Alzheimer’s Caregiver SupportCaring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is easier said than done. At first, it might involve nothing more than some light housekeeping and making sure all the bills get paid on time, but as the disease progresses, the patient will need more and more support, and so will their caregiver.

There are a lot of benefits to being a caregiver, but it can also be extremely stressful and time consuming. Unfortunately, too many caregivers get so caught up in their role as caregiver to someone else that they forget to take care of themselves, either because they don’t have the time, or they simply don’t think they’re a priority. We have a few reasons you should think differently about making sure you have the proper support if you’re a caregiver – or giving support if you’re not a caregiver but you know someone who is.

Taking Care of Yourself = Taking Care of Your Loved One

If your loved one depends on you to take care of them, then neglecting your own self-care is a form of neglecting your responsibilities as a caregiver. If you don’t take time off to rest and recharge from your caregiver responsibilities, the stress will catch up with you one way or another. Better to plan your time off and make arrangements for someone to cover for you, than to get sick or injured unexpectedly and run the risk of leaving your loved one without a caregiver.

Taking time to rest and recharge also means you’ll be better at your job. When you’re tired and stressed, you’re more likely to make mistakes and forget things, which could potentially be dangerous when it comes to things like administering medications. By regularly scheduling time off from your caregiving responsibilities, you’ll be able to provide better care when you are on the job.

You’ll Have More Appreciation for the Job

While there’s no denying that being a full-time caregiver can be stressful and overwhelming, it can also be extremely rewarding. But it can be hard to appreciate the good things that come with such a special role when you’re just struggling to make it through the day. By scheduling time off for yourself, you’ll ensure you’re more present when you are fulfilling your role as a caregiver, and in addition to making sure you’re better at your job, it will also ensure you find the role more fulfilling.

Joining a caregiver support group can also help you look on the bright side by giving you a chance to vent any negative emotions you may have about the job. Caring for someone who will likely experience greater mood swings at a higher frequency can be particularly challenging, especially if it’s a close family member. Having a support group where you can vent your grief and frustration in a safe space will keep those emotions from spilling out when you’re on the job, which goes back to the fact that the more support you have, the better you’ll be at your job.

If you can’t balance being a caregiver with everything else you have going on in your life, ask about how we can provide state-of-the-art care to your loved one in our new memory care neighborhood.

memory careMost people are familiar with the idea of nursing homes and assisted living, but what about memory care? Some (but not all) assisted living communities offer memory care, and some (but not all) nursing homes offer memory care. So, what’s the difference? How do you know when to look for memory care, and what should you look for when researching your options for memory care?

Specially Trained Staff

Any time you’re looking for assisted living, one of the first things you need to look at is the training of the staff who will be taking care of your loved one. This is true regardless of whether you need memory care, but it’s especially important if your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia because extra precautions will need to be taken to keep them safe, calm, and happy.

Memory care also requires ongoing training, so it’s not enough for staff to have gone through memory care training once a few years ago. When researching your options for memory care, make sure they have a system for continuously training their staff, not only to remind them of best practices, but to help them keep up to date with new developments in the world of memory care.

You should also make sure that the relevant training extends beyond just the nurses – every member of the staff who interacts with residents, including janitorial and maintenance staff, need to be trained on how to interact with memory care residents to ensure everyone’s safety and comfort.

Staff-to-Resident Ratio

A lower staff-to-resident ratio is always desirable because it means more attention can be paid to your loved one’s needs, but it’s especially important to keep that ratio low in memory care because residents with dementia require a higher level of attention and care than other assisted living residents. So, while you’re asking about the staff training provided, you should also ask about the staff-to-resident ratio and make sure it’s at a level with which you’re comfortable.

24-Hour Supervised Care

While assisted living usually requires a fairly low level of care – making sure residents remember to take medication, helping with certain daily tasks, etc. – memory care requires a much higher level of care and supervision. Not only do residents with dementia require a higher level of attention and supervision to make sure they don’t wander off, but they also require more care as the disease progresses and they start to lose some of their physical capabilities, as well as their mental capacity.

Cognitive Treatments and Therapies

While there is no cure for dementia, certain cognitive treatments and therapies have been shown to slow the progression of the disease, so make sure the memory care provider is up to date with all the relevant cognitive treatments and therapies, and that they provide them to their residents.

Stillwater Senior Living is proud to announce the opening of its brand new memory care wing! If you’re looking for memory care for your loved one, reach out now to ask about availability.

communication strategies for dementiaThere are many struggles that come with a diagnosis of dementia, but one of the most painful can be the struggle to communicate with your loved one. As their brain deteriorates, your loved one will experience a reduced ability to do all kinds of things, including the ability to communicate effectively. This can be frustrating for you as well, so it’s important to keep these strategies in mind.

  • Patience is Key

We know how hard it is to sit quietly while a loved one struggles to find the right words to express themselves, but it’s important to resist the urge to interrupt and try to guess what they’re saying because that will only increase their frustration. Instead, wait patiently until they’ve finished before you try to respond.

If you get frustrated, they’ll get frustrated, so you need to remain calm at all times. Keep your voice low and level, and while your body language should convey that you’re engaged in the conversation, it should never communicate frustration because your loved one will pick up on that and it will only increase their frustration.

  • Become an Interpreter

While it’s important not to interrupt your loved one when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves, sometimes they’ll ask for help or just give up trying to speak, in which case you can offer a guess based on context. Even if you guess wrong, you might be close enough to the mark to lead them to the right words (or for them to lead you to the right words). But if you’re way off base, it might just frustrate them further, so it’s important to know when to back off and change the subject.

  • Use Gestures

As the disease progresses, communicating visually will become easier than communicating with words. For example, instead of using words to ask your loved one if they want a certain object, you can point to it and watch their reaction. If they nod and reach for it, it’s a good indication that they want it.

  • Show Respect

Although our golden years are sometimes referred to as a “second childhood”, your loved one is not a child and will not appreciate being treated like one. Avoid using babytalk or demeaning phrases, such as “good girl”. And never talk about them as if they’re not there because, even if they have trouble communicating, they can hear you, and they know when they’re being ignored or overlooked.

When you are communicating with them, show that you’re engaged by maintaining eye contact. You can also hold their hand, which can help keep both of you calm when they’re struggling to find the right words to express themselves.

You can check out our blog for more tips on how to care for a loved one with dementia. If you’re looking for an assisted living community that offers memory care services, we recently opened our own Memory Care Wing and we would love to answer any questions you might have regarding memory care.

alzheimer's care tipsCaring for an aging loved one is always challenging, but it can be especially challenging if they have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. They forget things and get confused, and that can be frustrating for everyone. But getting frustrated only makes the situation worse, so get creative with ways to alleviate, or even avoid that frustration. Doing so can require some creativity, so we’ve come up with a few ideas we hope will help and might even inspire you to come up with some other creative ideas for caring for a loved one with dementia.

Display Old Photos

Patients in the later stages of dementia tend to lose both the power of speech and the ability to process language (although those two things are separate and don’t necessarily happen at the same time). To try and compensate for it, using pictures whenever possible is a great way to keep your loved one happy and engaged. You can load hundreds of photos onto a digital picture frame and have it display them on a loop. Some digital picture frames even play music alongside the photos, which is another great way to keep your loved one calm.

Use Photos Instead of Names When Possible

Smartphones are great for their ability to pair pictures with names in our contact list, making it that much easier to identify the people we’re trying to reach. If your loved one doesn’t have a smartphone, see if you can find a phone that has space for pictures instead of names on the speed dial list so your loved one doesn’t have to struggle with names they can’t remember when they need to reach someone.

Don’t Fight Their Reality

Things tend to be most frustrating when you try to convince them something they know is not the case, or tell them they can’t do something. Rather than fight it, accept their reality and come up with reasons not to do something that fits their reality. For example, if they want to reach someone who is long dead, just tell them the person is unavailable. If they want to drive, tell them the car is in the shop instead of arguing with them. It will make things so much easier and more pleasant for everyone.

Get a “Dementia Clock”

A “dementia clock” is a clock that displays the date and day of the week, in addition to the time, and can be seen from across the room. This way your loved one doesn’t have to constantly ask what time it is or what day it is, they can just look up and act like they knew the answer all along.

Eliminate Tripping Hazards

We did a whole blog post on how to avoid falling hazards, but lighting is also key to avoiding falls and injuries, so get lights with motion sensors that light up when someone enters the room. This avoids fumbling for switches and makes it less likely your loved one will try to make do in the dark when they can’t find the switch.

Get them a cane and/or a walker, too. Even if they’re steady on their feet now, that can change quickly, so make sure you’re prepared now.

We have a lot more tips for caregivers responsible for a loved one at home, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some more pointers, or if you think it might be time for assisted living.

Watch this video to get a sneak peak of our Memory Care Neighborhood!

 

FMLA Facts for CaregiversCaring for a loved one who is aging and/or sick can be a full-time job, but many family members can’t afford to quit their jobs to become a caregiver for a loved one. They’ll need a job to come back to when their caregiving responsibilities have come to an end, and that’s what the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees. Unfortunately, a lot of people are still unsure of what, exactly, the FMLA provides and how it works, so we’re going to go over everything you need to know:

What Does the FMLA Provide?

The FMLA guarantees employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work if they or someone in their family has a qualifying health issue. The time off from work is unpaid, but employers are required to provide the same group health insurance benefits at the same premium while you’re on leave. Once you return to work, they are required to offer you at least your old job, or an equivalent position.

Although the federal law does not require employers to pay workers during their FMLA leave, many employers do offer at least partial payment during FMLA leave, and some states require employers to provide some form of payment during FMLA leave, so check your local laws to make sure you know everything you’re entitled to receive.

But not everyone is eligible to take leave under the FMLA, so let’s take a look at the requirements:

Who Is Eligible to Take Leave Under the FMLA?

In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA you must first work for a school; a public agency; a local, state, or federal employer; or a private employer who employs 50 or more workers for at least 20 workweeks of the year. You also need to work at a location that has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, which means you can’t work for an employer that has a small team at your location and more workers throughout the country, even if the total number of their workers adds up to 50 or more workers.

Second, you need to have worked for that employer for at least 12 months. The 12 months do not need to be consecutive, but you do need to have worked at least 1,250 hours within the last 12-month period before taking your FMLA leave – if you’re a full-time employee, this means you need to have worked full time for your current employer for at least 32 weeks before you can be eligible to take your FMLA leave.

When Can I Take FMLA Leave?

The FMLA allows workers to take time off if: they are unable to work due to a serious health condition; they need to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition (siblings, grandparents, and in-laws are not covered); they recently gave birth, adopted, or are fostering a child; or if they have certain urgent situations, such as caring for a family member who is on active duty or on call in the military and suffers from a serious injury or illness.

If you’re caring for an aging parent and you’re unable to take leave under the FMLA, or your 12 weeks of leave is about to expire, it might be time to consider assisted living. We’d love to answer all your questions about the assisted living services we provide, so reach out now to learn more. Watch this video to get a sneak peak of our Memory Care Neighborhood!

 

fall prevention for seniorsAs the weather turns colder and we start to think of falling leaves and pumpkins and all the other things fall brings, we should also turn our attention to another kind of fall – specifically, the kind that can cause serious injuries to our aging loved ones. While we might not think of falling down as anything to worry about, falls can become very serious as we age and our bones lose density and become more likely to break – especially in older women, who are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. So if you’re living with an aging loved one and you’re worried about them falling and hurting themselves, here are some things you can do to fall-proof your home.

Get Rid of the Clutter

Anything you have lying around the floor that isn’t furniture needs to be cleaned up, especially when it comes to your hallway and any narrow spaces. If there are stacks of old newspapers and magazines lying around the floor, it’s time to clean those up. If you have a tendency to leave your shoes lying around, it’s time to break that bad habit and put your shoes somewhere out of the way any time you aren’t wearing them. The same goes for your slippers and any other clothing you might have a habit of leaving around.

Remove All Tripping Hazards

You might not think of area rugs as a tripping hazard, but it’s more common than you might think for seniors to trip on the edge of a rug and end up hitting the floor. So, if you have any area rugs, now is a good time to get rid of them for the sake of your loved one’s safety.

If you have hardwood floors, check to make sure there are no nails and/or floorboards that are out of alignment and sticking up out of the floor, because that’s also a tripping hazard and you’ll want to repair those ASAP.

Make Sure All Your Floors Are Nonstick

If you’re left with a bunch of hardwood and/or linoleum floors after removing all your rugs, those could potentially be slippery surfaces, which could lead to falls. You might want to consider wall-to-wall carpeting to replace those area rugs.

The bathroom is a particularly dangerous place for seniors, from the tile or linoleum floor with its potential to be slippery, to the bathmat creating a tripping hazard, and the bottom of the bathtub creating a slipping hazard. We recommend using a nonslip cover for the bottom of your bathtub and installing handrails next to the toilet and the bathtub so your loved one always has something to hang onto.

Fall-Resistant Attire

There are some things your loved one can do to make sure they’re less likely to fall, especially when it comes to their clothing, so if you can, try to make sure they wear shoes, even around the house, to reduce the chances they’ll slip and fall. And while we understand the temptation to use comfortable attire around the house, make sure it’s at least properly hemmed and not too loose (especially when it comes to their pants and skirts) to reduce the chances they’ll trip on their own clothing, causing a fall that could potentially be disastrous.

Get Professional Help

While fall proofing your home is an important step towards taking care of the older Americans in your life, it’s just one part of elder care, and you have other things in your life to worry about. If you find yourself unable to care for your aging loved one on your own, we’re here to help.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we strive to make every resident’s time here as comfortable and stress free as possible, regardless of their abilities. Reach out now to ask us how we keep our residents engaged through every stage of the aging process. Watch this video to get a sneak peak of our Memory Care Neighborhood!fa

vascular dementiaDementia is used to refer to all kinds of memory loss as we age, but there are different kinds of dementia, each with different causes, and (to an extent) some variation in their symptoms. It’s important to know the differences so that, if you or a loved one is diagnosed with a particular kind of dementia, you know what to expect. So let’s go over what you need to know about vascular dementia, including what it is and some of the most common symptoms associated with this particular disease.

Defining Vascular Dementia

The first step to understanding vascular dementia is what separates it from other kinds of dementia. While certain types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, are caused by brain cells dying one by one, vascular dementia is caused when there’s a problem getting enough blood to the brain.

What Causes Vascular Dementia?

The two most common causes of vascular dementia are stroke and blood vessels that have become partially or completely blocked, or have been chronically damaged.

Who’s at Risk for Vascular Dementia?

As with other forms of dementia, one of the most common risk factors for vascular dementia is age. It’s unusual (but not unheard of) to show symptoms of vascular dementia before the age of 65, with the risk of developing vascular dementia (or any other kind of dementia) substantially increasing by the time one reaches their 90s.

Anyone who has had a history of heart disease, including atrial fibrillation (a kind of arrhythmia), strokes, or ministrokes (such as transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs) are also at an increased risk of developing vascular dementia.

Other common risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, smoking, and atherosclerosis (which is when cholesterol and/or plaque build up in the arteries, thereby restricting blood flow).

Symptoms of Vascular Dementia

The symptoms of vascular dementia are much like the symptoms of other forms of dementia, including memory loss, confusion, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, restlessness and agitation, as well as depression or apathy.

Other common symptoms of vascular dementia include an unsteady gait and the need to urinate suddenly and/or frequently, potentially even losing the ability to control when they urinate.

Tips for Preventing Vascular Dementia

If you have a family history of vascular dementia, you’ll want to take extra steps to take care of yourself and stay healthy. While there is no sure way to prevent vascular dementia, you can benefit from developing and maintaining the same healthy habits that can help protect you from other forms of dementia: keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level; eating a low-sugar diet to control diabetes if you’ve been diagnosed, or preventing diabetes if you have not been diagnosed; quit smoking if you’re a smoker, if you’re not a smoker, keep up the good work; exercise regularly; and try to maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels.

If you have a loved one who is already exhibiting symptoms of vascular dementia, or any other kind of dementia, and you can’t look after them 24/7, we can.

dehydration in seniorsIt might be October already, but that doesn’t mean we can stop worrying about dehydration or heat stroke. Even October has been known to see some pretty hot days in the Midwest, so now is not the time to slack off when it comes to monitoring for signs of dehydration in the older Americans in our lives.

Not only does water make up almost 2/3 of our total bodyweight, but having enough water is necessary for our bodies to do things like regulate our body temperature, maintain blood pressure, and eliminate waste. Water helps just about every aspect of our bodily functions run smoothly, and without it, things can go south very quickly, especially for older Americans.

Causes of Dehydration

While we might think of dehydration primarily as a problem caused by not drinking enough water (especially in hot weather, when we tend to lose a lot of water in the form of sweat), dehydration can have other causes that might not be as obvious. Certain medications can cause people to retain water weight, or to lose more water weight than normal, requiring them to drink more water to stay hydrated. If you’re a caregiver for an older American, ask their doctor if any of their medications include dehydration as a side effect.

Another common cause of dehydration among older Americans is that their sense of thirst can either diminish or disappear entirely, which means they lose the ability to recognize when they need more water.

Older Americans are also more likely to suffer from kidney problems, which can cause dehydration. The job of the kidneys is to process fluids and eliminate toxins from the body, but as we age, our kidneys often stop processing fluids as efficiently as they once did. This can lead to more trips to the bathroom to urinate, and if people aren’t aware that they need to be drinking more water to make up for it, they can quickly get dehydrated.

Recognize the Symptoms

One of the problems with dehydration is that its symptoms can vary widely, including some that can be attributed to other things, but some of the key symptoms of dehydration to be on the lookout for include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Lightheadedness/fainting
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Skin that is loose or doesn’t return to normal after pinching
  • Decreased urination
  • Constipation
  • Muscle cramping
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Reduced blood pressure

What to Do About Dehydration

If you’re a caregiver for an older American and you suspect they might be dehydrated, the good news is that most of the time the problem can be solved with a tall glass of water, but that might not always be the case. Regardless of whether the patient’s symptoms are mild or severe, dehydration is something that needs to be addressed right away. If the symptoms are severe, such as muscle cramps, and/or if the patient is unable to keep liquids down, you need to get them to a medical health professional immediately. A primary care physician should be qualified to handle the situation, but only if they can be seen immediately. If they are not readily available, you need to take your loved one to an emergency room so they can be treated right away.

One of the benefits we provide here at Stillwater Senior Living, in addition to helping our residents with their daily tasks, is making sure they’re getting enough water and taking whatever medications they need. If you’re a caregiver for an older American and you’re thinking about assisted living, reach out now so we can answer any questions you might have about the benefits of assisted living.

memory care and the artsThere’s a reason arts and crafts are so popular in assisted living communities: art provides a great opportunity for us to express ourselves outside of normal conversation, and in many cases, art can provide an ice breaker that starts stimulating conversations. Everyone can (and should) take advantage of the opportunity art provides, but it can be especially beneficial for patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

One of the most frustrating aspects of dementia (for both patients and their loved ones) is the loss of their ability to remember words and use language to communicate what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling. Art can provide a much-needed release for patients who are struggling to express themselves in other ways.

Crafts are a great option for assisted living communities because they’re fairly inexpensive and can be done in groups, either with instructions to create something specific, or with room for each participant to make something entirely their own. But crafts aren’t the only form of art available to those in need of memory care – painting, music, interior decorating, even cooking and baking can be forms of art with an immense amount of potential for helping patients suffering from memory loss.

Cooking

Our sense of taste and smell (especially smell) are closely connected to memory. Have you ever smelled something you ate regularly when you were a kid and the scent immediately brought back memories of your childhood?

It can have the same effect on those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s – they might not be 100% sure where they are or who they’re with right now, but help them whip up a batch of their favorite dish and they can tell you all about how they learned to make it, who taught them, what season it was, how they perfected the recipe over the years, etc. Food is a great way to bring back to life memory care residents who might otherwise appear listless and uninterested in the things going on around them.

Music

Music can provide another great opportunity for memory care residents to express themselves, regardless of their abilities. Whether they prefer to sing, dance, or just tap out a beat on a tabletop, there’s almost always an opportunity for them to participate in whatever way they feel comfortable.

Like food, music is also closely tied with memory. Have you ever heard a song you listened to over and over when you were in high school and the opening notes immediately brought you back to high school dances, road trips, whatever you were doing when you listened to that song growing up?

It often works the same way for residents of memory care, and just like food can prompt specific memories, music can also provide an opportunity for you to ask your loved one about the first time they heard that song – what they were doing, what they were feeling, and whom they were with.

At Stillwater Senior Living, we strive to make every resident’s time here as comfortable and stress free as possible, regardless of their abilities. Reach out now to ask us how we keep our residents engaged through every stage of the aging process. Watch this video to get a sneak peak of our Memory Care Neighborhood!

benefits of being a caregiverBeing a caregiver isn’t always easy, but it’s not all struggles and sacrifices. In fact, it’s a lot like being a parent – there are struggles and sacrifices, but there are also significant rewards that most often outweigh the bad. If you’re considering becoming a caregiver, either professionally or for a friend or family member (or both), here are some benefits you can expect to gain from taking on the role.

  • It Shows the True Colors of Those Around You

Being a caregiver can be a lonely experience. It’s easy to feel like no one else understands what you’re going through, but the people of quality in your life will offer a helping hand. If no one offers help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Too many caregivers are afraid to ask for help, which can lead them to feel overwhelmed and burned out. Be sure to avoid that fate by asking for help when you need it. The people who step up are the ones worth keeping in your life. The ones from whom you hear crickets are the ones you’re better off without.

  • You Can Make New Friends

Although your friends and family can help out, it’s true that no one really knows what you’re going through as a caregiver unless they’ve been there themselves. That’s why we recommend caregivers join a caregiver support group. It’s a chance to get together with other caregivers who understand your struggles and can give you tips and tricks to help you get through them. It’s also a chance to bond with other people who have had experiences similar to yours and hold the same values. Not only will you recognize the true friends you already had around you, but you’ll make some new ones.

  • You’ll Have a New Appreciation for What Really Matters

Being a caregiver can be an all-consuming job, and it can be tough to make time for yourself. Even though it’s essential to take some personal time to recharge, your time off will still be limited, which means you’ll find yourself making time for the things that really matter to you, while letting the less important matters fall by the wayside. You just might surprise yourself at what you choose to keep in your life and what you choose to let go.

  • It Can Bring You Closer to Your Loved One

If you’re caring for a parent or loved one, taking on the role of their caregiver can bring the two of you closer, even if you were already close to begin with. The chance to spend more time with your loved one towards the end of their life is a benefit that not everyone gets to enjoy, so make the most of it. Ask them about their childhood. How did they feel about becoming a parent? What was growing up like for them?

If you’re not close to your loved one, or if you’re still holding a grudge over something that happened in the past, becoming their caregiver can be an opportunity to resolve the negative feelings you have towards them. Not only do you have more of an opportunity to talk things over and see matters from their perspective, but seeing them in a vulnerable state can also help you move past your feelings of resentment and forgive them.

  • Conclusion

While taking on the role of caregiver has certainly proven beneficial to many people, it’s not a possibility for everyone. If you need professional help taking care of your loved one, reach out now to see how we can help your loved one live their best life in their golden years so the time you spend with them can be focused on games and reminiscing.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited to open our Memory Care Neighborhood in the Spring of 2020.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.