How To Help Seniors Transition Successfully To Assisted Living

Change is difficult for anyone, but it can be especially hard for seniors to transition to an assisted living community. There are many benefits of assisted living, but there’s no avoiding it in certain cases. Moves involve changes that seniors don’t always like.

 

Senior adults who are moving from their home into assisted living will typically encounter some degree of adjustment disorder. You can limit the effect the transition to assisted living will have on your loved ones by taking a few extra steps and some care:

 

The Challenge Of Transitioning to Assisted Living

 

Folks who are in the middle of transitioning to assisted living may experience:

 

  1. Feelings of abandonment
  2. Frustration around their perceived (or real) loss of independence
  3. Adjusting to a new routine. For example, elders who prefer to eat a late dinner may struggle adjusting to living in a community where dinner service ends at 7 p.m.
  4. Resentment about having to live with folks that are worse off than themselves.
  5. The need to downsize.

 

This being said, there are plenty of seniors who may not have any trouble at all adjusting to their new assisted living community and are great from day one. Elders can adapt quickly and come to recognize that the aspects of assisted living that initially bothered them are actually helpful.

 

Residents may find it relieving to downsize- they no longer have to worry about housekeeping and upkeep. Seniors who were resistant to moving may first experience feelings of abandonment and betrayal may find themselves feeling gratitude based on the realization that their family was acting out of love when they made the arrangements for them to move.

 

Helping Loved Ones Transition To Assisted Living

 

Your loved ones will adjust the best to their new home with support from their family during their early days at the assisted living community. Seniors who are relocating need reassurance that this is just a new chapter of their lives- it’s not the end of the life they’ve always known. 

 

Here’s a few tips to help your loved one adjust to assisted living:

 

 

  • Allow loved ones to be independent.Don’t become too protective or feel as if you have to be with your loved one constantly during the transition. This can be counterproductive. Frequent visits during the first days after they move to assisted living does absolutely help reassure your loved ones that you aren’t abandoning them, but hold back from taking it too far. Excessive hovering and handholding can prevent your family member from successfully adapting to their new home.

     

 

  • Bring Personal Items From Their HomeBringing familiar items to the new assisted living space can help your family member transition successfully. Depending on the living arrangements at the assisted living community, you may even be able to replicate their living arrangements at home. You can even give your parent input about the keepsakes they’d like to bring into their new home.

     

  • Encourage Loved Ones To Participate In ActivitiesSeniors can look down on assisted living and be dismissive of the community and activities available. It’s much more likely that your parent will adjust well if they get involved with the activities offered, opening the door to make friends in the community. Laurel Parc’s assisted living community has a wide variety of activities- not every single one of these will be appealing to everyone, but there will be something here that engages them.

     

  • Encourage Your Parent To Help Out In The CommunityThere are many assisted living communities that allow resident volunteers to take on roles at the community, helping to do things like answer phones, managing the library, or sponsoring a club. When people feel useful and as though they have a purpose, it can improve their outlook while helping them with the transition to their new home.

     

  • Take Your Loved One to Visit The Community As Often As Possible Before They MoveAfter you’ve made the decision as to what senior living community best fits the needs of your loved one, it’s important to take your parent to visit often before they move. Take them to attend meals and events that allow your loved one to learn the layout, become familiar with residents and staff, and get acquainted with the community. This will help them feel like everything is less foreign when your parent makes the transition and moves.

 

 

 

Moving your whole life and transitioning to a completely different routine is stressful and traumatic for anyone. It can be particularly impactful for seniors but if we take the time to lift up our loved ones and support them through the hardest times of their transition, it can be an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience for seniors. Be patient, encourage your loved one to participate, and be there to help validate their emotions and experience.

Poor Sleep Is One of Leading Alzheimer’s Risk Factors

If you or your loved one is struggling with getting a good night’s sleep, it could be extremely detrimental to your health. If you’re older, it doesn’t just mean a rough start to your day. Having trouble getting to sleep and waking up during the night are a reality when you’re aging, but it’s also one of the leading Alzheimer’s risk factors.

 

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO have released a study that says older people who spend less time in slow-wave REM sleep (the sleep that you need to feel rested and rejuvenated) show higher levels of a brain protein by the name of tau that has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

This study is the first of its kind to show a correlation between REM sleep and tau in early-on Alzheimer’s. Tau is known for forming tangles in the parts of the brain that are critical in memory function. As Alzheimer’s progresses, tau and another protein by the name of amyloid beta slowly spreads through the rest of the brain of the person suffering from the disease.

 

The research shows that during sleep, our brains can shrink substantially, using this time to clear out the build-up of toxins and proteins like tau and amyloid that cause problems in memory and cognitive function.

 

Further Revelations From The Study

 

In order to establish a link between deep sleep and the presence of Alzheimer’s disease, the study monitored 119 people over the age of 60 who demonstrated little to no cognitive decline while they were in their homes.

 

Participants were given a portable brainwave monitor and a movement tracker similar to a Fitbit for the one week study. Researchers asked participants to keep track of sleeping at night as well as daytime napping.

 

As we sleep, the brain cycles through different stages- slow-wave REM sleep is one of these. It’s critical to our health to have good quality sleep but not only that- it’s thought to be important for preserving memory or cognitive function.

 

Researchers measured the spinal fluid and brains of participants for amyloid beta and tau levels during the study. Once they factored in age, gender and movement while sleeping, the study showed that participants experiencing diminished slow-wave sleep had higher levels of tau proteins in their brain and the ratio of tau to amyloid beta was higher in their spinal fluid.

 

A Lack of Sleep Has An Impact On Health

 

The National Sleep Foundation claims that sleep triggers changes in the brain that work to strengthen memory and losing even a half night’s sleep can impair brain function. This may be directly related to the brain’s ability to clear out toxins, as it’s only active during slow-wave sleep which often happens during the first half of your night.

 

People who are lacking in deep or slow-wave sleep can have elevated levels of both tau and amyloid beta, which is interesting considering that older people suffering from dementia often present a symptom called “sundowning”– where mental processes and awareness diminish as the day proceeds.

 

This could be a direct correlation to the buildup of toxins throughout the day.

 

Poor Sleep Increases Disease Risk

 

Losing sleep not only slows you down during the day, it can increase the risk of developing some pretty serious health problems. We’ve established that sleep is crucial to forming memory and creating new room for learning to occur- sleep deprivation puts a person at risk for worsening depression and a lack of adequate response to treatment for depression.

 

Not only can insufficient sleep allow for a buildup of toxins, but it can also affect mood, memory, metabolism and the immune system. Let’s take a look at some of the risks:

 

  • A lack of sleep is tied to obesity. Sleep deprivation is correlated to lowered levels of a hormone called leptin. This is the hormone that lets the brain know that we’ve eaten enough. Not only that, but it can trigger increased levels of ghrelin, which is the hormone that triggers hunger. Poor sleep patterns can cause food cravings even after a person is full.
  • An increased risk of diabetes. Recent studies show that healthy participants that reduced their sleep to four hours a night processed glucose slower than they did when they were able to sleep up to 12 hours.
  • Sets the stage for high blood pressure or heart disease. Studies also show that less than six hours of sleep can cause high blood pressure- explaining the association between poor sleep and heart disease and stroke.

The Wrap Up

 

Up to 44% of Americans are estimated to get less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Studies have previously shown that poor sleep and brain changes can lead to Alzheimer’s, as it’s one of the leading Alzheimer’s risk factors but this is the first set of research that correlates poor slow-wave sleep to an increase in tau levels during early Alzheimer’s disease.

 

If you’re getting less sleep than you should be, affected memory isn’t the only thing you may experience. Poor sleep can cause serious health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

When Mom And Dad Have Different Senior Living Needs

assisted living needs

When Mom And Dad Have Different Senior Living Needs

It can be a difficult experience when your parents have different senior living needs. Dad may be able to live independently, but mom might need assisted living or memory care services. Living separately not only puts a strain on your parent’s relationship, but it can affect their health and wellbeing.

Of course you want to provide your parents with the care they need as they age, but this can present a number of obstacles. When confronted with these difficult decisions, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there are options for you to explore.

Explore Your Options

Your options largely depend on the level of care needed by either parent. In some cases, it may be possible to keep the parent needing more care at home and coordinate all necessary care between you, your mother, and other family members that are around to help. This is a time where having an in-home care assistant making regular visits can help ease your workload.

The time may come, however, where you realize your parents need a more permanent situation. This is when it’s time to explore moving your parents to a senior living community together or wrap your brain around the idea of separating them. There are plenty of options at this stage- senior living communities like Laurel Parc would allow your parents to remain together while receiving the individualized care that one parent needs and allowing the other to retain independence. This can also be a financial decision- can you afford to care for both of your parents?

Handling Separation

You may reach the conclusion that separating your parents is a necessary step. This is never easy, but there’s a few things you can do to make it easier on everyone. Be there for both of your parents, arranging regular visits to the care home as well as visits to the parent still living at home. If the independent parent is no longer able to drive offer to drive them to make regular visits. This can be enormously taxing and caregiver burnout is a real concern, so make sure that you set a schedule that everyone is happy with so you don’t burn yourself out too much. Taking care of yourself is important too! Here’s a few ways you can make it easier on yourself:

  1. Arrange transportation.

    As mentioned above, if one parent no longer drives, visiting their beloved in a senior living community can be tricky and you will hit burnout fast if you attempt to be the sole chauffeur. There are senior transportation services available to help you.
  2. Create a schedule that works for everyone.

    You cannot be in two places at once. Create a schedule so that each parent has family or friends visiting on different days. This will lighten your load and relieve some of the burden from the parent still living at home.
  3. Encourage Self-Care.

    After years of caregiving, living apart can be a blessing in disguise for the independent parent. This can provide a much-needed break for the healthier parents, giving them an opportunity for rest and the ability to care for themselves as they are also aging.
  4. Help the Healthier Parent Manage Guilt. (And Manage Yours, Too)

    Instead of blaming yourself or anyone else for the separation, focus on the simple fact that you and your family are doing the best they can to navigate a complicated situation. Be gentle and kind to yourself when managing the stressors off having parents in two different situations. Validate your independent parent’s feelings as well and help alleviate their guilt. You need each other right now.

Situations like this are always difficult but if you have a quality support system combined with quality senior living care, you can make it through! If one or both of your parents need assisted living care in Beaverton or the Portland metro area in Oregon, contact Laurel Parc to arrange a tour of the best possible care to suit their needs. Reach out to us today to ask any questions or arrange a visit.

Tips For Managing Relocation Stress Syndrome

Remember the last time you moved? I do. Boxes everywhere, a sense of loss (even in the best circumstances, we are creatures of habit and that loss of familiarity has an impact), and heightened anxiety. Your elderly parents are not exempt from this– in fact, they can even experience greater stress from moves than you or I. Moving elders improperly may even be traumatic to your loved ones and has the potential to lead to relocation stress syndrome.

Relocating a loved one is not only traumatic during sudden moves, so letting your parents know that the move is coming is not necessarily a solution to the problem. There are some fairly simple steps you can take to reduce the chances of relocation stress syndrome while moving elderly parents.

Recognizing Signs of Relocation Stress Syndrome

Relocation stress syndrome (RSS) is what amounts to a psychological failure to adjust to changes that are associated with moving. The days before or after a move can cause a person experiencing relocation stress may be irritable or combative. People struggling with this condition may experience sleeplessness, poor appetite, weight fluctuations, drug-seeking behavior, anxiety, loneliness and confusion.

You may notice that your parents (if they’re experiencing relocation stress syndrome) may begin to withdraw or isolate themselves, refuse medications, or are incapable of focusing. Many of these symptoms mirror dementia symptoms- creating a dangerous situation of a potential misdiagnosis.

Prevent Relocation Stress Syndrome

You can reduce the potential for RSS by utilizing these tips while you’re moving your elderly parents:

  1. Involve parents in the decision-making process. If an assisted living community is necessary, work together to come to an agreement about the community you choose. This can help your parents maintain a sense of autonomy and dignity.
  2. Work to assist your parents in feeling warmly welcomed into their new home. You can create a sense of familiarity by mirroring their previous environment with photos, using the previous furniture layout, or small touches to help things feel more like home.
  3. Encourage them to forget new relationships in their new space. Becoming involved in the community’s activities can be an excellent way of meeting new people. Nothing helps someone feel more at home than having a sense of purpose. At Laurel Parc, our residents reach out to new people joining our community and we strongly encourage this as it limits the amount of distress that new residents experience.
  4. Acknowledge their fears and feelings and validate them as legitimate. If you downplay their fears or concerns, your loved ones could feel marginalized, unheard, or powerless. This contributes to the stress they’re experiencing and makes the transition more difficult for all involved.

If You Suspect Your Loved One Is Experiencing RSS

Despite our best efforts and intentions, parents may still struggle with the transition. Relocation Stress Syndrome typically shows up in those affected right before a move and within the first three months of moving and can manifest as anxiety, depression, and forgetfulness.

This becomes complicated because despite the effects of stress on the mind and body being well known, they also closely mirror the symptoms of age-related problems. When anyone has stress, they can get angry or irritable, have trouble focusing or thinking clearly and struggle making decisions. These are also all symptoms of dementia.

It’s important to avoid a misdiagnosis of dementia when a loved one is experiencing trauma from a move. When moving an elderly loved one, signs to look for include changes in cognition, eating habits, and sleeping patterns. You may see a new sense of insecurity and a lack of trust combined with a decline in self care efforts.

What Not to Do

People experiencing transfer trauma (RSS) will begin to see their symptoms subside within 3-6 months. This is the typical timeframe it takes an elder to adjust to their new surroundings. What you don’t want to do during this time is compound their trauma by moving them again.

If your loved one is still struggling to settle in- they’re constantly sick, very depressed, or some other significant change in their ability to care for themselves, it’s time to seek out the help of your parent’s doctor and caregiving team.

No matter how you approach it, moving can be (and is) a stressful experience. By taking a few simple steps you can greatly minimize relocation stress for your parents and work towards a successful transition with minimal trauma to your loved one.

5 Tips For Communicating With A Loved One With Dementia

At Laurel Parc, we are intimately familiar with how painful it is to witness the deterioration of a loved one that has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. When this debilitating disease progresses, we bear witness as minor forgetfulness morphs into a serious impairment. As this disease takes hold, it’s on the family and caretakers to adapt in order to be able to communicate with their loved one with dementia. Here’s a few strategies to keep in mind as we all try to work with this debilitating condition.

Compassionate Communication With A Person With Dementia

Many people tend to describe loved ones consumed by the later stages of dementia as an ‘empty shell of a person,’ but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Dementia does absolutely transform the people we love into shadows of their former selves, but those living with the disease are far from “empty shells.” There may be days where that shell is difficult to open, if it opens at all. But let’s never forget the amazing, brilliant person that lives inside when we can break through that shell.

Part of the challenge is understanding how to open the shell and get those opportunities to meaningfully connect with our dementia-addled loved one– even if it’s for a moment. However, armed with the right effective communication tools and techniques, you can communicate and connect emotionally with a loved one that has dementia. Here’s a few tips to make it easier to forge those connections with your loved one:

Be Honest With Yourself. Recognize What You’re Up Against

It’s easy to fall into the cycle of denial and forget that dementia inevitably gets worse with time. People who have dementia will gradually have difficulty understanding and communicating with others.

Aim For A Distraction-Free Environment

Try to find a place and time to talk to your loved one when there isn’t a lot going on. As the disease progresses, distractions will take up more and more of their mental energy. By eliminating distractions, it allows your loved one to focus entirely on the conversation.

Speak Naturally And Clearly In A Calm Voice

Your loved one is still an adult. Refrain from using baby talk or other forms of condescension

Keep Things Simple

Conversations should be short, simple, and to the point. Try to refer to things by their proper name (when you see a cute dog on a walk, call it a “dog” instead of “it”). Another thing, being confronted with too many choices can be frustrating to folks with dementia, so avoid open-ended questions. Instead of asking “What would you like for lunch?” it would be better to ask “Would you like a sandwich for lunch?”

Avoid Arguments And Conflict

Arguing with a person who is afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s is a frustrating experience for everyone and should be avoided at all costs. You won’t win the argument and the situation will only serve to agitate both of you and drive disconnection instead of meaningful connection.

No matter what stage of dementia your loved one is in, communication and connection is vital to any human being’s well-being. We’re hardwired for connection, it’s part of our biology. Folks with dementia just have a few more challenges, so dig deep, bring out your empathy, and work hard to establish meaningful moments with the people you love.