How Are Adults Screened for Memory Problems?

November 12, 2018

If you are asking if the changes you see in a senior loved one are typical signs of aging or early signs of Alzheimer’s, you may also wonder how people are screened for memory problems.

If you’ve noticed changes in a senior loved one, you might worry about what could be wrong. Family members often wonder how to distinguish the normal signs of aging from issues that might indicate a more serious problem. The truth is, even experienced physicians sometimes have trouble making that distinction.

Forgetfulness and confusion are classic early warning signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. However, there are other health conditions, some reversible, that can also cause those symptoms. A vitamin deficiency, an infection, or an adverse reaction to a medication can produce symptoms that mimic Alzheimer’s.

If you are concerned about a senior loved one’s health, the best thing to do is schedule an appointment with their primary care physician. He or she will be able to complete a physical and a memory screening test to determine if further testing is necessary.

Screening Tests for Alzheimer’s & Dementia

People are often surprised to discover that no single test will definitively diagnosis Alzheimer’s. Diagnosis is a process of eliminating other potential causes for the symptoms a senior is experiencing. However, there are several screenings that can help health care professionals detect the signs of cognitive changes.

Two of those tests are:

  • Alzheimer’s Clock Test: This is the screening test many physicians use. The doctor will ask their patient to draw a clock on a piece of paper and include the numbers. The patient is then asked to draw the hands that correspond to random times of day, such as 1:25 or 10:15.
  • Mini Cog Test: Another screening exam a physician might use is the mini cog test. It has two parts: a 3-item recall test and a simply scored clock drawing test. While not definitive, it can help a doctor identify potential problems.

If your senior family member won’t allow you to schedule an appointment with their physician, there is another option to consider. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has established Memory Screening Sites. Trained professionals administer the confidential tests at no cost. You can search by zip code to find an AFA Memory Screening Site near you.

Finally, there are several tests that can be administered at home. One that is highly regarded is the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE). This memory screening takes about 15 minutes to download and complete. It can detect the early signs of memory loss or abstract thought impairment.

The Harbor Memory Care at Legacy

If a loved one does receive the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to know that there are a wide variety of resources available to help them live their best life despite the disease. Residents in our state-of-the-art memory care program, The Harbor, benefit from our unique approach to care. Call the community nearest you to arrange a private tour today.

How to Evaluate a Memory Care Program for a Loved One

October 22, 2018

How to evaluate a memory care program

Use these tips to help you evaluate a memory care program for a senior loved one who has dementia. From licensing to life enrichment, we help you know what to look for.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia can be devastating for an older adult and the people who love them. As the disease advances and families have difficulty managing their loved one’s care at home, the need for specialized support often arises. Memory care programs help seniors with dementia live the best quality of life.

Finding a quality memory care program that allows seniors with dementia to feel independent and empowered is important. Here are a few factors to consider as you evaluate a memory care program in a senior living community.

3 Tips to Evaluate a Memory Care Program

  1. Check licensing and survey results

Memory care assisted living communities are licensed at the state level and regulations vary from state to state. You can learn how well a memory care community fared during their state inspection by visiting your state’s Department of Aging online. Here you will find copies of inspection reports and any family complaints. If your state doesn’t publish survey results online, ask the community to review theirs.

  1. Pay attention to the details

As you visit each memory care community, try to get a feel for how well the staff and residents seem to interact. Also pay attention to how the atmosphere feels. Are soft, kind voices used? Are interactions positive and encouraging?

You might ask other residents’ families you encounter how they feel about the community and if it’s been a good solution for their loved one.

During your tour, it’s also important to ask about life enrichment programs and wellness activities that are specific to residents with memory loss. A good quality life enrichment program will help residents with memory loss feel good about themselves despite their disease. Ask to see a copy of the resident calendar and have a life enrichment staff member go through it with you.

  1. Explore security programs

Wandering is an issue for many adults with dementia. In fact, it’s often cited as the leading reason families seek the support of a memory care community. Ask the staff to review the safety measures that are in place to prevent residents from wandering away.

While no one likes to think the worst will happen, it unfortunately does on very rare occasions. Ask the staff what their procedure is should a resident with dementia go missing.

Visit The Harbor at Legacy Senior Living

At Legacy Senior Living, we call our memory care program The Harbor. From our Purposeful Day approach to our homelike setting, The Harbor is a nationally recognized and highly acclaimed program. We invite you to get a firsthand look at our memory care program by calling the community nearest you to schedule a private tour!

Should Your Loved One Participate in an Alzheimer’s Clinical Trial?

September 24, 2018

Alzheimer’s clinical trial

Considering an Alzheimer’s clinical trial? Here’s what you should consider first, along with tips for connecting with a trial near you.

When a family elder or friend has Alzheimer’s disease, their adult children and loved ones go to great lengths to find answers. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for the disease. Healthcare professionals’ only course of action is to try to treat the symptoms.

In searching for help, families often stumble across information on Alzheimer’s clinical trials. While it’s unlikely that the trial will offer a cure, it may be a project that helps mitigate symptoms or a promising study that offers hope to future generations. Many Alzheimer’s trials across the country are seeking participants for a variety of research projects.

Before you proceed, it is best to learn how clinical trials work.

What to Know About Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials

Here are a few facts to know before you or a loved one with Alzheimer’s joins a clinical trial:

  • Placebo participant: For a clinical trial to be objective, some participants will be randomly chosen for the placebo. Simply put, a placebo participant receives an inactive drug or treatment without being told. This is tough for families to accept. You can review the Library of Medicine’s “Placebo in clinical trials” to learn more.
  • Informed consent: If your senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, their power of attorney or legal guardian may need to provide consent on the senior’s behalf.
  • Be realistic about outcomes: Clinical trials rarely provide a miracle cure. This is clearly true with Alzheimer’s trials. But a trial might offer new ways to slow the progression of the disease or treat symptoms. It’s important to enter into a clinical trial with realistic expectations about the outcome.
  • Time commitment: Alzheimer’s caregivers often feel overwhelmed from juggling so many daily tasks and chores. Adding one more responsibility to that list might be difficult. Make sure you have a clear understanding of how much time the trial will require.

How to Connect with an Alzheimer’s Clinical Trial

Two avenues for exploring Alzheimer’s clinical trials that are actively seeking participants include:

  • National Institute on Aging (NIA): The NIA maintains a database of clinical trials including those focused on Alzheimer’s disease. You can use your zip code to search for a trial based on how many miles you are willing to travel to participate.
  • Trial Match: The Alzheimer’s Association maintains a database of more than 250 ongoing trials. You can visit their site to learn more and to look for studies seeking participants in your community.

Improving the Quality of Life for People with Alzheimer’s

At Legacy Senior Living communities, we are honored to have the opportunity to help adults with Alzheimer’s disease live their best quality of life each day. Our dedicated memory care program is called The Harbor.

From specialty caregivers to a homelike setting, we focus on helping residents live to their highest potential each day. Call us today to schedule a private tour at The Harbor nearest you.

5 Tips for Dining Out When a Family Member has Dementia

August 20, 2018

5 Tips for Dining Out When a Senior Has Dementia

When a loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you might be concerned about taking them out to eat. These tips can help you plan and prepare.

Most people enjoy a night out at a local restaurant with friends and family. Caregivers are no different. Leaving the cooking and cleaning up to someone else can be a relief for a weary caregiver.

If you are the caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, however, you might wonder how realistic it is to try to take them to a restaurant. While it does require a little extra planning, you shouldn’t give up before you give it a try.

Here are a few tips that may help you include a senior loved one who has dementia in your dining plans.

5 Tips for Dining Out When a Senior Has Dementia

  1. Select the restaurant with care

The first step is to choose the restaurant wisely. Restaurants that are excessively loud or always have a long wait probably aren’t good options. They can increase anxiety and agitation for an adult with Alzheimer’s. The experts at the University of Waterloo’s Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program recommend families choose a smaller, quiet restaurant with few distractions.

Others have found that family-style restaurants are best. The relaxed atmosphere is sometimes more welcoming to seniors with memory impairment who may struggle with coordination.  This can make them a little messy at meal time.

  1. Review the menu ahead of your visit

Finding a small, relaxed restaurant is the first step. Next, you’ll want to review the menu ahead of time. Just as a crowded restaurant can be confusing and overwhelming, a complicated menu can be intimidating to a senior with dementia.

Most restaurants post their menu on their website. Take time before you head to the restaurant to review the menu items with your loved one. Select their first choice meal and a back-up one just in case. Do the same for other members of your party. Then your group can skip the menu completely when you get there.

  1. Ask about reservations

Anything you can do to speed up the process of getting seated will likely help the meal go more smoothly. If you’ve opted for a family-style restaurant that doesn’t usually accept reservations, call the manager. Explain your situation and see what suggestions they can offer.

They may be able to make special accommodations, such as holding a table in a quiet corner for you.

  1. Stick with old, familiar places

Short-term memory is typically impacted first when a senior has dementia. This means that while they might not remember a restaurant that became a favorite later in life, they may remember an old favorite. Going there again might be comforting.

Also, once you find a few places your loved one seems to feel comfortable going to, try to stick with those. It eliminates some of the stress and worry about going to a new place.

  1. Plan around the senior’s best and worst times

You’ve probably noticed a pattern with regard to when your loved one is at their best and worst. Try to dine out during the times of day they are typically at their best. It might mean you eat dinner at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon instead of 7:00 in the evening, but at least it will help make the experience a pleasant one.

The Harbor Memory Care at Legacy Senior Living

In our Harbor Memory Care community, we pay attention to every detail of our residents’ dining experience. From creating a peaceful, distraction-free environment to offering well-balanced, home-cooked meals, our specialty dementia dining program is thoughtfully designed.

We invite you to schedule a time for a private visit to learn more. Call the Legacy Senior Living community nearest to you today!

Why Do Adults with Alzheimer’s Wander?

July 16, 2018

Why do seniors with Alzheimer’s wander

If you are the caregiver for a family member who has Alzheimer’s, this information will help you learn more about the potential causes of wandering.

In our effort to help raise awareness about Alzheimer’s, we devote time to community outreach in the local areas we serve. A question Legacy team members are frequently asked is why people with Alzheimer’s wander. It is a behavior that causes families considerable stress and worry.

When adults with Alzheimer’s wander, they can become lost and unable to find their way home. It may even put their lives in danger. Seniors with memory loss easily forget their address—or even their name—which makes it tough for people to help them return home.

Unfortunately, wandering is common in people with this disease. Research shows that as many as 6 in 10 people with Alzheimer’s will wander. Understanding what causes this behavior is critical to helping loved ones prevent it.

Common Reasons Adults with Alzheimer’s Wander

As is true of so many things related to Alzheimer’s disease, researchers aren’t sure what causes wandering. They do, however, believe they understand some of the potential causes:

  • Unmet needs: Of all the possibilities for wandering, most experts agree this is an important one. They believe seniors with Alzheimer’s wander in search of a solution to an unmet need. The older adult might be hungry, thirsty, in need of the bathroom, or experiencing undiagnosed pain.
  • Unfamiliar surroundings: For adults with Alzheimer’s, memory loss can make once familiar surroundings look unfamiliar. Everything and everyone seems foreign to them. The senior may wander in an attempt to find something that looks familiar. If your senior loved one has moved into your home, try to make sure some of their most familiar belongings—a throw, a chair, and family pictures—are strategically placed throughout the home.
  • Former Work Routines: A senior with Alzheimer’s may think they are still working and try to leave home to head off to work. Once they are outdoors, they might become disoriented and get lost. Keeping the senior busy at home with work such as dusting furniture, folding the laundry, or watering plants can help give them purpose and prevent wandering.
  • Unfamiliar faces: Because short-term memory is lost first, seniors with Alzheimer’s might remember friends and family as being younger and looking differently than they do today. They might leave home in search of people they know.
  • Chaotic or noisy environment: Alzheimer’s causes damage to the brain and makes it more difficult for people to process things around them. This is especially true in a busy environment. When the home is busy or noisy, the senior might become agitated and wander to get away from the chaos.

Pay Attention to Wandering Patterns

To better manage a senior’s tendency to wander, pay attention to patterns in their behavior.

  • Are there certain times of day when they attempt to wander more? If so, write down what is happening in their world at that time. You might start to notice triggers that make them more likely to try to leave.
  • If your loved one is still able to communicate verbally, ask them why they are trying to leave. Document and track their responses to look for patterns.
  • Do certain environments make them more prone to disorientation and wandering?

Secure Care for Adults with Alzheimer’s

If you are struggling to keep an adult with Alzheimer’s safe at home, it might be time to consider the support of a memory care community. At Legacy Senior Living, we offer dedicated memory care programming in Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.

With benefits ranging from a secure environment to home-cooked meals, we extend an open invitation to you and your family to visit and learn more.

Emotions Linger Long After Memories Fade

June 25, 2018

Caregivers often wonder about a senior with Alzheimer’s emotions.

Caregivers often wonder about a senior with Alzheimer’s emotions. Do emotions linger after memory fails?

If a senior in your family has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia, you might wonder how they are feeling and how much their daily life is impacted by their environment. As the disease progresses and communication skills become more impaired, both things can be difficult to assess.

While dementia experts long believed that people with even more advanced Alzheimer’s and dementia were still capable of experiencing sadness and joy, there wasn’t any conclusive evidence to prove it. That’s why a study conducted at the University of Iowa is so important.

This research was designed to evaluate whether or not emotions linger after memory fails. That’s essential in helping create positive, productive days for adults with dementia.

A Clinical Study of Alzheimer’s, Emotions, and Memory

This study looked at 34 older adults who were split into two groups: one group had early Alzheimer’s disease and the other group was considered to be healthy.

Researchers started by asking each participant how they were feeling and documenting their responses. Once a baseline for their emotional status was set, they proceeded to the next part of the study. This consisted of showing participants eight movie and television scenes considered to be sad. Five minutes after participants were done viewing the scenes, researchers asked each participant what they remembered and how they were feeling. They repeated these questions after 15 minutes and then again 30 minutes later.

After a five-minute rest break, the study resumed.

This time around, researchers showed movie and television clips they believed would induce feelings of joy and happiness. After they were done, participants were asked the same sequence of follow-up questions.

The study seemed to indicate that even though the participants with Alzheimer’s couldn’t remember what they watched in the clips, they did remember how those movie and television scenes made them feel. Their memories were gone, but the emotions lingered. Unfortunately, sadness is the emotion that appears to last the longest.

While this study was a small one, it offers preliminary support for the need to create meaningful days and a positive environment for adults with Alzheimer’s.

The Purposeful Day at Legacy

At Legacy Senior Living, we work hard to ensure that every day is filled with purpose and meaning for our dementia residents. The music, arts, and crafts programs we offer all help residents with memory loss feel successful. Another way we promote meaningful days is with The Simple C storyboard.

This vital part of our dementia care residents’ day provides non-medicated therapies that focus on and honor each resident’s personal story. Working with residents’ families, we select stories and pictures that are meaningful to them.

We also take time to learn more about each resident’s life and hobbies before the disease. This helps us to incorporate those interests into each resident’s plan of care.

Another technique we use is to record trusted voices (friends, family members, and others important to the resident) to use in memory stimulation and to provide verbal reminders for activities of daily living.

Clinical trials show that Simple C offers a variety of benefits:

  • Decreases agitation and anxiety
  • Lowers the risk of wandering
  • Prevents or helps manage incontinence
  • Helps residents overcome sleep challenges common in dementia

Read more about these non-medicated therapies or call us to set up a time to visit a Legacy community near you.

Beyond Alzheimer’s: 7 Common Forms of Dementia

May 14, 2018

common types of dementia

While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, there are other forms. Learn more about the unique symptoms and causes of 7 common types of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is by far in the most common types of dementia. It accounts for nearly three-fourths of all dementia diagnoses in this country. An estimated 5 million people have Alzheimer’s disease, and the numbers continue to climb. Alzheimer’s is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

While Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent form, there are many other common types of of dementia. Many of these can be just as life altering. They range from Vascular dementia to Dementia with Lewy Bodies.

Less Common Types of Dementia

  1. Vascular dementia: This form of dementia occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Often it is a stroke that causes vascular dementia. Impaired judgment is usually the first symptom loved ones notice. There are varying degrees of severity related to the amount of damage caused to brain cells.
  2. Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB): Lewy bodies are protein clumps that form in the cortex of the brain that lead to dementia. Early signs of DLB include sleep problems, falls, balance issues, hallucinations, and uncontrolled movement. One thing to note is that some people who have Alzheimer’s disease also have DLB.
  3. Parkinson’s dementia: As Parkinson’s disease progresses, it often creates dementia. An estimated 50–80% of people with Parkinson’s will end up being diagnosed with dementia, too. Researchers think this is due to deterioration of the nerve cells in the brain. Memory loss, mood changes, depression, speech problems, paranoia, and delusions are all symptoms of Parkinson’s dementia.
  4. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD): The most common early signs of FTD are a change in personality and difficulty with verbal communication. The diagnosis of FTD sometimes takes a while because the disease impacts people at a younger age than Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Health care providers may struggle to reach a diagnosis.
  5. Huntington’s disease: This brain disorder usually occurs in adults between the ages of 30 and 50, but it can develop at any age. Common symptoms of Huntington’s disease include cognitive decline, as well as loss of control of the arms, legs, and face.
  6. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: When fluid builds up in the brain, it can cause a type of dementia known as Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Loss of bladder control is a distinguishing trait of the disease. Other common symptoms include memory loss, falls, and balance problems.
  7. Mixed dementia: An increasing number of dementia experts believe that when a person has dementia, they likely have more than one form of it. This condition is referred to as Mixed dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia is the most common combination.

Because dementia can present unique safety concerns for families, many turn to memory care communities for support.

Memory Care at Legacy Senior Living

At Legacy Senior Living communities, our memory care program is called The Harbor. This nationally recognized program combines state-of-the-art technology with compassionate care and support. We extend an open invitation to families to visit The Harbor nearest them to learn more.

Hosting Easter with a Senior Loved One Who has Alzheimer’s

March 29, 2018

Hosting Easter

Hosting Easter dinner with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s requires a little extra planning. These tips can help you plan an event everyone will enjoy.

If you are hosting Easter dinner at your house this year, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. When a senior loved one who lives with you or spends the holidays with you has Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia, there are additional factors to consider. This is especially true if you will be including family and friends who aren’t familiar with your loved one’s situation.

Waiting to explain things until your guests arrive at your house on Easter might seem like a good plan. However, this can make a busy day more stressful and even a little awkward.

The same holds true for some of the common behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s, such as agitation, anxiety, and wandering. The increased level of activity in your house might intensify these behaviors.

To help you plan an Easter dinner that everyone—including a loved one with dementia—can enjoy, we’ve pulled together a few suggestions.

Celebrating Easter Dinner When a Loved One has Dementia

1. Time of day: It’s no secret that some times of day are better than others for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. If possible, try not to schedule the event around your senior loved one’s worst time of day. If early evening is tough, like it is for many with dementia, try hosting Easter dinner earlier so everyone is gone by the time your loved one’s worst time of day arrives. Don’t be bound by what you’ve always done either. If you’ve always hosted Easter dinner in the late afternoon but find mornings are your family member’s best time, invite guests over for an Easter brunch instead.

2. Inform guests: If Easter dinner will include people who aren’t familiar with your senior loved one’s disease, let them know what to expect ahead of time. An easy way to do that is via email. Send guests who will attend a quick note that says something like this:

We are happy to have you as a part of our Easter celebration this year! Because you haven’t met our father before, we wanted to let you know that he will be a part of our celebration and that he has Alzheimer’s disease. His behavior can be a bit unpredictable. Please don’t be offended or upset—his disease is to blame. If you have met before, he might not remember. His memory is impacted by the disease. But it’s important to know that my dad loves being a part of these gatherings and will enjoy spending time with you.”

3. Quiet time: Increased activity and noise can lead to overstimulation for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Plan for this by creating a quiet space for your loved one to retreat to. Have soft music ready to play and a few repetitive tasks they can engage in. Both help decrease agitation. It might be a basket of towels to fold, a deck of playing cards to sort, or an art project that helps keep them engaged. Depending on who your guests are, ask them to spend one-on-one time with your loved one in their quiet space. That gives everyone an opportunity to visit with your loved one without overwhelming them.

Bookmark our Blog

If you are the primary caregiver for a loved one with memory loss, be sure to bookmark the Legacy Senior Living blog. We routinely share the latest news and research on caregiving and dementia. Such information can help you continue to provide the best quality of care for your family member.

Are Changes in a Senior Loved One Normal Signs of Aging or Something Else?

March 26, 2018

Normal AgingFamilies often wonder if the changes they are witnessing in a senior loved one are caused by normal aging or something more. Learn how to tell the difference.

Forgetting the name of someone you just met or where you left your cell phone can happen to anyone in the midst of a busy day. Most of us have experienced it. But when that forgetfulness begins to interfere with everyday life, it might be more than just stress that is causing it. Memory loss is one of the early signs of dementia.

How can you tell if the changes you are noticing in an older loved one are part of the normal aging process or if they are caused by something more serious?

We have some information to help you recognize the warning signs that should be documented and discussed with the senior’s primary care physician.

Early Warning Signs of Dementia

What are the warning signs of dementia? Here are a few of the most common:

1. Problems remembering

Short-term memory loss is probably the most widely known symptom of dementia. Older adults who are in the early stages of dementia or  Alzheimer’s—the most common form of dementia—typically struggle to recall recently learned information such as a person’s name, a new phone number, or the date and time of an appointment. You may notice your loved one has begun to ask you to repeat the same information over and over.

2. Misplacing things

Another sign of potential trouble is when a senior begins regularly misplacing or losing things. Because short-term memory is impacted early in a person with dementia, an older adult can’t retrace their steps to find missing items. If you keep finding your father’s car keys in strange places or if your mom keeps losing her purse, it might be something to talk with them and their physician about.

3. Getting lost in familiar places

Confusion, wandering, getting lost, and disorientation are also early warning signs of dementia. In fact, 60% of the nation’s 5 million Alzheimer’s patients wander at some point. An adult with early dementia might get lost driving to a familiar destination or even in a store they’ve been to hundreds of times before.

4. Speech and word problems

Some seniors in the early stages of Alzheimer’s begin to struggle with carrying on a conversation. They have difficulty finding the right words or remembering a question that was just asked of them. They might call familiar objects by the wrong name, calling the stove a window, for example. Since they are often aware of—and embarrassed by—the problem, the senior may begin to withdraw from social activities and family gatherings.

5. Mismanaging finances

Judgment and abstract thought are often impacted early in the disease process. This makes it difficult for a senior with early dementia to safely manage household finances. They might neglect paying one utility bill while paying another one several times. This also puts them at increased risk for becoming the victim of a financial scam.

If you are concerned about the safety and well-being of a senior with memory loss, a memory care community might be a solution to explore.

Memory Care at Legacy Senior Living

Legacy Senior Living is proud to serve adults with memory disorders. We call our memory care services The Harbor. We invite you to schedule a personal appointment at a community near you so you can see our state-of-the-art memory care program in person.

What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer’s is Hospitalized

February 19, 2018

When a senior with Alzheimer's is hospitalizedA hospital visit can be especially difficult for people with Alzheimer’s. Use these tips to help make their stay go more safely and smoothly.

A planned or unexpected trip to the hospital is frightening and stressful at any age. The clinical environment can make it hard to rest. The pain and discomfort of the illness or injury, as well as the uncertainty of what comes next, can be unsettling. When a senior with Alzheimer’s is hospitalized, the experience can be even more difficult. The change in routine and strange environment can increase confusion and agitation. The following tips can help you better manage a loved one’s hospitalization.

Hospital Admissions and Alzheimer’s Disease

If a senior you love has Alzheimer’s disease and they are scheduled to be admitted to the hospital for surgery or another procedure, talk with your physician about your concerns ahead of time. They might be able to connect you with a hospital liaison who can arrange for a private room or a room in a quieter area of the hospital.

Also make sure you understand what to expect from the procedure and the recovery that follows. Specifically discuss:

  • Risks and potential complications
  • Expected recovery time and special needs
  • If and how the procedure might be impacted by your loved one’s disease

The good news is that there are steps you can take to make a hospital stay less traumatic for a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests:

  • One-on-one coverage: Having someone in your loved one’s hospital room around the clock is especially important. The unfamiliar environment might increase agitation and put the senior at risk for a fall or for wandering. It also helps keep everyone informed if a family member is in the room during times the physicians visit and when medications are given. Some families have found it helpful to hire a paid caregiver to cover the hours of the day when loved ones can’t be present.
  • Make the room look familiar: Another tip is to make the hospital room look as much like home as possible. Bring the senior’s photos from home, their robe and slippers, and their favorite blanket or throw.
  • Comforting routine: Part of the challenge when a senior with Alzheimer’s is hospitalized is the change in routine. Structure is important for people with memory loss. When they are unable to stick with their normal structure, they are more likely to experience anxiety and agitation. Whenever possible, bring elements of their daily routine to the hospital. If they like to listen to music in the morning, for example, set up a playlist on your phone and use it in their room. Or if afternoons are spent engaged in craft projects, find ways to keep them busy with simple projects between procedures and tests.
  • Non-verbal communication: Since adults with Alzheimer’s often lose their verbal communication skills fairly early in the disease process, looking for non-verbal signs of trouble is important. Pay special attention to facial expressions and body language that might signal they are in pain or experiencing discomfort.

Plan Now for an Unscheduled Hospitalization

While no one likes to think the worst, planning for the unexpected is important when a senior has Alzheimer’s disease. One way to do this is by assembling an emergency bag you can quickly grab in the event of a surprise trip to the hospital. Your emergency kit should include:

  • Contact information for all physicians and health care providers involved in their care
  • Medical history that denotes previous surgeries, health problems, and hospitalizations
  • Current medication list, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements
  • List of any known allergies and previous problems with medications
  • Copies of advance directives, as well as insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid cards
  • A note you can post at their bedside that explains their disease along with any notable concerns like wandering behavior or falls
  • A change of clothes and necessary personal hygiene products.

The National Institute on Aging’s Guide to Hospital Visits for Individuals with Memory Loss has additional tips you might find useful if a loved one with Alzheimer’s is hospitalized.

Memory Care at Legacy Senior Living

If you are considering a memory care program for someone you love, we hope Legacy Senior Living is on your list of potential care partners. The Harbor, our state of the art memory care, is designed to help each resident live up to their highest potential every day.

We invite you to call the Legacy community nearest you to learn more today!