Staying Connected with a Loved One Who Has Dementia

Maintaining a relationship with someone who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging.

Not only do these illnesses rob a person of memory, but they eventually impair a person’s ability to understand and speak words. Conversation and visits can become difficult.

But your loved one needs regular contact with family and friends.

“People with dementia or Alzheimer’s can pick up on how you make them feel,” says Stephanie Doppler, resident care manager at Eventide Sheyenne Crossings in West Fargo, N.D. “Even if they don’t remember your name or who you are, you can still leave them with a positive, good feeling.”

As the relationship changes, there are some important ways to stay connected with those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Tips for Interaction

  1. Listen for clues as to where a loved one’s reality is. As these diseases progress, mom or dad’s memory regresses. They might believe that they are in their 40s, working on the railroad, or in their 20s, raising small children. “Ask them to tell you what’s happening,” Doppler says. Help them reminisce rather than bring them back to the present.
  2. Be agreeable and find ways to offer comfort and reassurance. Don’t argue with your grandmother when she calls you the wrong name or says she doesn’t recognize you. Just be there as a friendly and comforting presence.
  3. Share musical experiences. Music memories do not fade as an individual’s disease progresses, Doppler says. Sing hymns together. Encourage your dad to play piano, if that’s something he’s done in the past. Listen to favorite songs. “Music is an important, useful tool,” Doppler says.
  4. Share memories. If your loved one no longer uses words to communicate, feed them memories. Tell your mom how much you enjoyed the chocolate chip cookies she used to bake or how much you enjoyed your dad’s woodworking projects. Find old photos and look at them together. Bring a quilt your grandma made and talk about it as she holds it. Read a short story or poem aloud. If faith was important to your loved one, pray together.
  5. Bring your kids or pets. If your loved one raised children or loved animals, bring small children or a well-behaved pet to the visit.
  6. Promote touch. Even if verbal communication is gone, human contact can speak volumes. Gently rub your mom’s hand or shoulders. Hold your grandpa’s hand. Be sure to read their signals so you can stop if they start getting agitated or upset.
  7. Find an activity for success. Search for activities that your loved one can still do. Giving them a purpose is important. Sweeping, setting the table, even blowing bubbles can provide a sense of accomplishment and value.

Staying Connected Long-Distance

If you don’t live close enough for regular in-person visits, staying in touch with a loved one with dementia can be even more difficult. Here are some ways to stay connected:

  • If a phone conversation is no longer possible, send cards or short notes. Everybody likes to receive mail. It’s another way of cultivating that feeling of closeness and comfort, that understanding that someone cares.
  • Check in regularly with staff to stay up-to-date on your mom’s health and well-being. This should eliminate any surprises when you do visit.
  • When you visit, try to not have certain expectations in mind. It can be difficult to see in-person how your loved one’s disease has progressed. Stay positive and accept your dad where he is at.

Above all, recognize that while the relationship has changed, maintaining connections with someone who has dementia is valuable.

The Importance of Respite Care

Keeping an elderly loved one in their home as long as possible is desirable, but it also can be an exhausting labor of love for family caregivers.

If your loved one needs 24-hour support, it can be challenging to find time for a vacation, a doctor’s appointment or even a trip to the grocery store. Burnout, exhaustion and frustration can quickly settle in.

Respite care can help to alleviate some of the physical and mental demands of caregiving.

“Taking care of a loved one is important,” says Genn Bervig, director of admissions and social services at Eventide. “It’s also important to take care of yourself if you’re the caregiver. That’s the best way you can continue to provide care for your loved one.”

Bervig regularly receives calls from family members looking for assistance.

“I’ve heard from caregivers who need surgery themselves and they’re wondering: ‘who’s going to take care of my loved one while I’m recuperating?’” she says.

Eventide doesn’t provide respite services for the general public. It does provide respite services for hospice patients through Hospice of the Red River Valley.

But there are formal and informal, in-home and out-of-home respite options available.

Ideally, caregivers can find another family member or a friend who can step in for a short period of time, whether it’s an hour or two each day or for a full week of vacation. This may be a good option if the senior doesn’t need special medical care but needs to have somebody around.

When a family member or friend isn’t an option:

· Ask a parish nurse for ideas. If your loved one is a member of a church or faith community, there may be a volunteer who could stop by for a couple hours each week.

· Search for a respite service. If you are looking in Cass County (North Dakota) or Clay County (Minnesota), visit www.CassClaySeniorResources.com. This website provides a list of area service providers who provide day or overnight relief care for seniors needing supervision.

· Consider adult day care. Again, www.CassClaySeniorResources.com provides a list of options. An adult day care center provides meals, socialization, games and educational activities. Caregivers then have the freedom to work or take care of other household needs during the day.

Paying for respite care can be difficult. Insurance may cover if the care providers are licensed medical professionals. Long-term care policies may pay for some services. Some states provide Medicaid waivers to offset costs. Some state agencies have funds set aside to help in certain cases.

You can find information on respite care funding in North Dakota here. https://archrespite.org/respite-locator-service-state-information/166-north-dakota-info

You can find information on respite care funding in Minnesota here. https://archrespite.org/respitelocator/respite-locator-service-state-information/155-minnesota-info

The important thing is to recognize that family caregivers need sufficient and regular amounts of time away. It’s not only okay, it’s healthy to take a break.

Moving Day: Tips for What to Bring

Moving into a new home always comes with some stress. That stress may be magnified once you’ve decided to move yourself or a loved one into a facility where they can receive more assistance and care.

That said, moving into an assisted living or long-term care facility doesn’t mean giving up the comforts of home. But the move likely will require you to make some decisions as you relocate into a different, and possibly, smaller space.

“It’s a transition, just like any move is,” says Sarah Sjaaheim, director of social services and admissions at Eventide Fargo. “Even if everyone is positive and excited about the move, there will be an adjustment.”

She encourages residents moving into assisted living or a long-term care facility to take their time in determining what they want to bring with them.

“Decisions don’t need to be made overnight,” she says. “You can live in the space for a while and make decisions from there.”

Moving into Assisted Living

Eventide’s assisted living residences are unfurnished apartments, meaning new residents bring their own furniture, furnishings and personal items.

Space for those items depends on the square footage and layout of each apartment. (There are one-, two- and three-bedroom units plus 14 different floor plans).

Before you move into assisted living, consider:

  • If you or your loved one uses a scooter or walker, make sure that there is enough space to store it and to maneuver around the apartment. You may have to limit furniture to make sure there are clear pathways.
  • Some bedrooms may accommodate queen- and king-sized beds while others are better suited for a full-sized one. If you’re not sure, ask the facility. If you want a dresser in the bedroom, ask if there will be room for it.
  • Bring your favorite rocking chair or recliner. If you prefer to use an electric lift chair, be sure you know how to use it safely.
  • Bring small tables, decorations and blankets to make it feel like your space.
  • Area rugs may make an apartment more homey, but they can also be a tripping hazard. Consider leaving these behind. If you’re determined to bring one, make sure it lays flat and the edges are taped down.
  • Take into consideration space needed for medical equipment. Be sure that oxygen tubing is secured or placed where it isn’t a tripping hazard.
  • Ask yourself what services will I (or my parent) need in six months? Planning for these needs when you first move in can make things easier down the road.

Moving into Long-Term Care

Tougher decisions need to be made when you or a loved one move into a long-term care community. The rooms are smaller and more space is needed for caregivers and medical equipment.

Everything in these rooms is provided except clothing and decorations, but there are still ample opportunities to personalize the space.

“We encourage our residents to get settled and then decide what they want to bring,” Sjaaheim says. “The only restriction is that staff need to be able to maneuver safely around the bed and chairs.”

Some items that can help you or your loved one feel more at home :

  • While toiletries are provided in long-term care, some residents prefer to bring their own.
  • A CD player or small radio.
  • Clothing.
  • Photos of family, friends or treasured memories.
  • Plants.
  • A Chair. Recliners are provided in Eventide’s rooms, but some residents prefer to use their own.
  • Items that reflect one’s hobbies or interests. Residents often decorate their doors with flowers or sports memorabilia so they can easily identify their room. One resident displayed a model ship outside his room.

“We encourage residents to bring something that says, ‘This is my spot. This is just for me,’” Sjaaheim says.

Verdie and Norma: A Love Story

Verdie Ellingson has always loved Valentine’s Day. In fact, he has a frame holding eight valentines he received as a child at his country school in Chippewa County, Minnesota.

Later in life, Valentine’s Day would be when he proposed to his future wife Norma. And today, he still celebrates by sending valentines to family and friends and decorating the drift wood Valentine’s tree that Norma saw in a store and had to have.

Verdie and Norma’s romance started long before it became official. In 1944, Verdie attended a “basket social” at the country school where his sister Sylvia was a teacher. At a basket social, the girls would bring a basket containing a picnic lunch. The baskets were auctioned to raise money for the school. Sylvia tipped Verdie off as to which basket was Norma’s. He bid on it, won and had the privilege of having lunch with Norma that day. He went as far as to ask if he could give her a ride home, but her mother refused, being Norma was only 14 and Verdie was 20.

A couple of years later, Verdie was home on leave from his military service and went to a dance where he saw Norma. The two danced and visited and this time Verdie did give Norma a ride home. After that, Verdie went back to serving in World War II. Norma regularly sent him letters while he was gone.

Upon his return, Verdie was determined to finish college. After graduation, he took at teaching job in southern Minnesota. During Thanksgiving break, Sylvia once again played a role in Verdie and Norma connecting. Sylvia was married to Norma’s brother and wanted Norma to come home for Thanksgiving. She asked Verdie if he could pick up Norma in the Twin Cities where she was attending nursing school. He agreed. That ride sealed their fate. The two started seriously dating and on Valentine’s Day of 1952, Verdie proposed and Norma accepted, and as Verdie says, they “lived happily ever after.”

The two would spend almost 50 years together, Verdie always in love with Norma, just like a fairytale love story. “She was easy to love and she made it so I was easy to love, too,” says Verdie.

Verdie worked as a teacher, then an administrator and then a school superintendent. Norma worked as a nurse. Together they had four children and 10 grandchildren. When the couple retired, they moved to Moorhead to be close to their son.

When Norma needed more care due to her rheumatoid arthritis, the couple moved to Eventide on Eighth, where Verdie continues to live today, still celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Consider Eventide Foundation on Giving Hearts Day – Feb. 9!

You make a difference in the lives of our residents! Your gifts help us to enhance resident programming and activities so that every resident can continue to live their lives to the fullest! Please remember Eventide Foundation on Giving Hearts Day. Match funding multiplies the impact of your giving. Your gift of $10 or more will be matched up to $11,000. Make your gift count! Donate at givingheartsday.org on Feb. 9th.

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Learn more about the difference you can make through donating to our foundation!

 

 

Paying for Long-Term Care

If you’re fortunate enough to reach the age of 65, the question is “when” and not “if” you will need long-term care services or support. About 70 percent of us who reach that milestone will need care in their remaining years. On average, women will need care longer than men.

This trend leads to the second most popular question that Genn Bervig, director of Admissions and Social Services at Eventide, hears from families who call: what will this care cost?

The short answer: it depends.

There are a variety of services and support and, likewise, a wide range of costs. No matter what kind of long-term care you will need, researching options and planning ahead financially will benefit you and your family.

Costs

Long-term care is expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average cost for nursing home care can range from $200-$300 per day, depending on services needed and whether the resident has a shared or private room. Personal items like phone and television are extra.

Assisted living can cost more than $3,000 per month. A home health aid costs about $150/day. And homemaker services like preparing meals and light cleaning can run about $130/day.

More people use long-term care services at home than in facilities like nursing homes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. On average, women need support for 3.7 years; men for 2.2 years.  

Ways to Pay

Some individuals qualify for public health programs like Medicaid that will pay for long-term care either in a facility or at home. To be eligible, you must meet certain financial and health requirements. Because nursing homes cost so much, residents may pay first with their own money and “spend down” resources until they qualify for Medicaid. There are rules about this.

To the surprise of many families, Medicare rarely covers long-term care, Bervig says. It will pay for a short stay in a skilled nursing home or home health care if you’ve had a three-day hospital stay prior and need skilled nursing services or therapy.

This means that most families cover these costs themselves, usually through a combination of these methods:

1.   If you have long-term care insurance, research what services are covered. Some policies cover home care and assisted living services. Others cover only nursing home stays. The cost of the policy depends greatly on your age when you purchase it and the coverage desired.

2.  Most people don’t have enough money to pay for long-term costs out of savings and retirement funding. By planning ahead, they can determine the best private payment options for them. For example, reverse mortgages, certain life insurance policies, annuities and trusts are just a few ways to help cover the costs.

Since each situation is different, it may be wise to consult with an attorney or financial planner who can help you plan for these costs, Bervig says. Be sure this expert specializes in elder law or has significant experience with the needs of aging seniors.

Also, keep researching and stay up-to-date with the best ways to pay for long-term care. As the population ages, additional ways to cover these costs are being developed.

What Types of Home Care Are Available?

There are basically three kinds of home care: skilled home health care, non-skilled home health care and homemaking duties.

Skilled home health care is prescribed by a doctor when someone has a short-term need for nursing care, therapy or support services. A typical situation is that someone has been hospitalized and must continue healing at home.

Research shows that patients recovering from illness, injury or surgery heal more quickly and more successfully at home, says Cassie Mack, director of Ethos Home Care (a partnership of Eventide, Bethany and Knute Nelson).

Ethos provides skilled nursing care (management of chronic illness, IV therapy, wound management, medication management and education), home health aide services (to assist with activities of daily living), and therapy services (physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy) at home.

“A large focus area for our clinicians is providing education to clients and their families”, Mack says. “Safety is very important to us. Often our physical therapists and occupational therapists will complete a one-time safety evaluation to ensure the client has what they need to remain safe in their home.”

Ethos also offers technology systems to help keep aging seniors safe at home. For example, a personal alert system can be used to alert someone should the senior fall. Or maybe a tool is needed to assist with medication management.

“Our whole philosophy is that you are your best advocate and the owner of your health,” says Tammy Lopez, community liaison for Ethos. “We do what we can to honor your wishes.”

If an aging person needs only non-skilled services, there are services available for homemaking and personal care. Home health aides can help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, skin care, and even getting dressed. Aides also may assist with homemaking duties such as light housecleaning, laundry and meal preparation.

It might take some coordination and some work, but finding services to remain in one’s home can be a gratifying solution for everyone.

Also read our article, When Is Home Care Needed?

When Is Home Care Needed?

shutterstock_118880965Sometimes it’s obvious home health care is needed. Perhaps your parent was in the hospital and has been discharged, but requires skilled nursing or therapy until they’ve completely recovered. These services can be provided at home, whether home is a private residence, apartment, condo, or assisted living facility

But sometimes it’s harder to know whether a loved one needs help to safely remain in their home.

Genn Bervig, director of Admissions and Social Services at Eventide, offers a few tips that may clue you into whether a loved one needs some support services at home:

  • Look in the fridge and cupboards. Are there old or expired items? Do they have enough food and nutritious food available?
  • Are medications being taken on time? Is your parent taking expired medications? Are they taking all their medications?
  • Check out the bathroom and bedroom. Are there any signs of incontinence?
  • Look around the house and at your parent or friend. Are things clean? Are they bathing regularly and keeping clothes clean? Do they have any skin break down (sores) from poor hygiene?
  • Ask your aging senior when they last saw a physician. Are they making it to their medical appointments?
  • Take your parent for a drive. Let them drive and navigate. How do they do?
  • Talk to your loved one’s neighbors. They often know things and see things that you don’t. Also, your parents may mention something to them that they wouldn’t mention to an adult child.

“Observe with your eyes wide open,” Bervig says. “Be open to want you might see and not just what you want to see.”

For more information on Home Care, read our article, What Types of Home Care Are Available?

Eventidings Newsletter | Winter 2016

Our Winter 2016 newsletter is now available! In it you’ll find:

  • A Jamestown resident visits his farm, made possible by Eventide’s Daydream Project
  • Eventide Senior Living’s new mission and vision
  • An update from the Eventide Foundation

 

Resident Stories: In Service to Our Country

In honor of Veterans Day, we will feature several residents of Eventide Senior Living Communities who are veterans. A special thank you to those featured for sharing their special stories.

Veteran Spotlight: Verdie Ellingson, Eventide on Eighth, Linden Tree Circle

verdie3verdie4Verdie Ellingson is a proud veteran of World War II, but how he came to be a part of the war wasn’t exactly what he’d expected.

What Verdie had expected was to be drafted soon after he graduated from high school. He looked forward to serving his country. Upon graduation, he was told that he would not be drafted – his older brothers were already were serving and he was expected to stay back and help on the family farm. Verdie took this and made the best of it, speaking to the character that still is ever present in the man today.

Although Verdie wasn’t drafted when he thought he would be, his time would come. Verdie had enrolled in his first semester of coverdiekoreallege at Luther College in Dechorah, Iowa, when his draft letter came. In 1946, even after the war had ended, the draft continued. There was still work to be done. Anyone who served in the military up until December of 1946 is a World War II veteran.

Verdie was stationed in Korea as a radio teletype operator, sending messages to Japan. Verdie compares the teletype work to early computer work. Not only was the work he did there purposeful, but the experience of living in another country for two years was what Verdie calls outstanding. He was immersed in the Korean culture and enjoyed getting to know many of the people living there, including a young man he worked with in a civilian job when he wasn’t fulfilling his service work.

After two years in Korea, Verdie was discharged from the army and returned to his family farm near Montevideo, Minn., until he could return to Luther College to finish his education in the fall of that year. Verdie graduated from Luther in 1950 with a degree in business education with a minor in history – Verdie loved and still loves history. Verdie was a teacher until he earned his master’s degree in education administration in Missoula, Montana. He then worked as a principal before becoming super intendent of schools in Glencoe, Minn.

Along the way, during the time when he was in college, Verdie married the love of his life, Norma. Many use the term “love of his life,” but if you ever have a chance to hear Verdie talk about Norma, you’ll know that no other words are truer or could be used. The couple had four children and 10 grandchildren.

When they retired, Verdie and Norma moved to Moorhead, Minn., to be close to two of their children. After Norma developed rheumatoid arthritis, the couple moved to Eventide on Eighth into an apartment in Linden Tree Circle. Norma passed away in 2011 and Verdie continues to live at Linden Tree where he is active in the community.

In October of 2015, Verdie had the opportunity to go on the WDAY Honor Flight. He brought his son Todd along and Verdie toured Washington D.C. with fellow veterans. He’s proud of his service to his country and had an amazing experience on the trip.

Today, on November 11, 2016 – Veterans Day, we’re thankful to you, Verdie, and all of the veterans!

Veteran Spotlight: Earl Roesler, Eventide Sheyenne Crossings

earl1 earl2In 1942, at 23 years old, Earl Roesler’s life changed. He went from working on his farm near Leonard, ND, to being drafted into the army during WWII.

Earl found himself at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas. There he went through basic training. When completed, he and other soldiers would check the bulletin board to see what opportunities were available so they could leave infantry training. A position for a cook caught Earl’s eye and he signed up, although not too excited. Then he saw an opportunity for an auto mechanic – this was something he could get into! Next to farming, mechanical work was a hobby he really enjoyed. And so began Earl’s adventure in the army as a mechanic.

After spending time on Angel’s Island near San Francisco, not knowing what the future had instore, Earl stepped foot on a ship. Twenty-one days later, he found himself at the Fiji Islands. The soldiers lived near a seaport and did mechanical work. After nearly two years on the Fiji Islands, Earl again found himself on a ship. On their next adventure, the soldiers crossed the equator, Earl noting it being a strange thing to see.

“That’s quite the experience, crossing the equator,” says Earl. “All you could see was water. Looking west of the ship, the water was blue, looking east of the ship, the water was green. It was a line between blue and green across the hemisphere.”

This time when the ship reached its destination, Earl was on the Solomon Islands, where there was very little civilization and an active volcano, something he was always aware of. Earl and his fellow soldiers occupied one end of the island, while Japanese soldiers occupied the other end. After the Solomon Islands, Earl was sent to the Philippines. The island offered very hot days – once up to 126 degrees, but mostly around 100+ degrees – and cold nights. Although the temperature would stay around 80 at night, the air was so damp that the soldiers would shiver beneath many layers of blankets. It was nothing like back home. While there, the war ended.

On November 1, 1945, Earl arrived by train to Casselton. He went back to farming where he grew many acres of grains over the years, while also raising cattle in the winter months. In 1951, he married his wife and together they raised five children. Earl and his wife eventually started spending winters near Orlando, which allowed Earl to golf all year long, something he very much enjoyed. Earl lives at Eventide Sheyenne Crossings, is 97 years old, and has five generations below him with the farm still in the family.

Veteran Spotlight: Robert J. Sarbaum, Eventide Jamestownrobertsarbaum

Robert J. Sarbaum was drafted in 1946 when he was 23 years old. He trained at Fort Snelling in Minnesota as MP (military police) and was stationed in California. His role was to provide security for the German prisoners of war (POWs) held at the POW camp. He served in this role for two years, received the WWII Victory Medal and remains a member of his local VFW today.  

Upon honorable discharge from the army, he and his wife Myrna farmed near his hometown of Marion, North Dakota. Today, he lives at Eventide Jamestown.

Veteran Spotlight: Tim Kurtz, Eventide Heartlandtimkurtz

In 1947, at the age of 17, Tim Kurtz joined the National Guard, wanting to join his brothers in serving his country.

“It means a lot to me,” he says. “To have served my country with my seven brothers, all of us serving in the Army.  It made my father so proud that every one of us was able to serve our country.”

Tim began his service at Camp Rucker in Alabama and then went on to Fort Worth, Texas. After receiving an honorable discharge, Tim returned to his hometown of Devils Lake where he worked in a furniture store and also assisted in a carpet installation business with his older brother.

When Tim was 22 he married his wife Mary Anne. In January they will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. The couple raised two daughters and three sons; they lost a three-year-old son who had cerebral palsy. timkurtz1

Tim’s special interests have included woodworking, gardening, helping others and following his Catholic faith.  An avid football fan since he was a child, Tim continues to follow his favorite teams, the North Dakota State University Bison and Minnesota Vikings.

Thank you, Tim, for your service to our country!

 

Veteran Spotlight: Sheila McMullen, Eventide Fairmont

Moorhead native Sheila McMullen has always been up for adventure. After finishing nursing school in Valley City, ND, Sheila was a nurse at St. Ansgar Hospital in Moorhead and then moved to Minneapolis to continue her work as a nurse. Living in the big city was exciting, but still, she wanted to do more. Following in himg_5288er father’s and brothers’ footsteps, she joined the military to put her nursing skills to work for her country. After enlisting in the Air Force, even more adventure ensued. Sheila completed basic training and then spent two years in San Antonio, Texas – a place she very much enjoyed. Later, she was stationed in England where she served as a nurse to men who’d been injured in Vietnam and were transitioning – either to go back home to the United States or to finish their duties elsewhere after they were restored back to health.

As a nurse, she knew how to help the injured, and as an empathetic person who enjoyed her work in mental health, she knew how to connect to the soldiers who’d been injured in war. The service was meaningful and rewarding and her role was important. img_5285fullsizerender

“I worked with great people and it was an honor to serve,” says Sheila.

Being in England offered Sheila an opportunity to go on another adventure she often dreamed of, one that meant something on a different level – she got to go to Ireland. Some of Sheila’s ancestors were from Ireland and she’d always embraced a deep interest in those roots.

Although Sheila considered staying in the military, she decided 10 years was the right amount of time for that adventure. After leaving as a Captain, she returned to the Moorhead area where she could be close to her family, continue her career as a nurse and embark on another adventure – learning. Sheila has always had an intense interest in history and politics which led her to get a degree in international relations at Concordia College. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she still continued with the work she loved – nursing – until she retired. Today, she continues to have a passion for learning – something she fulfills by reading many books while living at Eventide Fairmont.

Thank you, Sheila, for your service to our country!