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!

talk to your parents about power of attorneyIt’s never an easy conversation. You don’t want to think about the possibility your parents could be left helpless, and they often don’t want to think about it either. But avoiding the possibility doesn’t do any good when an accident or sudden illness could strike at any time, leaving them incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions. It’s a painful thought to consider, but by taking the time now to think about your options and discuss what your parents would want if the worst were to happen, you can save everyone a significant amount of pain and agony later on down the road.

Since bringing up the topic with your parents can be easier said than done, we have some tips to help you get started.

Make It About Life

It’s easy to think of these conversations as being about death, but if you switch it around, it can be easier for everyone to manage. Instead of asking your parents how they want to die, ask them under what conditions they would no longer want to live. Make the conversation about respecting life, rather than focusing on death.

Make It Personal

It can be hard for people to think about these things in general terms, which is why using an example can be so powerful. If you know someone who recently had to make tough decisions for their parents, either personally or from a news story, use that as an example of something that could happen to your parents. Talking about a specific example can help clarify things for both you and your parents, so take advantage of any real-life examples of which you’ve been made aware.

Timing Is Everything

There are some conversations that are never easy to get through, but sometimes the simple matter of timing it right can make all the difference. In the section above, we mentioned the importance of using real-world examples, so if you and your parents have recently heard about someone you know, or someone in the news who went through a situation that required a living will and a power of attorney, that could be a good time to say, “By the way, what would you want us to do if you were in that situation?” Or “Who’s your power of attorney?”

If your parents are going through a life transition, such as retiring and/or downsizing, that could also be a good time to bring it up because it’s probably already on their minds.

Get It in Writing

The good news is that having the discussion is the hardest part, but you’re not done yet. If you don’t get it in writing, then if something does happen to leave them incapacitated, you’ll still have a legal nightmare on your hands. Even if everyone is involved in the conversation, without putting it down in writing, you’re relying on memory and everyone’s memories of the conversation are bound to be a little different. The only way you can be sure you’re abiding by your parents’ wishes is to get them in writing.

Don’t forget that assisted living should also be a part of the conversation. Reach out now if you have any questions about how we help our clients live their best lives in their golden years. We’re here to put your mind at ease.

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.

stages of alzheimer'sAlzheimer’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.

Differences Between Assisted Living and Memory CareOnce you’ve determined your loved one needs help with daily tasks and some of the basics of taking care of themselves, it’s time to consider the level of care they need. We’ve talked before on this blog about the differences between assisted living communities and nursing homes – now it’s time to look at the differences between assisted living and memory care communities.

Assisted Living Communities

There is no federal regulation of assisted living communities, but they do need to be licensed by the state. The services offered by assisted living communities vary from one to another, so it’s important to do your research ahead of time to know what each community offers, as well as their location, pricing and payment plans.

While some assisted living communities offer just help with basic day-to-day tasks such as cooking, dressing, and remembering to take medications, others offer more extensive care, including 24-hour nursing to those who need it. Residents are often given the choice of living on their own or with a roommate, depending on their preferences and affordability. In some cases, spouses can choose to stay together, and if one needs more care than the other, each pays only for the services they need.

Memory Care Communities

There is also no federal regulation of memory care communities and only 23 states require their memory care communities to be licensed, so be extra thorough when doing your research before deciding on a memory care community for your loved one, especially if you live in a state that does not require memory care communities to be licensed. Online reviews aren’t always the most trustworthy source of information, but they can be a good starting point, especially if you can also get personal recommendations from someone you trust.

Memory care communities provide a higher level of care designed specifically to take care of residents with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases that involve loss of memory and cognitive abilities. They generally have a layout that is welcoming and easy to navigate in order to reduce stress and anxiety for the residents. They also have 24-hour measures in place to prevent residents from wandering off.

Two in One

Some assisted living communities offer memory care services in addition to their other services, usually as a separate building or wing that is dedicated to residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Depending on the community and the current physical and mental wellbeing of your loved one, this can be a great option for someone who’s still fairly active and alert, but might need more help with daily living as their condition deteriorates.

If your loved one is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, or you suspect they may develop the disease later on (for example, if it runs in your family) an assisted living community that also offers memory care could provide the best of both worlds. They can start at whatever level of care they need and progress to the memory care if you and the staff decide that’s what is in their best interests.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

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