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Helpful Tips

Helpful Tips (5)

Talking to a teen about a family member diagnosed with dementia can be incredibly difficult for caregivers. The approach taken when you have this conversation can help your teen cope effectively with the news and empower them to preserve a meaningful connection with their loved one. 

When to Tell a Teen About a Loved One Diagnosed with Dementia

For most teens, the family member with dementia will be a grandparent or older family member, but for some it may be a parent.  Even if, at some level, a teen had some awareness that the diagnosis was coming, hearing it spoken aloud is a hard-hitting reality. It’s imperative to have the conversation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of dementia is confirmed, so that your teen does not find out “accidentally” from someone else in (or outside) the family; this would compound stress for all and may feel like a breach of trust to the teen.

Beginning the Conversation about Dementia with Your Teen 

Be prepared for the fact that your teen will experience a jumble of emotions from shock and anger to grief and even shame. Many teens feel they can’t talk to their peers about such devastating news. It’s also not uncommon for them to feel like they can’t go to other adults in the family whom they may see as struggling to cope with their own emotions while trying to plan for the family member’s medical care. 

First, plan ahead for when and where you will have the conversation. If at all possible, avoid having the conversation with your teen when they’ve had a lousy day at school, work, or practice. Give them some space at home to recover from their day and then invite them to sit down for a chat.

Second, manage your own emotions. Begin the conversation about a family member with dementia when you feel as centered as possible. Your teen will need your guidance and support; they should not feel like they have to support you. You want to create a safe space for them to experience whatever emotions come-up for them.

Third, be prepared to provide support. Make sure you have resources ready to share with your teen, should they need them. Of course, they can lean on you; also, be able to recommend other family members, community resources, or support groups. The teen probably won’t want this at that very moment, but you can tell them you have these resources ready for them, should they be interested.

What to Say to a Teen about a Loved One with Dementia

When you do speak share the news with your teen, be honest and open from the start. If a rapid decline is expected, let them know this. Be forthcoming with whatever knowledge you have about the family member’s diagnosis. And, remember:

  • Keep information simple; don’t use complicated medical terms. Explain treatment plans in concise terms so the teen knows what to expect going forward.
  • Give only the information you know; don’t speculate. 
  • Be realistic; don’t encourage false hope. There is no way to reverse dementia.
  • Accept your teen’s feelings. They will move through many different ‘feeling states’ during the course of a loved one’s struggle with dementia. 
  • Help the teen to understand changes in behavior, thought process, and personality that can occur in their loved one with dementia.
  • Encourage your teen to utilize appropriate resources to help them learn how to respond as their loved one changes and so they can effectively process their own feelings as these changes occur. 

Some teens will understand more about dementia than others. They may dive into researching information to better understand how their loved one will be affected. Others may not want to know any details about the diagnosis. These are both coping strategies. For most teens, it may be helpful to have a family meeting with the medical providers or medial support staff who can answer questions and provide more specific advice to help you teen cope.

What Can Your Teen Do Once They Learn of a Family Member with Dementia?

In the days and weeks that follow the news about a family member having a diagnosis of dementia, your teen may wonder how they should act around this person. What should they—or shouldn’t they—say or do? 

Teens often will be concerned about how their own behavior may affect the family member with dementia. Additionally, the teen will be concerned about the safety and quality of life of the family member with dementia. This is a lot for a teen to think about on top of all the usual excitement and stress that comes with being a young person on the verge of adulthood. 

Help Teens Stay Connected with a Family Member with Dementia 

There are quite a few things that your teen can do to help them maintain meaningful interaction with their loved one who has dementia include:

  • Continue with usual routines, such as a weekly visit, with the family member with dementia.
  • Play simple games such as cards, puzzles or even rolling a ball back and forth
  • Bake cookies or muffins.
  • Play with molding clay or even Play-dough.
  • Enjoy time outdoors by taking a walk or sitting in the park.
  • Look at photos or create a memory box or scrapbook.
  • Watch re-runs of their favorite TV show.

If the teen does not live near the family member, these approaches can help them maintain connection:

  • Write letters to the family member with dementia. Letters can be read by, or to the adult with dementia. It creates a more meaningful connection than email or text. If the family member can use technology, it’s okay to text or email as long as it is medically prudent to do so. 
  • Call and leave a voice message. Frequent calls and voice message can be appropriate ways to let a loved one know they are in your thoughts. Video calls are another good option. 
  • Send a care package. Everyone loves to receive goodies in the mail. Include art or and photos or other personalized items that the teen creates, if desired. Be sure to check with medical providers for items that should not be sent.
  • Plan a visit. It is really hard to know for sure how quickly a person will decline with dementia. Don’t delay in planning an in-person visit. 

There are many other activities that a person with dementia can continue, depending upon the degree to which the illness is affecting them. Be sure to check with your family member’s medical support team for specific suggestions.

As you and your teen navigate the care of a family member with dementia, encourage your teen to talk or journal about their experiences and emotions. When necessary, meet with a grief counselor as a family. And remember, as you demonstrate healthy emotions and model ways of maintaining connection, you will help your teen work through their own concerns and feelings about how dementia will affect their loved one.

Everbrook Senior Living Helps Families Cope with a Dementia Diagnosis

When it comes to the support a family needs to cope with dementia diagnosis, the staff at Everbrook Senior Living go above and beyond to provide resources and support for all. We, too, are son and daughters, nieces and nephews, of person’s who have been placed in long term care due to dementia. We are available and approachable – often giving out our cell phone numbers as we help families navigate challenges that come with declining health due to dementia. You can trust in our healthcare experience; you can count on our compassion. Learn more about our Memory Care services and our EGIS program.

Resources 

Parent Guide to Helping Children and Teens Understand Alzheimer’s Disease

https://www.alz.org/documents/national/brochure_childrenteens.pdf 

Alzheimer Society. Helping Teens Understand Dementia

https://alzheimer.ca/en/help-support/i-have-friend-or-family-member-who-lives-dementia/helping-teens-understand-dementia 

When a Friend or Family Member Has Dementia: Resources for Kids and Teens

https://www.alz.org/help-support/resources/kids-teens 

Fresh air and colorful fall foliage make the autumn months ideal for spending time outdoors. An excellent way for older adults to be active outside is to become involved with a volunteer project in their local community. When senior citizens become active in doing good deeds for others, their health and well-being improve! 

Someone who chooses to do volunteer work does so because they believe it makes a difference for others who are having a harder time in life. Research shows that such altruistic behavior also makes the volunteer feel good about themselves. Volunteerism helps give a person a refreshed perspective on their own life and a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves.

Beyond just feeling good in that moment of doing a good deed, volunteering also has lasting effects on several aspects of an older adult’s physical and social-emotional health and well-being.

Older Adults Volunteers Experience Improved Social Well-being 

The isolation that comes from not feeling a sense of belonging and having a community that one can rely on is detrimental for an older adult’s health. Seniors who spend too much time alone can become depressed and anxious, which can contribute to other health problems. 

When older adults get involved with volunteer work they experience benefits for their social well-being, such as:

  • Stronger sense of community and personal connection to people and resources 
  • Opportunities to create genuine friendships
  • Reduced feelings of loneliness and isolation

Older Adult Volunteers Have Enhanced Emotional Well-being 

When older adults are active in their community, using their time and talent to give back to others, it reinforces a sense of urgency, brings meaning to their life, and helps them acquire perspective on how much living and giving they still have left to offer. The emotional benefits of volunteer work for older adults include:

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Greater sense of worthiness
  • Reduced feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Regaining a sense of purpose and meaning

Older Adult Volunteers Experience Positive Changes in Their Physical Health 

In general, people who volunteer are more physically active; have lower rates of heart disease, depression, anxiety; and overall take better care of themselves. 

A few of the many physical health effects that come from being engaged in volunteer work include:

  • Being more physically active and improving fitness
  • Enhanced resilience
  • Less affected by muscle tension
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

There are many ways for older adults to become active volunteers in their local community. Everbrook community program directors are always looking for local events. You may also reach out to your local library, children’s home, or food shelter to see what type of help they need. Perhaps you have a hobby or skill from your professional experience that can benefit a local non-profit. Maybe you want to try something new; volunteering is a great way to learn a new skill! Find a cause that is meaningful for you and get involved—you’ll be helping others and helping improve your health, too! 

Everbrook Senior Living Residents are Active Members of a Community

At Everbrook, we believe that interdependence helps to preserve independence. We encourage our residents to become involved in their community, both at and outside of their immediate residence. 

Our caring and dedicated team will help residents discover what is significant in their life. Residents, with as much support as is needed for their functional status, can become involved, active, and healthier through a variety of activities at Everbrook and in the community beyond Everbrook. The hub for these opportunities is our Wellness 4 Later Life™ program, which encompasses seven dimensions of wellness: physical, spiritual, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, and environmental, as are advocated by the International Council of Active Aging

If you are looking for a senior community where you'll experience mutual respect and support among residents, as well as a place where all residents experience belonging, and can find meaningful ways to be involved in life, then please visit an Everbrook Senior Living community today. 

Resources

NationalService.gov. “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A review of Recent Research.” Corporation of National & Community Service. Accessed 13 Oct 2018: https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf

Thebalancesmb.com “The 15 Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering that will Inspire You.” Accessed 13 October 2018: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/unexpected-benefits-of-volunteering-4132453 

CreateTheGood.org “Health Benefits of Volunteering.” Accessed 13 Oct 2014: http://createthegood.org/articles/volunteeringhealth 

Carlson, Michelle C., Erickson, Kirk I., Kramer, Arthur F., et al., “ Evidence for Neurocognitive Plasticity in at-risk older adults: The Experience Corps Program.” Jls of Gerontology: Series A, (1 December 2009) 64A:12, Pages 1275–1282, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glp117

 

 

 

Residents in senior living communities often delight in receiving visitors, especially when those visitors include children. Even so, it can be quite difficult, emotionally, to bring the kids along to a long term care facility. With a little preparation, patience and compassion, a family’s first visit to an elder care community can be made meaningful for all family members—especially for the elder and grandchildren.

Your aging loved one, who is residing in long term care, may have changed a great deal as a result of their physical and emotional health. They may display different behaviors, personality changes, and memory deficits that even the most well-prepared adult can struggle to see. So, how do you prepare a child for their first visit with a grandparent who is residing in an elder care community?

Prepare the Kids Before they Arrive at the Senior Living Facility

A few days before the visit to see their grandparents or other aging loved ones who are in residence at a senior living facility, invite the children to sit down and talk about the upcoming visit. Start by asking the children what they remember most about this family member. Reinforce that those positive qualities and memories they have will always be in their hearts, and the elder’s heart, too. It just might be harder for grandma or grandpa to remember all of those wonderful memories.

Talking with Very Young Kids about a Loved One in Elder Care

For very young kids, under the age of 10, you’ll want to remind them of the physical and cognitive limitations the older adult has, but in simpler terms. Rather than giving the kids a long list of “Don’ts” (Don’t jump on grandpa, don’t try to dance with grandma, don’t leave your shoes on the floor in her room)… focus on the person they are visiting and the kind of caring attention they need from all family visitors:

Grandma is not as strong as you are. You are much younger. Remember to be gentle with your hugs and handshakes.

Grandpa is not able to run and jump and play like he once did. While he can’t play catch with you, he can play cards and board games. It would be nice to bring some games with us. 

You know how we all forget things from time-to-time? (Give an example of forgetting items at the grocery store or leaving things at school) Well, Mimi’s memory is not so great anymore. That can happen when you get older and have SO many memories in your head. They can get mixed-up. She might even forget your name! Just remind her and try not to get upset that she forgot; she feels badly when she does not remember. Just encourage her to learn your name again while we are there and she may start to recall all kinds of great memories with you.

Sometimes granny or pappy gets easily upset if his things are touched or moved around. You know, how you sometimes get upset when someone takes your toy without asking. It’s a good idea to ask before you touch things in the room.

Remember not to give pap pap any food or candy, even if he asks for it. He has to follow a special diet that help his medications work best.

It is a good idea to let the children speak to the elder family member by phone a few times before you arrive. This may lead to any questions about how the grandparent sounds or speaks.

Talking with Older Kids about a Loved One in Elder Care

Children age 10 and up can handle more information, including basic medical information. You might say: 

Nana has a medical condition called “_____” which affects her ability to (remember, walk, speak for long periods, breathe easily) and can make them feel (tired/easily agitated/sad). 

Allow older kids the time to ask questions. If they are teenagers, they may be keen on learning more. You can research information online; the health association websites for particular medical conditions are a good place to start (Alzheimer’s Association, for example).

Regardless of the age of our children, always be honest with them and use age-friendly language. Remember to emphasize why your loved one is living in an elder care community and how their life is being made better (more comfortable, convenient) there because they live with other people in similar situations and can receive the daily living care and healthcare that they need. 

Inform the Community of Your Planned Visit

This is a step that families don’t often think about when they visit a senior living or long term care facility with children. Yet, it’s important that the facility know the age of the children coming to visit and when you will be there. The facility concierge can inform you of the schedule of the day, may have tips to share about making the visit go smoothly, alert you to any events or gatherings at the community, and prepare you if there have been unexpected changes in your loved one’s health. 

Some elder care communities will have a special area for families with young children to meet, especially if your loved one’s room is not spacious enough for more than a few people. These spaces can give young children a little extra room to roam, to observe, and to try to make sense of their grandparent’s new situation.

Plan an Activity

As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to bring an activity that your child and the elder family member can share together. Sometimes the community will have these things on site, as well. Bring an activity that will keep your child busy if they become uncomfortable or bored, such as a digital device, a favorite toy, or something else they really like to do.

Some other activities include:

  • Card games
  • Simple puzzle
  • etch-s-sketch
  • coloring books
  • Molding clay
  • Board games
  • Singing, if there’s a holiday celebration
  • Make decorations (snowflakes, snowman made of cotton balls, painted eggs)

If the weather is nice, plan to walk (or transport in a wheelchair) your family member outside for fresh air and conversation.

You might also bring pictures to serve as conversation starters and recollection of fond memories from days past. 

A Word About Taking Photos

Of course, you want to capture memories with your elder family member. Do be prepared for the possibility that the elder or the children may not want to take photos. The elder may not want to be remembered as being ill. Likewise, even some teenagers have trouble seeing their grandparents in a weakened state and standing alongside for a photo may make them uncomfortable. Now is not the time to argue, but to accept their wishes and continue to have a happy visit.

Every Everbrook Senior Living community is intentionally designed to meet the needs of your elder family member in a compassionate, vibrant and caring atmosphere. From personal and health care needs to dining, recreation, wellness and therapeutic activities, your family member has access to all the services they need to experience the best quality of living throughout their older adult years. All of us here at Everbrook understand what it means to care for an older adult, both those in good health and those whose health is in decline. We are committed to providing a community for elders and their beloved family members where authenticity, trust, compassion, and respect are paramount. 

If you are considering elder care for your aging loved one, contact us to schedule a visit at one of the Everbrook Senior Living communities.

Resources

Elder Care Alliance  https://eldercarealliance.org/blog/tips-for-bringing-kids-to-visit-elder-care-communities/

Today’s Caregiver  https://caregiver.com/articles/nursing-home-visits/ 

This month we are celebrating the health benefits of sleep for mind and body! National Sleep Awareness Week is March 13-19, 2022—it’s the perfect time for older adults to learn new ways to improve their sleep routine.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, adult sleep habits were affected in many ways. Some people slept more while others didn’t sleep enough. Many of us were tossing and turning through the night. Additionally, many adults got into some pretty poor sleep habits… staying up late or falling asleep in front of a mobile device. 

Poor-quality sleep is detrimental to the health of the brain and the body. In fact, there’s 25 years of scientific research that supports the health benefits of good sleep hygiene for adults (and kids, too). 

How Do We Know Sleep is Good for Health? 

In order to understand the effects of sleep deprivation on our physical and mental health, scientists study how the brain and body respond when we don't sleep enough. 

Insufficient Sleep Increases Risk for Illness

Insufficient sleep increases a person’s risk for chronic disease. When you get less than 8 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis you raise you risk for:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease and stroke
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • colds, flu, and respiratory illness
  • obesity
  • cognitive impairment

While You Were Sleeping: How Does Sleep Affect Health?

No matter your age, sleep effects brain chemistry and the hormones that circulate through your body. Put another way, sleep influences the functioning of the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. 

When you get sufficient, quality sleep a lot of amazing things happen in your body:

  • the brain develops and reinforces brain pathways that are involved in memory, learning, and emotion
  • the body manufactures hormones that are involved in repair and growth, and which help minimize the effect that stress can have on our physiology. These hormones support the health of the liver, the development of muscle and bone, that break down fat, and the regulation of blood sugar
  • the immune system gets a boost so that it is more effective at fighting infection 
  • the body works to decrease inflammation, which protects us from chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease
  • the metabolic system manages hormones that the body relies upon to regulate appetite 

As you can see, sleep affects a lot of what goes in the body and how healthy (or unhealthy) your body can be.

How Much Sleep Does an Older Adult Need?

Throughout the lifespan, the amount of sleep we need changes. Also, regardless of age, the amount of sleep you need is influenced by the quality of the sleep you do get, your activity level, and genetics (e.g., some of us really are night owls). Adults typically need 7 to 9 hours of sleep with older adults on the lower end of the range. A very physically active older adult might need more than a sedentary or less active older adult. 

5 Tips to Help an Older Adult Develop and Maintain Good Quality Sleep

The following tips can help older adults maintain good quality sleep habits:

  1. Stick with a Sleep Routine. A sleep routine includes soothing pre-bedtime rituals or steps each night, such as a warm bath, reading (in another room), meditation, or gentle stretching. You’ll want to go to bed and wake at the same time each day. This not only makes it easier to fall asleep, it teaches your body when to expect sleep. 
  2. A note about napping. We all know seniors enjoy their naps. It’s best (for anyone) to nap before 5:00 PM and to limit naps to 20 minutes.
  3. Create Sleep Ambience. The room you sleep in should be quiet, dark, and cool (between 60˚ - 72˚). If you have issues with outside lighting penetrating the room, use blackout shades or wear an eye mask. 
  4. Move Your Body. Compared to exercising late at night, exercising early in the day or early evening (before 7) makes it easier for most people to fall asleep. Exercise also increases the amount and quality of deep sleep you get.
  5. Maintain an Active Sex Life. Regular relations can improve sleep quality so don’t use your time between the sheets to negotiate new car insurance or discuss vacation plans.

The Golden Rule for A Good Night's Sleep: You should only be in bed for two things—sleep and making whoopie! Any other activities performed in bed (reading, computer work, phone calls) can disrupt sleep hygiene.

What Else Can You Do to Improve Sleep?

  • Remove electronic devices from your room. Research shows that, when used within an hour of bedtime, TV and digital devices have a negative effect on sleep quality.
  • Sleep on a mattress and pillows that are comfortable and supportive.
  • Finish eating meals 2-3 hours before bedtime. A light snack an hour before bedtime is okay. Avoid salty, hot, fried, sugary, and saucy foods that require more energy from digestion.
  • Try to limit how many caffeinated products you consume in the afternoon.
  • Alcohol and nicotine in your body can disrupt sleep and can cause nighttime waking. For optimal sleep, don’t use them close to bedtime or avoid them altogether.

A good guide for determining your sleep requirement is this: If you do not wake up feeling refreshed, you may not be getting enough, proper sleep.

Are you Sleep Deprived?

Stay tuned next month as we'll be discussing how sleep deprivation in seniors can mimic signs of dementia. If seniors can't get better rest, and if symptoms don’t resolve it may be time to consult your doctor, and even consider memory care or assisted living services.

Sources

Gottlieb DJ, et al. Association of Sleep Time with Diabetes Mellitus and Impaired Glucose Tolerance, Archives of Internal Medicine. 2005 Apr 25; 165(8): 863.

King, CR et al. Short Sleep Duration and Incident Coronary Artery Calcification, JAMA, 2008: 300(24): 2859-2866. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19109114

Cohen S, et al. Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold, Arch of Intern Med. 2009 Jan 12; 169 (1):62-67.

Spiegel K, et al. Impact of Sleep Debt on Metabolic and Endocrine Function, Lancet. 1999 Oct 23: 354(9188): 1435-9.

This month’s topic for Gym Talk is "Heat Safety Awareness".

Hot weather can be dangerous, and seniors over the age of 65 are among those most at risk for heat exhaustion. Now that the hot weather has arrived it's important to know the signs of heat exhaustion and how to stay cool.

The human body regulates temperature through sweating, until exposed to more heat than the body can handle. As you become older the ability to notice changes in your own body’s temperature decreases. Others at risk for heat illness include infants and young children, people who are ill, those with chronic health conditions or on certain medications, and people who are overweight. Health conditions can make the body less able to adapt to the heat. Also, some medicines can contribute to dehydration.

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