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.

4 Things to Do When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Is Hospitalized

4 Things to Do When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Is Hospitalized

If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, there’s a good chance they will be hospitalized at some point. Most people assume they will leave the hospital feeling better than when they arrived. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for adults with dementia.

Hospitals and Alzheimer’s

There are many reasons why hospital stays negatively affect people with dementia. Sadly, most hospitals are not designed for people with cognitive disabilities.

Here are a few facts about hospitals and dementia:

  • Patients with Alzheimer’s are twice as likely to suffer from preventable complications.
  • The average stay for adults with Alzheimer’s is longer than for those admitted for the same condition.
  • Dementia patients are usually given less pain medication than those without the disease. Uncontrolled pain increases their risk of delirium, which can be fatal.

When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Is Hospitalized

One of the best ways to protect your loved ones from the dangers of hospital stays is preparation. By understanding the potential threats, caregivers can prevent and minimize many common complications. Here are 4 things caregivers can do to protect their loved ones when they are hospitalized:

  1. Bring a hospital bag.

It’s common for people with Alzheimer’s to need hospitalization. It’s a good idea to prepare a bag in case the need arises. Having a bag will help you avoid unnecessary stress during an emergency.

A few items to pack include:

  • Identification card
  • Insurance cards
  • Medication list
  • Advance care directives
  • An extra set of clothes and essential personal care items
  1. Inform the staff.

Hospital staff members aren’t always familiar with dementia. It’s important to inform the doctors and nurses who will be interacting with your loved one about their condition. This can help prevent a misdiagnosis and other preventable complications.

Let the hospital know:

  • How to interact with your loved one
  • Your loved one’s mental capacity
  • Behaviors they exhibit linked to Alzheimer’s
  1. Take measures to prevent wandering.

Wandering is common among adults with dementia. This behavior can be more dangerous in hospital settings because the environment is unfamiliar. If your loved one has a history of wandering, let the staff know they may try to get out of bed. Also, take the initiative to prevent accidents if they do wander.

You can do this by:

  • Making sure they wear nonslip socks.
  • Making sure someone is with them at all times.
  • Labeling the bathroom so they easily find it.
  1. Watch for signs of discomfort.

Adults in the later stages of Alzheimer’s may be unable to communicate their feelings. This can make it difficult to know if they are in pain. It’s important to pay close attention to any signs that may indicate they are uncomfortable. If you do notice anything, inform the doctor.

Signs to watch for include:

  • Sighing or grunting
  • Pointing to a particular area on their body
  • Saying anything that may indicate discomfort like, “not right”

 

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

If you are concerned your loved one is at risk for hospitalization, it may be time to explore assisted living. Many communities, including Heritage, have specialized dementia care programs designed to keep seniors out of the hospital. Contact us today to schedule a private tour!

Art as Therapy for Adults With Alzheimer’s

Art as Therapy for Adults With Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a tricky disease. We don’t know what causes it, and we can’t cure it. Not yet, at least. But in the meantime, we can help those with the disease cope. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, there are many options to help them continue to enjoy life.

Art Therapy for Adults With Alzheimer’s

One option that has been proven time and time again is art therapy. In this therapy, those with Alzheimer’s are typically given the tools to paint a picture and are assisted by trained and professional art therapists. While clay and pottery methods are also available, painting is the most popular.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Some of the proven benefits to art therapy include the following:

  1. Gives a new means of expression

Sometimes Alzheimer’s makes verbal communication difficult. Art makes it possible to express in a new way and to tell stories again. And it’s easy—much easier than learning a new language where there are rules. There are no rules with art. Participants become artists and have freedom to explore different techniques or even create their own.

  1. Decreases anxiety

Painting and other arts are known to help decrease stress and elevate the mood. Depression and anxiety can be difficult symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and creative arts restore joy and can help increase serotonin levels in the brain.

  1. Creates a feeling of accomplishment

Alzheimer’s is a challenging disease, one in which so much feels stolen from those who have it and their loved ones. Art isn’t something that is done right or wrong, and just doing it can be therapeutic. As a resident learns and tries new techniques, they can feel a sense of mastery and competency again.

  1. Reduces isolation

Typically, art therapy is done in a group setting at a memory care center. This way, those with similarities can be together doing something fun and non-competitive. Socializing is also a great way to decrease anxiety and increase quality of life.

  1. Stimulates the brain

Learning something new, expressing yourself, and creating art all stimulate the brain. While the brain may never go back to how it was before the disease, art therapy has been shown to ease frustration and renew enjoyment and quality of life.

What is most interesting about art therapy for Alzheimer’s is that some who participate seem to paint memories they seemingly forgot. The therapy can actually help bring forward dormant memories. This can be encouraging and often helps family members, too, reminding them that their loved one is still the same person. While art therapy will not cure the disease, reclaiming old memories and revisiting who you are is empowering for those with Alzheimer’s and their families.

Memory Care at Heritage

At Heritage Senior Communities, we have specialized memory care communities that are dedicated to enriching the lives of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Give us a call today to take a tour and learn more about how we can help you and your loved one.

What Causes Wandering in Adults with Alzheimer’s?

What Causes Wandering in Adults with Alzheimer’s?

Wandering is a common behavior among people with Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 6 in 10 people with dementia will wander. This behavior is dangerous regardless of what stage of the disease they are in. The longer they are missing, the greater their risk for serious injury. This makes wandering a concern for families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

While no one knows for sure what causes adults with Alzheimer’s to wander, there are a few common triggers. Here are some scenarios that can lead to wandering, along with a few ways Michigan caregivers can prevent it.

Why Adults with Alzheimer’s Wander

  1. Disorientation

Feeling disoriented is one of the most common reasons why people with Alzheimer’s wander. Their cognitive impairment can make them forget where they are and what they are doing. Wandering is their way of dealing with the anxiety caused by feeling displaced.

Here are a few ways you can reduce feelings of disorientation:

  • Stick to a routine to reduce the likelihood they will forget what they are doing.
  • Limit the amount of stimuli to prevent them from getting distracted.
  • Keep them in familiar settings to prevent them from feeling displaced.
  1. Boredom

Another common reason why adults with Alzheimer’s wander is because they are bored. When adults with Alzheimer’s don’t get enough stimulation, they get the urge to get up and move. Wandering is just a way of finding relief.

To prevent boredom, try:

  • Having them help you with simple household chores like folding laundry or organizing papers.
  • Finding activities to keep them busy like knitting or coloring.
  • Keeping them engaged through conversation.
  1. Lack of Physical Activity

Sometimes, people with dementia wander because they don’t get enough exercise. Wandering is their way of burning excess energy.

Here are few ways you can help your loved one burn extra energy:

  • Incorporate a walk into their daily routine.
  • Accommodate their desire to move by having them sit in a rocking chair.
  • Introduce them to a stationary bike where they can exercise in place.
  1. Trying to Fulfill Basic Needs

Adults with Alzheimer’s can also wander in efforts to fulfill their basic needs. The need to eat, drink, or use the bathroom can be triggers.

A simple way to reduce this reason for wandering is to check that their basic needs are met periodically throughout the day.

  • Occasionally ask them if they need to use the bathroom.
  • Bring them a snack if you notice they haven’t eaten in a while.
  • Make sure they always have a glass of water nearby.
  1. Unfamiliar Environments

A change in environment can also trigger wandering. Many families notice their loved ones wander after they move to a new home or visit a new location.

Here are a few tips to prevent wandering in new environments:

  • Try to plan short day trips as opposed to overnight stays.
  • When going out to eat, go to familiar restaurants.
  • Make sure someone they are comfortable with is around at all times.

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

If you are concerned about your ability to prevent your loved ones from wandering, you may want to consider assisted living. Many communities, including Heritage, have specialized dementia care communities that are designed to prevent residents from wandering. Contact us to learn more about how we help keep seniors with dementia safe.

7 Tips for Talking to Young Children about Alzheimer’s Disease

7 Tips for Talking to Young Children about Alzheimer’s Disease

Understanding Alzheimer’s disease is challenging for people of all ages. For children, the disease can be downright confusing and difficult to accept.

In efforts to protect their children, parents often avoid talking about a grandparent’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This usually backfires and causes their children more harm in the long run.

Here are a few things that can happen when parents don’t open up to their children about their grandparent’s illness:

  • Children mistakenly think they did something wrong.
  • They blame themselves for their grandparent’s behavior.
  • They sense something is wrong, but their concerns are never validated.
  • They are embarrassed about their grandparent’s behavior.

Here are a few tips for talking to young children about Alzheimer’s disease.

 

7 Tips for Talking with Young Children about a Grandparent’s Alzheimer’s

 

  1. Do your research.

Before you talk to your children, take the time to learn about the disease. This will prepare you to explain the disease to your kids and answer their questions.

Being able to discuss the situation will help reassure your children that you have everything under control.

  1. Make it simple.

Explain to your children what is going on with their grandparents in the simplest words. This will help ensure they understand.

Instead of telling them about the plaques and tangles, simplify your explanation by telling them their grandparent has a condition that makes it hard to remember things.

  1. Prepare them for changes.

Give examples of how their grandparents might change or point out some ways they have already changed.

Try to explain what is happening as their grandparent’s symptoms change at each stage of the disease. For example, if they are in the first stage of the disease, you may say something like, “You may have noticed grandma forgets things more often. Her disease is going to make her forgetful.”

As the disease progresses, you may find yourself saying something like, “You may have noticed grandpa gets frustrated more easily. It has nothing to do with you; his illness makes him grumpy sometimes.”

  1. Validate their feelings.

It’s normal for children to become sad or angry that their grandparents are sick. It can be even more devastating when their grandparents forget who they are. Let children know that these feelings are normal, and that you, too, are upset about the disease.

  1. Assure them that it’s not their fault.

When kids don’t understand the illness, they may blame themselves. Reassure them that they did not cause their grandparent’s Alzheimer’s disease. Let them know there isn’t anything they could have done to prevent it.

  1. Let them know it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

Children often become embarrassed about their grandparent’s behavior. Let them know that the disease is making their grandparent act that way; it’s not their true personality.

  1. Encourage them to ask questions.

During the conversation, give your children the opportunity to ask questions about Alzheimer’s disease. Answer as many as it takes for them to understand.

Also, encourage them to ask questions about their grandparent’s behavior. This will help them become more comfortable with the topic.

 

Difficult Conversations Are Often the Most Important

Like most important conversations, talking to children about their grandparent’s Alzheimer’s disease is important. The closer their relationship is with their grandparent, the more the diagnosis is going to affect them. Opening up to your children about the disease can allow them to deal with their grandparent’s illness in a healthier way.

 

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we know how difficult it is to care for a loved one while caring for young children of your own. Many of our communities have dedicated memory programs for adults with dementia, including Alzheimer’s’ disease. Contact us to learn more about our specialized dementia care.

4 Repetitive Tasks That Help Decrease Alzheimer’s Agitation

4 Repetitive Tasks That Help Decrease Alzheimer’s Agitation

Repetition is a common behavior among adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Those affected may repeat words, questions, or activities. This is their attempt to comfort themselves when they are feeling agitated.

Adults with Alzheimer’s disease, especially those in the later stages of the disease, often lose their sense of the world. Their disease causes them to become confused, and they start looking for ways to alleviate their discomfort. Repetition can provide this relief.

Repetitive tasks can be highly beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s disease. They can improve self-esteem and give them a sense of purpose and normalcy—things they often lose as their disease progresses. Here are 4 repetitive activities that can help decrease Alzheimer’s agitation.

 

4 Repetitive Tasks That Can Help Decrease Alzheimer’s Agitation

 

  1. Knitting and Crocheting

Knitting and crocheting can be very calming for adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Not only do they give them something to focus on, but they allow them to be creative. Provide them with a ball of yarn and make sure to give them large needles and hooks so they can easily see what they are doing.  Your loved one will be excited to show you their creations.

  1. Folding Laundry

Folding laundry can be satisfying for adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Try to give them simple items like towels to fold where the motions required are the same. Not only is this repetitive, but it can make them feel like they are being useful and increase their confidence.

  1. Organize Papers

If you are like most people, you have a stack of papers somewhere in your home that you don’t need. Turn this in to an activity for your loved one by having them sort the papers. They will be happy to help you organize your papers, even if you only plan to throw them away after they are finished.

  1. Sorting Cards

People with Alzheimer’s love sorting. Give your loved one a shuffled deck of cards ask them to sort them. They can do this in any way they choose.

One great idea is to find cards with a theme they enjoy or that has to do with one of their hobbies. Do they love baseball? Get them baseball cards. Are they in to golf? Get them a golf-themed deck.

 

More Repetitive Tasks

 

Finding activities for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be challenging, but it often just requires a little creativity. Here are a few more activities that involve repetition.

  • Rolling a ball of yarn
  • Tying knots in a rope
  • Organizing items by color, shape, or design
  • Stringing paper clips
  • Sorting buttons by color, size, and shape

Whatever task you choose, remember to be mindful of your loved one’s cognitive limitations. Typically, the simpler the activity, the better.

 

Memory Care for Seniors with Alzheimer’s

 

If you are struggling to manage your loved one’s Alzheimer’s symptoms, it may be time to start visiting memory care communities. Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care across Michigan. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a tour.