Keep, Toss or Donate? 5 Ways to Start Decluttering Before You Move

Even the best senior living communities offer smaller apartments than the homes or apartments most seniors are used to living in. This often means people must downsize and declutter before they move in. Certainly not a chore that anyone really relishes, but the end result can be life enriching.  Most of us accumulate a lot of “stuff” during our lives, and for an elderly person, the process of deciding what should go and what should stay can be daunting.

However, if we approach the process with a positive attitude, the act of sorting through our things and giving away possessions can also bring a sense of calm and freedom from the things that bind us to our current situation.  In fact, Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant wrote a book about it called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Kondo’s book takes a straight approach to tidying…put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it.

Sounds simple, but it takes time and having a family member or close friend help with the sorting process may make the process easier or at least more enjoyable. If you don’t have someone close by to help out, you may want to consider hiring a senior moving expert, relocation specialist or organizer to help with the process. Fees vary across the country and a real estate agent may be a good referral source or ask for recommendations from friends, seniors’ residences or senior centers.

The moving expert can help with:

  • sorting and decision-making
  • packing
  • arranging the move
  • arranging for charity pick up, garage sale, estate sale or working with consignment shops
  • unpacking boxes and arranging your new home

If there is time, and your move is down the road, think about starting the decluttering process six months or more ahead of time.  Here are 5  ways to get started today:

  1. Get rid of the junk – Shred old documents, toss, or give away clothes or household items that are no longer being used or needed. In other words, start with the easy stuff first.  Leave the mementos and prized possessions for later.
  2. Make three piles – One for garbage/recycling, one for donating and one for keeping.  Start writing a list of mementos that you want to give to specific people. Create a file for important documents (tax information, social security documents, titles, wills, etc.) so everything is gathered in one place and easily accessible.
  3. Get a floor plan for your new place – Decide where the major furniture will be placed such as your bed, dresser, couch, TV, bookshelf, table and chairs, etc. This will help whittle down the larger items you can take with you. If a piece serves multiple purposes, even better!
  4. Identify the special items – Select and set aside those personal items that will make your new home feel like home.  Family photos, artwork, select knickknacks – limit the amount you choose and make sure you keep the items you treasure most.  Space is at a premium, so choose the things that are most meaningful to you.
  5. Reduce, reduce, reduce! You will only need a small amount of dishes (not serving pieces and a set of 12 plates or wine glasses) and a few pots and pans in your new home. Kitchen items should be kept to a minimum.  One of the best parts of living in a senior community is being able to enjoy delicious meals that you don’t cook yourself!  Go through room-by-room and spend an hour or so per room.  Be quick with your decisions – remember, if you don’t love it or need it – get rid of it!

In the end, having a positive attitude and approaching this life change as a new adventure will make the all the difference.  Having someone help with the process can keep you on track and make the decisions about what to keep easier.  You will be amazed by the sense of freedom and lightness you feel once the process is complete and you settle into your new home!

For information on senior living visit The Selfhelp Home online

9 Foods to Eat for a Healthy, Aging Brain

Keeping our bodies and minds healthy as we age can be challenging.  Many of us worry that the slightest lapse in memory could be the start of something more serious like Alzheimer’s disease.  But there are ways to help slow the cognitive decline that can come with aging. Researchers have identified certain foods that can help keep both your body and mind healthy. Foods that are rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals provide energy and help protect against brain diseases.  Below are some foods to consider adding to your diet or increasing the amount you consume:

  1. Oil-based salad dressings:  Along with seeds, nuts, peanut butter and whole grains, salad dressings are high in vitamin E and this may help protect neurons or nerve cells from dying, which can lead to cognitive deterioration.
  2. Dark green leafy vegetables:  Use that oil-based salad dressing on kale, collard greens, spinach and broccoli as all are also good sources of vitamin E as well as folate.  Both vitamin E and folate help protect the brain.
  3. Avocados:  Avocados are another source of vitamin E and vitamin C.  Foods rich in these two vitamins are associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
  4. Fish:  Fish are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids so including salmon, mackerel, tuna and other fish in your diet and reducing or eliminating red meat and other artery clogging proteins are important to keep neurons functioning normally.
  5. Nuts: Peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and sunflowers are all good sources of vitamin E and are considered “healthy fats.” Nuts may help keep both the heart and the brain healthy and functioning properly – a two for one!
  6. Dark chocolate:  Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Flavonoids can help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and the heart.
  7. Red Wine: If you are going to consume moderate amounts of alcohol, the best choice is red wine.  Studies have shown that people who drink moderate amounts of red wine and other types of alcohol may be at a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
  8. Berries:  Keep eating those blueberries, strawberries and acai berries to help slow down age-related cognitive decline. Dark berries such as blackberries, blueberries and cherries are a rich source of anthocyanins and other flavonoids that may boost memory function.
  9. Whole Grains:  Grains rich in fiber are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, which is also full of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil and wine.  This type of diet may reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and other vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure.  All of these factors may play a role in increasing the risk for brain and heart diseases.

In addition to a healthy diet, finding ways to reduce stress through meditation, a regular exercise regimen and memory enhancing exercises such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku or even just challenging your brain by trying to memorize your grocery list, learning to play a musical instrument, doing math problems in your head or taking a new way home.  Experts recommend a little “brain training” daily to strengthen brain function through everyday activities that offer novelty that helps to engage your brain in new ways. Getting enough uninterrupted sleep is also an important part of staying healthy and giving your brain a chance to recharge sufficiently. Keeping our brains functioning well requires us to feed it healthy foods, keep it engaged and challenged and then allow for sufficient rest and relaxation.  That’s the recipe for successful brain health!


The Benefits of Choosing a CCRC Retirement Community

Everyone ages a bit differently.  We all have unique needs, personalities, interests and preferences.

As time goes on, people require varying levels of assistance in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and engage in activities they enjoy as part of their everyday lives. Sometimes, it is the children, relatives or friends that begin to notice it is getting more difficult for a loved one to do the things they once did, or that their health is beginning to decline.  Regardless of where the nudge comes from, the time may come to consider moving into a community that offers independent retirement apartments, assisted living, rehabilitation and/or skilled nursing care.  For many people, the decision to find a community that offers all of these services is often the best choice.

There are many considerations to take into account in finding the right community.  For instance, couples often have different needs.  One spouse may be younger than the other or in better health and may not require much, if any, assistance.  However, his or her spouse might require some help every day and as the spouse ages and his or her disease or condition progresses, might require more assistance as time goes on.  In other instances, people want to remain active and engaged, but living at home alone is isolating and they begin to feel disconnected from the world. Having people to socialize with, engaging activities such as cultural entertainment, movie nights, exercise classes, book clubs, and homemade kosher meals can make all the difference in the world.

What is a CCRC?

Moving into a vibrant community, where the person can move in and live independently and have services added as they need them, makes for a smoother transition for most people.  This is the lifestyle offered by a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). Finding the right CCRC means that instead of making a series of decisions and moving to a different location when needs change, the person can stay within the same community to get the help they need to be as independent as possible.

Some CCRC’s also have comprehensive rehabilitation services, so if surgery is needed at some point and the person requires rehabilitation afterward, they can recover in the rehabilitation center onsite and then return to their apartment after rehabilitation is complete.  The same is true for skilled nursing services and often memory care or hospice services as well. Receiving care from people you know in an environment that is familiar and comfortable reduces the stress that can come with increasing health needs.  Most people will tell you they want to remain at home as long as possible.  When “home” has all the services you might need for the future, a huge burden is removed, health care decisions become easier and you can live life to the fullest.

Where you live influences how well you live.  So, choose wisely, ask questions and take the time to think about what will make you happiest in the long term. For more information about senior living talk to a retirement counselor at [email protected] or call us and ask for Laura Zellhofer, 773-271-0300.

Succeeding At Being A Long Distance Caregiver

Whether you live just one hour away or across the country, when an elderly or ill loved one needs assistance, the role of caregiver takes on new meaning and there may be challenges to overcome.

Aside from providing hands on care, there are other aspects of caregiving that are equally as important and ways you can contribute even though you are far away:

  • Provide help with finances, money management, or bill paying
  • Assess the home for safety concerns such as throw rugs that can be a fall hazard or dim lighting
  • Coordinate transportation to doctor’s visits, hair appointments and other regular outings
  • Correspond regularly with the person needing care through phone calls, texts and/or emails to stay connected and to let them know you are there to listen
  • Arrange for in-home care—hire professional caregivers or home health or nursing aides and help obtain adaptive medical equipment such as a walker, shower chair, commode, etc.
  • Research assisted living centers, skilled nursing homes or communities where all levels of care are provided as an alternative to home care or if health care needs change.
  • Provide emotional support or occasional respite care for the primary caregiver who has taken on most of the everyday caregiving responsibilities
  • Serve as an information coordinator—research health problems, medications, and clarify insurance benefits and claims
  • Keep family and friends updated and informed about the person’s condition
  • Consider using technology to communicate and see monitor what is happening at the person’s home. There are caregiving apps available that allow long-distance caregivers and their sick loved ones to keep track of appointments and medications with pre-set reminders or alarms. Cameras can allow long-distance caregivers to see a loved one from his or her phone and monitor activities or status from far away. Medical on-call systems, some offered through local hospitals, can assist if something happens and the caregiver is not on site.
  • Create an emergency plan and gather necessary paperwork in one place in case the individual’s condition changes quickly or unexpectedly. Gather documents into a folder including advance directives, healthcare power of attorney, health insurance cards/policy, birth certificate, Social Security card, the person’s will and a list of his/her medications.
  • Keep a separate folder with paid medical bills in case there is a question or mistake in billing. You will need the account number and other information on the bill and these documents will be necessary at the end of the year for tax purposes.

Visit as often as you can; not only might you notice something that needs to be done and can be taken care of from a distance, but you can also relieve the primary caregiver for a short time.  Learn what you can about the person’s illness so you can better understand the course of the illness, prevent crises and assist with healthcare management.

You might consider hiring a geriatric case manager to assist, especially if there are no close family members or friends to provide daily assistance.   The case manager can provide updates, help guide decision-making around healthcare needs, schedule conference calls with doctors, the healthcare team and keep everyone up-to-date about the person’s health and progress. An independent advocate can help to oversee care and there are several resources, many of them free, offered through the Illinois Department on Aging.

Most importantly, while distance may separate you from your loved one, you can close the gap by communicating frequently and finding different ways to provide assistance and support.



Selfhelp Celebrates 5 Consecutive Years as A U.S. News & World Report “Best Nursing Home” -Selfhelp Ranks Among the Top 15% in the Nation 

Every year, U.S. News & World Report evaluates more than 15,000 nursing homes across the country. The Selfhelp Home is one of the elite winners, ranking in the top 15 percent of all nursing facilities in the nation. 2017 marks the 5th consecutive year that The Selfhelp Home has received this distinct designation.

“Our team is dedicated to continuously learning and training staff and achieving the highest quality of care for our residents and short-term patients,” said Nerma Lamier, Director of Nursing at The Selfhelp Home.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, (CMS) US Department of Health and Human Services, ranks The Selfhelp Home 5 out of 5 stars. The CMS Five-Star Quality Rating System was designed to help consumers, their families, and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily. The Selfhelp Home is rated  far above average  based on health inspections, nursing home staffing and quality measures.

Selfhelp Board President Austin Hirsch said, “I commend all the staff for their ongoing dedication to our residents and families and maintaining the highest quality of care.  More importantly, the tender loving care given by our staff is immeasurable and goes beyond any government rating.”




This is What Occupational Therapy Looks Like for Artist Paula Weiner

This is what Occupational Therapy looks like for artist Paula Weiner, who is undergoing her post- hospital rehabilitation in our Health & Rehabilitation Center. Painting everyday as part of her Occupational Therapy program will help  her get back to what she loves doing most, creating beautiful works of art!  Learn more about Our Health & Rehabilitation Center. 

4 Steps to Overcome The Assisted Living Conversation

At some point in time, it may become apparent that mom and/or dad can no longer care for themselves at home. Often, the decision comes when the parent is living alone and the son or daughter begins to notice that the individual’s health is declining, little things around the house are not being done and concern may build around medication management, hygiene and eating habits.  The parent may be good at masking how difficult daily activities have become if you visit infrequently, but the more time that is spent with the individual, the more obvious it becomes that a change in lifestyle is necessary.

It isn’t easy to have a conversation about moving into an assisted living community, but there are some steps you can take to help reduce the anxiety around making this important move. Don’t wait until there is a health crisis or bringing multiple caregivers into the home becomes too difficult. Start easing into the conversation early on.

Step 1 – Start the process early as it will take time.  It could take more than a year before the parent is ready and agrees that it is time to move. Have the discussion while the person is healthy enough to live without full-time care and is able to enjoy activities.

Step 2 – Enlist the help of family members, trusted clergy members and the person’s physician. Practice what you want to say and make sure everyone is on the same page. Be ready to address objections and work through your responses in advance. Include the person in the decision; you can’t make it for them.

Step 3 – Visit a few assisted living centers.  Bring mom or dad to see the one that fits their lifestyle, interests and personal preferences best. Have them meet the staff and interact or join the residents for a meal.  Plan this in advance with the assisted living community so everything goes smoothly.

Step 4 – Let it rest for a while.  Keep the conversation open by checking in and asking how things are going. Reassure the person that you want the best for them. Address concerns about moving and let them know you will come to visit them.

With time, patience and encouragement, the person may come to the conclusion that a move to an assisted living community would be in their best interest.



Downsizing & Making the Move to a Senior Community

Ask the Expert Marnie Dawson.  A Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist

Founded in 2008, Dawson Relocation Services helps seniors and their families with the process of downsizing and moving to a new home. An active member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, Marnie engages with colleagues nationally to stay informed of best practices for serving the needs of her clients. She serves on the board of the Illinois Continuity of Care – Chicago Chapter, where she meets with other professionals serving the needs of seniors.


Can you tell us a little about your company?

I have five part-time people who work with me and we are able to come in very quickly to assist people when they decide to move into assisted living or downsize.  We can do everything from sorting through personal possessions to whittle down what is to be moved and packing it up to measuring the new space, determining the furniture placement and coordinating the actual move with the person’s movers.  The person doesn’t even have to be there if they don’t want to be!


How are you different from other relocation services?

We are a small company and able to provide very personalized services.  We meet with the client to help them decide what to sell, donate, give away or repurpose. Helping them select the furniture that will work the best in their new space is also part of our services.  I often tell people “I speak mover,” so we are able to assist them in coordinating the actual move and they don’t have to worry about a thing. We are fully insured, we also adhere to the association’s standards and ethics, so people can be assured that we are a reputable company.


What is the most challenging part of downsizing for most people?

Often, my clients are in their 80’s and 90’s and the physical process of moving can be very difficult for them. Most have lived in their homes for a very long time and accumulated a lot of possessions.  It can be very overwhelming for them and hard to decide what to part with.  We create a plan and move through the process with them.  We all have an emotional attachment to our “stuff” and having a neutral third party help sort through it makes it easier to let go.


What do you do when people don’t want to part with their possessions?

It is up to the person to decide what stays or goes.  I listen to their stories and help them focus on the space they will have available to them in their new home and how to best utilize it.  I listen to their stories and am there for emotional support and to provide a reality check.  I sometimes play the role of “task master” but mostly, I am there to remind them of the amount of space they have to work with and what will fit and what won’t.  Ultimately, they have the right to say “no” and decide if they want to keep something.


What can people expect to pay for your services?

I charge a very reasonable hourly rate for my services and the consultation is complimentary. The cost depends on how much of the move they want us to manage.  We provide an estimate prior to doing any work so people know what to expect, but depending on what needs to be done, it can be as little as a couple hundred dollars.


Will you help organize/downsize someone even if they are not going to be moving?

Certainly!  I have helped people who are going through a divorce and selling their home and some people come to me years before they plan to move to prepare for their eventual move to a senior living community or apartment.  We also help empty nesters who are moving to a smaller home or repurposing rooms in their existing homes.


Marnie enjoys work her work immensely and finds it very rewarding. Helping families and elderly people who are struggling with the overwhelming task of preparing for a move and taking away the stress is the main reason Marnie got into this business.  She understands that sorting through one’s life and working with movers is not always easy and is glad to lend a hand, dig through a basement, clean drawers and closets – whatever it takes to make the process easier.



The 12 Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors

The benefits of Tai Chi for seniors are incredible. A low-impact, relaxing form of exercise that only requires about 20 minutes a day and rewards your efforts. Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art in the sense that it focuses on mental and spiritual aspects integrated into movement.

This meditative form of exercise consists of a series of 19 movements and one pose. You may have seen groups of people demonstrating its slow-moving circular forms in public parks.

Many seniors and senior care facilities, including the Selfhelp Home have been enjoying this style of workout and conditioning for more than 20 years.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Tai Chi as we Age?

Tai chi is one of the most effective exercises for the health of mind and body and is taught around the world. Tai chi helps people to relax and feel better.
Here are 12 benefits of Tai Chi for seniors:

  1. Relieves physical effects of stress
  2. Promotes deep breathing
  3. Reduces bone loss in menopausal women
  4. Improves lower body and leg strength
  5. Helps with arthritis pain
  6. Reduces blood pressure
  7. Requires mind and body integration through mental imagery
  8. Accumulates energy by releasing endorphins rather than depleting it
  9. Enhances mental capacity and concentration
  10. Improves balance and stability by strengthening ankles and knees
  11. Promotes faster recovery from strokes and heart attacks
  12. Improves conditions of Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s

There are many styles of tai chi taught today and the form taught at Selfhelp is specially designed to meet the needs of elderly people and those with arthritis. Tai chi is performed by slowly and calmly moving and breathing through a series of movements which are collectively referred to as “the tai chi form.”

Renee Gatsis, who has been teaching Tai Chi for 16 years is certified by the Arthritis Foundation as well as the Tai Chi for Health Institute, and has been teaching tai chi for over 14 years.

At Selfhelp, Renee teaches Seated Tai Chi for Arthritis, which is the creation of Dr. Paul Lam, a practicing family physician and tai chi master with over 30 years of experience. The Arthritis Foundation has adopted Dr. Lam’s Tai Chi for Arthritis Program, which has been taught in the United States for approximately 15 years and is estimated to have helped over a million people. The movements are performed while sitting in a chair and often, the participants require a walker or wheelchair for mobility.

Harvard Medical School, in its May 2009 health publication, suggests that tai chi, which is often called meditation in motion, might well be referred to as “medication in motion,” for in addition to preventing falls and reducing the effects of arthritis, the practice of tai chi has been shown to be helpful for a number of medical conditions including; low bone density, breast cancer and its side effects, heart disease and failure, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, sleep problems, and stroke.

Selfhelp Residents Enjoy the Benefits

“I have an advanced case of arthritis and try to exercise each morning. I appreciate the sitting tai chi class because it gives me the opportunity to exercise my shoulders, I look forward to the class and don’t need to bring any equipment.” Dorothy Urman, 95  

Hotel like suites are the new nursing home

Luxury. It’s the word frequently being used today to describe the environment skilled nursing facilities are providing for post- acute short-term rehabilitation stays. “We are making the experience resemble a hotel stay. Meeting the demands of a new generation of seniors’ means redefining the future of traditional nursing homes,” said Austin Hirsch, President of The Selfhelp Home.

Plush robes, in-room dining, private suites, wi-fi and spa like services are all part of the experience.  When walking into the new Health and Rehabilitation Center at Selfhelp that opened in June 2015, calming colors and selected artwork are uplifting and encouraging. Lighting was selected for a more home-like sensibility inclusive of cushioned flooring for added safety.

“We wanted to create a space for seniors that doesn’t feel like their mothers nursing home- instead something that offers a strong sense of independence and dignity that can be lost after a decline in health said Dr. Martin Szanto, Medical Director for the Selfhelp Home.  “Combining high quality care and experienced therapists, these new environments ensure hospitals prevail with low readmission rates.” Selfhelp Home maintains one of the lowest hospital readmission rates in Illinois.

The center is an expansion of short-term rehabilitation services at Selfhelp attracting active seniors that want to regain strength and return home to their active lifestyles.  The architects worked closely with the nursing and therapy teams at Selfhelp. Storage and convenience were critical factors to consider, while a conscious effort was made to give as much space as possible to residents.

Large private suites, private bathrooms and wheelchair accessible showers are featured in each room.  Larger suites were designed to with enough space for overnight guests – positively reinforcing retraining and care of the patient.

Large spacious therapy rooms include, simulated kitchen and bathroom, and a private room for speech therapy. There are also community rooms for dining, activities, and ample room for therapy so that residents don’t have to leave the floor for rehabilitation. A water therapy room for whirlpool treatments was given a very relaxing, spa-like look.

There are quiet spaces for residents to socialize and have private conversations with family members and guests.

Renovating the building was challenging to create a high-end look and feel, while making sure it was consistent with the rest of The Selfhelp Home.

Shallow floor-to-floor heights and thin flat plate floor construction required renovation of plumbing and HVAC systems. Upgrades were necessary and needed, though at times, a challenge to the redesign and construction to ensure aesthetically pleasing results. Working within an existing retirement community also posed challenges. Residents living in apartments on the floor directly beneath the project needed to be temporarily relocated within the building.

Orthopedic surgeons rely on the post-acute care as a key component to a successful recovery.

According to Alan Given, Manager of the Orthopedic Service Line, Joint University at Weiss Memorial hospital, updated therapy rooms, overnight accommodations for a spouse and barrier free showers are features that can positively impact a patient’s outcomes post-op in a sub-acute nursing facility.

Selfhelp works closely with neighboring hospitals such as Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Presence Healthcare, RIC and Rush.