Caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia can be frustrating. At times caregivers may be challenged to stay calm when coping with difficult behaviors while providing memory care services.
But imagine the stress the individual living with dementia is experiencing. Senior living residents with dementia may slowly lose their short-term memory and the ability to think rationally as the disease progresses. They can become agitated or upset when their concept of reality is challenged over and over again. As cognitive impairments worsen, seniors may begin to live in an altered reality, one that memory care services caregivers may struggle to understand.
Communication techniques in memory care services
At Country Meadows, memory care services staff use the Validation Method to support residents living in secured and non-secured memory care services settings. This powerful technique and philosophy asks the caregiver to meet the individual with dementia in his/her reality by listening empathetically while asking questions to help the person express concerns and emotions. This builds trust, reduces anxiety and restores dignity.
Tips to reduce stress
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be very stressing, both for the individual as well as the caregiver providing memory care services. The following are some ways to help counteract the stress.
Doing physical activity
Exercise is a great outlet for stress for all of us. Physical activity bumps up production of our brains’ “feel-good” neurotransmitters-endorphins. The best retirement communities, including Country Meadows, employ fitness directors who manage on-campus fitness centers in all levels of care, including memory support services, to help residents maintain physical health. Exercises are adapted to each person’s abilities and in addition to aiding in stress reduction, can support better sleep.
Working on art projects and games
According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, research suggests that artistic engagement at assisted living facilities may help to ease common behavioral symptoms of dementia like anxiety, agitation and depression. It also may boost mood and self-esteem, and possibly help stimulate memory.
As a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Therapist, Genee Atwater, CTRS, Connections Dynamic Living coordinator at Country Meadows uses fun and games, backed by science, to help strengthen residents’ cognitive abilities while receiving memory care services. She develops weekly schedules which include meaningful activities and projects to engage residents such as brain games, active tasks, purposeful service, creative corner and music makers. Every program is tailored specifically to help residents with dementia find an outlet for expression, reduce stress and enjoy life.
“Play is so important for neuroplasticity of the brain. We have learned that the brain continues to develop, it doesn’t stop,” Atwater explains. “I do art projects so they can have new and novel experiences. It helps to create new pathways in the brain.”
Doing household projects
Many people in memory care services tend to fidget, and it helps to stay busy by performing simple tasks. Doing household chores reminds residents of days gone by and helps them feel independent. Depending on each individual’s abilities, some routine chores to keep hands busy include cleaning vegetables and helping with meal preparation, washing and drying dishes, wiping tables and folding towels.
Most of us don’t enjoy chores, but these activities can help manage anxiety in memory care services. Keep in mind that the person should only be given tasks he or she can accomplish to avoid feelings of frustration.
Listening to music
Music can help calm anxiety and bring around moments of clarity for memory care services residents living with dementia. Music can improve a person’s mood and redirect him/her during moments of frustration.
Supporting volunteer projects
All of us feel good when helping others. Senior living residents work on many projects in addition to art. Another campus-favorite is any activity that helps others. To help local animals in need, residents regularly gather to make dog toys and blankets to support an animal rescue. And as the holidays approach, group kitchens are abuzz with residents making cookies.
April is National Stress Awareness Month, making this a good time to take steps to manage stress for yourself as well as loved ones in memory care services.
Country Meadows offers memory care services at its nine locations in Pennsylvania and one campus in Frederick, Maryland. Our retirement communities also offer a wide range of services including independent living, personal care, assisted living and restorative care. If you would like more information about how we can support you or a loved one, please contact us today. Our co-workers can answer questions and provide information on our services.