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 Social Worker, Sheri Wammack at sheri@pagerobbins.org.

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  • 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 pagerobbins.org/icareforcaregivers.


    September 30, 2016

    31 Ways to Care for Caregivers


    To kick off our #iCareforCaregivers campaign, we’re sharing a list of 31 ways you can care for caregivers. Want to learn more about #iCareforCaregivers and how you can join in on the sharing and caring? Check out the official webpage at pagerobbins.org/icareforcaregivers.

    There’s 31 days in October, so we encourage you to think of a caregiver you know and do one thing each day this month to show him or her you care. Make a caregiver’s day! Let’s reduce caregiver isolation and stress one good day at a time.

    1. Smile
    2. Give a hug
    3. Say, “You’re a wonderful caregiver!”
    4. Listen, don’t interrupt
    5. Give them the benefit of the doubt
    6. Mail a card just because
    7. Call
    8. Send a funny or encouraging text
    9. Take a bouquet of flowers
    10. Drop off a small treat at the door with no “from” on it
    11. Go visit
    12. Invite them over for a meal or football game
    13. Invite them over just because
    14. Have a normal conversation
    15. Remember and recognize birthdays/anniversaries that their loved one might forget
    16. Have coffee, muffins, and conversation one morning
    17. Take them their favorite Sonic or Starbucks drink
    18. Shop for groceries or pick up groceries that have been ordered online
    19. Take them out to eat
    20. Make a meal or an extra casserole
    21. Stay with their loved one for an hour or so while they run errands, go to an appointment, attend worship, etc.
    22. Pay for or be an in-home caregiver for the day
    23. Help them remember and keep doctor/dentist appointments
    24. Roll the garbage can to the street and roll it back when it’s been emptied
    25. Offer to do some “honey-do’s,” like changing lightbulbs and air filters
    26. Do housework or hire housekeeping help
    27. Mow the yard or hire a yard service
    28. Wash clothes
    29. Put gas in the car
    30. Take the car to have it washed and/or serviced
    31. Ask specifically what the caregiver needs, and do it


    September 21, 2016

    Accepting the Diagnosis

    No one expects to be a caregiver to a loved one with dementia. No one plans for life to turn out this way, just as your loved one never planned on having dementia. Maybe you had plans to enjoy retirement, to travel, visit family, and spend time with grandchildren. Perhaps you are still working and raising your own children, yet you are in the throes of caring for a loved one with dementia.

    NO ONE plans for life to be this way, so it can be hard to accept your new reality when it happens. Accepting a diagnosis of dementia is not a simple, overnight process. It takes time.

    Before you can begin the process of accepting a diagnosis, it is very important to get a clear diagnosis. If you take your mom to an appointment and the doctor says, “She has cancer,” you do not say thank you and walk out the door. You ask questions. What type of cancer? Will it spread? What is the recommended treatment? What are the side effects? What is the prognosis? You need and want more information. The same should be true with the diagnosis of dementia. If possible, it is important to get a clear diagnosis and to ask questions. What type of dementia? What stage? Are there medications that can help? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your loved one’s doctor can be an invaluable resource.

    Accepting a diagnosis of dementia is ongoing. Once you have become accustomed to the new normal and how to deal with certain challenges, it suddenly changes. For example, in the past few months, your biggest challenge may have been your mom constantly wanting your attention, but now the challenge is that your mom is often uncooperative. You then have to accept the new normal, which could change again soon.

    Individuals with dementia can no longer function as they once did, so you, as the caregiver, must learn to accept your loved one’s declining abilities and make adjustments. The harsh reality is that your relationship will change, and it cannot continue as it once was. Understanding and acceptance means you can have realistic expectations. With dementia, it is the caregiver that must change to suit his or her loved one. When a caregiver does not accept the new normal, it can lead to continual disappointment and anger and to wasted energy and a negative cycle of words and emotions.

    So how do you accept your new normal? We asked family caregivers at Page Robbins for their best tips on accepting the changes and challenges that come along with a dementia diagnosis. These people are in your shoes. They get it. So we hope you’ll read these words and be encouraged, and we also hope you’ll put their advice to practice.

    • “Be patient.”
    • “Try to remember that your loved one is probably not doing ‘it’ to aggravate you.”
    • “Your loved one can’t help it. It is the disease.”
    • “Try not to snap at your loved one when you are frustrated. It only makes things worse.”
    • “There comes a point in time when you simply can’t use logic with your loved one anymore, so don’t try. It just leads to more frustration for both of you.”
    • “Constantly correcting the person is not good. Dementia is a separate reality. You can’t re-orient them – just as well as you know it is Sunday, your loved one thinks it is Tuesday. Why argue?”
    • “Give yourself permission to not be perfect. We all have bad days and mess up. We all make mistakes. Just because you are a caregiver does not mean that you should now be prefect.”
    • “Have a good doctor and enlist his or her help, especially for major changes such as switching to disposable briefs, taking away the keys, etc.”
    • “Well-meaning people will say things they feel are helpful , when in reality it’s things they really should have kept to themselves. That person is not walking in your shoes and most likely doesn’t know all there is to know about you and your loved one.”
    • “Keep your sense of humor. For God’s sake… it is OK to laugh!”
    • “Accept help when offered.”
    • “Learn the tricks. Build your tool kit (i.e. distraction, preferred family member, fiblets, keeping things simple, avoid arguments).”
    • “Take Care of yourself!”
    • “Being a caregiver isn’t rocket science… It’s much more difficult than that.”

    If you’re looking for opportunities to connect with other caregivers, be sure to check out our caregiver support group opportunities. And feel free to call us to ask questions or seek guidance (901-854-1200). Even if your loved one lives hundreds of miles away and will never use our services, we’re happy to help.

    If you’re having trouble accepting the diagnosis, our Starting Point Class for those with a loved one who has been recently diagnosed with dementia and for those who suspect their loved one might have dementia is Saturday, October 1 from 9 to 10 am at the Center. Please call to reserve your spot.

    March 17, 2016

    Vision and Dementia

    Seeing and understanding our world is a multi-step process – our eyes take in an image, that image is then sent to our brains (along with information from the other senses), and then the brain processes the image using the information gathered and past experience to make sense of what is being seen. When someone has dementia, there is a breakdown in this process.

    What can you do as a caregiver or friend of one with dementia?

    First and foremost, it is imperative that those with dementia have regular vision screenings so that any issues with vision can be addressed and corrected as soon as possible. An impaired brain needs to receive the best information it can, and regular vision screenings will help ensure this occurs. If the person has glasses, be sure they are the correct prescription and lenses are clean. If glasses are constantly being misplaced, put them on a chain or keep an extra pair at the ready.

    Here are additional things you can do to help your loved one:

    • Create contrast. Those with dementia have difficulty distinguishing objects of similar color. For example, a pale yellow plate on a white tablecloth may blend in. A brown handrail mounted on a brown wall or a white button on a light colored shirt can’t be seen. A dark mug with black coffee may look like an empty mug. It is best to use contrasting colors to highlight things you want your loved one to see. Put the black coffee in a light colored cup. If the wall is light brown, paint the handrail black. Instead of a light colored shirt with light buttons, choose a blue shirt with white buttons. Serve dinner on a white plate on a red tablecloth.
    • Put on your binoculars. An average young person can put his hands straight out to each side and see his fingertips using peripheral vision. As we age, peripheral vision naturally narrows, but with dementia, a person’s field of vision narrows drastically. Dementia care expert Teepa Snow uses the analogy of binoculars to explain this change in vision. Place your hands over your eyes like binoculars. You can’t see much – right? A limited field of vision can easily cause falls and other accidents. Keep this in mind when guiding your loved one through a room or assessing potential fall hazards. Also, when eating, your loved one may not be able to see part of the plate, so you may need to turn the plate so that the other food can be seen.
    • Keep in mind difficulties with depth perception. Changes in flooring can be confusing. A dark rug may look like a black hole, so the person will step around it or won’t walk over it for fear of falling into a bottomless pit. Consider moving the dark rug or switching it for a color similar to the flooring. When the flooring switches from carpet to tile, your loved one may think it is a step up/down. When walking with your loved one, verbally reassure him or her that the flooring is the same level. Your loved one may think the chair is close enough to sit, while really he or she is still far from the chair. Help guide your loved one to the seat.
    • Fill rooms with bright, direct light. As we age, we require brighter light to see. This is even truer for those with dementia. The brain can play tricks in poor lighting. Imagine sitting in your living room with the blinds open and curtains pulled back in the late afternoon. The sun begins to set and shadows start appearing. Those with dementia may think the coatrack in the corner is a person or the random misplaced shoe is cat on the living room floor. Close the blinds, pull the curtains, and ensure sufficient indoor lighting is available before the sun sets to help avoid extra confusion.
    • Eliminate unnecessary visual noise. An environment that is cluttered or filled with multiple, strong patterns can be confusing for the already confused brain. A cleaner and more simplified environment is ideal. Embrace spring cleaning. Enlist of the help of family, friends, or neighbors and declutter as much as possible.

    If you have specific questions or concerns, our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack, is available to talk with you and answer questions (901.854.1200 or sheri@pagerobbins.org).


    December 2, 2015

    Caregiving and the Holidays

    The holidays can be stressful. No surprise, right? We tend to spend the holiday months in a blur of activities. Parties, family get-togethers, church activities… the list goes on and on. The holidays are also a time for family traditions – donning Christmas aprons to make homemade desserts, decorating the tree with heirloom ornaments, driving hours to share a meal with family. These pastimes can be exciting and meaningful, but when you’re caring for a loved one with memory loss, the holiday frenzy can cause additional stress.

    The following are tips to keep in mind for this holiday season. We hope these tips will help make the holidays a bit easier for you and your loved one.

    You’re also welcome to join us on Tuesday, December 8 from 4-5 pm at Page Robbins as we discuss “Managing the Holidays” during our monthly Caregiver Support Group. Lowry Whitehorn, Bereavement Counselor at Crossroads Hospice will be our guest speaker. This session is free and open to the public.

    Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

    Holiday Preparations

    • Simplify. It’s okay to start new, smaller traditions. For example, if it feels overwhelming to decorate the whole house, then just decorate the mantel or put up a small tree.
    • Don’t aim for perfection. Perfect holidays aren’t attainable. Perfect anything isn’t attainable! It’s easy to think on times past with rose colored glasses, but no holiday is perfect. Your situation has changed. Don’t feel that you need to live up to the expectations of friends and family members. Take stock of where you’re at, set your own limits.
    • Make a to-do list, so you’ll know exactly what needs to be done.
    • Plan ahead for small outings. Instead of taking your loved one on a day full of errands, break up errands into multiple outings and plan those outings at times when stores are likely to be less busy.
    • Know that you don’t have to say “yes” to every invitation you receive. Everything in moderation. Be picky about which events you attend.
    • Have important conversations beforehand. As needed, familiarize others with the situation. Let those who don’t see your loved one often know how he or she is doing and what they should expect.
    • Make your own wish list. When a friend or family member asks, “How can I help you?” have a wish list ready (a physical/electronic list, not just a mental one). Some items on your list might be a few hours of respite on a Saturday or overnight respite, meals, home repairs, etc.
    • Encourage family members to shop non-traditionally. Suggest items for your loved one such as socks, comfy sweaters, a puzzle, or a coffee table book with large pictures, on a topic of interest.
    • Book your homecare worker early. This is a busy season. Call your preferred home care agency early with desired dates, so you can be sure to get on their calendars.

    Holiday Gatherings

    • Keep conversations light. Encourage family members and friends to tell stories instead of quizzing your loved one. NOT: “Do you remember when we went to the Grand Canyon for Christmas?” or “Do you remember Cousin Whitney?” Instead: “One of my favorite Christmases was when we went to the Grand Canyon. We sang Christmas carols while we were stuck in traffic for hours. That was a fun trip.” or “Cousin Whitney used to love to visit you, so she could have some of your blueberry pie.”
    • Don’t rock the boat. Holiday gatherings are not the best time to have a family argument about the sister who isn’t as involved as you would like her to be. Instead, focus on making the holidays special.
    • Designate a quiet room. If visitors are coming over or you are going to a party elsewhere, it is a good idea to have a quiet room for your loved one. Select a room away from the noise and crowd, where your loved one can sit and relax, and friends can go visit one-on-one with your loved one. Make sure the room has a comfortable chair and perhaps books or a TV. Your loved one may also enjoy sitting by the window or listening to music.
    • Try to maintain regular sleeping and eating schedules. If you have a mid-afternoon Christmas lunch, your loved one will need to eat something at his or her regular meal time. It doesn’t need to be a full meal, just a small protein and fruit portion to tide over until the big meal. Also, someone should observe and monitor any potential alcohol consumption for that individual as well. One cup of egg nog might turn in to 5 if no one is paying attention! Try your best to maintain normal rest and nighttime sleep schedules.
    • Sit back, and enjoy. Embrace each moment, or as we say at Page Robbins, seize the day. Enjoy the time you have with your loved one.

    If you’re looking for more information, we hope you’ll join us for the support group. If you aren’t able, our Social Worker, Sheri Wammack, and Executive Director, Herbie Krisle, are available to talk with you and answer questions (901.854.1200 or sheri@pagerobbins.org, herbi@pagerobbins.org).


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