top of page

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries



When Dr. Alzheimer Met Auguste Deter

August 11, 2021

On November 26, 1901, clinical psychiatrist and anthropologist Alois Alzheimer was asked to evaluate a newly admitted patient to a psychiatric institution in Frankfurt, Germany. The patient was a 50-year-old woman by the name of Auguste Deter. Her husband brought her to the facility because he could no longer manage her memory loss and behaviors at home. They included trouble sleeping, difficulties with language, paranoia, aggression, and delusions.

Dr. Alzheimer was fascinated with Deter’s condition and initially made a diagnosis of pre-senile dementia. When asked questions she didn’t know the answer to, Deter would consistently respond by saying, “I have lost myself, so to say.” When tested, she was unable to remember the names of objects she had just seen. Her condition worsened in the evenings, and sometimes she would awaken screaming in the middle of the night. She remained institutionalized over the next five years until her death on April 8, 1906, at the age of 55. By that time, she had lost almost all of her cognitive abilities.

Dr. Alzheimer, who had moved on to the Royal Psychiatric Clinic in Munich, heard of Deter’s death and requested that her medical records and brain post-autopsy be sent to him. Upon evaluation, he discovered abnormalities in the brain, including significant atrophy in the cortex, which is the layer in the brain responsible for memory, judgment, language, and thought in general. Until then, similar findings had been noted only in the brains of people in their seventies and older.

In 1906, Alzheimer reported on “a peculiar severe disease process of the cerebral cortex” at a meeting of the South-West German Psychiatrists. He described the distinctive plaques and neurofibrillary tangles he’d discovered in Deter’s brain. His findings generated little interest except from psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, now known as the “father of modern scientific psychology.” Kraepelin named the condition “Alzheimer’s disease” and wrote about it in one of his publications. Alzheimer went on to identify and document three further cases before his death in 1915.




Television and Movies for People with Dementia

May 5, 2021

By Brooke DeNisco

People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are often very sensitive to emotional and vocal cues. A distressed character in a film or television show can make someone with dementia feel genuinely upset, even after the show ends. While it may seem overbearing to “censor” the television, showing violent programming (including the news) causes unnecessary anxiety for people with dementia who are contending with so much.

As an activity director, I made unwitting mistakes in my screen selections. For example, I once put on a nature movie that I thought would be very benign for a group of people in a memory care community. One scene featured a blazing forest fire. Shortly after the documentary ended, a community member began earnestly trying to help everyone out of their rooms to evacuate because of “the fire.” High-definition televisions with huge screens can be startlingly realistic. People may believe that what they see on the screen is actually in the room, which can be terrifying.

So why not just skip screen time? Because television and movies can bring people great joy. Many shows and images are familiar and comforting. They may also spark good memories and bring on laughter. When watching with a group, television can become an easy, low-pressure way to socialize.

Peggy Cahill, program coordinator for the nonprofit Artists for Alzheimer’s (ARTZ), teamed with a movie theater in Massachusetts to produce quarterly movie events for people with dementia. Her program, featured on the AARP website, tracks reactions to the film program and collects comment cards from participants’ family members and care staff. She noted, “Many of the participants came away with more positive moods than usual and a greater attention span that lasted beyond the theater experience. They were also more communicative and engaged with staff and peers and reminisced about their past.”

It’s impossible to catch every potential trigger in television and movies, but it can help to have some suggestions to keep near television sets. The following list of shows and movies were suggested by the Alzheimer’s Association, A Place for Mom, and AARP.

Television Shows

  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • The Andy Griffith Show
  • Laverne and Shirley
  • I Love Lucy
  • Happy Days
  • The Golden Girls
  • Gilligan’s Island
  • The Three Stooges
  • Bonanza
  • Phyllis Diller
  • The Carol Burnett Show
  • The Waltons
  • Leave It to Beaver
  • Bewitched
  • I Dream of Jeannie
  • The Brady Bunch
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • Love It or List It
  • American Idol
  • Antiques Road Show
  • The Great British Bakeoff
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • The Andy Griffith Show
  • Laverne and Shirley


  • Grumpy Old Men
  • It Happened One Night
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • The Sound of Music
  • Calamity Jane
  • Paint Your Wagon
  • Cheaper by the Dozen
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Guys and Dolls
  • March of the Penguins
  • State Fair
  • The Pajama Game
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • South Pacific
  • Easter Parade
  • Camelot
  • The Parent Trap
  • The Music Man
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Blue Hawaii
  • The Sting
  • Field of Dreams
  • Barefoot in the Park
  • Viva Las Vegas
  • Bright Eyes
  • The Little Princess



10+ Benefits of Pet Therapy

March 21, 2021

Benefits of Pet Companionship for the Elderly

The benefits of pet interaction and companionship may include:

1. Mental Stimulation

Pets are a wonderful source of interaction, entertainment and enjoyment.

2. Shifting of focus

Often residents in long term facilities concentrate too much on themselves because of chronic pain, depression or poor self esteem. Animals can provide a new focus of conversation.

3. Acceptance

Animals accept people unconditionally and this can be heartwarming and soothing for residents.

4. Increased Self Esteem

Residents often suffer from their perceived loss of freedom and responsibility; animals can add purpose and inspiration to their lives.

5. Entertainment

Pets inspire humor and good times.

6. Rapport

Pets are emotionally safe and non-threatening. They don’t discriminate or impose demands. They live for the moment and interacting with them often helps residents concentrate on the present and stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

7. Development of Empathy

Animal’s are easier to ‘read’ than humans and interaction with pets can help develop an individual’s sense of empathy as they respond to the animal's needs.

8. Reminiscing

Caring for pets encourages adherence to a daily schedule and will often evoke wonderful memories of the past.

Related: Reminiscing Activities for Seniors

9. Physical Activity

Caring for a pets encourages physical activity: feeding, playing, walking etc.

Related: How to Plan & Implement an Exercise Program

10. Socialization

Most people love animals and will enjoy sharing time together in the company of animals, talking and laughing together.

11. Physiological Benefits

Being around animals provides stress relief and spiritual fulfillment. An animal’s love is unconditional.



What does it feel like to be really old?

December 20, 2020

It’s impossible to really understand what it feels like to be old until it happens to you.

We cannot even begin to grasp what elders have to cope with when age takes its toll on the body; to have declining dexterity, vision and mobility problems, to be unable to open a drawer or button a blouse. As well as physical problems there can also be severe cognitive deficit coupled with the sobering fact that there is no way to turn time back.

Activity Professionals that work with elders on a daily basis could write books about the brave, tenacious seniors who face their challenges in a stoic and dignified way. They have physical and mental barriers to cope with every day for the rest of their lives.

Amid the aches and pains that come with growing old there are surprising consolations and many reasons to be cheerful. Elders living in assisted and other care facilities can have fulfilling lives encouraged and supported by the love and care of staff. It is never too late to acquire the zest of life; pain can be managed and the blues kept at bay.

From the point of view of an 85 year old man

Back to the original question however: How does it feel to be really old? Here is one answer from Stan Hayward. Stan is an 85 year old Englishman, born in Southward, London. He is a Film/TV/Book writer and a happy senior:

“I am really old, and I know death is imminent. I am the same age as Sean Connery and Clint Eastwood. I am shorter than either and heavier than both. I am not sure if that makes up for it.

Most of my friends have passed away, and of those remaining, they suffer from health problems in some way. I am myself totally deaf and partially blind. I live by myself.

I am writing this at 6am in the morning.

Today, if the weather is fine:

I will go for a walk

I will chat with friends

I will do my shopping

I will do my laundry

I will feed the cat

I will tidy up what needs to be done

I will put out the garbage

I will do what most people do who are not really old and know that death is imminent. Because there is no feeling of being old.

There is a feeling that you can't do what you used to do.

There is a feeling that you might lose your independence, or if you already have, a feeling that you should try and do as much as you can by yourself.

There is a feeling that you should spend as much time as possible with those you like to be with.

There is a feeling that time is precious. Of course it always was, but one becomes more aware of it.

There is a feeling that many things one does will be done for the last time.

There are passing thoughts about those who respect you because you are old and about those that dismiss you because you are old.

There is the aspect that life is changing fast with all the new advances that inundate us daily.

There is the aspect of life that nothing changes.

Mothers still smile at their babies.

Children are still enthralled with their first pet.

Learning to ride a bike is still as much fun as starting a company.

Blowing out your birthday candles is still as satisfying at eighty as it was at eight.

It is not that death is imminent that is important, but that when the curtain comes down, the audience leaves with a sense of satisfaction.

As someone once said:

The World is a stage

You played your part for what it was worth

You take your bow and leave”

Books to read about growing old:

  • ’Nothing to be Frightened About’ by Julian Barnes
  • ‘The Virginia Monologue: Twenty Reasons why Growing Old is Great’ by Virginia Ironside
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck’ and ‘I Remember Nothing’ by Nora Ephron.
  • ‘You’re Looking Very Well: The surprising nature of Getting Old’ by Professor Lewis Wolpert. (If you are against Euthanasia, skip this book)


Wandering and Dementia

September 5, 2020

People living with dementia can display many behavioral traits that are difficult to manage, one of the most common and challenging is wandering.

Dementia-related wandering can be described as aimless meandering, repetitive locomotion or purposeful locomotion that causes a social problem such as getting lost, leaving a safe environment or intruding in inappropriate places.

Why People Wander

Wandering is a common behavior in people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. As the illness progresses, clients feel a compulsion to move, walk, and wander. Most wandering seems confused and aimless but this is not always the case.

Purposeful wandering - People with dementia who wander are often trying to get somewhere for a specific purpose - it’s just that the reason doesn’t tie in with where they should be at that current time. They will often resent anyone trying to stop or interrupt them. Purposeful wandering may arise from things like:

  • Searching for someone
  • Curiosity
  • Anxiety to ‘go home’, or ‘go to work’
  • Believing there is a ‘bus to catch’
  • Concerns that ‘the children are alone at home’

Aimless wandering - This type of wandering is characterized by a lack of focus or no apparent direction. Reasons for aimless wandering may include:

  • Fear - looking for safety
  • Previous working role where walking was a feature
  • Memory loss affecting the ability to ‘map’ surroundings and thus getting lost
  • Disturbed circadian rhythm (temperature, light, noise)
  • Sundowning phenomenon
  • Having excess energy
  • Change of medication
  • Feelings of discomfort: hungry, bored, hot, cold, in pain
  • Physical environment - loud music, crowding

Is Intervention Necessary?

Safe wandering - Not all wandering is harmful and sometimes, intervention is not necessary. Staff monitoring is always required as a lack of sound judgment may lead the person to unsafe situations. For safe wandering, the following conditions must apply:

  • ability to walk easily
  • good walking shoes
  • safe environment in which to stroll
  • supervision by experienced staff

Risky wandering - On the other hand, risky wandering should be prevented with interventions tailored to each client. Clients who tend to wander with potentially dangerous consequences are those that:

  • are prone to falls
  • wander to the point of exhaustion
  • are able to access unsafe areas
  • intrude on their peers (potential for confrontation)
  • wander repetitively
Wandering Out of Safe Areas

Boundary transgression (BT) is when wandering leads the client to out-of-bounds or hazardous situations. Wandering is a serious behavior that may lead people to become lost, trapped or exposed to the elements. It can result in injury, violence and even death.

Most care facilities have an Identification Kit for residents prone to wander, to assist police if a resident goes missing. The kit should have the resident’s name, preferred name, photograph, and description of general appearance. There are also several styles of IDs available that can be worn by residents including bracelets, necklaces, and watches.

Fortunately, adverse outcomes are rare. Most care facilities have policies in place to manage wandering behavior and prevent dangerous situations from arising.

It is more common for a wanderer to walk into the space of another resident and upset them; a bedroom or toilet for example. Such cases are successfully resolved with caring staff and suitable distractions and activities.

Triggers - What Sparks Challenging Behaviors?

Channeling wandering into safe activities can start by recognizing triggers. It is useful to keep a record of patterns and cues to figure out ways to manage the situation.

Step 1 - Observe what is happening:
  1. Is the client following you or shadowing your movements?
  2. Does the client seem anxious while pacing?
  3. Is the client trying to abscond?
  4. What was the client doing prior to wandering?
  5. Does the client wake up disoriented during the night?
  6. Does the pacing seem aimless or purposeful?
  7. Is the client ‘looking’ for a perceived missing person?

Step 2 - Frequency and time of day:

  1. How often does it occur?
  2. How long does it last?
  3. Does the wandering always happen in a particular place?

Step 3 - Consider the background and other underlying causes:

  • Possible unmet needs (thirsty, upset, feverish, hungry)
  • Could the client be emulating past habits?
  • Was there a trigger? (provocation, visitors leaving, perceived threat)
  • Is the client on new medication?
How to Reduce Wandering
  • Offer a regular exercise program or movement activities to use up extra energy
  • Disguise doors to reduce visual cues for exiting
  • Provide distractions at dusk when restless behaviour peeks (drinks, photo albums, music, dancing)
  • Hide objects that remind people of going out (jackets, raincoats, umbrellas, letters to be mailed, handbags)
  • Provide a safe place for walking and accompany resident if necessary
  • Consider the environment (too noisy, too crowded, too much draft)
  • Labeling places may help: bedroom, dining room, garden
  • Offer household ‘helping’ chores: putting washing on the line, folding, separating cutlery, raking leaves, washing up, drying dishes etc


5 Myths and Misconceptions About Dementia

May 15, 2020

By Molly Wisniewski

Dementia is a complex term that is often given as a general diagnosis for any decline in a person's cognitive ability. Dementia is not a disease, but rather a group of symptoms that associate to memory loss and cognitive decline.

Because so many people in care homes have dementia, many will assume that all the residents in need of care have dementia. However, this is not always the case, and leads to several common myths and misconceptions about dementia.

1. Misconception: Dementia is the same thing as Alzheimer's disease

Many people think that there is no difference between dementia and Alzheimer's disease and will often reference the two interchangeably. Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia and is the most common form of dementia, which is why there is a misconception.

Dementia is not a disease but rather a group of symptoms and Alzheimer's is categorized as a disease. A good way to separate the two is to say, "Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia."

2. Myth: Everyone has the same type of dementia

Since Dementia is commonly the only diagnosis seen listed in a resident's chart, it is assumed that everyone with dementia has the same symptoms or the same type of dementia. This is far from the truth and in fact, symptoms of dementia are unique to each resident.

The most common types of dementia are:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
  • Mixed dementia
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Huntington's disease
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Each of these diagnosis's have their own distinct set of needs. Approaches to the way we deliver care will require adjustment based on individual assessment.

3. Myth: All older adults have dementia

Old age has several of its own set of myths and misconceptions, one of them being that everyone that grows old will lose their memory.

Popular phrases like, "I'm having a senior moment" or "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" promote offensive stereotypes of what it means to grow old and have left many people thinking that dementia symptoms are a normal part of aging.

They are not! While yes, dementia is common in older adults, it doesn't mean everyone will or should receive a diagnosis of dementia. This persistent stereotype runs the risk of giving an early diagnosis of dementia to a person merely by associating a person's symptoms to their age.

4. Myth: People with dementia are like children

Older adults who require assistance in their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are sometimes referenced as being a lot like children. Even if we can find similarities in the provision of care, it doesn't mean that residents should be treated like children.

One way to alter this perception is to change the words we use. For instance, at mealtimes, residents who need assistance in feeding are regularly told to put on their bibs. Instead of using the word bibs, closely associated with a feeding tool for babies, reference them as ‘clothing protectors'.

As Activity Professionals, it is important that no matter the functioning level of the resident, we provide them with activities that are respectful and that are dignified. Coloring is a popular activity for residents, which offers several benefits like reducing stress. Choosing age-appropriate images is important in this activity.

Related: Coloring Book for Seniors

5. Misconception: People with dementia can't speak for themselves

Have you ever noticed a family member or staff person talk about or answer for a resident while they are sitting right there?

Not every resident can answer for themselves, and those who can't will, of course, need assistance in communicating. However, what often ends up happening, particularly to residents who are further along in their dementia, is that people will begin to speak for them.

While this comes from a good place, it can quickly take the independence away from the resident. Even residents with advanced dementia can often make decisions if we change our approach to communication and give them more opportunities to understand what we are asking.

  • Speak slowly and in short sentences
  • Offer cues in speech
    • Are you asking what they want to eat for lunch? Start by exclaiming, "I'm Hungry!"
  • Limit choices and provide visual aids
    • Are you asking if they want pie or ice cream? Show them a plate of each so that they can point.
  • Give them time to answer

Making decisions or speaking for them might make everything easier, but it does take away from their autonomy, Where possible, all residents should be given the chance to speak for themselves.



The Power of Touch in Senior Care

January 23, 2020

Touch is important for everyone; it is an essential part of our well-being. From the moment we are born, a gentle touch calms us and lets us know that someone cares.

For the elderly, the healing power of human touch cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately, many seniors do not experience the simple act of touch on a daily basis. This can exacerbate feelings of social isolation and depression.

We all need to feel connected and cared for - residents living in long-term care settings are no exception. There are many ways we can harness the power of touch to improve the quality of life of the elderly.

The Elderly Need Regular Touch

A lack of human touch has psychological and emotional consequences. The elderly living in long-term care are among the most vulnerable, particularly those living with dementia. Most of the ‘touch' they receive is from caregivers carrying out personal care assistance. Even if done in a gentle and caring manner, it is still associated with procedures and tasks.

The touch elders seek is informal, emotional touch. Touch that conveys warmth, concern, security, encouragement, and comfort. The older they get, the greater their need for human touch. Regular, gentle touch given with warmth and attention can have a huge positive impact on the elderly.

10 Amazing Benefits of Human Touch

  • Regular, compassionate touch is said to:
  • Make people live longer and recover from illnesses faster
  • Help fight stress-induced illness
  • Satisfy the craving for human touch
  • Balance the nervous system
  • Provide positive non-verbal communication
  • Relieve pain
  • Increase empathy and understanding
  • Boost the immune system
  • Reduce the worry of mortality
  • Provide a strong display of love and support

How to Harness the Power of Touch

Hugs, embraces and holding hands are essential to the well-being and overall health of residents. One way to incorporate five minutes of caring touch is to offer to rub some lotion into dry hands and arms. Another is to take the opportunity while escorting them somewhere to gently stroke their hands.

A simple and genuine smile, eye contact and a gentle touch of the hand can turn someone's day around, imparting acceptance, hope and positive feelings. Even a ‘high-five' can leave baby-boomers feeling better. Opportunities to gently touch someone could also include:

  • Showing appreciation for something
  • Sharing good news
  • Greeting kisses
  • Prolonged handshakes
  • Placing your arms around a client to show empathy
  • Gently rubbing a sore back
  • Nodding and smiling at a new client for encouragement
  • Pampering: makeup and hair brushing
  • Sitting next to a client while reading something of interest (instead of across the table)

Things to Remember When Hugging Someone

A hug is a nice way to show affection and support. Physical contact is not only pleasant, but necessary to the emotional wellbeing of residents. There are a couple of unwritten rules accompanying hugs that most people know intuitively:

  • Always respect for the other person's space
  • Ask for permission
  • Hug sincerely and mindfully
  • Never assume it is alright to hug a client, even you you've done it before. Ask for permission each time.

Massage and the Elderly

Massages can reduce a range of conditions such as anxiety, depression and agitated behaviour. Massage should be gentle, non-invasive, an unhurried; it should be a pleasure to both parties. Remember the aim of massage is not affection, rather to touch and gently knead muscles to relieve tension, and improve blood flow and circulation.

Training by a skilled therapeutic massage therapist is ideal, but in the absence of one, explore other ways to get acquainted with the basics of massage. There are many youtube videos and online resources that can help you with the basics.

Assess your client's mood before attempting to engage physically with them. Try engaging in some conversation before looking in their eyes and asking: Would you like a hand massage? How about a shoulder/head massage?

Don't feel bad about refusals, some clients are more receptive than others.


15 Ways to Practice Self Care and Avoid Burnout


September 15, 2019

By Haley Burress

You spend your workday caring for others. You carefully plan activities that will suit your residents and lead those groups with energy and smiles. You encourage your staff members and educate other departments on how to get more involved with the residents you serve. You rally volunteers and keep family members happy.

In between all that, you complete paperwork, make staff schedules and decorate the community room for the next party. Then, you head home to care for your family. One important question - who takes care of you?

What is Caregiver Burnout?

When you spend most of your time pouring energy and care into others, you are at high risk for experiencing caregiver burnout. Caregiver burnout can cause serious emotional and physical negative side effects like:

Weakened immune system

Increased feelings of depression and/or anxiety

Anger or mood swings

Feelings of isolation or resentment

Increased blood pressure

Beyond those serious side effects, caregiver burnout can cause additional complications for people who work in the activity profession. For example, you could experience:

Decreased creativity (not good for planning meaningful activity calendars)

Increased fatigue or exhaustion (not good for leading groups that people love)

Decreased patience (not good for stressful trips or events)

Disorganization (not good for documentation compliance or advanced planning)

The Self-Care Solution

You can avoid caregiver burnout by practicing self-care. What is self-care? It’s anything you do that makes you feel cared for. When you make time for self-care, you give yourself the rest, love, and attention that you need in order to be the best caregiver possible.

Some people use the phrase “love in before love out” when talking about self-care in respect to people who are caregivers. You may have also heard the analogy of filling your own bucket before filling others or putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others. In any case, you need to keep yourself healthy and ready to take on the challenges of your workday.

If you make your own self-care a priority, scheduling in time each day or week, you can:

Lower your perceived stress levels

Feel emotionally equipped to handle bad days

Be more creative and ready to try new things

Avoid the flu bug going around (or feel better sooner)

Have the energy to smile through that next meeting with the difficult family

Provide encouragement to your staff when they feel overwhelmed

Come up with solutions to problems that pop up throughout the day

Hug an upset resident instead of feeling angry at them for interrupting your activity

Represent your senior community well when out on a trip to the farmer’s market with 12 residents with dementia

Give better advice to family members on how to care for themselves during times of crisis

15 Self-Care Activities

Self-care can look different for everyone. You have to try new things until you find some practices that work best for you. Make sure you have plenty of self-care activities that work for you, and not just one.

Self-care activities could include:

  • Walking around the neighborhood
  • Praying or meditating
  • Taking a yoga class, zumba class, or other exercise class
  • Taking a bath
  • Curling up with a good book
  • Trying a new recipe in the kitchen
  • Going to your medical and dental check-ups
  • Talking to a therapist
  • Journaling three things you are thankful for before bedtime
  • Repeating a favorite mantra or phrase
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Eating lunch (sitting down and not on the run)
  • Drinking enough water
  • Flipping through a favorite magazine
  • Putting a mask on your face or a treatment in you hair

Your self-care can include other people, like spending time with friends at your monthly Book Club meeting. However, you should not consider chores as self-care. For example, grocery shopping alone on a Monday evening is a chore, not self-care. Your self-care activities should also not include alcohol, as that can be an unhealthy coping mechanism.

You work hard for your seniors, your community, and your co-workers. Make sure you are working hard for yourself too by committing to practicing self-care on a regular basis. You will find that you can feel the benefits after just a few months, and people around you will notice too.

How do you take care of yourself outside of work and home obligations? I’d love to hear from you in the comments so that we can learn from and encourage one another. Cheers to taking care of ourselves too!



The Magic of Being Silly

April 30, 2019

~ Haley Burress

Benefits of Laughter

When you laugh, you are doing more good for your body and brain than you may realize. Research has demonstrated laughter results in multiple physical and emotional benefits, available to anyone who makes time to laugh. A few of these benefits, as per The Mayo Clinic’s reporting, include:

  • Decreased stress
  • Increased immune system response
  • Increase endorphin release (your “feel good” hormone)
  • Pain relief
  • Decreased tension
  • Stimulated heart, liver, and other organs

Who knew a good laugh could make you feel great - emotionally and physically? The good news is that you can spread these benefits to your residents every time you make them chuckle.

How to be Playful and Professional

Residents who live in senior living communities are under a lot of stress and are living with complex medical conditions that can be challenging or even scary. They live with loss and face multiple transitions on a monthly basis. Laughing can often feel pushed to the bottom of the priority list.

12 Ways to Get Silly

  • Start morning exercise with a joke (make it an appropriate one!)
  • Develop “secret handshakes” with residents; see how many you can remember and do them in the halls when you see them
  • Host a Laughter Yoga class with a local instructor
  • Have a bin of silly hats or props in your office; pop one on randomly before you head down the hall to say your good morning greetings
  • Gain attention by blowing into a kazoo or honking a bicycle horn before an activity
  • Wear a t-shirt or sweater with a witty expression on it
  • Listen to comedy radio shows with residents
  • Have a Comedy Movie Night monthly to watch a funny movie together
  • Host a joke contest between staff members - call it “Open Mic Night” and have the residents vote on the winning joke
  • Learn a silly dance with your activity staff and perform it as a surprise during your next big event
  • Speaking of dancing, drop everything and have an impromptu dance party at the nursing station when everyone is feeling cranky; one upbeat song will take everyone by surprise and invigorate the staff while making residents giggle
  • Tell residents about the funny thing that happened on your way to work; personal stories build relationships and cultivate laughter

10 Spiritual Activities for people with Alzheimer's Disease

January 21, 2019

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common cause of dementia.

Dementia afflicts one in ten people over 65 years of age and sadly can occur in younger people as well. Related: What is Dementia? Alzheimer's vs Dementia

Religious & Spiritual Needs

Spiritual support for people living with Alzheimer's Disease in nursing homes and other long term care facilities is vital to their well-being and a requisite for the holistic care we strive to achieve.

Leisure & Lifestyle staff can play an important role in assisting residents to maintain their religion or spirituality. Religion and spirituality are closed related but they are not the same.

Spirituality goes beyond what we can see and perceive. It is not an easy term to define as every individual thinks of it in a different way.

Religion on the other hand is an established set of beliefs and traditions that includes ritual, prayers and the worship of a God or deity.

Facilitating the Spiritual and Religious wishes of individuals

Spiritual and religious activities for people with Alzheimer's Disease can profoundly influence their sense of well-being. Activities may include attending Mass, praying or singing together, creating a shrine, or receiving faith counsel from a Minister of religion.

Remember, your role is merely to facilitate the religious or spiritual wishes of residents in consultation with the individual and their relatives. At all times staff should remain mindful of preserving the professional nature of the relationship.

10 Spiritual Activities for People living with Alzheimer's

1. Sacred Music

Music touches us all. Many people with dementia will have memories of hymns they sang as children or at a younger age. Play religious songs and hymns from their era for comfort and spiritual well being. Encourage residents to sing or hum familiar songs.

2. Create an alter or shrine

Buddhists and Hindus need a personal space to pray and make offerings. Talk to the person and make a list of what they would like to create or add to their shrine. Sometimes your required assistance may be bringing fresh flowers from the garden or changing the water on a daily basis.

3. Story-telling

Story-telling encourages positive rapport between staff and residents/families. Show a nice picture (or pictures) to the client and encourage them to make up a story about it. You may use pictures from calendars or coffee-table books. Ask questions to help them along. One of the many advantages of this activity is it that it does not require the person to remember anything.

4. Radio broadcasts or TV Devotions/Mass

Some people are accustomed to hearing religious services on the radio or seeing them on TV. Facilitate access to these services by reminding them of services and assisting with radio tuning or escorting them to the TV set.

5. Nature related Spiritual Care

Nourish the spirit with nature. Take client to:

Listen & watch birds outdoors

Visit farm animals

Pet baby animals

Sit under a majestic tree

Visit the shore to watch and listen to the waves

Watch the stars under the night sky

Related: Outdoor Activities for the Elderly

6. Rest related Spiritual Care

Slow walk or wheelchair stroll around the garden

Sitting in silence

Holding hands

7. Reading poems or passages from the Bible or other books of faith

Rhyming poems may bring happy memories and assist with the recall of important life events. Poetry reading is said to improve mood and concentration in people with Alzheimer’s Disease. Print some poems in large fonts and encourage residents to read to others.

Related: Poetry & Reminiscing for the Elderly

8. Massaging hands/feet/shoulders

The therapeutic benefits of massage for the elderly are well documented. Massage for the elderly involves gentle strokes and kneading. Place a few drops of essential oils such as lavender or geranium in an ounce or 30 mls of carrier oil such as almond or jojoba. Mix and gently apply. It brings pleasure and relieves tension.

Related: Aromatherapy & Massage for the Elderly

9. Retrieval of positive memories

Reminiscing about happy memories encourages the client to resort to long-term memory which may still be remembered with clarity. Use props like: music, photos, gifts, and other keepsakes.

10. Listening to music

The Mayo Clinic suggests that music can have many beneficial effects ranging from reducing feelings of physical pain to enhancing memory. Music genre depends on the individual, as taste varies widely. You may try introducing residents to some classical music that may bring comfort and calm such as Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ or Mozart’s ‘Clarinet Concerto in A’.



10 Easy-to-Grow Indoor Plants for the Elderly

October 28, 2018

Most people enjoy growing indoor plants. Besides being a beautiful way to decorate a room, indoor plants are beneficial to your health.

A 1989 NASA study revealed that indoor plants reduce pollutants. and more recent research indicates that indoor plants boost creativity!

Seniors in long term care facilities should be encouraged to immerse themselves in this wonderful hobby. Dozens of inexpensive plant species can blossom inside small rooms and apartments, so long as they are well cared for.

Benefits of Indoor Plants

Various studies have revealed some amazing benefits in having house plants, including:

Plants purify the air

Some plants can improve sleep by drawing in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen

Indoor plants increase focus and being present in the moment

Some plants reduce unwanted noise

Plants look beautiful and improve your mood

Plants are therapeutic and stress relieving

There are Plants to Suit Any Position

You can find plants for any position - direct sunlight, indirect sunlight and even low light. Indoor plants are easy to grow and make unforgettable gifts.

House plants are low maintenance and you don’t need a ‘green thumb’ to be successful. All you need is regular watering, a little fertilizer twice a year and leaf dusting from time to time. Of course you may also like to talk to your plants - serious studies indicate they do respond to kindness!

10 Easy Plants to Grow Indoors

Here are ten easy plants to grow indoors. They are mostly safe to grow around people living with dementia, children and pets. Having said this, decorative plants should not be put in the mouth so adequate positioning and supervision is always important.

1.Christmas Cactus - (Schlumbergera) Can be propagated from a stem cutting. Produces lovely flowers for a couple of months every year. Enjoys bright indirect sunlight.

2. African Violet - (Saintpaulia) Has a reputation of being temperamental - not so easy to get to bloom but has lush foliage all year around.

3. Wandering Jew - (Tradescantia) Requires little care, grows profusely and uncontrollably if left untrimmed. It is an invasive plant so discard trimmings accordingly. A good plant for hanging pots.

4. Begonia - (Rhizomatous Begonia) Enjoys morning sun and afternoon shade. Water only when the soil feels dry. Use potting mixture and peat moss.

5. Spider Plant - (Chlorophytum Comosum) One of the most popular house plants for easy care. Can be used as a hanging plant as well. It works as an air purifier.

6. Rosemary - (Salvia Rosmarinus ) Thrives on a sunny window sill or similar. Use sandy, well drained soil and provide at least four hours of sunlight daily. Place the pot in a drainage pan with gravel in it.

7. Snake Plant or Mother-in-law’s Tongue - (Sansevieria Trifasciata) A natural and elegant air purifier excellent for bedrooms.

8. Aloe Vera - Improves air quality. Needs little watering. The gel can treat minor cuts and is good for facial masks.

9. Lady Palm (Rhapsis Excelsa) The easiest palm to grow, enjoys bright indirect sunlight, and little water.

10. Jade Plant (Crassula Ovata) Also known as Lucky Plant or Money Tree. Easy to care for. They get heavy as they grow so choose a sturdy pot with moderate depth. Use potting mixture and volcanic gravel (perlite).

Popular Plants Not Suitable for Dementia Care

Some innocent looking houseplants can be toxic for humans and pets. Be careful when purchasing or receiving cuttings from well-intentioned people; make sure you research each plant’s toxicity and suitability.

Plants that are popular but toxic were not added here for safety reasons. Residents in the later stages of dementia tend to put things in their mouths and the following popular indoor plants are not suitable for this reason: Zanzibar Gem, English Ivy, Firestick plant, Chinese Green, Dragon plant, Anthurium, and many others.



20 Creative Ways to Hydrate the Elderly in Senior Care

June 20, 2018

By. Haley Burress

Dehydration can cause serious complications for the eldery in senior care. Fortunately, the Activities department can play an important role in your community’s overall hydration plan. Here’s how to get it done.

Dangers of Dehydration

Seniors are already vulnerable to dehydration due to a decreased sense of thirst, medication side effects, and incontinence worries. Unfortunately, dehydrated older adults can also experience some very serious complications such as:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Increased risk of falling
  • Acute confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hospitalization

6 Ways to Improve Hydration during Activities

  • Encourage hydration at your community by offering fluids:
  • At the beginning and end of your exercise groups
  • During socials, concerts, and other large gatherings
  • At the beginning or end of all small groups; just be careful your drink cups do not look like your craft cups during your painting or art class.
  • During outings
  • During walking club
  • During any event held outdoors

You can make hydration a part of all group activities by keeping a pitcher and small, disposable cups in your office. Educate your activity staff members about the importance of hydration and teach them to grab the pitcher and cups on their way to every activity they host.

7 Ways to Hydrate Outside of Group Activities

Beyond group activities, you can use hydration throughout the rest of your resident interactions as well:

  • Encourage fluids while assessing new or returning residents
  • Encourage fluids during all 1:1 interactions
  • Encourage fluids throughout the day for residents who are wanderers; a drink gives them a good reason to sit down and rest
  • Incorporate healthy hydration options on your portable carts that you push to each resident daily.
  • Create a hydration station stocked with spa water and cups in your activity room
  • Swap out the afternoon coffee cart or coffee station with options more suited to healthy hydration
  • Educate family visitors and volunteers about the importance of hydration and encourage them to encourage fluids during their interactions as well

7 More Creative Hydration Ideas

  • Pass out foods that have high water content, such as grapes, cucumber or watermelon
  • Host a morning smoothie station before or after breakfast to encourage more non-coffee fluid intake
  • Host a Happy Hour before dinner throughout the week that features fun mocktails that are low in sugar and encourage hydration
  • For more independent residents, host a hydration weekly challenge throughout the summer months that encourages them to track their water intake. You can even pass out branded water bottles to all participants.
  • Host a hydration challenge for your staff members as well; it’s a fun team-building activity that is healthy too!
  • Host educational lectures about hydration, hosted by a favorite local physician Pass out water bottles to every participant during outings so that they can sip throughout your time away from the community

Your team must also be safe while pushing fluids during activities and interactions. Ensure your team knows how to check the most updated swallowing precautions and how to find thickened liquids when needed.

Update Care Plans With Hydration Interventions

Finally, don’t forget to add your interventions to increase hydration to the appropriate care plans throughout your community. If your community has a special Hydration Committee or Hydration Task Force, make sure you have a representative from the Activities department in attendance for every meeting.

Most other departments will not know how much you contribute to the healthy hydration goals of residents throughout your community, so be sure you let them know! The more interdisciplinary teamwork goes toward the hydration program, the better.



The Clinical Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

March 23, 2018

By Lynne Grip

The number of stages assigned to Alzheimer’s disease varies depending on the source. The Alzheimer’s Association designates three broad categories that include early-stage, middle-stage, and late-stage. Other resources such as the Mayo Clinic include a pre-clinical category, which develops long before any symptoms are apparent. This stage can be identified only in research settings and can last for years and possibly even decades.

The early or mild stage of Alzheimer’s is one where people still live normally and independently but may experience memory lapses beyond what is considered “normal aging.” We’ve all blanked on someone’s name, misplaced our keys or phone, or walked into a room and forgotten why we went there. Usually we laugh it off as having a “senior moment,” and that is essentially what it is. As we grow older, most of us notice we’re just not as quick as we used to be and that it may take longer to learn and recall information, which is why it’s important to keep our brains active and maintain good health.

With early-stage Alzheimer’s, memory deficits are more noticeable and include forgetting the right name or word for something familiar, having difficulty preforming usual tasks, forgetting what was just read, and having trouble with planning and organizing. People may also experience mood changes and become more easily upset or frustrated. During this time, it’s important to seek medical advice and continue to live well by taking control of overall health and wellness. It’s time to focus on what’s important and make plans for the future to address legal, financial, and social needs. Though the rate of progression varies, it is estimated this stage can last anywhere from two to four years.

With middle-stage or moderate Alzheimer’s, the symptoms of dementia are more pronounced. Words may be confused, and thoughts expressed with increased difficulty. The performance of usual tasks and routines may require some level of assistance. There may be confusion about time and place and increased difficulty controlling bowel or bladder functions. This stage is estimated to last anywhere from two to 10 years.

In late-stage Alzheimer’s, symptoms are severe. The ability to engage and respond to the environment is essentially lost. Loved ones may not be recognized, and communication becomes much more difficult. At this point, around-the-clock personal care is generally required. It’s important to maintain interaction through such things as family visits, gentle touch, and the playing of relaxing music. It is estimated this stage can last from one to three years.

It is important to remember that people may not fit neatly into specific stages and that stages can overlap. People need to be assessed individually, and their care should be tailored to who they are and what they need at any given point in time.



Holiday Tips for Dementia Caregivers

December 11, 2021

By Ava M. Stinnett 

Holidays are festive occasions that celebrate being with the people we love, honoring family traditions, recalling old memories, and creating new ones. For caregivers and people living with dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s, however, there will come a time when it’s just not feasible or practical to do everything you once did. How do we celebrate special occasions when one of the people involved doesn’t remember or even understand what the celebration is about? How do caregivers on the dementia journey with a loved one—not just on the holidays, but all day every day—manage to keep it together?

The holiday season can be stressful, so it’s critical to adjust expectations. Caregiver expert Amy Goyer describes caregiver burnout, saying, “The prolonged stress builds up, we are robbed of energy, and sometimes we reach a point of total emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. We may lose motivation completely or feel we just don’t care about our loved ones, our other relationships, or our work. We may feel that we’ve lost ourselves in the vastness of caregiving and that nothing we can do will make a difference. If you feel like this most of the time, you may have reached burnout” (Goyer, 2015). The following tips may help caregivers weather the holiday season.

As much as possible, maintain a similar routine for your loved one and yourself so that holiday preparations don’t become stressful or disruptive. Changes to the daily schedule can increase disorientation and anxiety for those with cognitive impairment.

Trust your instincts. Keeping past traditions alive, such as eating favorite holiday foods, visiting with family and good friends, or looking at family photo albums and heirlooms—activities that take advantage of long-term memory—can help a person with dementia connect to holiday celebrations. Determine how much you and your loved one can handle without feeling overwhelmed. Feel free to reschedule or decline invitations when needed.

Music, whether seasonal or not, can cause a positive shift in mood. Try engaging the individual in singing along to familiar songs. It’s important to remember that a particular melody that evokes a soothing memory for one person might be upsetting for another. Depending on the setting, it may be more practical to have ambient music playing in the background.

Caregivers need to take time for themselves whether it’s having a break to go to a movie, taking a walk, meeting a friend for lunch, or having someone cook a meal or help clean the house. Paying attention to your own needs and getting support from others is of utmost importance.

Be aware that the holidays may evoke memories of better times—not just for your loved one but for you as a caregiver. Talking with a close friend or a counselor often helps one manage the emotions that come with holidays and other special days. You can also find help for caregivers from the Family Caregiver Alliance, AARP, your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter, or support groups through hospitals, mental health programs, and community support organizations.


The Alzheimer's Association. (n.d.). Holidays and Alzheimer’s families. Retrieved from

Family Caregiver Alliance. (2014, December 31). Caregiving and the holidays: From stress to success! Retrieved from    

Goyer, A. (2015). Juggling life, work, and caregiving. Chicago: American Bar Association.



Our Sixteenth Blog Entry

August 31, 2017

A new campaign is sparking conversations about aging and senior living in airport security lines and other unlikely spots across the country.

Called “Old People Are Cool,” the initiative is meant to combat ageism and raise the profile of the senior care industry, says Charles de Vilmorin, who started the project. He is CEO and co-founder of Linked Senior, which he describes as a “therapeutic engagement platform” that delivers programs such as cognitive games and music therapy for senior living residents.

For years, he has been saying, “One day, it’s going to be cool to be old,” de Vilmorin tells Senior Housing News. In the fall of 2016, he saw a similar message posted in a public space at the University of New Hampshire. This inspired him to create stickers with the words “Old People Are Cool.”

(continue reading on link below)



Our Fourteenth Blog Entry

June 15, 2017

We need to show our value and educate the  caregivers and medical practitioners writing scripts. This is where recreational therapist can bring in non-pharmacological approaches to help decrease inappropriate medications on older adults:

Medication Monitor: Deprescribing Improves Quality of Life

By Mark D. Coggins, PharmD, CGP, FASCP

Today's Geriatric Medicine

Vol. 10 No. 4 P. 8

Deprescribing involves reducing or stopping potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs) that may no longer be of benefit or may be causing harm. The goal is to reduce medication burden or harm while improving a patient's quality of life (QoL). Deprescribing can improve medication appropriateness by reducing polypharmacy, adverse drug events (ADEs), and other medication-related problems (MRPs).1

Evidence-based guidelines improve the treatment for a number of diseases; however, strict adherence to guidelines in frail older adults contributes to medication burden and increased MRPs.2 And while numerous guidelines exist to support prescribers in managing diseases, few guidelines provide deprescribing strategies.

Prescribing requires special knowledge and close monitoring. This includes having the courage to deprescribe and the necessity of avoiding a prescribing cascade where a new medication is prescribed to "treat" side effects of another medication, while believing a new medical condition has developed. Further compounding the danger is "prescribing inertia" or the tendency to automatically renew a medication even if the original indication is no longer present. Individuals with multiple medical problems are at even greater risk for MRPs due to multiple prescribers with different specializations who focus on their own areas of expertise while no one takes an overall responsibility regarding the patient.3




Our Thirteenth Blog Entry

May 12, 2017

Rocking Chair Therapy and Dementia:

Promoting Emotional and Physical Balance

By Ava M. Stinnett

What draws us to a rocking chair? Whether it’s seeing an empty glider on a comfy front porch or a rocker in a child’s nursery, there’s an almost audible calling to sit and enjoy the comforting back-and-forth motion. Perhaps it hails from our original development in the womb where the rhythm of our mother’s movements stimulated blood flow and a sense of calm, much like the sensory stimuli attached to gentle waves against a boat.

We know that a rocking chair can soothe a fussy baby, but how might using a rocking chair benefit those who have dementia? Two studies from the University of Rochester School of Nursing found that the repetitive action of using a rocking chair helped ease tension and behavioral disorders, improve balance and muscle tone, and reduce the need for pain medication. In the studies, nursing home residents diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer’s or other causes rocked for half an hour to two and a half hours each day for five days a week. Although not all residents showed improvement in psychological and emotional well-being, those who rocked the most improved the most through the manageable, non-weight-bearing exercise of mild rocking. Nancy M. Watson, PhD, RN, who conducted the studies, said that “a gentle repetitive motion has a soothing effect… and seniors could literally rock away their anxiety and depression. The patients required less medication and their balance improved as well. Further benefits included a happier nursing home staff. And families of rocking seniors were happier because their loved ones were happier.”

One of the reasons for a reduction in pain could be that the gentle exercise of rocking may release endorphins and improve mood. Further, it is believed that the spinal cord can work only in one direction at a time, so when the brain is sending motor impulses down the spinal cord to make the legs rock the chair, pain impulses from the back are blocked and prevented from reaching the brain. Then, muscles in the lower back relax. Orthopedic surgeons often recommend rocking to improve strength and flexibility in the knees and hips.

Whether it’s a traditional rocker or a glider, you’ll want to use a chair that has a solid foundation and a comfortable seat. To maintain or improve physiological relaxation, use a chair that allows the senior’s feet to comfortably reach the floor. Watch carefully to see whether they can easily sit down in and rise up from the chair—with or without help. You may want to gauge the amount of time spent in the chair, slowly increasing the time spent rocking based on beneficial secondary results such as reduced agitation, better sleep, and better pain management.


Rocking Chair Therapy Research. Retrieved from

Houston, K. (1993). An investigation of rocking as relaxation for the elderly. Geriatric Nursing, 14, 186–189.

Watson, N. M., Wells, T. J., and Cox, C. (1998). Rocking chair therapy for dementia patients: Its effect on psychosocial well-being and balance. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias, 13(6), 293–308.



Our Twelfth Blog Entry

April 21, 2017

Mental Notes

  • Scientists have discovered that mental puzzles and exercises can stimulate the dendrites (memory storage compartments) of your brain cells.
  • Severe mental decline is usually caused by disease, whereas most age-related losses in memory simply result from inactivity and a lack of mental exercise and stimulation. Just like physical exercise, when it comes to your brain, "use it or lose it."
  • Put away your calculator and balance your checkbook the old-fashioned way—with pencil and paper. It's mind healthy!
  • Research shows that being around other people is good for your memory. Close ties with others seem to improve mental performance. Maintain social connections for your mind's sake.
  • Make music for your mind's sake! Researchers who study aging and the brain say that playing a musical instrument or learning how to play a new instrument keeps dendrites growing.


Our Eleventh Blog Entry

March 10,  2017

What do you think?

SAIDO learning as a cognitive intervention for dementia care: a preliminary study.

Kawashima R, et al. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2015.

Show full citation


OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to examine the beneficial effects on cognitive function by a cognitive intervention program designed for dementia care called Learning Therapy in Japan and SAIDO Learning in the United States (hereinafter "SAIDO Learning," as appropriate). SAIDO Learning is a working memory training program that uses systematized basic problems in arithmetic and language, including reading aloud, as well as writing.

DESIGN, SETTING, PARTICIPANTS, AND INTERVENTION: Twenty-three nursing home residents with dementia were assigned as an intervention group, and another 24 people with dementia at another nursing home were assigned as a control group. Both nursing homes were operated by the same organization, and residents of both nursing homes received essentially the same nursing care. Thirteen and 6 subjects of the intervention and control groups, respectively, were clinically diagnosed as Alzheimer disease (AD).

RESULTS: After the 6-month intervention, the participants with AD of the intervention group showed statistically significant improvement in cognitive function, as measured by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) compared with the control participants. In addition, post hoc analysis revealed that the Frontal Assessment Battery at Bedside (FAB) scores of the intervention group tended to improve after 6-month intervention. Based on MDS scores, improvements in total mood severity scores also were observed, but only in the intervention group of the participants with AD.

CONCLUSION: These results suggest that SAIDO Learning is an effective cognitive intervention and is useful for dementia care. An additional outcome of this intervention, which has not yet been evaluated in detail, appears to be that it promotes greater positive engagement of a diversity of nursing home staff in the residents' individual progress and care needs.

Copyright © 2015 AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



Our Tenth Blog Entry

February 18,  2017

Pointing Fingers: Dementia-Related Suspicion and Paranoia

By Ava M. Stinnett

As busy adults, we sometimes forget things. Perhaps it’s an appointment, the location of our keys, or why we just walked from the living room into the kitchen. Although this might be annoying, we’re usually able to laugh at ourselves, retrace our steps, and get back on track. The same can’t be said for a person with dementia; the memory loss in dementia is caused by physical changes. The parts of the brain that record and store new information become damaged, so the person is unable to hold the memory of what they’ve said, asked, or done and any response they’ve received.

As the disease progresses, memory loss and changes in personality can sometimes lead the individual to become suspicious and to misperceive certain events or situations. It’s not unusual for a family member, friend, or caregiver to be accused of theft (when your loved one can’t locate possessions), withholding information (because they have forgotten a planned activity or a daily routine), or other offenses. Such circumstances can cause caregivers to feel hurt or guilty and lead to difficulty maintaining an even temper. How can you cope?

First, try not to take it personally. It’s important to be aware that the individual’s poor memory is something they can’t help. If there’s a glitch in their memory, they may try to fill in that faulty memory with a delusion that makes sense to them. It’s perfectly normal for a caregiver to become distressed when you see a loved one experiencing suspicion, paranoia, or feelings of betrayal when you know that you’re doing your best.

Second, don’t argue or try to convince. When a loved one affected by dementia continuously complains that you’re not telling them anything, that they never know what’s going on, or that they feel tricked or betrayed, it’s more than just frustrating. Sometimes the best response is to say, “Oh, I’m sorry; I must’ve forgotten to mention (a particular activity or event).” Or, if an item goes missing, offer to help locate it.

Finally, when you’re at your wit’s end, it might help to take a deep breath and read the first two stanzas from “Do Not Ask Me to Remember – An Alzheimer’s Poem,” by Owen Darnel.

Do not ask me to remember,

Don’t try to make me understand,

Let me rest and know you’re with me,

Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.

I’m confused beyond your concept,

I am sad and sick and lost.

All I know is that I need you

To be with me at all cost.


Heerema, Esther, MSW. (2016, August). “Coping with Paranoia and Delusions in Alzheimer’s Disease.” Retrieved from

The Senior List. (2015, December 4). “Do Not Ask Me To Remember – An Alzheimer’s Poem.” Retrieved from

“Suspicion, Delusions and Alzheimer’s.” Retrieved from



Our Ninth Blog Entry

January 30, 2017

PFNCA Community Lecture Series: Virginia

The PFNCA Community Lecture Series is held the second Wednesday of most months in Virginia at “the Virginian.” Doors open at 6:30 pm and the program begins at 7 pm.

9229 Arlington Boulevard, Fairfax VA 22031

For specific dates, speakers and their topics, please see below:.

February 8, 2017

Speaker: Melissa J. Long, CTRS, DPG

Topic: Disaster Preparedness and Parkinson’s Disease

Community Lecture Series

PFNCA Community Lecture Series: Maryland

The PFNCA Community Lecture Series is held the third Tuesday of most months in Maryland at St. Mark Presbyterian Church. Doors open at 7 pm and the program begins at 7:30 pm.

10701 Old Georgetown Road North Bethesda MD 20852

For specific dates, speakers and their topics, please see below:

February 21, 2017

Speaker: Melissa J. Long, CTRS, DPG

Topic: Disaster Preparedness and Parkinson’s Disease



Our Eighth Blog Entry

December 14, 2016

Dementia and Nighttime Dreaming

By Ava M. Stinnett

Recently, a family member with early stage Alzheimer’s was injured when he slipped as he got out of bed. What we found puzzling isn’t that he had no memory of the actual accident, but that he described seeing himself standing to the side and watching it occur. Was he dreaming, hallucinating, or sleepwalking?

Numerous studies have shown that sleep is just as important as diet and exercise when it comes to leading a healthy life. One study showed that when a person is asleep, their body filters out Alzheimer’s-causing beta-amyloid proteins, and that lack of sleep could possibly lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Much more research is needed, however, to determine a distinct connection between sleep habits and various types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

For people with Alzheimer’s, changes in sleep habits are common. This may include developing a habit of daytime napping, difficulty falling and staying asleep, an increase in dreaming (both vivid and recurrent dreams), calling out or yelling, or acting out dreams in their sleep.

Researchers do not completely understand why sleep changes occur. Depression, restless leg syndrome, and chronic pain can affect the quality of sleep. The impact of Alzheimer’s on the brain could certainly be at play. In addition, recent studies have shown that specific medications used to treat Alzheimer’s influence the quality of sleep, and particularly the quality and amount of dreams. The acting out of dreams, especially if it leads to injury or begins to intrude into waking life, can be a serious health risk that demands medical attention. Here are some tips for ensuring that your loved one stays safe.

•Arrange for a thorough medical exam to rule out any potential illnesses that may be contributing to the problem.

•Seek morning sunlight exposure.

•Encourage regular daily exercise, but no later than four hours before bedtime.

•Maintain regular times for meals and for going to bed and getting up.

•Treat any pain with physician-recommended medications or physical therapy routines.

•Create a peaceful environment that promotes restful sleep, such as setting a comfortable room temperature and providing adequate bedding and pillows.

•Provide nightlights and, if necessary, security devices that alert the caregiver when a person gets out of bed.

•If your loved one has been prescribed a cholinesterase inhibitor (tacrine, donepezil, rivastigmine, or galantamine), talk with a doctor about taking the medicine early in the day instead of at bedtime.

Although there are medications available to treat sleep disorders for people with dementia, most experts and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) strongly discourage their use due to the increased risk for falls, confusion, and risk of stroke.

Determining the best course of action can be tough when a family member or loved one is displaying alarming symptoms. You’ll want to try your best to understand all of the available options and to talk with others about the benefits and risks of each choice during your journey with Alzheimer's disease.



Our Seventh Blog Entry

November 30, 2016

Alzheimer’s and Falling: Tips to Reduce Risks

By Ava M. Stinnett

As our loved ones age, the risk of falling increases. This may be due to changes in vision or perception, difficulty with balance, or cognitive impairment. Side effects from certain medications and medical conditions can cause dizziness or lightheadedness when standing. People with Alzheimer’s are generally at greater risk of falling. In fact, some studies show that problems with balance, walking, and falling may be an early sign of dementia. Falls are dangerous in that there is not only the risk of serious injury but there can also be the fear of falling again and a loss of confidence, leading to decreased activity.

A study from the medical journal Age and Ageing found that people with Alzheimer’s are three times more likely to suffer from hip fractures than those without the disease. If surgery and hospitalization are required, the resulting depression, disorientation, and disability may increase the chances that the person with Alzheimer’s can no longer be cared for at home.

Here are some suggestions to help prevent falls and allow your loved one to remain mobile and independent for as long as possible.

•Daily exercise, such as walking in the neighborhood, at a local store, or on a treadmill to improve strength and balance

•Regular eye exams to determine if cataracts, double vision, poorly fitting eyeglasses (or an old prescription), or changes to the visual field have occurred

•Increasing light to achieve uniformity across spaces to minimize sudden changes in light levels, shadows or dark areas, and glare; using daylight where possible to help with depression or sleep disorders and improve general health