Keep Seniors Social and Happy
It took months for my grandmother and me to adjust to the new life we were both living. Though she was a long-time resident of a senior living facility, I became a long-term outside caregiver of that facility.
I did not realize it then, but she was my first patient. I tried my best to come prepared. Weeks passed by, and I became my grandmother’s primary oral health caregiver.
I will never forget when I heard Madea’s roommate speak to me for the first time. Every time I came into their room, she stared but never talked to me even when I spoke to her. I knew that she was a sweet lady, as Madea told me so.
She motioned me to come over to her, and I did. I bent down, and she said in the sweetest voice, “Baby, can you clean my teeth? Mine don’t come out like your grandmother’s do”.
I was happy to oblige, but I had one problem. I couldn’t find her toothbrush anywhere in her room. From that day on, I purposed in my heart to bring a toothbrush with me every time that I set foot on that nursing home property.
It’s Not Enough to Sit and Listen To Seniors
It’s strange that we forget that many elders in nursing homes are lonely. Just like you and me, many of them want to be around their families. They might also want to reach out to caregivers, but they wouldn’t know how to. That’s probably why some elders don’t ask for help even when they need it.
We think that it’s enough to sit and listen, but this is a passive activity that does not get rid of boredom. It makes more sense to engage seniors in meaningful activities that they enjoy.
For example, the seniors can play bingo, which is a fun thing for both the young and old. Bingo is so much fun and it improves their thought process. When seniors at a nursing home are happy, everyone will be happy.
What if A Resident Doesn’t Want to Socialize?
Could It Be Dental Problems?
If you notice that a senior is isolating themselves and always sad, there could be a problem. Take the case of Madea’s roommate. She always stared at me without saying a word, even when spoken to. Madea told me she was nice, so I knew that wasn’t her personality.
It turned out that she really needed someone to clean her mouth, but she couldn’t say it.
Just like Madea’s roommate, many elders are unable or unwilling to communicate about their problems, especially those with dementia.
If a senior with dementia seems unhappy, there is a great possibility that they have oral care problems. That’s not just what I think, but it is backed by studies.
Research shows that seniors with dementia have more plaque and oral health problems, such as reduced salivary flow, stomatitis, and gingival bleeding.
If I notice these signs, I know that I need to be checking the elder’s mouth. In the case of dementia, it helps to keep their mouth clean to avoid these problems altogether.
I have an SOS program, basically an oral care package that people can sponsor to provide oral care for seniors in nursing homes.
The oral care packet has three to six months of dental care products, such as toothbrushes, floss, tongue cleaner.
Most residents in nursing homes get their medicines crushed and it builds on their tongue and if their tongue isn’t cleaned daily, they can’t properly taste their food. This lowers their quality of life. We want to taste our food, so they do too.
The oral care package also comes with an accountability card so that the CNA who is supposed to be providing oral care every day can check off when the oral care is provided because most of the time it’s overlooked.
For training on how to maintain the oral health of seniors, contact the Geriatric Toothfairy.
Let’s help seniors stay healthy and happy!
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