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How to Successfully Share Coronavirus Information with an Individual with Dementia Symptoms

Laura Wayman, The Dementia Whisperer

Whether you are a family caregiver or a professional care provider, it is important to remain adaptable with your care approach to successfully manage dementia symptoms and behaviors.  A caregiver who is “dementia-aware” is one who remains open to continuing education.

Now, in the midst of this coronavirus crisis and all of the challenges it brings to you the caregiver, more than ever this is a time to help the one(s) being cared for by using dementia-aware communication strategies, remaining sensitive to the fact that all of the emotions and feelings remain.  Dementia-aware communication has less to do with your words than it has to do with the feelings you project.

Let’s first transform our perception of dementia and why it is necessary to change our communication and approach to better connect with the individual with dementia symptoms.  Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. What is behind these dementia symptoms? Our brains are always trying to make sense of things, to impose order on all the information we are continuously taking in.  But when an individual has dementia symptoms, whole experiences are constantly being lost, making it difficult for the brain to get its bearings. Through sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste we take note of things outside of ourselves. Then our brains make sense out of what we take in. People with dementia begin to struggle sensing and interpreting things, and this is especially challenging if they become overwhelmed with too much information.

In plain language, the essential parts of the brain we access to understand the world around us, every piece of data we receive, process and use to do anything, is now broken and with most causes may continue to be even more broken.  The way I like to describe it is – the person presenting dementia symptoms has a  “broken thinker.”  And to become “dementia-aware” is to learn to “think” for them.

Below are some dementia-aware communication tips to help the family and professional caregiver share necessary information about the coronavirus threat in a more positive dementia-aware way without causing undue anxiety:

Provide just enough information

Try to strike a balance between answering questions without fueling the flame of anxiety and avoid providing too much information that may create extra alarm. Among the greatest challenges is how to minimize overstimulation, keeping in mind it is all about how information makes them feel. Leave out specific details and join them in whatever they might be feeling-give them only the information they can process and handle in the moment

This is a big change in how we have always communicated with adults, so it takes practice! I even have to remind myself to ask less and do more, as this is a core component of dementia-aware communication.A dementia-aware caregiver uses fewer questions, gives fewer options, uses positive action, keeping all statements simple.

Model calmness

Even though you may be concerned yourself, it is important to model calmness. A flight attendant that appears terrified may make you think there is something wrong and you should worry. If that same flight attendant calmly offers you a beverage with a smile, you might think there’s just windy weather that will pass soon.

Limit news and media exposure

Although the news can be helpful by keeping everyone informed, news stories often use wording that is strong and scary – – and the reporters don’t practice dementia-aware positive engagement. Limit news-viewing to the hours after the person you are caring for has gone to sleep, read the news independently, focusing less on the threat. Take time to reframe information into news that will not push them into anxiety or fright.  Join their feelings and help them to feel loved, safe, secure, comfortable and valued by practicing positive action statements such as:   “This is a scary time for everyone, I am sure glad we can get through this together,” “I listened to the news this morning and it sounds like there are very smart doctors and leaders that are making good decisions to keep us all safe.”

Watch for reassurance seeking

It’s natural for the person you are caring for with dementia to ask questions repeatedly, particularly about something difficult for them to understand and process. Often, however, those with dementia symptoms, it is the underlying feeling of anxiety causing the individual to continually ask the questions rather than actually seeking an answer, prompting a behavior called reassurance seeking. It may look like the person with dementia is repeatedly asking the same or similar questions, yet the person’s distress increases no matter how many times you give them the answer. If you notice repeated reassurance seeking, change from answering the question to talking to the feelings. If the person you are caring for asks you repetitively why they can’t go to their favorite restaurant for lunch and seems anxious when you explain that the restaurant is closed due to the coronavirus quarantine, try the strategy of talking to the feelings instead of answering with details. For example, say and “do” the following (join the feelings and take  positive action): “I miss going to our favorite lunch spot as well, I love having lunch with you, let’s make our favorite grilled cheese sandwich and have lunch together at home.”  Then just move forward and get it done!

The more you “think” for people with dementia, using these strategies, the kinder and more supportive you are in their eyes. Short and sweet, less is best, fewer words and more action. This change in your care approach as you become more dementia-aware brings relief, as well as helping both of you experience more moments of calmness and peace.

Dementia-awareness offers caregivers helpful communication techniques such as positive action statements and care approach strategies for managing and easing dementia care challenges. For more information, tools and trainings for becoming dementia-aware visit my website www.laurawayman.com.

Why Assisted Living Is the Key to Health and Longevity for Seniors

Everyone wants to live a long, healthy life – emphasis on the healthy. As Americans naturally are becoming more and more long-lived thanks to a focus on wellness and medical advancements, the goal of remaining active and healthy in your senior years has become more and more important to today’s older adults. This thinking is also causing a seismic shift in how seniors and their loved ones consider where to live their golden years.

“The focus for so long has been keeping older adults in their homes, because yesterday’s ‘nursing homes’ were less than optimal,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Today, however, there are so many opportunities and advantages being offered at senior living communities. People are beginning to see that Assisted Living can provide better health and longer lives for seniors who choose to call those communities home.”

And there’s actually evidence to back that up. According to research, seniors who have moved into a senior living community live healthier, on average, for seven to 10 years longer than counterparts who live in their own private homes. Andrea suggests that this is due to many factors, like reduced stress overall, opportunities to socialize, easier fitness opportunities and general peace of mind.

“Seniors who live in their own homes may have the comfort of familiar settings, but also face hazards and dangers like stairs, slippery floors and bathrooms that aren’t set up to accommodate those with mobility issues,” she says. “Senior living communities like The Reutlinger Community, on the other hand, are designed specifically to give seniors and their family members confidence and knowledge that caring assistance is never far away.”

The Advantages of Assisted Living

Designed and adaptable for changing health needs. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Assisted Living provides that ounce of prevention in many ways by taking a holistic, proactive approach to care. In fact, many seniors who move into Assisted Living may be perfectly healthy and active – they’re just planning for the future. Because Assisted Living is staffed with caregivers who are equipped to flex care services as needed, seniors can comfortably age in place in their home – without having to move.

Safety and security. Not only are Assisted Living communities set up to keep residents safe in the sense of “living in an environment that doesn’t have hazards that could cause accidents,” they also often have secured entrances and security guards available 24/7. There are also caregivers available 24/7 and call systems in rooms, so that if a resident is experiencing an emergency, summoning help is as easy as pressing a button.

Nutritious meals. As we get older, it can be harder to cook healthy, delicious meals for ourselves. Getting to the grocery store, not to mention going to the effort of cooking and cleaning up, can just seem like too much work. Also, because tastebuds and appetites diminish as we get older, eating just isn’t much fun – especially if you live by yourself. This can lead to poor meal choices and malnutrition, which in turn can lead to health issues like hypertension, a lower immune system and stress.

In Assisted Living, by contrast, meals are chef-prepared and served tableside. Not only is the food delicious and nutritious (and the senior doesn’t have to cook or clean up!), but there’s also an added social element that can be difficult to get in a private home. Residents at Assisted Living communities sit at tables with friends, which provides a lively, emotionally connected atmosphere. Even if Assisted Living residents have their own kitchen or kitchenette in their apartments, many still choose to eat meals in the dining room with their friends – because the best meals are the ones we share with others.

Transportation. Driving can become more dangerous as we age. Many seniors end up not going out or bowing out of social engagements because they don’t want to drive in the dark, don’t trust themselves behind the wheel or perhaps aren’t cognitively capable of driving safely. Fortunately, if seniors decided they no longer want to drive, an Assisted Living community is happy to take that chore over. Most Assisted Living communities will offer transportation for community events, like shopping or outings. They also can arrange transportation if a resident has a doctor’s appointment or needs to go somewhere. Even if the community has garages for the residents’ personal cars, many seniors will opt for the community transportation – greatly reducing their risk of getting in an accident on the road while still getting everywhere they need to go.

Less work and worry. Even if you’ve paid off your mortgage, there are still many expenses that go with owning a home. Utilities, insurance, property tax and maintenance can all quickly add up, depending on how old your house is. Fixes can become expensive if you hire it out – and can be dangerous if you try to do it yourself as an older adult. Assisted Living communities like The Reutlinger Community provide maintenance-free living, meaning that seniors never have to climb on a ladder to clean gutters ever again. This means less stress – and a lot more free time for you.

Socialization and opportunities for friendship. Loneliness is incredibly common among older adults, and is one of the biggest health issues facing those who live alone. Yes, health issues – because loneliness can lead to anxiety, stress, depression, hypertension, a lowered immune system and poor physical health. By contrast, socializing with people, being engaged and involved in activities we care about boost endorphins, keep our minds sharp, improve our physical health and keep us young … both in heart, in mind and body.

“Today’s seniors are demanding more out of their retirement and golden years, and today’s senior living communities are actively providing the lifestyle that enables them to achieve everything they want and desire,” says Andrea. “It also gives them choices … choices to live their life how they wish while receiving the care they need. It truly is the best of both worlds.”

For more information about the benefits of Assisted Living, 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 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.

5 Tips for Finding the Best Memory Care for a Senior Loved One

If you have a loved one with dementia, there will come a time when they need more assistance than you yourself can provide. Although this can be a hard realization to come to, it truly is the kindest thing you can do for yourself and for your loved one, says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA.

“Dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease are progressive, which means that eventually your loved one will require around-the-clock care – something that’s difficult for a family caregiver to provide,” she says. “That’s why it’s important to become educated on the types of care available and understand how to assess your loved one’s needs so you can meet their care needs and safety requirements long-term.”

Memory Care is not a one-size-fits-all solution, which is why we’ve put together this guide on the various types and levels of dementia care available. That way, you and your family will understand and know how to choose the right Memory Care option for your loved one when the time arrives.

Types of Dementia and Memory Care Available

Adult Day Care
This type of specialized Memory Care provides your loved one with dementia a structured and safe environment during the day, which allows you (as the primary caregiver) to go about your daily life such as going to work, taking a break to run errands or simply give yourself some self-care. Adult day cares are often in or near Memory Care communities (specialized senior living communities that provide assistance for individuals with memory loss), and individuals are cared for by professionally trained caregivers who understand the unique needs of those with memory issues.

Adult day care centers offer supervision, socialization opportunities, activities and more. They also offer healthy lunch and snacks (at some centers). This type of Memory Care service is perfect for caregivers who have full-time or part-time jobs and need a little extra assistance during the working day. Most centers are open during regular working hours, and some offer pick-up and drop-off services. Some centers also offer care on weekends or in the evenings.

In-home Care
In-home care providers do exactly what their name says: they provide structured care for individuals with dementia in their own homes (instead of in a specialized facility). Services can include everything from companionship and personal care to caregiving around-the-clock, housekeeping, nursing care and respite care.

In-home care often allows caregivers and those with dementia to maintain their comfort and dignity in the privacy of their own home.

  • Common kinds of care services may include: Companion services, which include socialization and supervision
  • Homemaker services, which induces meal preparation, housekeeping or shopping
  • Personal care, which includes help with the tasks of daily living (ADLs)
  • Nursing care, which includes nursing and medical care such as medication administrations, therapies and other skilled medical care

Residential Care
This type of Memory Care takes place in a communal environment so that residents may receive emergency care, medical supervision and personal care whenever it’s needed. This type of care is usually reserved for individuals who require a higher level of care than those who currently live in an in-home environment. The different types of residential care can include:

  • Assisted Living, which are communities for seniors who need a higher level of care but only on a part-time basis.
  • Continuum of Care, which is a type of senior living that’s designed to meet a senior’s needs as their health changes over the years. A resident may begin in Independent Living, and then progress through the continuum of care all the way to Skilled Nursing or Memory Care.
  • Independent Living, which are communities for individuals with a high level of functioning. People with dementia usually do not qualify for this type of residential care.
  • Nursing Home Care, which is 24-hour Skilled Medical Care provided in a specialized environment. It’s more intense than Assisted Living but not as specialized as Memory Care.
  • Memory Care, which is usually held in a standalone community or a special wing of a senior living community that has been designed to meet the specific needs of an individual with dementia.

Finding the Right Memory Care for Your Loved One

The dementia journey is personal and unique to all of us, which means that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for your loved one with Memory Care. Here are some tips for finding the right place for him or her.

  1. Ask for references. Other family members and friends may have gone through the process of helping a loved one with dementia get the assistance they need. These individuals can provide priceless information about the various Memory Care options in your area.
  2. Research. Start with a Google search, but don’t hesitate to ask your local Area Agency on Aging to find out what resources might be available to you.
  3. List your loved one’s needs. Depending on the level of your loved one’s dementia and health needs, one type of community may be better than another.
  4. Tour your options. Once you’ve narrowed down your search to different Memory Care communities and facilities, schedule tours so that you can see firsthand what life is like at different communities.
  5. Ask questions. Prepare a list of questions to ask during every Memory Care community call or visit. It’s best to come up with a standard list of questions, which will allow you to compare apples-to-apples when it’s time to make a decision.

Perhaps the best tip, says Andrea, is to ask your loved one’s physician and nearby Memory Care communities what type of services might be best for your loved one.

“Choosing the right type and level of Memory Care for your loved one is a big decision, but there are people out there who can help,” she says. “Not only are you helping to provide for your loved one’s needs, but you’re also caring for yourself and other family members. By helping your loved one receive the Memory Care they need, they’ll have the highest quality of life possible and give you back the time and space you need to nurture your relationship.”

For more information about finding the right type of Memory Care for your loved one, 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 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.

5 Reasons Why Caregivers Prefer Memory Care to Aging in Place

Ask any aging adult how they’d like to spend their senior years, and you won’t be surprised to learn that 9 out of 10 of them say “at home.” Overwhelmingly, seniors wish to remain in their current homes for as long as possible – for the rest of their lives, if they’re able to do so. While older adults who are dealing with “normal” issues of aging may be able to live at home with minimal difficulty, this desire becomes compounded when the senior has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

“When dementia presents itself and is first diagnosed, many individuals and caregivers choose to remain ‘at home’ for care, which means that the caregiver spends time at the individual’s home or the individual moves in with their familial caregiver,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “The idea of moving to a Memory Care community is scary and can make the disease too ‘real.’ It’s easier, many think, to stay at home where it’s familiar and safe.”

It is possible for someone with a dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease to age in place in their home versus moving to a memory care community. However, there are many decisions that have to be weighed, particularly by caregivers. While a spouse or other family member may try to care for their loved one at home for as long as possible, there may come a time when it’s simply not a safe, affordable or reasonable option, says Andrea.

“It doesn’t matter how dedicated of a caregiver you are – if you’re a family caregiver, there may come a time when it’s preferable to move your loved one to a Memory Care community. And that’s totally fine,” she says. “In fact, many caregivers prefer to move their loved one into a Memory Care community because there are so many distinct benefits to the individual. While at first the caregiver may feel like they’re giving up or taking the easy way out, the truth is that many individuals blossom and thrive when they’re in a safe, comfortable community that’s designed for their needs.”

5 Reasons Why a Memory Care Community Can Be the Right Choice

  1. Consistent, around-the-clock care.
    Dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease are progressive, and over time the senior will lose the ability to reason, speak, perform simple tasks and even control their body. In the mid- to late- stages of the disease, someone with dementia will require assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just to remain safe and secure in their living environment.

    Family caregivers who may have started the dementia journey helping out every once in a while will suddenly find themselves in a situation where caring for their loved one becomes their entire existence. This is exhausting for the caregiver, who’s balancing many other responsibilities – work, their own family and their health – and it’s also dangerous for the individual with dementia, who won’t have the attention they need because their caregiver is burning the candle at both ends.

    By contrast, a memory care community is staffed 24/7 with a professional team of caregivers who have been trained in best practices for dementia care. Residents always have someone available at any time of the day, and because this is the staff’s job, they are dedicated and focused on one thing: assisting those in their care. This provides consistent, high-quality care for individuals with dementia.

  2. Safety and security.
    As dementia progresses, a comfortable home can become hazardous to a senior. A gas stove can transform from a way to cook a meal to a dangerous tool that could potentially set the home on fire if unattended. Stairs can become treacherous and a cause for trips to the emergency room. Transforming a family home into an environment that’s safe for someone with dementia can be time-consuming and costly. Many caregivers and families may not have the resources to deal with the necessary changes.

    Memory Care communities, by contrast, have been designed specifically to meet the needs and unique challenges facing those living with dementia. Private living spaces are equipped with emergency call systems, as well as safety features like pull bars and easy-to-navigate rooms. Hallways feature soothing colors and directional cues, and – perhaps best of all – the communities are completely secured so that the individual can’t wander off. Everything has been designed to keep seniors with dementia as safe as possible and as independent as possible.

  3. Social interaction.
    Studies have shown that staying socially active and engaged in meaningful activities can help slow the progression of dementia while also providing the highest quality of life for seniors, no matter what their abilities. If the senior is living at home, it can be hard for family caregivers to provide stimulating, meaningful activities and interaction while juggling everything else that has to be done in order to care for their loved one.

    Residents at a Memory Care community benefit from a thriving, full social calendar and an entire community of people filled with like-minded individuals and caring staff. There’s something to do just about every minute of the day, and it’s all just steps away from their living areas – no driving or travel necessary. The activities and interactions are all designed to be accessible to those with dementia and are tailored to each individual’s preferences and likes.

  4. Nurturing relationships.
    One of the things family caregivers love about placing a loved one in Memory Care is the sense of relief and the ability to step away from the caregiving role…and become the spouse/child/friend that they were prior to the diagnosis of dementia. Without the strains of taking care of the day-to-day (or moment-to-moment) needs of the individual, they’re able to spend time together doing the things they want to do…not the things they have to do. This allows both the caregiver and the person with dementia to create meaningful moments and form memories to last a lifetime.
  1. Peace of mind.
    Finally, a Memory Care community provides peace of mind that can’t be replicated at home. Knowing that a loved one is surrounded around the clock with trained professionals who will treat them as individuals and care for them with respect, where your loved one will receive the assistance they need to live the independent life they deserve, and having the time back to spend your moments together as family member is a priceless gift.

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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.

Seven A’s of DementiaCaregiving

Dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease are neurological disorders, which means they affect the individual’s mind and shape their perception throughout the memory loss journey. Those of us with normally functioning brains can find it confusing and frustrating when dealing with someone in cognitive decline because, simply put, their brains aren’t working the same way as ours.

“Dementia isn’t limited to just one area of the brain, so the changes end up affecting all aspects of a person’s mind and body,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “This can be confusing and alarming to family caregivers, who may see their loved one experience changes suddenly overnight. Unfortunately, there’s no one way the disease progresses, so the changes can seem rapid and disjointed.”

To help understand how your loved one is experiencing the world as the disease progresses, the Memory Care community uses the seven A’s of dementia.

“The seven A’s are used as shorthand to help caregivers in particular remember what areas of the brain are being affected by dementia,” says Andrea. “Each A represents an effect that happens due to damage in a particular part of the brain.”

Anosognosia.

Anosognosia is a medical term that describes someone with dementia being unaware of their condition. This symptom is caused by changes or damage to the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for self-image, insight and reflection.

To those of us with normally functioning brains, it appears that the person is in complete denial about the situation. However, to the individual, they really cannot understand that they are ill due to the changes their brain is experiencing. Someone with anosognosia will stubbornly insist that everything is fine and they have no issues. They may exhibit poor judgement, be unaware of how their actions make other people feel, or be physically aggressive as they try to resist any form of care.

Amnesia.

Memory loss is the hallmark of dementia, and manifests first with the loss of short-term memories. This occurs when the temporal lobe is damaged. Without short-term memory, a person with dementia is effectively unable to learn anything new. Someone with amnesia due to dementia will be unable to remember what happened that morning, but can easily reflect on something that happened in their childhood. They also can become more anxious and overwhelmed, since they’re unable to process the new information, and may continually repeat questions or comments. They can also start to not recognize friends and family members, or confuse them with people from their past.

Aphasia.

When dementia attacks the parts of the brain that control language, the individual experiences aphasia, or the loss of their language skills. While the person with dementia can generally still comprehend nonverbal communication, he or she can lose the ability to express themselves verbally, may find it hard to understand what’s said to them or have difficulty reading or writing. In early stages of aphasia, the individual may substitute words (being unable to find the right one), or revert to a native language they spoke as a child.

Agnosia.

Agnosia is defined as the loss of recognition – specifically, the person with dementia loses the ability to recognize people, objects and other things through their senses. Smell, touch, taste, sound and sight no longer trigger the appropriate responses in their brain. This manifests in confusion, such as thinking that a close friend or family member is an impostor, or not being able to recognize themselves in a mirror and thinking their reflection is a stranger. Unwanted behaviors, such as inappropriate sexual behavior, can arise from agnosia. Individuals can also forget how to use everyday objects, such as a hairbrush, fork or toilet.

Apraxia.

Dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease eventually affects the motor functions of an individual, making it difficult for them to move purposefully, or understand how to execute a series of tasks. Someone with apraxia can have trouble dressing themselves, become distracted easily while doing tasks and leave them undone, have a hard time with push-button items like phones or television remotes or become frustrated when faced with a task that requires multiple steps without clear, step-by-step directions.

Altered perceptions.

This “a” specifically relates to altered physical perceptions, such as depth perception. This affects how a person reacts to stimuli around them and affects the way they move, walk and sit. This can also result in visual distortion, which causes the individual to misinterpret the environment around them and cause fear. Someone with altered perceptions may be afraid of bathing, because they may think the water is very deep and there is a risk of drowning. Shadows may appear as holes in the floor, and chairs or other objects may appear as people.

Apathy.

Over time, someone with dementia will lose the ability to initiate activity or conversation. This can appear to a caregiver as depression and an act of withdrawing. It’s important to note that even if the individual can’t initiate conversations, they are able to participate if someone engages with him or her (that’s not the case with someone with dementia who also has depression). Someone with apathy will spend much of the day in silence, but will react if someone speaks to them or calls their name. While he or she may lose interest in beginning or staying involved in activities, it doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t want to be a part of the activity – it’s just beyond their ability.

Not every person with dementia will experience all of the seven A’s, but it is important for caregivers to be aware of them so they can take steps to manage and work around the behaviors. By paying attention to your loved one’s moods and actions and reacting appropriately, you can help navigate the A’s and provide a happy, safe, high quality of life for your loved one with dementia.

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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

Caregiver Conversations: 5 Real-Life Strategies for Dealing with Dementia

As caregivers, we do a lot of research when it comes to learning how to deal with dementia (such as articles like these). Most of us haven’t been a caregiver for someone with dementia before, so there’s a lot of learning that goes on. A lot of times, though, we have to use our intuition to decide how to help our loved ones – which isn’t always the best course of action for someone living with cognitive issues.

“While trusting our gut is usually helpful in many situations, it’s actually counterintuitive when dealing with dementias like Alzheimer’s disease,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “What seems like the right and logical thing to do may actually be the worst thing you could do to get a positive reaction from your loved one.”

Instead, Andrea says, it’s best to learn from the experience of others. Specifically, other dementia caregivers and memory care professionals.

“Every person’s dementia journey is unique, and one of the first things you learn as a dementia caregiver is that there is no one right or wrong way to deal with it,” says Andrea. “What works for one person won’t work for another, and the only way to really deal with it is to try, try again … and keep a good sense of humor, compassion and patience.”

We’ve pulled together some real-life stories and strategies to help you navigate the pitfalls and puzzlements of caregiving a loved one with dementia. While each story is unique to the situation, there are overarching strategies and tips everyone can relate to – and help you realize that you are not alone.

  1. The Pitfalls of Reason, Rationality and Logic
    “One of the first things that became blatantly clear to me when I started caring for George was that trying to explain things in a logical way didn’t make sense. Which, of course, didn’t make sense to me. George had always been a rational man, and he’d always been able to see both sides of the situation before. Suddenly, though, he couldn’t understand why he shouldn’t be wearing sandals in winter, or couldn’t grasp that he wasn’t going to work because he’d been retired for decades.He’d do things that were unsafe or just flat-out wrong, like putting the dishes in the oven or leaving the front door wide open. Of course, I first tried to remind him why he shouldn’t be doing these things, and he’d promise to remember next time, but he never did. It took me some time, a lot of frustration and many conversations with other caregivers and professionals to understand that his brain simply didn’t work in the same way anymore, which is why the normal approaches of logic and reason didn’t work, either.Eventually, we found strategies that worked best for us. Instead of explaining a situation or arguing about what’s real or not, I use straightforward, simple sentences to explain what’s happening or give an easy answer. If George gets agitated or asks where someone is or why he’s not going to work, it’s easier for me to redirect his attention and ask him questions about what he does to take his mind off the issue at hand. At first, it feels a little like exercising a muscle you haven’t used before, so it was a little bumpy to start. Now, however, it’s become secondhand, and I’ve found that we’ve been able to have a much calmer and happier home environment for both of us.” – Julie A., Spousal Caregiver
  1. Being a Perfect Caregiver Is Impossible
    “When I was raising my kids, I had to come to the realization that being a perfect parent was impossible. The same is true for being a caregiver to someone with dementia. It’s so easy to beat yourself up over not doing things perfectly, or getting frustrated with yourself or your loved one, feeling resentment over the situation and being overwhelmed on a daily basis. This doesn’t make you a bad person … it makes you human. Most of us don’t quite know what we’re getting into when we sign up to be a caregiver, and it can quickly become overwhelming. That’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect – you just have to be there and do the best you can. Learning how to accept yourself and your limitations is absolutely necessary when you’re a caregiver. I like to recite the Serenity Prayer every morning to help center myself and remind myself that there are things I can and can’t control.Once you realize you’re ‘just human’ after all, it becomes a lot easier to accept and ask for the help you need. When I became Mom’s caregiver, I ended up saying ‘no’ to a lot of offered help because I felt like it was my responsibility and that no one else could do it as well as I could. That quickly lead to me feeling burned out, overwhelmed and depressed. I eventually learned that it’s okay to ask people to help out, and to eagerly embrace any helping hand that is offered. Here’s my tip: have a list of specific things that people can do to help you out, whether that’s going grocery shopping, cleaning the house or sitting with your loved one for a few hours. It’s a lot easier for people to say ‘yes’ to a specific thing.” – Anna M., Adult Child and Caregiver
  1. Sometimes It’s Okay to Lie
    “I was not a fan of therapeutic lying when the doctor first recommended it to me. It’s natural to tell the truth to our parents, especially at the beginning of the disease, when you’re still thinking you can use reason and logic to help them understand the world around them. So every time Mom asked me where her mother was, or when Dad would be home, I would tell her that he or she died a long time ago, which caused her to get upset and grieve the loss all over again. Eventually, I learned that it was okay to tell little white lies in order to help keep her calm and happy. I’d say that her mom would be back from the store later, or that Dad was still at work, and then I’d find an activity for us to do together.My doctor told me that the best way to determine between a harmless white lie and a serious lie is to determine whether or not the lie helps Mom overall. So, I don’t lie when it comes to things that affect her or her care, because she’s still an adult and deserves to be part of the conversation. But I don’t get worked up anymore if I don’t give her warning that we’re going to the doctor’s office.” Jenny W., Adult Child and Caregiver

  2. It’s Natural to Overestimate and Underestimate Your Loved One’s Abilities
    “We had a few bumps in the road right after Mary was diagnosed with dementia. I jumped into the caregiver role full-force and accidentally ended up steamrolling over her, which caused a lot of arguments and angst between us. You see, I thought I needed to take over right away, but forgot that there’s still plenty of things that she is capable of. Even though this was hard at first, we ended up having a lot of good conversations, and I learned to be patient and take a step back so that she can perform the tasks that she’s still able to do.It goes the other way, though, too. Sometimes I forget that she can’t remember a conversation we just had, or suddenly she has problems remembering how to make a recipe. It’s a constant balance that shifts every day, and it can be hard to find the balance sometimes. I just tell myself that every day is a new day, and that I’m happy to have this time with her.” – Richard L., Spousal Caregiver
  1. Cherish the Good Days
    “Sometimes – and it can come out of the blue – Dave has these moments of perfect clarity and it’s like he’s back to the husband I once knew. We can laugh and talk about something that may have happened years ago. I really cherish those moments, because I feel like I’m being given a gift. Even when those moments of clarity don’t come, I still find that there are things to celebrate every day. Dave is still my husband, and I love him, and finding ways to connect to and celebrate the person he was and is keeps me fulfilled on this journey.” – Emily M., Spousal Caregiver

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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.

Dementia Grief & Loss: After a Dementia Diagnosis (Part 1 of 4)

A dementia diagnosis is a life-changing event. For individuals and their loved ones, it breaks life into two parts: before the diagnosis, and after the diagnosis. Every person will go through stages of grief and loss throughout the dementia journey, and each of us will face it in our own unique way.

“Feelings of grief and loss go hand-in-hand after a dementia diagnosis,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Unlike many other health situations you or your loved one face, grief and loss are interwoven into the disease, and the feelings can and will continue throughout the dementia journey. These are completely normal emotions, but they can be overwhelming and hard to deal with, whether you’re a family member, a caregiver or the person diagnosed with dementia.”

In this four-part series, we explore the stages of dementia grief and loss for those affected. Understanding the process, accepting your feelings and learning healthy ways to cope with the emotions will help you and your family during these difficult times. Walking this path is never easy, but with compassion, understanding and acceptance, you and your loved ones can have a meaningful, fulfilling and loving journey.

The Lightning Bolt: Receiving a Dementia Diagnosis

You know that something is “off.” Whether you’ve noticed that you’re becoming more confused or are having more and more difficulty with daily life, or if you’ve seen your parent start acting erratically, your gut is telling you that this is isn’t just a symptom of normal aging. And while you know it’s a distinct possibility, receiving the official notice from a physician can be devastating, no matter how much you may have prepared yourself for it.

People can react in a variety of different ways following a dementia diagnosis. It’s common to feel numb or overwhelmed. You may feel an instant sense of loss and hopelessness. Or you may be completely disbelieving. It’s important to recognize that all these emotions are normal stages of the grieving process and accepting and working through them will help you work through the diagnosis. Here are some emotions you or a loved one may be feeling:

  • Anger. Your life has suddenly shifted courses and the plans you’ve made for the future are no longer possible. You’re suddenly not in control of your life or your health. It’s incredibly unfair, and you’re angry – at the doctors, God, the universe and everyone else.
  • Relief. You finally know what’s “wrong” with you. The changes you were seeing or experiencing finally have a name, and you can make a course of action to deal with them. You no longer have to wonder what is happening.
  • Denial. It’s impossible to believe that you or a loved one has dementia. You were perfectly fine the last time you went to the doctor. It simply can’t be the truth – the doctor must be mistaken.
  • Depression. Life is changing, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Everything you’ve hoped for is now gone and the future ahead looks bleak. There’s no point in trying to do anything about it.
  • Fear. What will happen to you? How will your family be affected? What does the future hold? When will memories and abilities be lost?

Understand that feeling all these emotions – and others – are a natural part of the grieving process. We will all react to the diagnosis in our own way and at our own pace but accepting those feelings and knowing where they’re coming from will help you and your loved ones move forward from the diagnosis.

Dealing with Grief & Loss After Diagnosis

There are two types of grief that can occur following a dementia diagnosis. The first is anticipatory grief, which is mourning for the losses that we know or expect will happen in the future. The second is ambiguous grief, which is mourning the loss of a person while they’re still “there.” Both types of grief can be difficult to recognize but are important to address. If you or a loved one are struggling following a dementia diagnosis, here are some coping tips to help manage your feelings and move forward.

Accept what you’re feeling.
Don’t bottle your emotions up. It’s okay to be sad, angry or frustrated. These can be cathartic and even healthy emotions to experience, so it’s good to name them and work through them. It’s also okay to feel conflicting emotions at the same time, such as love and anger, relief and denial, fear and acceptance. However, if you or a loved one find that these feelings linger on and on or become worse over time, it’s possible that depression or anxiety is at play. You should consult with a professional to see if these symptoms can be treated through medication or therapy.

Recognize that loss and grief come in waves.
You may be fine and accepting of the diagnosis one minute, and then suddenly angry or fearful the next. As the disease progresses, it’s also common to experience grief and loss again and again as you or your loved one lose different aspects of themselves. “Acceptance” doesn’t mean that you’re okay with what’s happening; it merely means that you recognize the reality of the situation and are dealing with it in a positive and helpful way.

Stay connected with people you care about.
It’s easy to feel isolated and lonely after a diagnosis and withdraw from friendships and activities you once enjoyed. Instead, this is the time to reach out and spend time with those who care about you. Meet up with friends for coffee or keep attending your weekly knitting groups. While it can feel like your “normal” world has ended, remember that there are still many things you or your loved one can do and enjoy, even with dementia.

Seek information and look for support.
Learning as much as you can about dementia will help you and your loved ones be more equipped with the tools you need to walk this journey. It’s also a good idea to look for support groups, both for those with the disease and for families dealing with the diagnosis. A good place to start is a senior living community that provides Memory Care services like The Reutlinger Community. Through senior centers, communities and local resources, you can find support groups, respite services, home care and social clubs that can help you build a support group for now and the days ahead.

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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

Caregiver SOS: How to Avoid Burnout and Fatigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warning Signs of Caregiver Fatigue and Burnout

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

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

Avoiding Burnout and Fatigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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

The 10 Guidelines of Successful Dementia Caregiving

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

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

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

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

The 10 Guidelines of Dementia Caregiving

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Maintaining a Loving Approach as a Dementia Caregiver

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Approaching Caregiving from a Loving Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about how to be a loving and compassionate caregiver to someone with dementia, or to learn more about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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