What Is the Medicare Wellness Visit?

March 6, 2020

Are you a senior on Medicare? Be sure to take advantage of the annual wellness visit. Here’s what you should know.

A key component for living your best life during retirement is building a trusting relationship with an experienced primary care physician. Having confidence in your doctor will help you feel comfortable sharing health concerns big and small, no matter how embarrassing. This often allows the physician to catch potential medical issues early before they turn into serious or irreversible health conditions.

In past years, Medicare required older adults to pay for annual wellness visits out of pocket or as part of their deductible. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, this changed. Because ACA focuses on providing health insurance coverage and improving access to preventative screenings, the law includes a preventative visit each year. It is known as the annual Medicare wellness visit.

Understanding the Medicare Wellness Visit

Seniors who have been part of Medicare for at least 12 months are entitled to one wellness visit per year at no cost. During this visit, the doctor will typically screen for depression, conduct a basic vision test, review blood pressure and pulse, and test reflexes. Many physicians will calculate their patient’s body mass index and review any weight concerns.

Your primary care physician may also review or discuss:

  • Family medical history:

The wellness visit also gives seniors and their physicians time to discuss family medical history and note any genetic risks. That allows the physician to determine what preventative screenings may be necessary and how often to have them.

  • Personal medical history:

Lifestyle and past medical history can also determine what illnesses and health problems you may develop. Smoking, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking are a few examples. When your doctor has an in-depth understanding of your personal medical history, they can take a more proactive approach to care.

  • Preventative screenings:

Your physician will use your current health status as well as your age, personal risk factors, and family medical history to establish a preventative health screening schedule. It may include a mammogram, prostate testing, colonoscopy, cholesterol check, and diabetes screening.

Medicare Part B Benefit

While the wellness visit will be paid in full through your Medicare Part B benefit, it’s important to know follow-up testing and treatments may not. Ask your physician or their billing staff what is and isn’t covered.

If the physician’s staff isn’t able to answer your questions, you can call Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227.

Live Well during Retirement

Developing a relationship with a physician is just one of the necessary elements for ensuring you live well during retirement. There are other factors that play an important role. “4 Decisions That Impact Your Ability to Live Your Best Retirement is a quick article with tips for making informed choices.

For many older adults, moving to a senior living community after retiring improves their quality of life. Benefits include healthy meals, social opportunities, wellness programs, a secure environment, and more.

With communities throughout the southeast, Legacy Senior Living has much to offer. We invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more and to schedule a private tour!

Signs a Senior Needs More Help Than They Can Get at Home

February 24, 2020

Wondering if an aging parent needs to consider moving to assisted living? Here are a few of the most common warning signs.

Young nurse reading a book to elder woman sitting close

While many older adults can benefit from the services and amenities offered by a senior living community, there are some for whom the support could be especially life-changing. Having a little extra assistance when it’s needed can help seniors avoid the negative effects of a fall, medication mismanagement, or poor nutrition.

If you are an adult child concerned about the welfare of your aging parent and you are considering senior living, learning how to spot the warning signs is essential.

Is It Time to Encourage a Parent to Move to Senior Living?

  • Is your parent’s home putting them at risk for a fall?

Seniors often live in the same house for decades. While the familiarity of home may be important to them, most older houses weren’t designed with the unique needs of seniors in mind. An abundance of stairs, poor lighting, and a lack of handrails or walk-in showers may increase the risk for a serious fall.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. An estimated 2.5 million seniors experience a fall every year. Experts believe this number might be even higher, as older adults don’t always tell family members that they suffered a fall.

Moving to an environment designed with an older adult’s safety in mind, such as an assisted living community, might be a better option than remaining at home.

  • Is your parent becoming isolated due to their health or a lack of transportation?

Isolation is a serious health risk for older adults. It contributes to everything from obesity and depression to heart disease and diabetes. When a senior has a mobility impairment, it can make it tough for them to stay involved in their community.

The same holds true for an older adult who has given up driving. Finding affordable, safe transportation solutions may be difficult. The senior might be reluctant to ask friends or family members for a ride out of fear they will be a burden.

Isolation and loneliness can be the result of both issues. By moving to a more accessible environment, a senior can make friends more easily, take advantage of transportation services, and participate in both on-site activities and local events.


  • Is your parent suffering from poor nutrition?

When menu planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation become more difficult, it’s easy to rely on convenience and fast foods. For some seniors, especially those struggling with medical issues, healthy cooking for one or two feels like too much work. But good nutrition is vital for avoiding illness or even a fall.

Moving to an assisted living community can be an ideal solution. Most communities offer well-balanced meals and a variety of menu options and settings.


  • Is your parent mismanaging their medication?

Older adults often require a variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Staying organized and on track with each one, as well as remembering to order refills in a timely manner, can be a challenge.

Medication mistakes pose a problem that can land seniors in a hospital emergency room on a regular basis. From forgetting to take one medicine to taking too much of another, these errors can be dangerous.

Assisted living communities have medication management programs in place that are designed to reduce the risk of mistakes. In fact, it’s one of the most popular services in many communities.


  • Is your health suffering?

Finally, are the demands of caregiving putting your own health at risk? Providing care to a loved one can be physically and emotionally exhausting for family members. Caregivers experience more headaches, back injuries, sleep problems, and stomach problems than their non-caregiving peers.

If your health is declining, it might be time to explore assisted living communities for your parent.

Visit a Legacy Senior Living Community Today

The best way to learn more about assisted living is to visit in person. We invite you to call the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you to schedule a private tour today!

 

Is There a Genetic Link to Alzheimer’s Disease?

February 19, 2020

Wondering if you are at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s because a family member has the disease? Read on to learn what researchers know about Alzheimer’s.

If you are the caregiver for a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you’ve likely wondered whether their diagnosis increases your own risk for developing the disease.

It’s an understandable concern given how tough it is to watch someone you love struggle with difficult symptoms, such as agitation, memory problems, and a loss of verbal skills.

Is Alzheimer’s disease tied to genetics? The question isn’t an easy one to answer with any degree of certainty. While scientists have identified some genetic involvement, it is not fully understood how heredity links us to the disease.

What Are the Genetic Ties to Alzheimer’s Disease?

Our genes carry the code that determines which of our parents’ traits we will inherit. Genes are found in each of the billions of cells that make up our bodies. We receive one gene copy from each parent. Those differences are what contribute to our uniqueness.

Let’s say, for example, that your mother is very tall and your father has brown eyes. You could inherit the trait for her height, as well as the trait for his eye color. Your sibling might inherit the opposite combination—your father’s height and your mother’s eyes.

Our genetic code can also increase our individual risk for developing certain diseases and chronic health conditions. Sickle cell anemia, Huntington’s disease, and cystic fibrosis are all linked to an inherited single gene disorder.

Unfortunately, the genetic risks associated with Alzheimer’s aren’t as straightforward. Largely because so much of the science behind this disease continues to baffle researchers.

What we do know is that there are two types of Alzheimer’s disease, early-onset Alzheimer’s and late-onset Alzheimer’s. Early-onset, also known as familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD), has a genetic link.

Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

FAD is caused by a hereditary genetic mutation to one of three genes: PSEN1, PSEN2, or APP. If your birth mother or father carries a genetic mutation on one of these three genes, you and your siblings will have a 50% chance of inheriting that mutation.

A child who inherits one of these genetic mutations will, with almost 100% certainty, develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. About 50% of other family members who also carry this genetic legacy will develop the disease before the age of 60.

This contrasts with the much more common form of the disease, late-onset Alzheimer’s. Late-onset occurs in adults over the age of 60. Unlike early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, there is no known genetic mutation that is linked to late-onset Alzheimer’s with such certainty.

Guarding Against Alzheimer’s Disease

While the cause of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease continues to elude researchers, it is commonly believed that lifestyle may play at least a minor role. Exercising and eating a healthy diet might help prevent or delay the onset or progression of Alzheimer’s.

Giving your brain a healthy workout on a regular basis may also lower your risk. A few ways to do that include reading, pursuing new hobbies, learning a foreign language, or taking a class.

Other research seems to indicate blood sugar may impact your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Some researchers are going as far as hypothesizing that Alzheimer’s is another form of diabetes.

Support for Seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease

If you are a caregiver struggling to manage a family member’s disease at home, we can help. Our award-winning memory care services may be the solution you are searching for on a loved one’s behalf. Call the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you to learn more or to schedule a private tour.

Understanding the Hidden Costs of Being a Family Caregiver

February 11, 2020

If you are considering moving an aging loved one in with you, here are a few hidden costs of caregiving to consider.

When an older adult in the family begins to experience health issues or has trouble managing their personal care, loved ones often pitch in to help. This sometimes begins by assisting with small tasks, such as picking up a few groceries or completing light housekeeping chores. As the senior’s health declines, the duties often increase.

Providing care can take a significant toll on a caregiver’s physical and emotional well-being. While it might seem less expensive to move a senior in with you, many of the costs associated with caregiving aren’t obvious. Lost wages and increased household expenses are a few, as well as greater wear and tear on the family car.

If you are weighing the pros and cons of keeping an older family member at home versus encouraging a move to an assisted living community, here are some hidden expenses you should not overlook.

Caregiving Costs Not to Overlook

  • Lost wages and career opportunities:

As a senior loved one’s needs increase, family caregivers often cut back on their work hours or give up working entirely for a while. This results in not only lost wages and benefits for their current job but missed opportunities for career advancement. Caregivers who temporarily leave the workforce may also have a tough time finding a new position when their caregiving days are behind them.

  • Higher vehicle costs:

Caregivers find themselves behind the wheel of their car a lot. From trips to the pharmacy to physician appointments, the extra mileage means higher vehicle expenses. The added costs for gas, oil changes, tires, and brakes can quickly add up. If the vehicle is leased, caregiving may cause you to exceed the mileage and incur additional expenses.

  • More household expenses:

When an older loved one becomes a member of your household, it’s highly probable your home expenses will increase. Not only will you face higher utility expenses and greater food costs, but there’s also a good chance some modifications to the house may be necessary. Wider doorways, ramps, and a barrier-free shower are a few examples.

  • More health care bills:

Unfortunately, it’s all too common for caregivers to experience health issues that lead to unplanned medical expenses. Caregiving is physically and emotionally demanding work. Adults who provide care can experience a higher risk for digestive issues, back pain, and headaches than their non-caregiving peers.

One final expense to consider is the cost of a different kind—loss of personal time.

While caregiving can be a labor of love, it is also a 24/7 endeavor. As a result, it comes with the price of a loss of privacy and personal space.

A solution worth considering is a care option known as respite. This short-term service offered by many assisted living communities gives caregivers a break from their duties. It can be ideal for a caregiver who is worn out and weary. The senior can stay at an assisted living community on a temporary basis while the adult child or spouse enjoys a little time to relax and restore their spirit.

Call the Legacy community nearest you to learn how respite care may be the solution you need!

6 Traits Shared By the Greatest Generation

February 3, 2020

The generation born between the two World Wars is known for their humble, quiet character. Learn more about the traits common among this age group.

At Legacy Senior Living, we are proud that so many of our nation’s veterans call one of our assisted living communities home.

One group of veterans we’ve talked about before on our blog are those born between the two World Wars. They are the parents of the Baby Boomers. Broadcaster and author, Tom Brokaw, coined the phrase the Greatest Generation to describe them. It’s a descriptive term that seems to have stuck.

In addition to their commitment to military service, the Greatest Generation is one celebrated for their strength of character. Men and women of this generation have much in common, likely due to their shared experiences.

What traits do people of this generation often share?

As it turns out, a great many.

What We Know About the Greatest Generation.

While the number of survivors from this generation has dwindled greatly, those that remain have much in common when it comes to character. Here are several examples:

  • Disciplined: Anyone who has worked with or employed a member of the Greatest Generation will likely mention this trait. The members of this generation are disciplined, hardworking, and self-motivated.
  • Patriotic: Having played such a pivotal role in shaping our nation, this generation takes their civic duties seriously. Most are patriots through and through. From volunteer work to voting records, they’ve contributed to our country on many levels.
  • Humble: Other characteristics commonly found among this generation include modesty and humility. Veterans from this age group rarely discuss their bravery or accomplishments from their military days. Even friends and family members are sometimes unaware of the commendations their loved one received during their service.
  • Loyal: As our country moves toward a gig economy and lifestyles that focus more on short-term commitments, the loyalty of the Greatest Generation becomes more pronounced. Members of this age group tend to be devoted to family, friends, jobs, and country.
  • Responsible: You will rarely find a member of this generation who shrugged off their responsibilities. Most have a high sense of personal commitment. They follow through with obligations and take ownership of tasks and duties.
  • Fiscally cautious: Unlike subsequent generations, this one is known for being conservative with their money. They live in more modest homes and exercise caution when it comes to spending. Their fiscal responsibility has enabled them to amass healthy savings even on limited incomes.

Benefits to Assist Veterans

There is an option to help with financing if an older veteran in your family would benefit from moving to an assisted living community. Administered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the program is referred to as the Aid and Attendance Benefit.

Learn more by visiting Financing Your Retirement or by calling the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you. One of our team members will be happy to answer your questions.

How Senior Move Managers Can Ease the Transition to Assisted Living

January 27, 2020

If the idea of downsizing is keeping you or a loved one from moving to assisted living, a senior move manager might be the solution. 

Moving to a new residence can be overwhelmingly hard work. The task may be even more difficult if you are assisting a senior who has lived in their home for many years. The older adult likely has acquired many belongings that you will need to sort through.

The prospect of downsizing and packing can leave families feeling daunted about how and where to begin. If this sounds like your family’s situation, the support of an experienced, professional senior move manager may be helpful.

What Is a Senior Move Manager?

While you can easily hire professional movers to do the heavy lifting, most aren’t experts at managing the unique needs of older adults. A senior move manager has experience with those issues, from the emotions of leaving the family home behind to understanding how to dispose of unneeded items.

Senior move managers are trained to support older adults throughout the process of downsizing and moving. They also know how to help a senior and their family navigate the emotional highs and lows that accompany a move.

A senior move manager typically begins by sitting down with a family to create a relocation plan. It will include all the tasks that must be completed prior to moving to a senior living community.

A few additional ways a senior move manager can help during this process include:

  • Develop a timeline for the move from start to finish

  • Create a floor plan for furniture in the new apartment or villa

  • Sort, pack, donate or dispose of household treasures and belongings

  • Set up an online auction to sell unneeded items

  • Make arrangements for an estate sale or auction

  • Schedule local charities to pick up unneeded items

  • Interview and supervise a moving company

  • Oversee a cleaning service after the old house is vacated

  • Unpack and settle the new apartment or villa

To find a certified senior move manager near you, search the online database for the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM).

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Senior Move Manager

When you are hiring any professional, including a senior move manager, asking the right questions is essential. Here are a few to help you identify a move manager who is the best fit for your family:

  • How much experience do you have as a move manager?
  • How many seniors have you assisted with this process?
  • Are you NASSM certified, or have you completed another formal training program?
  • How do you charge for your services—hourly or by the job?
  • Will you provide a written quote and a contract?
  • Are you bonded and insured for theft or damage that may occur during the packing process or move?
  • Are you fully insured for liability and workers’ compensation for yourself and any employees you have?
  • Can you provide references, including phone numbers of past clients?

The bottom line is that finding a partner who can guide your family through this process can make the transition to a senior living community easier for everyone.

Legacy Senior Living Serves Seniors in the Southeast

If you are beginning the search for independent or assisted living, we encourage you to visit a Legacy Senior Living community. With communities in six southern states, you’ll find a variety of services and amenities designed to help older adults enjoy their best quality of life. Call us today to set up a time for your private tour!

5 Ways to Prevent the Blues When You Are a Caregiver

January 21, 2020

Protecting your mental health is vital when you are a caregiver. These five tips can help.

Caring for a senior is rewarding work. It often gives the family elder and the caregiver an opportunity to reconnect and reminiscence. Adult children frequently move a loved one into their home, at least on a temporary basis, to make it easier to care for them. That time together may lead to memories that last a lifetime.

It’s important, however, not to overlook the tough aspects of caregiving. When you are responsible for another person’s health and well-being, the stress can be significant. So can the physical and emotional demands. If the senior has difficulty leaving the home, caregivers may find themselves feeling isolated and alone.

The pressures of the caregiving role may lead you to develop the blues, or a more serious case of depression. Finding ways to look after your mental health and emotional well-being is essential.

Practicing Healthy Self-Care While You Are a Caregiver

  • Eat well

When you are run down from juggling too many responsibilities, it’s not just your physical health that deteriorates. Your mental health may also suffer. That’s just one of the many reasons caregivers need to stick to a healthy diet. While it might not seem possible when your schedule is already overbooked, eating a well-balanced diet will give you the energy you need to be a better caregiver.

This is an area where friends and family can pitch in. Lotsa Helping Hands makes it easy for loved ones to sign up to deliver meals to you. If you aren’t comfortable with that, consider using a home-delivered meal service like Sun Basket, Silver Cuisine, or Hello Fresh.

  • Laugh

The old adage that laughter is the best medicine is a truthful one, especially when you are a caregiver. By staying in touch with people who make you laugh and boost your spirits, you may be able to prevent the caregiver blues or a bout with depression. In-person visits, at least once or twice a month, are best. In between, you can use video chat services or FaceTime to enjoy more meaningful talks with friends.

  • See the doctor

Family caregivers are notorious for neglecting their own health. If you’ve gotten away from having an annual physical and staying on track with important screenings, schedule an appointment with your doctor today. When you visit them, make sure to explain that you are a caregiver under considerable stress.

  • Exercise

Don’t make the mistake of equating being busy with exercising. While caregivers usually have full schedules, they need to make time for exercise to avoid a health crisis. Walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, and tai chi offer both mental and physical benefits. It may be easier to work exercise in to your day if you break it up into 10- or 15-minute sessions two or three times a day.

  • Accept help

Caregivers often feel that no one else will provide a loved one with the kind of care they can. This may lead them to turn down offers of help and to not explore professional senior care options. It’s vital to understand, however, that no one can do it all alone. Having a few hours of time to yourself will make you a better parent, spouse, employee, and caregiver. One solution to consider is respite care in an assisted living community. The senior will enjoy the same services as long-term residents, giving the caregiver time to take a break.

Respite Care at Legacy Senior Living

Respite care is often a great way to get to know an assisted living community. It gives the senior an opportunity to see if the community is a good fit while giving a weary caregiver time to relax and restore their own well-being. If you are a caregiver for a senior who lives in the Southeast, we invite you to visit a Legacy Senior Living community near you to learn more about our services.

Brain Aerobics: Activities to Help Improve Memory

January 15, 2020

Looking for ways to protect brain health and boost memory? Here are a few suggestions to explore.

Even if we don’t always comply, most of us know the doctor is right when they say daily exercise is essential. It helps with weight control, cholesterol, diabetes, and stress management.

What fewer people understand is that exercise is essential for giving the brain a daily workout. Like the muscles in our body, the brain needs exercise to stay strong. According to dementia experts, exercise might also help delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips for Exercising Your Brain

When it comes to building strong muscles and core strength, repetition is often the key. For your brain, however, the opposite is true. To avoid cognitive loss, the brain needs the stimulation of novelty. Learning and growing aids in warding off decline.

The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation says that learning is like aerobics for the brain. In fact, it might decrease your risk for developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 70%!

What does a workout for the brain entail?

We have some suggestions for you to consider.

  • Learn a new language: Mastering another language challenges the brain. Combining language lessons with researching the country’s culture is even better. You can sign up for a class at a local community college or utilize an online platform like Babbel or Rosetta Stone.
  • Start a band: Music provides a variety of health benefits, including protecting brain health. If you already play an instrument, recruit a few musical friends to form your own band. If you are new to music, sign up for a class to learn how to play an instrument. Fortunately, you don’t have to be good at it for your brain to enjoy a good workout. It’s the process of learning that promotes a healthier brain.
  • Read: Reading is another great way to keep your brain challenged as you age. It’s an inexpensive activity you can enjoy anywhere. Your local library likely has an app you can download on your tablet to make it easy to borrow books.
  • Write: Writing can also give your brain a healthy workout. If you’ve never been a writer, begin with a simple project. For example, write about your day in a journal, or record your family history to share at your next reunion. To help them get started writing, some people create a list of questions to answer. These writing prompts might also make it a little easier to tap in to your creativity.
  • Get moving: Physical activity is good for your body, mind, and spirit, especially if you continuously mix things up. Go for a walk or a bike ride every day, but vary your route. Swim at the local YMCA and use different strokes and water exercises.
  • Play games: Whether it’s a few rounds of solitaire on your tablet or a Scrabble competition with friends, playing cards and games stimulates the brain. Those that require memory and strategy skills are even better.

Dementia Care for Seniors

At Legacy Senior Living communities, we offer specialized care for adults with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Our memory care centers—known as The Harbor—are a refuge from the storms caused by the disease.

If you have questions about The Harbor or would like to schedule a tour, please call the community nearest you. One of our experienced dementia caregivers will be glad to help!

What Is Glaucoma and How Can Seniors Prevent It?

January 6, 2020

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for seniors. Learn more about this disease, including how it is identified and treated.

Vision loss becomes more common with age. It contributes to challenges ranging from difficulty driving to an increased risk of experiencing a fall. One of the vision problems seniors are most likely to develop is glaucoma. While it is typically treatable, the condition must be detected early.

Experts say about three million Americans have glaucoma, but only about half of them realize it. It causes 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness.

What Is Glaucoma?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are two primary types of glaucoma:

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma: This type of the disease occurs when fluid doesn’t drain from the eye as it should. Pressure in the eye builds and gradually causes damage to the optic nerve. The most common form of glaucoma, it is painless and has no symptoms at first. Early signs of the disease can be detected only through an eye exam.
  • Closed-angle glaucoma: When an adult’s iris is located very close to the drainage angle in their eye, the iris can block it from draining. When the drainage angle becomes completely blocked, pressure in the eye rises very quickly. This is an emergency that must be treated immediately to prevent blindness. Common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, headache, severe eye pain, blurry vision, and seeing rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights.

Early diagnosis and intervention are essential for any type of glaucoma.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

What can older adults do to lower their risk for developing this common vision issue?

It begins with knowing the risk factors and taking steps to minimize those that are preventable. The most common risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Age: The risk of developing glaucoma begins to increase at age 40.
  • Genetics: You are more likely to be diagnosed if a family member has the disease.
  • Heritage: People of African, Hispanic, or Asian descent are at increased risk.
  • Steroids: Long-term steroid use also puts you at higher risk for glaucoma.
  • Eye injury: Having a previous eye injury is also linked to developing glaucoma.

You are also more likely to experience glaucoma if you have diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure, or poor blood circulation.

Glaucoma Screening and Treatment

A yearly eye exam is vital to identify and intervene early in a variety of vision problems, including glaucoma. Experts recommend having a baseline exam by age 40.

During a glaucoma screening, the doctor will measure the pressure in the eye, the shape and color of the optic nerve, the angle where the iris meets the cornea, and the thickness of the cornea. They will also evaluate the complete field of vision.

If the physician detects signs of glaucoma, they will attempt to lower the pressure in the eye. That typically begins with eye drops but may also include other treatment options, such as oral medications, surgery, or lasers.

Bookmark the Legacy Senior Living Blog

If you are an older adult or a family caregiver, we encourage you to bookmark the Legacy Senior Living blog and stop back frequently. We strive to bring you the latest findings on successful aging, senior living, dementia care, and more.

Should you have questions about senior living, we invite you to visit one of our communities. With locations in six states in the Southeast, our homelike communities allow older adults to live their best quality of life.

Helping a Senior with Dementia Overcome Sleep Problems

December 30, 2019

If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, sleep issues might be adding to the challenge of the role. These tips can help you both sleep better.

If you talk with a spouse or adult child who is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, there’s no doubt they’ll list sleep as one of their greatest caregiving challenges. People with the disease can seem to survive on very little sleep for extended periods of time. This may result in a pace that is exhausting for caregivers.

While pharmacological sleep solutions are available, most are used only as a last resort. Because seniors with Alzheimer’s react differently to medication than their peers without dementia, physicians are sometimes reluctant to prescribe them.

Fortunately, there are steps loved ones can take that may help overcome sleep disorders caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Helping a Senior with Alzheimer’s Sleep Well

First, take time to learn more about what might be causing a senior’s sleep problems. Researchers have a few ideas on why sleep can be so elusive for people with Alzheimer’s. Some of these reasons are:

  • Overstimulation: Because Alzheimer’s causes damage to the brain, people who have the disease may struggle to process overly hectic or noisy surroundings. Overstimulation, especially in the late afternoon or evening, might be the reason a senior with Alzheimer’s is having difficulty getting to sleep.
  • Sundowner’s Syndrome: Sundowning is common among adults with Alzheimer’s. As many as 20 percent of people with the disease will experience it. The condition causes restlessness and increased confusion as the sun begins to set. People with Alzheimer’s who are affected by sundowning are more likely to wander during this time of day. It can wreak havoc on a senior’s (and their caregiver’s!) sleep schedule.
  • Increased agitation and anxiety: People who have Alzheimer’s typically experience increased levels of agitation and anxiety. Researchers attribute this to changes in the brain caused by the disease. These heightened emotions can make it difficult to unwind and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
  • Problems with sleep-wake cycles: Research also seems to indicate that adults who have Alzheimer’s undergo changes in their sleep-wake cycle. In the early stages of the disease, a senior may wake up frequently throughout the night. They might get up and wander. As the disease progresses, they may get their days and nights mixed up, causing them to sleep soundly all day and be awake all night long.
  • Medication problems: Like anyone else, people with Alzheimer’s might be taking medications that lead to sleep problems. Anti-depressants and steroids can cause insomnia in some people. Decongestants can cause drowsiness that might disrupt traditional sleep schedules.

Then move on to understanding what interventions you can take to help your loved one—and yourself—get a good night of sleep.

10 Ways to Help a Senior with Alzheimer’s Sleep

Here are 10 steps you can take to help your senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease overcome sleep problems:

  1. Have a structured daily schedule that restricts stimulating activities to early morning hours.
  2. Review the senior’s prescription and over-the-counter medication list with their physician or pharmacist to identify potential side effects or interactions.
  3. Schedule a physical examination with their primary care physician to see if there is an undiagnosed health problem that might be causing pain.
  4. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants that might make sleep difficult.
  5. Limit fluid intake during evening hours so the senior doesn’t wake up during the night needing the bathroom.
  6. Turn off the television in the evening and play soft, soothing music before bedtime to help the senior unwind.
  7. Stick with a consistent bedtime and morning wake-up time.
  8. Discourage naps late in the day or early in the evening.
  9. Exercise early every morning to avoid overstimulation at night.
  10. Create a restful sleep environment for the senior that includes blackout curtains, a comfortable mattress, a cool temperature, and soft music playing with a sleep timer.

Legacy Memory Care

If you are struggling to keep a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s healthy and safe at home, it might be time to consider a move to a memory care community. At Legacy communities, our memory care program is known as The Harbor. It’s designed to be a refuge from the storms associated with memory disorders.

Call us today to schedule a private tour of The Harbor memory care program nearest you.