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The Benefits of Joining a Dementia Caregiver Support Group

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

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

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

What Is a Support Group?

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

Seven Benefits of Joining a Support Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Maintaining Intimacy After a Dementia Diagnosis

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

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

How Intimacy Is Affected By Dementia

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

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

Tips for Maintaining Intimacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about maintaining intimacy after a dementia diagnosis, or to learn more about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

In Sickness and Health: The Impact of Dementia on Marriage

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

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

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

Unique Challenges of Dementia on a Marriage

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

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

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

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

Adapting Everyday Activities

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

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

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

Intimacy and Dementia

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

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

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

Caring for the Caregiver

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Dementia Care: Tips for Overcoming Hygiene and Grooming Challenges

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

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

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

Common Hygiene and Grooming Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Reducing Hygiene and Grooming Challenges

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

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

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coordination and balance.

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

Depression.

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

Cardiovascular issues.

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

Disruptive behaviors.

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

Cognitive decline.

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

Sleep issues.

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

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

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Creative and Meaningful Activities for Seniors with Dementia

Dementia causes cognitive and physical function to decline, but seniors living with this disease still retain abilities that should be used and celebrated. In fact, studies have shown that when individuals with dementia continue to use their remaining abilities, it helps them stay at their activity level longer and can even help slow their decline. The key is finding purposeful activities that accomplish something for the individual, whether that’s building self-esteem, providing a purpose or simply being entertained.

“Activities can include everything from arts and crafts to outings and events to everyday tasks,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “As you’re coming up with ideas for activities for your loved one, think about adapting favorite hobbies and daily tasks so that your senior can maintain a sense of accomplishment and independence. This type of validation helps provide confidence, a self-esteem boost and better overall well-being.”

Why Meaningful Activities Are So Important

They can help slow the decline of dementia. Our abilities, no matter how able-bodied we are, are very much “use it or lose it.” If we don’t use our muscles, they atrophy. If we don’t continue to practice a hobby, we may lose our aptitude. And if we don’t use our brains and mental acuity, cognitive functioning can decline. This makes it even more imperative for individuals with dementia to find meaning in daily life and tasks as much as possible. Although caregivers and loved ones may rush to help loved ones, they may inadvertently be causing more harm than good. Our loved ones can still do many things – it just may take them longer and may get done in a different manner than before.

They provide a structure to daily life. A daily routine helps people with dementia feel safe, secure and confident. Scheduling meaningful activities on a regular basis (especially if it’s something you end up doing day after day) will provide structure and predictability, and will perhaps be something your loved one can look forward to.

They give individuals a sense of productivity and self-worth. People with dementia are aware of their inabilities and being unable to do the things they always loved to do. By providing tasks and activities for them to do or help with, it can provide them with a purpose and make them feel a part of daily life and not just a burden to you. This is a great boost to their sense of self-worth and boosts their moods, improves their health overall and provides a better quality of life.

They can reduce challenging behaviors. Aggression, agitation, repetition and other disruptive behaviors are common symptoms of dementia. These symptoms can become worse if individuals with dementia are bored or simply don’t have enough to do. Providing meaningful and creative activities will keep them occupied and engaged, plus give them opportunities to use their energy in a productive manner.

Examples of Meaningful, Creative Activities

Meaningful means different things to each of us, so as you’re coming up with activities and tasks for your loved one, think about what they used to do in the past or a favorite hobby. Adapting familiar activities and hobbies to allow them to once again participate will be incredibly meaningful. Here are a few ideas of how to creatively engage and entertain your loved one with dementia.

Engage them in homemaking activities. Taking care of a home may have been a big part of your loved one’s life prior to the dementia diagnosis. See what tasks can be adapted so that your loved one can help out. She might enjoy helping to set the table, folding laundry or provide assistance in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how big or small the task is – the point is to get them doing something familiar.

Use music to reach out. Music is a great way to connect with your loved one and evoke memories, emotions and feelings. Music has actually been shown to be an effective therapy in helping unlock parts of the brain that remain unaffected by dementia, helping those with the disease to communicate and share memories. Play music from your loved one’s favorite era, and sing along or dance to the radio. If your loved one was a musician, perhaps their favorite musical instrument will encourage them to play.

Create a work of art. Sculptable clay, markers, watercolor paints or simple paper and pencils can be a creative outlet your loved one can enjoy for hours. Gather all the materials you need and lay them out on a table so your loved one can easily see and request what they want. You can either do a directed activity (like making a vase or painting a picture of a flower) or let your loved one go free-form. This is a fun activity to do together, and it makes it easy for you to show how to use the items if your loved one needs a little push.

Go outside. Being in nature is a delight for all the senses. Take your loved one on a walk or stroll through a nearby arboretum to enjoy the sights, smells, sounds and feels of the world around them. Another fun activity is to create a garden together. Your loved one may enjoy helping you plant seeds, arrange flowers, weed the beds and watching their labor blossom. Vegetable gardens are an all-time favorite, as the products can be harvested and then used to create delicious dishes (which your loved one can help prepare as well).

Watch old family videos or look through scrapbooks. Looking at pictures of your shared history allows you to talk about your memories and can even jog recognition in your loved one’s brain. If your loved one is in a good frame of mind, you can ask questions about their childhood and inquire about different people in the pictures or videos.

“Providing creative and meaningful activities for your loved one will not only help them live a better quality of life, but will also help nurture and deepen your relationship with them,” says Andrea. “Even though their memories may be fading, there are still opportunities for you to have happy moments together and create memories. Use your imagination and your knowledge of your loved one, and you’ll find yourself with a variety of activities to do, experience and enjoy together.”

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Roots & Wings: Talking to Your Children About Dementia (Part 3 of 4)

The philosophy of Roots and Wings is a dual approach of building a sense of tradition and looking to the future. In this four part series, we explore different ways for seniors to share roots and wings with their children, grandchildren and other loved ones. From passing on traditions to building a legacy to helping shape a stable future, there are many ways you can build meaningful moments that will have echoes far into the future.  

“What’s wrong with Grandma?”

“Why is Grandpa acting that way?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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.