Grace Homes Hires Its Own Culinary Director To Make Mealtimes Great For Seniors

It can be a struggle to find ways to appeal to senior taste buds. Both age and medical conditions can impact their appetites. Many older adults also have special nutritional needs. Grace Homes has solved this challenge by hiring former Houlihan’s restaurant executive kitchen manager Lori Hossli to oversee the planning and preparation of meals at its Hopkins residential care homes.

Hossli is a native Minnesotan who holds a certificate in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu. She is well known in the Minneapolis area food world for her 15-year association with popular local eateries such as Kincaids and Houlihan’s.

Hossli’s new position is not the first time she’s worked closely with senior citizens. “After attending college at Winona State University, I joined AmeriCorps Southern Minnesota,” she said. “I had my first true experience working with the elderly affected by Alzheimer’s. I also joined the activity staff at St. Anne’s Hospice and had the opportunity to interact, sing, bake, do crafts, play games, and dance with residents.”

Stepping into the position as culinary director for the residents at Grace Homes makes excellent use of Hossli’s culinary skills and her desire to make a difference in the lives of the elderly. Her extensive experience in meal planning and training will help Grace Homes residents work through the challenges associated with age and eating healthy.

“Food often tastes different for seniors than it does for you and me,” Hossli explains. “Our sense of taste and smell can change with age, and the side effects from medications can alter our senses. There are plenty of ways to make food both healthy and delicious for seniors. That’s what’s on the menu for the residents at Grace Homes.”

Hossli will work out of the Oak Ridge location and will oversee meal planning and preparation for the Hopkins senior residential care locations. The Oak Ridge location is an eight-bedroom home located in a private residential neighborhood in Hopkins. Grace Homes also has a five-bedroom residential home located just next door. Grace Homes recently added a third location, which is the five-bedroom Walnut Lodge located in Burnsville.

About Grace Homes: Grace Homes currently owns and operates three senior residential care homes. Each is located in private neighborhood settings. Grace Homes’ elevated level of staffing allows for the accommodation of residents with Parkinson’s, COPD, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cognitive challenges or dementia, chronic healthcare challenges, and persons with disabilities including those who require a two-person transfer or mechanical lift. Grace Homes focuses on providing a safe, familiar, and stimulating family home environment for residents living with memory loss and cognitive decline.

Why Preparing For A Hospital Discharge Is Key To Ongoing Recovery

Sure, it’s a reason to celebrate when you get the news that you’re being discharged from the hospital. But, there are important steps seniors should take if they want to stay out and get better. A recent Medicare survey shows that 18% of patients over the age of 65 discharged from a hospital are readmitted within the next 30 days. 

Preparing for a successful hospital discharge can reduce the possibility of this, and much of it can happen before even leaving the hospital. Here’s what you need to know.

What a Discharge Means

We tend to think of this as an end state, but really, it’s more of a continuation. When you’re discharged from the hospital, it simply means that your doctor has determined that you’ve recovered enough to no longer need hospital-level care. It does not mean that you are fully recovered.

In many cases—especially with older adults—it means you may still need extra or specialized care. You may need this for weeks or even months to come.

Participating in the Hospital Discharge

Your physician and a hospital discharge nurse determine when you can leave the hospital. It’s not an accusation, but rather an observation. These professionals are extremely busy. It’s not that they are unwilling to spend enough time with you to make sure you understand everything you need to know about post-hospital recovery. They often assume that you are aware of what’s necessary.

This is why it’s important for both caretakers and senior patients themselves to be advocates in the process. Make sure you have all the necessary information you need—and that all of your concerns have been answered—before you leave the hospital.

To help you with this Medicare has created an extremely helpful hospital discharge checklist. Download it here. This checklist is an important tool because it provides you with the key questions to ask about follow-up care, medication, equipment and supplies, and even problems to watch for. These are all questions you must have satisfactory answers for before a senior patient leaves the hospital.

And, you really do want to get this information prior to discharge. It can be much more difficult to get helpful answers afterwards.

The discharge checklist helps both caregivers and senior patients understand what’s necessary for a successful recovery. It’s a partnership between caregiver and patient. Think of it as a handoff. The medical professionals at the hospital have started the process that gets you back to wellness. Now, it’s your turn to keep the process going.

What Hearing Loss And Dementia Have In Common

Many symptoms of hearing loss in seniors—such as disinterest, personality changes, and general confusion—are also the same symptoms of dementia. For this reason, it’s important to get professional medical attention so the proper issue is being treated.

After arthritis and heart disease, hearing loss is the third most common physical condition experienced by seniors. A third of all people have hearing loss by the age of 65. Statistics show that only one in five seniors who could benefit from hearing treatment seek help. Many put it off until it becomes a constant obstacle to communication—and this hesitation can increase their risk of dementia.

A Connection to Serious Health Conditions

More studies must be done, but most medical experts agree that there is a connection between hearing loss and its impact on dementia or cognitive decline.

One part of this theory is that if the brain is constantly trying to interpret sounds that are difficult to hear, it spends less time and energy on things like memory and thinking. Cognitive load is decreased. Hearing loss may also contribute to faster rates of decline of the parts of the brain that process sound. These are the same areas of the brain that help with memory and the senses. Finally, people with profound hearing loss often withdraw from social activities. Studies show that decreased social engagement can contribute to cognitive decline.

Solutions

First and foremost, it’s crucial to have a medical professional determine if the cause of behavioral changes is because of the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or as a result of hearing loss. If it’s because of hearing loss, it’s time to remedy the situation.

Be prepared. Hearing aids are expensive, and they may not even be affordable for seniors who are on a fixed budget. Medicare will not cover hearing examinations or hearing aids. While they can make an amazing difference, hearing aids can cost as much $2,500 for each ear—or even more.

There are alternatives to hearing aids, and they may be a better solution. These alternatives are called personal sound amplification products. They’re less expensive because unlike hearing aids, they are not regulated by the FDA.

So, while they are not required to meet specific technical or performance standards, it doesn’t mean they can’t be just as effective. It only means that you’ll have to be more careful by doing deeper research into the quality of the device you purchase. The cost savings is well worth the time spent.

Don’t let hearing problems rob a senior you care for of their quality of life. There are relatively inexpensive options to hearing aids, and even these may help to ward off the conditions that may lead to cognitive decline.

Embarrassing, Uncontrollable, But Common: A Side Effect From Stroke That Leaves You Laughing Or Crying

Mention stroke and you might think of physical side effects like paralysis or muscle weakness. Or there are cognitive issues that make it difficult to speak. There are other side effects—cognitive in particular—that are possible, too.

A common cognitive post-stroke side effect is called pseudobulbar affect, or PBA for short. It’s a brain disorder that causes uncontrollable crying or laughing. These unintended emotional outbursts can be extremely embarrassing for everyone involved. Here’s what you should know.

Totally Unintentional

Often people who observe stroke victims with PBA think that there’s some exaggeration going on. The responses seem inappropriate. One thing’s for sure: the response does not represent this person’s true feelings.

Unfortunately, someone with PBA might cry when hearing good news. Or they may suddenly burst into a sobbing fit while they are laughing. Something only mildly sad can cause them to become hysterical.

Even more alarming, someone with PBA can have these spontaneous emotional outbursts without any trigger at all. And perhaps most troubling of all is that these episodes can happen up to 100 or so times daily.

Not Well Known

The unpredictable nature of PBA can be embarrassing for those who have the condition, as well as those who care for them. Many older adults experiencing PBA simply become unwilling to be around other people.

Although more than half of all stroke survivors report having PBA symptoms, less than 20% of them know the cause. In most cases, they’ve never even heard of the condition. Life for them becomes frustrating and sometimes devastating because they have no idea why this behavior is happening to them.

What Causes BPA?

The condition occurs when a stroke damages areas of the brain controlling how emotion is expressed. The damage short circuits brain signals, causing involuntary episodes of laughing or crying. And, since it’s a short signal, the laughing or crying is usually highly exaggerated.

Although stroke is the likely cause of PBA, it’s also a side effect caused by other neurological disorders—including dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.

PBA causes uncontrollable crying, so it’s often mistaken for depression—and this is a condition that many seniors experience. As a result, PBA might be misdiagnosed. Both PBA and depression are conditions that can last for extended periods of time, so it’s important to make sure a correct diagnosis is determined.

There are specific medications to treat PBA, but a medical professional also may prescribe an anti-depressant. Both can help to suppress the involuntary emotional outbursts, but it may not be possible to stop them completely.

How to Help Prevent Elder Fraud

What is elder fraud? It’s when unscrupulous people take advantage of senior citizens. It affects nearly 40% of those of us over the age of 65, and the loss is over $36 billion annually.

How does it occur? Some of it is going on right under your nose. It includes things that don’t necessarily have to be confusing for seniors, such as misleading financial advice, hidden fees or subscriptions, or even fake dietary products. Here are a few things you need to know.

The 3 Main Types of Elder Fraud

  1. The largest type of fraud is financial exploitation. It’s the cause of nearly $17 billion in annual losses to seniors. Much of this comes as junk mail or unsolicited telemarketing. Scammers defraud seniors by getting consent to take their money.
  2. Seniors lose another $13 billion because of criminal fraud. At the top of the list is identity theft.
  3. Tragically, caregiver abuse contributes another $7 billion in annual losses to seniors. This is not physical abuse. It’s when a trusted person uses their relationship with a senior to inappropriately use finances or even outright steal money.

Who’s Most at Risk?

You might think that seniors with memory issues are the biggest victims of elder fraud. Statistics may surprise you.

  • Studies have shown that thrifty seniors are 5 times more likely to be at risk because they’re attracted by the bargains that get pitched to them by scammers.
  • Ironically, extremely friendly and sociable seniors are 4 times more likely to be defrauded. Experts believe this is because they’re more approachable and tend to give strangers the benefit of a doubt.
  • Even financially sophisticated seniors are at risk. Experts have discovered these seniors tend to lose more due to fraud because they’re comfortable with larger amounts of money.
  • Seniors who receive one or more telemarketing phone calls a day are 3 times more likely to experience a financial loss due to fraud than someone who only gets an occasional telemarketing phone call.

Prevention

The easiest way to keep elder fraud at bay is to check on a senior’s financial situation regularly. There are enough scams to worry about already, but it’ll be in your best interests to start paying attention to those that are particularly aimed at seniors.

You can cut down on telemarketing and potential scams by helping seniors sign up for the National Do Not Call registry. It’s a free service provided by the Federal Trade Commission. You can register online or call 888-382-1222.

Visiting Someone With Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease can make strangers out of loved ones as the disease progresses. Even so, they may still appreciate and benefit from visits by family and friends.

Caregivers may be used to the behavior caused by Alzheimer’s disease. For the rest of us, it takes some getting used to. You can prepare your visit for success by following these tips.

Don’t

  • Ask, “Do you remember?” Problems with memory already frustrate seniors with Alzheimer’s throughout the day. A question like this is likely to cause them embarrassment or anger.
  • Take nasty or mean things they say to you personally. This behavior is often caused by confusion, anger, or fear. They don’t mean it.
  • Argue with them. Let it go if they insist something is correct.
  • Assume they can’t remember anything. Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t rob them of all their memories, and many seniors with the disease have many moments of clarity.

Do

  • Keep your body language and tone of voice friendly and positive. It’s not necessary to speak louder than your normal tone of voice—unless you know they struggle with hearing loss. Let them ask you to speak up first.
  • Gently introduce yourself while you make eye contact. You might be certain they know who you are, but this might be an incorrect assumption.
  • Allow for silences in your conversation. A senior with Alzheimer’s may simply enjoy your nearby physical presence.
  • Speak slowly. Converse with short sentences, and stick to a single idea. Be sure to give them some extra time to respond. Go with the flow if they switch the subject—even if it’s not true or doesn’t make sense. In fact, it’s often best to let them direct the conversation.
  • Ask open-ended questions. If Alzheimer’s is impacting their ability to make decisive responses, it’s easier for them when there’s no absolute right or wrong answer.
  • Talk about shared memories from the past. Alzheimer’s is known for its disruption of short-term memory. They’re more likely to be able to remember occurrences from long ago.
  • Come with a photo album or some of their favorite music. Make it an activity that engages them and gives them the opportunity to lead if they choose.
  • Offer a gentle hug if you’re certain they would permit and enjoy it.

Finally, remember that a visit may be just as stressful to a senior with Alzheimer’s disease as it is for family members and friends who are not used to being around someone who has succumbed to dementia. They may be frustrated by their inability to remember who you are. Use that frustration positively. Retell the story of a favorite shared moment. Make it new again.

Understanding dementia before you visit makes it easier for you, and for them.