Care & Share

Welcome to our Care & Share blog! This blog features care advice for caregivers, family members, and friends of those with dementia. We also have information on caring for caregivers. If there’s a topic you would like to see addressed, please let us know! You can give us a call at 901.854.1200 or email our Program Director, Sheri Wammack at sheri@pagerobbins.org.

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  • December 31, 2018

    Transitioning to Long Term Care

    Moving your loved one into a dementia care residence or skilled nursing home is difficult for all parties involved.  Here’s some suggested Dos and Don’ts to make the transition easier for you and your loved one.  If you have questions about your specific situation, please give us a call at 901-854-1200.  We’d be happy to help.

    DON’T buy all new furniture, bedding, and décor.  You may think shiny, new home goods will make the room look more inviting to your loved one, but you’ll be breaking the bank when your loved one will most likely prefer their tried and true possessions.

    DO furnish the room with familiar and well-loved comforts of home.  Take your loved one’s bed if it will fit.  Use sheets, blankets, and pillows that have the smell of home.  Don’t wash these things prior to making the bed at the new place.  The familiar scent and feel will make for a better first night’s sleep.  If possible, take your loved one’s favorite comfortable chair.  Bring a cozy blanket for chilly nights.

    DO bring copies of pictures and/or picture books.  Make copies of the original pictures, so if they are misplaced, you’ll still have the original.  Create a photo book through Walgreens, Shutterfly, etc.  We’ve seen families create a life story book filled with pictures and captions of loved ones, special places, and milestones throughout the years.

    DO label everything.  Limit the clothing you take.  It’s easy for clothing to get messy and get lost.  Hang shirts, pants/skirts on the hanger together as a set.  Label socks on the bottom of the foot.  Label underwear.

    DON’T take anything that you would be upset if it disappeared or was damaged.  Please be sure that nothing of significance is in your loved one’s wallet (social security card, credit card, etc.).  The facility will have a “bank,” so your loved one won’t need cash.  If you need to leave cash, try not to leave more than $10.  Also, swap out real jewelry for costume jewelry.

    DON’T move on the weekend.  Generally, there are fewer management staff available.  You want to have the best first couple of days you possibly can.

    DO make alternate plans for your loved one on moving day(s).  It’s difficult to see your things boxed up and moved around.  Move your loved one’s things while they are otherwise occupied to minimize their stress (and yours!).  If your loved one is attending an adult day program, get everything moved in and get the room ready while he/she is at the day program.  You may feel like you need to discuss everything and get their permission, but this is likely not one of those situations.

    DO share bullet points of a typical day with facility staff.  Here’s an example:

    • 7 am – Wakes up, likes his coffee with 2 big splashes and cream and 2 teaspoons of sugar
    • Prefers to bathe before bed
    • Might nap after lunch but otherwise doesn’t nap much during the day
    • Enjoys playing cards in the afternoon
    • Likes to talk about his grandson
    • Storms and loud noises make him anxious – listening to music usually makes him feel better
    • 8:30 pm – goes to bed with the TV on

    DO inform your loved one’s physician that you are making the move.  If your loved one is prone to anxiety and/or displays high levels of agitation during the transition, the physician may want to prescribe something to help.

    DO ask the facility for tips and ideas.  Trust that the facility has helped many people make this place home.  They may have good suggestions on when to visit, how often to visit, and ways for you and your loved one to adjust.

    DO be patient with the transition and with yourself.  It may take a while for your loved one to settle in.  That’s okay and to be expected.  Know that if this isn’t the right place, you can make a move.  You’re making the best decision you can with the information you currently have, and it’s enough!  It’s okay to change your mind.

    October 29, 2018

    Support Group Benefits


    Recently, I sat in a Page Robbins support group, and one caregiver mentioned that a way she takes care of herself is by coming to support groups. She asked: “Why doesn’t everyone else come to these meetings? I know we aren’t the only people that need support.” That got me thinking about the perception of support groups. Most people probably think that support groups are going to be depressing – nothing but crying and sharing. That they’re not worth the drive or rearranging your schedule.

    In reality, there may be some crying and quite a bit of sharing at support groups. But they are also so much more than that. They can be fun, enlightening, meaningful, helpful, and more. Here’s some benefits of support groups that may surprise you:

    Kindred Spirits
    You are not alone. There are others who get it – who are feeling and experiencing the same things you are. There’s a difference between knowing you are not alone and experiencing it in-person. It’s immensely helpful to interact with others who understand.

    Social Connection
    Let’s be honest. Caregiving can be isolating. Caregivers often don’t have time or energy to go out and do social things, like get coffee or dinner with friends. Support groups can be an outlet for worry-free social time. Bonus: you don’t have to look fancy or spend a bunch of money. Many of our support groups offer a laidback social atmosphere.

    Friendship
    We have seen some great friendships form from support groups. If you think about it, often our closest friends are the ones with which we share things in common. What better friend than someone who is navigating or has navigated a similar journey?

    Honesty
    There are not many places you can be honest about your caregiving. The highs. The lows. The struggles. The things you never thought you would have to do. You can lay it all out. No embarrassment or shame. It’s REAL conversation.

    Humor
    Yes, there are tears shed in support group, but there is often laughter as well. It is so important to find humor in life. Others can help you do that! Laughter is good therapy. Laughing with others is even greater therapy.

    Feeling of Purpose
    Not only will you receive help, but you can also extend help to another. You may meet another caregiver who needs your help. You may meet another caregiver who is going through something you have already experienced. You can lend your experience and understanding.

    Empowerment
    You can find the support you need to get through another day, another week, another month. You can learn about resources. You can learn best practices. You can find a network of support. You can be empowered for the days ahead.

    Have we convinced you yet? Are you ready to join us for a support group? You can find a list of the current month’s support groups here. We would love to see you there! Don’t see a support group that matches your schedule or preferences? Let us know. We’re always looking to make our support groups better and welcome your suggestions.

    The Alzheimer’s Association has a tool that allows you to search for a support group near you. Find that tool here.

    September 19, 2018

    Finding Joy


    Dementia is a hard. It’s hard for the person diagnosed: learning to adapt, trying to keep up appearances, coping with the loss of their own abilities. It’s hard for caregivers: constantly grieving little losses of their loved one, stressing over important decisions, losing sleep, answering the same questions repeatedly. Because dementia makes life so difficult, many families lose their joy. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to still find joy in each day.

    7 Ways to Find Joy in the Day:

    1. Live in the moment.
    Turn on your loved one’s favorite music, turn up the volume, and dance. Watch a favorite movie. Go for a drive and get an ice cream cone.

    2. Focus on the good times.
    There are difficult days ahead, but instead of dwelling on the bad, focus on the positive. Hold on to those good and funny moments. Write those moments down on Post-It notes or in a journal and come back to them when you need a reminder.

    3. Pick your battles.
    Not everything is worth arguing over. Give in when you can. Ice cream for dinner – why not?! Arguing takes up time and energy that you don’t have and leads to frustration on both sides. (When appropriate) give in!

    4. Spend time with friends and family.
    Invite friends and family over. Even if your house isn’t clean, even if you look a hot mess, and even if your fridge is bare! Company is good for our souls. Ask one or just a few people over at a time, so your loved one doesn’t get overwhelmed. Offer coffee and a dessert (or ask your guest to pick up dessert at on the way). Focus conversation on fun times spent together. Share funny stories.

    5. Do an activity with your loved one at home.
    Look through old photo albums. Remind your loved one of stories the pictures tell instead of asking him/her a bunch of questions about the picture. Check out our previous blog post with other fun activity ideas. The possibilities are endless.

    6. Go on a mini adventure.
    Walk through an art show. Visit a museum. DIY your own driving tour of Memphis. Sit by Patriot Lake at Shelby Farms or sit in The Peabody Lobby and people watch. Ask your Facebook friends for new restaurant recommendations, and then go try them all.

    7. Go for a walk.
    LR Knost said, “When life feels too big to handle, go outside. Everything looks smaller when you’re standing under the sky.” Fresh air and exercise is good for everyone. You don’t have to talk or force conversation. Just walk. Hand in hand.

    There will be plenty of grief, worry, and struggles with dementia. When you can, choose to enjoy the moment. Decide to share a laugh with your loved one. Share fun memories. And if you have ANY doubt that those affected by dementia can have joyful moments and great days, come see us at Page Robbins. There is much joy within these walls, and we would be happy to help you find it!

    Also, be sure to check out this TED talk by Beth Fauth on Finding Joy on an Alzheimer’s Reality.

    August 30, 2018

    Guard Your Words


    All too often we hear caregivers talk about their loved one with dementia as if that person is not there. What caregivers don’t realize is the impact words still have on their loved one. I don’t think family members are ill intentioned and meaning to talk about their loved one in a negative way. Families are stressed and seeking help and connection with others when they can get it.

    Research shows that those with dementia (even those in the final stages) can understand what is being said. Let’s reemphasize that point because it’s so important: THEY CAN UNDERSTAND YOU. They may not understand everything you say, but bits and pieces sink in, and you never know which those will be.

    When talking with someone with dementia it is so important to be respectful. Do not talk about that person as if he/she is not there. Instead, try to include your loved one in the conversation to the extent possible. It’s demeaning to have a conversation about your loved one in front of him/her.

    Imagine this: you hear your spouse talking on the phone with a friend about your bad habits. What is your reaction? It’s a horrible feeling to hear yourself talked about negatively. You would not be happy with your spouse or the friend. However, we do this to our loved ones. He/she is standing next to us, and we discuss recent behaviors with others.

    Always assume that they can understand what you are saying.

    Or how about this example: you take your loved one to the doctor and start unloading about your loved one’s recent behavioral issues and changes in functioning. I don’t know about you, but if I ever take my husband to the doctor with me and the doctor asks about my diet and exercise, my husband better sit VERY quietly next to me as I talk about my excellent diet and exercise (even though the truth is that I just finished a Snickers in the car). I would be furious if my husband outed me to the doctor. Wouldn’t you?!

    Instead of talking to the doctor in front of your loved one, have a private discussion with the doctor to talk about issues that might make your loved one feel embarrassed.

    Even those who cannot express themselves verbally can still understand what is being said.

    In an article in Coming of Age Magazine, summer 2018 issue, Brian LeBlanc writes about his experience as a person with dementia and how he is trying to erase the stigma associated with the disease. He often hears the words, “I know you may not remember, but…,” before someone tells him something. He says that he hears people ask, “So, how is he doing?” when he is standing right there and could answer for himself. He talks about how people assume that he can’t answer for himself. He feels “dismissed.” “I was shoved in a corner as if I didn’t matter.” This is NOT how we want our loved ones to feel.

    Talk TO your loved one. Speak words of love. Words of affirmation. Words of affection. Words of kindness. Words of acceptance. Words of understanding. Words of respect. If you must talk about your loved one, do so as if they fully understand what you are saying. The more that we treat our loved ones with respect, the more others will see that and follow suit.

    (You can find issues of Coming of Age Magazine here. Brian’s article is in the Summer 2018 issue starting on page 20.)

    July 30, 2018

    Activities for Meaningful Engagement


    Activities are a great way for you to engage with your loved one. Engagement is any time a person with memory loss joins in on the conversation, the action, and/or the process. Your loved one with memory loss needs to feel like he/she belongs and needs to feel productive. Those with memory loss still have something to contribute. Let’s show them they belong and that they still matter.

    Here’s a list of more than 70 activities for your loved one with memory loss. Activities for lots of different spaces, occasions, and times are included. Keep in mind, it’s about the process and NOT the finished product. You may have to re-fold the laundry or eat cookies that are misshapen and weird sizes, but that’s OK.

    Be flexible. And ask yourself: What’s more important? Perfectly folded towels and magazine-worthy cookies, or laughter and conversation with mom?

    Here’s the list in PDF form
    Here’s the list in Word form

    Check out this previous blog post on activities if you want to learn more.

    Morning Activities

    • Wake them up with music instead of a blaring alarm
    • Bring juice or coffee to the bedroom for them to smell and taste as they are waking
    • Sing a morning song (example: Oh, What a Beautiful Morning)
    • Have them pick between two outfits that you preselected the night before
    • Read the newspaper or a paper devotional
    • Watch the sun rise
    • Sit outside or by a window and bird watch

    Personal Care Activities

    • Create a clean, spa-like environment in the bathroom by clearing away all unnecessary products and having a nice bathrobe on hand
    • Call bath time, “spa time” or “water therapy”
    • Play music
    • Sing
    • Give a hand massage with a lotion that has a favorite scent
    • Give an in-home manicure

    Food and Kitchen Activities

    • Polish the silver
    • Fold towels, napkins, dishcloths
    • Load and unload the dishwasher and wash dishes
    • Set the table
    • Butter the bread
    • Make a salad with ingredients pre-cut (fruit salad, lettuce salad, pasta salad, etc.)
    • Cut out biscuits or separate canned biscuits
    • Clip coupons and search grocery ads
    • Shake heavy cream until it turns to butter, stir in a pinch of salt for fresh butter
    • Use a bread maker for a fresh bread sensory experience
    • Make banana pudding with instant pudding mix, layered vanilla wafers, and bananas cut with a plastic knife
    • Make cookies
    • Mix pumpkin pie filling and pour into pre-made pie crust
    • Snap beans, shell peas, and shuck corn from your farmer’s market bounty
    • Make fresh lemonade
    • Make homemade ice cream
    • Make guacamole
    • Have afternoon tea

    Activities for When You’re Waiting Somewhere

    • Name 5-10 things that you would…
    • Take on a picnic
      Pack in the car before a trip
      See at a basketball game
      See at a wedding
      Find in a spice cabinet
      Find in a tool box
      Find in a kitchen drawer

    • 10 words that begin with the letter…
    • Name 5 wild animals, farm animals, pets, etc.
    • Fill in the blank on sayings and discuss the meaning of each saying
    • You are the apple of my _____
      A penny saved is a penny _____
      The early bird catches the _____
      Penny wise and pound _____
      A stitch in time saves _____

    • Would you rather…
    • Have cheeseburger or pizza?
      Eat french fries or onion rings?
      Travel by train or plane?

    Discussion Starters

    *Don’t ask questions that could have right or wrong answers. Instead of asking: How many grandchildren do you have? Say: Tell me about your grandchildren. Instead of asking: What did you have for lunch today? Ask: Did you enjoy your lunch today?

    • Ask open-ended questions about the past
    • Someone told me during WWII there were rations on sugar, gas, and other things. How did families manage that?
      Was it easy for you to learn to ride a bike?
      What was your first date like?

    • Ask questions about favorites
    • What was your favorite school lunch?
      What are some of favorite TV shows or radio shows? (Then, find clips of the show on YouTube or find episodes on services like Netflix and watch together.)

    • Google funny yearbook pictures or funny animal photos and laugh together
    • Search out old advertisements and ask about grocery shopping, cars, etc. when they were young adults
    • Print out funny pictures or pictures from an era they remember fondly and ask them to caption the photo or tell a story about it
    • Talk about well-known sites or favorite vacation spots
    • The White House has 16 bedrooms. That’s a lot of beds to make. I’d hate to think about folding all of those fitted sheets. Do you think they have a staff to handle that, or would the first family have to take care of it?
      The Grand Canyon is bigger than Rhode Island. I wonder how long it would take to drive around it. Would you ride a donkey down into the Canyon?

    • Say, “Tell me more…” when they talk about a memory

    Outdoor/Out-of-the-House Activities

    • Feed pond ducks (NOT bread but oatmeal or thawed frozen/canned corn or peas)
    • Go to the zoo
    • Visit the Memphis Botanic Gardens or the Dixon
    • Visit an art museum – call ahead if you are concerned about handicapped access and bring a wheelchair if you are concerned about walking for very long
    • Visit a farm supply store
    • Feed the birds in your backyard
    • Plant flowers in a raised bed
    • Rake leaves
    • Walk and talk about what you see – house architecture, trees, flowers
    • Cut flowers and arrange them

    Activities with Household Items

    • Sort coins, socks, nuts and bolts
    • Dust
    • Sweep
    • Do chair exercises (search on YouTube)
    • Look through an old jewelry box
    • Search magazines for all things green, photos of food, photos of children, the letter M, etc.

    Games

    • Solve a jigsaw puzzle – make sure it’s the appropriate number of pieces, not too many or too few
    • Play dominoes
    • Play a card game
    • Play a board game that is simple but not childlike
    • Play BINGO

    Creative Activities

    • Color in an adult coloring book
    • Create a Shutterfly book with pictures from your family to look through and reminisce
    • Create a Pinterest art project
    • Crochet, knit, or quilt
    • Make a family tree poster
    • Craft holiday cards

    Activities with Friends/Family

    • Ask an older grandchild to set up a playlist on Spotify of favorite music
    • Invite a younger grandchild over and read a book together
    • Ask a friend with a calm pet to visit
    • Bake a birthday cake for someone special and take it to them

    For Those Who are More Progressed

    • Hand and foot massages
    • Apply lotion
    • Hair care
    • Hug and give a backrub
    • Listen to music
    • Sing
    • Make simple foods or drinks, like lemonade
    • Look at photo albums or coffee table books
    • Touch quilts
    • Virtual landscape scenes (such as an aquarium … once again, YouTube is your friend!)
    • Enjoy the scent of citrus, spices, and herbs
    • Talk with them, even if you’re not sure they understand or can hear
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