Add Volunteering to Your New Year’s Resolutions

Each year, many of us set New Year’s resolutions to achieve new opportunities and goals. For some of us, it’s to start going to the gym, eating healthy, or getting a promotion. One great resolution to consider, which can be beneficial to you and  your community, is volunteering.

Volunteering is a wonderful and fulfilling activity. Whether it is cooking meals at a local shelter, caring for dogs and cats at an animal shelter, or doing something as simple as shoveling a neighbor’s driveway. Volunteering can do so much good for you and the community.

Sprenger Healthcare has many opportunities for one to volunteer across multiple facilities. Some great examples of volunteering are reading books and newspapers to residents, assisting in fundraising, and even just keeping residents company.

Volunteering is not only beneficial for the people you’re caring for, but it’s also for the volunteers too. One of the best reasons to volunteer is to learn from our experienced residents. Our residents have a wide variety of knowledge and insightfulness that they can share with you.

You can meet peers and make new friends when you volunteer. When you volunteer at Sprenger Health Care Systems and help care for residents, you work with like-minded people. When you work together it’s easy to bond with fellow volunteers, employees, and members of the community to create new relationships and connections within the healthcare industry.

Volunteering is a selfless way to feel good about yourself, step back from your hectic life, and help enrich the lives of others. It’s a wonderful feeling to bring a smile or a bit of laughter to someone you just met.

If you are interested in volunteering at any of our Sprenger Health Care communities, please contact us through the website or by calling the facility you’re interested in and ask for the Life Enrichment Director. To volunteer for Sprenger Hospice Care, please contact Toni Rotz, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, at

No matter your New Year’s resolutions, we hope you have a happy 2017!

How To Stay Connected With Your Loved One in Assisted Living

When your loved one is staying in Assisted Living, you want to be sure they’re getting the care they need and enjoying their time. We at Sprenger Healthcare understand that it can be difficult to have your loved one away from you at an Assisted Living facility. This is why we do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for you to stay connected to them and their caregivers.

Although you can always call your loved one or visit whenever possible, there are other ways to keep a strong connection with them while in Assisted Living. To help, we’re sharing some of our tips for staying connected:

  1. Participate in activities: A variety of life enrichment opportunities are provided daily at our Sprenger Health Care Assisted Living communities. Interact with your loved one by participating in an activity with them. Not only does this allow you to spend time with your loved one in Assisted Living, it gets them to get out and socializing with others.
  2. Join them for dinner: Sharing a family meal is a great way to stay close to your loved one. After all, some of the best conversations and memories come from sitting around the dinner table. Stop by and enjoy Sprenger’s chef-prepared meals. Guests are always welcome. If you want to make it even more special, trying bringing your loved one their favorite home-cooked meals.
  3. Use Smile: Sprenger makes staying connected easy with Smile – an online tool used by caregivers to communicate with each resident’s family. With Smile, you can stay up to date on the activities your loved one is participating in and effectively interact with staff caring for them. Sprenger Health Care is one of only two companies in Ohio to offer Smile and now provides it at every Sprenger Assisted Living community.

Smile at Sprenger Healthcare

Using Smile is easy! When your loved one is placed in a Sprenger Healthcare’ Assisted Living Community, ask the Assisted Living Manager or Life Enrichment Director for information about Smile. You will be given a pamphlet with all of the information you need and instructions on how to sign up.

Why should you participate in Smile? This program gives families 24/7 access to their loved one’s daily activities and also allows our staff to securely send positive messages, pictures, and videos to families. Family members can also connect with the caregivers and staff at Sprenger by sending communications back through the system. Smile can be used on any computer, tablet or smart phone as long as you have access to the internet.

If you’re interested in learning more about Smile and how it can help you stay connected to your loved one in our Sprenger Assisted Living communities, please call 800-772-1116.

Home Health Helps Care for the Caregiver

Sixty five percent of the elderly with long term care needs depend solely upon family and friends to meet those needs. More than 66% of these caregivers are women. How does the caregiver meet the challenges of caring not only for their loved one, but for themselves as well?

Setting realistic goals for what the caregiver can provide in terms of time and types of support are critical. Once those parameters have been established, the caregiver must be willing to ask for and accept help. Well-meaning family and friends often offer to do anything they can, but the caregiver frequently declines. Instead of declining have a list of needs prepared; it may be sitting with your loved one for an hour, going to the grocery store, preparing a meal or picking up prescriptions. Accepting those offers will be a benefit for you and those offering their help.  

Support services of all kinds, including those mentioned above can positively impact the care givers well-being, allowing them to provide better care with less stress. Support services are not only those found in support groups and family counseling, but include things such as respite services, durable medical equipment (DME) and home modifications.

When a caregiver can no longer meet the needs, Sprenger Healthcare offer a wide variety of help including Independent and Assisted Living, and Home Health. Staff are trained to evaluate, develop a plan of care in coordination with your physician, and provide treatment to inspire hope and improve the quality of life for the people we serve.

Caring for the Caregiver: What I’ve Learned Caring for My Mother

By Dr. Jim Collins

My Story

As a gerontologist, Caring for the Caregiver has been one of my favorite topics to present, and for a couple reasons. First, there is an endless amount of information to discuss, from stress and burnout, to depression and weight gain, to seeking help, accepting limitations and finding peace within the caregiver role. The other, and probably more important reason, is because I was a caregiver to my mother for several years while she lived with me, my wife and daughter.

My mother, Mary, was a nursing assistant for almost 30 years in the same nursing home. When she retired in her late 70’s, she became bored and went back to work at an assisted living facility, where she worked until she retired at the age of 80! Prior to her retirement, she began to decline physically and mentally. There were plenty of signs of dementia, but when I brought it up to family members and friends, they replied “You think everyone has dementia!” While that is not true, she was becoming forgetful, leaving the stove on, burning pans, and hiding them in the trash. She also began to fall – numerous times, and miraculously, without much injury.

The care I provided, along with assistance from my wife and some family members began 15 years before she moved into an assisted living facility. Making sure she had proper nutrition was top on my list, as was taking her to all of her appointments, shopping trips and social visits. I helped her manage her finances and made sure she always had enough money to do anything she wanted. Keeping her safe while enjoying quality of life was important to me and I always tried to balance the two the best I could. She is now 91 and lives in a long-term care community.

What I Learned

Years of caregiving can be very fulfilling as well as take a toll on you, not only physically, but mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. Typically, caregivers are the oldest adult daughters in the family, but in my family, I was most prepared to take care of my mother. Many years later, I’ve learned a few things about being a caregiver and want to share them with you. My hope is that these tips will help you help yourself, because you must first and foremost take care of yourself in order to provide care to anyone else.

Approach caregiving realistically. You can and will make a difference in the life of the person you care for, but know your limits. You simply cannot control everything, so don’t try. Diseases will progress, memory will decline and you must do what you can but not more than anyone is capable of doing. Nevertheless, do the best that you can and know in your heart you’re doing the right thing.

Monitor your own health and stress level. Listen to your body as it will always tell you the truth. Watch for headaches, stomach pain, and muscle strain. Be aware of your emotions. Are you experiencing sadness, anxiousness, are you over- or undereating, or has your sleep pattern changed? Any of these can be signs of stress, burnout or clinical depression or anxiety.

Take time out for yourself to rejuvenate. Everyone needs to take an occasional break from being a caregiver. Remember, give to yourself time to relax and return to your own hobbies and interests. Reach out to family and friends. Have a responsible person watch your loved one for a while so that you can get out, go shopping, see a movie, or go to dinner with a friend. By giving yourself a break, you will be relaxed and ready to get back to caregiving.

Never be afraid to ask for help. The old saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself” doesn’t fit the world of caregiving for long. No one can be a doctor, nurse, therapist, cook, housekeeper, and chauffeur all at the same time. We also don’t want to be a “burden” on anyone else, but we must approach caregiving not only livingly, but intelligently. Is there a good neighbor who can take care of a few things around the house for you? Can the grandkids get involved? Look into local health and social services for assistance. You will feel a lot better knowing you have help.

Accept change. As we age, many changes naturally take place biologically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Disorders and diseases come with their own unique changes. Learn to embrace change and accept it as a part of life. Nothing lasts forever, and everything is undergoing constant change. Accepting change will lighten your burden and you won’t feel like you’re fighting a losing battle.

If you are a caregiver, I hope that my words find their way into your mind and heart and help you serve your loved one the best way you can. Be proud. Not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver and that makes you a very special person.

Fighting Chronic Illness with Proper Nutrition

By: Chris Phillips, Sprenger Dining Services

It’s projected by the year 2030, 22%of the world’s population will be 65 years old or older. You probably don’t need me to tell you, but this is a large amount of people! In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the same demographic only accounted for 4% of the world’s population at the beginning of the century. Chances are, if you don’t fall into this category, you know someone who does. Someday you’ll fit this category and it’s important to know what you can do to improve not only the number of years in your life, but the quality of those years.

It’s commonly known as we age, we’re more susceptible to disease and disability. Heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and other chronic degenerative conditions all affect the elderly.

There are different techniques and care plans for each condition, but the one thing that can help with all of these conditions is proper nutrition. It will give your body the necessary nutrients to fight any chronic condition and prevent it from becoming worse.

If something like proper nutrition is so important to your health it must be hard to maintain, right? The answer is no!

Older people don’t need to ingest as many calories as younger people due to factors like a slower metabolism, but they do need to make sure they maintain a proper level of minerals and vitamins. This can be done by choosing nutrient dense foods like fruit, fat free cheese and whole wheat crackers instead of sugar filled snacks like cookies and ice cream. Choosing fish, poultry and soy protein foods like tofu will give you your necessary protein. Calcium can come from low-fat milk, calcium fortified orange juice and broccoli. Vitamin B12 can be attained by eating low-fat meat, poultry, fish and fortified cereals. Get your Vitamin D from fortified milk and milk products, and fatty fish. Be sure to include fruits and vegetables for fiber and top it off with 6-8 glasses of water a day.

When preparing food, you should bake your food instead of incorporating other techniques, such as broiling. High heat causes foods to develop toxic compounds called Advanced Glycation End (AGE) products. These AGEs can contribute to hardening of the arteries, wrinkles and stiff joints and should be avoided to achieve optimal health.

Don’t let diminished senses keep you from maintaining healthy nutrition. Add flavor to your food by using low sodium seasonings, such as lemon juice, ground pepper, curry pepper and fresh or dried herbs of all types. Diversity in color and texture of your food can make your food look more appetizing. If you’re having trouble eating, try eating small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals to increase the appetite and stimulate the senses.

One day age catches up with all of us, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Adopt these techniques and you can age well while fighting whatever chronic conditions life throws at you.

Sprenger Hospice takes patient out for some Friday Night Lights

Working in healthcare, you never know who you will meet or how long they will be under your care; however, I enjoy getting to know every one of my patients and hearing about their experiences.

When talking to Edward Lawko, Sprenger Hospice resident, I asked him about his favorite pastimes. To my surprise, his favorite memories were of high school. He shared that he loved sports and although he was not able to participate, due to Polio, watching football was is one of his favorite things to do. This gave me the idea of organizing for him to attend a high school football game. 

With the help of Mike Collier, Clearview High School’s Athletic Director, I arranged for Lawko to attend an evening of friday night football. 

On game day, Lawko, who was accompanied by his nephew Steve and his wife Suzette, were surprised with a gourmet tailgate, compliments of Sprenger Health Care’s Dietary Staff.

Before entering the game, Clearview High School Athletic Director and Clippers Head Coach, Mike Collier and his coaching staff greeted the Lawko family, presenting Edward with a team jersey, helmet and signed T-shirt.

Lawko did not stop smiling. He was overwhelmed with the gifts, but the night’s festivities had only just begun. Lawko was privileged with the title “Honorary Captain” and was asked to participate in the coin toss.

The crowd cheered for Lawko as he took to the field.

I don’t think I have ever seen him smile so much and it never left his face. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we were surprised to find out one of the coaches for the other team was Mr. Lawko’s cousin.

It turns out we picked the perfect game to attend. Mr. Lawko was able to watch the game, experience tailgating and create some great memories with his family.

When I’m asked why I do what I do, I think about these experiences and memories of life we get to share, create and maintain with our patients and families. This is why I do what I do! 

Voni de Almeida – Sprenger Hospice