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.

Connecting through music

Family was the main draw for Stan Stewart when he moved to Touchmark. “I wanted to live closer to my son,” he says. When he and his son first visited Touchmark, he was impressed with the different levels of care available.

“It seemed like a good fit.” Once settled, he quickly grew to appreciate the community of people seeking social connection, something lacking where he had previously lived. “There, the residents had all grown up together, attended the same high school, and spent their whole lives there. It was hard. I have a lot more friends at Touchmark. The people here are more likely to make friends.”

Stan and his son Christopher, who plays flute, guitar, and piano, share a deep love of music, and the father and son attracted a large audience when they played in the Touchmark lobby. “The place was packed!”

Music was the path to a new friendship with Harry Kramer, who heard Stan singing, and the two men started talking about music. Harry, who started piano lessons at age 5 and has played keyboards for 30 years, says he’s impressed with the quality and range of Stan’s voice.

“I often accompanied my wife when we played at dances. She was a big hit when she played an electric bass guitar. She got the standing ovations, and I got all the sitting ovations,” Harry jokes.

Stan enjoys Harry’s sense of humor and says it’s better to perform with him than alone. The two now regularly play together, often treating residents to lively, toe-tapping performances.

Generations of music
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Stan says his love of music grew from deep roots. His greatgrandfather played the fife in the Civil War. His grandfather played the flute. His father was in the military, so the family moved around a lot before settling in Modesto, California. “I learned how to play the guitar in college, but my true instrument is my voice.”

“I communicate with people through music,” he says, adding that he characterizes his music as more of an avocation than a full-time job. After studying economics at the University of California at Davis, Stan pursued a career in business that included insurance and estate planning, much of that time in Modesto.

Singing semiprofessionally
The road to performing in public started when he played some chords on a guitar at the insurance office where he worked. A coworker invited him to his house for band practice, and the other musicians asked him to sing with them for an Open Mic night.

“The next night I was the lead singer for a band.”

Stan says there are two kinds of music: country and western. “If it doesn’t tell a good story, I’m not interested in it.”

He often opened his shows with the Johnny Cash signature song Folsom Prison Blues. Stan croons the opening lines: “I hear the train a comin’. It’s rollin’ ‘round the bend. And I ain’t seen the sunshine since, I don’t know when.”

Travel time to gigs with bandmates was often spent singing so they were warmed up by the time they arrived. “Once we were done performing, we walked off the stage and divvied up the money.”

After entertaining for 10 years in Modesto, Stan now is part of a duet, having formed a friendship through a shared love of music. “Harry is very talented and knows many of the songs I like to sing. He’s got the talent, and I just sing along,”

Harry credits Stan with reviving his love of playing. Dealing with the grief of losing his wife of nearly 60 years was “the most horrible time.” He says the community of friends at Touchmark helped him to embrace the idea that “life is for the living.”

Today, Stan and Harry take pleasure sharing their musical talents with each other—and spreading the joy of music to others.

Stan and Harry

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.

Nurture your social wellness this spring!

Regardless of what the weather forecast says for this month, spring is on its way! This season of growth is a great time to reconnect with friends and cultivate social wellness after a long and cold winter inside.

Socialization and friendships provide significant benefits to our overall health and wellness including enhancing mental health and self-esteem, providing a sense of belonging and purpose, and holding us accountable when our schedule becomes a little less structured.

Making new friends is not always as easy as it sounds, but there are opportunities abound for nearly everyone these days—especially in today’s connected world.

  • Take advantage of community events. Retirement communities provide many classes, performances, and outings at little to no cost, often with transportation included.
  • Get online. If distance or transportation is an issue, connect with friends via FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, or other digital mediums.
  • Volunteer your time. Giving back stimulates many different aspects of personal wellness, and helps to support great causes, as well!
  • Share your interests and expertise. If you can’t find something to join, consider teaching a class or starting a club of your own, which will likely draw in those with similar interests. As you’re getting out and participating in different events, consider those who may be feeling isolated and extend an invitation! A kind gesture goes far and will likely be reciprocated in the future to further cultivate your own social wellness.

Enjoying your collections

Recently I heard that young people today don’t really collect things. That’s not the case for those of us from earlier decades. Over the years, we’ve collected memorabilia. Snowmen, dolls, trains, dishes, quilts, teacups, photos, and much more bog down our closets, attics, and minds. But with every added item comes added responsibility. We must pay for it, know where it is, store it, dust it, and insure it. This can be exhausting and expensive!

There comes a time when for whatever the reason, our collections begin to be neglected. Instead of regretting this moment, we must allow ourselves the freedom to find new homes for these special items. Good homes can often be found online or by putting the word out to friends who would appreciate the treasures and continue to celebrate them. Museums and private collectors can be ecstatic to care for (and perhaps even purchase) your items.

As organizing consultants, we are often helping clients “give well” and part with belongings thoughtfully. Careful “rehoming” of collections brings relief and even pride to those who are simplifying, knowing they’re sharing their passion with others. After trimming the volume of your collections, prioritize your favorites so you can actually enjoy them. Hang those legacy quilts on the back of your couch or on the wall. Proudly display your grandmother’s teacups. And please: use the good china!

Vicki Norris, president of Restoring Order®, is a nationally recognized organizing expert, author, and speaker. Her team of professional organizers serves home and business clients in Washington and Oregon. You can watch her organizing segments on KPTV’s Fox 12 More Good Day Oregon. Visit RestoringOrder.com for more information.

Lead an enriched life this year!

At the start of a new year, we look ahead at what’s to come and consider what we’d like to change from the year before. What do you want to accomplish this year?

No matter your age or situation, it’s never too late to make a change—and there are many simple things we can all do to enhance our personal wellness and feel good today and every day!

While working toward making a change, it can often be valuable to think of our goal as a habit we wish to permanently incorporate into our lifestyle, rather than something with a specific end mark.

Here are a few ideas to consider incorporating into your daily routine:

  • Drink a full glass of water first thing each morning. Get hydrated and get a fresh start.
  • Set a mantra or plan for each day. Begin your day with a goal in mind, no matter how small or simple it may be.
  • Move as much as you can. Set a timer to move around or at least change position every 30 to 60 minutes each day.
  • Do a good deed for someone else. When someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, pay it forward. A selfless act feels good to giver and recipient, and can help inspire kindness in others, as well!

Cultivating a general sense of wellness can help us feel our best and have more energy to spend on what makes us happy. Focusing on ourselves throughout the year means that we can approach each new milestone with confidence.