Worried About a Move to Senior Living? Don’t Be!

Worried About a Move to Senior Living? Don’t Be!

Worried About a Move to Senior Living? Don’t Be!

The vast majority of our society’s fears about senior living communities are inaccurate. Over the past decade, baby boomers have reinvented what senior living really means. Today there are a wide range of state-of-the-art senior living communities, from totally independent living to assisted living for those who need day-to-day help.

These options all aim to provide seniors with a lifestyle tailored to their individual interests and needs, while also offering the necessary care to remain mentally, physically, and socially healthy.

If you, a parent, or a senior loved are worried about making a move to senior living, the following information may help allay some of those fears.

  1. “I’ll be bored.”

With the activities and amenities offered by today’s senior living communities, there’s no time to be bored. Senior housing has evolved to offer everything from field trips and outdoor excursions to fitness and personal enrichment classes.

  1. “I’ll drain my finances.”

Yes, senior living can seem financially daunting, but if you’re already thinking about how to afford the care, you’re ahead of the curve. With some financial planning and maybe a little help from Social Security or VA benefits senior living communities just might cost less than staying at home.

  1. “I’m afraid I won’t receive the best care for me.”

There’s far more to senior living than the stereotype of adult children dropping off their parents with random strangers. When it’s time to move to senior living, the process of decision-making is one that should involve the entire family and your senior loved one should be just as comfortable with their new home as you are moving them there. Caregivers should maintain regular contact with senior loved ones, particularly in the weeks after the first move.

  1. “I will get old and sick faster.”

Whether you’re old or young, it’s being alone or isolated that leads to anxiety and depression, while the social contact a senior living community provides is key to better health and quality of life. If a senior loved one is already ill, with Alzheimer’s disease for example, memory care offers daily stimulation, customized care and planned activities, all of which can actually slow down the progress of an illness or even improve behavior and health.

  1. “I will lose my independence.”

While some seniors fear that senior living is equal to a loss of independence, the truth is in fact much the opposite. If you choose assisted living, you’ll have help with cleaning, cooking, and other chores that only become more difficult over time. What senior living offers is greater freedom with the precious time you do have. To make that time happy and rewarding, communities provide ample opportunity for social activities on-site as well as transportation around the area when you need it.

  1. “I won’t be able to control my daily activities or life.”

Moving to a new residence and letting go of long-held habits of daily life these are often realities of getting older, but they can be difficult and require a major adjustment. Take your loved one’s concerns seriously and don’t minimize their feelings. The fact is, assisted living can be a necessary and freeing step for both seniors and their families. If it is already too difficult for a senior to care for herself independently, or for caregivers to provide the necessary help, then assisted living may be a good option. The emphasis is on safety and security, but also independence and privacy, enabling each resident to have the care they need without compromising individual dignity.

  1. “People will forget about me.”

It’s natural to worry about being alone, especially if you define yourself by those relationships you value. However, moving into senior living doesn’t mean you’ll lose those relationships. In fact, you just might value them even more. At the same time, a senior community provides new venues for social contact, not to mention onsite help when there’s an emergency.

When Parents Resist Moving to Senior Living

When Parents Resist Moving to Senior Living

When Parents Resist Moving to Senior Living

Your elderly parents say they won’t move out of the home they have lived in for decades.

It’s a common, exhausting scenario. You see signs that your aging parent(s) need help, but they refuse it. They insist that they’re fine on their own, but the evidence and your intuition tell you that’s not true. Perhaps one or both of your parents’ health has taken a turn for the worse. Or, maybe after months or years of being a caregiver, you’re experiencing burnout and see your own health and relationships deteriorating.

Yet, having the conversation and ultimately moving elderly parents to assisted living, or another form of senior living, is probably one of the hardest decisions an adult child will ever have to make. Many seniors unrealistically believe they can take care of themselves for the rest of their lives. That’s why family members can be instrumental in identifying problems and making changes to help their loved ones.

Reasons We Feel Guilty

Even when you know relocating your parents to a senior living community is the right thing to do for their safety and health, guilty feelings may arise.

No matter our age, the role reversal is uncomfortable

For many adult children, their desire is to have their parents remain decision-makers. They often become upset when they have to take over those roles and feel guilty about the role reversal.

The feeling of failed caregiving efforts

For some adult children, the act of moving loved ones into assisted living loudly declares that they can’t handle taking care of their parents. The paradox is that children want nothing more than to ease their parents’ pain and suffering even temporarily sacrificing their own comfort to improve the quality of their parents’ lives.

Not delivering on the promise of never putting your parent in a nursing home

While in the past, you may have made the promise to your parent of never putting them in a eldercare setting, decisions must be made based on what’s best for the parent at the given time. Oftentimes, having a parent move to senior living can be the most loving act a child can do because it can greatly improve the quality of the parent’s life from a medical and social perspective. Parents often thrive in a senior living environment, which may surprise some adult children.

Knowing that we’re asking a lot from our parents

Change is hard for everyone, and a move to assisted living or long-term care is a big change. Suddenly, you’re asking your parents to form new acquaintances, trust professional caregivers, navigate unfamiliar schedules, and acclimate to new environments.

Make It Your Problem…Not Theirs

While a large percentage of adult children fully realize that “earlier is better than later” when it comes to discussing a move to assisted living, many still find themselves putting it off. The harsh reality is that by doing so, delays can often bring about a needless crisis situation, which can result in caregiver guilt and added stress. If you have the discussion early and often, your loved one will be better prepared for the next steps.

As for what to say? Try to make it your problem, instead of your parents’ problem. Clearly express your concern by saying something like, “Mom, I’m concerned about you. It makes me worried to see you like this.” Nine out of ten parents don’t want to burden their children, and will often respond to this sort of honest communication. If you make clear to your loved one that you’re focused on doing what’s best for both of you, it can be easier for them to accept change.

Three Ways to Cope with Guilt

Whether the process goes smoothly or if there are bumps along the way, children often have guilty feelings about moving elderly parents to assisted living or long-term care.

Here are three ways to cope:

1 – Focus on the small victories

Did your parent enjoy a meal or activity in their new home? Do you sleep better knowing they’re less likely to fall in their new surroundings? When guilt creeps in, remind yourself of the benefits of their new home. “Small victories” include excellent palliative care, creating meaningful activities even keeping our parents together as long as possible.

2 – Accept some uncertainty

Being put in the position to make critical arrangements for others is often hugely stressful. When the task concerns relocating your parents to an assisted living community or nursing home a decision with enormous financial and lifestyle consequences the anxiety and second-guessing can be even higher.

3 – Give it time

As with any change, there will be an adjustment period for children and for their aging parents. It will likely take time for your parents’ relocation to senior living to bear fruit. Strike up a conversation with family members visiting their loved ones and ask them how they dealt with the change. Enjoy meaningful moments with your loved one, and restorative time doing what you like to do, during this transition time.

Assessing Your Loved One’s Ability to Complete Activities of Daily Living

Assessing Your Loved One’s Ability to Complete Activities of Daily Living

Assessing Your Loved One’s Ability to Complete Activities of Daily Living

If you recently accompanied your parent to their annual medical check-up, your loved one or you may have been asked if mom or dad needs help with their “ADLs” or “IADLs.” Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are standard concepts that are utilized for senior care. They provide a basis for caregivers to evaluate the independence and capabilities of a senior, and make care decisions accordingly. However, until you first encounter the terms and what they mean, these acronyms and concepts can be an unknown.

What are ADLs and IADLs?

ADLs are basic tasks a person needs to be able to do on their own to live independently. Health issues and aging may make it difficult for seniors to complete certain everyday self-care tasks that are essential to keep them healthy and safe.

The “Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living” is an effective tool used to assess overall health and functional status of older adults and those with disabilities. This system was developed by Sidney Katz and the Benjamin Rose Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1950s, and has been used ever since. Basic ADLs include six essential skills:

1 – Bathing and showering: the ability to bathe self and maintain dental, hair, and nail hygiene

2 – Continence: having complete control of bowels and bladder

3 – Dressing: the ability to select appropriate clothing and outerwear, and to dress oneself independently

4 – Mobility: being able to walk or transfer from one place to another, specifically in and out of a bed or chair

5 – Feeding (excluding meal preparation): the ability to get food from plate to mouth, and to chew and swallow

6 – Toileting: the ability to get on and off the toilet and clean self without assistance

What are instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)?

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, or IADLs, are more complex activities required for senior independent living that often involve thinking and organizational skills. IADLs outlined by the Lawton-Brody scale assessment include:

  • Cleaning and housekeeping, including maintenance and other home care chores
  • Doing laundry
  • Managing money
  • Managing medications and taking medicines as directed
  • Preparing meals
  • Shopping for groceries and other necessities
  • Transportation, including changing residences and moving
  • Using communication devices, including the telephone and computer

Why are ADLs and IADLs important for caregivers?

ADLs represent everyday tasks that challenge both mental and physical capabilities. A person needs to have the physical ability to perform ADL tasks themselves, as well as the planning and mental capacity to conceptualize the tasks and understand what needs to be done.

Conversely, a decline in the ability to complete basic ADLs may not be noticeable until later stages of dementia or physical disability.

Knowing your loved one’s ability to complete ADLs can help you and your aging parent’s doctor answer these questions:

  • Do you or a neighbor need to check on your aging parent routinely?
  • Does your aging loved one need physical therapy?
  • Is your aging parent able to continue living independently?
  • Would moving to an assisted living community be beneficial?

ADLs can also help caregivers and health care professionals understand the level of care needed. The level of care for someone who can’t complete IADLs is different from the care needed by someone who can’t complete basic ADLs.

In some cases, IADL deficiencies may be managed by different service providers, such as a senior meal preparation or delivery service, a housekeeper, or a money management professional. ADLs require more intensive, hands-on care.

Unfortunately, families rarely ask about ADLs until a parent or senior loved one is going through the process of assessment for long-term care. Experts highly recommend bringing up changes in a loved one’s ability to do these tasks when talking with a physician. It’s a good idea to share changes in ADLs with your loved one’s medical team because:

  • A change in an ADL can trigger medical evaluations that may uncover a medical issue. It’s important to understand the root cause of the problem or change in ability.
  • Understanding root causes can help you and your loved one’s doctor work together to find ways to improve function. Some common ways to improve function include medical treatment, physical therapy, or device such as a walker.
  • Understanding ADLs is critical to having an accurate care plan. If your parent’s doctor doesn’t realize there’s a functional problem, the care plan they create may not be in line with your loved one’s abilities. For example, if the doctor isn’t aware that your loved one is sometimes forgetful, then their expectation that your parent can regularly monitor their blood sugar on their own may not be realistic.

How are ADLs and IADLs Assessed?

ADLs and IADLs can be assessed in a variety of ways. Caregiver input can be helpful to create a bigger picture of a person’s functional status. However, caregiver burnout and the tendency to overestimate or underestimate someone’s true abilities can make this method less accurate than others.

Self-reporting can also help get the conversation about ADLs started. No one understands a situation better than the person experiencing it. Self-reporting is especially helpful when individuals have minimal cognitive decline. However, self-report measures leave the results open to a person’s interpretation.

While a health care professional’s report is often believed to provide the most objective view of a person’s functional status, a combination of assessments may fully capture the picture of disability for a given individual.

The three types of ADL assessments physicians use…

Health care professionals commonly use these tools to assess ADLs:

The Katz Index of Independence in Activities of Daily Living – This is the best choice for patients in long-term care, where disability is generally more severe and stable.

The Barthel ADL Index – This assessment covers two additional domains, including grooming and stairs. It’s best suited to acute care settings, as it is more detailed and better detects subtle changes in a person’s health.

The Functional Independence Measure (FIM) – This option is more comprehensive, combining ADLs with IADLs and other domains.

Signs that it’s time to assess ADLs and IADLs

Keep an eye out for specific safety factors when visiting a senior relative, including:

  • Driving – Have there been any accidents or close calls? Do passengers feel worried?
  • Elder abuse – Do you have any concerns about emotional, financial, physical, or verbal abuse?
  • Finances – Are there problems paying bills? Are you concerned about scams?
  • Health – Has your loved one had any falls? Have there been repeated trip to the Emergency Room or hospital?
  • Memory and thinking – Have there been problems with forgetting, getting lost, or wandering? Is there concern about poor awareness or poor judgment?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, it may be time to assess your aging loved one’s ADLs and IADLs, either by a medical professional or from your perspective as a family member.

ADL and IADL Assessment Tips for Caregivers

As you assess your loved one’s ADL and IADL capabilities, follow these tips:

Ask your siblings’, friends’, or neighbors’ opinions

Inquire about any changes you’ve noticed in your loved one’s abilities. Pick two or three people to discuss your concerns.

Assess on a spectrum

Ask yourself whether your loved one can do the task a little bit, sometimes, or often rather than a simple “yes, they can do the task,” or “no, they can’t.”

Be patient

If a person is doing a task more slowly than they used to, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t do the task at all.

Consider the time of day and how tired they are

Many seniors have sharper cognitive abilities and more energy in the morning.

Consider their health

If they’re fatigued or fighting a virus, their abilities can be briefly impaired.

Take the extra time

While it can be common to be in a hurry, and difficult to find the time to make an extended observation, it’s important to take as much time as needed and be patient in order to make an accurate assessment

Look at your own preconceived notions about your loved one

Are they interfering with your ability to make an impartial assessment?

Make the effort to help correct what you can

Ensure your loved one can live life to the best of his/her ability and as independently as possible.

If your loved one is unable to perform daily tasks outlined in the ADLs and IADLs, or if you have other safety factors, it may be time to discuss increasing their level of support or moving to an assisted living community.

ADLs and IADLs: A Checklist for The Elderly

When it comes to assessing ADLs and IADLs, there’s a lot of technical information about different assessments. This can be overwhelming for families to navigate.

  • Ask your aging parent’s doctor if a change in medical plan is required (for example, a complicated diabetes plan may need to be revised).
  • Ask if your loved one qualifies for a service like Medicaid.
  • Ask what’s causing any issues or inabilities.
  • Be aware of your loved one’s true abilities when it comes to ADLs and IADLs.
  • Consider whether the limitations have short- or long-term implications.
  • Help your loved one remain independent as long as possible with adaptive assistance.
  • Seek treatment.

How to get help with ADLs for your loved one

If you’re worried about your loved one’s ability to perform everyday tasks, connect with their doctor to discuss your concerns. It’s important to identify any limitations your aging parent may have, but it’s even more critical to support them by finding solutions to help solve or alleviate those limitations, or by finding the care they need.

Taking these steps will help your loved one to be as independent as possible so they can enjoy a greater quality of life.

In some cases, simple lifestyle adjustments such as hearing or vision aids, physical therapy, or assistive devices to make bathing, transferring, or using the toilet easier can help your loved one perform ADSs independently.

If your aging parent needs additional help, consider contacting The Classic to learn more about how our assisted living services can provide different levels of care to fit your loved one’s needs.

Should I Consider Moving to Independent Living Before I Need Assisted Living?

Should I Consider Moving to Independent Living Before I Need Assisted Living?

Many seniors feel there is no real reason to move into a senior living community unless they need the services and support of assisted living. Their thinking is that as long as they are healthy and mobile, they should continue to live in their own home. They may feel a move to a senior living community is essentially the same as “surrendering.”

There are thousands upon thousands of seniors in independent living communities who will happily dispel that line of thinking. Aside from health considerations, there are definitely some solid reasons to relocate before you actually need assisted living.

1. You lose the constant, nagging worries and the expense of home maintenance.
Take a look around your home. Is everything in good repair, or are there small signs of neglect and deterioration? If you see those signs, that may mean you no longer have the desire or the energy to keep your home in tip-top shape. Perhaps it’s time to move, before your home investment begins to lose value. And a big plus…housekeeping is also included or available in independent living communities.

2. Everyday transportation challenges are overcome.
Maybe your driving isn’t what it used to be. Or maybe you’ve found yourself spending longer in the car to get to the grocery store and pharmacy along with the places you can buy things that are essential to your lifestyle. Either way, an independent living community can radically shrink the distances you have to travel. Combined with access to hair salons, libraries, and other essential services, you may not even need a vehicle.

3. Cooking becomes optional.
Are you tired of cooking? Residents of senior living communities often say that the food is the best part. If you’ve become bored with cooking and cleaning up afterwards, and understand that a steady diet of take-out is probably not meeting your nutritional needs, you will love that delicious meals are included or available in independent living communities.

4. Your social life may blossom.
Are you beginning to feel more and more isolated? Has your circle of friends diminished and does your datebook have several blank pages? Maybe it’s time to make new friends. And one of the best places to make those new friends is at an independent living community.

First of all, the residents already living there are your peer group, which means no more buddying-up to the young couple who moved in next door. Second of all, the social amenities and activities at most independent living communities are second to none. You’ll not only find companionship, but exercise classes, card games, painting classes, movie nights, lunch and dinner outings, music, dancing, and much more.

If you can’t make friends here, you can’t make friends.

5. The transition to assisted living is easier.
You’ve already made the “senior living decision” and probably discovered it was one of the best choices you’ve ever made. If at some point you need it, assisted living is the next step on the journey. Think of it as independent living with more personal services. In assisted living, you can continue to enjoy many of the activities and conveniences you’ve experienced in independent living, and now you know how fulfilling the senior living experience can be.

You may not fully understand this until you’ve made the move, but with independent living, you don’t give up your freedom and independence  you improve it! Independent living can translate to more convenience, enjoyment, peace-of-mind, and yes…independence, than you’ve experienced in a long time.

Downsizing Tips for Transitioning to Senior Living Apartments

Downsizing Tips for Transitioning to Senior Living Apartments

Downsizing to a smaller senior apartment on your own or at a senior living community is multi-step process. If you are moving from your own home, you’ll need to ready it for selling, weed out furniture you no longer want, possibly purchase furniture that fits your smaller space, and find creative ways to make the most of your new square footage.

Plan Ahead

Cut down on stress by preparing well in advance. Depending on the amount of furniture you have and your local housing market, this could be a few months to a few years from the time you actually move out. That means starting the planning process at least 2-3 months down the road. This time frame can be used to sell or donate furniture, measure your current furniture to see how it fits in your new space, and purchase new items as necessary.

Declutter

Ideally, you should begin decluttering your home well before the packing process. You’ll probably notice a lot of stuff you didn’t even know you owned. While some decisions may be easy (that ragged pair of slippers definitely should go in the trash), others require some thought. You might own a few items simply because of abandoned goals. That treadmill in the basement might have once served a purpose, but now it’s become a handy place to hang your clothes. The upside to a senior living community is that you’ll most likely have access to fitness center, so there’s no more need for your own heavy workout equipment. Do you have books that you’ve never read? Donate them and take advantage of the library instead. Use your space for items that you’ll actually use, not remnants of your abandoned resolutions.

Get Rid of Your Items

Once you’ve figured out which pieces need to go, you’ll need to decide whether you want to sell, donate, or put items in storage.

Sell
Your standard, run-of-the-mill items can be sold at garage sales or through online marketplaces. Ideally, you’ll want to set up your garage sale during neighborhood-wide or city-wide garage sale events. If you’re selling online, be sure to include thorough descriptions of your items with size, color, age, exact price, etc. New clothing that has designer labels can typically be sold at consignment stores. Remember that you’re selling these items because you won’t have room for them anymore ⎯ don’t turn down low offers just because of pride. Your end goal is to have all your unwanted items gone by the time you move.

Donate
Your easiest option is to load your unwanted items into your car and drop them off at a thrift store. Not only are you potentially helping out someone in need, but you’re also making your job easier! Some charities will even come pick up your items for you if you can’t make the drive yourself. Locally, Goodwill Stores, Hope Gospel Mission, Bethesda Thrift Shop, and Savers are good donation options.

Store
If you’re on the fence about an item, put it in storage for six months instead of moving it into your apartment in your senior living community. If you haven’t thought about the item in the six months that it’s been collecting dust, it’s time to move on. You can find a storage unit near you and decide if the price of the storage unit is worth it.

Antiques
Some items may be worth a pretty penny, so any items that are rare, old, or collectible should be set aside for appraisal or research. Once you’ve established a price point, you can try selling them online through Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Craigslist, or selling to an antique mall. It may be worth the drive to sell your items to an antique mall in a larger or wealthier city. Keep in mind though that fine china, silverware, and that special china hutch may not necessarily appeal to collectors. Do your research before tying to sell your antiques.

Measure Twice

One of the worst things that can happen during a move is mismeasurements. A couch that can’t squeeze through a door frame or a coffee table that takes up half the room, can represent a real problem. You can prevent these mini-catastrophes from happening in the first place by measuring your furniture and floor plan TWICE before you move. You’ll want to pay particular attention to your bed, sofa, and any other large items that will need to fit through several doorways.

If there isn’t a floor plan for your new residence available online, ask if you can go in and take some measurements yourself. Having a floor plan will help you visualize where windows and doors are when you’re making furniture purchases or planning where furniture will go.

Figure Out In-Home Storage

Once you come to terms with the fact that you’ll have less storage space in your new senior living apartment, the next step is to take inventory of the storage space you will have and determine which items are worth keeping. Keep in mind that many retirement communities offer residents small storage spaces.

When it comes to closet space, realize that if you are transitioning from a walk-in closet to a smaller closet, you may want to hang up clothing items that are in season. Other items can go in the bottom drawer of a dresser or be stored in the top shelf of your closet. Also, using shoe cubbies can help keep your smaller space organized.

Your new senior apartment may have fewer kitchen cupboards. If so, you’ll need to go through and choose your must-haves. Having more than one set of silverware isn’t necessary if you won’t be hosting many meals in your home. Luckily, many senior living communities like The Classic offer restaurant-style dining, with up to three chef-prepared meals a day.

Storage Containers
The best storage containers are stackable, see-through, and made of plastic. That way, you can stack vertically to accommodate your smaller space and easily identify which container you want to remove from the stack. It never hurts to label either.

Tips for Interior Design and Furnishing Small Spaces

Small-space living means you can enjoy shared senior living community living without all the maintenance. And in your private senior living apartment, you can dedicate time to personalizing your senior living apartment space. The following are some interior design tips to make the most of our new apartment.

  • Don’t worry about fitting all your activities into a small apartment. Most retirement communities will have common spaces for hobbies like sewing, painting, woodworking, and more.
  • Purchase furniture that’s multi-functional like a multi-sided book shelf that also works as a coffee table.
  • Use folding chairs that you can bring out when you have guests.
  • Make sure your furnishings are even-toned to make your smaller senior apartment seem more spacious.
  • Use high-mounted elements, like bookcases and cabinets.
  • Use a large china cabinet or hutch to store food if your apartment doesn’t have a pantry.
  • Make the most of movable pieces. Invest in utility carts with wheels so you can shuffle items around as needed.
  • Avoid clutter by storing knickknacks in drawers or…throwing them out.
  • Go for quality over quantity. Find statement pieces that will make the room pop.
  • Invest in ottomans with tops that lift to store blankets and pillows.

Moving into a senior living community gives you more opportunities to visit your new neighbors and cuts down on home maintenance. Plus, you’ll have extra money to spend on new hobbies.

Considering Moving Loved Ones to a Senior Living Community During Covid-19 Pandemic?

Considering Moving Loved Ones to a Senior Living Community During Covid-19 Pandemic?

To some extent, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted nearly everyone’s daily lives across the United States. Seniors have been especially affected due to their increased risk of contracting a serious case of the virus.
 
If you have an older loved one, COVID-19 may put you in a tough situation due to their increased health risk. Seniors need to be even more diligent about social distancing than the rest of the population. This distancing can make it difficult to determine how to handle your loved one’s care while also keeping them safe, especially if they require daily assistance or care.
 
Senior living environments like The Classic that offer independent living as well as assisted living level of services are still the best option for many individuals. Considering the enhanced safety measures senior living communities like The Classic are taking, moving to a senior community may make more sense than living alone and not getting adequate care.

Determining the Appropriate Care Options

Coronavirus spreads easily from person to person, a phenomenon known as “community spread,” which makes apartment complexes and senior living communities an environment in which the virus can thrive. This may make some people hesitant to move their loved one into an assisted living facility right now, even if their loved one needs care.

While senior living communities are implementing strict health and safety measures to prevent community spread, it may be harder to implement the same kinds of policies in your own home. For example, if your elderly loved one lives with you, someone who lives in the home could pick up the virus while running errands and unknowingly pass the virus to your older loved one. Or, if the senior’s main family caregiver gets sick, the family may need to choose whether to potentially pass the illness onto their older loved one or leave their loved one temporarily without care. Additionally, seniors who live alone will most likely be completely isolated for the foreseeable future as people follow social distancing guidelines. This can present dangers for both physical and mental health.

When you consider the steps that senior communities are taking, such as enacting strict social distancing rules and other safety protocols, and the fact that residents don’t need to leave for essentials, your loved one may be safer there right now. Senior living communities also have several caregivers on staff, ensuring that residents will not have to go without care in the event that someone on the staff is unable to work during the virus outbreak.

Who is a Good Fit for Residential Care During Coronavirus?

If your loved one is not currently living in a residential care facility, you may have put plans to move on hold for now. But for many seniors, a senior living community is still the right choice. In general, the following people are good candidates for senior living:

• Seniors who need regular assistance with the activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, or dressing
• Seniors who live alone and have a medical condition that may require urgent attention
• Seniors who have dementia, Alzheimer’s, or another form of memory impairment, as this can make it difficult to follow hygiene protocols
• Seniors living with any family members who are unable to social distance or isolate such as medical professionals, grocery workers, etc.
• Seniors who live with any family member who has traveled internationally in the last two weeks
• Seniors who live in a home with other people who are not isolating, and the senior does not have their own bedroom and/or bathroom where they can isolate

Proper Precautions for Senior Living Communities

The following are a few of the steps many senior living communities like The Classic are taking to protect their residents. It’s important to note that you should always follow the latest guidance from the CDC and local government directives and be sure that you are taking action on reliable information directly from the source.

Visitor Restrictions

At the present time, most senior living communities in Wisconsin continue to have a “no family visitor” policy, whereby family members are not allowed to enter the facility. An exception does allow for no more than 3-4 family visitors to be present on a “move-in” day to help a parent or relative place his/her personal belongings. Visitors must have their temperature taken, complete a short medical questionnaire, and be masked at all times. Also, up to 2-3 family members can be present during an “end-of-life” scenario.

Staff screenings and health requirements

Staff are screened on a daily basis and are being instructed to stay home if they are exhibiting any symptoms of coronavirus or the cold, flu, or any other illness. Since most workers in senior living communities spend time with many different residents throughout the day, if a staff member is sick, the likelihood of them passing the illness along to multiple recipients is high. It is especially important that staff do not work when there’s any chance that they may be sick and could introduce an illness to the facility. Work policies have been adjusted to allow for more flexibility in missing work.

Postponing activities and limiting access to communal spaces

Because residents live in apartment-style units and tend to eat, relax, and congregate in communal areas, it can be difficult to implement social distancing in senior care communities. To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, most communities have either totally postponed or altered group activities for the foreseeable future and have closed common areas like dining rooms. In lieu of closed dining areas, most communities are offering “room service” or some form of “grab ‘n go” dining. Most communities are requiring residents to wear a facemask if he/she is outside of their apartment. In addition, high traffic areas are disinfected multiple times each day and increased placement of hand sanitizer stations is typical.

Resident assessments

Facilities are regularly screening residents for any symptoms of coronavirus, specifically respiratory distress. Daily screening can help facilities catch any cases of coronavirus early and prevent further community spread.

What Exactly is Memory Care?

What Exactly is Memory Care?

Though many assisted living facilities have memory care units on the premises, the two forms of care are not synonymous with one another. Memory care is a more comprehensive type of senior care as it caters specifically to individuals who live with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other types of memory problems. Memory care units generally have 24-hour supervised care within a standalone wing or on another floor of an assisted living facility. The physical layouts of dementia care units are designed to be easy to navigate around, which minimizes the likelihood of wandering. Dementia care units have dedicated programs intended to delay the progression of dementia among their residents.

If your elderly loved one lives with memory problems that hinder their ability to perform the activities of daily living (bathing, eating, medication management, toileting, dressing, and other self-maintenance tasks), it may be time to consider moving them into a memory care unit.

General Assisted Care Services

Safety and well-being is a top priority for all assisted living communities. This is true regardless of whether they cater specifically to dementia care residents or not. A quality senior living facility should offer these primary care services:

• Help with ADLs, such as feeding, dressing, toileting, bathing, grooming, and ambulating
• Three daily meals
• Housekeeping services
• Transportation

Services That Are Specific to Memory Care

Aside from ensuring the safety of their residents, the main objective of dementia care facilities is to slow the progression of memory loss. To achieve this goal, dementia care units offer both standard senior living services in addition to the following:

Safety for wandering or confused residents

• 24-hour supervision
• Secured and/or alarmed premises
• Emergency call systems

Specifically, trained staff

• Medication management
• Nursing staff

Structured Environment

• Cognitive therapies that include music, art, and reminiscence are proven to enhance brain function, communication and social interaction in memory care patients
• Gardens, which help dementia patients feel less trapped
• Health and exercise programs
• Socialization activities

Goals & Benefits of Memory Care

Memory Care is the fastest growing segment of senior care, and for a good reason it offers more than assisted living by providing an improved quality of life, despite the circumstances. In addition to keeping seniors safe and promoting their mental and physical well-being, memory care units offer residents a variety of services that actively work against their memory loss.

Memory Care units have reported other substantial improvements in their residents’ overall quality of life. Some of the more notable enhancements are as follows:
• Decreased falls and injuries
• Reduced need for medications and reduction in medication-related side effects
• Fewer violent episodes
• Fewer emergency room visits
• Increased independence and social interaction
• Enhanced nutrition and reduction in vitamin deficiencies

Comparing Memory Care to Other Types of Long-Term Care

 

Memory Care vs. Assisted Living

Though many assisted living communities have memory care units, assisted living care and memory care are not the same. In assisted living communities, residents are no longer able to perform ADLs on their own due to a progressive impairment. In an assisted living facility, your loved one would receive housing, support services, and health care as needed, as well as medication management, transportation, and if necessary, round-the-clock care.

Memory care differs from assisted living due to the fact that memory care comes with more restrictive, 24-hour supervision. The staff’s training in a memory care unit are also more comprehensive and detailed. Additionally, the physical layouts are designed to better suit the needs of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Assisted living communities are not federally regulated. However, memory care units are federally regulated in 23 states.

Memory Care vs. Skilled Nursing

Like some assisted living facilities, select skilled nursing homes also have memory care units. However, the care offered at skilled nursing homes is directed toward rehabilitation patients or those who do not require long-term care. Staff at these facilities may include speech-language pathologists, audiologists, rehabilitation specialists and physical therapists, among others. The staff ins memory care units, on the other hand, are specifically trained to meet the needs of persons with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other types of memory problems.

Memory Care vs. Residential Care

Residential care homes provide housing, meal services and help with activities of daily living. These facilities, also known as board and care homes, cater to small groups of adults. Though some offer part-time medical care, it is not the primary focus of this type of senior living community.

Signs It’s Time for Memory Care

Deciding to transition an aging loved one to a senior living facility can be tough. However, memory care may be decision to thoughtfully consider. If you need help relieving your guilt over transitioning your elderly parent into a memory care unit, ask yourself the following questions:
• Does your loved one experience incontinence or need help toileting?
• Does your loved one need help with eating?
• Does your loved one need ongoing medical attention, e.g. colostomy care or dialysis?
• Does your loved one require diabetic care?
• Does your loved one wander?
• Does your loved one show aggression or other behavioral issues?
• Does your loved one need 24/7 supervision?
• Is your loved one experiencing Sundowner’s Syndrome?
• What is your loved one’s level mobility? Does he or she walk independently or require a walker or wheelchair?
• Is your loved one getting lost in familiar territory?
• Does your loved one know his or her phone number and address?
• Does he or she forget to lock or shut doors?
• Is he or she forgetting to turn off stove burners or the oven?
• Have you seen a decline in personal hygiene or appearance?
• Is your loved one able to manage his or her own meds?
• Is he or she increasingly suspicious or paranoid?
• Does your loved one experience short term memory loss?
• Does your loved one substitute words that make no sense or forget everyday words, such as “fork” or “toothbrush?”
• Does he or she seem disoriented, even in familiar environments?
• Does your loved one experience delusions or seems depressed?
• Does your loved one have unexplained weight loss?
• Has your loved one forgotten how to perform the most basic of daily tasks, such as dressing, bathing, or cooking?
• Has your loved one become withdrawn?
• Does he or she continuously misplace objects or have to retrace his or her steps?
• Has caregiving for your loved one become too much?

If you answered yes to a handful or more of the above questions, it may be time to talk to your loved one and family members about memory care.

Technology for Seniors in Assisted Living

Technology for Seniors in Assisted Living

Even though seniors may have a lower rate of technology adoption than any other age group, people 55 and older continue to become more digitally connected. According to Pew Research, about 40% of seniors now own smartphones, which is a significant increase from the number of those who died a few years ago and…Internet adoption has risen steadily as well. Today, many assisted living communities, like The Classic, offer Wi-Fi and other technology programs to help seniors make the most of technology. There are many methods that allow your loved ones to improve their use of technology and improve their connectivity and overall well-being while they enjoy life in an assisted living community.

Big Screen Televisions

Today’s big screen TVs come with incredibly detailed pictures, and they’re a perfect addition to your loved one’s living area in an assisted living community. The larger view offered by a big screen is easier for seniors to see, and it’s easy to adjust the sound to accommodate any hearing loss. For seniors that don’t get the chance to travel often, watching travel shows on a large screen can make them feel like they’re going abroad themselves and larger screens are also perfect for senior exercise videos, game shows, and more.

Tablets

Tablets, whether they’re iPads or other similar devices, are lightweight and feature easy-to-use touchscreens. Seniors can use them to play games promoting brain fitness or install apps that make it easy to keep track of health information. Video chat apps can be used on tablets to stay in touch with loved ones, too. These devices actually make reading books more enjoyable since it’s easy to adjust the font size for each individual’s needs. With so many great apps available today, seniors can do everything from viewing photos to learning a new language with the help of a tablet.

Skype, Facetime, and Other Video Messaging Applications

Skype, Facetime, and other video messaging apps help increase interaction with loved ones and friends across the miles, which can keep seniors from feeling isolated and lonely. Maintaining social connections later in life decreases the risk of depression and improves overall physical and emotional well-being. Communicating with family becomes easy with video messaging applications, allowing seniors to see people in real time. Not only can these apps be used on computers, but they’re also available for tablets and smartphones as well.

Beyond offering an excellent method of face-to-face communication, this technology can keep seniors from feeling left out from big family events they can’t attend. For example, someone can use Skype or similar applications to stream a wedding to an aging loved one live, so they don’t miss out on those special memories.

The current Covid-19 situation is a perfect opportunity for seniors to utilize video technology. As the world tries to adapt to the new social realities imposed by COVID-19, it is essential that older adults continue to feel connected to loved ones, friends, and caregivers around them. Regular routines can be altered to include technology. For instance, families can use Skype to enable an older relative to join them for dinner or read bedtime stories. It is also a great time for bonding, especially if a grandchild offers to talk to their grandparents through setting up a Skype account so they can see one another.

Video and Computer Games

Video games and computer games aren’t just for young people as many seniors enjoy them too. Not only are they a lot of fun, but recent studies have found that playing video games may help ward off mild cognitive impairment in seniors. Learning new things by 3-D video games engages the hippocampus of the brain. Some games, such as games played with a Wii Fit, can be used to improve physical health, while others promote social interaction in aging adults. Virtual reality (VR) and altered reality (AR) games and experiences also provide benefits for seniors. With VR, seniors have the ability to visit locations across the world, which allows them to enjoy other places and cultures from home.

Using Social Media to Stay in Touch

Social media sites like Facebook, Google+, and Instagram also offer a great way to stay in touch. Research shows that nearly half of seniors that use the Internet use social networking sites like Facebook. Aging adults can check in with family members, easily see photos, and stay up-to-date on family news by using social media.

Continuing Learning Online

With the help of the Internet, seniors can also continue their education online from their assisted living community. Lifelong learning comes with many benefits, such as improved mental well-being, better health, and an increase in self-efficacy. Having the technology of the Internet at their fingertips makes it easy for aging adults to keep learning, whether they want to take actual college courses, learn a language, or learn a new hobby. Seniors can sign up for college classes with many different online universities, or if they want to go for the free route, sites like edX offer college-level courses free-of-charge. For learning new languages, sign language, or even an exciting new hobby like knitting, YouTube is packed with helpful how-to videos that make if fun and easy to pick up a new skill.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology, from medical alert systems to fitness trackers, offers many benefits for seniors residing on an assisted living property. Fitness tracking devices like bracelets or watches make it easy for aging adults to stay active by keeping track of their steps, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, sleep activity, and more. Medical alert systems can be worn as bracelets or necklaces and set up to alert to alert assisted living staff members and/or family members if the button is pushed by the wearer.

Eight Benefits of Moving to Assisted Living?

Eight Benefits of Moving to Assisted Living?

Moving to assisted living can feel intimidating, overwhelming, and just plain hard. It can mean going through decades of household items, saying goodbye to a family home, and the end of a chapter. It is also the beginning of an awesome new journey with new opportunities and new adventures waiting each day.

You owe it to yourself to take a closer look at assisted living when it’s time to make a move. You may find that assisted living is the best option to maintain or improve your health and overall happiness.

What is Assisted Living?

Today’s assisted living communities are constantly evolving to better serve an active generation of seniors. Many assisted living communities (including The Classic at Hillcrest Greens) offer a continuum of care with services ranging from independent living, assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) and memory care. This “age in place” concept allows residents to stay in a community, even if needs should change over time.

More than just senior living, today’s senior housing options offer a true community where seniors receive the care services that empower them to live independently and ultimately better than ever in retirement.

When is it Time for Assisted Living?

Americans are living and staying healthier longer than ever and many seniors want to live at their homes for as long as possible. However, there are certain signs that may indicate it’s time to move to assisted living.

1. Feelings of isolation or loneliness
More than just occasional loneliness, isolation and chronic loneliness can lead to severe health issues for many seniors. A lack of community can cause depression linked to chronic health issues such as dementia and heart disease. It can also lead to unhealthy behaviors like smoking or abusing prescription medication, and even an increased risk of mortality.
2. A decline in health and increase in frailty
According to AARP, more than 70 million Americans aged 50 and older have at least one chronic medical condition. With age, these chronic conditions require more care and the potential for a chronic health crisis only increases. It’s better for a senior to be in a care community prepared to prevent (and handle, if necessary) a crisis.
3. Financial mismanagement
Seniors often find they cannot keep up with bills, online payments, and other financial concerns. Noticing unpaid bills, an increase in notice from collection agencies, and a growing pile of debt may indicate it is time to make the move to assisted living. Seniors living on their own can also fall prey to financial scams that can put their retirement savings at risk.
4. Hoarding
Hoarding is more than just collecting a lifetime of memories. It’s dangerous, can increase the likelihood of falls and affects seniors between the ages of 55 and 95 three times more than adults between the ages of 34 and 44. Hoarding can block first responders in an emergency, create a fire hazard, and even cause disease from unsanitary living conditions.
5. Poor hygiene
Cleanliness is crucial to overall health and wellness. Aging can make some seniors afraid to bathe as nearly 80% of falls occur in the bathroom. Infrequent bathing and laundry, messy hair, dirty nails, and bad body odor all may indicate it’s time to seek out assisted living.

Why is moving to assisted living better for senior health?

The previously mentioned concerns are all telltale signs that it’s time to consider moving. However, you do not have to wait for these signs to make a move. Finding the right community is time-intensive and you need to be prepared to make the move when the time comes. The following eight benefits to assisted living can help you and your loved ones look forward to your next chapter.

1. Prevent social isolation
Seniors living alone are at a higher risk for social isolation and increased feelings of loneliness and depression. In an assisted living setting, seniors live in a community environment with friends and staff encouraging participation in social events. Almost all communities have dynamic and diverse activity calendars with the residents to take up new hobbies, join a new fitness class, or any other of a myriad of things to do.

2. Easy access to care
Residents in assisted living often need help with activities of daily living, which include dressing, bathing, hygiene, medication assistance, and more. At The Classic, residents have access to around-the-clock care to ensure needs are being met as they arise and each resident is receiving the attention they need and deserve. Every staff member is well-trained to provide the care residents need in a way that protects privacy and promotes dignity.

Care services can be provided a la carte so that each resident receives the care services that he or she needs, when needed. Care plans are regularly reviewed so that the appropriate level of care is being provided at each stage of aging. No matter if it’s managing a complex medication schedule, helping out with the laundry, or having an escort to the restaurant, help is available 24/7.

3. A focus on independence and fun
While these communities are a great place to receive customized care services, assistance is provided with an eye on independence and fun  ensuring residents are doing what they can when they can. Having fun is an important component of aging well. Think of assisted living care like the background to your life. It enables you to live more carefree, more confidently, and with more fun!

4. More free time
It’s time to put aside the housework, yard work, and home maintenance. For many seniors, the burden of home ownership is possible it can just be time consuming, potentially risky, and at times, flat out annoying. Seniors have better things to do than shovel snow, mow the lawn, and clean their house. Assisted living communities are hassle-free. Residents don’t have to worry about the cleaning, cooking, or the shoveling.

5. Delicious meals
Healthy residents are happy residents and meals in an assisted living community like The Classic, are specifically created to benefit senior health. Cooking for yourself can grow challenging. With nutritious meals prepared by talented chefs, residents enjoy delicious meals that are not only good for one’s health, but taste good too. Also, elegant dining rooms encourage meal times with friends, making each dinner not just a meal, but a fun social event.

6. Readily available and safe transportation
When driving becomes unsafe, or car ownership becomes too much of a hassle, assisted living communities offer access to transportation for travel to shopping, dining, events, and doctor appointments. No more shoveling the car of snow, de-icing the windshield, or driving through heavy rains. Trusted transportation gets residents where they need to go and when they need to go.

7. An investment in the future
A move into assisted living is a move into a lifestyle that promotes healthy senior living and opens up a plethora of options for the future if needs should change over time. Each resident has an individualized, custom care plan that is regularly evaluated by a medical team, ensuring that any change in health is noticed as it happens, resulting in early diagnosis and, inevitably, better treatment options.

8. Peace of mind
All of these benefits work together to create the ultimate benefit  peace of mind. Friends and family can rest easy, knowing their loved one is being well care for in a home-like environment where their needs are seen and attended to. Senior themselves rest easier too, with the knowledge that they have a family in their community who is there for them, cheering for them, and helping make the most of every day.

Dealing with Sleep Problems and Dementia

Dealing with Sleep Problems and Dementia

Sleep problems are common in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Lack of sleep can worsen the behavior and mindset of all people, not just those with dementia. Without adequate sleep, we all become more prone to emotional instability as well as physical illnesses. It is important to know what common causes to look for in your loved one. Being prepared and providing useful information to your doctor is incredibly helpful when assessing the root of the problem.

Here’s what to know about what can cause sleep problems, how they should be evaluated, proven approaches that help, and some information about commonly used medications.

Common Causes of Sleep Changes

It’s hard to manage a problem if you don’t understand the cause of it. Several factors can cause people with dementia to have sleep problems. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  1. Sleep changes with aging. Healthy aging adults do experience changes with their sleep as they age. Sleep becomes lighter and more fragmented, with less time spent in deep REM sleep. One study also estimated that starting in mid-life, total sleep time decreases by 28 minutes per decade. These changes are considered a normal part of aging. However, lighter sleep means it’s easier for aging adults to be awakened or disturbed by things such as arthritis pain at night or sleep-related disorders. Aging is also associated with a shift in the circadian rhythm, the body’s inner system for aligning itself with a 24-hour day. Many seniors find themselves tired earlier in the evening and tend to wake up earlier in the morning.
  2. Chronic medical conditions and medications often affect sleep. Studies have found that older adults often experience “secondary” sleep difficulties. Secondary sleep difficulties are sleep problems that may be the result from other underlying health issues. For example, many people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have additional chronic health problems that may be associated with sleep difficulties. Treating underlying causes can drastically improve sleep. Common causes of secondary sleep problems include the following:
    • Heart and lung conditions, such as heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
    • Stomach-related conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease.
    • Chronic pain from arthritis or another cause.
    • Urinary conditions that make people prone to urinating at night, such as an enlarged prostate or an overactive bladder.
    • Mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression.
    • Medication side effects and substances such as alcohol (which is known to disrupt sleep).
  3. Many sleep-related disorders become more frequent with aging. Common sleep-related disorders include sleep apnea and similar conditions known as sleep-related breathing disorders. These may affect 40-50% of seniors. Restless leg syndrome is another sleep disorder that is thought to be clinically significant in 2.5% of people.
  4. Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases change sleep. The brain deterioration associated with various forms of dementia affects the brain’s ability to sleep. In most cases, this causes less time spent in deep sleep and more time spent awake at night. Problems with circadian rhythm system are also increasingly common among dementia patients. There is another disorder called REM sleep behavior disorder, which can cause violent movements during sleep and can even emerge before thinking problems become substantial. Lewy-body dementia and Parkinson’s are often associated with the REM sleep behavior disorder.

Most seniors develop lighter sleep as they age. In addition, many older adults have health problems that prompt nighttime awakenings. Sleep-related disorders, such as sleep apnea, are also common in aging. Seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are likely to be affected by any of these factors that change sleep in older adults. It has also been shown that dementia brings on extra changes that make nighttime awakenings more frequent.

It’s not surprising that sleep problems are so common in people with dementia. Fortunately, there are many things than can be done to improve these circumstances for our loved ones.

How To Diagnose the Sleep Problems of Dementia

Like many problems that affect older adults, sleep problems in a person with dementia are almost always “multifactorial.” In other words, there are usually several underlying issues creating the problem.

Multifactorial problems can be identified, especially if a family and the doctors are diligently keeping an eye on as many contributing factors as possible. Working with the doctors will help them understand what kinds of sleep-related symptoms and problems a loved one is experiencing. The American Geriatrics Society recommends asking your loved one the following questions when evaluating their sleep problems:

  1. What time does your parent normally go to bed at night? What time do they normally wake up in the morning?
  2. Does your parent often have trouble falling asleep at night?
  3. About how many times does your parent wake up at night?
  4. If your parent wakes up at night, do they usually have trouble falling back asleep?
  5. Does your parent’s bed partner say, or are they aware, that your parent frequently snores, gasps for air, or stops breathing?
  6. Does your parent’s bed partner say, or are they aware, that your parent kicks or thrashes about while asleep?
  7. Is your parent aware that they ever walk, eat, punch, kick, or scream during sleep?
  8. Is your parent sleepy or tired during much of the day?
  9. Does your parent usually take one or more naps during the day?
  10. Does your parent usually doze off without planning to during the day?
  11. How much sleep does your parent need to feel alert and function well?
  12. Is your parent currently taking any type of medication or other preparation to them sleep?
  13. Does your parent have the urge to move their legs, or do they experience uncomfortable sensations in their legs during rest or at night?
  14. Does your parent have to get up often to urinate during the night?
  15. If your parent naps during the day, how often is the nap, and what is the duration?
  16. How much physical activity or exercise does your parent get on a daily basis?
  17. Is your parent exposed to natural outdoor light on most days?
  18. What medications does your parent take, and at what time of day or night are they taken?
  19. Does your parent suffer any uncomfortable side effects from their medications?
  20. How much caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, cola) and alcohol does your parent consume each day/night?
  21. Does your parent often feel sad or anxious?
  22. Has your parent suffered any personal losses recently?

Family members may initially feel uncertain about how to answer these questions. So it is probably a good idea to prepare ahead of time so you can get the best help from your doctors on how to handle dementia and sleeping. It is advised that families keep a record of these questions for at least a week. Some families also may be able to use a sleep tracker to gather useful information.

Based on the information above, and after conducting an in-person examination to check for other medical issues, a doctor should be able to place the sleep difficulties in one or more of the following categories:

  1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  2. Excessive daytime sleepiness
  3. Abnormal breathing patterns during sleep
  4. Abnormal movements or behaviors during sleep

It may be necessary to have a sleep breathing study done to test for sleep apnea. Based on the category of the sleep problem and the underlying causes that have been identified, the doctor should then be able to propose a plan for improving sleep difficulties.

Medications and Sleep Problems in Dementia

You may be wondering whether medications can help manage sleep problems in dementia. It is important to first check current medications and make sure they are not negatively affecting a person’s sleep. For example, taking sedating medications during the day may cause an individual to sleep too much, resulting in more time spent awake at night. Additionally, a diuretic offered too late in the day might be causing excessive nighttime urination.

You may simply want to know, “Isn’t there a medication that can be taken in the evening to help my loved one sleep better at night?” Sleeping pills, sedatives, and tranquilizers are often prescribed to help keep people with dementia calmer at night. Antipsychotics prescribed may include, Olanzapine, Risperidal, and Quetiapine. Benzodiazepines include Lorazepam and Temazepam. There are prescription sleeping medications such as Zolpidem. Your doctor may even suggest trying over-the-counter sleep aids, which usually contain some form of sedating antihistamine.

Unfortunately, all these medications might cause some concerning side effects in people with dementia. Specifically, these medications may worsen cognition and increase the risk of falling. The antipsychotics have also been associated in some cases with a risk of early death. In addition, numerous scientific review articles state that in clinical trials, these drugs do not conclusively improve sleep. As such, experts in geriatrics recommend that these medications should generally be avoided and only used as a last resort once behavioral approaches (e.g., setting a routine, more walking, etc.) have been tried.

However, the medications listed below serve as a less-risky alternative:

Melatonin – Melatonin is a hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle. A recent Scottish study found that two milligrams of melatonin per night improved the sleep of people with Alzheimer’s. However, in the U.S., melatonin is a poorly regulated supplement. U.S. studies have found that commercially sold supplements are often of questionable quality and purity, thusly, melatonin may work less reliably in the United States than in Europe.

Trazodone – Trazodone is an older, less-effective antidepressant that is mildly sedating. It has long been used by geriatricians as a “sleeping pill” of choice, as it seems to be less risky than the alternatives.

Although medications are often used to manage sleep problems in dementia, most of them are associated with high risks for serious side effects. It is advised to avoid sedatives until you’ve exhausted all other options. Non-drug approaches, such as plenty of outdoor light, regular exercise, a stable routine, optimizing chronic conditions, and checking for pain, often help. Plus, these approaches usually improve the person’s overall quality of life.

Dementia can cause sleep changes in your loved one. If you notice these changes, it is best to seek medical advice. A doctor may help to determine the cause of the problem as well as provide potential solutions. Find more information about dementia care.