Connecting with and Caring for Those with Dementia

connecting with and caring for those with dementia

Sometimes, great advice or information comes from the most unlikely of places. In this case, we’re talking about a parenting podcast that offered transformative information about how to connect with and caring for those with dementia or who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

In December of last year, Zen Parenting Radio (a podcast dedicated to mindful living and parenting) hosted an interview with Deborah Shouse and her brother, Dan. Their mother was diagnosed with – and eventually passed away from – dementia, and that diagnosis and the resulting journey led her adult children on a quest to find ways they could connect with their mother, even when dementia changed so much about who she was and how she interacted with the world.

Creativity is the key to connecting and caring for those with dementia

Not only was that quest fruitful in many ways, the insights gleaned from the journey led Deborah to write and publish the book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together. She has since authored a second book, Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. Both books offer a rich tapestry of compassionate understanding, paired with practical ideas, for those who live with, love and/or care for adults with dementia in any form.

The siblings eventually realized they were most successful in connecting with their mother when they interacted with her in creative ways and when they were able to release attachments to who their mother had been. They found it most helpful to remain open to who she was in any given day, hour or moment.

We highly recommend listening to the podcast (Click Here to do so) to learn more about their experience and insights. In the meantime, here are some of the most important takeaways from the interview.

Let go of who your parent or loved one was and embrace who they are Now.

For the first little while, your loved one will seem just like they’ve always seemed, with the occasional changes associated with dementia – forgetfulness, confusion, increased inability to find the right words, and so on. Over time, however, they may not recognize you or others, they might not remember what they did the day before, the may say they don’t like the things they used to like, or that they like or want to do things they never cared about before. Rather than resist these changes, Deborah and Dan learned to accept them and did their best to meet their mother right where she was at at any given time. This helped them to have more present connections.

Let creativity be your guide.

Countless studies have shown that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are stimulated, engaged and more lively when participating in creative outlets, ranging from art classes and flower arranging to gardening, singing, baking, sculpting and so on. If they can’t remember the words to a tune, you can hum together. You can be the head chef or baker preparing some of your parent’s favorites (or new requests) and the parent can help you prep or keep you company. If they were amazing artists in the past, you might find their art is no longer up to that original standard but you accept the process for what it is and celebrate engagement and connection wherever you can find it. If they never participated in artistic outlets, keep trying different mediums and you may be surprised your loved one now enjoys watercolors, sculpting, collaging, coloring or drawing.

Never stop visiting or bringing in friends or family.

It’s not emotionally easy to continue regular visits with someone who doesn’t remember you or can’t connect who you are with who they are in their newest incarnation. However, Deborah and Dan noticed that visits from family, particularly Dan (who lives in Japan and could only visit a handful of times per year) were extremely stimulating for their mother. Her energy would be higher and brighter for days after a visit.This helped them to realize that while it may be difficult – and downright painful – for loved ones to connect with someone who they hope will remember them, or show some signs of recognition, visits from loved ones did a world of good for their mother’s well-being. Perhaps the easiest way to handle this is to pretend you’re visiting a friend’s relative or caring for those with dementia – you can be compassionate, kind, loving and tender – without as much of the tension or frustration that can arise when you want your loved one to be someone they are incapable of being.

This helped them to realize that while it may be difficult – and downright painful – for loved ones to connect with someone who they hope will remember them, or show some signs of recognition, visits from loved ones did a world of good for their mother’s well-being. Perhaps the easiest way to handle this is to pretend you’re visiting a friend’s relative or caring for those with dementia – you can be compassionate, kind, loving and tender – without as much of the tension or frustration that can arise when you want your loved one to be someone they are incapable of being.

What we learn over and over again is that connection – in any form – can help to ease the burdens associated with the land of dementia, and can provide an inspiring way to facilitate a loved one’s well-being.

Are you looking to support or augment memory care for yourself, a spouse or a loved one? Contact us here at HomeAide Home Care and we’ll be happy to discuss the best means of getting the care you need and caring for those with dementia.

Difficult Topics with Elderly Family Members

difficult topics with elderly family members

Transitions are never easy, and that is certainly true for elderly family members making the transition from independent to dependent. While a battle of wills about driving boundaries, mobility aids, hearing aids or moving to a more accessible living space inspires resistance, that resistance is further compounded by dementia behaviors and/or physical ailments that cause discomfort.

That resistance, anger, resentment and frustration is vented on those who are closest to the individual – typically spouses, family members, and immediate caregivers. First, we recommend reviewing this article on Coping with Everyday Challenges, which provide a good overview of typical jumping in points.

Compassionate communication with elderly family members

Here are some of the ways you can facilitate more effective communication with elderly family members, while still remaining a calm, compassionate demeanor.

Keep in mind that seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s can say hurtful things they don’t mean. If your relative is diagnosed with a condition that causes or is related to dementia, try to keep a healthy emotional distance if they are in an agitated state of mind, always remembering their words reflect their condition and not their actual feelings or thoughts. We recommend reading New Approaches for Difficult Behaviors for more specific information on communicating with difficult elderly family members diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Schedule an appointment to visit the doctor

Would you want your child or grandchild telling you that you shouldn’t drive anymore? That you should leave the home you’ve known and loved? That you need to bring a stranger into your home to help you out around the house or keep you company? None of these are easy or comfortable conversations, especially if you’re worried about the same things but don’t want to admit it.

Hearing it from a third-party, however, especially if that third-party is an authority of some kind, can ease the transition.

When it comes to a senior’s well-being – or the well-being of others – bringing it up in conversation with the doctor is a wise move. Email your loved one’s doctor ahead of time, addressing each of your concerns so that he or she is prepared at the next appointment. Then, ask your loved one if you can accompany him/her to their next appointment to discuss some of your concerns.

Sometimes, a simple eye test will be enough for a doctor to recommend revising driving privileges with the DMV. The doctor can also mention accessibility and safety issues, and so on. Often, elders feel less affronted when instructions are given by a medical professional.

Consider creating an accessible home

If your senior is resistant to moving out of the home they love, perhaps you can make the home they love more accessible. Studies show that seniors who are able to safely age-in-place remain independent longer. The family can make an agreement that if the senior allows you to make their home more senior-friendly, the topic of moving elsewhere will be tabled for a while, with an understanding that help will be brought in as needed.

Make it all about you

Rather than making the conversations about all of the things the senior can’t do anymore, or that aren’t safe anymore, make the conversation about your personal concerns. For example, you can state, “I notice the refrigerator seems emptier than usual, and that you aren’t getting out as much as you used to. I love you and I can’t help but worry a little bit. It would make me feel so much better if you would let us arrange someone to stop by once a week to take you out, so your grocery shopping, make a few meals, clean the house, etc.”

By making it about you, it gives the senior permission to relax into the idea. They are now doing you a favor, while – in reality – they know they need a little assistance and this is a good way to get it. That once-a-week helper can then be a tremendous resource – eventually, transition to increased care as needed. Read, “What’s Right For You, Home Care or Assisted Living,”to see which is best for your senior loved one.Unless there is serious cognitive impairment, it’s critical that you understand your senior family member has the right to choose what’s best for them, even when that isn’t what you feel is best. If necessary, you might want to enlist the help of a therapist in order to discuss your frustrations and concerns and to practice the art of letting your parent, grandparent or loved one make decisions with the knowledge that you bear zero responsibility if there is a negative outcome.

Unless there is serious cognitive impairment, it’s critical that you understand your elderly family member has the right to choose what’s best for them, even when that isn’t what you feel is best. If necessary, you might want to enlist the help of a therapist in order to discuss your frustrations and concerns and to practice the art of letting your parent, grandparent or loved one make decisions with the knowledge that you bear zero responsibility if there is a negative outcome.

Hopefully, over time, and with some heart-to-heart conversations, your loved one will come around and make choices that support their safety, good health and well-being.

Aging And Aphasia

 

aging and aphasia

You may have never heard of aphasia but, you know the feeling when you’re in the middle of a sentence and you just can’t think of the right word? Aging and aphasia often go hand-in-hand. It’s there somewhere; in fact, you may even make the comment that “it’s right at the tip of your tongue…”Aging and aphasia often go hand-in-hand. This is a very mild form of what some seniors experience on a regular basis.

When the loss of words, or the inability to retrieve words, begins to hinder a person’s conversations and daily routines on a regular basis, it is called aphasia.

Aphasia is Often a Symptom of Aging and Age-Related Conditions

Aphasia is a common symptom, and often a “primary” symptom of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other age-related conditions. In addition to word loss, your aging relative or friend may notice they are more prone to getting lost, feeling confused, forgetting to pay bills or neglecting to recognize birthdays and special days that were once priorities on their calendar. These may indicate something more serious is at work.

There are several situations or conditions that can cause aphasia. These include:

  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Medications or changes in medication doses
  • Dehydration
  • Strokes
  • Hearing loss
  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease (medically referred to as “amyotrophic lateral sclerosis” (ALS))
  • Parkinson’s disease

In many cases, the ability to speak disappears long before the ability to understand. As a result, the onset of aphasia can be extremely frustrating and frightening for seniors. This is especially true if they are treated like they have dementia or Alzheimer’s when in fact they still have many of their mental faculties intact.

For this reason, it’s important to schedule an appointment with the senior’s primary healthcare provider as soon as you notice aphasia has become an issue.

Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment ASAP if Seniors Have Difficulty Communicating.

Note: if the onset of aphasia seems extremely sudden, it could be that your loved one or client is having a stroke. In this case, it’s always better to call 9-1-1 or take the individual immediately to an ER. Often, a stroke caught early can be stopped in its tracks, before it causes more debilitating side effects. Please read, Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke, for more information about that topic.

Otherwise, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with the senior’s caregiver to identify the cause of the issue. In some cases, something as simple as drinking more water or taking an antibiotic for a urinary tract infection (UTI) may be the solution. Seniors are extremely vulnerable to dehydration as well as asymptomatic UTIs, both of which can cause dementia-like symptoms.

Other times, a new medication, combination of medications or a change in dosage can be enough to trigger mild or more moderate aphasia. Once the right prescription balance is restored, the aphasia may begin to resolve and normal language function will be restored.

If a more serious medication condition, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease is the cause, early detection is important in prolonging the progression of the disease. We are learning a great deal about how diet, lifestyle and activity levels help or harm a person’s long-term prognosis. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, certain medications work best at the disease’s onset rather than later on.

In the case of Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s, there are non-verbal therapies – like art or music therapy – that can help the individual find their community as well as involve other parts of the brain to help them become more functional when areas in charge of language or cognition become more faulty. Learning about adult day care options, community gardening opportunities, and other outlets can help to keep the senior more involved in the community so they don’t feel so isolated.

The senior’s healthcare provider will be able to provide a full physical assessment, and may also schedule more tests to determine the aphasia’s cause and to provide options and suggestions regarding treatment, therapy and/or lifestyle changes.

If it turns out that the aphasia is, indeed, caused by a progressive condition, this is the time to begin discussing long-term care options and what those options look like. Please feel free to contact us here at HomeAide Home Care to learn more about in-home and independent living options, or to schedule a free in-home consultation. There is never any obligation.

Helping Seniors Feel Wanted, Needed And Loved

 

 

helping seniors feel wanted needed and loved

While a senior citizen’s body may seem to change – silver hair, wrinkled skin and changes in mobility, for example – their hearts and desires are the same as anyone else’s: the need for and how to help seniors feel wanted, loved and needed.

The problem is that some of those aforementioned physical changes can leave them feeling depressed, isolated and alone. As spouses and peers pass away or move to various retirement homes, seniors lose their social networks. When elderly adults relinquish their car keys, they surrender their independence and their ability to get out and about in the community. If they succumb to Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, it becomes harder for family and friends to enjoy their company, which often translates to reduced visits and outings.

How To Help Seniors Feel Wanted

Get them volunteering. There is great benefit in being of service to others, and this is a benefit that many seniors lack once they lose their independence. In fact, when a senior requires in-home care or lives in an assisted living community, it can feel like they’re always “taking” rather than “giving,” and that is crushing to the ego and an individual’s sense of self-worth.

Look for opportunities for you and your senior family members to work together in acts of service. Is there a soup kitchen looking for volunteers? Does a local homeless shelter need someone to make and serve coffee in the mornings? Perhaps a local orphanage or children’s home could use someone to hold the babies or read to the older children. If you have the time, volunteer with your senior loved one. If not, see if different members of your family can take turns volunteering once a week or once a month. It’s a two-for-one benefit – more time with your loved one as well as a chance to give back to your community.

To start, visit HandsOn Bay Area or The Volunteer Center of the East Bay to explore possibilities in and around the Bay Area. You can also contact local churches and non-profits to see if they need extra hands or hearts in order to help seniors feel wanted.

Inspire Involvement in Local Clubs. Working adults have all kinds of plans for when they retire. However, the retirement years aren’t always as free as one may have imagined them to be. Then, as the social calendar clears and children/grandchildren get older – each day can feel like a void without any way to fill up the empty hours. This is where local clubs can be of assistance.

Ask senior loved ones about any prior or current hobbies and then find a local club or chapter that matches. Perhaps your grandmother used to love ballet, now she can enjoy a local ballroom dance group. Maybe your parents used to play bridge with neighbors; odds are there is a local bridge club looking for members and on-call extras. Seniors who love music may enjoy singing in a community choir or volunteering for the local orchestra or choir for their concerts and performances, while avid gardeners may enjoy volunteering in a community garden project. Joining a club helps to provide a sense of purpose and provide seniors with a sense of responsibility, “I can’t miss bridge on Tuesday, I’d let my partner (or the foursome) down…”.

Make Use of Their Skill Sets. Most seniors were taught skills that are “dying out” in our more disposable culture. Things like darning socks, mending clothes, knitting, refinishing, cooking homemade meals from scratch, basic woodworking and repairing – all of these are going by the wayside. However, as much as our culture has a reputation for purchasing disposable goods – it is becoming increasingly focused on reusing, recycling and repurposing.

This makes for a perfect opportunity for children and grandchildren to learn from their elders. In addition to acquiring important, basic life skills – a mix of generations makes for a synergistic experience – talking, sharing stories, hearing different perspectives and providing mutual love and support to one another.

Have you noticed a senior loved one is feeling a bit down, depressed or lonely lately? Is a parent or grandparent looking fragile than usual? Contact HomeAide Home Care and we’ll be happy to provide an in-home assessment. It might be that a little extra companionship or weekly transportation to social events and groups will help to renew their inner spark and help seniors feel wanted.

Communicating With Your Elderly Parents Doctor

communicating with your elderly parents doctor

Many children of aging parents find that the roles of “parent and child” can seem to flip-flop overnight. One day your parents seem perfectly capable of handling routine business on their own, the next slip-and-fall accident, sudden illness or the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s can toss life as you know it upside down.

One of the first and most noticeable changes may be in one or both of your parent’s need for assistance when visiting the doctor – or in translating the medical jargon as diagnoses and/or prescriptions for medications become more complex.

Tips For Communication With Your Elderly Parents Doctor

The following tips can ease the transition as you begin to take a more active role in your elderly parents doctor visits and medical appointments.

  1. Complete Medical Directives. Do your parents have a completed medical directive? Also called Advance Directives, medical directives provide specific information and instructions about what an adult does and doesn’t want when it comes to resuscitation, the types of life support that can be used, organ/tissue donation, and other important medical decisions. People often put these off until it’s too late, which makes things very stressful – and potentially confrontational – when families struggle to make these decisions for a loved one. Read our blog, What You Need to Know About Advance Directives to learn more.
  2. Get a Power of Attorney. If you are even beginning to think of communicating with your elderly parents doctor, it is a sign a Power of Attorney should be set in place. Medical records are confidential and there is a fine line about what doctors can tell you without the permission of your parent, which can be especially tricky if dementia or Alzheimer’s is at work. Getting a Power of Attorney while your parents are still fully competent is the simplest way to prepare for the paperwork, decisions, and signatures that may be required in the future when it comes to requesting medical information and records.
  3. Choose one medical liaison. To keep things streamlined, efficient and easy for doctors, it’s recommended that your family choose one medical liaison who will communicate directly with the doctor and then transmit the information to the family at large. If nobody lives in the area, hire a companion, caregiver or professional medical advocate to fill this role instead.
  4. Visit the doctors with your parents. It’s no surprise that establishing relationships with your elderly parents doctors and healthcare professionals facilitates communication down the road. Schedule appointments with each of their general practitioners and regular specialists for a meet-and-greet and to learn more about where your parents are at today, as well as what the doctor recommends to keep them well and healthy into the future.
  5. Get a list of current medications. Assemble a list of all the medications and supplements your parents are currently prescribed and/or taking. Keep it updated regularly. This will come in handy if a doctor changes or your parent begins displaying the symptoms of a potential medication side effect.
  6. Learn to be an advocate. Many laypeople assume that doctors communicate with one another about their patients. This is rarely the case. It requires an advocate and a good communicator to keep each of the doctors abreast of what is said, experienced, diagnosed or prescribed by other doctors, especially if they aren’t in the same office. It’s also a good idea to keep your own copies of important medical records.
  7. Consider changing doctors if necessary. If you don’t feel your parent is getting adequate care, or a particular doctor is difficult to communicate with, take action and switch to one that better meets your parents’ needs.

Need Help

If you find that you are unable to accompany your parent(s) to all of their medical appointments then give us a call here at HomeAide Home Care we have plenty of experience with doctor visits. Call today for your free assessment.

How to Talk to Your Aging Loved Ones About Safe Driving

elderly drivingDriving a car is more than getting from one place to another; a car represents independence and freedom for most people, especially older Americans. As your loved ones age and safe driving becomes a concern, it can be difficult to know how to talk to them about handing over the keys.

When it comes time to talk to your aging loved one about driving, sometimes it can be helpful to start by listening. Ask them some very specific, carefully worded questions to get them talking about their safe driving experiences.

Questions Regarding Safe Driving for Seniors

  • Do you feel your reflexes are slower than they were ten years ago?
  • Have you had any accidents?
  • When was your last written driving test?
  • When was your last behind the wheel driver’s test?
  • Do you still have insurance?
  • When were your eyes last tested?
  • Do you see pedestrians or do they surprise you?
  • Do you drive at night? How is that?
  • How often do you miss your exit off of the freeway?
  • Can you read all the signs in time to appropriately react?
  • Have you ever been lost in a familiar part of town?
  • Have far are you driving at a time?
  • Do you ever worry about your driving?
  • What will you do when you can’t drive anymore?

Often, when people begin to hear their own replies to these questions, they may realize that driving has become a bigger concern than they realized. By opening the door to communication, you’re giving your senior citizen the chance to see for themselves, instead of becoming defensive when you express your concerns.

With time and reflection, you may find that it’s time for your loved one to limit his or her driving, or to stop driving all together. This can be a difficult step. Driving is a form of independence, and most people will do everything they can to keep from giving it up. Have a plan in place to help ensure that your loved one will still have the freedom to go out and do things, and not find themselves stuck at home alone.

  • If you’re able, hire a driver a few days a week.
  • Consider opening a charge account with a local taxi service
  • Ask younger friends or relatives to provide safe driving services, and set up a schedule.
  • Find out if there is public transportation available.

Reassure them that you will help them through this transition, and listen to their concerns. Realize that the loss of freedom is a difficult feeling, and try to put yourself in their shoes. Giving up driving privileges can be a tough but important decision, but in the end it’s the their safety and that of others on the road that must come first. By taking time to both listen and discuss, you can ease the pain of this transition.

Communicating Effectively with Your Home Caregiver

A professional home caregiver can be a saving grace for many families with an elderly resident. However, the road is not always easy and finding a balance that suits your loved one’s needs is sometimes an ongoing process. Professional home caregivers are well trained in various skills and accommodations that should help make the process a little easier. However, the key to making this process as smooth as possible is good communication.

Home Organization

In order to make your caregiver’s work as efficient as possible, always be sure that you have the items needed for your loved one’s ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living) fully stocked and easily accessible. This includes having clean sheets, towels and washcloths available, as well as their toiletries. Ask your home caregiver to please let you know if she is running low on any necessary supplies so that you can stay on top of the necessities.

Documentation and Paperwork

Leave a list of emergency numbers for your caregiver, including your loved one’s physician, and any other family numbers that would be necessary in case of an emergency. Also make sure your caregiver has a copy of the written care plan and medication schedule. Show the home caregiver where everything is so that there is no question that the medications will be given on time and as directed.

senior-woman-with-her-home-caregiver

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up

Caregivers are only as good as the directions they are given. If something is not being performed to your expectations, let them know right away and they will be happy to accommodate if it is within their allowed job duties to do so. It’s also important to let your caregiver know about any changes in your loved one’s health or demeanor. Your home caregiver needs to be appraised of any condition changes, good or bad, in order to remain on top of the situation.

Good communication with your caregiver can only lead to a better experience all around. Your loved one will receive better care. You will have the peace of mind that your loved one is being well cared for. In addition, your home caregiver will enjoy their work and be able to better care for the patient.