Where Can I Learn More about Alzheimer’s?

Where Can I Learn More about Alzheimer’s?

Dear Donna:

My grandparents live about six hours away from me. We’ve suspected my grandfather was having health issues, but never imagined it would be Alzheimer’s. While relatives visit them almost every month, we never noticed signs of Alzheimer’s.

A few weeks ago, my grandfather became lost while walking the dog. It was terrifying for my grandmother and led to his recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

My family and I are trying to learn all we can about the disease. I’m especially seeking advice on how to discuss this with my children. Do you have any suggestions?

Best regards,

Alyssa

Alzheimer’s Disease Resources and Tools

Dear Alyssa:

While some people with Alzheimer’s exhibit the classic sign of forgetfulness early, the symptoms can be more subtle in others. They might include withdrawing from social activities or making mistakes with finances. Then a major event occurs, like your grandfather becoming lost, and the disease becomes more obvious.

You are on the right track in trying to learn about the disease. It will teach you how to support your grandfather now and in the future. Fortunately, resources and tools are much more readily available than in the past.

Visit these sites to read and learn more about Alzheimer’s disease:

  • What is Alzheimer’s Disease?: The Alzheimer’s Association created this very comprehensive online resource. It covers everything from symptoms to disease progression and research.
  • Inside the Brain: If you like to know the “why” behind everything in life, this brain tour will be of interest. It starts with a detailed explanation of how the brain works and moves on to how Alzheimer’s impacts brain function.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet: Created by the National Institute on Aging, this fact sheet is actually a series of links to useful articles. Topics include clinical trials, treatment, and caregiver support.

Finally, I encourage you to bookmark and follow the Heritage blog. We regularly publish articles like Talking with Kids about Alzheimer’s Disease and Activities for Kids to Do with a Grandparent Who Has Alzheimer’s Disease.

I hope these resources are useful, Alyssa! Feel free to call any of the Heritage Senior Communities if you have any questions about Alzheimer’s disease or memory care. One of our experienced memory care team members will be happy to assist you.

Kind regards,

Donna

Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Family owned for four generations, Heritage Senior Communities is a respected name in dementia care services. With communities throughout Michigan, we encourage you to visit Specialized Dementia Care to learn more about our unique approach to caring for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Creating a Winter Safety Plan for a Senior Loved One

Creating a Winter Safety Plan for a Senior Loved One

Winter can be a beautiful time of year in Michigan and Indiana. Snowy days spent inside by the fire are serene and peaceful. However, ice and snow can cause difficulties, especially for older adults.

Storms can knock out power. Icy roads might make it tough to get to the grocery store or pharmacy. That’s why it’s important for family caregivers to help their senior loved ones prepare for the months ahead. If you aren’t sure how and where to get started, we have a few useful tips.

Senior Safety: Preparing for Winter in the Midwest

  1. Create a snow removal plan.

Icy, snowy drives and walkways present a serious fall risk for older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are a leading cause of injury among seniors. Before the worst of winter’s fury is upon us, make sure your loved one has a plan to keep their driveway and sidewalks cleared. If you aren’t able to assist them and don’t know a reliable contractor, call the local agency on aging. They often maintain a list of trustworthy companies.

  1. Stock the pantry.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed how essential it is to keep the pantry well stocked. Winter reinforces that need. Having a storm-ready pantry means your older loved one (and you!) can safely remain indoors when a winter storm is brewing. Pack a box of staples that should only be opened during an emergency. In addition to food and water, make sure it contains extra medication and any necessary medical supplies, flashlights, batteries, and food for pets.

  1. Inspect the furnace.

The danger of monoxide poisoning escalates in the winter. If you haven’t already checked the furnace, it’s not too late. Call a nearby furnace company to schedule an inspection. Make sure the house has a carbon monoxide detector in good working condition. Also test the smoke detectors. Fire prevention specialists recommend placing a smoke detector on every level of a home, as well as near bedrooms. Read Fire Prevention Tips Older Adults Should Know to learn more.

  1. Check vehicles.

If your senior loved one is still driving, review the condition of their car and confirm it is up to date with required maintenance. It’s easy to overlook simple tasks, such as an oil change, when you aren’t driving much. Make sure your family elder keeps a phone charger in the vehicle. Another good idea is to put together a bag with a flashlight, batteries, energy bars, bottled water, and a blanket or two. In the event your family member is stranded on the road in bad weather, they’ll have some supplies.

Finally, consider whether the senior is still a safe driver. For older adults who are nervous behind the wheel of a car, winter can be especially tough. Talking with an Older Driver about Hanging Up the Car Keys offers tips to initiate the conversation.

You might be surprised to discover that your loved one has become a reluctant driver, but isn’t sure what other option they have. In fact, transportation is one of the most utilized services offered by senior living communities. New residents may initially continue driving, but are soon willing to give up the expenses and worries associated with owning a car. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more about our transportation programs.

Fitness Trackers for Senior Walkers

Fitness Trackers for Senior Walkers

Health and wellness have been at the forefront of many conversations this year. As worries about the COVID-19 pandemic continue, older adults everywhere are wondering how to strengthen their immune system. In most cases, a well-balanced diet, exercise, and quality sleep are essential components of a healthy lifestyle.

If you haven’t been exercising regularly, discuss walking with your physician. When the weather is nice, you can enjoy a walk around your neighborhood or local park. When it’s snowy or rainy, a treadmill might be the answer.

Health Benefits of Walking

While walking might not seem like exercise, it yields many health benefits for older adults. The Arthritis Foundation recommends it to help control the pain and symptoms of osteoarthritis. Other benefits of walking include:

  • Weight management
  • Diabetes control
  • Stress reduction
  • Improved circulation
  • Stronger bones
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Better sleep
  • Lowered Alzheimer’s risk

How much should you walk each day? Here’s what the experts say.

Walk Your Way to Better Health

The medical community often recommends 10,000 steps a day or 150 minutes a week of combined walking. Keep in mind 10,000 steps generally equates to about 5 miles.

If you are just starting out, however, setting a goal that high might be intimidating. Instead, begin by tracking how far you walk in a typical day. Once you have a baseline established, set small weekly goals to keep you moving closer to 10,000 steps.

A few ways to make walking more enjoyable are:

  • Adopting a senior dog (or borrowing one!)
  • Listening to music
  • Finding a walking buddy
  • Walking in different places each day

Senior-Friendly Fitness Trackers

How can you track your steps? There are a variety of devices available at many price points. Here are a few devices you can explore to track your daily steps:

  • 3DFitBud: This simple-to-use pedometer will track steps in every direction—up, down, forward, and backward. It also features an extra-large digital display, which is easier on aging eyes. At $24.99, it’s inexpensive.
  • Fitbit Charge 4 Fitness Tracker: This device does more than just count steps. It also has a real-time heart rate monitor and an inactivity monitor that alerts you if you’ve been sedentary too long. The backlit grayscale display and the touch screen are two senior-friendly features. The device can be purchased for about $150.
  • Apple Watch 5 Series: A device that might appeal to seniors is an Apple watch. This series offers an electrocardiogram (ECG) system that can detect cardiac abnormalities, like atrial fibrillation. The watch also has a fall detection tool. Prices start at $399.
  • Garmin Vivosmart 4 Fitness Tracker: Garmin trackers are also very popular. The long battery life, generally 7 days, is a nice benefit. Beyond tracking steps, the device also has a pulse OX sensor to measure oxygen, sleep tracker, inactivity alert, and calorie tracker. Cost ranges from $80 to $120.

Active Living at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, residents have a wide variety of opportunities to engage in fitness programs every day. From gardening to walking and morning exercise groups, there is an activity for every interest and ability. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more!

How to Avoid Caregiver Depression This Holiday Season

How to Avoid Caregiver Depression This Holiday Season

Dear Donna:

I am a full-time caregiver for my father, who has dementia. I took on the role several years ago, and it has become increasingly demanding. The holidays are especially tough. Because he can’t be left alone, I’m unable to attend any family gatherings. The coronavirus has made everything worse this year.

As we head into the holidays, I know I need to proactively boost my spirit to avoid holiday blues or depression. I already connect with friends and family on Facebook, but do you have any other ideas?

Thank you in advance for your help,

Cindy in Saginaw, Michigan

Staying Connected: Holiday Ideas for Caregivers

Dear Cindy:

Your struggle is one we often hear from caregivers, especially when their loved one has some form of dementia. This year’s coronavirus worries have made caregiving even tougher. The good news is the forced isolation has also brought to light more opportunities for making virtual connections.

While there’s nothing better than being face-to-face with loved ones during the holidays, we have some ideas that might boost your spirit until that is possible again:

  • Virtual game night: For many families, games are an essential part of holiday gatherings. Platforms like Houseparty, Zoom, and Skype make it easier to play virtually. Houseparty, for example, allows you to play games together no matter your location. This app has games like Finish the Lyrics and Heads Up: Act It Out.
  • Cookie exchange: Another idea might be to bake and share cookies with friends, then follow up with a video chat. Make a few batches of your signature cookies and divide them up among friends. You can arrange for pickups from your house or mail them to faraway friends. Ask them to do the same with their specialties. You can sample cookies via video chat while enjoying a few laughs.
  • Holiday caroling: While you might feel awkward initially, singing a couple of favorite holiday carols together can actually be a fun intergenerational virtual event. Create a playlist ahead of time with input from the entire family, young and old. Consider having your loved ones download an app like Sing Along Christmas Carols or Christmas Carols Countdown 2020.

One more suggestion is to join an online caregiver support group. They can provide support to family caregivers who can’t leave home to attend an in-person meeting. You’ll be able to chat virtually with peers who understand and empathize with your situation. How to Connect with an Online Support Group offers useful tips for exploring your options.

Finally, I would encourage you to take a few minutes each day to call a friend or loved one. Even a quick chat can make all the difference.

I hope this information is helpful, Cindy!

Kind regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities

If you have questions about senior living or are a caregiver wondering what type of care might be best for a family elder, we’d like to make sure you find answers. Call the Heritage community nearest to your Michigan or Indiana home, and one of our experienced team members can help!

5 Benefits of Joining an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group Online

5 Benefits of Joining an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group Online

Dear Donna:

I’ve been the primary caregiver for my dad for over 3 years. He has Alzheimer’s disease and moved in with my husband and I. His forgetfulness made it unsafe for him to live alone. He was neglecting to take his heart disease medication and was beginning to wander from home and become lost.

While I am retired and fortunate not to have to work outside the home, some days I struggle to keep up with my dad. He doesn’t sleep much, so I have trouble keeping an eye on him.

My friend suggested I look for an Alzheimer’s caregiver group to join. In all honesty, I think it’s just one more thing to fit into my schedule.

In your experience, what are the benefits of joining a caregiver support group? Is it worth the time it takes to attend?

Sincerely,

Barb in Saginaw, MI

Why Join a Caregiver Support Group?

Dear Barb:

What a great question! I’m sure other family members wonder the same thing. While it might initially seem like more work, there are important benefits of joining a caregiver support group:

  1. Validate your feelings: Family caregivers experience a range of emotions. It’s sad watching a loved one’s decline. You may fear you aren’t doing a good job. Then there is the unspoken emotion: guilt. Caregiving for a family member often means sacrificing your personal time. It can make even the best-intentioned caregiver a little resentful. When you talk with fellow caregivers, you’ll quickly discover these feelings are normal.
  2. Share ideas: Being part of a support group gives you access to others who’ve likely experienced similar struggles. They can offer tips for how to prevent wandering or what to do when a loved one won’t eat. You can learn what’s worked for other caregivers so you have new ideas to try.
  3. Vent frustrations: Let’s face it, caregiving can be emotional. Families often disagree about how to handle vital issues. It’s especially tough when loved ones have strong opinions on how things should be done but aren’t willing to help. A caregiver support group provides a place to vent your anger and frustration.
  4. Feel connected: Family caregivers often feel isolated and lonely. This is especially true if the elder has Alzheimer’s and isn’t safe staying alone. Commiserating and laughing over common struggles with people who relate can help you feel less alone.

Online Support Groups for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Because the challenges Alzheimer’s caregivers face are so unique, it might be easier to connect with an online support group. ALZConnected is one that is hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association.

I hope this helps, Barb! I wish you the best of luck caregiving for your dad.

Kind regards,

Donna

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities has been caring for adults with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia since 1946. Our family-owned company is dedicated to helping people with dementia enjoy their best quality of life, despite the disease. Call the Heritage community closest to you to learn more!