For Michigan caregivers of an aging parent or loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most frightening behaviors is an unfortunately common one. Wandering is generally believed to be a means of attempting to communicate after language skills are largely gone.
A person living with more advanced Alzheimer’s disease may not recognize their surroundings any longer. They may be trying to find their way “home” where home is a place they lived as a child or young adult. It might be that they are hungry or thirsty or need to use the restroom and don’t know where or how to find help. Whatever the reason, wandering causes stress and concern for caregivers trying to keep them safe.
5 Tips to help Michigan caregivers decrease a loved one’s wandering
What can you do to try to decrease the odds that your aging loved one will wander? Here are a few recommendations to try:
- Keep a clear path for your loved one to safely pace indoors. That means packing up throw rugs and eliminating clutter.
- Store potential “leaving cues” out of plain sight. Items like car keys, coats, mittens, and umbrellas should be kept in a closet or cupboard. It isn’t always as convenient, but it may prevent their mind from being triggered to the fact that an exterior door is nearby.
- Installing an additional lock at the top of all exterior doors might also help. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, a person’s gaze often becomes directed down toward their feet. A lock that is located higher on the door will be out of their line of vision.
- Paint the interior side of exit doors the same color as the walls. That will make them harder to distinguish and less likely to attract attention if your loved one is seeking an exit.
- Another common strategy used in senior living communities is one that is very easy to implement at home. Consider placing STOP or DO NOT ENTER signs on the inside of exterior doors. These universal signs and symbols are recognizable to even those with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.
Prepare Ahead in Case a Senior Loved One Wanders
If the unthinkable happens and your loved one does wander away, having an emergency plan in place can minimize the time it takes to find them. Some preventative measures you can take care in case a crisis happens include:
- Always have a recent photo of them available. A digital photo that can be quickly emailed to media is even better.
- As much as you don’t want to hurt the dignity of your loved one, consider labeling their clothing with tags containing their name and your phone number.
- Don’t hesitate to call 911 as soon as you realize your loved one is missing. Every minute counts in helping them make a safe return home.
- The Alzheimer’s Association offers several GPS tracking programs you can use called, ComfortZone and Comfort Check-In. They use cellular technology to help you monitor your loved one’s location.
Are you caring for a loved one who wanders? Have we missed anything you’ve found to be of help?
The Medicare Wellness visit is one of the many benefits the Affordable Care Act (ACA) brought to seniors. Despite being launched in January of 2011, however, many primary care physicians and their patients are still not utilizing the benefit. For physicians, the visit provides them with an opportunity to develop a preventative plan for each patient on an individual basis. There is financial incentive for physicians to be sure their Medicare patients schedule the wellness visit – it pays nearly three times the rate of a typical Medicare patient visit.
So why are many seniors still not taking advantage of the benefit? Most are simply unaware of it and what it entails.
The Medicare Wellness Visit
The once-a-year benefit is a wellness visit provided at no cost to seniors. The focus of it is to develop or update prevention plans and evaluate chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma. The physician will talk with the patient about their health, lifestyle and overall fitness regime. In addition, the physician will likely:
- Measure height, weight, and body mass index
- Check blood pressure
- Perform a simple vision test
- Evaluate cognitive function
- Assess the patient for their risk of depression
- Other routine testing based on patient and family medical history
- Refer patient for further testing or evaluation by specialists if necessary
Based on their discussion with the patient and the results of the physical examination, the primary care physician will develop a personalized preventative care plan that includes timelines for health screenings. They will also make recommendations for any lifestyle improvements they believe will contribute to the patient’s overall health and wellness. It might be nutrition counseling, a smoking cessation program or suggested physical activities.
Medicare Welcome Visit versus Wellness Visit
There is some confusion among patients because Medicare also allows a one-time Medicare Welcome Visit. This appointment is for new Medicare recipients. It must take place within the first year of receiving Medicare Part B benefits.
Medicare Part B Wellness Visit Costs
Because one of the goals of the Affordable Care Act is to reduce health care expenses by focusing more on prevention, there is no cost to Medicare Part B recipients. Patients are entitled to one wellness visit every 11 months. One important thing to note is that while the visit is at no cost to patients, any recommendation testing or follow-up may not be.
If you are the caregiver for an older adult in Michigan, be sure to speak with their physician about scheduling an appointment to take advantage of this benefit.
If you’ve ever brought a child or teen to visit an aging loved one in an assisted living community or nursing home, you’ve likely noticed how popular they quickly become. Seniors enjoy interaction with the younger generation. Many aging experts believe that friendships between these two age groups can help prevent depression among older adults, especially those with mobility issues that keep them from getting out and about in the community. What can you do to encourage these relationships between your child and the older adults in your life?
Activities for Children and Seniors to Enjoy Together
There are a wide variety of activities that can help build intergenerational bonds depending upon the senior’s abilities and the child’s age. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Arts and Crafts. The great thing about arts and crafts as an intergenerational activity is that they can be as simple as you need for them to be. It could be putting together a scrapbook of family photos and events or enjoying simple coloring book time with small children. Another fun and easy activity is to create a Family Handprint Tree.
- Break Out the Board Games. With so many board games available for almost every age group, these are easy go-to activities. Whether it is Monopoly, Operation, Candyland or Hedbanz, having a game day or night is a great way to relax and spend time together.
- Create Masterpiece Cookies. Frosted sugar cookies are always a hit with kids of both generations! You can make the dough ahead of time and have the kids help cut them out in a variety of fun shapes. Then the younger ones can help bake and frost them. If that sounds like a little too much work, you can buy frozen, pre-baked cutouts at many grocery stores. Then all you have to do is thaw and decorate!
- Make a Fairy Garden. Fairy gardens are likely to capture the imagination of even the youngest of children. Fortunately, they are very popular right now. That means supplies are easy to come by even at discount stores. You can create an indoor or outdoor fairy garden together. Use fun containers like a wagon or wicker basket to make the fairy gardens more mobile.
- Make a Movie. Most digital cameras and cell phones have video capabilities. Take advantage of that to make an intergenerational movie together. Teens will no doubt be the experts at how to do this. Pick a topic like “School Days” and let the older and younger generation each talk about what their day at school involved.
If you are looking for more project ideas, Grandparents.com is a great resource. They have themed activities around holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s Day for both generations to enjoy together.