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Activities for Your Loved One With Dementia

Finding activities for your loved one with dementia can sometimes be a challenge. Often times, the behaviors that go along with this disease make things more difficult. They can be agitated, confused, depressed or at times show aggression. Finding activities that they can engage in and help them to stay calm are important.

My good friend who unfortunately knows this disease all too well took care of her mother. Her mother had early onset dementia with signs of the disease as early as 43. She cared for her for many years, until the middle-to-late stages of her disease when she moved her to a loving home, where they were better equipped to help her. When speaking with her over the years, and most recently about activities that she found were helpful for her mother, she was more than happy to share some of her mother’s favorites. She did preface her suggestions by saying that

“Everyone is different. What worked for my mom might not work for others, but to always remember to find things that won’t cause more frustration, and where they can feel success or that will help fight boredom while doing the activity.”

She also suggested that in the early stages, try to make sure the activities don’t seem too juvenile.

Here are five of her mother’s favorite activities that she thought others might enjoy too…

1. Create a memory box

She got a large sturdy cardboard box with a lid at a craft store. She brought in lots of pictures of family members and little trinkets that were around her home, and old magazines. She worked with her mom to cover the box with pictures and cut words from magazines that meant something to her mom. Then they used hodge-podge glue (you can purchase this from a craft store) to secure all the pictures in place. In the box, she helped her mom find things that were meaningful to her. Old pictures, a small stuffed animal, a charm bracelet, and old Valentine cards from her husband, were some of the things that her mother had in her box. She said her mother rummaged through her memory box often. She added more things as time went on, and loved ones would add cards or pictures too.

2. Fidget placemats

You will need a cloth placemats for this activity. She sewed several things to the placemat that helped keep her mom from getting too bored, and she also found they calmed her when she was feeling very agitated. On the placemat she made for her mom, she sewed three long strands of thick yarn to the placemat. Her mom always enjoyed braiding hair, so she used the yarn to braid. She also sewed another strand of yarn to the other side and a little pocket. In the pocket, she put some loose beads. Her mom liked threading the beads onto the yarn making different patterns. She sewed another pocket in the middle to hold some big buttons, and she made a few buttonholes on the placemat for her mom to place the buttons through. She said that Pinterest had several examples of these placemats and that an apron works well too.

3. Audiobooks or music

Her mother loved to read, but as the disease progressed she was not able to continue her love of reading. So, she got her several audiobooks, that she could listen to, and she would often listen to her favorites several times. She also suggested making a playlist of music with their favorite songs. Music is a wonderful way to engage and to possibly spark a memory from their past.

4. Family picture puzzles

For this activity, she laminated several family pictures. She said 8×10 size worked the best. She made little cloth bags to store each of the puzzles in and glued a smaller version of the picture to the front of the bag. Then, she cut each picture into 6 to 10 pieces that her mom could put back together. She said this activity usually led to memories of the pictures and some fond conversations about those events.

5. Scheduled pet visits

Her mom was an animal lover. One thing that she loved most was getting visits from pets. Many people in her community loved her mother, and knew of her love of animals, so she started having “pet days”, and she would schedule friends and neighbors to bring over their furry friends for a visit. She said it brought so much joy to her mom. She even said that they had a good friend load up their horse once a month to come over so that her mom could feed it some apples. A lot of her favorite pet owners gave her mom pictures of her loving on their pets for her memory box, and she loved going through the pictures and sharing them with others.

If you are going through this journey with a loved one, hopefully, these activities will help you.

Always remember you are not alone. We would love to help you and we have many loving caregivers whose hearts were made to serve. You can learn more about Seasons at www.meetseasons.com or stop in for a tour.

Heart Health Awareness Month

Heart Health Awareness Month

Everyone associates February with Valentine’s day, but did you know it’s also a month dedicated to raising awareness for heart health? Each year, the American Heart Association compiles statistics on heart disease, stroke, and other vascular diseases to remind Americans to prioritize their heart health. A few recent ones include…

  • Heart disease, which includes coronary heart disease and hypertension, remains the number one cause of death in the US.
  • Approximately every 40 seconds, an American will have a heart attack.

To combat those alarming statistics, we want to share some risk factors as well as ways to help prevent heart disease.

Smoking

Tobacco smoking is one of the top three leading risk factors for heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels. There really is no amount of smoking that is safe. The good news is no matter how long or how much you smoked, you’ll start reducing your risks as soon as you quit.

Exercise

Inactivity can put so many strains on your heart, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Getting regular exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease and help you maintain a healthy weight. Even 30 minutes a day with moderate activity, like walking at a decent pace can help. Some other activities include gardening, housekeeping, and even taking the stairs. With weight also being a risk factor for heart disease, the loss that comes with these activities is an additional benefit. Reducing your weight by just 3-5% can help reduce your risks.

Healthy Diet

We all know that a healthy diet can reduce our risk of heart disease. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is a good place to start. Avoid too much salt and sugar, and limit certain fats. A healthy diet also means that if you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

Sleep

Not enough sleep can harm your health. It can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and depression. A good amount of sleep for adults is 7 to 9 hours. With our busy schedules, good sleeping habits can be difficult, but we need to make it a priority. If you feel like you are getting enough sleep, but are still tired throughout the day, you may need to go get a sleep test to rule out sleep apnea.

Manage Stress

Managing your stress can be difficult, especially when we have circumstances in our lives that can be quite overwhelming and stressful. Everything mentioned so far can help manage stress, possibly even combined with relaxation exercises or meditation.

Health Screening

February is a great time to make those appointments and check on things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. If you already have one of these conditions, make sure to ask your doctor how you can manage it and improve your numbers. Make sure you are taking your medications as prescribed.

We encourage everyone to be proactive in protecting your heart. So make those appointments to get checked out, take a long walk, and eat a heart-healthy dinner. Happy heart month!

How To Know When It’s Time To Consider Assisted Living

How To Know When It’s Time To Consider Assisted Living

It’s a tough decision to make. Many want to keep their loved ones in their own home as long as possible. There are so many factors that go into making this life-changing decision. Are there sure signs to tell you it’s time to ask for help? Often, what it comes down to is, have their needs become too challenging for them and even you as a caregiver to take on alone?

When you begin thinking about assisted living for your loved one, it’s not uncommon to experience guilt and anxiety. However, the growing responsibilities might become too much to handle. You are not alone, and there are many options and resources to put your mind at ease when the time comes to make the decision for placement. Here are a few signs that it might be time to start exploring all the options for your loved one.

Home safety: Does your loved one have dementia or Alzheimer’s? Is it unsafe to leave them? Both of these situations can be dangerous. The probability of falls and injuries increase, and you can’t watch them all the time. If you or they feel unsafe during those times that they are left alone, it is probably time to start looking for more help.

Requires more care: As your loved one ages or if they have a medical condition that is progressing, they might require more care than you can physically do or are qualified for. It also might become increasingly difficult for them to manage activities of daily living. Skills that they could once do independently, like showering, dressing, shopping, cooking, doing laundry and managing medications are now a challenge. Maybe a recent surgery or illness now requires medical attention that you aren’t comfortable handling. All of these situations are signs that it could be time to see what a loving assisted living home can offer.

Social signs: Have you noticed social changes with your loved one? Do they spend days without ever leaving the house? Maybe they were social before and enjoyed regular outings or activities, and now they seem more withdrawn. They might simply need more stimulation or hobbies that center around their abilities. Any quality assisted living center will have many scheduled activities and social times that will help your loved one thrive again!

Around-the-house: If your loved one is still living in their own home, look for obvious signs that they are struggling to care for themselves. Is there a lot of clutter or signs of lax housekeeping? Is the bathroom clean? Take a look around the kitchen and look for expired foods or multiples of the same item. Take a walk around the house, are there signs of neglect? Look for unopened mail or bills piling up. These types of warning signs can sometimes point to cognitive trouble.

There will be signs specific to your situation as well, as no one knows them better than you. The list above is a good starting point to considering assisted living. Fortunately, there are options when it comes to caring for our aging family members.

At Seasons, we pride ourselves on the care that our residents receive. We are a family with a loving home environment. Surrounding our residents with the right people and tools is how we show them that we care. Come visit us in person to get a glimpse of the care your loved one will receive when they become part of our family.

Helping Your Loved Ones Stay Active As They Age

Helping Your Loved Ones Stay Active As They Age

Research shows that activity among older adults often correlates with their health and happiness. It isn’t always easy to keep them active, especially if they are dealing with chronic pain or other conditions that can make a once active adult less active in their senior years. Isolation and loneliness are unfortunately very common in older adults. These feelings can lead to mental health issues and a decline in cognitive functioning. There are many measures that you can take to help your loved one enjoy their golden years. Even if they are struggling to keep up with their once active lifestyle, there are plenty of ways to keep them connected, moving, and engaged.

The first thing to do is simply ask them about what they enjoy. Over the years, their interests have probably shifted. Finding a new hobby or activity could be exciting for you to do together! Actively continuing to learn new things will keep them stimulated and engaged. For example, it is never too late to learn how to use a smart phone or tablet. They could learn how to video chat a dear friend who might live far away, or get to wish their grandchild a happy birthday. My 95-year-old grandmother is a pro at video chatting. She was able to watch my kids open their Christmas packages from her, and could instantly see the joy that she brought them. Since we don’t live in the same state, this keeps us connected and we love to see her smile.

Plan some activities that could foster communication and storytelling. One of my favorite things is listening to stories of when my grandmother was younger. She still loves to feel pretty and have her nails done, so when I am in town, that is one activity I make sure that we do together. Since it’s difficult for her to get in and out of the car, I bring all the nail polishes to her. She picks out her favorite color and I paint her nails while she tells me stories of the “old days”.

Introducing new card games for you to play together can be a great experience. Once they’ve mastered it, they can play it with their friends as well. Word search books, puzzles, and crosswords are other great activities for brain stimulation. Discovering different crafts that they can do is a great way to keep their creative juices flowing. Remember to consider that their hands don’t necessarily work the same way they used to, but there are still plenty of crafts they can pick up. There is a lot of joy to be felt for them when they start making things for their loved ones, friends, or even caregivers. A simple crafting idea is hand-stamped cards. Get several pieces of card stock, stamps, and ink pads. It’s fairly easy, but still uses those motor skills that they need to keep active and creative. Once they make a set of cards, help them tie them up with a pretty ribbon for them to give as a gift. Inviting others into their craft time is a great way to foster communication and lots of laughs. Typically at this point, they aren’t able to go shopping for gifts anymore, so being able to create something from their heart can be such a treasure for the receiver of the gift.

Get them outside as much as possible. If weather permits, a daily walk outside to get fresh air is a simple way to do this. Even if they are in a wheelchair, this is beneficial. It gives them the opportunity to have new surroundings on a regular basis. Often times, older adults once enjoyed gardening and planting flowers. If a garden isn’t possible, try having some potted plants and flowers outside that they could help water and watch grow. Keeping pets around is another potential source of joy. While they might not be able to care for a pet themselves, with a caregivers help, it provides a sense of companionship that they might not be able to find in another person at this point.

At Seasons, we are a family. We have wonderful caregivers that plan these kinds of engaging activities and others for your loved one. Their smiles and stories bring us so much joy. It would be a privilege to support you and your loved one and to help them along in this stage of their life. Come visit us today!

Did You Know Music Affects Your Memory_

Did You Know Music Affects Your Memory

Did You Know Music Affects Your Memory?

Music is powerful. It has the ability to evoke strong emotions and memories in all of us. Have you ever heard a song that immediately brought you back to a specific moment in time? Perhaps your first concert, a slow dance from your senior prom, or the song you sang your children before bed every night. We remember because those notes bring us back to the same emotions originally connected to the song in our brains.

Music has been used as a therapy tool for many years. Did you know studies show it can greatly benefit someone with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia?

Researchers from the Alzheimer’s Association report that there are approximately 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. That number is only expected to climb these next few years. Having a loved one with this disease can be so challenging. It is difficult to watch them fade as the disease progresses. During this time, we tend to grasp onto any connection we can find to that person we once knew. This is where music can come in and play a seemingly magical role. Not only can it reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are often associated with the middle stages of this disease, but as mentioned before, it has the unique power to bring them back to old memories they haven’t visited in years. Even in late stages, when verbal communication has become difficult, individuals have been known to start tapping a beat or humming a tune from the past. Music provides that connection path for us to watch their faces go from blank stares to joyful smiles.

I had the privilege of seeing first hand how music helps those with Alzheimer’s. I spent many hours with a loved one that had been moved into a nursing home. I got to know many of the residents and their families, and I got to interact with them during activities and just walking the halls. Every week a sweet volunteer would come and play songs for the residents and every week I would watch how much joy it brought to so many of them. They would sing old church hymns and fun folk songs. Some would even get up and dance and grab others up to dance with them. One dear lady, in particular, sat and looked off into the distance from her chair week after week, never moving much at all. One week, the volunteer played “Clementine”. She immediately perked up and got up and started clapping her hands and tapping her foot. She had the biggest smile on her face and by the end of it her hands were waving and she was slowly turning in circles. It was beautiful. I asked her son about it the next week, and he told me that she used to be a famous square dancer back in her day. She had won many contests and traveled the world square dancing. That dear lady was in the middle to later stages of Alzheimer’s, and her son had not heard or seen much improvement from her in quite some time. He was thrilled that she experienced that memory again, connecting her to her own past. That one song unlocked something in her that gave her great joy, even if it was just for a brief moment.

If you have a loved one with this disease and you want to try music therapy to help them, there are a few tips when selecting the music.

  • Try to identify music that is familiar and enjoyable to them. If they are able, let them choose the music. Church hymns or older folk songs might be a good place to start. If they used to play the piano or the guitar, letting them be around those musical instruments might spur something in them, and they may even be able to still play a song or two.
  • Choose music that might help create a certain mood. For example, a tranquil piece of music can create a calming environment. Soft classical music with no lyrics might help bring peace to someone who is agitated. Choosing a faster-paced song from their childhood could boost their spirits and help them to remember lively memories.
  • If you are wanting to encourage movement, choose songs with a clapping or tapping beat so that they can join in. Don’t be afraid to dance!

At Seasons, we know how difficult it is to have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. We want to walk with you through this difficult time. If you have someone that has been diagnosed with this disease, we would love to support you. Give us a call to find out how we can help.