The Benefits of Joining a Dementia Caregiver Support Group

REUT-FlagFamily caregivers – adults who are providing unpaid care to a senior individual – are not an unusual phenomenon. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 45 million Americans are a caregiver to one or more older individuals. 16 million of these individuals are caring for an older adult with dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. Obviously, these people are not alone in their experiences…but for many, it can feel like no one can understand what they’re going through.

“Anytime we go through a stressful or overwhelming situation in our life, it’s easy to become disconnected and even isolated,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. And very few things in life, she says, are as stressful as caregiving someone with dementia. It’s a 24/7 job with no holiday time or sick leave, which makes for one tired individual who’s neglecting to care for someone very important…themselves.

That’s why, says Andrea, joining a caregiver support group is practically essential for caregivers. “Although it may at first seem like just one more thing to do, the benefits of joining a group far outweigh the extra time it takes to attend a meeting. Think of it like exercising, eating a healthy diet or getting a good night’s sleep – support groups are just one more facet of a balanced, wellness-focused lifestyle.”

What Is a Support Group?

A support group is a meeting of individuals who are all experiencing the same life event or situation, such as the death of a spouse, surviving cancer or, in your case, caregiving for someone with dementia. They can take many forms, from a traditional “sit in a circle and someone leads a discussion” type of group to an online-only forum where people post and respond to messages on the board or do a live chat. They can be large (although it’s usually kept to a manageable size so everyone’s voice is heard), or they can be as small as two or three people. The nice part with all this flexibility and variety means it’s easier than ever for caregivers to find a group that has the right vibe and approach for them.

Seven Benefits of Joining a Support Group

It provides a network of social support.
One of the biggest reasons why support groups can be so beneficial to caregivers is that you’re instantly among individuals who are there to provide a social network. It’s not unusual for people to form fast and strong friendships with others in the group due to shared experiences. This can be a comfort for caregivers who haven’t been able to reach out to friends and family for support for one reason or another, or who have simply had to become more isolated due to the task of caring for their loved one.

Support groups provide validation, understanding and a listening ear – and, often, advice. You’ll find that support groups are made up of people who are at various different stages of their caregiving journey, which can be a huge boon when it comes to getting information, learning about resources or simply asking, “is it normal for me to be doing/feeling/acting this way?”

It reduces stress and depression.
Heightened stress for long periods of time is not good for the human body. When we’re not able to relax and give ourselves breathing room, we experience all sorts of unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects, like high blood pressure, mood swings, depression and other mental issues. It’s very hard to relax if you feel like you’re not being understood, are alone in your struggle or are feeling judged by others. Joining a support group will instantly place you in a group of others just like you who are there for the purpose of helping each other. Plus, going to a support group allows you to get away from your responsibilities for an hour or so, which allows you to focus on your needs, resulting in less stress and a happier caregiver.

You gain a sense of control of your situation.
Dementia is a progressive disease, but it’s not a predictable one. What worked yesterday to keep your loved one safe and happy may not work at all today. Your loved one may suddenly start acting in a way that seems completely out of the blue. By talking with other caregivers and learning what to expect or anticipate with the disease, you’ll be able to better weather the storms and react to difficult issues. It also helps you understand that there’s no one way you should be doing/thinking/feeling, which can be very freeing to those who worry about doing things “right.”

You gain invaluable information and advice.
Oftentimes, support groups will also experts to speak at the meetings so the event is educational as well as supportive or social. These experts are a great way to get treatment options, advice on caregiving and advances that are being made in medical research. Informally, you can get caregiving tips from others in the group who are dealing with or who have dealt with the same issue you’re experiencing.

You learn self-care skills.
Being able to cope with everything life is throwing at you and finding ways to do nice things for yourself – however small – will greatly improve your quality of life. This includes taking time for yourself, like reading a book or calling a friend, but it also includes coping skills like practicing mindfulness, allowing yourself grace and giving permission to say “I don’t know.” Think of these things like little gifts you can give yourself to help reduce your stress and worry.

It helps you understand what to expect down the road.
Since dementia is a progressive disease, you know that your loved one will continue to decline. Talking with others and finding out how they handled or approached that will give you a vision for what lies ahead and how to prepare. Surprisingly, this can help people feel less stressed about the future, because they won’t be taken by surprise by different behaviors or actions from their loved one.

It improves your caregiving skills.
It sounds trite, but it’s true: support groups give you the support you need in order to be a better caregiver for your loved one. You simply can’t be the best caregiver possible if you aren’t caring for yourself. By finding the support, information and assurance you need to feel more confident and healthy, you’ll be more refreshed and able to give your loved one with dementia the care he or she needs and deserves.

For more information about support groups for dementia caregivers, or to learn more about our community, mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

The Reutlinger Community’s mission is to provide high quality health care and social support services in a life-enhancing and stimulating environment with a commitment to Jewish values.

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 senior’s 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.

5 Rules for New Dementia Caregivers

REUT-FlagA diagnosis of dementia is life-changing, both for the individual diagnosed and their caregiver. For many caregivers, this may be the first experience they’ve had with caregiving or even seeing what dementia is like up close and personal. It can be a daunting task, and it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start.

“It’s okay to not know everything about caregiving when you start out,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “The dementia journey is different for every person, so there’s no one rule book that will lay out the ‘right way’ to be a caregiver.” The most important thing, she says, is to approach your role with an open mind, a positive yet realistic attitude and a thirst for knowledge.

“Dementia is a progressive disease, and one day can be completely different from the next in terms of your challenges and your loved one’s needs,” Andrea says. “Having the right attitude is essential to your success because it allows you to face and deal with the new normal and give you the tools you need to provide the best care for your loved one and yourself – now, and in the future.”

The 5 Rules for New Dementia Caregivers

While no one can know exactly what the future holds for you and your loved one, Andrea says there are five core rules that new dementia caregivers should take to heart. “Having these rules internalized and understood will give you an element of control as a caregiver, plus keep you from being completely surprised of overwhelmed when challenges occur.”

Rule #1: Learn as much as you can about the disease.
For example, did you know that the term “dementia” is a blanket term for a variety of cognitive disorders including (but not limited to) Alzheimer’s disease, Pick’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia? And did you know that each form of dementia can manifest and progress differently? If this is your first time experiencing the effects of dementia, researching the type of dementia your loved one has will give you a great foundation for understanding what’s happening now, what will happen in the future and how best to provide a safe, loving and secure care environment for your loved one.

Learning as much as you can about the disease as early as possible will help you better be prepared for the changes that are to come, says Andrea. While memory loss is a hallmark symptom of dementia, there are many other symptoms that will occur, such as the loss of physical abilities, mood swings, behavioral changes and others. Understanding that these symptoms – which can seem to occur suddenly – are an effect of the disease and not a part of your loved one’s personality will help you better work through them. Finally, having knowledge about the disease will enable you to be the best advocate for your loved one with medical professionals, family members and other caregivers.

Rule #2: Plan for the future.
There are lots of unknowns when it comes to dementia. The one sure thing, however, is that your loved one’s abilities will dwindle until they go away entirely. This is a sobering fact to reckon with and can be very hard for friends and family members to accept. However, knowing that the status quo will eventually change means that you and your loved one can be proactive about planning for the future. This involves financial and legal planning (getting affairs in order, issuing powers of attorney, setting up living wills, etc.) as well as determining care options (Will your loved one be cared for at home? Do you need to hire an in-home caregiver? What will happen when the needed care becomes too great for you to handle as a caregiver)? The earlier you can begin planning for the future, the more able your loved one will be able to provide input, share information and get their preferences and desires set down on paper.

Rule #3: Accept help.
Trying to take on every aspect of caregiving may seem valiant and selfless, but we’ll be frank – you’re setting yourself up for failure. The truth of the matter is that no one person can handle everything all the time by themselves. (Remember, even professional caregivers are allowed to take a break and go home after their shift ends.) Never be afraid to ask for help, and take advantage when friends and family reach out to ask what they can do. Sit down and figure out what tasks you can delegate, and what type of support would be most helpful to you when. For example, perhaps you’re not the greatest when it comes to managing financial matters, but your sister is a whiz at it. Or you have a retired neighbor who’s been a longtime friend of your loved one who’s willing to sit with them once or twice a week while you run errands. Look for opportunities in your community as well – your local Area Agency on Aging will have contacts with caregivers, nonprofit organizations and other resources that can help ease the burden of caregiving.

Rule #4: Be realistic.
Being realistic has two parts to it. First, you need to be realistic about what you can do and the assistance you can provide as a caregiver. There will be times when you slip up, become frustrated or otherwise act like the human being you are. Keeping in mind that you can only do what you can do, accepting your imperfection and making the most of each day will help you be kind to yourself – and the best caregiver possible.

The second part of being realistic is understanding how the disease progresses and what is going to happen in the future. Your loved one will never be able to regain the abilities they lose, and eventually he or she will need more assistance than you can provide on your own. Knowing what’s ahead doesn’t mean that you’re ‘giving up’ or a bad person – it actually means you’re providing the most thoughtful, compassionate assistance possible. 

Rule #5: Care for yourself as well as your loved one.
The majority of caregivers report experiencing extreme stress and anxiety due to their role. Left unchecked, this stress can lead to caregiver burnout, which is a serious condition that can cause real, severe health issues. In order to be a good caregiver, you have to first make sure you’re caring for your needs. It’s the old airplane analogy: you need to make sure your oxygen mask is in place before assisting others. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise and find ways to do nice things for yourself on a regular basis. Remember, you are a whole person outside of your role as a caregiver, and it’s important for you to nurture all aspects of your life. Staying socially connected and finding joy where you can will allow you to refocus, refresh and be ready to handle caregiving with a positive, caring attitude.

For more information about being a dementia caregiver, or to learn more about our community, mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

The Reutlinger Community’s mission is to provide high quality health care and social support services in a life-enhancing and stimulating environment with a commitment to Jewish values.

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 senior’s 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.

Caregiver SOS: How to Avoid Burnout and Fatigue

REUT-FlagDo you know the warning signs of caregiver burnout?

Whether you know someone who’s a caregiver or if you’re a caregiver yourself, it’s important to understand and recognize when a situation is becoming untenable. More than 40 million adults in North America are caregiving at least one loved one while also balancing other obligations. Many of these individuals (you may be one yourself) start performing this task out of a sense of duty or love, and for a while, the task may be sustainable.

But things can quickly spiral out of control, according to Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA.

“Being a caregiver can be a very rewarding experience, but it is also one of the most stressful situations you can find yourself in,” she says. “This is particularly true if the person you’re caring for has a dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, which requires around-the-clock care. Most family caregivers aren’t professional caregivers – they’re often spouses, parents and employees as well. Balancing the ‘regular’ responsibilities with the caregiving responsibilities can lead to extreme emotional, mental and physical fatigue.”

This fatigue is known as caregiver burnout, and many times caregivers and their loved ones don’t realize it’s happening until they’re deep in it.

“Our bodies aren’t meant to deal with stress on a constant basis,” says Andrea. “The heightened emotion of fight-or-flight causes the hormones to get out of whack in our body, leading to a variety of mental and physical issues. This includes depression, anger, a lowered immune system, cardiovascular issues and more.”

If you or someone you know is exhibiting the signs of caregiver fatigue or burnout, immediate steps must be taken to keep the caregiver from falling into a slump, experiencing a health issue and ultimately providing poor care for their loved one.

“If you notice any of these signs, consider it an SOS,” says Andrea.

Warning Signs of Caregiver Fatigue and Burnout

There are many signs of burnout, and a caregiver may experience one, several, or all of them. If you’re noticing any of these issues, consider them big flashing red lights of caution:

  • A lack of energy
  • Sleeping issues (either too much or too little)
  • Depression, mood swings and feelings of hopelessness
  • Becoming ill with more frequency and staying sick for longer
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Withdrawing from activities and becoming socially isolated
  • Having difficulty coping with everyday tasks
  • Becoming increasingly resentful of the person you’re caring for
  • Stomach issues such as ulcers

Avoiding Burnout and Fatigue

Andrea says it’s important for friends and family of the caregiver to know what signs to look for in order to intervene if the caregiver isn’t caring for themself. “When a caregiver is in the thick of everyday life, it can be hard to take a step back and see how bad things have become,” she says. “Sometimes it takes an outside figure to recognize the issues and take steps towards making things better.”

Ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t make a person a bad caregiver. In fact, it shows great strength to know when you’re overwhelmed and need assistance. Remember that no one can do it alone. Reach out to friends and family with specific requests, such as watching your loved one for an afternoon, or picking up groceries while they’re running errands. If you know a caregiver, tell them point-blank how you’re willing to help and offer it whenever you can – for example, if you’re running to the grocery store, call your friend and say, “what can I pick up for you while I’m there?”

Remember the importance of breaks. Give yourself permission to take a break on a regular basis. Go on a walk around the block, read a book, watch a favorite TV show or head to the spa for a massage. As a caring friend or family member, offer to watch the individual with dementia so the caregiver can get out of the house and feel worry- and guilt-free.

Look into community resources. Besides friends and family, reach out to local agencies and organizations who might be able to help you have a bit of respite. Your local Area Agency on Aging is a great place to start. There are many organizations out there – transportation services, meal services, even on-call caregivers and home aides who could come in as often as you’d like. Memory care communities and senior centers may offer adult day care services, informational classes and other support networks.

Take care of your health. Eating right, getting enough sleep and regular physical activity are three of the most important ways caregivers can stay healthy and stave off caregiver strain and stress. The trick is to be creative and find ways to carve out time in your busy schedule. Grab little snippets of exercise here and there throughout your day (such as walking around the block, going up and down the stairs or doing sit-ups while watching Netflix). Set a sleep schedule and adhere to it. Create meal plans for the week and map out what’s needed in order to create healthy, nutritious meals for you and your loved one. Home meal kits like Blue Apron or grocery delivery services can be a great boon.

Stay connected. It’s easy to let caregiving become the central – and sole – focus of your life, but it’s important for caregivers to remember that they’re many other things besides just a caregiver. If you’re married, take time for date night with your spouse. Continue attending book club or happy hour with the girls, at least once in a while. And look into support groups where you can get connected to others who know exactly what you’re going through. Human beings thrive when we feel recognized, acknowledged and respected.

“The best way to avoid caregiver burnout is by finding those opportunities that fill you up, give you joy and make you happy,” says Andrea.

For more information about avoiding caregiver fatigue and burnout, or to learn more about our community, mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

The Reutlinger Community’s mission is to provide high quality health care and social support services in a life-enhancing and stimulating environment with a commitment to Jewish values.

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 senior’s 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.

The 10 Guidelines of Successful Dementia Caregiving

REUT-FlagWouldn’t it be wonderful if the tough things in life came with an instruction manual? That way, you would know exactly what to do when a problem arose, understand how things will progress and basically have all the answers on hand at all times. Unfortunately, life can be messy and complicated – which you, as a caregiver to someone with dementia, probably know all too well.

“Dementia is a disease that progresses differently for everyone and can seemingly change day to day,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “We’ve made a lot of progress over the past decades to understanding how the disease affects individuals and what can be done to make an individual’s life as meaningful as possible, but even professional caregivers don’t have all the answers. If you’re a family caregiver, you’re facing a dual struggle: managing the disease while also maintaining a healthy relationship with your loved one.”

“Being a dementia caregiver is a day-in, day-out, 24/7 responsibility that can easily dominate your life,” says Andrea. “In order to maintain a sense of balance for yourself, avoid caregiver burnout and reduce everyone’s stress and anxiety, you’ll need to find ways to successfully manage your loved one while keeping them safe and cared for. That’s why we at The Reutlinger Community have 10 Guidelines that we follow to provide the best care to our residents with dementia.”

These guidelines, she says, are not specifically “rules” that must be followed, but guidance to shape your interactions, thoughts and feelings in order to move forward in a positive way. “Keeping these 10 Guidelines in mind will help you care for yourself as well as care for your loved one and help you nurture and deepen your relationship during the time you have left,” she says.

The 10 Guidelines of Dementia Caregiving

  1. Don’t argue or use logic to try and make a point.
    It’s natural to want to correct your loved one if he or she is acting in a way that doesn’t make sense or is wrong about something. However, trying to use logic to explain to your loved one why something needs to happen (for example, not allowing them to drive because they are no longer safe behind the wheel) is a futile gesture. More often than not, your loved one will become more confused, angry or agitated because they simply don’t have the capacity to view things logically. Instead, find ways to address the situation that avoid an upsetting confrontation (for example, move your loved one’s car to a storage space so it can’t be seen).
  1. Redirect as necessary.
    Redirection is one of the best tools a caregiver has in his or her toolbox. Instead of arguing with your loved one about why it’s important to take a bath, or if you notice that your loved one is becoming agitated and asking the same thing over and over, redirect the conversation or situation to get his or her mind off whatever track they’re on. This can help to immediately diffuse a situation and make things better. After your loved one is calm, you may be able to resume the task at hand.
  1. Provide simple choices.
    People with dementia can sometimes lack the ability to make a decision from a long list of options or an open-ended question (such as “what do you want to eat tonight?”). However, giving them choices can narrow down the options and help them feel empowered. Ask your mom if she’d like fish or chicken for dinner instead of opening the fridge and asking her to choose.
  1. Never shame.
    No one likes to be shamed, no matter how old or young we are. Scolding or making your loved one feel bad about something, whether it’s not remembering a conversation or because they had an accident, is one of the quickest ways to shut them down and hurt your connection. Although you may be exasperated about having to clean up another spill, take a deep breath and find ways to help avoid the issue in the future.
  1. Provide comfort and reassurance as much as possible.
    Many disruptive or unwanted behaviors, such as agitation or repetition, stem from your loved one feeling insecure or afraid. Remind your loved one that they are safe, that you care about them and that you won’t let anything bad happen to them. Sometimes that is all that’s needed.
  1. Reminisce instead of asking “remember when?”
    Sharing memories is a great way to bond with your loved one, but avoid asking “remember when,” especially when it comes to more recent events. Instead, take the lead and talk about memories and past events as statements to share your feelings and emotions. It’s possible, especially if you’re talking about long ago events, that your loved one will chime in with his or her memories.
  1. Treat your loved one with dignity and respect.
    Even as your loved one’s abilities fade, he or she remains an adult who deserves respect and to be treated with dignity. Never condescend or talk down to them. Instead, ask for their involvement and permission, and include them in conversations. Mom or Dad may not be able to participate in the conversation but being included can do wonders for making him or her feel secure and fulfilled.
  1. Celebrate their remaining abilities instead of focusing on what’s lost.
    Adapt favorite hobbies and activities so that your loved one can continue to enjoy them, even if their abilities make it impossible for them to do what they’ve always done. Maybe Mom can’t do delicate needlepoint anymore, but she can do a sewing exercise with yarn. Dad may not be able to whittle, but he can help you put together a birdhouse. Find things you can do together to make the exercise even more meaningful.
  1. Meet them where they are.
    People with dementia can slip into their own world and forget about the here and now. Mom may think she’s a schoolchild again, or Dad may believe he’s off to work at the factory just like he’s always done. Instead of trying to bring him or her back to the present (and perhaps cause emotional hurt), ask yourself if the delusion is harmful – and if it’s not, play along with them or offer explanations that fit into their current version of reality.
  1. Remember that you can’t do it all.
    You’re just one person, and it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Being a caregiver is tough work, and you deserve and need some down time. Ask friends and family to help you out or connect with community services to see what’s available to you. Having a support system is essential for helping you care for your wellbeing, which in turn will make you a better caregiver for your loved one.

For more information about dementia caregiving, or to learn more about our community, 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.

The Importance of Maintaining a Loving Approach as a Dementia Caregiver

The Golden Rule urges us to “treat others as we would like to be treated.” This is easier said than done sometimes, particularly when you find yourself in a stressful or difficult situation – like being a caregiver to a loved one with dementia. Maintaining compassion and a loving approach is essential in this situation for both you and your loved one, but it can be hard to remember or act this way in the heat of the moment.

“Being a dementia caregiver is a 24/7 job, and there are many times when it can be difficult to handle your loved one,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. Getting angry or trying to “talk sense” into your loved one doesn’t work because of how the disease affects his or her brain. In fact, this can make the symptoms worse and make you and your loved one more agitated. Instead, says Andrea, you as a caregiver need to take a step back, practice patience and put yourself in your loved one’s shoes.

“Our understanding of how dementias such as Alzheimer’s affect the body and mind has deepened over the past few decades and given us many tools and tips for how to make daily life better and easier for our loved ones and ourselves,” she says. “Besides making advances in medicine and medical practices, we’ve also discovered just how important a loving approach is when caring for someone with dementia.”

According to Dr. Jacobo Mintzer, chairman of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, a loving approach is twofold: it involves showing compassion and patience, but also being proactive to make the situation better for loved ones and making decisions that you know are best for them.

Initially, many caregivers are trying to “preserve the person they knew for as long as possible, and That’s usually where they get themselves into trouble,” Mintzer says. “Because of this desperate need to try to preserve the person, caregivers will put themselves in dangerous situations, like letting the person with Alzheimer’s drive because it has always been important to them.”

This may feel a little bit like you’re “parenting” your loved one, but it’s important to make the distinction between a loving approach to raising a child versus showing loving concern for a senior with dementia. “Your loved one is still the person you knew and deserves respect and honor,” says Andrea. “It’s important to provide compassionate care without being condescending or belittling.”

Tips for Approaching Caregiving from a Loving Place

A loving approach means having compassion and doing our best to understand how our loved one is feeling. This is hard enough to do when you’re dealing with a healthy person, but can become confusing and difficult when faced with a brain-altering diseases like dementia. Even if they have the best intentions, caregivers might not know where to start in understanding their loved one’s reality. Here are some tips for putting yourself in the right space to approach caregiving from a positive, compassionate and loving place.

1.  Approach caregiving as an act of love, not an act of duty.
Many of us begin caregiving for a loved one with dementia because we feel it’s the right thing to do. This is an admirable feeling, but it can lead to resentment, anger and stress. Instead, recognize that caregiving is a gift you are giving to your loved one. It’s about helping them through this journey, not providing care because you feel obligated. At the end of the day, it’s a choice – and thinking about it in that way can be freeing.

2.  Let go of the need to be “perfect.”
We all want to be the best at what we’re doing. However, there’s no such thing as “perfect” when it comes to being a dementia caregiver. The disease is all-encompassing, and even professional caregivers can find it difficult at times to manage the realities. If you’re beating yourself up because you don’t feel like you’re doing enough, or feeling guilty because you lost your temper, allow yourself to feel those feelings and then forgive yourself. You’re only human, and tomorrow, as they say, is another day.

3.  Educate yourself on your loved one’s disease.
Knowledge is power, and learning everything you can about how dementia affects the brain and body will make it easier for you to understand why your loved one is acting in a certain way, or allow you to anticipate their needs. It also gives you the tools you need to advocate for your loved one’s care and make the most informed decisions. There are many resources available to you, both online and in real life. You may also wish to seek out support groups and your local Area Agency on Aging to find resources, tools and advice.

4.  Continue to nurture your relationship with your loved one.
Even as your loved one’s abilities and memories fade, they still remain the same person they were with the same desires, hopes, feelings and history. Take time each day to be with your loved one as a spouse or friend instead of as a caregiver. Pull out old scrapbooks and go through the photos together, or watch a favorite movie that always has you laughing. Get out of the house and go on a scenic drive, visit a favorite location or simply sit on the porch and watch the birds. Creating these memories together will nourish and sustain both you and your loved one and improve your quality of life. 

5.  Take care of yourself, too.
It’s hard to approach caregiving from a loving place if you’re not feeling your best. That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself as much as you’re taking care of your loved one. It’s the old airplane mask analogy – make sure your mask is in place before assisting someone else. Eat a healthy diet and be sure to get plenty of exercise. Find regular opportunities to do something you love, whether that’s grabbing a coffee with a friend, reading a good book or doing a project. Staying connected to the things that fill you up will help reduce your stress levels, rejuvenate your spirit and help you stay positive – all things that will help you be a more loving, productive and successful caregiver.

For more information about how to be a loving and compassionate caregiver to someone with dementia, or to learn more 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.

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.