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Caregiver SOS: How to Avoid Burnout and Fatigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warning Signs of Caregiver Fatigue and Burnout

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

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

Avoiding Burnout and Fatigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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

The 10 Guidelines of Successful Dementia Caregiving

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

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

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

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

The 10 Guidelines of Dementia Caregiving

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Maintaining a Loving Approach as a Dementia Caregiver

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Approaching Caregiving from a Loving Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

Adjusting to Your New Role as a Spousal Caregiver

As more and more Baby Boomers enter their senior years, and we as a society are living longer, it’s more and more likely that, if you’re married, either you or your spouse will end up as caregiver for the other. While it’s not unusual for adult children or other close family members to become caregivers, it’s most common that spouses will care for each other as they age.

“Caregiving can mean anything from simple assistance with medication management and transportation, or it can be as intensive as providing in-home care for a spouse who has been diagnosed with dementia,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Whether your caregiving assistance is a little or a lot, there’s no avoiding the fact that it will affect your relationship in some way.”

This, she says, can be a difficult transition for both spouses. “There are many changes that take place in relationships when one spouse begins caring for another, no matter how independent that spouse may be,” she says. “Oftentimes what starts off as just a little help can snowball into more and more assistance, which is taxing for anyone. It’s very easy for caregiving to take over the bulk of your relationship, leading to stress, depression and overall burnout.”

According to a 2015 AARP study titled Caregiving for Older Adults, approximately 3.7 million seniors in the U.S. are spousal caregivers. The report also states that 40 percent of spousal caregivers report their role as highly stressful. “Caregiving for a spouse has unique challenges and can get in the way of intimacy and foster an awkward sense of dependency,” says Andrea. “Fortunately, if you and your spouse take the time to look at your situation with clear eyes, make some plans and adjust accordingly, the transition doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly difficult.”

Tips for Adjusting to the Spousal Caregiver Role

If you find yourself in a situation where you will be a caregiver for your spouse, here are some tips for helping to make the transition a little smoother.

Reach out to other spousal caregivers.
The best advice and tips you can get are from people who have gone through the same experience you’re facing. Ask your friends and search online for those you know who have either served as a primary caregiver for their spouse, or for someone who has had to act as a caregiver for a time. Having someone you know who can provide firsthand experience will be invaluable, and he or she can also be a source of support in the coming days.

Give yourself time to grieve and adjust.
Many spousal caregivers can feel guilty about their emotions as they adjust to their new normal. It’s common to feel overwhelmed, stressed, angry and even like you’ve suffered a great loss. Understand that your feelings are valid and it’s completely natural to have these reactions. You and your spouse are undergoing a huge change that more than likely has upset your plans for the future in some way. Remember to give yourself grace, and don’t be afraid to reach out to others to talk about how you’re feeling. At the same time, don’t forget the importance of sharing and communicating with your spouse. Although you may not feel like you can “burden” your spouse with your feelings, remember that you two are still a team, and sharing your thoughts, fears and emotions in a healthy way are one of the best ways to grow and nurture your relationship.

Plan for the future.
Becoming a spousal caregiver is a life-changing journey, especially if your spouse has a chronic illness like dementia. It’s not always fun to think about, but you will need to sit down with your spouse and other appropriate parties to make a plan for the future. When you, the spousal caregiver, get older and need assistance of your own, how will you and your spouse handle that? Are there others in your family who can step up from time to time to give you the space and relief you need? Do you and your spouse wish to stay at home, or would it make more sense to move to a community where health needs and issues can be more easily accommodated? By making plans early on, you and your loved one can make the future less scary and give you both peace of mind.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
We promise to be there for our spouse “in sickness and in health,” so it’s no surprise that so many spousal caregivers feel like they have to do everything themselves. However, this is a recipe for burnout and exhaustion. After all, even professional caregivers get time off. It’s important for you to ask for help, and ask often, so that you don’t get caregiver burnout. You may be amazed at how many friends and family members will jump at the chance to help, especially if you ask them to do specific tasks, like picking up medications, going grocery shopping or sitting with your spouse for a few hours every week. Be clear, be direct and don’t be offended or disheartened if people say no. You can also look into community resources, like in-home caregivers or local organizations that offer caregiving services.

Be kind to yourself and to your spouse.
Both you and your spouse are undergoing a life change, and with it will come growing pains. There will be times when you’re angry, tired, stressed and snippy with each other. Be as patient as possible with your spouse and yourself. Be sure to give yourself (and your spouse) space to be alone and do things that are important to you. Get enough exercise, eat right and find something to do for yourself every day to de-stress.

Remember to spend time as a married couple.
It’s easy to focus on the caregiving role so much that the relationship – your marriage – gets pushed to the side. This leads to loneliness, resentment and feelings of isolation. Remember that, above all, you and your spouse are married and that relationship needs to take precedence over everything else. Schedule regular times to nurture your relationship and do things you love to do together. Go on evening walks, or dance in the living room to your favorite songs. Have a date night in with your favorite takeout and an old movie, or cook a romantic meal together. You may need to adapt your activities to reflect your loved one’s abilities, but that’s okay. The quality time that you spend together as a couple will help sustain and grow your relationship in ways you never thought possible before.

For more information about adjusting to the role of a spousal caregiver, 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.

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.

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.