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Why Seniors Prefer Assisted Living Communities – Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 12, 2016

If you haven’t visited a senior living community in a while, you may have some misconceptions – senior communities have changed significantly over the last few years.

Senior Living Communities Today

Senior communities range from homelike to the posh luxury of a high-end hotel or cruise ship, and they definitely don’t feel institutional today.

Most seniors who have moved to assisted living or independent living communities report that they prefer life at their new home to life alone. Here are some common reasons why:

1. No Stress Yard Work and Home Maintenance

Keeping up a home is hard, especially for those of us who have developed physical ailments. Mowing the lawn, climbing a ladder to change light bulbs, shoveling snow, pulling weeds, vacuuming– these become things of the past. But don’t worry green thumbs – residents are often able to garden.

2. Vanquishing Boredom

Residents need never be bored at a senior living community. There’s something for everyone. All kinds of entertainment and activities are offered, both on-site and in the local community. Entertainment can range from visiting musicians and performers, to day trips that might include local landmarks, forays into nature, or just an outing to the local art museum.

3. Improved Family Relationships

Older folks frequently become dependent on their grown children, or other close family members, for help of all kinds. Unnatural role reversals can strain relationships and foster unhealthy feelings of resentment, both by parents and their sons and daughters. Younger family members are liberated from the role of full-time caregivers, and are able to assure that time with their older loved one is meaningful and high-quality. Older residents are glad to return to the role of family matriarch or patriarch and often pleased that their grown children no longer have to “parent the parent.”

4. Better Food

There are many residents at senior communities who used to live alone and were not eating right. At senior living communities, residents don’t have to worry about grocery shopping, meal preparation or even coffee brewing. Instead, they get to enjoy a fine dining experience every day of the week. The food tastes good, alternative meals are almost always offered and special diet needs can ordinarily be accommodated. It’s common for new residents, who had been eating poorly before they moved-in, to experience improvements in their health and well-being just from three square meals per day.

5. An End to Stressful Driving

Driving can be tense and stressful as we age, and our driving abilities may not be what they once were either. For these reasons, most residents prefer to take advantage of the free transportation that’s provided by independent and assisted living communities. There’s no need to rely on a car any longer, although parking is available for residents who still drive.

6. Feeling Like Myself Again

Living alone, we may not be able to participate in games and activities we enjoyed, that were both fun and helped keep us sharp. But senior communities offer a wealth of opportunities to keep us engaged. This can include favorite games like chess, bridge and poker, engaging reading groups and discussion groups, and fascinating classes and lectures on every conceivable topic.

7. Making New Friends

Older adults who live alone often become isolated, which is unhealthy at any age. At senior communities we can make friends, share a meal and enjoy festive occasions with one another. On the other hand, those of us who are more introverted appreciate that our privacy is respected, but are still glad to have folks around.

8. Finally Feeling Safe

Residents can rest easy knowing that they are secured from thieves, con-men and ne’er-do-wells. Furthermore, residents enjoy the peace of mind that comes from the emergency response systems that are in each apartment, or sometimes on the resident’s person as a pendant. This alleviates fears about falling and becoming trapped for hours or even days, a scenario that’s all too common for senior’s residing alone.

Certainly, there are seniors who live alone and are just fine. We recognize that senior communities aren’t for everyone. But it’s without doubt that there are vast numbers of seniors living alone in unsafe or unhealthy situations who would benefit immensely from life at a senior community.

If you are interested in learning about assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.

A Place for Mom

What to Look for In a Memory Care Community - Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are progressive in nature. Therefore, an individual’s symptoms will become more pronounced and increasingly evident over time. Although the disease can progress at different rates among different people, the continued decline in one’s mental and physical capabilities is inevitable and irreversible. While extensive research continues toward solving the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease, there is currently no known cure.

Considering Your Options

Many experts agree that due to the progressive effects of the disease, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will eventually require more care and support than can be appropriately provided within the home setting.

It is most often during the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease when it becomes necessary to provide 24-hour supervision to keep a person with dementia safe. As the disease progresses, care requirements become more intensive. Making the decision to move a loved one to a memory care community may be difficult, but it is not always possible to continue providing the level of care and supervision needed at home.

Ultimately, it is all about what is best for the person with memory loss. At-home caregivers must make choices that are in the best interests of their loved one’s physical, mental and emotional well-being—as well as their own. Despite possibly feeling an initial sense of guilt, many caregivers find that making the difficult decisions about their loved one’s care provides a welcome relief to the daily challenges and stresses of being a full-time caregiver.

Tips for Choosing the Right Residential Memory Care Community for Your Loved One

Memory care communities or communities with specialized memory care neighborhoods can be an ideal solution for those who require a substantial amount of care and supervision. However, it is important to do the appropriate research to assure you select the community that will make both you and your loved one the most comfortable. There are several important factors to consider in making this decision, including:

  • Programs and Services— Are there appropriate health and behavioral care services, regular planned activities and recurring care planning sessions? Is there a focus on resident engagement?
  • Environment—Do residents appear well cared for? Are rooms and common areas spacious, safe, and clean? Is there a family visiting area? Can residents bring favorite items with them?
  • Staffing— Do staff members have the proper tools, training and perspective to care for the special needs of those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss? Are privacy, respect and dignity a clear priority?
  • Meals—Is the food nutritious and appetizing and are there regular meal and snack times? Are family members and friends welcome to dine with their loved ones?
  • Family Involvement—Are you encouraged to be part of your loved one’s life and care planning, as well as to communicate as often as needed with staff?
  • Policies and Procedures— Can families participate in their loved one’s care and activities? Are visiting hours family-friendly?

Taking time to evaluate your options is well worth the effort. You’ll find that the best communities offer a wide range of treatments, services and amenities that address a resident’s mental, physical and emotional well-being through best-practice care, a philosophy of respect and dignity, and social engagement activities that stimulate the mind. Knowing your loved one is in the best possible environment provides peace of mind and confidence.

Help Is Available for Caregivers

Today, a variety of resources are available to assist caregivers who are caring for loved ones at home, including Alzheimer’s Association services, support groups, self-help guides, respite care services, in-home support, community-based services and educational programs. Communities with dedicated memory care neighborhoods offer quality care and specialized support around the clock, along with a variety of educational programs and special events that can help families connect and engage with their loved ones on a daily basis.

For more information on memory care contact Spring Arbor.


Long-Term Care Myths Debunked - Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, August 04, 2016

Baby boomers are turning 65 at a pace of 10,000 people per day and while most baby boomers in their 60s are healthy, the majority of Americans will begin to suffer health problems once they get into their 70s. Because diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's disease strike later in life, most Americans will require long-term care at some point.

Let's debunk some common myths about long-term care so that you can better prepare yourself for that eventuality.

No. 1: I won't need long-term care

Cancer, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and arthritis are all major reasons why people require long-term care, and because these life-altering conditions tend to occur later in life, many people who are in their 60s underestimate the likelihood that they'll eventually need a long-term helping hand.

That assumption, however, is woefully incorrect. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of people turning 65 this year will require long-term care in the future. And while only about 10% of long-term care insurance claims are initiated by people who are younger than 70, 25% of claims are initiated by those in their 70s and nearly 64% of claims are initiated by those in their 80s.

No. 2: Insurance will cover long-term care

Private insurance and Medicare may cover skilled nursing, short-term care, and medically necessary care, but they won't cover custodial or personal care services, and those services represent a significant proportion of long-term care expenses. Similarly, Medigap plans pick up many of the costs for services that aren't covered by Medicare, but Medigap doesn't cover long-term care costs, either. In short, private insurance and Medicare won't pay for assisted living, continuing care in retirement communities, or adult day services. And the costs of the care they will cover is often limited to specific situations and to a short period of time.

Medicaid will cover long-term care. But qualifying for Medicaid is a challenge for many retirees. Medicaid eligibility differs from state to state, but only those of us without assets and with limited income typically qualify.

No. 3: My savings will cover my long-term care

The average person enters retirement with a median $131,000 in retirement savings and that's not going to be enough to pay for long-term care.
The average assisted living facility costs $43,539 per year and the average nursing home costs $82,125 per year, and that's for a semi-private room. Given that costs for long-term care are climbing, retiree nest eggs aren't likely to be big enough to cover these expenses all by their lonesome. That's especially true given that 50% of people require long-term care for more than one year and the average length of a long-term insurance claim for those people is 3.9 years.

No. 4: Medicaid can't touch my home

If you do qualify for Medicaid and Medicaid covers the cost of long-term care, federal law requires states to recover the money spent by Medicaid on your behalf from your estate after you pass away. Probate law dictates what states include in your estate, but most states include real and personal property, such as a home, in it.

Medicaid won't recoup long-term care costs by forcing your spouse to sell your home after you die, but Medicaid can also put a lien on your house in the amount of your costs after your spouse dies.

No. 5: There's nothing I can do to plan ahead

Staying healthy for as long as possible is obviously the best plan for reducing long-term care expenses, but there are other steps you can take to minimize the impact of long-term care expenses on your estate.

First, you can buy a long-term care insurance policy. The cost of these plans depends on your age, health, and your coverage choices, but the cost of $162,000 in coverage for a couple ranged from $1,816 per year to $3,725 per year in 2013.

Because the availability of long-term care insurance depends on your health, it may pay to get benefits sooner rather than later. Most people apply for long-term care insurance between the age of 55 and 64, and historically, only 25% of applicants between 60 and 69 have their applications rejected because of unacceptable health.

Admittedly, these plans aren't cheap. But if you're under age 65, you may be able to pay your premiums with pre-tax money if you own a health savings account. Also, if you own a business, your premiums may qualify for special tax treatment as well.

Another option that may be worth considering is combination life and long-term care insurance policies. These policies can offer both death benefits to survivors and some form of insurance protection against long-term care costs.

There may also be options available to you that will allow you to protect your home. Although state laws differ widely, strategies involving trusts and asset transfers may be useful -- especially if they're implemented prior to the five-year look-back period used by Medicaid in determining Medicaid eligibility. However, strategies that work in one state may not work in another, so it's important to discuss your options with an elder law attorney before you take any action.

For more information contact Spring Arbor.

The Motley Fool

Long-Term Care and Long-Term Care Insurance – Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Monday, July 25, 2016

What you need to know to help you understand and plan for long-term care.

We are living longer than ever before, and that means that long-term care is in the cards for most of us. That's a problem, because long-term care is costly. Planning ahead for long-term care expenses is critical to retirement planning, so here's what you need to know about long-term care, including some tips that can help you prepare for it.

Increasingly common

The most common reasons for requiring long-term care are stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer and those are most often diagnosed later in life. For example, more than a third of all cancer cases are diagnosed in patients older than 75 and 95% of all Alzheimer's disease cases are diagnosed in people older than 65.

Since Americans are living longer, the likelihood of requiring long-term care because of one of these conditions -- or another illness or injury -- is high. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than two out of every three Americans turning age 65 this year will require long-term care at some point in their lifetime.

Incredibly expensive

Long-term care is expensive and its cost is increasing every year. Sometimes, long-term care can be provided in home, which is cheaper, but assisted living or nursing home care is often required, and that care is no bargain.

The annual cost of an assisted living facility and a semi-private room in a nursing home is $43,539 per year and $82,125 per year, respectively.

Longer stays

About half of long-term care patients require help for more than one year, so plan on coin-flip odds of needing long-term care for more than 12 months.

Among people who receive long-term care for more than one year, the average period of time that care is needed lasts 3.9 years.

Since a lot of that care is likely to be provided in pricey nursing homes, the lifetime cost of long-term care can be sky-high.

Picking up the tab

Many people believe that the costs associated with long-term care will be picked up by private insurance or Medicare. But that's not the case.

Private insurance and Medicare will pay for some healthcare services, but only if certain requirements are met and just for a short period of time. Importantly, private insurance and Medicare won't pay for costs that are associated with custodial care or personal care services. Those costs can be significant.

Medicaid will pay for long-term care, however qualifying for Medicaid isn't easy. Most states will only consider someone eligible for Medicaid if they have limited assets and income.

Therefore, it may make sense to plan ahead and buy a long-term care insurance policy. The annual premiums associated with long-term care insurance will vary depending on age, health, and coverage, but they can be bought for a few thousand dollars per year. That may sound like a lot of money, but it's not, especially when you consider how quickly retirement savings could disappear if you're forced to pay for long-term care out of pocket.

Choosing care

It can be incredibly difficult navigating all the decisions that have to be made when its determined that a loved one requires long-term care. However, it may help to keep a few things in mind when selecting an appropriate facility for care.

First, consider if there are any facilities that specialize in the kind of care that your loved one requires. For example, some specialize in dealing with dementia patients.

Second, keep in mind that costs associated with specialized care may be higher. For instance, memory care centers can cost 30% more than regular facilities.

Third, visit multiple facilities in person so that you can see first-hand what kind of care your loved one will receive. Sources for possible facilities include family, friends, and online services, such as the Department of Health and Human Services Eldercare locator. When you go, don't be shy of asking residents and their families how they like it there. You might be surprised by the responses.

Planning ahead

Reduce the mistakes associated with making long-term care decisions by putting a plan in place ahead of time. Unfortunately, too few people appear to be doing that.

Although more than 40 million people receive Social Security, only about 8 million Americans have purchased long-term care insurance. Since most Americans will require some long-term care at some point, and 20% of Americans will require long-term care for longer than five years, putting off long-term care insurance may be foolish.

Visiting with an elder law attorney in your area may make a lot of sense as well. They focus on retirement and long-term care planning strategies that may help protect assets and that insight can be critical if Medicaid gets involved in your loved one's long-term care. Medicaid eligibility requirements include a five-year look-back period that can result in penalties if individuals attempt to qualify by gifting money or assets. Medicaid can also place a lien on your home to recoup expenses paid for long-term care after you die. Medicaid won't force a spouse to sell a home once you pass away, but it may place a lien on your home once they pass away too. A skilled elder law attorney may be able to help you avoid that risk.

Overall, the odds are that long-term care costs will quickly deplete all but the biggest retirement nest eggs. Discussing long-term care needs ahead of time may be difficult, but failing to prepare can have a long-lasting impact on your family years after you're gone. Therefore, if you're in or approaching retirement, make sure you consider the possibility of needing long-term care and take steps to protect the assets you've spent a lifetime accumulating.

The $15,834 Social Security bonus you could be missing

If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $15,834 more... each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after.

For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.

The Motley Fool

What Makes Some Have a Higher Risk for Alzheimer's? – Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Monday, July 18, 2016

More than 300 riders geared up to raise awareness for those suffering from Alzheimer's.

Bike riders pedaled across South Carolina in the "Ride to Remember" this past weekend.

The race came on the heels of new research promising to give those with a family history of the disease a heads up about their potential risk later in life.

"Several times a day, I'm telling a patient and their family for the first time that they have Alzheimer's disease,” said Dr. James Davis, medical director for memory health at GHS.

Researchers say Alzheimer’s disease is impacting 5.4 million people in the U.S. this year.

"It's more expensive than cancer, and heart disease you think of all the caregivers that quite their jobs - you think about the economic impact on the family of providing care in a nursing home or providing care in the home."

A new study published in the journal Neurology took a group of healthy adults, ages 18 to 35, and divided them up based on their risk factors for the disease.

"They identified a group that had increased risk factors for Alzheimer's based on identifying certain genes, and then they measured the size of the Hippocampus of the two groups. They found that on average the size of the Hippocampus was smaller of those individuals who had genetic risk."

The Hippocampus is the part of the brain that controls memory - the study suggesting a link between the size and the risk factor.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and I feel like it's closeted disease. Just having our bikers go across the state and let other people know that people are dealing with this, we can be a good resource for them.

Alzheimer's impacts 5.2 million people ages 65 and older, and though this new indicator is easy for younger people to see, Dr. Davis says to be careful what answers you go looking for.

We don't have a cure for Alzheimer's disease, are you going to live with the knowledge that you are maybe at higher risk? and maybe it won't be true but every day you have to live with the fact that you took that test.

For more information on Alzheimer’s care, contact Spring Arbor.



How to Keep Your Brain Healthy – Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Friday, July 15, 2016

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most frightening, yet least understood ailments we face as human beings.
The loss of memory – forgetting family, friends and the most important events of our lives — is painful, tragic and heartbreaking for anyone who is close to the person suffering from the disease.

But Alzheimer’s doesn’t just arrive one day, full blown. It begins its insidious work long before the patient has a hint of what’s happening.

Research suggests Alzheimer’s disease starts in your brain decades before you experience any symptoms.

The good news is you can find out what’s happening in your brain and, while there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are things you can do to better care for your brain.

There are steps that anyone can take to keep their brains healthy long before Alzheimer’s becomes a concern. Those include the following:

  • Maintaining a proper diet. People who focus on healthy eating often are worried about their waistline, but the brain also benefits from or is harmed by what’s on the menu. Too many Americans sustain themselves on a diet filled with sugar and processed foods, which are associated with dementia and depression, Amen says. For a healthier mind, he says, there are “super foods” that nourish the brain such as various fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts.
  • Avoiding too much alcohol and tobacco. Heavy alcohol and tobacco use lowers blood flow to the brain and reduces the ability to think over time.
  • Exercising the brain. Activities such as dancing, tennis or table tennis (which Amen calls the world’s best brain sport) boost your coordination. Mindful exercises like yoga and Tai Chi reduce anxiety, depression and increase focus.

In spite of the natural process of aging, you actually have a choice in how fast your brain ages. What you choose to do — in other words, your behavior and habits — can speed up or slow down the rate at which your brain declines with age.

For more information, contact Spring Arbor.


Understanding Senior Care Options - Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Monday, July 11, 2016

Assisted living, home care, skilled nursing, adult day programs, memory care—these refer to just a few of the many types of senior services. While it’s great that there are a wide variety of options to fit different situations and needs, deciding which is right for your loved one can be a difficult and overwhelming process. It’s important to make a careful, informed decision, as pairing someone with the right care is essential to their health, safety and well-being.

So, where should you start?

First, assess family/caregiver and financial factors. What kind of caregiving commitment or involvement is the family or current caregiver available for? Is the current level of responsibility becoming too stressful? Is there a limited support system? Signs that a caregiver may be in over his or her head include declining physical and emotional health, job performance and parenting abilities. In general, if a caregiver seems unable to juggle other responsibilities, it may be time to seek additional support.

Financial considerations are also important. Many seniors live on a fixed monthly income, and if his or her spouse is still living, selling their home or using retirement money may not be an option. If your loved one will need your financial help in getting the care they need, it’s also important to properly assess your own financial situation and hold off on making care decisions until you’ve figured out what you and other family members can contribute.

Once you have a solid understanding of existing caregiving and financial resources, you can begin to research different care options.

Home care can be a great route for when isolated services or minimal care is needed. This type of care allows your loved one to stay in their home, and it can give the current caregiver a much-needed respite to look forward to. The services home care providers offer varies widely, from medical care and personal care assistance to help with laundry and other housekeeping duties.

One thing to keep in mind in regard to home care, though, is that while it can afford your loved one lots of one-on-one attention, it lacks the social aspect that community-based care options like assisted living provide.

Assisted living communities, as the name suggests, provide housing, healthcare, support services and activities for seniors who prefer to reside in a community setting. This can include meal assistance, medication management, transportation and help bathing or dressing. Upon moving into a community, residents receive an individualized service plan based on their health needs, to be updated as those needs change.

For seniors with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, there are also memory care assisted living communities. These communities provide all the services offered at a traditional assisted living community in a setting designed to meet the unique needs of individuals living with memory impairment. This includes specially-designed activities, programming and building features, as well as specially-trained staff.

Memory care assisted living often comes with a high price tag, as residents typically require comprehensive daily care. Oftentimes, a home must be sold or a strong financial plan must be in place to manage the payments, but the good news is that many long-term insurance policies, as well as veterans’ benefits, will help to cover the costs.

Skilled nursing facilities offer skilled care from nurses and specialists such as physical and occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists and audiologists. This type of care is often the best option for seniors with chronic health conditions and who require ongoing medical treatment. These communities typically offer both short-term rehab and long-term care, as well as programs and activities to promote socialization, engagement and entertainment for residents.

Adult day programs can be a great option for social seniors who prefer to continue residing at home, but could benefit from a community atmosphere and certain types of assistance. Adult day programs can provide services such as transportation, medication management and medical appointment coordination, as well as meals, snacks and activities. The cost is typically based on how many services are needed, and clients are usually picked up and dropped off at home via van or bus.

While this blog is not intended as a comprehensive guide to making care decisions, it is hopefully helpful as a starting point to your research. For more information on assisted living and memory care, contact Spring Arbor.


How to Prepare for Alzheimer’s Disease – Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Back in 1983, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

At the time, fewer than two million Americans were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million, according to The Alzheimer’s Association.

Most of us have been exposed to the ravages of this horrid disease through our friends, families and loved ones.

While much research is being done to help those with Alzheimer’s disease, what should you be doing today?

First, make sure you have an updated health-care power of attorney that covers not only so-called terminal illnesses but also covers who can act on your behalf for all medical issues if you are unable to do so. This is not some simple form you download from the internet but should be drafted very carefully by an attorney familiar with elder law issues.

Second, make sure you have a current durable power of attorney that covers not only simple financial matters like checking accounts but also complicated rules regarding retirement accounts, trusts, beneficiaries, gifting, look-back periods, and annuities.

In addition to the legal contents of these documents, you must carefully consider who to name as your agents. Can you trust them with money, and do they have good judgment?

Will the agent carry out your wishes or their own wishes? Will the agent be able to stand up for you and be a true advocate in terms of medical care, nursing home care, and other family members? Will the agent “boss you around?’’

You also want to choose an understanding and experience family physician to help guide you and your loved ones through the maze of medical decisions.

For more information on Alzheimer’s care, contact Spring Arbor.


Pat Summitt: Comments on Life and Her Battle with Alzheimer’s

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who died Tuesday morning, was known for her memorable quotes, many of which shed light on her leadership style and work ethic. Here's a look back at some of the ones she'll be remembered for.

On how to win:

"Here's how I'm going to beat you. I'm going to outwork you. That's it. That's all there is to it." — Summitt in her 1999 book "Reach for the Summit"

On tradition:

"I remember every player — every single one — who wore the Tennessee orange, a shade that our rivals hate, a bold, aggravating color that you can usually find on a roadside crew, 'or in a correctional institution,' as my friend Wendy Larry jokes. But to us the color is a flag of pride, because it identifies us as Lady Vols and therefore as women of an unmistakable type. Fighters. I remember how many of them fought for a better life for themselves. I just met them halfway." — Summitt in her 2013 book with Sally Jenkins, "Sum it Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective"

On discipline:

“Discipline helps you finish a job, and finishing is what separates excellent work from average work.” — Summitt in "Reach for the Summit"

On setting goals:

“It’s harder to stay on top than it is to make the climb, Continue to seek new goals.” — Summitt in "Reach for the Summit"

On her fight with Alzheimer's:

"Competition got me off the farm and trained me to seek out challenges and to endure setbacks; and in combination with my faith, it sustains me now in my fight with Alzheimer’s disease." — Summitt in a news release announcing her 2013 memoir


Alzheimer’s Caregivers Need to Care for Themselves As Well – Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Simple things often bring the greatest joy. A person with Alzheimer's or dementia can still experience delight. Joy is good for caregivers, too, making us more resilient and increasing well-being.

Start with a good foundation

Take care of yourself to bring your best to the stressful role of caregiving. Stay connected to family and friends and spend time apart from caregiving. Understand and appreciate your loved one’s past and personality. Protect his dignity and be aware different stages of Alzheimer’s require different approaches. Offer choices and adapt to the situation to reduce stress and help your loved one stay calm.

Be in the “moment”

A Buddhist monk said, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” Simple things, like slowly eating a good meal and noticing the aroma, appearance and taste of your food, can be joyful. Talk about what you notice with your loved one and direct his attention to his own senses. If your loved one reminisces about the past as if it were the present, join him there. What did he enjoy about that time?

Find joy wherever possible

Move at your loved one’s pace, notice what he’s focused on and see it from his perspective. Tell jokes and funny stories and take advantage of impromptu fun. Find joy in the moments when you see glimmers of the person you knew. Rhythmic activities support calm in people with dementia and may bring back enjoyable experiences from earlier times in their lives. Involve your loved one in ordinary activities, like sweeping, folding clothes, or shuffling cards.

Be grateful

Take time to note what you’re grateful for and do this with your loved one, as long as he can participate. Keep a journal and be specific. Celebrate via the activities you can still do together, such as dancing and singing to music you both love. Keep expectations reasonable and appreciate your loved one’s current capabilities.

Touch can bring joy

Touch is elemental; it is how we first connect with our mothers, long before words. Simple touch helps caregivers and loved ones stay connected, especially as the disease increases the difficulty of communication. Aim for soothing, calming, and reassuring touch.

Movement feels good

People with dementia enjoy physical activity, especially in the disease’s early stages. They also benefit from the better sleep and sharper cognitive abilities exercise brings. Simple outdoor games, yoga, and walking are good options.

Experience nature

Spending time outdoors can reduce anxiety and stress levels. Plant flowers together in pots or raised planters and notice the smells, sights and textures of the experience. In winter, make peanut butter birdseed pinecones and hang them in a tree or on a feeder which can be seen from inside the house. When the birds feed, crack a window to hear their twittering.

Because caregiving is a draining task, it is important to get help and rest. Mentally nourished caregivers have a better chance of finding fulfillment in simple everyday living and leading a loved one to find their own joy.

For information on dementia or memory care for your loved one, contact Spring Arbor.