News & Articles
Take a Walk with Us!
As the optimistic TV ad currently claims, “The first survivor of Alzheimer’s Disease is out there,” and in the next breath states, “But we won’t get there without you.”
In the U.S. alone, someone develops Alzheimer’s Disease every 65 seconds; more than 5 million Americans are already living with the disease; and it’s the 6th leading cause of death in this country.
The stats are daunting, and the ripple effects are impossible to calculate. Established in 1980, The Alzheimer’s Association has been working tirelessly to help those afflicted, support their loved ones, and find a cure. And they need your help. One of the best ways is by participating in their largest fundraiser, The Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Alzheimer’s Walk is scheduled in our town, San Luis Obispo, on Saturday, October 26th. You can register online ahead of time at https://act.alz.org/site or just show up and register on site at 9 a.m. at Mission Plaza, 751 Palm Street. A moving ceremony will begin at 9:30 and the Walk itself starts at 10 a.m.
No matter your age, gender, or fitness level, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s welcomes all participants, and though it’s inspiring to join a team and the other walkers at the event, you don’t even have to actually walk to show your support. Just call Sonya Branco at 805-547-3830 or email her at Sbranco@alz.org for more information. The Village at Sydney Creek has formed a team of walkers (one of many!) and you can join them, too. Just Google The Walk to End Alzheimer’s in San Luis Obispo and you’ll be taken to a website where you can find a team and join it.
“When you participate in the Walk,” says the website, “your fundraising dollars fuel our mission, and your participation in the event helps to change the level of Alzheimer’s awareness in your community.”
Take a walk with us on October 26th and help us find the first survivor of Alzheimer’s Disease.
This article is reprinted from the Alzheimer’s Associations website: www.alz.org dated Chicago, June 2019
New Alzheimer’s Campaign Encourages Families to Discuss Cognitive Problems Sooner, Enabling Early Diagnosis
It’s a conversation no family wants to have — talking to a loved one about memory loss or cognitive decline. Close family members are typically the first to notice memory issues or cognitive problems, but they are often hesitant to say something – even when they know something is wrong. A new survey released today by the Alzheimer’s Association reveals that nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they would want others to tell them if they were showing signs of memory loss, thinking problems or other symptoms of cognitive decline. However, nearly 3 in 4 Americans say that talking to a close family member about memory loss, thinking problems, or other signs of cognitive problems would be challenging for them.
During Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month this past June, the Alzheimer’s Association aimed to bridge the current communication gap with tools to help people talk about cognitive concerns sooner. A new national campaign created in partnership with the Ad Council is the first-ever collaboration between the two groups and features real stories of people who noticed cognitive changes in a family member and took the first, difficult step to initiate a conversation. Designed to help encourage conversations that may be difficult but could prevent a crisis and improve health options and outcomes, the campaign was created pro-bono by the community.
“Discussing Alzheimer’s is challenging for families and this campaign tackles the issue directly,” said Michael Carson, Chief Marketing Officer, Alzheimer’s Association. “Initiating conversations sooner can enable early diagnosis, which offers many important benefits, including allowing more time for critical care planning, better disease management and providing diagnosed individuals a voice in their future care. The ad campaign is designed to encourage and empower people to have productive conversations before a crisis occurs.”
Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. It is America’s sixth leading cause of death, affecting more than 5 million Americans and 16 million caregivers. Despite Alzheimer’s growing impact, many families struggle with discussing the issue.
Ed Ortiz, 52, from St. Helena, Calif., featured in the ad campaign, recalls the moment he knew it was time to have a conversation with his mother Cynthia Guzman. “My mom stopped at a stop sign and didn’t know what to do next,” he said. “It was an unsettling moment for both of us, but I knew she needed help.”
Guzman’s indecisive moment behind the wheel helped start a conversation that ultimately led to her Alzheimer’s diagnosis at age 63; she has had the diagnosis for eight years. “As difficult as it was receiving my diagnosis, I was grateful to have my son’s support,” she said. “He reassured me and he has been there for me ever since.”
“It’s understandable that many families are reluctant to express their concerns and initiate a conversation, but there are good reasons to do so,” said Ruth Drew, director of information and support services, Alzheimer’s Association. “Early detection and diagnosis puts individuals and families in the best position to navigate a devastating disease. Avoiding the conversation and letting problems progress is the worst thing you can do.”
The campaign demonstrates the importance of family members trusting their instincts and proactively raising concerns. The message, “When something feels different, it could be Alzheimer’s – now is the time to talk,” will be important for shifting people from being passive when they observe potential symptoms, to taking an important step and having a conversation.
By highlighting heartfelt, relatable stories of people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, this new critical campaign will help ease the challenges associated with starting this difficult conversation. We hope it will encourage audiences to notice the signs early, trust their gut, and have a talk. Having this conversation early can make a big difference in the lives of those who have been diagnosed and their families,” said Lisa Sherman, president and chief executive officer of the Ad Council.
Video stories of caregivers, including Ortiz, who saw the signs and started a conversation, are designed to help illustrate how other families can do the same. Additionally, the campaign’s website (ourstories.alz.org) offers families tools and resources, including customizable conversations starters, a list of early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, benefits of early diagnosis, a downloadable discussion guide and other resources.
In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association helps families and friends navigate challenges and considerations at each stage of the disease, through face-to-face conversations with experts in local communities, our free 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) and comprehensive support and resources on alz.org. # # #
Last month, experts from around the world gathered to discuss the very latest studies, findings, and clinical trials in the field of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. Here is just one highlight among many. (repinted from the website www.alz.org)
LOS ANGELES, JULY 14, 2019 — Research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2019 in Los Angeles suggests adopting multiple healthy lifestyle habits provides high levels of benefit for brain health, and may offset genetic and environmental risks of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. These reports were some of the most promising and hopeful among a record number of scientific studies presented at the conference that use diverse approaches to uncover the causes, progression, risk factors, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Lifestyle Interventions Can Offset Elevated Alzheimer’s Risk
New research reported at AAIC 2019 suggests that adopting multiple healthy lifestyle choices, including healthy diet, not smoking, regular exercise and cognitive stimulation, may decrease the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. One study reported that participants who adopted four or five low-risk lifestyle factors had about 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s dementia compared with participants who did not follow any or only one of the low-risk factors.
Two studies showed that actionable lifestyle changes could potentially counteract elevated risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In one report, researchers showed that participants with a high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s following a “favorable” lifestyle had a 32% lower risk of all-cause dementia compared with an “unfavorable” lifestyle. Another report confirmed that living in locations with high air pollution increased the risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. However, it also found that older women with higher cognitive reserve – based on cognitive function scores, years of education, job status and physical activity – only showed a 21% increased environmental risk compared with a 113% increased risk for those with lower cognitive reserve.
Other new data presented at the conference included: Advances in emerging blood biomarkers that may support early detection, improved diagnosis and enhanced clinical trial recruitment for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Visit www.alz.org to read more about the conference and all that the Alzheimer’s Association is doing to study, treat, and find a cure.
CBD Oil and the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease
~ from the May, 2019 issue of the Alzheimer’s Association Newsletter, Caregiver Tips & Tools
Cannabidiol (or CBD) is one of over a hundred cannabinoids (or compounds) found in the cannabis plant, commonly known as marijuana. CBD is a non-intoxicating compound that has some therapeutic attributes, including relief for chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, depression and other conditions. Earlier this month the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent letters to manufacturers of CBD products who it says are making claims their products prevent, treat, or cure serious diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders and diabetes.
The Alzheimer’s Association does not take a position for or against the legalization of marijuana for medical or personal use. It is not currently an issue in our mission. The Alzheimer’s Association’s mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. The chemical components of marijuana have been studied in relationship to Alzheimer’s/dementia for many years. Research findings to date have been inconclusive, and sometimes contradictory.
The Alzheimer’s Association welcomes the commitment of the FDA in cracking down on unlawful marketing of cannabidiol products. There is no credible research that supports the claim that a CBD product or other cannabinoids help prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Furthermore, these products and compounds are not approved by the FDA for the treatment, cure or prevention of Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
The Alzheimer’s Association supports all legitimate avenues of research – from basic research through clinical trials. This includes investigating the chemical components of marijuana and many other plants; plants have historically been an important source for medicines. In the last several years, the Alzheimer’s Association funded two clinical trials in this area. Some preliminary studies have identified:
- possible anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects,
- possible reduced production and increased clearance of beta amyloid from the brain,
- possible protection of brain cells and
- suggestions of benefits for age-related memory loss in animal models of Alzheimer’s.
There is some research to suggest certain cannabinoids are useful in treating the noncognitive symptoms in dementia, including agitation, depression and anxiety. Research reported at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in 2018 included the results of a randomized, double-blind clinical trial of nabilone – a synthetic cannabinoid – that may be effective in treating agitation in people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.
Neither nabilone nor marijuana is approved by the FDA for the treatment or management of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. The Alzheimer’s Association believes that more research in this area is needed. # # #
Maybe It’s Something Else [from the May 2019 issue of Caregiver, published by the Alzheimer’s Association]
By Marcy Maher, MA
Maybe it’s something else: That’s what might come to mind if an older person begins to lose her memory, repeat herself, see things that aren’t there, lose her way on routes she’s traveled for decades. Maybe it’s not dementia. And sometimes, thankfully, it is indeed some other problem, something that mimics the cognitive destruction of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia—but, unlike dementia, is treatable and fixable.
Sudden changes in a person’s mental state in the course of a few days or weeks, are not typical of a degenerative disease.
- Depression and anxiety are among the leading culprits. Like dementia, they can interfere with the ability to concentrate and remember.
- Thyroid problems are suspect as well. The thyroid has a huge effect on the brain and can be relatively easily tested for and relatively easily fixed with daily medication.
- Vitamin deficiencies probably qualify as the most hoped-for scenario. Cognitive problems caused by lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine) or B12 are reversible with pills or injections.
- Heavy drinking also causes memory loss. After years of alcoholism, one may not be able to repair the damage, but one can prevent it from getting worse.
Older people can suffer from any of these problems along with the actual symptoms of dementia. Treating secondary causes may at least slow, although not stop, the progression of cognitive decline. Often medical professionals will scan the brain, do blood tests, and look for other conditions that may be causing dementia-like symptoms in the event that treatment of these can be effective.
On the other hand, realistically, it might not be something else. Even though the list of other possible explanations is long, so are the odds against restoring a patient to normal functioning. When it looks like dementia, most of the time it is.
Almost 40 percent of people over the age of 65 experience some form of memory loss. When there is no underlying medical condition causing the memory loss, it is known as “age-associated memory impairment,” which is considered a part of the normal aging process. However, diseases like Alzheimer’s and other dementias are different and they progress very slowly over time.
The first symptoms of progressive dementia may vary from person to person. Memory loss is typically among the first signs of cognitive impairment related to progressive dementia. As the disease progresses, people experience even greater memory loss as well as other cognitive difficulties.
FDA Warns Against False Alzheimer’s Cures
By Susan Stewart
Given the rising numbers of people affected by Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias, it’s natural to want to grab onto anything that claims to stop, treat, or cure it. Today, Alzheimer’s Disease affects more than 5 million Americans, and that doesn’t count the millions more (loved ones and family members) also affected. But please, don’t be fooled by false or fake claims that any drug or supplement can cure or stop Alzheimer’s.
In an article from the April, 2019 issue of AARP Bulletin, the FDA is quoted, issuing a strong warning to the $40 billion-dollar dietary supplements industry. “These products may prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment,” it says, referring to companies that claim their products can cure Alzheimer’s. “So far, NO DRUG [or supplement] has proved effective at stopping or treating the disease.”
While we await the ongoing research and subsequent hopes for a cure (or at least a proven effective treatment), we can take heart in knowing that communities do exist that offer respite, peace, and quality of life for people with dementia. Expert staffs, compassionate caregivers, and warm, homelike settings can greatly improve the day-to-day lives of dementia sufferers and their families.
Our best hope lies in being informed, engaged, and supportive. At Sydney Creek, we pride ourselves on staying abreast of all the newest developments and we’re glad to act as a resource for our families and the public. When in doubt, ask!
MCI … or Dementia? Understanding the difference
By Susan Stewart
As we seek out housing and care for our aging loved ones, it’s important to understand the difference between Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and dementia. Some communities can accept residents with MCI but not dementia. Others can accept both. Here is what the California Assisted Living Association (CALA) and the Alzheimer’s Association have to say about them.
“Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) refers to people whose cognitive abilities are in a “conditional state” between normal aging and dementia. Normal age-related memory changes can include forgetting a person’s name or the location of an object; however, individuals with MCI have difficulty with short-term memory loss. MCI is a state in which at least one cognitive function, usually short-term memory, is impaired to an extent that is greater than would be anticipated in the normal aging process. MCI is characterized by short-term memory problems, but no other symptoms of dementia (e.g. problems with language, judgment, changes in personality or behavior) that affect a person’s daily functioning. Individuals with MCI may experience some difficulty with intellectually demanding activities, but lack the degree of cognitive and functional impairment required to meet the diagnostic criteria for dementia.”
“Dementia means the loss of intellectual function (such as thinking, remembering, reasoning, exercising judgment and making decisions) and other cognitive functions, sufficient to interfere with an individual’s ability to perform activities of daily living or to carry out social or occupational activities. Dementia is not a disease itself, but rather a group of symptoms that may accompany certain conditions or diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Symptoms may include changes in personality, mood, and/or behavior. Dementia is irreversible when caused by disease or injury, but may be reversible when caused by depression, drugs, alcohol, or hormone/vitamin imbalances.”
At Sydney Creek, our staff is trained to care for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Our family members know their loved ones are in good hands. But whether you are caring for your loved one full-time at home, or visiting them in a community like ours, the following 12 guidelines will be helpful, perhaps even life-changing.
From an article by Esther Heerema, MSW, posted on the website verywellhealth.com We have edited it for space and specificity to our community.
- Don’t argue with someone who has dementia
It’s easy to become frustrated, even angry, with someone who has dementia. The tendency, especially with a family member, is to want to convince him he’s wrong and set him straight. Instead, remember that dementia actually changes brain function, structure, and ability. You will rarely win an argument in dementia; rather, you will almost always increase the frustration levels for both of you. Spending time being angry and argumentative is just not worth it.
- Ignoring the symptoms won’t make them go away.
It’s not uncommon to spend valuable time in the early stages and symptoms of dementia hoping that the symptoms will just go away, or trying to convince yourself that it’s just a phase or that you’re overreacting. This attempt to cope by denial may make things better for you in the short term, but it can delay the diagnosis of other conditions that look like dementia but are treatable, as well as delay diagnosis and treatment of true dementia.
Instead, remember that while it can be anxiety-provoking to schedule that appointment with the doctor, it can also be helpful to know what you’re facing. Even having your worries confirmed by getting a diagnosis of dementia can actually be a good thing, since there are many benefits to early detection, including medications that are often more effective in the early stages.
- Too many medications can make people feel and act more confused.
While medications are, of course, prescribed to help people, too many drugs can hurt people instead, causing disorientation and memory loss.
Instead, when you go to the doctor, be sure to bring in a list of all of the medications that your loved one is taking and ask if each one is still needed. Include all vitamins and supplements since some of them can affect how medications work, or they can interact with the chemicals in the medications. It’s worth asking for a thorough review of all of the medications to ensure that they’re truly helping, and not hurting, your loved one.
- Validation therapy can help us respond gently.
People living with dementia often experience a different reality than we do. They may call out repeatedly for their mother or insist that they have to go to work, even though they’ve been retired for many years.
Instead of being irritated and reminding your loved one of her age, the fact that her mother passed away decades ago or that she hasn’t worked in 20 years, try taking five minutes to ask her to tell you about her mother or about her job. These are examples of using validation therapy, and using this technique can often improve the day for both of you.
The ideas behind validation therapy help us to remember to adjust our focus to see things their way, rather than try unsuccessfully to have them see it from our perspective.
- It’s never too late to work on improving brain health.
Sometimes, people feel that after a love one receives a diagnosis of dementia, it’s too late to do anything about it. Part of that response may be related to the normal grieving process after a diagnosis, but many caregivers have expressed that they really didn’t know that brain health strategies can truly make a difference in functioning, whether cognition is normal or already declining.
Instead, remember that while true dementia won’t go away and generally is progressive, there are still a lot of strategies that can be used to maintain and even improve brain health and functioning for a time.
- Sharing your struggle and receiving help is important
Millions of family caregivers make every effort to do the task of care giving well, and some end up doing it mostly alone. These caregivers often have no idea how exhausted there are, and if they do, they may feel like their fatigue doesn’t matter anyway because they have a job to do.
Instead of barely hanging on, day after day, seek out home health care services, adult day care facilities, respite care, and support and encouragement groups for caregivers. Communities like ours offer support groups that can help you be a better caregiver by refilling your cup of available energy.
- Choose one small thing to do for yourself.
The risk of caregiver burnout is real. Caregivers don’t need to feel guilty or frustrated because they don’t have time or energy to exercise, smile, eat right, and get lots of sleep. Most caregivers are well aware these are things they should do but just don’t have the time. The last thing they need is another list of things they should be doing.
Instead, what caregivers need to remember is that doing even one little thing for themselves is important and beneficial. You may not have time to do the big things, but finding little ways to refill your tank of caregiver energy is critically important.
Practical ideas from dementia caregivers who have been there include a 30 minute visit from a friend, 20 minutes of quiet time where you read a religious passage or listen to your favorite music, 10 minutes to drink your favorite flavored coffee, five minutes of locking yourself in your room to physically stretch your body or call a family member who will understand, and 10 seconds of taking a deep, deep breath and let it out slowly.
- Pick and choose your priorities and let the rest go.
Some people have said that dementia picks and chooses its own battles. However, others have shared that initially, they tried to “do everything right,” but as time went on, they learned that letting go of some of these pressures and expectations saved their own sanity and reduced their frustration.
Instead of focusing on meeting your own expectations or those of the people around you, change your focus to what’s important at the moment. You will rarely go wrong if you ask yourself if the momentary challenge will be important in a month from now, or not, and proceed accordingly.
- Have the difficult conversations about medical decisions and choices
It can, understandably, be very hard to think about an uncertain future after a dementia diagnosis. You may need some time to absorb and process the information.
However, instead of avoiding the uncomfortable conversation about medical decisions and power of attorney documents, take the time to discuss these important choices. Have that talk with your loved one who has dementia sooner rather than later (or never). Why? Not having to guess about medical decisions and personal preferences can afford you with much more peace of mind, knowing that you are honoring her choices.
- Remember that he really can’t control his behavior.
When your family member or friend has dementia, it’s tempting to believe that he’s really not that bad off. This can be a protective tendency so that you don’t have to directly face the changes that dementia is making in your loved one’s life.
Sometimes, caregivers would almost prefer to believe that a loved one is being stubborn, rather than the fact that he has dementia. The problem with that belief is that then, it’s very easy to feel that he’s choosing to dig his heels in and just being difficult You may feel like he has “selective memory problems” or that he’s just trying to provoke you or make your day difficult by not getting dressed to go to his doctor’s appointment, for example.
Instead, remind yourself that dementia can affect personality, behavior, decision-making, and judgment. He’s not just being stubborn or manipulative; he also has a disease that can sometimes control his behavior and emotions. This perspective can make it feel a little less personal when the day is not going well.
- Twenty minutes later can feel like a whole new day.
Sometimes, loved ones with dementia can become anxious, agitated, and combative while you’re helping them with their activities of daily life. For example, perhaps you’re trying to encourage your mother to brush her teeth and she’s pushing you away and yelling at you. It’s just not going to happen right now.
Instead of increasing your demands about brushing her teeth, try giving her (and yourself, if necessary) a few minutes to calm down. Ensure her safety and go to a different room for 20 minutes. You might find out that when you return and turn on her favorite music, the task that she was so adamantly opposed to earlier is now much easier and not a big deal. While this won’t always work, it often does, and it’s definitely worth a try.
- Quality of life is not impossible in dementia
Coping with a diagnosis of dementia is often not easy. There are losses to grieve, changes to make and many things to learn. However, you don’t need to fall for the lie that life will always be terrible with dementia. This is just not true.
Instead, listen to others who’ve been there, who acknowledge the challenges and don’t deny the pain, but who also strive to continue to enjoy life. According to many people who are living with dementia, there are ways to still enjoy life, to still have a high quality of life, despite their challenges. Take hope from their words when they say that they still enjoy socialization with friends, good food, pet therapy and laughter.
A Bounty of Blogs
As you tap into the internet for useful information about understanding and coping with dementia, don’t overlook the bounty of excellent blogs available. One of these is alzheimer’s.net. And below is a recent entry, written by Alissa Sauer, that caught my eye.
Women’s Lifetime Risk for Developing Dementia Is Higher Than Men’s
December 2018 / by Alissa Sauer
There are currently more than 5.5 million Americans living with dementia and that number is expected to triple by 2050. We may never know the full economic and physical effects that the disease has on our nation. However, a new Alzheimer’s Association and Shriver Report is giving us greater insight into developing dementia, including how burdensome it can be, especially for women.
A new report from the Alzheimer’s Association has found that women are at a higher risk of developing dementia than men. The numbers are startling:
- Out of the 5 million people living with dementia in the United States, 3.2 million are women
- 1 out of 6 women over the age of 60 will develop the disease compared to 1 out of 11 men
- Women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop dementia than they are to develop breast cancer
The main reason that women are more likely to develop dementia, is simply that women live longer than men and that age is still the number one risk factor for developing the disease. From that perspective, we are all at risk.
The Society for Women’s Health Research Interdisciplinary Network brought together a panel of experts to review what we know about the differences in dementia rates between genders. Because age is a leading cause of the disease and women live longer, longevity is thought to be a major factor in a woman’s dementia risk. However, longevity alone cannot explain why 2/3 of people with the disease are women. Other dementia risk factors specific to women include:
- Decreased educational and occupational opportunities.
- The dementia gene is thought to affect women differently than men.
- Women are less likely to exercise than men.
- Women are two times more likely to have depression than men.
- Women have a higher caregiver burden than men, which could lead to a higher risk of cognitive impairment.
- Women perform well on dementia diagnosis tests so that by the time the disease is caught, it is often progressed further than when detected in men.
Not only are women facing the brunt of the disease, but women are also bearing the burden of caregiving. There are 2.5 times as many women than men providing 24-hour care for a parent or senior loved one with dementia.
The burden is not just emotional. It is also financial:
- 60% of unpaid dementia caregivers are women.
- 20% of women exchanged their full-time job for a part-time job to act as a caregiver
- 18% of women took a leave of absence of work to provide caregiving
- 11% of women left work entirely
- 10% of women lost job benefits due to caregiving responsibilities
Given this information and knowing that dementia is still one of the most misunderstood and underreported diseases, we must take action. The Alzheimer’s Association has launched a national initiative that brings attention to the plight of women against the disease. Called “My Brain,” the initiative strives to include one million women and serve as a resource for female caregivers and patients. For more information, please visit www.alz.org
Talking to Children About Dementia
By Kristi Beck
Holidays are a time for reconnecting with loved ones. For those with Alzheimer’s Disease or other types of dementia, it may be disorienting to be taken out of a familiar setting—especially if they are now living in a care community. Holiday gatherings can look a little different as multiple generations visit the actual community, versus taking a loved one home for the holiday.
One missed opportunity that I have seen over the years is not preparing children before they visit a grandparent or older adult living with dementia. Parents might think if you don’t discuss this painful disease, you’re protecting your children or that certain behavior can be dismissed as “old age” or forgetfulness. Parents may forget that children will be observing other residents, in addition to the one they are visiting, and those residents will be drawn to their joy and energy.
Remember that children are very insightful and curious. They will ask questions and worry when a grandparent’s behavior changes or when he or she seems absent from their lives. Children might feel nervous around the older adult, especially if he or she is having trouble remembering names or can no longer take care of him or herself the way they once did.
Some suggestions for preparing a child for a visit:
- Be honest and explain the disease. Let them know that Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia does not affect kids and it mostly happens to people over 65 years old. Scientists have discovered medicines that seem to slow the disease down and there’s hope that someday there will be a cure. Age-appropriate information, explaining the disease can be found on such sites as https://kids.alzheimersresearchuk.org/young-kids/
- Encourage children to “go with the flow.” The older adult or grandparent may have an altered sense of reality and arguing or trying to correct him or her might lead to more confusion or agitation. For example, “Grandma sometimes calls me mother.” Explain to children it’s an opportunity to pretend or use their imaginations, but not to argue.
- Prepare ahead of time for “taboo” topics. If you are aware of a particular item of discussion that will elicit emotions, explain it before the visit. “Aunt May gets sad when we talk about her dog Taffy who lives with us.” “Grandpop wasn’t safe driving, so we told him his car is getting fixed at the shop, so he isn’t worried every day.”
Consider meeting in the lobby area or reserving a private dining area for your holiday visit. The Village at Sydney Creek has plenty of space for meeting one-on-one with a resident, including our lobby with fireplace, family room, Activity Room, conference room or one of our lush garden spaces.
Contact Sydney Creek at 805-543-2350 if you are interested in having a staff member visit your child’s schools or club to explain more about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
“About my Grandfather, About My Grandmother” an online video produced by the Alzheimer’s Association
“Really and Truly,” by Emilie Rivard
“Grandma and Me: A Kid’s Guide for Alzheimer’s and Dementia,” by Mary Ann Drummond and Beatrice Tauber Prior
On a lighter note: “Why Did Grandma Put Her Underwear In The Refrigerator?” Max Wallack, Carolyn Given
Meet with one of our Community Relations Coordinators, request more information or schedule a tour.
Caring for a loved one with Dementia or Alzheimer's is emotionally challenging—as is the decision to move them to a Memory Care facility. The Village at Sydney Creek is here to assist you with this transition. Our community in San Luis Obispo, California provides a knowledgeable staff and the necessary resources to make this step as smooth as possible—logistically, mentally, and emotionally.
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