Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer’s: What is Sundowning?

Worldwide, nearly 50 million people are living with dementia with 10 million new cases being diagnosed each year. While each individual can experience various symptoms and side effects, sundowning is common in the later stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. According to a journal published by the US National Library of Medicine, as many as 20% of dementia patients experience sundowning. Sundowning, also known as “late-day confusion” can cause symptoms such as confusion and agitation that worsen later in the day.

As the evening and nighttime approaches, sundowning can often trigger sudden changes in cognition and emotions. Behavior changes can range in each person but often include suspicion, hallucinations, confusion, and anger.

Sundowning Symptoms

Individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can become disoriented and confused quite easily, especially during the later stages of the disease. With this, many patients become more vulnerable to sundowning and the symptoms that come with it. Many will experience confusion, anxiety, and agitation beginning later in the day. Sundowning can also interrupt sleep schedules, which can lead to additional behavioral problems.

While researchers don’t know exactly what causes sundowning, some factors can make it worse. These factors can include:

• Mental and physical exhaustion and fatigue
• Reduced lighting and increased shadows
• Reactions to nonverbal cues from caregivers who may be feeling frustrated and exhausted themselves
• Consumption of caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
• Disruption in circadian rhythms
• Thirst and hunger
• Stress and depression

How to Cope with Sundowning Symptoms

Many people experiencing sundowning might cope with what they’re feeling by pacing, rocking, screaming, or even becoming violent. For some, the behaviors might leave quickly, but for others, these behaviors can last for hours and severely interrupt their sleep schedules. Seeing your loved one suffer or caring for someone who experiences sundowning can be awful and leave you feeling hopeless. However, there are many different ways you can work to help manage these symptoms and lessen their severity.

Minimize Triggers
When your loved one has a sundowning episode, record what happened before, during, and after. Look for patterns in their behavior and try to identify some of their triggers. For some, triggers might look like fatigue, cross-talk during meal times, loud noises from the television, or a change in caregiver.

Maintain Routines
If your loved one isn’t sleeping well at night, make sure to minimize napping during the day. Keep your evenings quiet and peaceful by avoiding stressful tasks and prioritize activities during the daytime. Regular daily schedules can help your loved one feel safe and secure, so try and establish a routine that is easy to follow each day.

Simplify Surroundings
Too much clutter or stimulation can cause anxiety and stress, both of which have been linked to sundowning. Experts suggest creating a calm space wherever your loved one sleeps. This includes setting the temperature between 68-70 degrees, using light-blocking curtains, and installing night-lights for safety.

Increase Light Exposure
Sundowning often occurs during the evening and can be brought on by the transition of daylight into the evening darkness. Keep your house well lit, especially during the evening, and make sure your loved one is exposed to direct sunlight as much as possible. If this isn’t possible, use bright lights or a lightbox in their room.

Play Calming Music
Music has shown to have healing properties for those suffering from memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Music can provoke memories and act as a mood booster. You might consider playing calming music throughout the day, but be sure to monitor the volume, as loud noises can be confusing and cause agitation.

Use Essential Oils
Essential oils can be great tools to use for calming and soothing your loved one. Scents like lavender and chamomile can be diluted and used as aromatherapy during the evening to promote feelings of calmness and safety. If your loved one needs help with waking up or completing activities, you might consider using grapefruit, lemon, or orange scents. Essential oils are wonderful tools when used properly, but make sure to do your research before using them and never apply them directly to the skin.

Connect Through Touch
Physical touch can be a great way to ease anxiety and transition into the evening. You might consider giving your loved one a hand or foot massage or gently massaging their head. Even a simple hug can help break the cycle of anxiety and stress.

Acupuncture
Acupuncture can be used to treat anxiety, stress, and depression and is especially helpful for those suffering from dementia. You might consider asking your doctor to refer you to an acupuncturist who specializes in dementia or is familiar with the disease.

Adjust Eating Patterns
Large meals before bedtime can cause agitation and disrupt sleep patterns. You might consider serving a light meal for dinner and limiting heavy foods and caffeine for lunchtime. This can help reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of sundowning.

Coping Strategies for Sundowning

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia comes with many challenges, especially when dealing with sundowning. Here are a few ways you can cope with sundowning while also making sure to care for yourself.

• Talk to a doctor. If you need additional assistance, consider making an appointment with your loved one’s healthcare provider. Many times, they can offer support and medication when necessary.
• Recognize your own needs. Caregiving is a rewarding and exhausting job. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, your loved one might be able to recognize these emotions and begin to feel the same way. Try to manage your stress and anxiety by taking time for yourself.
• Share your experience with others. You are not alone! The Alzheimer’s Association has an online support community where caregivers share their own experiences and support those in the same position. These groups allow others to share strategies and inspire others.

Sundowning Support at Maplewood Senior Living

Navigating Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be extremely challenging. However, our Maplewood Senior Living communities offer support groups and activities for those who have been diagnosed and their caregivers.

Krystal Martin, Memory Care Director at Maplewood at Chardon suggests “A short nap in the early afternoon (20-30 minutes) can help to re-energize the person and prevent the tired, “want-to-go” feelings. Knowing about the person can help the caregiver—whether a family member, professional caregiver or a caregiver in the assisted living setting—can assist to help the person navigate through this challenge.

Helping the person maintain familiar routines can help minimize feelings of restlessness and anxiety and ultimately agitation. As the day gets later, allow activities to wind down, planning more relaxing and less involved activities. Playing familiar music that invites positive, warm feelings can help to calm the person. Finally, if the person is still feeling anxious or restless, validate their emotions, empathize with how they might be feeling and join them in their reality rather than attempting to orient to the here-and-now.”

If you would like to learn more about our Memory Care offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Holiday Safety Guide for Seniors and those with Alzheimer’s

As we haul out our decorations and special furnishings to welcome in the holiday season, it’s easy to overlook safety measures that protect our families and our homes. According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 30% of all home fires and 38% of fire-related deaths occur between December and February. Also, the holiday season is associated with an increase in fall-related injuries both in and outside the home. Whether you’re caring for a loved one or are preparing to visit an aging parent, there are simple precautions you can take to decrease the risk of injury this holiday season.

Safety Tips for the Home

Between decorations and visitors, homes can become danger zones during the holidays. Since many people will be staying at home this holiday season, it’s important to ensure the home is the safest place you can be, especially for older adults. Here are a few tips to consider as you take precautionary measures to ensure safety:

Clear the clutter
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal related hospital admissions among seniors. Tripping and fall threats can be great concerns for older adults during the holidays. Make sure to keep floors and hallways clear, tightly secure extension cords to walls, and add non-slip pads underneath rugs. You might also consider using decorations that are secured to walls and do not interfere with walkways.

Safe lighting
We all love holiday lights, but it’s important to ensure all areas of the home are properly lit. Dim lighting can make it difficult to identify new home furnishings you might not be used to seeing. Always use a nightlight in hallways and bedrooms, especially where your loved one will be sleeping.

At home dementia tips
Those with dementia have added safety challenges during the holidays. Here are a few ways to make sure your home is especially adapted for their needs according to AARP:
• Mark edges of steps with neon, glow-in-the-dark tape.
• Repair any cracked pavement and uneven bricks, especially if you’re expecting snow or inclement weather.
• Install safety and grab bars, especially in bathrooms and in hallways.
• Unplug all kitchen appliances like your microwave or toaster oven.

Safety Tips for Decorating

Decorations make the holidays feel special and festive. However, they can also present a lot of safety concerns, especially for those who are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Stick to these rules when you plan out your decorations:

Avoid twinkling lights
Lights that flash or twinkle are commonplace when it comes to Christmas and holiday decorations. However, these lights can often confuse those with dementia or memory disorders and can be disorienting for older adults in general. Instead, use lights that have a consistent glow.

Use flameless candles
Candles can add a beautiful ambiance to a home during the holidays, but the risk of starting a house fire increases greatly with real candles. Instead, you might consider using flameless candles to add a holiday glow to your home.

Identify choking hazards
Food plays a large role in celebrating the holidays. Be aware of choking hazards such as hard candies and other foods that are often used as décor in gingerbread houses and to decorate Christmas trees. If you’re celebrating with someone living with Alzheimer’s it’s important to avoid these foods or to closely monitor the situation.

Safety Tips for Gift Giving

Exchanging gifts plays a big part in holiday celebrations. Gift-giving also allows people to show their loved ones they’re thinking about them, especially when they’re unable to celebrate in person. While gifts are special and exciting, they can also pose safety concerns for those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. If you’re preparing to send a gift to a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or need to provide gift-giving guidelines to family members, stick to these easy safety tips provided by the Alzheimer’s Association:

Provide suggestions
You might consider providing gift suggestions for your family if they’re interested in purchasing a gift for your loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Comfortable clothing, an identification bracelet, photo albums, and medical alert pendants are all great options.

Avoid dangerous items
You may need to remind your family to avoid giving dangerous tools, utensils, sharp objects, challenging games, or electronic devices as gifts. These could lead to injuries or moments of frustration and confusion for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Be practical
Everyday items can be helpful for caregivers as well. Gift cards, laundry, maintenance, and housekeeping services make great gifts for people with Alzheimer’s and their support team.

Protecting Your Loved One during the Holidays

If your loved one has been newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or you’re preparing to see them over the holidays, these tips, crafted by AARP, can help you avoid some general safety concerns that come with the holiday season.

Monitor skills and abilities. If it’s been a while since you’ve last seen your loved one, it’s important to reassess their abilities when it comes to balance, coordination, strength, and motor skills. If you notice a change inability, you might consider adding safety features, such as slip resistance rugs or grab bars, where you see fit.
Evaluate safe areas and danger zones. Those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia can often forget what might hurt them and how to use everyday appliances. Consider storing dangerous substances like bleach, cleaning products, sharp knives, and power tools in an area that’s hard to access, like a locked cabinet or shed.
Utilize technology. Wandering devices can be especially helpful during the holiday season. Seat cushions, floor mats, and bed pads that are designed to alert you when your loved one gets up or leaves the room can help reduce the risk of wandering. You might also consider purchasing motion-sensor alarms for the outdoors.
Patrol the home. Make sure to continually assess your home for items that can be tempting and dangerous. In the kitchen, be sure to monitor expired, raw, and moldy food as those with dementia might be tempted to eat those items. Foods that are choking hazards like cherries and coffee beans should also be stored in a safe place. Be sure to keep potentially harmful items out of sight such as firearms and car keys.

Celebrating Safely at Maplewood Senior Living

At our Maplewood Senior Living communities, the safety of our residents will continue to be prioritized as we navigate through this holiday season. If you would like to learn more about the safety measures we’ve put into place or to schedule a tour, please contact us here.

The Best Technology for Seniors

For most of us, technology is ingrained into our everyday lives, from our cell phones and cars to toothbrushes and watches. In general, older adults have been slower to integrate and adopt new technologies. However, that’s beginning to change. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, only 14% of seniors aged 65 and above had Internet in their homes 20 years ago. Now, that number has increased by 67%. Of those who have the Internet, nearly 71% use it every day. As the number of older adults who use technology continues to rise, senior-specific devices have also increased.

IoT devices, or “The Internet of Things,” refers to any device that can connect to the Internet to send and receive data. IoT devices are everywhere—in our homes, cars, and even on our wrists. Not only are these devices convenient and easy to use, but they also can allow older adults to stay independent for longer.

Benefits of IoT for Seniors

Technology can seem intimidating at first, especially for some older adults. However, there are several ways technology can help seniors live longer, healthier lives. Here are just a few of the reasons seniors have chosen to integrate technology into their daily lives.

Convenience

As we get older, everyday tasks can become a burden. Taking care of our homes and cooking meals become responsibilities that take a lot of energy. Instead of relying on family members for help, many seniors are relying on technology to help bridge the gap. Instead of going to the store, smartphones can do the shopping for you. Remembering appointments and birthdays can become more difficult with age but smart home devices can be programmed to remind you of special occasions.

Safety

The biggest concern many family members have for their loved ones is safety. As we age, we become more at risk of falling, cognitive decline, and illness. Thankfully, technological devices can monitor these safety concerns and offer peace of mind to family members and caregivers.

Home security

Smart devices also have the capability of making homes safer, especially for older adults who live alone. Home security cameras now can connect to cell phones, allowing homeowners to monitor their safety. Smart locks, security systems, and smoke alarms add a layer of security.

Emergency services

Some older adults rely on IoT devices and sensors in the event of a fall or injury. Many wearable devices can dispatch emergency services or contact a family member in times of distress or physical injury.

Healthcare

One of the most innovative ways IoT has influenced seniors is through devices specifically designed to monitor health and wellness. From medication management to controlling diabetes and heart disease, smart devices allow older adults to manage their conditions, while also avoiding emergency room and hospital visits.

Technology and Healthcare

With nearly 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day, the demand for healthcare providers will increase each year. Many older adults are looking to technology to bridge this gap. Here are a few of the most common conditions that can be regulated and censored through the use of technology:

• Medication Management. Apps and Bluetooth pill dispensers help older adults stay on track with their medication without relying on friends, family members, or healthcare providers. Many smartphone apps also can order medications automatically, which minimizes the risk of ever running out.

• Telemedicine. Now older adults can see their healthcare provider from the comfort of their own homes. Using video conferencing platforms allows both the provider and patient to see each other, minimizing the risk of contracting illnesses.
• Diabetes. Technological advances make controlling diabetes efficient and simple. Some sensors, like the smart sock, help track temperature, and identify inflammation before they worsen.

• High Blood Pressure. Smartwatches and bands can track blood pressure and send an alert when levels become too high.

• Arthritis. When arthritis worsens, daily tasks can become difficult. Devices that help with writing, opening and closing doors, smart lighting, and thermostats allow those with arthritis to keep their independence.

Senior Friendly Technology

The New York Times and Tech For Aging conducted extensive research on a wide variety of smart devices available to seniors. Here are some of the best products they found, ranging from wearable devices and sensors to security systems and automatic lighting.

In the Home

Our homes should be the place where we feel safest and most comfortable. Smart devices such as the Google Nest Protect is a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm that sends warning signals by voice and also sends alerts to up to six contacts. It also has a built-in night light to reduce the risk of falling.

The Amazon Echo Dot is an affordable voice control device that can provide in-home entertainment like playing music and games, while also providing security features like the ability to make calls to loved ones.

For those looking for a smart system that can monitor the entire home, Sense is a great option. This monitoring system connects to an electric panel and tracks energy usage. If a person uses certain devices every day, Sense can be programmed to alert caregivers and family members if the device does not get used, allowing them to call and check-in on their loved one.

For the Body
Wearable devices have many different capabilities. From monitoring heart conditions to tracking sleep patterns, older adults now can take control of their health.

The most comprehensive wearable device, as reported by Tech for Aging, is the Apple Watch Series 5. This watch can detect falls and includes an ECG/EKG monitor with atrial fibrillation detection. Besides, this watch tracks fitness activity and heart rate.

To Aid with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
Some of the most exciting technology has been designed to help those living with memory-related conditions like Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. New GPS shoe inserts allow caregivers to track their loved ones, especially if they tend to wander.

The Alzheimer Master, an app designed for Android devices, allows family members to record their voices for their loved ones. Familiar voices can be used to remind a loved one to take their medication and turn off the lights.

Utilizing Technology at Maplewood Senior Living

Our communities at Maplewood Senior Living are adapted to work with various technologies, from wearable devices to automatic lighting. Technology allows our residents to age gracefully and stay independent longer. During the pandemic, this has been particularly helpful for keeping our residents engaged with families. Our teams assist residents with their devices while making sure the newest technologies are available in each community. While all these devices can certainly be helpful for those living alone, sometimes that is not enough.

Maplewood Senior Living is here for you and your family if you feel living within a community may be better suited for you. To learn more about these special offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Why You Should Consider Assisted Living

There are nearly 12 million Americans over the age of 65 who live alone, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center. While living independently certainly has its benefits, it can often become a point of concern for family members, especially as their loved ones continue to age and lose the ability to completely care for themselves. At some point, many older adults have to decide whether to hire outside help, rely on a family member or move into an assisted living facility. This decision-making process can be challenging and made more complicated when failing health and finances are important factors to consider.

While there are many different options, most older adults typically decide between hiring outside help while staying at home or moving into an assisted living facility. According to U.S. News, senior home care typically includes assistance with daily activities such as eating, taking medication, bathing, cooking and cleaning. The level of assistance depends on one’s overall health and ability to care for themselves. Although assisted living requires moving from home, it also provides additional services such as planned activities, 24-hour care and additional security measures to keep residents safe. When deciding which option is the best, many older adults and their family members ask, “How do I know it’s the right time to move?”

Signs it Might be Time for Assisted Living

Coming to terms with a loss of independence can be extremely difficult for aging adults. In fact, for many adults, concerned family members often initiate the conversation of moving first. While we all age at different rates and in different ways, there are some clear signs that it might be time to move into an assisted living community.
Declining Health Conditions– As we age, we become more at risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In fact, according to research conducted by AARP, “more than 70 million Americans ages 50 and older, or four out of five older adults, suffer from at least one chronic condition.” Managing these conditions, including traveling to doctor’s appointments and taking the appropriate medications, can pose problems for older adults. Assisted living communities take pressure off of managing these conditions, which allows residents to enjoy a higher quality of life.
Difficulty Managing Finances– Age-related memory loss can cause confusion when it comes to managing money. This makes paying bills on time and sticking to a budget more difficult. Other memory disorders, like Alzheimer’s and dementia, can also affect one’s ability to understand finances, putting them more at risk of scams, forgetting to pay bills or filing taxes properly.
Inability to Care for Oneself– If your loved one is unable to maintain their living space, bathe themselves or complete basic daily tasks, it’s time to consider assisted living. A lot of family members take on the responsibility of caregiving without understanding how demanding it can be, especially when they have their own families to care for each day. Assisted living facilities have caregivers on staff who will make sure their residents maintain proper hygiene, a healthy diet and live in a clean environment.
Lack of SocializationAccording to a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging, nearly 17% of all Americans aged 65 or older are isolated due to their location, living status, language or disability. Loneliness and isolation can have negative long-term effects on one’s health, such as cognitive decline, increased mortality and feelings of depression. Socialization is at the core of assisted living facilities. Planned activities, social dining areas and one-on-one interaction are everyday occurrences at most facilities.

Benefits of Assisted Living

While the thought of moving out of your home and into an assisted living community might seem intimidating, the benefits are overwhelming. Instead of thinking about moving as another reminder of aging, you might consider it as an opportunity for something new and exciting. Here are a few benefits of assisted living that you might not have considered:
You Gain Independence– While many people think of assisted living as a way to lose independence, the opposite is true. Instead of relying on a family member or outside party for assistance, all of those daily tasks, like shopping and cooking, are taken care of by staff. This leaves you with plenty of time to discover your interests and renew your hobbies instead of thinking about who will come to help.
More Value for Your Money– Many individuals are afraid to consider moving into an assisted living community because they think they can’t afford it. However, that’s not necessarily true. Many assisted living facilities offer many services under one fee. For example, you might find that meals and activities are included in your monthly fee, where in-home care is usually priced a la carte. While assisted living can be expensive, you might find it to be a better deal based on your needs.
A Safer Living Option– As we age we are more at risk of health emergencies, such as falling. When living alone, these injuries could become life-threatening. However, at assisted living facilities, there is always a staff person or registered nurse available to help, no matter the time of day.
Socialization- Assisted living communities provide a wide variety of activities for their residents. From sing-a-longs to arts and crafts, there’s always an opportunity to learn and socialize with others. Socialization is proven to be beneficial for one’s overall health, especially for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Things to Consider

If you decide it’s the right time for assisted living, there are a few things to keep in mind. As you start touring different communities, they can all start to feel similar. At Maplewood Senior Living , we know what that can feel like. That’s why we have compiled a list of things to consider and questions to ask when looking for an assisted living community:

1. Ask to meet the team. How can a resident or family member get in contact with the management team?
2. Do they have apartments available? What sizes are offered? Is the furniture provided?
3. Ask about the culinary program. Is food prepared from scratch? You might consider asking for a menu or schedule a time to have lunch or dinner on the campus.
4. Are nurses available 24 hours a day?
5. What type of training is provided for the staff?
6. Do they provide call lights, pendants or life alerts? What’s the protocol for responding?
7. Is transportation available for outings, doctor’s appointments or grocery shopping?
8. What accommodations are available when more care is required?
9. What type of programming and cultural enrichment opportunities are available?
10. Ask to speak with a current resident who would be willing to share their experience with you.

Assisted Living at Maplewood Senior Living Communities

We know transitioning into assisted living from an independent living situation can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Our Maplewood Senior Living communities provide support and transitional care to make the change an easy one. If you’re interested in learning more about our assisted living communities or would like to schedule a tour, please contact us.

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.

Importance of Hydration for Older Adults

The summertime can be a great opportunity to spend time enjoying the outdoors and beautiful weather. However, as temperatures continue to rise, dehydration can pose a serious threat, especially to older adults. When our bodies expel more water than is put back in, we can become dehydrated quickly. Our bodies need water in order to perform basic functions like regulating our temperature, emitting waste, and lubricating our joints, among many others. Dehydration can cause a number of serious side-effects, especially if it goes unaddressed for long periods of time.

Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration

Because our ability to store fluid decreases as we age, older adults are more at risk of dehydration. In fact, according to an article published by the Journal of the National Medical Association, “Dehydration is the most common fluid and electrolyte problem among the elderly.” Many older adults experience a weakened thirst response, which keeps them from feeling thirsty and can often lead to dehydration. In addition, various underlying health conditions, such as decreased kidney function, and the medications used to treat them can cause increased urination, leading to significant fluid loss if it doesn’t get replaced. While these conditions can pose an increased risk, there are several common causes of dehydration:

Heat Exposure– Hot and humid weather conditions can lead to increased sweating and loss of fluid. If these fluids aren’t replaced, they can cause dehydration quickly.

Diarrhea and Vomiting– When we are ill, it’s not uncommon to experience both diarrhea and vomiting. However, when this happens, our bodies discard both fluids and electrolytes which can cause massive dehydration if it persists for a long period of time.

Fever– An increased fever can often lead to a lack of thirst and loss of fluid.

Underlying Health Conditions– Some diseases, such as diabetes and kidney disease, can cause you to lose additional fluid. Those who suffer from diabetes can experience an increase in blood sugar levels. When the kidneys are unable to retain the sugar, it gets dumped into the urine and can cause increased urination.

Decreased Mobility– Older adults who need assistance with eating and drinking have an increased risk of dehydration.

It can be difficult to identify when we are dehydrated, especially if we think we are getting enough fluids. While thirst and dark-colored urine are obvious signs of dehydration, there are more subtle signs that can present themselves. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some of the most common symptoms of dehydration in older adults:

• Extreme thirst
• Less frequent urination
• Fatigue
• Dizziness
• Confusion
• Muscle weakness
• Rapid heart rate
• Low blood pressure

If you ever experience diarrhea for 24 hours or more, can’t keep fluids down, or have a bloody and black stool, make sure to contact your doctor or healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Benefits of Staying Hydrated

We lose water just by breathing! In order for our bodies to function properly, we have to consistently replenish our water supply. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men need to consume 3.7 liters of fluids each day, while women need 2.7 liters. Exercise, sickness, and weather can all contribute to our daily hydration needs. While the importance of hydration often goes unrecognized, staying hydrated has many health benefits:

Helps maintain bodily functions– Our bodies are mostly made of water, so it makes sense that we need it to function. Normal bodily functions like producing saliva, digesting food, regulating our internal temperatures, excreting waste, and absorbing nutrients all require water. The more we pay attention to how much water we consume, the more likely we are to have a body that functions well.

Repairs our muscles– When we use our muscles, both during a normal day and during exercise, they can become fatigued without adequate fluids. When we drink water, we ensure our muscles have the nutrients they need to recover and get stronger.

Increases energy levels and brain function– Research suggests that mild dehydration can have a negative effect on our mood, cognitive skills, and memory.

Decreases risk of headaches– Some individuals experience headaches as a symptom of dehydration. When our bodies are dehydrated, our brains can actually contract from the loss of fluid, resulting in a headache. Replenishing our bodies with fluids can decrease the risk of a headache from dehydration.

Aids in weight loss– Consuming water can increase feelings of fullness and also helps boost metabolism. Our brains can also mistake dehydration for hunger, so if it’s not time to eat, you might consider drinking water before consuming food. Always remember to consult your doctor before making changes to your diet, especially when weight loss is your goal.

Tips for Consuming More Water

Staying hydrated can be a constant challenge for older adults, especially if they struggle with feeling thirsty or take medications that compromise their fluid levels. A good place to begin is to add more water to your everyday routine. You might consider consuming a full glass of water with every meal or starting each day with a glass of water. This way, drinking water becomes a habit. If you or your loved one have a hard time remembering to drink water, setting a timer for certain times throughout the day can help. In addition to consuming water, there are a number of different ways we can stay hydrated from the foods we eat. Here are a few suggestions to start with:

Eat more fruits and vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables have high water content, which means in addition to receiving nutrients, your body also gets refueled with fluids. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, and oranges are mostly made up of water and have added fiber and nutrients that help boost immune function and promote feelings of fullness. Vegetables like cucumber, lettuce, cabbage, and zucchini are high in water and low in calories. You can find a full list of hydrating foods provided by Healthline magazine here.

Soups
Consuming hydrating meals, like soup, can help you consume more hydrating fluids as opposed to only drinking a glass of water. Adding in additional hydrating vegetables can make soups filling, hydrating, and nutrient-dense.

Smoothies and Beverages
For some people, staying hydrated is easier when it comes in different forms. Smoothies made of yogurt, berries, and other liquids like milk or water, are high in vitamins, nutrients and will also keep you satiated. Adding raspberries, lemons, and cucumbers to your water can add a subtle flavor which makes it a tastier option than plain water.

Staying Hydrated at Maplewood Senior Living

Our staff at each of our Maplewood Senior Living communities make it a priority to provide plenty of options for hydration to our residents. Infused water beverages, soups, smoothies, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are provided with each meal. In addition, our staff hosts educational seminars for residents to learn more about nutrition and ways to stay healthy and active. To learn more about our offerings, 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.

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.

How to Support Your Senior Loved One During the Coronavirus Pandemic

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and animals. While coronaviruses have been around for a long time, a new strand of the virus, COVID-19 was detected last December in Wuhan China. While researchers are moving quickly to understand the nuances of this novel Coronavirus, there is still a lot that is unknown. However, the older adult population, those 65 and older, is the most vulnerable to the virus and can become severely ill if contracted. As the virus continues to spread in the United States, we’re learning new information daily. While these uncertain times can be worrisome and challenging, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect our seniors.

Everyday Precautions
While young adults can carry the virus, most are predicted to recover quickly with mild to no symptoms at all. Because of this, it’s important that everyone takes the necessary measures to protect seniors from being exposed to the virus. Here are a few simple, yet effect precautions as advised by the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO).

• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds once every hour or more. It’s advised to use hand sanitizer, containing at least 60% alcohol, between washes or when soap and water are unavailable.
• Avoid touching your face, nose and eyes.
• Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places, such as handrails, counter tops, gas pumps and door handles.
• Clean and disinfect your home routinely. Make sure to adequately disinfect highly touched surfaces like tables, light switches, doorknobs, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sink, and cell phones.

How to Prevent Spreading the Virus
Even if you are healthy and asymptomatic, you can still be carrying the virus and putting others at risk. Many communities have cancelled events involving large groups to mitigate the spread of the virus, especially to those with preexisting conditions and vulnerable populations. The CDC recommends the following behaviors:
• Practice social distancing by limiting exposure to the public, especially for older adults. Non-emergency appointments should be postponed.
• While it might be difficult, you should consider limiting contact with seniors and avoid hugging and close contact.
• If you feel sick stay at home, even if you are tempted to go into work or to the store.
• Limit trips to public places like the grocery store. Stock up on non-perishable food items to have on hand.

What to Do if You Get Sick
It’s important to pay attention to how you feel in the coming weeks. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. In addition, seniors might experience difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or bluish lips and face. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately contact your healthcare provider.

Your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms and help you get the treatment you need. Because hospitals are likely to be understaffed and overpopulated, you might be sent to recover at home if your case is not severe. However, if you experience any warning signs, act immediately by contacting emergency services.

Our Maplewood Senior Living facilities put our residents’ health first. That’s why we’re taking the appropriate precautions to keep our residents and their families healthy. If you’d like to hear more about our offerings please contact us.

*Note due to COVID-19 we are  doing virtual tours at this time.