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.

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.