When Saying Goodbye To Your Loved One In Assisted Living Is Too Hard

For some seniors, transitioning into assisted living or a memory care center is relatively smooth and even a welcome one as they enjoy the renewed ability to engage with the world around them.

Other times, the transition is very painful and much more challenging. As a family member – particularly a primary caregiver – watching a loved one struggle emotionally as they resist their new change, beg to be taken home, or react dramatically when you leave is absolutely devastating.

Often this can mean going through the emotional trauma of a crying or wailing loved one as you pry yourself away to return home after a visit, or perhaps you are the one crying and feeling guilty about leaving. In worst case scenarios, this can result in family members avoiding visits altogether as they struggle to say goodbye is simply too hard.

Easing The Transition Of Saying Goodbye When It’s Hard For A Loved One

Here are some tips and considerations to help you cope with the emotional struggle involved when your loved one cries, becomes angry or seems despondent when you say goodbye.

How long has it been since your loved one moved in?

Everyone adjusts differently to their transition into assisted living or memory care. For some, having lots of visits on a regular basis is very helpful. For others, constant visits make it harder for them to accept their new living situation and to willingly forge new relationships and routines in their community.

If the transition took place within the past few months, speak to the staff and see what they think. You may find that scaling back visits and leaving more time in between is the answer.

While difficult for you initially, allowing your loved one more time to completely settle in and find their place could make future visits and goodbyes more successful.

Read, How to Move a Parent with Dementia into Assisted Living. Even if you’ve already made the move – the information you find there can offer insight and recommendations you can put into place.

Seek assistance managing your own emotions

Those with dementia can be highly attuned to the stress levels and emotions of those around them. In some cases, verbal communication tools may no longer be available, and you may find someone with dementia more likely vent their emotions in other ways or become agitated very quickly.  

Next time you visit your loved one, pay close attention to your own emotional field. Are you angry? Do you feel sad? Are you feeling guilty? Are you anxious as you anticipate the potentially dramatic goodbye scene? Learning to manage your inner, emotional landscape can be very helpful in minimizing your loved one’s emotional response.

A professional therapist and/or a support group, as well as the assisted living facility staff, can help you here. By remaining calm yourself, and learning the best and most comfortable way to hug and say goodbye to your loved one, may greatly reduce or even eliminate their strong response.

Learn more about what happens after you go

It is not uncommon for those having a dramatic goodbye reaction to then quickly snap back to “center,” going normally about their day once their spouses or family members leave.

Again, remaining in communication with administration and staff is crucial in determining how much of a problem their tearful or emotional goodbye really is.

If it turns out your loved one continues his/her reactive response (crying and remaining agitated, etc.) for a long time after you leave, that’s one thing. If it turns out that you feel sadness and guilt for far longer than your loved one is sad – it may be time to re-frame the farewell story for yourself.

Work on learning how to be present with their very real sadness at your parting, but with the confidence and peace of mind that in a short while, they’ll be back to normal again. As we touch on below, you’ll feel a lot less guilty if you find out your loved one wipes his/her tears once you drive away and heads happily over to the community room for the piano player or singing hour.

Evaluate their room and make it as home-like as possible

At the Memory Care Center, we work closely with families to facilitate the transition into our center – and that includes recommendations on what to bring to their room and living space feels as personal and cozy as possible.

Take another look around their room and ask them about what items they might like to see added or swapped out. Having familiar textures, pictures, memory-keepers, scents, etc., in their room can work wonders for anchoring them between visits.

Depending on what the particular facility allows, “comfort items” typically include things like:

  • A favorite throw blanket/pillow
  • Personalized bedding
  • Photos of family and pets
  • Music player loaded with favorite songs/music
  • A stuffed animal or a doll to “love” if real pets aren’t allowed
  • Photo album with pictures from their childhood and life
  • A digital frame that keeps a running stream of photos going
  • Live plants or flowers

A simple conversation may enlighten you about things s/he wished had been brought, things s/he wishes were there, etc., and hopefully, you can find a way to accommodate their needs.

Work with staff to find the best time for visits/departures

Often, that tearful, fretful or even dramatic goodbye scene has more to do with your loved one’s daily rhythm than it does about your departure.

Check in with the staff to learn more about your loved one’s “best times of day” versus the times of day they struggle the most. Are there days of the week that are better than others?

Insight into those questions may help you find a better day of the week or better time of day, and that simple calendar shift could make a notable difference.

Another important question to ask if you haven’t done so already: what activities are your loved one’s favorite(s)?

You may find that timing your visit just ahead of their favorite activity (crafts, music time, the weekly movie date, etc.) means they’re ready for you to go so they can join their friends and stick to their routine. Then you can intentionally schedule your farewell to coincide with the start of Bingo or ballroom dancing class…

Seek a support group

Joining a support group can be instrumental in helping you facilitate the spectrum of emotions that arise when you have a spouse, parent or loved one in memory care. These support groups meet during a range of days and times, so hopefully, you can find a local support group in your area that works for your schedule.

No, the group can’t make the grief, sadness, and anguish go away altogether, but there is great comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Plus, sitting with a group of people who have been where you are means you have access to all kinds of “professional” tips, recommendations and ideas that may help you figure out the best way for bidding farewell to your loved one without absorbing the impact of their intense reaction.

Learning To Cope With Saying Goodbye To A Loved One In Assisted Living

It may take more time than is comfortable for you, but by considering the above ideas, you’ll find a way to navigate tearful goodbyes with less emotional angst.

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How To Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

Moving a parent or senior loved one with dementia into an assisted living or memory care community is a major transition. It’s an emotional journey and there are bound to be upsets and logistical challenges along the way.

Understanding How To Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

Having a go-to list of tips and suggestions can help you and your family better prepare to move a parent with dementia to assisted living while ensuring s/he receives impeccable care.

Start A Conversation Early (depending on the stage of memory loss)

If possible, begin making the long-term care plan as early as possible after the dementia diagnosis.

If your parent or loved one is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, looking ahead to find the right community allows them to be a part of the process, which can make for a smoother transition when moving day arrives.

Ideally, the time to move to a community is when s/he is no longer able to live safely and independently at home or when the level of care required becomes more than what you and/or other caregivers are able to provide from a time and safety perspective.

On the flip side, if your loved one is in mid-to later-stages of the disease, it can be upsetting to engage him/her in selecting a community and planning moving day.  In some cases, it is better to wait until the change is eminent to announce the move, and enlist the help of family and friends for decision-making, sorting, and packing.

Visit our Guide for Talking to a Loved One About Memory Care for more insight into this topic.

Choose A Community Specializing In Memory Care

Not all assisted living communities are created equal, and many of them aren’t equipped to adequately care for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Moving is challenging enough, and the last thing you want to do is have to move your parent a second time unless you absolutely must, so it is important to select the right community specializing in memory care.

Use these Questions to Ask When Visiting Memory Care Communities to help you select the best new home for your loved one.

Consider Visiting The New Assisted Living Community Together Before Moving Day

Familiarity is key to feeling safe.

Once a community is selected, some people find visiting the community a few times before moving day helps ease the transition. You and your loved one may consider attending and participating in activities and events, meeting other residents with similar interests and interacting with staff.  

Each of these visits proactively builds layers of familiarity.

Schedule The Move For Their “Best Time Of The Day”

Typically, late mornings and early afternoons are a dementia patient’s “best time of the day.” Early mornings and evenings may be more difficult.

The transition from one home to the next will be less stressful when your parent is most likely to be calm, allowing more time to settle in before s/he becomes fatigued or agitated.

Bring A Simple Collection Of Favorite Things

Odds are their new room is smaller than their current home, and clutter is a recipe for confusion and trip hazards.

If you haven’t received information from the assisted living community director or staff about what to bring from home, give them a call to find out how much is “just enough” to bring.

In some communities, rooms come furnished, but you should still be able to bring touches from home such as a favorite chair, wall art, personalized bedding, a CD player or iPod/docking station to play his/her favorite music.

At The Memory Center, our rooms are unfurnished to allow residents and their families to more closely recreate a space that looks and feels like home.

Having familiar pieces from home helps new residents settle in more quickly. And again, be careful about asking your parent “which item(s) do you want to take with you…,” as these types of decisions can be agitating in later stages of the disease.

We recommend reading Making A New Space In Assisted Living Or Memory Care Feel Like Home for more information on this important topic.

Take Advantage Of Counseling Services & Transition Programs

This is a major physical transition, to be sure, but it’s also a major emotional transition for everyone involved.

Often, spouses and family members are the most dramatically affected as they watch their loved one settle seamlessly into place while the rest of the family is experiencing a sense of grief. If your parent opts to move into assisted living in the earlier stages of dementia, you may find support from a counselor valuable who can help you or your family process the complex array of emotions the transition elicits.

If you’ve been an integral part of your parent’s dementia care, we suggest reading, Adjusting to Life…After Being a Caregiver, which offers nourishing tips on how to handle your next steps.

Communicate With The New Caregiving Staff

First and foremost, the staff want to get to know new residents. The more they know about your parent, the easier it is to spark conversations and connect with him/her as s/he settles in.

Additionally, it’s helpful to lean on the staff and allow them to explain the new transition and to support your parent during the move. Again, choosing a memory care-specific community means the administration and staff are well-versed experts and will know exactly what to say without causing further confusion or upset for your parent.

Carefully Deciding How to Move A Parent With Dementia To Assisted Living

As with all life transitions, mindful and methodical preparation is the key to minimizing mental and emotional stress. Selecting an assisted living center that specializes in memory care will provide the support you need throughout the move.

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Making A New Space In Assisted Living Or Memory Care Feel Like Home

No matter how much a memory care center does to create a warm, homey and comfortable ambiance – it isn’t possible to satisfy the personal tastes of every resident who call the community “home.”

At The Memory Center (TMC), we’ve developed a Town Center experience for the overarching design, using iconic stimuli from the past and including amenities such as a movie theater, pub, hair salon, general store, and more.

Our common spaces are filled with natural light and style and our landscapes are beautifully designed.  We also recognize residents and their families want spaces to feel like home and familiar.  This is especially true in resident bedrooms.  That’s why we heartily encourage residents and their families to think of our beautiful space as a backdrop to create the bedroom space representing what home feels like to you.

Tips To Make A Senior At Home In A New Environment

If you have visited loved ones in senior living facilities, or even toured some, you may have noticed sleeping areas resembling a hospital or rehab setting vs. an inviting and comfortable space.  When it comes to individual rooms at TMC, we intentionally create light filled spaces with neutral color palettes, and without standard furnishings. This way, each resident has the opportunity to add his/her personal furnishings and touches from home. We encourage families to bring familiar artwork, furniture and bedding that express individual style and a lifetime of memories. 

Below are some of tips to make a new room in a senior community feel like home.

Re-Create An At Home Space With Familiar Furniture Pieces

To help your family member settle into the new space and re-create their comfortable bedroom from home, bring pieces that are familiar and reflect their design style – such as their favorite chair, side table and small dresser.  Just make sure to leave family heirlooms at home. 

When deciding what to bring, look around your loved one’s current bedroom and take notes. Is there a nightstand on the right or left hand side of the bed and what do they keep on the nightstand?  Which side of the bed are they used to getting out of in the morning?  Do they keep a robe and slippers on a hook nearby?  With planning you can provide the small touches of home they are used to.

If bringing existing furniture isn’t possible, we can provide suggestions on where other families found home-like furnishings that work well in the space and we can provide guidance on how to prepare a comfortable room.  We will even help with furniture placement.

Use Favorite Colors, Bedding, Throw Pillows & Blankets

Decorative bedding, throw pillows and blankets help meet your loved one’s preferred comfort needs but also provide a simple way to add color, pattern, and personal style to the new living space.

Do keep in mind we don’t encourage you to bring expensive or cherished items.  Family heirloom quilts or expensive bedding is best preserved by other family members to keep them safe and sound.

Bring Favorite Artwork & Photographs

Think about which pieces of art are favorites for your loved one?

Bedrooms at The Memory Center have enough wall space to accommodate a few favorite pieces of art or bulletin board of family photos and notes.  Looking up to see a favorite work of art or framed photos of the family and pets creates an immediate sense of familiarity and can be essential for new residents as they settle in and begin creating a community of their own.

While rooms at The Memory Center are spacious, there simply isn’t enough room for every favorite photograph to be on display. Thus, we encourage families to assemble photo albums, curating photographs through the ages. A small, portable album – with an easy-to-clean cover – will be well-appreciated as our residents often enjoy carrying albums around to share stories and “introduce” family to their new acquaintances and friends.

Incorporate Potted Plants Or Ready-To-Fill Vases

Was your loved one an avid gardener? Did s/he grow fresh herbs or look forward to a fresh flower arrangement on the dining room table or buffet? Consider an easy potted plant and/or a vase that’s ready to accommodate flowers. If fresh flowers are important, consider a seasonal bouquet subscription which can be delivered regularly. Our staff will ensure plants are watered as needed and we can switch out fresh flowers when they arrive.

TMC’s extensive and beautifully landscaped grounds will also provide a connection to Mother Nature and growing things.  Our residents love to spend time in our sunny patio and garden.  If your loved one is an avid gardener, we’ll make sure s/he can help point out favorite flowers in the garden or along our secure walking trails so s/he continues an activity that is familiar and productive.

Personalize Your Frame

Each room at The Memory Center has a frame next to the door ready to be customized by, and for, the resident.

Fill this space with a background color or pattern (wallpaper works well) that suits the resident’s style. Then add things like a favorite photo of themselves and family and/or a pet, or a picture of him/her doing something s/he loves.

In addition to personalizing the space, they’re helpful reminders for new residents so they can easily tell which room is theirs. Decorated frames also help new residents get to know neighbors, staff and passing guests, often providing a perfect segue to begin a conversation.

The more personalized the framed board the more special the space will feel and the sooner your loved one will sense a connection to their new home.

Don’t Forget Music

Did you know music is proven to reduce anxiety and helps those with dementia to recall more memories?

Feel free to bring a pre-loaded iPod/docking station or a CD player and CDs. Nothing says, “I’m home…” as the ability to switch on a music player to hear your favorite songs. We’ll make sure we know which radio stations are their favorites as well so staff can turn the radio on/off occasionally when residents want to hear something different.

Personalizing Your Loved One’s New Living Space

The more personalized a room is decorated, the more at ease a new resident will feel.

Have questions about what does work – or doesn’t work well – to personalize your new living space? All you have to do is ask. Our administrators and staff are always happy to answer questions and brainstorm ideas to help new residents settle in peacefully so they feel at home in their new space.

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Taking Care Of Yourself & Managing Time After Being A Caregiver

As a caregiver, you invested countless hours meeting your loved one’s needs. Now that your season of caregiving has ended, you may feel uncertain about what to do next.

12 Tips For Adjusting To Life After Being A Caregiver

Consider these tips that help you care for yourself and manage your time.

tips for grieving caregivers1. Give yourself permission and time to grieve

After any loss, you will need time to grieve.

The commonly held stages of grief include:   

  • Denial, disbelief, confusion, shock, and/or isolation   
  • Anger   
  • Bargaining   
  • Despair and/or depression   
  • Acceptance   

Instead of hiding or feeling ashamed or guilty, give yourself permission to experience the grieving process. Realize that everyone grieves differently, and you may progress through the grief stages methodically or swing back and forth.

Likewise, you may experience intense emotions or a quiet sadness. No matter what you feel, understand that your grief is normal and that you have the right and need to experience grief in your way.

2. Use healthy and appropriate coping mechanisms

Grief can last months or even years, and you may wonder if you’ll ever return to normal. To cope, you may turn to drugs, alcohol, food, or other unhealthy coping mechanisms.

While you will never forget your loved one, we promise that the pain will eventually subside. Stuffing your emotions or drowning your feelings will only hurt you now and into the future. In fact, unhealthy and inappropriate coping can cause physical pain, emotional illnesses or long-term negative reactions.

Choose to exercise, talk, journal, or embrace other positive and healthy coping mechanisms as you grieve and protect yourself.

3. Ask for and accept help

In your caregiver role, you were the one who gave all the help. Caregiving depletes physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual resources, and now you’re the one in need of assistance.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable and ask for help as needed. Consider writing a list of tasks others can do for you or call friends who will listen and offer support.

By asking for and accepting help, you receive support and allow others to show you love.

4. Take care of your health

Visiting a doctor may be the last thing on your mind, especially if you spent a lot of time in a hospital with your loved one. You deserve to care for yourself, though, as you respect and energize your body during the grieving process.

Apply your caregiving duties to yourself and insist on a healthy daily regimen. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and visit your doctor for scheduled checkups.

Prioritizing your health equips and strengthens you for your grief journey.

5. Join a support group

Talking about your caregiving and grief experiences may scare you. It’s also hard to be vulnerable and continue to rehash the events surrounding your loved one’s passing.

Other caregivers and professional therapists or grief counselors understand what you’ve gone through. You can share your experiences and discuss your feelings and concerns in a support group. Here, you’ll gain practical advice and emotional support that sustains you as you adjust to life after caregiving.

Talking and sharing can also help others find healing, too.

6. Delay major decisions

The act of caregiving and managing grief takes a toll on your body, mind, and emotions. You need time to find a new normal.

Give yourself at least a year or as much time as you need before you make any major decisions, such as moving, growing your family, changing jobs, or entering a romantic relationship.

This cushion of time prevents you from making an emotional decision you later regret and helps you rediscover yourself.

7. Embrace new routines

Much of your daily routine used to revolve around caring for your loved one. Now, you may miss your caregiving responsibilities and struggle with the significant changes in your daily routine.

Rest assured that in time you can and will develop a new routine that becomes familiar, comfortable, and fulfilling. Start by deciding what will fulfill you each day. Remember to eat, exercise, and spend time doing things that fulfill you, too.

These steps lead you to embrace a new and positive routine.

8. Reevaluate your relationships

Loss affects everyone differently. Some people in your life may step up and offer additional support while others step away and distance themselves.

This relationship ebb and flow after a loss is normal, and you will eventually rediscover a strong and healthy support system.

For now, try to accept inevitable relationship changes. You can reduce stress when you bless and release people who withdraw and show gratitude for people who choose to stay.

9. Carefully choose new responsibilities

Without your caregiving duties, you may have fewer or even no responsibilities. You may find yourself bored, frustrated, or angry and be tempted to over-function and jump right into another caregiving relationship.

Consider giving yourself an extended time off from helping others. Work instead on the hard job of grieving.

You will also benefit from rediscovering the activities, interests, and duties that are important and fulfilling for you. Then carefully choose the new responsibilities you want to embrace as you fill your time.

10. Find fulfilling activities and interests

Caregiving takes time and energy. Instead of enjoying activities and investing in interests that used to be important, you may have put yourself on the back burner.

Now’s a great time to return to the activities and interests that mattered before you took on your caregiving role. You may even develop new hobbies.

Whichever experiences you choose to embrace, know that it’s healthy to fill some of your time with activities and interests that fulfill you and make you happy and content.

11. Discover new priorities and goals

Your role as a caregiver revolved around meeting your loved one’s needs and putting their priorities and goals above your own. Through that process, you may have given up your dreams.

Take time now to think about your future and what you want your life to look like. Then decide your priorities and set goals that propel you to make your dreams come true.

12. Help others

As an experienced caregiver, you have developed dozens of skills. You also understand the hard work caregiving takes, and you know about the grieving process firsthand.

Consider using your experience to help others. You could offer encouraging and beneficial support to other caregivers and make a difference in their lives.

By giving back, you gain an outlet for your energy and may even ease some of your grief symptoms.

Rebuilding Life When Caregiving Ends

Your role as a caregiver for your loved one may be over, but you can now embrace a new season of life.

Consider implementing these tips. With them, you find fulfillment and meaning as you care for yourself and manage your time.

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How to Care for Someone with Lewy Body Dementia

The diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is life changing.

After the initial shock and grief wear off, it is critical that a long-term care plan is created and put in place as soon as possible. The quality of life for both the patient, as well as loved ones and other caregivers, is directly impacted by implementing a thoughtful care plan that accommodates for the range of changes and needs that evolve over time.

There is much you can do to provide high-quality care for someone with LBD. Educating yourself, securing support and making lifestyle changes to slow progression are just a few things you can do.

Confirming a Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis

Lewy Body DementiaMany well-intentioned physicians misdiagnose Lewy Body Dementia as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s dementia because the symptoms of LBD can be similar.

However, an incorrect diagnosis can be devastating because, as Howard I. Hurtig, M.D., Chair, Department of Neurology, Pennsylvania Hospital, and member of the LBDA Scientific Advisory Council, states:

“While the symptoms of LBD may be similar to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease dementia, the treatment strategy is more challenging because fewer medications can be used safely.” Dr. Hurtig adds, “I cannot overemphasize the need to avoid medications that can worsen the symptoms of LBD. Every patient with this disease and their caregivers should be familiar with the list of acceptable and forbidden drugs.”

The Lewy Body Dementia Association has a wonderful publication, Lewy Who? which includes a helpful chart describing the difference in symptoms between those with LBD and their Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease dementia counterparts.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s dementia, it’s worth reviewing these LBDA resources before starting any new medications in case LBD is the more accurate diagnosis.

Learning About Lewy Body Dementia

Education and communication are key to getting the care your loved one needs. The more you and caregivers understand about Lewy Body Dementia, the better.

In addition to the resources above, check out the LBDA, Learn About LBD page. Consider printing poignant portions of these pages for easy reference. It’s a wealth of information to digest but consider it a roadmap, helping you find your way along this complex journey.

Also, learn how effective lifestyle changes improve dementia outcomes, including:

Read Harvard U’s, Intensive LIfestyle Change: It Work… for more information.

Getting a Neurologist Referral for Lewy Body Dementia Treatment

Accurate diagnosis is key, as is early treatment action.

Seek a referral to a neurologist experienced in treating Lewy Body Dementia. There are medications known to alleviate certain LBD symptoms. There are also common antipsychotic medications that do more harm and exacerbate symptoms.

Work with an expert who’s up-to-date with the most current LBD research for optimized treatment.

Caring for Someone with Lewy Body Dementia

Caring For Someone with DementiaDuring the early stages of the disease symptoms are easier to manage. This makes it easy for loved ones to fill in the care gaps.

Although this is encouraged, these gaps and needs escalate at a more rapid pace as time elapses. As a result, caregivers often experience stress, depression, problems in their personal life and difficulty taking care of themselves. Caregiver stress is common and comes with hard-hitting consequences. Enlisting the help of care providers is a powerful step.

4 Tips for Lewy Body Dementia Care

1. Visit live-in care providers early to make an educated decision

If LBD is caught early, in-home care might make sense before the patient is transitioned to a memory care community.

Even so, schedule consultations and tours with prospective communities now. Not only does this give you time to process your decision, and learn more about what the future holds, it also provides the patient a greater sense of autonomy and choice in the matter.

2. Begin scheduling respite care opportunities

In the beginning, your life may only change a bit here and there, as you create new systems to navigate day-to-day life. However, things can snowball quickly.

Scheduling respite care opportunities allow you to remain more patient and compassionate when it’s your turn to provide care (and prevent caregiver burnout).

3. Use home care aides

If you opt to remain at home before transitioning to memory care, use a home care agency for tasks that are more challenging for you. This enables you to reserve your energy for the logistics, decisions, and emotional care required on a regular basis.

Home care aides can do the majority of the lifting, bathing, errand running, housekeeping and other tasks you may not have time for anymore.

The more you enlist the help of others’ support, the better able you are to care for your loved one.

4. Create an information & resource guide

Things may seem status quo for a while, but they can shift suddenly.

In order to ensure your loved one receives the care he or she needs, it’s important to be prepared and organized. Keep an emergency information packet on hand that includes:

  • An easy-to-read sheet, briefly explaining LBD, as well as any other medical conditions, for EMTs and/or care providers
  • A list of all of the current medications/dosages and contraindications, updated regularly
  • Copies of medical insurance cards
  • Copies of health care advance directives
  • Important contact information for neurologist/primary care providers, family, friends, neighbors, etc.

Planning for the Future with Lewy Body Dementia

Caring for someone with Lewy Body Dementia requires a balanced approach.

On one hand, it’s essential to plan for the future; on the other, it’s important to be present in the moment and take things day-by-day. Depending on your loved one’s symptoms and disposition, it’s critical to be flexible in terms of routine because things can change suddenly.

For example, those caring for someone with LBD find things go best when life moves at a slower pace, with fewer expectations and more flexible schedules. Things like art, music, gardening and sharing favorite foods may take precedence over other, more distracting activities.

Transitioning to Memory Care for Lewy Body Dementia

The temptation to put off the transition to a memory care center is understandable.

However, changes in routine and major transitions become more stressful as time goes on. Studies show that moving those in mid to later stages of dementia exacerbates their condition, compared to those who moved earlier and had more time to adjust to their new environment before dementia progressed.

Having a difficult time selecting the right memory care center for your loved one? Use this Checklist of Questions To Ask… to guide your decision.

How to Compare Assisted Living Facilities

Millions of Americans are living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and as more of the population reaches age 65 and above, instances of the disease continue to rise.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that causes memory loss and behavioral changes eventually leaving the person unable to safely care for themselves.  In the early stages many spouses and family members prefer to care for their loved one at home, but as the demands of the disease increase residential often becomes necessary.

Family members want the best for their loved one and comparing assisted living facilities is a big task.  There are so many factors to consider such as cost, location, reviews, or even how long the waiting list is. 

Below are some of our tips for getting the most out of touring and comparing potential facilities.

Memory Care Cost

The cost of living in a memory care facility depends on several factors including private vs. semi-private room, level of care needed, medical supplies and more.

There is not one specific price for memory care however, SeniorHomes.com compiled the average cost of memory care and reported the median cost in Virginia was $4,100 per month.  Some facilities may cost less and some will cost more and it is very important to find out exactly what the monthly cost includes.  What is included at one facility might be an extra charge at another.

What is Included in the Cost?assisted living costs virginia

When touring residential facilities find out exactly what is included in the monthly cost. These costs vary from one facility to the other so knowing what is, or isn’t, included will help you accurately compare and avoid surprises later.  Ask for a detailed list of everything that is included, and what extra charges you could reasonably expect.

The Memory Centers in Virginia Beach and Midlothian/Richmond offer an all-inclusive rate so families know exactly what to expect without surprises to their budget. Our memory care pricing includes:

  • Private & semi-private rooms including private bathrooms
  • Three daily meals, snacks and ice cream socials every day
  • Emergency pull cord in every room
  • Memory boxes to help stimulate meaningful memories of their life
  • Utilities to include: Cable, Telephone & Wi-Fi
  • Housekeeping and laundry services
  • Maintenance of building and grounds
  • Outings and daily programs
  • Items from visits to the General Store

Personal Assistance

  • Highly trained staff to assist with activities of daily living including bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting
  • Medication management by our certified medication technician
  • Health monitoring by an RN nurse
  • Medical oversight by a physician trained in geriatric care
  • Full activities and Memories and Motion program designed by our Activities Director
  • Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy with a physician prescription as needed
  • Hospice/End of Life Care available

The only additional costs are incontinence supplies, salon services, long-distance telephone or transportation to an individual appointment.

Staff to Resident Ratios

This is an important question to ask of any facility you are considering, not only for daytime but during evening and overnight hours too.  The higher the ratio, the more residents each staff member is taking care of during their shift.

The Memory Center’s ratio is 4 residents to 1 staff, which gives all our staff members more time to spend with residents, provide individualized attention and respond to resident needs.

What Activities Are Provided?  Is There A Schedule?

No one wants their loved one sitting alone in a room all day bored, unattended to or left to just watch TV.  Activities are important in all types of assisted living and memory care facilities.   Ask to see the activities schedule and tour when activities are taking place so you can see them for yourself.  A sign of a good activities program is when the residents and the staff are engaged and having fun together.

If you are visiting a facility specializing in care for Alzheimer’s or dementia ask how the activities are designed to encourage motion, stimulate memories and keep boredom away.   Read about a typical day at The Memory Center Richmond and Virginia Beach.

How Is The Food?

memory care richmond
Resident Dining – The Memory Center, Richmond

Mealtimes are important, as is the quality of food.  Bland and boring food can get old very quickly and isn’t much of a motivator to get to the dining area. 

Ask to see a menu and note the entree options.  Is there a good balance of choices and is the menu nutritionally sound?  Visit the dining room and, if possible, join them for a meal and taste the food for yourself.

How Is Bathing & Personal Care Handled?

How often are residents bathed, their hair washed, what if they need help shaving? 

If you have bathing preferences for your loved one find out if they can honor them. Also, observe current residents, do they look clean and well-groomed?  Are they dressed in clothing or still in pajamas well into the afternoon? 

What Are Their Security Measures – Indoors and Out

What protocols does the facility have in place to keep residents safe indoors and out – including everyday safety like trip hazards?  Do the walking paths have uneven footing or tree roots sticking out that could cause a fall?  Are lamp cords kept close to the wall to prevent a trip hazard?  Is the space wide enough and open so residents can safely move throughout the facility?

If you are visiting a memory, or Alzheimer’s care facility ask how they manage wandering and what steps they have in place to prevent it.  These are all important questions and the person conduction your tour should be able to answer them right away.

First Impression

While it is important to ask questions and gather information, your first impression and instinct you will often make it clear when you’ve found the right facility for your loved one. 

If your first impression of an assisted living facility is that it is too dark and smells bad, it probably isn’t going to be your top pick, even if the food was good.

A bright, open community where residents are happy and engaged in appropriate activities is more likely going to be your top contender.

Tour The Memory Center

Currently, the Memory Center operates two facilities, Midlothian (near Richmond, VA), Virginia Beach and Atlanta, GA (in Johns Creek) scheduled open Spring 2017.  All our memory care communities provide exceptional care for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. 

We founded the first assisted living facility devoted specifically to memory care with a program designed to meet the challenging conditions of an aging brain with a caring, interactive community and continue to expand our communities to serve others.

Contact us for more information or to set up a tour of any of our facilities.

Memory Care Options for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

There are several options for care in Virginia.  The Memory Center communities provide care solely for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  Founded as the first assisted living facility devoted specifically to memory care, our program is designed to meet the challenging conditions of an aging brain with a caring, interactive community.

Utilizing the latest in science, nutrition, and interactive therapies, our daily structured activities provide meaningful purpose to those with memory loss.

All Memory Center communities are built around our original Town Center and Neighborhood layout and feature focused programming and daily activities.  We get to know each resident for who they are today – not who they used to be.

Find out more about our programs or what to a typical day looks like in our assisted living facilities.

Tour One of Our Memory Centers Today


My Spouse Has Dementia and Follows Me Everywhere

When someone has Alzheimer’s the world no longer makes sense to them the way it used to. They come to rely on their primary caregiver, often a spouse, as the person who keeps them safe and guides them through their every day.

It isn’t uncommon for someone with memory loss to become anxious when they can’t see their caregiver spouse.  They may be afraid of what might happen if you aren’t there to help them, or even afraid you will leave them. This fear often leads to what is referred to as shadowing – meaning they become your shadow trying to follow you everywhere, even to the bathroom or stand by your side as you wash dishes.  And while they aren’t trying to bother you, it can be exhausting and difficult to get a break.

How are you supposed to get any rest or relief if someone is following you around all the time?

It is important to take time for yourself.  Even if your spouse doesn’t agree or protests.

dementia care midlothian va
It is OK to ask someone to care for your spouse while you take a break.

There is a tremendous amount of stress on primary caregivers, and if you don’t take time to shower, rest, socialize or even get a haircut, it is easy to become burned out.

Recruit a Trusted Helper

Don’t feel guilty about asking a trusted family member or friend to help for a few hours, or hire someone from a home health agency to help out. Yes, your spouse might seem suspicious or protest the change, but they will be alright. If you enlist the same person to help on a consistent basis, the more comfortable everyone will become.

Getting a Helper has Worked for Other Families

For example, a primary caregiver we know had been taking care of her spouse with dementia. The spouse shadowed her most of the day.  Even putting away dishes became difficult as he was always getting in front of her as she tried to reach the cabinets.

She hired an aide to come help two days a week with laundry, cleaning, and cooking. She hadn’t planned on leaving her spouse alone with the aide, she just knew she needed help.

After a few weeks, the wife realized she enjoyed having the aide there not only for the help but also to have someone talk to. This was a pretty good sign she needed to take more time for herself and start socializing with friends again.

Even though her husband still preferred that she do everything for him, he came to recognize the aide as someone who could be trusted as well. The wife started leaving the house to run errands alone or go visit her grandchildren knowing that even if her husband protested he was in good hands.

Don’t Feel Guilty about taking Time for Yourself When Caring for a Loved One with Dementia

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s give yourself a break. Taking some time away is ultimately good for you, and your spouse, as a rested caregiver is better than an exhausted and frustrated one.

Learn More about Caring for Someone with Dementia

Get more caregiver tips from The Memory Centers in Virginia Beach, Atlanta, and Richmond. Our communities are dedicated to providing the best care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. We also offer a wide range of information and events to help educate those serving as primary caregivers at home.

Contact us for more information about our communities.

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Do People With Dementia Know Something Is Wrong With Them?

Alzheimer’s disease progressively destroys brain cells over time, so during the early stages of dementia, many do recognize something is wrong, but not everyone is aware. They may know they are supposed to recognize you, but they can’t.

Maybe during a recent visit to your aunt’s house she insisted you help her find her winter gloves and boots – in the middle of July. Maybe she didn’t remember your name at all or thought you were someone else from the family.

These types of scenarios aren’t uncommon, and many people wonder if their loved one knows something is wrong with them. What if they don’t understand – should you try and convince them?

Do They Know They Have Alzheimer’s?

Seeing a loved one develop Alzheimer’s or dementia can be scary and confusing. Their behaviors can be misunderstood or not make sense to you. Red Johnson, an 86 year-old living with Alzheimer’s, explained to his daughter, Nancy, how it feels to live with the disease.

I love my family. My daughter-in-law and son-in-law; my grandchildren and great-grandchildren; my in-laws; and my nieces and nephews. I might not remember their names. I might be tongue tied when I try to talk with them. But, I still love them. Do you know how dumb it feels when you “know” the person talking with you is an old friend and you can’t remember their name? I know something is wrong with me, and I hate it. Don’t look “through me” just because I can’t remember your name or am mixed up about what day it is. Don’t ignore my needs because you think it doesn’t matter. – Red

Red’s story is a great insight into how it feels to know you are suffering from memory problems and how painful it can be. Read the full story on alz.com.

When Someone Doesn’t Understand Something Is Wrong

There are cases where people don’t recognize anything is wrong.  You may hear this referred to as anosognosia which is thought to be the result of cell damage in the right pre-frontal lobes and the parietal lobes.  This can happen during a stroke or as cells decline due to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Caregivers and family members may notice obvious changes in someone’s behavior, physical or mental limitations while their loved one remains adamant everything is fine. Anosognosia isn’t denial, it is a medical condition.

Caring for anyone living in cognitive decline is challenging. Caring for someone who doesn’t recognize they are ill can add to that challenge. They may refuse to take medications because they don’t think they need them, or become angry when told they can’t stay home alone or drive to the store anymore.

Convincing someone there is a problem won’t make them believe you, so try to avoid arguing.  It doesn’t help them understand the situation, and can also lead to agitation, distrust and fear – all common side effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Read tips from The Memory Center on how to communicate with someone living with cognitive decline and how to keep them safe.

Early Warning Signs of Dementia

According to the World Health Organization, about 50 million people worldwide have dementia and 10 million new cases are revealed every year. So by 2030 82 million people are expected to have some form of dementia. As these numbers continue to grow it is important to recognize the symptoms of dementia.

  • Memory Loss
  • Difficulty Performing Common Tasks
  • Confusion 
  • Problems Communicating
  • Impaired Decision Making
  • Social Withdrawl
  • Changes in Behavior
  • Depression

Day-To-Day Living With Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s

Keeping a schedule is important when caring for someone who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s.  While every day is different, a routine that is based around activities to help promote movement and inspire purpose are important.

See what a typical day At The Memory Center in Atlanta looks like and what activities we suggest you include or contact us for more information about our programs.

Learn More About A Typical Day at The Memory Center


Taking Care of Kids and Elderly Parents at the Same Time

Taking care of your kids at home while caring for an elderly parent?  You’re a member of The Sandwich Generation, although the name sounds more appetizing than the scenario.

Adults in The Sandwich generation have children at home – or older kids maybe fresh out of the nest but still requiring support – and they also have an elderly parent who with increasing care needs. It’s a daunting and exhausting place to be – and we haven’t even mentioned the full-time workload you’re probably carrying.

We’re here to provide support.

7 Tips to Ease the Burden of Raising Kids While Caring for Elderly Parents

There is good news for The Sandwich Generation is twofold. First, you are not alone. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center nearly 50% of adults between the ages of 40 and 59 have a minor at home and/or an adult child they support AND have a parent 65+ who will require increasing levels of care. Just knowing you have a tribe out there can help.

Secondly, you are seen. Those of us who work in the world of senior and memory care witness first hand the burden placed upon you. We have many tips to help you take care of everyone in your family, without sacrificing the last vestiges of yourself, your energy levels and overall well-being.

Putting these 7 tips you can put into place can help ease the hardships placed on you and your family during this compressed period of time.

memory care richmond
Dining at The Memory Center, Richmond

1 – Start visiting local assisted living communities

. In the midst of crisis is one of the worst times to make big decisions. Instead, take advantage of free consultations with assisted living and memory care communities in your area. These consultations are rich with information and ideas you can put to work now while considering and developing your long-term plan. 

Visiting long term care facilities is the only way to know which one feels like the best fit for you/your parents when the time comes.  And if your parent is in the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, these consultations give him/her some agency regarding their future – very important during a time when seniors often feel like they’re losing autonomy.

2 – Make the home safe and accessible

There are plenty of articles out there on how to remodel a home and make it accessible, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated.  With even simple changes and adjustments to your parent’s house and yard, you’ll notably decrease their risk of falling – and that decreases their risk of hospitalization or surgical interventions known to contribute to senior cognitive decline.

Some of the most easiest changes to making a senior’s home safer include installing motion-sensitive lighting, minimizing trip hazards (like exposed cords, edges of area rugs, uneven thresholds, etc.), installing handrails in toilet and bath/shower areas, building a ramp if needed, rearranging cupboards so everyday items are accessible without bending over or standing on a step stool, and providing an easier way to reach you when needed.

3 – Include your children in the process

. We often forget children are alert and aware of what’s happening in the household and to the ones they love. Even if you think you’re keeping the majority of the “heavy stuff” out of their world, they know and sense you are being stretched beyond your means.

However, even adult children don’t always know what to say or how to help. Similarly, children are just as worried and concerned about their grandparent(s) in their own way and may feel very helpless, which can cause younger children and teens to act out.

If nothing else, foster open communication in age-appropriate ways about what’s happening to grandma and/or grandpa, how you are feeling and about how difficult this situation is at times. The more open and communicative your family is, the more supportive and connected it can remain – even during the toughest moments. If they’re old enough, engage children in helping to provide care and companionship, if they’re young – find little things they can do to be useful. We recommend reading, alz.org’s, Helping Your Children or Grandchildren. The tips are universal for any family coping with dementia or Alzheimer’s – whether you’re sandwiched or not.

4 – Make taking care of yourself a priority

You know the airplane safety spiel about fastening your oxygen mask first, and then ensuring everyone around you has fastened theirs? Use it as a metaphor for your current life. If you think things are emotionally and financially challenging now, imagine what it would be like if you wound up succumbing to serious medical issues as a result of over stressed caregiver depletion. It happens all the time to primary caregivers and it leaves their loved ones in a major lurch.

Primary caregivers must make their well-being a priority so they remain healthy, balanced and as centered as possible through this phase of the journey. That means eating a well-balanced diet, finding ways to get a little exercise in (some days, that might  mean parking in the furthest spot to walk a little longer or taking the stairs instead of the elevator) and finding a way to clear 5- or 10-minutes of quiet-time amidst the busy-ness. Joining an Alzheimer’s support group can also provide a wealth of emotional support and bolstering.

5 – Take advantage of respite care options.

If your parent hasn’t relocated yet, contact local home care agencies to ask about their respite care services. Respite care providers give primary spouse and/or family caregivers the opportunity to focus on their regularly scheduled lives. In your case, this means more time to have dinner with the family, attend academic and extracurricular activities, go to bible study or religious events and to gain more quality time with the kids.

It can also serve as a baby step of sorts, a means of getting you and your parent accustomed to letting someone else help out with everything from companionship, driving and medication reminders, to meal preparation, bathing, dressing and toileting – all the things that may need to be taken over as your parent’s condition progresses.

tips for caregivers

6 – Imagine you’re meeting your parent for the first time

Whether a parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, suffering from the crippling grief from the loss of a spouse and/or peers, or is simply frustrated s/he can no longer do the things s/he loved – The ability to take big steps back is an amazing skill-set for children caregivers to develop.

Imagine you’re meeting your parent for the very first time. See your parent as s/he is now – while keeping your memories sacred. This will help you to find new ways to connect, explore creative ways to communicate, and establish deeper means of cultivating compassion with who they are – and what they’re capable of – in each moment.

7 – Be gentle with yourself

You’re under a tremendous pressure – not to mention emotional duress. Also, you are human. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself – and always forgive yourself in the moments you aren’t at your best.

Please visit our News Feed for more resources on Alzheimer’s and dementia care. You can also contact us to schedule a tour of The Memory Center communities in Atlanta, Richmond or Virginia Beach


How To Hug Someone With Alzheimer’s

Research has proven the human touch is powerful, and it holds true even when someone is living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

In fact, a simple hug or touch on the arm can calm someone with memory loss by decreasing stress, anxiety and promoting relaxation. We see this at The Memory Center communities every day.

As the disease progresses, some people will want to be touched more and more such as wanting to hold your hand, having their arm rubbed or giving hugs.  Even though the individual may not remember day-to-day details, that doesn’t mean they forget emotions and the feelings associated with them.

As shown in the graphic below there are some tips to hugging someone with Alzheimer’s to avoid frightening them and to accurately convey the emotion. 

memory care midlothian vaWhile touch is very powerful and can greatly benefit people living with Alzheimer’s it is still a good idea to ask them if it is all right.  Everyone is different and will have good and bad days – including some where they may not welcome a hug. 



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