July 2, 2014

Your Advocacy Connection – How Can Summer Enhance Quality of Life?

By Gail Glockhoff-Long
GolderCare Solutions

Offering Comprehensive Long Term Care Solutions and Patient Advocacy

Summer is finally here. I look forward to summer because I enjoy gardening and love the taste of radishes and carrots straight from the garden. My father’s parents were fruit and flower growers. Growing up, our very large yard was planted with gardens of peonies, iris, prize winning dahlias, tomatoes and every kind of fruit tree. I have fond memories of helping harvest the produce. Yum . . . fresh peaches, plums, pears, cherries and apples. Dad said it was his job to check his favorite bing cherry tree and let us know when it was ready for picking. He checked – and checked – multiple times a day. For some reason, there were very few cherries left when he finally said they were ready.

Summer is a time to enhance the quality of life for a senior using all of the five senses. Take advantage of the colors, smells, and sounds of the outdoors. I spoke to a nursing home resident recently who commented on how she enjoyed being taken outside for fresh air. A trip outside can stimulate the senses, lift the spirits and provide a change of environment.

What are favorite summer memories for your loved one in care? How can you bring back that memory? Feeling fresh cut grass or rose petals? Sitting outside talking about past vacations? Taking them for a tasty trip to Whitey’s or Lago’s? Walking the beautiful and fragrant gardens at Duck Creek Park? Vandeveer Park in Davenport has a path suitable for wheelchairs or walkers. Take time to smell the flowers. Take time to soak in the colors. Remember that walkways and paths outside are not as smooth and even as the tile hallway. You will need a slower pace. Be alert to possible trip hazards like mole holes. Whiffs of the river may prompt happy memories of boating or fishing on the Mississippi or camping at the lake. Scents are strongly connected with our memories. A ride in the country past barnyards and fresh mown hayfields with the windows down is a treat to the eyes, ears and nose.

My parents taught us gardening and the proper names of flowers. I now plant lots of zinnias, daffodils, sunflowers, aster, peonies, and other picking flowers to take to Mom in the nursing home. Fresh flowers brighten her day. The first warm days mean she can finally get outside. It is more difficult for her to transfer in and out of a car, and she tires easily, so I no longer take her for car outings. Her favorite visits are when I take her for a wheelchair ride around the Friendship Manor property and we point out and name all the beautiful flowers and flowering trees. Their gardening crew does a fantastic job of brightening that part of the QC. I think you can look out any window of the Manor and see flowers. We also sit by the fish pond and soak up some sun. Even with macular degeneration, she can see and enjoy the cacophony of color. When I name the flowers, she can fill in the details that her eyes can no longer see. Sometimes we go to the back memory garden, which has shade covering and a swing that accommodates a wheel chair. When we spend time in the sun, I let her nurse and aid know, so we can keep her skin lotioned. A simple visit, but it makes her day.

There are also precautions to keep in mind for summer. Heat can bring danger. Take caution when leaving a person with dependent care needs in a car. Remember to bring the sunglasses. Senior eyes that rarely get outside are more sensitive to sunlight. Sun can interact with some medications, so always check with their nurse or aide to see if you need to stay in the shade. Seniors are also particularly susceptible to dehydration, so remember to offer cold water. If you plan a picnic or snack, be aware of any dietary restrictions. Strawberry seeds bother many older people. Ham may be too salty for someone with congestive heart failure. As we do in the coldest part of the winter, remember to check on older neighbors when the temperatures go up.

Quality of life is very important to the GolderCare team. Families do the same, but often they do it with these very simple acts of spending time and helping their senior release happy memories from the recesses of their mind.

What can you do this summer to add to the quality of life of a family member, friend or neighbor? When we were young, they took the time to make our summers special. Now it is our turn to return the favor.

Gail Glockhoff-Long has advocated for her mother and sister. She is the GolderCare Solutions Office Manager and Benefits Advocate and can be found at the GolderCare office located at 4101 John Deere Road, Suite A in Moline, IL. GolderCare Solutions provides long term care solutions for both Iowa and Illinois clients.

Filed Under: Family, Health & Wellness