Creative and Meaningful Activities for Seniors with Dementia

Dementia causes cognitive and physical function to decline, but seniors living with this disease still retain abilities that should be used and celebrated. In fact, studies have shown that when individuals with dementia continue to use their remaining abilities, it helps them stay at their activity level longer and can even help slow their decline. The key is finding purposeful activities that accomplish something for the individual, whether that’s building self-esteem, providing a purpose or simply being entertained.

“Activities can include everything from arts and crafts to outings and events to everyday tasks,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “As you’re coming up with ideas for activities for your loved one, think about adapting favorite hobbies and daily tasks so that your senior can maintain a sense of accomplishment and independence. This type of validation helps provide confidence, a self-esteem boost and better overall well-being.”

Why Meaningful Activities Are So Important

They can help slow the decline of dementia. Our abilities, no matter how able-bodied we are, are very much “use it or lose it.” If we don’t use our muscles, they atrophy. If we don’t continue to practice a hobby, we may lose our aptitude. And if we don’t use our brains and mental acuity, cognitive functioning can decline. This makes it even more imperative for individuals with dementia to find meaning in daily life and tasks as much as possible. Although caregivers and loved ones may rush to help loved ones, they may inadvertently be causing more harm than good. Our loved ones can still do many things – it just may take them longer and may get done in a different manner than before.

They provide a structure to daily life. A daily routine helps people with dementia feel safe, secure and confident. Scheduling meaningful activities on a regular basis (especially if it’s something you end up doing day after day) will provide structure and predictability, and will perhaps be something your loved one can look forward to.

They give individuals a sense of productivity and self-worth. People with dementia are aware of their inabilities and being unable to do the things they always loved to do. By providing tasks and activities for them to do or help with, it can provide them with a purpose and make them feel a part of daily life and not just a burden to you. This is a great boost to their sense of self-worth and boosts their moods, improves their health overall and provides a better quality of life.

They can reduce challenging behaviors. Aggression, agitation, repetition and other disruptive behaviors are common symptoms of dementia. These symptoms can become worse if individuals with dementia are bored or simply don’t have enough to do. Providing meaningful and creative activities will keep them occupied and engaged, plus give them opportunities to use their energy in a productive manner.

Examples of Meaningful, Creative Activities

Meaningful means different things to each of us, so as you’re coming up with activities and tasks for your loved one, think about what they used to do in the past or a favorite hobby. Adapting familiar activities and hobbies to allow them to once again participate will be incredibly meaningful. Here are a few ideas of how to creatively engage and entertain your loved one with dementia.

Engage them in homemaking activities. Taking care of a home may have been a big part of your loved one’s life prior to the dementia diagnosis. See what tasks can be adapted so that your loved one can help out. She might enjoy helping to set the table, folding laundry or provide assistance in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how big or small the task is – the point is to get them doing something familiar.

Use music to reach out. Music is a great way to connect with your loved one and evoke memories, emotions and feelings. Music has actually been shown to be an effective therapy in helping unlock parts of the brain that remain unaffected by dementia, helping those with the disease to communicate and share memories. Play music from your loved one’s favorite era, and sing along or dance to the radio. If your loved one was a musician, perhaps their favorite musical instrument will encourage them to play.

Create a work of art. Sculptable clay, markers, watercolor paints or simple paper and pencils can be a creative outlet your loved one can enjoy for hours. Gather all the materials you need and lay them out on a table so your loved one can easily see and request what they want. You can either do a directed activity (like making a vase or painting a picture of a flower) or let your loved one go free-form. This is a fun activity to do together, and it makes it easy for you to show how to use the items if your loved one needs a little push.

Go outside. Being in nature is a delight for all the senses. Take your loved one on a walk or stroll through a nearby arboretum to enjoy the sights, smells, sounds and feels of the world around them. Another fun activity is to create a garden together. Your loved one may enjoy helping you plant seeds, arrange flowers, weed the beds and watching their labor blossom. Vegetable gardens are an all-time favorite, as the products can be harvested and then used to create delicious dishes (which your loved one can help prepare as well).

Watch old family videos or look through scrapbooks. Looking at pictures of your shared history allows you to talk about your memories and can even jog recognition in your loved one’s brain. If your loved one is in a good frame of mind, you can ask questions about their childhood and inquire about different people in the pictures or videos.

“Providing creative and meaningful activities for your loved one will not only help them live a better quality of life, but will also help nurture and deepen your relationship with them,” says Andrea. “Even though their memories may be fading, there are still opportunities for you to have happy moments together and create memories. Use your imagination and your knowledge of your loved one, and you’ll find yourself with a variety of activities to do, experience and enjoy together.”

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Understanding Challenging Dementia Behaviors: Paranoia/Suspicion (Part 4 of 4)

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect the brain in different ways. Memory loss is one of the most well-known hallmarks of the disease, but if you speak to caregivers and professionals, you’ll soon hear about “challenging behaviors.” In this four-part series, we’ll explore some of the more challenging behaviors you may have to address as a caregiver to someone with dementia.

Generally, trusting our family comes naturally to us. Which is why it’s so jarring if your loved one with dementia suddenly becomes suspicious of you, accusing you of stealing or other improper behavior. Although paranoia and suspicion are common symptoms of dementia, that doesn’t make it any less hurtful.

“It’s one thing to logically understand what’s happening to your loved one, but it’s another thing entirely to view it as a symptom of the disease and not a direct reflection on how your loved one feels about you,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “The delusions are very real for the senior, which is another reason why this behavior can be so challenging and disruptive for caregivers.”

Delusions, which include feeling paranoid and acting suspicious, may occur in the mid- to late-stage of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Part of the reason this occurs is due to increasing confusion and memory loss. Someone with dementia may misplace an item or hide it for safekeeping and not remember where he or she put it, causing them to accuse others of hiding or stealing the items. Another reason why someone is experiencing paranoia may simply be an expression of loss. For them, no other explanation makes sense than that someone “took it.”

Here are some examples of how paranoia can play out with a senior loved one:

  • They forget where they put something, such as their keys or eyeglasses, and believe that another person is taking them when they’re not looking.
  • Your loved one may think you’re a stranger due to the advancement of dementia. They may not believe that you’re their caregiver and be untrusting towards you.
  • They may be scared or suspicious of people they’ve been introduced to, because they believe that strangers can be harmful.
  • Giving directions to them can be difficult, because your loved one may feel like you’re trying to trick them.

If your loved one is showing signs of paranoia and suspicion, the first thing you need to do is understand why it’s happening. It’s possible that these delusions are not dementia-related at all but are due to medication interaction, infection or some other illness. Schedule an appointment with your loved one’s doctor to get a full check-up and see if the behavior is something that can be treated. Even if it’s a dementia-related issue, there are some prescription drugs that may be able to help reduce the symptoms.

Tips for dealing with paranoia and suspicion.

  • Have a plan in place. It’s possible that your loved one could become a danger to themselves or others. Have a plan to de-escalate violence or get help, and act on it if the situation calls for it.
  • Don’t try to use logic. Whatever paranoia your loved one is dealing with is very real to them. Trying to explain the reality of the situation will only serve to make you and them more agitated.
  • Stay calm. Remaining collected will help you manage the situation, and will hopefully keep your loved one from becoming even more agitated.
  • Offer reassurance. Letting your loved one know that they are safe, that they are cared for and that they are loved can help diffuse the situation.
  • Create a distraction. Redirecting your loved one’s attention is an excellent tool for just about any disruptive behavior. Ask for help with a chore, or set your loved one to a task. Taking their attention off the matter at hand can diffuse the situation quickly. You can start by looking for the lost item and parlay that into a different activity.
  • Offers simple answers. Anything that’s too complex can be overwhelming and make their anxiety skyrocket.
  • Make duplicates of items that are often lost. If your loved one is often looking for their wallet, keys, glasses or other regular items, make duplicates and keep them in a safe place. That way, you at least know where they are and can manage the situation quickly (and give you time to go and look for the actual misplaced item).
  • Find ways to make it easy for loved ones to inspect things. For example, if your mom is always suspecting that money is missing, give her small amounts of money to keep in a purse so she can easily inspect it.
  • Learn where “hiding spots” are. A senior loved one will often have hiding spots where they put things for safekeeping (and then forget they put them there). If you know where these spots are, you can look for “lost” items there first.
  • Let others know the situation. Talk to other family members and friends and explain that your loved one’s symptoms are due to the disease, not who they are as a person.
  • Respond to the feeling, not the behavior. Your loved one is reacting to something they’re feeling, so do your best to determine what that is and react to that.

Knowing how to respond to your loved one’s challenging behaviors is definitely a challenge of its own. It’s not unusual to feel angry, frustrated or hurt. By reminding yourself that everything your loved one is doing and expressing is because of the disease, you may be able to manage what you’re feeling and your reactions. Remember also that it’s okay to ask for help and give yourself a break when things get to be too much. Dementia is a challenging journey, but with patience and perseverance, you can make it as smooth as possible for yourself and your loved one.

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Understanding Challenging Dementia Behaviors: Repetition (Part 2 of 4)

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect the brain in different ways. Memory loss is one of the most well-known hallmarks of the disease, but if you speak to caregivers and professionals, you’ll soon hear about “challenging behaviors.” In this four-part series, we’ll explore some of the more challenging behaviors you may have to address as a caregiver to someone with dementia.

“What day is it?”
“Where are we going?”
“Where’s David?”

All these questions are innocuous and fairly easy to answer once or twice. But for someone with a dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, asking once or twice can turn into asking twenty or thirty times, which can be incredibly frustrating and annoying to caregivers. Whether a loved one is asking, saying or doing something over and over, the repetitive nature of their actions can feel a bit like undergoing water torture.

“Because cognitive diseases like dementia cause a person’s short-term memory to deteriorate, your loved one probably doesn’t remember that they’ve just asked you that question a dozen times already,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “They’re not doing it to be annoying – they truly have no memory of doing or saying whatever it is that’s annoying you. That’s why caregivers need to understand the reasoning behind the repetitive action and equip themselves with caring techniques that can reassure and redirect your loved one before you become too frustrated.”

Why is my loved one doing that?
Repetitive behavior can take the form of questions, repeating a word or phrase or doing (or undoing) a task over and over. While sometimes the repetitive behavior can be attributed to short-term memory loss and not remembering that they’ve done/said/asked that particular thing already, that’s not the only cause. Here are some other possible reasons why a loved one is engaging in repetitive behavior:

  • They’re anxious, confused, afraid, angry or in pain
  • It could be a side effect of a medication they’re taking
  • They’re trying to express their needs (like hunger or needing to use the bathroom), but can’t put their thoughts into a logical order
  • They’re separated from someone they love and don’t know or can’t remember why (for example, a wife who keeps asking about her deceased husband)
  • The environment is causing them stress
  • They’re under stimulated or bored

While it’s tempting to attribute the behavior as a need for information, Andrea says that it’s more likely that your loved one has a need for reassurance. “Seniors with dementia aren’t repeating themselves or questions because they want to know the information,” she says. “They’re asking because they’re frightened, stressed, or anxious, and they’re trying to make sense with what’s going on around them.”

Tips for dealing with repetitive behaviors.

Repetition of any sort is frustrating and exhausting for caregivers, especially if you yourself are in a heightened level of stress. Before you get to your breaking point, take a deep breath and use some of these techniques to diffuse the situation, comfort your loved one and move past the challenging behavior.

Ask yourself: Is this behavior harmful or just annoying?
As with lots of things when it comes to dealing with dementia, you may just need to pick your battles. Is your loved one doing something that could potentially harm them, like taking things off high shelves over and over? Or are they simply causing frustration by asking the same question over and over? If it’s something innocuous, it may be best for you to just let it go. However, ignoring the behavior does not mean ignoring your loved one. Remember, this is frustrating for your loved one, too, and if they feel like they’re being ignored, they can become even more anxious, insecure and agitated. Redirecting their attention may be the best strategy.

Pay attention to your loved one and reassure them that you care.
Even if he or she is asking the same question for the twentieth time, take a moment and really listen to them. Make eye contact, be reassuring and show them that you truly do care about their feelings and needs. Don’t remind them that they’ve asked the same question over and over. Use a caring touch to show your feelings towards them and reassure them.

Listen to the reason behind the words and react accordingly.
If your mother is asking you what day it is, it could be because she’s worried about missing an appointment or concerned about something that should be happening. In that case, you could remind her that today is Monday, and that today you will be going to the grocery store and other shopping while Wednesday is the day you’re going to the salon. Even if you don’t know or understand the reason why the repetitive behavior is occurring, you can reassure your loved one, addressing and validating their feelings – this can be enough to calm and comfort them.

Keep a consistent routine.
Having a set routine that you stick to will help keep your loved one at ease and may reduce the amount of repetitive behavior he or she engages in. Having memory aids around the house where your loved one can see them will help to orient them and give them some comfort. Consider large clocks, calendars, signs and notes so that your loved one can get the information they need without having to ask you every time (this also has the benefit of helping them feel useful when they can accomplish the task themselves).

Redirect your loved one’s attention.
If the repetitive behavior is becoming too much or if you feel yourself getting overly frustrated, distract your loved one with another activity or topic of conversation. If you mother keeps unloading the dishwasher (that hasn’t been run yet), have her help fold laundry or do something else that will make her feel useful. Breaking the cycle, so to speak, may help get your loved one out of their rut.

Look for patterns.
Are there particular times of day when your loved one’s repetitiveness becomes worse, or are there people or events that seem to trigger it? Is there a common theme to their questions? Make note of when things seem to get better or worse, and adjust your loved one’s environment accordingly.

Most of all, do your best to stay patient, calm and positive. Never argue or try to use logic with your loved one, because that simply doesn’t work due to the nature of disease. That’s an important point to remember: this is a symptom of your loved one’s disease, not a reflection who your loved one is as a person. Remember that he or she can’t help the way they’re acting and they’re probably frustrated and upset, too. By reassuring them that you care, you’ll be able to give them – and you – a better quality of life overall.

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Understanding Challenging Dementia Behaviors: Hoarding (Part 1 of 4)

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect the brain in different ways. Memory loss is one of the most well-known hallmarks of the disease, but if you speak to caregivers and professionals, you’ll soon hear about “challenging behaviors.”

“Challenging behaviors are symptoms that can appear suddenly or gradually, and often are completely out of character for what you know of your loved one,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Because of the way these diseases affect the brain, your loved one may experience them all – or may not. Oftentimes, caregivers may have difficulty because the behaviors are so seemingly random or illogical, causing anxiety, frustration and stress.”

Andrea says knowing how to respond to these challenging behaviors will greatly help you be a better caregiver for your loved one, as well as help improve your quality of life. “It can be hard, especially when challenging behaviors are directed at you, but it’s important to remember that these are symptoms of a disease and not because of who your loved one is as a person,” she says.

In this four-part series, we’ll explore some of the more challenging behaviors you may have to address as a caregiver to someone with dementia. We’ll begin with one of the behaviors that tends to manifest itself in early dementia: hoarding.

There’s nothing wrong with saving for a rainy day. Perhaps your loved one has always had a bit of the “collector” mentality, reusing aluminum foil or washing out zippered plastic bags because they’re “still good.” Perhaps you’ve noticed that this behavior has increased as of late, and your mother or father is suddenly holding on to things more and more, even if they’re broken or unusable. This can be especially jarring if it’s a new behavior for your loved one.

Dementias such as Alzheimer’s can amplify aspects of your loved one’s personality, which is why “collectors” can quickly become “hoarders” due to the disease. The behavior can also be a result of increasing anxiety, causing your loved one to save items because they’re worried about getting older and “running out” of things.

There’s really no one reason as to why those with dementia become hoarders. For some, it’s because they need reassurance and to feel secure, like someone who collects tissues because they’re comforting and soft. Others may hold on to things because of their declining memory and a belief that they need those things in order to remember. It could also be due to confusion and inability to handle tasks (this is often seen with huge piles of mail or a stockpile of medications – the person simply doesn’t know how to sort out what’s important from what’s not).

This hoarding behavior goes beyond simple annoyance to caregivers – it can actually be hazardous and dangerous to both your loved one and yourself. If items are piled up around the house, it increases the chance that your loved one can trip or fall. Stockpiles of medication can lead to overdosing (or underdosing, which can be just as bad). Unopened mail can lead to utilities being shut off and other consequences of unpaid bills.

Caregivers, naturally, will try and explain the situation to their loved ones in order to help alleviate the behavior. However, because hoarding is a symptom rooted in the way the brain is changing, using logic to approach the situation doesn’t work. Fortunately, by understanding why your loved one is hoarding and getting to the root of the emotions, you can find ways to manage and mitigate the challenging behavior.

Tips for dealing with hoarding behaviors.

Be compassionate and kind.
Do your best to remain calm and keep a positive tone. It’s easy to get angry and frustrated at your loved one, but remind yourself: he or she isn’t doing this on purpose. It’s a symptom of their disease, and they can’t control it. Understand that this stems from a desire to regain some sort of control in their life, and that they’re seeking a form of comfort – no matter how annoying it may be.

If your loved one is hoarding little things that aren’t harmful to their health, you may just want to let it go. It’s possible that, as the disease progresses, the compulsion will go away. If necessary and if your loved one still has the ability to listen to reason, you can try and reason with them and work together to get rid of some of their stash. However, if your loved one is holding on to things that could be harmful, like spoiled food, you may have to take matters into your own hands and slowly get rid of things without attracting notice.

Provide options for stimulation and entertainment.
Compulsive habits like hoarding could be a sign that your loved one needs more activities and interesting things to do in order to redirect their attention. As you’re spending time with your loved one, make sure that he or she has something they can do like going through pictures, organizing a drawer, doing simple crafts and the like. This will draw their attention to something productive and reduce their focus on disruptive behaviors like collecting. Spending time together is also beneficial in many ways, not the least of which is creating memories that you can cherish as you progress along the dementia journey.

Create a place to store “special things.”
The idea of a memory box – a place where your loved one can keep the things they collect – is a technique that experts have shown to be successful. If your loved one enjoys collecting buttons, for example, you could get them a special box. This keeps everything in one place and also allows you to keep an eye on how their compulsion is progressing. While this approach can take up a lot of space depending on what your loved one is collecting, at least you’ll know everything is in one place (and you can quietly get rid of some if it is necessary).

Keep an eye on your loved one’s hiding places.
Your loved one will have specific places where they choose to squirrel things away. Discover where they are and check them on a regular basis. This can help you keep the stashes somewhat contained, but also help you find items that may be lost or misplaced (those with dementia will often hide possessions – theirs and other people’s – to keep them “safe”). One note of warning: many dementia patients choose to hide items in garbage bins, so check the trash before you throw anything out for good (or replace your bins with options that have secured lids).

Speak to their physician.
It’s always good to connect with your loved one’s doctors when challenging behaviors arise, especially if you feel the behavior is dangerous or interfering with their quality of life. It’s possible that your doctor can prescribe medications that can help quell anxiety or fear and thus keep the behaviors to a minimum.

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Roots & Wings: Leaving Your Legacy, Passing On Your Wisdom (Part 4 of 4)

The philosophy of Roots and Wings is a dual approach of building a sense of tradition and looking to the future. In this four part series, we explore different ways for seniors to share roots and wings with their children, grandchildren and other loved ones. From passing on traditions to building a legacy to helping shape a stable future, there are many ways you can build meaningful moments that will have echoes far into the future.

What do you want to leave your children? Grandchildren? Family? Passing on something of ourselves is a natural desire as we age. We want to know that we’re helping make the world a better place in some small way. For most of us, this translates into leaving a legacy for our loved ones.

“Certainly, many seniors wish to leave a financial legacy for their family, but our gifts don’t necessarily have to be financial,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Think of your cherished traditions, or the knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years or the things that are most important to you, like your faith. Creating a legacy is a way of making a difference in the lives of your family and something that allows you to live on, even after your physical presence is gone.”

A personal legacy can take on all shapes and forms. Some individuals choose to leave a legacy in a very prominent, public way, such as donating money to a cause or creating an organization to continue the good work they’ve done. Other individuals choose to take steps to enrich the lives of their families through college funds or precious heirlooms. And others choose to pass along a legacy in our beliefs, values and dreams for those we care about.

Some of these legacies can be passed on through our actions, while others are a more deliberate ‘handing over’ of a legacy, says Andrea. Whether you wish to pass on a legacy while you’re living or after you’ve left this earthly plane, or a little of both, is up to you. “It’s never too early or too late to think about the kind of legacy we want to leave our descendants,” says Andrea. “You can begin by thinking, concretely, of what purposeful actions you can take to pass on the lessons, wisdom and beliefs that are most important to you. Then, think about different ways on how you can share this with your family members in a way that is meaningful and impactful.”

Passing On a Legacy … of Memories
“Do you remember when…?” Telling stories and meaningful memories that were made with those we love is a way to give your family the gift of “you.” By telling stories about your childhood, experiences and life and heritage, you allow your family to understand more about who they are and who you are. It creates a shared experience that can become a cherished family story for generations to come. But don’t forget about the power of creating memories together while you’re still here. Spending time with our loved ones and having experiences that they’ll carry with them for their life are powerful ways to continue your story … now and in the future.

Sharing a Legacy of … Faith
Your faith and heritage can be a priceless legacy to your family members. Talk to your family, either in person or in a letter, what your faith means to you and how it has shaped the way you live your life. If you carry on traditions, describe how they have helped you grow throughout your life and allowed you to deepen your commitment to your spirituality. Faith is a legacy that will grow and change throughout life, so be honest with the way that your faith has changed throughout the years. Most importantly, live your faith in your words, deeds, traditions and celebrations.

Carrying on a Legacy of … Beliefs and Values
Beliefs and values can go hand in hand with faith, but these legacies can encompass so much more than that. For example, perhaps you believe in giving back to our communities and that volunteering for worthy causes is an essential part of a fulfilled life. Or that we have a role as custodians of the Earth and we should do what we can to preserve our natural resources. Whatever beliefs and values have defined you can show your family examples of how to live a meaningful life.

Starting Points for Passing On Your Legacy
Write a letter. One of the simplest ways to share your thoughts, wisdom and feelings are through pen and paper. Some seniors have chosen to write letters to all their family members to be opened at a specific time (such as at a wedding, a milestone birthday, etc.) that will share your hopes for them, dreams and anything else you’d like to share. You don’t have to limit yourself to one letter or to one recipient. You could create a journal (either a hardcopy or online) that you can keep coming back to as you think of things … sort of a running diary, but for your legacy versus just your personal thoughts. (Although those are beneficial, too).

Film a family documentary. Sometimes it’s easier to talk or tell a story verbally. One option is to sit with different family members and have them interview you or ask specific questions about topics they want to know more about. Online resources such as StoryCorps have prompts and tips for creating stories that can be watched or listened to again and again.

Create a scrapbook. Dust off those old family photos, essays, newspaper clippings and audio recordings and put them in a format that’s enjoyable to read. This is where the wonders of the Internet can work for you. Create a digital scrapbook, or use a company such as LegacyBox to convert old files into digital ones for easy storage, sharing and access. However, there’s often no substitute for a hard-copy, heavy photo book that you can flip through. As you go through photos and files, write down where the item was taken, what its significance is, who was involved in the event and so on.

“Passing on our wisdom and our legacies is one of the most enduring things we can share with our children,” says Andrea. “Whatever you choose to leave behind, you’ll be remembered through your family’s stories, thoughts and memories. It’s a beautiful gift you can give them – and yourself as well.”

For more information about creating or sharing a legacy, contact our community at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Roots and Wings: Visiting with Grandchildren (Part 1 of 4)

“A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings.”
– Hodding Carter

As parents and grandparents, one of the greatest joys in our lives is watching future generations thrive, grow and carry on traditions that have meaning for our families. It’s a desire to leave a legacy – whether emotionally, monetarily or otherwise – so that you will be remembered long after you have left this earth. It’s also a desire to see your loved ones have and take advantage of all the opportunities life has to offer.

“This idea of finding ways to pass on your beliefs and values while providing opportunities for your grandchildren are fundamental and universal,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Traditions help define who we are and link us to our past while providing a foundation for the future.”

We call this philosophy Roots and Wings. It’s the dual approach of building a sense of “home” and what it means to be “your family” alongside the forward-thinking, innovative freedom of a future full of possibilities. These are both gifts that will continue to nurture and strengthen future generations for years to come.

In this four-part series, we explore different ways for seniors to share roots and wings with their children, grandchildren and other loved ones. From passing on traditions to building a legacy to helping shape a stable future, there are many ways you can build meaningful moments that will echo far into the future.

Visiting Your Grandchildren: Making Meaningful Moments Happen

Most grandparents would say that building and maintaining strong relationships between them and their grandchildren is important. Spending time with grandchildren allows you to be a part of their lives and gives you the opportunity to share life skills, instill values and pass along stories and wisdom. Plus, it’s incredibly enjoyable to watch them as they grow, and there are many things you can learn from them, too!

Whether you live in the same town as your grandchildren or are half a world away, here are some ways to make the most of your time together and forge a special bond between you and the youngest members of your family.

Go outside.
Kids, especially when they’re younger, get a kick out of outdoor activities – no matter what the season! Building a snowman, splashing in the pool, jumping in a pile of leaves or picking spring flowers are all enjoyable things to do as the weather turns. Need some more ideas? Check out below:

  • Plant for the future. Growing flowers, vegetables or even a tree provide fun now and in the future. Discuss with your grandchild what you’d like to do and what your future plans for the plant are. Will you use the herbs to cook the next time you or they are in town? Will the tree you’ve planted be a perfect place for picnicking?
  • Start an outdoor hobby together. Do you or your grandchild enjoy birdwatching? Identifying leaves? Collecting bugs? Playing soccer? Finding an activity that you can do together (and when you’re apart) creates a great opportunity to make memories and give both of you something to look forward to the next time you’re together.
  • Enjoy outdoor events. Head to the farmers market or grab a lawn chair and watch fireworks. Cheer on a local sports team or walk to a nearby ice cream parlor. Whatever the season, find something that’s going on in a nearby town and make a day out of it!

Spend time indoors.
Reading books together, baking cookies, doing art projects … many of our most cherished memories happen indoors. Choose a favorite activity or look below for an idea starter:

  • Share family stories. Drag out the old family photo albums or show off slides from the family vacation you took with their parents when they were children. You and your grandchild could also write out your family history and create a family tree. With services like Ancestry.com and others, it’s easier than ever to research your history.
  • Teach each other a favorite activity. Maybe you want to learn how to play Fortnite and your grandchild wants to learn how to knit. Teach each other the things you love to do –it’s an instant bonding experience.
  • Learn a new activity together. Long-term projects can be an excellent way to share interests and carry on something for longer than an afternoon. Learn how to make dishes from different cultures, or start a blog about your time together.

Connect from afar.
Grandparents who live far away have options these days to bond and stay connected to their grandchildren. From low- to high-tech, the options for a quick hello or a meaningful heart to heart have made quality time from afar easier than ever.

  • Call, text or FaceTime them. Instilling the importance of a phone call is a great way to have a conversation with your grandchild. If possible, you can set a time every week to chat, even if for only a little bit. You can do the same thing with a Skype or FaceTime chat. If your grandchildren are old enough to have personal phones, don’t forget that a little text can have meaning, too.
  • Play online games together. Games like Words with Friends, Monopoly and more are online versions of classic board games that you can play together even when you’re miles apart.

Go old school with snail mail. Getting a handwritten letter or a package in the mail is a big deal these days. Show your grandchild how magical the mail can be by exchanging letters and care packages on a regular basis. Best of all, you may get a letter back!

Spending time with grandchildren is a very special way to get to know each other on a deeper level. By using your creativity, you and your grandchildren can spend quality time together and make a lifetime of memories.

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and  Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Honoring Who They Were by Honoring Who They Still Are: The Ethics of Fibbing (Part 4 of 4)

In this four part series, we walk you through ways to help honor your loved one throughout all stages of the dementia journey. No matter how advanced the disease may be, there are plenty of opportunities for you to connect with your loved one, show your care and create moments that can be cherished.

We can all agree that telling the truth is the best policy – usually. It’s what we’re taught when we’re very young, after all. Many of us can remember this or that punishment that came from telling a lie to our parents or someone else. However, if your loved one has dementia, sometimes telling the truth can hurt more than it helps.

According to Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, there are times in a caregiver’s life when it’s better to tell little white lies. Think of your mother who keeps asking when her long-dead spouse is coming home, or your dad who wants the keys to the car even though you took them away years ago. Explaining the reality of the situation will only result in pain, tears, frustration and anger – which will be repeated the next time the situation occurs.

“Your role as a caregiver is to help your loved one have the best quality of life possible while also making your job as stress-free as you are able,” says Andrea. “Approaching these situations with logic and truth can result in negative actions. However, telling little fibs can help keep your loved one calm and happy – so why not go down that route instead?”

When Fibbing Is the Best Policy

This idea of ‘therapeutic fibbing’ – the philosophy of deliberately lying to someone with dementia – is fairly recent in the history of dementia care. It used to be that professionals took the approach that telling the truth would help reorient an individual and allow them to become rooted in reality. However, if you’ve tried this with your loved one before, you know that this approach, while well-meaning, doesn’t usually work.

“As dementia progresses, your senior loved one will lose the ability to use reason and logic, so they aren’t useful tools when you’re trying to explain things to them,” Andrea says. “Instead of trying to bring them into your world – your reality – put yourself in their shoes and respond to their actions and questions as if you were in their world – their reality. What would make the most sense for them, and what would make them feel the most secure, safe and loved at this time?”

When (and When Not) to Use Therapeutic Fibbing

A therapeutic fib is a different beast than setting out to intentionally deceive your loved one. Remember that even though your loved one’s mental abilities are not what they once were, they are still adults who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. This is where many medical professionals and caregivers choose to delineate the ‘ethics’ of this form of care.

“When you’re deciding whether or not to tell a lie to your loved one, ask yourself if you’re doing this in order to maintain their sense of well-being, or is it to help you avoid a difficult conversation you know you should be having?” Andrea says that if it’s the latter rather than the former, you may be broaching the ethics of fair treatment of your loved one.

Therapeutic fibbing isn’t the answer to every circumstance, but when it’s used appropriately, it is a gentle, kind way to help reduce your loved one’s emotional distress and even stop unwanted behavior. Still, some caregivers may be uncomfortable with telling any lies to their loved one at all. In those instances, there are still techniques you can use to treat your loved one gently without lying to them.

Redirect their attention. Instead of trying to convince your mom that she isn’t going to work today because she’s been retired for years, try and redirect her to a different topic of conversation. Ask her what she’s looking forward to that day, or suggest taking a walk around the block before you do anything else. This can help remove your loved one from their current train of thought and bring them into a different space.

Validate what they’re feeling. The emotions and feelings your loved one is having are very real to them, even if they’re rooted in delusions or hallucinations. If your dad is afraid to go outside because he’s worried about being kidnapped, calmly empathize with him and reassure him that he’s safe and that you’ll make sure nothing will happen while he’s outside.

Understand what stage of dementia your loved one is in and adapt your tactics appropriately. Someone in early or mid-stage dementia may be able to accept some forms of reason and logic, while those in later stages truly are living in their own reality. Your tactics may change daily as your loved one moves through their own individual dementia journey.

Let it go. Does it really matter if your father thinks he’s on a train headed to some foreign destination instead of sitting in your living room? If your loved one is happy, calm and not in danger, there’s no reason to take them out of their reality. Let them be and instead hop on that train ride with them – even if it’s all imaginary, you may be able to have a meaningful, fun time together!

Trust your gut. Listen to your instincts and act accordingly. Do what feels right in the situation. After all, you know your loved one best, and acting on intuition will be more successful than you may expect.

“While it’s common to feel guilty or uncomfortable about lying to your loved one, it’s important to remember when doing so may be in their – and your – best interest,” says Andrea. “Ultimately, your job is to care for their safety and well-being, and if telling a little white lie can do that, you’re doing what it takes to provide the best care as possible at that time.”

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Honoring Who They Were by Honoring Who They Still Are: Spirituality in Dementia (Part 3 of 4)

In this four part series, we will walk you through ways to help honor your loved one throughout all stages of the dementia journey. No matter how advanced the disease may be, there are plenty of opportunities for you to connect with your loved one, show your care and create moments that can be cherished.

Spirituality, whether through organized religion or a more informal form of reflection, plays an incredibly important role for many of us. That connection to a higher power provides peace, hope and reassurance during difficult times. Individuals living with dementia very often turn to this spirituality as they face and travel through the journey of the disease.

“Spirituality is an essential part of life at The Reutlinger Community, and we incorporate it into the care plans of many of our residents,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Although the lifestyle of our community is based on the Jewish faith, we welcome and have many residents of different religions and faiths who call us home. For individuals with dementia, familiar beliefs and practices help them find comfort and find perspective while their lives are changing around them.”

Benefits of Spirituality
Much like dementia, spirituality can affect each senior differently. However, research and observations have shown that people’s lives can be greatly improved by being part of a spiritual community. Being among like-minded individuals with similar beliefs and values can help improve mood, which boosts health and well-being and can increase life expectancy. But spirituality doesn’t have to be experienced in a group to reap benefits. It also allows aging adults to improve themselves on a personal level, such as:

  • Being more mindful and in the moment
  • Providing an avenue for relaxation
  • Reducing stress levels
  • Helping individuals accept and gain peace with their situation
  • Improving sleep patterns
  • Sharpening their mind
  • Allowing seniors to let go of the past and forgive those who may have wronged them
  • Increasing overall quality of life and happiness

Recent studies also suggest that participating in a spiritual sense can actually help prevent memory loss and slow cognitive decline.

Why is this? According to research, it could be because the traditions and habits we practice in a religious sense are familiar and routine, which can help stimulate centers of the brain that are less affected (or not affected) by dementia. Performing these habits also decrease an individual’s cortisol level, which helps reduce stress and anxiety. Or it could simply be that spirituality just makes people happier.

How to Practice Spirituality and Wellness with Your Loved One
Honoring your loved one by practicing spirituality with them or providing opportunities for them to practice on their own, can be an incredibly meaningful thing for both of you. Here are some ideas for helping foster these moments:

  • Use nature. Many people have expressed that they feel closer to a higher power when they spend time in the great outdoors. It’s also been shown that activities like gardening or birdwatching can help seniors with dementia to relax. By diverting their attention to their surroundings, such as the sounds of birds, the smell of plants or the feel of wind on their skin, it helps remove them from their thoughts and instead be present in what they are feeling, sensing and experiencing.
  • Practice journaling. According to an article from the University of Minnesota, the practice of journaling can help people feel more connected to the world and what’s happening around them. For individuals in the earlier stages of dementia, journaling can help them come to grips with the disconnect they feel, process their experience and bring peace and resilience to their world.
  • Find holistic therapies. There are a variety of therapeutic activities, such as music, art or pet therapies, that have been shown to help seniors with dementia to process negative emotions, reduce anxiety and increase well-being. Find activities that speak to your loved one, especially if they had a passion in their past that they truly enjoyed. By finding ways to express themselves through these activities, you can help your loved one connect to a meaningful time that will bring good feelings and emotions.
  • Meditation and mindfulness practices can improve mood, boost well-being and can even potentially slow cognitive decline. (It’s also a great exercise for those of us who are caring for loved ones with dementia – it helps us be present and in the moment!)
  • Do tai chi. Low impact exercises that pair body and mind can be very beneficial for people with dementia. Not only does it help get your loved one moving and build strength and flexibility, but the mind/body connection that’s integral to the practice of tai chi can help provide meaning and connection.
  • Try yoga. Similar to tai chi, yoga connects the brain and body in many different ways to improve mental and physical health. Seniors with dementia can benefit from better flexibility, balance, strength and even better brain connectivity.
  • Pray or read the scripture. Read scripture or devotionals to them. Sometimes seniors with dementia are still able to recite favorite verses they memorized years ago.
  • Pray together. If your loved one is religious, there is no substitute for the comforting act of praying or singing favorite hymns together. Recite familiar prayers together, which can provoke happy memories and release stress. Reading sections of favorite religious passages can also spur your loved one to recite them along with you, too.

“Caring for the spirit as well as the body and mind are important aspects for a well-rounded memory care approach,” says Andrea. “As the disease progresses, it becomes harder for them to participate spiritually in the same way they always have, which is why we look for ways to help connect with them and find ways to experience some kind of spiritual activity that is meaningful and genuine. At The Reutlinger Community, we provide so many opportunities for our residents to practice spirituality in their own way, from our religious services to music and pet therapy to mindfulness and yoga. We allow residents and families to connect in the ways that matter to them, whatever that may be.”

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

 

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Honoring Who They Were by Honoring Who They Still Are: Creating Opportunities for Success (Part 2 of 4)

In this four part series, we will walk you through ways to help honor your loved one throughout all stages of the dementia journey. No matter how advanced the disease may be, there are plenty of opportunities for you to connect with your loved one, show your care and create moments that can be cherished.

Every one of us has the need to feel successful and have a purpose. This starts from when we are very small and learning to explore the world all the way to a peaceful old age. This need doesn’t go away when someone is living with dementia. In fact, the desire for success and meaning becomes all the more important as abilities start to fade due to the progressive nature of the disease.

“Even though your loved one may lose aspects of their memory, they still are adults with needs, desires and passions, and they retain the desire to express themselves and be meaningful,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “They feel the loss of abilities quite keenly and need some way to express that. By providing opportunities for them to succeed – no matter how small it may feel – you can provide satisfaction and a sense of well-being that’s unmatched by any other care we can provide.”

When Helping Can Be Hurtful

As caregivers, it’s easy for us to want to help our loved one by doing things for them. While this comes from a place of caring, it also makes it very easy for us to take over. Here are just a few examples of when “taking over” can be more harmful than helpful:

  • Your loved one is struggling to do something
  • It’s taking a long time for your loved one to do something
  • You’re trying to do everything for your loved one, so they know you care and are there for them

However, it’s important to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. How do you feel if someone takes over something you’re trying to do? It may make you feel ashamed, like you’re not good enough or not smart enough to figure it out. It may also anger you, because it can signify that you have no independence or no say in a matter. Or it may make you feel depressed or apathetic, because why bother trying to do anything when someone else will just end up doing it for you?

Even though your loved one has problems with their memory, they still have these feelings, which can have long-lasting effects on their psyche and well-being. Also, because the ability to make judgment calls are diminished, it’s easier for them to have negative reactions to your assistance because they may not be able to ‘see’ your intended goal.

Making Successful Moments Happen

There are two forms of memory that we can tap into to help our loved ones feel more successful without patronizing them: procedural and declarative.

Procedural memory is colloquially defined as “muscle memory.” This is the body memory that comes from doing something repeatedly, like brushing our hair or tying our shoes. Declarative memory is related to remembering an event or a fact. These two types of memories are stored in different parts of our brain, which means that dementia affects them differently. Caregivers can use these two types of memories to positively support and create moments of success for their loved ones.

Procedural memory can sometimes be the easiest way to encourage and promote success for your loved one. Think about the things they can still do, and then provide avenues for them to accomplish that. You can also provide support for the things they have difficulty with by setting up a prepared environment or giving them tools that make things easier.

For example, perhaps your loved one can still get dressed but they have some difficulty from time to time. In order to set them up for success, make sure that their environment is prepared to make the task as easy as possible. Is the room bright enough so they can see what they’re doing? Is there adequate privacy so they don’t feel exposed? Is the room warm enough, and is it free of distractions? Is everything set out neatly so there’s no room for confusion?

Since muscle memory is something that’s instinctual, sometimes just helping your loved one start to do something – or showing them how to do something – is enough to get their body jump-started so they can “take over” the task. An example of this is putting a brush into your loved one’s hand and then guiding it through their hair if they hesitate or don’t seem to know what to do with it. After a stroke or two, their muscle memory can take over and they’re able to complete the activity by themselves.

Procedural memory can be very successful because it’s easy to tell when something has been “completed.” Whether it’s getting dressed, helping to wash dishes or finishing an arts and crafts project, there’s something tangible that your loved one can see as something they’ve “done.”

Declarative memory can sometimes be a little more difficult because it deals with memory, which can be a fleeting thing for those with dementia. However, since long-term memories tend to stay longer and fresher in their brains, reminiscing with your loved one is a great exercise to promote success and providing happy, meaningful moments. Here are some things you can do to help spur declarative memory:

  • Create a photo album of family members, or bring out old photo albums and go through them with your loved one. Prompt conversation by discussing what’s in the picture, especially if it’s something you yourself remember. Don’t ask your loved one “do you remember this or that?” Instead, describe what you’re seeing, and if your loved one responds, encourage them to talk further.
  • Put on some music from their childhood or a favorite song that you know they’ve always loved. Music has been shown to unlock memories in a surprising way and can trigger all sorts of reactions. Your loved one may sing along, clap along with the music or even start talking about memories associated with the song. Even if these don’t happen, you can dance together in the living room or simply hum along with the music. Simply spending time in a happy environment is beneficial to both you and your loved one.

Creating opportunities for success throughout the day helps brighten the lives of our loved ones with dementia – and, by extension, the caregiver. Living in the moment and celebrating the small victories can make each moment happy and fulfilled.

For more information about our community, our culture, mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and

Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.

Spring Celebrations

Passover:
The community celebrated Passover with a Mazah Brei Cook-off. Featured: Beth Kyman, Director of Philanthropy; Rochelle Zimmer, Wife of CEO Jay Zimmer; Tracy Blazer, Regional Director of Operations for Morrison Community Living and Andrea Campisi, Director of Marketing and Admissions.

Cinco de Mayo:
Residents also celebrated Cinco de Mayo with a variety of festivities including cultural attire, cuisine and entertainment.

Dining at Cinco de Mayo woman wearing sombrero woman wearing a party hat Celebrating Cinco de Mayo Mariachi band and woman wearing sombrero