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Friday, Jan. 5, 2018

CUSTOMIZING SENIOR CARE

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Transitioning into assisted living and long-term care

There comes a time when even the most independent seniors need a little help from their friends – and family. The natural aging process is different for every senior, but for many seniors and their families, these can be the hardest decisions to make in their lifetime. Families should never make these decisions alone. This is the time for professional advice from someone who has experience with the many phases of assisted living and long-term care.

Navigating long-term care can be difficult. Caddo Council on Aging (CCOA) is a nonprofit organization that empowers elderly citizens so they may continue aging in the places they choose. CCOA provides support services and serves as a focal point on issues affecting the health, welfare, safety and security of the aging population.

Monica Wright, executive director for CCOA, said, “One of our main responsibilities is advocating for seniors so they may age in the place of their choice. Many do want to age at home, so we try to find services so they can. Technology has made it easier for those with the means to install equipment so they can check in with their loved-ones during the day. Home medical equipment and machines for climbing stairs are also enabling more seniors to stay in their own homes.”

“Some family members don’t have the means to take care of their senior family members, so they are placing them in longterm care facilities,” Wright said. “The most important thing a senior or a family should do is seek all the information they can before they make a decision. Seniors and their families need to know they have rights. If they give us a call, we can walk them through it.”

CCOA also provides transportation, meals, homemaker services and personal care for families providing long-term care so seniors can remain at home. One of those services is respite. “Our respite program can provide some relief so a family caregiver can go shopping, to church, to a doctor appointment or even out of town.”

“We also have an ombudsmen program so they can give us a call on a particular facility,” Wright said. “They can investigate problems such as abuse or neglect that might occur. If a family suspects abuse or neglect, they should contact us immediately and let us handle it.”

Jo Ellen Griggs is executive director at Waterview Court, a senior living community in Shreveport. “We strive to provide the level of care that’s appropriate for the needs of the patient,” she said, “and sometimes perhaps a higher level of care is needed. But not everybody is on the same page. It’s our responsibility to help customize the level of care each person needs on an individual basis.”

“Most of our clients are still in command of their ADLs (activities of daily living). If they need private sitters, then we supply them with a list and they can choose. We also welcome Home Health to come in and take care of their needs. We provide three meals per day in the dining room, or we can deliver them to our resident’s rooms if they want.”

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are basic self-care tasks that are similar to the kinds of skills that people usually learn in early childhood. They include feeding, toileting, selecting proper attire, grooming and basic hygiene. It also includes walking and transferring, such as moving from bed to wheelchair. That skill level is used, among other things, to assess the level of care needed.

Waterview Court apartments are a bit more structured than true independent living, and the care there evolves with the client. “There is a microwave and a sink and a refrigerator but nothing that would allow them to harm themselves,” Griggs said. “We meet with the family, and we give them an update on each senior’s situation. If the time comes and they need more care – and they want to continue to stay here – we will suggest that they possibly have a sitter to assist. We continue to communicate with the family and tell them our observations.”

“We want to remove any concerns or any fears of placing their family member in a senior living community environment,” Griggs said. “We have daily activities that are planned months in advance to get them out into the community and keep them active. We took them to Robinson Film Center today for a meal and a movie. They went to the pumpkin patch last week. They also went fishing! We keep activities planned for their enjoyment. If they choose not to participate, that’s fine, too. I just tell them, ‘You have earned this part of your life, and it’s my job to make sure that it is safe, secure, worry-free and as enjoyable as we can make it.’” The Glen Retirement System (The Glen) also provides customized care for its clients as they transition through various levels of care. Executive Director Lydia Earhart said, “The Glen is what is known as a ‘Life Plan Community.’ The term essentially means we are a single-site campus, which has multiple levels of care. The Glen has been meeting the needs of the community for long-term care for more than 120 years. Our legacy is what makes us a premier choice for aging and living an active and healthy lifestyle. The Glen is not affiliated with another organization or a corporate owner. Therefore, residents are at the heart of all the decisions we make on our campus.”

“Making the transition into long-term care can be tough for some seniors and their families,” Earhart said. “At The Glen, we help families through the process and are always available to answer questions or give support during the move. The best part about living at The Glen and being in our system is that you don’t have to move very far. Transitioning into extending care as you require more assistance is a seamless move. You still have the same encouragement and staff support in longterm care that is offered in independent and assisted living.”

Wellness is a priority at The Glen at every level of long-term care. “Our activities offered center around the whole person, focusing on emotional, spiritual and health needs. We respect the resident’s choice, preserve dignity and provide the opportunity for purposeful living. Similar amenities are offered campus-wide at The Glen, though each are specific to the ability of the senior living in the specialized care. In our skilled-nursing and rehab therapy area, 24-hour nursing staff carefully monitor each resident.”

Earhart agrees with Wright that families should seek as much information as they can find. “Continue to do your research and read up on senior living options,” Earhart said. “Find a plan and make a decision that you and your loved one feel comfortable with in the long run. Also, get to know the staff caring for you or your loved one and familiarize yourself with options for additional care while you or your loved one are still able to get around. Quality, caring staff is what makes the difference, and that, in part, is what we call The Glen difference.”

The Glen Retirement System is located on East Flournoy Lucas Road in Shreveport. For more information, visit www.theglensystem.org. Waterview Court is located at 2222 East Bert Kouns Industrial Loop in Shreveport. For more information, visit www.waterviewcourtseniorliving.com. The Caddo Council on Aging is located at 1700 Buckner Square, Suite 240 in Shreveport. For more information, visit www.caddocoa.org or call (318) 676-7900 or 1 (800) 256-3003.

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