This time of year, there’s plenty of spookiness to startle and sometimes even downright terrify us, but one fear that many of us carry throughout the year is the fear of cognitive decline as we age. While it’s true that dementia and other types of Alzheimer’s disease are more prevalent as we grow older, it’s also true that there are steps we can each take today to maintain a healthy brain and reduce our risk for cognitive decline:
- Maintain Good Overall Health. A number of health conditions can affect cognitive functioning, but the good news is we have some control over our ability to avoid them, such as following a healthy diet and exercise plan to maintain heart health and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, and getting regular medical checkups to stay in optimal physical health.
- Stay Safe. Some studies have noted an elevated risk for dementia in those who have suffered moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. Safety measures such as wearing a helmet when bicycling, wearing seatbelts in the car, reducing fall risks through education, and refraining from driving while impaired by alcohol or medications can reduce the risk for brain injury.
- Be Aware of Medicine Side Effects. As beneficial as medications are, combinations of certain types of drugs can result in brain complications such as memory loss, confusion, delusion, and hallucinations. Review a full list of medications with a doctor experienced in polypharmacy (one who understands the interactions of different medication combinations) to make sure the combinations you or a loved one is taking are safe.
- Stay Social. Loneliness and social isolation have shown to be connected to a higher incidence of dementia and other cognitive problems. For the elderly, this is especially concerning, as it can become more challenging to leave home due to physical infirmities and/or the inability to drive – but it’s imperative to ensure seniors stay socially active.
Nightingale Homecare, the Arizona home health care experts, are available to help seniors keep a healthy brain, body and mind through our professional in-home care services. Customized to each individual, we can help in a variety of ways:
- Friendly companionship to keep isolation and loneliness at bay
- Encouragement and participation in physician-approved exercise programs
- Fall risk assessments and assistance with ambulation and mobility
- Help with personal care tasks, such as bathing and dressing
- Preparation of nutritious meals
- Medication reminders
- Transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments, fun outings, and more
- Plus a full range of skilled nursing care services
For more information about our in-home care for seniors in the Phoenix area, you can reach us any time at (602) 504-1555.
“The diagnosis is: Alzheimer’s disease.” What difficult words those are to hear! Suddenly, the world as we know it seems to come to a standstill, while at the same time, our minds begin to swirl with the many questions and concerns that are raised. What kinds of changes should we expect? How will I continue to provide care for my loved one? What happens next?
The Alzheimer’s disease specialists at Nightingale Homecare want you to know you’re not alone, by any means. As many as 137 million adults in America either have Alzheimer’s themselves or a family member who’s been diagnosed; and more than 15 million of them are being cared for by a loved one.
It goes without saying that putting together a good caregiver support system is a crucial first step. Other top priorities include the following:
- Meet with the person’s physician to go over medication and treatment options.
- Find an elder care attorney who can make sure all financial and legal affairs are in order – including designation of a power of attorney as well as a point of contact for Social Security.
- If the senior is a veteran and has not already done so, apply for VA Aid & Attendance and Housebound benefits.
- Set yourself or another trusted person up as co-signer/co-owner on bank accounts.
Most importantly, sit down with your loved one post-diagnosis, along with any other family members, close friends, and perhaps clergy. Talk honestly and openly about your loved one’s current care needs and those projected for the future, taking into consideration any of his or her wishes and addressing any concerns.
Keep in mind that those with Alzheimer’s disease, in the later stages especially, require close supervision in order to remain safe, and without specialized Alzheimer’s disease training, it can be extremely challenging for families to provide the level of care needed to optimize quality of life and wellbeing, as well as to prevent danger or harm to the senior.
At Nightingale Homecare of Phoenix, we partner with families to provide professional Alzheimer’s disease care at home through our Connections Dementia Care Program. Our caregivers are certified as Alzheimer’s Whisperers®, with extensive training in compassionate, patient, creative care, combined with physical, occupational and speech therapy as needed – resulting in the highest possible level of functioning and quality of life for the person with Alzheimer’s, and peace of mind for his or her loved ones.
If your loved one has been given an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, call us at 602-504-1555. We have resources to share, and can schedule a free in-home consultation to talk with you further about how we can help. Your loved one is in good hands with Nightingale Homecare!
If you’re providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you’re likely to encounter some very noticeable and highly demanding behaviors. Sundowning, emotional outbursts, and wandering, for example, all require caregivers to jump into immediate action.
One issue that can take second stage, but should be addressed with just as much urgency, is nutritional challenges. Extremely common for seniors with dementia, nutritional challenges that are overlooked can cause additional, sometimes serious, health issues. The professional Phoenix elder care team at Nightingale Homecare provides a full range of specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care, including assistance with eating. We’ve broken down the top concerns for you, and how to overcome them.
- No Appetite. Although it’s true that the elderly in general have a reduced caloric requirement, those with Alzheimer’s disease may also lack interest in food due to sensory and motor skill issues, memory loss, and confusion.
- How to Help:
- Allow the senior to assist in some way with preparing the meal, according to his or her abilities.
- Turn on some quiet background music.
- Set the table with flowers, a favorite knick-knack, or small picture.
- Serve smaller portions, one dish at a time.
- Unhealthy Eating. Some Alzheimer’s patients will want to eat only sweets, or may overindulge in other less than healthy food choices.
- How to Help:
- Try substitutes for favored unhealthy food choices, such as non-sweet cereal, chunks of bright-colored melon or berries, or sugar-free treats.
- Cover packaging for less healthy foods, such as wrapping cookie packages in plain paper, or place those food items out of sight and reach.
- Offer plenty of healthy snacks throughout the day, such as carrot sticks or applesauce.
- Mealtime Messes. Problems with chewing and swallowing, or with managing utensils, can result in more food spilled than going into the person with Alzheimer’s.
- How to Help:
- Utilize strong plastic dinnerware, a plastic tablecloth and placemat, in contrasting colors.
- Purchase specialized eating utensils that are modified for those with eating difficulties.
- Try plates with divided sections and raised edges to keep food from being pushed off onto the table or floor.
- Place small suction cups beneath the plate to secure it in place.
For more tips on improving mealtimes for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, call on the Phoenix elder care experts at Nightingale Homecare. Our team is comprised of professionally trained Alzheimer’s Whisperers® in our Connections dementia care program, uniquely trained using Dr. Verna Benner-Carson’s nationally acclaimed approach to gentle, compassionate dementia care. We’re here to help make life easier, safer, and more fulfilling for those with Alzheimer’s disease and those who care for them. Contact us at 602-504-1555 to learn more and begin to experience success in living with dementia!
Although memory loss and confusion are the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, a less well known, but equally concerning issue is the decline in communication skills. This is especially disconcerting for loved ones who strive to maintain as much normalcy in the relationship as possible, and can quickly become discouraged when the ability to connect with the Alzheimer’s patient comes to a standstill.
Nightingale Homecare, a professional Alzheimer’s care company in Phoenix, is specifically qualified in providing care to patients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders through our unique approach taught by Dr. Verna Benner-Carson’s “Alzheimer’s Whisperer®” program, including communication skills. Our caregivers and professional staff are trained in these techniques and utilize these tools every day in our Connections program; and, we take the time to teach them to the families of our dementia clients as well.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia and communication has become difficult, these tips can help:
- Keep it simple! Simplify your statements and avoid being too lengthy. These are the primary rules we emphasize while communicating with a loved one with memory loss.
- It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
- 1. Say the individual’s name and identify yourself to him or her
- 2. Establish and maintain eye contact
- 3. State your message using simple words
- Keep it positive (and avoid the negative):
- Negative: “Don’t put your hand in the gravy!”
- Positive: “Please put your hands in your lap.” And, using gestures can be helpful.
- Avoid questions. We recommend limiting questions to those with dementia. For example, say, “We are having macaroni for lunch today” (smile) instead of, “What would you like for lunch today?” There are, however, exceptions. Remember life is about daily change, so it’s important to be flexible. If you need to ask a question, limit the choices given. For example, “Would you like chicken or macaroni today?”
- Take it one step at a time. We find that working with clients who have dementia is made easier when we break tasks into simple steps, such as:
- “Pick up the comb.”
- “Comb your hair.”
- “Pick up your toothbrush.”
- “Put the toothbrush on your teeth.”
- “Move the toothbrush on your teeth.”
- Speak to your loved on as an adult. Be aware of your tone of voice. Remember to preserve your loved one’s dignity at all times. Although it’s common to use the word “we,” as in, “Don’t we look pretty today?” it’s much more respectful to say, “You look very nice today.”
- Use non-verbal communication. Tone of voice, facial expressions, touch and gestures are effective and important parts of communicating with your loved one.
Alzheimer’s Whisperers enter the client’s world and manage the challenging behaviors associated with dementia in a way that is gentle, creative and highly effective. Our goal with Nightingale’s Connections program is to enable the person with dementia to continue to be cared for safely at home. Contact Nightingale Homecare for more information and for more examples on dementia and Alzheimer’s assessment, training and teaching tools.
Anyone who’s cared for a loved one with dementia knows that the journey is similar to a winding, uphill trek into an unexplored forest. It’s hard to predict exactly where you’ll end up next; and once you’ve become familiar with one area, the terrain shifts into new unknowns.
Although each person’s experience with dementia is unique, there are some predictable stages through which he or she will likely progress. WebMD describes these stages as:
- Mild Dementia: In this stage, memory begins to lapse, and a struggle to recall once familiar people, places and words becomes evident. Feelings in this stage can include anxiety, sadness, and disinterest in formerly enjoyed activities, and can result in major depression.
- Moderate Dementia: Poor judgment, reduced physical function and issues with sensory processing emerge in the moderate dementia stage. Because of such symptoms as displaying inappropriate language, wandering, and lack of attention to personal hygiene, this is an especially challenging stage for caregivers. During the transition into this stage, it’s a good idea to maximize safety with home modifications, and to look into palliative care to provide support and assistance with managing difficult behaviors.
- Severe Dementia: With symptoms such as extensive memory loss, issues with swallowing, bladder and bowel control, and loss of mobility, 24-hour, around-the-clock-care may be necessary.
Caring for a loved one through these stages of dementia can be incredibly stressful and exhausting, both physically and emotionally. It’s crucial for a strategy of support to be implemented, including periods of respite care to allow family caregivers the chance to renew their strength and stamina.
Nightingale Homecare provides professional Phoenix dementia care through a specialized dementia program, Connections. With our entire team – caregivers, nurses, therapists, social workers, and managers – trained in Dr. Verna Benner Carson’s Alzheimer’s Whispers® approach, we offer a unique level of expertise in the field of dementia care. Our process involves:
- Testing/evaluation by an RN
- Development of client-specific strategies to address particular needs
- Training for family or others providing care
- Necessary physical, occupational or speech therapy, and/or social worker services arranged
- Either intermittent or continuous care provided by Nightingale’s fully trained caregivers as needed
With Nightingale Homecare, you’re never alone on your journey through your loved one’s dementia. We’ve been walking alongside families since 1994, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing a full range of home care services, from personal care, companionship, meal preparation and light housekeeping to complex medical treatments like infusions, ventilator/respiratory services, wound care, blood draws, and more. Call us any time at 602-504-1555 to learn more.