Wit and Wisdom Blog for Atria Senior Living

      Wit and Wisdom      

a new view on growing older

Stories Connect People

Posted on December 5, 2017 by Atria Senior Living

From the time humans first roamed the earth, we have used storytelling as a way to understand our experiences, build connections and make sense of the world.

We live in a time when information is plentiful, but cheap. Wisdom, on the other hand, has become all the more rare and valuable. Our purest, most relatable source of wisdom is our stories.


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Navigating the Highs and Lows of the Holiday Season

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.

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Staying active can decrease depression in those with dementia

Posted on November 6, 2017 by David Troxel

Atria partners with renowned Alzheimer’s expert and author David Troxel, to provide innovative memory care that can help people with dementia continue to live meaningful, joyful lives.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that up to 40 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia also experience significant depression. Left untreated, particularly in early dementia, depression can add to confusion and cognitive loss, reduce the person’s ability for self-care and discourage involvement in activities and relationships that support quality of life.

Here are two examples.
• Ruth: living with early Alzheimer’s disease - is receiving excellent medical care and support from her friends and family. She enjoys going to the weekly farmer’s market with her grandchildren, painting water colors to give to friends and family, walking with a supportive neighbor and going to a local early-stage support group sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association. She is living life to her fullest and her symptoms of dementia remain mild.

• Ruth: living with early Alzheimer’s and depression - acknowledges visits from friends and family but has stopped going out. Her neighbor invites her to walk but Ruth declines. She is still working on the same water color day after day and can’t find the energy or focus to do something she has always enjoyed in the past. Ruth’s untreated depression is impacting her quality of life and her cognition is declining.

My colleague and prominent geriatrician, Michael McCloud, Professor Emeritus, University of California Davis School of Medicine says, “Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t travel alone.” Treatable conditions like depression need to be identified and addressed to help the person be at his or her best.

How can you tell if a person with dementia also has depression?

It’s not always easy; your family member can lose the ability to express his or her needs in words. Mom might not be able to say, “I’m feeling sad or hopeless.”

Instead, behavior communicates a message. Caregivers in Atria Senior Living’s Life Guidance memory care neighborhoods are trained to look for clues and cues and note changes in behavior to assess the situation.

Look for:

• Fatigue, sleeping much of the time.
• Tearfulness or words expressing hopelessness or despair.
• Loss of appetite
• Withdrawal from activities he or she has once enjoyed like music, spending time in the garden or being with friendly pets.
• Loss of humor or joy. Perhaps your mother always laughed when reminded of old stories of growing up on a farm or smiled when given a warm compliment and now her expression is flat.

What should you do if you suspect depression?

Involve your family physician.

The physician can rule out treatable causes (for example, pain, urinary tract infections and medication problems) and speak with the patient while observing their body language. He or she will also want to hear your family’s story; has Mom’s mood and behavior changed significantly? Bring in a short diary or your notes about the person’s behavior that suggests depression. The physician will also consider whether the person is truly clinically depressed or is instead apathetic, a symptom that can come with certain types of dementia and one that doesn’t respond to depression medications.

If it seems that clinical depression is the diagnosis, there are a number of approaches to consider:

Activity and engagement.
With no miracle medicine to arrest or truly slow the progression of dementia symptoms, the best approach is to encourage the person to stay active. Senior living community residents living with dementia are surrounded by neighbors, conversation, music, time outdoors and meaningful activities filled with purpose. Also, they often attend cultural events and volunteer for local organizations. Loneliness, isolation and boredom are all enemies of the brain.

Anti-depressant medication.
In my experience, many physicians will try a round of these medications when they suspect depression and usually with good results. Anti-depressants can help turn the tide, particularly when paired with a supportive approach from care partners.

My good friend and colleague, Dr. G. Allen Power, Geriatrician, Author, and Educator agrees that outdoor time, purpose and relationships are good first steps and may relieve mild depression. But, he adds, “many cases of clinical depression may need drug treatment. Unlike psychotropic drugs, there is better evidence for the safety and efficacy of anti-depressant medications and people living with dementia are no exception.”

Talk therapy.
Studies have shown that traditional talk therapy and group therapy can help reduce depression and anxiety in persons with dementia. I saw this first hand when I had the privilege of speaking this year in Chicago for the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s younger-onset Alzheimer’s group, “Without Warning.” The group offers education and support to persons facing dementia at a younger age. Many persons in the group expressed feelings of loss. Being able to talk about their situation was making a world of difference. Check with your local Alzheimer’s Association for resources including early-stage and younger-onset support groups.

In fact, I like the name of Atria’s memory care program, “Life Guidance,” since it suggests that staff provide encouragement and direction to maximize independence – doing “with” versus doing “for.” Encouraging the Life Guidance resident to experience success and have friends builds self-esteem and fights depression.

We don’t have a cure for Alzheimer’s yet, but we know how to make a difference. The brain loves company and socialization whether practiced at Atria, a local day center or in your own home with a lively set of friends and family.

Category: Dementia & Memory Care Tags: , ,

A Long Life. A Strong Spirit. - Atria Springdale

A Long Life. A Strong Spirit.

Posted on October 29, 2014 by Beatrice Huston

Atria Springdale resident Jo P. was kind enough to open up to me about her life. I can easily describe Jo as “determined.”  She has been through a lot in her 81 years and although she’s lost two children and two husbands, she’s steadfast in her goal to be positive and optimistic.  I have come to understand that Jo is the kind of person who is determined to push through the storm and come out stronger on the other side.


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Active seniors, group of old friends playing cards at park

Guide to Comparing Independent Living Communities

Posted on March 19, 2014 by Katy Miller

There are many reasons that lead older adults to consider independent living options. Keeping up with the daily chores of running a household can become overwhelming and expensive. As grown children move out, a large house with multiple levels presents challenges for a long-term living environment. Everyday tasks that used to take no time at all now suddenly take half the day.


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Retired Senior Woman Sitting On Sofa At Home Using Tablet Computer

What Senior Living Communities Will Look Like in 10 Years

Posted on February 28, 2014 by Katy Miller

Like most other industries, the trends among senior living communities are rapidly evolving. The future is bright for prospective retirees. Senior living communities will continue to fully embrace holistic wellness, eco-friendly solutions, technology and independence. As baby boomers slide into retirement age, the senior housing industry must accommodate a generation of retirees who are active and tech-savvy in an unprecedented way. In addition, people are living longer and want to approach the work and play of retirement in a whole new way. (more…)

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