Reminiscence Therapy And Dementia

reminiscence therapy and dementia

There are no words to describe the grief, the worry, the frustration and – yes – even anger as loved ones seem to fade away into the land of dementia. The increasing success of reminiscence therapy, however, may help to ease the way as you navigate smoother ground for more connected relationships with your spouse, parents, grandparents and other senior loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Finding them good care to ensure their day-to-day needs are taken care of helps to alleviate much of the worry, but it’s nearly impossible for loved ones to avoid feelings of loss and sadness as dementia takes a stronger hold. Fortunately, reminiscence therapy introduces a way to keep their personal spark alive.

We also recommend reading, Connecting With and Caring For Those With Dementia, for more tips on how to emotionally connect with individuals in the mid- to later stages of the disease.

Keeping the past alive helps loved ones in the present

It becomes clear very quickly that as dementia and dementia-related diseases (Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body dementia, advanced Parkinson’s, a stroke or repeat TIAs, etc.) that the present and recent past fade away – while past memories and recollections can remain quite strongly anchored in the mind.

This is the foundation that reminiscence therapy is built upon; encouraging seniors to look at photographs, tells stories, listen to music, watch movies from their past and spark recollections from their history supports cognitive and emotional well-being in the present.

What is Reminiscence Therapy (RT)

Reminiscence therapy (RT) is often used in memory care centers or in group home settings specializing in memory care. In a therapy setting, this type of work usually takes place in chronological order, helping a senior with dementia piece together their life from the start to the present – using sensory stimulating cues. Activities, such as special movie nights or dances with period music may be utilized. Often, visual and/or textile arts and crafts, recorded narratives or voice-to-text apps can be implemented to document a senior’s history and create some type of “Life Book” or a memoir of sorts.

However, varying versions of RT can also take place right at home, used individually with the ones you love, or in family settings. In fact, family settings are some of the best mediums for this type of activity because it helps those with dementia remain part of the event in a more positive and connected way – making them feel important, needed and loved.

Typically, RT starts with a physical, visual or sensory-specific stimulus, such as photographs (pull out those old albums!), a verbal prompt (What’s one of your favorite stories from your childhood?) or even a piece of music (invest in CDs or MP3 files of their favorite music). Perhaps it involves a stroll through your own garden, or a local botanical garden, smelling the roses and enjoying the scenery – seeing if it sparks memories of past events or situations.

Ultimately, the idea is to use small prompts that engage the historical memory archives of the mind, helping the individual with dementia feel more confident and secure. However, there are multiple benefits to making RT a part of your life with your loved one.

There Are Numerous Benefits of RT

In addition to feeling more confident in themselves, and connected to the ones they love, RT can also:

  • Improve their ability to communicate
  • Help to slow down or improve signs of aphasia, giving seniors their voice back
  • Stimulate brain pathways, stirring up more memories that may not have been shared otherwise
  • Give seniors the time and space to talk about things that are meaningful to them
  • Alleviate symptoms of depression, loneliness and/or social withdrawal
  • Make spending time with loved ones more comfortable and pleasurable for everyone present
  • Preserve priceless and unique stories and memories for future generations

While reminiscence therapy may be designed largely for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, you can feel how beneficial these same strategies are for cultivating deeper and more satisfying connections with any of the seniors in your life.

Simple Prompts to Begin Using Reminiscence Therapy at Home

Here are ideas for using simple prompts or sensory stimulation to use elements of RT at home or when you visit your loved one in an assisted living or memory care center.

BONUS TIP: Be aware of your own discomfort with silence. Do you tend to feel anxious or nervous and rush your loved one along? Instead, take deep breaths and give him/her time to recollect, put their thoughts together and then give words to those thoughts. Patience is, truly, a virtue when connecting with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

  • Get out the photo albums or boxes of old photos and start looking through them together
  • Ask about a favorite movie and then stream/watch them together and then discuss them
  • Talk about the cost of items now compared to “then,” “I bought a gallon of mild today for $X.00. How much was milk when you were growing up…?” and you’ll be delighted to hear stories of fresh cold milk from the milkman…and other surprising tidbits.
  • Find a knick-knack or two from the shelves and ask about it (the longer you’ve seen it around their home, the more likely they are to remember where it came from)
  • Ask, “Where were you when….” (Neil Armstrong landed on the moon? When Kennedy gave his Cuban Missile Crisis speech? When you got your first TV? When Kennedy was assassinated? When you learned to drive a car? When you had your first kiss?)
  • Ask about past travels or places s/he wishes s/he’d traveled

Verbal memory prompts can also be helpful when you live far away from your senior loved one and can only connect via phone or Skype. In these cases, licensed home care aides help you by providing knick-knacks or images to support your long-distance connection.

Ready to enlist the support of experienced, licensed and compassionate caregivers who believe firmly in utilizing the latest dementia research to enhance their clients’ quality of life? Schedule a consultation with HomeAide Home Care, or give us a call at 510-247-1200.

Guns And Dementia: Keeping Seniors Safe

guns and dementia keeping seniors safe

Typically, senior safety concerns around dementia include things like taking away the keys, making a home safer and more accessible and ensuring qualified adults are keeping a caring watch 24/7.

However, a recent NPR feature reminds us there’s another safety issue to consider – guns and dementia.

Does your senior loved one own a gun?

According to NPR, researchers estimate that more than half of seniors 65-years and older either own a gun, or live in a home with a gun. Over the next 20 years, the Alzheimer’s Association expects about 14 million of those seniors to have a dementia diagnosis.

Those with dementia are more prone to firing a gun because:

  • They become angry, violent or more agitated quickly
  • They can mistake loved ones as strangers and “defend” the house
  • They may not really be aware of what they’re doing an accidentally fire a gun they’re cleaning, holding or trying to handle responsibly
  • They may use a gun as a toy and accidentally fire it

Guns and dementia safety tips

It’s critical that families and caregivers prioritize gun safety and the safety of everyone involved.

Consider removing guns completely

The best and most guaranteed method for preventing gun violence is to remove the guns from the home completely. Have a conversation with the family first. If it feels like your senior loved one will notice the absence of the gun/s and be upset, then you’ll need to have a conversation with him/her as well.

If the family supports removing the gun, or a trusted authority feels clear it’s a safety issue, but your loved one is completely opposed, you may need to remove the firearms against his/her will. Experts recommend this is done when s/he is out of the home to make it as easy and safe as possible.

Understand that locking or disabling a gun(s) may not work

According to the Alzheimer’s Association:

“People living with dementia sometimes misperceive danger and may do whatever seems necessary to protect themselves, even if no threat exists. These actions can include breaking into gun cabinets, finding ammunition and loading guns. Preventing a gun from firing may not prevent the person living with the disease or others from being harmed.”

You must take notable safety measures if you choose to live in a home where there are guns and dementia, Alzheimer’s or other conditions causing cognitive decline.

Use a high-quality combination lock on cabinet or safe

If getting rid of the guns isn’t an option, use a gun cabinet or safe that requires a combination lock. If one is already in use, change the combination and only give it to those who understand the risk, are familiar with guns and gun safety and who promise they will not ever allow the individual with dementia to access the cabinet or the guns.

Speak about who inherits what now – and pass them on

If the guns weren’t included specifically in a will or trust, this can be a good opportunity to determine who will inherit what from the gun/firearms collection and pass them on now. If your loved one is still doing well, this can be a very special way to honor the collection and those who receive it, and it can make the transition easier on your loved one.

Enlist the help of law enforcement

If your loved one was the gun expert, and nobody else is familiar with guns and gun safety, enlist the help of local safety officers to unload the cabinet, ensure the guns aren’t loaded, to lock/disarm them, dispose of ammunition, etc., so nobody is harmed in the process.

Familiarize yourself with local/state gun laws

If nobody wants the guns, enlist help from a hunting friend or someone knowledgeable about guns and firearms before selling or giving them away to ensure you do so in compliance with the law.

Honor their feelings about having to say goodbye

For someone who values their guns and the role they’ve played in the person’s life, getting rid of them is another major loss of self and independence. These are valid feelings and they deserve to be honored and spoken to. It’s important to address this understandable anger or grief, and then work to re-direct the feelings in a positive and productive way because ultimately guns and dementia don’t mix.

HomeAide Home Care has provided licensed and expert care for seniors since 1998. In the past two decades, we have provided compassionate assistance to individuals, couples and families around the Bay Area. Our companion and in-home services can help keep your senior loved one safe and sound in the comfort of his/her home. Contact us to learn more.

Pets For Seniors: How About A Low-Maintenance Fish?

pets for seniors how about a low maintenance fish

Multiple studies show that seniors benefit from pet ownership. However, owning a pet isn’t always that easy – and it can even be dangerous.

The most common pets for seniors – dogs and cats – require daily brushing and feeding, not to mention regular exercise, and senior pet owners may not be able to accommodate those needs. Plus, dogs and cats also pose trip and fall hazards for their senior owners, meaning the pet winds up doing more home than good.

The solution? Consider getting a pet fish!

Fish that can live in a bowl or very small tank

There are a range of fish that do quite well living in a fish bowl or very small tank. These include:

  • Bettas. Bettas (also called Japanese fighting fish) are beautiful, small and have flowing tails. They’re available in variety of colors but remember to keep them solo as they will fight their bowl companion to the death. Bettas are very clean so water changes and bowl cleaning is required less often.
  • Goldfish. These are America’s most common pet fish – and fancy tailed goldfish are the most attractive variety. They can live in groups but you want to make sure the bowl is large enough for the number of fish you’ve purchased. Be aware that goldfish are messy eaters and their water gets cloudy quickly so these aren’t a great option unless the senior, a family member or a caregiver clean the bowl regularly.
  • Guppies. Wild-type guppies are about as hearty as it gets – being known to thrive in minimal amounts of water (although a full bowl is optimal). They come in diverse color varieties – including metallic colors – and are happiest with company. Just make sure you purchase the same sex or else you’ll have guppy babies before too long.

Other fish that do well in bowls or small aquariums include:

  • Regal white cloud minnows
  • Blind cave tetras
  • Salt and Pepper Corydoras
  • Zebra danios

Taking your senior loved one to the pet store is a fun outing, and you’ll enjoy looking at the array of freshwater fish available – as well as the store employees’ professional opinions and input.

Fish are low-maintenance pets for seniors

Often overlooked, and undervalued, fish make wonderful pets. The average, bowl- or tank-housed fish never needs to be exercised and only requires feeding once a day (in most cases). They often come right up to the bowl or tank sides when an owner approaches or talks to them (more on that later) and fish are less likely to argue or disobey their owners than most furry critters.

Here are some of the reason why low-maintenance fish make great pets for seniors:

They’re affordable pets for seniors

The total set-up costs for a bowl or very small tank, some rocks, the food and a fish or two is less than $50. A single container of fish food lasts for months, and the rocks and bowl never need to be replaced. Thus, fish are the cheapest pets around, making them affordable for seniors no matter how small their fixed income may be.

Fish don’t trip you or cause you to fall

Fall-related accidents are devastating for seniors – often leading to broken bones, hip replacements, costly hospital stays and traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, dogs and cats (particularly small dogs) pose a significant tripping risks because they can get underfoot and cause seniors to lose their balance.

If you’re concerned about fall hazards and are working to create a senior-friendly home, pet fish are the perfect pets for seniors and will fit right into your plan.

Feeding requirements are basic (even for those with dementia)

Even seniors with memory issues can enjoy the company of a fish because most pet stores have “vacation feeding” options available. If the senior isn’t able to feed the fish once a day on their own – and there’s no in-home care provider available – vacation feeding tablets can be placed in the tank once a week, bi-monthly or once per month.

Fish are smarter than they get credit for

Odds are your senior loved one will be surprised how much pleasure s/he derives from the new pet fish. Fish are smarter than humans give them credit for. As this article on PetMD points out, “…fish actually have very good memories. Even the most basic fish tank inhabitants will start to show anticipation of meals on a regular basis.” Studies also show that pet fish can learn to complete mazes for food and can be trained to respond to a bell or a signal.

Other animals that can live in a small bowl or tank include certain species of freshwater snails, shrimp and African dwarf frogs.

Does your senior loved one need assistance with pet care or basic daily activities? Contact HomeAide Home Care and schedule a free, in-home assessment. We’ve provided high-quality, part- and full-time senior care services for hundreds of families around the Bay Area.

Hello world! We’ve Got a Blog!

Home Care BlogWelcome to the brand new blog of HomeAide Home Care! Thanks for taking a look!

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