Dementia Caregiver Tips: How to Handle Shadowing

Granddaughter giving a surprise gift to grandmotherPrimary caregivers for those with dementia are frequently all too familiar with the complications experienced in trying to take a quiet moment or two alone – to use the bathroom, get a quick shower, and even step into another room. Those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can experience enhanced fear when a family member is out of sight – a condition known as shadowing. And the ensuing behaviors can be extremely challenging to manage: crying, meanness and anger, or continuously asking where you are.

It can help to understand the reasoning behind shadowing. You are the older adult’s safe place, the main one who helps make sense of a disorienting and confusing world, so when you’re gone, life can feel frightening and uncertain. And keep in mind that shadowing isn’t a result of anything you have done; it is simply a natural part of the progression of dementia.

Generations at Home offers the following dementia caregiver tips that can help:

  • Expand the senior’s circle of trust. Having another person or two with you while you go through the senior’s daily routines might help him/her begin to trust someone aside from yourself. Slowly, once that trust is in place, the senior will become more at ease when you need to step away, knowing there’s still a lifeline readily available.
  • Record yourself. Make a video of yourself doing laundry or taking care of other day-to-day chores, reading aloud, singing, etc. and try playing it for the senior. This digital substitution may be all that’s needed to provide a feeling of comfort while he or she is apart from you.
  • Take advantage of distractions. Finding a soothing activity for the senior to engage in could be enough of a distraction to permit you a brief time period of respite. Try repetitive tasks, such as sorting silverware or nuts and bolts, folding napkins, filing papers, or anything else that is safe and of interest to the senior.
  • Avoid conflict. Your senior loved one may become combative or angry as a way to express his or her fear of being alone. No matter what he or she may say, it is imperative that you keep from quarreling with or correcting the senior. An appropriate response is to validate the person’s feelings (“I can see you’re feeling upset,”) and redirect the conversation to a more pleasing topic (“Would you like to try a piece of the cake we made earlier?”)
  • Clarify the separation period. Because the sense of time can be lost in individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, telling a senior loved one you’ll just be away for a minute may not mean very much. Try using a common wind-up kitchen timer for brief separations. Set the timer for the amount of time you’ll be away and ask the senior to hold onto it, explaining that when it rings, you’ll be back.

Engaging the services of a highly trained dementia caregiver who understands the nuances of dementia and can put into practice creative techniques such as these can help restore peace to both you and the senior you love. The dementia care professionals at Generations at Home are fully trained and available to fill in whenever you need a helping hand. Give us a call at 727-940-3414 or fill out our online contact form for a free in-home consultation and learn more about how our customized dementia care in Kenneth City and other surrounding areas can help with your particular challenges.

How Creating a Memory Book Can Help a Senior with Dementia

memory book

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss

Memories are the glue that binds together our past with who we are today; and for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease, confusion around these memories may have a deep impact. One of our goals in caring for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is to help them store and share memories in order to make sense of daily life.

Creating a memory book can help a senior with dementia, with photos and short descriptions to refer back to when the older adult has questions relating to his or her identity, loved ones, etc. Memory books are great for responding to repetitive questions and for helping to clear any muddied waters. For instance, if an older adult asks who his brother is, whether she’s married (and to whom), where he used to live, etc., an easy response of, “Let’s go through the memory book,” can be extremely effective – and, can help with redirection as well for a senior experiencing difficult behaviors or emotions.

The book can (and should) be basic and straightforward. Simply pick out a sturdy binder, scrapbook, or photo album and place 1 to 2 photos on each page, with a short description underneath. Include such details as:

  • Close family and friends, including those from the senior’s childhood, if possible
  • The senior’s place of work
  • Milestones and special events
  • Hobbies/interests
  • Pets
  • Previous homes
  • And more

You may also create individual sections for every category, so it will be easier to find a certain image when wanted. For a more elaborate or extensive book, you can make use of the template, identifying which pages you wish to include that’ll be most helpful for your loved one.

For additional creative dementia care tips and resources, call Clearwater home care provider Generations at Home at 727-940-3414. We are also pleased to offer a free in-home assessment to share how we can help with the particular challenges your loved one is facing. Our highly trained, compassionate dementia caregivers can:

  • Encourage socialization
  • Offer creative approaches to manage challenging behaviors
  • Ensure safety in bathing/showering, dressing, etc. in addition to reducing fall risk
  • Provide trusted respite care for family caregivers to take some time for self-care
  • Engage seniors in enjoyable, meaningful activities
  • Assist with preparing meals and clean-up
  • Run errands, such as picking up prescriptions and groceries
  • And so much more

Reach out to our Alzheimer’s care specialists today to discover a higher quality of life for a senior you love.

Differentiating “Senior Moments” from Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

handsome senior man looking thoughtful while sitting in his homeYou altogether forgot about the physician’s appointment scheduled for last Wednesday, misplaced your sunglasses for the umpteenth time, and cannot remember the name of the new neighbor for the life of you. Is all of this simply a regular part of aging, or could it be the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia?

The fear of developing dementia is not unusual; and increasing, as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have gained increasing awareness, resulting in worries about our own possible decrease of independence and functionality, along with memory difficulties. In addition, it raises questions regarding future care and living arrangements, if the time should come that assistance is necessary to stay safe and to take care of everyday needs.

Nonetheless, it’s important to know there are a number of reasons behind forgetfulness which are entirely unrelated to dementia, and some amount of memory impairment is merely part and parcel of aging. Recent statistics show that only 5% of seniors ages 71 – 79 actually have dementia, though that number increases to 37% for those aged 90 and over.

The first step is to consult with your primary care physician about any cognitive impairment you’re experiencing, so that you can receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Before your appointment, make a note of details such as:

  • When the impairment began
  • Whether it was a sudden or gradual decline
  • If it is impacting day to day life: eating, getting dressed, taking care of personal hygiene needs, etc.

The doctor will want to eliminate issues that can mimic dementia – such as delirium and depression – as well as see whether the issue might stem from treatment side effects. Dementia progresses slowly, and in addition to memory deficits, may affect the ability to:

  • Communicate
  • Reason, judge, and problem-solve
  • Focus and pay attention

For anyone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, or any other condition that affects the capacity to manage day to day life independently, Generations at Home is always here to provide just as much or as little help as needed by thoroughly trained and experienced care professionals. A few of the numerous ways we can enable seniors with dementia or any other challenges to remain safe, comfortable, and independent at home include:

  • Assistance with personal care needs, like showering and dressing
  • Transportation to medical appointments and enjoyable outings
  • Running errands
  • Planning and preparing meals
  • Household chores
  • Engaging activities and socialization
  • And a lot more

Give us a call at 727-940-3414 or fill out our contact form for a free-of-charge in-home consultation for more information on how we can help.

How to Help Someone with Dementia Who Refuses to Change Clothes

Adult Daughter Helping Senior Man To Button CardiganBeing a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia requires creativity, patience, and empathy, the ability to step away from your individual reasoning and logic and realize why a certain behavior is occurring, and then to determine how exactly to effectively manage it. That’s certainly the situation with a family member who will not change his or her clothing, regardless of how unkempt or dirty an outfit has become.

There are lots of explanations why a senior with Alzheimer’s disease may insist on wearing the same outfit, including:

  • Memory or judgment problems, such as losing track of time or thinking the clothes were just recently changed
  • The comfort and familiarity of a certain piece of clothing
  • A desire to exert control
  • Problems with the task of changing clothes
  • Feeling stressed by the choices involved with selecting an outfit
  • Fatigue and/or physical pain
  • The inability to detect scent or to clearly see stains on clothes

Our dementia care team has some recommendations for how to help someone with dementia experiencing these challenges:

  1. First of all, do not ever argue or attempt to reason with someone with dementia.
  2. Purchase additional outfits that are the same as the one your loved one insists on wearing.
  3. When the senior is bathing or asleep, take away the soiled clothing from the room and replace with clean items.
  4. Make getting dressed as simple as possible, using only a couple of choices that are uncomplicated to put on and take off, and allowing as much time as needed for dressing.
  5. Offer clothing options in solid colors rather than patterns, which could be confusing, distracting, or visually overstimulating.
  6. Take into consideration any timing issues: is the senior loved one extremely tired and/or upset at a certain period of the day? If so, try incorporating dressing into the time of day when he or she normally feels the most calm and content.
  7. Determine if your own feelings are exacerbating the matter in any respect. For example, is it a matter of embarrassment that’s driving the desire for the senior to dress in a specific way?

Remember that wearing a comfy outfit for an extra day might be preferred over the emotional battle involved in forcing a change of clothing. When it truly becomes a problem, however, call us! Sometimes, an older adult feels more at ease being assisted with personal care needs such as dressing and bathing by a skilled in-home caregiver in place of a family member. Generations at Home’s dementia care experts are skilled and experienced in assisting people who have Alzheimer’s maintain personal hygiene with compassion and kindness, and they are always here to help.

Give us a call at 727-940-3414 for additional helpful tips or to schedule an in-home consultation.

How to Respond When a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Has Loss of Inhibitions

caregiver comforting senior womanAwkwardness. Discomfort. Disbelief. Shame. Most of these feelings can cycle through a family caregiver’s heart when your family member with Alzheimer’s disease displays disinhibited behaviors, such as:

  • Rude or tactless comments
  • Unacceptable sexual advances or remarks
  • Removal of clothes at improper times
  • And other socially unacceptable actions

The complex changes that occur to the brain in dementia can result in a complete turnaround in an older adult’s personality and behaviors, such as a formerly genteel grandmother suddenly cursing like a sailor. For somebody who is uncomfortable, disoriented, confused, or has simply forgotten social skills and graces, these behaviors are actually quite common; therefore, it’s important to figure out how to best manage them if and when they develop in someone you love.

Generations at Home’s dementia care experts highly recommend trying the following tactics when a loved one with Alzheimer’s has loss of inhibitions:

  • See if there is a solvable problem evoking the behaviors, such as a physical illness, medication complications, the need to utilize the rest room, environment-induced anxiety, etc.
  • Remind yourself that the Alzheimer’s disease is to blame, and respond gently and patiently, without overreacting or lashing out in anger.
  • Help the older adult remain involved in appropriate activities based on his or her individual interests. If the senior becomes agitated with a particular activity, change to something different, or relocate to another room in your house or outdoors whenever possible.
  • Pay attention to clothing choices, if removing clothes at inappropriate times is an issue. If the senior has been wearing pants without zippers for ease and comfort, you might switch to something a little bit more difficult to remove when out in public, for example.
  • Be sure that all the individual’s physical needs are met to circumvent problematic behaviors. Maintain a comfortable temperature in your home, keep numerous healthy snacks and drinks handy, and support regular physical activity and movement.
  • Provide appropriate physical contact often in the form of hugs, holding the person’s hand, or rubbing his/her back, when welcomed by the senior, communicating reassurance to alleviate anxiety.

It’s also beneficial to ensure you have enough time for regular breaks to tend to your personal self-care needs and ease the stress that is commonly inherent in caring for a cherished older adult with Alzheimer’s disease. Generations at Home’s caregivers are highly trained and experienced in effective, compassionate dementia care, and are here for you with as much or as little respite care as necessary. Call us at 727-940-3414 for additional helpful resources and to schedule a free in-home consultation for more information about how we can assist throughout the St. Petersburg, FL area.

How to Handle False Accusations When Caring for Someone with Dementia

caregiver consoling senior womanIt may come seemingly out of thin air: you put your loved one’s favorite tuna sandwich in front of her – light on the mayo, no onions – something which usually brings her enjoyment. But today, she forces the plate away and refuses to take a bite, insisting that you’ve poisoned the sandwich.

Or, you’ve presented your loved one with a meaningful activity that links her to a significant time in her past career, organizing paperwork. Out of the blue, she accuses you of meddling with the documents in order to steal funds from her banking account.

How can you most successfully diffuse situations such as these, which are resulting from the delusions or hallucinations which can be so frequent in dementia?

  1. Maintain a controlled, gentle, understanding tone. It may be instinctive to become defensive and argue, but recommended replies may include something such as, “I realize that you are feeling frightened, but I won’t let anything bad happen to you. Let’s enjoy this sandwich together,” or, “Oh no, have you lost some money? Your bank is not open at this time, but let’s go there right away tomorrow and get it straightened out.”
  2. Move into a welcomed diversion. After sharing in the older adult’s concern, transition into a pleasurable topic or activity that your loved one enjoys, or move to another area. With regards to the suspected food poisoning, you can engage the senior in going into the kitchen and helping her make a fresh sandwich. If you’ve assured the person that you’ll visit the bank together tomorrow, a walk outside to view the flowers and birds, or playing some favorite music, could help.
  3. Never argue or try to reason. These approaches very often increase agitation in someone with Alzheimer’s. It could take some trial and error to develop the approach that works best, and that approach may have to change from one day to the next. The aim is to stay calm, patient, and empathetic, validating the older adult’s feelings and supplying comfort.

Generations at Home’s care professionals are fully trained and experienced in effective, creative Alzheimer’s care techniques, and can help with managing difficult behaviors and situations, enabling a senior loved one to enjoy a greater quality of life, and providing family caregivers with peace of mind and relief. Call us today at 727-940-3414 to learn more or to request some additional resources which will help you better care for a loved one with dementia.

Best Ways to Provide Alzheimer’s Care During COVID-19

senior wears a mask to protect against viruses and bacteriaLoneliness. Confusion. Isolation. These feelings have become commonplace for a number of us during the COVID-19 pandemic, but when you factor in the challenges of dementia, the difficulties and frustrations are heightened to a completely new level.

Take, for example, the short-term memory loss inherent in dementia. A family caregiver searching for the proper way to explain why the senior won’t be able to venture out for coffee, get a haircut, or visit with the neighbors may need to offer up that explanation several times – often in the same day.

Sue Spalding, Chief Executive Officer for the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota, North Dakota Chapter, stresses the necessity of helping individuals with Alzheimer’s to minimize unnecessary stress, which can accelerate the progression of the disease. So just how can family members best help their senior loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease to calmly navigate life during a pandemic? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Stay calm. Even though you may feel stressed and overwhelmed because of the state of the world, it is best to steer clear of talking about alarming issues and even watching the news with an individual with Alzheimer’s. Make sure to determine an appropriate outlet for your feelings, however – your partner or other members of the family, a therapist, or trusted friend.
  • Maintain routines. Of course, certain previously enjoyed routines that include outings or visits with loved ones might need to be placed on hold; however, maintain a predictable schedule in the home that’s comforting to the senior, such as a set time for meals, exercise, hobbies, and bedtime.
  • Institute a backup plan. If you were to become ill, who would be qualified to step up to care for your senior loved one? Strategizing now, prior to when the need arises, is critical. Partnering with a skilled home care agency, like Generations at Home, is the ideal solution, and it’s an excellent idea to arrange for regular respite care now, to help a loved one become familiar and comfortable with having another caregiver inside your home.

And always remember, it is very important for you to take good care of yourself, too! Don’t forget to set aside time each day for relaxing, enjoyable activities to let you unwind and destress, to remain connected with family and friends, to adhere to a healthy diet and fitness regimen, and to get lots of sleep. If carving out time for yourself is a struggle, let us know – we have the solution you need!

While we all continue to wait for a vaccine or effective treatment option for COVID-19, be aware that Generations at Home is equipped and ready to safely care for seniors, especially those diagnosed with dementia, following all recommended protective guidelines. Give us a call at 727-940-3414 to arrange an in-home consultation to learn more.

How to Manage Rummaging Behaviors for Seniors with Dementia

Forgetful Senior Man With Dementia Looking In Cupboard At HomeDigging through boxes, cabinets, and closets, pulling out odds and ends from drawers, and sorting repetitively through a variety of items can be frustrating for those providing care for a loved one with dementia, but actually these behaviors are fulfilling a purpose. Rummaging can provide a measure of comfort for those with dementia, with the reassurance of recognizing familiar objects and finding purpose and meaning.

The key then is not to discourage rummaging, which can cause agitation, but to better manage this behavior if it becomes disruptive. These tips can help:

  • Keep rummaging to a controlled area. Put together boxes of items the senior seems particularly drawn to, such as keys, paperwork, a wallet, tools, gardening equipment, sewing implements, sports memorabilia, etc. When your loved one begins to rummage in other areas, pull out one of the boxes and direct his or her attention there.
  • Create an activity centered on rummaging behaviors. Let the senior know you could really use his or her help with a particular activity that utilizes these behaviors, such as folding towels or socks, sorting nuts/bolts in a toolbox, or placing paperwork into folders.
  • Find other stimulating activities to alleviate boredom. Rummaging may be the result of feelings of restlessness, loneliness, or boredom. Experiment with different activities you can suggest and do together with the senior, such as arts and crafts, puzzles, taking a walk, listening to music, etc.
  • Keep valuables out of reach. Knowing that your loved one has the propensity to rummage, be sure that any important documents, jewelry, keys, credit cards, etc. are all stored securely away. It’s also a good idea to tuck away the mail when it arrives, to ensure bills and other items aren’t getting tossed or misplaced.
  • Step up safety precautions. Now is a good time to assess how dangerous items are that are stored in the home could be to your loved one, such as sharp knives, cleaning products, even certain types of foods such as raw meat that the senior may accidentally mistake for another food product and ingest. Keep all items that may cause the senior harm in secure locations, preferably locked away.

Generations at Home can help with the professional in-home care services that provide companionship and engagement in creative, enjoyable, and fulfilling activities for those with dementia that lead to fewer challenging behaviors. Contact us at 727-940-3414 for additional dementia care resources or to schedule an in-home assessment to learn more about our services.

A New Disease That Mimics Alzheimer’s: LATE

An individual who exhibits memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, repetition, and challenges with performing daily activities has the telltale symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, right? As a matter of fact, what seems to be an obvious case of Alzheimer’s may in fact be a recently discovered dementia.

Known as LATE, or limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, this condition presents with almost the same symptoms, but the root cause is another story. Rather than the buildup of amyloid plaques and tangles inherent in Alzheimer’s, LATE is distinguished by deposits of TDP-43 protein, as reported by Dr. Julie Schneider, associate director for the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

And TDP-43 protein troubles are in fact quite common in elderly people, with as many as one out of four older people over age 85 affected enough to cause obvious cognitive and/or memory problems. Nevertheless, it remains an under-diagnosed condition, which could lead to misdiagnoses, and consequently, inappropriate treatment plans.

The most up-to-date recommendations call for those who have been diagnosed with LATE to be removed from Alzheimer’s medication research, focusing research alternatively on establishing biomarkers to better detect LATE, to locate therapeutic intervention methods, and to increase testing to include a broader array of diverse populations, in an effort to increase both prevention and treatment.

Understanding the differences between both types of dementia is paramount to the best treatment, and per Dr. James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, “This evidence may also go some way to help us understand why some recent clinical trials testing for Alzheimer’s disease have failed – participants may have had slightly different brain diseases.”

Key aspects of LATE include:

  • Generally affecting older adults over age 80
  • A slower progression than Alzheimer’s
  • Typically only affects memory
  • May be accompanied by Alzheimer’s disease, which leads to a far more rapid decline

Whether Alzheimer’s disease, LATE, or some other form of dementia, Generations at Home offers the highly customized, skilled and creative caregiving that can help seniors live the highest possible quality of life where it is most comfortable: at home. Our care aides are thoroughly trained and experienced in helping those with dementia, along with helping family caregivers, to more fully manage the varying challenges experienced in each stage.

Call us any time at 727-940-3414 to inquire about further dementia care resources, find answers to the questions you have, or to schedule an in-home consultation to learn more about how we can help a family member you love with dementia.

How One Woman Uses Her Sense of Smell to Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease

You may not recognize her by name, but you’ve probably heard her story. Joy Milne has an exceptionally unique talent: recognizing Parkinson’s disease by using her nose. Her gift came to light when she detected what she details as an “overpowering sort of nasty yeast smell” in her husband of ten years. Subsequently observing other differences in her husband, in particular personality and mood shifts, he ultimately went to the doctor for medical help, and was given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

Upon walking into a Parkinson’s support group meeting, that identical scent permeated the room – although evidently only Joy was able to notice it. Actually, she was even able to pick up on varying levels of the odor – some whose odor was faint, while for other people, it was much stronger. With both her own and her husband’s medical backgrounds (she a nurse and he a physician), this finding was definitely meaningful and required further action.

Her story led her to assist Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson’s disease researcher at the University of Edinburgh, with the aim of developing a tool to offer earlier detection – and ultimately, treatment – of Parkinson’s.

While initially skeptical of the probability of Parkinson’s being found through odor, he was open to additional exploration after finding out about the success dogs were having in identifying the odor of cancer in individuals. He then designed a way to assess her skills, by giving her a random assortment of t-shirts – half which had been worn by someone clinically determined to have Parkinson’s, and the other half by those without the disease – and, her accuracy rate was astonishing. As a matter of fact, she missed the mark on only one of the t-shirts, worn by someone without Parkinson’s, but who in fact was later identified as having the disease as well.

Kunath explains, “Imagine a society where you could detect such a devastating condition before it’s causing problems and then prevent the problems from even occurring.” Dr. Thomas Hummel of the Technical University of Dresden’s Smell & Taste Clinic, said that while the idea is interesting, there are still an assortment of questions to first sort out.

Parkinson’s disease, in addition to a variety of other chronic health issues, can be more effectively managed with the help of an in-home care provider like Generations at Home. Call us at 727-940-3414 for additional information.