The pandemic has temporarily changed how generations of families interact with one another. Here are a few fun ways to spend time with loved ones, while observing social distancing guidelines.
Set a routine.
Try to block off a regular check-in time every week or every few days to say hello and discuss life events. If your grandparent is not particularly tech-savvy, this can be a regular phone call, or if they are, a Zoom or FaceTime chat.
Not all seniors are savvy when it comes to digital communications like Facetime and Zoom. Not only are letters more familiar for some, but they also give younger generations a chance to flex their writing and creativity skills. Drawings, handmade cards, and childrens’ arts and crafts projects are a wonderful thing to include if you have children who might be too small to write a letter. And if you have young children, sending and receiving mail is a fun novelty for a generation that has grown up on the internet.
Make a care package.
In addition to mailing letters and cards, put together a package of fun activities for grandparents. Puzzle books, crossword puzzles, card games, or books are a good start. Set up an exchange. One week you mail them a package; the next week, they send something back. And while everyone is encouraged to avoid unnecessary trips to the store, this might be an excellent time to utilize online deliveries or get creative. Putting together an album of old photos or recipe collections is a fun activity to get children involved while everyone is at home. It costs virtually nothing and has a more profound sentimental value for your loved ones.
It’s a date.
Set aside a time to watch a television show or movie simultaneously. This way, you will have something to talk about the next time you check-in. Perhaps start a virtual family book club if you have avid readers at home.
Do your grandparents have a unique skill or hobby they could teach grandchildren over a video call? Maybe your children want to give their grandparents a show-and-tell or talent show over Facetime? Some numerous hobbies and activities can be done virtually with grandparents, from teaching a hobby or skill to finishing homework or sharing a meal.
For adult children and loved ones, facing the changes dementia and Alzheimer’s presents can be devastating. Abrupt changes in mood, odd behavior, and the loss of precious memories can be challenging to watch. You might be unsure how to interact with your loved one. Here are some things to consider when your loved one no longer remembers who you are.
Don’t question them
Often, the first thing family members want to do when a parent or loved one cannot remember their name is to continue asking. “Do you know who I am?” “Do you remember me?”. However, repeated questioning can cause those who have dementia to become more confused or start to panic. These questions might make you, as an adult child, feel better, but they can only worsen a situation for your loved one. Their memory recall is not as fast as ours, and often in a hurry, they will answer, “I don’t know.” Another helpful tactic is to reintroduce yourself to your parent when it merely happens. “Hi, I’m John. I’m your son,” for example.
Focus on fond memories – and making new ones.
Even if your parent struggles to recall names and faces, they are still the same person they once were. It can be beneficial for everyone to spend time reminiscing about fond memories you both share. Try not to bombard them with too many specific questions and instead let them guide you through their memories. It’s essential to ask broad, leading questions that can help trigger their memories. Many people living with dementia remember their childhood and young adult lives quite vividly. It might be helpful to look at old photos or ask them about family vacations or traditions.
Stay in the moment
Spending quality time together will help your loved one with dementia feel more secure. Doing things they enjoy or that you share is a great way to strengthen your relationship and provide them with confidence and a renewed sense of self.
It can be easy to get caught up with worry for your parent with dementia, but it is crucial to take the time to check in to make sure you are okay. If you aren’t looking after yourself, how can you look after someone else? It is vital to seek out professional support when you need it, from licensed professional caregivers or other adult children of people with dementia who might share your same frustrations and concerns.
For many of us, our ideas about senior living are significantly outdated. Perhaps your last experience with it was visiting a relative decades ago, in a hospital-like facility that felt drab and boring. Many people believe senior living is a term interchangeable with a nursing home, that they are only for the ill and elderly who can no longer take care of themselves. However, nothing could be farther from the truth when talking about today’s modern senior communities. Residents of these communities report being overwhelmingly happy. A survey from the Assisted Living Federation of America reports that ninety-four percent of respondents say that they were satisfied with the overall quality of their community. And ninety-three percent were pleased with the level of independence gained from living in their community.
Here are a few myths about senior living that you should ignore:
1. Senior living is for the sick and elderly
Senior living communities are often grouped in with nursing homes when it comes to people’s perceptions. Nursing homes provide medical care to the elderly or seniors who are in poor health. Senior living communities are designed for active older adults. They want to spend their retirement years unburdened by home upkeep but want assistance with daily activities they might not feel comfortable completing on their own. Not only do senior living communities offer more flexibility and convenience for aging seniors, but they also allow residents to stay in control of their choices. Often, waiting for an illness or health crisis occurs to move rushes the process and might leave seniors with limited options. Most independent living communities do offer higher levels of care when the need arises, such as assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and rehab programs that residents can take advantage of without the stress of having to move.
2. Loss of Independence
Often, the choice to live independently is mistaken for living on their own. Modern senior living facilities pride themselves on making residents feel as independent as possible. With limited care provided, seniors can feel at home and spend their days on their schedule. Residents aren’t limited to where they can go or what they can do. Most communities offer outings, activities, socializing, fitness, art classes, and flexible dining options. Participation in these activities is optional, and for those who’d prefer to spend their retirement years traveling or visiting loved ones, they can enjoy knowing their residence is being looked after while they are away. No longer burdened by home maintenance, lawn care, housekeeping or cooking, residents often find they have more time for activities and hobbies, or for spending time with loved ones. Many communities provide some type of transportation if a resident is no longer comfortable driving or keeping up with car maintenance. Some properties even offer parking and garage space for residents who do enjoy the independence of driving themselves.
3. Lack of socialization and activities
The activities offered to residents vary by community. Still, they all offer a variety of enrichment programs and wellness programs—activities such as yoga, crafting classes, sports, board games, and more. There is no limit to the opportunities for seniors to enjoy a favorite pastime, or take up a new hobby. Residents can meet new friends who share the same interests. Activities and social events are optional, with limited set schedules. Most seniors find they have more time to enjoy their favorite pastimes in a senior living community, as they are no longer spending time with home upkeep and household chores.
4. No privacy or personalization
Today’s senior living communities often resemble a resort or luxury condo. Many offer breathtaking views of cities or nature. Communities vary in size and style; some offer apartments or townhomes; others are small houses. Most offer many different floor plan options. Units can have single or double rooms, with various accommodations and amenities, such as kitchenettes and laundry. Seniors are free to furnish and decorate their space with their items. While downsizing a home can be an exhausting task, today’s senior living communities can accommodate almost all of the comforts of home without sacrificing taste or style in the process. Additionally, seniors have control over many of the security features offered in these communities, giving them a sense of privacy and security.
5. Seniors would prefer to move in with family
Seventy-three percent of families report that a senior loved one’s quality of life improved after moving to assisted living, according to research from A Place for Mom. Many seniors fear becoming a burden to family and loved ones as they age. While caregiving often strengthens relationships, it can also affect the caregiver’s ability to work, maintain relationships and health. According to the CDC, caregivers often neglect their own needs and suffer from the physical and emotional demands of caregiving. Choosing a senior living community could result in a happier and healthier life, not just for senior citizens, but also for their loved ones.
6. Senior living is expensive
The cost of senior living varies depending on the size of residence and level of care. The median monthly fee for assisted living in 2019 was $4,051, according to a Genworth study on the cost of care. While the monthly rates of senior living might surprise and intimidate some families, it is often comparable or even less than remaining in the home and receiving the same services and support. Everything offered at a senior living community is part of the same monthly rate. Expenses like meals, transportation, activities, assistance with daily tasks, housekeeping, medication management, and medical services are all included. Not to mention the utilities, insurance, taxes, and upkeep expenses that come with homeownership.
While they have been around for several years, podcasts have recently become an overwhelmingly popular form of entertainment and information. According to The Podcast Consumer 2018 from Edison Research, 34% of 18- to 34-year-olds, and 36% of 35- to 54-year-olds are monthly listeners. Seniors 55-plus make up 19% of current listeners. A podcast is an online show, structured similarly to radio shows seniors might have grown up enjoying. Like radio, they are entirely audio – no video. They are available on the internet to download for free onto a smartphone or a computer using your web browser. They vary in length, with most running between 30 minutes and one hour. Podcasts cover a wide variety of topics; there is a show dedicated to almost any interest and demographic. Below are a few we recommend for seniors.
Each week, Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books, speaks with Nobel laureates, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and others about socioeconomic issues for a general audience. With over 8 million downloads per month, it is one of the most popular podcasts on Apple Podcast. Topics range from tipping customs to Chinese folklore, to exercise, and in-home DNA testing kits. This podcast, like many others, doesn’t have a chronological order, so feel free to skip around, or pick a topic that interests you and enjoy.
This American Life is a weekly public radio show hosted by Ira Glass. Heard by 2.2 million people, with another 2.5 million people downloading it weekly. The show primarily focuses on journalistic nonfiction and essays, with each episode following a theme. Through interviews and first-person narratives, the diverse topics cover a broad span of moods and tone. The wide variety of these stories will entertain seniors, and inspire them to share them with others, as many reviewers of the podcast have done. In addition to sharing stories, the show also covers current events and how those events affect real people.
Criminal is a podcast about true crime and the people behind the cases. Every story is real. The interviewees are directly involved with the crime in some way or another. Stories of people on both sides of the law. Stories of people caught in the middle and the ones who solve the cases. What’s it like to make counterfeit money? Have you ever had your identity stolen? Who cleans up crime scenes? Each episode is a standalone story, so feel free to skip around and listen to the titles that catch your eye.
Produced by the team at HowStuffWorks, this podcast is ideal for seniors with a keen interest in history. Skipping over well-known events of the past, Stuff You Learned in History class takes a deep dive into the stories left out of the history books. Highlighting social and cultural happenings and highlighting forgotten historical figures around the world, the podcast provides insight into moments of history long forgotten. Because the podcast covers so many historical topics, you can listen by theme or period of time.
Food Network’s Alton Brown chats with a wide array of food industry professionals. Featuring chefs and bartenders, authors, scientists, and everyone in-between, Alton Brown talks about food and how we eat throughout the podcast. It’s perfect for the senior interested in cooking and dining.
Hosted by practicing geriatrics specialist, Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH, this is a podcast for older adults and family caregivers alike. Dr. Kernisan and her guests discuss common health problems that affect seniors, and what works for improving health and wellness while aging. She and her guests also address common concerns and dilemmas that come with caring for aging parents. Medication safety, memory and cognitive health, and managing cardiovascular risks are just a few of the topics covered in this highly informational podcast.
You Must Remember This is a critically acclaimed podcast exploring the forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. Proclaimed as the best podcast of 2018 by Entertainment Weekly, the show is written and narrated by former film critic Karina Longworth; it is the ideal show for any senior interested in the golden age of cinema. A heavily-researched work of creative nonfiction, Karina sorts out what happened behind the scenes of the films, stars, and scandals of the 20th century.
If any of these shows appeal to you or someone you might know, or you want to go searching on your own, there are several options for accessing podcasts. If you have a smartphone, there are apps to help you listen and keep you updated on shows you enjoy. If you have an iPhone, there is a podcast app pre-installed. You can also download other apps for listening, like Stitcher. The Google Play Music and Spotify apps are great options for those who want to transition between music and shows.
One last great feature of podcasts is that they can be stopped and started and returned to at a later time. This feature makes them ideal for seniors who enjoy a busy lifestyle or want to enjoy their favorite shows with family and friends.
Studies show that senior citizens are among the happiest groups of people, and they tend to be more satisfied than their middle-aged counterparts. A telephone survey conducted by Stony Brook University found that people over 50-years-old were happier overall, with anger steadily declining in their 20s through the 70s, and stress falling off entirely in the 50s. Research finds that people get more comfortable as their emotions bounce around less. These studies reveal that negative emotions become less pronounced with age, in comparison to our drama-filled younger years. As we age, we are better able to differentiate our needs from wants and focus on what is truly important to us. A University of Basel study of people aged 18 to 89 found that regardless of demographic and social status, the older one gets the higher self-esteem climbs. Qualities like self-control and altruism can contribute to happiness. While it is true that some seniors can be vulnerable to isolation, overall, they are shown to have superior social abilities and empathetic skills.
Part of seniors increased happiness is due to a broader ability to prioritize and reason. Brain scans reveal that older adults are more likely to use both hemispheres of their brains simultaneously. This neurological state is known as bi-lateralization, which can sharpen reasoning skills. For example, in a University of Illinois study, older air traffic controllers excelled at their mentally taxing and high-stress jobs, despite some losses in short-term memory and visual-spatial processing. Older controllers proved to be experts at navigating, managing multiple aircraft simultaneously, and avoiding collisions. The study says, “This could be due to better coping abilities. Older people tend to have internal mechanisms to deal better with hardship or negative circumstances.”
More Time for Family and Favorite Activities
One of the most obvious perks of retirement is spending time with family, friends, and other loved ones. Retirement is an excellent opportunity for many to pursue dreams and passions they might’ve put on hold. For instance, you can learn a new language, take time to travel, or finally write that novel. In addition to spending time with loved ones and pursuing new interests and old plans, retired seniors have more time to be civically and politically involved, and they do just that. For example, people over aged 65 vote at a higher rate than any other age group according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. They also volunteer at high numbers. According to this research, more than 21 million older adults, or one in every four seniors, contributed more than 3.3 billion hours of service in their communities. Based on an average estimate of the value of volunteer labor, senior citizens volunteer service contributes $77 billion annually to the economy.
Among these volunteer opportunities are several federal Senior Corps organizations that are geared specifically to seniors, such as Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions. These programs involve 360,000 senior Americans in volunteer community service activities annually. Seventy-one percent of volunteers to these programs reported less feeling of loneliness and a willingness to further engage in volunteer activities in their communities. There are also many local programs dedicated to senior citizen volunteer opportunities.
As small as they may seem, discounts offered to seniors can certainly add up quickly. The discounts offered to seniors can help save money in a time in life where income is usually fixed or limited. These discounts also provide a fantastic incentive to make the most out of retirement, as many of these discounts are for activities like dining, travel, entertainment, and transportation. These discounts also provide a valuable incentive for seniors to make the most of their retirement, for they are often for the exact types of services that help seniors stay engaged and active, such as dining, medication, entertainment, and transportation. Discounts are available for a wide variety of local venues, such as restaurants, museums, movies, as well as more significant ventures such as travel services like resorts, hotels, and airfare. For example, the U.S. National Park Service offers citizens over age 62 and up, a lifetime pass for more than 2,000 federal park sites for $10.
A Sense of Accomplishment
Older people often have a healthy sense of pride that comes from a lifetime of accomplishments. Ordinary achievements like raising a family, being happily married, serving the country, or retiring from a career after years of dedicated service can be a rewarding source of contentment in retirement.
The current and upcoming generations of retirees seek options to enhance their lifestyle choices. While many would prefer to retire in a home where they have lived for decades, living active and independent lives. New options in retirement planning allow seniors to age in place within a retirement community. These communities feature the independence of home but with the reassurance of additional assistance through each phase of aging. Nearly two in 10 Americans aged 70 and older state that they either cannot, or find it difficult, to live independently and accomplish daily tasks without help.
Activities for Everyone
Modern retirement communities can help older adults help themselves. Senior living communities enable their residents to experience a wide range of lifestyle choices. Research has found that active and healthy seniors in assisted living communities went outside more than those living in their own homes and engaged more with their peers. Many who move into a retirement community realize that they are living more independently. With a wide range of dining options and social engagement programs, seniors discover that independence means more than just living outside of a retirement community.
These living communities have common areas to encourage socialization and plan activities and outings for residents. Others who have no desire to socialize, enjoy private living in a home setting where they can have guests at their leisure.
No More Chores
Aside from keeping up with social engagements, a retirement community often takes the burden out of dangerous chores, or just those that become more difficult as we age. While most active seniors are capable of small chores, such as sweeping or changing a light bulb, a retirement community provides a full staff for larger tasks, such as mowing the lawn, clearing gutters, or appliance maintenance. Another benefit of having an entire team within a retirement community is that as a seniors’ ability to accomplish chores deteriorates, there is always someone on hand to provide all levels of assistance, without the senior leaving their home within the community.
While staying in a home where one has lived for thirty or forty years might be comfortable, as we age, it might not be as safe as it once was. Stairs could become more complicated, narrow hallways cannot accommodate walkers, tile floors are slippery, and shelves might be harder to reach. Making home renovations to accommodate our abilities as we age can become costly and overwhelming. When living in a retirement community, these features are built into every home and public area. They include ramps for exterior stairs, wider doorways to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs, indoor threshold ramps, slip-proof floors, and safety rails. Residents may also choose to install a walk-in shower or bathtub.
How Can We Help?
Linden Woods Village offers a high level of service and support for active seniors, those who need a little more assistance, and residents who require a higher level of long-term care. Independent living residents can enjoy a productive and engaging social life while moving at one’s own pace and with full maintenance staff, none of the concerns of traditional homeownership. Our pet-friendly residences feature expansive, light-filled floor plans with full kitchens, in-unit laundry, and complimentary outdoor parking. When residents move into a phase of life that requires more assistance, we offer a higher level of support for those daily activities. We can assist with everything from dressing and bathing to around-the-clock skilled nursing care.
By the time you finish this sentence, three older Americans have fallen. And those falls are dangerous. According to the CDC, an adult 65 years or older falls each second, and that is the number one cause of injuries and death from injury among older Americans. The financial impact of those falls is shocking — $67.7 billion by 2020. CDC Director Tom Frieden said, “Older adult falls are increasing and, sadly, often herald the end of independence.”
Whether your loved one lives independently and is in good health or your loved one is showing signs of slowing down, you need to know what levels of care are available for them. Eventually, they will need extra help. Maybe not tomorrow. Or next week. But maybe in a few years, your mom or dad will start to forget basic things like the day of the week or who the United States’ president is. This is why you need to know what kind of assistance is available.
There are generally four levels of care: independent living, assisted living, short-term rehab, long-term care. Because your loved one’s needs will eventually change, you need to know the answers to questions like “What’s included in assisted living?” and “What does the day of an independent living resident look like?” With this knowledge, you’ll be prepared to help them make the best decisions for their future.
Keep reading to meet June (an independent living resident), John (an assisted living resident), Linda (a short-term rehab resident), and Roger (a long-term care resident).
A Day in the Life — June Wessell, 77 years old
June and her dog, Lady, live in a 1-bedroom apartment inside a senior living community, and her days begin at 7 a.m. After sipping coffee on her small patio, June takes her dog on a walk. During the spring, they walk outside. But if snow is on the ground, they stay indoors. As she passes her neighbors, she often stops to chat about yesterday’s events and the day’s activities. When the two-mile walk is over, June and Lady take a quick break in their apartment before the chapel Bible study at 10 a.m.
At lunch, June sits in her usual seat with her four closest community friends. They reminisce about the good ole days —5¢ Coke drinks and drive-in movies.
At 2 p.m., June listens to a local school’s choir in her community’s event room. Later that afternoon, her two grandchildren visit, and they play their favorite board game Monopoly.
After dinner, June and Lady enjoy reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy before starting the bedtime routine at 8:30 p.m.
As you can see from June’s story, independent living residents don’t need any assistance with daily activities. They’re able to exercise, cook, and do anything they want to do all on their own. Most independent living communities offer many activities and encourage their residents to maintain an active lifestyle. With minimal housekeeping and no internal or external maintenance responsibilities, independent living residents can maximize their retirement by not being bogged down with the inconvenient tasks of homeownership.
Since these private living spaces are for older adults who don’t require assistance, you’ll find amenities like a washer and dryer, patio, and a full-service kitchen just like you would find in a small apartment.
Also, independent living residents are typically offered:
Restaurant-style lunch & continental breakfast
Emergency response pendant system
Transportation to scheduled activity outings
All-inclusive utilities (except phone)
Washer and dryer
Individually-controlled central heating and cooling system
Complimentary outdoor parking (underground parking is available for an additional fee)
Full kitchen with modern appliances
A Word from a Team Member
Chelsea Freie, the marketing director at Terrace Glen Village, says, “Our independent living residents are full of energy and always involved in community events. Many of them do some of our best marketing work by telling their friends about us because they love living here. Occasionally they’ll need assistance when their television stops working or a light bulb that needs replacing is out of reach. But, for the most part, they live their own lives and have a lot of activities outside of this community.”
To learn about independent living options, call (515) 232-1000 or click here.
A Day in the Life — John Greene, 89
In his 553 sq. ft., 1-bedroom apartment, John begins each day by watching the morning news. Sometimes he forgets where he last placed the remote so when a nurse checks in on him every morning, they help John find it. He eats breakfast in the assisted living dining room and usually eats cheerios, yogurt, or scrambled eggs.
John loves the morning activities so you can typically find him in the activity room making a new knickknack or craft. At lunchtime, a certified medication aide helps John take his diabetes medicines with the appropriate amount of liquids and food. In the afternoon, John rides to his doctor’s apartment via the community bus where he and the bus driver usually have the same conversation each trip.
Throughout the day, John keeps his emergency response pendant system around his neck in case he needs immediate help because he does struggle with dementia. While he’s out of his apartment, community team members go into his apartment and wash his clothes, replace the linens, and clean and dust. John needs assistance bathing and dressing so a nurse always helps him take care of those needs.
Assisted living residents need some help with daily activities like bathing, dressing, and taking the right medications at the right times. Although these residents are given more assistance than independent living residents, they’re still encouraged to be as independent as possible.
Most communities offer the following amenities for assisted living residents:
Spacious 1- or 2-bedroom apartments
Three restaurant-style meals
Emergency response pendant system
Wellness checks and a service plan supervised by a registered nurse
Kitchenette with a refrigerator and a microwave
Transportation to scheduled activity outings and appointments
All-inclusive utilities ( (except phone)
Weekly housekeeping, laundry, and linen services
Individually-controlled central heating and cooling system
Complimentary outdoor parking (underground parking is available for an additional fee)
A Word from a Team Member
Jill Lamb, the marketing director at Colonial Village, says, “Some of our most active residents live in the assisted living part of our campus. Just because they need help with a few tasks doesn’t mean they aren’t active and engaged. If you’re thinking about moving your loved one into an assisted living community, don’t think you would be limiting their independence. In an assisted living community, they have more independence with a team member’s help, and they can enjoy life more.”
To learn about assisted living options, call (515) 232-1000 or click here.
A Day in the Life — Linda Blackburn, 58
Linda lives in a three-story house with her husband of 31 years, but she fell and broke her leg while walking down the front porch steps on an icy day. So after successful surgery, Linda was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in hopes to return home within a few weeks. At this facility, Linda works through physical therapy each day with a licensed physical therapist. She receives three daily meals and is visited by the community medical doctor each week.
Since this facility is Medicare-approved and certified, Linda will only pay for her stay after the 20th day (as long as she is making progress). After five weeks of slow and steady improvement, Linda returned home.
While the above example is very specific, short-term rehabilitation offers other kinds of therapy like occupational and speech therapy. Each therapist works with the patient on their specific needs and goals because everyone’s rehab situation is different.
Most communities offer the following amenities for short-term rehab residents:
Judy Baxter, the marketing director at Westchester Village of Lenexa, says, “I’m so thankful our community offers short-term rehabilitation because I am inspired by those who work hard in their therapy to eventually return home. The nice thing about a continuing care retirement community where short-term rehab is included is that an independent living resident who might fall and break a bone can receive rehab right down the hall — they don’t have to worry about moving to a new community because it’s all under one roof.”
To learn about short-term rehab options, call (515) 232-1000 or click here.
A Day in the Life — Roger Hutchins, 84
Roger’s stroke made daily tasks like showering, trips to the restroom, eating, and changing clothes especially difficult. His stroke also worsened his Alzheimer’s symptoms. So Roger’s family moved him to a long-term care facility where the staff could give him 24-hour skilled nursing care. Each day, Roger uses their help to eat, bathe, and change clothes.
His favorite part of the day is the afternoon walk in the courtyard. A nurse will help Roger transfer to a wheelchair, and Roger is pushed through the courtyard for about 20 minutes. The facility does a great job scheduling events for their long-term care residents, and Roger enjoys those events every day before dinner. He especially loves listening to the local elementary school choir sing holiday songs each December.
Long-term care is for those who are unable to perform daily activities on their own like eating, bathing, dressing, etc. Ultimately, the purpose of long-term care is to help the resident maintain their lifestyle as they age. Medicare usually does not cover long-term care costs.
Most communities offer the following amenities for long-term care residents:
Summer English, the marketing director at Northridge Village, says, “Even though our long-term care residents need a lot of assistance in their daily lives, they still share so much joy. They teach me each day how to enjoy life to the fullest.”
To learn about long-term care options, call (515) 232-1000 or click here.
Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather and share a meal, to reminisce about old memories and make new ones. However, when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, some past family traditions might cause anxiety and confusion for a loved one, not to mention the additional stress put on a caregiver. Here are some tips to make your holiday celebrations more enjoyable for your loved one, as well as the entire family.
1. Arrange A Quiet Space
Your loved one with dementia can become easily confused and anxious with a crowded space and relatives that may now be unfamiliar to them. Make sure they have a quiet space away from the holiday commotion if they become overwhelmed or exhausted with the day’s activities. If possible, try to host your holiday in a familiar home and reduce travel. Ask that family members come to the home of your loved one or their caregivers. If your loved one resides in a long-term care facility, consider bringing a bit of Thanksgiving to them, instead of checking them out to travel to a relative’s home that they may not be entirely familiar with.
2. Involve Friends & Family
You might have guests in the home who are not aware of the current situation with a family member with Alzheimer’s. It’s important to make everyone who will be joining you for the day aware of your loved one’s condition and status, especially if it is a new diagnosis or their condition has progressed greatly since the last time everyone was together. The added stress of planning Thanksgiving festivities can take a toll on a caregiver. Take advantage of the additional family members in the home for the holiday. Delegate tasks, like cooking or setting up for the meal to other family members to lighten your workload. Or come up with activities for family members to participate in with your loved one with dementia, so the sole responsibility of looking after them doesn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of one person for the day.
3. Celebrate Earlier in the Day
As the day transitions from afternoon to evening, it can have negative effects on those living with dementia. This is known as Sundown syndrome, which can manifest itself in a variety of behaviors, like anger or confusion. One way to reduce its effect on your day is to schedule your primary Thanksgiving meal earlier in the day. If you’ve always celebrated at dinner time, consider moving your holiday meal to lunch or brunch. Not only will this reduce added stress for your loved one, it might even create a new holiday meal tradition.
4. Find Ways to Engage Your Loved One with Dementia
Depending on their mental capacity and physical ability, find small tasks for them to focus on throughout the day. There is much to be done when preparing a large family meal, and there should be some small task for everyone, including your loved one. Can they stir the potatoes? Set the table? Keeping them busy with a familiar task can help calm them down and distract from the unfamiliar aspects of the day. If the usual Thanksgiving preparation tasks aren’t possible for your loved one, establish new traditions that will make them comfortable or reduce their stress level. Have everyone share memories from past holidays, engaging your loved one about what they remember from growing up, or previous celebrations. Look at old photo albums and ask them questions about the past. It’s important to remember to be an active and engaged listener in these situations. Do not interrupt or correct them if they don’t remember the exact version of past events or repeat themselves.
5. Forget the Pressure of the Perfect Holiday
Maybe Thanksgiving this year doesn’t look like it always has, but that’s okay. Your family might not look like it always has either. Instead of focusing on what is different about this year, or how you might be moving away from past traditions, focus on the new traditions you can create.
Traditions and delicious food aside, what Thanksgiving truly comes down to is gratitude and spending time with family and friends, which can be accomplished a variety of ways. It’s important for family to celebrate and not focus on what might have been lost, but instead to celebrate what remains, and remain optimistic about what is to come. If you or someone you know finds themselves struggling with the holiday and caring for a loved one, the Alzheimer’s Association has a helpline that is staffed by clinicians all day, every day (yes, even on Thanksgiving) who can offer support. The number is 800-272-3900.
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For adult children and loved ones, facing the changes dementia and Alzheimer’s presents can be devastating. Abrupt changes in mood, odd behavior, and the loss of precious memories can be challenging to watch. You might be unsure how to interact with your loved one. Here are some things to consider when your loved one no
For many of us, our ideas about senior living are significantly outdated. Perhaps your last experience with it was visiting a relative decades ago, in a hospital-like facility that felt drab and boring. Many people believe senior living is a term interchangeable with a nursing home, that they are only for the ill and elderly
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A Brighter Outlook Studies show that senior citizens are among the happiest groups of people, and they tend to be more satisfied than their middle-aged counterparts. A telephone survey conducted by Stony Brook University found that people over 50-years-old were happier overall, with anger steadily declining in their 20s through the 70s, and stress falling
How to tell if your memory loss is normal or a sign of Alzheimer’s
The term “senior moment” was aptly coined because the truth is we get forgetful as we age. This is a completely normal part of being an aging human, and shouldn’t be an immediate cause for concern. Unless memory loss is extreme or persistent, it is not considered a sign of Alzheimer’s.
It’s important to remember that memory loss can be caused by numerous situations and diseases. Even if you aren’t concerned its dementia, it could be worth chatting with a doctor to see if your memory loss is a symptom of something treatable.
If you’ve ruled out the above but can’t shake the feeling your memory loss is more serious than simple aging, keep reading. We’ve compiled 5 of the most common signs of dementia. Hopefully, this list will put you at ease, but if the more severe examples sound like you or a loved one, it is a good idea to meet with a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Potential Warning Signs of Dementia:
1) Memory loss that impedes function in daily life
Short term memory loss, misplacing objects, and struggling to complete everyday tasks can all be signs of dementia.
Aging seniors sometimes find themselves forgetting the name of a person they just met, losing their keys, or fumbling with their internet browser because they’ve forgotten how it works.
With normal forgetfulness, these memories will come back to you later once you’ve retraced your steps or jogged your memory with a sticky note.
There is cause for concern, however, if you are consistently finding yourself forgetting details about your life or how things work. People who have dementia find that they are dependent on other people or memory tools to function day-to-day.
2) Increase in poor decision-making
Poor decision-making certainly isn’t a trait uniquely attributed to those with dementia, it is a problem that can plague all ages.
This can be an indication of a more serious condition, however, when the poor decision-making is a personality change or if the poor decisions are extreme. Suddenly losing consistency with hygiene or making highly irresponsible financial decisions can be signs of dementia.
3) Difficulty with communication
This goes beyond the common feeling of trying to grasp an evasive word. If something feels like it’s on the tip of your tongue, it probably is.
Questions of dementia come into play when someone has trouble following a conversation. They lose track of where they are in the discussion, either by skipping important elements of the topic or repeating themselves without awareness. They can also have a hard time with vocabulary, both by forgetting common words or simply using incorrect words.
4) Confusion with time or place
Forgetting what day of the week it is or why you went into the kitchen are examples of a normal memory fault. These little memory hiccups usually resolve themselves when the answer comes back to you a few minutes later.
A sign of dementia is when you lose track of what year it is, don’t recognize the passing of seasons, or get confused by timelines. Experiencing the past as the present or displaying confusion if things aren’t happening immediately are common behaviors of a person with dementia.
5) Change of personality
There can be many causes for a change in personality, and many of them are common amongst seniors and have nothing to do with dementia. While not the most definitive sign of dementia, it is important to keep an eye on behavioral change when it happens alongside memory loss.
Because of the difficulty in holding a conversation, the challenge of remembering the rules of a game, or the frustration with not being able to remember how to navigate simple daily tasks, people with dementia can often withdraw from family, friends, and hobbies. Fear, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and confusion can also accompany dementia.
So, what do you do if you recognize some of the more indicative signs of dementia in your behavior or the behavior of someone you love? It is important not to delay in meeting with a doctor. Early detection is important in diagnosing Alzheimer’s. Bring someone along with you who can offer support, but who can also help you make sense of what is being discussed. Whether or not dementia is diagnosed, it is worth getting a definitive answer from a medical professional if you’re concerned.