Can Engaging in Art Projects Prevent Alzheimer’s?

Can Engaging in Art Projects Prevent Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s memory. As the disease progresses, many people lose their ability to communicate verbally. Art therapy has increasingly been used to help adults with Alzheimer’s cope with their symptoms. Not only can art help them express their thoughts and feelings when they can no longer do so verbally, but it can also improve other areas—including cognitive health.

The positive effects that art therapy has on adults with Alzheimer’s begs the question: Can engaging in art help protect you from getting the disease in the first place?

Research says it’s possible.

Understanding the Relationship Between Art and Alzheimer’s

A study observed seniors between 85 and 89 years old without memory problems to see if they could find a relationship between engaging in art projects and risk of developing cognitive impairment. At the end of the study, they found those who engaged in art-related activities were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not.

4 Reasons Why Engaging in Art Might Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. Strengthens the brain. Making art may prevent Alzheimer’s because creativity has been shown to help build connections in the brain. New connections strengthen the mind, which can stop memory loss and preserve cognitive functioning.
  2. Improves focus. Making art requires concentration. Like meditation, art requires you to focus on the present moment. Over time, this can reduce anxiety, minimize depression, and result in overall better brain heath.
  3. Reduces stress. Stress can be harmful to the brain. Chronic stress can kill brain cells, reduce sociability, and even shrink the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Art can be an effective way to reduce stress. This may slow the progression of age-related cognitive decline.
  4. Regulates blood pressure. Research suggests that high blood pressure may increase the risk of dementia. By reducing stress and calming the mind, engaging in art can help seniors regulate their blood pressure.

Art Projects That May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Seniors don’t need to be “good at art” to reap the benefits. Activities like coloring require little artistic ability while providing big mental benefits.

Other forms of art that can benefit seniors include:

  • Painting and drawing
  • Craft projects
  • Photography
  • Dancing
  • Creative writing
  • Playing a musical instrument

The Cause of Alzheimer’s Is Unknown

One of the most difficult things about Alzheimer’s is that researchers don’t understand what causes it. This makes it difficult to know with certainty which factors can prevent the disease. But engaging in art is indeed worth considering.

Heritage Senior Communities Provides Memory Care

Heritage Senior Living provides memory care programs across Michigan. We help seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia live their best quality of life.

We help seniors maintain as much independence as safely possible. We invite you to schedule a visit to see how seniors with dementia thrive in our care.

Understanding the 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Understanding the 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Watching a loved one move through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease is never easy. Sadness, anger, and frustration are just a few emotions caregivers experience. Knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding your loved one’s diagnosis. Here is an overview of the seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Stage One: No Clinical Impairment. A person with Alzheimer’s won’t experience any symptoms during the first stage of the disease. They won’t notice any memory impairment or cognitive decline. Only a sensitive imaging technology scan will be able to reveal they have the disease.
  • Stage Two: Very Mild Cognitive Decline. During the second stage, your loved one may begin to experience occasional forgetfulness. They may lose things around the house or misplace their keys more often. Symptoms are barely detectable and often dismissed as normal, age-related changes.
  • Stage Three: Mild Cognitive Decline. People with Alzheimer’s disease will continue to experience increased forgetfulness throughout the third stage of the disease. Close friends and family usually notice changes around this time. Your loved one may have a harder time concentrating and focusing on basic tasks. Finding the right words during a conversation and remembering the name of someone they just met may also become increasingly difficult.
  • Stage Four: Moderate Cognitive Decline. Stage four is often called early-stage dementia. The symptoms of your loved one’s disease will become apparent, and their short-term memory will continue to decline. They may have trouble remembering recent events, lose the ability to concentrate, struggle to solve problems, and have a hard time managing their finances. It’s not uncommon for people to lose the ability to drive safely during this stage.
  • Stage Five: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline. Your loved one may struggle to perform day-to-day activities during stage five. For example, they may have a hard time dressing appropriately or remembering information like their address or phone number. They may also ask the same question repeatedly. Do your best to stay patient and remain empathetic of their condition.
  • Stage Six: Severe Cognitive Decline. During the sixth stage, a person with dementia may struggle to remember recent events. They may even forget close friends’ and family members’ names. It’s not uncommon for personality changes to occur, along with increased anxiety and agitation. Your loved one will require supervision and a fair amount of assistance with day-to-day activities.
  • Stage Seven: Very Severe Cognitive Decline. Stage seven, commonly referred to as late dementia, is the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease. When your loved one reaches this stage, they will lose their ability to communicate and struggle to respond to their environment. They may even lose their ability to swallow. Because of the extent of their disease, they will require around-the-clock care.

Alzheimer’s Progresses Differently for Everyone

Everyone experiences Alzheimer’s disease differently, but the symptoms follow a similar path. Learning this path can help family caregivers track the course of the disease and prepare for upcoming challenges.

Heritage Provides Specialized Dementia Care

Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care in Michigan. Our experienced staff members know how to navigate the different stages of Alzheimer’s and understand the unique challenges that arise as the disease progresses. Contact us today to learn more about our specialized dementia care or to schedule a tour of one of our communities near you.

4 Ways to Cope with Repetitive Alzheimer’s Questions

4 Ways to Cope with Repetitive Alzheimer’s Questions

Dear Donna,

My dad has Alzheimer’s disease, and it causes him to ask the same questions over and over again. I know he can’t help it, but it is frustrating to repeat myself all the time.

How can I cope with my dad’s repetitive questions?

Kendra from Holland, MI

Coping with Repetitive Questions

Dear Kendra,

Repetitive behaviors like asking the same questions are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The damage the disease causes to short-term memory can make it difficult to learn, retain, and recall new information. This means seniors with Alzheimer’s often struggle to remember questions they have already asked, even if it was only moments ago.

Regardless, repetitive questions can be stressful for even the most patient caregivers.

4 Ways Caregivers Can Handle Repetitive Questions

  1. Distract and redirect

Redirection is a useful technique to reduce repetitive questions. Redirection involves giving a senior with Alzheimer’s something else to focus on. This is intended to distract them from their repeated question.

If a loved one with dementia is repeating the same question, answer them and then immediately redirect their attention. You can redirect them to anything from their favorite hobby to a simple chore, like folding laundry.

  1. Identify the trigger

In most cases, there is a reason why someone with Alzheimer’s is asking you the same question repeatedly. Identifying and addressing these triggers can be a great way to reduce certain questions. Sometimes, caregivers can prevent a certain question altogether by removing a specific item from their environment.

For example, a photo of their granddaughter may cause a loved one with Alzheimer’s to ask where she is. You may notice that every time they look at the photo, they ask about their granddaughter. By removing the picture, you eliminate the trigger that sparks the question.

  1. Provide meaningful activities

Sometimes, seniors with dementia engage in repetitive behaviors because they are anxious or agitated. Repetition is a way to alleviate their discomfort. Other times, they are seeking comfort in knowing what is going on in their environment. Caregivers can reduce their anxiety with a meaningful activity.

A few helpful activities include:

  • Sorting old photographs
  • Folding clean laundry
  • Organizing stacks of papers
  • Knitting or crocheting
  1. Take breaks

Caregiving can be overwhelming. It’s important to take breaks regularly to avoid lashing out. If you can’t find anyone to help care for your loved one when you need rest, you may benefit from respite care.

Respite care services, such as those offered at Heritage Senior Communities, give seniors a safe place to stay temporarily while caregivers take a break.

Be Understanding of Their Disease

Being empathetic for a loved one’s condition can go a long way in helping you cope with their repetitive behavior. Remember that your loved one isn’t asking you the same questions over and over again to annoy you. They are unable to remember that they’ve already asked.

I hope this helps you cope with your dad’s repetitive questions.

Sincerely,

Donna

 

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care across Michigan. Our Memory Care Communities, including our Appledorn location, are designed to reduce stress and enhance the lives of residents living with memory impairment. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

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.