alzheimer's care

Tag Archive for brain function

Art Therapy for the Elderly

Artistic Expression Helps Seniors

Creative expression benefits seniors in many ways, including those with dementia. Imagination and creativity can flourish despite cognitive difficulties. New areas of potential can even be discovered that were never before realized. Creative expression benefits seniors in many ways, including those with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or other degenerative disorders.  According to Barbara Bagan PhD., older adults are in the final developmental stage where they must integrate their past, present, and future life experiences. When meaningful activities are pursued, seniors can achieve growth while overcoming feelings of longing and despair. Expressive art can also boost neural pathways by forging new and stronger dendritic connections which fight the effects of degenerative disease.

10 Reasons to use Art Therapy

  • Promotes relaxation. To strengthen this effect, create ambiance with soft music and minimum background noise.
  • Provides means of expression and communication. When words fail, art can provide a means to communicate and express experiences. Creating art can also be a wonderful time to invite your loved one to communicate with you verbally. Creativity may cause a usually quiet person to become more talkative.
  • Provides a sense of control. Avoid “taking over” or imposing assistance if it is not needed, by being sensitive about when to offer help. Make sure to recognize accomplishments, and avoid overly long creative sessions that might cause tiredness or frustration.
  • Improves socialization. When possible, group art activities can enhance feelings of social connection. If a group is not available, join in and make art together. Display your loved one’s art work where it can be seen.
  • Promotes playfulness and humor. Keep a light heart and look for moments to encourage play and humor.
  • Boosts cognitive functioning. Make the most of it by choosing a time of day when your loved one is at their best level of alertness and focus.
  • Stimulates the senses. Working with one’s hands in a variety of mediums and textures can provide an abundance of tactile stimulation. When possible, enhance this experience by taking your art session outdoors or near an open window. Play his or her favorite music. Create items that can stimulate the senses long after they are completed, through textures, scents, or memory recall.
  • Strengthens identity and self-esteem. Offer compliments and keep completed artwork displayed.
  • Engage Spirituality. When thinking of ideas for free-expression, provide prompts that invite your loved one to connect with spiritual concepts and values that are meaningful to them.
  • Alleviates boredom. Creative sessions don’t have to be initiated on a schedule. When possible, make materials accessible to your loved one so he or she can choose art activities at will.

Tips

You don’t have to break the bank. Art supplies can be quite inexpensive, and remember, the activities you choose don’t have to be complicated. Drawing, painting, or collage may be just the right thing, but really, the possibilities are endless. Beautifully designed coloring books for adults are now available which can provide hours of relaxation with just a handful of markers or colored pencils. If your loved one has a previous art hobby or interest, this may be the perfect time to encourage renewed interest. If not, providing a variety of new activities could result in a newly discovered passion. Remember to use caution and avoid unsupervised use of materials that could be a safety hazard. And don’t forget to allow opportunities for your loved one to experience and appreciate art created by others. A local co-op or museum may be a great choice for your next outing.

Music Therapy for the Elderly

Elderly woman with headphones listening to music.

Music Therapy Touches Hearts and Memories

Not long ago, a documentary clip went viral. It featured the story of Henry, an elderly man with dementia who sat locked inside himself day after day… until they placed headphones over his ears and let him hear the music he loved during his youth. Suddenly, everything changed.

One of the greatest challenges the elderly face is a lost sense of belonging, independence, freedom, and enjoyment. These unmet needs result in feelings of isolation, sadness, and loss. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, the inability to communicate this experience can be both complex and devastating.

Music therapy is a powerful tool in caregiving. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, music can trigger lost memories, promote communication and movement, manage anxiety, stimulate creativity, and renew identity. Simply stated, music has the power to reach across the barrier of time and functional limitations to evoke joy and vitality. Keep reading to learn how you can share this wonderful therapy with your elderly loved one.

Six Tips for Using Music Therapy to Help Your Elderly Loved One

Explore their music history. Old hymns, swing, and wartime songs are often favorites among the elderly; however, take care to avoid songs that bring up unpleasant memories. Because of the powerful associations music creates, it can sometimes return someone to an experience that was emotionally painful. Watch for signs of distress. If this occurs, stop the song immediately and move on to something else.

Compile a playlist. An iPod or other type of mp3 device can be a great way to amass a variety of songs that can be played easily through a small speaker or headphones. Playlists can be grouped by themes for specific moods and activities.

Make music accessible. When possible, allow the person access to the player as a source of comfort when needed. As always, use good judgment to avoid any risk of the person becoming entangled in the cords. If mobility or confusion is an issue, close supervision may be necessary.

Play music during exercise. Listening to music while walking may help improve gait, and it can encourage interest in other types of exercise.

Create an ambiance. Using background music during the general day-to-day can enhance mood. Make a special playlist of calming music to reduce sundowning, anxiety, or problems with behavior.

Encourage drumming and sing-alongs. Music can promote a sense of emotional connection. Use facial expression to engage and communicate with the person through the sound of the music.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America for more information about using music therapy with the elderly. If you’d like more ideas on how to improve an elderly person’s quality of life, check out our post on pet therapy.

Pet Therapy for the Elderly

Happy Senior Man With His Dog

A therapy pet can be a powerful member of the caregiver team. It has been well established that pets can lower the risk of heart attack and increase survival rates in those who have suffered heart attack, but research shows there are many more additional benefits.

When humans interact with animals, there is a resulting increase in the production of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin – the “good” hormones responsible for improving mood. Further, levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are decreased.

These hormonal changes result in a sense of well-being which helps improve depression, agitation, social interaction, engagement, and even nutritional intake.

Taking walks with a dog tends to motivate seniors to walk farther, thereby increasing their level of physical activity. In situations where mobility is reduced, talking to or petting an animal can still lower heart rate, improve vital signs, and has been shown to reduce the need for medication.

If you are considering pet therapy for yourself or an elderly loved one, here are some tips that may help:

Make the decision together. Situations vary and people age differently. Full pet ownership may not be suitable for every situation, and the right pet should be paired with the right person. A decision to get a pet should not be forced on the elderly person. For some, pet ownership may not be the answer. The services of a professional therapy pet may be a better choice.

Does the person have disabilities? In some cases, dogs may not be a good fit for someone with major physical limitations. Indoor pets that need less care, such as cats or birds may be a better fit. In cases of significant impairments, your loved one may be a candidate for a service animal to aid in functioning.

Age, Size, and Temperament. When matching a pet to an elderly person, it is important to consider the animal’s unique temperament, care and grooming needs, training, physical size, and remaining life expectancy. A young puppy or kitten may require too much training and lack the maturity to be a suitable companion. While much older pets may have more health problems that could result in expensive veterinary bills and medications. A plan should be in place to determine who will care for the animal if it outlives its owner.

Financial Considerations. Some pets are more expensive than others to maintain. Consider the costs involved for each type of pet, not just for initial cost, but also ongoing care and maintenance. Adopting a pet from your local shelter may be a more affordable choice. Shelter workers or foster owners often become very familiar with each animal’s personality and may be able to assist in making a good match. Additionally, some shelters offer discounts to seniors. For instance, Idaho Humane Society offers a discount to people over the age of 60.

Pet Sharing. If acquiring a full time pet for your loved one is too impractical, consider “borrowing” someone else’s pet. Do you or a close friend have a dog or other pet that is well socialized and up for a house call? Consider bringing the pet for regular visits with your elderly loved one. Recent studies have even shown that watching cat videos online can boost energy and reduce sadness and anxiety.

Click here to download the PDF, Tips for Caregivers: Deciding if Pet Therapy is Right for Your Loved One. For more information, including research about pets and seniors, visit Pets for the Elderly

Spotting the Warning Signs of Depression

Boise Home Health Care

man depressed

Everyone feels blue now and then. It’s part of life. But if you no longer enjoy activities that you usually like, you may have a more serious problem. Being depressed without letup can change the way you think and feel. This is called “clinical depression.”

Being “down in the dumps” over a period of time is not a normal part of getting older. But it is a common problem, and medical help may be needed. For most people, depression will get better with treatment. “Talk” therapy, medicine, or other treatment methods can ease the pain of depression. You do not need to suffer.

There is a similarity between the symptoms of depression and dementia but the two are completely different.  Sometimes the signs of depression can mask themselves and appear as if it’s dementia. Knowing the signs can help differentiate the two. Read More

Caring For a Senior With Seizures

Seizure in BrainEpilepsy is a common, chronic disorder caused by surges or disturbances in the electrical functioning of the brain. These surges or disturbances cause seizures, and during these seizures certain actions, movements, thoughts, speech, and emotions can be altered.

Caring for a senior with seizures is not too difficult.  Below is a list of do’s and don’ts to help make caregiving easier and a lot less stressful. Read More

Parkinson’s Disease and the Caregiver

in-home-parkinsons-ailment-care

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a progressive, neurological disease that mainly affects movement but can also affect cognition. Parkinson’s disease results from the destruction of nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine.

Caregiving for People Living with Parkinson’s

Caring for a loved one with PD can be a challenging job, especially as the disease progresses.  Get prepared, take care of yourself, get help (don’t try to do it all yourself), work to maintain a good relationship with your loved one, and encourage the person with PD for whom you care, to stay active.  Read More

6 Ways To Reduce Sundowners Syndrome

148035231Sundown syndrome, also called sundowning or sunsetting or sundowners disease, is a behavior common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. As the day progresses, he/she may begin to become more anxious, confused, agitated or disoriented. This distressing behavior can last a few hours or throughout the night, making life very difficult for the caregiver and the patient. Read More

Brain Fitness in Four Steps

Several companies offer software programs that increase “brain fitness” as a way for seniors to stay sharp and possibly derail, or at least delay, the risk of dementia. These programs are so mainstream that some insurance companies and AAA support cognitive training for older adults to promote safe driving.

Researchers are unclear whether these activities delay or prevent the possibility of dementia. But results from neuropsychological and neuroscientific research indeed show that brain functionality — especially memory, attention and information-processing skills — is immediately improved with vigorous, regular mental activity of many kinds. Read More

Brain Fitness in Four Steps

Cognitive function refers to perception, memory, imagery creation, thinking and reasoning. The pop term brain fitness was coined because cognitive function can be maintained or improved by exercising the brain through formal and ongoing education, specially designed exercises and other active mental engagement. Read More