Home for the Holidays with Dementia

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With the holidays fast approaching I wanted to address a rather important and under-recognized situation that often ads to the stress of the season: bringing home a relative with dementia. Every year many families host their loved one(s) that are permanent residents of a facility in the hopes of enriching their day. Unfortunately, for those that are not prepared for this responsibility, their lovely intentions can often backfire. So today I am going to share a few reminders and tips for those of you planning to embark on the adventure that is the holidays.

1. “This isn’t my recipe!”

As a woman I understand the strong desire we all have to perfect the recipes of our mothers, aunts, and grandmothers and serve them during the holidays just as they did. We strive for their approval and when it doesn’t come it leaves us feeling hurt, stressed, angry. But what I want you to remember is that for someone with dementia, their sense of taste has been dramatically altered. Almost everything will taste bitter or sour to them and they will desperately seek tons of sugar and salt to add to their foods, all while declaring how awful it tastes. Rest assured, you haven’t ruined the recipe, your loved one is simply incapable of tasting it properly.

2. Managing Incontinence

Often the most difficult task for family members to understand or manage is their loved one’s incontinence care. Try to remember that this is not anyone’s fault and it is important to try and preserve your patience, as well as, their dignity. Before checking them out of the facility, make sure that they use the rest room. Do so again immediately after arriving home. From that point on try to keep your loved one on a 2 hour toileting schedule. This is what is being done in the facility and it helps to avoid having a mess to clean. Additionally, you will want to keep an eye on their fluid intake. If they are consuming frequent beverages, I strongly urge you to increase the toileting to every hour and immediately after each meal. Also, keep an eye on the medications they’re taking. Many of them may cause additional issues with certain foods or beverages. If you have any questions about this, be sure to consult with the medication technicians at the facility prior to leaving.

3. Take a stroll down memory lane

Dementia primarily effects a person’s short term memory while leaving memories from childhood and earlier adulthood intact. Going through old family photos and reminiscing about happy stories from the past are a great way to jog your loved one’s brain and improve their mood. It can also be therapeutic for you. Because the disease is degenerative and will only get worse with time, I urge you to take these opportunities to indulge in happy memories and old stories while you still can.

4. Remember how to hit the “reset button”

In my first year in caring for assisted living residents with dementia I learned a very valuable trick that I want you to take very seriously. Many times I have tried to share this tip with family caregivers, but all too often they fail to learn the skill. I call it hitting the reset button. Often there are times when we attempt to get our loved ones to do something (take their medicine, go to the bathroom, etc.) only to meet great resistance. From there an argument often ensues. I know it is easy to fall into this pattern but try to be mindful of it. If your are met with said resistance, I encourage you to instead walk away for 5-10 minutes and make sure to calm down. In this time, your relative will also have the chance to calm down and forget that they are agitated. When you are ready re-approach. Speak calmly, slowly and clearly (without yelling) and if needed use short term prompts i.e. “Mom, I would love to go for a walk with you. Will you please walk with me?” Now you can guide her to the restroom.

The holidays can be stressful for all of us but they also offer the opportunity for happy memories, warmth, and sharing. I want to encourage all of you to be honest with yourself and the family before approaching an attempt at home visitation. If you don’t feel confident that you can handle caring for your loved one in a way that is in their best interest, than I urge you to reconsider. It may be in your best interest and theirs for the family to go to the facility and spend some time there. However, if you’re confident in your ability to welcome the additional responsibility and stress, remember to take deep breaths and be grateful for the gift that is spending time with your loved ones.

Happy Holidays!

Are You Living in a Fool’s Paradise?

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I was just 25 years old and living alone for my first time. I had taken a shower early on a Saturday morning to prepare for a long day of chores and errands. As I stepped into the bathroom and went to lean for something I slipped on some water on the tile floor and fell. But I didn’t just fall. I went down hard, hitting the sink and the toilet on the way down, landing on my back. There I lay, thriving in instant pain and shock. After a few moments lying there, with my puppy licking my face, I decided it was time to get up. However, I struggled to do so. That wasn’t the first time I’ve had a terrible slip and fall and it certainly wasn’t the last.

As I laid there on my bathroom floor, in excruciating pain that later illustrated itself in a mosaic of bruising all over my body, I had a thought. I am alone. What if I had hit my head on my marble sink just right and knocked myself out? What if I had not been able to get up on my own? I was a great distance from a phone and nobody was expecting me anywhere so they wouldn’t suspect anything to be wrong until Monday. What if I wasn’t 25?

That’s when it truly occurred to me that as much time as I spend researching falls in seniors, we are all vulnerable. The difference is, had I been 30 or 40 years older when I fell, I probably wouldn’t have survived it. Then I thought back to those what ifs. The odds that I will fall again, numerous times as I age are likely being the klutz that I am. If I am alone again when it happens, I will likely die alone, in pain, on the floor or ground.

Often when I discuss the issue of falling with others, they seem to adopt some kind of invincibility complex where it seems impossible to them that they could ever slip, trip or fall. But by outfitting themselves with denial, they are inviting danger. So answer me this…Have you ever fallen in your life? Have you ever fallen at your pique of youth and fitness. Yeah, me too. So don’t you think its possible that you could fall when you’ve become weaker and less coordinated? If you’ve answered “No”, than I am sorry my friend but you are in denial, ignorant, and WRONG. You’re living in a fool’s paradise! If you’ve answered “yes”, then I want you to consider these facts and realize that just one phone call to The Senior Living Concierge or a local Senior Advisor could save you from becoming one of these statistics.

  1. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries.
  2. Falls are the leading cause of Traumatic Brain Injuries which lead to dementia and other diseases or seizures.
  3. One out of every 4 seniors that fracture a hip in a fall will die within six months.

Call to Action:

If you or anyone you know is over the age of 55 you are at a serious and increasing risk for falling. The odds that a fall will kill you, increase with every month that you age. If you live alone, the risk for death is dramatically higher among fall victims. Falling is a tragic and unnecessary cause of death, injury, and depression among aging adults. Don’t be a victim, and don’t allow anyone else you know to either.

Call Helping Hands Today to learn what can be done to prevent a fall. 845.464.6660

Just Remember: One fall could end it all!

The Transylvania Effect: Is the full moon driving you crazy?

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Just a couple of weeks into my first job in an assisted living facility as a resident aide I got my first taste of a monthly phenomenon. Residents that were normally docile and calm were wandering about, starting arguments, and behaving in a generally rude manner. Worse yet, residents that normally presented challenges were practically off the walls. With so little experience under my belt, I didn’t know what to make of the sudden changes in behavior, and struggled to handle them.

At 11pm when my relief came I began to give “report” which is a to the minute status update on every resident. As I went down the list describing the various symptoms and behaviors of our beloved 43 residents, the other aide began to smile and shake her head. Exhausted, I asked if this was normal. She told me in fact it was, every month, on the full moon.

Not being superstitious or believing in anything supernatural, I dismissed the explanation. Until the following month, that is, when all of the same aggressive, wandering, agitated behaviors presented themselves again. So I did some research to see if there was any merit to the lunar effects on human behavior.

What I found is that of the little research that has been done, scientists have failed to present any conclusive findings of the effects of the lunar phase on human behavior. However, there were two exceptions:

1. One scientist conducted a 4 year sleep study to measure the effects of the full moon on sleep patterns. All the participants of the study were healthy, good sleepers, and did not take any medications. Over the 4 years, the team observed that the participants took an average of 5 minutes longer to fall asleep, had 30 percent less brain activity, and woke up 20 minutes earlier during the full moon. This was true even when they were unaware of the lunar phase.

2. Talk to anyone that works with or cares for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and they will swear up and down that the full moon plays a big part in behavior. Another study done on AD patients set out to measure increased levels of wandering, agitation, anxiety, and verbal confrontation. The conclusions were that the AD sufferers did exhibit significantly more behaviors during the full moon, and the severity of those behaviors was much greater.

Some people believe that because the moon holds such a powerful influence on the ocean tides, and our bodies are comprised mainly of water, that the moon is controlling our “inner tide”. However, the force of gravity is proportional to the mass of an object and inversely proportional to the square distance between the two objects. In short, because the amount of water in the human body is actually very little compared to that of the ocean, and the moon is so far away, the lunar phase cannot have a significant effect on the individual.

So while the observations made are fairly consistent, the cause remains a mystery. For anyone struggling with the effects of the moon on their loved one suffering from AD: contact Helping Hands for guidance and support.

Are Your Loved Ones Safe at Home?

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Most people dread the day that they may be forced to consider leaving their home in order to preserve their safety. That is why many family members hesitate to bring up the subject of senior living solutions to their loved one. Although, failing to do so could ultimately result in tragedy. Of course, you may not want to take the risk of having “the talk” if the aging adult isn’t ready. Here are some clear cut signs that someone may be in serious need of care in the home or a facility.

Key Signs They Aren’t Safe at Home Alone:

  • Their home is old or in disrepair: Even the youngest, healthiest individuals are prone to trip, slip, and fall sometimes. I know I do it regularly. However, as we age, the risks associated with falling are alarming. 1 out of every 3 aging adults over 65 will fall this year, and many of them will result in death or complete loss of independence. Homes built more that 20 years ago are a virtual hazard horror house for the elderly and greatly increase the risks of falling. Additionally, homes that are starting to slip into disrepair offer a slue of hazards including mold, uneven flooring, poor lighting, and more.
  • They’re becoming forgetful: Someone that is becoming increasingly forgetful is possible displaying signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Although the degenerative disease typically begins to infect its victims in their 30’s or 40’s, most people don’t start to present true symptoms until later in life. Additional warning signs include wandering aimlessly, frequent agitation, and confusion.
  • Debilitating diseases: While many diseases like diabetes are perfectly manageable on one’s own in the beginning, as we age they can really take their toll and cause people to require round the clock care. Parkinson’s, ALS, cancer, and kidney diseases present a variety of compromising symptoms that make it impossible for an aging adult to safely care for themselves for long.
  • The home is filled with “piles”: When piles of bills, papers, magazines, mail, and newspapers begin to appear around the house, loved ones often don’t realize this is a warning sign. It may seem like laziness or hoarding, but in fact, it is likely a display of moderate dementia or Alzhiemer’s. The piles themselves aren’t just unseemly, they’re dangerous if accumulating on the floor, near the stove, or in pathways. Simply cleaning the piles up won’t solve the problem, they will reappear over and over until a catastrophe occurs. Piles are a clear cut sign that professional help is needed.

For more information on aging issues or advice for you or a loved one, contact the Senior Living Concierge at 845.464.6660 today.

3 Low-Impact Exercises for Seniors

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A critical part of aging gracefully and maintaining good health includes continuing to exercise as you age. However, most seniors won’t have a same strength or endurance that they once did in younger years, there are great low-impact options that can help to improve endurance, flexibility, and balance. By practicing any or all of these exercises on a regular basis, you can improve your heart health, reduce risk of falling, and maintain a healthy weight.

Walking Increases Endurance

Walking is a great low impact exercise for a variety of reasons: its accessible, its free, and its customizable for your ability. If possible, it is always recommended to go for walks outside. Outdoor walks are beneficial because you absorb the all important brain-function nutrient of natural vitamin D from the sun. However, it is important to take the proper measures to ensure safety on your walk. The value of proper footwear cannot be understated. Be sure that your walking shoes provide comfort, support, grip, weight, and stability. Secondly, be sure to stretch before and after each walk to prevent sore muscles and nurture growing muscles. Finally, be sure to focus on maintaining good posture while you walk, keeping your back straight and shoulders back.

Swimming Fosters Flexibility

Swimming is a valuable exercise because there is essentially no stress or strain placed on the joints. This makes it a great option for anyone suffering from arthritis or osteoporosis. The benefits of swimming include a noticeable increase in flexibility because you are essentially stretching with each stroke. It is best to practice swimming laps in a pool to measure progress and growth. Although, many people often forget to hydrate properly when swimming. Be sure to consume water before, during, and after a swim to maintain proper hydration. You can measure your level of hydration by noticing the color of your urine, with the target being completely clear.

Yoga Improves Balance

Yoga is often a forgotten exercise for aging adults. However, it offers very valuable benefits such as strength training and improved balance. Balance is key to preventing falls (the number 1 cause of injury-related fatalities). While yoga is easily accessible to anyone through DVDs, internet videos, and books, it is strongly recommended that beginners take at least 2-4 classes to ensure that they are practicing each pose correctly and prevent injury. There are classes of every level and variety widely offered and most are reasonable in price (about $9 each).