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Caregiving

What to Look for in Memory Care Communities

By | Alzheimer's and Dementia, Caregiving | No Comments

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or is faced with another serious memory loss condition, there is a good chance they will require professional memory care services at some point. Finding a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or “life plan” community) with memory care will make life for the patient, loved ones, and caregivers more comfortable and enjoyable.

Many CCRCs and assisted living communities have memory care divisions within their nursing facilities, and today, more and more providers are adding these programs. Beyond this, nursing homes that work exclusively in memory care also are becoming more popular.

What is memory care?

Memory care is a unique type of care provided to patients with varying degrees of Alzheimer’s or dementia (or any other memory loss condition). This care involves a very structured and routine-based lifestyle in order to create a more comfortable and enjoyable day-to-day experience for the patient.

Days typically consist of a set schedule, maximized security, and activities that exercise the brain to reduce the many stresses of these diseases. The newest memory care centers are helping to make sure that their setting feels like a home, with common areas such as kitchens, large dining tables, and living areas.

Memory care communities also have a culture of recognizing the resident not merely as a person who has lost abilities but rather as someone who still has the ability to feel love, happiness, friendship, and caring. Of course, the degree to which this type of setting is most appropriate does depend in large part on the level of need and care required by the patient.

Choosing a memory care facility

Memory-loss conditions are mostly irreversible, especially Alzheimer’s. So, memory care programs or facilities are not cures, but they do strive to make life with these diseases much less daunting for patients, their caregivers, and loved ones.

Memory care works to slow the progression of the disease and provide the patient with a sense of purpose and identity—a reason to live and enjoy living. To achieve these goals, some important features to look for in memory care are:

Security: Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients often wander, and this can be dangerous. Look for a center that a) allows wandering to a healthy extent, and b) keeps wandering patients safe with extra security.

Support: Residents in memory care may become agitated. Look for memory care facilities that have ways of treating patients’ agitation with appropriate coping skills. Some even have sensory rooms that are designed to induce feelings of calm with weighted blankets, scents of lavender, and other calming tools.

Community: There are many levels of memory loss, and it is important for patients to interact with other patients who are at similar levels of memory loss. Similarly, patients should be engaging in activities that not only match their skill level but also their individual interests.

Medication control: Many dementia patients are over-medicated in assisted living facilities. To avoid this, find a facility with around-the-clock service from licensed nurses as well as trained caregivers. With more attention to everyday care, often less medication is required.

Sensory programming: While memory is decaying, the senses are still alive and well. Choose care centers that take this into account and capitalize on the use of senses in their day-to-day programs.

The above content is legally licensed for use by  myLifeSite.  

How to Love Your Loved One When They Have a Life Limiting Illness

By | Caregiving | No Comments

By: Peg Carmany

When someone you love is diagnosed with a life limiting illness, it may be a time when the kaleidoscope of your life suddenly snaps into focus. Or it may be a time when the laser focus of your life becomes scattered. And very likely, there will be some of both. Of the research I have done, and the practical tips I can share from my own experience, these are my favorite pieces of advice:

1. Remember there is no right answer on how you’re supposed to act, and you should not assume that you are supposed to know exactly what to do and exactly how to act. It’s OK to fall apart, but one word of caution about that: try not to let the person who is ill be your primary source of comfort when you do hit a wall.
2. When trying to follow Tip 1, remember that your established role with this loved one doesn’t necessarily switch at the moment of diagnosis. Perhaps only one of you has ever been good under stress? It’s okay to keep it that way. Both of you may take great comfort in continuing on with familiar patterns.
3. Make it a priority to show your love as your loved one is facing what may be overwhelming and scary. It’s not all roses and chocolates – be authentic, be honest, and be yourself. Express gratitude to them for how they have positively impacted your life – and share happy memories – and don’t be afraid to say goodbye, tenderly.
4. Respect their authority to make their own decisions, whether you like it or not. These are their choices, not yours.
5. Keep things as normal as possible. Continue watching your favorite tv shows together or listening to their favorite music, it can be a very meaningful thing.
6. Laugh when you can, and don’t be afraid to poke a little fun at the whole situation. A sense of humor will lighten any mood!
7. And perhaps most importantly: listen, and give advice only when asked. This one can be the most challenging. Often, we are great talkers, but not the best listeners.

Remember, your loved one needs your emotional support. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often family and friends who live near by are more than willing to help with errands. And, if you need further support, Wesley Hospice can visit your home, the community you live in, and even hospitals.

We send our deepest condolences to the families who are faced with a loved one being diagnosed with a life limiting illness. And, we hope that with these tips you’ll be able to better love your loved one during this time.

Ten Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Community

By | Caregiving, Lifestyle | No Comments

When visiting an assisted living community be sure to ask these 10 questions:

Is memory care available?

If your memory declines, can the community continue to care for you? Many places have memory care in place, for people who move in needing that care, but also for those who live in the community and develop certain memory conditions during their stay. Memory care should be a safe and secure area in the community.

Are the rooms private?

If privacy is a concern for you be sure to ask if the rooms are private. Some assisted living facilities require residents to share a room, while others have private rooms available.

Do they provide individualized care plans for each resident?

Check to see if there is a written care plan, individualized for each resident. Every person is different, and will need different plans for care. This care plan can include things like medications, diet and exercise.

How often are meals served?

Are meals available 7 days a week? If so, how many meals do you get a day?

What kind of services and activities are provided?

Do they have laundry, transportation or worshiping services? What about a podiatrist or neurologist?  Is there an assisted living activity coordinator?

Can you bring furniture, bedding and other items from your home?

Bringing items from home may make you feel more comfortable. What limitations do you have on what you can bring? Many places give you the opportunity to bring in furniture, bedding and knickknacks.

Can you have pets?

Are you allowed to bring pets into the community? If so, what pets can you bring? Many communities allow you to bring in cats, dogs, fish and even birds! Make sure you ask this question, and find out the cost associated with bring an animal.

Can you and your visitors come and go at will?

It’s a common practice for assisted living communities to allow residents, families and friends in and out at will. But, check with the community and state regulations to ensure that this is the case.

Is the community safe?

Many communities have security guards and cameras. Other questions to ask would be, are there locks on the windows and doors? Are there well-lit rooms and hallways? Is there a generator, in case of emergency?

What if I run out of money while living here?

Out living funds can be a concern for older adults. Some communities will give you a 30-day notice to move out if this occurs. Others, have policies in place that may help cover the cost of living and care.

What other questions have you found helpful in your assisted living search?

How to Help Your Parent Get Involved at Their Retirement Community

By | Caregiving | No Comments

If your parent or loved one is struggling to make friends at their retirement community, look no further. Sometimes it can be hard to get to know people at a new place. Luckily, we have some great tips for how to get your loved one involved.

Most retirement communities have activities that range from physical fitness and day trips, to music and crafts. And, there are typically resident groups, such as writer’s groups or resident councils. The range of activities allows residents to choose the activities they are interested in and truly enjoy. Doing the things they love will increase the likelihood that they return to a future activity, try new activities, and meet likeminded people.

Also, keep in mind that activities are typically based on the level of care. This means that the activities are divided into groups for assisted living, independent living, skilled nursing, and even memory care. This may ease your loved one’s mind, when worrying about if they can properly engage in the activity.

If your loved one is still hesitant to get involved, try to develop a relationship with their activity coordinator. This is the person who plans and attends all the activities for their level of care. They can reach out to see what types of things your loved one is interested in, and help motivate them to attend future activities.

The activity coordinator could also provide you with a calendar of upcoming events that families can attend. Family events are a great way for your loved one to ease into meeting new members of the community. If you are attending these events, try to encourage conversation with other families. This will help your loved one develop relationships in the community. And, it can help you to develop relationships with people in your same position.

What tips have you tried to motivate your loved ones to become involved?

For the activity calendars at Wesley Glen, please click here.

Tips for Discussing Money with Family

By | Caregiving, Lifestyle | No Comments

It’s often been said that you should never discuss money, politics, or religion in polite company. As you edge closer to retirement, though, it might be a good time for you to start having monetary conversations with your family members. While such conversations can get a bit heated, there are tips you can follow to help you navigate these dangerous waters.

Create a Plan

You should always go into your conversation with a game plan. While your family can chime in about money tips and their own needs, you should know exactly what you want to say and what your own goals are going to be. This will help you avoid getting off-topic and allow you to focus on the goals that are important to you.

Use Neutral Language

People can get defensive when it comes to money, and family members can easily let old grudges boil to the surface when you begin to discuss dollars and cents. All language you use during a monetary conversation should be neutral, focusing on “I” statements rather than “You” statements. This shouldn’t be a time for discussing problems, but rather a time for discussing plans and solutions.

Only Disclose the Necessities

It’s often a good idea to look at money conversations as a “need to know” type of situation. If you’re planning on doing something with your money that won’t impact the rest of your family directly, don’t bring it up. If you’re planning on doing something that will upset one member of the family, discuss it with him or her privately first. The last thing you want is to cause a scene when you need to work through money problems.

The most important thing you can do, though, is have the discussions themselves. Don’t avoid them because they are hard – it’s that difficulty that makes the discussions necessary. With a bit of forethought and a lot of effort, you can have the conversations your family needs to have before you retire.

From Chronic to Deadly: Prescription Pain Meds

By | Caregiving, Health and Wellness | No Comments

A couple of weeks ago I watched a documentary produced by the FBI about the heroin epidemic in this country, in our city, entitled “Chasing the Dragon.”   It is an epidemic, and it is heightened by the ongoing use of prescription opiates. Many of the prescriptions were prescribed by doctors for pain management following an accident or surgery or diagnosis of chronic pain.

According to AARP, some seventeen percent of adults age 60 and older struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. In reports following the death of music icon Prince, prescription opiates were identified as the alleged cause. My sister, who is in her early 50’s, was prescribed Vicodin and Oxycodone for what was described as chronic pain. She now cannot live without these drugs. Until I watched the above documentary I was not educated about the growing problem.  I wonder what situations other individuals may be experiencing, for example, surgeries and old sports injuries, and what has been prescribed by their doctors.  What should we be looking for in their behaviors?

If you suspect someone you love is overusing medications, you will want to take some action. First and foremost, be on the alert. What health conditions are they being treated for? Are they still taking heavy meds months after a surgery? Look at the labels on the prescription bottles. Who is prescribing them? What is the dosage, refill amount, etc?

Behavior. Is your loved one’s behavior erratic? Are they more depressed, anxious, angry, secretive or just want to be left alone? Do they fall asleep during a visit or conversation? Do they take more than the prescribed amount? Watch them and write down any odd or out of sync moments.

For older adults, especially if they live alone, it is important to monitor intake of prescription meds. When my mother went from one prescription to seven following her heart attack, we purchased a seven-day pillbox and broke out the distribution per day to help her keep track of what meds she was taking and what day. We made sure we were comfortable with her taking the meds, and also accompanied her to several doctors’ visits to discuss her meds and long-term plans for taking.

Of course, I could not talk about monitoring without addressing some form of recordkeeping. I have kept a record of all medications prescribed to me over the years for various ailments, from dental procedures to back pain caused by a car accident. List all of your medications, dosages, and why they were prescribed for you. Also include any over-the-counter medications you take. Be sure to share with your doctor.

Prescription opioids are powerful, and can be harmful with long-term use. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor and ask about alternative ways to address chronic pain and/or new methods for pain management. Be most aware of the synthetic opioids that are coming into the market. If it involves someone close to you, look for warning signs. Either way, it is important to find or get help.

To watch “Chasing the Dragon” go to www.fbi.gov/chasingthedragon

Common Types of Memory Lapses

By | Alzheimer's and Dementia, Caregiving | No Comments

It’s normal to forget things from time to time, and it’s normal to become somewhat forgetful as we age.  But how much forgetfulness is too much?  How can you tell if your memory lapses are part of the aging process, or if they are a symptom of something more serious?

We’ve all misplaced keys, blanked on an acquaintance’s name, or forgotten a phone number. When we’re young, we do not pay attention to these lapses, but as we age, sometimes we worry about what they mean.  While it’s true that certain brain changes are inevitable when it comes to aging, major memory problems are not one of them.  That’s why it’s important to know the differences between normal age-related forgetfulness and the symptoms that may indicate a developing cognitive problem.

People with some forgetfulness can use a variety of techniques that may help them stay healthy and maintain their memory and mental skills.  Here are some tips:

  • Plan tasks, make “to do” lists, and use memory aids, like notes and calendars. Some people find they remember things better if they mentally connect them to other meaningful things, such as a familiar name, song, book or TV show.
  • Develop interests or hobbies and stay involved in activities that can help the mind and body.
  • Engage in physical activity and exercise. Several studies have associated exercise (such as walking) with better brain function, although more research is needed to say for sure whether exercise can help to maintain brain function or prevent or delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
  • Limit alcohol use. Although some studies suggest that moderate alcohol use has health benefits, heavy or binge drinking over time can cause memory loss and permanent brain damage.
  • Find activities, such as exercise or a hobby, to relieve feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. If these feelings last for a long time, talk with your doctor.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you know has a serious memory problem, talk with your doctor.  He or she may be able to diagnose the problem or refer you to a specialist, such as a neurologist or geriatric psychiatrist.  When it comes to memory, it’s “use it or lose it.”  Just as physical exercise can make and keep your body stronger, mental exercise can make your brain work better and lower risks of mental decline.

Show You Care

By | Caregiving, Lifestyle | No Comments

Whether you call it a random act of kindness or paying it forward, doing something unexpected for someone else feels good. If you know someone who gives their time taking care of a loved one or friend, you have an opportunity to give back to him or her. November is officially National Family Caregivers month and the perfect time to make a difference in the life of a caregiver.

Being a caregiver can start out as small as just raking leaves for an elderly neighbor or balancing your mother’s checkbook. But most times, and especially for those of us with aging parents or relatives, it comes at you unexpected, like an out of control train. Such was the case of my 75-year-old mother who never expected to be a caregiver for her two siblings, still living in the family home. My uncle was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. My aunt was healthy but always taken care of, and she was unable to deal with household chores, much less taking my uncle to chemo treatments. So my mother stepped in. As a former nurse, it was natural to her, but over time it took a toll on her physical, mental and emotional health.

Because we lived several hours away, my sisters and I looked for things we could do to alleviate anything extra our mother needed to do around her own house and ways to help her relax. As expected, the last person a caregiver takes care of is often himself or herself.

So what can you do? It’s the little things. Here are some ideas:

  • Rake their yard or shovel snow from driveways and sidewalks
  • Bake some cookies or a pie
  • Buy her a certificate for a massage or day at a spa
  • Cook a meal or stock up on groceries
  • Be the driver for the caregiver to help run errands or take her client to doctor’s appointments
  • Not using your sports tickets? Extend them to your friend for a night out
  • Drop off a nice bottle of wine
  • Send them a card just letting them know you are thinking of them
  • Take their car to get an oil change or tires checked
  • Fix things around their house: a leaky faucet, clogged drain or clean the carpets
  • Buy him/her a Kindle and download the latest books or just buy several new paperbacks
  • Put a care package in the mail

Pay attention to things that are unique and personal to the caregiver and extend those random acts of kindness to them. I guarantee that any gesture, no matter how small, will go a long way. Caregivers are extra-special people who may be doing something that takes the burden off of you and your family. Let’s show them we care.

When Mom or Dad Move In

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At some point in time adult children may be faced with the thought of who will take care of mom or dad and should your aging parents move in with you. Does it make financial sense? Will everyone be able to get along? How do you set boundaries for personal space between your spouse and children who may be living in your home?

These are ALL legitimate questions, but where do you begin? Sometimes the decision follows a crisis when you may not have the time to consider the impact on your family. Caring.com estimates that one in every four caregivers lives with an elderly or disabled relative. One of the first discussions should be with your spouse and children to see how they feel about this arrangement; however, there are many other topics to evaluate:

  • Does your current home offer a safe living space or will you need some modifications in the bedroom or bathroom?
  • Finances: Will your mom or dad contribute financially, or will you be paying for additional expenses for their personal and health care?
  • Will supervision or other health care options need to be considered?
  • Are there other family members or siblings who will be willing to help should you take on this change?
  • Does your mom or dad have a social network available?
  • What are the rules of the house? How can everyone still maintain personal space?

There are many topics to evaluate as you consider the options, and communication will be key with both your parents and your family before making such an important decision. Here are two websites with articles and resources to help guide you on caregivers and the benefits and drawbacks of moving someone in with you.

www.caring.com, www.aarp.com