Halloween & Dementia: Keeping a Senior with Alzheimer’s Safe

Halloween & Dementia: Keeping a Senior with Alzheimer’s Safe

Halloween is a favorite time of year for many of us, young and old alike. The costumes, parties, and trick-or-treating are time-honored traditions enjoyed by people of all ages. But for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease, Halloween can be downright frightening.

Halloween can trigger anxiety and confusion in people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

If you are a caregiver for someone who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, here are some ideas to help keep them safe this Halloween.

Tips for Keeping a Senior with Alzheimer’s Safe on Halloween

There’s always uncertainty about how someone with Alzheimer’s will react in new situations. Here’s what you can do to help them stay calm and comfortable during this spooky celebration.

1. Choose Decorations Wisely

Decorating your house with tombstones, cobwebs, bats, and ghosts might seem harmless, but they can cause anxiety for someone with dementia. That also extends to front yard decorations, especially if it is the entrance your loved one typically uses to enter the house. Instead, opt for pumpkins, mums and less threatening forms of decorations this year.

2. Decorate Sparingly

If you do decide to decorate, do so sparingly. A change in environment is tough for someone with memory impairment. Going overboard on Halloween decorating can change the look of your home. That may cause your loved one to become disoriented or confused.

3. Keep Nighttime Lights to a Minimum

Illuminated jack-o-lanterns, flashing lights, candles, and anything else that lights up the night can cause problems with visual perception. People with dementia often have perception problems already, and these types of lighting can exacerbate these issues.

4. Try a Less Invasive Way of Handing Out Candy

A constant stream of costumed strangers ringing the doorbell can cause anxiety and agitation for an older adult with memory impairment. People with dementia rely on a consistent sense of place and home in order to feel calm and comfortable. All those invaders begging for candy and screaming ‘trick or treat!!’ can be difficult to process.

Try putting the candy on your porch with a note for kids to help themselves. If you’re afraid they’ll help themselves a little too much, consider setting up shop on the porch while your loved one with dementia stays safely inside.

5. Be Mindful of Where You Place Decorations

Adults with dementia often develop vision problems, as well as difficulty with mobility. It puts them at greater risk for falls. As you are decorating for Halloween, think carefully about your loved one’s pathways and be sure to keep them clear.

Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan

Just like you, we want adults with dementia to enjoy every holiday and special occasion without sacrificing their sense of safety or their dignity. It’s at the core of what we do each day.

If you are looking for dementia care for a Michigan senior you love, we can help. Call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you to learn more!

Dear Donna – Can I Do Anything to Prevent Alzheimer’s?

Dear Donna – Can I Do Anything to Prevent Alzheimer’s?

My mom has Alzheimer’s and watching her slowly slip away is so awful.

It also makes me worry that I will develop this awful disease. I’ve read some researchers think there may be genetic links to some forms of the disease.

While I know there is nothing I can do about my family history, I wonder if there are any steps I can take that may help me prevent Alzheimer’s? 

I would appreciate any insight!


Stacey in Grand Blanc, Michigan


Can Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?

Dear Stacey:

Alzheimer’s is definitely a devastating disease a senior and those who love them. It is understandable that you would be concerned about developing the disease yourself.

Researchers are still struggling to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Although there is no proven method of preventing the disease, there are steps you can do that may help reduce your risk

Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

Research has shown that seniors following the MIND diet have lowered their risk for reduced brain functioning by 35 percent. Even people who were so-so about maintaining the diet were 18 percent less likely to have reduced brain function.

The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet with a few tweaks. The diet is pretty simple: eat lots of green vegetables and fruit, particularly berries. Include whole grains, nuts, poultry, and fish.

Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are especially good for preventing Alzheimer’s because they contain omega-3 fats.

Dairy products, in moderation, are OK if they are low in fat. Olive oil is on the diet, but red meat, sugar and salt should be limited. Also, limit alcohol intake.

Smoking cigarettes is not recommended on this diet.

Anyone who puts effort into following the MIND diet will likely see a payoff. It can include a better functioning heart, healthy blood vessels, and optimal blood pressure—all of which are factors that decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Exercise For Your Life

For years, studies have shown that exercise can benefit the brain and delay the start of Alzheimer’s. People who are less active have a higher risk of developing this disease.

Exercise helps to keep the blood flowing and increases the chemicals that protect the brain. The key is to exercise several times a week for 30 minutes or an hour. In a relatively short time you will feel the benefits of exercise: sharper thinking, improved memory, and better decision making.

Reduce Stress Daily For Your Memory And Mood

In a study looking at how stress impacted the brains of mice, researchers found that stressed mice had high amounts of a protein called beta-amyloids in their brains. These proteins cause memory problems.

Other research has linked these beta-amyloids to Alzheimer’s. Avoiding stress may be one way to keep your brain healthy.

But, let’s face it, stress in life is unavoidable. So it’s especially important when you are a caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s  that you find ways to de-stress.

  • Take advantage of community support through online resources or phone help lines.
  • Use relaxation techniques: breathing exercises, visualization and muscle relaxation.
  • Take time to express yourself. Self-expression through music, art, writing, private dance or movement can all help.
  • Find ways to leave your problems behind for a little while. That might be by taking a walk, going to a movie or watching funny videos of babies or pets. There are days when just a long shower or an early bedtime can be a big help.
  • Use positive affirmations and self-encouragement to reduce stress.
  • If you have faith, use it to find peace and comfort while you are caring for your loved one and taking steps to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

When The Stress Gets Too Much

Finally, it might help you to consider using respite care at the Heritage Senior Communities. Short-term breaks can do a lot to restore balance, energy, joy and hope.

My very best wishes to you and your family, Stacey.



Alzheimer’s Action Day: How to Become an Advocate in Your Local Community

Alzheimer’s Action Day: How to Become an Advocate in Your Local Community

Alzheimer’s Action Day on September 21st provides a chance for early stage patients, caregivers, and others to share stories that help to increase awareness and end the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease.  It can also be a turning point for people who choose to become a community advocate.

Advocating for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Why should I advocate for the disease that I dislike and prefer not to think about?

A number of benefits can result from advocating for Alzheimer’s disease—whether you’re an early stage patient, a family member or friend.

  • Establishing connections with other people, resources, and support systems
  • Reducing the loneliness factor that is so common with the disease
  • Providing opportunities to share your insights, experience and hope
  • Enabling you to contribute to medical research

How can I fit community advocacy into my schedule?

  • Start simple and set small goals. Caring for a loved one can take a huge amount of time and emotional energy, so set small goals. Even one hour a week might help you feel as if you are contributing.
  • Reframe your viewpoint. Change your it’s-a-drain attitude to it’s-a-gain Your support and advocacy may actually recharge your batteries because you will be having meaningful conversations with other adults who have similar concerns and problems.

How can I start advocating in my community?

There are several steps you can take to become an advocate.

  • Begin by talking about Alzheimer’s with coworkers, friends, church members, and others. That may provide a sense of satisfaction and social purpose.
  • Read the facts and statistics about the disease. This will help you speak comfortably and knowledgably about the issues.
  • Get involved with the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. You’ll meet people, find camaraderie, be inspired, and have an opportunity to participate in activities that increase empathy, self-esteem and self-care. All of this may help to heal some of the emotional wounds caused by Alzheimer’s.
  • Use social media to connect with people from the comfort of your home.
  • Brainstorm ways to increase attention about Alzheimer’s and other memory problems. Consider arranging a presentation at the local library or organizing regular meetings at a coffee shop.
  • Connect with local politicians and learn about their position on medical research funding for Alzheimer’s. Encourage them to back bills and laws that increase financial support for the disease.
  • Invite health care providers who specialize in Alzheimer’s to speak at local events and chamber meetings. Broaden the topic of the meeting to include other memory disorders and provide tip sheets, brain-healthy menus, and resource lists.
  • Create newsworthy articles for your local media. Include your personal story along with seasonal topics, such as holiday planning or Alzheimer’s-friendly activities.
  • Engage the help of business faculty members at a local college or SCORE counselors to solidify or strengthen your community action plans.
  • Identify assets and financial resources for your advocacy work.

At Heritage Senior Communities, our staff members receive specialty training to help them provide the best possible care for residents with Alzheimer’s. Each team member in our memory care is an expert and an advocate.

Ask about having one of our dementia care experts speak at your local advocacy meeting or for resources that you can share with the other families.


How to Evaluate a Memory Care Program

How to Evaluate a Memory Care Program

The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease are known to cause memory problems. However, as the disease progresses, more symptoms develop. Your senior loved one may experience difficulty with routine daily tasks, communication skills, and appropriate social behavior.

A memory care community with specialized caregivers and a supportive environment may be a solution.

Coping with day-to-day living can be frustrating for someone in the intermediary and later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Living in a nurturing, specialized environment created for people with dementia may help manage your senior loved one’s symptoms.

A safe, controlled environment may also help them to live a more independent lifestyle.

Finding the right memory care program can feel overwhelming. There are many factors to consider, including types of treatment, staff, and the campus itself.

To evaluate memory care, you’ll need a guide. Here are the important criteria to consider when you’re touring the various communities near you.

Memory Care Basics

  1. First, you’ll want to see the community’s inspection reports. These are based on surveys completed by the state the community is located in. Reviewing it can help alert you to any issues the state regulators found concerning. Or it can put your mind at ease that the community is well run.
  2. Next, ask about the philosophy of care. Does the community promote independence among people with memory loss? That’s important to ask because some researchers say maintaining a sense of independence for as long as is safely possible may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
  3. What specialty programs are offered? Is there a separate life enrichment calendar with activities designed for people with memory loss? What about a supportive dining program?
  4. Plan to visit a variety of communities at different times of the day. Try to be there for a meal, too. Talk to staff and residents and even families if they are available.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Memory Care Program

People who have dementia require specialized care which often incorporates special programs and techniques based on their needs. Making each day purposeful is a common goal, so ask to see a copy of the activity calendar for the month.

Your senior loved one’s unique needs should be addressed in a comprehensive care plan that includes various activities and therapies. For example, some memory care programs have adopted a person-centered approach to care. This approach focuses on the individual and not just their disease.

Caregiving Staff

You’ll want to follow a full checklist of staff qualifications when it comes time to evaluate memory care programs. The Alzheimer’s Association maintains a very useful checklist on their website. It includes staff to resident ratio, training, and caring philosophy of the community staff.

The Community

When you visit, a community should leave you with the sense that staff and residents feel a mutual respect. Personal care should be carried out so that residents maintain their dignity. Residents should appear relaxed, well-kempt, and engaged.

Practical Matters

Finally, meals should be held at regular times and offer appetizing food in a pleasant environment. Nutrition is very often an issue for people who have dementia so ask how that is monitored.

Staff should be encouraging during meals. In later stages of the disease, caregivers likely need to provide hands-on assistance with eating.

Help is Available

This is by no means an exhaustive list for evaluating memory care programs. Finding the right community takes time and lots of research. But with patience, you will be able to find a caring environment for your senior loved one.

Heritage Senior Communities can help you with the decision-making process involving your senior loved one. Our communities throughout Michigan and Indiana have memory care programs we call “The Terrace”.

Staff members who work in The Terrace programs are dedicated to serving the special needs of the residents through a philosophy of ‘person-centered care’. Our aim is to provide a safe environment where your senior loved one can thrive and experience increased quality of life.

Call us at your convenience to find out about our Specialized Dementia Care or to schedule a tour of one of our communities near you.

Summer Activities for Adults with Dementia to Enjoy

Summer Activities for Adults with Dementia to Enjoy

Michigan caregivers might find themselves struggling to come up with meaningful activities for an older adult who has dementia or Alzheimer’s. While some families take advantage of adult day programs to help their loved one stay active, many seniors don’t attend every day. That means families have a few days a week when they need to come up with engaging activities.

Summers can be an especially great time for all the generations of a family to enjoy spending time together.

The dementia care team from Heritage Senior Communities put together a list of life enrichment activities to help Alzheimer’s caregivers create meaningful days.

Meaningful Summer Activities for Adults with Dementia

  • Exercise: The health benefits of regular exercise are especially important for people with Alzheimer’s. It can help soothe agitation, while also acting as a stress buster for both the family caregiver and the person with the disease. Commit to enjoying a daily a stroll together this summer. Maybe take your camera along to snap nature photos as you go. If a walk isn’t possible, invest in a few senior-friendly exercise DVDs. Chair Yoga and gentle stretching can help improve strength, flexibility and balance.
  • Music Therapy: The healing harmonies of music have well documented benefits for seniors with Alzheimer’s. In addition to boosting mood and lifting the spirits, it can even help people with memory loss access memories. It can be as simple as creating a playlist of your senior loved one’s favorite “oldies” and enjoying them together.
  • Back to Nature: Gardening is another form of life enrichment that has many benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease. Container gardens and raised beds can make gardening easier and safer. Because people with Alzheimer’s often put things in their mouth, remember to use only plants that aren’t toxic if ingested. Check this list of toxic plants to review which ones you should avoid. Having a garden to plant and maintain will provide productive and meaningful activity almost every day.
  • Bird Watching: If your loved one is able, consider taking up bird watching as a hobby your family can enjoy together. Take pictures of birds you see around you and look them up online to learn more. You might even consider starting your own bird book with photos and information you learn about each one.
  • Creative Projects: Arts and crafts projects give everyone in the family a chance to participate. You can tailor projects to the age and ability level of family members. It might be a creating a simple watercolor painting or assembling a photo album or scrapbooks. Most craft stores also have kits you can purchase with everything you need for a project included.

Whatever activity you choose, keep in mind that familiar, simple ones that don’t require abstract though are usually best for adults with Alzheimer’s. They are easier for your loved one to complete and require less planning and work on your end.

Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan

The Terrace at Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized care for people with Alzheimer’s. From a thoughtfully designed environment to dedicated life enrichment activities, we invite you to stop by for a tour to learn how we create successful days for people with dementia!


How to Find Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials in Michigan

How to Find Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials in Michigan

Behind every medical advancement in the modern world, you’ll find a series of clinical trials. And who’s behind these clinical trials? Regular folks like you. Thanks to the efforts of countless volunteers over the years, researchers have made regular improvements in healthcare by finding new ways to detect, prevent, and treat diseases. This includes Alzheimer’s clinical trials.

If you’ve decided to become a volunteer for a clinical trial in Michigan or would like a senior you love to participate in one, this information will help guide you through the process.

Alzheimer’s Clinical Trial

The most common way of looking for a certain type of trial (Alzheimer’s) in a certain location (Michigan) is to use an online search tool. Most of the registries available for searching clinical trials ask you to use a search box or choose from a drop-down list of parameters to find the kind of trial you’re looking for.

If you don’t see an option to choose the State of Michigan, try selecting “Advanced Search”. In many search forms, this brings up a whole new set of parameters to use for narrowing down your search results.

Here are the top sites to use in your search for an Alzheimer’s clinical trial.

  1. The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center

The National Institute on Aging, a federal agency that falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has a handy search tool on their website.

You can use it to search for Michigan-based clinical trials and studies on Alzheimer’s, as well as other types of dementia. They also include caregiving trials in their database so Michigan residents who care for a loved one may find studies and trials for themselves, too.

The tool is maintained by The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, which also provides useful information about the generalities of volunteering for trials. This includes guidance such as what to expect and how volunteering is tied to leaving a legacy. The information is presented in video format on the YouTube channel of the National Institute of Aging.

  1. Alzheimer’s Association’s TrialMatch®

The Alzheimer’s Association is a not-for-profit organization that runs a matching service called TrialMatch®. It is free and open to individuals with Alzheimer’s, their caregivers, and healthy individuals who simply want to help out by volunteering.

You will, however, need to create an online account and then complete a questionnaire. Then, the organization creates a profile for you, logs it into their database, and attempts to match you with a trial in Michigan. They notify you when a match is found.

  1. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Like the National Institute on Aging, NIH operates under the wing of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. They too offer a database that can be used to find clinical Alzheimer’s trials in Michigan.

Their database can be found at clinicaltrials.gov and currently lists roughly 238,000 studies in all 50 states. It covers all types of international trials, not just Alzheimer’s-related research.

Once you’ve found a suitable trial that’s located in Michigan, your next step will be to find out who’s eligible to participate. Look for the “Protocol” section of the trial description for that information. They’ll also give details about procedures, as well as how long the study lasts and what type of data will be collected from participants.

Your search doesn’t end here, but this is enough to get you started in your quest to find a suitable trial that takes place in Michigan. Want to see what past clinical trials have discovered about Alzheimer’s? Here’s one on meditation and Alzheimer’s.