Over the last 30+ years, the field of interpersonal neurobiology has emerged as a framework for studying the effects of relationships on the human mind and body. It’s an area focused on the fundamental role of human connection in our lives. Whereas important aspects of physical and mental health, like diet and exercise, have long been recognized as leading contributors to a long and healthy life, many researchers, scientists, and medical professionals are now acknowledging interpersonal relationships as an undeniable influence on living and aging well.
At least 14 million Americans aged 65 and older live with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, this disorder involves difficulty processing sugars from food, which can lead to dangerous levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes is particularly concerning for the senior population, who are at increased risk for specific complications.
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Guilt, by any measure, is one of the most difficult feelings senior caregivers face when transitioning a loved one from home to a care facility. Family members who find themselves up against this decision do not typically go into it lightly, often laboring over the question of what’s best for the senior in their life. Many times, the move is dictated by unforeseen circumstances or newly emerged medical conditions that make it impractical to care for the loved one at home. Whatever the case, both the decision and the logistics of placement can leave a caregiver riddled with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
According to The State of Mental Health and Aging in America, an estimated 20% of people aged 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders like depression, which is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults. Depression can result in personal distress and suffering, as well as impairments in physical, mental, and social functioning.
If you read our last blog article, The Secret to Health & Longevity That’s Too Important to Miss , you are familiar with the concept of “The Village Effect.” This metaphor for how human connection significantly impacts our minds and bodies points to the powerful link between socialization and lifespan. It’s an incredible concept supported by studies in social neuroscience, and it makes the case for just how important human connection is in the life of a senior.
It could be argued that no widespread experience has shed greater light on the universal need for face-to-face contact and personal connection than the global pandemic. Amidst this seismic threat to public health, people around the world have been rattled by overwhelming fear, stress and social isolation. For many, this reality has been accompanied by an unmistakable appreciation and longing for the kind of interaction that used to mark our everyday lives before the onset of COVID.
There are simply some factors impacting Alzheimer’s and its severity that are completely out of our control, including those like age and genetics. There are others, however, over which we have a great deal of influence, and one of the most prominent is nutrition. Advances in science and research have suggested that a person’s diet can have a significant impact on their ability to think and remember as they age.
Stress doesn’t discriminate based on generation, and no matter what’s going on in a senior’s life, there’s potential for them to suffer from the physical and emotional effects of stress. Circumstances like illness, loss of a loved one, loss of independence, a strained relationship, a move or other difficult changes to their daily life could be major contributors to stress. Learning how to understand and identify that stress is critical to working through it or supporting the senior in your life as they experience it.
Staying Safe, Healthy and Engaged During The Pandemic – The UMH Way December 2020 At UMH communities, we have been and continue to be dedicated to keeping our residents safe, healthy, and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every member of our team is committed to the highest level of infection control protocols. Equally important is their dedication to keeping residents engaged in life and connected with each other and their loved ones. Top Reason New Residents are Choosing to Move In During the COVID-19 Pandemic To be HEALTHY – Vaccinations are on their way and residents in our Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing sites are at the top of the list to receive the COVID-19 vaccine! According to the State of Connecticut distribution plan, our residents and staff are considered a top priority. For this we are grateful. During the pandemic our residents continue to get three, healthy, home-cooked and delicious meals each day. They have the choice of social distanced dining in our Dining Rooms or room service if they prefer. Residents receive personal care in their apartment by staff who are tested for COVID on a regular basis and follow all infection control processes. To be HAPPY – Social interactions are the key to good health. Many have struggled living at home, isolated from friends and family. According to a Gallup Poll, people need 6-7 hours of social interaction each day. This is not possible for many seniors living at home but is much more attainable at a UMH community. Socially distanced programs are held throughout the day and in the evening. Whether you are interested in painting, book discussion groups, live entertainment, fitness or games, we have systems in place to keep residents healthy. Face masks are provided to all residents, and staff keep residents safe by wearing not only face masks, but in many instances, face shields. We have an abundance of PPE and sanitizer available at all times. To be SAFE – Our infection control protocols are designed to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19. Every person entering the building goes through a health screening. Visitation with family and friends is handled in such a way to encourage human interaction while staying safe. Even during times of quarantine, residents stay active and engaged with visits from staff, one-on-one programs or activities via our in-house TV channel where available. We help them maintain virtual connections with their loved ones to keep the lines of communication open. To have SOMEONE KNOW THEY ARE OKAY – Trained care staff are on-site 24-hours a day, available to check in on residents to make sure they are okay. Staff are available in the event of an emergency or just some small talk if a resident is looking for some company. Family and loved ones have peace-of-mind knowing the residents are being well cared for, both physically and emotionally. They receive regular communication from our leadership team that is transparent. If there are changes to our protocols, families are in the loop and know what to expect. Good relationships are critical during times such as these. December 8, 2020 The COVID-19 pandemic has caused distress and hardship for all of us, but seniors and those who care for them have been most severely impacted. At United Methodist Homes, we are breathing a sigh of relief that vaccinations are on the horizon. In the coming days, our community Administrators and Executive Directors will be sharing more information regarding the vaccination process with you, as more details emerge. New information about the vaccine continues to develop each day and plans for distribution are expected to continue to evolve as the situation develops. Currently, it is anticipated there will be three phases of vaccine distribution starting with the First Phase as soon as the vaccine is received. The First Phase will include healthcare workers, long-term care facility and assisted living residents. Those residents and staff, residing or working in our nursing homes or assisted living communities at United Methodist Homes will be included in this First Phase. Independent living residents in the Wesley Village Cottages may be included in the Second Phase to be delivered between January and May. Our skilled nursing facility (Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center) has already been notified that vaccinations should occur between December 22nd and December 28th and we expect similar notifications for other communities in the coming days. Each community will be managing the collection of required consents prior to the arrival of vaccinations. We understand you may have questions about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Please click to review information provided by The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine through our pharmacy vendor, Omnicare. We will continue to share additional information as it becomes available. If you have additional questions, please reach out to the Administrator or the Executive Director of your community. We are hopeful that vaccinations will begin the process of healing from the COVID crisis. It is important to understand that the vaccination process will take months, and we will continue our infection control practices as guided by CDC and the State of Connecticut through the process. Sincerely, David M. Lawlor President & CEO, United Methodist Homes July 24, 2020 At UMH, our top priority is the safety and well-being of the residents who live in our communities while finding new and creative ways to keep them active, engaged and connected with each other and their loved ones during these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The requirements of social distancing and PPE do not get in the way of us living our mission and continuing to focus on relationships and encouraging our residents to live lives full of meaning and purpose. Important Changes In order to keep COVID-19 at bay, all UMH communities conduct Infection Control Rounding each day to monitor the goings-on in the community to ensure that staff and residents alike are adhering to proper safety measures. Every person who enters one of our buildings is required to have their temperature taken and complete a Health and Travel Questionnaire. An Executive Order from the office of Governor Lamont mandates weekly COVID-19 testing of all nursing home patients and staff. It is mandated for assisted living staff who have not previously tested positive for COVID-19. All testing will continue until no new onset positives are found for at least 14 days since the most recent positive result. As new information is learned about the virus, we consult our team of clinical experts and adhere to the advice from the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and make adjustments to our protocols as necessary. Resident Life Our communities are offering many programs throughout the day for residents to participate in either virtually or in person with proper social distancing. Residents are enjoying exercise classes, musical entertainment, word & trivia games, themed snack & traveling happy hour carts, fashion shows, and of course, Bingo. Residents are encouraged to visit with each other and take walks around our beautiful property while wearing their face masks and practicing proper social distancing. Families are now enjoying outdoor visits with their loved ones in areas specifically dedicated to this purpose. Maintaining emotional connections with loved ones is critical for good mental health, especially now. We have begun the process of opening the Dining Rooms in some of our communities. Residents continue to have the option of receiving top-notch room service with healthy and delicious entrées and snacks, delivered to their apartment with a smile by our staff. Additionally, some residents have opted to take advantage of our outdoor dining venues. On-site physicians and other care providers such as podiatrists and therapists are now permitted in community spaces that accommodate the need for social distancing. This is a great benefit to our residents who have concerns about going to medical appointments off-site. We have assisted residents with telehealth appointments and will continue to do so as they request this service. We are offering transportation to medical appointments for those requiring an in-person visit. Some communities have also begun offering scenic drives for a change of scenery. We are continuing to work with prospective residents and their families by conducting virtual tours and moving new residents into our communities. Please reach out to a member of our marketing team if you would like to schedule your tour. We appreciate all the kind and supportive words from our residents, families and friends and ask for your continued understanding as we navigate this evolving situation. Wishing you good health, David M. Lawlor President & CEO, United Methodist Homes March 19, 2020 We understand you may be concerned about the spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19 and how it may impact the UMH communities. Ensuring residents are cared for in a safe and healthy environment is our top priority. We are taking all the recommended precautions and appreciate your help and understanding as we manage the risks presented by COVID-19. Please know we receive regular guidance from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), United States Center for Medicare Services (“CMS”) and the Connecticut Department of Health (“DPH”).
While the pandemic wages on and we edge closer to one full year of the often overwhelming threat of COVID-19, some things remain steady as ever—like the clockwork transition from one season to the next. As the onset of blustery, cold weather kicks into high gear, many seniors and their loved ones are challenged to maintain a strong focus on safety and social distancing, all without succumbing to the potentially harmful effects of social isolation, cabin fever and boredom.
With holiday spirits and festivities in full force, there’s a great deal of focus on the sweets and treats that make the season bright. It can be tempting to overindulge in the many tasty desserts that typically grace our tables this time of year. Although it’s often a challenge to keep one’s health and nutrition in mind while enjoying the tasty pleasures of the holidays, it’s especially important for seniors to prioritize healthy habits and manage appropriate levels of sugar, salt and fat.