June is National Effective Communications Month. Being able to express oneself in a clear and understandable manner helps decrease misinterpretation, confusion and conflict. But what are we to do when a disease of the brain causes a family member to experience more and more difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions? That’s exactly the challenge faced by families who have a loved one battling Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
A Memory Care neighborhood like the one at a Regency Senior Living community provides the attention and compassion that seniors and their families need in such a situation. Our caregivers work with the Alzheimer’s Association to deliver strategies of treatment that allow our residents to retain their dignity and remain connected to their pasts through a variety of activities.
Day-to-day communication can be extremely frustrating for a family member attempting to serve the role of caregiver to someone impacted by dementia. It is heartbreaking to see the progression of the disease, as the senior struggles to find the right words, becomes repetitive, loses his or her train of thought, and relies on gestures more than speaking.
Once Alzheimer’s reaches the late stage, around-the-clock care is usually needed.
In Regency’s Memory Care neighborhood, residents are surrounded with the familiar. A jukebox might be playing songs that the senior knew as a teenager. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, music may help them to function at a higher cognitive level. Tunes can engage them in singing, rhythm playing, dancing, physical exercise, and other structured activities. Ballads and lullabies have been shown to calm someone during moments of agitation or when preparing for bed. Soothing sounds can provide a sense of comfort.
Regency regularly welcomes musical entertainers who may perform for Memory Care residents, often evoking a response of familiarity because our shared cultural connection to music invites an emotional reaction. Like anyone listening to a song to fit a given mood, the residents enjoy reconnecting with songs from their generation. The sounds of Elvis and Sinatra are quite familiar to those of us who live and work in our halls.
Our community has recently become certified for a pilot program called Music and Memory. There have been instances where seniors with dementia have been unresponsive until headphones are placed on their ears and familiar tunes from their youth are played on an iPod. Even after the headphones are removed, the power of music moves seniors to reacquire their cognitive faculties for a time. It reawakens feelings they haven’t felt in years.
Appealing to the visual senses as well, the furniture and decorations in a typical Memory Care neighborhood use cheerful colors and may even resemble a corner drug store with a soda fountain or jukebox, just like the ones residents likely visited as children. Such an environment can prove helpful in breaking through the fog of confusion. Baby dolls can also offer comfort to some Memory Care residents.
Another way to effectively communicate with a person dealing with Alzheimer’s is to minimize distractions, going to a quiet place and limiting conversations to one-on-one interactions. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends speaking clearly and slowly, avoiding lengthy requests. Maintaining eye contact and speaking slowly may also help.
“Sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important than what is being said. Look for the feelings behind words or sounds,” the Alzheimer’s Association states on its website. “Treat the person with dignity and respect. Avoid talking down to the person or as if he or she isn’t there. It’s OK if you don’t know what to do or say; your presence and friendship are most important to the person.”
Maintaining a connection with their past and with their relationships is key to Regency’s Memory Care activities. Photos of loved ones and objects of personal significance may be displayed prominently inside a resident’s apartment. It is important for residents to feel at home and for their families to possess the peace of mind that they are safe while enjoying stimulating activities for a higher quality of life.
One resource that may interest families is The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Buddy, which teaches how to deal with wandering, bathing, and meals. It also provides live help 24 hours a day by clicking and calling the Alzheimer's Association toll-free 24-hour helpline at 1-800-272-3900.
Until science provides us with the key to preventing dementia cases in future generations, Memory Care offers a valuable resource for families struggling to effectively communicate with an elder affected by Alzheimer’s.
For more tips on communicating with persons suffering from Alzheimer’s or another dementia, visit alz.org/commtips. For more information about the Music & Memory program, visit https://musicandmemory.org/.
Written by: Steven Stiefel
Many older Americans look forward to relaxing after retiring from a job and seeing their children all grown up with little ones of their own. For some, the prospect of peace and quiet can feel dull and leave them with the feeling their lives have lost a sense of purpose. Ironic that life is about more than punching a clock forty hours a week, yet some feel lost without a workday grind. It’s also unhealthy and potentially depressing to settle into a sedentary lifestyle. Without much to do, life starts to feel pretty empty.
For those who want their golden years of retirement to be infused with higher meaning, Regency offers a few tips:
Identify what makes you happy
Experts point to the power of questions to discover our purpose. Ask some questions and be honest with the answers. What has always made you excited to wake up in the morning? What have you always wanted to do when you had the time and resources? What did you enjoy or find satisfying about full-time work? If it is the work itself, many seniors can find part-time work, which can help to make retirement savings go further. If it is the fellowship of colleagues or the sense of mission, these are intangible things we can often find through alternative channels than just a workplace.
Break Out of a Routine
Someone struggling to adjust to retirement living may simply feel comfortable following a daily routine. We are creatures of habit, after all. As scary as change may be, doing the same thing, day after day, becomes boring. Changing things up can lead to greater happiness and life satisfaction. We adapt to new places and faces by reassuring ourselves that the novel will soon become familiar and strangers will soon become friends. All it takes is repetition and being bold enough to start a conversation to discover common interests. Within a matter of days, seniors can try new hobbies, check out new restaurants, visit new places, travel, and more.
Stay Active (Doing the Fun Stuff You Never Had Time for Before)
While everyone enjoys taking periods to rest, some people scoff at the idea of slowing down completely. Working kept us busy, but there are plenty of ways to keep in motion, from helping others to finding joy in recreational activities. After a long life of taking care of others, seniors can let the staff at an Assisted Living community take care of things like laundry, cleaning house and cooking. Their time is better spent on doing the enjoyable tasks rather than these chores. Exercise equipment and game areas keep the body and mind sharp. “Fun” means different things to different people: For one senior, it will mean hunting or fishing; another, reading books or writing a blog.
Creativity finds outlets in the form of painting or drawing, creating music, writing a journal or a blog, cooking, etc. Don’t get too hung up on whether people like something you create. Praise feels good, but creation is its own reward. At Regency, we offer craft classes for residents to indulge their imaginations and try new things.
Focus on Others
We can explore the art of conversation and develop relationships and with family and friends once life is not so hectic. For many, this can mean spending quality time with grown children and grandchildren. Even the person who has everything he or she could possibly ever need can find purpose in doing things to benefit others and the community. Volunteering for a charity, becoming active in politics, mentoring a young person, becoming an advocate for a good cause, or serving on a Resident Council are all ways to serve others. Use new-found free time to reconnect with old friends on Facebook or make new ones in a senior living community, like Regency.
Consider Retirement Living Options
If aging in place in the home leaves a senior feeling bored and lonely, family should consider a Senior Living Community that offers activities to fill time and new friendships to be made. Beyond the safety and convenience this offers, we all yearn to spend time with people our own age. Support and involvement matter greatly when it comes to finding happiness and purpose in later years.
Indeed, there is a lot more to life than collecting a paycheck. It’s never too late to reinvent oneself and regain a sense of purpose, wherever we find ourselves in retirement days.
To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
Written by: Steven Stiefel
Whether you are choose independent apartments, assisted living, or a memory care facility, there are ways to build different degrees of confidence and sufficiency for all seniors. We believe that activity and encouragement builds self esteem. That end Regency Retirement’s locations offer a variety of levels of care, all with plenty of activities and opportunities for engagement to suit ever ability.
Independent living offers many of the same advantages as living in one’s own home, but without the isolation and frustration that come from living alone and trying to manage everyday tasks that become more difficult with age. By living in a retirement community, you can take advantage of planned activities and outings, or create your own adventures. You’ll have neighbors nearby with whom to socialize and a caring staff to assist with household chores like cooking, cleaning, and laundry. It’s many of the benefits of maintaining your own house or apartment, but with so much more to maximize your fun and enjoyment.
Assisted living is there for you if your needs include help with bathing, dressing, and supervision of medications. In addition to help where and when you need it, you’ll be part of a group of caring friends with access to a full roster of events, from local concerts and symphony performances to bridge tournaments, bingo, and group exercise classes. It’s the ultimate balance of dignified assistance and maintaining the lifestyle you’ve always enjoyed.
Memory care provides the same benefits of interaction, community engagement, and fun with the safety and security needed by those facing memory disorders. With a program specially tailored for the needs of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, both residents and family members can be confident in the quality of life at Regency’s Remembrances centers.
No matter the level of care, we believe that everyone should enjoy as much autonomy as possible, receiving help with dignity, and customized to each unique resident’s needs.