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Sweetbriar Villa
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Companionship and Community in Senior Living
Mounting evidence shows that companionship and community are a key component to overall health. No longer are they seen as sitting a few rungs up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; they are foundational to your well-being. This is true across all ages, including seniors. Feeling extreme loneliness, for example, has been shown to increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14 percent. 
 
A myriad of factors are weighed when deciding to move into a senior living community. The opportunity for companionship and community should be one of them. When researching different senior living options, investigate the opportunities for social connections and interactions at each community.

The Power of Storytelling for Seniors
 
“Your mother was born when your grandfather was stationed in Korea.”
“That was when I was a telephone operator.”
“I remember driving up Mount St. Helens, watching men with walking sticks climbing the mountain.”
 
You’ve been there: sitting across your grandmother, a china cup full of warm tea on the kitchen table between you, while you listen to stories from the good ‘ol days. But did you know there’s research that supports the benefits of this activity that seniors naturally tend to do?
 
Psychologists have long used reminiscence therapy - a practice that draws out life histories,  written, oral, or both, backed by research dating back to the 1970s - to improve psychological well-being of older adults. Done in groups or individually, memories of significant life events are recalled using prompts such as photographs, music or topics.
 
Even people with Alzheimer’s can benefit. Psychologist Alan Dienstag was recently featured on the NPR show On Being, where he discussed the Lifelines Writing Group he co-hosted with author Don DeLillo for people with Alzheimer’s in New York. Through writing prompts such as “I remember” or “The house where I grew up” participants in the group were able to write down memories from throughout their life. Dienstag summarized the experience:
 
The members of the Lifelines Writing Group have taught us about the power of writing and the nature of memory and memory loss. Their lifelines have also served as a means of dosing the psychological distance between the Alzheimer's and non-Alzheimer's world. Perhaps most importantly, they have demonstrated that there is a way to give meaning to the precarious station in life in which they find themselves, and they suggest a path for others in the early stages of Alzheimer's to follow; to live with memories; to give them to others; and to preserve in some form a record of who you are, who you were, and who you wanted to be in this world before it slips away.
 
You can help lift the mood of any elderly people special in your life on your next visit to them - at home or at their assisted living community -  by asking them to reflect on their past. Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling:
 
*-*Who has been the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?
*-*What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
*-*What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
*-*What is your earliest memory?
*-*Are there any funny stories your family tells about you that come to mind?
*-*What are you proudest of?
*-*For your great great grandchildren listening to this years from now: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?

(Questions suggested by the organization StoryCorps)

Fall Proof Your Home
 
Go through this checklist to help prevent you or your loved one from falling in their home, one of the leading causes of skilled nursing admissions.
 
FLOORS
Look at the floor in each room. Always keep a clear path through each room of your house, removing any objects, furniture, cords or rugs that may be in the way.
 
STAIRS AND STEPS
Take a careful look at the steps both inside and outside your home. Clear any objects off the stairs and make sure the carpet is securely attached to every step. Check that handrails are on both sides and run the length of the steps, and show no signs of loosening. Make sure that the steps are well lit, with a switch or light sensor at both the top and bottom.
 
KITCHEN AND BATHROOMS
Examine your kitchen and bathrooms: are things you use often on high shelves? Rearrange these items to be lower to the ground, ideally waist level. If you need to use a step stool, find one with a bar.  Add a few safety items to your bathroom, if you don’t already have them: non-slip rubber mat in the tub or shower and grab bars in and beside the tub and next to the toilet. 
 
BEDROOMS
Is the path from your bed to the bathroom well lit? Add a light to your nightstand and night-lights along the way.

***Checklist modified from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults

Make your new residence warm and inviting by bringing along the comforts of home! 

Click below for ideas!

1) Organization: Settle into your space by making full use of shelves, cabinets, and closets for your personal items.
2) Socialize: Connect with other residents with like interests. Ask the staff to introduce you to other residents with similar hobbies!
3) Memories: Bring photographs, personal furniture, and more familiar items.
4) Decorate: Don’t hold back on adding your own personal touch!
5) Positivity: Speak of your new residence as home! You’re sure to enjoy the safety, security, and kindness you will find.

Comment with your favorite comforts of home!
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