New Service Offers Something to Smile About

Older patients who have cognitive impairment, including dementia, have a higher risk for dental caries (progressive loss of bone or tooth, and tooth decay), periodontal disease, and oral infection because of their decreased ability to engage in home oral care. Mobility challenges also keep older patients from visiting their dentist. Older adults with systemic health conditions also are prone to gum disease and dental infections. That’s why this month (November), Country Home assisted living in Parker began to offer dental hygiene service to our residents, thanks to Senior Smiles, LLC, a Medicaid-covered service. Every three months, a Senior Smiles hygienist will visit our residents to tend to their dental needs. The dental health service provides first-rate dental hygiene services to adults residing in assisted living and group homes, independent living, and skilled nursing homes. Each visit provides a gentle dental cleaning and a checkup. And if needed, Senior Smiles has a dentist who will come on site to treat cavities and repair or make dentures. Olga Kogan, who founded Senior Smiles, LLC, in the Denver area, has been in the dental care provider business for 30 years, and has 17 years of experience as a dental hygienist. She and her team serve the Denver metro area as well as northern and southern Colorado. “Our hygienists truly love working with adults and seniors who have various health-related challenges,” Olga told me. “We treat our patients the way we would like to be treated.” She prefers to send the same hygienist to Country Home each time, “so they can get to know the patients individually.” For Olga, caring for patients with...

Nutrition Needn’t Be Boring

Calcium. Potassium. Sodium. Vitamin D. Vitamin B12. Dietary fiber. Sound boring? It doesn’t have to be. No matter our age, we all need the basics of a healthy diet. But older adults have dietary needs to mitigate the risks of deficiencies that come with age.  At Country Home assisted living in Elbert County, my aim is to see that my residents are well nourished so they can feel their best and enjoy a good quality of life. A few basics about that list of nutrients: As we age, we’re more susceptible to bone loss, which can lead to fractures – a risk from falling. Calcium is vital to bone health. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, so the two go hand in hand.  Good sources of calcium aren’t just dairy products, though, so if you can’t or don’t want to eat dairy, opt for green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and okra. Nuts are also sources of calcium. Even fish such as sardines contain calcium, but they must include the bones—and you need to eat them. Potassium is a partner with sodium, in that it counterbalances some of sodium’s harmful effects (such as high blood pressure).  Foods that contain potassium include fruits, vegetables and fish–such as bananas, sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach, and tuna and cod, just to name a few foods. Also on the list are prune and orange juices, canned white beans, lima beans and yogurt. Among vitamins, vitamin B-12 is important for cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function and bone health. A deficiency of vitamin B-12 can be associated with tingling or prickly feelings in...

Music to Their Ears–and Hearts, Minds and Bodies

“Music is what feelings sound like,” says music therapist Amy Wilson, quoting a sign posted in the home she shares with her musician husband. A board-certified music therapist, Amy explains how she works with residents of Country Home Assisted Living here in Elbert County. Amy has been providing weekly, hourlong music therapy sessions at Country Home for three years, bringing rhythm instruments such as maracas, drums and bells, recordings, and dance props such as scarves—all whose purpose is to engage our residents socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically. Music itself has “therapeutic” benefits for many populations in many settings, but music therapy as a medically based profession is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals by a professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. That’s what we provide at Country Home Assisted Living to improve the quality of life for our residents. “Individualized” is key.  At Country Home Assisted Living, our music therapist pays close attention to the individual needs of our residents, watching for facial expressions or behaviors that indicate a reaction to the music—for example, whether it calls up happy or sad memories.  We want to know what kinds of music they like, what music they don’t like, about music in their past. Is it big band, country western, classical?  Because our setting accommodates a small number of residents (generally eight or fewer), Amy can address the needs of each person. Once she assesses the strengths and needs of our Country Home residents, Amy provides the indicated treatment, including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. The concept of music as...

Hydration: Let’s Drink to That!

We all need fluids to help ensure healthy organ and joint function and to prevent the complications of dehydration. For older adults, ample hydration is especially vital.   As we age, our body’s fluid reserve becomes smaller, our ability to conserve water is reduced, and we are less apt to sense when we’re thirsty (which signals that we’re dehydrated). These health challenges are compounded by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia, and by using certain medications. And older adults may have mobility challenges that limit their ability to get water for themselves. At Country Home Assisted Living in Elbert County, Colo. (Parker), we pay close attention to our residents’ individual hydration levels.   Dehydration can lead to too-low blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, and a reduced flow of oxygenated blood to vital organs and extremities.   Signs of dehydration include extreme thirst, less frequent urination, dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness and confusion. That’s why it’s vitally important to stay hydrated.   The only treatment for dehydration is to replace the fluids that have been lost. Water, of course, is usually the number one choice. But for some, water might seem “boring.”  There are other options, but some might come with risks, depending on one’s health status. Here at Country Home Assisted Living, we ensure that our residents have options for staying hydrated safely:   Low-fat milk—A good source of hydration in that it stays in the system longer than water. It also contains calcium, vitamins A & D, and protein. But it may not be the best option for people with high blood pressure or heart disease. Fruit juice—All-fruit...

Part 3 of a Series: The Realities of Hospice

In this third and final part of my series on hospice, I want to share with you the realities of what this type of specialized medical care can provide to people at the end of their lives. I’ve been fortunate to have a variety of hospice companies come to Country Home Assisted Living in Parker, Colorado, to provide the additional support an assisted living facility needs for residents as they near their end. Whether it’s a nurse, doctor, aide, social worker or clergy member, hospice team members walk in the door at Country Home with a large degree of concern, but also with comforting and assuring smiles on their faces. Because they are so well trained to identify and deal with end-of-life issues, it is truly a wonderful service that they provide. And it’s a service that doesn’t cost anything. It is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance plans. The hospice teams focus on comfort, pain relief and symptom management. They do not try to cure the disease or terminal illness. Their main focus is to make sure the Country Home resident is comfortable and adequately medicated to remain free of pain. They are available 24/7 for any need that arises. They also will order special equipment that might be needed as a resident’s abilities continue to dwindle, such as wheelchairs or oxygen concentrators. They also provide emotional and spiritual support for all of our residents, their families and even Country Home caregivers as they watch someone they have lived with for months or years end their life journey. Their goal is to ease anxiety and fears so...