Making the Move of Your Elderly Parent to Senior Living Easier

Making the Move of Your Elderly Parent to Senior Living Easier

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. For most of us, the feeling is less about how large or fancy a residence is than about it being a place where we feel safe and where we have created countless memories of those closest to us. In addition, we fill our homes with things we enjoy and belongings that remind us of loved ones and good times.

Now, put yourself in your parent’s shoes. They’ve likely lived in the same home for several years, but they’re getting older and their needs are changing. Mom or Dad is having trouble getting around, need more help with activities of daily living (ADLs) and their social life probably has significantly declined. You know that a move to senior living would be wise, but you’re also well-aware of the many obstacles that lie ahead on that path. Before jumping right in, you may benefit from some soul-searching and think carefully about how you plan to maintain compassion, boundaries, and self-awareness throughout this transition process.

Broaching the Subject of Senior Living

How do you approach this difficult decision? Leaving the house behind will be difficult on your parent, but you also care about their health and safety. Talk it over with your spouse and siblings and check with friends or coworkers who may have already gone through this with their own parents. Consult a caregiver support group, staff at the senior living community you have in mind and any other resources that may be able to offer some good advice.

It’s usually best to bring up the subject with your parent when things aren’t going so smoothly at home. Aim for a day when there is perhaps something like a plumbing or other home maintenance problem or when the bill is due for lawn maintenance. It’ll give you an opportunity to casually move into the conversation rather than bringing it up out of the blue. Express your understanding of their desire to remain where they are but point out the importance of planning for the future and the benefits that come with moving. Don’t seek a major commitment right away, as it may appear you have already made the decision for them. Help your mom or dad feel that this matter is entirely in their control, and you’re just there for support.

Encouraging Tours of Senior Living

If possible, it’s highly recommended to accompany your parent on tours of a number of senior living communities. When looking at various apartments, you can discuss where to put items your parent wants to keep in order to make the transition more seamless. While not an easy task, try to focus on the future more than the past.

In conversation, try to emphasize the creation of a comfortable new living space that will accommodate your parents’ needs. It’s highly likely that your parent will want to pay homage to the past, so sharing ideas of how to incorporate as many of his/her favorite pieces of furniture and décor as possible in the new apartment will be beneficial. You know your loved one best, so follow their cues. If your parent embraces change, talk about purchasing a cozy new sofa or recliner for their new home in senior living. If they’re more rooted in their routine and prefer to stay within their comfort zone, emphasize how you can mimic the layout of their current living room or bedroom in their new apartment. It’s all about balancing interest in the future with respect for the past.

The Act of Downsizing and Moving

A senior’s biggest dread (after moving out of their house) is usually the actual process of moving from point A to point B. Moving is daunting to people of all ages. The idea of sorting through, packing up, moving, and unpacking everything we’ve collected over the years is overwhelming. For many seniors, downsizing is synonymous with purging. Collectors, those who hang on to sentimental items, depression-era savers and even hoarders are often immediately turned off by the possibility of having to rid themselves of everything but a few possessions.

Figuring out what to do with mementos and symbols that represent a life well-lived is a burdensome task for all involved. What to keep? What to get rid of? And how do we carry out the process with tact? Sometimes adult children are too close to the situation and can be too frank or even impatient with their parents when it comes to processing furniture, clothing, and other personal belongings. This can cause the whole process to grind to a halt.

Be respectful of your parent’s possessions even if you don’t understand why they value the things they do. The purging process is highly symbolic and very poignant for many seniors. They are essentially choosing what aspects of their past they are able to bring with them and which ones they must let go. Fortunately, there are professional senior movers who specialize in helping seniors declutter, downsize, and relocate. They can help take some of the pressure and emotional pain out of this aspect of the move for both you and your mom or dad.

Handling a Parent’s Indecision

Moving out of a home one has lived in for decades is often akin to experiencing and mourning a loss. The spectrum of emotions that is involved in agonizing over all the details, providing loving reassurance and then accepting a massive change in carefully laid plans is vast and unpleasant. It can be unbearably frustrating to go through this process only to backtrack and wait for an epiphany or a change in health to spur things along again. Meanwhile, worry about mom or dad’s wellbeing at home sets in again.

It’s much easier said than done but try to exercise patience as your parent vacillates between their living options. Offer a realistic picture of how much simpler it will be to navigate this transition earlier rather than later. However, understand that if they are of sound mind, they alone are responsible for deciding how and where to live. You may have to step back and bite your tongue until something changes.

Shouldn’t My Aging Parents Move In With Me?

The pressure to help a parent make the best possible senior living decision is complicated further by the nagging feeling many adult children have that our own homes should be an option. This is a highly individual decision that must factor in the needs of all affected parties (you, your parent, your spouse/partner, your children, your pets, etc.) Regardless of whether multigenerational living is a viable option, guilt abounds over even suggesting that a loved one move into assisted living or a nursing home.

Society insinuates that senior living is where elders go when they do not have any family or their relatives have “abandoned” them. The truth is that living with an aging parent is downright impossible for some families. Of those who try it, few find it to be a pleasant and successful long-term solution. Living together may delay the move to senior living, but it seldom prevents it entirely.

When a parent is no longer safe or engaged in their own home, caregivers are faced with difficult decisions and there’s no way around them. Increasing needs are an open declaration that a parent is aging. They must accept it and so must the adult child. The move itself is physical proof, and it is often a serious blow to the entire family. All we can do is respect one another and strive to give our parents a safe and caring home, regardless of where it is located.

In Time, We All Adjust

Aging is not easy on seniors or the people who care about them, but what must be done eventually gets done. We bring up the possibility of a move. We address the amount of help we will be able to provide. We stress that we are still there for support but that changes must be made. We do research, take tours, assist with packing, and do our best to be strong and help our loved ones acclimate. We adjust and eventually our parents adjust too. Many seniors are happier after they have settled into senior living, but that doesn’t make the process any less difficult.

There’s just no way to avoid this transition when it becomes necessary. Moving from a person’s own home to a care facility of any kind is emotional. Acknowledge your parent’s pain as well as your own. If you or your elder are struggling too much, consider seeking third party assistance. Often a close friend, a religious leader or a paid counselor can offer support and fresh ideas to assist you both in looking to the future rather than solely dwelling on the past.

Do Your Parents Have a Plan for Long-Term Care?

Do Your Parents Have a Plan for Long-Term Care?

It’s not easy to bring up the fact that the parents who have cared for you all your life may someday not be able to care for themselves. But it’s a reality nonetheless. Americans are living longer every year, and many will age beyond their ability to live independently.

Sadly, many older adults have trouble facing the changes and losses in ability that come with aging. While some seniors know their memories aren’t as good as they once were or that they’re no longer able to keep up with important responsibilities, others may lack awareness that things are slipping through the cracks.

Still, it’s not an easy topic to bring up—and many people aren’t doing so. According to a recent survey, only 45 percent of adult children have discussed with their aging parents what they plan to do when they can no longer care for themselves. And only 30 percent have discussed how their parents will pay for care as they age.

Then there’s the related issue of where your parents will live. For many seniors, their first choice is to remain in their home and age in place, but for many this isn’t a realistic option. The home may have safety issues, be too far away from needed services, or be too expensive and difficult to maintain. Yet, many families simply fail to talk about if and when aging parents should move out of their homes.

Other studies show that one in three adults over the age of 75 has enough cognitive impairment to mishandle or fail to take care of important financial issues. One misstep in an area like this can cost your parents dearly; failing to make mortgage payments or pay property taxes could result in the loss of their home, for example, while failing to take medications could lead to a heart attack or other serious health problem.

Falls are perhaps the biggest risk of all for older adults living on their own. Many common medications can cause dizziness as a side effect, increasing the likelihood of falling, and the weakness common to aging also leads to falls. If your parent lives alone she may take inappropriate risks, like climbing on a chair to change a light bulb—or she might simply forget to turn on a light at night. And once an older adult takes a fall, it can trigger a cascade of health consequences from which she may not fully recover.

Once you introduce the subject of a long-term care plan, don’t forget to discuss the cost of care as well. Bringing the subject up earlier rather than later increases the chance that long-term care insurance will be within reach. And care planning will greatly influence how your parents save and spend the resources—including real estate—they have available.

Think of it this way: The longer you wait to discuss your parents’ long-term care plan, the greater the chance that they’ll wind up living with you. Of course, for some people this is an excellent solution, and one that everyone’s happy with. But it’s not a decision you want to make because you have no other option.

When is the Right Time to Consider Moving to a Senior Living Community?

When is the Right Time to Consider Moving to a Senior Living Community?

Determining when you may want to consider moving to a senior living community is a very complicated decision process. Many people wait for a crisis to occur before considering such a move. Others are far more proactive and move before something happens.

Planning requires that you look ‘realistically’ into the crystal ball.

Try to imagine your life in 5 to 10 years from now. Looking in the crystal ball, you need to think about a scenario when you may not drive anymore or if your health starts to change, how will you manage? Try to create a mental image of what the situation will be like for a year if you or your spouse passes away or requires care. It is important that you are realistic, so you thoroughly think through this process.

Who’s going to change the light bulbs?

It’s human nature for people to elect to “stick it out” in their own homes. This then creates a tremendous burden on their family and friends. There is a great deal of loneliness and isolation that occurs and a level of vulnerability of abuse from outsiders. Access to services is limited, plus simple chores like driving to the grocery store or picking up your prescription medication becomes a major challenge. Home maintenance and repairs become major issues and the potential for exploitation from unscrupulous vendors can be problematic.

It is always better to be five years too early than five minutes too late.

Many senior living communities have medical acceptance criteria to be considered for residency. This is a very important factor to consider. People who wait for a crisis to occur or have progressive medical conditions often find out that the community or communities they were considering have no openings when they suddenly need to move.

If you are a couple, you need to look after each other and protect one another in case one of you requires care. More importantly, you need to make sure the healthy spouse has their future care plan in place. Unfortunately, many people fail to consider this scenario and the healthy spouse ends up in a dire situation (medically, socially, and financially) after the non-healthy spouse passes away.

Senior living communities are not nursing homes.

At the root of the timing question is the misconception that senior living communities are nursing homes and by moving to a retirement community, you will be losing your independence. Senior living communities offer a wide spectrum of services and amenities, including dining, social activities, fitness & wellness programs so residents can keep active and healthy longer.

Am I ready to consider a move to a retirement community?

Many folks that ultimately move to a senior community will say that prior to their move they were not ready. If you talk with them after they move however, nearly 100% will say that it was the best decision they ever made and wished they would have made it sooner.

So…when is the right time?

There are different time frames to consider. When to you want to start your research, when do you see yourself narrowing down your choices and when do you want to move? By doing your research early, you may find that community you are considering has a waiting list or is planning to expand, or is under construction.

If you have a long-term plan to move, try to figure out what needs to occur between now and this date in the future to make you ready.

Select, don’t settle.

By selecting a senior living community before your health changes, you can choose the place that best fits your needs and lifestyle. The longer you wait, the less selection you will have. If you are considering a new community, you often can pick your desired location and floor plan.

Bottom line? Don’t wait for something to occur. Plan for your tomorrows today!

Benefits of a Winter Move to Senior Living

Benefits of a Winter Move to Senior Living

Planning a move is a daunting task for everyone, especially older adults. This life adjustment takes plenty of planning and assistance to make it less stressful for everyone involved.

We tend to associate moving with warmer months, but sometimes a big move happens during the wintertime. If the opportunity to move to senior living occurs during the big chill, don’t fret. There are actually some advantages for moving in the cold.

A Chance to Get the Family Involved

The winter months are filled with holidays and cheer, bringing families together for plenty of celebrations. This is the perfect opportunity to help your senior loved one pack up their belongings and move into a community like The Classic at Hillcrest Greens.

Wisconsin winters can be brutal and filled with cold air, snow and ice, which makes the added assistance from family all the more helpful. Extra hands also remove the burden from family members who may otherwise be tasked with taking care of a big move by themselves.

Plan Your Move Around the Weather Forecast

Not all predictions are accurate, but it’s still important to pay close attention to the weather forecast. If the local meteorologist calls for a major snowstorm, try to plan your senior loved one’s move on a different day.

Hire a Senior-Friendly Moving Service

Any move is easier with the help of professionals, especially during the wintertime. Caregivers benefit from reduced stress if they hire a professional service that specializes in moving seniors. Moving services vary from assisting with the transfer of large items to packing up older adults belongings and moving precious goods into their new homes.

Winter is a Good Time for Sellers

If a component of your loved one’s move is the sale of a home, the winter months are actually a great time to sell. Homes listed in the winter have nearly a 10 percent greater likelihood of selling. And…given that the current home sales market continues to favor sellers, your chance of getting the price you are seeking remains high.

Winter is Lonely

Winter tends to be a lonely time, especially if an older adult lives alone. Moving to a senior living community like The Classic gives seniors an opportunity to mingle with neighbors and participate in planned activities. The community atmosphere is a great opportunity for older adults to expand their social skills and make new friends.

While winter weather brings its own challenges, it is a time of year that also brings its advantages when it comes to moving your senior loved one into a senior living community.

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.

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Since 1983, Alzheimer’s Awareness Month has been observed in November, thanks to a presidential proclamation from President Ronald Reagan. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of U.S. citizens dealing with this disease has now grown to more than five million.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that leads to memory, thinking, and behavior problems. It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80 percent of all cases. It is also the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Alzheimer’s disease gets worse over time and eventually comes to a point where a person can no longer accomplish daily tasks. In the beginning, memory problems are mild, but as the disease progresses, patients become unaware of their environment and may no longer be able to carry on a conversation. Once their symptoms become noticeable, Alzheimer’s patients typically live an average of eight years, but can survive for as many as 20 years—depending on other health factors. Although those ages 65 and older are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, there are thousands of others under the age of 65 who have early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Is there a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?

There are no drugs or treatments to cure Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatments that can slow down its progression. Researchers are constantly looking for new treatments as they search for a cure for this mind-robbing disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms

Part of Alzheimer’s disease awareness is knowing the symptoms so you can know whether a loved one may be developing it. Symptoms include:

  • Memory Loss – People may forget things they’ve learned as well as dates and events. They may also ask for the same information over and over again.
  • Trouble Planning or Solving Problems – You may notice a loved one taking longer to complete tasks they used to be able to do much quicker. You may also notice they have trouble following directions, even a simple recipe becomes complex.
  • Confusion with Time or Place – People with Alzheimer’s often lose track of time. They also forget where they are and even how they got there.
  • Misplacing Things & Unable to Retrace Steps – As people forget dates and events they may also start to misplace objects. Although they would be able to retrace their steps in the past and find what they are looking for, that is no longer the case. This may lead them to accuse others of stealing because they can no longer find what’s theirs.
  • Mood & Personality Changes – Because of the changes that are going on in their mind, you may notice major shifts in mood and personality. They may become confused, suspicious, and even depressed.

Helping People with Alzheimer’s Disease

Although there is no cure Alzheimer’s disease, there are things you can do to help a loved one, especially if the disease is still in its early stages.

  • Keep a Daily Routine – This helps to avoid confusion and lets the person know what can be expected. Alzheimer’s patients like routines.
  • Don’t Overstimulate – Keep things simple. Say one thing at a time. Present only one idea so that the person can understand it the best they can.
  • Be Reassuring – Always try to make the person feel safe and comfortable. Sometimes even saying the words, “You are safe with me” is enough to make the person feel at ease.
  • Don’t Yell or Argue – As frustrated as you may get, imagine how your loved one feels. They can no longer grasp what is going on inside their own heads. Don’t yell or argue out of frustration. Be the calming voice they need.

While you may be able to care for a person with Alzheimer’s in the early stages of the disease, doing so as it progresses can become more challenging. Many times the patient can present a danger to themselves by wandering off or forgetting to turn off the stove. If this is the case, it may be time to consider a memory care community than can monitor and manage the care of your loved one.

For those living with the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, The Classic at Hillcrest Greens provides an optimal balance of security, independence, empowerment, and honor.

Our highly trained, licensed professionals ensure 24-hour individualized care, while our Life Enrichment staff is trained in the concept of generating daily moments of success by offering opportunities for residents to find happiness and meaning along with supporting their unique needs. This overall approach to interaction with our residents focuses on creating feelings of belonging and purpose while seeking to preserve their identity and sense of self.