The holidays can be stressful at the best of times, and if you have a loved one who is struggling with dementia, it can make getting through the end of the year that much harder. At the same time, you still want to enjoy the time you have left with your loved one, especially if there is a likelihood that this will be the last holiday season you get to enjoy with them.
The good news is you can have your cake and eat it too when celebrating the holidays with someone suffering from dementia, you just need to be willing to compromise in some areas and have a strategy going in. Here are some of our tips for enjoying the holidays with a loved one with dementia.
Let Go of Perfection
There is often a temptation to try to make the holidays perfect, but the first thing you need to realize is that there is no such thing as a perfect holiday. That is true every year, no matter what you have going on in your family, but it is especially true if you have a loved one with dementia. They are going to say and do inappropriate things, or they will fail to respond the way you want them to, and you and your guests need to understand and be OK with that.
Be Proactive About Involving Your Loved One with Dementia
One of the hardest things about going through dementia is knowing something is off, but not knowing what it is or what to do about it. It is an extremely frightening and frustrating experience, and it often causes those struggling with dementia to withdraw, making them feel lonely in addition to scared and frustrated.
Since the whole point of the holidays is to spend time together, be proactive about including your loved one in your holiday activities this year. Include them in conversations by asking them questions and reminiscing with them. Ask them to help with simple tasks so they can feel like they are contributing.
Be Patient with Your Loved One (and Yourself)
Know that there will be struggles, but getting frustrated will only exacerbate your loved one’s feelings of fear and frustration. Rather than losing patience with them, take a deep breath. Your loved one will have a hard time communicating, but if you do your best to anticipate their needs and pay attention to their words and body language, you stand a good chance of making it through the holidays without a meltdown.
Whether you have a loved one struggling with dementia at home with you or in an assisted living community, it can help to talk to someone who has been there and done that. We know all the best strategies to help you get along with loved ones suffering from dementia at any time of year, and we are always happy to chat. Reach out now to get the conversation started so we can help you and your loved one have a successful holiday season!
If you have a loved one who needs assisted living, of course you only want the best for them, but how can you determine which is the best assisted living community for them? Depending on where you live, you might have several assisted living communities to choose from, so to help make your decision easier, we have some factors you should consider when choosing an assisted living community.
Location, Location, Location
If you live in a different state from the loved one who needs assisted living, you might want to look for an assisted living community near them, so they do not have to move far. On the other hand, you might be better off moving them to an assisted living community near you so you can visit regularly and keep up to date with their progress. Either way, you need to decide where your loved one will be better off before you start looking for an assisted living community for them.
The staff are the people who will be directly responsible for taking care of your loved one, so you’ll want to make sure they’re qualified for the job. Ask how long the staff have been in place. How many years of experience do they have as caregivers? You should also ask how long the management team has been in place and what their qualifications are for training caregivers.
What services does the assisted living community offer? Do they have everything your loved one will need? It is common for older Americans to transition from living on their own to assisted living to something like memory care if they have some form of dementia, so think about memory care if it’s something you think your loved one will need.
When it comes to activities, it is also common for residents’ interest in certain activities to change as their ability to participate changes, so make sure the assisted living community you choose has a range of activities to support residents at all levels.
At Stillwater Senior Living, not only do we offer memory care for those who need it, but we also offer different levels of medical care depending on the needs of each resident, including 24 hour on-site nursing staff, a visiting nurse practitioner, an on-site pharmacy, lab, and x-ray. We also offer physical, occupational, and speech therapy services as needed. You can learn more about our full range of services and programs here.
If you are considering Stillwater Senior Living for your loved one’s assisted living needs, we would love to talk to you about everything we offer our residents. Reach out now so we can have a conversation.
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.
Osteoporosis is one of the biggest concerns for older Americans, especially women. Loss of bone density leaves bones brittle, which reduces strength and leads to an increased risk of fractures and broken bones. For example, the best case for a broken hip is surgery to repair it before you return to normal life. But when combined with another health risk, such as dementia or heart problems, older Americans who break their hip are significantly more likely to die within the year.
But aging is not all doom and gloom. You can reduce your chances of bone damage at all ages with these simple health tips:
Get Plenty of Calcium
We often think of milk when we think of getting calcium, and while milk and cheese are certainly high in calcium, it is important to remember that there are other sources of calcium, including bone broth, which can be used to make soups, sauces, and gravies, or just drunk on its own. Winter squash, such as butternut squash and spaghetti squash, are also high in calcium, as are edamame, almonds, canned sardines and salmon. And remember to eat your dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, because they are also high in calcium.
Get Plenty of Vitamin K
Calcium tends to get all the attention when it comes to bone health, but it is important to remember that, while calcium is the building block of bones, vitamin K is the carrier that takes calcium from your bloodstream to your bones. A diet high in calcium will not do you any good if you do not have enough vitamin K to carry it to your bones, so make sure you eat plenty of dark leafy greens: kale, spinach, collards, swiss chard, mustard greens, bok choy, etc.
In addition to making sure our bones have the nutrients they need, we also need to make sure the muscles and connective tissue around our bones are strong so they can support our bones. Collagen is the main building block of connective tissue, and while bone broth is naturally high in collagen, you can also buy collagen by itself and add it to your diet. It comes as a white powder without much flavor so you can add it to your coffee, tea, or smoothie and get a nutritional boost without even noticing its presence in your beverage.
Strength training is not just for building and maintaining strong muscles – it is also vital for building and maintaining strong bones. If you have access to a set of weights, use them, but you do not necessarily need fancy gym equipment to build strong bones. Just some daily squats and pushups will be enough. The more you can do, the better.
At Stillwater Senior Living, we recognize the importance of diet and exercise in the health of our residents, which is why we have nutritionists on staff to make sure our residents have all the building blocks they need to build and maintain healthy bodies. We also have exercise equipment so they can keep their strength up (and even build up their strength) to reduce their risk of accidents or illnesses. If you have any questions about the care we provide our residents, just reach out now to have a conversation.
There’s no denying that the past two years have been especially trying for us all, which can make it difficult to practice gratitude, either for Thanksgiving, or as a regular practice throughout the year. Nevertheless, we all have things for which we can be grateful, and it’s important to remember those things, because practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress and depression while improving sleep and immune function. If you’re struggling to come up with ways to practice gratitude this year, especially with the older Americans in your life, we have a few ideas to help you turn that around and start experiencing the benefits of practicing gratitude.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
The benefits of gratitude journals have long been recognized by professionals and laypeople alike. Taking just a few minutes every day to remember all the things you’re grateful for can switch your brain from a negative thought pattern to a positive thought pattern almost instantaneously. As a bonus, writing things down helps you remember them better, so you can hold onto the good feelings promoted by your gratitude.
If you and your loved one in assisted living are both new to gratitude journals, you can suggest starting your gratitude journals together. You can check in with each other at the end of each day or week to make sure you’ve both been writing in your journals and to share with each other some of the things you wrote down in your gratitude journal since the last time you spoke.
Write Thank-You Notes or Make Phone Calls
While writing down the things we’re grateful for in a journal for our own use is a great first start, too often we forget to tell the people in our lives how much they mean to us. So if you find yourself writing in your journal how grateful you are to have someone in your life or something they did for you, take some time to call them and let them know. Alternatively, you can send them a thank-you note so they have something to hang on their fridge that reminds them of you.
Enjoy Your Favorite Thanksgiving-Themed Movies
Movies are often treasured because they have the power to awaken certain emotions within us. What those emotions will be will depend on the movie and the life experience we bring when watching the movie, but many Thanksgiving-themed movies have the power to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, so if that’s what you’re going for this year, here’s what we think you should watch:
-A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: Get in touch with your inner child this year with Charlie Brown and Snoopy as they get their table ready for a Thanksgiving feast to serve their friends. Regardless of your age, it’s hard to argue with the heart-warming effects of a Charlie Brown movie.
-Home for the Holidays: Need a laugh? This classic movie about a family of misfits coming together for Thanksgiving is sure to give you all the good belly laughs you need this holiday season.
-Addams Family Values: If you and your loved one like the Addams Family, you’ll love this comedic take on a golddigger tearing a family apart, starring some of the best comedic actors of the 1990s.
-Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: This comedy of errors starring Steve Martin and John Candy is another crowd pleaser with just the right mixture of laughs and heartfelt moments.
If you need some more ideas to help you give thanks with your loved one in assisted living this year, don’t hesitate to reach out. We have lots of ideas, and we’d love to share them all with you.
At Stillwater Senior Living, we always look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving. Want to know what we are doing to celebrate the holidays this year? Just reach out and ask us. We would love to tell you how you can be a part of the celebration this year.
The summer is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, but it also poses certain risks we don’t encounter throughout the rest of the year. In addition to heat stroke, you also have to worry about dehydration, sun burn (which can cause skin cancer), and bug bites, just to name a few. Older Americans are often more vulnerable than others when it comes to things like dehydration and heat stroke, so if you’re caring for (or just going on vacation with) some older Americans, use these tips to help keep them safe this summer.
- Keep Hydrated
The first and most important thing to be aware of is their hydration level. Older Americans are less likely to feel thirst, even when they’re losing water, so it’s important to stay on top of their hydration and make sure they’re drinking water regularly. Always make sure they have water handy, especially if they’re spending time outside in the heat. Keep track of whether they’re drinking their water, and if you notice it’s been a while since they’ve taken a drink, suggest they sip some water. Sometimes just the suggestion is enough to remind someone they’re thirsty and that it’s been a while since they’ve had a drink.
- Stay Inside in the Middle of the Day
The sun is at its brightest (and most damaging) from 10 am to about 2 pm, while the middle of the afternoon tends to be the hottest part of the day. So when it comes to enjoying some time outside in the summer months, you’re better off enjoying the book ends: early morning and evening. Sunrises and sunsets are both beautiful and they’re great times to be outside, but don’t let your older American stare at the sun for too long, which brings us to our next point.
- Preserve Their Vision
Direct sunlight is very hard on the eyes, so it’s important to protect them with sunglasses, as well as hats with bills or wide brims. If you’re watching the sunrise or sunset with an older American, make sure they’re wearing sunglasses and remind them to look away from the sun every now and then. If you’re out in the middle of the day, make sure they have a hat with either a bill or a wide brim, which will both protect their eyes from the sun and provide shade to help keep them cool, which provides a nice segue into our next point.
- Watch for Heat Stroke
Older Americans have a harder time regulating their body temperature, so it is particularly important to protect them from the heat whenever possible, and watch for signs of heat stroke, which include headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and high body temperature. If you notice any of these symptoms in your loved one, seek immediate medical attention.
At Stillwater Senior Living, we’re committed to keeping our residents safe throughout the year, come rain or shine. If you have any questions about our programs or the care we provide, reach out now to start a conversation.
Finding just the right way to thank your dad for everything he’s done for you over the years is never easy, but it seems like it gets harder as the years go on. Remember when he was happy just to have you draw a picture or make macaroni art for him? Chances are good that those days are long gone, so if your art skills never improved and you’re struggling to come up with ways to show Dad just how much he means to you, we have some suggestions for you.
- Take a Hike
If your dad likes getting out and about, then make some time to do just that with him on Father’s Day this year. If he’s a nature lover, find some local hiking trails you can explore with him or a natural history museum. If he’s a history buff, see if there are any historical sites nearby you haven’t visited with him yet (or at least haven’t visited recently).
Even just a walk through your local mall or downtown shopping area can be a great way to spend some time with Dad this Father’s Day. You can grab lunch, see a movie, do some shopping, or just watch the people go by.
- Watch TV
If he’s a sports fan and his favorite sports team happens to be playing that day, just the simple act of watching a game with your father can be incredibly rewarding. If he’s not into sports, bring his favorite movie or some episodes of his favorite TV show so you can all enjoy it together. Alternatively, you can bring a new movie or TV show he hasn’t seen yet, but checks off all the boxes of things he normally likes to watch so you can enjoy it together and introduce him to something new. It also makes for a great conversation starter if you’re looking for something to talk about over a meal.
- Large Print Playing Cards
If your dad loves playing cards, but his eyesight isn’t what it used to be, a stack of large print playing cards might be just the thing to make his Father’s Day this year. You can help him break in the deck by playing a few games with him on Father’s Day, but it’s also something he can use again and again, either to pass the time by himself or to help him make new friends with some of his fellow residents in assisted living.
- Get Him His Favorite Foods
Whether it’s a certain homemade meal or a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant, good food is always a great gift. It’s an experience that’s greatly appreciated, and because it’s eaten and then gone, it doesn’t take up much space for the dad who has downsized to a smaller living area.
In addition to taking care of our residents’ mental and physical wellbeing all year long, we’re also available to help their families plan festivities with their loved one throughout the year. Whether you’re planning on taking Dad out for some Father’s Day adventures, or just keeping it chill and staying in, we can help you plan the perfect Father’s Day.
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.
As 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.
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