Navigating Travel with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Dementia is used to describe a group of medical conditions related to memory loss. While long-term memory loss isn’t a normal part of aging, there are many older adults living with various types of dementia. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 5.8 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. However, with summer approaching, Alzheimer’s and dementia don’t have to stop you from exploring new places or visiting family and friends. In fact, many people living with these diseases continue to travel and even do so alone in certain circumstances. While travel has been severely curtained in recent months throughout the country, you may need to travel for unforseen circumstances. Even a trip to the store, or to visit family may need some preparation and of course, if you need to travel to a new living situation you may need to fly or take a long car trip.  If you are planning to travel with a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, the best way to  have a safe and enjoyable trip is to be prepared.

Preparing for Your Trip

According to the National Institute on Aging, as dementia progresses, it can impact our, “behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with daily life and normal activities.” Depending on the stage of dementia, traveling will pose different challenges. Your loved one’s ability to communicate, behavioral patterns and mood changes can all be affected by a sudden change in routine or venturing into unfamiliar environments. As you prepare each aspect of your trip, from accommodations to transportation, it’s important to think about your loved one’s needs and abilities.

Evaluating your transportation options

Depending on the nature of your travel, you will have to decide how to get to your destination. When traveling with someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, simplicity is key. You might consider minimizing your travel time by taking fewer stops or avoiding airport layovers. Whether you’re traveling by air or by car, there are a few important elements to keep in mind as you prepare your itinerary:

Traveling by Air
The Dementia.org team surveyed caregivers and those diagnosed with dementia to explore their experiences when traveling by air. Those who participated were asked to describe the challenges and surprises they encountered throughout their travels. Here is what they found:

Traveling through airports can be challenging for all people, especially for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, following instructions can become increasingly difficult.
Nearly half of the participants encountered problems with checking in, bag screening, finding the boarding gate and restrooms, hearing announcements and reading information on signboards.

Navigating the security checkpoint was exceptionally difficult for those with severe cognitive impairments, specifically those in the later stages of the disease. While it’s helpful for the person with dementia to travel with a caregiver, oftentimes caregivers are unable to help with security checkpoints such as individual screenings.

All of the participants noted that while there were challenges, traveling by air was possible if both the caregiver and loved one were prepared. The following tips helped ease the traveling process for participants in the study:

• Arriving to the airport early to leave time for unexpected challenges
• Notifying airport staff that you are traveling with a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease before your travel date and at the time of arrival
• Minimizing stressors including hand-held luggage
• Going through security checkpoints behind your companion. If you enter through security in front of your loved one, you won’t be permitted to return to them.
• Seek out quiet spaces of the airport including unused gates or sitting areas. These can be helpful in times of stress and chaos.
• Bring noise canceling headphones to help minimize distractions and agitations.

Traveling by Car
It’s recommended to travel by car when traveling with someone with dementia, especially if your destination can be reached within one travel day. Traveling by car gives the caregiver and loved one more control over their journey. Rest stops, food options and overall environment can mostly be controlled.

If you are in the midst of planning a road trip, remember to plan out your rest stops. Searching for a rest stop can be stressful during an urgent situation. Knowing where you will stop and which rest sites are close by will give you a better sense of control. It can also be helpful to consider how long your traveling day will take you, factoring in your loved one’s behavior and mood.

If your loved one is feeling overwhelmed or agitated, you might consider moving on to your safety plan. As you create your safety plan, make sure to consider where you might stop if something comes up or who you will need to contact in the case of an emergency.

Travel Considerations to Keep in Mind

In general, traveling can be stressful for all people with various ability levels. Once you’ve decided to travel, there are a few simple things you can do lessen the stress and anxiety surrounding the trip:

Start your trip prepared- You want to start preparing and packing for your trip a week or so before the travel date. As you begin packing, make sure to take extra clothing and personal care items with you in the case of an emergency. Get plenty of sleep the night before and bring foods that your loved one enjoys and will eat without hesitation. Lastly, leave yourself plenty of time to get ready in the morning before beginning your road trip or heading to the airport.

Write and share your itinerary- Before your trip, write down all of your travel plans, including hotels, and even rest stops you plan to visit. This itinerary should be shared with family and friends who will be available to assist you if needed.

Take important documents with you- In the case of an emergency, you will need to access important documents. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is suggested to take the following essential documents with you while traveling:
• Doctor’s name and contact information
• A list of medications and dosages
• Phone numbers of local police, hospitals and poison control
• Copies of all legal papers including a living will, power of attorney and proof of guardianship
• Name and contact information of emergency contacts
• Insurance cards and information

Be alert to wandering- If your loved one is at risk of wandering, make sure they are wearing an ID bracelet or write their name and your contact information in their clothing.

Dealing with an emergency- If your loved one is prone to outbreaks and aggression, make sure to pay attention to their warning signs. If you are driving when an outbreak takes place, pull over immediately. If you need to calm down someone with dementia, there are proven techniques to help you.

Embracing Summertime Travel at Maplewood Senior Living

Travel doesn’t always have to be a source of tension for you or your loved one. Our staff at Maplewood Senior Living are seasoned professionals who can help you prepare for your trip and provide you with travel tips and tricks. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

We all know that aging can cause wrinkles, gray hair and achy joints. However, as we age our bodies and minds undergo many physiological changes that aren’t as obvious. As our brains age, their neurological makeup also changes, which can cause forgetfulness and longer memory recall. While this is a normal part of aging, memory-loss is not. However, many older adults suffer from long-term memory loss in their later years. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, 50 million people have dementia, with 10 million new diagnoses each year. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, contributing to 60-70% of all dementia cases.

Differences between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

While they are commonly interchanged, dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same diseases. Unlike Alzheimer’s, which is a specific long-term memory disease, dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. While many people are familiar with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, most are unfamiliar with the other various types. Of the 400 types of dementia, here are the most common aside from Alzheimer’s disease:

Vascular Dementia- This type of dementia can be caused when the vessels that supply blood to our brains get damaged. While there are far fewer cases of vascular dementia, it is the second most common type. Many diagnosed with this disease often notice challenges with problem-solving, focus and organization.

Lewy Body Dementia- Abnormal clumps of protein, called Lewy bodies, are found in the brains of people with certain diseases such as Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Those with Lewy body dementia might suffer from visual hallucinations, acting out and have trouble with focusing.

Frontotemporal Dementia- The frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are associated with our personality, behavior and language. When the nerve cells and their connections to the brain begin to degenerate, it’s not uncommon for behavior, personality, thinking and judgement to begin to change. While there are different types of frontotemporal dementia, all of them are associated with nerve breakdown in the brain.

Mixed Dementia- It’s possible for adults to have many different types of dementia at one time. Researchers are performing autopsy studies to learn more about this condition and how it might be properly treated in the future.

Alzheimer’s disease refers to abnormal protein deposits that form in the brain causing plaques and tangles. These protein fragments and twisted fibers clog and damage the brain’s nerves, altering the chemical makeup of the brain. As the disease worsens, connections between brain cells can be completely lost, in addition to physical brain shrinkage. According to the National Institute of Health, most adults begin experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in their mid-60s.

Symptoms and Early Warning Signs

While the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can differ, they also have commonalities. Here are a few of the most common warning signs seen in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients according to the Alzheimer’s Association and Healthline Magazine.

• Changes in Memory- Increasing difficulty with memory can be an early symptom of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Most changes will involve short-term memory, such as forgetting where they placed an item, what they were going to do, or asking the same questions over and over again.

• Difficulty with Word Recall- Those with early symptoms might notice an increased difficulty in communicating their thoughts or needs. For most people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, vocabulary recall and organizing thoughts can get increasingly difficult as the diseases progress.

• Challenges in Problem Solving- Working with numbers or developing a plan can also pose quite a challenge. Some people living with dementia have trouble with things like following a recipe and keeping track of monthly bills.

• Changes in Mood and Behavior- While this symptom is certainly hard to recognize in yourself, it can be one of the first warning signs you notice in others. Depression and changes in personality, such as shifting from shy to outgoing, can also be related to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

• Confusion- In general, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be confusing experiences for those who have been diagnosed. Someone in the early stages of these diseases might become confused when they realize their memory has changed, making it difficult to interact and communicate with others.

• Repetition-Because Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affect memory, those who are living with it might find themselves repeating tasks and asking the same questions or telling the same stories.

• Struggle with Change- For those in the early stages, accepting the illness can be extremely difficult. It’s normal for those who have been diagnosed to experience periods of denial, making it difficult to adapt to change.

Causes and Risk Factors of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Because there are so many different types of dementia, it is difficult to identify the exact cause. Underlying health issues, environment and family history can impact a person’s potential for developing dementia. Other disorders, such as Huntington’s disease, traumatic brain injury and Parkinson’s disease, are also linked to dementia. This means the risk of developing dementia is significantly increased when one of these disorders has already developed.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.” Like dementia, the exact cause of Alzheimer’s cannot be identified, however there are certain risk factors that can make an individual more susceptible to the disease.
Some factors like family history can increase the risk of developing the disease, especially if a first-degree relative has been diagnosed. Those with Down syndrome often develop Alzheimer’s disease, which is most likely related to having three copies of chromosome 21. Environmental factors such as living a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and poorly controlled diabetes can all increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Treatment

Taking the step to get checked out by your doctor can be incredibly difficult. However, there are many treatment options available for those with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. While there isn’t a treatment that can reverse the disease, there are medications that can help lessen the symptoms. Oftentimes, an early diagnosis gives individuals the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, which ultimately help researchers learn more about the disease.

Living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia at Maplewood Senior Living

Our communities at Maplewood Senior Living are committed to providing a comfortable environment for individuals living through each stage of their dementia. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

The Power of Journaling During a Crisis

As self-isolation protocols continue across the nation, especially in senior living communities, it can be hard to stay positive. Many seniors have spent months away from their families, friends and grandchildren while doing their part to stay safe. This sense of isolation can be difficult to cope with and can have lasting effects on our wellbeing. It’s crucial for seniors to find ways to cope with the emotional stress of being both lonely and isolated from others. Journaling, which involves the practice of exploring thoughts and feelings through writing, can be a great way to keep your brain active while also working through your emotional stress.

Benefits of Journaling

Journaling is often thought of as an old-fashioned hobby, however, it’s much more than that. In fact, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “Journaling can help manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression.” Those who practice journaling regularly might notice a variety of health benefits, especially during difficult times.

Reduces Stress
Experiencing long-term stress can negatively impact your health, including your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Journaling is a great way to express your emotions, which in return can help manage stress and frustrations.

Produces Positive Health Outcomes– A study found that those who engaged in expressive writing, which focuses on expressing deep thoughts and feelings, reported improved immune system functioning along with fewer stress-related visits to the doctor, reduced blood pressure, improved lung function and improved liver function.

Keeps your Memory Sharp– Many researchers believe that journaling consistently can help recall memories while also keeping the brain stimulated and sharp. Writing can help boost memory and improve comprehension skills.

Boosts Mood– Writing down our emotions, even if they are difficult ones, can help us release negative thoughts and give us a greater sense of control.

Sharpens Your Emotional IQ– Our emotional IQ refers to our capacity to understand, evaluate and manage emotions. A regular journaling practice can help us tune into our own emotions, which allows us to connect to our needs and desires. As we do this consistently, our ability to practice empathy and compassion, both with ourselves and others will become a well-formed habit.

Improves Communication Skills– Journaling is a great way to practice our ability to communicate effectively. If you find it difficult to express yourself to others, you might consider using journaling as a way to get to the core of your emotions. As you maintain your journaling practice you might find it easier to communicate your needs, thoughts and desires to others.

Sparks Creativity– You might surprise yourself with your own creativity! It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you first start journaling, however, the more you practice the easier it will become. Writing helps unleash your creative side, allowing you to explore ways of self-expression and acceptance.

Types of Journaling

If you’ve never written in a journal before, you might feel clumsy in the beginning. However, you don’t need to be intimidated. There are many different types of journaling, which can help provide some structure, especially as you start out. Once you get more comfortable within your practice, you might be ready to branch out into other styles.

• Gratitude Journal– Some people choose to keep a journal focused on the positive aspects of their day. Those who practice gratitude journaling often list three aspects of their day that provided joy or for which they are grateful.

• Personal Diary– This type of journaling allows a person to write about their day—what they did, who they meant or what kinds of emotions they have been dealing with. Keeping a personal diary is a great way to hold on to memories and relive experiences later on in life.

• Dream Journal– If you are prone to dream, or at least remembering them, you might consider a dream journal. Keep a journal by your bedside and each time you wake up to a dream, make sure to jot it down. Dreams can provide a lot of insight into our emotional and creative selves.

• Planning or Bullet Journal- Writing doesn’t come naturally to all people—that’s why some people find bullet journaling especially helpful. If you want to keep track of your day or even find a way to express your emotions efficiently, bullet journaling is an excellent option. This type of journaling involves keeping a bullet list of your thoughts or emotions in a clear and concise way.

• One Sentence Journal– Some people choose to write only one sentence a day in their journals. This type of journaling, similar to bullet journaling, allows you to focus on exactly how you’re feeling and what you want to remember when reminiscing in the future.

Journaling Tips for Beginners

Sitting down and writing can be challenging for so many people. However, writer’s block doesn’t have to keep you from expressing yourself through journaling.

As you first begin, consider writing in your journal as soon as you wake up. This will help you get your thoughts together and is especially helpful for those keeping a dream journal. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get with writing. Set goals for yourself, such as writing every day for five minutes, or at least twice a week for beginners. Remember, it’s important to be gentle with yourself, especially if you’re new to journaling. Don’t judge what you write and always keep going!

Expressing Ourselves at Maplewood Senior Living

We know how important self-expression and creativity can be to our health, especially during uncertain or stressful times. Our residents at Maplewood Senior Living have been exploring different creative outlets, while having fun in the process. If you’d like to hear more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Dementia Caregiving during COVID-19

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, nursing homes across the nation have put policies in place to protect their residents and staff members. As residents in nursing homes and senior living communities continue to practice social-distancing by remaining mostly in their homes, caregivers have been presented with unique challenges.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are nearly 34.2 million caregivers who provide unpaid care to older adults in the United States. Of those caregivers, 15.7 million provide support to a family member who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Due to COVID-19, many of these caregivers have been unable to access traditional resources, such as respite care or relying on other family members to help carry the responsibility.

Signs of Caregiver Stress

Even without the stress of COVID-19, caregiving is emotionally and physically challenging. Whether you’re caring for a spouse or family member, it’s not uncommon to experience stress, especially as your normal routines and access to resources have changed. While we all experience stress and anxiety in different ways, these are the most common signs:

Poor Sleep- When people experience stress, one of the most common indicators is a change in sleeping patterns and poor-quality sleep. Most adults function best with six to eight hours of sleep per night.

Irritability- When we feel stressed in addition to not sleeping well, it’s common to feel irritable. You might notice yourself saying things you might not normally say or having less patience than normal.

Depression- Long-term stress can cause you to experience depressive symptoms such as constant sadness, feeling hopeless and withdrawing from activities that usually give you happiness.

Loss of Concentration- When the stress of caregiving becomes too much, it can be hard to concentrate on anything at all.

Health Problems- Stress can take a toll on our immune systems, especially when we experience stress long-term. You might be more susceptible to the common cold or flu when under tremendous stress.

How to Combat Caregiver Stress

Caregiving can be extremely demanding, so it’s not uncommon for caregivers to experience periods of stress and burnout. However, this doesn’t mean caregivers have to live this way. In fact, according to Healthline Magazine, there are a variety of simple ways to combat stress.

Self-care is the most important thing caregivers can do to combat feelings of burnout, especially during these times of self-quarantine. Because the quarantine doesn’t have a certain end-date, it’s crucial to keep checking in with yourself and how you’re feeling. Pay attention to your stress levels and acknowledge when you begin to experience them more often. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and make sure to save time in your daily routine for something you enjoy.

One of the best things you can do for yourself while caregiving in quarantine is stay connected with your support team. This might be a friend, a group of caregivers, or a family member that you can talk to regularly. With these times being so unpredictable, it might help to regularly schedule your call.

Tips for Dementia Caregivers during COVID-19

Caregiving during emergency situations, such as the current coronavirus pandemic, may require an emergency plan. The Alzheimer’s Association has gathered resources and provided a number of ways for caregivers to successfully support their loved one even through these hard times.

Focus on Preventing Illnesses

Caring for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s is already challenging, so keeping a normal routine despite these circumstances is important. You might consider showing your loved one the essentials of handwashing and lead by example. Handwashing schedules and friendly reminders in the restroom and near sinks might help prompt your loved one to wash more frequently. If you’re exposed to other people, remember to wear a mask and gently remind your loved one to do the same.

In the case of an illness or emergency, it’s important to be prepared with a medical care plan. People dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s might experience changes in condition or react unexpectedly in emergency situations, creating a new plan that is conducive to COVID-19 parameters will help you feel prepared in unanticipated medical situations. You might consider addressing these points in your care plan:
• Contact your healthcare provider to learn about their new procedures regarding routine and emergency visits
• Ask your healthcare provider if telehealth visits are available if chronic care situations should arise
• Ask your provider to help you navigate emergency situations if one should ever present itself. What is the proper protocol?

Help Keep Families and Friends Connected

Self-isolation can be harmful to those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Caregivers, especially those who aren’t related to their loved one, should make an effort to keep the individual connected to their family. If your loved one is used to connecting with certain people on a regular basis, you might consider scheduling consistent phone calls, video chats or exchange emails with family and friends. While social distancing limits physical connection, it’s important to find ways your loved one can stay emotionally connected to those they care about.

Plan Low-Risk Outings

For Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, maintaining a routine can make the difference between a good day and a bad one. If your loved one is used to going outside or running errands with you, low-risk outings might be a good alternative to your regular outings. Walking outside, visiting a park or even going for a drive is a great way to make the day feel exciting and productive. However, if you do decide to go out, make sure to abide by social distancing guidelines when around others who don’t live in your home.

Observe and Respond to Behavioral Patterns

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, those who are living with dementia often rely on behavior as a way to communicate non-verbally. These behaviors can be expressed through screaming, striking-out or becoming emotional. Caregivers must rely on these behaviors as a form of communication.

As routines change, you may notice your loved one relying on non-verbal communication more than usual. If you’re unsure what’s being communicated, it can be helpful to rule out root causes of the behavior such as, hunger, pain, loneliness, overstimulation, fear or frustration.

The Alzheimer’s Association has provided a list of strategies to help mitigate the behavior and identify root cause (you can find the entire list here):
• Offer a favorite food
• Look at photographs together
• Read a book or magazine
• Exercise
• Create a peaceful environment
• Provide tasks
• Connect with friends and family

Get the Care You Need at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we prioritize the health and safety of all our residents in every community. That’s why we’re focused on providing additional care and support to our caregivers during this time. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.

Returning to Life After COVID-19

Across the United States, towns and states are lifting sanctions to stay at home after more than three months of very isolating times. The urge will be to jump right back to the way life was before, however, continued precautions are advised. While we don’t know what exactly our new “normal” will look like, researchers and industry experts across the nation are working hard to put new plans into place. Just like the mandates put into place in early March, lifting them could take place throughout several phases over several months. Here are some of the most common predictions from industry leaders:

Balancing the Threat of Social Isolation with the Risk of Spreading the Virus
Safe and healthy, self-quarantine can have negative effects on older adults. In fact, long-term isolation is, “linked to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.”

How to Combat Isolation

To combat isolation and its negative impact on health, many older adults across the country have learned how to use FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and other video conferencing platforms as a way to connect with their loved ones. In addition, families have been forced to cancel large gatherings and instead have visited with each other virtually.

Seniors are also using virtual experiences like online museum tours, concerts and exercises as a way to stay active and stimulated. While policies in states are most likely to lift eventually, researchers suggest it might take longer than we think to get back to a ‘normal’ lifestyle. Industry leaders predict we will still need to rely on virtual and online technologies until physical interaction is deemed safe again.

Taking Continued Precautions

As mandates continue to lift and life as we know it slowly returns to normal, you might be wondering how to adapt to the new normal. As COVID-19 first began to spread, a large emphasis was put on maintaining proper hygiene. Even as people resume their daily responsibilities, many researchers suggest that our new hygiene habits will stick. This means we might see additional hand-washing stations in shopping areas and more people carrying hand-sanitizer with them when they go out.

Due to the virus transmitting from person to person in the air, many precautions have been put into place to keep people distanced from one another. We may continue to see restaurants and shopping centers limit the number of people allowed in the store at one time. In addition, large group gatherings like concerts and parties could take a while to come back in full swing. Because the threat of the virus won’t entirely disappear for quite some time, many experts are suggesting that individuals will continue to wear masks when out in public.

Tips for Adapting to a New Normal

While no one knows exactly what our new normal will look like, there are ways to ease this transition. As life continues to feel uncertain, here are a few ways to make it feel a little less scary:

Stay Connected– The most important thing you can do for yourself during this time is stay connected to your friends and family members. Even if you’re unable to connect in person, there are still ways to enjoy each other’s company. You might consider using a video conferencing platform like Skype or Zoom, write letters or schedule consistent phone calls.

Listen to Your Local Guidelines– Each state has a department of health that regulates the mandates put into place to help stop the spread of the virus. Staying updated on these protocols will help you stay informed and might even give you a sense of control.

Take Charge of Your Health-Times of transitions can cause our bodies to go through unwanted stress. Maintaining a healthy diet and consistent exercise routine will help ease this transition—both physically and mentally.

Focus on Yourself– As regulations lift and businesses begin to open up, it’s important to listen to your own heart. If you’re uncomfortable with going out, it’s okay to give yourself more time to transition into your own new normal. Focus on yourself and what brings you peace.

Stay Safe at Maplewood Senior Living

Our Maplewood Senior Living communities are working hard to ensure the safety of all residents and associates remains a top priority. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.

Practicing Mindfulness to Keep Calm and Focused During Crisis

Many of us have experienced a wide range of emotions during these last few weeks as we continue to cope with the effects of COVID-19. At times, you might have felt worried, anxious and sad, while other times might have brought unexpected joy and gratitude. While it can be difficult to notice in the moment, our bodies are highly sensitive to our surroundings. In fact, stress and anxiety have the potential to increase our risk of certain illnesses and diseases. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to manage our emotions, especially in trying times such as these.

Many people turn to mindfulness as a way to take control of our feelings and reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and worry. According to The Chopra Center, “Mindfulness is all about being aware, which of course includes the practice of meditation. When you are being actively mindful, you are noticing and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and movements and also to the affects you have on those around you. Meditation is an intentional practice, where you focus inward to increase calmness, concentration and emotional balance.” While individuals choose to practice mindfulness for many different reasons, its benefits are apparent in all of its forms. In fact, clinical trials have shown that those who practice mindful meditation regularly can reduce chronic pain and other illnesses by 57%.”For some, mindfulness can be a hard concept to understand, especially for those who are unfamiliar with its origin.

The History of Mindfulness

According to the EOC Institute, mindfulness meditation has a long history that stretches back thousands of years. While its exact start date is unknown, most scholars agree that meditation and the practice of mindfulness can be traced back 5,000 years to the time of hunter-gatherers, who practiced meditation and passed it on to future generations.

Mindfulness is most historically tied to the Buddha, whose teachings go back to 500BC. Essentially, the Buddha’s teachings and practice formed what we now understand as meditation. Traveling during these times was limited so meditation widely remained in Asia. Meditation practice finally reached Western history by 1960 and was widely adopted by a group we now refer to as hippies. Since then, those throughout the world have adopted the values of meditation and continue to practice it today, reaping its many benefits.

Benefits of Mindfulness

While there are many ways to practice mindfulness, all forms allow a person to calm both their bodies and minds. According to an article published by U.S. News, “Meditation requires you sit or lie down and let your thoughts drift out of your mind. When you meditate, in general, the breath slows down, heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, stress decreases, digestive function improves and the sense of tension in the body decreases.” Many researchers have found that a consistent daily mindfulness practice can provide a wide variety of health benefits:

Protects Against Cognitive Decline-While mindfulness requires a certain extent of “letting go” of thoughts and worries, it also requires you to practice control, which can help maintain and improve cognitive function and increase memory and processing speed.

Aids Digestion– The practice of meditation can actually help improve digestion by increasing blood flow and the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Reduces StressA study led by Carnegie Mellon found that meditation has the ability to reduce feelings and symptoms of stress, especially for those who practice consistently. The practice of organizing our thoughts and regulating our emotions can help improve our focus and give us a clear perspective.

Combats LonelinessA study published by UCLA found that participants who meditated often focused more on the present moment than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. This allowed participants to focus on what was around them, resulting in a decreased feeling of loneliness.

Promotes Communication and Healthy Relationships– Mindfulness allows us to sit and acknowledge our feelings without judgment. The more we practice mindfulness, the more we will be able to move this practice over in our relationships with others. As we come to understand ourselves more clearly, communicating our needs and wants with others begins to get easier.

Starting Your Mindfulness Practice

Like with most new things, getting started is the hardest part when it comes to setting up your mindfulness practice. At first, meditation will feel clumsy and uncomfortable. However, like any exercise, practice makes perfect. Don’t be discouraged if you find cultivating your practice difficult. To make things a bit easier, here are some few tips to follow:

Setting Up Your Practice

The best way to stay consistent with your practice is to make it part of your routine, just like eating dinner or going to an exercise class. The most consistent meditators choose the same time of day to begin their practice. You should aim for about 20 minutes at least 5 times a week. However, this will take time! First, start with 5 minutes and build on your time by a few minutes each day.

Getting Started
Okay, you’ve made your mindfulness commitment, now what?

Get Comfortable– Find a place that feels comfortable to begin your practice. You might choose a bedroom, dining room or even your kitchen. Try to sit with your back straight, but the most important element is that you are comfortable.

Close Your Eyes– As you close your eyes, your other senses should become sharper. Focus on the sensation of breathing—how does it feel to take a breath? Gently pull yourself back to focusing on your breath whenever thoughts enter your mind.

Focus on Breath– Choosing to let go of your thoughts and refocusing on the sensation of breathing helps you to control where you put your attention. This will ultimately help you with decision-making and concentration outside of your practice when dealing with daily difficulties.

Dealing with Challenges
When we try something for the first time, there will obviously be challenges. This is completely normal. Feeling distracted is a common experience for beginners, however all you can do is gently pull yourself back into the moment. If you feel discouraged often, it’s okay to pause your meditation, write down your thoughts and get back into the moment. This will allow you to let go of what you’re worrying about and get back into your practice.

Relieve Stress at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know these times away from family and friends are difficult. Many of our residents are exploring new hobbies, exercises and activities that give them peace and relieve stress, leaving them feeling happier and healthier. To learn more about our offerings, please contact us.

Ways to Combat Social Isolation During COVID-19

As we all do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19’s global impact, most of us find ourselves self- quarantined in our homes. While self-quarantine is the best thing to do to stay healthy, it can also come with challenges, especially for vulnerable populations. Many older adults are at risk of isolation during this time, especially if they are alone. For many individuals, social interaction and physical touch can be reduced to just minutes per day, if at all. According to AARP, loneliness and isolation “affect a significant proportion of adults in the United States and have been calculated as being the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Long-term isolation can have serious effects on an individual’s health both physically and mentally.

Effects of Isolation on Mental and Physical Health for Seniors
The symptoms of long-term isolation can present themselves slowly and can be difficult to identify, especially in yourself. That’s why it’s so important to check-in with yourself each day and assess how you’re feeling. If you experience any of these symptoms or effects of isolation, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider right away to get the treatment you need. According to the Lifeline Crisis Support, here are some of the most common effects of long-term isolation.

• Physical Symptoms– You might notice your pre-existing conditions worsening or the development of new conditions. Headaches, aches and pains and sudden illness are all common physical symptoms of long-term isolation.
• Mental Health Conditions– During periods of isolation you are more at risk of depression, anxiety and panic attacks, especially if you have experienced these conditions before.
• Interrupted Sleep Patterns– You might experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or even sleeping too much. These interrupted sleep patterns can cause you to feel tired, fatigued and generally disinterested.
• Changes in Diet– Isolation can cause loss of appetite, which results in sudden weight gain or loss. If you experience these changes, it’s important to notify your doctor quickly.
• Substance Abuse– To deal with the stress of isolation, it’s not uncommon for adults to increase their consumption of alcohol, smoking, medications and drugs. If you have a history of substance abuse and are experiencing long-term isolation, be sure to have support plan put in place.
• Negative or Depressed Feelings – Long-term isolation can provoke feelings of hopelessness and disinterest.

How to Stay Connected during Social Isolation
While we’re navigating these difficult times, the thought of being unable to see our loved ones adds another level of challenge and stress. However, there are many alternatives to help you stay connected to your family and friends from the comfort of your own home while decreasing your risk of feeling isolated.

Video Chatting
While there’s no replacement for hugging your family and friends and spending time connecting in person, there is an alternative that can help you stay connected while also staying healthy. Many people are using video conferencing platforms to speak with their loved ones, while also being able to see their faces. Applications like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts are video enabled platforms that are great for chatting with either one person or large groups. FaceTime is great for Apple products, while Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts are accessible on all devices. If you have a loved one who is living abroad, you might consider using WhatsApp.

Entertainment
Who says you can’t have fun in self-quarantine? There are a wide variety of online platforms that allow you to have virtual parties with your friends and families no matter where they live. These services allow you to watch movies or play games with your loved ones online.

Houseparty– While this application isn’t exactly new, it has become more popular in the last few weeks. While video chatting is a great way to stay connected, Houseparty allows you to video chat while providing entertainment for your group. This app allows you to play games with your group such as: Heads Up, Trivia, Quick Draw and many others.

• Watch Party– Facebook offers a feature that allows its users to watch Facebook videos together. Users can watch videos together in real time while writing and sharing their comments and reactions with their friends. Here are some tips to keep in mind while using.

Netflix Party– Watching movies is a great way to spend your time inside, but sometimes it can get lonely watching by yourself. That’s why Netflix created an extension called Netflix Party, which allows its users to type text into a chat box while watching.

Ways to Learn Online
You might be looking for ways to mix up your day and stay busy. This is a great time to learn new skills and utilize online learning tools. While learning is something you can do alone, it can also help you feel part of a community, especially if you find a friend to learn along with you. If you’re looking for a new book for your kindle, check out Amazon or buy a new book from Oprah’s Book Club. You might even consider starting a book club with your friends and using a video chat to discuss your thoughts.

There are so many ways to learn by using the computer. If you like learning about new topics, you might consider listening to a talk on TED. You can choose from a variety of lectures on hundreds of topics. Other platforms like Teachable and Coursera offer college level courses free of charge, and you can also choose to buy a membership for more access. Choose a course to take with a friend and call each other after to discuss what you’ve learned.

How to Build an Online Community
The best way to decrease you risk of isolation is find ways to build your community of support. Whether you’re video chatting or watching a movie with a friend, the more you interact with others the less likely you will feel isolated. For times like these, the best way to build a community is by utilizing technology.

Facebook and Instagram allow users to post pictures and videos, while allowing friends and family to comment and leave their well wishes. You might also consider starting an email chain with family and friends to stay updated on new life happenings. Group text messages are also a great way to share how you’re feeling and what you’ve been doing each day.

At our Maplewood Senior Living Communities, seniors are busy learning the latest technologies to stay entertained and connected with family and friends during this time. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.

Ways to Reduce Stress During a Crisis

During this time of global crisis, it’s not uncommon to become overwhelmed by the influx of frightening news, daily changes in protocol, and the loneliness that can accompany self-quarantine. With no end date in sight, uncertainty can cause feelings of anxiety and stress, no matter your situation. While stress isn’t healthy for any individual, it can be especially harmful for older adults. Stress can look very different for each individual and can show up in various ways, both mentally and physically. The first step in addressing your stress is to recognize your symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Stress can be caused by many different factors, such as isolation, changes in a routine, or worry about the future. As we live during these uncertain times, it’s important to check in with your loved ones and evaluate your own body and mind for signs of stress. Here are a few of the most common ways stress can present itself in the body:

Changes in Eating Habits
It’s not uncommon for stress to cause changes in diet. You might have noticed a change in your appetite or food choices, especially in the past few weeks. Overwhelming stress can cause both over-eating and loss of appetite.

Mood Swings
Processing our current global situation can be really difficult, especially as we consume new facts and stories multiple times a day. You might have experienced a change in your mood, such as increased irritability, general sadness, or depression.

Cognitive Decline
Stress can cause havoc on our memory, especially for older adults. Memory issues like increased forgetfulness, lack of concentration, excessive spending, and poor judgment are common behaviors accompanied by overwhelming stress.

Physical Signs
Stress can often present itself physically. If you’re under stress, you might have experienced body aches and pains, headaches, changes in your sleeping patterns, back pain, indigestion, and heart palpitations.

Long-Term Effects of Stress
While signs of stress can be difficult to identify, it’s important to address them quickly. Stress that remains constant for a long period of time can have negative effects, both physically and mentally.

Lowered immune system – Long-term stress can suppress the immune system, increasing our risk of illness and disease. Because older adults are more vulnerable to certain illnesses, further compromising their immune systems could have severe consequences.
Heart problems – To cope with stress, our bodies produce adrenaline, which raises blood pressure and heart rate. When we experience long-term stress, we put additional strain on our hearts, increasing our risk of damaging arteries and heart disease.
Vision and hearing loss – Adrenaline produced during long-term stress can constrict our blood vessels, which can negatively affect our hearing and vision.
Digestive issues – When we are overwhelmed with stress for a long period of time, our central nervous system can decrease its blood flow, causing contraction in our digestive muscles, which can lead to serious digestive problems.
• Dental issues – To cope with stress, many of us clench our jaws and grind our teeth without realizing. If we use these coping methods long-term, we can cause serious damage to our teeth.

Ways to Reduce Stress
While experiencing stress is a normal part of life, the consequences that come with it can have a negative effect on our overall well-being. As these stressful times continue, it’s important to focus on ways to reduce stress and maintain positive physical and mental health.

Mind
When we experience stress for long periods of time, it can have a powerful effect on our decision-making abilities, mental clarity, and concentration. While these symptoms can be quite powerful, working through them is simple. Breathing exercises are great tools to help with anxiety and dissipate the negative effects of stress. The next time you feel stressed, here is a simple breathing exercise to practice:
• Choose a comfortable place to lie down or sit, with your shoulders, neck, and head supported.
• Breathe in through your nose, filling your belly with air.
• Breathe out through your nose, placing one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
• As you breathe in, concentrate on your stomach rising. As you breathe out, feel your stomach lowering.
• Stay for three full breaths.

Simple activities like meditating, journaling, and coloring can also help clear your mind and work through situations that might be causing you stress. Adult coloring books exist, and they leave you with works of art you can frame! If you’re new to journaling, you can always use journals with built-in prompts to make writing feel easier and more natural.

Body
Taking care of your body during stressful times is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Simple movements like walking or stretching can help combat the negative symptoms of stress like tightness, anxiety, and nervousness. While getting to your local gym or rec center might not be possible at the moment, it’s still possible to do simple exercises in the comfort of your own home. The YMCA is offering virtual classes for all members and non-members that you can access right from your computer. Yoga is also a great exercise that can help combat stress while also helping to build strength and flexibility.

You might experience a change in your appetite during stressful times, but ensuring proper nutrition is crucial. Now could be the perfect opportunity to try new recipes or take an online cooking class. While traveling is limited, you can relive your past travels through recreating international dishes. You might consider ordering your groceries through Amazon online, or checking with your local grocery stores to inquire about delivery.

Spirit
Stress can make you feel lonely, isolated, and depressed. However, there are many different ways to relieve these symptoms of stress while lifting your spirits! First, you might consider limiting your news consumption. Whether you browse the internet, watch the news on TV, or read the paper, consuming too much news, especially during this global pandemic, can cause negative feelings and thinking. Try consuming more positive stories, like reading a book or video chatting with friends and family members.

While we are doing our best to stay at home, we can still go outside. As spring arrives, now is the perfect time to start your garden. Here are some great tips for gardening in a small space like your patio or even inside.

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how stressful times like these can be for both seniors and their families. Thankfully, we’re all in this together. If you’d like to hear more about our communties throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Ohio, please contact us.

Preparing Seniors for Emergencies and Isolation

Any major change in the day-to-day lives of seniors can induce stress and anxiety. With the current coronavirus pandemic circling the world, this now more than ever emphasizes the need for us to help prepare our elderly parents and family members for any emergency that may arise.

When we think of how to help the elderly overall, many of us reflect on how we would help our own senior parents.
Here are a few preliminary steps to be prepared.

Emergency Kit – Building an emergency kit can slightly vary for each person, but here are some universal supplies that will come in handy.
Water – Have enough water reserved for at least 7 days (1 gallon per person).
Stock Up on Non-perishable Food Items –Minimize the stress of not having enough on hand. Canned soups, pasta, sauces, cereal, canned vegetables and fruit are all good basic items. Non-dairy almond milk can be kept on the shelf until opened.
Medical Information – If they need medical attention, be sure they have all the necessary information for medical teams. This goes for anyone in your family; however, when someone is elderly they may not remember all the necessary information in an emergency. We recommend getting a Vial of Life kit. This is an invaluable tool for anyone.  It is a free service and it has been created to reduce panic during an emergency situation. Basically, it helps you compile all your medical information into one place, including a copy of an EKG, living will or equivalent, DNR form, power of attorney, and a recent picture of yourself or loved one.

Jeffrey C. Miller, Director of Vial of Life Project says, “People find themselves in emergencies that make it difficult to think straight. At these times, all emergency personnel who are trying to help you need to know many things about you – especially if you have a complex medical history. Medical and emergency staff will want to know things like who you are… what medications you are using… what illnesses you have… who is your emergency contact person… what is your normal blood pressure… are you wearing hearing or seeing devices… do you speak English… and, if not, what language do you speak?” If your parent cannot be an advocate for themselves and you are not able to be there for them, have this put in place first and foremost.

Pre-packaged Medicines – Make sure that they have all the medications they’ll need for two to three months. If they need help organizing them, you can order from Pill Pack. Daily dosages are pre-packaged and sent to them monthly. They can even supply inhalers and insulin. If your loved one needs oxygen, has incontinence, goes to dialysis or needs wound care, make sure you know how to help get supplies and treatment.

Providing Connectivity
Many seniors have been living in social isolation long before it became obligatory, but when an emergency situation arises they will undoubtedly feel more anxious. Having virtual forms of communications set up ahead of time will help alleviate that extra stress.

Support Network – make sure they have a list of people they can call if an emergency arises. It may be wise to have numbers and names printed out and put in an obvious place like on the refrigerator or next to their bed. Additionally, make sure numbers are inputted into their cell phone and add a photo of the person to help jog their memory.

Phones, iPads, or Computers – Set up their devices ahead of time so they can speak to you directly through FaceTime. Boomer Tech Talk has a great piece “How to Set Up and iPad for Elderly Use” along with great tips to keep in mind including saving passwords, keeping security questions written down, and making sure your own email is used for back up. In addition to just chatting on Facetime, it is even possible to play chess via video together, get grandchildren to share their latest art project, or even cook something while on camera.

Set Up A Schedule – Work on a plan for your parents to talk to specific family members on different days. Create a schedule together and get the whole family involved. Our associates at Maplewood talk about how important that has become lately. Residents really miss that social interaction and once they know they will be speaking to someone every other day or so, it gives them something to look forward to. We’ve heard of many grandparents enjoying watching their grandchildren perform little shows for them, singing, or even just showing them a craft or gardening project. Any form of connectivity will help reduce loneliness and isolation.

Remember that these tools for moments of crisis and isolation may change over time depending on your parent’s health and/or level of memory loss. Review every six months to see how they are coping and make adjustments accordingly. Their situation can change quickly and it is wise to continue to evaluate regularly.

At Maplewood Senior Living the health and wellbeing of our residents is our top priority during this time of crisis and we too are incorporating the same ideas into the day to day life of our communities. As a result of not being open for tours at this time, you can alternatively take a virtual tour of any of our communities. Please contact us today.

Technology and Dementia

An adult child caregiver helping a loved one with

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is an overall term for diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that can affect a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks. Of the 5 million individuals diagnosed with age-related dementia’s in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 80% of these cases. As dementia progresses, it can cause patients to lose some of their independence and rely on caregivers to help them complete daily tasks like bathing, eating, and getting dressed. The Alzheimer’s Association reported that nearly 48% of all caregivers in the United States provide care to someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Because many Alzheimer’s and dementia patients rely heavily on caregivers, it can cause a loss of independence and autonomy. However, in recent years, new technology has allowed those diagnosed with memory disorders to feel independent for longer.

Benefits of Technology to Help Alzheimer’s Patients

Assistive technology is a term often used to refer to items, devices or technological systems used by individuals to make daily living a little easier. There a number of assistive technology devices designed specifically for those with memory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. While these technologies won’t completely eliminate the need for caregiving support, they can promote feelings of independence. Here are a few ways assistive technology can be beneficial for those with cognitive diseases, especially a form of dementia:
Safety
Some assistive technology devices are designed specifically to keep people safe. Items like motion sensors and automatic lights can be installed to decrease the risks of falls or related injuries. Devices such as medical alert pendants and smart home devices can be programmed to contact emergency services when they are needed.

Everyday Living

Other technologies are designed to help complete basic daily tasks like remembering when to take your medicine, automated curtain controls, robot vacuums, and touch censored toilets and sinks. As dementia progresses, it can affect a person’s range of motion, making it difficult to bend fingers and hands. Devices designed towards everyday living allow a person to complete tasks in a different way.

Location Monitoring
In some cases, dementia patients can often become wander risks. This can quickly become a scary situation for both the patient and the caregiver. Some assistive technology devices such as door and exit sensors can immediately alert family members or caregivers when a loved one has left.

Communication
As dementia progresses, communication can become difficult. Some technologies provide innovative ways to communicate with healthcare providers, family members, and friends to encourage socialization, while also receiving timely answers to medical questions.

Technology and Dementia: Available Types

Whether you’re a caregiver supporting someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or if you have been diagnosed with a memory disease, there are many assistive devices that can help complete daily tasks. Here are a few devices you might find helpful:
Calendar Apps can be helpful for both the caregiver and the person receiving support. Apps such as Google Calendar can be set up to give reminders for appointments or tracking medication schedules.
Video calling services such as Skype and FaceTime can help those living with dementia feel more connected with their families, especially if they live far away.
Voice-activated assistants can provide entertainment, reminders, and safety alerts. These devices offered by Amazon and Google can play music, read audiobooks, tell jokes, and even be set up to control the lights in your house. These devices can be programmed to call emergency services in the event of a fall, injury, or other medical situations.
Adapted Telephones are programmed with important numbers of family and friends to eliminate the pressure of remembering them for those with dementia. Some phones even give the option of programming a picture of a loved one to correspond with their telephone numbers.
Automated pill dispensers are relatively inexpensive and can be easily programmed to make a signal when it’s time to take medication. This can be helpful especially as the disease progresses and memory gets worse.
A dementia-friendly music player is another device to consider especially if your loved one enjoys listening to music. Many studies have shown that listening to calming music can have a positive effect on dementia patients. Some speakers can be programmed to play certain songs for a specified amount of time. The large buttons make it easy to control the volume.

Technology and Dementia: iPad Apps for Alzheimer’s Patients

In addition to assistive technology devices, the iPad has shown to help those diagnosed with dementia improve their cognitive and communication skills. Because of its user-friendly and lightweight design, the iPad can be used easily by dementia patients. Here are some apps that were created specifically for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Labyrinth 2 HD– This app is designed to help those with dementia strengthen their cognitive skills by working to navigate mazes, which can be made more or less challenging by changing the level.
MindMate– Designed specifically to strengthen the mind, this app provides games and mental exercises that help enhance problem-solving skills, speed, memory, and attention. There are also exercise and nutrition lessons available on the platform.
Peak-Brain Training– Developed by neuroscientists, this app offers over 40 games designed to challenge cognitive skills while also encouraging creativity and mental agility. In addition to a wide variety of games, the app also provides a personal trainer for the brain called, “Coach.” Coach tracks progress and also provides suggestions for improvement.

Finding Additional Support at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how important it is to exercise the brain, especially for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. That’s why we provide residents the opportunity to learn new iPad games and programs to help improve and maintain their cognitive skills. If you’re interested in learning more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please feel free to contact us.