Tips and Ideas

Thanks for checking out our page. Our goal is to share some quick tips and ideas for creative caregiving. We’ll be updating frequently so stop back soon!

Quick Tips

Color is so important to our lives: it affects our mood, behavior, and outlook on life. It can calm or incite, depress or excite. I'm sure you agree that color magnifies your world, but have you ever considered how it affects your loved ones? Especially those who have Alzheimer's or a related dementia?

Extensive studies have been conducted with some astounding results. Did you know that you can actually use different colors to achieve different outcomes?

Consider the following:

  • Red plates and cups can increase appetite, but be careful, it can also encourage overeating! Red also increases participation, so if you want someone to play a game, use a red ball or red-based game piece. Try to avoid wearing red clothes, though, because it can be perceived as intimidating (think of red power suits in corporate America).
  • Green stimulates the mind. It's a great color to wear around a loved one with dementia because its often the last color that we lose the ability to see; it also promotes relaxation and peace. Does your loved one have trouble finding something? Try wrapping it in green tape!
  • Because purple is the color associated with royalty and value, and it can stimulate imagination and spirituality. Did you know that purple items are often the first to go missing?
  • Yellow increases happiness and well-being ... Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy (loved John Denver!). People tend to gravitate toward and congregate in yellow rooms. Yellow also increases saliva. (Hmmm, if red promotes overeating and yellow increases saliva, is it any wonder that McDonalds' colors are red and yellow?)
  • Blue is a color that relaxes and instills calm. Wear blue if you want to come across as non-threatening. Blue rooms can also decrease confusion and promote concentration. (I'm going to conduct my own study of school rooms - are they blue, and if not, why not?)
  • White is very difficult to see and can increase confusion. Those with dementia can find it extremely difficult to differentiate between white dinner plates and colorless, bland food (chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc.), between sheets and pillow cases, and between white porcelain in the bathroom. Be mindful and try to use contrasting colors.
  • Black can be very frightening to those with dementia. They may be unable to see details and perceive black objects as holes (especially anything below the waist that is black). Black is also perceived as threatening and can make your loved one feel very vulnerable.

This information is taken from The Dementia Concept by Joshua J. Freitas. I had the pleasure of meeting Joshua and have taken two workshops with him. What a dynamic guy! If you want to explore color further, Google the psychology of color, color and dementia, color and elderly, or the psychology of color in marketing and branding to get started. It's a fascinating topic!

On another note, adult coloring books are all the rage these days for mindful relaxation. I highly recommend it from personal experience. I very much enjoyed coloring as a child, and I get the same enjoyment today. There are loads of adult coloring books at hospital gift shops, Walmart, and Barnes & Noble, and there are even some fun coloring apps. (Colorfy is my personal favorite!) If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing activity for you and your loved one, a box of Crayons or markers and a coloring book may be just the ticket! 

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 gift indeed.

  • 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, textures, etc.
  • 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." 

April Fool's Day is so interesting. There are some fun, and not so fun, pranks making their way around the Internet.  I ran across this article from the Washington Post that will help you know what is true this year ... or not!  Click Here

What is always fun, no matter the day, is engaging your loved ones with laughter: jokes, funny stories, games, silliness in all its forms makes for fabulous "internal exercise." Personally, I love belly laugh exercising!

Did you know that we have several joke books and fun games our clients' families can check out to help them share laughter and fun with their loves ones?  We sure do!  You can also use the Internet to find fun, uplifting stories and other activities:

Reader's Digest Jokes and Funny Stories
Great Clean Jokes
Funny Stories
Activities at Home PDF

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 Alzheimer's Association 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!

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 Londonderry Trailways.

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. 

 
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:

Left Neglect


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!

Bonnie Roberts
President
Home Helpers of Londonderry

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!

"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 succomb to the speading 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 yet." 

~ 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 dementias. 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 outstanding care.

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.

Bonnie Roberts
President
Home Helpers of Londonderry

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!