Art can be a beneficial aspect of effective dementia care.
Whether an older loved one with dementia was an art major in college or never once picked up a paintbrush, introducing art as part of the senior’s dementia care plan brings a wealth of benefits. In fact, several recent studies have cemented what those of us in the field of dementia care have known for years.
The first study looked at the program Memories in the Making, a weekly art program for those with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Greater than 80% of those who participated remained engaged and focused throughout the sessions, which lasted between 30 and 45 minutes, and the majority expressed joy in a variety of ways. Participants also displayed a greater level of self-confidence than those who engaged in different activities during the program, such as crafts or conversations.
Additional studies of Alzheimer’s art programs in Japan and Britain showed enhancements in socializing, physical abilities, and overall demeanor, as well as a reduced level of apathy. And you may be familiar with art appreciation programs offered at such iconic institutions as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, whose Meet Me at MoMA program provides opportunities for those with dementia and their caregivers to engage in viewing and learning about a variety of pieces of artwork – leading to greater social connections and reduced emotional distress.
While the exact reasons behind the incredible benefits of art in dementia care are unclear, we do know that the area of the brain related to our ability to both make and appreciate art are often preserved in Alzheimer’s, and that it affords the opportunity to communicate and express feelings – something that becomes challenging to accomplish verbally. And, it provides a non-medicated, therapeutic approach to enhancing life and in helping to manage some of the more difficult aspects of the disease, such as agitation, wandering, and aggression.
At Nightingale Homecare, providers of the most trusted home care Paradise Valley and the surrounding area have to offer, our dementia care professionals are highly skilled, trained, and experienced in incorporating creative outlets for seniors at home that lead to a higher quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Our Connections dementia care program is comprised of nurses, therapists, and caregivers who are certified Alzheimer’s Whisperers®, trained in a unique approach by Dr. Verna Benner-Carson, a nationally renowned dementia care expert. Art, as well as a variety of other innovative techniques, are utilized to ensure the highest level of functionality, contentment, and enjoyment in life are achieved. Additionally, we’re happy to provide training to family caregivers, equipping them with the skills needed to provide effective, consistent care.
To learn more, contact our dementia care team any time at (602) 504-1555 and request a free in-home consultation. We’re always here to help!
The Scottsdale senior home care team at Nightingale Homecare shares senior socialization tips.
Isolation in older adults is more prevalent than we’d like to admit, and the effects can be devastating. The other side of the coin, however, is that the benefits of senior socialization are tremendous, including a reduced risk of cognitive decline, better physical and emotional health, and even the potential for a longer lifespan.
With life as busy and hectic as it is for families, and with many seniors experiencing mobility issues and other health problems, how can we ensure that the older adults we love have ample opportunities for socialization?
Seek out senior centers. With as many as 15,000 senior centers throughout the U.S., it’s likely there’s at least one in close enough proximity for your loved one to enjoy. Places of worship and other non-profit organizations often host groups of seniors more informally as well, and transportation is typically provided to and from the center, providing opportunities for shared meals, conversations, activities, exercise programs, outings and more. Currently 60% of older adults surveyed report that visiting the senior center is their only source of daily interaction with others.
Learn something new. Lifelong learning helps protect cognitive ability, and the ideas for continued education for seniors are limitless! Local community colleges often offer low-cost classes for seniors, but also look into courses offered through the library, craft and hobby stores, religious organizations, and more.
Take time to play! Everyone loves games, regardless of age. Invite neighbors in for board and card games, locate a bridge club, or investigate bowling groups, senior swim teams, or golfing get-togethers.
Help another. Nothing is more rewarding than knowing you’re making a difference in someone else’s life, and there are plenty of ways within Scottsdale and the surrounding area to do so! Whether the senior is passionate about pets, children, veterans, or the homeless, there are bound to be volunteer opportunities available for your loved one.
Pick up a new hobby. Help the senior discover or rediscover an interest such as painting, drawing, photography, knitting, playing a musical instrument, singing in the choir, scrapbooking, etc. and then search online for local gatherings of others who share that interest.
Most importantly, partner with the Scottsdale senior home care team at Nightingale Homecare! It’s our mission to ensure that older adults thrive and enjoy life to the fullest. We’re always on hand to provide the friendly companionship that brightens each day for seniors, whether that involves sharing a cup of tea and conversation together at home, playing games and engaging in exercise programs together, providing transportation and accompaniment to any of the fun outings mentioned above, and so much more.
Call us at (602) 604-1555 to find out more about how we can boost senior socialization for someone you love with our full range of customized in-home care services!
Discover the importance of learning life stories when providing dementia care.
When we are working with those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is important to know their stories. What is their history? Where did they live? Who comprised their family? What are some of their most powerful memories? What did they do for a living? And what were their hobbies? If you’re not getting the picture, you might wonder why all of this matters.
It matters because those with Alzheimer’s increasingly live in the past, so that the “old memories” are new again. This applies to so many things in their reality. For instance, a gentleman I remember would become very agitated when it snowed and fret that the animals would freeze if they weren’t protected. At first the family thought that Dad was having a psychotic episode since he had never talked about animals before. Then one day his children discovered a very old picture of their dad when he was a little boy. It was probably taken in the 1920s and showed their dad standing in a field surrounded by cattle. This was right before the Great Depression, when his family lost their farm and the gentlemen lost his dad. He would have been a great-grandfather to the current children, who knew nothing about these losses. Their dad had never talked about what he’d been through, but now he was reliving it. Once the family realized what was happening, they would reassure their father whenever there was bad weather that every animal was locked safely in the barn. He continued to ask about the animals when it snowed, but he was able to relax after hearing they were safe.
Another gentleman had been a wood carver all his life and now lived in North Carolina with his son and daughter-in-law. They were concerned about his failing memory and had him evaluated by a geriatric neurologist, who diagnosed the man with Alzheimer’s at Stage 4-5 on the FAST scale. The family worried that it was no longer safe for Dad to carve wood, but the doctor assured them that wood carving was second nature to their father. They just needed to watch him and they would know when this hobby was no longer safe for him. They did this over the course of several years as his Alzheimer’s continued to grow worse. Finally, they decided assisted living was the safest place for him.
When he was admitted to the facility, the daughter-in-law told the staff how important carving was to Dad and supplied him with bars of Ivory soap and plastic picnic knives every week. The old man would sit in a chair with a trash can between his knees, lean forward, and carve the Ivory soap. Did he carve the beautiful woodland figurines that he had once carved? No, but he continued to carve. His family knew how important this was to their father’s well-being, so they made it happen in a very safe way.
The stories of our patients are like valuable, buried treasures. When caregivers can unlock the past and dig up these stories, it is a transformative experience for the story teller and the listener, too.
The Scottsdale home care team at Nightingale Homecare is always thinking creatively when it comes to enhancing quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease. Our Connections Dementia Care Program, staffed by Alzheimer’s Whisperers®, helps those with dementia better manage a full range of challenging behaviors: wandering, repetition, nutritional concerns, sundowning, and much more. Contact us for a free in-home consultation to allow us to offer care solutions for your loved one by calling (602) 504-1555 any time.
About the Author: Verna Benner Carson, P.D., PMHCNS-BC, is president of C&V Senior Care Specialists and Associate Professor of Nursing at Towson University in Baltimore, MD. Dr. Carson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top providers of home health in Scottsdale explain the fascinating connection between music and Alzheimer’s.
Have you ever heard a song playing on the radio and found yourself transported to a time and place from the past? Have you ever had a song stir your deepest emotions – and bring back those memories as if they were happening in the present? Have you been comforted, stimulated, saddened, elated or experienced some other powerful emotion just because of a song? Most of us have had such experiences, and the power of the “remembering” elicited by music can catch us “off guard” when the song evokes emotionally-charged memories.
Music has the same power with individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and knowing this provides one more tool to help families or caregivers to manage challenging behaviors, to reach someone who appears to be lost in the disease, to calm an agitated individual and encourage cooperation in activities such as bathing that might otherwise be met with resistance. Some research even indicates that music can help restore lost memories and bring those afflicted with the disease back into the present – if only for a short period of time.
These facts about the power of music seem to fly in the face of the progressive loss of memories associated with Alzheimer’s disease – starting with the most recent and steadily erasing long ago memories going back in time. However, it is important to know that the memories of music are “wired” differently in the brain than other memories – it is almost as if the brain is made to contain music. Whereas short-term memories are stored in the hippocampus, music is stored everywhere in the brain, and music with all of its emotional meanings continues to be accessible to people with Alzheimer’s disease, even when they have lost the ability to speak – many can still sing!
What a powerful idea this is! If caregivers fully appreciated the significance of music they would use it all the time and to facilitate many activities of daily living. Caregivers have shared that they engage the person with Alzheimer’s in singing while the individual is bathed and dressed. Nurses sometimes use music while they are performing a painful procedure such as dressing a wound or drawing blood – music can distract, can soothe and can engage the person with Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent research conducted by Brandon Ally, an assistant professor at Boston University, where 32 Alzheimer’s patients participated in a study that examined the power of music, found that these subjects were able to learn more lyrics when the words were set to music than when they were spoken. Ally believes that the results of this study suggest that those with Alzheimer’s could be helped to remember things that are necessary to both their independence and well-being. For instance, creating a short ditty about taking medications or the importance of brushing one’s teeth might be a strategy to help those with Alzheimer’s disease maintain abilities to perform these necessary skills. This was the first study to demonstrate that using music can help people with Alzheimer’s to learn new information.
In the famous YouTube video Man in Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era, we see Henry, a man who was almost totally unresponsive, begin to respond with sound, movement and facial animation when he uses an iPod programmed with “Henry’s music.” After the iPod is removed, Henry is not only quite spirited, but totally involved in the ensuing conversation. He is able to discuss his favorite musician, Cab Calloway, and when asked, “What is your favorite Cab Calloway song?” Henry begins to sing, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Not only is his speech perfectly clear, his face is expressive, he uses his hands in explaining the emotional power of music. The interviewer inquires of Henry, “What does Cab Calloway’s music mean to you?” Henry talks about what music does for him – that the Good Lord changed him through music and made him a “holy man.” The transformation of Henry is nothing short of miraculous and raises questions about why music is not used in every home, in every assisted living facility, and in every skilled nursing home where someone with Alzheimer’s is cared for.
Music should be a routine part of care; not only does it bring joy to the person with this terrible disease, it allows for continuing connections between the caregiver and the person with Alzheimer’s disease. It diminishes the lonely isolation that is part of the disease when the afflicted person appears to be locked in a world that is isolated and isolating to others.
One more story about the power of music: a gentleman named Ben shared this story about his wife who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was well into the middle stage when he placed her in a facility for care. Ben visited often, and one of the techniques he used to stay connected to his wife and to make the visits pleasant and meaningful for both of them was to draw on his wife’s past history with music. She had sung for many years with the Sweet Adelines and she retained her lovely singing voice despite the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Ben loaded music that his wife had sung through her years with the Sweet Adelines. He attached two sets of earphones into an iPod – one for his wife and one for himself, and they would sing together. Music was a powerful connection between them that remained until his wife passed away.
At Nightingale Homecare, providers of the highest quality home health Scottsdale families trust, we are passionate about helping those with Alzheimer’s disease live life to the fullest. Our Connections Dementia Care program incorporates music and a variety of other creative techniques to enhance quality of life. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 for a free in-home consultation to learn more about our specialized dementia care services.
About the Author: Verna Benner Carson P.D., PMHCNS-BC, is president of C&V Senior Care Specialists and Associate Professor of Nursing at Towson University in Baltimore, MD. Dr Carson can be reached at email@example.com
Learn how occupational therapy can enhance the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is a constantly evolving process, seemingly changing from day to day or even hour to hour. In the morning, your loved one may be perfectly content to reminisce over family photos and enjoy a walk around the neighborhood; while later in the day, the person may become highly agitated and experience difficulties with sundowning. It can be challenging to know how to most effectively manage the ups and downs of dementia and ensure the senior enjoys the highest possible quality of life.
At Nightingale Homecare, we implement a variety of personalized strategies through our Connections Dementia Care Program, right in the comfort of home, that help those with Alzheimer’s disease live life to the fullest in whatever stage of the disease they happen to be. One of our top recommendations for families is to include an in-home occupational therapist in the care team, something many families haven’t considered. Occupational therapists are trained to adapt the environment of the person with dementia to maximize safety, while focusing activities on the senior’s strengths and interests, leading to a safer and more fulfilling life.
Wandering. Wandering is one of the more dangerous problems in dementia, and can be difficult to overcome. An occupational therapist can develop a variety of customized activities that are engaging and enjoyable for the senior that offer the mental stimulation needed to distract and divert away from the urge to wander. Additionally, other methods can be implemented, such as posting stop signs on doors, recommending the most effective types of door locks, and utilizing a GPS monitor to ensure the senior stays safe.
Dependency. A loss of some degree of independence is inherent to Alzheimer’s disease; yet it’s extremely important to help seniors maintain as much freedom and autonomy as possible. An occupational therapist will observe the senior’s strengths and work with those strengths to create adaptations that allow the person to continue to do as much as possible independently.
Memory loss. Preserving memory helps seniors maintain an emotional connection to both those they love and their own life history. Occupational therapy services can help by providing recommendations for memory-prompting activities, particularly in focusing on long-term memory, which is often better preserved than short-term. Occupational therapists can also create strategies for managing the more difficult aspects of memory loss, such as forgetting who family members are.
We’re pleased to offer professional in-home occupational therapists for help in these areas and many others. Contact us at (602) 504-1555 any time to request an in-home evaluation or to learn more about how our full range of home health care services, including occupational therapy, can help older adults with dementia or any other condition of aging live better lives. Our Scottsdale senior home care experts are always here to help!
A Nightingale representative would be happy to answer your questions or help you arrange for home care that is custom-fit to your needs.