As always, you should adjust your approach to help ensure your loved one's
participation and to help make sure any activity is fulfilling and enjoyable
for them. The
is a fantastic resource to help you plan both the activity and your approach;
the information is applicable not only for those with dementia but in
other situations as well.
Here’s hoping you find your funny bone!
One of the most important elements of our lives is how we engage with people.
What benefit or enrichment do we bring to the people around us? Our loved
ones, friends, colleagues ... how do we interact to create the most beneficial
use of our time and theirs? Does it matter?
Yes, I believe it matters a great deal. Whether we are with someone 24
hours a day or just a few minutes, a loved one or a stranger, the choice
we make in how we engage with another person is impactful for us and for them.
So what is the best way to interact? It's quite simple, if you ask me.
Find out what is meaningful for the other person and find a way to create
joy for them around it, regardless of whether it is meaningful for you.
The gift of attention is priceless, and when that attention focuses on
something cherished by another and makes them feel special, it is a rare
- Do they like sports? Brush up on local teams, take them to events, or watch
a game together on television.
- Do they enjoy gardening? Ask for help planning a garden (whether you will
actually plant it or not). Ask for advice about growing plants and vegetables.
Check out books at the library on flowers and gardening or look them up
on the Internet.
- Do they like to knit, crochet, or craft? Bring some yarn and ask them to
teach you if you don't know how, or, if you do, bring your current project
and ask for their opinion. Go to a yarn store and discuss weights, colors,
- Do they appreciate art or history? Why not plan a trip to a local museum,
gallery, or monument and discuss the exhibits? The library and Internet
are great resources for this interest as well.
- Cooking, music, photography, and games are other ways in which we can engage
people by asking their opinions, asking them to share their knowledge
or experiences, and generating interesting conversation.
- Are you planning an event? Ask for their help and opinions when making
decisions. Do you need to follow through on those opinions? No, but the
fact that you asked means a great deal.
As Dale Carnegie, author of
How To Win Friends and Influence People, said, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested
in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people
interested in you."
Londonderry Rail Trail
Did you know that the Londonderry Rail Trail has completed another paved
section and that it runs right behind our Home Helpers of Londonderry
office? The paved completed section is 1.75 miles long one way from North
Elementary School to Liberty Drive, and 3.5 miles round trip. The trail
follows the old railroad corridor; it is an out and back, straight stretch,
rather than a loop. You can park at North Elementary School (when school's
not in session) at 19 Sanborn Rd or at the Exit 5 Park & Ride (Long
term and overflow parking areas) at 4 Symmes Drive. The paved section
can easily accommodate walkers, strollers, or wheelchairs, so it would
be a great place to get your loved one out in the fresh air and get some
mild exercise. For those who want a longer walk, Phase 3 or the "Peat
Bog section" as its known, continues east towards Derry.
For more information on the Londonderry Rail Trail visit
CLICK HERE for a handy document with some great safety tips for walking the trail
brought to you by the Londonderry Police Department and the Town of Londonderry
Senior Resource Committee.
Music For Healing and Enrichment
Yesterday I attended the 35th Annual Massachusetts Brain Injury Conference,
and one of the workshops I attended was
The Music That Makes Your Brain Move and Sing. The presenter, Brian Harris, is a Neurologic Music Therapist at Spaulding
Rehabilitation Hospital through his company MedRhythms, and he introduced
us to the power of music to help the brain heal after injury or stroke.
I have to say that I was a bit out of my league. I can't carry a tune without
a bucket, have little to no rhythm, and here I was in a room of musicians
and vocalists, but I made it to the end with no one the wiser as to my
lack of musicality!
It was a fantastic workshop, and now I can't stress enough the importance
of introducing music as part of your loved one's care, especially if your
loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or has Alzheimer's
or a related dementia. Music can activate damaged motor systems and help
people walk again, and it can help reroute language processes and help
those who lost their ability to talk communicate through singing. Music
actually changes the way our brains communicate and function; it's not
just practice! Brian and other neurologic music therapists are finding
that patients are recovering faster, with greater results, and sometimes
music is the only thing that works.
If you want to check out some videos of Brian's work at Spaulding:
While most of us aren't music therapists or neurologic music therapists,
we can use music to help our loved ones with focus, stimulation, and healing.
Just one word of advice: please don't use sing-along music at mealtimes
- we don't want to cause a choking situation!
Home Helpers of Londonderry
One Thing, Right Now
I have a confession to make, although it is no secret to those who know
me: I loathe and despise Daylight Savings Time. Personally, I wish they
would just leave the clocks alone, but since they didn’t ask me
I just have learn to live with it. That said, I live a very discombobulated
life until my body adjusts to the new time routine which is very annoying
since I’m usually very organized and able to stay on task with ease.
So when I’m feeling disorganized and my to-do list needs attention
I fall back on my tried and true practice of “one thing, right now.”
The first thing I do is to write down all the tasks that I need to accomplish,
breaking down larger chores into smaller action items that can be taken
care of in 10 minutes or so. For instance, instead of listing “clean
the house” I break it down into a number of tasks: dust the living
room, clean the bathroom, vacuum downstairs, etc.
Next I tackle
one thing, right now, and when I’m finished with the task I cross it off my list.
This technique works with any type of list, any type of chore. The trick
is to keep your tasks small enough to accomplish within that 10-minute
time frame which make them easy to fit in to hectic schedules and provide
a tremendous sense of accomplishment with each line-through.
Trust me, by tackling
one thing, right now, before you know it, your to-do list will be to-done!
Signs of Pain
"Imagine your brain as a house filled with lights. Now imagine someone
turning off the lights one by one. That's what Alzheimer's Disease does.
It turns off the lights so that the flow of ideas, emotions, and memories
from one room to the next slows and eventually ceases. And sadly, - as
anyone who has ever watched a parent, a sibling, a spouse succumb to the
spreading darkness knows - there is no way to stop the lights from turning
off, no way to switch them back on once they've grown dim. At least not
~ Excerpt from "The Science of Alzheimer's", J. Madeleine Nash,
"Time", July 17, 2000
Wednesday I attended a workshop on providing hospice care to those with
end stage Alzheimer's or related dementia's. The workshop was given by
Compassionate Care Hospice at The Arbors of Bedford. While the workshop
covered some basics like the different types of dementia (remember, all
Alzheimer's is dementia but not all dementia is Alzheimer's), one particular
part of the workshop stood out and I thought I'd share it with you: pain
assessment in those with Alzheimer's or dementia.
As many of you know from experience, those with dementia, brain injury,
stroke, aphasia, or any number of other medical conditions may have significant
difficulty with language and communication. Some may be completely non-verbal
while others may have trouble finding words and not be able to effectively
communicate their basic needs. This is when knowing your loved one and
your ability to read their body language becomes a critical key to providing
One Sunday not too long ago a caregiver called me because she was having
a hard time with her client. He was fighting her at every turn, showing
extreme agitation and generally being quite difficult. Now this client
has a history of being a bit difficult and he isn't always able to communicate
effectively, but this day his behavior was way out of normal range so
the caregiver was understandably concerned. Come to find out, he had pneumonia.
He was hospitalized that day and is now in rehab.
- So, what are some non-specific signs and symptoms suggesting the presence
of pain in those who cannot tell you outright?
- Frowning, grimacing, fearful, facial expressions, grinding of teeth
- Bracing, guarding, rubbing
- Fidgeting, restlessness
- Striking out, increasing or recurring agitation
- Eating or sleeping poorly
- Sighing, groaning, crying, heavy breathing
- Decreasing activity levels
- Resisting certain movements during care
- Change in gait or behavior
- Loss of function
- Increased sleeping
Again, it's important that we pay attention to the details of our loved
one’s behavior and note any changes. If they always fidget, fidgeting
may not be a sign that suggests pain, but if there is increased fidgeting
and one or more of the other signs or symptoms, they may be trying to
convey that they are hurting.
If you have any questions or need assistance with your loved one, please
feel free to give me a shout.
Home Helpers of Londonderry
Yoga for Health and Stress RElief
I have recently started to embrace yoga and can see its benefits for seniors,
those with disabilities, and caregivers. Yoga can increase flexibility,
improve balance, and relieve stress. It has the added benefit of not needing
a lot of room or equipment.
Regardless of your current fitness level, there are many yoga routines
that can improve your health and overall wellness. Because I don't have
a lot of time and can't go to a formal class, I've turned to YouTube for
a personal trainer. Search on Yoga for Seniors, Chair Yoga, or Yoga for
Beginners to get started!