Coping with a Sense of Loss When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

Coping with a Sense of Loss When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Donna:

My dad and I have been my mom’s primary caregivers since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over three years ago. None of us were familiar with the disease or the unique challenges it would present. It’s been a real learning curve.

My dad and I are struggling to cope with a profound sense of loss, even though my mom is still with us. It seems like every day there is another change in Mom or something else she’s no longer able to do for herself. It’s so tough to witness this decline.

Do you have any suggestions for my dad and me? We want to be strong for my mom, but it’s getting more and more difficult.

Sincerely,

Alysha in Midland, MI

Tips for Coping When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Alysha:

When a person has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, their family and friends all feel the impact of the diagnosis. Alzheimer’s is frequently referred to as the long goodbye because the disease slowly robs a person of their verbal skills, memory, and independence. Like you and your dad, loved ones of people with Alzheimer’s often say they feel a deep sense of sadness, helplessness, and frustration as the disease progresses.

While the physical demands of caregiving can cause loved ones to feel exhausted, the mental toll can be equally trying. These ideas might be helpful to you and your dad:

  • Join a caregiver support group: Caring for someone you love when they have Alzheimer’s is different than caring for those with other types of life-limiting illnesses. Connecting with peers in a similar situation might be beneficial. The understanding and shared experience may bring you and your dad a sense of comfort. Some people might feel more comfortable joining a virtual support group than an in-person meeting. The Alzheimer’s Association has some virtual support group ideas for you to consider.
  • Live in the moment: Of all the suggestions listed, this one might be the most beneficial but also the most difficult to carry out. Instead of focusing on what your mom has lost, try to live in the present. Meet your mom where she is in this journey, which can be different every day.
  • Take a break: When you are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, the days can be hectic and stressful. Try to take time for yourself on a regular basis, even if it’s just to have lunch with a friend or take a quick walk.
  • Learn to meditate: Many people find that meditation helps bring them inner peace during difficult times. If you haven’t tried it yet, there are a variety of options online for beginners. Watch Beginner’s Guide to Meditation and Guided Meditation for Seniors, Older Adults to get started.
  • Try music therapy: Music offers therapeutic value to people of all ages. For people with dementia and their loved ones, it can be a way to connect after communication skills are impaired. Playing happy music might be a way for the three of you to enjoy your time together.

I hope some of these suggestions are useful to you and your dad, Alysha. I’m wishing your family all the best.

Kind regards,

Donna

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

When a senior has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, specialized care can help them live their best quality of life. From our person-centered approach to care to an environment that promotes independence, Heritage Senior Communities are leaders in the field of dementia care. Call the community nearest you to learn more and schedule a personal visit soon!

How Is Assisted Living Different than Home Care?

How Is Assisted Living Different than Home Care?

Dear Donna:

My parents are both older and have been struggling to stay in their own home. I live several hours away from them on the opposite side of Michigan. In addition to having a family of my own, I work full-time outside my home. It makes it tough to be there as often as my parents need me.

I’ve just begun to research options for senior care and it’s a little confusing. My parents live in the house they bought together over 40 years ago. They raised their family there and have so many fond memories attached to their home. However, it’s not very senior friendly. It has old bathrooms and lots of stairs to navigate. I find myself worrying that one of them will suffer a fall.

It seems like home care could be an option, but assisted living might be a better choice. Can you please help me understand the differences between these two types of senior care? Any advice would be much appreciated.

Sincerely,

Theresa in Grand Rapids, MI

Comparing Home Care with Assisted Living

 

Dear Theresa:

This is a struggle we frequently hear from adult children. Their aging parents are unable to maintain their independence, and loved ones aren’t sure where to turn for help. The senior care industry has so many options available, it can be overwhelming. As you described, debating between enlisting the services of a home care agency or relocating to an assisted living community is common.

While both choices have similarities, there are distinct differences to better understand before making any decisions.

Home Care Basics

Home care, also referred to as in-home care or private duty care, brings services and support to people in their own house. It sometimes allows seniors to age in place, at least for a while. Depending on the older person’s situation, these professional caregivers help with anything from bathing and grooming to light housekeeping and meal preparation.

This type of senior care might be good for those who live independently and only need minimal to moderate assistance. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Home care assists seniors with routine tasks, such as morning showers and meal prep. It does not help with tasks that occur at random times, like nighttime trips to and from the bathroom.
  • Care is generally nonmedical in nature and doesn’t require a licensed nurse.
  • While it can be cost effective, home care is meant for seniors who need only a few hours of support each day, not for extended periods of time.
  • The older adult should live in a safe, senior-friendly home that doesn’t present fall risks.

Some families find home care is a good temporary solution while they search for an assisted living community. It helps keep senior loved ones safe so the family has time to make an informed decision for the future.

Understanding Assisted Living

Assisted living is often described as the best of both worlds: residents have their own apartment or suite, but caregivers are on-site around the clock. It’s a solution that allows older adults to maintain a greater sense of independence.

This type of senior housing can be ideal for people who:

  • Have mobility problems that put them at higher risk for a fall.
  • No longer drive a car and don’t have access to reliable transportation services.
  • Aren’t willing or able to plan menus, go grocery shopping, or prepare well-balanced meals.
  • Live with chronic medical conditions or are at risk for health issues linked to isolation, such as depression or cardiac disease.
  • Have difficulty managing their medications, including taking the right dosage at the proper time.
  • Are seeking an environment that makes it easier to make friends and stay actively engaged with life.

You might find the article “6 Ways Assisted Living Supports Independence among Older Adults” to be helpful in learning more.

If you have any more questions or would like to visit a Heritage Senior Community for a personal tour, please call us today! One of our experienced team members will be happy to help.

Kind regards,

Donna

Heart Smart Holiday Appetizers

Heart Smart Holiday Appetizers

Sticking with a heart smart diet can feel more daunting than ever during the holidays. Between decadent dinners, rich desserts, and festive cocktails, the temptations are often numerous. For an older adult trying to limit their sodium intake or manage cholesterol, the season can be challenging.

If you are wondering how to make healthy choices or need ideas for heart smart appetizers, we have some options for you.

Foods That Are Good for Your Heart

Let’s start with foods that promote a healthier heart. Some of the most popular ones to look for at holiday parties include:

  • Leafy greens
  • Avocado
  • Whole grains
  • Berries
  • Fatty fish
  • Walnuts and almonds
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Dark chocolate

By contrast, there are foods to limit or avoid completely if you are trying to protect your heart, including:

  • Red meat
  • White breads and rolls
  • Processed deli meats
  • Grocery store rotisserie chicken
  • Blended coffee drinks
  • Condiments like ketchup and barbeque sauce
  • Soda (including diet soda)

Heart-Friendly Holiday Appetizers

  • Roasted red pepper and walnut dip: This tasty appetizer can be served with vegetables, multigrain crackers, or pita chips. Besides its great taste, it’s a visually appealing addition to your holiday buffet or cocktail party.
  • Mini crab cakes with smarter tartar: Frozen crab cakes or those served in restaurants are often fried and loaded with saturated fats, which are bad for your heart. This recipe allows you to make a healthy version, including a yogurt-based tartar sauce.
  • Chilled avocado gazpacho: Another nutritious option for your holiday appetizer menu is gazpacho. You can serve it up in small glass cups or bowls with a cherry tomato and slice of cucumber on top. The pretty color of the soup makes it another festive seasonal choice.
  • Cup of berries: One easy idea is to purchase a variety of fresh berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Serve them in small, individual samples glasses. You can even add a dollop of almond milk whipped topping and a sprig of mint.
  • Roasted figs and honey: This healthy appetizer combines the delicious flavors of figs, honey, goat cheese, and hazelnuts or almonds. You can serve it with small slices of multigrain bread or on its own. Equally appealing is that this dish can be prepared and baked in just 10 minutes.

One final tip is to watch your alcohol consumption. If you do want to indulge a bit, skip the beer and sweet, fruity drinks. Instead, opt for red wine or champagne. Clear liquors like gin and rum are other good choices. Just be mindful not to mix them with soda and other sugary beverages.

Visit a Heritage Community This Holiday Season

If you or a loved one have been contemplating making a move to a senior living community, we invite you to schedule a personal tour of a Heritage community in Michigan or Indiana. The festive holiday season is a great time to plan a visit. Read “Why the Holidays Are a Good Time to Tour Assisted Living Communities?” to learn more!

Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System in the Winter

Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System in the Winter

As winter returns to the Midwest, colds and viruses often accompany it. From projections of a tough flu season this year to newer strains of COVID-19, the immune system faces many threats during the coldest season of the year. That’s why it’s a good time to take proactive steps to boost your immunity. From quality sleep to managing stress, here are a few tips to explore.

Immune System Booster Tips for Older Adults

  • Consume a well-balanced diet: A healthy lifestyle begins with food. Your diet can offer protection to the immune system. Lean protein and fresh produce should be staples in your daily life. This MyPlate for Older Adults video offers useful information seniors can use to plan nutritious menus.
  • Engage in regular exercise: Staying active also plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system. As we grow older, it’s important to find ways to exercise that don’t increase the risk for falls or other age-related issues. If you aren’t exercising regularly, a few winter activities to discuss with your primary care physician include walking on a treadmill, cycling on a recumbent bike, chair yoga, and Pilates. Resistance bands or small handheld weights can aid in building and protecting muscle mass.
  • Stay hydrated: While many people associate dehydration with warm weather, it can actually be a year-round problem. It can also put your immune system at risk. The general recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water a day. If you can’t bring yourself to drink that much water, decaffeinated beverages, juices, and soup can help you hit your target intake.
  • Get good quality sleep: Many people don’t realize how vital quality sleep is to healthy aging. Insomnia and other sleep issues that are more common with age can negatively impact wellness. Everything from a lack of exercise to medication side effects and sleep apnea can make getting a good night’s sleep a struggle. If you are having problems sleeping, talk to your physician. They might refer you for a sleep study. This can identify the root cause and potential treatment options.
  • Control your stress: The belief that retirement means stress-free days is a myth. Older adults are just as likely to experience chronic stress as other age groups. Chronic stress makes your body produce greater amounts of a “fight or flight” hormone known as cortisol. It’s what helps us react quickly and navigate through a crisis. Generating too much cortisol over a long period of time can increase inflammation in your body. This inflammation can result in a variety of health problems, such as heart disease and autoimmune conditions. Stress can also decrease lymphocytes, the white blood cells that aid the body in fighting off infection.
  • Discuss supplements with the doctor: One last tip is to talk with your primary care physician to see if they recommend any supplements. Vitamin D, for example, is one seniors may need during the winter when sun exposure is often limited. Calcium is another. While supplements usually can’t compensate for a poor diet, there are some you might consider based on your personal wellness.

Live Your Best Retirement at a Heritage Community

Whether it’s nutritious, home-cooked meals or numerous opportunities to stay active every day, Heritage Senior Communities promote healthy aging. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!

Navigating the Time Change When a Senior Has Dementia

Navigating the Time Change When a Senior Has Dementia

Dear Donna:

My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago. Over the last year or so she has started experiencing sundowner’s syndrome. It has gotten worse recently, and she often tries to exit our house on her own when she is agitated.

When we changed our clocks last spring for daylight saving time, I noticed my mom’s sundowning worsened. I think it was because it stayed light outside for so much longer. It was so difficult to get her to wind down and go to sleep for months after we set our clocks ahead.

As we are heading toward the end of daylight saving time, I’m wondering what to expect now that it will get dark earlier. Is there anything I can do to make this transition go more smoothly?

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Sincerely,

Cindy in Saginaw, MI

The Impact of the Time Change on Alzheimer’s

Dear Cindy:

Good observation! We don’t talk about this issue enough. As you’ve already discovered, a routine is essential for adults with memory impairment. Changes in their daily schedule, including time changes, can be disruptive and lead to anxiety, restlessness, and agitation. We’ve witnessed it in the memory care neighborhoods at Heritage Senior Communities. In response, we’ve taken steps to try to minimize the impact of the time change every six months.

One is that Alzheimer’s disease disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm. So, it makes sense that the time change could exacerbate the behaviors associated with sundowner’s syndrome. A few ideas to try to help minimize sundowning symptoms all year long, including during time changes, are:

  • Control the interior lighting: One suggestion is to control the lighting inside your home. If you are trying to prevent your loved one from falling asleep or going to bed too early, close the blinds and turn all of the lights on inside. It might help trick the body into thinking it’s still daytime. This may also help decrease agitation and pacing, which are common among adults with Alzheimer’s during the evenings.
  • Structure the day carefully: When you are caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s, how you plan your day is important. If you notice your mom gets tired and falls asleep in the late afternoon, rethink how you are structuring the day. It might be better to schedule appointments and activity for morning, so you can avoid late-day naps that might make bedtime more challenging. A quick nap earlier in the day might be better.
  • Get regular exercise: Physical fitness activities are good for the body, mind, and soul. For adults with Alzheimer’s, it is also useful for preventing or reducing the agitation and anxiety commonly associated with the disease. It may help your mom feel more relaxed and comfortable throughout the day, reducing the incidences of sundowning. Try taking a 15-minute walk in the morning and doing some gentle stretching in the afternoon. Both are good for older adults and their caregivers!

I hope these tips provide you with some ideas to make the time change go more smoothly!

Kind regards,

Donna

Bookmark the Heritage Blog

We know caregivers are always searching for information and resources to help them support a senior loved one. That’s why we encourage you to bookmark this blog and stop back often. We share new articles each week on topics ranging from evaluating a senior living community to creating meaningful days for an adult with dementia.