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Posts Tagged dementia care

Gardening Therapy for Seniors with Dementia

Tuesday , June 9 , 2020

Gardening Therapy for Seniors with Dementia

Summer weather is here, and many of us are trying to find ways to spend more time outdoors. Gardening is a great way to spend time in nature, and a great way to destress and relax. It’s also an amazing activity for older adults suffering from dementia.

For those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, participating in familiar activities, like gardening, can provide a sense of comfort. Other benefits include improved sleep at night, less agitation, better nutritional habits, and prevention of behavioral challenges.

Here’s everything you need to know about starting a garden for someone living with dementia:

Why Gardening?

There are plenty of activities – both indoors and out – that can be appropriate for those living with dementia. So, what makes gardening so special?

Unlike cooking, or aerobics, or even puzzles, participating in gardening is possible at every stage of progression. Whether your loved one is in the earliest phases of dementia, or nearing the end, gardening can be suited to meet their needs.

  • In the earliest stages, many dementia patients retain much of their functional capability and require minimal assistance with everyday tasks. If gardening is in their wheelhouse, it’s likely that they can continue with their routine – from planting, to weeding, to picking.
  • Later, as your loved one enters the middle stage of dementia, they may need some assistance with daily tasks – and depression, anxiety, and irritability may enter the game. Gardening can be a great part of their care plan at this point. Not only does it help ease those uneasy feelings, but it can improve social interactions and provide sensory stimulation.
  • Near the end, when dementia patients enter the final stage of dementia, they experience a great deterioration in their ability to care for themselves. Often, they spend much of the day sleeping. During waking hours, agitation and restlessness are constant companions. Still, they may be enjoy simply sitting in the garden (or even walking the paths, if they are able).

Designing a Garden for Dementia Patients

Whether your loved one would like to grow vegetables, or flowers, or just wants somewhere peaceful to sit, special considerations need to be taken. According to one study, in order for gardening therapy to be successful, it must be adapted to the population living with dementia.

What does that mean?

  • Gardens should include familiar elements that remind your loved one of previous stages of their life
  • Ensure that the garden is accessible – if your older adult is in a wheelchair, for instance, they will need wider pathways
  • Gardens should have an enclosed perimeter to discourage accidental wandering
  • All spaces should include safety features, such as non-slip pathways, to reduce fall risk
  • Use trees or a table with an umbrella to provide shade
  • Avoid growing toxic plants (especially those which may be mistaken for food!)
  • DO grow “snackable” plants, such as berries, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes

Final Thoughts

No matter what stage of dementia your older loved one is in, spending time in the garden can help improve their quality of life. By implementing the tips above, you can help them stay mentally engaged and delay the progression of their disease.

Posted in: Dementia

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Is it Alzheimer’s or Age-Related Memory Loss?

Monday , January 27 , 2020

Is it Alzheimer’s or Age-Related Memory Loss?

Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten what you went there to get? Stopped mid-sentence because you forgot what you were saying?

I’ve personally walked around my house looking for my cell phone while I was already holding it in my hand (on more than one occasion).

On occasions like that, I sometimes worry that my mind is slipping. You probably do, too. But most of the time, these incidents are simply a sign of normal age-related memory loss, lack of sleep, or even stress.

When should you worry? Experts say that if you still can’t remember what you were looking for later in the day, or if you seem to forget entire chunks of time, it’s time to see a doctor.

Here are five differences between normal aging and Alzheimer’s that you should be aware of:

  1. Retrieving Memories

In normal age-related memory loss, you may have trouble retrieving memories from long-term storage. This can lead to problems such as forgetting names or not recalling where you met someone. These issues can usually be overcome with cuing and context.

With Alzheimer’s Disease, there is a problem with retrieving recent memories that simply can’t be overcome. For example, you may have a guest in the morning and then by afternoon you can’t remember who stopped by – even if someone gives you a prompt such as, “It was a friend from grade school.”

  1. Chronological Memory

If you have dementia, you may have trouble recalling items or events in the order in which they occurred – whether events from your memories or the order of different parts of a sentence. For example, you may know that you went on vacations to Europe and to Hawaii, but you can’t remember which one came first (even though the trips were ten years apart).

Researchers have found that most people can recall recent memories in order (especially with audio prompts) but recall significantly decreases in those suffering from dementia.

  1. Planning and Problem-Solving

Normal aging typically means that it takes more time to think things through, reactions are slower, and multitasking becomes difficult. On occasion, you may forget to pay a bill or leave a pot on the stove a bit too long.

With dementia, things are a lot more difficult. You may become very confused when planning things out – even something as simple as what to have for breakfast. Concentration is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain and poor judgement is a frequent concern.

  1. Language

As you age, you may have a bit of trouble finding the right word sometimes. You might find yourself needing to concentrate more to keep up with a conversation or becoming distracted if too many people are speaking at once.

For those with dementia, however, finding the right word is a frequent problem and they often refer to objects as “that thing” or people as “that woman/man.” They regularly lose their train of thought and can’t keep up with conversation, and may even have trouble initiating communication with others.

  1. Orientation

Orientation problems can happen to any person at any age. Most of us have forgotten what day of the week it is or even what year, and we’ve all walked into a room and forgotten why we’re there.

These problems naturally increase as we age, but those with dementia may completely lose their ability to track the passage of time. In addition, dementia patients frequently have no sense of location and can get lost in places that were once very familiar (even their own back yard).

When to See a Doctor

When memory problems start to look like this, it’s time to seek medical help:

 

  • When memory problems don’t improve with cuing and context
  • Day-to-day functioning begins to decline with memory
  • You have difficulty with familiar tasks, such as operating the microwave
  • Bills are often missed or late
  • Others tell you that you’re forgetting things, but you are personally unaware that a memory problem exists

Final Thoughts

Many seniors panic at the first sign of memory problems, terrified that they signify dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s important to understand that minor memory problems are often just a normal sign of aging. If you’re unsure of the severity of changes you’re experiencing, ask a loved one what they observe, or set up an appointment with your physician.

Posted in: Dementia

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Family Caregiver Burnout During the Holidays

Tuesday , December 24 , 2019

Family Caregiver Burnout During the Holidays

How does that old Christmas song go? It’s the most hectic time of the year?

No?

Well, we think that maybe that’s the way it should go!

The holidays can be stressful under the best of circumstances. There are gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, a tree to decorate. Most people feel frazzled this time of year.

For family caregivers, the stress can be overwhelming.

In addition to the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the regular day-to-day obligations of work and family, they also have the added pressure of tending to a loved one who can’t properly care for themselves.

According to a survey by AARP, 7 in 10 family caregivers say it is emotionally stressful to care for loved ones during the holiday season. Still, many of them feel positive about the holidays: It feels good to be useful and it’s rewarding to care for those you love.

If you are a caregiver and you’d like to minimize holiday burnout (and maximize holiday joy!), we have a few suggestions that can help. Keep reading to learn how to relax more and stress less during this hectic season:

Go in (Mentally) Prepared

Now that you’re a family caregiver, don’t expect the holidays to be the same as they were in the past. As your older loved ones continue to age, traditions and celebrations will likely need to change.

This doesn’t have to be a disappointment.

It may be true that your mother can no longer cook the Christmas ham, or your dear uncle can no longer take part in the annual gift exchange – but accepting these changes is in the best interest of both you (the caregiver) and your loved one.

Fighting the inevitable and trying to force issues just for the sake of “tradition” can add more stress for everyone involved. Instead, why not create new rituals that work well for everyone involved?

Be Aware of Limitations

There can be a fine line between “fun” and “stressful” – and although caregiver burnout can occur at any time of year, it’s particularly common during the holidays.

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and other holidays are usually a time to celebrate with family, but for those caring for an older loved one, celebrations are often just one more responsibility on their already overflowing plate.

Unfortunately, a caregiver is a person who just never seems to get a break – and the holidays are no different. In fact, the added commitments of the holiday season can make those times even more stressful than normal (even though they’re supposed to be “happy” days).

The end result? Overwork, depression, and guilt can lead to a caregiver’s breakdown.

As a caregiver, it is important to remember to create small moments of “me time,” no matter how busy you become. While that may seem like an impossible task, there are ways to make yourself a priority (even if you only have minutes a day).

Know How to Identify Stressors

Fact: Not every person is stressed out by the same things. For some people, it might be crowds or loud noises. For others, it might be having too many things on their to-do list and not enough time.

Being aware of what makes you go over the proverbial edge can help you avoid those situations altogether.

Think about the things that you do during your day and how acting as a caregiver adds stress. What sets you off?

Is it:

  • Worrying that your older loved one’s needs aren’t being met?
  • Feeling concerned that you aren’t meeting the needs of your spouse and children?
  • Agonizing that you are neglecting your duties at your day job?
  • Feeling like you can’t get everything done?
  • Not having enough time to yourself?

Once you know what your triggers are, you can start looking for solutions.

Ask for Help

You took on the responsibility of caring for a loved one, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your responsibility alone.

As a primary caregiver, you may feel like you can’t ask others for help: Maybe you don’t want to be a burden yourself or you don’t want to appear irresponsible. But other family members and friends are often happy to help if given the opportunity.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to loved ones when you need a break – even those that live out-of-town.

During the holidays, it is likely that relatives will be in town to visit. These are people who likely haven’t seen their older family member in months (or more) and might be eager to have some alone time.

Use that as an opportunity to head out and spend some time on you, whether it’s just a quick trip to pick up some takeout or an appointment for a long-overdue haircut.

Adjust Holiday Celebrations

The best thing you can do to avoid holiday burnout? Know that you can’t do it all.

This may mean making changes to your normal holiday routine, but that’s ok. Here are some suggestions:

  • Tweak holiday meals: Cooking a holiday feast can be a time-consuming process. Don’t be afraid to buy pre-made meals from a local supermarket or restaurant. In the end, it’s not the food that matters – it’s spending time with family.
  • Don’t stress about decorations: Don’t have time to put up Christmas lights this year? Trust us: No one will even notice. Put out the decorations that are personally meaningful and leave the rest for another time.
  • Be flexible with shopping: Take advantage of Amazon and other online retailers to shop stress-free at your own convenience – there’s no need to find the time to actually browse the shelves at a crowded shopping mall.
  • Ask loved ones to come to you: The holidays are often filled with endless running around from one celebration to the next. This year, ask friends and loved ones to come to you to help limit your stress.
  • Take a break: It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy. Don’t forget to take some downtime when you need it and let people know if you’re not up to a visit or a party. They WILL understand.

Posted in: Caregivers

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