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.

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.

Helpful Tips for Hearing Impaired Seniors

Age isn’t the only thing that can impair our hearing, but as we grow older it’s a common occurrence. It’s frustrating—for both those who can no longer hear well, and for those who are their caregivers.

Older adults who experience hearing loss often struggle with everyday things we take for granted, such as knowing when there’s someone at the door, reacting to threatening situations like smoke alarms, or even everyday conversations. Here are some ways to help them—and yourself if you care for someone who needs to hear what’s going on around them.

Start With Developing the Right Attitude

It’s not their fault. Hearing impairment as we age is caused by physical changes in our ears. It can also be caused by damage to the auditory nerve, or even the ability for the brain to process sound. It can be one of these, or a combination of all three.

There are also at least 200 common medications which are known as “ototoxic.” This means that they affect our ability to hear. The primary sign of an ototoxic reaction to a medication is often tinnitus, or ringing in your ears. It’s important to seek out medical advice if you suspect that medications may be the cause of hearing impairment.

In almost all cases, hearing loss is a physical thing. Unfortunately, it also has psychological and emotional impacts. First of all, it’s embarrassing. People handle this kind of frustration in different ways. Seniors may become angry or agitated because of a hearing impairment. Or, they may become distant and less responsive to what’s happening around them because it’s just too difficult to distinguish what they’re hearing.

This hearing impairment can also affect caregivers. It can be extremely frustrating and exhausting to constantly repeat what’s been said. This is why it’s crucial to remember that you’re dealing with something that’s a constant source of frustration for seniors with hearing impairment. 

The Answer Isn’t Always Hearing Aids

These medical devices can make an amazing difference. Today’s digital instruments go far beyond just amplifying general sound. After a thorough test, the hearing aids are “tuned” to amplify only the frequencies that the wearer can no longer hear.

While the technology has improved, the cost of quality hearing aids remains expensive. It’s not uncommon to pay thousands of dollars per hearing aid. Some medical insurance policies will cover some of the cost.

The devices are meant to be small and unobtrusive—which means that they might not be an optimal solution for some seniors. Others just don’t want to be bothered with the care and maintenance of hearing aids. Many of the devices require frequent battery changes. Those batteries are very small and might prove impossible for seniors to work with.

So, while this might be a primary approach, it could prove impractical.

Other Options

Thanks to other technologies—and the growth of the number of companies creating products for our growing senior population—there are simple and inexpensive devices that can be integrated into everyday situations which can help seniors use other senses to compensate for hearing impairment.

There’s a profusion of wireless doorbell kits you can buy that add a flashing light to alert you when someone rings the doorbell.

If you have a landline phone connection—and many of us still do—you can purchase a signaler that plugs into the phone jack. It will flash a light to alert you when there’s an incoming call.

You may have seen them in public buildings. When a fire alarm goes off, the devices also flash with a strobe. This technology has made it into home smoke detectors. Most are as simple to install as putting in a battery and hanging it up on the wall.

We’re all susceptible to losing our hearing, and it’s something that many seniors must live with. Thanks to the concept of mixing visual cues with audio, many of the things seniors thought they would have to tune out are now available to them again.

Steering Clear of the Flu

Don’t look now, but the flu season is here. If you’re a senior or a caregiver, you’re high on the list for getting sick.

Our immune systems weaken as we get older. Caregivers often have more stress than other jobs, and that can weaken the immune system, too. There are ways to lessen the chances of catching—and passing on the flu bug. Here are some suggestions.

Get the Flu Vaccine

This advice tops just about every list of tips you’ll find on the subject. For two reasons. It lowers your risk of getting the flu in the first place, but it also decreases the severity of illness. Both reasons are advantages for seniors and their caregivers. December is not too late to get the vaccine.

Increase the Number of Times You Wash Your Hands

The flu can bring you to your knees, but turnabout is fair play. The flu virus is fragile and is no match for soap and water. How long do you need to wash your hands? It only takes about 20 seconds—or long enough to make it through 2 rounds of “Happy Birthday.”

A trip to the restroom or kitchen sink to wash your hands isn’t always practical, whether you’re a caregiver or a senior. Stock up on hand sanitizer. It’s just as effective.

Kick Up Your Cleaning Routine

Focus on areas where germs—including the flu virus—are likely to be found, such as doorknobs, light switches, and the counters in your bathroom and kitchen. Then be sure to disinfect the rags or sponges you clean these areas with.

A bleach solution is best, but you can always throw sponges in the dishwasher, or even in the microwave for 1 minute. That’s enough time to kill most bacteria and the flu virus.

Don’t Play the Hero

It’s not always practical, but you should stay away from others if you’ve got the flu. When you are around people displaying flu symptoms, avoid unnecessary contact. Most people are unaware of how often they touch their faces—and that’s one of the most common ways we introduce the flu virus to our bodies.

We also tend to forget about things like our smartphones. Make it a habit to wipe down the phone with rubbing alcohol or a sanitizing wipe—but pay careful attention not to get too much moisture on it.

And if you do come down with the flu, follow that age-old advice about getting plenty of fluids. It’s not an Old Wives Tale. Even plain water helps hydrate you, which aids the nasal passages in staying moist—which traps germs before they can enter the body.

Understanding Sundowning

It’s not depression. It’s not a disease, either. Sundowning is actually a group of symptoms. In combination, they often mimic depression—and it’s also easy to think of it as a manifestation of dementia. Especially when studies report that 1 in 5 seniors with Alzheimer’s disease experience increased depression, agitation, and confusion toward the end of the day.

More study is needed. The exact cause of sundowning still isn’t known—but there are factors which contribute to it that can be controlled.

Reduced Light

Vision becomes even more challenging for the elderly as the sun’s natural light fades. Many are already challenged with impaired vision. Shadows and decreased lighting can cause confusion and fear in seniors with dementia.

Gerontologists also postulate that dementia alters the part of the brain that controls the need for sleep. The reduced light may also cause unintended disturbances to their biological clock, making difficult to separate dreams from reality, as they’re no longer sure when to sleep or be awake.

Fatigue

The setting sun often coincides with a culmination of physical and mental exhaustion for a senior. The rapid mood changes and uncooperativeness some seniors express may actually be frustrated reactions to the wear and tear of the day—which is also something that caregivers are feeling.

This last point is worth examining further. Sundowning often happens during a point of increased activity in a senior living facility. It’s usually when there’s a shift change. The increased activity and pace of people coming and going may be unsettling for some seniors.

Ways to Lessen the Potential Causes

If you’re aware of the possible triggers of sundowning, you can help to lessen its impact. Routine and activities have been shown to help. Keep seniors who show signs of sundowning on a consistent schedule of sleeping and eating. Plan regular activities for them throughout the day—especially things that get them outside and into the sunlight.

Remove stimulants from their diet if possible. Move caffeine and sugar intake to the start of the day so it won’t amplify the things that contribute to sundowning later in the day. Stimulation isn’t always a bad thing. Use it to build familiarity. Music often helps when seniors show signs of sundowning.

Finally, pay close attention to lighting. The objective isn’t to keep the night at bay. Poor lighting, however makes environments feel unfamiliar. That can be extremely stressful. It’s also important to remember that a senior exhibiting the symptoms of sundowning has not willfully chosen to act that way. Your actions often will determine their reactions.