Holiday Tips For Alzheimer’s Caregivers

memory center midlothian vaThe holidays can be challenging, especially when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other form of Dementia.  Let us help ease the stress and join us for a special event. 

Hear from The Alzheimer’s Association and learn effective holiday tips, which will include creating a safe, stress free environment, along with individual and family preparation supporting you and your loved one.

As a caregiver, we understand getting away can be difficult, so your loved one is  welcome to join. You can even  creating memorable moment with the opportunity to design your own personalized holiday ornament.
attend and participate.

When: December 13th, 2017, 12:00 to 1:30 PM

Where: The Memory Center, Richmond, 13800 Bon Secours Drive (adjacent to St. Frances Medical Center)
Midlothian, VA 23114

This event is free and open to the public.  

 

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.

 

 

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.

Staying Positive In These Challenging Times (Virtual Event)

The Memory Center Virginia Beach invites you to join us for a virtual event Staying Positive In These Challenging Times. Jeff Byrd, Motivational Speaker will provide tips on:

* Coping with Covid-19 isolation and lonliness, specifically relating to seniors and caregivers
* Caring for yourself
* How to manage responsibilites to others and yourself
* Speaking the “kind truth”

This is a virtual event and open to the public. Reserve your spot by emailing Roberta Gilbert at robertag@thememorycenter.com. Once your space is reserved you will receive information on how to access the event.

What To Do When You Get An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Getting an official diagnosis that memory lapses are the result of Alzheimer’s or dementia is life-altering. If you or your loved one still function “normally” in day-to-day life, it can be tempting to go into denial and pretend as if everything’s just fine until there are more obvious or alarming signs that compromise the quality of life.

The truth is, however, that fast-action is the key to creating both short- and long-term care plans. There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s, and it is considered a progressive disease. The rate at which it progresses varies for each person, but it can happen more rapidly than expected, and this places the person with Alzheimer’s, his/her spouse, and loved ones in a crisis state.

Taking Timely, Methodical Actions After An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

The more you learn about Alzheimer’s, and Alzheimer’s resources in your area, the faster you’ll be able to establish a personalized plan of action.

The goal is to give the person with Alzheimer’s ability to make some decisions for him/herself whenever possible. This becomes challenging – and then impossible – as the condition progresses because transitions are detrimental if you wait too long.

Learn about the disease and current treatment options

Hopefully, your medical team, including the neurologist, have provided you with lots of information about Alzheimer’s, all together it’s progression, and the known medications, lifestyle changes and treatment options that support a patient’s wellbeing.

Other helpful resources for learning about Alzheimer’s include:

Don’t hesitate to call or email your primary physician to schedule a follow-up appointment, so you can ask questions and listen to the answers you may not have been able to take in during the immediate consultation after the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Start the conversation regarding memory care options

Memory care will play a role at some point, and the quality of this care – and its ability to improve the quality of life for your loved one – is 100% related to how soon s/he transitions into the right community. This will probably require multiple conversations as you weigh the pros and cons of various options, and tour facilities and communities.

While the idea of staying home is preferred by many, caregiving for a middle- to late-stage Alzheimer’s patient is a full-time job. 

Unfortunately, contrary to the original plan, many spouses or close family members realize too late that they aren’t capable of providing the level of care required, 24/7. That results in a very traumatic transition into memory care, assisted living or nursing home care – and it may mean having to give up your first-choice if they don’t have space when you finally make a decision.

Tour your options as soon as you can

It’s helpful for prospective residents to tour memory care options themselves so they have some autonomy in the decision. However, we understand that this can be scary and nerve-wracking for many – and that some simply refuse to do it all together.

If your loved one is resistant to touring options with you, we recommend inviting a close family member or friend to accompany and support you. You might find starting the process solo – bringing back information and ideas – will motivate your spouse or loved one to accompany you the next time.

Read,Questions to Ask When Touring Memory Care Facilities, so you get the information and details you need to make a good decision.

Start to plan for the financial side of things

Memory care is an expense – whether you’re hiring full-time caregivers in your home or you transition into a memory care center. Unless your financial plan already accommodated for extended, long-term care of some kind – you’ll need to start preparing your finances.

Read,Affording Alzheimer’s Care, for some helpful ideas and tips for funding high-quality memory care.

There are situations where Medicare and Medicaid can subsidize expenses, but they rarely pay for the entirety of the costs associated with memory care. After establishing memory care options in your area, their administration and staff will help you review the realm of financial and payment choices available to you.

Keep your loved one as engaged and active as possible

Studies show over and over again that early action in terms of diet, lifestyle habits, social engagement, and mental stimulation are all key to slowing down and decreasing the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Often, the shock or embarrassment of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, combined with the complications associated with fading memory and social situations, leads to social isolation. This is a worst-case scenario because mental and social stimulation keeps those neural pathways open and firing.

Try to find daily activities, outings, and social settings that inspire feelings of connections, safety, and security for your loved one. This could also include taking advantage of adult day care options at a prospective memory care center as part of the transition into becoming a resident.

Establish your support network

Being a spouse, partner, or primary caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s is a challenging job. You are going to need a range of support to help along the way.

Ideas include:

It takes a village to care for both those with Alzheimer’s as well as their spouses, family members, and loved ones. Establishing your support network while you have the time and space to do so allows you to activate support options as needed down the road.

Handling A Loved One’s Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Remember: there is never a need to go it alone. 

After an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, enlist the support of family and friends to help you move forward – step-by-step.

Learn more about your loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and find support in these articles: 

What If My Loved One Is Afraid To Tour An Assisted Living Facility?

Life and relationships can get complicated quickly when a parent or senior loved one is afraid to tour assisted living facilities.

It can weigh heavily on you and other family members when an aging parent is outright opposed to discussing the opportunity and/or touring an assisted living or memory care facility. However, that resistance shouldn’t hold you back from taking steps in the right direction.

How To Ease Loved One’s Fears About Assisted Living & Memory Care

The opposition to entertain the idea, even tour a facility, is common, but there are things you can do to help ease their fears and worries and to slowly get them on board.

Read on for five tips to help your aging loved one open up to assisted living or memory care.

1. Start the conversation early to begin exploring the pros and cons

In some cases, the move to assisted living, nursing home or a memory care center takes place virtually overnight – largely the result of a traumatic event or injury that makes it impossible for care to continue at home. This is exactly the scenario you want to avoid.

A loss of independence, fears of declining health or death are the most typical reasons seniors refuse to cooperate with any long-term care plan that involves leaving their home.

The key becomes to help them understand that certain aspects of aging and the progression of dementia are inevitable. It’s important they know their ability to stay more open and inquisitive about the options, the more time they’ll have to be involved in a process that should – ideally – involve their opinions, insights, preferences, aversions, etc.

The other side of the coin is that they aren’t the only one affected by the aging process and as their caregiver, you also have a say regarding how and where care should take place.

Read our Guide for Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care, to start the conversation. If it doesn’t go well – it may require a more independent search process.

2. Keep trying – and get to the heart of the fear/resistance

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again, right?

While you may want to skip a day or two (or a week) between attempts, odds are your calm, patient and rational reasons for exploring assisted living and memory care options are working more than you know to sway the mind of your loved one.

The key is to get to the heart of the fear and resistance so you can help to assuage them.

Frankly, oftentimes, it’s all of the above.

By getting to the heart of things, your conversations will be more fruitful and will provide insight into the type(s) of information your loved one needs to see, hear and know before s/he’ll be more comfortable exploring the idea – and specific facilities.

Don’t hesitate to seek the help of a licensed therapist, your minister/rabbi/priest, or a trusted physician to help facilitate these conversations.

3. Enlist the help of more objective “Others”

Most of us are the least responsive and cooperative when being pressed about something we aren’t fond of by the ones we love most. If your spouse, parent or grandparent is having a hard time – or resistant – to speak to you about it, think about who s/he may be more receptive in listening to and speaking with – and reach out for their help.

Is there a more distant relative, a good friend, a neighbor, your trusted home care aide, a spiritual advisor, a former colleague, fellow golfer or book club member, etc. who may get a more open ear? Maybe it’s time to enlist that person – or all of the above.

Over time, and with a few different conversations from more objective “Others,” you may find the way has eased a bit.

4. Visit a few memory care options – on your own

The fact remains that at some point, most individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s are going to need professional care. If you wait too long to begin the search, out of respect for your loved one’s fear or resistance, things become very stressful, very quickly, when that point is reached.

You may be surprised and find that once you embark on the search for the best memory care center, your loved one becomes more curious and warms up to coming along. Even if they don’t, you may find s/he begins dropping hints about what s/he would want or not want, or may even ask you questions.

In any case, it’s always best to visit and tour a few different assisted living or memory care centers so you can compare apples-to-apples and get a feel for which one offers the environment and services that best match your loved one’s needs. Feel free to bring a trusted family member or friend to keep you company and another set of objective eyes and ears.

Use these Questions to Ask When Visiting Memory Care Communities, and we also recommend recording your tours and/or the Q&A sessions with admin and staff so you have something to playback later on. If and when your loved one grows more respective, these recordings will be helpful in allowing him/her to be part of the decision making process.

5. Make sure you have enough emotional support

Being a caregiver and/or a close family member to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s is incredibly challenging on its own. The decision to begin transitioning your loved one to a memory care center adds another layer of complication to the mix – and it is exponentially taxing when the person in question is afraid, worried, resistant or uncooperative.

It’s essential that you have the social and emotional support you need as you move through this process. Look for support venues and groups in your area and utilize them. Support groups for spouses and caregivers for those with dementia provide the opportunities to commune with others who know exactly what you’re going through.

Both volunteer support groups and organizations dedicated to senior care are a wealth of information and advice, and there’s a great chance someone you meet will have a recommendation or a strategy that works to facilitate your assisted living tour plan.

Reducing Fear Over Assisted Living & Memory Care

At the end of the day, your loved one is entitled to their own opinions and should have a say in the final decision.

Regardless of their stance on the matter, it’s important to offer continued support and guidance as you, together, make steps towards a favorable outcome for everyone.  

Check out virtual tours of each of our three locations:

How Long Should You Wait Before Visiting Your Loved One In Memory Care?

Transitioning a senior loved one into memory care requires a delicate choreography and balance as you determine the “best way” to move into the new place, decide what should go and what should remain behind, and even how often you should wait – or not – before visiting.

Let Your Loved One & Memory Care Staff Lead The Way

In most cases, your loved one’s level of comfort or agitation will determine how soon or how often you should visit.

Also, trained memory center staff have wonderful insight into whether your presence seems to soothe or unsettle their new resident, or what times of day seem best for him/her (which may vary in the new setting from what you were used to at home).

Feel free to check in with the staff to learn more about how your visits affect your spouse, parent or relative.

At first, more may be more

Often, visits from you and other loving, familiar faces help to ease the transition from home or an assisted living facility into a memory care community. In the beginning, these visits may need to be more regular to help the new resident settle in.

Regular visits from the ones they love assure new residents they are not being forgotten or abandoned. Your presence proves you meant it when you said, “we’ll visit you often,” and that can provide peace of mind.

Then again, sometimes less-is-more

There are exceptions, however, to the above. Some new residents have a harder time settling into their new home and need more time before they are ready for a visit.

When well-meaning visits immediately after a move cause more homesickness instead of less; or more agitation than calm, or emotional goodbyes, ask the staff if you should consider waiting before your next visit. This can lead to emotional and traumatic goodbyes.

If it seems early visits are detrimental to the resident’s ability to settle in, administration or staff will recommend a modified visiting schedule. It may be that remaining absent for a full week or two is enough for your loved one to “re-anchor,” after which regular visits are better appreciated.

NOTE: It can be heartbreaking if your loved one falls into the category of “less is more” on post-transition visits. Let’s be honest, while regular visits from loved ones can help your loved one with the change, those visits are just as likely to help you transition into a new life.

If it turns out you need to take a visiting break in order to facilitate the new resident’s transition, consider this your opportunity to adjust to your new life as yourself,rather than a full-time caregiver.

It may be all about timing

Often, residents settle in so well, and become so instantly engaged in the routine of routine, calendared social events, we realize that it wasn’t your visit that triggered the agitation, it was the fact that it coincided with a favorite music class or crafting activity they enjoy during that period.

Establishing the best days and times for visits, with respect to your loved one’s “optimal time of day” or the center’s activity calendar, could be the key to more satisfying visits.

Tips For Visiting A Loved One With Dementia

Depending on how your loved one’s dementia progresses, visits may increasingly become a challenge.

Prepare yourself and other family members for more successful visits by reviewing the following tips:

Only one or two at a time

The temptation to come in “reunion format,” especially when family is visiting from out-of-town is a natural one. However, this may be too overwhelming for someone with dementia.

Instead, plan for only one or two people to visit at a time, perhaps staggering visits over the course of the collective group’s visit. This keeps things simple and focused.

Do a photo album review

Hopefully, you put together or brought along some great photo albums to provide a comforting sense of “Home” in the new living space. Photo albums are a great way to spend quality time, reflecting on the past and hearing family stories you may not have heard before.

Learn to revel in the silence

Our culture is a busy – and talkative – one. We don’t always thrive in silence, hence the term awkward silence. However, as memories fade and those with dementia have a harder time finding the right words (aphasia), conversations get shorter and shorter – or more challenging to follow.

Use this opportunity to enjoy the sanctity of quiet and the simple, physical presence of someone you love. If the weather is nice, take a walk together or sit with a beautiful view and see if things like birds, trees or beautiful flowers elicit a notice or verbal acknowledgment. If not, the silence can become a welcome respite from the outside world.

Don’t expect recognition at every visit

Questions like, “Do you know who I am?” or trying to reinstate who you are can be very upsetting for those with dementia.

Be prepared for visits when they know you, and those when they don’t, for stories remembered and stories forgotten. Finding ways to connect positively where they are each day will lead to higher quality visits with your loved one.

Remain as positive as possible

There is no doubt that anger, frustration, resentment, etc. can be tangible at the unconscious level.

Try your best to remain as positive (or neutral) as possible during visits to prevent agitating your loved one. That being said, it’s also okay to cut a visit short if you need a break, and it’s also encouraged that you honor and be present with your loved one’s feelings when s/he expresses sadness, grief, frustration, etc.

Visiting Loved Ones In Memory Care

A transition into memory care is a big one for everyone involved, not just the new resident.

Be gentle and patient with yourself – and your loved ones – as you work to find the visiting routine that’s “just right” for the well-being of all involved.

You may also find interest in these articles:

 

 

When Saying Goodbye To Your Loved One In Assisted Living Is Too Hard

For some seniors, transitioning into assisted living or a memory care center is relatively smooth and even a welcome one as they enjoy the renewed ability to engage with the world around them.

Other times, the transition is very painful and much more challenging. As a family member – particularly a primary caregiver – watching a loved one struggle emotionally as they resist their new change, beg to be taken home, or react dramatically when you leave is absolutely devastating.

Often this can mean going through the emotional trauma of a crying or wailing loved one as you pry yourself away to return home after a visit, or perhaps you are the one crying and feeling guilty about leaving. In worst case scenarios, this can result in family members avoiding visits altogether as they struggle to say goodbye is simply too hard.

Easing The Transition Of Saying Goodbye When It’s Hard For A Loved One

Here are some tips and considerations to help you cope with the emotional struggle involved when your loved one cries, becomes angry or seems despondent when you say goodbye.

How long has it been since your loved one moved in?

Everyone adjusts differently to their transition into assisted living or memory care. For some, having lots of visits on a regular basis is very helpful. For others, constant visits make it harder for them to accept their new living situation and to willingly forge new relationships and routines in their community.

If the transition took place within the past few months, speak to the staff and see what they think. You may find that scaling back visits and leaving more time in between is the answer.

While difficult for you initially, allowing your loved one more time to completely settle in and find their place could make future visits and goodbyes more successful.

Read, How to Move a Parent with Dementia into Assisted Living. Even if you’ve already made the move – the information you find there can offer insight and recommendations you can put into place.

Seek assistance managing your own emotions

Those with dementia can be highly attuned to the stress levels and emotions of those around them. In some cases, verbal communication tools may no longer be available, and you may find someone with dementia more likely vent their emotions in other ways or become agitated very quickly.  

Next time you visit your loved one, pay close attention to your own emotional field. Are you angry? Do you feel sad? Are you feeling guilty? Are you anxious as you anticipate the potentially dramatic goodbye scene? Learning to manage your inner, emotional landscape can be very helpful in minimizing your loved one’s emotional response.

A professional therapist and/or a support group, as well as the assisted living facility staff, can help you here. By remaining calm yourself, and learning the best and most comfortable way to hug and say goodbye to your loved one, may greatly reduce or even eliminate their strong response.

Learn more about what happens after you go

It is not uncommon for those having a dramatic goodbye reaction to then quickly snap back to “center,” going normally about their day once their spouses or family members leave.

Again, remaining in communication with administration and staff is crucial in determining how much of a problem their tearful or emotional goodbye really is.

If it turns out your loved one continues his/her reactive response (crying and remaining agitated, etc.) for a long time after you leave, that’s one thing. If it turns out that you feel sadness and guilt for far longer than your loved one is sad – it may be time to re-frame the farewell story for yourself.

Work on learning how to be present with their very real sadness at your parting, but with the confidence and peace of mind that in a short while, they’ll be back to normal again. As we touch on below, you’ll feel a lot less guilty if you find out your loved one wipes his/her tears once you drive away and heads happily over to the community room for the piano player or singing hour.

Evaluate their room and make it as home-like as possible

At the Memory Care Center, we work closely with families to facilitate the transition into our center – and that includes recommendations on what to bring to their room and living space feels as personal and cozy as possible.

Take another look around their room and ask them about what items they might like to see added or swapped out. Having familiar textures, pictures, memory-keepers, scents, etc., in their room can work wonders for anchoring them between visits.

Depending on what the particular facility allows, “comfort items” typically include things like:

  • A favorite throw blanket/pillow
  • Personalized bedding
  • Photos of family and pets
  • Music player loaded with favorite songs/music
  • A stuffed animal or a doll to “love” if real pets aren’t allowed
  • Photo album with pictures from their childhood and life
  • A digital frame that keeps a running stream of photos going
  • Live plants or flowers

A simple conversation may enlighten you about things s/he wished had been brought, things s/he wishes were there, etc., and hopefully, you can find a way to accommodate their needs.

Work with staff to find the best time for visits/departures

Often, that tearful, fretful or even dramatic goodbye scene has more to do with your loved one’s daily rhythm than it does about your departure.

Check in with the staff to learn more about your loved one’s “best times of day” versus the times of day they struggle the most. Are there days of the week that are better than others?

Insight into those questions may help you find a better day of the week or better time of day, and that simple calendar shift could make a notable difference.

Another important question to ask if you haven’t done so already: what activities are your loved one’s favorite(s)?

You may find that timing your visit just ahead of their favorite activity (crafts, music time, the weekly movie date, etc.) means they’re ready for you to go so they can join their friends and stick to their routine. Then you can intentionally schedule your farewell to coincide with the start of Bingo or ballroom dancing class…

Seek a support group

Joining a support group can be instrumental in helping you facilitate the spectrum of emotions that arise when you have a spouse, parent or loved one in memory care. These support groups meet during a range of days and times, so hopefully, you can find a local support group in your area that works for your schedule.

No, the group can’t make the grief, sadness, and anguish go away altogether, but there is great comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Plus, sitting with a group of people who have been where you are means you have access to all kinds of “professional” tips, recommendations and ideas that may help you figure out the best way for bidding farewell to your loved one without absorbing the impact of their intense reaction.

Learning To Cope With Saying Goodbye To A Loved One In Assisted Living

It may take more time than is comfortable for you, but by considering the above ideas, you’ll find a way to navigate tearful goodbyes with less emotional angst.

Find helpful information in these related articles:

 

 

How To Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

Moving a parent or senior loved one with dementia into an assisted living or memory care community is a major transition. It’s an emotional journey and there are bound to be upsets and logistical challenges along the way.

Understanding How To Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

Having a go-to list of tips and suggestions can help you and your family better prepare to move a parent with dementia to assisted living while ensuring s/he receives impeccable care.

Start A Conversation Early (depending on the stage of memory loss)

If possible, begin making the long-term care plan as early as possible after the dementia diagnosis.

If your parent or loved one is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, looking ahead to find the right community allows them to be a part of the process, which can make for a smoother transition when moving day arrives.

Ideally, the time to move to a community is when s/he is no longer able to live safely and independently at home or when the level of care required becomes more than what you and/or other caregivers are able to provide from a time and safety perspective.

On the flip side, if your loved one is in mid-to later-stages of the disease, it can be upsetting to engage him/her in selecting a community and planning moving day.  In some cases, it is better to wait until the change is eminent to announce the move, and enlist the help of family and friends for decision-making, sorting, and packing.

Visit our Guide for Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care for more insight into this topic.

Choose A Community Specializing In Memory Care

Not all assisted living communities are created equal, and many of them aren’t equipped to adequately care for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Moving is challenging enough, and the last thing you want to do is have to move your parent a second time unless you absolutely must, so it is important to select the right community specializing in memory care.

Use these Questions to Ask When Visiting Memory Care Communities to help you select the best new home for your loved one.

Consider Visiting The New Assisted Living Community Together Before Moving Day

Familiarity is key to feeling safe.

Once a community is selected, some people find visiting the community a few times before moving day helps ease the transition. You and your loved one may consider attending and participating in activities and events, meeting other residents with similar interests and interacting with staff.  

Each of these visits proactively builds layers of familiarity.

Schedule The Move For Their “Best Time Of The Day”

Typically, late mornings and early afternoons are a dementia patient’s “best time of the day.” Early mornings and evenings may be more difficult.

The transition from one home to the next will be less stressful when your parent is most likely to be calm, allowing more time to settle in before s/he becomes fatigued or agitated.

Bring A Simple Collection Of Favorite Things

Odds are their new room is smaller than their current home, and clutter is a recipe for confusion and trip hazards.

If you haven’t received information from the assisted living community director or staff about what to bring from home, give them a call to find out how much is “just enough” to bring.

In some communities, rooms come furnished, but you should still be able to bring touches from home such as a favorite chair, wall art, personalized bedding, a CD player or iPod/docking station to play his/her favorite music.

At The Memory Center, our rooms are unfurnished to allow residents and their families to more closely recreate a space that looks and feels like home.

Having familiar pieces from home helps new residents settle in more quickly. And again, be careful about asking your parent “which item(s) do you want to take with you…,” as these types of decisions can be agitating in later stages of the disease.

We recommend reading Making A New Space In Assisted Living Or Memory Care Feel Like Home for more information on this important topic.

Take Advantage Of Counseling Services & Transition Programs

This is a major physical transition, to be sure, but it’s also a major emotional transition for everyone involved.

Often, spouses and family members are the most dramatically affected as they watch their loved one settle seamlessly into place while the rest of the family is experiencing a sense of grief. If your parent opts to move into assisted living in the earlier stages of dementia, you may find support from a counselor valuable who can help you or your family process the complex array of emotions the transition elicits.

If you’ve been an integral part of your parent’s dementia care, we suggest reading, Adjusting to Life…After Being a Caregiver, which offers nourishing tips on how to handle your next steps.

Communicate With The New Caregiving Staff

First and foremost, the staff want to get to know new residents. The more they know about your parent, the easier it is to spark conversations and connect with him/her as s/he settles in.

Additionally, it’s helpful to lean on the staff and allow them to explain the new transition and to support your parent during the move. Again, choosing a memory care-specific community means the administration and staff are well-versed experts and will know exactly what to say without causing further confusion or upset for your parent.

Carefully Deciding How to Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

As with all life transitions, mindful and methodical preparation is the key to minimizing mental and emotional stress. Selecting an assisted living center that specializes in memory care will provide the support you need throughout the move.

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Making A New Space In Assisted Living Or Memory Care Feel Like Home

No matter how much a memory care center does to create a warm, homey and comfortable ambiance – it isn’t possible to satisfy the personal tastes of every resident who call the community “home.”

At The Memory Center (TMC), we’ve developed a Town Center experience for the overarching design, using iconic stimuli from the past and including amenities such as a movie theater, pub, hair salon, general store, and more.

Our common spaces are filled with natural light and style and our landscapes are beautifully designed.  We also recognize residents and their families want spaces to feel like home and familiar.  This is especially true in resident bedrooms.  That’s why we heartily encourage residents and their families to think of our beautiful space as a backdrop to create the bedroom space representing what home feels like to you.

Tips To Make A Senior At Home In A New Environment

If you have visited loved ones in senior living facilities, or even toured some, you may have noticed sleeping areas resembling a hospital or rehab setting vs. an inviting and comfortable space.  When it comes to individual rooms at TMC, we intentionally create light filled spaces with neutral color palettes, and without standard furnishings. This way, each resident has the opportunity to add his/her personal furnishings and touches from home. We encourage families to bring familiar artwork, furniture and bedding that express individual style and a lifetime of memories. 

Below are some of tips to make a new room in a senior community feel like home.

Re-Create An At Home Space With Familiar Furniture Pieces

To help your family member settle into the new space and re-create their comfortable bedroom from home, bring pieces that are familiar and reflect their design style – such as their favorite chair, side table and small dresser.  Just make sure to leave family heirlooms at home. 

When deciding what to bring, look around your loved one’s current bedroom and take notes. Is there a nightstand on the right or left hand side of the bed and what do they keep on the nightstand?  Which side of the bed are they used to getting out of in the morning?  Do they keep a robe and slippers on a hook nearby?  With planning you can provide the small touches of home they are used to.

If bringing existing furniture isn’t possible, we can provide suggestions on where other families found home-like furnishings that work well in the space and we can provide guidance on how to prepare a comfortable room.  We will even help with furniture placement.

Use Favorite Colors, Bedding, Throw Pillows & Blankets

Decorative bedding, throw pillows and blankets help meet your loved one’s preferred comfort needs but also provide a simple way to add color, pattern, and personal style to the new living space.

Do keep in mind we don’t encourage you to bring expensive or cherished items.  Family heirloom quilts or expensive bedding is best preserved by other family members to keep them safe and sound.

Bring Favorite Artwork & Photographs

Think about which pieces of art are favorites for your loved one?

Bedrooms at The Memory Center have enough wall space to accommodate a few favorite pieces of art or bulletin board of family photos and notes.  Looking up to see a favorite work of art or framed photos of the family and pets creates an immediate sense of familiarity and can be essential for new residents as they settle in and begin creating a community of their own.

While rooms at The Memory Center are spacious, there simply isn’t enough room for every favorite photograph to be on display. Thus, we encourage families to assemble photo albums, curating photographs through the ages. A small, portable album – with an easy-to-clean cover – will be well-appreciated as our residents often enjoy carrying albums around to share stories and “introduce” family to their new acquaintances and friends.

Incorporate Potted Plants Or Ready-To-Fill Vases

Was your loved one an avid gardener? Did s/he grow fresh herbs or look forward to a fresh flower arrangement on the dining room table or buffet? Consider an easy potted plant and/or a vase that’s ready to accommodate flowers. If fresh flowers are important, consider a seasonal bouquet subscription which can be delivered regularly. Our staff will ensure plants are watered as needed and we can switch out fresh flowers when they arrive.

TMC’s extensive and beautifully landscaped grounds will also provide a connection to Mother Nature and growing things.  Our residents love to spend time in our sunny patio and garden.  If your loved one is an avid gardener, we’ll make sure s/he can help point out favorite flowers in the garden or along our secure walking trails so s/he continues an activity that is familiar and productive.

Personalize Your Frame

Each room at The Memory Center has a frame next to the door ready to be customized by, and for, the resident.

Fill this space with a background color or pattern (wallpaper works well) that suits the resident’s style. Then add things like a favorite photo of themselves and family and/or a pet, or a picture of him/her doing something s/he loves.

In addition to personalizing the space, they’re helpful reminders for new residents so they can easily tell which room is theirs. Decorated frames also help new residents get to know neighbors, staff and passing guests, often providing a perfect segue to begin a conversation.

The more personalized the framed board the more special the space will feel and the sooner your loved one will sense a connection to their new home.

Don’t Forget Music

Did you know music is proven to reduce anxiety and helps those with dementia to recall more memories?

Feel free to bring a pre-loaded iPod/docking station or a CD player and CDs. Nothing says, “I’m home…” as the ability to switch on a music player to hear your favorite songs. We’ll make sure we know which radio stations are their favorites as well so staff can turn the radio on/off occasionally when residents want to hear something different.

Personalizing Your Loved One’s New Living Space

The more personalized a room is decorated, the more at ease a new resident will feel.

Have questions about what does work – or doesn’t work well – to personalize your new living space? All you have to do is ask. Our administrators and staff are always happy to answer questions and brainstorm ideas to help new residents settle in peacefully so they feel at home in their new space.

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