60 Plus: Spending time with a person who has dementia

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60 Plus: Spending time with a person who has dementia

by Janis Hall | August 19,2015


My grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease for many years. Conversation became difficult as the disease grew worse, so I wanted to find activities that we could enjoy together.

Later I visited the home of a new friend, and was introduced to two men relaxing on her porch. They were her husband, who has dementia, and a caregiver who helps out sometimes. “We’re cloud-watching,” they explained. “See, there’s one that looks like a turtle.”

How wonderful, I thought. Not only is it pleasant and stress-reducing to watch puffy clouds sail by on a summer day, but it’s a way to share and talk in the moment. No matter that he can’t recall names and sometimes doesn’t recognize his relatives. It’s an inclusive activity that a person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia can enjoy. And the caregiver or friend may enjoy it with them.

But what if it’s not a puffy-white-cloud sort of day? Well, how about blowing bubbles or feeding the birds and watching them?

Below are more ideas for inclusive activities that a person with dementia and their family, friends, or other caregivers might enjoy together. The ideas should be adapted according to whether the dementia is mild or severe. Some of these suggestions came from the Alzheimer’s Association www.alz.org.

Music. Listening to music that they recognize and love can be surprisingly therapeutic for people with dementia. A recent film, “Alive Inside,” illustrates the possibilities. If the elder or caregiver feels like moving to the music, clapping, or drumming, so much the better.

Nature. Trees, fields, flowers and birds are soothing for many of us. Go out for a walk or wheelchair stroll, or pick blueberries, or rake some leaves together. If walking is difficult, go for a drive on back roads. Park beside a river or lake with the windows down. Feed the ducks. Or bring nature indoors: Arrange flowers or make decorations with autumn leaves or pinecones.

Animals. Spending time with a pet can lower stress and improve some measures of health. If there are no pets in the family, a visit to a petting farm could be a wonderful tonic for some elders. There are also organizations that provide therapeutic interactions with animals. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Pet Partners.

Food. Perhaps you and the elder would enjoy a picnic lunch. Simple tasks in the kitchen may also be rewarding for the person with dementia. Can they make peanut butter sandwiches for the picnic? Try something fun and easy: make popcorn, or decorate cookies with icing. (If you’re short on time, just buy cookies and icing at the store. This should be low-stress for the caregiver, so don’t try to be an overachiever.)

You may be able to think of other activities. Just keep in mind the lifelong interests and skills of the person with dementia as well as their abilities and preferences in current daily life.

Everyone is different. For example, some sports lovers with dementia will still enjoy watching a game, but others may be put off by the noise and action. A person who played the piano for years may still be able to play some easy songs.

Familiar games may fit the bill: dominoes, horseshoes, jigsaw puzzles, Jenga or hangman, for example.

Enjoying life doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Sometimes it’s the little things, especially when you’re with someone who is ill. Just slowing down and doing something playful or relaxing is good for everyone’s well-being.

This week’s 60-plus column was written by Janis Hall. 60 Plus is a collaboration between Senior Solutions of southeastern Vermont and the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging. Both can be reached by calling the Senior HelpLine at 800-642-5119.

Hiring a Caregiver for Your Parent

60 Plus: Hiring a caregiver for your parent

Heather Baker | July 29,2015 Email Article Print Article

There are nearly 10 million adult children over the age of 50 taking care of elderly parents in their homes. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, an estimated 66 percent of caregivers are female. The average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who is married, employed and is caring for her mother who is 75-80 and does not live with her. Although men also provide assistance, female caregivers may spend as much as 50 percent more time providing care than male caregivers. There are a lot of things to take into consideration when you and your elderly parents make the decision to stay at home. They might have balance or ambulation issues and may need close supervision or they just might need help with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation, medication assistance, housekeeping, and laundry to name a few. I came across a very informative article on what to consider when making the decision to hire help in the home. There are pros and cons for hiring a private caregiver as well as hiring a home care agency. Clare Absher RN, BSN, wrote an article for carepathways.com called “In Home Care for Elderly Parents: Private Caregiver vs. Home Care Agency.” Private caregiver: Pros

— You are in charge of the selection process and making the final decision.

— You can overlook formal training or certification and instead consider valuable experience.

— Private caregivers are always an option, especially when home care agencies are limited.

— Hiring a private caregiver is cheaper than hiring through a home care agency.

— You are giving caregivers an opportunity to work independently and for better wages.

Private caregiver: Cons

— It may be difficult to find caregivers.

— You must have a backup plan when your caregiver is not available.

— Conducting personal interviews, checking references, and performing background checks are time-consuming tasks.

— You are responsible for managing employee payroll and tax records, as well as withholding Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes.

— You are liable for job-related accidents in your home.

Home care agency: Pros

— You have the possibility of several caregivers to choose from.

— Most agencies offer backup caregivers when your regular caregiver is not available.

— Nurse assistants have formal training and certification that is verified upon hire.

— Caregiver references and background checks are reviewed at the time of hire.

— Home care agencies are required to supervise their aides and evaluate performance.

— Caregivers participate in ongoing training.

— Licensed home care agencies carry liability insurance, and many have worker’s compensation.

— Employees are insured or bonded to protect you against theft and damages.

Home care agency: Cons

— Different caregivers may be sent, causing a disruption in the care of your parents.

— Having less input in the selection of your parent’s caregiver may cause stress and frustration.

— Home care agencies cost more than private caregivers because they have expenses related to recruitment, hiring, orienting, payroll deductions, and ongoing supervision and training of employees.

Whether you choose to hire a private caregiver or employ a home care agency, it is important to find a great fit for you and your loved one. For more information on local home care agencies you can call the Senior HelpLine at 800-642-5119 and they will be happy to give you a list. This column was written by Heather Baker.

60 Plus is a collaboration between Senior Solutions of Southeastern Vermont and the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging. Both can be reached by calling the Senior HelpLine at 800-642-5119.


Senior Helpline 1.800.642.5119