Where Can I Learn More about Alzheimer’s?

Where Can I Learn More about Alzheimer’s?

Dear Donna:

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?

Best regards,

Alyssa

Alzheimer’s Disease Resources and Tools

Dear Alyssa:

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.

Kind regards,

Donna

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.

5 Benefits of Joining an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group Online

5 Benefits of Joining an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group Online

Dear Donna:

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?

Sincerely,

Barb in Saginaw, MI

Why Join a Caregiver Support Group?

Dear Barb:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Kind regards,

Donna

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!

How to Explain Alzheimer’s to Grandkids

How to Explain Alzheimer’s to Grandkids

Dear Donna:


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?

Sincerely,

Tim in Midland, MI

5 Tips for Explaining Alzheimer’s to Younger Children

Dear Tim:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Kind regards,

Donna

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!

What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat

What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat

Caregiving for a senior who has Alzheimer’s often involves overcoming a variety of unique challenges. One is making mealtimes go smoothly. Alzheimer’s disease can complicate some everyday activities, such as manipulating silverware or concentrating on the tasks associated with eating.

For some people with Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia, it results in poor nutrition and an unhealthy amount of weight loss. If you are struggling to get a family member with Alzheimer’s to eat healthy, it is essential to first identify your loved one’s difficulties and then develop strategies to accommodate them.

 

4 Reasons People with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat

 

If you find yourself worried or frustrated about why your senior loved one won’t eat, know it is a familiar struggle for dementia caregivers. Because a loss of verbal skills makes communication challenging, the senior may not be able to express what the problem is. Some common problems to explore include:

  1. Loss of appetite: An adult with dementia might not recognize the body’s hunger signals. They aren’t interested in eating because they don’t feel hungry. Perhaps one of their medications diminishes their appetite. A loss of smell or taste can further exacerbate the problem.
  2. Problems with teeth or dentures: If the senior hasn’t been to the dentist in a while, there might be an undiagnosed oral health issue. A sore tooth or poorly fitting dentures might make chewing painful. Pay attention to their face when they eat. Do they grimace in pain? It may be something to discuss with a dentist.
  3. Decreased dexterity: Hand-eye coordination eventually becomes a challenge for adults with dementia. It can make mealtime physically and emotionally difficult. The frustration of being unable to use silverware can lead to lower self-esteem and loss of dignity. The senior may give up trying and not eat.
  4. Challenging environment: Difficulty concentrating is a common issue for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Distractions caused by a hectic or noisy environment can make sitting still long enough to eat impossible.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to overcome each of these common problems.

 

Promoting Positive Mealtime Experiences for an Adult with Alzheimer’s

 

  1. Eliminate distractions: At mealtime, turn off the television and silence your cell phone. Try to eliminate as much background noise and distractions as possible. If your family member responds well to soft music, keep a few peaceful songs loaded and ready to play. It might also help to quietly sit with your family member while they eat. Providing a calm, distraction-free environment may improve their concentration and increase the amount of food they eat.
  2. Use helpful visuals: Sometimes vision issues make mealtime more difficult. You can make it easier for your family member to identify food on their plate by using a brightly colored placemat with a contrasting color of plate. That helps them distinguish the plate from the table and identify the food on the plate. Researchers also suggest using plain tableware and avoiding busy patterns. The Red Plate Study at Boston University found when people with Alzheimer’s are served meals on red plates, they eat 25% more than those who eat from white plates.
  3. Serve one food at a time: When a plate is full of several different food groups, the senior might find it distracting. Instead, serve one food group at a time. It might make it easier for them to focus and eat more. Serve the healthiest, nutrient-rich foods first, just in case you aren’t able to keep them at the table as long as you would like.
  4. Adapt tableware: Adaptive utensils with chunky handles and foods served in bowls might also make mealtime less of a struggle for someone with Alzheimer’s. Spoons require less coordination than forks. If that doesn’t help, finger foods are another option. Avoid foods that may be a choking hazard, such as hot dogs, celery, grapes, raw carrots, nuts, and popcorn.
  5. Model behavior: If possible, eat meals with your senior loved one. This allows you to model behavior for the senior to follow, such as eating their vegetables or drinking a glass of water. It will also allow you to discreetly help them eat, if needed.

Finally, as you are planning menus, include foods the senior likes and that look and smell inviting. That might encourage them to eat.

 

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

 

Dementia care programs are designed to support the unique needs of adults with memory impairment. At Heritage, we call ours The Terrace. We provide three nutritious homemade meals every day. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Independence Day Safety for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Independence Day Safety for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Independence Day celebrates the birth of our nation. It’s typically filled with parades, picnics, and barbeques. For many, attending a community fireworks event or launching a few small firecrackers in the yard are a favorite part of their annual July 4th tradition.

While most people greatly enjoy these loud and lively festivities, they can cause fear and agitation for others. This is especially true for seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.

If you are planning an Independence Day celebration that includes an older adult with dementia, we have a few tips to help the day go more smoothly.

 

Dementia and Independence Day: 5 Tips for a Safe Celebration

 

  1. Let the senior help with preparations.

In the days before your party, find tasks your family member can do. It will make them feel like they are part of the celebration. Depending upon the stage of their Alzheimer’s, they might be able to help plant and water flowers in the yard, cover and set tables, or prepare food. Find safe ways to include the older adult.

  1. Consider the party time carefully.

Think about the times of day when your senior loved one is at their best. Is it possible to plan your July 4th festivities around tough hours of the day and night? For example, if your family member has Sundowner’s Syndrome, can you host your party earlier or later in the day?

  1. Create a peaceful place.

Make sure to have a safe place for your family member to rest if the celebration gets too loud or chaotic. If they don’t live with you, set up a space for them in a bedroom or den furthest from the party. Have soft music ready to play or noise-cancelling headphones they can wear.

  1. Plan alternative activities for the senior.

It might also be a good idea to have alternate activities for them to do if the party gets to be too much. A craft project, a basket of laundry to fold, or a family photo album can be good. You may want to ask people familiar to the senior to spend one-on-one time with them during this respite. It can be a positive experience for both.

  1. Alert guests ahead of time.

If some of your guests aren’t familiar with your senior loved one’s illness, send a quick text or email to explain the situation. While many adults have a vague understanding of Alzheimer’s and dementia, they might not be familiar with the challenges it creates.

We hope the tips above help your family enjoy a happy, healthy July 4th celebration!

 

Specialized Dementia Care in Michigan and Indiana

 

Adults with memory impairment benefit from specialized dementia care. At Heritage, we call it The Terrace. Using a person-centered approach, each resident gets the individual support needed to live their best quality of life. We invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more today!

How to Evaluate the Quality of a Memory Care Program

How to Evaluate the Quality of a Memory Care Program

Dear Donna:
My husband is the guardian for his great-uncle who has Alzheimer’s disease. Since his diagnosis a year ago, we’ve found ways to keep him safe in his own home. The time has come, however, to begin searching for an Alzheimer’s care community.

We aren’t sure what to look for or ask as we begin making appointments. Can you give us a few pointers? We are feeling a little overwhelmed.

Sincerely,

Tina in Byron Center, MI

 

Tips for Evaluating a Memory Care Community

 

Dear Tina:

If you aren’t familiar with memory care, a term often used to describe Alzheimer’s care programs, the search can be intimidating. The sheer variety of options helps ensure an older adult gets the right type of care, but also makes the search confusing for families.

Here are a few questions to ask and factors to keep in mind as you and your husband begin contacting and visiting local memory care communities:

  • What is the community’s philosophy of care?

Each memory care community has a unique approach to care. Learning more about each community’s beliefs will help you decide which is a good fit for your uncle. Ask each community you are considering to describe their philosophy of care and what sets them apart from other local providers.

  • Will the team work hard to encourage his independence?

Research indicates doing too much for someone with Alzheimer’s can undermine their independence. It can also cause their disease to progress more quickly. By contrast, having systems in place to encourage residents to do as much as is safely possible might help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Finding a memory care community that knows how to successfully balance safety with independence is important. Be sure to ask how the team does this.

  • How does the community get to know new residents?

Because Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often impact verbal skills and memory, a senior who moves to a memory care community may struggle answering questions or telling caregivers and staff their unique life story.

Loved ones often cite feeling frustrated that their loved one is treated as a diagnosis, not an individual. This leads to a loss of dignity and self-worth that families find devastating.

Another question to ask when you call or visit memory care is how they will get to know your uncle and learn about his life and personal preferences.

  • Are life enrichment activities offered for memory care residents?

Activities and events can enhance quality of life for people with dementia if they work with the senior’s remaining abilities. Take time to ask about daily activities for residents in memory care as you are assessing potential communities. What types of programs are offered and how often? Who coordinates activities and what is their background? Getting answers to these questions will give you a good idea of how your uncle will spend his days.

  • How does the community help make this a smooth transition?

Because a change in environment can be stressful for an adult with dementia, you’ll benefit from a community with experienced team members. The staff can work with you on a plan for the days leading up to and after your uncle’s move. Before you make a final decision, ask each community how they help new residents make the smoothest transition possible.

I hope this information is helpful to you, Tina! I wish you and your husband the best of luck in your search for memory care for your uncle.

Kind regards,

Donna

 

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

 

At Heritage Senior Communities, we call our memory care program The Terrace. From specialized activities to dedicated dining, it’s designed to help adults with dementia enjoy their best quality of life. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!