Glide into 2017


In this high tech world with all the gadgets that promise to make your life better, we are now seeing that a simple rocking chair can improve your health and your overall sense of well-being. Before you conjure up some antiquated image of an old person in a rocking chair, you need to see the evidence. Studies are being conducted by a number of leading colleges on the possible benefits of spending time rocking in a rocking chair.

Many of us have spent time rocking or gliding enjoying the soothing relaxing movement. Researchers are showing that rocking chairs help to reduce pain. The spinal cord can work in only one direction. So, when the brain is sending impulses down to the legs to push the rocker the pain receptors are blocked. President John F Kennedy got relief from his chronic back pain by spending time in a rocking chair.

Rocking chairs have been shown to improve the emotional health of those suffering from depression, anxiety and/or dementia. Researchers found by simply rocking back and forth in a rocking chair for at least an hour a day improves the psychological and emotional well being of the person rocking. No study reports why this works, but the results show the more rocking you do the better the results.

A team in New York State Department of Health did a rocking chair study of 25 nursing home residents who were diagnosed with dementia. After six (6) weeks of monitoring the residents, rocking for at least an hour a day, the team found the residents were emotionally calmer. Anxiety, tension and depression were decreased and these residents required less pain medication.

A surprising benefit was the residents had better balance after rocking. The light exercise that happens while rocking burns calories, improves knee extension, and strengthens calf muscles giving residents better ability to stand up straight.

Recently, with a memorial monetary gift from the Wendell Rempel family, Sierra View Homes purchased six (6) new rocking chairs for Marden’s Place, our assisted living memory care unit. The chairs are unique in that when you sit down in them the chair stays firmly in place. When you lean back the rocking mechanism releases and the chair starts moving. This initial engagement is a great benefit to the residents who could be unaware of how to make a rocking chair move. The residents start to rock and often will keep the chair moving. When it is time to stand up the rocking mechanism disengages as the person leans forward to stand. Once again the chair is solid with no motion.

The rocking chairs are used regularly and are frequently requested by the residents. Rarely do I see a chair-sitting idol. The staff in Marden’s Place tells me the chairs have made a difference in how they care for the residents. “The residents are more calm and they seem happier,” a staff member recently told me. Another staff member said her “residents seek out the chairs and are disappointed if they are all in use.”

Rocking brings a safe activity to people who live a sedentary lifestyle. It does not make up for strength–training such as lifting weights but it has value in increasing strength, decreasing pain and creating a sense of well-being in a person who rocks regularly. So, my advice is to dust off those old rockers and place them in a place of prominence and glide or rock on through 2017.


“You have Parkinson’s” a friend of mine heard when she went to a Neurologist to find out why her hand would not stop shaking. She now had an explanation for the shaking hand that she could not stop no matter how hard she tried. “I have the same disease as actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali,” she reported. “It is time to understand more about Parkinson’s disease? How did I get this disease? What can I do to get rid of it? “ She was full of questions.

Parkinson’s disease affects the brain. It affects certain nerve cells called neurons and gradually breaks them down so they don’t work. When these neurons are healthy they produce a chemical messenger substance called dopamine. Dopamine is necessary for normal brain activity. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity. This abnormal brain activity produces the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Why certain people get the disease and others do not is a big mystery. Scientists say there are several factors that could play a role. One factor could be your genes, but research is quick to point out a genetic link is rare. The genetic link becomes a factor if you have immediate family members who have Parkinson’s disease. Another risk factor to consider is exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors such as pesticides, insecticides and more but again, research in inconclusive as to which environmental factor might be the trigger. Researchers continue to look for what triggers the neurons to decline in order to find a cure.

Parkinson’s disease signs and symptoms vary from person to person. Early signs can be slight enough to go unnoticed for years. Early warning signs can be the loss of the sense of smell or your handwriting becomes shaky. As the disease progresses, typically the physical symptoms start on one side of the body. There could be tremors or shaking often in the hand or fingers. The tremor continues even when your hand is resting. Rigidity in the leg muscles can create a difference in your ability to walk. Your steps may become shorter and you may have more difficult picking up your feet. Parkinson’s disease can change the way you speak, affect your posture and disrupt your ability to do personal care. Most people with Parkinson’s continue to lead effective lives. It is only when it becomes acutely pronounced that it can become debilitating

Since Parkinson’s disease affects the brain it could also affect thinking, sleep, swallowing and more. Depression could be a big challenge. It is important you have a support group and talk to your doctor about how you are feeling and be proactive about your symptoms. Retirement Communities such as Sierra View Homes are good places to find support groups.

As of now there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease but there are things you can do to help yourself. One way to enhance daily quality of life and even build impressive power, strength, and flexibility is to train like a boxer. Rock Steady is a popular boxing class just for people with Parkinson’s disease. The training exercises are geared to the symptoms that are often present. Training for boxing has shown to give Parkinson’s sufferers ability to have quality of life. Swimming or water aerobics is also a great exercise to keep fighting against Parkinson’s symptoms. The sweeping movements help with strength and balance. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to plan an exercise program. It is important that people with Parkinson’s disease keep exercising and moving to maintain strength, balance and control. It is not only a benefit in reduced symptoms but exercise also helps stave off depression.

There have been good results with deep brain stimulation where a probe is placed in the brain and is connected to a generator implanted in the chest. The probe sends electrical pulses to the brain and reduces Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Some people have great results in symptom reduction.

Medications for Parkinson’s disease have improved over the past decade. Carbidopa-levodopa is the most effective mediation according to Mayo Clinic research. As with all medications there are risks and side effects. It is important to work closely with your doctor to find the right medicine and dosage that gives you the best outcome.

Researchers all over the world are working on finding a cure. Some are looking for what causes a person to get Parkinson’s disease; some are looking at specific proteins in the brain that could be the trigger of neuron depletion.; another research program is looking at a specific artery in the brain that may hold the answers. Maybe we will see a cure soon.

In the meantime, if you have heard the words “you have Parkinson’s disease”, take heart. Work with your doctor to have the best course of action to maintain the highest quality of life, don’t stop moving and find a support group to have a community that understands what you are experiencing. There are many people who are on the same road and supporting each other gives encouragement to be the best you can be.

Food: Seniors Want Fresh, Organic, and Made-to-Order in a Fine Dining Atmosphere


Photo courtesy of

Eating organic foods, more fresh produce and less processed food seems to be the current trend. Seniors are starting to rally to that table of fresh, homemade food, even after a lifetime of poor eating habits. People who are coming to live on retirement community campuses are demanding food choices that promote a heart healthy diet. It is important for food service to meet the needs and the wants of the people who live in the community.

Today’s social norms have pushed meal times to be fast paced, perhaps an inconvenience. Mealtime is a social time for seniors. It is a time when residents enjoy visiting with family and friends. The wait time and coffee after is spent visiting listening to hear the tales of the day. Quality of life is most visible at meal time. Retirement Communities’ food service keep asking the question: Is the food not only presented in an appetizing and appealing manner, but is it true to the needs and desires of the resident?

Many years ago when I started working in long-term care much of the food served was processed. There never was any fresh fruit or fresh salads. The vegetables were always cooked till they were soggy and the amount of salt in all the food was staggering. Every Resident Council and Care Plan meeting had food complaints and concerns. Dietary staff was simply charged with getting three meals a day out to the residents. There was the main dish, which was served to everyone. If someone said “I don’t like that,” the server would go back to the kitchen for the alternate most likely a sandwich, and that was the end of choices. Standalone nursing homes were especially prone to a dull plate. As retirement communities and assisted living communities started paying more attention, nursing facilities followed. Now Medicare pushes the care of residents in Skilled Nursing to a more resident-centered care and food service also needed to change. Food choices are important. Having healthy choices for residents has become a priority. New people moving onto the retirement community campus have become more vocal about having healthy food choices. Food committees have sprung up to help dietary services understand what is desired for the food choices.

Of course, expectations for improved food services and experiences present senior living communities with a variety of challenges. Residents may have religious; cultural or ethnic food needs or preferences. Food allergies have become more common. Making sure people get the right diet therapeutically and by preference takes a vigilant staff keenly aware that each person needs to be served the right foods. Also, the multitude of plates have to arrive at the table hot, tasty and appealing, all within the one hour of the mealtime window.

Sierra View Homes is working toward increasing healthy food choices for the people who dine here. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes are still served on occasion but it is more likely you will see a fish choice on the menu. Actually I can’t knock the Sierra View Minerva Meatloaf. It is many resident’s favorite dish which is a favorite of many residents. A salad bar gives a choice of fresh greens and fruit. Sierra View has a garden planted on campus for the community to harvest for their own meal planning.

Giving choices of healthy food for today’s seniors is of great importance to the quality of life at Sierra View and other retirement communities. Having good food choices goes a long way in the satisfaction of the community residents who are working hard to have a long and healthy life. So, like our residents, I take the fresh, organic made to order by our chef in our fine dining room. As the Italians’ say “Bon Appetite” the German’s say ”Mahlzeit”.

Never Take Your Feet for Granted

baby-feet-of-a-newbornFeet. They carry you from here to there every day. Typically, we don’t give much thought to our feet until we experience pain.

Foot problems tend to be common in older people for several reasons:

  • As we age the bottom of the foot loses its cushioning making the foot more susceptible to bruising
  • Older skin can become dry and brittle, causing open areas, especially around the toes
  • Joints can become inflamed by poor circulation
  • Diabetes and can keep a foot wound from healing properly.

One way to avoid foot pain is to wear comfortable shoes that fit. Avoid tight or high-heeled shoes that put undue pressure on certain areas of the foot. Constant rubbing and pinching from shoes that don’t fit properly can cause corns, calluses and bunions. Feet change in size and width as we age, so it is a good idea to get fitted every time you buy new shoes.

Another way to avoid foot pain is to keep the blood supply flowing to your feet. Walking, stretching, or doing some type of exercise improves circulation providing benefits to more than just your feet. Avoid sitting too long especially if you like to cross your legs. Avoid tight socks, which can cut circulation causing pain or slow wound healing.

When your feet hurt it is important to know the problem to get the right treatment. Talk to your doctor if you are having foot pain to get a proper diagnosis and treatment for your pain.

The following foot issues affect many of us as we age:

Plantar Fasciitis

I have been dealing with Plantar Fasciitis for the past few months. I know firsthand how difficult everyday tasks are when foot pain is intense. Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the band of tough tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes. The pain is usually more intense in the morning as I get out of bed. I also find the pain is quite intense after I have been sitting a while. To heal Plantar Fasciitis, you may need to rest your foot, and use arch supports and add extra cushioning to your shoes. Patience is important because the foot pain can return if you try to do too much too soon.

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s Foot is another challenge for seniors. You don’t have to be an athlete to develop this fungal infection. Warm, dark, moist areas, like a foot inside a shoe is a perfect environment for this fungus to grow. Symptoms of athlete’s foot are redness, blisters, peeling and itching. Changing shoes every oth
er day to allow the shoes to dry out, use cotton socks and after a shower or bath dry your feet especially between the toes. Wearing sandals allows the feet to breathe.

Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses can be very painful. They can certainly limit your activity. The best way to avoid corns and/or calluses is to wear properly fitting shoes. There are numerous over the counter remedies for this issue, but there is a possibility you could cause more damage and have further pain. A podiatrist can help you deal with corns and/or calluses especially if you are diabetic or have poor circulation.


Hammertoes happen when the shoe is not wide enough at the toe and the knuckle swells pulling the toe back. This can cause a balance problem for seniors that could result in a fall. The best way to prevent a hammertoe is to wear properly fitting shoes with ample space for the toes. If you suspect you have a hammertoe, see your doctor or podiatrist for treatment.

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails can become infected and extremely painful. It is good to check your feet frequently and to trim your toenails carefully leaving a little of the white so as to keep the nail from pushing into the nail bed. Cutting toenails too short can lead to problems of infection and pain.

Diabetes and Feet

If you are diabetic, it is extra important to pay attention to your feet. A minor corn, a cut or a callous can become life threatening due to the issues diabetes can cause. Diabetes can cause the blood vessels to shrink causing a wound to heal very slowly or not at all. It can also damage nerve endings leaving you unaware that there is a problem with your feet. Lack of circulation or lack of feeling can lead to some very serious consequences such as amputation. It is extremely important that you check your feet every day, especially if you are diabetic.

Blood flow to your feet is vital. Get up, move around, do stretches, and take walks, all of which keep a healthy flow of blood traveling to your feet. Sierra View Homes Retirement Community has many paths to take a walk, there is a heated pool for swimming and exercise equipment to build strength. You will walk better and farther with proper fitting shoes with good support and have good cushioning. A podiatrist comes on campus to care for the more difficult foot care issues.

This is not a complete list of possible problems that can happen to your feet. Foot pain can really hinder quality of life. It is important to pay attention to your feet. Watch for problems and address them quickly. If there is a problem, see your doctor to get treatment and keep moving for a long and healthy life.

Elvis Has Left Sierra View!


Our annual Auxiliary Dinner fundraiser was a great success! June 4, 2016 was a great evening full of fun, door prizes, and Jeremy “Elvis” Pierce singing familiar Elvis Presley songs.

Update on our Music Project!


Photo courtesy of Tedsblog.

Music! Sounds, beats and familiar songs have a profound impact on each of us. We are utilizing music at Sierra View Homes in a new and meaningful way.

As I write this article today I am loading an iPod for a person at Sierra View Homes Marden’s Place memory care who has dementia. That makes 23 iPods in use in our Nursing Care and in Marden’s Place! The music project is going well. In fact, it is going much better than expected. I am amazed when I walk the halls of the Nursing Care Center and watch the residents listening to the music that brings back good memories from long ago. I watch the activity and nursing staff interact with the residents talking to them about their music and asking if they like listening to it.

The iPod project is a nationwide project called Music and Memory (see last month’s article, Bathing in Music, about the original research that began this nationwide movement).

The instructions for loading songs onto the iPod are:

* Find the songs that hold great importance of a memory in younger years,

* The song must be the exact song with the exact wording and artist, it must be the same one they listened to all those years ago,

* Keep trying until you get it right. I find myself loading the same song but different artists for different people. If you don’t get it right the music listener will quickly loose interest and will not be affected in a positive way.

In the Nursing Care Center, the iPod music has been used for a number of residents. The first one was created for a man who is quite strong and quick to become agitated. There is a change in his behavior when he has his music. He smiles, becomes calm and will let anyone around him know what he is listening to. The nursing staff ask for him to have his music at least 30 minutes before his shower because they’ve noticed that his shower is more pleasant after he has listened to his music.

IPod music has helped entertain people who don’t readily participate in activities and has given solace to someone who has terminal cancer. The iPod project has not only given the resident something enjoyable; it has also given the family something to talk about when they visit.

This individual earphone project is full of surprises. A family told me their loved one would appreciate church hymns. It was an interesting task to load an iPod with church hymns. We did not all grow up with the same hymns. I had approximately 20 hymns on the iPod when we tried it out. It was wonderful for about three days. This resident stopped trying to leave and became peaceful and was seemingly content. Then, the third day she commented as the staff wanted to give her the music, “I have listened to that for three days, I know those songs and I am tired of it.” Wow, that was the clearest and longest conversation we had in a long time! The staff was quick to ask her what music she would like to listen to. “Country,” she replied. We proceeded to find out who her favorite country artists and songs were. We then loaded her choices onto her iPod. This lady has been happy ever since. The music choices make a difference.

Our Activities Department found out recently that you have to look at all residents as someone who could benefit from personal music. Our activity staff director started singing with a gentleman who sings joyously most of the day. In order for him to sing something understandable she started singing a hymn she knew he would readily join in. What she didn’t expect was another resident, sitting nearby who has been nonverbal for a very long time, suddenly started singing along in a beautiful clear voice. This proved once again that music is a big part of our lives and can serve as a bridge between the here and now and the good memories of years past.

Music is stored in a different place in the brain than our memories. That is why someone with dementia can sing all the words to songs that were very familiar to them years ago. Music stimulates the brain and encourages thought. Some of our residents have good conversations after listening to their music. There is a peace of mind that happens when a familiar artist sings a familiar song. Music has been shown to help decrease pain, and lift and calm someone from a depression.

It doesn’t work for everyone. We have had some residents who do not respond well at all. It may be a matter of trying to find the “right” music – we’re still working on it.

If you are caring for an elderly family member or friend, you too can supply that person with a musical experience. It does not have to be an iPod you load it, can be an MP3 player or some other device. The important thing is that the “right music” can help make the caregiving task much easier.

Sierra View Homes has been working on this project for six months now and has seen impressive success! We are grateful for the generous donations from friends of Sierra View Homes and the Sunrise Kiwanis and Rotary clubs who have granted some funds to help us purchase the music and the iPods. Sierra View Homes is committed to bring quality of life to the people who live here, one iPod at a time.

Bathing in Music, It’s Good for the Mind and Soul

singing2Have you listened to music lately? Do you have songs that touch you in a certain way? Is there music that takes you back to your childhood or your youth?

I recently attended a California Association of Nursing Facilities Conference in Southern California that brought home the importance of music. The conference offered a number of educational sessions on person- centered care. For me, the most intriguing discussion was about music.

Sierra View Homes has always recognized the value of live music entertainment, but the newer studies focused on the individual listening to a personal play list of songs. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said “take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons. You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.” Music activates many parts of the brain.

In one of the sessions we watched the documentary “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory.” The documentary is about what Dan Cohen, a volunteer in a nursing home in greater New York, found as he gave each person the chance to listen to music that touched them when they were much younger. He took iPod Shuffles and set out to make personal play lists for each person in the nursing home. The play list had to be specific to the person’s preferences. Great pains were taken to get specific songs or specific artists for the nursing home resident to be able to identify.

What happened when most of the residents listened to their particular play list was nothing short of remarkable. Through the documentary you see people, who because of dementia have not communicated in years, respond to their music. The documentary showed music successfully calming residents who had extreme agitation or were in great pain. Residents with dementia responded by becoming more alert and communicative. Those who were alert and oriented enjoyed sharing the memories the music brought them.

Check out an excerpt from this remarkable film. Isn’t it wonderful how Henry’s face lights up?

Music is profoundly linked to personal memories. In fact, our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory. For people with dementia, music can connect those long-term memories that could give a sense of peace and tranquility. A person with dementia looses the short-term memories first leaving the long-term memory intact for a longer period of time.

Studies are showing that music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain connection to others. The brain uses many areas to process music. These parts are slow to be damaged by dementia or other chaotic brain activity. Henry, in the documentary, was an example of that. He “woke up” when he listened to his personal play list of music and was able to communicate appropriately immediately after his music stopped. After a time, he would slip back into a slumped over non-communicating self. When the music is played again he becomes animated and verbal often singing along and enjoying his music. When the documentary was made, Henry had been listening to his play list for four years. He had the same response every time he listened. In the documentary his daughter is thrilled her father responds so well to the music because their family time was enhanced and she feels connected to her father.

Indeed, Sierra View Homes is already aware that music can be a very positive experience for our residents. There are many live performances that happen every month. We are now in the process of acquiring iPod Shuffles and the activity staff is busy working on making personal play lists. I am excited to see the music work with residents who currently are restless and uncomfortable either from dementia or something else. Music has the potential to reduce pain, calm those who are easily agitated, bring back memories of the good-old days and give pleasure.

Personalized music may not work for everyone, but studies show that it will help improve the quality of life for most. Trying it has no adverse side effects. I am looking forward to what the outcome will be for the residents of Sierra View Homes!

Thank you, Reedley! You Voted Us #1 Retirement Community AGAIN!

Sierra View Thanks You

Thank you AGAIN, Reedley! The Reedley Exponent asked, and you made your voices heard – Sierra View Homes Retirement Community was voted Reedley’s #1 Retirement Community for the second year in a row. Sierra View was voted number one in both the newspaper’s “2016 Best of Reedley” and “2015 Best of Reedley” competitions. We’re so glad to call you, your parents, and your grandparents friends. Thank you, Reedley. You’re #1 in our book, too!!

A Walk Through Sierra View’s Gardens

Sons of the San Joaquin – Auxiliary Spring Benefit Dinner

Sons of the San Juaquin

Sons of the San Joaquin



Sierra View Homes Retirement Community’s Annual Auxiliary Spring Benefit Dinner will feature the country’s famous Sons of the San Joaquin! 

Date: Saturday, June 6, 2015

Time: Appetizers – 5:30 p.m.
Dinner in the Kings Canyon Room – 6:30 p.m.

Donation Amount: $60 per plate. (Full table discounts are available.)

Tickets are available from the Sierra View Homes office or by calling (559) 638-9226 before June 2.

Your donation will support special projects for the residents of Sierra View Homes! 

Come join us!


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