Category Archives: Elderly Care

Making Your Senior Years the Best Years of Your Life

As we think about the later year of our lives there seems to be two basic schools of thought on the subject: Those who refer and believe them to be the “Golden Years” and those who stress about their age and supposed decline in health and social life that accompanies it. Here’s a couple of questions for us to consider. First, look back on your life and think about which decade was your best. Is it possible that your senior years can be the best years of your life? Or have you already made up your mind that they will be the worst? Have you made a list of your top five goals  as you move into your senior years? For instance they might include financial security, good health, spending time with family or maybe more travel. It’s probably pretty easy to list more than five goals.

Ok, so you’ve written your list, set your goals. Now what? The surprising truth here is that the most successful seniors, in terms of lifestyle and health, are the ones who obsess about it the least. Those who spend time enjoying their retirement and doing what they’ve been looking forward to all these years don’t have time to worry about fulfilling their bucket list. The key is not to obsess about the list. The most fulfilled seniors just live their lives! Simple, right?

The Power of Positive Thinking

There is a lot to be said for and a lot of research to back up the power of positive thinking. Some agree wholeheartedly with the philosophy and others disregard the evidence. When it relates to aging, it all has to do with the attitude that you bring with you into your seniors years. If you’re mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to embrace your future you will have a much more positive experience than someone who enters their 60’s or 70’s kicking and screaming. The latter group is adding so much stress by trying to look and stay young that they actually do themselves a disservice. While this group is fighting mother nature the more positive thinkers are out having fun and enjoying themselves which results in them actually feeling mentally and physically younger. Plus, you have to wonder how much the worry and stress is taking years off their lives.

What are your expectations as a senior?

Are you anticipating more illness, low energy levels, and a general decline during your older years? If that is what you’re expecting, it’s probably what will happen. This is not because the thoughts themselves have any power but instead because you send  signals to your mind and body that there will be no effort to stay fit and healthy. Because there is not effort made in those directions, poor health and low energy will result. This can be referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seniors who think that they will do well, maintain an active lifestyle and enjoy good health will do just as good as they think they will. Their counterparts with a negative attitude seem to be able to think themselves into illness and old age.

Cause and effect play a huge roll in scheme of things, especially as we age. A common example is someone who is active, gets out more, takes on projects, spends time with others and refuses to let old age get to them are the ones who stay happy and healthy longer and have a better quality of life throughout their retirement years.

Do unto others…

Another paradox of the importance of attitude on the quality of life as a senior has to do with thinking of others more than themselves. Older adults who volunteer and are active in helping others appear to be happier and more successful member so the senior community. Simply put, those who worry about others instead of themselves, benefit the most personally. Conversely, seniors who only worry about themselves have the most to worry about.

So if negativity comes more naturally to you and you’re interested in changing that try seeking better companionship. The old saying, misery loves company, holds true here. To improve your mental attitude hang out with people who are happy and active.  It’s worth it to change your outlook on life after retirement. If your attitude says you will get the best from life as a senior, you will experience just that. In fact, your senior years may end up being the best years of your life!

By: Kristen Sheston

Kristen Sheston is the Assistant Manager at The Continental at St. Joseph’s, the leading assisted living community in southern Iowa, located in Centerville.

Visit the website:

The Continuum of Care Concept

Continental Senior Living is a name that you may have seen or heard, but what is it? The Continental Hotel, The Continental at St. Joseph’s and The Continental Care Center at Seymour are what we like to refer to as a continuum of care, collectively known as Continental Senior Living. This is a term used in health care and when we talk about living options for seniors. Simply put, a continuum of care is a grouping of senior care facilities, either on the same campus or not, that can provide living options for seniors at every stage. Continental Senior Living is the only complete continuum of care offered in our area.

In this model for senior living, retirees that don’t want the responsibility of caring for their own home can live independently in their own apartment, comparable to The Continental Hotel apartments for well-elderly. They have some basic things provided: a secure living environment, convenient location, and options for additional services.

When one starts to need some reminders to take medication on time or someone to check their blood pressure periodically, they can transition to an assisted living facility within the same family, such as The Continental at St. Joseph’s Assisted Living. Often, the further you go in a continuum of care, the more services are offered or included. Our assisted living community includes most utilities, daily transportation, weekly housekeeping and laundry as well as some basic nursing services included in basic rent. Plus, there are additional levels of care if more services are needed.

When the tenant needs to have some skilled care as the result of a recent hospitalization or needs nursing home care on a long-term basis, they would then proceed to the associated skilled nursing facility, such as our very own Continental Care Center at Seymour. There you can receive skilled rehab services to regain strength and ideally return home or participate in different therapies on an ongoing basis for those who are not eligible to return to their previous living arrangement.

The benefits of the continuum of care model include a much smoother transition, deposits that are transferable from one building/community to another, freer communication between staff so that the community that is receiving the new tenant knows their habits, likes, dislikes and general routine. Plus, in most instances, tenants moving between communities are a shoe-in! “We will always strive to keep a tenant within our ‘family’ by anticipating changes in level of care and ensuring that there is a room/apartment ready for them when the tenant and family is ready to make the change,” said Kristen Sheston, assistant administrator for The Continental at St. Joseph’s.

With all of these benefits and options for care, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a continuum of care program?

Kristen Sheston is the Assistant Administrator of The Continental at St. Joseph’s, the leading assisted living community in southern Iowa, located in Centerville.

Why Is Assisted Living For Elderly Better Than Living At Home?

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a viable option for giving seniors the quality of life they deserve and it empowers them to live life on their terms. There is no standard definition for Assisted Living centers. At The Continental at St. Joseph’s (CSJ), we define Assisted Living, as “independent apartment living with some assistance with daily activities.” Tara Koestner, Administrator, states, “Assisted Living communities are designed to help disabled or senior adults bridge the gap between living at home and long term nursing care.” Assisted Living centers do not provide nursing home-type services. Independence and choice are the key operating principles in Assisted Living communities. Just like living at home, tenants are free to come and go as they please. They have freedom to decorate and personalize their apartments and they choose to participate in activities and outings. Assisted Living centers do offer assistance with household chores, personal care, and professional nurse monitoring. Think of Assisted Living as a place designed for people who are able to care for themselves except for assistance with a few activities of daily living. Tenants maintain personal privacy and independence in a setting that also offers numerous opportunities to build friendships. New tenants often comment, “I should have moved here years ago!”

The primary difference between living in an apartment at The Continental at St. Joseph’s Assisted Living community and living at home is peace of mind. Peace comes knowing that help is available 24 hours a day with a simple push of a button. Caring and knowledgeable staff are always there to provide help when needed. Routinely, CSJ staff cooks meals, cleans apartments, does laundry, shops for tenants, transports tenants to medical appointments, and most importantly makes sure that tenants take their medications on time. Professional nurses are on staff to talk to tenants about any health concerns and communicate with doctors, pharmacists, or therapists to ensure that tenant’s health concerns are addressed. No one can predict what challenges any of us may face in the future. When unpredictable situations arise, tenants do not have to worry. They will not face these challenges alone. Qualified, caring personnel are moments away ready to help.

Comparing the Costs: Living at Home, Assisted Living, or Long Term Care

“When comparing the cost of daily assistance for a health challenged senior adult, Assisted Living centers compare very favorability when it comes to quality, convenience, and affordability.” states Tara Koestner, Administrator, The Continental at St Joseph’s Assisted Living Center. Of course, everyone wants to live in their own home as long as possible. This is understandable and always the ideal situation as long as the aging adult is able to maintain a reasonable quality of life at home. Gradually, over time, subtle signs appear that indicate that aging adult may not be doing as well at home alone as the family would hope. Lora Lyons, Healthcare Coordinator at CSJ recommends that the family look for the following signs of unsafe behavior:

  • Falling and unable to get up without assistance.
  • Missed doses of medications and out of date medications.
  • Gradual loss of weight.
  • Lack of personal hygiene.
  • Unable to hear the phone or call for help.
  • Inability or unwillingness to leave their home.
  • Gets lost or looses objects frequently.
  • Living space shrinking to a space around the favorite chair.
  • Periodic little driving accidents.

All of the above behaviors happen normally with age and individually do not necessarily indicate unsafe behavior.. However, when an ongoing trend starts to appear, it is time for the family to consider making arrangement to assist this adult. There comes a point in time in this process where Assisted Living becomes the most cost effective means of providing quality of life assistance for a loved one.

When comparing the cost of Assisted Living and living at home, families need to take into consideration the following costs:

  • Rent, or mortgage, property taxes, and insurance.
  • Utility costs including: gas, electric, water, trash pick-up.
  • Home maintenance including; furnace maintenance, lawn care, snow removal, and home repairs. Consider the inconvenience of arranging maintenance and waiting for repairs.
  • Cost of food and/or meal delivery. Consider the quality of nutrition and the lack of enjoyment eating alone.
  • Cost of outside assistance for housekeeping, laundry services, transportation to medical appointments, or home health.
  • Cost of technology, such as cable TV, Life Line, and medical monitoring devices.
  • Concerns about management of medical issues, for example; oxygen use and obtaining oxygen supplies, diabetes management and obtaining diabetic supplies, and proper incontinent management.

When considering all of the costs associated with living at home, Assisted Living Centers like The Continental at St. Joseph’s, become more affordable than one might initially think, especially when long term care insurance could pay most if not all of the costs. If you compare the cost of living in an Assisted Living apartment compared to the cost of living in a Long Term Care facility, Assisted Living Centers costs less.

According to Tara Koestner, “Assisted Living Centers are places where senior adults thrive not simply exist.” A daily social interactions, outings, physical exercise, etc. keep seniors mentally sharp and physically strong. Monthly tenants can enjoy social activities, like Bingo or Wii Bowling, and musical entertainment. At The Continental at St. Joseph’s, all of these ammenities are included in the basic rent, in addition to weekly shopping, transportation to and from local appointments, and three well-balanced meals each and every day. Most important to families is the peace of mind that comes with the healthcare monitoring services. of 24 hour security services and daily onsite health aide visits which most seniors just don’t have at home.

The main thing to remember here is quality of life. Our loved ones have worked very hard to get to where they are. Don’t they deserve every opportunity to relax and enjoy this phase of their lives? Why not let someone else do the things that they don’t enjoy so that there is more time for them to do the things they love. Assisted living is a unique environment where seniors can do just that.

How to Discuss a Family’s Concerns about the Safety of Your Aging Loved One

Plan to Talk about Future Living Arrangements

Deciding when and how to discuss a family’s concerns about the safety of your aging loved one is difficult at best. Family and friends recognize signs that tell them their aging parent should no longer be living alone, but how does the family address their concerns with the parent? How do you talk to your father about his ability to continue to drive safely? Avoiding these difficult topics does not make the situation go away and family dynamics become tense.

Tara Koestner, Administrator, of The Continental at St. Joseph’s (CSJ) Assisted Living Center advises families to start these discussions early while aging family members are still doing well. By having sensitive discussions while the aging adult is still doing well, the family improves their chances of a smooth transition from independence to increasing dependence. Ideally, the family can develop a plan that respects the wishes of their senior family member as to where they will live when they become frail. The most important step is getting the discussion started. Tara recommends having a plan to start the conversation. She has developed the follow list of tips to assist family members feel more comfortable discussing their concerns about their loved ones future health and living arrangements:

Tips for Initiating a Conversation

Extended family decision makers need to agree in principal.

Although extended family members may not agree as to when their loved one should have assistance with daily living, hopefully, they can agree on the type of help (home health, assisted living, skilled care, or long term care) would be appropriate when assistance is required. The Continental at St. Joseph’s administration recommends that the family elect one person to be the healthcare “manager” and other family members agree to support the manager’s efforts. Tara Koestner states, “If extended family members can agree in principal first, the decision making process regarding when changes are needed to keep senior adults safe goes smoother.

Approach the subject of alternative living arrangements indirectly.

Use an example of someone else their age and a problem that they are dealing with. Ask your loved one, “What would you do in that situation?” Or try to offer some small tips, like using a pill organizer, to manage medications.

Watch for openings to the conversation.

Senior adult comments about difficulties or sarcastic remarks about “being put away” may be subtle statements indicating that more help is needed. Listen for hints of frustrations or worries your family member may have.

Share your feelings about their changing life. Assure them that they can always ask you for help when they need it.

Be direct, but non-confrontational.

You want to get your point across without making your loved one feel like they’re being interrogated. Use a matter of fact approach with as little emotion as possible.

Make a list.

The Continental at St. Joseph’s management suggests that families consider giving the aging adult a list of questions and concerns and schedule a time to discuss it them. This gives the senior adult time to prepare for the discussion and a chance to think about the types of help that they would be open to considering. Focus your list on key points. Let your loved one know that you do not want to guess about the type of assistance they may want in future. Guessing can lead to serious mistakes and hard feelings. Discuss with them their concerns about their current condition and their feelings about the future. Tell them the list includes subjects are you worry about and you need to know their thoughts on the subjects. Try to cover these topics:

  • Current housing: Is their housing accommodations still ok? Would some simple modifications help?
  • Daily activities: Do they need help with house work, laundry, meal preparation, or bathing? Can they hear the door bell and telephone ring? Are they still able to socialize with friends?
  • Mobility: Are they experiencing any difficulty with balance, walking, or getting out of the chair? Have they considered using a cane or walker? Can they still see well enough to drive? Are they able to park the car with ease? Are they able to react safely to varying road situations? Are they getting where they need to go?
  • Health: When did they see the doctor last and what did the doctor say? Are prescriptions current? Do they remember to take their medications on time? Would installing a Life Alert system make them feel safe?
  • Finances: Does their insurance coverage provide for home health care? Would they consider letting a home health aide come to their home to assist them? Do they have long term care insurance? Are they or their deceased spouse a Veteran and eligible for VA financial assistance to help pay for assisted living expenses? Do they need to consider making an application for Elderly Waiver Assistance through the State Human Resources Department? Would it be a good time for a family member to be added to the bank account to pay bill should an emergency arise? Who is the financial power of attorney?

Tara Koestner warns families to expect some resistance to discussing these issues. This is normal. Senior adults may try to reassure family members telling them that everything is fine or telling you to mind your own business. But remind them that the family will be dealing with these issues sooner or later, it is best to plan ahead by learning what the senior adult may see as appropriate for their future so you can respect their wishes:

  • Respect their feelings. If they are clearly avoiding the subject, try again later.
  • Push the issues of health and safety, while keeping in mind that they are in charge of their own lives.
  • Act firmly, but with compassion. If you decide that it can’t wait any longer, tell them that the situation has to be dealt with immediately.
  • Involve other people that they turn to and trust such as a minister, doctor, lawyer or family friend.
  • Get information from community resources such as home health care, meals on wheels or a transit bus to get where they need to go. Share these options with them.

Most importantly, keep the conversation positive. Try not to ‘parent’ your parents. Continue to treat them as important decision makers. As long as their judgment is not impaired, they should be able to make their own decisions. Discuss all of the alternatives, home health care and assisted living centers are viable options for helping senior adults bridge the gap from independence to accepting help.

The Continental at St. Joseph’s Assisted Living Community for Seniors in Iowa

We are an Assisted Living and Memory Care Community in Iowa, recognizing that there has been an obvious gap in lifestyle opportunities, the Continental at St Joseph’s steps forward to bridge this gap between independence and dependence.

Our Staff

At The Continental at St. Joseph’s our full time Registered Nurse, trained assistants, complete dining staff, recreational activities coordinator, and housekeepers understand that the residents don’t live where they work, but they work where the resident’s live–in their home.

Our professional staff also understands the importance of addressing our residents’ entire needs, from their physical health to their social well-being. With this “holistic approach” our staff often hears comments like, “I wish I’d moved here sooner, I love my new lifestyle and feel healthier than I have in years!”

Staff Testimonials:

“Where else could you go to work and se 50 grandparents every day and get paid for it? It also doesn’t hurt that they have a couple of baking activities each week.” -Scott Hukriede, Maintenance Supervisor

“It’s a pleasure to work in such a beautiful place surrounded by such caring co-workers and pleasant tenants.” -Juwan Terry, Resident Assistant


Tenant Testimonial:

“How wonderful this place is!! My husband John Grismore died recently and I have only been living here a short time but I want to express to you my appreciation for all the many things you have done for this town and the people of this town. This building (CSJ) gives us a wonderful place to live- good food- caring personnel. Thank you!” – Virginia Grismore

Exclusive Features of Assisted Living Apartments & Neighborhood:

  • Kitchenette in each apartment, (includes microwave & refrigerator with ice maker)
  • Full Bathrooms (includes shower with seat, grab bars, removable hand held shower head)
  • Home Style Kitchen Available for use
  • Lovely, Dining Areas & Terrace overlooking view of Cooper Creek
  • Recreational Patio Areas
  • Activities of Daily Living Assistance available

Exclusive Memory Care Apartments & Neighborhood Features:

  • Lovely, Secured Patio Area
  • Partial Bathrooms in each room
  • Supervised, Well-Heated Bathing Room
  • Assistance with Activities of Daily Living
  • Purposeful, Carefully Selected Decor to enhance memories & cueing
  • Supervised Home Style Kitchen
  • Wander Protection System
  • Specially trained staff, RN on Call 24 hours/day

For more information, please visit this website:

How to Be a Heavy Drinker: Hydration for Seniors

As I write this article, we are not experiencing particularly warm weather in Iowa. It’s 64 degrees in June but as soon as I blink it’ll be 101. Hot weather brings up the topic for this month’s informational article. However, hydration is not the only concern for seniors when the weather is warm.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to dehydration. Some of them include diarrhea, vomiting, overheating, diabetes, diuretic medications, high fever and excessive sweating. If you experience any of these, be aware and make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids.

You may ask yourself: What is hydration? Well, it refers to a person’s body water balance. Dehydration, which is the real problem, occurs when people don’t have enough fluid in their bodies. Many seniors have problems with hydration. Dehydration is both a serious problem and easy to prevent. If not treated it could result in death.

What puts seniors at greater risk for dehydration? First, is that the ability to feel thirst lessens with age; seniors may not realize when they need to drink more. They may also be using the bathroom more frequently which means they are losing more fluid. Another factor is that as we age we lose muscle and gain fat. Muscle holds water, fat does not. As we age the amount of water in the body decreases. In addition, medications that increase urination or help with constipation can also put seniors at risk for dehydration.

So what should you look for in order to know if you are dehydrated? Symptoms include thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow urine, fatigue and irritability. If it progresses to dizziness, blackouts when sitting up or standing, confusion, muscle weakness or cramping, sunken eyes, low blood pressure or increased heart rate you need to go to the ER or contact your doctor immediately: these are life threatening symptoms.

If you’re not a big fan of dehydration there are steps you can take to be proactive: don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, by this time you’re already experiencing dehydration.

Try carrying a water bottle with you so you can take drinks frequently, aim for a minimum of eight cups of water each day. When the temperature rises, increase your fluid intake, too. This will help replenish what is lost when we sweat. We should all start and end the day with a cup of water. Do not substitute alcohol or caffeinated drinks for water. Last but not least, know the signs and symptoms of dehydration so that you can take action immediately.

Take care, keep hydrated and enjoy the warm weather…..whenever it returns.

The Continental at St. Joseph’s is the leading assisted living community in southern Iowa, located in Centerville.


By: Kristen Sheston

Kristen Sheston is the Assistant Administrator at The Continental at St. Joseph’s

Spotlight on Senior Health: Identifying Malnutrition and Ways to Combat It

Good nutrition is important for people of all ages, especially seniors who may be facing several obstacles to a healthy diet. For families and caregivers, knowing what to look for and possible causes for inadequate nutrition can be a life saver– literally.

Identifying the causes of malnutrition may seem obvious: not eating, not getting enough nutrients, or possibly a medical condition. But malnutrition is often caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological factors. For example:

• Health problems: decreased appetite, certain medications, trouble chewing, difficulty absorbing nutrients.
• Limited income or social contact: trouble affording groceries with the cost of expensive medications. Seniors eating along may not enjoy meals and lose interest in eating.
• Depression: loneliness, poor health, and decreased mobility may contribute to depression and loss of appetite.
• Alcoholism: acting as a substitute for meals. Alcohol also decreases the appetite.
• Restricted diets: limited salt, fat, protein and sugar can be bland and unappealing.

When an insufficient diet goes undetected it may lead to fatigue, depression, weakened immune system and risk of infection, reduced red blood count (anemia), muscle weakness which can then lead to falls and fractures, digestive, lung and heart problems and poor skin integrity. Proper nutrition is particularly important for older adults who are seriously ill and those who suffer from dementia or experience weight loss.

The first step to combating this issue with your loved one is knowing what to look for. Take time to observe their eating habits and not just at special occasions. If they live alone, who buys his or her groceries? If they live in a long term care facility, visit during mealtimes. Next, look for the physical signs: poor healing, easy bruising, dental problems and weight loss (changes in how clothing fits). Finally, know their medications. Many drugs have an effect on appetite, digestion and the absorption of nutrients.

So what can you do if you suspect malnutrition? Start by encouraging your loved one to eat foods packed with nutrients; add nut butters, fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs and cheese to food. Another easy way can be to wake up bland foods by experimenting with herbs and spices or lemon juice. You can also seek the help of a dietician with this step. Planning between-meal snacks can be particularly helpful since older adults tend to get full quickly. Try making mealtime a social event by joining them or encouraging them to eat with others. By encouraging daily physical activity, the appetite is stimulated and bones and muscles become stronger. If cost is a concern, try providing money saving tips like clipping coupons or watching sales. Encourage them to visit restaurants that offer senior discounts. Visit with your loved one’s doctor about changing medications that affect appetite.

Remember, identification and treatment of nutrition problems early on can promote good health, independence and increased longevity. Assisted living communities like The Continental at St. Joseph’s can ensure that your loved one is getting three well-balanced each day. If you suspect signs of malnutrition be sure to take steps now to ensure your loved one’s health.

Kristen Sheston is the Assistant Administrator at The Continental at St. Joseph’s, the leading assisted living community in southern Iowa, located in Centerville.

More information is available at