Wit and Wisdom Blog for Atria Senior Living

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a new view on growing older

Highly personalized care sets Atria’s Life Guidance® memory care apart


Posted on February 20, 2021 by Admin


At 94, Gloria had hardly ever washed her own hair, relying instead on regular visits to the beauty parlor. After moving to Atria, she kept up her routine at the community’s salon until it closed temporarily due to COVID-19.

That’s when Kelly Burnett, the community’s Life Guidance Memory Care Director, voluntarily took over washing and styling Gloria’s hair.

“That’s not her job, but she knows how important it is to my mother” said Gloria’s son, Bill. “It’s a great example of how caring the staff is. I’ll remember that forever.”

When Joe first moved to Atria, he was depressed. He’d just completed rehabilitation for a stroke, relied on a walker to get around and was developing mild symptoms of dementia.

Despite daily invitations to join his neighbors for gatherings and events, Joe stayed inside his apartment. But staff members didn’t give up. They continued their visits several times a day to say hello, check in and gently urge him to venture out.

It took a few weeks of patient encouragement before Joe started leaving his apartment. Soon he was participating in nearly every event.

“Everyone moves at their own pace,” said Tomika Polk, Divisional Director of Life Guidance Memory Care Operations. “Once Joe realized he could trust the people he lived with, he blossomed.” 

Caring for the individual

No two people experience Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia the same way. The symptoms, behaviors and rate of disease progression look different for each individual.

Memory care at Atria is highly personalized to each resident, with one-to-one attention and support from caring staff in a secure, thoughtfully designed setting. Residents also enjoy daily opportunities to engage in meaningful pursuits such as art workshops, discussion groups and fitness classes.

Having worked in dementia care since 1993, Ron Bowen, Divisional Director of Life Guidance Memory Care Operations at Atria, says getting to know an individual’s likes and dislikes, personal history and what makes them tick is especially important when caring for a person with dementia.

“We want to understand the essence of a resident,” Bowen said. “We want to find out everything about Mom that will help us help her.”

To do this, caregivers collaborate with a new resident and their family to answer 116 specific questions, ranging from past occupations to favorite music genres to what calms and reassures them. Bowen refers to this as a resident’s life story.

“We take the answers to those questions and what they say about the resident, the things they like to do, and create a plan to keep them active and engaged.”

Most residents also receive a memory display to hang beside their apartment door. Families can choose to fill it with photos and meaningful mementos that illustrate their family member’s personality. The space also serves a practical purpose by helping the resident locate their apartment.

When staff members get to know a resident well, they can adjust the way they respond to certain behaviors. For some residents, music is a soothing antidote to aggressive behavior, which is a common symptom of dementia. Staff may help other residents focus on a simple task or project to redirect their attention in a positive way.

“What works for one person doesn’t always work for another,” Bowen said.

Developing emotional intelligence

A person with dementia can’t always control their emotions or communicate what they’re feeling. If they appear upset or confused, caregivers need to know the best way to respond.

Staff training at Atria includes universal dementia care methods such as redirecting or reducing distractions. Caregivers are also coached in more intuitive techniques such as “how to read a room,” as Bowen put it.

“We need to use our emotional intelligence when figuring out how to respond,” he said.

Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. The more in touch a staff member is with their own emotions, the better they can assess another’s and respond appropriately.

“We ask family members how they approach Mom, and what kinds of emotions she typically shows. How we respond from an emotional standpoint is what helps the resident feel at ease,” Bowen said.

Polk agreed, adding that a caregiver’s mood also can impact the way a resident behaves. 

“People with dementia can sense your vibe and react to it,” she said. “I train staff members to put aside any personal issues as much as possible when they come to work. We want to create a peaceful, enjoyable environment.”

Building trust and communication

Forging a relationship with family is also key to Atria’s personalized approach. After a new resident moves in, a designated caregiver contacts the family with updates every day.

“It’s about connecting from the very beginning to make sure families are part of the process,” Bowen said. “Once they’re on board, it makes caring for the resident easier.”

Whether it’s making decisions together about medical treatment or discussing Dad’s need for a new pair of slippers, staff stay in regular contact with family. In her previous role as a Life Guidance Memory Care Director, Polk even sent photos to family members showing the resident active and engaged.

“We want them to know what their family member is doing,” she said. “That’s one way to gain a family’s trust.”

Bill says the staff members who  care for his mother, Gloria, have “just the right touch” and update his family regularly.

“When they call, the first four words are always ‘Your mom is all right,’ and then they talk about what’s going on. 

“From the beginning, I could see that these people truly care. I can’t imagine a better place for Mom,” Bill said.

 

If you or someone you know could benefit from Atria’s forward-thinking, highly personalized memory care, please reach out to the Atria community near you for more information.


Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Dementia & Memory Care, Wit & Wisdom

Personal care that empowers seniors to live more fully


Posted on February 15, 2021 by Admin


For older adults who want to maintain a level of independence – yet could use a helping hand to do so – assisted living offers a vibrant option.

Meet a few people who are enjoying a greater sense of well-being at Atria.

Jim and Rhea

Late one night, Rhea discovered her husband Jim lying on the kitchen floor, unable to get up. At 91, he was developing symptoms of dementia along with a heart condition that made him weak. For two years, Rhea had been her husband’s only caregiver and, at 88, she said she felt worn down.

“I had to take care of our four-bedroom house, pay the bills, deal with yard work, laundry,” Rhea said. “I was also taking care of my husband, who had just gotten out of the hospital. I had to do everything.”

Rhea knew caring for Jim on her own was no longer an option. After visiting four assisted living communities, the couple moved to Atria Cypresswood. 

“Life here is absolutely wonderful,” said Rhea. “The staff has helped me so much by caring for my husband.”

Soon after settling into their Atria apartment, COVID-19 began popping up around the country, spurring community restrictions to keep residents safe. Despite quarantine measures and suspended social gatherings, Rhea says she’s grateful they made the move when they did.

“Coming here was a blessing because we probably would have had COVID by now,” she said. “The staff does a great job keeping everyone safe and healthy.”

With her husband receiving support and care services daily, Rhea feels more rested. She loves having time to read and sew and even made Christmas gifts for the entire Atria Cypresswood staff. She says she and Jim look forward to joining group events once they resume.

“We’re extremely happy here,” said Rhea. “The staff is lovely, the food is good, the people are kind and generous. We are very, very content.”

Jean

After her husband passed away, Jean suffered a minor stroke. She continued living alone in her house.

During one visit they found Jean lying on the floor, unconscious. That’s when Jean’s daughter insisted her mother move across the country to be closer. They started shopping for assisted living communities, and Jean moved into Atria Cypresswood around the beginning of the pandemic.

“It was a blessing to move here right when COVID started,” said Jean. “I’m so much better off than if I’d stayed in my house. The support we get here is grade-A, and they make everything so fun and happy.”

“Being here takes a lot of worry off my daughter’s mind.”

Maurine and Larry

After 55 years in their home on Long Island, Maurine and Larry needed a change. At 92, Larry had suffered a few falls and relied on a walker to get around. Maurine, 89, has balance issues and was finding it difficult to keep hauling laundry and groceries up and down stairs.

With help from their four children, the couple began looking for assisted living options. Shortly after starting the search, they found Atria Kew Gardens, and despite moving to the community during a period of COVID-19 restrictions, Maurine says she and Larry are thrilled with their decision.

“I don’t have to carry bundles up the stairs anymore," said Maurine. "They do the housekeeping, the laundry – which is great – meals are delivered to our apartment.”

Maurine and Larry are also improving their strength, balance and flexibility with occupational therapy sessions twice a week. Once life returns to a sense of pre-COVID normal, both look forward to visiting with family in person and participating in classes and events at the community.

“Life is a lot easier.”

 

Discover how empowering the right care can be at Atria Senior Living at ExploreAtriaCare.com.


Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Wit & Wisdom

Dancing at 100: Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga


Posted on October 16, 2020 by Admin


“A firecracker.” “The life of the party.” “Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga.” Estelle Reiff goes by many monikers, which only makes sense for a woman who has played many roles in her long life – an accomplished dancer, teacher and mother. The beloved resident of Atria Forest Hills, a senior living community in Queens, New York, turned 100 in September, and continues to make a difference in the lives of those around her.

“I danced all my life – all I can remember is dancing

Estelle Reiff was born in 1920 in Nashville, Tennessee, and started dancing at age five. By the time she was 10, she and her brother had formed a vaudeville act called “The Peppiest Pair.” Following a brief stint as a fashion deco model in the late 1930s, Estelle performed in local shows before joining the dance troupe of the renowned Mexican comedian and actor Cantinflas, with whom she traveled throughout the U.S. and Mexico in the 1940s.

In 1948, Estelle married Benjamin – also a dancer – and they settled in New York City, where she opened her own studio and worked alongside luminaries such as Gwen Verdon, Peter Gennaro, Bobby Van, Debbie Allen and Debbie Reynolds. Throughout her career, she danced tap, jazz, ballroom and especially Latin dance (hence the Spanish-styled nickname she gave herself: “Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga.”)

Estelle later served on the board of directors for the New York Society of Teachers of Dancing and was part of a local Hadassah group for more than 30 years, performing at fundraisers. She was also the senior dance instructor for the New York City Department of Education’s Adult Education Program for Dancing, working in the evenings with her husband at Flushing High School for more than 25 years.

In her early 70s, Estelle noticed there were not nearly enough dance programs tailored to seniors, so she set out to be part of the solution by teaching dance at a number of senior centers throughout Queens. She was a long-term participant at the Peter Dellamonica Senior Center, part of the Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, where she danced every chance she got. According to her son, even a cane – and then a walker – couldn’t keep her in her seat.

“The furthest thing from a wallflower”

Estelle continued teaching dance for Dellamonica when she scheduled a tour of Atria Forest Hills in the fall of 2018. Since she’s been at Atria, she’s continued to contribute and inspire others in a different way.

“She really is a mother figure to everyone in the building,” said Beth Levi, the community’s Engage Life Director. “She’s the furthest thing from a wallflower. She needs to be social. You miss her presence when she’s not there.”

Before the pandemic, according to Levi, Estelle showed up to every program or party at the community. “If she missed anything, she’d be mad.” She treats everyone with respect and kindness, and even people her age seek out her advice. “I’m the 100-year-old encyclopedia,” Estelle said, laughing.

As her son Alan (pictured above) puts it, “just play music and see what happens. She will grab onto anyone close by to move her legs and wiggle her hips in a swirl of joyful movement recalling a lifetime of dance.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Wit & Wisdom

In peak condition


Posted on September 24, 2020 by Admin


Nearly every morning, Lauren Freifeld, Executive Director of Atria Woodlands, a senior living community located in Westchester County, New York, watches one of her residents walk by her window. “He’s a doer,” she laughed. The resident she’s talking about is Jerry Levine, who turns 91 this year and walks miles every day.

That level of activity should come as no surprise for a man who, in August 2012, became the oldest “46er” on record. A 46er is a mountain climber who has scaled all 46 of the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. Here’s how he did it.

Getting there together

Jerry was born in the Bronx, but he and his wife raised two sons in Peekskill, a town in Westchester County about an hour north of New York City. One of their sons, Peter, went to a summer camp in Upstate New York when he was a teenager. There, he discovered his love for rock climbing and hiking, and he encouraged his dad to go with him on climbing trips.

Soon Peter and Jerry were taking on the Adirondacks together, or Jerry hiked with Peter and his friends. “He made a lot of friends at the camp and they used to come along,” Jerry said. “To this day, I know a lot of those people, and it’s still very nice to see them.” When Peter was in high school and college, he and Jerry would hike one or two mountains a year, with long interludes in between. After Peter accepted a job in California, they had less opportunity to hike together. In 2000, Jerry had a heart attack and stopped climbing.

Seven years later, Jerry’s cardiologist told him he could climb again if he monitored his heart rate. So Jerry called Peter. He wanted to climb all 46 peaks.

“Something I never, ever thought I could do”

Jerry was in his 70s when he decided to be a 46er. So far, he had climbed 23 mountains, but it had taken him decades to do it, and he wanted to check off the remaining 23 – which, according to Peter, were also the hardest 23 – in just a few years. “It was something I never, ever thought I could do,” Jerry said.

Nonetheless, they made it work. Between 2009 and 2012, from May through October, Peter would fly in from California to meet Jerry and hike together. Jerry had become close to Peter’s camp friends after decades of hiking with them, and on the day Jerry scaled Whiteface Mountain – the last of the 46 peaks – around 50 people celebrated with them on the summit. Jerry said, “They waited until I reached the peak, and I couldn’t believe who was there. I said, ‘Wow! You’re here! You’re here!’”

Today, Peter lives in California, but he still flies to New York to visit his parents, who have lived at Atria Woodlands since January 2020. They moved to Atria because Jerry’s wife needed more assistance than Jerry could provide. The support Atria gives his wife has allowed Jerry to have peace of mind – and that helps him stay active. He doesn’t climb mountains anymore, but he and Peter cherish the times they scaled new heights together.

“Hiking was just something we both really loved to do,” Peter recalled. “Yes, becoming a 46er at his age was a monumental feat, but spending that much time together has enduring value both for the parent and for the child. Everyone should do something like that with their parents.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Wit & Wisdom

8-28 Blog

Staying safely connected in a world with COVID-19


Posted on August 28, 2020 by Admin


COVID-19 has forced all of us to rethink how we interact with the world and each other. Still, staying connected remains vital to our well-being.

At Atria Senior Living, we believe people belong together. By making adjustments to Atria’s Engage Life® events program, team members continue to offer residents creative new ways to learn, engage and connect, safely.

Connecting across generations

Through a phone-based “reflecting and sharing” program, residents are sharing their unique wisdom with younger generations. Each week, they reflect on a current topic affecting society then share their collective insights over the phone.

In one recent example, residents who worked as teachers offered advice to parents teaching their children at home and professional teachers instructing students online during the pandemic. Soon, residents will reflect on the importance of voting and why younger generations should be encouraged to exercise their right in the upcoming elections.

A second wisdom-sharing program coming soon is a phone pal partnership with the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), where high-achieving students will be matched with older adults who have professional experience in their fields of interest.

These partnerships present valuable opportunities for diverse generations to connect from a distance over similar interests and benefit from each other’s perspectives.

Innovating to engage

At the onset of the pandemic, Atria communities were equipped with conferencing phone lines. The ability to dial in from the safety of their apartments has enabled residents to join neighbors for group sing-alongs, book clubs, art appreciation programs, word games, lectures and Broadway performances, to name a few. Many communities provide handouts to serve as visual aids.

Since residents aren’t gathering for group classes and events, Atria is bringing those experiences to them. Doorway and mobile cart events have inspired endless creativity. Staff have organized guided “paint and sip” workshops, container gardening and travel adventures via video, food samples and music. The popular Positivi-Tea program encourages residents to explore topics in the field of positive psychology while they sip a nice cup of tea.

Staying strong

With many gyms closed and exercise classes canceled, it’s no secret staying fit has been a challenge for many of us.

While Atria staff offer regular hallway workouts and outdoor walks at communities where local and state regulations permit, many will soon launch a new fitness challenge to further motivate residents. Small clusters of communities will compete against other groups to achieve their exercise goals and earn rewards and recognition.

“Exercise has been the most important, and probably the hardest, program to develop overall,” said Atria’s Vice President of Resident Engagement, Christy Phillips. “We’ve gotten really creative with helping residents maintain their physical strength.”

Celebrating resilience

Speaking of strength, Atria residents have persevered through world wars, economic depressions and personal challenges. They have so much to teach others and their resilience is a tool Catherine Schneider, Atria’s Director of Resident Well-Being Curriculum, hopes residents are willing to share.

“We’ve developed a program to collect the wisdom behind the ways residents have learned to cope during difficult times,” said Schneider. “After all, we’re going through this together. It’s an opportunity to share stories and learn from each other.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Seniors and Technology, Wit & Wisdom

Volunteering-Benefits-Older-Adults

Five Ways Volunteering Benefits Older Adults


Posted on February 26, 2018 by Admin


If you have ever worked in a soup kitchen, donated blood or spent a Saturday afternoon cleaning your local beach or park, you know volunteering is good for you!

People enjoy doing things that bring more meaning and purpose to their lives. Older adults are no different.

Here are a few of the benefits volunteering offers older adults who want to lead active, healthy lifestyles:

  1. Healthy body, healthy mind - Studies show volunteering is good for both our bodies and our minds. Among other benefits, volunteering can reduce stress, improve mood, help prevent loneliness and lower the risk of developing high blood pressure. So, for older adults with physical ailments, volunteering can actually make you feel better.
  2. Trying new things - Volunteering allows older adults to stay active. Whether reading to school children, visiting with patients in the hospital or baking dog treats for a local shelter, volunteering offers an array of opportunities to try new things.
  3. Leaving a legacy - Older adults often think about how they have contributed to the world and what mark they will leave behind. Volunteering gives a sense of purpose, while simultaneously making a positive difference in the world by improving the life of another.
  4. Connecting with others - Forging connections with people is part of what makes us human. Volunteering provides more opportunities to connect with different types of people. Atria communities are always in search of intergenerational opportunities for residents, such as working in a community garden with a group of Eagle Scouts or writing cards to soldiers with a local youth group.
  5. It’s enjoyable - When an Atria resident who volunteers at the library was asked why volunteering is important to her, she said, “It’s fun, and it gives me something to do.”She’s right; being a small part of something much larger than yourself is just plain fun.

Category: Active Aging Tags: , , , , ,

Setting Goals and World Records: Meet Atria Darien’s Inspiring Rowers - Atria Senior Living Blog

Setting Goals and World Records: Meet Atria Darien’s Inspiring Rowers


Posted on January 17, 2017 by Admin


A buzz was building within Atria Darien. Waldo, Sally, Sid, Dick, Paula, Lois, David and Dotty had been looking forward to this day for weeks. Months earlier, rowing had never even entered their minds. Searching for the next fitness adventure for their residents, Atria reached out to Veterans’ Rowing and Kayaking and introduced the sport to them. After weeks of practice and setting higher and higher goals for themselves, they discovered a love of rowing. Today, this inspiring group of residents is not only gaining strength and reaching fitness goals, but is also setting world records.

This is their story.


Category: Active Aging Tags: , , ,

Achieve Your New Year’s Goal Point by Point – Atria Senior Living

Achieve Your New Year’s Goal, Point by Point


Posted on January 3, 2017 by Admin


Billie Jean King is a winner of 39 Grand Slam tennis titles, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a champion for social change and equality. She serves as Atria’s Well-Being Coach.

There’s something about the arrival of a new year that motivates us to become better versions of ourselves. The excitement of starting with a clean slate inspires us to make positive changes in our lifestyle like becoming more fit and committing to spend more time with the people we love. (more…)


Category: Active Aging Tags: , , , ,

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