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

Blog Archive
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • June 29, 2017

    Home Safety Tips

    As they say, home is where the heart is (and where we spend a lot of time), so it’s important to keep your home happy and safe. When you care for someone with dementia, there are new things to consider when thinking about the safety of your home. The goal of home safety is to prevent the avoidable disasters, to the best of our ability, and to prepare for the inevitable ones. These are our home safety tips for caregivers.

    As always, if this blog sparks any questions or if you would like to talk about your specific situation, give us a call at 901.854.1200 or email our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack, at We would be happy to answer your questions!

    General Home Tips

    • Display emergency numbers in a prominent place, such as the refrigerator or taped to the inside of a kitchen cabinet. Also, put those numbers in your cell phone contacts. These numbers could include personal emergency contacts, non-emergency numbers for your local police and fire departments, and poison control (1-800-222-1222).
    • Have an updated copy of your loved one’s medications (dosage and frequency) and allergies in a place where you can find it quickly. OR have that information listed in the notes on your phone.
    • Check your hot water heater settings. The hottest setting needs to bearable to the touch. Your loved one may unintentionally turn the water as hot as it will go and burn his or herself.
    • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly to ensure batteries are working. Once a month is recommended.
    • If you still have a landline, set your answering machine to begin after the shortest ring setting available, so you can better screen calls and ensure your loved one won’t fall victim to telephone scams.
    • Remove all weapons from the house, or have them hidden and locked away. Keep all weapons disarmed.
    • Label important rooms and spaces, such as the bathroom. You may want to use pictures or symbols instead of words if your loved one has trouble reading.
    • Remove locks on interior doors, so your loved one cannot lock his or herself in a room.
    • Get rid of the junk drawer… and the junk in general. Clutter causes confusion. Is it trash or food? Is it scrap paper or an important receipt? No one knows! Keep it simple and clean.


    • Make sure you have at least one fire extinguisher in working order and know how to use it. Here’s a short video from FEMA if you are unsure of the proper procedure.
    • If you have a gas stove, make sure you know where the shut-off valve is located.
    • Unplug the microwave (or any appliance of concern) when not in use. This way you can better monitor use the appliance.
    • Put knives, other sharp utensils, and any precious/breakable items in cabinets with child-proof locks.
    • Keep alcohol hidden or locked away.
    • Use a drain trap in the kitchen sink.


    • Lock up medications (both prescription and over the counter).
    • If your loved one seems confused about the difference between the toilet and the sink, install a brightly colored toilet seat.

    Fall Prevention

    • Good lighting is essential in hallways and rooms. Also, consider nighttime lighting. Place nightlights throughout the house, or keep key lights on when it’s dark outside.
    • Try to avoid using extension cords, and if you have to use them, make sure they are tucked away out of foot paths.
    • Make sure your stairway has a hand rail. And if you have slippery stairs, add something like a clear, adhesive stair tread to add more traction. Putting reflective or brightly-colored tape on the end of each stair might also be useful.
    • Use slip resistant wax when finishing floors.
    • Remove throw rugs. While rugs are pretty, they are a fall hazard.
    • Avoid clutter. The more things there are, the more things there are to trip over!


    • If you have a pool, make sure your loved one does not have easy access. A gate will help ensure he or she doesn’t accidentally fall in.
    • Remove the fuel sources for grills when not being used.
    • Keep power tools locked up and out of sight.
    • Keep a spare key outside in a hidden area just in case your loved one locks you out.

    May 26, 2017

    Traveling and Dementia

    It’s time for travels and vacations. Exciting? Yes! Stressful? Double Yes! Getting ready for a trip can be a lot of work and even more so when you are traveling with a loved one who has memory loss. Here are some ideas to help make traveling a bit easier and safer.

    Plan wisely.

    Avoid travel during peak times. Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend may not be the best option. Instead, travel on a weekday morning. If possible have 2 caregivers on the trip, so caregiving responsibilities can be shared. Don’t schedule a tight layover. Allow you and your loved one time to visit the restroom and get from place to place.

    Inform the airline of your situation.

    Get a letter from your loved one’s physician for the TSA, so you can bypass potential additional screening that may cause stress. Inform the airline and medical service department ahead of time of your specific needs. Most airlines ask for a 48 hour advance notice. You may want to ask for a wheelchair to travel through the airport.

    Choose a hotel with interior doors.

    When choosing a place to stay, get a hotel with doors that open to an interior hallway. If your loved one wanders, he or she would have to pass through the lobby, where hopefully someone can redirect. If your loved one has limited mobility, call ahead and ask for a room that is close to the check-in area to keep you from walking your loved one down a long hallway.

    Keep hotel staff informed.

    Print out a picture of your loved one and give it to the front desk (or text/email a picture from your phone). Ask that it be posted for employees and that if anyone sees your loved one alone, for them to call you. When you are in the room for the night, lock and latch the door. If there are two beds, sleep in the one closest to the door, so your loved one has to cross your path to exit. You can also bring a portable door alarm or childproof doorknob cover. New environments can be confusing, so you may want to label areas like the bathroom. Ask the front desk or concierge about nearby pharmacy and health service options in case needed.

    Plan for the unexpected.

    A small issue can throw off all your plans. Allow extra time for the unexpected. Pack things to keep your loved one entertained: magazines, familiar music and headphones, activities. Also, bring essentials: snacks, water, disposable garments, wipes, prescription medications, over the counter medications, change of clothes. If traveling by car, subscribe to a roadside assistance program and have 2 drivers available if needed.

    Bring copies of important documents.

    You never know what will happen when you are away from home, so having important documents with you is vital. Bring your loved one’s identification, emergency contact information, physician’s names and contact information, list of current medications, list of drug/food allergies, copies of legal papers (living will, advanced directives, power of attorney), insurance information and a written travel itinerary. Be sure not to pack any of these documents in your suitcase, lest that bag be lost or stolen. Keep them on your person or lock them in a safe at the hotel.

    Have identification for both of you.

    It is very important that those with memory loss have identification on their person in case they get separated from their family. This could be a Safe Return Bracelet through the Alzheimer’s Association, a DIY identification bracelet, or a laminated card in their pocket. Whether bracelet or card, it needs to have their name and “In case of Emergency, please call… (at least 2 names and phone numbers).” You should also carry a card that says: “I am traveling with someone who has memory loss.” This way, in case you are in a wreck and are unresponsive, the responders will know to look for your loved one.

    Take a picture at the beginning of each day.

    Once your loved one is up and dressed, take a picture of him or her on your cell phone (deleting yesterday’s picture). If your loved one wanders off, you will have a current photo to show the authorities.

    Keep routines as much as possible.

    If your loved one is used to eating 3 meals a day, try to eat 3 meals at the usual times. If your loved one goes to bed around 9, try to keep that routine. Getting off schedule can cause even more confusion. Keep in mind time zone changes and how that might affect what time you eat and when medications need to be given.

    Keep your daily itinerary simple.

    If you are sightseeing, try to break up the sightseeing adventures into smaller outings instead of one, long outing. It may be that your loved one can only handle sightseeing in the morning and needs to rest in the afternoon. You may have to alter your pace. Be flexible. Avoid restaurants and tourist attractions at peak times. Instead, visit at less busy times or choose a less busy restaurant.

    If you have any specific questions about traveling with your loved one, please give us a call at 901.854.1200. And if you’re looking for additional information, we found the Alzheimer’s Association’s page on Traveling and Dementia and this page from Light Bridge Healthcare Research on Traveling and Dementia to be helpful.

    March 2, 2017

    Choosing a Residential Placement

    Being a caregiver is incredibly stressful: addressing daily care needs, managing bills, going to medical appointments, making meals, and keeping up the house. In addition to these things, making decisions about your loved one’s care is difficult. Caregivers spend a great deal of time stressing over if they should place a loved one in a residential care facility and wondering which facility is the right one.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a care decision, take a breath. We’re here to help. These are our best tips on choosing a residential placement. If you have questions after reading this, be sure to give us a call (901.854.1200) or stop by, we would be happy to answer questions and provide support for you and your specific situation.

    Step 1: Decide your breaking point.

    The big question: “When is the right time to move my loved one to a residential facility?”
    There’s no one answer to this question. In our experience, most caregivers have a breaking point in what they can manage at home. For each caregiver, that breaking point is different.

    Some examples of stages your loved one might reach that could be a breaking point:

    • Not sleeping at night and disrupting sleep for the rest of the household
    • Incontinence
    • Hoarding becomes excessive
    • Choking on meals consistently

    Choose YOUR breaking point. There is no right or wrong time other than waiting too late. When you wait too late, you suffer and don’t manage your own self-care. As a result your loved one suffers because you can no longer provide adequate care.

    Step 2: Determine your loved one’s appropriate level of care.

    How do you know what level of care is appropriate – traditional assisted living, memory care, nursing home? We suggest asking your loved one’s physician, consulting with a geriatric care manager, or having a facility admission coordinator assess your loved one to make appropriate recommendations.

    Step 3: Do your research.

    Ask around. What experience have others had with the facilities you are considering? Also, think about location and cost. If you’re planning to visit your loved one often, it would be wise to choose a facility that is within reasonable driving distance from home and/or work.

    This is another step when a geriatric care manager may be of great help to you. He or she can help you narrow down the pool of facilities to consider.

    Step 4: Take a tour.

    Go out and look. Tour several facilities to see what is out there. It is always best to know about the options in the area, so you can make an informed decision when/if the time is right for you.

    Take both scheduled and unscheduled tours. Show up unannounced (maybe at a mealtime or on a weekend) to see how things are when staff are not prepared for you to be there. It is important to have a scheduled tour as well. Scheduled tours ensure that the correct staff person will be available to give you the information you need. Understand that not every staff member will be able to answer your questions, so be sure to ask the right person.

    When taking a tour, there are lots of things to consider and observe, but don’t stress too much. You can always take a second or third tour if needed. When you tour, use your five senses:


    • Do you hear staff talking with residents, including them in conversations?
    • Is staff speaking kindly to residents and one another?
    • Does staff call residents by name?
    • Is there music playing? Is it appropriate and soothing music?


    • Is the facility nicely decorated?
    • Is there natural light?
    • Does it look clean and orderly or chaotic?
    • Ask for a menu. Does the food look appealing?
    • Are people smiling?
    • What do you see the residents doing? Are they watching Jerry Springer or something more appropriate? Are they staring off into space, or do you see them engaged in an activity?


    • If you have a meal at the facility during your tour (which is not necessarily common), does the food taste good?


    • Are the floors sticky?
    • Are the tables still sticky from the previous meal?
    • Are there items around for the residents to use? Games, puzzles, sensory items?
    • Is staff providing physical reassurance and attention to residents, such as a hug or a pat on the arm?


    • How does the facility smell? Do you smell lunch cooking, or does it smell like bleach?
    • Is there an odor of old urine? If someone has just had a bowel movement then there will likely be an odor, but it should not be a permanent smell.

    The best facility is not necessarily the newest/most expensive facility, and the worst facility is not necessarily the oldest/cheapest. There is no one facility that is the best for everyone. Each person and family is different. Different places for different needs.

    Bonus Step: Be an advocate.

    Once you have chosen a facility and moved your loved one in, know that you are still your loved one’s caregiver. You are still his or her advocate. It is important that you visit, check on your loved one, and make sure that appropriate care is being provided.

    November 23, 2016

    Communication Tips

    We all need people in our lives. We all need to feel a connection and be a part of something. This need to belong does not go away when someone has dementia. Recently, we’ve been talking a lot about caregiver isolation with our #iCareforCaregivers campaign, but caregivers aren’t the only ones who are isolated. Often when someone has dementia, social circles shrink (and perhaps even disappear).

    Why? Let’s be honest. It can be a bit awkward talking with a person who has dementia. You might not know what to talk about, or that person may say or do strange things. Also, it’s hard to see someone you love lose their abilities and memory.

    But here’s the truth: it may be awkward and difficult, but that person needs you. Your friend or family member’s life will be fuller and better with you an active part of it. Those with dementia should still be involved in relational things. It’s important to include them in conversations and social events.

    You may be thinking, I don’t know what to say to this person anymore. How do I interact? We’re here to help! Here are our best tips for communicating with someone who has dementia. If you have questions that aren’t addressed here, or you would like advice about a specific situation, please give us a call at 901.854.1200. We would be happy to help.

    • Limit distractions. It can be confusing for someone with dementia to participate in a conversation when there’s a bunch of stuff going on at the same time. Turn off the TV, put your cell phone away, and move to a quiet space. It’s best to be in a small group or one-on-one.
    • Set a good tone. Your attitude and body language convey a message just like your words do. Smile and make eye contact. Be kind and sincere, gentle but not demeaning. Talk to the person like an adult. Address him or her by name. Use humor when you can.
    • Be clear, and keep it simple. Slow your speech and use easy to understand language. If they don’t understand, repeat. If they still don’t understand, rephrase. Use visual prompts to help convey your message. If you need to, plan out a couple of conversation topics ahead of time. If your grandma likes to talk about the lake she lived by as a kid and making pumpkin pie with a special family recipe, you might bring pictures of the lake and the pie recipe with you to talk about those things.
    • Remind, don’t quiz. Don’t say: Do you remember when…? Who is in this picture? Who am I? What is my name? If your friend had a broken leg, you would never ask him to run a marathon with you. That’s what you’re doing when you quiz someone with dementia. They physically can’t remember. Also, how do you feel when people ask you questions you can’t answer? You feel bad about yourself. Help your loved one preserve dignity. Set that person up for success. Instead of quizzing, talk about times past. Say something like: That Christmas we went to the Grand Canyon was one of my favorite holidays.
    • Suggest, don’t correct. Instead of saying: “You don’t need to wear your heavy coat outside, it’s 85 degrees.” Say this: “Let’s go feel the weather outside and see if you think you need that coat.”
    • Avoid saying “No.” Offer alternatives. Instead of saying: “No, you can’t eat lunch, you just ate lunch 20 minutes ago.” Say this: “How about we get a little snack after we fold the laundry.”
    • Redirect. If the person gets agitated, overly worried, or stuck on a negative subject, acknowledge the feelings and then redirect. Here’s an example. You are visiting your friend in her home. She says: “The children are just being awful right now. They leave their things all over the house and are out all hours of the night. I just don’t know what to do about them.” You know your friend’s children aren’t teenagers anymore but are grown and live in a different city, but you don’t correct. You acknowledge the feeling and respond with reassurance: “That rebellious phase is tough isn’t it. I think we both went through one of those ourselves, but we turned out okay. Your children sure are lucky to have you as a mom. You’re a great mom.” Suggest an activity, steer the conversation in a more positive direction, or offer a new conversation topic.
    • Listen. It may take your friend or family member a while to respond. That’s okay! Take time to listen. If the words aren’t making sense, listen for the feeling behind them. Are they anxious or confused? Provide reassurance. Are they joking? Play along!
    • Be present. Even if the person can’t respond, keep talking. Your presence is a sign of love and care. Show your friend or family member that you care and that they still matter.

    October 14, 2016

    Caregiver Wish List

    One struggle that we often hear from caregivers is that they feel alone and isolated. Caregivers say that family and friends no longer come around. One caregiver said, “When we go out to a family event or get together, it’s like we have a bubble around us, and no one wants to penetrate that bubble to come talk to either of us.”

    Caregivers say that people will offer to help by saying the usual: “Let me know if you ever need anything.” “Let me know what I can do.” But it never gets past that. Caregivers say thanks but don’t know what to ask for in the moment. Often times, a well-meaning friend or family member doesn’t know what to offer, but they are willing to help if given a task.

    Our advice to caregivers: Be specific.

    Write out an actual wish list (just like you would write out a Christmas list). What are things you would like for someone to do for you and/or your loved one? The items on this list can free up time for you to have a break from some of your responsibilities or can give you a break financially for things you would otherwise be paying for.

    Here’s some example wish list items to get you thinking:

    • Deliver a hot meal every other Tuesday
    • Make an extra casserole or a double batch of soup
    • $ for in-home care
    • $ for a day at Page Robbins
    • Take loved one to get a manicure while caregiver runs errands
    • Visit every other Saturday for a few hours
    • Call once a week to check in
    • Rake the yard
    • Invite loved one over to watch a football game one Saturday

    Challenge Time: Be specific. Make out a wish list. Type it up. Write it out. Jot it down on a piece of scrap paper. Decorate it with glitter stars and doodles. Put it in your phone. Whatever works for you! The next time someone asks you how they can help, give them something specific from your list, or give them the whole list and have them pick.

    Our advice to family, friends, and neighbors of caregivers: Ask for specifics, and listen.

    Rather than: “Let me know if you need anything.” Ask: “What can I do to help you?” Then, listen. If they don’t have a response, encourage them to make a wish list. If the first time you ask, the caregiver says no help is needed, it’s okay to ask again later. Show the caregiver that you are sincere in your desire to help.

    Some good questions to ask:

    • I made an extra batch of soup. When is a good time for me to drop it by?
    • Can I come over to help you with your honey-do list? Change light bulbs? Fix the leaky faucet? I’ve got free time every day around lunch time next week.
    • Can the kids and I come over and rake the yard this weekend? It will be a good family activity. We would love to help.

    Challenge Time: Ask for specifics. Listen. Encourage your caregiver friend to make a wish list. Keep in mind, it can be hard to ask for help. Be ready to help where and when you can. Check out our recent blog post on 31 Ways to Care for Caregivers. It might give you ideas for ways you can support your caregiver friend.

    This post is a part of our #iCareforCaregivers campaign. Want to learn more about #iCareforCaregivers and how you can join in? Check out the official webpage at

    « Previous entries Next entries »