Posted on November 9, 2017 by Jamie Floyd
For caregivers, the approaching holiday season can bring with it a flurry of emotions – not all of them positive. If you are one of the 39 million caregivers in the United States, here are some tips to help you cope with the emotional ups and downs of the season.
Know that you are not alone
As a caregiver of an older person, you may experience a great feeling of loneliness that comes from being isolated from others due to the responsibilities of caregiving. It can seem as if no one understands your role as a caregiver and you are alone in the role with all of the daily responsibilities. It is very “real” to feel alone, especially around Christmas. Know that this feeling is valid. It helps to reach out to someone who is in a similar situation. They are likely to be feeling lonely, too. Talk on the phone, text or email each other daily. Make a pact to shore each other up through the holiday season. Be sure to connect with someone other than the person for whom you are caring.
Acknowledge anger – and let it go
Long lines at the mall, no parking spaces and too many items on the to-do list can bring out anyone’s inner Scrooge. Hey, we all can get angry during the holidays, right? Bah humbug! As a caregiver, your anger may be related to grief and loss. Your roles have changed, your responsibilities have grown when they were supposed to diminish and your burden is heavier. In the meantime, the whole world around you seems merry. If you feel anger, use it as fuel to take action. Call a friend and talk about it. Say it out loud, “I am angry right now because I cannot decorate this house. I don’t have time.” Identifying the feeling and taking control of the situation can help curb the anger. I know a woman who cleans closets and drawers to help blow off steam. Some folks go for long walks or bike rides. Take care of the anger in a positive and healthy way, starting with acknowledging it and getting it out.
Seek out social interaction
One in four people may experience depression during the holiday season. The top factor contributing to this is social isolation. Because of the demands of caregiving, you undoubtedly experience a heightened degree of social isolation. Caregivers often report that their circle of friends has shrunk to one or two. Adult children are too busy to visit or travel home. Social and spiritual outlets are hard to access due to the demands of caregiving. Give yourself permission to be sad while making it a priority to find ways to have social interaction. Call a friend or family member and ask them to visit. If you are invited to dinner or an event and are able to attend, then go. Many caregivers fall into the trap of declining invitations to the point of not being invited in the future. You will be giving yourself and the person in your care a gift by finding social outlets to help you stay mentally healthy.
Embrace new traditions
With caregiving come many changes. If you are an older adult caregiver, the additional changes in life roles, traditions and abilities may add to feelings of grief and loss. Acknowledge those feelings while looking for opportunities to change your roles and establish new traditions. If you feel up to baking all the pies like every Thanksgiving before, don’t let anyone take away that joy. I know of one family who realized how overwhelming big crowds of boisterous children had become for their aging parents. So, they divided up the visits over the course of a week and actually had more quality time together. Give yourself permission to create new traditions. Remember, all traditions were new at one time or another!
As a caregiver, there may come a time when full-time caregiving is no longer the solution for you or the one in your care. Give yourself permission to consider additional options for care.
Category: Caregiver Support
Tags: caregiver, Holidays, Senior Living
Posted on June 13, 2017 by Tom Alaimo
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.
- Individualized Care Approach – Everyone’s journey with dementia is unique. Recognizing this, we apply principles of Virginia Bell and David Troxel’s “Best Friends” approach, which encourages use of the individual’s life story, preferences and relationships to help them feel safe, secure and valued. This allows caregivers to develop a care plan tailored to that person’s specific needs.
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 January 21, 2016 by Steve Morgan
As parents age, their needs grow while their ability to care for themselves declines. This is especially true when a parent lives alone. Unfortunately, many don’t think about how they will care for an aging parent until they’re forced to make a decision. (more…)
Category: Caregiver Support
Tags: aging, caregiver, parent
Posted on September 1, 2015 by Michele Macmartin
For older adults, staying hydrated can be a challenge. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, one in three older adults may not drink enough fluids each day due to physical and physiological changes common to aging, such as: diminished thirst sensation, side effects of medications and incontinence. The inability to walk, reach for a glass or feed oneself can further complicate the issue. A decline in cognitive function (confusion, poor memory, etc.) can also impact fluid intake. (more…)
Category: Caregiver Support
Tags: caregiver, dehydration, help, tips
Posted on August 28, 2015 by Julie Smead
Sending a child to college is bittersweet; pride swells alongside the pain of letting go. There’s so much to decide, plan, purchase and pack. Helping a son or daughter select the right school and prepare for the move is a milestone not to be missed.
But what about Mom? While parents ready their college-bound child, who makes sure an aging family member eats right and takes their medications? (more…)
Category: Caregiver Support
Tags: caregiver, college, school