Premier Senior Living...
Because it's how you live that Matters

Senior Assisted Living Blog

Alzheimer’s Caregivers Can Feel Overwhelmed – Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Spring Arbor, Alzheimer's careSometimes, it is easier for a non-family member to care for someone with Alzheimer’s.

The caregivers know the patient as they are now, while a loved one knows them as they were yesterday. Caregivers don’t focus on what your loved ones could do, but on what they can do.

Alzheimer’s affects not only the patient but also the patient’s caregivers, who often become overwhelmed and isolated as the disease progresses in a loved one.

Finding help for caregivers has become more important.

Often caregivers become very isolated, especially as the disease progresses.

In the early stages of the disease, the patient are still able to handle most of his or her day-to-day activities, still understanding what is happening and able to share in the decision-making process.

These partnerships begin to become unequal in the middle stages. At this stage the patient loses certain memories. They may remember how to mow the lawn, but not how to turn on the mower, or completely forget about paying bills. It adds to the frustration for the caregiver, who is taking on more and more roles … there is a significant increase in stress.

As the disease progresses, it can be hugely difficult to leave the house because the patient behaves inappropriately in public. In fact, it is not uncommon for a caregiver to not leave the house in months, relying on others to pick up needed groceries and other items and drop them off.

Social lives change. If a couple used to play cards with friends on a regular basis, but now one person in that couple can no longer remember how to play, behave in public or even who the friends are, the ties to those friends loosen, especially if the caretaker often cannot find, or afford to pay, someone to stay with the affected spouse while the main caretaker leaves to shop or visit with friends.

Excursions also are often painful and disorienting for the Alzheimer’s patient, who now might not recognize the proper way to use silverware — if they even try to use it.

But caregivers are not alone and are encouraged to form partnerships with others — perhaps even other caregivers — to help handle the burden of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.

Finding an outlet and finding time to stretch, dance, sing, write or any other relaxing or energizing activity helps.

For more information contact Spring Arbor.


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.


Ways to Cope with Caring for a Parent with Alzheimer's - Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Monday, August 10, 2015

Ways to cope with the demands and responsibilities of caring for a parent with Alzheimer's disease:

Education. One of the most important things a caregiver can do is learn more about the disease. Alzheimer's disease should not be mistaken as a normal part of aging. The first warning sign is memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information repeatedly and relying on family or friends to remind them of things they used to be able to recall on their own. This is the most frightening time for the person with Alzheimer's disease. You can't take their behavior personally.

Be patient. When talking to a person with Alzheimer's disease, it may feel as if you're communicating with a child at times. Speak slower; use simple words and short sentences; make eye contact; use brief explanations; repeat instructions using the exact words each time; establish a daily routine; take them by the hand and redirect them; distract them instead of arguing; smile; give hugs and compliments and small rewards for behavior you're encouraging. These things may work, but they may not. Alzheimer's is full of unpredictable emotions or feelings that rise to the surface very quickly.

Plan. Once you know what lies ahead, it's critical to establish a financial and caregiving plan. Caregivers should make sure they know who their parent wants to put in charge of their decisions once they can no longer make them. Also consider the cost of a nursing home or assisted living facility. Medicare does not pay for nursing home care. That's a lesson that's really hard for people. Getting care in the home or placing your parent in a Alzheimer's care facility may be better determined once you understand the finances and pros and cons of each.

Build a support team. Caregivers naturally become frustrated and upset. It's hard to smile, stay relaxed and calm. That's why it's necessary to talk to family and friends about taking turns in caring for a loved one. It's important to ask for help. Alzheimer's goes on for a long time and gets worse as the disease goes on. It's surprising, but it can sneak up on people. It's important to develop a plan with family members or a health care team before the point of overwhelming exhaustion kicks in. Consider finding a caregiver support group.

Stay connected. When you're stressed beyond a point of reason, it's difficult to care for someone else or yourself. If you need help, call the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline.

For more information on Alzheimer's care for your parent, contact Spring Arbor.

US News

Caring for a Parent with Alzheimer’s – Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 07, 2015

The number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease and dementia is estimated to soar to 7.1 million by 2025, a 40 percent increase from the 5.1 million affected this year. The picture doesn't look much better for 2050, when the number of people with Alzheimer's disease is projected to increase to 13.8 million.

The number of deaths from Alzheimer's disease has also increased significantly. From 2000 to 2013, there was a 71 percent increase in deaths attributed to Alzheimer's disease and Alzheimer's is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in Americans that can't be prevented, cured or slowed.

Many people don't realize how progressive the disease is, says Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services with the Alzheimer's Association. Those with it live an average of eight years after their symptoms are noticed by others, while some can go on for 20 years, depending on their age and other health conditions, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

"Many people still just think it's a disease of memory. You lose some memory, forget where you put your keys," Kallmyer says. "[But] we know it's so much more than that. It goes beyond memory, executive functioning and judgment. These progresses impact your ability to do things every day, like getting dressed, bathing yourself and eating. Simple activities of daily living become a significant challenge."

Brood is among the millions who are assisting someone with Alzheimer's with these tasks each day. The association's report indicates that in 2014, friends and family members of those with the disease provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care; two-thirds of caregivers are estimated to be women, and 34 percent are over 65. The report also shows that 250,000 children and young adults between ages 8 and 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

"No one tells you they forget how to sleep, how to feed themselves, how to go to the bathroom. My mom, a year ago, stopped taking herself to the bathroom and doesn't go on her own anymore. Every few hours, we have to take her," Brood says.

Although her father is more aware, Brood says her mother – who was diagnosed at only 59 – functions at the level of her 19-month-old nephew. New research suggests that women with mild cognitive impairment experience a decline in cognition that's twice a fast compared with men with the condition.

The disease has taken a toll on Brood as well. "I like to think of myself as 29, and that all those years are being stored somewhere for me," she says of the time since her parents' diagnosis. "Sometimes, I hope I can go back and reclaim all of that. That's a more challenging aspect."

These feelings aren't unusual among Alzheimer's caregivers, says a psychologist and author.

"The caregiver, being at home with that person for a long time, specifically having to take care of them, they're in a situation that can go on for 10 to 15 years. It's no wonder their caregivers are at risk for social isolation, physical illness and financial problems," Vincent says.

The Alzheimer's Association report states that nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; meanwhile, 40 percent have been diagnosed with depression.

It is important for caregivers to seek help to ease their burden. They can't do it all by themselves. The person you're caring for is no longer the same parent, spouse or adult you once knew. You're dealing with someone whose brain damage is such that he or she is really only a child now. Perhaps an older child or teenager at first. They will age backwards, and will eventually become a toddler and finally a baby," she explains. That's why caregivers have to set aside expectations about what their parent could once do. "That was the past. That person is in a different reality now, and the caregiver has to adjust to them where they are because they cannot get back to the caregiver's reality.

For more information on Alzheimer's care for your parent, contact Spring Arbor.

US News

Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s, What you Should Know – Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Monday, March 10, 2014

Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s memory, cognition and ability to reason. People with Alzheimer’s disease can also become listless, agitated, stubborn, depressed, anxious and even violent. Furthermore, they may suffer from hallucinations – experienced as pleasant and/or frightening.

In the later stages of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients need full-time care and supervision, as they aren’t able to perform even relatively simple tasks, such as taking a bath, dressing, shopping, cooking or using the phone.

Are you caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease? The tips below will help you with what can be a challenging journey. Just remember that each person with Alzheimer’s is unique, which means that the tips given here may not work for everyone.

Tips for caregivers:

  • If the person becomes angry or present with combative behavior, give them space by leaving the room. Only return when they have calmed down.
  • Don’t try to argue. People with Alzheimer’s disease do not have the same ability to reason.
  • Allow strange behavior if it doesn’t affect others. It’s their way to make sense of their “new” environment among “new” people. Typical behavior may include repeatedly packing and unpacking a suitcase, sorting out a wardrobe, or hiding a handbag under the bed. Always ask yourself, “Does it matter?”
  • Be aware that strange behavior could be their way of telling you, the carer, that something is wrong. The person might suddenly shout, hit something, swear, cry or laugh out loudly. Try to work out what is wrong, respond to possible emotions they’re feeling at the time of the incident, and then try to distract them.
  • If you can determine what triggers these reactions, you can try to prevent it or keep the person calm when the trigger occurs. This can be anything – from a hallucination to being thirsty or wanting to go to the toilet.
  • People with Alzheimer’s disease often get agitated because they struggle to complete simple tasks. When you show or tell them how to do something, it’s important that you relay the steps one by one, allowing enough time between each step for the person to absorb the information. Be patient!
  • Don’t give the patient too many choices. Rather ask, “Do you want to wear this dress?” instead of “Which dress would you like to wear?”
  • Don’t change familiar routines.

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

Relief for Alzheimer's Caregivers

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Alzheimer’s care facilities for people with Alzheimer's disease can give spouses and other family caregivers a much needed source of stress relief, a new study suggests.

Such care facilities offer people with dementia a chance to socialize and take part in activities that stimulate their minds. The programs can also give spouses, children and other caregivers a break.

Intuitively, that should ease some of caregivers' daily stress.  A study measured stress levels of 173 family caregivers in four U.S. states who used Alzheimer’s care facilities for their relative with dementia.

Through phone interviews, they found caregivers were less stressed. And when stressors did crop up -- such as problems at work -- they took less of an emotional toll.

"I think this reinforces the fact that caregivers can't do this all on their own," said Carol Steinberg, president of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. "People need relief."

Study author Steven Zarit agreed. "There's a famous book [on caregiving] called 'The 36-Hour Day,' and I think that perfectly describes it," he said. "Caregivers need help. When they get a break, it's a way to restore."

There are other types of "respite services," for the early stages of Alzheimer’s, such as home health aides, but finances are still an obstacle. Home-based help is even more expensive. Caregivers may also be able to find local groups that send a volunteer to their home to give them a needed break -- though that typically amounts to a few hours of help a week, or every other week.

Caregivers can find help through a caregiver support groups designed specifically for spouses. A good support group is helpful not only because the other group members know what you're going through, but because they can also share practical advice.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and experts predict that with the aging Baby Boomer generation, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's could triple by 2050, to nearly 14 million.

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


Tips for Alzheimer's Caregivers

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Alzheimer’s disease creates difficult transitions both for patients and their families. Being an Alzheimer's caregiver is hard work that requires a lot of knowledge and skills. Here are some tips to help you out on your caregiving journey:

1. Don't be in Denial: It's only natural to be in denial when a loved one begins to show signs of dementia, but that only prevents the person from getting a diagnosis, starting treatment and planning for the future.

2. Don't Ask, "Do You Remember?" They can't remember. If they could remember, they wouldn't be diagnosed with dementia. Asking if they remember some person or event could make them frustrated.

3. Interact With the Person at Their Level: You may want to interact with the person the way you always have, but that isn't going to be possible. Instead, figure out at what age they appear to be behaving, then connect with them at that level.

4. Connect With Alzheimer's Patients with Meaningful Objects: You may have to experiment some to find out what is meaningful to any specific person.

5. Connect by Introducing Children, Pets, Music or Art: These four activities will often reach people in the late stages of the illness -- even if they hardly talk anymore.

6. Don't Argue, Correct or Disagree: You can't win an argument with a person who has dementia. Neither should you contradict them. It will make them dig in their heels even more strongly.

7. Don't Bring up Upsetting Topics: If you know your loved one will get upset if you talk about politics, don't start the conversation in the first place. It will probably lead to a battle you don't want to have.

8. Change the Subject If the Patient Get Upset: If the person does get upset one of the best things you can do is redirect their attention to something else, preferable something pleasant.

9. Don't Quit Visiting: Just because your loved one does not recognize you doesn't mean they have no feelings. People with Alzheimer's may enjoy being visited even if they don't know precisely who the visitor is.

10. Take Care of Yourself: Being an Alzheimer's caregiver is hard work. Take good care of yourself for your benefit and for the good of the person for whom you're caring. You can't be an effective, compassionate caregiver if you're exhausted and burned out all the time.

These 10 tips will go a long way toward improving the care you provide to your loved one. It will also help improve your own health and well-being. For information on Alzheimer’s care, contact Spring Arbor.

Huffington Post

Alzheimer's Care Takes a Toll on Caregivers

Joseph Coupal - Friday, May 17, 2013

Alzheimer’s disease is prevalent among 40 percent of people 80 years and older. In America alone, Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million. While it is important that scientific advancements be made, it is also important to make efforts in patient care for those who already have Alzheimer’s.

Here is a true story:

Debbie Lewis, 58, abandoned her life and has almost exhausted her life savings to take care of her 85-year-old mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four years ago. Before Lewis became a full-time caregiver, she worked as an office manager and lived in an apartment with her then 21-year-old daughter. But after three years of commuting to her mother's house on the weekends, Lewis left her job and life to take care of her mother.

"I didn't realize it would be this hard," Lewis said. "I thought it would be easy. I'll just stay at home. I thought maybe she'll repeat herself a few times, but the first time my mother didn't remember who I was - it floored me. I was hysterical when I finally reached out to Alzheimer's Association (three weeks later)," she said. The nonprofit gave her advice, referred her to professionals and helped her find an understanding cohort who shared her tribulations.

The first Baby Boomers reached age 65 in 2011, the number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to skyrocket.

An estimated 5.2 million Americans have the debilitating disease, and that number is expected to triple by 2050. Every 68 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's. One in eight people over the age of 65 will have Alzheimer's. It is the sixth leading cause of death and the only one of the top 10 that cannot be prevented, treated or slowed. Alzheimer's is an equal opportunity disease and has reached epidemic proportions.

The neuron malfunctioning disease affects people differently and progresses at different rates; however, severe forms require daily supervision from a caregiver because these patients need help with daily activities. In the final stages, they lose the ability to communicate and become bedridden.

So in 2012, millions of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers provided billions of hours of unpaid care valued at billions of dollars.

"Until you've lived it, you don't get it."

It is common to feel a great deal of stress. Caregivers of people with severe Alzheimer's have a higher mortality rate, but there are things they could do to manage that stress. The most important message is to don't try to do it yourself.

Dr. Linda Ercoli, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA who works with caregivers, said many times people focus on the disease, and caregivers are ignored. Even the caregivers forget about making time for themselves.

"Caregivers are at increased risk of disease because of the burden and difficulties associated with caregiving," Ercoli said. "A lot don't sleep or eat right. They neglect themselves, so they're at higher risk of depression and anxiety, coronary types of problems and are more prone to getting sick."

For information on Alzheimer’s Care in VA, NC, SC, and TN, contact Spring Arbor.

Excerpts -

Information for Alzheimer's Caregivers

Joseph Coupal - Friday, July 13, 2012

If you are providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease, you most likely want to keep track of the thousands of articles and numerous books about Alzheimer's disease to help you better understand how to care for your loved one.

If you have a loved one with dementia, the first suggestion of those in the same scenario would be to find the very best doctors possible. The second would be to go to the Alzheimer's Reading Room. It's a free blog that focuses on Alzheimer's disease and the art of Alzheimer's caregiving.
Its goal is to educate, entertain, and always empower Alzheimer's caregivers, their families and the entire Alzheimer's community. It's the nation's largest blog on Alzheimer's and the number one source of news about Alzheimer's disease and caregiving.

This site offers advice on issues that are important to Alzheimer's caregivers. It provides specific insight and solutions to problems they face each day -- issues such as wandering, challenging behaviors, showering, bathroom needs, driving, caregiver loneliness, treatments, medications, hospice and so many other problems that arise when caring for someone with Alzheimer's or other dementias.

The Alzheimer's Reading Room has more than 3,711 articles in its database -- many written by everyday caregivers. Others are provided by some of the world's top scientists, clinicians, doctors, nurses and other professionals in the field who share their advice, knowledge and expertise.

If it is time to find your loved one a home in an Alzheimer's care facility, please contact Spring Arbor Living.

Too Many With Alzheimer's Live Alone

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Elaine Vlieger is making some concessions to Alzheimer's. She's cut back on her driving, frozen dinners replace elaborate cooking, and a son monitors her finances. But she lives alone and isn't ready to give up her house or her independence.
Some 800,000 people with Alzheimer's, roughly 1 in 7 Americans with the disease, live alone, according to data from the Alzheimer's Association. It's a different picture from the constant Alzheimer’s care giving that they'll eventually need.
Many cope on their own during early stages of dementia with support from family and friends who keep in close contact.
But with support or not, living alone with a disease that gradually strips people of the ability to know when they need help brings concerns, and loved ones agonize over when to step in.

There's no easy answer, and it's a challenge that will only grow. About 5.4 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's or similar dementias. That number is expected to reach up to 16 million by 2050 with the population aging so rapidly.

Most older people want to stay in their homes as long as possible, and developing cognitive impairment doesn't automatically mean they can't initially, says Beth Kallmyer of the Alzheimer's Association. The association's new analysis illustrates the balancing act between a patient's autonomy and safety. People with dementia who live alone can do so initially while they are less impaired, as the disease progresses dementia and Alzheimer’s patients need caregivers. Studies also show that those who live alone have a greater risk of injuries or accidental death than those who don't live alone.
The first National Alzheimer's Plan, due this month, may help. It aims to increase screening to catch dementia earlier and urges doctors to help plan for Alzheimer's care.

Do you have a loved one who needs constant Alzheimer's Care? Contact Spring Arbor.