Cold Weather Tips for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia comes with unique challenges.  But when the weather turns cold there are even more factors to consider.   

Everything from minimizing fall risks in parking lots to preventing confusion and fear during a winter storm are factors to consider.

These cold weather tips can help you get prepared to keep your loved one safe and comfortable.

Preventing Winter Falls

During the winter, ice is often an issue and can be very dangerous. Even the smallest amount of ice lead to a fall – especially for those who may not be as steady on their feet as they once were. But when you have to get to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment there are times icy steps or sidewalks just can’t be avoided.

Proper Footwear – If you must take your loved one out in inclement or icy weather make sure they have warm footwear with plenty of traction.  They may insist on wearing their favorite bedroom slippers but safe footwear is critical to preventing slips or falls.

Parking – Whenever possible pull your car into a garage or as close to a non-slippery surface as possible. Help them in and out of the car to a safe, non-slippery space. If possible, recruit a friend or family member to help your loved inside while you park the car.

Many hospitals, doctors offices and shopping areas offer low-cost or free valet parking so you can get as close to the entrance as possible and walk your loved one inside without having to deal with slippery parking lots or walking too far from a parking space. 

memory care facilities richmond vaSafety at Home – Monitor your outdoor space for hazards inkling icy steps, uneven sidewalks, tree branches or anything that could facilitate a fall. Keep a supply of ice melt on hand and follow best practices to use it effectively and safely including storing it away from children, pets, or anyone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Staying Active

Even in winter months getting outside and staying active can be fun and help everyone stay healthy.  Even a walk around the block or around the back yard can boost someone’s mood and keep boredom away – it just takes some extra precautions. Caregivers will need to help those with dementia to dress for colder weather including:

  • Hats, scarves, mittens or gloves that are easy to get on and off
  • Wear appropriate shoes or non-skid boots
  • Pay attention to slippery stairs sidewalks, ice falling off trees, slippery or slush snow that could cause someone to easily lose their balance

Too Cold To Get Outside?

Those living with memory loss struggle to separate memory from the physical state of present-day living.  They can often become bored overwhelmed or agitated which can lead to Alzheimer’s wandering. When it is too cold outside it is still important to try and stick to your daily schedule to prevent these behaviors.

If your daily walk isn’t feasible because of cold weather, plan ahead and have other activities ready.  Chose those that will help promote movement and inspire purpose. Such as playing cards, appropriate crafts or even walking around the house or looking out the window at bird feeder.

Winter Storm Coming?

If the forecast calls for winter storm or severe cold take precautions early. You will be more relaxed and so will your loved one.  If they sense you are worried and nervous they can easily pick up on your behavior.

Plan ahead by stock up on supplies including food, medications, incontinence supplies, flashlights, batteries, hats and blankets. Plan for some fun activities including puzzles, listening to music, making snowflake crafts or clipping coupons.

Power Outages at The Memory Center

Both the Memory Center Richmond and Virginia Beach have several cold weather safety features in place including snow removal, backup generators, emergency food supplies and plans to maintain fully staffed. 

Contact us for more information about our dedicated memory care communities in Atlanta (Johns Creek), Richmond and Virginia Beach or to schedule a tour.

 

 

Mealtime Tips For Those Living With Alzheimer’s

Eat2think.com recently published practical tips on handling mealtime when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

alzheimer's care tipsLife with Alzheimer’s means most everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, finding meaningful and safe activities, and mealtimes can be challenging.  People living with memory loss struggle to separate memory from the physical state of present-day living. They can often become overwhelmed, agitated or distracted.  For some, sundowning is also an issue, which can often correspond with the evening meal.

Click to read their 15 tips and insights to make mealtime more enjoyable.  At The Memory Centers in Richmond and Virginia Beach, we employ several of them including minimizing distractions, providing a variety of choices, flavors and textures.  Having a sense of humor while staying calm, comfortable, and reassuring is also helpful.

Click to read more about The Memory Center philosophy to residential memory care, or what a typical day is like here.

 

 

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Tips For Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is challenging.  If you are caring for a spouse or close family member it can be even more challenging as you’re also dealing with the emotion of seeing a loved one in a state of decline.

There are some practical tips caregivers can take to help manage stress.

Reduce Alzheimer’s Frustration & Agitation

activites for alzheimers patients
Activities like gardening can inspire purpose and prevent boredom.

Agitation is common in people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Agitation can be caused by boredom, new situations, fear stemming from trying to make sense of a world they don’t understand, or basic needs like hunger.

Caregivers might not be able to reduce agitation completely but there are steps they can take to get ahead of it.

Take note of when agitation seems to occur.  Is it a a specific time of day around mealtime?  Perhaps they are hungry or thirsty.  Is it at a busy time of day when other family members are coming home from work? If so try to limit noise or outside distractions and engage them in an appropriate activity.

Activities that provide a sense of independence and purpose can ease agitation – especially with those in the early stages of the disease.  Familiar activities like setting the table, gardening, folding laundry, helping in the kitchen (with supervision), or their favorite craft. See our ideas for different activities or  these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Realize You Are Not Alone

While caregivers may feel isolated, it is important to know many others are in the same situation.  Don’t be afraid to attend support groups where you can share your feelings or ask for helpful ideas. The Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations also offer online forums and support where you can connect with others 24 hours a day.

Develop A Schedule

Develop a basic schedule based around your loved one’s mood and needs.  For example scheduling appointments, bathing and other activities in the morning when they are rested and have more energy.

As late afternoon approaches you may sense a trend of wandering or agitation from sundowning.  This could be a good time of day to engage them in easy, soothing activities such as listening to music, watching a familiar movie, clipping coupons or looking through old photos.  Click to read The Memory Center tips on how to manage sundowning.

Acknowledge Each Day Is Different

Even with a schedule every day will be different and sometimes you just need to be flexible.   Those with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, will have better days than others.  There may be days you feel like you didn’t get anything accomplished – and it is OK to feel that way.  Keeping someone fed, safe, bathed and occupied is a big job and an accomplishment in itself.

Think About Safety

In addition to memory loss, Alzheimer’s also affects other brain functions including sense of perception and balance.  Creating a safe place in the home where they can walk safely without trip hazards including rugs, cords, or sharp corners is highly encouraged.

Another safety concern is wandering, which is a common behavior for people with memory loss. Even if your loved one isn’t wandering, it is still a good idea to take steps to prevent wandering before it starts. Consider installing locks high up on doors and adding an alarm system, or a simple bell mechanism, that will alert you if a door has been opened.  ID bracelets and other tracking devices like Medic Alert can help identify your loved one should they wander off.

Take A Break & Ask For Help

Caregivers are under a lot of stress and often don’t take time to keep up with friends, exercise routines or their own needs.  Not taking breaks can easily lead to fatigue and caregiver burnout which isn’t good for you or your loved one.

Even if someone with Alzheimer’s objects, caregivers need to schedule time away on a regular basis.  Ask another family member for help or consider using respite services who can provide caregivers experienced in working with people living Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Get More Alzheimer’s Tips

The Memory Center is dedicated to meeting the challenging conditions of an aging brain with a caring, interactive community designed around the individual.  We are here to support our current residents, future residents and their families by providing resources and exceptional programming to those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Fill out our contact form to receive more tips and information on how to live well with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Memory Center Atlanta Informational Seminar

The Memory Center, Atlanta invites you to a special informational seminar on Sunday, May 21st from 1pm-3pm. 

Learn more about what Memory Care means,  determining the right time to moved your loved one, what to look for in a community, pricing information, caregiver tips and more. 

memory care johns creek
Download a flyer.

The Memory Center, Atlanta is opening soon and will be area’s most comprehensive community dedicated exclusively to those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Located in Johns Creek next to City Hall and Emory Johns Creek Hospital at 12050 Findley Rd our community is comprised of 48 residential suites designed and constructed around our innovative Town Center concept.

Visit us and see the new standard in Memory Care.  Everyone who attends will receive a complimentary copy of “How to Care for Aging Parents” by Virginia Morris.

The Memory Center, Atlanta Information Seminar

When:  Sunday May 21st, 1pm – 3pm

Where:  The Memory Center Offsite Location: Regus Office Bldg. 11555 Medlock Bridge Rd. (next to Hyatt Place) Johns Creek, GA 30097 – Site tours of our facility will be available

RSVP: Seating at our off-site location is limited, so please RSVP to Christine Miller at (678) 456-4304 or email: Christinem@thememorycenter.com.

 

 

Don’t Be Embarrassed About Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult for children, teens, children even adults to understand. There will be times you grandma doesn’t seem like she used to. Or without warning she may get confused, agitated or even angry to the point of accusing you of stealing. And it may happen when you are out in public, at church, the grocery store, or at a family gathering.  Even though you know Alzheimer’s is the cause, it is common to be embarrassed about it. 

While you can’t stop behavior changes due to Alzheimer’s, there are tips to help you better manage the situation.

alzheimer's care facility atlanta

Think About It From Their Perspective

Alzheimer’s progressively destroys brain cells over time, so during the early stages many people living with the disease do recognize something is wrong.  They may know they are supposed to recognize you, but they can’t. Imagine how frustrating and scary that would be. 

It is important to put yourself in their shoes and think about how you might react if your world suddenly didn’t make sense or you were in a position where you realized you should know someone – even a close family member – but just couldn’t remember who they were or what they meant to you.

Adjust Social Routines

Everyone needs social interaction, even those living with memory loss. But as the disease progresses unfamiliar places and social interactions can become scary and more become difficult to manage.

Consider hosting the monthly family dinner at your house, or the home of a close friend instead of meeting at a new restaurant. Consider a familiar locale for the family vacation and stick to visiting favorite landmarks and attractions.

While each day is different, through many stages of Alzheimer’s it is likely your loved one will feel more comforted and peaceful with the familiar vs. something new that might trigger fear or agitation.  

Have A Sense Of Humor

While Alzheimer’s and dementia are serious, as a family member of friend keeping a sense of humor makes a big difference. Let’s face it, there are times you just have to find humor in the situation. It can lighten the mood not only for yourself, but also for your family and your loved one suffering from memory loss. 

And don’t forget is human nature to pick up on the emotions of others around you and this is no different for those living with memory loss. Getting embarrassed or anxious when grandma says the wrong thing can even make the situation worse as she picks up on your rising level of anxiety.

Sometimes it is just best to whisper a quiet apology, laugh and move on.

Don’t Argue

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys memory.  If someone can’t remember, recalls something differently, or is convinced the neighbor stole their favorite pen, don’t spend time arguing or trying to convince them otherwise.  Even if they end up agreeing with you today it is no guarantee they will remember it tomorrow.  Instead try reassuring them or even asking questions about the memory they are recalling. 

Read more tips from The Memory Center or read more about activities that can help ease Alzheimer’s boredom.  

 

What To Expect In Middle Stage Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is typically referred to in three stages. Early, middle and late stage.  Many people are familiar with the early (or mild) and the late (or severe) stages, but not sure what to expect from the middle stage. 

Moderate, or middle stage, Alzheimer’s is generally the longest stage of the disease with some living in the stage for several years.

As the disease progresses family members and caregivers may notice behaviors such as:

  • Needing assistance performing daily tasks such as bathing or dressing
  • Difficulty following a conversation or remembering details about what day it is or their family history
  • Withdrawing from social situations
  • Behavior or more frequent mood changes including becoming agitated, suspicious of others
  • Changes in sleep patterns such as wanting to sleep more during the day, and difficulty sleeping at night

Safety concerns become an issue at this stage and caregivers or loved ones may have to initiate tough alz communities in virginiaconversations.  Taking away car keys, moving in with family members or hiring around the clock care for example. Wandering, a typical Alzheimer’s behavior, may appear and should be taken as a serious safety concern. 

Caring For Someone In Middle Stage Alzheimer’s

Caring for someone at this stage becomes increasingly demanding.  As the disease progresses caregivers become responsible for day-to-day tasks such as helping the person get dressed, grooming, shopping, meals, household chores, transportation, keeping them occupied and much more. 

Many caregivers become so busy taking care of their loved one they start to ignore their own needs such as not getting enough sleep, not exercising, not socializing with friends, or taking the breaks they need.  To be a good caregiver you need time away and shouldn’t feel guilty about asking trusted friends, neighbors or even hiring help on a regular basis to give you a break.

If you haven’t already, develop a daily schedule and try to stick to it the best you can.  Life with Alzheimer’s often comes with surprises, but having a routine helps makes sense of the day and can provide reassurance to your loved one.  Each day should also include activities that provide a sense of purpose and can be adapted to the person’s abilities or mood. 

Activities such as taking a walk, working in the garden, listening to music, sorting playing cards, clipping coupons or folding laundry are ideas.

Read more about daily activities at The Memory Center communities or tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Alzheimer’s Sleep Changes

Sleep problems aren’t uncommon in the senior population, but for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia   sleep changes including insomnia or late-night restlessness are more common.  

As Alzheimer’s progresses, it can cause the individual’s circadian rhythm to get off-kilter, reversing or rotating the body’s natural sleep/wake cycles.  Then, there is the lack of physical exercise, or other health issues which can result in a body that can’t seem to ever get a good night’s sleep. 

As a caregiver, coping with an Alzheimer’s sleep problems can be taxing.  Nighttime is often a trigger for  sundowning which can lead to agitated or even angry, resentful or disturbing behavior from a patient or loved one.  Additionally, lack of sleep can exacerbate the side effects Alzheimer’s side effects, while a night of restful sleep can result in a person who is more calm, relaxed and peaceful the next day.

If Alzheimer’s sleep changes are an issue, these tips can help you establish healthier sleep habits.

Get Enough Exercise

If the individual is physically able, work within their ability and interests and aim for at least 30-minutes of physical activity every day.  This may be as simple as a walk around the block,  gardening, or attending a yoga class. 

For those in a wheelchair or bed-bound, stationery exercises will get their muscles moving.  Stationary exercises  can be done in a chair or bed – using weights, stretching, manual motion and exercise bands. When done correctly, these exercises can maintain or even improve muscle tone, bone density and range of motion.  We recommend reading, Chair Exercises and Limited Mobility Fitness to get started. You can also a doctor for a physical therapist who specializes in Alzheimer’s and/or senior care for a list of appropriate exercises and equipment.

If the person has been completely or mostly stationery up to this point, adding regular exercise can also lead to positive change in mood, digestion and even cognition as the result of increased circulation and engagement.

Limit Caffeine, Nicotine and Alcohol

Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are all stimulants, known to interrupt sleep and relaxation patterns. 

While limiting caffeine intake after lunchtime helps, remember caffeine may remain in the bloodstream for eight or more hours.  Thus, cutting it out completely – replacing teas and coffees with decaf versions – is recommended. Keep in mind that even decaffeinated coffee or black tea contains small amounts of caffeine.

Natural Light Is Important

Human circadian rhythms evolved in the presence of sunlit days and dark nights. Evidence from multiple studies, shows artificial light can muck up this system. Even dim lights at night will interrupt the brain’s melatonin production, essential to experiencing healthy sleep cycles.

memory care midlothian vaGetting your patient or loved one outside is optimal, but even spending a few hours each day next to a window – or using natural daylight as the predominant light source before sunset – can help to preserve the body’s natural rhythm.  At The Memory Centers our Town Center is filled with natural light, one during nice weather we take advantage of our secure walking paths and courtyard.

Once the sun sets, find the balance between dim lighting that facilitates the brain’s natural sleep cycle and safety lighting. Or consider using red night-lights that are often less likely to disturb the body’s biochemical sleep processes.

Maintain Regular Schedules

Consistency is key in maintaining healthy sleep patterns. If a patient struggles to sleep soundly, make it a practice to wake them up, observe mealtimes and begin the bedtime routine at the same time each day. This helps to “train” the circadian rhythm.  Read more tips on developing a schedule.

Limit Screen Time Before Bed 

The blue light and images emanating from TV, tablet and smartphone screens can act as a stimulant and make it more difficult for the brain to wind down. Sleep experts recommend turning off all televisions and ceasing any other screen activity for at least 30-minutes before bedtime.

Make The Bed A Sleep-Only Zone

If eating, watching TV and staying in bed too much during the day the becomes the normal habitat, it can make bedtime a more restless experience. 

If possible, make the bed a sleep-only zone, and have your loved one move to their chair or a couch if they’re awake or feeling restless. This promotes a healthy, sleep-oriented relationship with the bed.

Address Comfort Concerns

Any pain or discomfort can exacerbate insomnia. Test the patient’s bed – is it comfortable? Is the room too warm or too cold? Are they hungry or thirsty?  Do they have the right amount of pillows?  All of these factors can make it difficult to sleep.  Also pay attention to movements or facial expressions to assess if pain might be an issue. 

You Aren’t Alone

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia is challenging – but it helps to know you aren’t alone.  Talking to friends or family on a regular basis, taking breaks, or even participating in an online resource board such as ALZ Connected is recommended. 

 

 

Common Challenges for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia is challenging, and caring for a spouse or family member add the emotions of seeing a loved one in a state of decline.

While there are no easy answers or fool-proof way to get through a day as a caregiver without any frustration, there are practical tips that can help you prepare for common challenges.

Handling Alzheimer’s Frustration & Agitation

Agitation is common in people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  It can be caused by boredom, new situations, fear stemming from trying to make sense of a world they no longer understand, or basic needs like being thirsty.

While caregivers can’t completely eliminate agitation there are steps you can take to get ahead of it.

Take note of when agitation seems to occur.  Is it a a specific time of day around mealtime?  Perhaps they are hungry or thirsty.  Is it at a busy time of day when other family members are coming home from work? If so try to limit noise or outside distractions and engage them in an appropriate activity.

Try incorporating activities that provide a sense of independence and purpose  – especially with those in the early stages of the disease.  Familiar activities like setting the table, gardening, folding laundry, helping in the kitchen (with supervision), or a favorite craft. See our ideas for different activities or  these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association.

alzheimer's care tipsFeeling Like There Is No Routine

Even though it might sound impossible, developing a basic schedule around your loved one’s mood and daily needs is beneficial for everyone. 

Knowing what to expect such as eating breakfast at the same time each day, taking a walk after lunch, sorting cards in the afternoon helps everyone feel more at ease with the day and also eliminate blocks of time where it seems like there is nothing to do (which can quickly lead to agitation).

Plan to schedule appointments, bathing and other activities during the time of day when your loved one is usually more rested, has more energy and is more agreeable.  For most people with memory loss, this is in the morning.

As late afternoon approaches many will begin wandering and can become agitation from sundowning.  During this time of day plan easy, soothing activities such as listening to music, watching a familiar movie, clipping coupons or looking through old photos. 

Not Getting Enough Help and Support

Caregivers often feel isolated and it is important to know you are not alone!  Many others are in the same situation so don’t be afraid to reach out and attend support groups where you can share your feelings and learn from others. The Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations also offer online forums and support where you can connect with others 24 hours a day.

Caregivers are under a lot of stress and often don’t take time to keep up with friends, exercise routines or their own needs.  Not taking breaks can easily lead to fatigue and caregiver burnout which isn’t good for you or the person you are caring for.

Even if someone with Alzheimer’s objects, caregivers need to schedule time away on a regular basis.  Ask another family member for help or consider using respite services who can provide caregivers experienced working with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  The more you enlist the same person to help on a consistent basis the more comfortable everyone will become.

Safety Issues & Concerns

In addition to memory loss, Alzheimer’s also affects other brain functions including sense of perception and balance.  Create a safe place in the home where they can walk without trip hazards such as rugs, cords, or sharp corners is highly encouraged and can reduce falls or other accidents.

Another safety concern is wandering, which is a common behavior for people with memory loss. Even if your loved one isn’t wandering, you should still take steps to prevent wandering before it starts.Consider installing locks high up on doors and adding an alarm system, or a simple bell mechanism, that will alert you if a door has been opened.  ID bracelets and other tracking devices like Medic Alert can help identify your loved one should they wander off.

Accepting Each Day Is Different

Even with a schedule every day will be different and sometimes you just need to be flexible.   Those with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, will have better days than others.  There may be days you feel like you didn’t get anything accomplished – and it is OK to feel that way.  Keeping someone fed, safe, bathed and occupied is a big job and an accomplishment in itself.

Get More Alzheimer’s Tips

All Memory Center communities are dedicated to meeting the challenging conditions of an aging brain with a caring, interactive community designed around the individual.  We are here to support our current residents, future residents and their families by providing resources and exceptional programming to those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Fill out our contact form to receive more tips and information on how to live well with Alzheimer’s and dementia or find out more about our communities in Virginia Beach, Richmond/Midlothian or Atlanta/Johns Creek.

 

Clergy Brunch at The Memory Center, Virginia Beach

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia already impact millions of Americans and the numbers are on the rise.

alzhiemer's care virginia beach
Click for full size flyer.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million — a 40 percent increase from the 5.1 million age 65 and older affected in 2015.

We invite you to find out more about this issue, what to do if you recognize signs of memory loss in your parishioners and how to support family members and caregivers.   

Join us for a special Clergy Brunch on Tuesday February 21st at 9am. 

Hear from experts in the field, get your questions answered and learn more about local resources available. 

Each guest will receive a resource kit to take back to their house of worship and be eligible to win a copy of The Caregiver’s Toolbox, an excellent guide with tips on how to reduce the cost of medical bills, where to go for support and much more.

There is no charge for this event but space is limited. Please RSVP to Kathryn Bennett at (757) 412-1180 or kathrynb@thememorycenter.com by February 17th to reserve your space.

 

Resources

The staff and directors of The Memory Center, Atlanta in Johns Creek are here to support you through the difficult process of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Our list of resources is designed to answer your questions, provide tips and help your family throughout the process of finding the right Memory Care.

The Alzheimer’s Association

Caregiver Advice on Managing Symptoms and Handling Situations

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Caregiver Center, from the Alzheimer’s Association

A Place for Mom, How to Recognize Signs It May Be Time for Assisted Living

Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital

Suggested Reading

Creating Moments of Joy, by Joy-Jolene, A Brackey, 1999

Activity Planning at Your Fingertips by Marge Knoth

Failure Free Activities for the Alzheimer’s Patient, by Carmel Sheridan

Activity Planning for Persons with Dementia: A sourcebook available through the Alzheimer’s Association

Wandering: Common Problems with the Elderly Confused by Graham Stokes

Please check back often as we continually add to our resource list.

Have a question that isn’t answered here?  Feel free to contact us.

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