Holiday Gifts for Adults with Dementia

Holiday Gifts for Adults with Dementia

As another year of uncertainty draws to a close, it’s important to spend time with loved ones. Quality time with others can do wonders for your mental health. While concerns about COVID-19 linger, the holidays might need to be celebrated a little differently again this year.

Fortunately, one favorite holiday tradition can easily be modified to accommodate a busy family caregiver’s schedule: gift giving. Online shopping can be a quick, safe solution that allows you to avoid large crowds and potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Gift Ideas for a Senior with Dementia

Caregivers, especially those caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, were primarily using online shopping long before the virus appeared. Last year’s holiday shopping season set records for online purchases. This trend shows no sign of slowing.

One new challenge this year is the backlog in shipping. From the U.S. Postal Service to UPS and Federal Express, expect your packages to take longer to arrive. So, our first piece of advice is to get your online orders in this week.

Here are a few suggestions on what to gift a loved one with dementia this holiday season:

  1. Comfortable clothing and shoes

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, people often have difficulty manipulating buttons and zippers. Easy-to-wear, comfortable clothes are a good gift idea that allows the senior to maintain a sense of independence. You’ll want to keep the following tips in mind as you select clothing for your loved one:

  • Avoid anything with small buttons, zippers, or ties. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have trouble manipulating them.
  • Items that pull on and off are best. A jogging suit, pants with elastic waistbands, and button-free tops are best.
  • Shoes can also be difficult for a senior struggling with coordination. Slip-on shoes and sneakers with Velcro are good options.

This online store caters to those with arthritis and other physical challenges that make dressing more difficult. You might find it useful.

  1. Arts and crafts projects

Arts and crafts projects boost the spirits, and not just for those with dementia. The very act of creating brings peace and contentment. Art is even used as therapy in settings such as hospice centers and hospitals.

Craft stores like Joann and Michaels offer online shipping options for most of their products. You’ll find arts and crafts projects ranging from stepping stone kits to bookmark-making supplies.

  1. Handmade fidget blanket

Restlessness and fidgeting caused by Alzheimer’s-related anxiety is common as the disease progresses. That’s why you will often see people with Alzheimer’s pulling at their clothes, rubbing their fingers together, scratching their skin, and even pacing around the room.

Another holiday gift idea to consider is a fidget blanket. These blankets have embellishments like ribbons to toy with, loops to pull on, and easy-sliding zippers. They give people with Alzheimer’s something to do with their hands when they can’t be still. Etsy has a variety of vendors offering fidget blankets at prices ranging from $30 to over $100 depending upon size and complexity.

  1. Gift of music

Music engages people at all stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Because the part of the brain that processes music is usually not damaged by the disease until later, people can often remember songs dating back to their childhood.

Other therapeutic benefits linked to music for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia include:

  • Bringing joy: An upbeat song can boost mood and lift the spirit. With a little prompting, the senior may even clap or dance in their chair.
  • Stimulating memory: Music allows people to reconnect with memories long forgotten. For someone with a memory impairment, that can be quite meaningful.
  • Soothing anxiety: Agitation and anxiety are common in adults with dementia. Peaceful music can help the senior relax and calm down.

As a holiday gift, you can create playlists for your loved one to enjoy. Depending upon the stage of your family member’s disease, you might even consider syncing their phone or device to a Sonos wireless speaker and enabling Alexa so they can request music on their own.

When Is Memory Care Necessary?

Because dementia can be a tough disease for families to manage at home, memory care is a popular solution. These specialized communities help seniors with memory loss live their best quality of life. Call the Heritage community nearest you today to learn more about specialized dementia care at our communities in Michigan and Indiana!

How to Help a Senior with Alzheimer’s Get a Good Night’s Sleep

How to Help a Senior with Alzheimer’s Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Alzheimer’s caregivers must learn to handle a variety of challenges. The disease creates worrying behaviors such as wandering and eating issues. One caregivers often cite is how long their senior family member can go without sleep. It can be exhausting for caregivers.

While medications may help, doctors often consider them a last resort. Prescribing medications for people with Alzheimer’s can be difficult because they process medications differently than their peers without the disease.

Fortunately, there are other options to try to help your family member with Alzheimer’s enjoy a better night’s rest.

Identifying Potential Causes of Sleep Issues

While researchers don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s, they have a few ideas why people with this disease often experience sleep disorders. Some likely causes are:

  • Sundowner’s syndrome: As many as 20 percent of people with Alzheimer’s experience this condition. It causes restlessness and confusion as the sun begins to set. People are more likely to pace and wander from home during this time. It wreaks havoc on the senior’s and their caregiver’s sleep schedules.
  • Overstimulation: Because of the physical damage Alzheimer’s causes to the brain, seniors with the disease may have difficulty processing an overly hectic or noisy environment. Overstimulation, especially in the afternoon or evening, might cause difficulty getting to or staying asleep.
  • Agitation and anxiety: Alzheimer’s often increases agitation and anxiety. Researchers attribute this to changes in the brain caused by the disease. Both of these emotions can make it difficult to relax and get a good night’s rest.
  • Disruption in sleep-wake cycle: Another possibility is that seniors who have Alzheimer’s undergo changes in their sleep-wake cycle. Research shows that in the early stages of the disease, a senior may wake up frequently throughout the night. When they do, they may get up and wander. As the disease progresses, the senior might get their days and nights mixed up. It causes them to sleep all day and be awake all night.
  • Medication problems: Some medications can cause sleeplessness or interactions that increase anxiety. Antidepressants and steroids are two examples. Ask your senior loved one’s primary care physician or pharmacist to review their medication list if you have any doubts.

Once you’ve had the chance to explore a few potential causes for a loved one’s sleep problems, the next step is to find ways to overcome them.

Ways to Help a Senior with Alzheimer’s Sleep Better

Here are a few steps you can take to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease overcome sleep disturbances:

  • Create a structured daily schedule where errands and exercise occur in the morning, and the afternoon and evening aren’t as busy. Also make sure to stick with a consistent bedtime and morning wake-up time.
  • Schedule a physical with the senior’s primary care doctor to see if there is a medical issue that may be causing pain. People with Alzheimer’s disease can have difficulty expressing discomfort.
  • Avoid serving foods and beverages with caffeine, especially later in the day, as they can make sleep difficult.
  • Limit the amount of fluid the senior consumes later in the day so they won’t have to use the bathroom during the night.
  • Turn off the television, which can be overstimulating, in the evening. Instead, play soft, soothing music to help the senior unwind.
  • Create a dark, quiet environment for sleeping and a get comfortable mattress. It might also help to have soft music playing on a sleep timer.

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, our specialized dementia care program is known as The Terrace. From person-centered care to healthy meals and snacks, it is designed to allow people with dementia to live their best quality of life. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!

Why Consider Memory Care for a Senior with Dementia

Why Consider Memory Care for a Senior with Dementia

Dear Donna:

I have been my uncle’s guardian for over a year now. He has Alzheimer’s disease and was starting to make some serious financial missteps. His electricity was turned off for failure to pay, but he also had significant credit with the gas company for repeatedly paying the same bill. Worst of all, he was the victim of a door-to-door scam that cost him a big chunk of his savings.

We set up systems so I can help manage his finances without causing his dignity to suffer. However, he is no longer safe at home alone due to the progression of his disease. I’m his only remaining family and am struggling to figure out how to keep him safe and improve his quality of life.

My uncle’s primary care doctor suggested I consider a memory care program. While I’m sure he would be safer, the idea of him feeling abandoned is tough to bear. Why is memory care a good solution for a family member?


Steve in Grand Haven, MI

Ways Memory Care Programs Benefit Seniors with Alzheimer’s

Dear Steve:

It’s great to see that you are concerned not just about your uncle’s safety, but his quality of life, too. The unique challenges Alzheimer’s creates can make it more difficult for families to keep a loved one healthy and engaged with life. That’s where the support of experienced, professional caregivers can help.

A few benefits of memory care for adults with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia include:

  • Specialized caregivers: Seniors who have dementia have unique needs. That’s why caregivers who work with memory care residents undergo additional training. They learn best practices for communication, behavior modification, and early detection of potential problems. Team members in a memory care program also learn how to deescalate situations and manage tough behaviors, such as wandering and aggression.
  • Care planning: While a senior can still maintain a relationship with their preferred physicians, memory care programs also have a physician who works in conjunction with staff to create care plans for each resident. These plans help ensure seniors live their best quality of life, despite their disease.
  • Dedicated dining: Mealtimes can be a challenge when a senior has dementia. A loss of hand-eye coordination makes manipulating utensils tough for many. Vision changes create difficulty distinguishing food on the plate. A busy or cluttered dining space might cause restlessness and an inability to focus on eating. That might result in poor nutrition and weight loss. Memory care dining programs work around these challenges to create healthy meals.
  • Quality of life: The daily life enrichment activities and recreation therapy programs offered in memory care allow residents to feel productive. Common activities include art classes, visits from pets, music therapy, and low-impact fitness activities. Many memory care programs also have secure outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy nature walks, bird watching, or gardening in raised beds.
  • Family support: Alzheimer’s is often referred to as the “long goodbye” because the disease slowly robs a senior loved one of their abilities. Families watch helplessly as their loved one’s health declines. Memory care communities often host support group meetings and other activities to help families throughout this journey.

I hope this list gives you a better idea of the ways older adults benefit from a move to a memory care community. Wishing you and your uncle the best of luck. Please contact me or one of the Heritage Senior Communities near your home if have any additional questions!

Kind regards,


Anxiety and Alzheimer’s: How to Help a Senior Who Is Struggling

Anxiety and Alzheimer’s: How to Help a Senior Who Is Struggling

Dear Donna:

My father was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about two years ago, although we suspected something was wrong far earlier. He’s recently begun staying with my husband and me while we try to come up with a long-term solution for keeping him safe.

One new behavior we are witnessing is anxiety. Or should I call it agitation? It’s obviously difficult for him to experience and for those of us who love him to watch. Is this common among people with Alzheimer’s? What could be causing it, and how can we help him?

Your suggestions would be much appreciated!


Crystal in Grand Haven, MI

Potential Causes and Treatment for Alzheimer’s Anxiety

Dear Crystal:

Thanks for sharing this question with us. Anxiety or agitation, whichever term you choose, is common among people who have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s tough for the person with the disease to live with and for family members to witness.

Potential causes of anxiety for people who have Alzheimer’s could include:

  • Change in surroundings: Whether it’s traveling on vacation or just waiting at the doctor’s office, even a simple change in environment can trigger agitation. Since you mentioned your father recently started staying with you, he may need more time to adjust. Do you have some of his familiar belongings surrounding him at your house, such as a comforter or throw? Utilize any familiar, comforting objects you have space for.
  • Busy or noisy environment: Because people with Alzheimer’s have trouble processing multiple things at a time, a chaotic environment could stress them out. If your kids are noisy, the doorbell is ringing, and the television is on, for example, it can be overwhelming. You might be so accustomed to it that you don’t even notice. By calming the background chaos, you might help soothe your father’s anxiety.
  • Extreme tiredness: People with Alzheimer’s disease often develop sleep problems, too. They might struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep. That can leave them feeling tired. If your dad isn’t sleeping well, it might be a good idea to talk with his physician. He might have sleep apnea or another condition that could be the underlying cause of both his sleep issues and his anxiety.
  • Lack of exercise: At any stage in life, becoming too sedentary can contribute to sleep problems, fatigue, and agitation. If your father is spending most of his time sitting, taking a few walks a day might be the key to helping resolve his anxiety. If you have a secure outdoor location to spend time in, that might help too.

I hope this information is helpful, Crystal, and that you find a way to decrease your father’s anxiety.

Kind regards,


Learn More about Dementia Care

Many of the Heritage Senior Communities have specialized memory care units for people with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. They are designed to provide a controlled, supportive environment that promotes success. Find a list of our Specialized Dementia Care Communities here, along with more information on what makes these programs so unique.

GPS Tech Products for Adults with Alzheimer’s

GPS Tech Products for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Dear Donna:

My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about ten months ago. We lived several hours apart, so he recently moved in with me and my family. We felt it was the best way to keep him healthy and safe.

While we are learning more about the disease and how to manage changes, one challenge is particularly worrisome. In the last few weeks, he’s started getting agitated and pacing in the evening. Researching these behaviors has me convinced my grandfather is experiencing sundowner’s syndrome. I understand it puts him at higher risk for attempting to wander from home.

I’m concerned if he does wander, we won’t be able to find him before something terrible happens. We have a home security system, but we don’t always have it on. Do you have any suggestions for what we can do to keep him safe?


Steve from Ann Arbor, Michigan

GPS Tracking for Adults with Alzheimer’s Disease

Dear Steve:
We’ve heard from others in this situation many times over the years. Wandering is a common worry as the disease progresses. In fact, Alzheimer’s Association research shows that six out of ten people with the disease will wander. Locating a senior quickly is essential.

Fortunately, technology provides seniors and their family members with a variety of solutions. A leading option is GPS tracking devices. Here are a couple to explore for your grandfather:

  • SmartSole®: This discreet GPS device is actually a trimmable insole that fits snuggly into a senior’s shoe. Once inserted, the technology in the sole can track a senior’s location if they wander away and become lost. It works by establishing circular perimeters known as geozones. If the senior exits these areas, their caregivers will receive an alert. The caregivers can also use a smartphone app to instantly check their senior loved one’s location.
  • GPS watch: Another option family caregivers find useful is a GPS watch. They are especially effective for a senior accustomed to wearing a watch, as they will be less likely to try to remove it. Many look similar to a sports watch, making them a more discreet option than a pendant. Features vary by model but the TK-STAR GPS Watch and the Tycho Real-time SOS GPS Tracker earn good reviews.

Finally, I’d also like to share a few resources that might be helpful in managing agitation and reducing the risk for wandering. 4 Common Triggers for Anger and Agitation in People with Alzheimer’s and Wandering are two articles to review.

I hope this information is useful in caring for your grandfather, Steve.

Kind regards,


Memory Care at Heritage Senior Living Communities

Families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or a similar type of dementia often find the support of a specialized dementia care community to be an ideal solution. These programs keep a senior with memory loss safe while also allowing for the best quality of life. Call the Heritage Senior Living community nearest you to learn more today!

Activities to Engage a Senior with Alzheimer’s

Activities to Engage a Senior with Alzheimer’s

When a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it can be tough to keep them busy in meaningful ways. But it’s important to be persistent and keep trying. That’s because engaging in productive activities boosts self-esteem.

Adults with Alzheimer’s often feel diminished and discouraged about their inability to complete tasks they used to do independently. As their need for assistance increases, the senior may experience depression and a loss of interest in the world around them. You can help prevent or overcome that by structuring their days with productive activity.

For people with most forms of dementia, the positive feelings created by meaningful experiences linger long after memories of the activity itself are lost. If you aren’t sure how to get started planning more structured days, we have some ideas you will find useful.

Productive Activities for a Senior with Dementia

First, avoid childlike activities that may leave a senior feeling degraded. Children’s games and puzzles with bright colors and large pieces, for example, might seem like a good idea. In reality, they can actually be demeaning. Instead, offer activities and tasks that are genuinely productive.

It’s also important to focus on the process, not the outcome. By taking that approach, you can both find joy in the moment.

Here are some productive activities to help you plan a structured, weekly schedule for a senior with dementia:

  • Music: The therapeutic value of music is well-documented. Singing along to music from happy times can evoke memories long forgotten for someone with dementia. They might be from childhood, young adult days, or married life. Try to track down songs and artists your senior loved one reacts positively to and create a playlist.
  • Household chores: Contributing to the household can also help a senior feel more productive. Your family member can assist with chores that don’t require abstract thought, such as folding laundry, dusting, vacuuming, unpacking groceries, or sweeping the kitchen floor.
  • Arts and crafts: Like music, art is another form of therapy for people of all ages. Completing simple art projects together, like painting a wooden picture frame or making a garden stepping stone, is great bonding time.
  • Physical fitness: Engaging in physical activities, like chair yoga, walking, or stretching, can also leave the senior feeling accomplished. Exercise can help a senior with Alzheimer’s sleep better and be less inclined to wander.
  • Reminiscence: Going back in time can allow an adult with memory loss to revisit happier days. Pull out old family photos and reminisce as you sort through them together. You could make copies of favorites and put together a scrapbook or organize them into albums.
  • Pet care: Having an animal to love and care for can also make a senior with dementia feel needed. A dog, which needs to be fed, walked, and brushed, might be especially beneficial.
  • Gardening: Caring for a raised bed vegetable garden or container flower garden is also peaceful and productive. Just make sure the flowers aren’t toxic if consumed. It’s not uncommon for an adult with dementia to put things in their mouth to taste. Check this list of poisonous flowers before purchasing.
  • Nature: One of the most beneficial activities for people of all ages is spending time in nature. It can be as simple as bird-watching in your backyard or taking a nature hike at a local park. Most parks have accessible walking paths for those with mobility challenges. One note of caution is to invest in a GPS tracking device for the senior to wear in case you become separated.

As one of the Great Lakes region’s leading providers of specialized dementia care, Heritage Senior Communities are dedicated to helping seniors with a memory impairment enjoy productive days. We invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more about The Terrace, our dedicated dementia care units.