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...

Part 2 of a Series: When is it Time to Call Hospice?

It is one of the most difficult decisions a family can make: deciding that it is time to call hospice to care for an ailing loved one. But it also can be one of the best decisions because it allows your loved one to be as comfortable as possible, enjoying friends and family, as their life journey comes to an end. Because it’s a difficult issue to talk about – and even harder decision to make – many families wait until the end is very close before calling hospice. These late decisions can make it harder for a hospice team to achieve its goals of controlling symptoms, such as pain and breathing difficulties, and helping with emotional closure. During my 20 years as the owner/operator of Country Home Assisted Living in Parker, Colorado, I have noticed that it is usually best to call in hospice when medical treatments or interventions no longer work or when the side effects outweigh the benefits. But not every person is the same. For example, it can be fairly easy to make that decision when a terminal illness is involved. It’s not so easy to make that decision when an ailing loved one tells you she just doesn’t feel good. In this second part of my three-part series, I pull from my experiences at Country Home Assisted Living to come up with some indicators to help you know if it is time to call hospice. They include: Frequent infections. Frequent falls caused by disorientation or loss of mobility. Repeat trips to a hospital’s emergency room. Unrelieved pain that becomes more irritating as it never...

Part 1 of a Series: What is Hospice?

There are many misconceptions about hospice, so today I am beginning a three-part series to explain hospice and help family members recognize when the time is right to call for this assistance. First, let’s define hospice and debunk the big misconception that many people have. First and foremost, hospice is not a place. Hospice is actually a specialized type of medical care the focuses on comfort during the end of life. Hospice care is usually provided at a location that the family chooses, whether it’s the family’s home, an assisted living facility where the patient already lives (like Country Home Assisted Living in Parker, Colorado) or a hospice company’s care center. To qualify for hospice, a physician must determine that a person’s life expectancy is six months or less. In most cases, previously-provided medical treatments are no longer working and may actually be prolonging the suffering. When put on hospice, individuals must stop all of the curative treatments that they had been receiving. The specialist doctors and surgeons would be out of the picture. The care moves to a team of professionals who are trained in comfort care, pain relief and psychosocial support. That team could include physicians, registered nurses, hospice aides, social workers, religious representatives and others. They are there to make sure the needs of the patient — as well as the family, friends and caregivers – are met. A care plan is created with input from the family and patient to determine the frequency of visits needed by the doctor, nurse and others on the hospice team. The emotional and spiritual aspects are also addressed with...