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!
Fall is a great time of year, filled with so many opportunities. It is an ideal time to get outside and enjoy the changing colors of the foliage, especially as the weather cools off, which means we do not have to worry about heat stroke. It is also a great time to enjoy all the delicious foods of the traditional harvest time.
If you think the older Americans in your life have to miss out on all the great aspects of fall just because they are aging, you have it all wrong. Here are just a few ways you can enjoy the autumn season with loved ones of any age.
1) Go for a Hike
Getting outside and walking around is always a great idea, but autumn is an especially good time of year for it. It is cool enough that we do not have to worry about heatstroke, and warm enough that we do not have to worry about frostbite. Plus, it is arguably the most beautiful time of the year. Just walking around your neighborhood or through your local parks gives you a chance to admire the changing leaves, as well as some of the beautiful late-blooming flowers.
You can make these walks with friends and family members into a game by seeing who can spot the most colors or take the picture that most perfectly exemplifies autumn.
We are fortunate to have beautiful sidewalks and gorgeous scenery here at our community if your loved one cannot walk that far or is in a scooter. Come by for a visit!
2) Get in the Kitchen
The cooler weather also makes autumn a great time to get in the kitchen for some seasonal cooking and baking. Since apples and squash are plentiful this time of year, you can make some delicious meals just by roasting them with some ground pork. Or you can puree them with some hot water to make some soup (autumn is a great time for soups and stews!)
If you want to get fancy, you can bake all kinds of things with pumpkin or apples (or both!) Pies are the obvious choice, but they can go in anything from muffins and pancakes to bread and cookies. Use some pumpkin pie spice in your kitchen creations and it will make your whole house smell like heaven.
Check out our Facebook page so you can see what our Dining Director, Kathy, cooks up for our residents to take part in!
3) Dress Up
Who does not love dressing up like someone (or something) else for a day? It is one of the reasons Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in the country, so pull out those old costumes and dust off those hats and masks to see what you can create. Again, stay tuned to our Facebook page so you can see what we are up to this Halloween!
4) Get Crafty
If you are looking for fall-related crafts to do with older Americans, you can have them make their own masks using colored paper, glue, and markers. Why limit yourself to what is in your closet or in stores when you can make a mask that is uniquely yours?
At Stillwater Senior Living, our mission is to help our residents enjoy every season to its fullest, whether that means enjoying the great outdoors, getting our craft on, spending time in the kitchen, or all of the above. If you have any questions about how we strive to keep our residents happy and healthy all year long, we are always happy to chat. Just reach out to get the conversation started.
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.
One persistent stereotype of older Americans is that they hate technology because they do not know how to use it, but in fact that is not always the case. We have found that older Americans tend to like technology, especially when it allows them to connect with friends and family they do not get to see very often. Here are just a few of the ways you can use technology to improve your relationships with the older Americans in your life.
Stay in Touch When You Are Separated
Whether you do not live near your loved one or you cannot physically be with them due to illness or some other reason, technology is a great way to stay connected over long distances. Phone calls are great, but if you do not have time for a long conversation, a quick text is also a great way to stay in touch between meetings or when running errands.
FaceTime and video conferencing software are also great options for staying in touch with your loved one in a way that feels like you are sitting in front of them, no matter how far apart you are.
Social media is another great way to stay in touch with loved ones over long distances. You can see each other’s posts so each of you can know what is new with the other. When you just need to talk to each other, you can use the private messaging option.
Baby boomers and their parents have become the biggest users of Facebook because it allows them to see photos of their grandchildren, even when they live far away from them. Getting to see those photos and read about their adventures and antics as they grow up is a great way for grandparents to feel like they are a part of their grandchildren’s lives, even if they only get to see them once or twice a year.
Keep Up with Their Health
Because technology allows you to interact with older Americans more often, whether through texting, video calls, or social media, one of the key benefits of this is that it allows you to keep tabs on your loved one’s health. If you notice they look unusually pale or jaundiced when you are on a video call with them, you can mention it to them, or even call their doctor if you have POA. If they are hesitant to try a new medication or course of treatment, being able to interact with them in a variety of ways through technology gives you more opportunities to convince them to give the new treatment a try. You can send them links that lead to video testimonials or articles outlining the benefits of the medication/course of treatment, which gives you persuasive power you never would have had without the right technology to share those links.
At Stillwater Senior Living, we know how helpful technology can be, whether it be for taking care of our residents or helping them stay in touch with loved ones. If you have any questions about how we use technology in our community, do not hesitate to reach out.
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.
Homemade gifts are always so much more meaningful than generic, store-bought gifts, and with the supply chain issues we are experiencing this year, you might be better off making something yourself than waiting for an online order to arrive from overseas.
With that in mind, we came up with a few ideas for homemade Christmas gifts your grandparents will love this holiday season.
DIY Photo Ornaments
Christmas tree ornaments always make for great gifts, so why not add a personal touch with a photo? All you have to do is print your family photo to the right size, place it in a clear glass ornament, press on the top and decorate it with a ribbon, and you are done!
Art Display and Pictures
Parents and grandparents have gotten many homemade art projects over the years, but one way to make them extra special is to take a photo of your child making a piece of artwork for Grandma and Grandpa. Then you can buy a photo frame with space for two photos, put the homemade artwork in one space, and in the other put a photo of your child making the artwork. It is a great way to make grandparents feel connected to the younger generation, even if visiting in person is limited, or just not possible this year.
DIY Photo Coasters
Similar to the photo ornaments, you can customize your coasters with personal photos, so Grandma and Grandpa get to see your smiling faces every time they lift their cup.
Send a Hug
This is another one that is perfect if you cannot visit in person this year, but it is also great to bring along in person so they can have your hug all year long. All you need is a sheet of paper 2-3 feet long (depending on your child’s armlength) and a pen or pencil. Lay the paper on the floor (preferably without carpeting) and have your child lay on top of the paper with their arms spread wide. All you have to do is trace along their head, arms, and hands, then cut it out for a hug the grandparents can enjoy any time they need one.
Who does not love getting flowers? The only thing that could make them better is if you could give the gift of flowers that never die.
Hello, paper bouquet! All you need is some multi-colored paper and some glue, and you can make your very own paper bouquet. It will smell all the sweeter because Grandma and Grandpa will be able to smell the love with which it was made.
Instead of pinning photos up to the fridge with magnets, why not put the photo on the magnet? You can even add charms to the magnet for an extra-personal touch.
There are countless ways to show your love this holiday season, regardless of whether you are visiting in person online. If you are still stumped, we would love to help you come up with ideas to make this year extra special with your grandparents. Just reach out to start a conversation.
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.
Summer is a great time to get outside, enjoy the outdoors, and get active, and there is no reason seniors cannot enjoy everything summer has to offer, even if they are not quite as active as they once were. We came up with some ideas to help the older Americans in your life take advantage of this season regardless of their activity level.
- Play Games
We are always a fan of board games and card games all year long. They are a great way to stay mentally active and social and there is no reason you can’t bring some of your favorite games outside. If you live near a park that has chess sets, play some chess outside, or bring your favorite boardgame and set it up in your favorite spot in the park.
For some of your more active seniors, do not forget to include them in some of your favorite outdoor games. Anything from hopscotch to jump rope can be moderated to their activity level so they can get some exercise and have fun while enjoying the great outdoors.
- Watch Movies
Summer is a great time for movies. You can watch them indoors and use them as an excuse to escape the summer heat, or, when the weather is more favorable, you can set up a screen and projector outside and enjoy summer while watching your favorite movie. These days, you don’t even need a screen or projector, just bring an iPad or your laptop and you’re good to go.
- Read a Book
Summer is also a great time for books. Whether you are going for a light beach read or digging into that classic Russian novel you have always meant to read, summer often means more free time, and that can mean more time to catch up on your TBR list. As with games and movies, one of the best things about a good book is that it’s portable. You can take it to the park on a nice day, or enjoy it in front of the air conditioner when it gets too hot to enjoy the great outdoors.
For older Americans whose eyesight is not what it once was, large-print books are ideal, as are ereaders, such as Kindles. Ereaders let you adjust the size of the type so older Americans can comfortably enjoy their favorite book without straining their eyes.
Swimming is perfect for older Americans because almost anyone can do it. Even those who are not strong swimmers can hang out in the shallow end of the pool where they can walk around and enjoy the feel of the water around them. Swimming is low impact, which makes it beneficial for older Americans who might have stiff joints, and it is a great way to stay cool throughout the hottest months of the year.
At Stillwater Senior Living, we pride ourselves on helping our residents enjoy all the seasons to the fullest, regardless of their activity levels. If you have any questions about what summer looks like for our residents, just reach out and we would be happy to give you all the details.