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

Laura Wayman, The Dementia Whisperer

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

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

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

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

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

Provide just enough information

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

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

Model calmness

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

Limit news and media exposure

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

Watch for reassurance seeking

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

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

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

How to Choose an Assisted Living Community for Your Senior Loved One

Have you noticed that your senior loved one has been needing a little more help than usual these days? Maybe he or she is having trouble navigating the stairs, or has had some falls recently. Perhaps you’ve noticed that their home is not quite as clean as it used to be, or you’ve noticed expired food in the refrigerator or the house just seems a little run-down. Or maybe your loved one has been complaining about all the work that owning a house entails, and that they’d really like to step back from that and spend their time as they wish.

This may mean that assisted living would be a good choice for your senior loved one, says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “The family home that your loved one lives in isn’t always the best choice as they get older,” she says. “In order to live safely, he or she may need to make costly renovations. But that’s not all. Home upkeep, grocery shopping and staying social are all things that are necessary for a comfortable life … and that can simply be hard to do when you live on your own.”

As an adult child or relative of a senior, you may be concerned – and rightly so – about your loved one’s safety, both now and in the future. Your loved one may have health issues that are becoming more severe, and you aren’t sure how he or she will manage if things get any worse. Fortunately, there is a solution: assisted living.

“Moving into assisted living is something to be celebrated these days,” says Andrea. “Today’s senior living communities are worlds removed from the ‘homes’ of old – in fact, many adult children of our residents joke that they wish they could move into our community. Today’s communities are built around the idea of providing support and giving residents as much independence as possible. Moving to an Assisted Living community like The Reutlinger Community allows older adults to enjoy their golden years in peace, knowing that they will always receive as much or as little care as they want and need.”

Tips for Choosing the Right Assisted Living Community

No two assisted living communities are created equal, which is why it’s important for you and your loved one to do your research and carefully weigh the options in order to find the best fit. Andrea suggests starting the process as soon as you possibly can – it’s a lot easier to make an informed choice and move before it becomes necessary. “Oftentimes, people will wait until there’s been an incident, like a fall or a health scare, to move into an assisted living community. That’s not really the best way to do things, because it causes a lot of stress, quick decisions and a ‘good enough’ solution. By giving yourself time to research options and be thoughtful, you and your loved one can choose the best solution possible and provide a good foundation for this next chapter of life.”

Make a list of needs and wants.

The first step before you begin looking for a community is to sit down and write a list of all the needs your loved one has, as well as what they want in a community. “Needs” should include all the health-related and care-related issues that should be addressed. “Wants” are things like dining options, apartment sizes and styles, community location and the like. Having these lists will help you narrow down options and make informed decisions.

Ask for advice.

Do you have friends or family members who’ve placed loved ones in assisted living? Does your loved one’s physician have any recommendations? Ask around both in-person and online to get firsthand information of what the process is like and what places others would recommend. You can also connect with your local Area Agency on Aging to gather information and look for options.

Look at cost.

The price tag is often the most important issue facing those who go into assisted living communities. The cost depends on many factors. Some places charge a community fee and a monthly rental fee, while others work on a month-by-month basis. Some communities will have an all-inclusive rate, while others do more of an add-on type of approach. You will need to take a look at your loved one’s finances and determine what is a reasonable cost for his or her lifestyle and needs.

Research care levels.

What will happen if your loved one requires more care than he or she currently needs? Are there options for higher levels of care on-campus, or would it be necessary for your loved one to move if they require memory care or skilled nursing? Progressive care is offered at some communities and not at others; there are benefits to both styles. You and your loved one should discuss what options will work best.

Take a look at the lifestyle offered.

Obviously, assistance is the biggest benefit to moving into assisted living. But another significant benefit is the social life and activities available. There are many seniors who move to assisted living not because they need the help, but because they want to be part of a community and do things. Talk with your loved one to see what opportunities they’d like to see, and choose communities that offer the lifestyle they’re looking for.

Tour each community on your list.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list to the top two or three communities, schedule on-site tours to get a feel for what life there is like and learn more information. You may wish to tour a community more than once – in fact, we recommend touring several times, at different times of the day. This will help you get a full picture of what life is like at that particular community.

Moving into an assisted living community is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be something that’s stressful or sad. In fact, your loved one may say something we hear so often at The Reutlinger Community: “I wish I’d moved here sooner!”

For more information about how to choose an assisted living community for your loved one, or to learn more about our community, mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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

What Caregivers Should Know Before Choosing Memory Care

At some point during your loved one’s journey with dementia, he or she will require around-the-clock care in order to live safely. Generally, this occurs in a Memory Care community – a facility that’s been designed specifically to meet the needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of cognitive issues. Even if your loved one is only in the very early stages of dementia, it’s never too early to begin thinking about these types of services.

“Many people with dementia will be cared for, at least at the beginning, by an informal caregiver,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “This could be a spouse, an adult child, a dear friend or even a hired home aide. However, as the disease becomes more advanced, a caregiver can quickly become overwhelmed and stressed, which results in a poorer quality of life for both the caregiver and potentially the individual they’re caring for. ”

One of the hardest parts about caregiving, says Andrea, is that the role becomes all-encompassing to the point of pushing aside the roles of ‘spouse’ or ‘child.’ “We talk a lot about the benefits of Memory Care in terms of how it improves safety and reduces stress, but one of the biggest benefits of Memory Care is that it gives people the ability to rekindle their relationship with their loved one,” Andrea says. “At The Reutlinger Community, we’ve seen how caregiving spouses are able to go back to being simply a husband or wife – which helps both parties tremendously in so many ways.”

Being proactive about choosing memory care for your loved one will help caregivers avoid burnout and provide the best possible assistance for the individual with dementia. “Before you choose a Memory Care option, you’ll want to put together a list of questions and get some information about the services being offered,” says Andrea. “Being informed will give you the tools you need to find the right home for both you and your loved one with dementia.”

Where should care take place?

 Memory Care services and communities come in all shapes and sizes, and also provide a range of different services. While some Memory Care communities are standalone communities that only provide care for those with dementia and memory issues, others are separate wings attached to a larger Assisted Living community.

Depending on your loved one’s current situation, says Andrea, one of these choices may be better for him or her than another. “For example, if you’re a caregiving spouse, you may want to move you and your partner into a more comprehensive community that offers Independent Living or Assisted Living in conjunction with Memory Care,” she says. This is particularly helpful if you have your own health problems and need assistance yourself, or if your loved one is in the earlier stages of dementia.

“However, if your loved one is in the later stages of dementia, and you are capable of living on your own, you may wish to move your loved one into a standalone memory care community,” she says. “It all depends on your individual needs, financial situation and also what options are available in your area.”

Will my loved one receive proper care?

 Oftentimes, caregivers feel guilty moving a loved one into memory care because they worry about him or her not getting the care they need. Andrea wishes to put caregivers’ minds at ease on this particular point.

“Memory Care communities are staffed with professional, empathetic individuals who have received knowledge and training specific to caring for individuals with cognitive issues,” she says. “Residents will be cared for by a dedicated team of staff members, who help form relationships and become familiar faces.”

Best of all, she says, there is assistance available 24/7, no matter what. “Having multiple caregivers means that help is never far away,” she says. “Plus, since the community is designed to meet the needs of those with dementia, it is incredibly safe, easy to navigate and free of hazards that might be in a family home.”

What questions should I ask?

Andrea says it’s important to search for Memory Care communities and create a list of a few top choices. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, she suggests touring each one and taking a comprehensive list of questions with you. “By visiting the communities, you can get a feel that’s impossible to get over the phone or through pictures, and having a standard list of questions will allow you to compare one community to the other more easily,” she says.

Here are some suggested questions for your list. You will want to add or subtract questions, depending on your individual situation and what is important to you:

  • What level and types of care does the community provide?
  • What sort of training has the staff received? Is ongoing training part of their objectives?
  • What is the monthly rate for the community? What services are included in that rate? What services and options would be an additional cost?
  • What sort of floor plans are available, and how are they priced?
  • How are care plans developed, and how often are they reviewed to ensure my loved one is receiving optimal care?
  • What are your policies regarding visitors?
  • How are medical emergencies handled?
  • What sort of meals are provided, and are special dietary requirements or preferences able to be accommodated?
  • Is laundry service and housekeeping provided? How often?
  • What sort of programs are available to residents? Is there a full range of physical, mental and social activities to help them live a full, engaged life?
  • How does the community handle undesirable behaviors like aggressiveness, wandering or other dementia-related symptoms?
  • How does the community communicate with family members?
  • What is the ratio of staff to residents during the day? During the night?

The most important thing for caregivers to know, says Andrea, that moving a loved one to Memory Care is one of the most selfless and kind things you can do as a caregiver.

“I’ve spoken to many caregivers who feel like they’re ‘giving up’ or are guilty about moving a senior adult into Memory Care,” she says. “I try to make sure they know that they are actually doing the best thing possible for their loved one. Moving to a Memory Care community like The Reutlinger Community provides the best possible care in the safest environment with highly trained, caring staff members. It allows your loved one to get the care he or she needs…and gives you peace of mind and the ability to nurture your relationship with them throughout this journey.”

For more information about choosing Memory Care for your loved one, or to learn more about our community, mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

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

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

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

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

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