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

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

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

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

Coordination and balance.

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

Depression.

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

Cardiovascular issues.

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

Disruptive behaviors.

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

Cognitive decline.

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

Sleep issues.

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

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Creative and Meaningful Activities for Seniors with Dementia

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

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

Why Meaningful Activities Are So Important

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

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

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

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

Examples of Meaningful, Creative Activities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

A Caregiver’s Guide to Effective Communication Strategies for Dementia

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

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

Early-Stage Communication in Dementia

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

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

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

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

Mid-Stage Communication in Dementia

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

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

 Late-stage Communication in Dementia

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

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

 Overall Tips for Successful Communication

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

If you feel yourself getting frustrated, take a break and do something kind for yourself. A rest can give you just what you need to refocus and provide the best possible care for your loved one.

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Understanding Challenging Dementia Behaviors: Paranoia/Suspicion (Part 4 of 4)

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect the brain in different ways. Memory loss is one of the most well-known hallmarks of the disease, but if you speak to caregivers and professionals, you’ll soon hear about “challenging behaviors.” In this four-part series, we’ll explore some of the more challenging behaviors you may have to address as a caregiver to someone with dementia.

Generally, trusting our family comes naturally to us. Which is why it’s so jarring if your loved one with dementia suddenly becomes suspicious of you, accusing you of stealing or other improper behavior. Although paranoia and suspicion are common symptoms of dementia, that doesn’t make it any less hurtful.

“It’s one thing to logically understand what’s happening to your loved one, but it’s another thing entirely to view it as a symptom of the disease and not a direct reflection on how your loved one feels about you,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “The delusions are very real for the senior, which is another reason why this behavior can be so challenging and disruptive for caregivers.”

Delusions, which include feeling paranoid and acting suspicious, may occur in the mid- to late-stage of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Part of the reason this occurs is due to increasing confusion and memory loss. Someone with dementia may misplace an item or hide it for safekeeping and not remember where he or she put it, causing them to accuse others of hiding or stealing the items. Another reason why someone is experiencing paranoia may simply be an expression of loss. For them, no other explanation makes sense than that someone “took it.”

Here are some examples of how paranoia can play out with a senior loved one:

  • They forget where they put something, such as their keys or eyeglasses, and believe that another person is taking them when they’re not looking.
  • Your loved one may think you’re a stranger due to the advancement of dementia. They may not believe that you’re their caregiver and be untrusting towards you.
  • They may be scared or suspicious of people they’ve been introduced to, because they believe that strangers can be harmful.
  • Giving directions to them can be difficult, because your loved one may feel like you’re trying to trick them.

If your loved one is showing signs of paranoia and suspicion, the first thing you need to do is understand why it’s happening. It’s possible that these delusions are not dementia-related at all but are due to medication interaction, infection or some other illness. Schedule an appointment with your loved one’s doctor to get a full check-up and see if the behavior is something that can be treated. Even if it’s a dementia-related issue, there are some prescription drugs that may be able to help reduce the symptoms.

Tips for dealing with paranoia and suspicion.

  • Have a plan in place. It’s possible that your loved one could become a danger to themselves or others. Have a plan to de-escalate violence or get help, and act on it if the situation calls for it.
  • Don’t try to use logic. Whatever paranoia your loved one is dealing with is very real to them. Trying to explain the reality of the situation will only serve to make you and them more agitated.
  • Stay calm. Remaining collected will help you manage the situation, and will hopefully keep your loved one from becoming even more agitated.
  • Offer reassurance. Letting your loved one know that they are safe, that they are cared for and that they are loved can help diffuse the situation.
  • Create a distraction. Redirecting your loved one’s attention is an excellent tool for just about any disruptive behavior. Ask for help with a chore, or set your loved one to a task. Taking their attention off the matter at hand can diffuse the situation quickly. You can start by looking for the lost item and parlay that into a different activity.
  • Offers simple answers. Anything that’s too complex can be overwhelming and make their anxiety skyrocket.
  • Make duplicates of items that are often lost. If your loved one is often looking for their wallet, keys, glasses or other regular items, make duplicates and keep them in a safe place. That way, you at least know where they are and can manage the situation quickly (and give you time to go and look for the actual misplaced item).
  • Find ways to make it easy for loved ones to inspect things. For example, if your mom is always suspecting that money is missing, give her small amounts of money to keep in a purse so she can easily inspect it.
  • Learn where “hiding spots” are. A senior loved one will often have hiding spots where they put things for safekeeping (and then forget they put them there). If you know where these spots are, you can look for “lost” items there first.
  • Let others know the situation. Talk to other family members and friends and explain that your loved one’s symptoms are due to the disease, not who they are as a person.
  • Respond to the feeling, not the behavior. Your loved one is reacting to something they’re feeling, so do your best to determine what that is and react to that.

Knowing how to respond to your loved one’s challenging behaviors is definitely a challenge of its own. It’s not unusual to feel angry, frustrated or hurt. By reminding yourself that everything your loved one is doing and expressing is because of the disease, you may be able to manage what you’re feeling and your reactions. Remember also that it’s okay to ask for help and give yourself a break when things get to be too much. Dementia is a challenging journey, but with patience and perseverance, you can make it as smooth as possible for yourself and your loved one.

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Understanding Challenging Dementia Behaviors: Wandering (Part 3 of 4)

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect the brain in different ways. Memory loss is one of the most well-known hallmarks of the disease, but if you speak to caregivers and professionals, you’ll soon hear about “challenging behaviors.” In this four-part series, we’ll explore some of the more challenging behaviors you may have to address as a caregiver to someone with dementia.

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

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

Why does wandering happen?

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

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

Who is at risk for wandering?

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

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

Tips for preventing wandering.

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

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

What to do if your loved one does wander.

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

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Understanding Challenging Dementia Behaviors: Repetition (Part 2 of 4)

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect the brain in different ways. Memory loss is one of the most well-known hallmarks of the disease, but if you speak to caregivers and professionals, you’ll soon hear about “challenging behaviors.” In this four-part series, we’ll explore some of the more challenging behaviors you may have to address as a caregiver to someone with dementia.

“What day is it?”
“Where are we going?”
“Where’s David?”

All these questions are innocuous and fairly easy to answer once or twice. But for someone with a dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, asking once or twice can turn into asking twenty or thirty times, which can be incredibly frustrating and annoying to caregivers. Whether a loved one is asking, saying or doing something over and over, the repetitive nature of their actions can feel a bit like undergoing water torture.

“Because cognitive diseases like dementia cause a person’s short-term memory to deteriorate, your loved one probably doesn’t remember that they’ve just asked you that question a dozen times already,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “They’re not doing it to be annoying – they truly have no memory of doing or saying whatever it is that’s annoying you. That’s why caregivers need to understand the reasoning behind the repetitive action and equip themselves with caring techniques that can reassure and redirect your loved one before you become too frustrated.”

Why is my loved one doing that?
Repetitive behavior can take the form of questions, repeating a word or phrase or doing (or undoing) a task over and over. While sometimes the repetitive behavior can be attributed to short-term memory loss and not remembering that they’ve done/said/asked that particular thing already, that’s not the only cause. Here are some other possible reasons why a loved one is engaging in repetitive behavior:

  • They’re anxious, confused, afraid, angry or in pain
  • It could be a side effect of a medication they’re taking
  • They’re trying to express their needs (like hunger or needing to use the bathroom), but can’t put their thoughts into a logical order
  • They’re separated from someone they love and don’t know or can’t remember why (for example, a wife who keeps asking about her deceased husband)
  • The environment is causing them stress
  • They’re under stimulated or bored

While it’s tempting to attribute the behavior as a need for information, Andrea says that it’s more likely that your loved one has a need for reassurance. “Seniors with dementia aren’t repeating themselves or questions because they want to know the information,” she says. “They’re asking because they’re frightened, stressed, or anxious, and they’re trying to make sense with what’s going on around them.”

Tips for dealing with repetitive behaviors.

Repetition of any sort is frustrating and exhausting for caregivers, especially if you yourself are in a heightened level of stress. Before you get to your breaking point, take a deep breath and use some of these techniques to diffuse the situation, comfort your loved one and move past the challenging behavior.

Ask yourself: Is this behavior harmful or just annoying?
As with lots of things when it comes to dealing with dementia, you may just need to pick your battles. Is your loved one doing something that could potentially harm them, like taking things off high shelves over and over? Or are they simply causing frustration by asking the same question over and over? If it’s something innocuous, it may be best for you to just let it go. However, ignoring the behavior does not mean ignoring your loved one. Remember, this is frustrating for your loved one, too, and if they feel like they’re being ignored, they can become even more anxious, insecure and agitated. Redirecting their attention may be the best strategy.

Pay attention to your loved one and reassure them that you care.
Even if he or she is asking the same question for the twentieth time, take a moment and really listen to them. Make eye contact, be reassuring and show them that you truly do care about their feelings and needs. Don’t remind them that they’ve asked the same question over and over. Use a caring touch to show your feelings towards them and reassure them.

Listen to the reason behind the words and react accordingly.
If your mother is asking you what day it is, it could be because she’s worried about missing an appointment or concerned about something that should be happening. In that case, you could remind her that today is Monday, and that today you will be going to the grocery store and other shopping while Wednesday is the day you’re going to the salon. Even if you don’t know or understand the reason why the repetitive behavior is occurring, you can reassure your loved one, addressing and validating their feelings – this can be enough to calm and comfort them.

Keep a consistent routine.
Having a set routine that you stick to will help keep your loved one at ease and may reduce the amount of repetitive behavior he or she engages in. Having memory aids around the house where your loved one can see them will help to orient them and give them some comfort. Consider large clocks, calendars, signs and notes so that your loved one can get the information they need without having to ask you every time (this also has the benefit of helping them feel useful when they can accomplish the task themselves).

Redirect your loved one’s attention.
If the repetitive behavior is becoming too much or if you feel yourself getting overly frustrated, distract your loved one with another activity or topic of conversation. If you mother keeps unloading the dishwasher (that hasn’t been run yet), have her help fold laundry or do something else that will make her feel useful. Breaking the cycle, so to speak, may help get your loved one out of their rut.

Look for patterns.
Are there particular times of day when your loved one’s repetitiveness becomes worse, or are there people or events that seem to trigger it? Is there a common theme to their questions? Make note of when things seem to get better or worse, and adjust your loved one’s environment accordingly.

Most of all, do your best to stay patient, calm and positive. Never argue or try to use logic with your loved one, because that simply doesn’t work due to the nature of disease. That’s an important point to remember: this is a symptom of your loved one’s disease, not a reflection who your loved one is as a person. Remember that he or she can’t help the way they’re acting and they’re probably frustrated and upset, too. By reassuring them that you care, you’ll be able to give them – and you – a better quality of life overall.

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Understanding Challenging Dementia Behaviors: Hoarding (Part 1 of 4)

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect the brain in different ways. Memory loss is one of the most well-known hallmarks of the disease, but if you speak to caregivers and professionals, you’ll soon hear about “challenging behaviors.”

“Challenging behaviors are symptoms that can appear suddenly or gradually, and often are completely out of character for what you know of your loved one,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Because of the way these diseases affect the brain, your loved one may experience them all – or may not. Oftentimes, caregivers may have difficulty because the behaviors are so seemingly random or illogical, causing anxiety, frustration and stress.”

Andrea says knowing how to respond to these challenging behaviors will greatly help you be a better caregiver for your loved one, as well as help improve your quality of life. “It can be hard, especially when challenging behaviors are directed at you, but it’s important to remember that these are symptoms of a disease and not because of who your loved one is as a person,” she says.

In this four-part series, we’ll explore some of the more challenging behaviors you may have to address as a caregiver to someone with dementia. We’ll begin with one of the behaviors that tends to manifest itself in early dementia: hoarding.

There’s nothing wrong with saving for a rainy day. Perhaps your loved one has always had a bit of the “collector” mentality, reusing aluminum foil or washing out zippered plastic bags because they’re “still good.” Perhaps you’ve noticed that this behavior has increased as of late, and your mother or father is suddenly holding on to things more and more, even if they’re broken or unusable. This can be especially jarring if it’s a new behavior for your loved one.

Dementias such as Alzheimer’s can amplify aspects of your loved one’s personality, which is why “collectors” can quickly become “hoarders” due to the disease. The behavior can also be a result of increasing anxiety, causing your loved one to save items because they’re worried about getting older and “running out” of things.

There’s really no one reason as to why those with dementia become hoarders. For some, it’s because they need reassurance and to feel secure, like someone who collects tissues because they’re comforting and soft. Others may hold on to things because of their declining memory and a belief that they need those things in order to remember. It could also be due to confusion and inability to handle tasks (this is often seen with huge piles of mail or a stockpile of medications – the person simply doesn’t know how to sort out what’s important from what’s not).

This hoarding behavior goes beyond simple annoyance to caregivers – it can actually be hazardous and dangerous to both your loved one and yourself. If items are piled up around the house, it increases the chance that your loved one can trip or fall. Stockpiles of medication can lead to overdosing (or underdosing, which can be just as bad). Unopened mail can lead to utilities being shut off and other consequences of unpaid bills.

Caregivers, naturally, will try and explain the situation to their loved ones in order to help alleviate the behavior. However, because hoarding is a symptom rooted in the way the brain is changing, using logic to approach the situation doesn’t work. Fortunately, by understanding why your loved one is hoarding and getting to the root of the emotions, you can find ways to manage and mitigate the challenging behavior.

Tips for dealing with hoarding behaviors.

Be compassionate and kind.
Do your best to remain calm and keep a positive tone. It’s easy to get angry and frustrated at your loved one, but remind yourself: he or she isn’t doing this on purpose. It’s a symptom of their disease, and they can’t control it. Understand that this stems from a desire to regain some sort of control in their life, and that they’re seeking a form of comfort – no matter how annoying it may be.

If your loved one is hoarding little things that aren’t harmful to their health, you may just want to let it go. It’s possible that, as the disease progresses, the compulsion will go away. If necessary and if your loved one still has the ability to listen to reason, you can try and reason with them and work together to get rid of some of their stash. However, if your loved one is holding on to things that could be harmful, like spoiled food, you may have to take matters into your own hands and slowly get rid of things without attracting notice.

Provide options for stimulation and entertainment.
Compulsive habits like hoarding could be a sign that your loved one needs more activities and interesting things to do in order to redirect their attention. As you’re spending time with your loved one, make sure that he or she has something they can do like going through pictures, organizing a drawer, doing simple crafts and the like. This will draw their attention to something productive and reduce their focus on disruptive behaviors like collecting. Spending time together is also beneficial in many ways, not the least of which is creating memories that you can cherish as you progress along the dementia journey.

Create a place to store “special things.”
The idea of a memory box – a place where your loved one can keep the things they collect – is a technique that experts have shown to be successful. If your loved one enjoys collecting buttons, for example, you could get them a special box. This keeps everything in one place and also allows you to keep an eye on how their compulsion is progressing. While this approach can take up a lot of space depending on what your loved one is collecting, at least you’ll know everything is in one place (and you can quietly get rid of some if it is necessary).

Keep an eye on your loved one’s hiding places.
Your loved one will have specific places where they choose to squirrel things away. Discover where they are and check them on a regular basis. This can help you keep the stashes somewhat contained, but also help you find items that may be lost or misplaced (those with dementia will often hide possessions – theirs and other people’s – to keep them “safe”). One note of warning: many dementia patients choose to hide items in garbage bins, so check the trash before you throw anything out for good (or replace your bins with options that have secured lids).

Speak to their physician.
It’s always good to connect with your loved one’s doctors when challenging behaviors arise, especially if you feel the behavior is dangerous or interfering with their quality of life. It’s possible that your doctor can prescribe medications that can help quell anxiety or fear and thus keep the behaviors to a minimum.

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: Leaving Your Legacy, Passing On Your Wisdom (Part 4 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 do you want to leave your children? Grandchildren? Family? Passing on something of ourselves is a natural desire as we age. We want to know that we’re helping make the world a better place in some small way. For most of us, this translates into leaving a legacy for our loved ones.

“Certainly, many seniors wish to leave a financial legacy for their family, but our gifts don’t necessarily have to be financial,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Think of your cherished traditions, or the knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years or the things that are most important to you, like your faith. Creating a legacy is a way of making a difference in the lives of your family and something that allows you to live on, even after your physical presence is gone.”

A personal legacy can take on all shapes and forms. Some individuals choose to leave a legacy in a very prominent, public way, such as donating money to a cause or creating an organization to continue the good work they’ve done. Other individuals choose to take steps to enrich the lives of their families through college funds or precious heirlooms. And others choose to pass along a legacy in our beliefs, values and dreams for those we care about.

Some of these legacies can be passed on through our actions, while others are a more deliberate ‘handing over’ of a legacy, says Andrea. Whether you wish to pass on a legacy while you’re living or after you’ve left this earthly plane, or a little of both, is up to you. “It’s never too early or too late to think about the kind of legacy we want to leave our descendants,” says Andrea. “You can begin by thinking, concretely, of what purposeful actions you can take to pass on the lessons, wisdom and beliefs that are most important to you. Then, think about different ways on how you can share this with your family members in a way that is meaningful and impactful.”

Passing On a Legacy … of Memories
“Do you remember when…?” Telling stories and meaningful memories that were made with those we love is a way to give your family the gift of “you.” By telling stories about your childhood, experiences and life and heritage, you allow your family to understand more about who they are and who you are. It creates a shared experience that can become a cherished family story for generations to come. But don’t forget about the power of creating memories together while you’re still here. Spending time with our loved ones and having experiences that they’ll carry with them for their life are powerful ways to continue your story … now and in the future.

Sharing a Legacy of … Faith
Your faith and heritage can be a priceless legacy to your family members. Talk to your family, either in person or in a letter, what your faith means to you and how it has shaped the way you live your life. If you carry on traditions, describe how they have helped you grow throughout your life and allowed you to deepen your commitment to your spirituality. Faith is a legacy that will grow and change throughout life, so be honest with the way that your faith has changed throughout the years. Most importantly, live your faith in your words, deeds, traditions and celebrations.

Carrying on a Legacy of … Beliefs and Values
Beliefs and values can go hand in hand with faith, but these legacies can encompass so much more than that. For example, perhaps you believe in giving back to our communities and that volunteering for worthy causes is an essential part of a fulfilled life. Or that we have a role as custodians of the Earth and we should do what we can to preserve our natural resources. Whatever beliefs and values have defined you can show your family examples of how to live a meaningful life.

Starting Points for Passing On Your Legacy
Write a letter. One of the simplest ways to share your thoughts, wisdom and feelings are through pen and paper. Some seniors have chosen to write letters to all their family members to be opened at a specific time (such as at a wedding, a milestone birthday, etc.) that will share your hopes for them, dreams and anything else you’d like to share. You don’t have to limit yourself to one letter or to one recipient. You could create a journal (either a hardcopy or online) that you can keep coming back to as you think of things … sort of a running diary, but for your legacy versus just your personal thoughts. (Although those are beneficial, too).

Film a family documentary. Sometimes it’s easier to talk or tell a story verbally. One option is to sit with different family members and have them interview you or ask specific questions about topics they want to know more about. Online resources such as StoryCorps have prompts and tips for creating stories that can be watched or listened to again and again.

Create a scrapbook. Dust off those old family photos, essays, newspaper clippings and audio recordings and put them in a format that’s enjoyable to read. This is where the wonders of the Internet can work for you. Create a digital scrapbook, or use a company such as LegacyBox to convert old files into digital ones for easy storage, sharing and access. However, there’s often no substitute for a hard-copy, heavy photo book that you can flip through. As you go through photos and files, write down where the item was taken, what its significance is, who was involved in the event and so on.

“Passing on our wisdom and our legacies is one of the most enduring things we can share with our children,” says Andrea. “Whatever you choose to leave behind, you’ll be remembered through your family’s stories, thoughts and memories. It’s a beautiful gift you can give them – and yourself as well.”

For more information about creating or sharing a legacy, 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: 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.