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.
June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and its purpose is just what the title implies: to raise awareness for elder abuse. This year we decided to do our part to raise awareness for elder abuse by sharing some facts about the problem:
- Approximately 1 in 6 people aged 60 and older experienced some form of abuse in the last half of 2019 and first half of 2020, although the rate of elder abuse is likely higher, since many cases (about 1 in 24) go unreported due to the fact that many victims of elder abuse are afraid or simply unable to come forward. Unfortunately, that fear and lack of reporting is part of what makes elder abuse so prominent – abusers know they are unlikely to be held accountable for their crimes.
- The global population of people 60 and older is expected to reach 2 billion by 2050, more than double from the 900 million we had in 2015. As our global population continues to age, elder abuse is expected to rise as well in many countries around the world.
- As with other forms of abuse, elder abuse can lead to serious physical injuries and/or long-term psychological effects, mainly depression and anxiety. Physical injuries in older Americans can also be long lasting, taking longer to heal, and being more likely to lead to death compared to younger people who suffer similar injuries. A study of older Americans found that those who suffered physical abuse were twice as likely to die prematurely compared to their counterparts who were not abused.
- While we might think of elder abuse as financial abuse and/or physical abuse, it’s important to remember that there are many ways our older Americans can suffer from abuse, including neglect, abandonment, and emotional abuse. Loss of dignity can also be considered elder abuse, such as when older Americans who are unable to change their own clothes are left in soiled clothes and/or denied any say in their daily lives. Over medicating, under medicating, and denying older Americans their medication are also common forms of elder abuse. Any time there is a level of trust in a relationship with an older American and that trust is betrayed, that’s a case of elder abuse.
- Elder abuse is very common in nursing homes and long-term care communities, but it’s important to remember that elder abuse can (and often does) come from family members and other people close to them. Financial abuse from family members is especially common, so it’s important to make sure your loved one’s Power of Attorney (POA) is someone who’s good with money and financially stable on their own.
At Stillwater Senior Living, we are committed to making sure your loved one receives the best care possible. From the training of our staff, to the nutritious meals we provide, to our new memory care wing, everything we do is done with our residents’ safety and comfort in mind. If you have any questions about the work we do here at Stillwater Senior Living, don’t hesitate to reach out.
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.
Scams are nothing new, but as technology evolves, the scams evolve right along with it. But scams don’t always come in the form of emails or hacked online accounts, especially when they’re targeting older adults. There are a few things that tend to make older Americans more vulnerable to scams, and the fact that they’re often thought of as having significant funds at their disposal makes them prime targets.
That said, it’s not just the wealthy older Americans who fall victim to scams and financial abuse. Low-income adults are just as likely to be the targets of scams, so let’s take a look at some of the things for which you should be on the lookout.
One common technique is for scammers to call Americans over the age of 65 and pretend to be calling from Medicare so they can get their target to give them their personal information over the phone.
Another tactic is for scammers to provide bogus medical services for older Americans in mobile clinics, then they use the information they collect from their “patients” to collect money from Medicare. They make sure to use mobile clinics so they can disappear before anyone realizes what they’ve done.
Fake Prescription Drugs
With the cost of prescription drugs going up, older Americans, who are most often living on a fixed income, are increasingly turning to the internet to find more affordable options for the drugs they need. This has created an opportunity for scammers to sell fake prescription drugs online to seniors who need certain medications, but can’t always afford the high prices charged by their local pharmacy.
This scam is especially dangerous because, not only are older Americans robbed of what little money they have to spend on their medical needs, but the fact that they are then given something that won’t help their medical condition could ultimately lead to the worsening of that medical condition.
We all know that funerals can be expensive, but people who are unaware of just how expensive a funeral can be are vulnerable to unscrupulous funeral home owners who often use this lack of familiarity with the actual costs of their products and services to grossly overcharge the grieving family members of the recently deceased. One common scam is for funeral homes to insist that even direct cremations need to be made in one of the most expensive caskets, even when a much less expensive casket will do.
Another common funeral scam is for strangers to attend a funeral, then approach the grieving next of kin and insist the deceased owed them a substantial amount of money.
This generation of older Americans is accustomed to buying things over the phone, which leaves them vulnerable to scammers calling them and offering to sell them bogus products or services over the phone. The problem with these scams is they are incredibly hard to trace. Once the payment information has been provided, the scammer is essentially able to take the money and run, and to make matters worse, the name and phone number of the target is often shared with other scammers, so the same person is often scammed multiple times before they even realize it.
Whether you want to help protect your aging loved one from scams, or just the normal hazards of aging (or both), we at Stillwater Senior Living are here to help. Just reach out now to see how we can help your loved ones age as safely and comfortably as possible.
We all want to stay healthy as we age, but there’s no denying that staying healthy gets increasingly difficult the older we get. Older Americans are more likely to get sick and injured than their younger counterparts and a big part of that has to do with their diet. Even people who made an effort to eat healthy all their lives might still suffer increased health risks as they age and their nutritional needs change. Let’s take a look at some of the most common health problems faced by older Americans and how nutrition might play a role.
Atrophic gastritis is a condition faced by approximately 20% of older Americans. It’s characterized by a reduced level of stomach acid as a result of chronic inflammation in the cells that produce stomach acid.
Reduced stomach acid can lead to a reduced ability to absorb nutrients, specifically vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Atrophic gastritis can be treated with medication, but for anyone not yet diagnosed with atrophic gastritis (or any other inflammatory disease) who thinks they might be at risk, it’s a good idea to try to stick to a diet that’s low in inflammatory ingredients, specifically alcohol, sugar, refined grains, and dairy.
Calories vs. Nutrients
Another challenge of aging is that, as we age, we need fewer calories to survive, making it more difficult to get all the nutrients we need.
The solution to this problem is to eat a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods and take supplements as needed to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. Remember to consult with your doctor or dietician before making any changes to your diet, medication, or adding any new supplements to your regimen.
In addition to losing bone mass, many people also tend to lose muscle mass as they age, which is one reason they tend to need fewer calories to get through the day than they needed when they were younger, had more muscle mass, and were more active.
Reduced muscle mass is a contributing factor to weakness in older Americans, which, in turn, is more likely to lead to fractures and other injuries.
The solution is to eat more protein, combined with strength-training exercises to help prevent the loss of strength and muscle mass.
Calcium and Vitamin D
You probably already know that bone loss, also known as osteoporosis, is a common problem among older Americans (especially women) and is a leading cause of fractures and broken bones. You might know that calcium is an important ingredient in building strong bones, but did you know that Vitamin D is just as important? Vitamin D is needed to carry calcium from the blood stream to the bones, so a full dose of calcium won’t do any good without the requisite amount of Vitamin D.
At Stillwater Senior Living, we make sure every resident has access to healthy, nutritious foods. We have a weekly menu, but adjustments can always be made for residents with specific dietary needs. Reach out now if you have any questions about our menu or any other aspect of our assisted living community.
A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is always scary, but it can be even more intimidating if you don’t know what the diagnosis really means. You might have heard of Parkinson’s causing tremors and mobility issues, but if that’s all you know about it, you probably have a lot of questions, especially if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While we can’t tell you everything about the disease in a blog post, we can give you an idea of some of the things you can expect from a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
- Early Warning Signs
While tremors and mobility issues are probably the most well-known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, they’re not the only indications that something might be wrong. Before the disease reaches that stage, many patients experience loss of smell, constipation, vivid dreaming, and their handwriting might become very small.
- Brain Cell Death
Cells in the substantia nigra section of the brain are responsible for producing dopamine, which helps the brain control movement of the body. When these brain cells start to die, Parkinson’s disease develops, and it is the reduced levels of dopamine in the brain that lead to the tremors and loss of motor control that tend to characterize Parkinson’s disease.
- Unknown Causes
No one knows what causes Parkinson’s disease. Based on what we know so far, the best guess scientists can make is that it’s a combination of environmental factors and genetic predisposition, but so far the exact causes of Parkinson’s disease remain a medical mystery that has yet to be solved.
- How Is Parkinson’s Diagnosed?
Because Parkinson’s develops when certain brain cells start to die, it’s difficult to diagnose when the patient is still living. In order to diagnose a patient with Parkinson’s disease, a doctor would need to conduct a physical exam, as well as a variety of tests to determine whether two of the four main symptoms are present: tremors/shaking, slow movements, rigid limbs and/or torso, and difficulty balancing.
- When Is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?
The average age of patients who experience the onset of Parkinson’s disease is 62. If the patient is less than 50 years old at the time of their Parkinson’s diagnosis, it’s known as young-onset or early-onset Parkinson’s disease.
As with Alzheimer’s and dementia, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, although the progression of the disease can be slowed down with the help of drugs that can mimic, or even replace dopamine. Exercise is also a critical factor for managing the disease and mitigating the effects of the loss of mobility and balance caused by the disease. In some cases, deep brain stimulation surgery has also proven effective in combatting the disease.
Whether you or your loved one is suffering from reduced mobility, cognitive decline, or both, we can come up with a plan to help them here at Stillwater Senior Living. Everything from our Senior Messages to our new Lakeside Memory Care Neighborhood is designed to help our residents age in comfort and with dignity.
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.
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.
Caring for a loved one who is aging and/or sick can be a full-time job, but many family members can’t afford to quit their jobs to become a caregiver for a loved one. They’ll need a job to come back to when their caregiving responsibilities have come to an end, and that’s what the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees. Unfortunately, a lot of people are still unsure of what, exactly, the FMLA provides and how it works, so we’re going to go over everything you need to know:
What Does the FMLA Provide?
The FMLA guarantees employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work if they or someone in their family has a qualifying health issue. The time off from work is unpaid, but employers are required to provide the same group health insurance benefits at the same premium while you’re on leave. Once you return to work, they are required to offer you at least your old job, or an equivalent position.
Although the federal law does not require employers to pay workers during their FMLA leave, many employers do offer at least partial payment during FMLA leave, and some states require employers to provide some form of payment during FMLA leave, so check your local laws to make sure you know everything you’re entitled to receive.
But not everyone is eligible to take leave under the FMLA, so let’s take a look at the requirements:
Who Is Eligible to Take Leave Under the FMLA?
In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA you must first work for a school; a public agency; a local, state, or federal employer; or a private employer who employs 50 or more workers for at least 20 workweeks of the year. You also need to work at a location that has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, which means you can’t work for an employer that has a small team at your location and more workers throughout the country, even if the total number of their workers adds up to 50 or more workers.
Second, you need to have worked for that employer for at least 12 months. The 12 months do not need to be consecutive, but you do need to have worked at least 1,250 hours within the last 12-month period before taking your FMLA leave – if you’re a full-time employee, this means you need to have worked full time for your current employer for at least 32 weeks before you can be eligible to take your FMLA leave.
When Can I Take FMLA Leave?
The FMLA allows workers to take time off if: they are unable to work due to a serious health condition; they need to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition (siblings, grandparents, and in-laws are not covered); they recently gave birth, adopted, or are fostering a child; or if they have certain urgent situations, such as caring for a family member who is on active duty or on call in the military and suffers from a serious injury or illness.
If you’re caring for an aging parent and you’re unable to take leave under the FMLA, or your 12 weeks of leave is about to expire, it might be time to consider assisted living. We’d love to answer all your questions about the assisted living services we provide, so reach out now to learn more. Watch this video to get a sneak peak of our Memory Care Neighborhood!