Tag Archives: Kristen Sheston

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.


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 http://www.thecontinentalatstjosephs.com/.

Bucket List

A “Bucket List” is a new phenomenon based on a movie of the same name in which two terminally ill men try to fulfill a wish list known as “The Bucket List” before each kicks the bucket. After they break out of a cancer ward, they head off on a road trip with an itinerary that includes racing cars, eating giant plates of caviar and slinging poker chips in Monte Carlo.

In April, several Continental at St. Joseph”s tenants in Centerville, Iowa welcomed Amy Crawford of Iowa Hospice to do an activity based on The Bucket List. The tenants of the assisted living facility identified items that were needs, such as food, medication and shelter. Next, participants pinpointed their wants, which might include going on a cruise, seeing a family member they have lost touch with, or attending an exercise class a few times a week. I was surprised at some of the things that our tenants were dreaming of!

The Bucket List idea can be taken in many different directions. Recently, I read an article in The Journal of Active Aging about a triad of retirement communities that implemented a wellness program that dared its residents to partake in their “100 Ways to Wellness Challenge.” “Our 100 Ways to Wellness program was a list of 100 wellness tasks designed to inspire residents to step outside of their comfort zones and engage in life in very meaningful ways,” said Allison Pait, Wellness Director and one of three creators of the program. Some of the 100 Ways to Wellness include bringing your own coffee mug instead of using Styrofoam, inviting a neighbor over for tea and learning to send an email.

Kisco Senior living also encouraged participants in the program to journal their progress and then rewarded them with drawings each time they completed one of the tasks. In addition to journaling, taking pictures of what an accomplished goal looks like, could be very motivating.

After reading this article, I was inspired to write my own bucket list and I challenge you to do the same. What do you want? What do you need? What will it take for you to feel fulfilled? How great would it feel to do something you’ve been dreaming of?

I invite you to take a step outside of your comfort zone. Try something new. Prove someone wrong. I guarantee, you’ll feel amazing inside and out.

Kristen Sheston is Assistant Administrator at The Continental at St. Joseph’s, Inc. in Centerville, Iowa. More information is available at www.thecontinentalatstjosephs.com.

All the Lonely People

After reading an article from “A.A.R.P-The Magazine” about an epidemic of chronic loneliness in our country, I was compelled to share this information with all of you. “This affliction”, experts tell us, “is an ever-present, self-perpetuating condition that pushes people away from relationships that sustain us and make us happy.”

In reading this piece I, being in the assisted living industry and holding the Assistant Administrator position at The Continental at St. Joseph’s in Centerville, Iowa, was excited to hear that age does make a difference with chronic loneliness: “Those who said they are suffering most are not the oldest among us, but rather adults in their 40s and 50s.” Good news for me, not so much for the estimated 44 million adults over age 45 who suffer from it. Aside from age, loneliness was equally represented in those surveyed, regardless of race, gender, or education levels.

Not only is chronic loneliness undesirable, there is also evidence that it significantly increases chances of diabetes, sleep disorders and other potentially life threatening problems and an increased risk of high blood pressure, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, weakened immune systems and Alzheimer’s disease.

So now that you’re aware of what chronic loneliness is and why it’s no good, what can we do to combat it and, in turn, live a healthier, more enjoyable life? While there”s no easy cure, here are some steps that we encourage at The Continental at St. Joseph’s that may help to broaden your horizons:

• Nurture your personal relationships.
• Don’t substitute electronic communication for face-to-face contact.
• Take time to volunteer.
• Join a social club or community organization.
• Stay in touch with former colleagues after you retire.
• Educate yourself about loneliness.

Remember, everyone feels lonely from time to time, for example, after a divorce or loss of a loved one. This is situational and, although painful, is a temporary condition. Chronic loneliness, however, is a destructive cycle that can be difficult to reverse.

This information is vital as the 40-50 year olds surveyed in this study begin to enter their later years. Settings like an assisted living can help older adults battle such situations because of their non-isolating set-up. For example, residents of The Continental at St. Joseph’s are encouraged to eat meals together in the main dining room. Three meals a day are provided and there is a small fee for a room tray if there is no apparent need for one (i.e. illness). In addition, activities are built into each and every day; even when weather is bad there are plenty of people to socialize with and many opportunities to participate which are already planned for them. Likewise, older adults in their own homes may miss out on social interaction for days or weeks if weather is unfavorable.

So in closing, I’d like to remind those feeling lonely, whether temporary or chronic, that they need to start small. Realize that you are vulnerable and that it is not easy to rid yourself of this condition. You will have to work to keep loneliness at bay. You will have to say yes to an offer to participate even when you would rather not. But just like exercise is important for physical health, interacting with others is important for our mental health.

On that note, have a healthy and happy 2011!

Kristen Sheston is Assistant Administrator at The Continental at St. Joseph’s, Inc. in Centerville, Iowa. More information is available at www.thecontinentalatstjosephs.com.