Five Insights on Caring for Those with Dementia and Alzheimer's

Tips for Family Caregivers

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Summer House at Walnut Village is a unique memory care neighborhood offering a resident-centered, family-style approach that embraces the role of family members in the care of their loved one. This innovative approach shapes our care around what’s important to each resident and focuses on their uniqueness through knowing them, their story, their family and their preferences. In this way, we creatively contribute to their happiness, serenity and comfort.

For those caring for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s follow these helpful tips.

Meaningful Interaction

Professional caregivers can extend family members’ strength when the family is no longer able to provide direct care for someone with Alzheimer’s.  A key element to the Summer House philosophy is that each of our residents receives individual attention and care on a continual basis. Person-centered care does not begin and end with a simple “hello” and list of questions to the family so we can then “develop a resident care plan.” It is much more. Person-centered care is ever evolving and allows professional caregivers to really develop and nourish a trusting relationship. Each day and throughout the day a Summer House caregiver spends one-on-one time with each resident and tries to determine what is truly meaningful to him or her at that moment. After a couple weeks of building this relationship, we create a resident “life bio” for family and employees to use and expand upon as a tool for engaging specifically with that individual.

  Family members are critical to this process and benefit from interacting with their loved one in a supportive way without the burden and stress of direct caregiving.

Accepting Your Loved One’s Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

Bob DeMarco, in his on-line blog, The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, tells the story of how in caring for his mom, he became frustrated at her endless questions and forgetting.

His frustration diminished greatly when he literally took a step sideways and told himself, “I am now entering Alzheimer’s world.” By joining his mom where she was, in her reality at that moment, he gave up trying to pull her back into his world, and focused on what she was concerned about. He discovered in her world, while logic and memory were not paramount, there was still joy, humor and love. He and his mom were able to both give and receive love in new and profound ways.

Sundown Syndrome

Sundowning, a condition associated with increased confusion and restlessness, can be far more of a challenge than one might think. This syndrome does not take place at the same time every day and the symptoms and/or behaviors exhibited can range vastly depending on the individual. Caregivers at the Summer House at Walnut Village are well versed in the technique of “Change of Face.” Walks, music, tactile stimulation and validation of feelings are key to assisting residents in their ”sundowning moment.

” For example, if a resident perceives the need to “pack for a business trip,” then the caregiver packs a bag with him or her.  At home, family members can do this as well but as behaviors become more pronounced, it can become quite difficult to provide a therapeutic environment, as family members may find the ability to disconnect from the emotional component of a situation difficult and sometimes emotionally taxing.

Recognizing the Signs in Your Loved One That Extended Care is Needed

The most telling sign that a higher level of care is needed for someone with memory impairment in a home environment is when the person requires supervision because his or her safety judgment is impaired, perhaps forgetting to turn off the faucet or stove or perhaps forgetting to eat or bathe.  Or, if wandering is increasing and withdrawn or aggressive behavior is beginning. These can be discussed at length with a professional but are often the top reasons why families inquire, sometimes in a state of crisis, about moving their loved one into a memory care neighborhood like Summer House at Walnut Village. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, now is the time to prepare for what comes next. 

As a family member lending support, remember it is important to take good care of yourself.  We often see a family member’s health improve once they make the decision to move their loved one to a safe and caring environment.

About AnnaMarie Barba

AnnaMarie Barba, LVN, is the director of Summer House at Walnut Village, a continuing care retirement community in Anaheim, Calif. owned and operated by Front Porch, one of Southern California’s largest not-for-profit providers of senior living communities. In her current role, Barba supervises the medical care of the Walnut Village residents and oversees Summer House, the community’s memory care neighborhood, where she is responsible for program development and implementation for residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Barba has more than 10 years of experience in the industry, having worked in both private office and acute care settings.

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