Seven Dimensions for Full Living

As we age, experts agree it is essential that we stay physically active. But many don’t realize there are several other factors that add up to healthy wholeness. In fact, living a full and satisfied life means overall “wellness,” which is defined by more than physical well-being.

In 1976, Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, developed a six-dimensional model for achieving wellness. According to Dr. Hettler’s model, by focusing on and balancing each of these factors, a more complete form of wellness could be achieved.

In the years since Dr. Hettler made his discovery, a variety of organizations, from universities to health care professionals, have adopted these dimensions. And in the years following, a seventh dimension has been added.

The seven dimensions of wellness are:

  • Emotional: Being aware of feelings and coping with challenges in a respectful way signals emotional wellness and helps create a balance in life.
  • Physical: Healthy lifestyle choices can help maintain or improve health and function.
  • Spiritual: Living with a sense of purpose in life and being guided by personal values is key to our well-being and connection to the larger world and others.
  • Occupational: Utilizing our skills and passion, while cultivating personal satisfaction, is valuable to both society and the individual.
  • Intellectual: Engaging in intellectually stimulating activities is a proven approach to maintaining cognitive function.
  • Social: Positive social support has a protective influence on our health and well-being.
  • Environmental: Living with a greater awareness of the world allows us to begin to make environmentally friendly choices.

The dimensions in action

At Touchmark, the seven dimensions of wellness are an essential part of the Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program™. This award-winning program identifies people’s strengths, skills, needs, interests, and goals to help them lead happy, healthy, and full lives.

By focusing on each dimension, individuals become aware of the dimensions’ interconnectedness and how they contribute to overall health. And the dimensions can be applied in multiple ways to nearly every area of daily activity. For example, going on a hike with friends combines aspects of the physical, social, and environmental, but may also involve the spiritual, emotional, and even the occupational and intellectual, depending on conversations, thoughts, and experiences. The same dimensions may interact in a variety of ways when we go on a picnic, play a game of pickleball, or visit a museum.

Touchmark’s Health & Fitness Club can help by offering residents a firm foundation in the physical that can be easily added onto with other elements like the mental, in classes like yoga, and the social, intellectual, and more in group fitness classes and other group activities in the heated pool.

In order to provide a plethora of opportunities for these kinds of interdimensional crossovers, Touchmark uses its Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program and the seven dimensions to craft daily diverse and creative events and activities that often go beyond what some might expect from a retirement community.

“Residents may find themselves on a seven-day train trip through California, digging in at our old-fashioned clam bake, or enjoying the sights of Touchmark’s annual Father’s Day Weekend Classic Car Show,” says Touchmark at Meadow Lake Village Executive Director Matthew Hoskin. “By carefully listening to what people are interested in, we’re able to offer residents a lifestyle that’s not only fun, enriching, and engaging, but also includes all the elements of wellness.”

Touchmark believes that a full life is available to anyone—no matter one’s age—and its Full Life program ensures all residents have the unique tools, opportunities, and community support to bring their personal vision to life.

A wealth of memory care resources from Touchmark

Touchmark is committed to providing relationship-centered care that meets residents where they are and encourages them to live a full life. We use the industry-leading Best Friends™ Approach to care to get to know each individual resident and build a relationship with them.

To further help residents living in our memory care neighborhoods experience meaningful connections with family members, friends, and staff, Touchmark has developed the tools listed below.

  • The ABCs of Life Book: This picture-based communication
    tool helps people recall long-term memories by triggering them as they go through the alphabet. It is a 2014 winner of the ALFA National Mature Media Awards.
  • Memory Care Resource Flip Book: This valuable resource was created to provide caregivers and loved ones with
    information on a variety of subjects related to a dementia diagnosis and the journey of the disease.
  • Memory Blocks: Colorful blocks with words on them can help residents form sentences and short stories, recall memories from certain words, or sort blocks according to color.
  • Match and Chat Game: Based on local states/provinces and their corresponding flags, this game challenges memory to match the correct cards together, and also features a more personal reminiscing feature with questions about where a person has lived and traveled.

To learn more about these tools and how you can use them for yourself or with your loved one, speak with a team member in memory care.

Gratitude goes a long way

Giving back and expressing gratitude are synonymous with this time of year—it’s only natural to look back on all we’ve been thankful for over the past several months as we look forward to the start of a new year. As we gather together over the holidays, we can share these feelings with loved ones and give thanks to each other.

Showing gratitude can be as simple as giving someone a compliment, sharing a meal with a loved one, or trying to see the positives in a bad situation. More formal ways to give back might include volunteering at a local food bank, becoming a mentor, making a charitable donation, or teaching a class.

Ingraining these habits in our everyday lives helps make these feelings more prominent and can encourage others to follow our lead. In addition to helping others feel a sense of purpose and appreciated, giving to others benefits the giver, as well.

It can help:

  • Increase self-esteem
  • Stimulate the release of endorphins similar to the “high” that comes from exercise
  • Gain a new perspective and take your mind off of everyday concerns
  • Grow as a person and develop new skills and knowledge

This month, consider the ways in which you can show your appreciation for those who make your life a little brighter each day. Spread kindness, express your feelings, and enhance self-worth for yourself and others!

Tips to have a successful holiday season

For some, the holidays are a favorite time of the year. The days are about experiences and people, family traditions, recalling old memories, and creating new ones. This changes for caregivers and people living with dementia, though.  Use these tips to help you stay connected with your loved one during the holiday season.

It is important to build on past traditions and memories.  Focus on activities that are meaningful to your loved one. Your family member may find comfort in singing holiday songs or looking through old photo albums.  Involving the person in holiday preparation is one way to engage and interact with someone living with dementia.  As the person’s abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate, or set the table. This could be as simple as having the person measure an ingredient or hand decorations to you as you put them up. Be careful with decoration choices. Blinking lights may confuse or scare a person with dementia, and decorations that look like food could be mistaken as edible.

You may need to adjust your expectations. It is imperative that you adjust festivities and times your loved one is involved in; you want to plan things based on his or her best time of the day.

There may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited. These changes can be hard to accept, so giving others a heads-up before they come home is important. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disease and not the person. If your loved one is experiencing a particular challenge, be sure to give an example of what that challenge is and how to redirect or assist the person. You may find it easier to share these changes in a letter or email that can be sent to multiple recipients. It’s helpful to include a picture of your loved one, if there have been some physical changes, as well.

Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and let others contribute if they offer. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing.

Be sure to plan time for breaks and rest. You also may want to consider breaking large gatherings into smaller visits of two or three people at a time to keep the person with Alzheimer’s (and you) from getting overtired. Choose the timing of your events carefully. If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, consider changing a holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch. If you do keep the celebration at night, keep the room well-lit and try to avoid any known triggers.

Finding the right gift for your loved one can be challenging. Please see the attached graph for some holiday gift ideas. Less is more, not only when looking to purchase gifts but also when planning your holiday celebrations.

Resident Feature: Love and life—before and after dementia

When Alice Kulak married Geoff, her high school sweetheart, 57 years ago, she knew life would be anything but boring.

Alice, 78, kept an active schedule volunteering with the Junior League of Edmonton, serving on the board of directors of the Art Gallery of Alberta, and sitting on the executive board of the Chamber Music Society. She worked part-time and anchored the home front for her husband and two daughters, but Geoff, now 79, led the parade!

Geoff was a prominent, well-regarded engineer with an international reputation for his specialty in steel structures.

“It was an adventure,” remembers Alice. “He was ambitious and bright, and we lived for periods of time in places as diverse as the US, Brazil, South Africa, Switzerland, and Norway where Geoff lectured and did research.”

Geoff taught for 25 years in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Alberta, retiring in 1994. He sat on many technical committees in Canada and the US. In 1996, he cochaired with lawyer Ken McKenzie the Royal Commission that investigated the rollercoaster accident at West Edmonton Mall that resulted in three deaths.

Geoff wrote the engineering textbook Limit States Design in Structural Steel, which is still used at the undergraduate level in 95% of Canadian universities. To honor him, the Steel Fabricators of Alberta created a $30,000 annual scholarship fund in his name.

Dealing with “the diagnosis”

Over four years ago, Geoff was diagnosed as having entry-level dementia. The couple’s once fast-paced and busy lifestyle shifted to more of a shuffle. The change has affected both Alice and Geoff equally.

“There’s a lot of pain and grief as you see a life slipping away; seeing your loved one losing his presence. Geoff feels frustrated as well. He realizes he is losing ground, and it bewilders him.”

The Kulaks moved to Touchmark as the couple realized the two-story home they were living in had become more house and garden than they could handle. Alice, Geoff, and their two daughters felt it was the right time to make the move as Geoff’s dementia was becoming more defined.

“We definitely enjoy the maintenance-free lifestyle here at Touchmark. When we need someone to fix something, it happens very quickly.” Touchmark’s various levels of care services also appealed to the couple.

“Everything has changed in the last two-and-a-half years. I now feel the responsibility of being a caregiver rather than a companion. I take care of Geoff and the household, but I now also handle all of the things Geoff used to deal with like our investments and taxes. All of this, while trying to grieve the husband I am losing.”

Helping hands

Two times a week for four hours, Alice has help through Home Care Services as well as from Touchmark’s assisted living staff to give her some time for herself.

“My goal now is to keep my health and my spirits up for Geoff. I exercise using the treadmill, bike, medicine ball, and weights for 35-45 minutes a day. The staff are great with Geoff, so during my breaks I go play bridge. I love going for lunch with my friends and going to church or reading.”

The respite care has been a benefit to the couple’s relationship, as well. “I’ve realized that I need time for myself. And Geoff welcomes the caregivers coming in. We’re together all of the time, so I’ve realized that he, too, wants relief from me.”

Memory care opening

With a new memory care neighborhood opened at Touchmark this March, more care options became available for families like the Kulaks.

“Geoff is on the waiting list, has had an interview with the nurses, and has been assessed for what his care needs would be. I know the quality of life for both of us would go up by having him there, but I still feel conflicted. I worry if I’ve done everything I can for him on my own,”

This is a conflict faced by many in the same situation. While it’s not an easy choice to make, Alice is comforted knowing there is quality memory care support coming available just a few doors away from her.

“Realizing I can’t do everything I want to do with him on my own and knowing that he could have quality care, and I could still be close by and involved—that gives me some peace of mind.”

Tips for other caregivers

While Alice realizes she isn’t alone in dealing with the demands of being a full-time caregiver, she also realizes just how fortunate she is to have help. She has friends who have gone through the same situation who have helped her, and now Alice shares her own personal story as a resource for others.

“My tips for other caregivers are these: get yourself into circumstances you can handle; get involved in your community; and ask for help! It’s important not to isolate yourself. Our family mantra is, ‘Keep Dad comfortable and loved,’ and having the help of my family and the extra care for Geoff have made my life—and his—a little easier.”

The Hidden Dangers of Depression

hands_shutterstock_176258786Although not often discussed, depression in older adults is common—affecting about six million Americans over the age of 65. It’s a serious condition that can easily be overlooked by both loved ones and medical professionals.

Depression later in life often accompanies other medical conditions, which can make it difficult to identify. The condition may be expressed through physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, or loss of appetite, all of which can be easily attributed to other factors. Other symptoms of depression may include aches and pains, loss of interest in hobbies, and a lack of motivation.

It may also be difficult to distinguish between depression and grief, which may be caused by the death of a spouse or friends. Grief is natural, but when it persists and includes feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or even suicide, it may actually be depression.

In older adults, depression can develop as a result of a serious health condition, such as a stroke, heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer’s—and can also increase a person’s risk of developing certain conditions. It’s important to recognize depression as a separate issue and treat it as such.

Staying aware, active, and engaged

There are certain steps you can take to minimize the effects of depression, especially for those who may be at a higher risk.

  • Walking for 30 minutes three times a week or other types of regular exercise can be even more effective than medication in treating depression.
  • Consider taking folic acid and B12 supplements, as deficiencies can increase the risk of depression in older adults—but check with your doctor first.
  • Review medication side effects with your doctor, as symptoms of depression may be a known effect.
  • Socialize regularly. Spending time face-to-face with friends and loved ones offers support.
  • Maintain a healthy diet of foods that provide nourishment and energy.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark at night and get enough sleep.

If symptoms of depression persist, your doctor can determine the best treatment approach, which might include medication, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy, or a combination of treatments. Be sure to vocalize your concerns if you are experiencing symptoms of depression. Seek help and don’t be embarrassed.

Staying safe and healthy through ergonomics

couplejumpingWhile we often consider safety risks for certain activities we partake in, other risk factors for everyday tasks are a bit less obvious. Ergonomics is the science of human safety and capabilities in the workplace and at home.

As part of National Safety Month in June, take time to evaluate how you can keep yourself safe and secure in all that you do.

Ergonomics affects so many aspects of our daily lives—including how we sit, sleep, stand, lift, and reach. If not practiced properly, repetitive actions can lead to overused muscles, poor posture, and eventually to injury. As we age, our muscle and bone mass naturally decreases, which can lead to stiff joints and limited mobility.

No matter what activities you partake in at home, at work, or anywhere else, it’s important to make sure you’re safe and comfortable at all times. The following tips can provide a helpful starting point to assessing your ergonomic safety.

  • When sitting at a computer, make sure to keep feet flat on the ground, position monitor at eye level, and keep wrists flat and straight. Sit up straight—even the most expensive chair won’t protect you from creating tension in the neck and back without proper form.
  • If you’re sitting in one spot for a prolonged amount of time, take breaks to get up and walk around every hour to avoid slouching or slumping. Tighten and relax your abdominal muscles a few times in a row to improve core strength and keep your back safe.
  • Wear supportive footwear, especially when standing. Supportive shoes help maintain the body’s center of gravity and alignment of the spine.
  • When lifting something from the ground, bend only at the knees and hips, keep the object close to your body, and avoid twisting while lifting.
  • Get regular aerobic exercise—such as running, walking, or swimming—to help the muscles of the back stay strong and promote good posture.
  • Aside from posture and proper bodily techniques, proper lighting is important to keep eyes healthy and reduce the risk for eye strain. Position lighting to avoid glare on screens and use task lighting as needed.

Staying proactive and practicing proper techniques in everyday activities can be the difference in staying safe and healthy!