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.

The Art of Aging Gracefully

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Ever wonder why some people seem forever youthful, and others seem older than their years? As it turns out, genetics are not the only factor – there are actions you can take and attitudes you can adopt which will help you age gracefully for years to come.

As we age it is important to laugh. Laughing aids circulation, it increases respiration, lowers blood pressure, stimulates digestion, and decreases stress. Statistics show that people who have stress have a shorter life span. It is important to find ways to release the stress we feel as we age. Do not get worked up about things you can’t control. Look at what causes your stress and look for ways to release the stressful feelings. Focus only on the things you can control. The rest will be what it will be. If you can embrace your situation right now you have learned the art of “embracing your circumstances.” By being content with the way things are, you are able to let go of the stress that can shorten your life and gives way to a sense that all is as it should be.

Movement helps to keep you aging gracefully. Activity increases your sense of wellbeing. Doing exercise that increases your heart rate gives your cardiovascular system a boost and keeps your joints moving. I encourage you to find interesting and engaging physical activity that you can do several times a week. Activities that encourage deep breathing help to relax the muscles and increase the sense of wellbeing. As we age our breathing may get shallower. Your body needs good air exchange to optimize immunity and increase its ability to heal. I am encouraged to breathe in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth as I encounter the exercise classes around Sierra View Homes.

Getting some sun helps to boost the vitamin D in your body, which helps the body absorb calcium, and improves the immune system. If you can’t get into the sunshine taking vitamin D tablets works well too. Vitamin D increases levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that boosts your mood. It is important to remember that if you are planning to be out in the sun for a long period of time it is important to wear sunscreen. Lack of protection can lead to sun damaged skin or even skin cancer.

Sleep is one of the most important components of aging gracefully. Sleep refreshes not only your body but it gives you a boost emotionally. Sleeping at least seven hours a night should be your goal.

Exercising your brain helps to ward off memory loss. Learning something new, doing crossword puzzles, or some other game that requires thought or memorization helps to keep your mind young.

Take a look at what you eat. A diet that has a lot of fruits and vegetables gives your body the nutrition it needs to ward off diseases. By filling your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables you will eat an array of antioxidants and phytochemicals that promote healthy aging by boosting your immune system.
Drinking water makes the skin look more refreshed, youthful, and hydrated. Most people do not drink enough water.
Food rich in Omega-3 have been shown to make a difference in reducing the risk of memory loss as you age.

Norine Lambdin, a resident at Sierra View Homes Terraces, explains that her philosophy for aging gracefully focuses on the positive. Her faith in God teaches her not to dwell in the past but to rejoice in the present, “You cannot change what has been. Forgive the wrongs of your past and embrace today.” Norine enjoys meeting new people and looks to surround herself with positive people who enjoy laughing and are encouraging to others. Hiking in the Sierras each week with a group of friends is a highlight of her week and she encourages others at Sierra View Homes to be active and involved in the activities offered on and off the campus.

Doing a little bit each day gives you the ability to age more gracefully as time goes by. Living a long and healthy life full of laughter, good food, and plenty of social and physical activity is my wish for you.

Stroke: Know the Warning Signs!

“I have met a number of people that have had a stroke. Each one has had different consequences- some severe and some with hardly any visible effects. Are there warning signs and can you discuss the different effects strokes have on individuals?” – G.L. of Reedley

The medical terminology for a stroke is a cerebral vascular accident (CVA). A CVA is caused by the blockage of blood flow by a clot or a rupture of an artery in the brain. This can result in sudden death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen. Strokes can create all sorts of disabilities. Depending on where in the brain the stroke happened you can have trouble speaking, the extremities of one side of your body could be limited or not work at all. Reasoning skills could be hindered, eye sight may be changed, or the muscles for swallowing could be weakened. The list of possible disabilities goes on and on. Damage from a stroke can lead to death. Statistics show strokes are rated 3rd in the leading causes of death.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a small stroke, sometimes referred to as a warning stroke. These strokes have the same symptoms as a (CVA) stroke but there is no lasting damage. The symptoms appear for a short time and then recede and your body goes back to normal.

Each year hundreds of thousands of people have strokes (CVA or TIAs). Both of these types of strokes need immediate attention at a medical facility. There is no way to tell if you are having a TIA or the more damaging CVA. Whether or not you recover from the stroke depends on getting to the hospital quickly. There are clot busting medications now that can eliminate or reduce the damage done by a blood clot in the in brain. The blood clot busting medication can reduce long-term effects if it is administered within three hours of the start of the symptoms.

It is important that everyone recognizes the symptoms of any type of stroke:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  3. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  5. Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

If you or someone you are with has one or more of these signs, don’t delay to call 9-1-1. It is best to get an ambulance to the scene rather than take the person to the hospital yourself. The ambulance is equipped with emergency equipment. It is good to check the time when the symptoms started. There is a very small window of time to get the necessary medication to circumvent the effects of the stroke. The brain cells start dying quickly when they are deprived of oxygen.

It is difficult to treat a stroke if there has been a delay in getting to the hospital. Reasons for the delay can be denial “I have got this little problem. If I ignore it I am sure it will go away.” Maybe there is nobody around when the stroke happens. If you live alone or are alone for extended periods of time I encourage you to form a buddy system to check up on each other or get something like Lifeline so you have a way to call for help. Fortunately on a retirement campus like Sierra View Homes neighbors look out for each other and are more aware of symptoms to be alerted for. Another reason for the delay is lack of understanding how important it is to get the victim of the stroke to the hospital quickly. Not calling an ambulance can delay treatment.

Not everybody has full recovery from a stroke. Some strokes are caused by bleeding in the brain. Clot busters do not work on this type of stroke. Some areas of the brain when deprived of oxygen just do not come back to full function.

Rehabilitation therapy for the stroke usually follows a stay in the hospital. Therapists try to reprogram the effected area. The first year following the stroke is the period when it is possible to make the most progress toward prior level of function. Once the first year anniversary is passed progress becomes extremely limited. Sierra View Homes rehab center has had a lot of success in improving residents function in both the outpatient and inpatient programs.

The risk factors for having a stroke are high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, tobacco abuse, diabetes and aging. Also, heart rhythm disturbances like atrial fibrillation and heart disease can cause strokes. Specialists are studying if there can be an inherited predisposition to strokes.

Strokes can be devastating and change the quality of your life. It is important that you looks at the risks factors, makes adjustments in life style to reduce the risk factors and heed the warning signs if they appear. Get to a medical center quickly if you suspect a stroke. Remember the three hour window. If you live alone make sure you have a system to get help in an emergency. Be alert and aware that someone around you could be in trouble so I encourage you to know the warning signs and assist as needed.

It’s Official! Sierra View is a CCRC!

We’re a Continuing Care Retirement Community!

It’s official! Sierra View Homes Retirement Community has been licensed by the Department of Social Services as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). What does that change, you ask? Very little, actually. But now Sierra View is getting recognized by the state for the good work we were already doing.

A Continuing Care Retirement Community guarantees to its residents that if they require the services of a higher level of care, such as Skilled Nursing or Assisted Living, they have a guaranteed spot in that higher level of care. That guarantee provides peace of mind to residents and their loved ones that the resident will not have to bounce from one retirement community to the next, and will have a greater ability to age in place.

The fact is that Sierra View Homes has been unofficially providing this service to our residents for decades – if one of our independent apartment residents got sick and needed a higher level of care, we moved heaven and earth to make room for them. If someone was going to get our friends back on their feet, we wanted it to be us! But we finally decided that it was time to stand up and be recognized for the customer service and peace of mind we were providing.

Thus, Vito Genna, Sierra View’s Executive Director and CEO, spearheaded SVHRC’s application for official CCRC approval. And sure enough, the state saw what we knew all along: Sierra View Homes is a place where residents can feel confident that they can age in place.

An added bonus is that unlike most other Continuing Care Retirement Communities in the state and even in Reedley, we do not charge a large up-front entrance fee for this service. Residents get the benefit of no entrance fee, the same month-to-month rental pricing they have always had, and the peace of mind that they can age in place at Sierra View Homes, regardless of what the future holds!

Sierra View Homes Retirement Community: Department of Social Services License #261. (Yay!)