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5 Rules for New Dementia Caregivers

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

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

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

The 5 Rules for New Dementia Caregivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding About the Aging Process for Parents: Part 1 of 4

It’s probably happened to you already. You’ve been with mom or dad, spending time with them when suddenly you think to yourself, “Oh my gosh … they’re old.” While this realization may seem to have come out of nowhere, once the lightbulb has gone off, you will probably start thinking about different events and interactions in a new light. Perhaps you’ve brushed off the gray hair as distinguished, or told yourself those wrinkles have always been there.

The sudden understanding that you have aging parents can be jarring to adult children, no matter how much you may have prepared for it mentally. “This can be a challenging time for many, because roles are beginning to shift,” says Andrea Campisi of The Reutlinger. “Parents are entering a stage of life where they may need to be ‘parented,’ and adult children will have to balance their conflicting feelings about supporting their parents and understanding this new phase of life.

At The Reutlinger, we are experts in the aging process, and strive to educate our residents, future residents and adult children about what to expect as a parent ages. In this four-part series, we’ll explore the aging process and provide tips to help adult children navigate and manage these changes.

The Science of Aging

When you think of aging, what springs to mind? For many it’s, gray hair, wrinkles, walkers and dentures. Others may immediately think of retirement, aching joints and afternoon naps. Whatever it means to you specifically, we can all agree that aging is the wear and tear that happens to our bodies the longer we live. While aging happens to all living things, it’s actually one of nature’s least understood processes, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Scientists aren’t entirely sure about why we age and what causes it. One theory is the “cellular clock,” which revolves around the fact that we age because our cells have maxed out their ability to reproduce and simply wear out. Another theory focuses on “free radicals,” which states that when cells encounter a radical (basically an unstable atom), the radical causes the cell to self-destruct. As more and more cells become damaged, we age.

No matter what the underlying reason is, we do age, meaning we have to adjust our perceptions of what we can do, how we can stay healthy and – on a psychological level – re-define who we are.

When Do We Start Aging?

Age-related changes don’t happen to everyone at the same time. You probably know of individuals who look old before their time, or know of 70-year-olds who could pass for 40. Aging is an individualized process, and depends on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Overall health
  • Environment
  • Culture
  • Genetics
  • Diet
  • Activity levels

While we think of “aging” as happening in our 50s or 60s, changes start happening to our bodies as early as age 30. According to researchers, bodies lose about 1% of their functioning every year after age 30, but we’re usually able to “roll with the changes” so we don’t feel them (unless there’s an underlying disease or illness involved). And while there’s an element of “loss” involved, we should actually look at aging as a “life-saving process,” according to Kenneth Minaker, MD, chief of geriatric medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Aging … is a process of lifelong adaptation to prevent us from developing cancers that would kill us,” he says.

It’s incredibly important, as we or our loved ones age, to understand what “normal aging” looks like versus symptoms that point to something more serious. It’s easy to chalk up a loved one’s symptoms to “that’s just what happens when you get old” when it’s actually an issue that could be controlled or even reversed.

What Normal Aging Looks Like

So what does normal aging – and abnormal aging – look like? Here are some of the most common changes that take place for seniors, as well as some watch-fors that may denote a more serious problem:

  • Reduced vision. By around the age of 40, the lenses of our eyes start to stiffen, which makes it more difficult to adjust and refocus between near- and long-distance vision. Cataracts begin to develop, too, usually around the age of 60 or 65. But while reading glasses become a part of daily life, vision loss or blurred vision shouldn’t be. Issues like glaucoma, macular degeneration and others can pop up at this time and can result in permanent damage if not addressed early on.
  • Loss of hearing. Just as our eyes start to fail, our ears start to become less sensitive to high-pitched and muffled sounds due to the hardening of sound receptors. However, if pain is present, or if one ear is significantly worse than the other, this could be an indication of a deeper problem.
  • Loss of stamina and strength. Our bodies begin to lose muscle tissue as we age, which makes stretching and weight training a must in order to retain abilities. Other parts of our bodies begin to change as well, such as our heart walls thickening, the stiffening of arteries and a slowing heart rate. While dad no longer running marathons shouldn’t be a cause for worry, a check-up is necessary if dizziness, nausea, fainting or chest pain start to present.
  • Heightened blood pressure. The changes taking place in our bodies make us more vulnerable to medical issues such as hypertension and high blood pressure. More than half of people over the age of 60 have high blood pressure, so maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and following a low-sodium diet is key to healthy aging.
  • Memory loss. This is, for most people, the biggest indicator of age. Also known as “senior moments,” it happens when we forget the names of people we’ve known forever or when we can’t remember where we placed our keys. But don’t worry – there’s no need to fret about these momentary lapses, unless it’s starting to negatively affect daily life. The ability to process information starts to slow as we age, and seniors have difficulty multitasking. However, if mom or dad is having difficulty learning and retaining information or losing the ability to recognize objects, it’s best to get a checkup to see if it could be something more serious like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information on the aging process and tips on what’s normal (and what’s not), please contact our team at The Reutlinger. We would love to speak with you and find out how we can make this transition as smooth and easy as possible for you and your aging parents.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering assisted living, enhanced assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and

rehabilitation, The Reutlinger provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger’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.

The Benefit of a Smaller Care Team to Resident Ratio in Memory Care

When considering a memory care community for a loved one with memory loss, it’s important to realize that the environment they are in could make all the difference in their care and experience. When you and your loved one are touring a memory care community, consider the lifestyle and care you’d like your loved one to receive. Do you want them to be in a memory care community that is small, close-knit and feels like home? Would it be easier for them to navigate, lessen their anxiety about moving and give you peace of mind knowing their care team knows exactly who they are by name? Often, this is the difference between a memory care community where your loved one thrives and one that is owned by a company whose bottom line is to make money. That’s not what your loved one deserves when they make a move. They deserve personalized attention, care plans tailored to their specific needs and the comfort and peace of mind of a small care team dedicated to caring for them.

According to Andrea Campisi, Marketing Director at The Reutlinger Community, an assisted living, enhanced assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation community in Danville, CA, seniors and their families should choose a community where their loved one isn’t just a number. “While no one intends on choosing a memory care community that their loved one doesn’t excel in, it’s important to consider which communities you tour will be dedicated to caring for your loved one just as you would,” says Andrea. “Does the care team seem particularly close to their residents? Do they converse with one another like they are old friends or do they appear distant and as if they don’t know each other well? If the latter is the case, it could be a sign that their care teams are either large and don’t know the residents on a personal level, or it could mean that the residents simply aren’t comfortable with their care team. This is a big red flag, as care is one of the main reasons many families consider making a move to a memory care community. If you notice this, it might be a good idea to consider choosing a different option.”

The Benefits of Smaller Care Teams in Memory Care

It’s often true that the benefits of a smaller care team far outweigh those of larger memory care communities. Consider some of the following benefits that those in memory care often experience as a result. 

  • Personalized care plans. When the care teams in a memory care community are smaller, the team gets to know your loved one better. From their preferences and what helps to ease the symptoms of their memory loss to their treasured memories and past experiences that help them reconnect with who they are, the care team is able to create a plan all around what is best for your loved one while providing them with the care they desire. 
  • The benefit of knowing who is caring for you. The more your loved one sees their care team, the better they are able to get to know them. This enhances the comfort your loved one feels with them and decreases the likelihood they will view them as a stranger that is trying to harm them.
  • Close bonds and relationships. Because the same people will be caring for your loved one each day, both of you will be able to form close bonds and relationships with their care team. You will get to know about their hobbies, families and who they are as a person, just as they will get to know these things about you. This can be beneficial, as it can help to enhance their care plans and allow them a more complete look at who your loved one was and still is.
  • Peace of mind of knowing who to contact. Have a question or want to check in to see how your loved one is doing? Smaller care teams mean that you will likely know exactly who to call. Not only this, but they will know how your loved one is, what they are doing and will all be able to tell you exactly what you want to know, unlike larger care teams where people will go in and out and may not care for your loved one on a day to day basis.
  • Enhanced programming recommendations. When your loved one opens up to their care team, it allows them to gain a point of view that many larger care teams don’t. By simply talking with your loved one, their care team can learn their hobbies, passions, past jobs and what things they love to do. This helps them suggest programs your loved one may be interested in, can help engage them or even cause them to reconnect with their pasts. If they don’t have programming that meets your loved one’s interests, they may even be able to create it.

For more information about how a smaller care team can benefit those with memory loss, or to learn more about the person-centered care provided at The Reutlinger Community, feel free to contact our community. We would love to share our approach to care with you while giving you a look into how we care for residents like they are our own family. Simply contact us today to schedule your personal tour.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

At The Reutlinger, 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.

Why You Shouldn’t Choose Memory Care That’s One-Size-Fits-All

When it’s time to choose a memory care community, it’s important to realize that everyone is different. No one has the same experiences, preferences or tastes. No one shares all the same hobbies, talents or skills. People are unique, and that’s one of the reasons the world is so great. If people aren’t one-size-fits-all, why should your memory care be? Choosing memory care that’s as unique as you are and takes each individual senior into account is one of the best ways to ensure seniors choose the memory care community that’s right for them.

According to Andrea Campisi, Marketing Director at The Reutlinger Community, an assisted living, enhanced assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation community in Danville, CA, many seniors and their families look for the same types of attributes in a memory care community. “Before ever touring, we have an idea in our head about what it is we are looking for. We want it to look appealing, we want there to be a variety of programs and we want the care we need to have the lifestyle we deserve,” said Andrea. “The issue is that we often just visit and tour the community and check these items off the list without looking into it further. The community may be beautiful, the residents may look happy and there may be plenty of programs and a great care plan, but just how personalized is it really? Don’t just check items off the list, this decision is much bigger than that.”

5 Reasons Memory Care Shouldn’t Be One-Size-Fits-All

When you or a loved one are looking into a memory care community, make a list of things you are personally looking for. Consider some of the following:

 

  • Location. If you love being immersed in nature and beautiful surroundings, you wouldn’t choose a memory care community located in the middle of a city just as you wouldn’t move to one in the country if you love hearing the bustle and excitement of the city. Keep in mind that the community you choose doesn’t usually impact outings, as many plan specific trips to local museums and attractions. Be sure to ask for some examples of trips the community has gone on to gauge whether or not you’d be interested. If you or a loved one like to watch sports or go to the theater, see if that’s an option. Being specific about what you are looking for isn’t a bad thing when choosing memory care.

 

  • Person-centered care. Memory loss can impact seniors in a number of different ways and no diagnosis is exactly the same. This makes it crucial for seniors to receive resident-centered care according to their own specific needs and disease. When touring a community, talk to the staff about who will care for you or your loved one, if they will be their dedicated team and if personal care plans are created and agreed upon. It can help to meet with the staff and ask specific questions you have as well.

 

  • Programs and activities. Make a list of things you love to do. If you love to paint, read, garden or exercise, make sure the community has programs that can accommodate this. Have a specific skill or talent you want to share but there’s no club or program available? See if one can be started. It’s important for seniors to have access to activities they love, especially when they have memory loss, because these activities can often entice them to remember past events and connect with who they were. It’s also important to see if the community offers any special programming, like sensory-based therapies and activities that can help soothe those with memory loss while engaging their minds.

 

  • Dining. Do you or a loved one have dietary restrictions or need adaptations in order to make dining easier? Make sure these can be accommodated at the memory care community you choose. Because not everyone has the same preferences, it can also help to make sure the community offers meals throughout different times of the day and healthy snacks and beverages at all times. Try to make sure meals can be tailored to meet their preferences, as well and that there is plenty of choice and variety.

Choosing the wrong memory care community for you can lead to dissatisfaction, isolation and depression. This can make for a costly move down the road and even more disruption in you or a loved one’s daily life. Choosing a community that’s not one-size-fits-all in the first place can help to decrease the likelihood of this and ensure your loved one has access to the engaging, exciting lifestyle and high level of care they deserve.

For more information on choosing a memory care community, or to take a tour of The Reutlinger to see how our resident-centered approach to care and activities can benefit yourself or a loved one, contact us today. We’d be happy to show you how our residents live more engaged, fulfilled and connected lives as a result of a far-from-cookie-cutter lifestyle.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

Offering assisted living, enhanced assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, The Reutlinger provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger’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.