Tis the Season: Manage the Holidays To Dos While Caring for Your Loved One with Dementia Like a Pro!

The holiday season is upon us!  How did November get here so quickly? I wanted to write a short piece so to not to add to your already mad rush of preparations.  This time of year, while fun, can be incredibly frantic.  There is so much to do in a seemingly short period of time, and this is all while you are trying to still juggle every day to do lists.

The hustle and bustle of the season are also stressful for our loved ones with dementia.  They quickly pick up on our emotions and the decorations can stir up a lot of childhood memories, which is fun to reminisce but can also be a bit disorienting to them.

 

Stay in the Moment

 

Staying Routine

Time management is probably the best thing you can do this Holiday season for your loved one living with dementia.  This means maintaining a regular schedule and adding additional time to get ready.  There may feel like there is no time to do much of anything and here I am telling you to add more time, I know, however, when we plan in advanced there is less disruption once you finally get to sit down and enjoy the festivities.  Your loved one will feel more relaxed and in the moment when you feel this way, and they too will be able to enjoy the festivities just like everyone else.

Include them in Activites

It is faster to decorate and bake cookies or meal prep when you do it by yourself. However, what is your loved one doing while your busy preparing?  Probably feeling a bit left out and alone.  Include them in the hubbub of the season and let them help where they can even if that means they become a taste tester. Not only is it fun but it helps build self-esteem and makes them feel more in control at the moment.  In my experience, many individuals living with dementia-like having tasks it is familiar to them and offers them a sense of self.

Reminisce

The holidays are always a bit nostalgic.  This doesn’t go away with dementia, and in fact, it can increase the memories of the past.  Listening to their stories and engaging them in conversations is a beautiful way to celebrate and engage with your loved one. Too much, however, can become disorienting so if you feel your loved one is becoming anxious or starts looking for their parents who they think are missing out on all the fun change up the conversation to something a bit more current like what yummy food is on the dinner menu.

Happy Holidays!

Above all have fun!  As adults, it is so easy to become caught up in the frenzy that by the New Year we can’t believe its all over.  Best advise I can give is to enjoy the time you have with each other and stay in the moment the best you can.  You deserve to spend as much time as you can with your parent and loved one even if that means not everything on your To Do lists gets checked off.

Staying Active: Why Helping the Older Adults in your Life Exercise is the Best Care you Can Provide

Guest Post Author: Kelli Huggins | Grace Ridge Retirement Community

Exercise in Older Adults

Exercise plays an important role in overall wellness and provides the strength to participate in the activities we love. As a Well4Life Wellness Coordinator and Licensed Recreational Therapy Assistant, I’ve dedicated the past 10 years to developing tactics and discovering programs to engage seniors in fitness.

Fitness can be as simple as adding small changes to your daily routine to build strength and balance or adopting more formal training, such as the Ageless Grace program or Tai Chi.

Below are a series of suggestions for caregivers and seniors to encourage movement and maximize health benefits with and without a certification.

Movement with Music

For seniors new to a fitness routine, music can encourage participation and keep them on track to achieve their fitness goals.

For the best results, tailor music based on resident experiences and personal preferences. If it is near a holiday, incorporate seasonal music. If there is no specific preference, soft music, classical and easy listening are great for any group.

Continue to modify the music by adjusting the volume, providing headphones if needed and incorporating song requests. 

Building Strength

As a caregiver or as you age, you understand how important it is to continue to participate in the activities you love. Doing so not only maintains a routine but can also provide a certain level of independence.

Strength exercises allow your body to move more easily, making everyday activities like climbing the stairs, picking up groceries, standing up from a seated position and opening jars much easier.

Adding strength training to your routine doesn’t need to be complicated. Household items and your own body weight are the perfect tools. Try using soup cans as hand weights or adding leg raises and overhead arm raises to your routine to help build muscle.

 

Group Of Seniors Using Resistance Bands In Fitness Class

Staying Balanced

Strength, in combination with balance, is incredibly beneficial to seniors. Adding short balance exercises to your daily routine can make a huge difference. Try standing on one foot while doing the dishes or brushing your teeth. Incorporate balance into your routine by holding both hands out and straight while walking or walk heal-to-toe as if you were on a balance beam.

Practicing balance exercises will help you navigate uneven sidewalks or foundation, reach items on high shelves, bend over to reach low items, turn around quickly and avoid falls.

Tai Chi

Balance can also be improved through the practice of Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese art form and one of the most effective exercises for health, mind, and body. Dr. Paul Lam’s principles include mind integrated with the body, incorporating the fluidity of movements, controlled breathing, and mental concentration.

After your body is fully warm, starting with the top of the body and going down to the feet, you can move into the basic tai chi movement with a focus on improving range of motion.

For those suffering from arthritis, Tai Chi improves muscle strength, flexibility and overall fitness. The benefits of Tai Chi also extend to fall prevention as the movements focus on weight transference to improve overall balance.

Try to maintain healthy fitness habits, no matter your ageAgeless Grace

To further improve cognitive performance, the Ageless Grace program, created by Denise Medved, incorporates 21 simple tools for lifelong comfort and ease. The program helps develop and strengthen new neural pathways to support a long and healthy life.

The 21 tools are based on everyday natural movements and are focused on the ability to respond, react and recover. The tools are easy to follow at home and are designed to be performed seated in a chair, down on the floor, or standing.

The tools are uniquely named to make them easy to remember. Some of my favorites include:

  • Exercise Tool #1 Juicy Joints – joint mobility, flexibility and circulation
  • Exercise Tool #6 Try Chi – joint stability, eye-hand coordination and breathing
  • Exercise Tool #10 Rockin’ Rockettes – lower body strength, hip mobility, ankle and foot flexibility and arch support.

The Ageless Grace program helps improve joint mobility, spinal flexibility, right-left brain coordination, bone density, balance, fall prevention, self-esteem and confidence.

About the Author

Kelli Huggins_headshotKelli Huggins, Well4Life Wellness Coordinator and Licensed Recreational Therapy Assistant at Grace Ridge Retirement Community in Morganton, NC, has developed senior wellness techniques and educated professionals across the state for the past decade. Kelli recently presented at the North Carolina Recreational Therapy Association on exercise in older adults. Follow Grace Ridge Retirement Community on Facebook or YouTube.

Dementia Care: Identifying Triggers

Increased anger and aggression can be all too common side effects of dementia or Alzheimers.   Bad moods happen to us all, and sometimes we just can’t put our finger on why we feel so down on ourselves.  I imagine something similar occurs when our loved ones with Dementia or Alzheimer’s gets into a bad mood.  The difference is I’m able to vocalize (more like warn!) those around me that I’m just not feeling 100%.  Or if someone did something to upset me, I’m usually able to appropriately direct my feelings towards that person rather than anyone that crosses my path.

So why can’t our loved ones control their emotions?  And what makes them get so riled up that they feel they need to take a swing at you? In my experience, anger is usually a prolonged side effect of frustration.  Resulting from an individuals inability to efficiently get their feelings across and the disappointment that we the caregiver is unable to understand or help them accurately.

While working in the nursing home, it was essential to know and understand each resident’s triggers.  Triggers can be anything from a particular sound to a specific person and although we may not always know why this particular item can cause an adverse reaction we quickly learn to avoid these things at all cost.

A helpful way to learn and remember triggers is to write them down while also noting the time of day they occur and the details of the scenario. For example, Mom may start yelling at breakfast – This only happens on Monday and Wednesdays which just so happens to be the same days she has a shower right before breakfast.  The negative feelings she has towards her shower are carrying over into the rest of the day.  In this case, there are a couple of things we can try: 1. Offer a bit more time in between shower and breakfast, so that she can calm down. Maybe even play a bit of her favorite music in her room to relax too.  2. Change the time of her shower to after breakfast. 3. Assess whether a shower is still an appropriate method of care.

It is important to note that even though someone has dementia, it does not mean that their feelings are unjustified.  More often than not there is a rational explanation for the behavior.  It is our job as caregivers to be their detective.  Figure out what is bothering them and then doing what is in our power to remove these stressors from their environment.  Or add in additional supports to help them manage and calm them after a trigger occurs.

Caregiver Response

caregiver-stress

And let’s be honest, its never always so easy.  The times our loved one is angry, sad, or accusing us of something horrible are probably the lowest points in dementia care.  It is normal to feel frustration or even anger towards our loved one.  Keeping a notebook helps for this as well, recording our own responses allows us to better understand our breaking points and offers more insight while we provide care.

While you may feel overwhelmed and flustered at the moment, it is so important that your loved one is able to calm down.  Prolonged anxiety or anger creates a higher risk that they hurt themselves or even you.  It is important to first rule out that your loved one is in any pain.  If they aren’t able to directly tell you then assess their body language; are they holding a particular part of their body?  Are they wincing or is there a look of discomfort on their face?  If pain can be ruled out identify the trigger as soon as possible.  The Alzheimer’s Association offers a list of potential factors here.

Resources

Anger and aggression are common behaviors, and there is a ton of helpful information out there for you to learn different ways to both help your loved one feel more safe and secure and for you to feel more confident and in-control in these moments.  Below is a list of helpful sites and feel free to check out our Dementia Care and Caregiver Support Tags for more resources from the Upside!

New Approaches for Dealing with Difficult Dementia Behaviors

How can we control my dad’s violent behavior and find a care facility that will accept him?

Why does dementia cause suspicions, delusions and paranoia? 

Dementia Care: The Benefits of Staying in Their Reality 

Handling Dementia-Related Agitation and Paranoia

Hallucinations, Delusions, and Paranoia Related to Dementia

Dementia Care Dos & DOnt’s: Dealing with Dementia Behavior Problems

Caregiver Stress and Burnout: Tips for Regaining Your Energy, Optimism, and Hope

Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Caregiver Stress

You Aren’t Alone

You may be the only one providing care for your loved one, but that does not mean you are alone in your experience.  The growing number of family caregivers is astounding, and the need for understanding and tools with Dementia Care is essential to your ability to sustain your role as a caregiver.  Although difficult, when your loved one begins to show signs of anger or aggressive behavior rule out pain and start investigating potential triggers within their environment.

For future reference, be sure to document the behavior, the time it occurred, and possible triggers.  This way you’ll better be able to identify trends in behaviors.  There are a number of ways we can help our loved one in these moments, reading others experiences and their tips and tricks may be a fast way to pick up your own tools for managing these behaviors that will allow a better quality of life for both you and them!

 

 

 

A 5-Step Guide on How to Take Care of Older Adults at Home

Guest Post Author: Chris Palmer | AgeSpace

One of the hardest things we go through is watching as our loved one begin to require additional care. The people who you were so dependent on when you were a child are now in need of your support. The emotional struggle can be hard and even harder when you don’t know how to take care of them at home; so, we’re here to give you a hand. We have a 5-step guide on how to take care of older adults at home.

Start Talking
You should start talking to them about everything you think they are concerned about. Ask them where they want to live, ask them what their wants or needs are, find out about their additional activities, talk to them about your heritage or history and learn about some of your relatives or friends! Discuss any financial issues that you think should be talked about and just try spending time with them, so they do not feel neglected. Make them feel like they are a part of your lives, so they don’t drift away.

Make a Plan
Family members will often suddenly find themselves in the position of a caregiver to the older adults in their life. Planning can help you in so many ways, and you won’t even have to be worried all the time. You need to start by keeping your home a safe area for them. You can set up a first aid kit for your home, or get smoke detectors with strobe lights so they can quickly wake up when there is an emergency.

Keep them healthy
To take care of your loved one, you need to make sure that they have a healthy lifestyle. Encourage exercise as it aids in their motor skills and strength, which has the potential to reduce falls. If you feel that your loved one is unable to exercise or swim, then you can always schedule a regular activity session as it enhances their well-being and has so many emotional benefits and doesn’t require a lot of effort!

Embrace and Encourage mental/physical health
Medication management is so important for older adults mental and physical health. As a caregiver, remind them to take their medication and visit their doctor on a regular basis. Their mental health is just as important and sometimes overlooked by health care professionals, but you should keep an eye out for any symptoms of dementia and depression and notify their physician if symptoms worsen or change.

Consider a Professional caregiver
There are many challenging feelings of guilt and responsibility attached with family caregiving. However, you don’t have to do it all. Hiring a professional caregiver can help you feel more secure in the care you are providing and wards off burnout, which is a common side effect of caregiving. Additional help also allows for more time to promote the independence of your loved one as there are more time and patience to let them direct their care.

About Author:
Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 10.37.04 AM

This article was written by Chris Palmer who regularly shares advice on elderly care. In particular dementia and supporting your elderly parent. You can find more by Chris on https://www.agespace.org/.

 

Do you Have a Plan for Your Future Health Care Needs?

First published on Sixty and Me.

Knowing how to recognize a good opportunity to start looking for long-term care options can be difficult. Whether we are looking for ourselves, a family member or a loved one, considering senior care can often signal an unwanted decline in our or their health.

In many cases, admitting that it is time to look for additional support is the hardest step. Ultimately, however, this is the best decision people can make for themselves and their family.

There are a few ways we can make this process a bit easier for ourselves and our loved ones. All it takes is a bit of research and planning to understand the senior care options in the area, even if we don’t plan on using these services for a couple of years.

Having a plan and a basic understanding of your options will make for easier decision making if our loved ones – or we – need senior care services sooner than expected.

Also, understanding our choices before we need them is the best way to ensure all parties involved feel at peace with the decision. The number of senior care options is growing, so no matter what our ideal age in place model is, there is certainly an option.

Below are three tips on how to get started!

Research Care Options in your Community

In-Home Care

In recent years, the demand to age in place has created a booming market for in-home care services. There are a variety of care services available to consumers ranging from need base to hospice care.

As we decide to age in place, it is feasible that we may require some, if not all, of these services over time. There is a difference between a Home Care Agency and a Home Care Individual business. Check out caring.com for a full overview of each.

Nursing Home Care

Nursing homes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you know you would like to remain in the area of your current home, you can start by reaching out to local assisted living facilities or continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs).

Although the thought of moving to a nursing home is not always pleasant, there are several reasons why this could be the right option for you. Nursing homes will provide around the clock skilled care and assistance whenever you need it, which takes the responsibility of care off of family caregivers.

Area on Aging

If you are living in the States, a great place to start your research is with your local Area on Aging. They will have an abundance of resources and knowledge of your surrounding area and point you in the right direction.

You can easily google search your county name area on aging or use the Paying for Senior Care tool.

Have Conversations with Close Friends and Family

A recent study by the University of Minnesota found that only 40 percent of Americans aged 40 to 65 think it’s likely that they will need long-term health care services.

When asked who would provide their care if they needed it, many people based their answer on current living arrangements, which did not account for changes in family dynamics or children moving away.

Taking such a critical need for granted can do a disservice to you and your family members. Making assumptions about your future needs, without discussing with those involved, could result in an unwanted change to your plan.

To start, have a conversation with friends and family to see if they have considered their future health care needs. Most of us don’t, so “no, I haven’t” is a reasonable response.

This makes sense – it is hard to think that there will come a time when we would actually need help doing our everyday tasks. But, asking this question can help all parties narrow down options and create a feasible plan that you all could agree upon.

Write Down Your Plan and Tell It to Whoever Will Listen

Once you have identified the right plan for you, write it down. Having your wishes written down on paper is just an added security that your future health care choices are honored.

This process doesn’t even have to be formal, so don’t worry about calling a lawyer (unless you want to). If you would like to have some formality, you can sign your letter in front of a witness (who can be a close friend or family member).

Communicating our plan with our loved ones is an excellent way of ensuring that they will know what to do if ever in a situation where they must make decisions for you.

These types of conversations are also beneficial because they normalize the process. Too often we are afraid to broach the conversation about senior care. However, it is a highly important conversation to have if we would like to have a say in the way we age.

Preparing for A Piece of Mind

Aging is a natural part of life, and if we are lucky enough to experience it, there are still many things to learn and be involved with even in our later years.

There may come a time, however, that we will be unable to make decisions for ourselves. This might sound scary, but if we prepare for this ahead of time, there is no reason why we can’t age in a place we feel comfortable and at home.

Celebrating Residents Rights Month: Awareness of dignity, respect and the value of every Nursing Home Resident

Happy Resident’s Rights Month!! The National Consumer Voice has designated 2017 as “It’s All About Me: My Life, My Care, My Choices.” For great ideas on how to celebrate and promote the rights of our resident’s living in care homes check out their site here http://theconsumervoice.org/events/residents-rights-month-2017.

Resident’s Rights Month is an excellent opportunity for care homes to celebrate and recognize the rights of older adults, the rights that stemmed from the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. In recognition, I wanted to revisit a blog that I wrote last year during this time.

Over the year, I’ve thought a lot about how we could expand these rights to those living in Home Health Care. Notably, extending the rights to privacy and dignity. Home Health Care does not have regulations, in the same way, our nursing homes do, which of course has its pros and cons (and starts a whole new and maybe a longer conversation for another time). But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate these fundamental human rights to our older adults in home health care!

As my background is in long-term care, however, I’m excited to hear about how nursing homes are celebrating this month, and if your care home has a jam-packed Resident’s Rights Celebration on the October Calendar I would love to feature you on the blog!!

Share your calendar or event idea with the #theupsidetoaging, and I’ll add a link to your site here!!

Check out our post from last years celebrations for some fun ways to celebrate!!

Portrait of a smiling elderly woman.Quality of Care and Quality of Life for Every Resident

Photo Credit: http://rosenspearslaw.com/resident-rights-month/

October is Resident’s Rights Month!

Since 1981, Nursing homes across the country have dedicated a week in October to Resident Rights. The celebration was expanded to the whole month in 2011 by the National Consumer Voice.  And this year’s focus is My Vote Matters! 

Celebrating Resident Rights is an excellent way to empower and educate both residents and staff on such an important topic. But it also serves as a good reminder to us all that when we work in or visit a Long-term care unit, we are a visitor in someone’s home.

On many  long-term care units, a regular staff to resident ratio is 1 to 5.  In order to provide care for everyone, this ratio requires staff to be task and time oriented. Such limitation allows little time for engagement outside of the checklist…

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The Story of a Life Time, My Last Soundtrack

An E-Legacy

Today, you’d be hard-pressed not to find traces of someone on the internet.  People will share just about everything with the world allowing each of us a brief glimpse into their life. I’ve often wondered what happens to these pages if the person who owned them passes away. Would the last post or image they share reflect how they would want to be remembered?

What if there was a place that allowed us to record our own story? Not by the everyday musings of our social media pages, but rather by a space designed for us to share our e-legacy with our friends and loved ones our favorite songs, write our most meaningful memories, or display our precious photos. A place that we could feel confident that if we were to pass away the story of our time here on earth would be written by none other than ourselves.

My Last Soundtrack (MLS) has done just this.  Through their innovative and thoughtful lens, My Last Soundtrack has created a safe and welcoming space for anyone wanting to share their story, leave a legacy, or give the gift of collective memories to family and loved ones.

#Disrupters

Founders Carl Hammerdorfer and Joe Cannon began MLS as an opportunity to personalize the music played at our funerals or memorials. Since its conception, however, it has grown into so much more. And through a new lens of the dying process created an opportunity for family and loved ones to better prepare themselves for the end of life.

Last week I had the exciting opportunity to speak with Sue Kemple, the CEO of MLS, and Ally Cannon, Director of Marketing, to learn more about the site and the goals and solutions it seeks to offer the field of aging. Having already written a book on her own experience with grief and intrigued by the idea of applying digital solutions for individuals to cope with death and grieving, Sue saw an opportunity to expand the scope of MLS to individuals on Hospice. Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 1.01.58 PM.pngA welcoming and customizable platform to share our story, MLS also becomes a tool, which will allow end of life conversations to occur more organically. MLS is committed to the idea of living well, dying better, and being remembered the right way. Their platform disrupts sterile conversations we have around the dying process and creates a gateway for people to better prepare for their advance directives in the comforts of home with close family and friends.

My Last Soundtrack

In addition to connecting with Sue and Ally, I was able to create my own Last Soundtrack!  I was pleasantly surprised about how easy the site was to use and customize. And the end result was a beautiful design, which I can continue to add and change as needed! The best part is I can also share with those closest to me who I think would appreciate such a personal gift.

 

 

As I was customizing my own site, I couldn’t help but think of what a great tool this could be for family caregivers caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.  In Nursing Homes, the Activities Department is often required to conduct an assessment on a new resident’s likes and dislikes.  It becomes a helpful tool if and when the same resident is no longer able to express their interest we have a record and can quickly adapt activities to their past preferences.

An MLS site has the fantastic potential to allow families to collect their loved one’s favorite songs, their hobbies, or even memories and use them as reminiscing activities while providing future care.

Dying Better 

No matter what stage of life you are in My Last Soundtrack is a unique and fun way to tell your life story. However, through the lens of aging, MLS has created a space where we can forget about the concerns and fears we hold towards dying and refocus our attention on what matters: the life we have led, the music we loved, and the people we have been blessed with to share the journey.

To learn more about My Last Soundtrack and to create your own site check out www.mylastsoundtrack.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and on Twitter.

 

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Look for their logo Ed The Raven