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


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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!

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!


Planning for the Senior Years

Recently, Vito Genna, Executive Director of Sierra View Homes, and I were talking about our parents. Both of us had the experience of parents who had their documents in order and were easily accessible when each of us needed to deal with our respective parent’s business and health issues. Keeping important papers in a designated location is important especially if a family member needs to take responsibility for your financial or health well-being while you are alive and as in my case, after death.

As we grow older it is important to do some estate planning. Many seniors may think a Last Will and Testament is all they need to take care of estate plans, but that is far from the truth. Here are some additional issues that should be thought about, discussed with family, and decided upon before these decisions must be made.

One area where you can plan ahead is funeral arrangements. I know some people feel very uneasy about preplanning their own funeral, but by doing so you take the burden off your family and you are able to have control over your own arrangements. Now, there are several funeral homes in Reedley. They have insurance plans that can be set up to preplan arrangements. My mother did such an arrangement. When I had to use it, I was amazed at how many decisions were made in advance. My sister and I had very little decision making to do at the time of her death; I simply followed her plan.

Each person in your family should have a Durable Power of Attorney for health and another one for finances. Durable Power of Attorneys are legal documents that all health professionals, hospitals and financial establishments recognize. They are used only when you are no longer able or no longer want to make decisions on your own behalf. Each of these documents contains the person’s name that has agreed to act, as your agent. The Durable Power for Health care allows you to establish end-of- life decisions. What is nice about the Durable Power documents is that they allow you to spell out your wishes and the agent agrees to follow your wishes. This way you can have peace of mind that the wishes about your life will be carried out.

Collect the following documents into a general location to keep them accessible if your Durable Power Agent needs to step in an take care of business. Place your existing will, existing trust documents, existing community property agreements, copies of deeds, or title insurance that show legal descriptions of real property in a safe place that your agent knows. Documents such as life insurance, long-term care insurance and your Durable Power of Attorney should also be included. Descriptions and values of gifts made in the last three years and descriptions and values of property placed into a trust in the last five years are good to include too. If possible, copies of some of these documents should be given to the agent. Many residents at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community make sure copies are at their children’s homes.

It is a good idea to make an inventory of your assets and liabilities. For example, make a list of what you own, where your bank accounts are, your financial portfolio, and precious stone jewelry are some examples of asset information to gather. Also, make a list of liabilities such as outstanding loans, mortgages, and credit card debts.

Another area to plan is estate planning with your family and loved ones. You need to decide who should be the executor of your will. This person should be talked to before you give them the job. The executor is the person to see to all the details of your business both in paying the bills and then distributing what is left to the beneficiaries after you die.

Prepare a basic identity file. In this file keep your full name, any names you previously used, your address, birth date, and Social Security number. Include in this file the same information for your spouse and your children. The names and address of all beneficiaries named in your will are important to keep up to date. Place in the file information about your military service and/or veteran disability status if applicable.

There is the question of where to put this information so it is safe and accessible when your Durable Power of Attorney agent needs to step in. I suggest you get a safety deposit box at a bank, or place the information in a safe that cannot be easily stolen.

We are all in this world only for a time. Walking through the senior years can be less stressful with a little preparation. I was fortunate my mother kept her important information in a safety deposit box at the bank and in a specific drawer in her house. I could easily step in and work out the details of her estate. I was able to help her live out her days as she wanted, and be her voice both in life and after.

Spring Has Sprung at Sierra View!


Auxiliary Cookbook Second Edition

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Sierra View Homes Retirement Community’s Auxiliary was started in 1968 by a group of resident family members and friends of the community who shared a common love for Sierra View and our residents. Ever since, the Auxiliary has organized fundraisers, led classes, manned the store, and pitched in to help make our residents’ lives more enjoyable and meaningful. (We love these people!)

One of their most popular fundraisers is the Auxiliary Cookbook, where Sierra View’s staff, friends, and residents share our love of good food. The second edition of the cookbook is now on sale (a bargain at $20).

To learn more about the Auxiliary and how you can help support Sierra View’s residents, or to purchase your copy of the cookbook, call (559) 638-9226.