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Assisted Living 101

Some answers to basic questions like what does it mean, who is it for and when should you look into it

By Anne Endicott
contributing writer

Mostly gone are the nondescript buildings housing dark, dreary corridors with pungent odors and a laststop- in-life feel. Today’s assisted living facilities boast vibrant, active communities, with amenities and services that encourage independence, yet offer assistance if needed.

“Over the years, the vision of what senior care was going to be like has changed,” said Karla Cheney-Downs, administrator with Courtyard Fountains of Gresham. “People are living longer, and they’re staying more active. In assisted living, our goal is to help them stay independent, but provide help as they age if they need it.”

For baby boomers and their parents, where to go when it’s no longer possible to remain on their own has long been a worry as retirement age approached. Factor in medical conditions that require management, and it’s no surprise that panic sets in when deciding the next step in life. Assisted living communities fill the void by providing a balance between independence and assistance with dignity as needs change.

“Someone can be totally independent when they move in,” said Cheney- Downs, “but as time goes on, they might need help getting to the dining room or reminded to take their medications. Assisted living facilities continue to evolve to meet the challenges involved with the aging process, without restricting or limiting someone’s choices.”

Assisted living is where people go to live, according to Cheney-Downs, which explains why today’s facilities resemble a cruise ship on land. Entertainment is built in via a busy activities schedule, bus transportation is available for medical appointments and meals can be shared with others in the dining room. Apartments come in studio, one- and two-bedroom units and include weekly housekeeping, three meals a-day and all utilities except telephone and cable television. At Courtyard Fountains, monthly rent runs from $2,640 to $4,200, depending on the size of the apartment.

Remaining active and independent is paramount for seniors, Cheney-Downs said, but so is the comfort of knowing they’re not alone, especially if they’ve suffered through a medical crisis alone before.

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Back exercises can relieve those aches, pains

Legacy doctor offers simple steps to back health


By Rob Cullivan
staff writer

Do you want to put back pain behind you? If so, Kate Morris, doctor of physical therapy at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham, has a wealth of tips to help you feel better.

Morris says her work uses a wide range of techniques including ultrasound, massage, mobilization and education about posture and body mechanics.

“Most importantly,” she says, “we develop an individualized exercise program to improve strength, core stability and flexibility. We teach and educate specific exercises to improve back stability while doing functional activities for home, work and leisure activities.”

Morris says weak muscles are often the root cause of lower back pain, although other causes include arthritis, muscle strain and disc herniation.

“Muscles of the back, stomach and buttock all support the spine; these are your core muscles,” she says. “When they are weak your back is not as protected and it can be injured with everyday activity. A proper lifting technique involves using your legs; if your legs are weak, you are more likely to use your back muscles.” Morris shared these simple exercises to relieve back pain.

• Hamstring stretch: Sit with your back straight. Extend one leg so that knee is straight. Slowly bend at your hips until a light stretch is felt in the back your thigh. Make sure to keep your back straight!

• Transverse abdominal strengthening: Draw your belly button towards your spine and tighten your stomach; be careful not to hold your breath.

• Wall squat: Stand with your back against a wall with your feet about 2 feet away from the wall. Draw your belly button towards your spine, keeping your stomach tight; slowly bend your knees and squat down and slowly raise up.

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Getting organized can improve your health

Mounting chaos can lead to stress and guilt, so start down the path of order

By Anne Endicott

contributing writer

New Year’s is like a clean slate — an opportunity for absolution from mistakes or bad habits made the year before.

And though we promise ourselves this is the year we’re going to get it together by eating right, being on time and remembering things, it’s a tall order to fill if there isn’t a foundation of organization for all of life’s details.

“We are always in the go-mode,” says Laura Rau, a nurse case manager for the Hospitalist's Physicians at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham. “We fail to make a plan for structure in our lives, which provides a sense of order. Disorganization is a breakdown in order. The key is to locate the source of the breakdown and refresh the order.”

Few people lead a chaos-free life these days. Warp Nine lifestyles don’t allow time to cook a good meal, which inspires guilt for shoving fast food at our children; put away things around the house, making us feel like candidates for the TV show “Hoarders”; or remembering all the commitments and appointments we’ve made — a trait that can affect job performance and our reliability to others.

Most people can tolerate a certain amount of disorganization in their life, Rau says, when they have a routine for tasks guiding them. Shopping for groceries once a week or doing laundry on Sundays, for example, keeps those details in check, making us better masters of our universe.

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