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Make the Holiday Season Stress Free

Tips for Celebrating the Holidays with the Person with Dementia

The Joy of the Holidays

Whether you grew up Jewish, like myself, Christian or Muslim, we all have one thing in common – family get-togethers during the holidays. Usually these get-togethers involve a lot of food and, at times, gift exchanges. But no matter what the holiday or the tradition is, the focal point is always on the ‘get-together’ part. This once or twice-a-year event is when family members, who may rarely see one another, put aside all family dynamics and come together to celebrate holiday traditions. The bigger the family, the bigger the event: a big table, kids running around, multiple loud conversations or, as it may feel to the person who lives with dementia,

“A lot of people I don’t know who say a lot of things I don’t understand”.

If you have a loved one who lives with dementia, especially if they still live at home with you or with another family member (spouse, adult child), I’m sure the dilemma every holiday is not new to you: Should I bring my mom to Rosh Hashanah dinner?, How can I help my husband enjoy himself at the Christmas dinner party?

When you have a loved one who lives with dementia, holidays can bring up many emotions and memories of times gone by: when grandma cooked our favorite food during Eid al-Fitr,  when grandpa lead the Passover Sadder, when mom made those beautiful stockings.  But while everyone else may enjoy the social event, grandma may become anxious and restless looking around the unfamiliar room full of unfamiliar faces.

Five Tips to Help the Person with Dementia Enjoy the Holiday Season
When the Person Lives at Home

1.Communicate with the family

You know your loved one best, but not everyone in the extended family may be aware that they have dementia or to what extent.

An email sent to everyone with the important information about your loved one can help prevent many potentially stressful situations. Important information to share may be:

  • How best to connect with the person with dementia: call them by their name, introduce yourself by name and your relationship to them (if you sense you look unfamiliar to them) and offer a warm hug.
  • How to have a conversation: don’t ask questions that start with “do you remember…?”. instead tell the person something about you or your life or make a nice comment about the person.
  • Keep the person involved: everyone should take turns spending a few minutes with the person to make sure they are included.
  • Keep it short and sweet: don’t overwhelm the person with too much information or too much commotion.
  • If a gift exchanged is planned: share gift ideas for that person.

2.Celebrate early in the day

As many older people get tired and sleepy later in the day, the person with dementia may get more confused and/or anxious in the late afternoon or early evening hours, especially as it gets darker. Start the celebration earlier in the day when there is still light outside.

3.Keep it small, simple and familiar

A familiar environment – familiar faces, familiar dishes, familiar smells – will make the event easier to handle. Invite a small group of close family members and have the celebration in the same house where the person lives to keep it familiar. Cook the same traditional dishes that you cook every year.
Keeping it the same as in the past will decrease the sense of confusion that is overwhelming for the person with dementia.

A small group of family member will help decrease feeling overwhelmed or anxious during the holidays

 

4. Attend to the important needs

Food and going to the bathroom are the most important things that need attention.
Make sure the person goes to the bathroom before everyone arrives and before leaving the event. Arrange to have the person sit where it is easy to get up from the table and go to the bathroom. Escort the person to the bathroom every two hours.
Arrange for a plate of food that is easy to self-feed: cutting anything that needs to be cut, avoiding food that may be challenging to eat with a fork, such as peas or rice (or provide a spoon) or that can spill, such as soup (or put it in a cup and let it cool a little).
If you need to arrange for an adult bib to avoid staining clothes, get one that is made from a festive holiday fabric (can easily get those online).

5. Be prepared to change your plans

If the person who lives with dementia gets restless or anxious earlier than expected, be prepared to either leave early if the celebration is not in their home, or to move them to the bedroom or another quiet room.

The Spirit of the Holiday is Everywhere

Be Attentive

Just because your loved one may live in a memory care facility, it doesn’t mean they cannot (or should not) enjoy the holiday with family. However, as their dementia progresses, you will need to be attentive to their ability to participate and enjoy the family get-together. They may be at a stage where bringing them to the family event, while using the above tips, will allow them to enjoy the celebration with everyone. But time may come when leaving the memory care community, their now familiar environment, will overwhelm them to the extent that they won’t be able to enjoy the celebration. Furthermore, it may mean that you’ll need to give them your full attention to the point that it will affect your ability to enjoy it, too. When this is the case, you can still enjoy the festivity of the holiday, just in a different way.

Living with memory loss doesn’t mean you lose your holiday spirit

 

Three Tips to Help the Person with Dementia Enjoy the Holiday Season
When the Person Lives in a Memory Care Community

1.Bring the spirit of the holiday to their home

Decorate their room with traditional holiday decorations that are familiar to them. Make it a joint activity, even if all they do is sit and watch you hanging the decorations around their room.

2.Keep the gift giving tradition

Help them think of gifts for the grandkids and wrap them together. Arrange for the grandkids to come for a visit and have them open gifts together. If the grandkids live far away, ask their parents to take pictures of them opening the gifts and share with the grandparent or, if possible, arrange for live video chat.

3.Take part in their celebration

The memory care community will have their own celebration around the holidays. Arrange for the closest family members to attend that celebration, whether it is a special dinner or holiday music sing-along.

Make this holiday season meaningful and enriching for both you and your loved one who lives with dementia. Keep the family tradition and help everyone feel part of the family.

 

Ronit Cohen is Senior Living Advisor and owner of A Home to Fit You.  Ronit is passionate about educating families on the best ways to support a loved one by advocating for seniors to identify their care needs and personal wishes while navigating the journey to find their best living solution as well as support her clients through the transition and beyond.

Making Your Home Safe for Loved Ones With Alzheimer’s


If you are becoming the caregiver of a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you know you need to make some changes. One of the first places you’ll need to start is your home. Use these helpful tips to help make your home safer and more secure for your loved one.

Tackle These Projects First

Safety should be any caretakers primary concern. There are some simple ways you can help your loved one stay safe in your home. Install some grab bars in slippery spots, like bathrooms and showers. Then, walk through your home and keep an eye out for dangerous ledges or tripping hazards. Use labels and large switches around the home, and make sure your home security system and locks are updated to prevent your loved one from wandering off. Also, use a measuring tape to help ensure there’s enough space to accommodate wheelchairs if necessary.

Be Mindful of Your Budget

Caring for a loved one can mean extra expenses. Be sure your home projects are completed in a way that won’t throw your finances off track. Look for DIY projects that you can complete on your own. When you need a handyman or contractor, use online tools to compare prices and reviews. It’s wise to look into grant opportunities as well. There are some funding options for homeowners looking to improve accessibility in their homes. Look into these resources and use them to keep yourself out of debt.

Consider Hiring Help

One of the most effective tools in caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is people. In-home care and therapy are often needed for patients as they progress with their condition. Take this into consideration when planning out care. To make your life a little easier, you may also want to consider hiring people to help with household upkeep as well. Use a dog-walker to take care of pets or find someone who can keep up with the cleaning. You may even be able to have groceries and supplies delivered to avoid leaving your loved one alone.

Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s is never easy. You need to make sure you are prepared for this new role and that your home is as well. With a few simple steps, you can keep your loved one protected and give yourself some peace of mind.

Author: June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.

Advice and Accessories to Help You and Your New Dog Start Strong

Have you always wanted a reliable exercise buddy who’s always eager to join you for a long walk and never has scheduling conflicts? If so, you could be a perfect candidate for a canine companion.

Indeed, research from the University of Missouri found walking a dog was associated with a lower body mass index, fewer doctors’ visits, more frequent physical activity, and a boost in social interaction for seniors in the study, adding up to better physical health overall. So, owning a pet can help keep your heart healthy, and not just because pet owners tend to be more physically active. In fact, simply sitting quietly and stroking a pet lowers people’s blood pressure and pulse rate, and interacting with animals has also been shown to reduce humans’ stress and anxiety levels.

But animals need some TLC in return, so here’s some advice for prospective senior pet owners who don’t already have a dog at home.

Prepping for a Pet

Before bringing a new dog home, stock up on essential supplies such as food, food and water bowls, a leash and collar, and a crate, if possible. According to the Humane Society of the United States, crates can make housetraining and obedience training easier and help limit potentially problematic behavior early on. Plus, if they are used sparingly and appropriately, dogs often view crates as a safe space that belongs to them.

Once you have all the gear on hand, plan your pet’s arrival for a time when you will be home for a few days. This will give you an opportunity to get to know one another and allow you to get a sense of what kind of training tasks you might need to take on together — such as leash walking and practicing good behavior around other dogs. Also be sure to visit a veterinarian within a week of adopting your animal to ensure he or she is healthy and has all the necessary vaccinations.

When it comes to collars, you have a number of choices, and factors including the dog’s breed and advice from your vet should help you decide which provides the perfect fit for your furry friend. For instance, a standard flat collar may not be the best buy for a greyhound or whippet. Since their necks are often larger than their heads, they may need a martingale-style collar to prevent them from slipping out of it, according to the American Kennel Club. Similarly, short-nosed dogs who are prone to respiratory issues, such as pugs or Boston terriers, might be better served by a back-clip harness than a neck collar that could damage their airways. And any collar should include identification tags in case your dog should ever get lost.

Staying Safe on the Road

Once you’re ready for walks, the AKC recommends standard leashes over retractable versions for teaching good leash-walking habits. When choosing among the many available options, consider your dog’s size. You may also want to pick a leash, collar, or harness with reflective fabric so you and your canine companion will be more visible during evening excursions.

To add an extra layer of safety for evening walks, invest in a clip-on blinking light and carry a flashlight to check your path, according to advice from Angie’s List. In addition to making you more visible to drivers, these basic tools will help you avoid other potential problems, such as run-ins with raccoons and other nocturnal creatures.

During extreme weather conditions, keep your pet’s paw pads in mind. For instance, during hot summer days, try taking walks on grass rather than steamy sidewalks when possible. In harsh winter weather, bring a towel along on walks to clean ice, salt, and ice-melting chemicals off your dog’s paws and body, or consider investing in some cute canine booties designed to protect paws.

With a little time, training, and the right tools, you and your new dog will be on the road to health and happiness.

Jessica Brody is the creator of Our Best Friends. Jessica lives in Dallas, Texas with her loving family. She is a certified dog lover, and believes dogs are just about the greatest creatures on earth.

Sleep Disturbances in Patients With Dementia

Often, patients with dementia experience poor sleep. At the same time, patients who are diagnosed with some sleep disorders are more likely to develop the symptoms of dementia.
Sleep Disturbances Common in Dementia Patients
Sleep difficulties are frequently experienced by dementia patients, including:
• Longer sleep latency
• Increased sleep fragmentation
• Decreased sleep efficiency
• Decreased total sleep time
• Increased daytime sleepiness
• Nighttime wandering, confusion, and agitation
• Insomnia
• Sleep apnea
• REM sleep behavior disorder
• Restless legs syndrome
• Periodic limb movements
• Sleep-disordered breathing

Brain Damage and Sleep

The neuronal degeneration experienced in Alzheimer’s patients damages the basal forebrain and reticular formation of the brain stem. These two regions help regulate sleep patterns, so damage can contribute to sleep pattern changes.

Insomniacs and seniors with sleep problems often have beta-amyloid plaques present in their brains at a higher rate than that of healthy sleepers. This material makes up some of the plaques found in Alzheimer’s patients, and problematic sleep can be an early sign of dementia. In fact, changes in sleep patterns can be one of the first indications of degenerative disease.
Dementia and Circadian Rhythms
Dementia patients may have a disturbance in their sleep and wake rhythms. They may wake up during the night and fall asleep frequently during the day. Some struggle to spend a full hour awake during the day, or a whole hour asleep during the night.

It’s believed the decline in circadian rhythm in dementia may be due to a deficiency in environmental cues and other factors. Evidence suggests there are three stages of circadian rhythm disruption in dementia. The first stage involves rapid decline of circadian rhythm, then a slight return to stronger rhythms before they further decline in later stages of dementia.
Improving Sleep for Dementia Patients
Although dementia patients often experience disturbed sleep, and sleep may get worse as the disease progresses, there are methods for supporting healthy sleep in dementia patients.

• Use light therapy. Exposure to light is a powerful cue for circadian rhythms. It tells the brain when it’s daytime and time to be awake. Exposure to bright light in the morning and throughout the day can be helpful in reinforcing environmental cues that guide sleep and wake cycles for dementia patients. A light box can be used, or patients can simply spend time outside or near a bright, open window during appropriate times of the day.
• Keep a regular schedule. A regular schedule both day and night can support healthy sleep. You should keep a consistent sleep routine for dementia patients, going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time each night and day. Keep meals and activities consistent from day to day. Create a bedtime routine that you repeat each night before going to sleep.
• Make daytime more active. Resting throughout the day may lead to being more awake at night. Avoid afternoon napping if possible, and avoid it during the evening. Encourage exercise during the day and plan activities such as doctor appointments and shopping early in the day.
• Create a safe sleep environment. Make sure the patient’s sleeping area is comfortable and safe. Maintain a dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable sleeping environment. Choose a mattress that is appropriate for their needs and relieves aches and pains. Use nightlights to guide steps at night, and make sure doors and windows are locked. Consider using sensors to get alerts when they may be wandering.

Samantha (Sam) Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.

Woman Sleeping 2002

What Is Geriatric Care?

 

Life passes us by quickly and before we know it, our children have grown up and we have gotten older. Becoming an elderly person means having many additional needs that need to be addressed that aren’t a part of being a younger person. This is where we get into “Geriatric care.” Geriatric care is defined as the medical care of elderly or geriatric individuals. This kind of care doesn’t just mean medical needs, but also addresses other components of elderly people’s lives, such as mental health and social lives. Seniors need to feel like they are a part of a community just like any other human being or any age. Think about children who are in a kindergarten classroom, they are a part of a larger community: their class. And if you take it one-step further, their school. Elderly people want to have that sense of belonging as well. When older people live in a community residence with many other seniors, they feel connected to this center. That satisfies their social needs. Social needs are important, but also essential is that the seniors who are being cared for maintain their mental health.

As people age there can be anxiety about getting older. What will happen to their adult children, as they grow older? How about their grandchildren? Seniors can experience depression if their family doesn’t visit them as much as they would like them to. As for the children of the elderly person, it can be a lot to take in when your mother or father gets older. They might want to talk about their issues surrounding aging with their own counselor, and wonder “where can I find a therapist near me? We all have busy lives, but talking about our life challenges makes them feel less stressful. When a loved one develops Alzheimer’s, for example, the stress on the family can be extreme. This is situation that a psychologist can help one talk through. If your father is suffering from this disease, you can talk to your therapist about how to process your feelings about this. It could evoke a lot of emotions within you seeing your father in a state different from what you’re used to.

Our bodies age over the course of time. It would be great if we looked youthful and lived forever, but unfortunately that isn’t reality. We all age and that is a part of life. But, just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean your life has to end. Geriatric care focuses on maintaining wellness for seniors. When you take into account the social, psychological and health of a elderly person, they can lead a happy life.

Written by:
Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.

Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.

3 Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Home for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

 

Providing care to a loved one is a rewarding experience. You know that you are giving her the best possible care and that she will spend her remaining days surrounded by loving family. When serving as a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, make sure that your home also is as safe as possible for her. People living with Alzheimer’s have unique symptoms and traits that will require you to modify your home to make it the best environment possible, and you can ensure that your home will meet her needs by discussing your plans with your loved one’s doctor.

Increase Safety Around Stairs

Stairs are difficult for seniors to navigate, and they’re even more difficult for people living with Alzheimer’s. Steps pose a significant tripping hazard, so install ramps wherever possible in place of stairs. Keep in mind that building a ramp may be a DIY project, or you could hire a professional to design, build, and install ramps for the exterior of your home.

Ensure there are landings at the top and bottom of the ramp with railings on both sides for increased safety. Also, be sure the ramp surface is textured to decrease the risk of slipping and reflective to help your loved one find it in the dark.

As for interior stair safety, you have a couple of options. First, you can make arrangements for your loved one to live on the main level of your home by turning a den into a bedroom so she does not have to navigate stairs.

Another option is to install a stair lift so your loved one can access your entire home. Stair lifts climb up and down staircases on motorized rails and have comfort and safety features to keep your loved one secure. Also, make sure that your stairways are well lit, both outside and inside, to make your loved one feel safer.

2. Install Safety Gates and Locks

People with Alzheimer’s are prone to wandering, and you can help prevent falls by installing safety gates at the top and bottom of your stairs. If you are concerned that your loved one will wander away from your home, especially in the middle of the night while you’re asleep, you should place additional locks on your doors that are out of her reach or that require a key to unlock. Another option is a door lock designed specifically to stop Alzheimer’s patients from wandering, such as the Confounding Door Lock.

You also should ensure that all of your windows have locks that are in working order. If you’re concerned about your loved one becoming confused and trying to exit through a window, install window locks on all windows. Just be sure to purchase the correct locks for your type of windows.

3. Install Monitors or Sensors

Sensors and monitors are available for purchase specifically to help caregivers track their loved ones with Alzheimer’s. Motion sensors quickly detect when your loved one moves around the home and can detect variations in your loved one’s typical daily patterns to alert you to possible problems by sending a notification to your smartphone.

Some companies offer home automation systems with monitors and sensors that will make you feel more at ease when your loved one with Alzheimer’s is home alone or you are busy completing a task. These systems are easy for homeowners to install and include wireless monitors and cameras that you can place anywhere in your home to keep tabs on your loved one. Some of these systems also include door monitors that alert you when your loved one attempts to exit through an exterior door or leaves her bedroom in the middle of the night.

Before you can provide care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s properly, you need to modify your home to better suit her needs and ensure her safety. Begin by increasing safety around stairs with ramps or stair lifts, installing safety gates and door and window locks, and installing monitors or sensors around your home.

Perhaps most important to the safety of your loved one is your ability to care for him or her. Consider partnering with a team of dementia care specialists who can ease your burden with respite care when providing around-the-clock care by yourself becomes too much. By caring for yourself, you will return to your duties with a fresh set of eyes and both you and your loved one will benefit.

Written by: Lydia Chan