Roots & Wings: Talking to Your Children About Dementia (Part 3 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’s wrong with Grandma?”

“Why is Grandpa acting that way?”

“Did I do something to make Uncle Joe mad at me?”

Accepting the reality and difficulty of dementia can be hard enough for adults. For children, it can be a confusing and sometimes scary change to a person they love. As a parent, you may be torn about what to do. You know it’s important that your child and their grandparent spend time together, but what’s the best way to explain to your child what’s going on?

“Many parents struggle with how to help their children understand dementia and what it means for their senior loved one,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “But kids are smarter and more flexible than we give them credit for. They will notice that something different is going on with Grandma or Grandpa, and by informing them in an age-appropriate way what is going on, you’ll give them the tools and the knowledge to help them continue to build a relationship with your loved one through this journey.”

1. Be honest about the situation.
Kids, just like anyone else, don’t like to be lied to or left out of important things. So it’s important to be honest with them, within reason, about what’s happening to their loved one and what to expect moving forward. Experts recommend starting off with some questions to determine how much your kids have noticed or understood. Explain to them that your senior loved one is sick, and that the disease is affecting their brain, which is why they have been acting differently. You’ll also want to let them know that your loved one will never get “better,” but that it will still be possible to have a relationship with them, even though things will change.

2. Give them space to process and let them know there are no silly questions.
Seeing a loved one change is sad, and kids need time to process their grief in their own way. Encourage them to ask any questions they may have, and let them know there are no silly questions. You may want to visit the National Institute on Aging page, which has some excellent tips and tools for having an ongoing discussion with your children about dementia. Helping your kids understand what’s going on will make this disease less scary and help them know what to expect. At the same time, let them know that it’s okay if they’re afraid and that it’s a natural feeling – it’s a scary thought to think about losing your memories.

3. Explain that their loved one will do and say things that seem strange.
We always tell our kids not to lie, so the idea of “going with the flow” when a loved one is in their own reality can be a bit of a head-scratcher. One option is to explain that it’s like your loved one is playing make believe (just not on purpose), and that you can go along with it like it’s a game. For older children who can understand more of what’s going on, let them know that going along with their loved one’s delusions is actually a kind thing to do, and that trying to bring them back to “reality” can actually be hurtful.

4. Remind them that it’s the disease talking, not their loved one
Dementia causes our loved ones to react in very strange and sometimes upsetting ways. Whenever possible, remind your kids (and yourself) that Grandma or Grandpa is reacting that way because they’re sick and because of the disease – it’s not anything the child did or you said. In their hearts, they are still the same person you love and know.

5. Plan conversations and activities in advance.
Before you visit a loved one with dementia, sit down with your children and think about different conversations they could start with the senior, as well as fun things they could do together. Activities are a great way to spend time together and can help get over the awkwardness of not being able to carry on a “normal” conversation.”

Prompt your children to lead the conversations with their loved ones. Luckily, kids like talking about themselves and what they’re doing, and their excitement can get the person with dementia excited and happy, too. Your child can tell Grandma or Grandpa about what they’re doing in school, or the party they attended over the weekend, or the fun plans they have for summer vacation.

The activities that kids enjoy doing are, coincidentally, great activities to do with someone who has dementia. Here are a few ideas of things your kids and your loved one can do during a visit:

  • Listen to favorite music
  • Coloring together
  • Putting together a puzzle
  • Doing a craft, like flower arranging or making seasonal decorations
  • Singing songs together

While watching your loved one with dementia can be sad, remind your children that they still can have a good time together and there are still lots of things they can learn from them.

For more information about talking to kids about dementia, visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s® kids and teens web page, or contact our community at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Roots & Wings: How to Have a Successful Visit with a Loved One (Part 2 of 4)

The philosophy of Roots and Wings is a dual approach of building both a sense of tradition and looking to the future. In part one of this four-part series, we explored different ways for seniors to share roots and wings with their grandchildren. In part two, we will focus on how loved ones can carry on traditions and look forward even when a senior parent or grandparent has dementia.

When someone you care about has dementia, spending time with them can be difficult at first. It’s hard to know how to react and interact with them, particularly as they progress into different stages of the disease and the person you remember transforms into someone you might not recognize.

“We can never say this enough: it’s important to remember that the changes your loved one experiences are due to the disease and are not their fault,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “While we can recognize this on a logistical level, it can be hard to remember this on an emotional level. But if you can adjust your thinking so that you realize these are symptoms of a disease, much like low blood sugar levels are a symptom of diabetes, you may find that it’s easier to interact with your loved one in a meaningful way.”

To help you do this, we’ve put together these tips for a successful visit with your loved one. 

1. Adjust to your loved one’s reality.
It’s completely natural to want to try and bring our loved ones into the “real world” when they’re experiencing a delusion or misremembering facts. But this is a counterintuitive approach, because it will only cause agitation and frustration for both parties. Instead, be open and adjust your perspective to live “in their world.” Dementia care specialist Vivian Green Korner states that “Conversations may become less intellect-to-intellect and more emotion-to-emotion.”

2. Be present in the moment and use prompts.
Visiting a loved one with dementia is all about engagement. Professionals who work with residents will tell you that living in the moment is one of the best ways to connect. For example, instead of asking, “what have you been doing, Mom?” (which she may or may not remember), comment on your surroundings or give her a compliment (“the colors of those flowers are lovely” or “your hair looks very pretty today”). Concrete objects, like nature, pictures and other items around you can be an entryway into a conversation. Consider bringing something with you to the visit – like a favorite book, toy, treat or photo – to prompt a conversation.

3. Use touch and eye contact to connect.
Nonverbal communication is our most powerful communication tool – even individuals in the later stages of dementia can react to a kind touch or a soothing tone. Smile at your loved one and look them in the eyes to show them they are important and to engage their attention. Holding their hand, patting their back or gently touching a knee can all communicate caring and security, and can help your loved one remain happy and calm.

4. Help your loved one feel comfortable with their memory loss.
It is very frustrating for people with dementia to lose their abilities and memory. Oftentimes, this results in anger, outbursts and other disruptive behavior. Your loved one may also be able to express, verbally, how hard it is to keep forgetting things, particularly in the early stages of the disease. This can be awkward for visiting friends and family members because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. Instead of trying to ignore it, validate your loved one’s feeling and empathize (you can even say that you have the same issue with forgetting things – who hasn’t had a hard time recalling an event?). If your loved one is reminiscing and getting details of a story wrong, don’t interrupt or correct. Just go with it. Being empathetic and making memory loss a “normal” thing will help you and your loved one accept this new reality.

5. Be kind and don’t judge your loved one (or yourself) too harshly.
People with dementia have good days and bad days (don’t we all?), and since the disease is progressive, it’s inevitable that you will watch your loved one’s abilities decrease over time. It’s hard, but try not to compare how they are now with how they were. It’s possible that your visit may not go as planned, or it could end up being a bit of a disaster. On the other hand, you could have a perfectly lovely visit with a loved one who seems “with it” because they’re simply having a good day.

It’s easy to think “I should do/say/think this” and beat yourself up over how you acted or didn’t act. We’re our own worst critics, after all. But just as you’re giving your loved one grace and understanding, be sure to do the same for yourself. Showing understanding and caring to everyone in your circle will help you and your senior loved one with dementia bond, nurture your relationship and have good days 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, 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.

Thanksgiving Day Tips for Seniors and their Families

Thanksgiving is a great occasion to get together with family members, young and old. It’s one of the most enjoyable holidays of the year, but it can also bring its share of challenges. With some advance planning, it can be a very special time for you and your elderly loved ones.

Holidays and other events that change the daily routine may be tiring for your loved one, so make sure he or she has a little extra help. You may want to arrange for a caregiver to help your loved one get dressed and ready in the morning and put him or her at ease.

Here are some tips for hosting a safe and comfortable senior-friendly gathering:

Remove any hazards that could lead to trips and falls before your loved one arrives, and make sure the bathroom is easily accessible. Walkers and canes can make getting up and down from the dinner table difficult, but seating your loved one at the end of the table should give him or her plenty of room.

Take steps to ensure safe cooking, such as doubling up on disposable aluminum pans to minimize dripping turkey juices, which can cause an oven fire. Home cooking fires are actually three times more common on Thanksgiving than the typical day, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Be sure to connect with your loved one and include him or her in the activities and conversation. During the meal, try to bridge generation gaps by asking each other to share something, such as their proudest moment, the first president they remember, or a famous person who made the biggest impression.

Give thanks. This holiday is a time to consider the things you appreciate in life. Gratitude can have a positive impact on your health and that of your loved ones. Although it may be challenging, it’s important to find things to be grateful for and people to be grateful towards. Studies have shown that gratitude can relieve depression, lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.

For more information contact Andrea Campisi, Director of Marketing, (924) 964-2062.

How Family and Social Connections Keep Seniors Healthy

As the poet Maya Angelou said: “Family isn’t always blood, it’s the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

Research has shown that social connection improves physical health and can have powerful effects on mental and emotional well-being. Social engagement is an essential component of successful aging. Strong social connection can strengthen the immune system, help recovery from disease, and increase longevity. Although older age may bring changes to functional ability and to social relationships, it’s also true that social relationships can help improve functional ability and well-being.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Low levels of social connection are associated with declines in self-esteem and physical and psychological health. The U.S. surgeon general says isolation is a bigger American health problem than cancer or heart disease.

Friendships become more important as we age. So, it’s important to maintain social ties, which can provide a sense of value and identity. Moving into an assisted living community is an ideal way to maintain social connections and your health. A well-run community will organize programs for its residents and hold social events and group activities that reinforce social ties. Programs can include physical fitness, movement, drawing and art, music, lectures, outings, and accessibility to technology so that you can stay connected. And in some communities like The Reutlinger, a spiritual leader.

So, make social engagement a priority in your life. Whether you are living at home or in an assisted living community. Try to build and maintain your social network, participate in activities, and make an effort to connect with others every day. You’ll be glad you did, and so will your friends and family.

For more information on assisted living, contact Andrea Campisi, Director of Marketing, The Reutlinger Community, at (924) 964-2062.

 

Tips for Touring an Assisted Living Facility

National Assisted Living Week, September 10-16, celebrates caregivers and individuals served in assisted living. It’s a special opportunity for residents, their loved ones, staff, volunteers, and surrounding communities to honor caregivers for their commitment and learn more about this sector of long-term care.

Assisted living communities provide social support and convenience services in a life-enhancing environment. National Assisted Living Week is the perfect time to recognize the role of caregivers in delivering high-quality, individual care to each resident. We hope this occasion will encourage members of the public to tour an assisted living community and witness this devotion first-hand.

Here are some tips for touring an assisted living facility to see if it’s the right fit for you or a loved one:

  1. First impressions count. Make sure the facility is clean and well-lit. Do you feel at ease?
  2. Look for safety features like grab bars and nonslip flooring materials, especially in the bathrooms.
  3. Pay special attention to the resident living spaces to see if comfort and personal needs are met. Find out how often housekeeping services are offered.
  4. Watch for red flags. Observe the interaction between staff members and residents. Is it cheerful and respectful?
  5. Stay for a meal. Check the menu and dining options. Are the residents enjoying the food?
  6. Take a look at the activity calendar and observe group activities and social events. Are they well attended?
  7. Investigate outdoor areas. Are the grounds well-maintained, secure and accessible and conducive for outdoor activities?

For more information call Andrea Campisi, Director of Marketing, at (925) 964-2062.

Corner View: January 2017

Greetings and Happy New Year!

As we enter 2017, I am pleased to report that The Reutlinger Community has received a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) license from the State of California. Although we have always accommodated and met the needs of our residents who needed to age in place, this licensure is a formal stamp of approval on our community.
To be defined as a CCRC, a senior living community must offer independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing home care all on one campus.

I want to thank the staff for their assistance in obtaining our CCRC license. If you have any questions, please contact us.
As for 2017, I made a list of wishes for The Reutlinger and want to share it with you.

• Happy, joyful residents and staff
• Greater resident, family and employee satisfaction
• Continued 5-Star surveys in Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing
• Progress expanding The Reutlinger Community presence along the 680 corridor and in Oakland and Berkeley
• A dining services program that exceeds expectations in variety, preparation, taste and service.

Most of all, I wish for respect, understanding and appreciation of our elders as they age. May their twilight years be filled with peace and joy.
Happy New Year!

jay-zimmer

Jay Zimmer, CEO

The Corner View: November 2016

In our Fall 2016 newsletter, we introduced Unidine as our new food services provider as of October 2016. The selection of Unidine supports our mission of bringing the best of senior living to our residents knowing that dining is one of the most important factors to their health and wellness.

So far, our residents are very pleased with the seasonal and regional menu they are providing. There is a carving station for open-faced sandwiches, a hydration station of naturally flavored waters, and of course excellent cuisine at all meals.

I would like to introduce to three members of the Unidine team; and, urge you to inquire about any special needs. Please note that Nicole Moore, a registered dietician, will be available to the entire community.

 

 

Director of Dinning Services – Jeanette Choate

Jeanette Choate is a Director of Dining Services with Unidine Corporation. In this role, she leads the culinary and service team at Reutlinger to provide and exceed our residents’ expectations in menu creativity, service excellence and the dining experience. Jeanette is no stranger to setting goals to achieve strategic partnerships and excellence in customer satisfaction, having spent close to 30 years as a manager and director. Throughout her career she has worked for Guckenheimer, Compass Group and Unidine Corporation.

In her personal life Jeanette spends her time with her husband of 35 years, two daughters and 8 grandchildren (seven boys and 1 princess!). She thrives on cooking, hiking, camping and boating.

Executive Chef – John (Jake) Zetner

Jake Zentner grew up in a family where the focus was on “beef, it’s what’s for dinner”, after all his great grandfather owned and operated family-style steakhouses in Texas. From Jake’s roots he ate and cooked his way up through high school taking part-time jobs at the local valley  food restaurants. After completing his academic education Jake followed the passion he knew was in his heart and enrolled at the prestigious Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. As a full-time student, Jake held various culinary and public health positions. Inspired by the lack of healthy options in the food service industry, he continued into the nutrition program and graduated with a bachelors in Culinary Nutrition. Upon completing his degree Jake began a career as personal chef and cooked for notable celebrities such as Candace Bergen, former Rhode Island Senator Myrth York, and businessman Thomas James Perkins.

Jake enjoyed 12 years on the East Coast; however, the cold winter weather made him long for the mild California weather.  Last year’s Eastern winter storms convinced Jake to move back to California to pursue his culinary/nutrition career on the West Coast.  Jake currently is a resident of Orinda.  On his days off, you can find Jake cruising Highway 1 looking for the next great eatery or cooking for his future wife. Jake recently joined Unidine is very excited that his passion for nutrition and cooking goes so well with Unidine’s company mission of providing “made from scratch cooking” to the residents.

Register Dietician – Nicole Moore

Nicole Moore is a recent Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) graduate and transplant from Portland, OR. Prior to pursuing her dietetic Internship at OHSU, Nicole received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nutrition from California State University, Chico. Nicole’s interests in nutrition include, Motivational Interviewing, nutrition support, research and quality improvement and malnutrition.

For fun, Nicole enjoys traveling and exploring, trying new cuisines, crafting, and watching HGTV’s House Hunters. Nicole is very passionate about all things nutrition and is especially excited to serve the residents of The Reutlinger community.

Nicole will be available to the entire community to help and answer questions regarding dietary needs.

I am very excited to have this team who will ensure that every meal is an experience to be savored.

 

jay-zimmer

Jay Zimmer, CEO