Caring for a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease can be rewarding. The hands-on role allows you to make a meaningful difference and provide emotional support. Taking your loved one to physician appointments, managing medications, and preparing meals help you feel confident they are receiving quality care.
The increasing demands of caregiving might make it tough to maintain your own mental and physical well-being. Back pain, headaches, stomach problems, and insomnia are a few of the most common medical issues caregivers report. Unfortunately, so are anxiety and depression.
Caregivers also experience guilt and fear wondering if they are meeting their loved one’s needs. This type of second-guessing can increase stress, something most caregivers already struggle to manage.
If this situation sounds familiar, it’s likely time to create a plan to regain a healthier sense of balance in your life. Here are a few steps you can take.
3 Ways to Restore Balance When You Are a Caregiver
- Take time off.
This might be tough for a dedicated caregiver, especially given the current coronavirus concerns. Taking regular breaks is essential for caregivers. Could another family member or friend stay with your senior loved one for a few hours each week? You will be a better caregiver if you are able to take time off on a regular basis.
If you don’t have anyone who can help, you might want to consider respite services through an in-home care agency. Depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in your area, your family member may be able to stay at a local memory care community a few days each month.
This has another benefit: allowing you to evaluate if the community is a good fit for your loved one should the need arise. Having a backup plan if you fall ill or are otherwise unable to care for your loved one can give you peace of mind.
- Connect with support.
Family members often feel a strong sense of duty when it comes to taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The idea of turning a loved one’s care over to someone else isn’t easy, especially when they may have limited verbal skills and memory loss. Talking your challenges through with peers who can relate will help.
Alzheimer’s support groups are hosted in a variety of places ranging from local churches to area senior centers and libraries. Another safe option is to connect with an online caregiver support group. This article will help you learn more, including how to find an online group to join.
- Engage in nurturing activities.
Engage in activities that boost your spirit on a regular basis. While it may feel like a luxury, spending even short amounts of time on hobbies or tasks that bring peace will make you a better caregiver.
Enjoy a few laughs over lunch or on a video chat with a friend. Take an art class online. Plant an indoor or outdoor herb garden. Meditation, Tai Chi, and yoga are also good ways to connect with your spirit.
Call Heritage with Questions about Dementia Care
If you think the time has come to start exploring memory care communities in Michigan or Indiana, or if you have questions about dementia care in general, we’ll be happy to help. Call a Heritage specialized dementia community today!
Exercise is essential at every stage in life. While the amount and type of fitness activities you engage in might need to be modified as you grow older, exercising has many benefits. Those include helping people maintain a healthy weight, reducing anxiety, promoting better quality sleep, and boosting mood.
If you or a loved one has dementia, exercise also offers additional benefits for the body and mind. Early- to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease, for example, often causes low energy, problems with coordination, balance issues, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Regular exercise helps combat the negative impact of each.
The Therapeutic Value of Exercise
According to WebMD, “repetitive exercises such as walking, indoor bicycling, and even tasks such as folding laundry may lower anxiety in people with the disease because they don’t have to make decisions or remember what to do next. They also can feel good knowing that they’ve accomplished something when they’re finished.”
Research from the Wake Forest School of Medicine highlights even more benefits. They found that physical activity also has a positive impact on the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Those enrolled in the trial had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or diabetes, which is thought to raise the risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Some participants worked out at community gyms for an hour of aerobic activity or stretching exercise four times a week for six months. All were supervised during these activities.
At the end of the study, researchers had determined that “exercisers had better blood flow in the memory and processing centers of their brains and had measurable improvement in attention, planning, and organizing abilities referred to as executive function.”
If you are the family caregiver or adult child of a senior with dementia, you might be wondering what type of exercises are best. We have a few suggestions for you to review with your loved one’s primary care physician.
4 Safe Exercises for Adults with Dementia
- Walking: Walking 30 minutes a day is good for most adults with dementia. Finding a safe and scenic place where you can walk together can give you both a mental and physical boost. If 30 minutes is too much to start, break it up into several mini-sessions a day instead. You might feel safer if you purchase a GPS tracking device for your loved one to wear when you are walking outdoors.
- Practicing chair yoga: The combination of stretching and breathing exercises at the core of yoga is great for improving flexibility, coordination, balance, and relaxation. For adults with dementia, chair yoga might be an option. Through a series of yoga poses performed from a seated position, participants can feel successful while also reaping the health benefits of yoga. It’s also been proven to improve balance for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Pedaling on a recumbent bike: Simple, repetitive movements are ideal for people living with memory impairment. A recumbent bike is usually safest. In addition to the ease of the motion, riding a bike gets the heart pumping and muscles working.
- Weights or resistance bands: Weight training helps keep muscles strong and joints limber. It also combats bone loss as you grow older. Lifting weights and using resistance bands are two ways people with dementia can do that. People with dementia should lift weights only under supervision.
Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage
At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand the value of exercise for residents in independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Our communities offer daily fitness opportunities ranging from stretching classes to bocce ball. For more information on specialized dementia care, please call the Heritage community nearest you today!
A common challenge Alzheimer’s caregivers face is getting their loved one to eat. Alzheimer’s can lead to an unhealthy amount of weight loss. There are steps you can take to make mealtimes go a little smoother. Creating a calm, distraction-free environment is one. So is setting the table with dinnerware and placemats in contrasting colors to make food easier to distinguish on the plate.
Another technique that may encourage a senior to eat more is serving healthy finger foods. They don’t require silverware that older adults may have difficulty manipulating. Finger foods are also easier to independently consume, even while wandering around the house.
We’ve assembled a variety of recipes to help you get started.
Guide to Healthy Finger Foods for Seniors with Alzheimer’s
Keeping meals healthy but simple and limiting the number of foods on the plate is better for seniors with Alzheimer’s. These choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner fit that description.
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter
- French toast sticks
- Yogurt or cereal bar
- Hard-boiled egg
- Sausage links or patties
- English muffin topped with an egg, cheese, or ham slice
While technically not a finger food, fruit smoothies are another good choice. You can make them with yogurt, pureed fruit, and a scoop of protein powder for an extra boost.
Options for Lunch or Dinner:
- Chicken tenders: This is easy to prepare as grocery stores offer a variety of ready-made options. Most only need to be heated up before serving. Opt for grilled or baked tenders instead of fried. You can serve them with a dip, like ranch or honey mustard, for extra flavor.
- Cup of soup: Another idea is to serve your senior loved one soup in a covered mug. They can sip it at their leisure from wherever they wander during mealtime. You can buy pre-made bone broth if you don’t have time to make your own. Bone broth is packed with nutrients and vitamins. “20 Delicious (and Wholesome) Bone Broth Soup Recipes” has some great options.
- Small sandwiches: Another idea is to make a sandwich and cut it into smaller pieces. Turkey with bacon and cheese, chicken salad with fresh pineapple bits, grilled cheese, and tuna salad all have protein and other essential vitamins and minerals. Add fiber by serving it on multigrain bread with lettuce.
- Antipasto: Make your own antipasto salad with cheese, meats, tomatoes, red pepper, garbanzo beans, and more. Add anything the senior likes and can pick up to eat on their own. Drizzle it with lemon vinaigrette for a bump in taste.
- Sliced fruit and vegetables: Keep a plate of fresh fruits and vegetables out for your loved one to eat at mealtime or as a snack. Be cautious of foods known for presenting a choking hazard, such as carrots or grapes. Serving foods in a rainbow of colors is not only good for their health, but also more visually appealing. That could entice them to eat more.
We hope this information gives you some meal ideas for your senior loved one. If you are looking for more ways to encourage your loved one to participate at mealtime, “What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat” might be of interest.
Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities
If you’ve been contemplating dementia care for your loved one and you live in Michigan or Indiana, we hope you will consider a Heritage community. Our specialized memory care program is designed to meet the unique needs of each resident. Call us today to learn more!
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?
Alzheimer’s Disease Resources and Tools
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.
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.
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?
Barb in Saginaw, MI
Why Join a Caregiver Support Group?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!
My wife of 55 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. In the early days, her symptoms weren’t very noticeable and we didn’t have to explain the problem to our grandchildren.
As the disease has progressed, however, it’s obvious there is something wrong. Despite being young, the kids definitely see changes. I think sometimes my wife’s behavior even hurts their feelings.
My son and his wife think the time has come to explain the disease to the grandkids. We are struggling to figure out how to do that. Do you have any suggestions?
Tim in Midland, MI
5 Tips for Explaining Alzheimer’s to Younger Children
By its very nature, Alzheimer’s can be difficult for younger people to understand. It’s common for families to have trouble figuring out how to explain the disease.
Fortunately, we have a few tips for tackling this conversation that other families have found useful:
- Alzheimer’s is a disease: Start by explaining that their grandma has an illness that makes it hard for her to remember things. She has good days and bad days. On bad days, grandma may act a little strangely and possibly not even remember their names.
- They’ve done nothing wrong: Take time to reassure your grandchildren that they haven’t done anything wrong. Sometimes kids think something they did caused a senior’s behavior. Explain that the changes they see in their grandma are caused by her illness.
- It’s not contagious: Be sure to explain that Alzheimer’s disease isn’t contagious; you can’t catch it like a cold or the flu. That might alleviate any worries your grandchildren have that someone else they love will get Alzheimer’s, too.
- Create an activities list: Before the talk, put together a list of activities the kids can still do with their grandmother. Include simple tasks, like filling the bird feeder, and long-term projects, such as painting a birdhouse together. Reassure the children they can continue to enjoy time with their grandma.
- Helpful videos to watch: The Alzheimer’s Association created several video series you can watch with your grandkids. Both are from the perspective of kids trying to help other kids. You can find Kids Look at Alzheimer’s and Teens Look at Alzheimer’s on YouTube.
I hope these tips help you feel better prepared for this conversation, Tim!
Memory Care at Heritage
Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can be difficult for families to safely manage at home. Many find a memory care program to be the best solution. With memory care communities throughout Michigan, Heritage Senior Communities are highly regarded for their commitment to quality care. We invite you to call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more!