In our Los Angeles Alzheimer care facilites we understand caring for your parents can be stressful. Let us help.

Photo used under Creative Commons from jenny downing.

Being the caregiver to an aging parent may be one of the toughest family roles imaginable. The task can be as demanding as watching a small child, with the added heartbreak of seeing mom or dad decline…plus the challenge of navigating the changing parent-child dynamic. But there is hope: stress can always be managed. Here are a few tips to use during those times when you feel like it’s all too much. First, do not attempt to become a lone ranger. One of the greatest areas of stress comes from the feeling of taking on more than we can handle, and that is as true in the caregiving role as it is in other areas of our lives. Other relatives may be both willing and able to help. You may also be surprised to find that those outside the family, such as family friends or neighbors, may also be there to lend a hand. It is important to remember that aside from the task of caring for your aging loved one, there are necessary tasks related to caregiving, and having someone else shoulder those for a while may help you build in some much needed time for yourself. Second, schedule in your “me” time. One of the greatest challenges family caregivers have is the overwhelming tendency to neglect their own needs in favor of their loved one. It is critical for caregivers to schedule some non-negotiable time to participate in activities that stimulate and interest them, because caregiving can (and often does) demand a significant amount of time and can deplete an individual both physically and emotionally. Schedule such activities as an exercise class, a movie, date night with a significant other, a massage, dinner with friends, taking classes on a subject of interest, etc… By doing so, the caregiver remains in touch with his or her own life. Third, pay attention to your body. While most caregivers begin their roles in an overall state of good health, statistics show that they are more likely to develop symptoms of depression, anxiety, obesity, and weaker immune response as time goes on. Exercise is a particularly effective method of de-stressing the body, with the added bonus of boosting overall energy levels. Getting outside for fresh air can also be highly invigorating. All the great advice we give our loved ones — about eating balanced meals, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate rest — are just great rules of thumb for everyone to live by… including caregivers. Fourth, building in a support system can be very beneficial. Providing care for an aging loved one brings forth a flood of emotions. After all, it is during this time that the caregiver witnesses the frailty and physical decline of the person whom they have always looked to for their own care. Seeking the services of a psychotherapist or joining a support group (through a church, synagogue, or local agency on aging), caregivers can often receive sound advice on how to cope during this emotionally taxing period. It is important also for the caregiver to not place unrealistic demands upon themselves but to simply do the very best they can. Finally, cherish every moment. Glean the wisdom of these years and forgive any past disappointments you may be harboring against your loved one. Resolve any issues that may still linger, and commit to enjoying each precious moment available. Remember to be kind to others, understanding that each person operates the best they can with the knowledge they have. Be gentle even when expectations go unfulfilled. With a slight shift in perspective, you may find — as others have — much greater enjoyment of life’s simplest gifts as an unexpected bonus from caregiving.
Our LA home for the aging is skilled at helping loved ones aflicted by Alzhiemer'sAlzheimer’s disease develops gradually over the years, usually going unnoticed at first but eventually becoming impossible to ignore. What signs should families be alert to? The key is to look for major changes that interfere with everyday life. Some examples of actions that might be taken by a senior with Alzheimer’s include:
  • Forgetting things that are part of a well-established routine, and were once done without fail.
  • Repeating questions.
  • Arriving somewhere without any idea how they got there.
  • Losing their way on a familiar route they take every day.
  • Forgetting to turn the stove off.
  • Leaving doors open.
  • Forgetting to eat meals.
  • Unusually poor hygiene that the person is not aware of.
  • Placing objects in unusual places.
  • The inability to remember even basic words, or speaking in such a way that’s hard to follow.
  • Sudden mood swings for no particular reason, or becoming uncharacteristically suspicious or trusting.
  • Lack of awareness of strange behavior.
Such behavior is serious and not to be confused with typical signs of aging, such as momentarily forgetting a piece of information or a name. Even otherwise healthy seniors may take longer to remember things than they used to. We all misplace items or forget important things from time to time—this is normal. Alzheimer’s is marked by the extreme frequency of these sort of incidents. It’s important to compare a loved one’s current behavior to how they were in the past. If someone has been on the more careless side throughout their life, a few odd forgetful incidents is less of a concern than if someone who was always highly conscientious shows the same behavior. If you suspect a loved one has Alzheimer’s, have them evaluated by a competent specialist. The problem may turn out to be simple forgetfulness or even a lack of sleep, but get the input of an expert.  The earlier the diagnosis, the better position you’ll be in to take steps to prevent a situation where your loved one or someone else gets hurt. You’ll also have the opportunity to get finances in order, obtain power of attorney, and plan for the care of your loved one. It’s not easy to accept that a once vibrant and active person may have Alzheimer’s, but it happens to families every day. In fact, half of those over 85 have the disease. The progression of Alzheimer’s can be heartbreaking, but it is more manageable for seniors and their families with counseling and treatment.
Some assisted living facilities are specially equipped to work with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. This means that the environment is designed to be friendlier to residents with these conditions and that staff has been trained to meet their specific needs. How do you know if a facility that claims to specialize in these conditions is really right for your loved one? The only way is to visit. You’ll want to start by looking at our checklist of things to consider when visiting an assisted living facility, but you should also be alert for how the facility performs in each of the following categories. Environment Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are aided by routine and can easily become over-stimulated. The environment should be calm and peaceful, and the daily schedule should be consistent. Another sign that the facility is friendly to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients is cues that enable them to get around and complete tasks on their own, such as personal mementos that make it easy to identify a resident’s room and color-coded guides to common areas. Safety Facilities that cater to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients should have motion detectors or other monitoring systems to alert staff when there might be a problem, such as a resident wandering off. There should be systems in place to insure residents get the right medicine at the right time. Also pay attention to how disruptive behavior and outbursts are handled. The staff should not be using physical restraints or sedation. Staffing First and foremost, the staff should have the compassion to make your loved one feel comfortable. Ask about their training and experience, and consider how many staff members work each shift. Make sure there is adequate staff on weekends and holidays. The facility should also seem to be a pleasant place to both live and work. What does management do to prevent staff burnout? If staff turnover is high, this can be disorienting to residents. Quality of Care How much information does the staff request about your loved one, and is that information then used to design a detailed care plan? Are they taking comfort and psychological well-being into account in addition to health and safety? How many of the residents have dementia or Alzheimer’s? Ask what the staff does differently for these patients. Policies One of the most important things to note is how the facility handles the progression of the disease. How is it decided when additional care is necessary, and to what extent is family involved? Find out what happens when a resident needs to go to the hospital. Will his or her place in the community be reserved, and what are the fees in this situation? In general, what additional costs does the facility charge for care of dementia or Alzheimer’s patients? Watching for how a facility performs on the above categories can help you find a place that is truly suited to your loved one’s needs, and not just marketing a specialization that they don’t really have. Your loved one deserves quality care.