What Makes Argent Court Different?

I have often been asked, “What sets Argent Court apart from other assisted livings?”  I think the most important thing that sets us apart is longevity of staff, meaningful activities, and trained and caring staff.

We have numerous staff that have been with us over 5 years which in long term care is unheard of.  The biggest reason I think this is the case is because we look for people with the heart of a servant.  In our Seguin community, the administrator has been with Argent Court 20 years.  We also feel like it is important to staff each facility with a nurse.  Our regulations do not require us to do this, we just felt it is a good practice.  Elderly people have a myriad of health issues and it is reassuring to know that there is a nurse on-call 24/7 in the event there is an issue.  We typically staff with at least one nurse but in most facilities, we have two.

We keep residents engaged in meaningful activities.  You can view the activity calendars from each facility on our website. For example, I have linked to the Seguin location.  In addition, each community has its own Facebook page where they regularly post pictures of residents having fun.  I have linked to our Seguin facility but each facility has its own.  You can see from the myriad of activities that each community has its own activities based upon the unique interests of the residents.

Each staff person undergoes an orientation as well as 16 hours of on-the-job training, shadowing another employee until we feel as though they are able to adequately assist residents with activities of daily living.  Employees are also required to attend online monthly training.  This is above what is required by the regulations.  We regularly bring in speakers from the community on a variety of topics that are unique to the population we serve.

If you have any questions regarding your loved one, feel free to give us a call.  We’re always willing to help.

 

 

 

The Perfect Caregiver

At Argent Court we strive to find caregivers who embody our vision.  Our Mission Statement is as follows:

  • Argent Court is committed to providing exceptional assisted living that demonstrates our dedication to improving quality of lifestyle choices for seniors, and at the same time provides reassurance to those who love them.
  • Central to our commitment is the element of personalized, responsive care for residents, extended in the spirit of service and an atmosphere of appreciation for those we serve and with whom we work.  We strive to assist and accommodate our residents in a manner that fosters their independence, preserves their dignity, protects their rights, respects their privacy and honors their contributions in life.
  • The staff is edified by the fulfillment of their “need to serve” others in our work together.  We adhere to the principles of professionalism, integrity, and team work.  We also believe it benefits both residents and staff alike to celebrate and enjoy good fellowship as often as possible.

In today’s world the struggle is trying to find employees because we have fairly high standards.  We require our employees to pass a drug screen prior to hire, along with a clear criminal history.  Also central to what we’re looking for is a person with the heart of a servant.  As the second paragraph says, we provide “personalized, responsive care, extended in the spirit of service.”

As I have told people, if we find the person with the right attitude, we can teach them the mechanics of what we need them to do.   We cannot teach compassion.  This is something they must bring to the table.

I have been really impressed how a lot of our staff visit residents while they are away from the facility in the hospital or rehabilitation centers.  They do this on their own time and it shows first hand this is more than a job to them – it is a calling.  In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “I believe there is a calling for all of us.  I know that every human being has value and purpose.  The real work of our lives is to become aware.  And awakened.  To answer the call.”

We have found our best caregivers are those that enjoy this population.  They must enjoy serving others and be fulfilled by their “need to serve.”  These are the qualities we look for in the “Perfect Caregiver.”

Licensed versus Unlicensed

I recently came across a news article about elder abuse.  It was a horrible account of abuse in a San Antonio home.  Although the article didn’t specifically mention it, I am almost certain it was an unlicensed home.  The woman was charging $600 a month to allow people to stay there.  The article lists the home as a “boarding house.”

Several years ago an “independent living” community in San Antonio caught on fire.  It was a multi-level facility and numerous people perished in the fire.  Several firefighters gave an account of people being evacuated who could not walk and had to be carried out.  Doesn’t sound “independent.”  Unfortunately, independent living communities do not have to be licensed.  It was further reported the building was not fully sprinkled as it had been grandfathered because of the age of the building.

Years ago, I had a friend who placed her mom in an unlicensed facility.  The owner was very nice and said all the right things during her initial visit.  My friend’s mom had pretty bad dementia to the point that she could no longer feed herself.  After several months, she noticed her mom was losing a lot of weight.  She discovered they were basically starving her because they were not feeding her regularly and she couldn’t feed herself.  She ended up taking her mom out and placing her in a nursing home.  She also reported the lady to the authorities and she was subsequently closed down.

At Argent Court, we are surveyed regularly by Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  for health and life safety .  Our buildings are fully sprinkled both in the attics and in the main facility.  Although we don’t look forward to these surveys, we realize the importance of oversight.  It keeps us on our toes and makes certain we are doing the right things and more importantly, keeping residents safe.  HHS has a website that you can compare assisted living communities and other long-term care facilities.  Of course, this website only has information on “licensed” facilities.

In the state of Texas, you only have to be licensed if you have 4 or more residents.  So many people believe that because there are fewer people it will somehow be safer and provide better care.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  It may be cheaper and have fewer people but is it safer?  Do they have adequately trained staff?  Also, the one thing people a lot of times do not consider are activities.  Activities are very important as they keep residents engaged in daily activities.

The bottom line is you have to be an educated consumer.  Even at a licensed facility you need to do your homework to make an educated decision about placement.  At Argent Court, we welcome your questions and inquiries.  Even if you don’t select us, we’re happy to assist you in your search.

 

It’s All About Choices

In almost twenty years in the assisted living industry, the one thing I have come to realize is with the elderly people at this stage it’s all about choice.  I’ve tried over the years to put myself in their shoes.  They have been living for a long time independently and suddenly their world changes drastically through no fault of their own because of illness, accidents or some other life changing event.  They no longer can live independently because doing so becomes unsafe.  All of a sudden, their world as they have known it ceases to exist.  They now have to depend on others to make a lot of decisions on their behalf.  Some people realize this reality and yet others go kicking and screaming but at the heart of all of it is the loss of choice.  They no longer feel they have any choices or their independence.

I have counseled with many families about talking openly with their parents about how much they love them and they truly believe these changes are in their best interest.  I have also told them to have some things that they can still have input into such as what items they will bring to decorate their apartments, etc.

Here at Argent Court, we realize this phenomenon and try to allow residents to continue to have as many things as possible to choose from.  For instance, we have a set menu in the dining room but also offer alternatives.  We have some residents who “choose” to not come to the dining room for breakfast, they would rather sleep in.  When we have residents who we assist with bathing or dressing, we leave it up to them when they would like to have that assistance.  Some people like to bathe in the morning and others like to bathe at night.  We try to accommodate these “choices” as much as possible.  We have a myriad of activities at each of our communities and we leave it up to the residents about which activities they want to participate in and in fact ask for their input on what activities they would like.

We encourage people to look for an assisted living community long before they need it so they can be fully aware of what is out there and make an educated “choice.”   We are fully aware how difficult the transition to a long term care facility is and we are happy to help.  Feel free to call us if we can help in any way to make this choice the right one.

Music Memories

Last night I was watching a PBS special on Motown music.  They had Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, the Temptations and so many others.  This music  was popular when I was in high school and it brought back so many memories.  I remembered dancing to them as a teenager.  Some songs elicited some very specific memories.

This got me to thinking about how important music is to our residents.  There was documentary called “Alive Inside” I viewed it several years ago about how music stimulates memories.  The documentarian researches and finds music from a person’s childhood and has the residents listen and then discusses what memories the music invokes.  It is truly astounding.  The one resident at the very beginning of the documentary talks about how bad her memory is and that she can’t remember much.  The documentarian puts on a set of headphones with a song from her childhood and the memories start flooding back and she is able to articulate and discuss specific events from so many years ago.

I remember one resident in particular early on in my career.  Her name was Beulah and she had been a school administrator and was also a piano player.  She suffered from dementia and may have not known what day of the week it was but if you sat her in front of a piano and said, “Can you play, “Stormy Weather?”  She would say, “Can you hum a few bars?”  You would sing a few lines and she would play it.  She was amazing but yet she couldn’t remember what day it was.

There are also other studies about the power of music.  One is a book with the same title by Elena Mannes.  In it she explores how music affects different groups of people and how it can play an important role in health care.

We use music in a variety of ways at Argent Court.  We play music throughout the building and we are cognizant of what types of music the residents enjoy.  You can see by our calendar we also have a variety of groups that come in and provide musical entertainment.   We believe in the power of music and we work hard to incorporate it into our daily activities.

 

Alzheimers or Dementia

In 19 years in the assisted living industry, I have found that anyone who exhibits any symptoms of dementia are automatically labeled as having Alzheimers.  When I was in college, I had a professor who illustrated the differences between the two.  She said when you lose your keys and you can’t find them, that would be dementia; if you forget what the keys are for that would be Alzheimers.

One of the saddest cases I ever had was a friend asked me for some help with his mom who  had been placed in a locked Alzheimers unit.  He had visited our community and marveled at how sharp the residents were.  He said his mom was as sharp but she was in a locked unit.  He said he hated to visit her because the other residents were so out of it.  His description was they were catatonic. I asked whose decision it was to place her there and he said his sister.   I asked some more questions and told him I would be happy to visit her and give him feedback on what I found.

I went to visit and what I saw disturbed me to the core.  His mom was a very bright lady, extremely alert.  I was present when the caregiver came to assist with her meds.  The lady asked if the pill she was taking was for her hypertension – yes she used those words.  That was my first clue the lady was inappropriately placed.  The lady easily carried on a conversation and was quite lucid.  She talked about her care and said she was happy she could help out with the other residents who were obviously much worse off physically and mentally.  This lady would actually assist other residents.  She had the heart of a servant.  I walked away scratching my head on how such a sharp woman was placed in a locked unit.

I talked to the staff and they stated she was very sharp and indeed did help out with other residents.  I asked if she had ever tried to wander off and they said no she was quite compliant in every way.

Now I was on a mission.  I contacted the daughter who was responsible for placing her there.  She got real emotional when we spoke because she felt she had done something wrong.  I explained she acted with limited knowledge and I was there to help her on the request of her brother.  She said her mom had become forgetful and wasn’t taking her meds appropriately which is what prompted her to take her to the doctor in the first place.   I asked a lot of questions and what I came up with was the fact that she had taken her mother to a physician and he diagnosed her with Alzheimers so she found an Alzheimers unit.  I then asked what tests the physician had run and she said he hadn’t, he just talked with her.  I asked how long and she said about 5 minutes.

The pieces were finally coming together.  This lady acted in good faith based upon a diagnosis a physician had given her after a 5 minute chat.  What I was really angry about was the provider who was all too willing to place this woman in an environment she clearly was not appropriate for.  I  worked with the family to get her into a more suitable environment.  It took a lot because so many providers immediately were suspicious since she was coming from a locked unit.  I told them to tell the providers their “Geriatric Care Consultant” stated she was inappropriately placed where she was.

They eventually moved her to a Type A assisted living which not only saved them money but the resident was quite happy and had made a lot of new friends.  The move undoubtedly added years to her life.

This particular case ended well but highlights the need for an appropriate diagnosis and a lot of research to find the right placement.  Be an educated consumer and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.  Having dementia or forgetting things is not automatically Alzheimers.  A lot of people have confusion but can still be managed in a regular assisted living.  At Argent Court, we will not take people we do not feel are appropriate or who we cannot take care of.  In my mind, if the lady had a history of wandering, that would have been the only  reason to put her into a locked unit.

If you have any questions about your loved one, call us.  We’re here to help.

5 Signs Your Elderly Loved One May Need Help

I do talks about how you know when you need help or an assisted living placement.  AARP recently came out with an article that pretty well describes some things to look for.   They listed 5 things:

1.   Fall hazard – a person is falling a lot

2.  Unfinished business – they have a lot of unpaid bills and mail piling up.

3.  Car accidents and tickets – they have some unexplained “dings” on their car or tickets.

4.  Isolation – they are isolating themselves.

5.  Change in appearance – do they appear disheveled?  Are they bathing regularly?

I would add that you really need to keep in close contact to make sure your loved one is not being taken advantage of.  I recently visited my aunt who in the course of our one hour visit probably asked me 20 times if I would like some coffee.  While we were there, she saw the mailman deliver a few parcels.  She brought them in and opened them.  What she had received were two packages from Publishers Clearing House.  One was a blanket/throw that you could probably pick up at Walmart for about five dollars.  It had an invoice inside that said it was $49.95.  The next box was a set of dusters that was about the same price.  The point was she couldn’t remember ordering and kept saying she didn’t know how they got her information to send to her.   If anyone is ready for assisted living or at least closer monitoring she is.  Her dementia is really bad and I fear she could be ripe for someone to take advantage.  I spoke with her about moving and she wouldn’t hear of it.  I did contact her family and let them know my fears.

Over the years, I’ve heard numerous stories about people being taken advantage of.  I’ve often said there is a special place in Hell for people who would do something like that.  I feel like if we see something like the above, we have an obligation to report to someone.  If you see that your loved one might possibly need assisted living or some other type of care, give us a call.  We’re here to help.

https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2017/neglect-warning-signs-ag.html?cmp=SL-DSO-OUTBRAIN-DESKTAB-CAREGIVING-BRANDSAFE_5+Signs+Your+Loved+One+Needs+a+Caregiver_003b570d91ec3463a0cea4505fc3c64196_Fox+News+US

 

 

How to Live Longer

I recently saw a Ted Talk on the secret of living longer.   You may be surprised to hear what the most  common predictor of long life is.  In the talk, the psychologist reveals the strongest predictors are close relationships and social integration.  This is certainly counterintuitive to what we’ve been hearing as it rates higher than exercise, weight and even clean air.

The researcher, a psychologist named Susan Pinker traveled to the Italian island of Sardinia to study the fact that they have more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America.  She discovered it has less to do with diet and more to do with their emphasis on close personal and face-to-face interactions.

Having been in the assisted living business for the past 19 years, I must admit, this was no surprise to me.  I have certainly witnessed over the years that the people who have close personal relationships with family and friends seem to be happier and healthier.  They typically complain less, and have less somatic complaints.

In this video the researcher points out the importance of face-to-face contact releases oxytocin and dopamine is generated which is a natural pain killer.  She points out that having three stable relationships seems to be the magic number.  She goes on to illustrate that men who have had a stroke are better protected by social contact than medication.   There are lower rates of dementia in people who are socially connected.  In our culture, one quarter of people do not have anyone to talk to and social isolation is the public health risk of our time.  

At Argent Court, we are committed to keeping people active and connected through meaningful activities.  We strive to connect our residents to the community through weekly outings in the area to include lunch bunch, local shopping trips and library visits to name a few.  We also bring people in through programs such as reading with local elementary students and interaction with local college students.  As Ms. Pinker points out, building your village is a matter of life and death.  At Argent Court, we work daily to build and maintain our community or village.  If you have a loved one you believe is socially isolated and needs help with activities of daily living, give us a call.  We’re happy to help.

 

 

 

 

 

What To Look For When Choosing an Assisted Living or Long Term Care Community

I bet I get calls weekly from people who ask about what to look for in an assisted living or long term care facility. The first thing I tell them is to enlist the help of your five senses:

1. Sight – How do the people look? Do they look happy? Are they clean and dressed appropriately? Is the place clean? Are they licensed?

2. Smell – This is a big one. Does the place smell clean? Is there an odor of urine? I always love it when I give tours and the first thing people comment on is the fact that the building smells good. We work really hard to keep the place smelling good and that involves making certain residents are clean and that the trash is removed quickly.

3. Hearing – What sounds do you hear? Do the staff interact appropriately with the residents? Do they call them by their names? Are there activities going on? Do they sound like they’re having a good time? What are other residents saying about the place? Are people being summoned on an overhead paging system? This is something we don’t do because we are reminded that this is their home and as such, we need to treat it like their homes and be cognizant to that fact.

4. Taste – It is really important to taste the food. This is one thing residents look for and the one thing they complain about if it isn’t good.

5. Feeling – Does the place feel too cold or too hot. I always remind our staff to remember that we work in the resident’s homes, they don’t live in our workplace. At Argent Court each apartment has their own unit so residents can have it as hot or cold as they like.

Some other things to look for and ask about is what exactly can they handle in terms of care. People assume when they place a loved one in an assisted living community or long term care facility they are done. They will never have to do anything else. This is why it is so important to ask questions up front about what they can and cannot handle in terms of care.

I always tell people it is prudent to start looking for long term care options BEFORE you need them. So often people don’t start looking until they are in a crisis. At that point you risk not having an adequate amount of time to make an educated decision. Further, you may pick a community that does not have an opening.

If you have long term care insurance, you need to review your policy and make certain you know what it covers. I have seen numerous cases where people are very disappointed to find their policy may not cover what they thought it covered. You are always welcome to contact us and have us review your policy with you. Most policies for assisted living require a person to have needs for assistance with two activities of daily living. You need to know what those requirements are.

In summary, be an educated consumer. Feel free to contact us and allow us to help you. We are here to help.

 

Changes to Life

I recently stepped away from day-to-day operations at Argent Court. It was bitter sweet since I have been doing this for 19 years. I decided to focus on other things in life as my priorities have changed. The reality is I’m getting older and if this industry has taught me anything at all it is that life is short.

I recall years ago, I would take trips throughout the year with my husband who traveled internationally for business. When possible, I would tag along. I remember vividly several residents who would always say, “Do it while you can.”

Most recently I lost my dad. He was 84 years old. He and my mom both retired at 60 years old and joined an organization called Volunteer Christian Builders. They purchased a motor home and traveled the US building and refurbishing Baptist churches. After they got to the point that they could no longer travel, my parents always talked about how thankful they were they retired when they did and even more grateful for the opportunity to travel and spend time doing things they loved with like minded people. These particular memories have sustained my mom since the passing of my dad.

I have realized, life’s greatest gifts are certainly not things but relationships and memories built along the way. And…life is all about change.

Change is difficult no matter if it is good change or bad. At Argent Court we are keenly aware at how difficult change is and are ready to help whenever possible to make the transition as easy as possible for a loved one coming to assisted living. We are here to help.

If you have a loved one who you believe might be ready for assisted living, give us a call and allow us to help you.