Posted on November 18, 2021 by Admin
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most prevalent health concerns among adults ages 65 and older in the United States. At Atria, the health and wellbeing of residents is our highest priority, and since November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we want to provide a resource for caregivers whose parents may be showing signs of memory loss. Read on for an overview of the distinctions between dementia and Alzheimer’s, how normal signs of aging differ from Alzheimer’s symptoms, and possible treatments for Alzheimer’s.
Normal signs of aging versus symptoms of dementia
The symptoms of dementia are not a normal part of aging. Normal aging might include weakening muscles, stiffening of arteries, and some mild age-related memory changes. For instance, an older adult – or anyone, for that matter – might occasionally misplace car keys, forget to pay a bill, or struggle to find a word. People diagnosed with dementia, however, suffer from sustained problems with communication, memory, and attention. Signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia might include getting lost in their own neighborhood, forgetting the names of their own children, or being unable to complete routine tasks.
Are dementia and Alzheimer’s the same?
Dementia is a not a disease, but a broad term that refers to various conditions of cognitive impairment. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia – accounting for 60–80% of dementia cases. Other manifestations of dementia include Lewy body dementia, mixed dementia, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and more.
Dementia may also be reversible – tied to underlying causes such as vitamin deficiency, thyroid imbalance, and pressure in the brain. Family history, poor heart health, and traumatic brain injuries increase the risk of developing dementia, though the strongest risk factor is age. The majority of dementia cases afflict people ages 65 and older.
How is Alzheimer’s treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Some medications do mitigate anxiety-related symptoms, and some treatments may alter the progression of the disease. In general, physicians may prescribe certain medications that improve cell-to-cell communication networks. As of July 2021, the FDA approved aducanumab (Aduhelm) to treat some cases of Alzheimer’s.
A doctor may also recommend fostering an environment for an Alzheimer’s patient that’s calm, safe, and supportive, and an exercise and nutrition regimen that promotes overall wellbeing. (Specific suggestions may vary between providers.)
Memory care at Atria
At Atria, we believe that despite the difficulties of memory impairment, a person with dementia can continue to live an engaging, joyful, and meaningful life. Our propriety approach to memory care, Life Guidance®, is a specialized service that promotes the health benefits of physical activity, social connection and individualized care. Learn more about all that Life Guidance® offers, and read about some of the signs that it’s time to consider memory care.
If you or someone you know could benefit from Atria’s forward-thinking, highly personalized memory care, please reach out to the Atria community near you for more information.
Category: Community, Dementia & Memory Care, News In Aging, Wit & Wisdom
Posted on June 8, 2021 by Admin
People who aren’t familiar with senior living communities sometimes assume that they are all the same. But the distinctions between three of the major senior living options – independent living, assisted living and nursing homes – can be substantial. So here are some helpful points of clarification on the differences between each one.
If you are an older adult leading an active lifestyle, you are probably best suited for an independent living community. Your residence options might include an apartment, a villa or a duplex. The staff in the community takes care of household tasks, which frees up your schedule to do things that you love – whether it’s traveling, hiking in the mountains with your son or getting to know other residents. You can also enjoy community events such as exercise classes, guest lecture series or happy hours. Think of independent living as an option that gives you all the comforts of home without any of the burdens of homeownership.
Older adults who choose assisted living housing options want to enjoy chef-prepared meals, group outings and help with household tasks just like independent living options, with the added benefit of caregiver support available 24/7. Residents can select a range of assistance options. Some residents may benefit from living in memory care neighborhoods. Others may ask for assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, grooming and safety checks. Assisted living communities often employ full-time licensed nurses or a physician to serve as another layer of professional, discreet support.
The function of a nursing home is to provide medical assistance to seniors who need round-the-clock monitoring and care. The residents who live in nursing homes often have conditions best treated with long-term palliative care or prescription medication administration. They may also require specialized rehabilitative services such as speech or occupational therapy. The primary focus of nursing homes is to provide 24-hour supervision and medical attention.
At Atria, we offer independent living and assisted living options customized to individual preferences – whether residents are looking to be free of the burdens of homeownership or need discreet daily support. No matter how much – or how little – assistance any given resident would prefer, contact us to see how we can cater to your individual needs.
If you or someone you know wants to learn more about Atria, visit AtriaSeniorLiving.com/FindACommunity to discover the location nearest you.
Category: Active Aging, Caregiver Support, Community, Dementia & Memory Care, Lifestyle, Wit & Wisdom
Posted on May 3, 2021 by Admin
Atria Senior Living’s care services are backed by our industry-leading quality standards. In our communities that offer care services, the Resident Services Director – who is also a licensed nurse – assesses each resident’s physical, emotional and functional needs prior to move-in, and then on an as-needed basis following that initial care plan.
How assessments work
Because the well-being of residents is our top priority, we pride ourselves on the rigor with which we conduct assessments. Here’s how the process works:
- Prior to a new resident moving into Atria, a licensed nurse will visit the resident to review medications and develop an essential drug list.
- A physician will review the assessment before it’s shared with the resident and his or her family. Atria will conduct another assessment the day the new resident moves in, and add it into our system to help caregivers organize their days and meet residents’ needs.
- Following those initial assessments, Atria will conduct further assessments to determine whether a decrease or increase in care services is needed.
Discreet care is available 24 hours a day, and services generally fall into these three categories: personal care (bathing, grooming, getting dressed and safety checks); medication assistance (reminders, consultations with physicians and pharmacies and ongoing reviews with a nurse); and incontinent management (daytime and overnight assistance).
Some Atria communities also offer memory care, geared toward older adults experiencing the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Memory care neighborhoods are located in thoughtfully designed, secure spaces within a community.
Care and Engage Life®
The Engage Life department adds another layer of support to the licensed nurses and caregivers within an Atria community.
“Engage Life and care and social work – they’re all interlocked,” Beth Levi, Engage Life Director at Atria Forest Hills, said. “In my role, I have the opportunity to monitor residents through the activities they’re doing. I see them on a daily basis. So if I notice a change in condition, I can coordinate with the care team.”
Engage Life Directors create programs and workshops that enhance residents’ lives through social connection and lifelong learning, which is one reason Levi is looped into the part of the assessment process for new or prospective residents: She learns about a resident’s care needs and assistance levels, and then personalizes the community events calendar so that there are plenty of opportunities tailored to each individual.
“When a new resident moves in, I take all the programs we offer, and then I go over it with them,” Levi said. “They pick out what they like and we make a personalized schedule, so when they move in, it’s all set in their minds – ‘This is what I’m going to be doing.’ The calendar is adaptable and changeable, and based upon their interests and needs.”
The Atria advantage
“The differentiator in Atria’s care is our preparation, our response, our protocols, our internal Quality Enhancement review process,” Joanna Mansfield, Atria’s Senior Vice President of Care and Life Guidance, shared. “We have stringent guidelines. We have checks and balances to make sure residents’ needs are being fulfilled.”
Those stringent guidelines are the result of being so attentive to residents’ well-being. When it comes to a community’s Resident Services Director, Atria only hires nurses with a clinical skill set and management experience who are also familiar with working with older adults. That attention to detail required in their jobs helps give nurses and caregivers the structure necessary to provide the best care for the world’s wisest people.
Discover how empowering the right care can be at Atria Senior Living at ExploreAtriaCare.com.
Category: Active Aging, Caregiver Support, Community, Dementia & Memory Care, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom
Posted on March 25, 2021 by Admin
Diane worried about leaving the hospital. She’d been admitted, again, for losing consciousness due to a health issue that caused her blood oxygen level to drop.
“It’s scary to wake up on the floor and not realize what happened,” she said. “Since I live alone, my family and I decided I should recuperate at Atria to make sure the new treatment plan from my doctor works. If not, somebody will be there to help.”
Diane is staying at an Atria community while she recuperates. Short-term stays offer older people like her an excellent way to receive the care and support they need while recovering from an illness or surgery. Short-term stay guests enjoy a furnished, private apartment plus all the same services, amenities and social opportunities available to Atria residents.
A short-term stay is also a great way to see what senior living is like.
A better outcome
When an older person is discharged from a hospital or rehabilitation facility, their recovery depends largely on following doctors’ orders. Are they taking medications properly? Adhering to their new diet? Keeping follow-up appointments?
For people who live alone, no longer drive and may possibly be dealing with a number of chronic health conditions, compliance is often a struggle. As a result, their recovery can suffer and they risk a setback, which could lead to another hospital or rehab stay.
“A lot of short-term stay guests come to Atria due to health issues,” said Karen Devaney, Atria’s National Director of Care Management.
“Short stays offer a way for people to recover with trained staff available around the clock to make sure they’re doing everything they need to do,” Devaney added. “We also provide their meals, housekeeping, drive them to appointments and offer opportunities to connect with others.
“Short-term stay guests go through the same initial care assessment as residents before move-in. The care coordination they receive is also the same.”
So, instead of juggling instructions from numerous healthcare providers, a short-term stay guest can focus on recovering while Atria manages the rest. Care coordination also makes sure everyone involved in a person’s well-being is on the same page – from doctors, nurses and physical therapists to caregivers and family members.
A quick solution
A short-term stay often comes to the rescue for families facing a sudden or unexpected situation. An older family member may be discharged from the hospital or rehab sooner than anticipated and needs a place to recover. Families may discover an older relative’s living environment is no longer safe.
“Our door is always open,” stated Pamela Filby, Atria’s Vice President of Sales. “When a person needs to move quickly, a short-term stay provides a furnished apartment on short notice, with support available around the clock.”
Knowing their older relative is safe and cared for gives family members time to more thoughtfully explore their options.
A welcome change
When it comes to taking a break, short-term stays go both ways.
Caregivers occasionally need time off to rest and recharge. Maybe they’re planning a vacation with their spouse and children and need to make arrangements for Mom. Since short-term stay guests enjoy the same services, dining options, amenities and social opportunities as residents, the break can be a welcome change for her, too.
On the other hand, perhaps an older family member would like to enjoy a long visit with relatives in another state but doesn’t want to stay in a hotel or the family’s home.
“We have regulars,” said Filby. “We jokingly call them ‘frequent fliers.’ It’s a nice way for them to get to know the community.
“We even have couples who book short-term stays at communities in Florida, just to get away and have everything handled for them.”
A toe in the water
“Sometimes a family is reluctant to make a move and sell the home, even if they’ve started to realize their parent needs more care,” Filby explained. “We suggest families try a temporary stay while sorting things out.”
For active older adults who don’t need daily support but are ready to downsize and let go of the cooking, cleaning and home maintenance, a short-term stay is an ideal way to try out senior living. After a short-term stay, many realize how much more fulfilling their lives can be when surrounded by daily opportunities to pursue new interests and hobbies in a community of friendly neighbors.
“I hope more families take advantage of short-term stays because the benefits can be tremendous,” said Filby.
Category: Active Aging, Caregiver Support, Dementia & Memory Care, Wit & Wisdom
Posted on February 20, 2021 by Admin
At 94, Gloria had hardly ever washed her own hair, relying instead on regular visits to the beauty parlor. After moving to Atria, she kept up her routine at the community’s salon until it closed temporarily due to COVID-19.
That’s when Kelly Burnett, the community’s Life Guidance Memory Care Director, voluntarily took over washing and styling Gloria’s hair.
“That’s not her job, but she knows how important it is to my mother” said Gloria’s son, Bill. “It’s a great example of how caring the staff is. I’ll remember that forever.”
When Joe first moved to Atria, he was depressed. He’d just completed rehabilitation for a stroke, relied on a walker to get around and was developing mild symptoms of dementia.
Despite daily invitations to join his neighbors for gatherings and events, Joe stayed inside his apartment. But staff members didn’t give up. They continued their visits several times a day to say hello, check in and gently urge him to venture out.
It took a few weeks of patient encouragement before Joe started leaving his apartment. Soon he was participating in nearly every event.
“Everyone moves at their own pace,” said Tomika Polk, Divisional Director of Life Guidance Memory Care Operations. “Once Joe realized he could trust the people he lived with, he blossomed.”
Caring for the individual
No two people experience Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia the same way. The symptoms, behaviors and rate of disease progression look different for each individual.
Memory care at Atria is highly personalized to each resident, with one-to-one attention and support from caring staff in a secure, thoughtfully designed setting. Residents also enjoy daily opportunities to engage in meaningful pursuits such as art workshops, discussion groups and fitness classes.
Having worked in dementia care since 1993, Ron Bowen, Divisional Director of Life Guidance Memory Care Operations at Atria, says getting to know an individual’s likes and dislikes, personal history and what makes them tick is especially important when caring for a person with dementia.
“We want to understand the essence of a resident,” Bowen said. “We want to find out everything about Mom that will help us help her.”
To do this, caregivers collaborate with a new resident and their family to answer 116 specific questions, ranging from past occupations to favorite music genres to what calms and reassures them. Bowen refers to this as a resident’s life story.
“We take the answers to those questions and what they say about the resident, the things they like to do, and create a plan to keep them active and engaged.”
Most residents also receive a memory display to hang beside their apartment door. Families can choose to fill it with photos and meaningful mementos that illustrate their family member’s personality. The space also serves a practical purpose by helping the resident locate their apartment.
When staff members get to know a resident well, they can adjust the way they respond to certain behaviors. For some residents, music is a soothing antidote to aggressive behavior, which is a common symptom of dementia. Staff may help other residents focus on a simple task or project to redirect their attention in a positive way.
“What works for one person doesn’t always work for another,” Bowen said.
Developing emotional intelligence
A person with dementia can’t always control their emotions or communicate what they’re feeling. If they appear upset or confused, caregivers need to know the best way to respond.
Staff training at Atria includes universal dementia care methods such as redirecting or reducing distractions. Caregivers are also coached in more intuitive techniques such as “how to read a room,” as Bowen put it.
“We need to use our emotional intelligence when figuring out how to respond,” he said.
Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. The more in touch a staff member is with their own emotions, the better they can assess another’s and respond appropriately.
“We ask family members how they approach Mom, and what kinds of emotions she typically shows. How we respond from an emotional standpoint is what helps the resident feel at ease,” Bowen said.
Polk agreed, adding that a caregiver’s mood also can impact the way a resident behaves.
“People with dementia can sense your vibe and react to it,” she said. “I train staff members to put aside any personal issues as much as possible when they come to work. We want to create a peaceful, enjoyable environment.”
Building trust and communication
Forging a relationship with family is also key to Atria’s personalized approach. After a new resident moves in, a designated caregiver contacts the family with updates every day.
“It’s about connecting from the very beginning to make sure families are part of the process,” Bowen said. “Once they’re on board, it makes caring for the resident easier.”
Whether it’s making decisions together about medical treatment or discussing Dad’s need for a new pair of slippers, staff stay in regular contact with family. In her previous role as a Life Guidance Memory Care Director, Polk even sent photos to family members showing the resident active and engaged.
“We want them to know what their family member is doing,” she said. “That’s one way to gain a family’s trust.”
Bill says the staff members who care for his mother, Gloria, have “just the right touch” and update his family regularly.
“When they call, the first four words are always ‘Your mom is all right,’ and then they talk about what’s going on.
“From the beginning, I could see that these people truly care. I can’t imagine a better place for Mom,” Bill said.
If you or someone you know could benefit from Atria’s forward-thinking, highly personalized memory care, please reach out to the Atria community near you for more information.
Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Dementia & Memory Care, Wit & Wisdom
Posted on June 13, 2017 by Admin
This year, the summer solstice falls on June 21, which makes it the longest day of 2017. This also marks the date of the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual mid-year event – dubbed ‘The Longest Day’ – to raise awareness of the issue as well as funding to support research.
As a provider of care, services and living accommodations for seniors, our caregivers and staff members at Atria Senior Living communities across the U.S. are well aware of the challenges associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. We see the toll it takes on individuals and their families, on caregivers and society as a whole. And, we support research and fundraising efforts in hopes of finding a cure.
We also believe that we should consider what can be done now, today, to help individuals with dementia continue to live engaging, meaningful and joyful lives.
- Physical Activity – Decades of research point to the health benefits of social connection and regular exercise for seniors, including the potential to limit cognitive decline. A study published in 2016 in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that regular exercise may slow mental decline by a decade. At Atria, we encourage exercise twice a day including walks, stretching and chair yoga, dance, and working with weights; activity is good for the brain!
- Social Connection – A 2009 study funded by the National Institute on Aging and published in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health found that having a larger social network and consistent contact with family and friends are associated with reduced dementia risk. These findings make a strong case for the value of communal and shared living space.
- Engaged Programming – What’s good for people living with dementia is what’s good for all older people: engagement. For example, music-based programs show increasing promise in keeping those with dementia engaged because musical appreciation is among the last abilities to be affected by memory impairment. Research shows that music can improve mood, reduce stress and agitation, and create focus and interest, among other benefits. Atria’s own music program, Legato®, is offered daily in our memory care environments and encourages physical activity and social interaction, all set to music.
- Thoughtfully Designed Spaces – Environmental factors can greatly influence quality of life and behavior among people with dementia by allowing them to maintain a sense of independence. Atria applies careful and deliberate thought to the design of its memory care environments, or Life Guidance® Neighborhoods, which are designed to maximize awareness and orientation. This extends to interior design, lighting, artwork, safety features and many other aspects.
There’s a growing recognition that dementia isn’t only the responsibility of those directly affected, but society as a whole. A great example is the global movement to make more cities and towns “dementia friendly” by educating citizens and working to improve the safety and quality of life for those with dementia. Let’s hope this attitude of compassion and accountability continues to grow in prevalence.
We believe life does not end when dementia begins. Ours should not be a language of despair, but instead, one of possibility and hope found in incremental progress, one life at a time.
Category: Dementia & Memory Care
Tags: Alzheimer's, Alzheimer’s Association, caregiver, dementia, exercise, memory care, Music
Posted on July 31, 2015 by Admin
Women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s and the reasons remain unclear. According to the Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report:
- Women make up almost two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Among those aged 71 and older, 16 percent of women have Alzheimer’s and other dementias, compared to 11 percent of men.
- At age 65, women without Alzheimer’s have more than a one-in-six chance of developing the disease during the remainder of their lives, compared with a one-in-11 chance for men.
- Women in their 60s are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.
Category: Dementia & Memory Care, News In Aging
Tags: Alzheimer's, Assisted Living, dementia, memory care
Posted on March 3, 2015 by Admin
Part 3: Staff Training & Education
If you’re considering care for a family member who is living with the challenges of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, one of the most important factors to consider is the training and education provided to their caregivers. (more…)
Category: Caregiver Support, Dementia & Memory Care
Tags: Alzheimer's, Assisted Living, dementia, memory care
Posted on December 23, 2014 by Admin
Part Two: Engaging Activities
If you’re considering care for a family member who is living with the challenges of Alzheimer’s or another form of memory impairment, the items at the top of your checklist are likely related to finding a safe and healthy living arrangement where your family member will not just live, but live well. When you visit a senior living community, take every opportunity to ask questions about their memory care program.
Category: Dementia & Memory Care
Tags: Alzheimer's, memory care
Posted on October 22, 2014 by Admin
Part 1: Living Environment | Alzheimer's and Memory Care
When you’re making a personal visit to an assisted living community, take every opportunity you have to ask questions about Alzheimer’s and memory care.
It may be helpful if you divide your questions between a few main topics: Living Environment, Engaging Activities, Staff Training and Education and Quality Assurance.
In this installment of a three-part series, we’ll help with things you should look for in a living environment that will help your family member live well.
Look at the Surroundings
First, take a look around the community and observe the residents. Are the residents engaged in elementary activities, or are they living full, enriched lives in an environment that encourages grown-up engagement? Are they well-groomed and dressed neatly? They should be.
Walk the Community
Take a moment to walk the community. Is the space welcoming, vibrant and purposefully designed to accommodate residents with memory impairments? Residents with memory impairments may wander to help relieve stress, boredom, relieve discomfort or pain. An ideal design of a memory care environment would include opportunities for residents to walk within the secured environment and access to outdoor space (during appropriate weather).
You want to feel confident that your loved one is safe, and also that they are free to move about with exposure to sunlight, plants, birds and other things that make them happy. You want to feel confident that your loved one is safe, and also that they are free to move about with exposure to sunlight, plants, birds and other things that make them happy. You should get the sense that your loved one will feel free and relaxed, rather than confined and anxious.
To this end, consider whether the staff greets and welcomes you with open smiles. That’s a pretty good indicator of a positive environment. If there is tension in the air, you can generally see it on staff members’ faces.
Safety, of course, is of utmost concern. It’s easy to see the signs of a safe neighborhood:
- Do the doors promptly re-secure when you enter or exit?
- Are all doors secured to prevent wandering in unsecured spaces?
- Are there handrails in the hallways to aid in balance?
- Is there enough space for the number of residents who live there to comfortably participate in activities and physical exercise?
- What about power outages or plant emergencies, such as a fire? Is there a defined evacuation plan? How are the residents protected during events such as these?
- Are windows secured – specifically, are the windows in each resident’s apartment secure?
Ask questions about the community’s call system and the staff’s ability to respond timely to your family member’s needs. Staff carry pagers and/or radios with them as means to communicate with each other. Pagers alert staff when something unusual happens (a door opens that generally shouldn't, a door leading out to the courtyard or an alert button/pendant).
Another safety feature is systematic and routine checks on residents to be sure they are okay. The need for status checks and their frequency are based on each resident’s service plan. Certainly, basic cleanliness is worth considering as well. Are all of the rooms and open areas clean? Are there any lingering odors? What about the dining room? Is it clean and comfortable?
A supportive community will always promote independence by offering their residents choices. Simple choices work best for those with memory impairments. For example, a choice between a blue shirt or a yellow shirt versus choosing any shirt from their closet. We pride ourselves on offering our Life Guidance residents the same dining experience as in Assisted Living. Pay particular attention to the dining experience, the quality of food the community offers and if they adjust their menu selections to accommodate the changing needs of the residents. Stay tuned for Part Two of the series, which will focus on Engaging Activities and their role in the lives of residents with memory impairments.
Category: Dementia & Memory Care
Tags: Assisted Living, dementia, Life Guidance, Living Environment, memory care, safety