Help with Holiday Gifts for Loved Ones in Assisted Living

Help with Holiday Gifts for Loved Ones in Assisted Living

Finding the most useful Christmas gifts for your elderly loved ones to enjoy can be challenging. Senior loved ones have received a lifetime of gifts, but over the years, his or her needs most likely have changed. Older adults  especially those in assisted living settings – might be dealing with physical health issues or memory loss and have needs for everyday items that wouldn’t normally come to mind.

If you are looking for useful holiday gift ideas for seniors or elderly loved ones in assisted living, we’ve listed some suggestions below.

Activity Books for Visiting Grandchildren

Coloring books, crayons, makers, crossword puzzles, paper, and other items for little ones can help make the visit with grandma or grandpa more comfortable and fun. It’s also a good way to help little ones stay in one place so that you can enjoy the visit too. You can also try finding activity books with puzzles in them. That way, the activity can be enjoyed by both the children and their elderly grandparents.

An iPod Loaded with Some Favorite Music

An iPod is a great gift for the tech-savvy senior or just an elderly adult who loves music. You might consider a speaker dock to go with the iPod so that it’s more convenient for listening. That way, friends within the assisted living community can enjoy the music with the senior.

A Photo Album or Scrapbook

Order a custom photo book from a photo website or have prints made of family and friends and put together your own scrapbook. You could highlight a memorable family gathering or pick your favorite photos from the previous year. If your elderly loved one likes to scrapbook, bring the supplies to the assisted living community and spend the afternoon making the book together. Photo albums are the perfect present for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s since photographs allow seniors to reminisce and find comfort in recognizing familiar people they love and care about. Grandparents can then share those albums with the grandchildren when they visit.

A Trip to a Favorite Place

You may want to try some of these ideas for seniors who are more mobile. If the senior has a favorite place to visit, such as a concert, movie, coffee shop, library, or museum, take them out to enjoy that fun spot. Make plans to take your loved one to his or her favorite place a couple of times throughout the year. That promise can be part of the gift as well.

Electronic Photo Frames

Put your family’s photos in a digital frame that you load and set up for the senior. This is another way to display photos for the older person with dementia. You can offer to add or change the photos with major events of the year, or plan to purchase another frame next year with a new set of pictures.

Gift Certificates for the Salon

Assisted living facilities often have a hair salon on site for older adults. Buy a gift certificate for your elderly loved one or purchase beauty products such as nail polish, brushes, combs, and similar items.

Help Paying the Bills

Consider giving some money to your loved one for extracurricular activities or some shopping. While not entirely personal, a gift card to a senior’s favorite store is usually welcomed. Attaching a special greeting card with the gift card is a great way of communicating your care for them.

Calendars

Desk and wall calendars come in a wide variety of designs, prices, and sizes. Generally, calendars start at around $10. Purchase one at a store or customize one on a photo website so that those photos of children, grandchildren, friends, or scenes from a past vacation are convenient for your elderly loved one to look at year-round. There are even calendars designed specifically for helping older people with dementia remember important events and daily activities.

Cozy Bathrobes and Slippers

Older loved ones can get very cold in the winter, so a robe and slippers are always well-received. Keep safety in mind and look for non-skid soles on the slippers.

E-Readers

E-Readers are the perfect gift for elderly loved ones that love to read. The readers come in a variety of styles and weights while making it easy for an older adult to access his or her favorite books wherever they go. The user can enlarge the font size and/or change the font style to his/her liking. Load some of the senior’s favorite books before wrapping the reader.

Fitness Tools

Light weights, stretch bands, and similar items can help seniors stay healthy and care for their overall well-being while having fun. Look for some online resources to obtain a list of easy-to-use exercises for older adults with arthritis or limited joint mobility.

Food Items

Make a homemade gift basket of the senior’s favorite cookies, coffee, tea, candles, jams, crackers, cheeses, meats, or other snacks. A home-cooked meal is also a thoughtful gift. Make enough so that you can sit and enjoy the meal with your loved one. You might also consider preparing a larger gift basket or home-cooked dishes for the senior to share with friends in the community.

Wireless Headphones

Enhance TV viewing or everyday music listening with wireless headphones. There are even special models available for and older adult who is hearing impaired.

Other Gift Ideas…

  • All-occasion greeting cards and stamps
  • Adaptive clothing and non-slip socks
  • A reading lamp
  • A sign-in journal for visitors
  • Books, CDs, DVDs, or magazines
  • Craft items, such as patterns to use to crochet or knit, or yarn
  • Pens, tape, writing tablets, paper weights, and other desk-type supplies
  • Personal toiletry items, such as lip balm or lotion
  • Puzzles or puzzle games
  • Picture coffee mugs
  • Tote bags

Something to Consider…

While opening presents is always fun at any age, a highly suggested item is “time” as it is the most inexpensive gift for your elderly loved ones. Enjoying a meal with them or even having a simple conversation can be the perfect gift on its own.

What to Look for When You Visit Your Senior Parents This Holiday Season

What to Look for When You Visit Your Senior Parents This Holiday Season

It can be hard to tell how your senior parents are really doing at home when you don’t live near them. It’s one thing to talk on the phone or video chat, but going home for the holidays gives you a chance to check in on their well-being while you catch up with everyone.

Is Your Senior Loved One in Need of Assistance? Things to Look For While You’re Home for the Holidays

It can be difficult to determine when your loved one is no longer able to live independently. This can be particularly hard if you don’t live close enough to your parents to drop by often and see how they’re doing.

The holidays are a great time to reassess your loved one’s functional status. If you plan on attending a family get together or are going home for the holidays, it’s important to know what to look for. At the very least, you can assess any help they may need that can be provided in their home and if concerns are more urgent, help your parents find the best possible living solution going forward.

The following are some subtle — and not-so-subtle — signs that your parents may need some extra help to stay healthy and safe.

1. Do they have piles of unopened mail?
If your folks have always been organized but now you see stacks of unopened bills and letters sitting around, try to find out why. Maybe they’ve just been busy getting ready for the holidays. But unopened mail, especially if it dates back more than a few days, can also be a sign of cognitive impairment, financial problems your folks may not know how to handle, or simply vision loss.

Possible solutions: If Dad or Mom have trouble reading the mail, an eye exam is in order. If financial or memory issues are to blame, it’s time to talk to your parents about having another family member or a professional daily money manager help them manage their bills and mail.

2. Do you see damage to your parents’ garage or vehicles?
New dents on their cars or scrapes on the garage walls can be signs that your parents’ driving skills are declining. Try to ride with your parents during your stay to see how they are currently driving. Drifting across lanes, driving much more slowly than normal, and not using the back up camera or turning around to look while backing up are signs that it is no longer safe for them to drive. No one looks forward to the “driving conversation” with a parent, however, there are ways to make it less stressful and more productive.

Possible solutions: Research alternative transportation options and discuss their effectiveness with other relatives. You should be prepared to have more than one conversation with your loved one about scaling back or stopping driving altogether.

3. How do your parents look?
Your senior parents’ grooming standards should be about the same during this visit as the last time you saw them in person. Cognitive impairment or physical limitations may be the cause of noticeable changes in their appearance. Changes to look for include dirty clothing, dirty hair, and significant weight loss.

Possible solutions: These changes are signs that a visit to the doctor is needed. Memory loss may be causing your parents to forget to bathe, change clothes, or eat. Mobility issues like arthritis and neuropathy can make some activities of daily living too painful for your parents to handle on their own. Depending on what their doctor recommends, your parents may need an in-home aide or a move to assisted living.

4. How is your parents’ pet?
Pets can be a great source of companionship, but caring for pets can get tougher as we age. Your parents may be having some challenges with pet care if you notice long claws and matted fur on Fido, a birdcage that’s long overdue for a cleaning, or an overflowing litter box. It is probably time to get some help for the sake of your loved one and their pets.

Possible solutions: Dog-walking services, mobile pet groomers and vets who make house calls can take care of the checkups and chores. This leaves your parents free to enjoy their pet’s company.

5. Is your parents’ home about as clean as the last time you visited?
Your parents don’t have to have a spotless house, especially when they’ve been getting ready to host company. However, if their housekeeping has noticeably slipped since your last visit, they may need some help maintaining their home. Not so nice signs of neglect like mildew and mold, pantry pests and spoiled food are indicators that your folks need another set of hands and eyes to keep their home clean and safe.

Possible solutions: If there’s not a family member nearby who’s able and willing to help out, consider hiring a cleaning service or an in-home aide to clean regularly. Help your parents contact pest control, mold remediation, and other services as needed to make their home a healthy environment to be in.

6. Is the refrigerator and pantry stocked?
Does your parents’ refrigerator resemble that of a financially unstable college student who just moved away from home? If so, it’s possible that they are struggling with grocery shopping or putting their meals together. It is also very common for seniors to experience a loss of appetite due to a decrease in activity and resting metabolic rate, medical problems, smell and taste changes, or even depression. If you notice your parents have lost a lot of weight or appear fatigued, it is possible they are not maintaining a nutritious diet.

Possible solutions: For parents struggling to make their meals, there are many meal delivery services available (e.g. Meals on Wheels) to bring healthy, cooked meals straight to your loved one’s door. If your parent seems malnourished, you might need to consult a medical professional to try and determine the cause of any appetite changes. In some cases, prescription appetite stimulants or liquid dietary supplements can help your parents meet their nutritional needs.

7. Are your parents taking their medications?
While you might feel strange snooping in your parents’ medicine cabinet, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with their medications and any potential side effects or drug interactions between them. If you notice expired medications, unopened prescription bottles, or past due refills, your parents may be forgetting or choosing to not take their medicine.

Possible solutions: Take time to sit with your parents and ask how they are doing with taking their medicine. Make a medicine list and review the medicine label with your loved one. Create a medication schedule for your parents. Pillboxes labeled for each day of the week can help them manage multiple prescriptions.

8. Do your parents have any unexplained bruises or other injuries?
If your parent has scratches or bruises they are unwilling to explain, this can be a cause for concern. It is possible that injuries are due to accidental falls or tripping into furniture. While everyone has moments of clumsiness from time to time, a significant number of injuries can indicate your parent is struggling with mobility. This can be due to aging or may even a side effect of some medicines.

Possible solutions: Inspect your parents’ home and take note of any potential slipping hazards. Work with your parents to make their home more accommodating to their current needs. Non-slip flooring, entry ramps, stair rails, and non-skid mats can help decrease the chance of falling. Ensure there is plenty of lighting to help your parents see at night and help increase accessibility in pantries and closets. Grab bars should be strategically placed in the bathroom. Consider adding a shower chair or bench. Get the help of family members or hire someone to help your parents with tasks that can cause injuries such as changing a light bulb, vacuuming, mopping, and landscaping.

9. Do you notice any mood swings or personality changes?
In addition to examining your parents’ physical health, pay attention to your parents’ mood. Do they seem more down than normal or are they detached? Are they cheerful one moment and angry the next? Depression and anxiety are common in seniors, especially during the holiday season. Additionally, mood swings and personality changes can be a sign of dementia.

Possible solutions: Don’t ignore any concerns you might have about your parents’ mental health. Don’t be afraid to consult a professional, especially if you suspect your parent might be depressed or suicidal. If you are suspecting that your parent has dementia, attend a medical evaluation with your parents and mention any symptoms you’ve noticed. Help your parents connect with a community or center that offers opportunities for socialization and engaging activities they can engage in.

If you notice any of the aforementioned signs or…others that concern you, remember that your family’s holiday gathering is not the best setting to hash out a solution. It may be more productive to talk things over with your parents and other family members when there are fewer distractions and you have more time to research options.

How to Tell Family Members That Mom or Dad Have Alzheimer’s Disease

How to Tell Family Members That Mom or Dad Have Alzheimer’s Disease

When a senior loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it doesn’t only affect the person receiving the news. It very much affects the lives of family members, friends, and especially the person who will be caring for the loved one. If this person is your parent, life is definitely going to drastically change for that person and for you as well.

As a caregiver, once you educate yourself about the behaviors, side effects, challenges, and changes that will occur in your elderly parent, the burden might fall on you to tell family and friends.

Caregivers must realize that family friends may not necessarily be prepared for this kind of news and might not be educated about the disease. Lack of knowledge can lead to them staying away, not wanting to about it, or other behaviors that can cause stress for the caregiver.

After you process and deal with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, here are some tips for telling family that your elderly mother or father has Alzheimer’s disease.

When to Tell Family and Friends

When soon-to-be caregivers learn that an elderly parent has Alzheimer’s, they may wonder when and how to tell family and friends. Some concerns about sharing the news include:

  • How will others react to the news?
  • Will they treat your elderly parent differently?
  • Is there a right way to talk about it?

Alzheimer’s disease is hard to keep secret. Realize that family and friends often sense that something is wrong before they are told. Think about the following questions:

  • Are others already wondering what is going on?
  • Do you want to keep this information to yourself?
  • Are you embarrassed?
  • Do you want to tell others so that you can get support from family members and friends?
  • Are you afraid that you will burden others?
  • Does keeping this information secret take too much of your energy?
  • Are you afraid others won’t understand?

When the time seems right, be honest with family, friends, and others. While there is no single right way to tell others, here are some approaches to think about.

In society, there is a stigma about Alzheimer’s. Some people feel stigmatized and ashamed by having a family member with Alzheimer’s disease. Others are afraid their own time will come and may see your situation as a foreshadowing of their future. As a caregiver, here are some effective ways to communicate to family and friends:

Be honest. Explain the behaviors and symptoms that your elderly parent had been exhibiting and how the diagnosis was made by the doctor.

Educate. Explain that Alzheimer’s is a brain disease, not a psychological or emotional disorder. Share any educational materials that you have compiled. The more that people learn about the disease, the more comfortable they may feel around the person.

Focus on the positive. Help them realize what your elder can still do and how much he or she can still understand.

Suggest interaction. When confronted with the news, often the biggest concern for family is how they should act around the person with Alzheimer’s disease. They wonder if they should act differently and how they will interact. Explain to them that they can still have a normal relationship with the elder. They also shouldn’t be condescending or act differently, or avoid contact. Help them understand to avoid correcting the person if he or she makes a mistake or forgets something. Help them plan fun activities with the person, such as going to family reunions, church, community activities, or visiting old friends.

Help kids understand. Alzheimer’s disease can also impact children and teens. Just as with any family member, be honest about the person’s diagnosis with the young people in your life. Encourage them to ask questions.

After all is said and done, and the news is communicated, caregivers must expect a harsh reality that accompanies Alzheimer’s disease. No matter how well you communicate the diagnosis, realize that some people may drift out of your life, as they may feel uncomfortable around the person or may not want to provide care. At the end of the day, you can only do your best, and you cannot control how others will react.

Does My Parent Have Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia?

Does My Parent Have Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia?

If you have concerns about an aging parent’s behavior or memory, you’ve probably wondered if they have Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. What should you do about your worries? First and foremost, tell the doctor!

If you’d like to share your concerns with your parent’s doctor but are worried about upsetting your parent, send the doctor your concerns in writing. No HIPAA authorization is needed for you to share your thoughts with parent’s health professional.

However, if you, your parent, and your parent’s doctor truly want to get to the bottom of things, you can take a simple approach that is incredibly effective: start taking notes on the behaviors known to correspond with Alzheimer’s.

By doing so, you’ll be gathering the kind of detailed information that doctors need in order to confirm cognitive issues and likely detect the disease.

Eight Alzheimer’s Behaviors to Track

Research shows that there are eight primary Alzheimer’s behaviors to track and for each of the behaviors, it’s important to take down the following:

  • What kinds of problems you see your parent having now
  • When you — or another person — first noticed problems, and what you observed
  • Whether there’s been a change or decline compared to the way your parent used to be
  • Whether this seems to be due to memory and thinking, versus physical limitations such as pain, shortness of breath or physical disabilities

Note: If you don’t notice a problem in any of the following areas, be specific in documenting this. (e.g. “no such problem noted.”) That way, you and your family will know you didn’t forget to consider that behavior.

1. Daily Struggles with Memory or Thinking
It’s normal for older adults to have a lapse here and there. But if your parent seems to experience a memory or thinking problem every day, make a note of this. It’s a good idea to add specific examples describing what you — or another person — observed.

2. Difficulty Learning to Use Something New
Any difficulty learning to use a new appliance or new gadget, such as a smartphone? Make note of what your parent has difficulty adapting to and how he or she tried to manage.

3. Difficulty Managing Finances
Have you noticed any problems managing bills, expenses or taxes? You might have to ask your parents about this if you aren’t usually involved in their finances.

4. Forgetting the Month or Year
Any difficulty keeping track of the current year or month? If it happens more than once, make a note of the especially.

5. Poor Judgment
Have you noticed any behaviors or situations that seem to indicate bad decisions? Any excessive or unusual spending? Or perhaps a poor understanding of safety concerns that everyone else is worried about? Write down anything you or another person close to your parents has observed.

6. Problems With Appointments and Commitments
Has your parent missed any appointments or forgotten about a get-together that you’d planned? Everyone forgets something occasionally, but if this happened repeatedly, be sure to document when it started and how bad it’s gotten.

7. Reduced Interest in Leisure Activities
Have you noticed that your parent no longer seems as interested or involved in his/her hobbies? Did your mother read voraciously but now hardly picks up a book? Any change in hobbies or leisure activities should be noted, especially if such a change doesn’t seem to be related to a problem with physical health.

8. Repeating Oneself
Any repeating of stories? Any asking the same questions repeatedly? Has your parent been declaring the same thing, e.g. “I really love those roses you gave me!”, over and over again? If so, write that down.

How to Detect Alzheimer’s Disease

The eight behaviors listed above correspond to the brain’s ability to learn or manage memory or judgment. To diagnose Alzheimer’s or another dementia, your parent’s doctors must document that your parent has been having persistent difficulties in two or more areas of brain function. (This is necessary but not sufficient for diagnosis as the doctors must also rule out other causes for thinking problems).

While doctors can assess the different aspects of brain function through certain office-based thinking tests, research has found that asking family members about the behaviors previously listed can be just as effective when it comes to spotting probable dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Getting this type of observational information from family members helps doctors determine whether the behavior is a persisting, and maybe even worsening problem. This matters because a single office-based test only provides a snapshot of how your parent’s brain is doing that particular day.

Last but not least, geriatric doctors very much appreciate getting these kinds of behavioral observations from families as its practical information related to people’s daily lives. By knowing more about what kinds of problems an older person has been experiencing, physicians can make useful recommendations right away to help families with family conflicts, independence, and safety.

Ways to Help Your Parents Get the Right Care

Doctors who knowledgeable about dementia will ask a family about problems related to the eight behaviors previously mentioned. Unfortunately, many primary care doctors aren’t experienced in evaluating dementia. It’s not unusual for doctors to wave off a family’s concerns or have them be told that this is just what happens when people age. Such a scenario can happen partly because families are often a bit vague when they voice concerns. This means the doctor has to do more work in investigating the concern and in documenting specific problems that can help diagnose Alzheimer’s. Some doctors will do this work, but since office visits are often rushed, many of them won’t get around to it.

Unless you are proactive and bring detailed information to help the doctors take further action. The more specifics you can share regarding what you have observed, the more likely you’ll get the help your parent and your family need. Plus, whether or not Alzheimer’s caused these behaviors, they often cause anxiety and frustration within families. So it’s important to bring them up to a doctor so that you can get help understanding the cause and learn what to do next.

Don’t go on for too long with the worrying and the wondering. Take notes so that you can take better action.

With the Holidays Around the Corner, Plan Now to Have Conversations about Senior Living with Loved Ones

With the Holidays Around the Corner, Plan Now to Have Conversations about Senior Living with Loved Ones

Many families head home for the holidays, gathering together and reconnecting with loved ones who they may have not seen in a while. Many times, these gatherings are the first settings where family members notice age-related decline, as well as cognitive and health or safety issues facing older loved ones.

Maybe a family member is having mobility issues or seem to need more help with the activities associated with daily living. Perhaps there is nothing wrong but you just feel like it’s important to discuss options surrounding topics such as senior living, finances, or even end-of-life wishes.

Whatever the reason, The Classic wants to help families learn how to recognize problems and provide advice on having tough conversations with them this holiday season.

Prepare for the Talk

Before your family arrives for the holidays, create a list of all the things you want to cover. There are certain topics that should probably be discussed, including:

  • Any perceived age-related decline and/or cognitive ability
  • Financial planning
  • Health and safety
  • Legal planning
  • General well-being

If moving to a senior living community is definitely off the table, you and your family members may want to discuss who would take over as a caregiver(s) if it becomes necessary.

Discussing Health and Safety Issues

Physical decline is a natural part of the aging process, but it can be difficult for both you and your family member to discuss. Despite this, families are encouraged to open a dialogue regarding health and safety issues.

The first elements to ask about are the activities of daily living, which includes tasks such as:

  • Dressing themselves
  • Cooking/feeding themselves
  • Proper grooming and hygiene
  • Using the restroom
  • Housekeeping and basic home maintenance
  • Shopping for groceries and other essentials
  • Walking around and general mobility

If your family member has any difficulty performing these basic necessities of life, it can lead to major issues, and it may be an indicator of other possible health issues.

Discussing Financial Planning with Your Aging Loved Ones

Bringing up the subject of finances with your parents or another relative can often be a sensitive subject, but as loved ones get older it becomes increasingly important. Modern medicine is helping us live longer than ever before, and while that is generally a good thing, it can cause problems down the road if you don’t adequately prepare yourself financially.

Being prepared for any potential future costs requires a thorough conversation regarding your loved one’s current and future financial position, expenses, lifestyle, medical needs, and other sensitive topics.

Approach the conversation with care, and make sure to:

  • Ask your parents about their goals
  • Practice what you want to say
  • Talk in a comfortable setting

Speak to a financial professional, preferably one with experience in retirement planning, and be sure to stay involved as your loved one will let you. Use caution, as there are unscrupulous financial advisors out there who could try to take advantage of senior clients.

Discuss Legal Planning with Your Loved One

Legal planning is an important aspect of retirement planning. The main goal of any legal plans should be to ensure that your loved one’s wishes are carried out while also protecting you and your family. For these reasons, we recommend discussing legal matters with them candidly.

Everyone, regardless of their age or status, should have both a will and a living will, but this is especially true for older adults. It’s also important that they have (and you are aware of) the following legal items:

  • A life insurance policy
  • An end-of-life wishes letter (for things not covered by a will)
  • Authorization to release health care information
  • Health insurance
  • Health care proxy (durable healthcare power-of-attorney (POA)
  • Insurance cards
  • Lists of current medication and health conditions
  • Organ donor information

Assessing and Discussing Age-Related Cognitive Decline

Cognitive (mental) decline can be one of the most intimidating facets of aging for many older adults and their children. During the holiday season, you should keep an eye out for the following warning signs:

  • Repeatedly asking the same questions
  • Changes in normal behavior
  • Difficulty holding a conversation
  • Difficulty with short-term memory
  • Forgetting names

Some older adults learn to develop coping mechanisms to deal with one or more of these issues, so you may have to pay close attention to notice if they are having any difficulties or displaying any of the aforementioned warning signs.

When and How to Talk About Senior Living Options

It’s recommended that you discuss the topic of your loved one’s situation with other family members before you bring it up during the holidays. Consider waiting until everyone has arrived and settled in before broaching the topic. Many times, people are worn out from traveling and fatigue can be a major contributor to frustration. The last thing you want is a big “blow-up” at the start of your holiday celebration.

If at any point you feel these topics are upsetting your loved one, take a break for a while. Making the situation seem urgent will just further contribute to frustration. Many people associate making the move to a senior living community with a loss of independence or usefulness, which is why, when, and how you discuss these topics is so important.

Other tips to help this conversation go more smoothly include:

  • Be sure the person understands that the move will make them more comfortable and keep them safe.
  • Reassure them that this their choice and the decision is entirely up to them.
  • If you or your loved one know someone who lives in a senior living community, invite them to come and talk about their experiences with you.
  • Make sure the whole family is on the same page. You don’t want others offering conflicting opinions or advice.
  • Reassure them this is just a change of address and that you will visit regularly.

Having these conversations may not always be easy. It’s important for you to be your loved one’s health advocate, especially if they are experiencing physical or mental decline. While their opinion and wishes are important, it’s also critical for you to know when to be compassionate but firm in explaining what you believe is best for their overall welfare.