Adjusting to Your New Role as a Spousal Caregiver

As more and more Baby Boomers enter their senior years, and we as a society are living longer, it’s more and more likely that, if you’re married, either you or your spouse will end up as caregiver for the other. While it’s not unusual for adult children or other close family members to become caregivers, it’s most common that spouses will care for each other as they age.

“Caregiving can mean anything from simple assistance with medication management and transportation, or it can be as intensive as providing in-home care for a spouse who has been diagnosed with dementia,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Whether your caregiving assistance is a little or a lot, there’s no avoiding the fact that it will affect your relationship in some way.”

This, she says, can be a difficult transition for both spouses. “There are many changes that take place in relationships when one spouse begins caring for another, no matter how independent that spouse may be,” she says. “Oftentimes what starts off as just a little help can snowball into more and more assistance, which is taxing for anyone. It’s very easy for caregiving to take over the bulk of your relationship, leading to stress, depression and overall burnout.”

According to a 2015 AARP study titled Caregiving for Older Adults, approximately 3.7 million seniors in the U.S. are spousal caregivers. The report also states that 40 percent of spousal caregivers report their role as highly stressful. “Caregiving for a spouse has unique challenges and can get in the way of intimacy and foster an awkward sense of dependency,” says Andrea. “Fortunately, if you and your spouse take the time to look at your situation with clear eyes, make some plans and adjust accordingly, the transition doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly difficult.”

Tips for Adjusting to the Spousal Caregiver Role

If you find yourself in a situation where you will be a caregiver for your spouse, here are some tips for helping to make the transition a little smoother.

Reach out to other spousal caregivers.
The best advice and tips you can get are from people who have gone through the same experience you’re facing. Ask your friends and search online for those you know who have either served as a primary caregiver for their spouse, or for someone who has had to act as a caregiver for a time. Having someone you know who can provide firsthand experience will be invaluable, and he or she can also be a source of support in the coming days.

Give yourself time to grieve and adjust.
Many spousal caregivers can feel guilty about their emotions as they adjust to their new normal. It’s common to feel overwhelmed, stressed, angry and even like you’ve suffered a great loss. Understand that your feelings are valid and it’s completely natural to have these reactions. You and your spouse are undergoing a huge change that more than likely has upset your plans for the future in some way. Remember to give yourself grace, and don’t be afraid to reach out to others to talk about how you’re feeling. At the same time, don’t forget the importance of sharing and communicating with your spouse. Although you may not feel like you can “burden” your spouse with your feelings, remember that you two are still a team, and sharing your thoughts, fears and emotions in a healthy way are one of the best ways to grow and nurture your relationship.

Plan for the future.
Becoming a spousal caregiver is a life-changing journey, especially if your spouse has a chronic illness like dementia. It’s not always fun to think about, but you will need to sit down with your spouse and other appropriate parties to make a plan for the future. When you, the spousal caregiver, get older and need assistance of your own, how will you and your spouse handle that? Are there others in your family who can step up from time to time to give you the space and relief you need? Do you and your spouse wish to stay at home, or would it make more sense to move to a community where health needs and issues can be more easily accommodated? By making plans early on, you and your loved one can make the future less scary and give you both peace of mind.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
We promise to be there for our spouse “in sickness and in health,” so it’s no surprise that so many spousal caregivers feel like they have to do everything themselves. However, this is a recipe for burnout and exhaustion. After all, even professional caregivers get time off. It’s important for you to ask for help, and ask often, so that you don’t get caregiver burnout. You may be amazed at how many friends and family members will jump at the chance to help, especially if you ask them to do specific tasks, like picking up medications, going grocery shopping or sitting with your spouse for a few hours every week. Be clear, be direct and don’t be offended or disheartened if people say no. You can also look into community resources, like in-home caregivers or local organizations that offer caregiving services.

Be kind to yourself and to your spouse.
Both you and your spouse are undergoing a life change, and with it will come growing pains. There will be times when you’re angry, tired, stressed and snippy with each other. Be as patient as possible with your spouse and yourself. Be sure to give yourself (and your spouse) space to be alone and do things that are important to you. Get enough exercise, eat right and find something to do for yourself every day to de-stress.

Remember to spend time as a married couple.
It’s easy to focus on the caregiving role so much that the relationship – your marriage – gets pushed to the side. This leads to loneliness, resentment and feelings of isolation. Remember that, above all, you and your spouse are married and that relationship needs to take precedence over everything else. Schedule regular times to nurture your relationship and do things you love to do together. Go on evening walks, or dance in the living room to your favorite songs. Have a date night in with your favorite takeout and an old movie, or cook a romantic meal together. You may need to adapt your activities to reflect your loved one’s abilities, but that’s okay. The quality time that you spend together as a couple will help sustain and grow your relationship in ways you never thought possible before.

For more information about adjusting to the role of a spousal caregiver, 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.

Maintaining Intimacy After a Dementia Diagnosis

A diagnosis of dementia changes the scope and structure of a marriage. There are many things to take into consideration, many plans to make and many things that have to change. One delicate topic that married couples have to navigate is sex and intimacy. This can be a hard topic for couples to broach with professionals, but it’s a very important part of a marriage that shouldn’t be ignored or neglected.

“Intimacy with our partners can shift and change over the course of a relationship and takes many different forms,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. Of course, she says, intimacy doesn’t always mean sex. “Cuddling, holding hands and gentle touching are all forms of physical intimacy that can play a role for couples dealing with a dementia diagnosis,” she says. “However, dementia doesn’t mean that a healthy sex life is no longer possible. In fact, it can be a wonderful source of support, comfort and pleasure for many years to come. Navigating this process will be unique to you and your relationship, and may even allow you to come to a deeper and richer relationship with your spouse or partner.”

How Intimacy Is Affected By Dementia

In the early stages of dementia, couples may have to find a new rhythm as they grapple with emotions, feelings and even grief brought up by their changing situation. Still, intimacy and sexual relationships in this stage can be fairly close to normal. Some couples may even feel a rekindling as both parties adjust to the new normal and make the most of the time they have together.

In the middle and late stages of dementia, the relationship and feelings involved often change. Partners who are caregivers may find their attraction fading towards their spouse, or they may find that sex is one of the only ways they can connect to their partner. The partner with dementia may feel frustrated or undesirable, or they may act out sexually due to a variety of factors. It’s possible that, eventually, a sexual relationship will eventually end. In this case, partners need to find new ways to show intimacy and nurture their relationship.

Tips for Maintaining Intimacy

Keep lines of communication open.
Sharing our feelings, thoughts, worries and happiness are irreplaceable ways to connect with and nurture our relationship with each other. For some people, this can be the deepest form of intimacy. Remember to connect with your partner by sharing parts of yourself. If you’re having issues with intimacy, talk to them. Listen to them, as well. Even if you can’t “solve” a problem right away, simply working together through it can bring you together.

Accept that the relationship will change.
The relationship that you and your partner have shared for so many years will eventually change in some fashion. Give yourself time to grieve this loss, accept the path that’s ahead and be proactive about finding new ways to connect when other avenues fall short.

Find new ways to express intimacy and sexuality.
Intimacy can be expressed in many different ways. Tender and gentle touches, like cuddling or massage, can be incredibly meaningful and can sometimes be a substitute for sex. Spending time together as a couple is another avenue. Reminisce together, enjoy a romantic dinner or watch a favorite movie. Participate in an activity, or simply sit quietly together holding hands.

Try not to take these changes personally.
It’s very difficult if you feel your partner no longer desires you, or if you find yourself uninterested in sex. It’s normal to feel rejected, lonely and isolated. As with all the other changes that come with dementia, it’s important to remember that these are a symptom of the disease and not a reflection of you as a person.

Talk to someone.
It can be hard to talk to someone about this personal situation. However, it can be very therapeutic to do so. If you feel comfortable doing it, you might want to talk to your doctor, a close friend or a clergy member. You can also seek out support groups, either in person or online. There are many forums available on the Internet, and the anonymity you have there can be beneficial in a situation like this.

Don’t feel guilty.
Some partners can feel like being physically intimate with their partner is no longer attractive because of the caregiving burden. This can cause guilt and frustration, but it’s important to not feel guilty. You feel the way you feel, and that’s okay. This is a difficult situation for everyone, and you need to do what feels right for you and your loved one.

Be flexible.
Intimacy can ebb and flow during any stage of a relationship. What works one day may not work the next. Remain positive, flexible and above all, be kind to yourself and your partner. If your situation shifts, discuss ways to provide affirmation and affection that are comfortable and fulfilling for both of you.

Consider memory care services.
It’s hard to be both a caregiver and a romantic partner at the same time. However, by moving a loved one into a memory care facility, this relieves partners of the burden of caregiving and allows them to refocus on the romantic relationship. At The Reutlinger Community, we’ve seen firsthand how marriages and partnerships can be strengthened after an individual moves to memory care. By allowing professionals to handle the caregiving tasks, you and your partner are free to spend your time together doing the things that bring you closer in every way.

For more information about maintaining intimacy after a dementia diagnosis, 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.

In Sickness and Health: The Impact of Dementia on Marriage

When your spouse is diagnosed with dementia, it’s only natural to fall into a caregiver role. After all, you promised in sickness and in health, and caring for them is a gesture of your love. What spousal caregivers might not realize, though, is the effect this caregiving will have on their marriage. Dementia is a chronic, progressive disease, which means that eventually your role will shift from spouse to nursemaid.

“Spousal caregivers start off the journey feeling optimistic, because the level of care their loved one needs may not be great at the early stages,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “As the disease progresses, the spouse ends up shouldering more and more of the burden until it turns into a very challenging situation – not just for the one with dementia, but for the caregiving spouse as well.”

The danger, she says, comes from the fact that usually the caregiving spouse has health issues as well (since generally spouses are near the same age). Navigating the physical challenges of caring for someone with dementia, such as helping them in and out of the bath, getting them dressed and dealing with outbursts can be difficult for senior spouses. Caregiving spouses also become sicker more easily and experience depression at a high rate.

Unique Challenges of Dementia on a Marriage

All family caregivers can experience similar symptoms, but a spousal caregiver and their partner will face some unique challenges.

For example, older senior wives may not know how to handle finances, since their husbands always handled the money before. Spouses also have to deal with seeing the person they know best in the world turn into someone they don’t recognize anymore. Their social life may dwindle and die because they don’t enjoy going out now that their spouses can’t. It can be incredibly painful and overwhelming.

The individuals with dementia have to deal with changing roles as well – much to everyone’s frustration. They may feel left out or as if they’re being babied. They can feel like their spouse isn’t on their side anymore or isn’t telling them the truth about the situation.

Both spouses have to deal with the loss of what their marriage once was, as well as their plans for the future. This loss can take some time to adjust, and even longer to find a new balance in your lives. While these changes can be great, there still remain ways to nurture and develop your relationship with your spouse even as the disease progresses.

Adapting Everyday Activities

Most couples have activities they enjoy doing together, like taking walks, playing games, going biking or whatever else their interests may be. A dementia diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stop your favorite activities, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t still do meaningful things together with your loved one. It may require a little tweaking of your schedule, or finding new activities to do together. Still, bonding through activities is one of the best ways to continue to nourish your relationship. Here are some ideas of activities you can do together:

  • Enjoying a meal
  • Listening to favorite songs from your childhood
  • Reading a story out loud together
  • Looking through photographs
  • Babysitting the grandchildren or visiting family
  • Taking a walk
  • Doing art, like painting or coloring
  • Watching a favorite movie or TV show

Activities aren’t limited to “fun” things. It’s also very important to make sure that the spouse with dementia is still involved and active in daily chores and the workings of the household. Look for things that your spouse is still able to do, or adapt your chores so that he or she is helping in some way. For example, your spouse can sort the silverware when you empty the dishwasher, or they open the mail for you. It may not be completely perfect, but that’s okay – the simple fact you’re doing things together and your loved one has a purpose is enough.

Intimacy and Dementia

Intimacy remains an important part of marriage even as we age. Your spouse with dementia yearns for intimacy as much as you do, so it’s important to find ways to keep that bond intact. Many couples are still able to enjoy sexual activity, but as the disease progresses, the desire can shift for either partner. This can leave both partners frustrated and lonely, but there are ways to express affection and intimacy beyond sexual activity. Here are some ways couples can find that “spark” and nourish the romantic side of their relationship:

  • Show affection physically by snuggling, holding hands, massaging or other gentle touches
  • Plan out routines that include time for you and your spouse to spend time together as a married couple
  • Spend time reminiscing with your spouse by telling stories, listening to favorite music and looking through old photographs
  • Engage in activities together, especially physical ones like walking or dancing

Intimacy also refers to sharing feelings, emotions and thoughts with one another. This is why it’s important for both parties to talk to each other, express how they’re feeling and be honest with one another. It’s a very lonely thing to not be able to share one’s thoughts and feelings with a partner. Sharing your vulnerability with your spouse shows them you trust them, you care about them and that you need them – all things we want to feel in a marriage.

Caring for the Caregiver

Spousal caregivers, just like other family caregivers, need to take time for themselves to relax, recharge and renew. Many spouses feel like they’re failing their marriage if they ask for help or want some time away from their partner. However, spending all your time caring for your spouse is draining and can leave you feeling hopeless, exhausted and angry. By asking for help and taking time out for you, you’ll be better able to connect with your spouse when you’re spending time with them.

For more information about how dementia affects marriage, 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.

Dementia Care: Tips for Overcoming Hygiene and Grooming Challenges

Caring for your loved one with dementia can become more and more difficult as the disease progresses. For some caregivers, the big difficulty may come when your loved one is having personal hygiene challenges. For example, your loved one may wear the same clothes over and over, even if they’re dirty. They may forget or refuse to take baths. They may not brush their teeth or comb their hair.

“Poor hygiene and grooming can be embarrassing for you and your loved one, but more importantly, it can pose serious health issues,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Not bathing, for example, can lead to odors as well as skin issues that can cause infections. Not brushing teeth leads to poor mouth health, which can lead to abscesses, cavities and other issues that lead to more serious health problems, especially with your loved one’s weakened immune system.”

As with most things related to dementia, says Andrea, the challenge is balancing your loved one’s needs with the changing reality of the situation. “Instead of focusing on everything that should be done, focus instead on what must be done. Is it necessary for your loved one to bathe each day as long as they’re practicing good hygiene overall? Or is having a routine comforting to your loved one? You’ll have to work with your knowledge of your loved one and figure out what is the best option for you both.”

Common Hygiene and Grooming Issues

Because of the way dementia affects the brain, someone with the disease can become confused about simple, everyday things that seem like second nature to us. Showering may become terrifying. Mirrors can cause agitation and anxiety. This can be due to a loss of recognition, loss of depth perception and being overwhelmed with tasks.

“Understanding why your loved one is acting the way he is will help you better overcome challenges and find a solution that keeps everyone safe, clean and healthy,” says Andrea. “Your patience, understanding and positive attitude will be the biggest tool to help you successfully navigate your loved one’s discomfort.”

Bathing
While many of us enjoy being fresh and clean, bath time can be a terrifying experience to someone with dementia. It’s cold and slippery, with hard floors and sharp edges. Mirrors can be disorienting, and water falling from the showerhead may appear as broken glass raining down upon them. They may feel anxious about a lack of privacy or are afraid of falling.

  • Tips for making bath time more pleasant: Think about your loved one’s needs and make the room as safe, comforting and calm for them as possible. Make sure the air temperature is warm enough (even if it means you’re sweating), and be sure that pointy edges and hard floors are softened with non-slip mats or protective towels. Use a hand-held showerhead, and let your loved one know what you’re going to do before you do it. Allow him or her to do as much of the bathing process as possible. If privacy is an issue, use a light towel or washcloth to cover body parts, and use robes and wraps to give your loved one some dignity. Keep the room well-lit, and play calming music if that helps.

Dressing
Dressing poses a lot of challenges for individuals with dementia. Dirty, familiar clothes may be more comforting and comfortable than a freshly laundered set. They can be overwhelmed by choices, and choose inappropriate clothing (for example, wearing sweaters and long pants during the heat of summer). They may become fixated on one set of clothing and become anxious if it needs washed.

  • Tips for making dressing easier: Make things easy for your loved one by laying out clothes in the order in which they should be put on. Prompt them as necessary. Put away seasonally inappropriate clothes and pare down the options in the closet to be more manageable. You may wish to consider purchasing several of the same item if your loved one gravitates to one outfit in particular. Choose comfortable, easy-to-put-on clothes to make it easier to get dressed.

Grooming
Brushing one’s teeth, clipping nails, shaving and maintaining a hair style can be a challenge for a loved one who can’t remember the steps, is overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” needed to complete the task or simply can’t do it the way they used to. When we look good, we usually feel better, so remember that being “put together” is still very important for your loved one.

  • Mouth care tips: Show your loved one how to brush her teeth by going step-by-step. It’s possible your loved one remembers how to brush but can’t put the toothpaste on. Allow her to do as much as possible, with you guiding the way when necessary. Incorporate brushing or rinsing mouths into your daily routine.
  • Hair tips: Consider having your loved one’s hair cut into a shorter style that’s easier to manage. If getting to the salon is difficult, look for a stylist who’s willing to come to your home. If your loved one is having trouble with the brush, guide her hand until she gets into the rhythm.
  • General tips: Use an electric razor for men (it’s less likely to cut skin), and if makeup will make your mother feel more ‘normal,’ encourage her to do so. Be sure nails are kept short and trimmed at all times, including toenails.

Tips for Reducing Hygiene and Grooming Challenges

Sometimes, even though you’re doing everything right, you may come to an impasse with your loved one with dementia. If that’s the case, here are some tips for helping reduce the anxiety and getting you both on the same page.

  • Blame the doctor. Many seniors will follow “doctor’s orders,” so have your physician write orders for tasks like bathing every other day or brushing teeth after eating.
  • Visit a specialist. Doctors who have experience dealing with geriatric issues can help provide necessary assistance in a calming way.
  • Show, don’t tell. Modeling what you’re asking your loved one to do can help make the task seem less scary and easier to do. For example, brush your teeth alongside your loved one and chat about how nice it feels to have a clean mouth.
  • Make it routine. Routines are very important for individuals with dementia, and adding grooming and hygiene into the daily tasks can help avoid conflict.
  • Be flexible and remain positive. Sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath, take a step back and try again some other time. Don’t get upset and be kind and patient to your loved one. Yes, staying clean and groomed is important, but so is maintaining a good quality of well-being for you 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.

How Exercise and Physical Activity Can Help Those Living with Alzheimer’s

We’ve known for a long time that getting a good workout can help reduce the risk of developing dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. Now, we’re discovering evidence that exercise can also benefit people who have already been diagnosed with dementia – perhaps even slowing down or reversing the disease’s progression.

“Having exercise and physical activity as part of a care plan for individuals with dementia can greatly improve their functioning and quality of life,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “This is great news, as it’s much less invasive and has fewer side effects then medications – plus, it can be completely free. Knowing that there is a natural way that is proven to help with the symptoms of dementias such as Alzheimer’s make physical activity a vital tool in any treatment plan.”

What are the benefits of exercise for individuals with Alzheimer’s? Here are some symptoms related to the disease that regular physical activity may help improve.

Coordination and balance.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks all aspects of the brain, meaning that as it progresses, it affects an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks and even walk. In order to help maintain as much independence and the best quality of life possible, it’s essential to practice coordination, balance and strength. After all, falls and complications from them are a huge factor in hospitalizations for seniors (and more so for people with Alzheimer’s). Practicing balance and coordination can help the body retain those abilities and turn what could be a nasty fall into a quickly-corrected bobble. Some examples of good exercises include chair yoga (a safe and easy way to build core and muscle strength), free weights (as long as they are supervised), leg and arm raises, and others.

Depression.

Depression affects many individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. It can stem from just about anything: side effects, boredom, unhappiness or not feeling well. And unfortunately, it becomes a vicious cycle. People who are depressed have less energy to do things, have less desire to participate in activities and social events and even have a higher incidence of memory loss. Being physically active, on the other hand, provides a natural boost of endorphins and other hormones that are perfectly designed to boost mood and memory. Individuals with dementia who exercise on a regular basis have a higher quality of life, a better outlook, fewer disruptive behaviors and can even have improved memory. Some great exercises to combat depression are group exercises (like water aerobics or even taking a short walk with a friend – this gets you physically active and stimulates you socially) or a fun activity that’s also a form of exercise, like gardening or dancing.

Cardiovascular issues.

Cardiovascular health and brain health have long been linked. Because our brains run on oxygenated blood, and our cardiovascular system is the transit through which it’s transported, it should come as no surprise that poor cardiovascular health can lead to increased complications due to Alzheimer’s. Anything that restricts blood flow to the brain can cause damage in the fragile organ, and also leads to other health difficulties. Doctors recommend that aerobic activity be worked into any exercise regimen (be sure to chat with doctors about how much exercise your loved one with Alzheimer’s can handle). Some options you can try are riding a stationary bike or taking walks either outside or on a treadmill.

Disruptive behaviors.

Some of the most challenging behaviors of Alzheimer’s can potentially be reduced with a regular exercise regimen. The two biggest symptoms it can help reduce are wandering and restlessness. After a good bout of exercise, we tend to feel more relaxed and have less nervous energy, and this holds true for individuals living with Alzheimer’s. Exercise can help them expend their energy in a healthy way, leave them more rested and allow them to sleep better at night. This same principle applies to wandering – if the person feels calm and relaxed, they have less desire to wander away for whatever reason.

Cognitive decline.

Can exercise reverse the mental decline of Alzheimer’s? While it’s by no means a magic pill, studies have shown that regular exercise can help improve cognitive function in individuals in a mild stage of the disease. People who have mid- and late-stage dementia haven’t shown as much improvement in cognitive decline, but it has been shown to improve selective functions, regardless of what stage of Alzheimer’s an individual is in. Regular exercise can help enhance an individual’s attention through a series of repetitive motions. Seniors also get the benefit of getting their energy out, improving their mood and their physical health and also improving their balance and coordination. Even if exercise doesn’t improve or reverse a senior’s cognitive decline, it can perhaps help them retain their remaining abilities for as long as possible.

Sleep issues.

Getting a good night’s sleep is paramount to having a high quality of life. Not getting enough zzz’s makes an individual depressed, fatigued, clumsy, irritated and angry, forgetful and even physically ill. By contrast, a person who’s well-rested and has good sleep habits can function at a higher level, has more energy and has a better attitude all around. Regular exercise can help keep a senior with Alzheimer’s on a more regular sleep schedule, much in the same way exercise helps calm disruptive behaviors. It can help expel extra energy, provide that boost of endorphins and provide a sense of relaxation and accomplishment. Pair that with good sleep hygiene and you’ve got a recipe for a well-rested senior.

It can feel difficult to fit yet another thing into your busy day if you’re caregiving a senior with Alzheimer’s. However, getting regular exercise will help them – and you – to live a happier, healthier life. Join in some exercise with your loved one to reap the benefits yourself, and you may be surprised at how quickly your life can change for the better.

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.

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.

A Caregiver’s Guide to Effective Communication Strategies for Dementia

Communication with others is essential to every aspect of our daily life. We’re always communicating, whether it’s with a glance, our voice or sending a text. For most of us, our brains allow us to filter the communication we receive and use it to inform our actions and responses. For someone with dementia, though, the disease causes the brain to change in a variety of ways, making what we consider normal communication challenging. This poses many difficulties and frustrations for both the individual with dementia and their loved ones.

“It’s easy to forget that just because the person with dementia isn’t able to communicate in the way we’re used to, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to communicate,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “The desire to connect and be heard is still present, even as the brain is affected by the disease. Caregivers need to have good listening skills, patience and develop new strategies to help improve communication between themselves and their loved ones.”

Early-Stage Communication in Dementia

In the early stages of dementia, one of the first things a caregiver experiences is that their loved one will forget things or have a hard time speaking. Verbal communication is one of the first abilities that becomes hijacked by the disease, causing individuals to have difficulties including:

  • Not being able to find the right word.
  • Reverting to a native language.
  • Repeating questions, words or stories.
  • Substituting words.
  • Mixing ideas and phrases together.
  • Describing an object instead of calling it by its name.
  • Speaking less often.
  • Losing a train of thought.

Caregivers may at first find communication confusing in this stage because the individual still functions at a high level and acts “normal.” Here are some tips for establishing successful communication in these early stages:

  • Continue to communicate with your loved one and don’t assume that he or she doesn’t understand what you’re saying because of the disease.
  • Ask your loved one what they need help with, and what they’re comfortable doing on their own.
  • Don’t speak over or exclude your loved one from conversations. He or she is still an adult. In the same vein, always speak directly to him or her.
  • Give your loved one plenty of time to respond when you ask questions. Resist the urge to interrupt.
  • Ask simple questions and give limited choices if necessary. Complicated questions and run-on sentences can be confusing.

Mid-Stage Communication in Dementia

The middle stage of dementia is usually the longest and can last for many years. During this phase, your loved one will find it more and more difficult to communicate, and will require more and more personal care. As a caregiver, you will find that you are responsible for quite a lot, such as direct care, coordinating assistance and juggling everything your loved one needs with your needs. Here are some tips for successful communication during this stage:

  • When talking to your loved one, minimize distractions as much as possible. Due to the disease, he or she will have difficulty filtering out background noise, like the TV or a crowd.
  • Speak slowly, clearly and with eye contact. Keep your voice pleasant and calm, since your loved one will understand your tone of voice even if they can’t interpret what you’re saying.
  • Give your loved one plenty of time to respond, and resist the urge to interrupt or suggest words.
  • Be kind and offer reassurance as much as possible. Let your loved one know they are safe and loved.
  • When you become frustrated, avoid the urge to correct or criticize. Listen to the meaning behind what your loved one is saying and try and interpret from there. Is he or she hungry? Thirsty? Need to use the bathroom?
  • When performing tasks, break them down into simple, step-by-step instructions. Once each step is completed, your loved one can continue to the next.
  • Give visual clues while you’re speaking. For example, if you say, “are you hungry?”, point to the refrigerator. Or if your loved one is performing a task, you can demonstrate what needs to happen to give them confidence.
  • Consider writing notes and placing them around the home can help reduce confusion and repetitive questions.

 Late-stage Communication in Dementia

In the final stages of dementia, your loved one’s ability to communicate verbally will decrease or go away entirely. He or she may rely solely on nonverbal communication such as sounds or facial expressions. He or she will require around-the-clock care, and this is usually a point where you as a caregiver will need to hire additional assistance or place your loved one in a Memory Care community where they can receive the assistance they need. Here are some tips for successful communication during this stage:

  • Encourage your loved one to communicate nonverbally. Ask him or her to point to things and ask questions to figure out their intent.
  • Use other senses to communicate with him or her. A caring touch, delicious smells or happy sounds are great ways to bond.
  • Think about how your loved one is communicating to help determine what they’re communicating. Sometimes the emotions they’re expressing are more important than the words coming out of their mouth.
  • It’s okay to not speak if you don’t know what to say. Your love and presence can sometimes be all that’s needed.

 Overall Tips for Successful Communication

  • Be patient with your loved one and give them plenty of time to express themselves.
  • Learn how to interpret what they’re really saying by paying attention to nonverbal clues.
  • Pay attention to your body language, because actions can really speak louder than words.
  • Always treat your loved one with respect – don’t speak down to them or use baby talk.
  • Offer choices to provide your loved one autonomy.

If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a break and do something kind for yourself. A rest can give you just what you need to refocus and provide the best possible care for 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: 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: Wandering (Part 3 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.

It’s a terrifying situation to be in: you come home from a quick errand, see that the front door is wide open and realize that your loved one with dementia has wandered away from the house. Or you turn your back for a moment and your family member disappears into the crowd. This behavior, wandering, occurs in 6 out of 10 people with dementia, and can be dangerous.

“Anyone who experiences a form of memory loss is at risk of wandering because of confusion or disorientation,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Someone with dementia may forget their name, where they live or simply not know where they are. This can occur at any stage of dementia, even in the very early stages. That’s why it’s important for caregivers and family members to plan ahead and put strategies in place to prevent loved ones from wandering.”

Why does wandering happen?

We don’t know the exact reason why people with dementia will wander, but there are many triggers that can cause the behavior to happen. Here are just some of the many reasons why your loved one with dementia may end up wandering.

  • They’re stressed or afraid. If your loved one is in a loud, overstimulating or unfamiliar environment (like a crowded shopping center or at an event), they may wander to get away from a situation they don’t understand or to get away from something that’s causing them anxiety.
  • They’re searching for something. Oftentimes, people with dementia will start out looking for something or someone, but then get lost as they forget where they’re going or what they’re doing.
  • They’re bored. It’s possible your loved one isn’t getting enough stimulation at home, so they set out to find it elsewhere.
  • They need something, like a bathroom or food. Your loved one may simply be in search of something to fulfill his or her basic needs.
  • They’re going about an old routine. Your father may be heading to work, like he did for 40 years. Mom may be heading to the grocery store to do the weekly shopping, like she always did when you were little.

Who is at risk for wandering?

If your loved one is doing the things below or experiencing certain symptoms, it increases the chance that he or she will exhibit wandering behavior. You should take notice if you’re loved one is:

  • Forgetting how to get to familiar locations
  • Talks about things they used to do in the past, like going to work
  • Continually is trying to “go home,” even though they’re “at home”
  • Acts restless, paces around or is displaying repetitive behavior
  • Is having a hard time locating familiar places like the bedroom, bathroom or TV room
  • Keeps asking where certain family members or friends are (such as asking for a husband who passed away a long time ago)
  • Appears to be doing a chore or a hobby without accomplishing anything (such as taking yarn in and out of the basket without actually knitting anything)
  • Becomes anxious or nervous in crowded areas

Tips for preventing wandering.

If you know or are worried about your loved one wandering, here are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of it happening.

  • Have a daily routine. Keeping to a set plan of activities will help provide structure and better allow your loved one to manage their day.
  • Know when your loved one’s “bad times” are (i.e. the times of day when they’re most likely to wander) and plan an activity or event at that time. Having something to do will help reduce your loved one’s agitation, anxiety and restlessness.
  • Let your loved one know they are safe and cared for. Instead of correcting them (such as if Mom wants to “go to work), reassure them that they are in a safe place, that you are there with them and redirect their attention.
  • Find out if your loved one’s basic needs are being taken care of. Is he hungry? Thirsty? Does she need to use the restroom? These are all possibilities for why he or she is wandering.
  • Stay away from busy, noisy places that can cause confusion and disorientation.
  • At home, reinstall locks to be out of the line of sight. One option is to install slide bolts at the bottom or top of the door.
  • Invest in devices that can signal when a window or door is opened. You can make them as simple (think a bell over a door) or as sophisticated (home alarm) as you wish.
  • If you notice your loved one becoming restless, distract them with an activity or exercise. You can also take steps to reduce confusion by moving to a quiet place.
  • Speak to your loved one’s doctor to determine whether the disorientation could be medication-related.

What to do if your loved one does wander.

Even if you’re the most diligent caretaker possible, there’s still a chance that your loved one will wander. In that event, it’s smart to have a plan in place.

  • Make sure your neighbors and local place know that your loved one wanders, and be sure to pass along vital information such as your cell phone number.
  • Have your loved one wear an ID tag or bracelet.
  • Sign up for the Alzheimer’s Association’s MedicAlert® and Safe Return Program, a nation-wide identification system that was designed to help locate and rescue lost individuals with dementia.
  • If your loved one is missing, begin searching immediately. 95 percent of individuals with dementia who wander are found within two miles of where they disappeared from. Don’t forget to call 911.
  • Know dangerous areas near your area and check them first thing (bodies of water, balconies, foliage, bus stops, etc.)
  • Look along roads, since many wanderers will start out on a road and stay nearby.
  • Know whether your loved one is left- or right-handed, as wanderers usually travel toward their dominant direction.
  • Investigate familiar and favorite spots, since your loved one may be wandering towards a specific destination.

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.