you were overcome with sadness.

As a youth, did you break any bones? Need stitches?

What was your first job?

What was your favorite job?

Who were your role models when you were young?

What have you done that you never thought you’d do?

What do you know about your family history/heritage?

What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Why?

(If applicable): How did you meet your spouse? When did you know he/she was “the one?” What was your marriage proposal like?

Where was your wedding? How many guests attended? What did you serve? What do you remember about that day?

(If applicable): Tell me about the time(s) your kid(s) were born.

How would you describe your kids’ personalities? Grandkids?

What person most influenced you in life?

What makes you happy?

What’s your dream for future generations?

Now get to writing! Good luck! 

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5 Ways to Preserve Your Family Legacy

We build a legacy every day we’re alive. It’s evident in our beliefs, values, experiences, and how we choose to give back. It’s evident in how we respond to life’s challenges. A legacy isn’t just what we’ve earned, but what we’ve learned. Don’t let untold stories from your past become lost. Here are five ways to record, celebrate, and connect with family while creating a legacy keepsake:

Create a family tree scrapbook. Start with the most recent family members and move outwards, rather than the other way around. Include important dates, migration from one country to another, family traditions, hereditary information, interesting keepsakes (receipts, concert tickets, etc.), and photos from all stages of life—not just the younger years. Ask family members to create their own pages so they can control their messages and how they most want to be remembered. *Tip: Be careful when handling old photos. Touch only the corners. Make sure all photos have captions. Journaling is a key part of scrapbooking. You want to know who you’re looking at and why those photos have significance.

Gather essays and compile them into a collection. Ask family members to fill out questionnaires (city and hospital where they were born, first/memorable/current jobs, schools, where they’ve lived, children, travels, favorite foods, sports, experiences) and create a book.  Another idea? Ask the family to answer a series of questions every year on the same holiday: what’s one lesson you learned this year, favorite TV show/book/movie, how you spent your last birthday, life lessons, advice, memorable moments, etc.

Interview family members on video and create a documentary. Don’t know what equipment to use or how to make a documentary? This website provides a helpful step-by-step “how-to” guide: www.desktop-documentaries.com.

Create an inventory of family artifacts/heirlooms. Ever wondered about the story behind that family heirloom? Create a place to store that information. What is the item? What are the family stories/memories associated with it? When was it made or acquired? Who owned it first? Who owns it now?

Put together a heritage recipe cookbook. For some families, their best memories are wrapped in memorable meals. If recipes have been handed down through the generations, compile those in a cookbook. In addition to the recipe, you can include photos of the meal and the person or family who first made it, the person or family who submitted it for the cookbook, and any special memories associated with it.

In the wise words of actor Michael J. Fox, “Family isn’t just an important thing, it’s everything.” Take steps now to record your memories of the past—and help preserve those moments long into the future.

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