There are some distinct differences between assisted living and memory care, so if you or a loved one is no longer able to live on their own, it might be time to consider whether you need assisted living or memory care. But that can be easier said than done. If you are unsure how to determine whether you need assisted living or memory care, we can go through some questions to help clarify which type of care you or your loved one needs.
How Much and What Type of Assistance Do You Require?
If you just need help with certain chores around the house, some medication reminders, or assistance with getting dressed, then you may be appropriate for assisted living.
If you keep misplacing things, losing your concentration or maybe you are confused where you are, then you would benefit in a memory care environment.
Not only do memory care communities offer an extra level of care from staff, they also include other precautions built into the residents’ surroundings to help them stay safe. These precautions include door alarms/sensors to alert staff when a resident is wandering by an exit door and is re-directed to their room or common area. Communities that specialize in dementia are designed to increase safety for residents, but they also enable them to live more independently, and focus on what they can do, will do, or what they might enjoy doing.
Which Activities Do You Need?
Both assisted living and memory care communities offer a variety of activities to keep their residents as engaged and active as possible for as long as possible. While assisted living offers activities that entertain residents and encourage them to stay active and interact with each other, memory care offers activities that are designed to stimulate residents’ minds and support their mental health, for a more person-centered care.
Patients with dementia are more likely to feel anxious when encountering new situations and stimuli, so memory care communities are more catered to each resident and their abilities to encourage purpose and enjoyment. Assisted living might introduce off-site experiences to their residents as a way of keeping them entertained and engaged in the community, as well as more social interactions and thought-provoking games on site.
At Stillwater Senior Living, our new memory care neighborhood is designed to keep residents safe while slowing the progression of their disease as much as possible. We do this through a combination of observation, recognizing what stage their dementia progression has reached, and giving them purpose, keeping them happy, healthy, and safe. In our assisted living community, where many residents feel that their independence has been taken away, we encourage them to be a part of the outside community with volunteer opportunities, but also, engage them in activities that they loved as a mature adult.
While dementia is often associated with memory loss, there can be much more to it than that, depending on the type of dementia. As the disease progresses, many patients don’t just lose their memories, they also tend to lose their cognitive abilities, including reasoning, language skills, and their ability to work with numbers. That’s why one of the early signs of dementia is not forgetfulness, but mail piling up and left unsorted, bills going unpaid, and housework left undone as the person forgets how to complete those tasks.
So, if your loved one is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be tough to come up with activities to do with them, since they might not remember how to play what used to be their favorite game. That said, there are still some things they can do, and ways you can help them feel included.
- Take a Walk
Taking a walk, especially outside, is one of the best ways for just about anyone to feel better. Not only does it give you a chance to move your body, which is good for almost everything, it also gives you a chance to get some fresh air and enjoy the feeling of the sun on your skin. In addition to feeling good, sunshine is an important source of vitamin D, which makes it a nutritional necessity.
When you take your loved one for a walk outside, you can point out different kinds of plants and birds, or pick a spot to watch the clouds roll by and see what shapes you can find in the clouds. Fall is an especially great time to get outside and go for a walk while all the leaves are changing color. Appreciate the foliage while it lasts.
If it’s getting too cold outside for your loved one to enjoy a walk outside, you can always walk around inside. Take a tour of the building and turn it into a game by making a race out of it, or seeing how many landmarks you can spot.
Gardening is a great way to get older Americans outside in the fresh air and keep them active, while making them feel like they’re being productive and contributing to the community. It also has the added bonus of beautifying the community, so the next time you take a walk outside with your loved one, you can point out all the lovely plants they helped nurture.
- Toss a Ball
While the rules of some games might start to elude those suffering from dementia, everyone can grasp the concept of throwing a ball back and forth. It’s a great way to get some exercise and make them feel connected to you without performing a task that’s too challenging for them.
If they’re suffering from arthritis, you can make the game even easier by tossing a balloon around and see how long you can keep it from touching the ground.
In addition to our memory care wing, we also regularly schedule all kinds of activities for our residents to keep them active and engaged as much as possible. If you have any questions about how we make sure all our residents feel included, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Sundown syndrome (sometimes referred to as sundowning) is common among those with Alzheimer’s, so if your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (or they have not been diagnosed, but you think they might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s), sundown syndrome is something for which you should be on the lookout. Whether you have heard a little bit about sundown syndrome, or you are completely new to the concept, here are some things to look out for if you suspect your loved one might be suffering from sundown syndrome.
Patients with Alzheimer’s often get agitated for a variety of reasons, but if they have sundown syndrome, they might be more likely to get agitated around sunset and/or throughout the night. Agitation can manifest in the form of your loved one getting upset over little things, or for no discernible reason at all. If it happens around sunset or in the course of the night and appears to get better around morning, it could be a symptom of sundown syndrome.
Agitation can also appear in the form of anxiety, which is another common symptom of Alzheimer’s and dementia. If you notice your loved one is more likely to become anxious around sunset or over the course of the night, it could be a symptom of sundown syndrome.
If your loved one is experiencing sundown syndrome, they might seem more fidgety at night than during the day, whether that means they are just tapping their fingers on a surface, or trying to perform tasks that do not need to be performed, such as packing when they are not going anywhere, cleaning things that are already clean, or cooking a big meal after they have already had dinner. As with agitation, if you notice your loved one appears to be more restless at night than during the day, it could be a symptom of sundown syndrome.
As people with Alzheimer’s or dementia lose their memories, it is no wonder they are more likely to become confused, especially as the disease progresses and they lose much of their cognitive function in addition to their memories. While those with Alzheimer’s or dementia tend to have good days and bad days, it is also common for some to have good days and bad nights, especially if they are suffering from sundown syndrome. Keep in mind that confusion can often lead to agitation and restlessness as they struggle to remember where they are and how they got there.
Suspicion and paranoia are common symptoms of dementia that may or may not get worse after the sun has gone down. If your loved one is their normal, chatty, sociable self during the day, but suddenly suspicious and paranoid by night, they may be suffering from sundown syndrome.
Because sundown syndrome can often last all night, not only does it prevent the patient from getting sleep, it can prevent the caregiver and/or other people in the house from getting a good night’s rest, in which case it might be time to consider assisted living. If you have questions about assisted living, we are here to answer them.
Most people experience some cognitive decline and inability to remember events and details as they age, and some of that is normal, but sometimes it can be an indication of something much more serious. If you have an older American in your life, how can you tell if their memory loss is just a normal part of the aging process, or a sign of dementia or even Alzheimer’s?
While the only definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has to be done postmortem, here are some indications you or your loved one might be experiencing some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease.
1) Memory Loss Severe Enough to Disrupt Daily Life
As previously mentioned, a certain amount of memory loss as we age is normal, but if someone finds themselves unable to remember recently learned information, important dates or events, asking the same question multiple times, and/or increasingly relying on memory aids (such as reminder notes or electronic devices) that could be a sign something’s wrong. An increased reliance on friends and family members for tasks they used to be able to handle on their own is also an indication of a serious problem.
By contrast, occasionally forgetting dates or names, but remembering them later, is a more normal symptom of the aging process and not necessarily an indication that anything is wrong.
2) Reduced Ability to Plan or Solve Problems
Someone who struggles to follow a plan or work with numbers might be showing early signs of Alzheimer’s. Even simple, daily tasks such as following a familiar recipe or paying bills can become a struggle to someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Difficulty concentrating and taking much longer to perform familiar tasks are also signs of serious cognitive decline.
We all make the occasional mistake when cooking or paying our bills, but the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s or dementia is when the occasional mistake becomes an inability to make a familiar recipe or manage our finances as normal.
3) Forgetting the Time or Place
Occasionally forgetting the date or the day of the week is normal, but when someone doesn’t even know what season it is or has trouble with the passage of time in general, that’s usually an indication something is very wrong. Forgetting where they are or how they got there is also an early indication of Alzheimer’s.
4) Problems Using Language
We’ve all experienced times when we struggle to find the right word in a conversation or while writing something, and that shouldn’t cause anyone any concern. On the other hand, if someone has trouble following or joining a conversation, that could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Stopping in the middle of a conversation or repeating themselves because they don’t know how to continue the conversation are also early signs of Alzheimer’s.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia requires special training and is not something you should try to deal with on your own. Our new memory care wing is designed to help our residents continue living life to the fullest, regardless of their memory challenges, while delaying the progression of the disease as much as possible. Please contact us today to schedule a tour.
Celebrating Valentine’s Day in assisted living can be challenging at the best of times, and let’s face it, these are not the best of times. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate love and the people who matter most to us. This year we have some ideas as to how you can celebrate love with those closest to your heart, even if they’re in assisted living and you have to physically keep your distance.
- Send Them Gifts
You might not be able to give them gifts in person, but you can still send them a care package. Whether it’s the traditional box of chocolates, something new they’ve had their eye on, or a box of their favorite homemade cookies, sending them a gift is the perfect way to let them know you’re thinking of them and they’re still as special to you as ever.
- Call Them
Just because you can’t visit them in person doesn’t mean you can’t give them a chance to hear your voice, and that can mean more than you might realize. Sometimes a good old-fashioned phone call really is all it takes to lift someone’s spirits and make them feel connected to you (and for you to feel connected to them). You don’t have to talk about anything big, so don’t feel like you should only call when you have major news to share. It’s often sharing the small events of day-to-day life that really bring people together, so don’t hesitate to call them just because you’re thinking of them.
If your loved one can manage a Zoom call or FaceTime, even better. It can’t match meeting up in person, but it’s as close as we can get these days, so use video chat to connect with your loved one whenever possible.
- Send Photos
Sending photos of you and your family is also a great way to help your loved ones in assisted living feel connected to you and the rest of the family, especially if you have kids. Grandparents always love seeing photos of their grandkids, especially given how fast they grow. Video conferences are great, but sending a physical photo gives them something they can hold onto and keep, and if you do it regularly, they’ll get to see their grandchildren’s progress as they look over their photo collection.
- Send Gift Cards
You might not be able to take your loved one out to lunch or dinner for Valentine’s Day this year, but you can send them a gift card to their favorite restaurant, especially if it’s a restaurant that’s doing deliveries. That way your loved one can order their favorite meal as a special treat and know you were thinking of them.
If you want more ideas for expressing love and gratitude to your loved ones on Valentine’s Day, don’t be afraid to reach out to get some recommendations directly from the experts. You can also ask us what we’re doing here at Stillwater Senior Living to celebrate love with our residents.
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 our new Memory Care Neighborhood is now open.
CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.
Caring 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.
Most 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.
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.
Caring 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.
Few things are more terrifying than the idea of your own mind betraying you, but that’s essentially what happens to those who develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It would be less terrifying if we had an effective treatment to cure (or even prevent) Alzheimer’s disease, but at the moment, no such treatment exists.
Even so, many people still want to know if they might be at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and if you know what to expect, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself, even if it’s just getting your affairs in order and making sure you have a good power of attorney you know will represent your interests if the worst were to happen. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease:
Although early onset Alzheimer’s provides some exceptions to the rule, Alzheimer’s and dementia primarily affect people over the age of 65, and their risk of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after they turn 65. By the time people reach their 80s, they have a one in six chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
Although no one knows why as of yet, we do know that women over the age of 65 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as men. Part of it might have to do with the loss of estrogen women experience after going through menopause.
Although we know that someone is more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease if someone in their family has or had Alzheimer’s, only early onset Alzheimer’s has been definitively identified as something that gets passed down from one generation to the next.
There are more than 20 genes that have been identified as playing a role in increasing or decreasing someone’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life and researchers are still working out which genes play what role in the development or prevention of Alzheimer’s. Nothing is inevitable – not even Alzheimer’s disease – so if you know you have some of the genes that put you at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s, you’ll want to take extra care to maintain as healthy a lifestyle as possible to try to reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
People who maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially in their middle ages and older, are somewhat less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those who don’t maintain a healthy lifestyle. This means exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, and moderating their alcohol consumption. It also means staying mentally and socially active.
If you have certain medical conditions, you might be at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s. The riskiest conditions include diabetes, stroke and heart disease, high blood pressure, as well as high cholesterol and obesity, especially later in life.
If you have any other questions about dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, whether it’s regarding your own risk factors, or a loved one who is already exhibiting symptoms of mental decay, we’re here to help.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that starts with few, if any, symptoms and works its way towards severe impairment of cognitive, and even physical abilities before the patient dies of the disease. Although it’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s affects everyone differently, it can be helpful to understand the five main stages of Alzheimer’s disease if you or someone you love has been diagnosed, so you can have an idea of what to expect.
Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease
The first stage of Alzheimer’s is called “preclinical” because the disease starts to affect the brain long before any symptoms appear. In some cases, it can go on for years, or even decades, before the patient starts to show symptoms.
This stage of the disease is characterized by deposits in the brain of amyloid-beta, a protein that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks to new imaging technology, we can now see deposits of amyloid-beta building up in the brain before symptoms appear or parts of the brain start to decay. Because patients in this stage of the disease do not have symptoms, this phase can be identified only in research trials, but it might become key to diagnosing the disease in patients before they show symptoms.
Genetic testing can also be done to give patients an estimate of their likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) Due to Alzheimer’s Disease
The second stage of Alzheimer’s disease also tends to go undiagnosed because the symptoms are usually mild enough to either go unnoticed or they get attributed to something else. At this point, the symptoms are not severe enough to affect the patient’s work or interpersonal relationships, which makes it less likely that someone will report them to a doctor.
People with MCI tend to have trouble remembering appointments or pieces of conversation. Their judgment might also be impaired, making it harder for them to judge how long it will take to complete a task, or to remember the necessary steps to complete a task and the order in which those steps need to be taken.
Even when MCI becomes noticeable, patients with Alzheimer’s disease often go undiagnosed during this stage because MCI can be caused by other things. If the symptoms do warrant medical attention, a diagnosis is dependent on a doctor’s judgment based on their professional review. But, if necessary, the same imaging technology used to diagnose Alzheimer’s in the preclinical stage can be used to identify it in the MCI stage.
Mild Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease
The symptoms in this stage tend to be severe enough to alert friends and family to the fact that something is wrong, so this is the stage when most patients are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. People with mild dementia might experience one or more of the symptoms below:
- Memory loss of recent events – this is when people can’t remember something that just happened, or they ask the same question over and over.
- Impaired judgment, impaired problem-solving abilities, and difficulty performing complex tasks – this is when certain tasks that used to be routine, such as balancing a checkbook or planning an event, suddenly become overwhelming.
- Personality changes – People who were formerly outgoing might suddenly become withdrawn or subdued. Mild-mannered people might show uncharacteristic flares of anger or irritability. Less motivation to complete tasks is also typical in this stage.
- Organizing and expressing thoughts becomes more difficult – People often have trouble finding the right words to express their ideas, or even to identify or describe objects.
- Getting lost or misplacing things – People might start having more trouble finding their way around, even in familiar surroundings. It’s also common for them to lose or misplace items, even valuable ones.
Moderate Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease
People in this stage of the disease usually begin to need help with daily tasks and self-care as they become more confused and forgetful.
This is also when significant changes in personality and behavior tend to appear, and it’s common for people in this stage of the disease to become suspicious. They might become convinced that family members or caregivers are stealing from them, or that a spouse is having an affair.
Hallucinations have also been known to happen in this stage of the disease.
Severe Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease
In the last stage of the disease, the brain has degenerated to the point of impairing physical abilities, including the ability to communicate coherently. People in this stage of the disease need help with self-care, including eating, dressing, and bathing. They may even need help walking, sitting up, and/or holding their head up. In the final stages of the disease, they lose the ability to swallow or control their own bladder or bowel movements.
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.