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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  • January 29, 2018

    Activities at Home


    It can be difficult to find activities to do with your loved one at home any time, but the cold winter months are especially difficult when the days are short and the nights long. We’ve compiled a list of activities for you to do with your loved one, and we hope this list will spark ideas of your own.

    Before we get to the list, let’s be honest – it’s about quality over quantity. Activities can be done just to fill time and get something done, OR they can make space for quality interaction with your loved one. For example, you and your dad could sort a pile of nuts and bolts in just a few minutes. OR you could sit down with him, and as you sort, you could reminisce about how your dad taught you to build furniture. You could whip up some cookies quickly with Mom. OR as you mix the cookies, you could talk about a favorite family cookie recipe or baking together on holidays. Both ways are activities, but the later of each example is so much more meaningful for you and your loved one.

    The goal of activities is to stimulate and give your loved one purpose NOT just to fill time. Also, the goal is NOT to get a correct outcome (folding the clothes correctly, having uniformly sized cookies, etc.). The process, not the product, is most important.

    Be sure to present activities in an appealing way. Instead of: “Here, do this.” Say: “Would you help me…?” People with dementia have shortened attention spans and can be easily distracted by noise/sounds/clutter. Your loved one may lose interest in an activity quickly, especially if left alone. Those with dementia can lack initiative to start activities on their own and may be sensitive to the fact that they are not able to do things like they once did. Be gentle. Be encouraging. Enjoy your time together.

    • Make your own sing-along. Turn on closed captioning and put on an old musical. TV made new!
    • Create your own food awards – try different recipes for one kind of food (pizza, cookies, chicken salad, etc.), taste them all, rate which is best, and crown the winner
    • Listen to and sing along with favorite music
    • Look through coffee table books and talk about pictures
    • Go for a walk
    • Plant a small herb garden to grow inside
    • Ask for help with the laundry – matching socks, folding towels
    • Polish the silver
    • Hand wash or dry the dishes
    • Have a dance party – push back any tripping hazards and turn up the music
    • Sort buttons, change, nuts and bolts, or poker chips
    • Ask for help with meal prep – mixing ingredients, kneading dough, decorating cookies, shredding lettuce
    • Read a story aloud – articles from a magazine or chapters from a favorite book
    • Do a puzzle – age-appropriate and size-appropriate (pieces don’t need to be too small)
    • Play cards – Go Fish, sort the deck, build a card house
    • Look at old photos and reminisce – resist the urge to quiz, instead remind
    • Cut coupons
    • Dust
    • String Cheerios and put them outside for the birds
    • Look through a catalog – clothing, fishing, etc.
    • Search Pinterest for art and craft ideas – making something beautiful… or laugh over your Pinstrosity
    • Search YouTube for videos of favorite music artists and comedians

    December 27, 2017

    New Year’s Resolutions

    Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution that just didn’t stick? Maybe it was to exercise every morning or to floss every night or to read one book a week or to go some place new each weekend. You started these goals out with great gusto – new year, new you! But eventually… things got in the way. Cold mornings and a warm bed. An empty floss container that you couldn’t seem to replace. A favorite TV show that you opted to watch instead of reading. The routine of the same familiar restaurants.

    And eventually… bigger circumstances arose, and those resolutions didn’t seem so important. A spouse or parent or loved one with dementia. Taking on the role of caregiver and all the responsibility that comes with it. New year, new you – just not in the way you had hoped.

    For caregivers, it’s hard to think about yourself. Your energy is directed towards caring for someone else, and most days it may feel like you don’t have enough left to care for YOU. But here’s some truth: You NEED to care for yourself in order to be the best caregiver you can be. It’s almost a new year, so it’s a great time to do a self-evaluation. Have you let self-care fall by the wayside?

    Caregivers, we know you’re busy. You have a million things on your mind. Your own needs are last on the to-do list, but this year, try to take some time to care for YOU. You need it and deserve it. Here’s 7 realistic New Year’s Resolutions just for you. If you need someone to walk alongside you as you try to live these out, we’ve got your back! Join us for a support group. Give us a call at 901.854.1200. We would be happy to help!

    7 Resolutions for Caregivers

    • I will do the best that I can each day and know that is enough.
    • I will take some time for myself whenever I can and as often as I can.
    • I will make myself a priority even when it doesn’t seem possible.
    • I will ask for help even when I think I can do it all by myself.
    • I will make plans for the future even though it may be difficult to consider.
    • I will try to enjoy the moment.
    • I will try to laugh more and worry less.

    November 30, 2017

    Music and Dementia


    Christmas music is EVERYWHERE right now: in the car, at the grocery store, in the elevator, on hold on the phone. Have you ever noticed just how many places we hear music? Music is everywhere, and whether it’s in the background or turned up as far as it will go, music affects us and is important.

    Research shows that one of the last parts of the brain to be affected by dementia is the part that holds rhythm. Even the brain thinks music is important! Here are some cool things that music can do for those with dementia (and you, too!):

    Music evokes memories.

    A song from your wedding comes on the radio, and you immediately remember that day. A song that was popular when you were in high school transports you back to your first date with your high school sweetheart. Hearing Amazing Grace takes you back to your church home growing up. Songs can transport us to other times and places.

    Music alters mood.

    Soothing classical music may help your mom calm down when she is a bit agitated. A happy, upbeat song may be good when you are trying to get some tasks accomplished with your loved one (like bathing or filing fingernails). Quiet, soft music may help your dad settle down at the end of the day to get ready for bed.

    Music engages.

    Your loved one may be able to sing every word to favorite songs long after they are not able to effectively communicate in conversation. Music can lead to dancing, snapping fingers, clapping and smiling.

    Here’s how you can make music work for you and your loved one:

    • Let your loved one choose the music. Your loved one has so little choice now. Allow your loved one to choose what he or she would like to listen to.
    • Figure out what kind of music your loved one prefers. What decade? What genre? Seek out songs and artists he or she might like. You can find just about any song, from any time period, on YouTube.
    • Use music to set the mood and help you accomplish tasks. Your loved one’s personal care routine might be a lot more fun (and less dreaded) with music.
    • Avoid over-stimulation. Choose music without commercials, turn off the TV, shut the door, and don’t turn it up too loud.
    • Encourage movement. Dance, snap, clap. Movement is fun while also working range of motion and fine motor skills and providing physical exercise.
    • Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Spotify are all inexpensive or free ways to get specific types of music.
    • Create a playlist for free on YouTube of your loved one’s favorite songs. Fill an iPod with favorite songs. Or use Apple Music or Spotify (monthly subscription fee) to create different playlists on your smartphone, so you can take music with you wherever you go.
    • Have a carpool karaoke session (a la the Late Late Show with James Corden)… and don’t worry about who might be watching from other cars.
    • DIY a sing-a-long: just turn on close captioning for a musical on TV.
    • Join in! Sing. Dance. Embrace the music and the beautiful connection it can bring between you and your loved one. If you’ve ever wished life (or even just a moment in time) could be a musical, make it so.

    If you want to learn more about music and dementia, we recommend the Alive Inside documentary.

    October 30, 2017

    Preparing for the Holidays


    The holidays are busy. Parties to attend, family to visit and family to entertain, gifts to buy, dishes to make. It can all be too much – especially when you are caring for a loved one with dementia. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

    The point of the holidays isn’t all the stuff and the hoopla. The point is to celebrate, to honor, and to cherish. It’s okay if the season isn’t as grand as it once was. Don’t expect it to be. You want to know the best holiday recipe? A heaping cup of simplicity and a half of cup of planning with a pinch of good communication and boundary setting. That makes for some joyful days!

    Here’s our recipe for happy holidays. We suggest you start prepping the ingredients now, but in your holiday prep, keep in mind that there’s no perfect holiday. Perfection is unattainable, but really good days are possible. This is how we think you can make them happen:

    Declutter the calendar.

    Don’t plan to attend every event and party. It is OK to say No to invitations (and not feel guilty about it). Strategically pick and choose which events you would like to attend. For example: Instead of hosting your usual Christmas Eve dinner with the whole family and you cook everything, choose to host a lunch potluck. Lunch may be a better time of day for your loved one, and a potluck takes the pressure off you. AND/OR you can ask another family member to host, so you and your loved one can attend and leave when needed.

    Scale down, and turn down the volume.

    Your loved one may not be able to handle a full day of the entire family. Limit time at gatherings. You can also find a quiet room for your loved one to be in, and ask family and friends to visit one-on-one in a much more manageable environment.

    Stick to the routine.

    The holidays can get our schedules out of whack. Keep routines as much as possible because routines make for easier days. Serve meals at regular times, schedule afternoon rest at the regular time, go to sleep at the regular time. Keeping to a schedule will help your loved one remain as rested as possible.

    Involve your loved one.

    While Mom may not be able to independently make her famous coconut cake, she can help pour pre-measured ingredients and stir everything together. While Grandpa might not be able to chop wood or light the fireplace, he can help carry in a piece of wood. While your wife may not be able to play the piano, she can still sing along, dance, or just enjoy the music.

    Make a wish list for you and your loved one.

    Your gift wish list should look different than it has in the past. Here are some things we suggest: money to pay for care, soft blankets, 30-piece puzzles, magazine subscription, gift card for stores or for meals to-go, favorite music, personalized book with family pictures and captions about who is in each picture/what is going on in the pictures (recommendation: Shutterfly).

    Help your family and friends know how to interact.

    Explain to family and friends about your loved one’s current state, so they will know what to expect. Remind them NOT TO QUIZ. Instead of asking, “Do you know who I am?” coach them to prompt: “Grandpa, it’s Jason. I’m so glad to see you.” And instead of asking, “Susan, who is in this picture?” coach them to tell a story: “Susan, (while showing the picture), here is a picture of us in Gatlinburg. That was a fun trip. It snowed the whole time.” Remind family members not to argue, even if what is being said makes no sense. Go with the flow of the conversation.

    Simplify decorations.

    Too many decorations may be too much for your loved one to take in… and too much for you to put up. It is OK to scale down. Maybe you only decorate the mantle or have a table top tree instead of decking out the whole house. Maybe you just put a wreath on the door instead of lights everywhere. Maybe you just put out a pretty tablecloth instead of the endless china set.

    Plan ahead.

    Planning ahead allows you to create opportunities for success. Order your groceries online to avoid the craziness of the aisles at the store. Start your gift shopping early to avoid the rush and crowds. Crowds are overwhelming. Plan around them.

    Make time for yourself.

    Plan for an in-home caregiver, so you can go to a Christmas party or get shopping done. (Schedule this EARLY!) Or ask a family member to come stay with your loved one, so you can get things done.

    Enjoy!

    Sit with your loved one and listen to Christmas music. Turn down the lights and watch the tree glow. Go for a drive to see lights. Watch an old Christmas movie that you both have always loved. Eat pumpkin pie for breakfast. Take time to enjoy the holidays and your family.

    2 Important Bonus Notes:
    1. If you are traveling, plan, plan, plan, and see our blog post on travel tips.
    2. If your loved one lives in a facility, ask when holiday activities are scheduled, and plan to be there to celebrate with your loved one.

    September 29, 2017

    Tips for Mealtime


    The following are tips for enjoying meals with your loved one with memory loss. As always, if this blog post sparks a question or if you need advice for your specific situation, give us a call at 901.854.1200. We would be happy to help!

    Simplify.

    • Eat at the table, not in front of the TV.
    • Limit table décor. Plastic fruit can be mistaken for real fruit. Centerpieces, chargers, napkin rings, salt and pepper shakers, and placemats all on the same table can be distracting.
    • Limit utensils to reduce confusion.
    • Avoid busy patterns on the table cloth.
    • Be sure food, plate, and table are contrasting colors, so food can be easily seen.
    • If your loved one seems to be eating just a certain portion of his or her food, you may need to rotate the plate throughout the meal.
    • Limit choices. Three veggies and a meat might be too much, instead offer the meat and then one veggie at a time.

    Serve food that is ready to eat.

    • Check the temperature. Your loved one may not know if the food is too hot or too cold.
    • If your loved one is not able to cut the food, serve it pre-cut.
    • Be mindful of which utensils are used. A fork may be easier than a spoon, or finger foods might be best.
    • Use plates or shallow bowls with a lip, so there’s something to push against to get food on the fork/spoon.

    Serve to your loved one’s preferences.

    • Food preferences may change.
    • If your loved one has eaten spaghetti his or her entire life, but now says, “I don’t eat spaghetti,” serve something different.
    • Serve foods with different colors and textures.
    • If your loved one doesn’t remember that he or she has already eaten, you might offer multiple smaller meals rather than arguing that you have already eaten.

    Enjoy your meals together.

    • Don’t rush. It may take your loved one longer to eat than it used to.
    • Your loved one may look to you for cues on how to eat – what to eat first, whether to use hands or a fork, etc.
    • Savor the good stuff! Find foods you and your loved one really like, and enjoy them often.
    • Shared meals are important. They are social. They build and strengthen relationships. Try not to treat them as an item on the checklist. Treat them as an opportunity to enjoy one another. Good food, better company!

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