Employee Profile: Wendy Schrag, RN-BC, Vice President of Clinical Operations

Wendy has been a nurse for over 18 years and joined Touchmark 14 years ago. She helps ensure all health services across the company are effective, compliant, appropriate, and adhere to The Touchmark Gold Standard.

 

What makes working at Touchmark different from other retirement communities?

Touchmark is proactive and is always looking for ways to help residents lead healthy lifestyles.

 

What keeps you at Touchmark?

I appreciate the opportunity to be able to learn and grow every day.

 

How do you form relationships with residents?

I listen and try to respond to what they or their families say they need. I believe education is essential to understanding dementia and I enjoy helping all as they travel their journey.

 

What activities do you use to help residents stay healthy?

I work with my teammates to create new programs such as functional fitness or other leading options that we believe will help enhance residents’ health and wellness.

A Mouthful of Wisdom

The first few months of the New Year are a time for fresh beginnings and preparation for the future. Good nutrition is essential to good health and well-being, and March is Nutrition Month, making this a great time to check that your diet is on track for a happy and healthy new year.

The first step to optimizing your diet is to make sure you’re getting the right combination of nutrients. Look for a rainbow of food colors on your dinner plate, including proteins, fruits, whole grains, such as rice and wheat pasta, and dairy or other sources of calcium.

When they’re available, the best kinds of foods to eat are called “whole foods,” which just means they come from the earth to you, with minimal processing. Whole foods include any raw meats, raw fruits and vegetables, and unsweetened dairy products. (Whole foods don’t have to be raw when you eat them, just when you buy them!)

Whole foods are best because you can easily control their salt content, as well as any other ingredients. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat anything that comes in a box, but you should keep track of the nutritional content, serving size, and the fat and sodium levels available on the side of the box. Ask your doctor what levels are right for you, and compare this information to your recommended levels when choosing prepared and frozen foods.

Another important part of good nutrition that is easy to control is to make sure you’re getting enough water. It’s easy to forget to drink water, and doctors say that feeling thirsty can already mean you’re dehydrated — so try these handy tips:

  • Every time you take any medication, drink a full glass of water.
  • Always keep a glass of water next to your bed.
  • After every meal, drink a glass of water.
  • Eat plenty of foods with high water content, such as fruits and salads.

Eat and drink towards a healthier you, and make this year even better than the last!

 

Eat smart to live healthier

As our bodies change with age, so do our nutritional needs and priorities. Appetites might decrease as a result of less physical activity, as a side effect of medication, or even simply from living in isolation.

Eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet is important at any age, as it contributes to maintaining physical and cognitive health. The best approach to healthy eating is to eat from all basic food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, quality protein, and dairy) and limit saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugars, and salt.

In addition to choosing whole, balanced foods, the tips below address the unique nutritional needs of seniors.

  • Cut sugar intake—choose water instead of sugary drinks and fruit for dessert.
  • Use spices and herbs instead of salt to add flavor to your meals. Choose low-sodium or reduced-salt options when available.
  • Eat foods high in levels of vitamin B12, such as fortified cereal, lean meat, or some types of fish.
  • Choose foods rich in dietary fiber to avoid constipation.
  • Pay attention to serving sizes and calories to make sure that you are eating the right amount of food and meeting daily recommended values of nutrients.
  • Drink plenty of low-fat or fat-free milk for vitamin D.

March is National Nutrition Month, making it a great time to focus on mindful eating and making healthy choices.

Changing your eating habits is more than just a quick-fix diet, it’s a lifestyle change. Start small—take the salt shaker off of your table, switch to whole-grain bread, or pick up a few more fruits and vegetables on your next shopping trip.

Effective changes don’t have to be expensive or complicated, and can make all the difference in your quality of life.

Traveling Smart with Parkinson’s disease

With the change from winter into spring upon us, many of us start to feel the itch of the “travel bug.” But if you’re traveling with Parkinson’s, there is a lot more preparation required. Whether you’re traveling alone or with a companion, each individual needs to know how important it is for a person with Parkinson’s disease to anticipate the difficulties that may arise while away from home.

Planning ahead for seamless travel

When beginning to plan a trip, you first need to decide which mode of transportation will best meet your needs. Plane, train, or automobile? Does each mode of transportation offer the accessibility you need, or extra time to board

If you are going to fly, be sure to look up the TSA special procedures, which can help reduce stress and anxiety through the screening process, or consider enrolling in the TSA PreCheck program. You can print out a TSA notification card that describes your medical condition. There’s no need to explain your specific condition. Once you state that you have special needs or require extra time to board a plane, that’s all you have to say.

If you have a DBS (deep brain stimulation), ask your doctor to write a note to allow you to bypass electronic security and undergo other security checks instead. Part of the screening process can be done while sitting so you don’t fatigue as quickly.

Consider taking a wheelchair through the airport. Airport terminals are large and can be confusing to navigate, leading to a potential increase in stress levels. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when planning your trip and plan to arrive early so you have plenty of time and don’t have to rush.

Make sure that you pack three different sets of medications in three different bags to ensure that you will always have your medications in case a bag or two gets lost. Medications should be brought in their original labeled bottles. Liquid medications can go over the three-ounce fluid limit but should be packed separately from other fluids.

Research accommodations to relieve stress

Be sure to inquire about specific accommodations ahead of time. For instance, if you use a wheelchair or other mobility aid, confirm that your hotel room is wheelchair accessible and request a room near the elevator or on the first floor. Inquire about special accommodations that most hotels will offer at no extra charge, such as shower seats. If you’ll be sightseeing, confirm ahead of time whether the sites you want to visit offer wheelchair rentals and are wheelchair accessible.

If you are driving, ask about parking for your car. Many facilities offer complimentary or discounted parking if you display a “handicapped” sign. If you are driving to your destination, look for valet parking opportunities at restaurants, hotels, etc.

Once you have finalized your travel plans, keep them organized by carrying a printed itinerary, complete with emergency contact information or program them into your cell phone or iPad. Either print or send a copy of your travel plans to a friend or relative who is not going on the trip. It is imperative to always carry a cell phone with you and make sure that numbers and contacts are preprogrammed in your phone. If you are traveling overseas, be sure to have the address and contact information for the US Embassy. It is wise to have your passport with you at all times or locked in a hotel safe.

Getting ready for the trip

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before leaving on your trip. Keep your sightseeing schedule flexible, and build in mini-rests and one nap every day. Don’t try to pack your day too full of activities. This will only make you more tired and increase the risk of Parkinson’s flare-ups, which can lead to an unpleasant trip.

Making a packing list ahead of time can reduce anxiety over forgetting something. As your trip gets near, start packing slowly so you don’t get stressed about the process or forget something because you are in a rush. Sort out your outfits complete with socks, undergarments, and shoes. Include Parkinson’s-friendly clothing and accessories, such as wrinkle-free items, pants with elastic waistbands, or shirts that can be pulled over the head or with snap closures. Avoid clothing with buttons if possible, as it can complicate the dressing process. Pack needed assistive equipment (such as a walker), and always take a cane or walking stick, making certain your name is labeled on each item.

Staying healthy on the go

It is important to stay well hydrated, avoid caffeine, and eat salty snacks if you have postural hypotension. Wearing support stockings while traveling can also help reduce symptoms of postural hypotension.

Bring a bottle of water for taking pills as well as a light snack, if needed, to prevent nausea. Many worry that they will drink too much and then have to use the bathroom frequently, but changing positions frequently and stretching is important while traveling long distances, so use the bathroom as an opportunity to move around. Try to avoid drinking too much alcohol.

If you run into a situation where you are without medication, call your doctor’s office and ask them to send an electronic prescription to a local pharmacy. You should always travel with an updated list of your medications, the dosages, scheduled times for dosing as well as your allergies. This information will also be essential if you end up visiting a doctor’s office or emergency room while traveling. The National Parkinson’s Foundation created an Aware in Care Kit that is available through their website and is designed to help those with Parkinson’s disease receive the best possible care during a hospital stay.

Talk to your doctor before going on vacation to get tips on adjusting dosages if you are changing time zones; you may need to increase or decrease dosing of medication. You should avoid doing any type of medication changes two weeks before leaving for your vacation, as you don’t know how your body will react to the change.

Traveling does not have to end when Parkinson’s advances. By taking time to plan everything in advance, you can focus on having fun!

 

Take heart!

February is Heart Month, and as we approach the end of the month, this is a great time to take one more look at what you’re doing to make your heart the healthiest this year that it can be.

Below, Touchmark Director of Health & Fitness Operations Kim Lehmann lists the steps people can take each day to improve their heart. “Many of these habits we’ve heard before, but a few may surprise you.”

Healthy habits for the heart:

Food: Eat an abundance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and good-for-you fats and protein. Limit the amount of red meat, salt, and potassium. Maintain a healthy weight.

Fitness: Exercise daily—cardio, strength, flexibility, and balance. Stand more; sit less.

Sleep: Strive for 7–8 hours each night. If you have sleep apnea, treat it.

Stress: Practice ways to reduce daily stress, such as meditating, devoting time to a hobby, etc.

Teeth: Brush and floss your teeth; the health of your mouth affects the health of your heart.

Alcohol: Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. The recommendation is one drink a day for women, two for men.

Socialization: Spend time with friends. Laugh.

Depression: Get medical help and treat depression.

Smoking: Don’t smoke. If you do, seek help to break the habit.

Take care of yourself: Visit your doctor. Take prescribed medications. Be aware women are at increased heart disease risk after menopause. Men taking the “blue pill” for erectile dysfunction are also especially at heart risk for heart disease.

Kim says with an increasing number of people taking pills that affect the heart rate, it’s important to not rely on general pulse targets when exercising. “If people are taking one of these medications, they want to work with a professional to determine what’s ideal for them so they don’t overtax the heart.”

Similarly, she says high temperatures can be problematic. “There’s a reason saunas and warm-water spas post warnings and caution people to limit their time. The increased temperature opens blood vessels, and people can become dizzy or faint if they’re exposed too long to the high temperatures.”

Along with being the number-one cause of death, heart disease is one of the leading causes of disability. “As we age, the walls of our heart thicken and stiffen. This can lead to inefficient pumping, which can bring on high blood pressure, increased fatigue, and exercise intolerance. By following healthy habits, we can minimize the effects aging has on the heart and enjoy each day to the fullest.”

For more information, visit: niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/young-heart-tips-Older-adults/Documents/YAH_TipSheet.pdf

 

Practice self-care to encourage overall wellness

February is the month of love, and this month we’re focusing on self-love! Taking care of mind, body, and spirit helps us feel our best and live each day to its fullest.

It’s easy to get caught up in our busy schedules and worry about our home, bills, or family before we consider our own well-being. But taking time for ourselves actually makes us better prepared to handle our other responsibilities.

Consider these simple ways to put yourself first and embrace personal wellness throughout the year:

  • Make sure you’re up-to-date on your state of health. The best way to stay healthy is to know where you’re at, and what areas you need to take extra care in. See your doctor regularly and take as active a role as you can in your care.
  • Try to make your physical self a priority. Taking the time to shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed each day—no matter how much or how little is on your schedule—helps to provide a sense of purpose and feel put-together.
  • Express gratitude. Surround yourself with positive people who build you up and be sure to share your appreciation with them regularly. Doing something nice for someone else benefits both giver and receiver. Spreading kindness can spark a chain reaction and inspires positivity in all!
  • Take time to recharge. After a busy day, set aside time to refuel in whatever way works best for you. Read a book, take a walk, unplug from your phone, and just enjoy the quiet time by yourself.