What Causes Wandering in Adults with Alzheimer’s?

What Causes Wandering in Adults with Alzheimer’s?

Wandering is a common behavior among people with Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 6 in 10 people with dementia will wander. This behavior is dangerous regardless of what stage of the disease they are in. The longer they are missing, the greater their risk for serious injury. This makes wandering a concern for families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

While no one knows for sure what causes adults with Alzheimer’s to wander, there are a few common triggers. Here are some scenarios that can lead to wandering, along with a few ways Michigan caregivers can prevent it.

Why Adults with Alzheimer’s Wander

  1. Disorientation

Feeling disoriented is one of the most common reasons why people with Alzheimer’s wander. Their cognitive impairment can make them forget where they are and what they are doing. Wandering is their way of dealing with the anxiety caused by feeling displaced.

Here are a few ways you can reduce feelings of disorientation:

  • Stick to a routine to reduce the likelihood they will forget what they are doing.
  • Limit the amount of stimuli to prevent them from getting distracted.
  • Keep them in familiar settings to prevent them from feeling displaced.
  1. Boredom

Another common reason why adults with Alzheimer’s wander is because they are bored. When adults with Alzheimer’s don’t get enough stimulation, they get the urge to get up and move. Wandering is just a way of finding relief.

To prevent boredom, try:

  • Having them help you with simple household chores like folding laundry or organizing papers.
  • Finding activities to keep them busy like knitting or coloring.
  • Keeping them engaged through conversation.
  1. Lack of Physical Activity

Sometimes, people with dementia wander because they don’t get enough exercise. Wandering is their way of burning excess energy.

Here are few ways you can help your loved one burn extra energy:

  • Incorporate a walk into their daily routine.
  • Accommodate their desire to move by having them sit in a rocking chair.
  • Introduce them to a stationary bike where they can exercise in place.
  1. Trying to Fulfill Basic Needs

Adults with Alzheimer’s can also wander in efforts to fulfill their basic needs. The need to eat, drink, or use the bathroom can be triggers.

A simple way to reduce this reason for wandering is to check that their basic needs are met periodically throughout the day.

  • Occasionally ask them if they need to use the bathroom.
  • Bring them a snack if you notice they haven’t eaten in a while.
  • Make sure they always have a glass of water nearby.
  1. Unfamiliar Environments

A change in environment can also trigger wandering. Many families notice their loved ones wander after they move to a new home or visit a new location.

Here are a few tips to prevent wandering in new environments:

  • Try to plan short day trips as opposed to overnight stays.
  • When going out to eat, go to familiar restaurants.
  • Make sure someone they are comfortable with is around at all times.

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

If you are concerned about your ability to prevent your loved ones from wandering, you may want to consider assisted living. Many communities, including Heritage, have specialized dementia care communities that are designed to prevent residents from wandering. Contact us to learn more about how we help keep seniors with dementia safe.

7 Tips for Talking to Young Children about Alzheimer’s Disease

7 Tips for Talking to Young Children about Alzheimer’s Disease

Understanding Alzheimer’s disease is challenging for people of all ages. For children, the disease can be downright confusing and difficult to accept.

In efforts to protect their children, parents often avoid talking about a grandparent’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This usually backfires and causes their children more harm in the long run.

Here are a few things that can happen when parents don’t open up to their children about their grandparent’s illness:

  • Children mistakenly think they did something wrong.
  • They blame themselves for their grandparent’s behavior.
  • They sense something is wrong, but their concerns are never validated.
  • They are embarrassed about their grandparent’s behavior.

Here are a few tips for talking to young children about Alzheimer’s disease.


7 Tips for Talking with Young Children about a Grandparent’s Alzheimer’s


  1. Do your research.

Before you talk to your children, take the time to learn about the disease. This will prepare you to explain the disease to your kids and answer their questions.

Being able to discuss the situation will help reassure your children that you have everything under control.

  1. Make it simple.

Explain to your children what is going on with their grandparents in the simplest words. This will help ensure they understand.

Instead of telling them about the plaques and tangles, simplify your explanation by telling them their grandparent has a condition that makes it hard to remember things.

  1. Prepare them for changes.

Give examples of how their grandparents might change or point out some ways they have already changed.

Try to explain what is happening as their grandparent’s symptoms change at each stage of the disease. For example, if they are in the first stage of the disease, you may say something like, “You may have noticed grandma forgets things more often. Her disease is going to make her forgetful.”

As the disease progresses, you may find yourself saying something like, “You may have noticed grandpa gets frustrated more easily. It has nothing to do with you; his illness makes him grumpy sometimes.”

  1. Validate their feelings.

It’s normal for children to become sad or angry that their grandparents are sick. It can be even more devastating when their grandparents forget who they are. Let children know that these feelings are normal, and that you, too, are upset about the disease.

  1. Assure them that it’s not their fault.

When kids don’t understand the illness, they may blame themselves. Reassure them that they did not cause their grandparent’s Alzheimer’s disease. Let them know there isn’t anything they could have done to prevent it.

  1. Let them know it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

Children often become embarrassed about their grandparent’s behavior. Let them know that the disease is making their grandparent act that way; it’s not their true personality.

  1. Encourage them to ask questions.

During the conversation, give your children the opportunity to ask questions about Alzheimer’s disease. Answer as many as it takes for them to understand.

Also, encourage them to ask questions about their grandparent’s behavior. This will help them become more comfortable with the topic.


Difficult Conversations Are Often the Most Important

Like most important conversations, talking to children about their grandparent’s Alzheimer’s disease is important. The closer their relationship is with their grandparent, the more the diagnosis is going to affect them. Opening up to your children about the disease can allow them to deal with their grandparent’s illness in a healthier way.


Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we know how difficult it is to care for a loved one while caring for young children of your own. Many of our communities have dedicated memory programs for adults with dementia, including Alzheimer’s’ disease. Contact us to learn more about our specialized dementia care.

4 Repetitive Tasks That Help Decrease Alzheimer’s Agitation

4 Repetitive Tasks That Help Decrease Alzheimer’s Agitation

Repetition is a common behavior among adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Those affected may repeat words, questions, or activities. This is their attempt to comfort themselves when they are feeling agitated.

Adults with Alzheimer’s disease, especially those in the later stages of the disease, often lose their sense of the world. Their disease causes them to become confused, and they start looking for ways to alleviate their discomfort. Repetition can provide this relief.

Repetitive tasks can be highly beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s disease. They can improve self-esteem and give them a sense of purpose and normalcy—things they often lose as their disease progresses. Here are 4 repetitive activities that can help decrease Alzheimer’s agitation.


4 Repetitive Tasks That Can Help Decrease Alzheimer’s Agitation


  1. Knitting and Crocheting

Knitting and crocheting can be very calming for adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Not only do they give them something to focus on, but they allow them to be creative. Provide them with a ball of yarn and make sure to give them large needles and hooks so they can easily see what they are doing.  Your loved one will be excited to show you their creations.

  1. Folding Laundry

Folding laundry can be satisfying for adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Try to give them simple items like towels to fold where the motions required are the same. Not only is this repetitive, but it can make them feel like they are being useful and increase their confidence.

  1. Organize Papers

If you are like most people, you have a stack of papers somewhere in your home that you don’t need. Turn this in to an activity for your loved one by having them sort the papers. They will be happy to help you organize your papers, even if you only plan to throw them away after they are finished.

  1. Sorting Cards

People with Alzheimer’s love sorting. Give your loved one a shuffled deck of cards ask them to sort them. They can do this in any way they choose.

One great idea is to find cards with a theme they enjoy or that has to do with one of their hobbies. Do they love baseball? Get them baseball cards. Are they in to golf? Get them a golf-themed deck.


More Repetitive Tasks


Finding activities for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be challenging, but it often just requires a little creativity. Here are a few more activities that involve repetition.

  • Rolling a ball of yarn
  • Tying knots in a rope
  • Organizing items by color, shape, or design
  • Stringing paper clips
  • Sorting buttons by color, size, and shape

Whatever task you choose, remember to be mindful of your loved one’s cognitive limitations. Typically, the simpler the activity, the better.


Memory Care for Seniors with Alzheimer’s


If you are struggling to manage your loved one’s Alzheimer’s symptoms, it may be time to start visiting memory care communities. Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care across Michigan. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a tour.

Holiday Shopping for a Family Member With Dementia?

Holiday Shopping for a Family Member With Dementia?

Dear Donna,

Ever since my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, I find it impossible to shop for her. Nothing I give her ever seems to make it out of its original packaging.

Do you have any advice on how to find a gift for a family member with dementia?


Angela from Holland, MI


How to Find a Holiday Gift for a Family Member With Dementia


Dear Angela,

Many caregivers struggle to find gifts for family members with dementia. After all, you want to get them something they will be able to enjoy.

It’s important to remember that those in the early stages of the disease can still enjoy many of the same gifts they did before their diagnosis. The middle and late stages of the disease are when your options become limited. Here are a few things to consider when shopping for a holiday gift for your family member with dementia.

  1. Keep Them Safe

Safety is often a huge concern for someone with dementia. A few gifts that can help keep family members with dementia safe include the following.

  • A new chair. Those with dementia often have a difficult time getting in and out of chairs that sit too low to the ground. This can easily be solved with a chair that sits higher off the ground.
  • Night lights or motion sensors. Older adults often have a harder time seeing at night. Motion sensors or night lights can improve their safety, especially if they have to get up and use the restroom in the middle of the night.
  1. Give Them a Sense of Purpose

Adults with dementia may feel like they’ve lost their sense of purpose. Restoring this feeling can be one of the greatest gifts of all.

One way to add meaning to their life is to give them something to take care of. This can be anything from plants to dolls and stuffed animals.

  1. Inspire Their Creativity

Creative projects can be tremendously beneficial for adults with dementia. These gifts can boost their self-esteem and reduce feelings of loneliness. Plus, you can enjoy them together.

Coloring books, painting supplies, and puzzles are great gifts to spark their artistic side.

  1. Stimulate Their Senses

Sensory gifts are excellent for adults with dementia regardless of what stage they are in. Sensory gifts include anything that stimulates one of the five senses.

A few sensory gifts that are great for adults with dementia include the following:

  • Tangle toys, fidget blankets, and even toys designed for children are great for stimulating touch sensors.
  • A photo album can be an excellent gift for jogging their memory.
  • Music can be extremely beneficial to adults with dementia. Try loading songs from their childhood or young adulthood on to a playlist to trigger happy memories.
  • Stimulate their taste buds by cooking their favorite foods.
  • Scented lotions can be great for adults with dementia. Lavender scents can help them relax while more energizing smells like lemon can lift their mood.
  1. Give the Gift of Time

Sometimes your time is the best gift you can give a family member with dementia. This is especially true for those in the later stages of the disease. Spend time enjoying your loved one’s company this holiday season.

I hope these ideas help you find the perfect gift for your grandmother.

Many of our senior communities, including our Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland, offer specialized care for people with dementia. Contact us to learn more about how we improve the lives of adults with dementia each day



Is Alzheimer’s Disease Hereditary?

Is Alzheimer’s Disease Hereditary?

Dear Donna,

I am the primary caregiver for my mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. As her disease progresses, I can’t help but worry that I am eventually going to get it.  

Is Alzheimer’s disease hereditary? Is there a test I can take to find out if I’ll get it, too?


Alisha in Holland, MI


Do Genes Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?


Dear Alisha,

After a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it is common to wonder if you too will inevitably get the disease.

For the majority of cases, the answer is no.

Only a small percentage of Alzheimer’s cases develop from one of the three genetic mutations known to cause the disease. Alzheimer’s is guaranteed to occur if any one of the following genetic mutations occurs:

  • The gene from the amyloid precursor protein
  • Genes for the presenilin 1 proteins
  • Genes from presenilin 2 proteins

This form of the disease is referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s because its symptoms usually develop before the age of 65. Not only does this form of the disease develop early, but it progresses rapidly. Thankfully, early-onset Alzheimer’s accounts for less than one percent of cases, making your chances of developing it extremely low.


What You Should Know About Genetics and Late-Onset Alzheimer’s


Most cases of the disease are late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Late-onset Alzheimer’s presents itself much differently; symptoms begin after 65 years old and progress gradually.

  1. Genes can affect the risk of Alzheimer’s, but they are not the cause.

Current research doesn’t show a sizeable hereditary risk associated with this disease. Late-onset Alzheimer’s has a genetic component, but the genes themselves rarely cause the disease. Instead, the genes are considered genetic risk factors, and they slightly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

  1. Having the APOE e4 gene doesn’t mean you will get Alzheimer’s.

The genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s is having apolipoprotein E e4 (APOE e4). The presence of APOE e4 does not mean you will get Alzheimer’s. Many people have the gene yet never develop any symptoms of the disease.

Some people don’t have the APOE e4 gene yet develop Alzheimer’s anyway. This means that although APOE e4 affects your risk of developing the disease, it isn’t the cause.

  1. The number of APOE e4 genes you inherit affects your risk.

Your risk is also determined by the number of APOE genes you inherit. If you inherit one from only one of your parents, you have a higher risk of developing the disease than someone without the APOE e5 gene. If you inherit one from each of your parents, meaning you have two APOE e4 genes, your chance increases.


Should You Get Tested?


Many factors can affect your likelihood of getting the disease. However, genes are only a small part of the equation. Lifestyle is the greatest.

Because the link between having the genes and developing Alzheimer’s is so low, it is not recommended that you get tested. It would be nearly impossible to get an accurate prediction as to whether or not you will get Alzheimer’s.

Instead, adopting a healthier lifestyle will have a more significant impact on lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Here are a few steps to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.


Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities


If the care you are providing your mother is preventing you from being able to care for yourself properly, it may be time to consider an assisted living community that specializes in dementia care. The Heritage Senior Communities Appledorn Assisted Living Center is one.

Contact us to learn more about specialized dementia care at Appledorn Assisted Living.



Technology to Help Caregivers Keep a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Safe

Technology to Help Caregivers Keep a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Safe

Adults with Alzheimer’s disease experience increased forgetfulness and a decline in mental acuity, both of which can affect their safety.

Thankfully, there are many tech safety products available for adults with Alzheimer’s. Using the right technology can improve the safety of your loved one and give you some peace of mind knowing they are safe. Here is a list of some of the best safety products for adults with Alzheimer’s disease.


Gadgets That Help With Wandering

Wandering is one of the top concerns for Alzheimer’s caregivers. Those with Alzheimer’s may wander when they feel uncomfortable or agitated. Here are 4 safety devices you may want to consider:

  1. GPS watches: You’ve heard of GPS devices for driving, but did you know GPS devices can also improve the safety of those who wander? They do so by making it easier locate an older adult, often in real time, if he or she roams away.
  2. Door alarms: Door alarms are devices that sound when the door opens. Even though they are simple, they can be lifesaving, especially if your loved one wanders at night.
  3. Smart locks: Smart locks can track when doors open and close. You can also program them to alert you when doors are used during specific times of the day. This can be useful if your loved one tends to wander during specific times of the day.
  4. MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®: MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® is an emergency response service specifically designed for adults with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia who wander or have a medical emergency. If your loved one wanders, you can call the 24-hour emergency line to report. A community support network will be activated to help locate and reunite them to you.


Products That Assist With Falls

Falling accounts for the majority of injuries among adults aged 65 and older. Those with Alzheimer’s are at an even greater risk.

There are many ways to reduce falls, and technology can supplement traditional precautionary measures. The following products can help prevent falls or notify you if a fall occurs.

  • Motion sensor lights: Motion sensor lights are programmed to turn on when they detect movement. This can be extremely beneficial in the homes of adults with Alzheimer’s. They can be set up around the home to turn on whenever your loved one enters a room.
  • Fall detection devices: There is a large selection of fall detection devices on the market today. There are bracelets where you can push a button for help, as well as more advanced devices that detect falls based on sensation.


Tech Safety for Everyday Life

  • Automatic pill dispenser: You can’t assume that a person with memory problems always remembers to take their medication, regardless of how minor their problems may seem.

Automatic pill dispensers can make it easier for adults with Alzheimer’s to take their pills as prescribed. You can program the dispenser to distribute and alert them to take their medication at a given time. Only the programmed amount is dispensed, which helps to prevent them from accidentally double-dosing.

  • Voice control assistants: There are many ways voice control assistants can improve safety for older adults:
    • Make calls or send messages if your loved one needs emergency assistance.
    • Set reminders to turn off cooking appliances.
    • Set reminders to do everyday tasks such as feed pets and take medications.
    • Ask questions without getting up.


Tips for Introducing New Technology

Introducing new technology can be challenging for even the most tech savvy adults, but new technology can be even more complicated for adults with cognitive difficulties. Here are a few tips for you to successfully introduce new technology in to your loved one’s life.

  • Make sure the technology is easy to use. New technology should improve their quality of life, not leave them frustrated and agitated.
  • Don’t introduce too much at once. Make sure they understand how something works before attempting to introduce something else.
  • Include them in the process. Let your loved one feel included by making them a part of the decision-making process, if they are able.


Technology Does Not Replace a Person

It’s important to remember that technology does not take the place of a person. Socialization has been shown to prolong the mental acuity of adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Keep that in mind as you decide which tech products to take advantage of.

At Heritage Senior Communities, we know technology can significantly improve the safety of adults in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, however, your loved one’s needs may exceed the abilities of even the most advanced tech gadgets.

Many of our communities have dedicated memory care programs for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia. Contact us to learn about our specialized dementia care or to schedule a tour of a community near you.