5 Tips to Help a Senior Who Has Memory Loss Remain Independent

5 Tips to Help a Senior Who Has Memory Loss Remain Independent

If you have a loved one with memory loss, it can be challenging to know when to help and when to step back. Though your intentions are probably in the right place, you and your loved one may disagree about your role in their life. Here are a few tips to help a senior with memory loss remain independent.

Helping a Senior with Memory Loss Remain Independent

  1. Try not to make assumptions.

When caring for a loved one with memory loss, it’s important not to make assumptions about their abilities. Everyone experiences memory loss differently. Some may need help with day-to-day activities, while others may only struggle with tasks that require organization, such as finances.

The rate that their symptoms progress also varies. Your loved one may not need assistance for years, or they may require help sooner. Unless they are putting their safety in immediate danger, assess their abilities before offering your support. More often than not, it’s best to let them ask you for help.

  1. Play up their strengths.

One simple way you can help your loved one remain independent is by adapting everyday tasks to accommodate their abilities. For example, if your loved one struggles to use utensils, you can prepare finger foods. Or perhaps your loved one has difficulty with buttons. Help them pick out a sweater without buttons so they can get dressed on their own.

  1. Stick to a schedule.

It’s common for people with memory loss to rely on routine to complete their daily responsibilities. Doing activities in the same sequence helps them remember what they need to do. Knowing what to expect can give them a sense of security. Too many changes from day to day can be confusing. Although adjustments in routine are inevitable, it’s helpful to try and stick to a schedule as much as possible. Make sure their routine includes consistent times for waking up, having meals, enjoying social activities, and going to bed.

  1. Offer emotional support.

Many caregivers focus on keeping their loved ones safe from physical harm, but emotional support is also important. Your loved one is going through a difficult time. You can help them cope with memory loss by listening and being empathetic to their struggles. Do your best to keep the lines of communication open and encourage them to share their feelings.

  1. Support a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy lifestyle is essential for independence, regardless of whether a person has memory loss. Encourage your loved one to stay active and eat a healthy diet. Here are a few additional suggestions for healthy living:

  • Manage stress with healthy techniques like meditation or yoga.
  • Take medications and report unfavorable side effects to a doctor.
  • Stay on track with medical appointments.

Maintaining a Loved One’s Independence

Keeping loved ones safe while preserving their independence isn’t always easy. There is a fine line between being helpful and taking over too many responsibilities. By understanding your loved one’s disease and supporting them through their challenges, you can help them stay independent for as long as possible.

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

If you are concerned about your ability to help your loved one with memory loss remain independent, you may want to explore local memory care programs. Heritage Senior Communities offers specialized dementia care across Michigan. Our communities are designed to create a safe, controlled environment so seniors with memory challenges can live independently.

Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a private tour!

4 Ways to Keep a Senior with Dementia Safe on Halloween

4 Ways to Keep a Senior with Dementia Safe on Halloween

For many, Halloween is a time for costumes, spooky decorations, and trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, many of these traditional celebrations can be overwhelming for a person with dementia. Because this disease affects the ability to process new information, it can be difficult for those affected to distinguish reality from fiction. 

By understanding the challenges a person with dementia may experience on Halloween, caregivers can take steps to keep their loved ones safe.

Halloween Safety for Seniors with Dementia

  1. Be considerate when wearing a costume.

Dressing up is one of the most popular ways people celebrate Halloween. Because your senior loved one might struggle differentiating reality from pretend, costumes can be confusing. They may not realize painted blood is not real or that there is a friendly face behind a scary mask. This may cause them to become scared or anxious.

If you are spending Halloween with your loved one, avoid wearing anything that conceals your identity. Instead, opt for something simple, like a festive tee or holiday-themed jewelry.

  1. Deter trick-or-treaters.

Trick-or-treaters are a hallmark of Halloween. Unfortunately, the continual ringing of the doorbell can be overwhelming for a person with dementia. Repeatedly opening the door to strangers can make matters worse, especially when they are wearing strange outfits.

Do your best to limit noise by placing your candy bowl on the porch. Or turn off the porch lights and leave a note on the door politely asking guests not to ring the doorbell.

  1. Avoid the commotion.

On Halloween night, the streets are often busy. Kids are trick-or-treating, neighbors are hosting haunted parties, and people are wearing costumes. The excess stimuli can be a lot for a person with dementia to handle.

Seniors with dementia are usually most comfortable staying inside with a close friend or family member. If no one is available to keep them company, you may want to consider respite care.

  1. Create a safe room.

Decorating is a common tradition on Halloween. Although it may be fun for you, a decorated house is not always easy for a person with dementia to navigate. They often rely on familiarity and structure, so changing their living space may lead to unnecessary stress.

Do your best to limit decorations. It may even be a good idea to create a safe room. Having a place free from decorations and unnecessary stimuli can be helpful if they become anxious or scared.

Having Fun on Halloween

Caring for a person with dementia on Halloween can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. There are plenty of festive activities you and your loved one can do safely. 

Seniors who love to cook may enjoy baking a homemade pumpkin pie. Others may prefer to bring out their creative side by decorating a pumpkin. Sometimes, soothing music and a good meal is all you need to have a nice evening.

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Predicting possible dangers can be difficult for caregivers. By understanding the challenges a loved one with dementia experiences, you can better prevent accidents.

If you are struggling to keep a loved one with dementia safe, you may want to consider dementia care. Heritage Senior Communities offers specialized dementia care for seniors with memory impairments. Contact us today to learn more.

Can Engaging in Art Projects Prevent Alzheimer’s?

Can Engaging in Art Projects Prevent Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s memory. As the disease progresses, many people lose their ability to communicate verbally. Art therapy has increasingly been used to help adults with Alzheimer’s cope with their symptoms. Not only can art help them express their thoughts and feelings when they can no longer do so verbally, but it can also improve other areas—including cognitive health.

The positive effects that art therapy has on adults with Alzheimer’s begs the question: Can engaging in art help protect you from getting the disease in the first place?

Research says it’s possible.

Understanding the Relationship Between Art and Alzheimer’s

A study observed seniors between 85 and 89 years old without memory problems to see if they could find a relationship between engaging in art projects and risk of developing cognitive impairment. At the end of the study, they found those who engaged in art-related activities were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not.

4 Reasons Why Engaging in Art Might Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. Strengthens the brain. Making art may prevent Alzheimer’s because creativity has been shown to help build connections in the brain. New connections strengthen the mind, which can stop memory loss and preserve cognitive functioning.
  2. Improves focus. Making art requires concentration. Like meditation, art requires you to focus on the present moment. Over time, this can reduce anxiety, minimize depression, and result in overall better brain heath.
  3. Reduces stress. Stress can be harmful to the brain. Chronic stress can kill brain cells, reduce sociability, and even shrink the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Art can be an effective way to reduce stress. This may slow the progression of age-related cognitive decline.
  4. Regulates blood pressure. Research suggests that high blood pressure may increase the risk of dementia. By reducing stress and calming the mind, engaging in art can help seniors regulate their blood pressure.

Art Projects That May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Seniors don’t need to be “good at art” to reap the benefits. Activities like coloring require little artistic ability while providing big mental benefits.

Other forms of art that can benefit seniors include:

  • Painting and drawing
  • Craft projects
  • Photography
  • Dancing
  • Creative writing
  • Playing a musical instrument

The Cause of Alzheimer’s Is Unknown

One of the most difficult things about Alzheimer’s is that researchers don’t understand what causes it. This makes it difficult to know with certainty which factors can prevent the disease. But engaging in art is indeed worth considering.

Heritage Senior Communities Provides Memory Care

Heritage Senior Living provides memory care programs across Michigan. We help seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia live their best quality of life.

We help seniors maintain as much independence as safely possible. We invite you to schedule a visit to see how seniors with dementia thrive in our care.

Understanding the 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Understanding the 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Watching a loved one move through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease is never easy. Sadness, anger, and frustration are just a few emotions caregivers experience. Knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding your loved one’s diagnosis. Here is an overview of the seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Stage One: No Clinical Impairment. A person with Alzheimer’s won’t experience any symptoms during the first stage of the disease. They won’t notice any memory impairment or cognitive decline. Only a sensitive imaging technology scan will be able to reveal they have the disease.
  • Stage Two: Very Mild Cognitive Decline. During the second stage, your loved one may begin to experience occasional forgetfulness. They may lose things around the house or misplace their keys more often. Symptoms are barely detectable and often dismissed as normal, age-related changes.
  • Stage Three: Mild Cognitive Decline. People with Alzheimer’s disease will continue to experience increased forgetfulness throughout the third stage of the disease. Close friends and family usually notice changes around this time. Your loved one may have a harder time concentrating and focusing on basic tasks. Finding the right words during a conversation and remembering the name of someone they just met may also become increasingly difficult.
  • Stage Four: Moderate Cognitive Decline. Stage four is often called early-stage dementia. The symptoms of your loved one’s disease will become apparent, and their short-term memory will continue to decline. They may have trouble remembering recent events, lose the ability to concentrate, struggle to solve problems, and have a hard time managing their finances. It’s not uncommon for people to lose the ability to drive safely during this stage.
  • Stage Five: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline. Your loved one may struggle to perform day-to-day activities during stage five. For example, they may have a hard time dressing appropriately or remembering information like their address or phone number. They may also ask the same question repeatedly. Do your best to stay patient and remain empathetic of their condition.
  • Stage Six: Severe Cognitive Decline. During the sixth stage, a person with dementia may struggle to remember recent events. They may even forget close friends’ and family members’ names. It’s not uncommon for personality changes to occur, along with increased anxiety and agitation. Your loved one will require supervision and a fair amount of assistance with day-to-day activities.
  • Stage Seven: Very Severe Cognitive Decline. Stage seven, commonly referred to as late dementia, is the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease. When your loved one reaches this stage, they will lose their ability to communicate and struggle to respond to their environment. They may even lose their ability to swallow. Because of the extent of their disease, they will require around-the-clock care.

Alzheimer’s Progresses Differently for Everyone

Everyone experiences Alzheimer’s disease differently, but the symptoms follow a similar path. Learning this path can help family caregivers track the course of the disease and prepare for upcoming challenges.

Heritage Provides Specialized Dementia Care

Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care in Michigan. Our experienced staff members know how to navigate the different stages of Alzheimer’s and understand the unique challenges that arise as the disease progresses. Contact us today to learn more about our specialized dementia care or to schedule a tour of one of our communities near you.

4 Ways to Cope with Repetitive Alzheimer’s Questions

4 Ways to Cope with Repetitive Alzheimer’s Questions

Dear Donna,

My dad has Alzheimer’s disease, and it causes him to ask the same questions over and over again. I know he can’t help it, but it is frustrating to repeat myself all the time.

How can I cope with my dad’s repetitive questions?

Kendra from Holland, MI

Coping with Repetitive Questions

Dear Kendra,

Repetitive behaviors like asking the same questions are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The damage the disease causes to short-term memory can make it difficult to learn, retain, and recall new information. This means seniors with Alzheimer’s often struggle to remember questions they have already asked, even if it was only moments ago.

Regardless, repetitive questions can be stressful for even the most patient caregivers.

4 Ways Caregivers Can Handle Repetitive Questions

  1. Distract and redirect

Redirection is a useful technique to reduce repetitive questions. Redirection involves giving a senior with Alzheimer’s something else to focus on. This is intended to distract them from their repeated question.

If a loved one with dementia is repeating the same question, answer them and then immediately redirect their attention. You can redirect them to anything from their favorite hobby to a simple chore, like folding laundry.

  1. Identify the trigger

In most cases, there is a reason why someone with Alzheimer’s is asking you the same question repeatedly. Identifying and addressing these triggers can be a great way to reduce certain questions. Sometimes, caregivers can prevent a certain question altogether by removing a specific item from their environment.

For example, a photo of their granddaughter may cause a loved one with Alzheimer’s to ask where she is. You may notice that every time they look at the photo, they ask about their granddaughter. By removing the picture, you eliminate the trigger that sparks the question.

  1. Provide meaningful activities

Sometimes, seniors with dementia engage in repetitive behaviors because they are anxious or agitated. Repetition is a way to alleviate their discomfort. Other times, they are seeking comfort in knowing what is going on in their environment. Caregivers can reduce their anxiety with a meaningful activity.

A few helpful activities include:

  • Sorting old photographs
  • Folding clean laundry
  • Organizing stacks of papers
  • Knitting or crocheting
  1. Take breaks

Caregiving can be overwhelming. It’s important to take breaks regularly to avoid lashing out. If you can’t find anyone to help care for your loved one when you need rest, you may benefit from respite care.

Respite care services, such as those offered at Heritage Senior Communities, give seniors a safe place to stay temporarily while caregivers take a break.

Be Understanding of Their Disease

Being empathetic for a loved one’s condition can go a long way in helping you cope with their repetitive behavior. Remember that your loved one isn’t asking you the same questions over and over again to annoy you. They are unable to remember that they’ve already asked.

I hope this helps you cope with your dad’s repetitive questions.

Sincerely,

Donna

 

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care across Michigan. Our Memory Care Communities, including our Appledorn location, are designed to reduce stress and enhance the lives of residents living with memory impairment. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

How to Cope When a Senior Doesn’t Know They Have Alzheimer’s

How to Cope When a Senior Doesn’t Know They Have Alzheimer’s

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is hard. But what if the person you are caring for doesn’t believe they are sick? The damage that occurs in the brain can cause people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to refuse the reality that they are ill. This is called anosognosia, and it can create many challenges for both seniors and their caregivers.

Understanding Anosognosia

Anosognosia is the “lack of awareness of impairment,” and it may affect up to 81% of people with Alzheimer’s. When someone has anosognosia, the changes in their brain make it impossible for them to understand they are cognitively impaired.

It’s important to note that anosognosia is different than denial. With denial, a person is aware they have dementia but refuses to accept it. With anosognosia, a person is unable to understand there is something wrong with them.

Anosognosia can be frustrating for both seniors and their families. While caregivers want nothing more than to help, their senior loved one lacks the ability to understand why they should accept help. Those with anosognosia may even try to complete tasks that put their health at risk. Many caregivers find that communication between them and their loved one usually leads to an argument. They are left feeling defeated, anxious, and unsure how to manage their loved one’s disease.

5 Ways to Cope with Anosognosia

  1. Don’t try to convince them.

It’s normal to want to convince a loved one with anosognosia of their disease. But it’s important to accept that they might not understand no matter how much proof you show them. The damage that dementia causes to their brain limits their capacity to perceive and acknowledge that they have a disease.

  1. Don’t take anything personally.

When your loved one says or does something hurtful, remember it’s the disease causing them to act out of character. Like most advice, this is easier said than done. Try to remember that their condition will likely cause a lot of arguments. Save your battles for the ones that can affect their safety.

  1. Be mindful of how you say things.

Even though dementia may cause your loved one to say hurtful words to you, it’s crucial that you don’t follow the same pattern. Communicate with empathy and help in a way that lets them feel like they are in control. For example, “Let’s cook dinner together tonight” is often better than saying “I’ll cook because it’s not safe for you to be in the kitchen alone.”

  1. Be okay with stretching the truth.

As a caregiver, your job is to keep your loved one safe. This means you may have to stretch the truth to protect them from harm or becoming overly anxious. Don’t feel guilty if you have to refer to their medications as vitamins if it’s the only way they will take them or if you have to “lose” the keys to prevent them from driving.

When Anosognosia Becomes Too Much

Caring for a loved one with anosognosia requires lots of patience and hard work. Don’t feel guilty if the job becomes too much to handle. Often, help from professionals, like the caregivers in memory care communities, can improve the quality of life for both you and your loved.

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care in Michigan. We invite you to stop by for a tour to learn how we care for seniors with dementia.