Chicago Suburban Family


Special Report: Senior Resource Guide

By  | 

Whether you’re a senior in need of healthcare or a loved one trying to help with the decision, weighing your options and making the right decision can seem daunting. We hope the information in this section will help guide you along the way.

INDEX (scroll below to read articles)


  • Heritage Woods -Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook, Plainfield & So. Elgin and Lacey Creek in Downers Grove
  • Terra Vista of Oakbrook Terrace
  • Artis Senior Living of Bartlett
  • Villa St. Benedict…A Community with a History, Lisle
  • Midwestern University Eye Institute
  • Glen Ellyn Park District Senior Programs
  • The Law Offices of Cindy K. Campbell
  • DuPage Medical Group, Medicare Advantage
  • Alvernia Manor, Lemont
  • Cedarhurst of Naperville/Woodridge and Yorkville
  • Foot & Ankle Wellness Center, Woodridge

2) How to Find the Best Possible Care for Your Loved One

3) Older Driver Safety Awareness

4) Benefits from Low-Impact Workouts

5) Discounts Seniors Didn’t Know They Could Get

6) Dealing With Matters After Loss

7) Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers



Heritage Woods…
Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook, Plainfield & So. Elgin and Lacey Creek in Downers Grove are Supportive Living communities which combine residential apartment home living with support services for residents to enjoy the companionship of friends and neighbors, and to participate in social events and programs.

The communities are staffed 24/7 by our compassionate staff of CNA’s and licensed nursing staff. Residents receive the personalized assistance they need to complement their individual abilities.

We place an emphasis on providing residents with the dignity they deserve and on helping each resident maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible.

For more information or to schedule a tour call Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook; (630) 783-9640, Heritage Woods of Plainfield;  (815) 267-3800, Heritage Woods of South Elgin; (847) 531-8360, and Lacey Creek, Downers Grove; (630) 964-7720.

Terra Vista of Oakbrook Terrace…
Ask the Expert: Advice on Alzheimer’s and dementia care from Natalie McFarland, Executive Director of Terra Vista of Oakbrook Terrace

  1. “Mom and I have always been close. But since she’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there are times when I feel I am the mother and she is the child. How do I best embrace my new role and help her without feeling too sad or resentful?”
  2. No matter how old you are, it is unsettling when you become the parent to your parent. Caregivers experience a wide array of emotions – anxiety, depression, complete exhaustion, irritability, lack of concentration and perhaps even their own health problems – as they struggle to embrace their new role.

Doing it successfully takes time, patience and self-forgiveness. Here are some tips and insights that might help:

  • Make some “me” time.
  • Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest.
  • Reach out to family and friends.
  • Take advantage of respite programs.

You can be a loving caregiver to your mother while being a “best friend” to yourself. With the right resources and planning combined with a strong support system, you can and will feel more in control. Call 630.473.9545 today to speak with Natalie and learn about the support that is waiting for you!

Artis Senior Living of Bartlett…
Artis Senior Living is a brand new memory care community located in Bartlett, IL. Artis strives to make sure that its residents and their families have a say in how they live. Instead of a one-size-fits-all philosophy, the Artis experience is tailored specifically to each person in order to ensure independence, dignity and quality of life. To learn more about The Artis Way and to schedule a tour, call 630-855-5939.Located at 1035 S. Route 59, Bartlett, IL 60103.

Villa St. Benedict…A Community with a History…
Villa St. Benedict is a boutique senior living community in Lisle, IL. Their history and spirit make it one of a kind, and a hidden gem in the western Chicago suburbs. Residents and staff consider each other family at Villa St. Benedict. The staff turn-over is very low, and their open-door policy leads to beautiful friendships between residents and staff.  “It’s a very special privilege to have our resident’s trust,” says Lori D’Auben, Director of Nursing. “Every day is different. There is happiness… there is sadness… but having those close relationships with residents is what keeps me going every day.” The campus has 47 lush acres. The heart of the community is the glorious Sacred Heart Chapel.

Villa St. Benedict’s spirit of love and care that affects the daily tasks, communication, and attitude of all their staff. The Benedictine Core Values of hospitality, respect, stewardship and justice are the foundation of the community’s mission.

Villa St. Benedict offers 2-bedroom Villa Homes, a variety of independent living and assisted living apartments, and a memory care unit. Residents also enjoy many fine amenities including three dining venues, an exercise center, salon, library, outdoor walking paths and seating for enjoying beautiful vistas, and much more.

Please contact a sales counselor for information by calling 630-852-0345.

Midwestern University Eye Institute…
The Midwestern University Eye Institute offers a variety of services for seniors, including comprehensive eye exams, eye disease screening and treatment, vision therapy, low vision rehabilitation services, and emergency eye care needs. Our Doctors of Optometry ensure the highest quality of care while using the latest research and technology. We also offer a retail optical center that offers contact lenses and a wide selection of eyeglasses. All at an affordable price. The Midwestern University Eye Institute is located at 3450 Lacey Rd, Downers Grove, IL 60515. For more information, visit our website at or call 630-743-4500.

Glen Ellyn Park District Senior Programs…
Looking for fun activities for seniors? Glen Ellyn Park District offers a variety of programs ranging from our “Let’s Do Lunch” series to day trips. On the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month, seniors are invited to drop-in for coffee, cards, and bingo at Spring Avenue Recreation Center (fee: $1). In addition, both the District’s Spring Avenue Fitness Center (185 Spring Avenue) and Ackerman SFC (800 St. Charles Road) accept SilverSneakers. (630) 858-2462.

The Law Offices of Cindy K. Campbell…
Still Need to Create Your Will? At The Law Offices of Cindy K. Campbell we aim to provide a pleasant experience in a modern and relaxed environment.  We want our clients to feel comfortable and educated on the services they receive and many of our services are done at a flat fee, so the clients know how much they will spend at the start. Contact 866-566-9494/ or send an inquiry through our website: today to schedule a time to meet and review your estate planning needs.

DuPage Medical Group…
EXPLORE MEDICARE ADVANTAGE BENEFITS. Medicare Advantage (MA) plans may offer seniors options that improve quality of care and reduce overall costs. While covering all Medicare services, most MA plans include prescription drug coverage. Many also offer coordinated benefits such as vision, dental and even gym memberships. Learn more at

Alvernia Manor…
Alvernia Manor Senior Living is the “Hidden Gem” that can ease your family’s concerns.  The Mission of this unique senior living community is to provide seniors a loving, safe and caring home.  For over 45 years the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King and their dedicated staff have cared for seniors as their own family with respect, love and concern.  Family and friends refer Alvernia Manor as their “Hidden Gem”.

Alvernia Manor is located on a hilltop in Lemont, IL.  With its beautiful bluff location, the vivid colors of the four seasons are played out annually in panoramic view.  Residents can relax in the privacy of their room or spend spiritual time in the Chapel.  Keeping a resident’s body and mind healthy and active is the goal the Sisters and staff strive for.  Games, exercise, movies, bingo, shopping trips and entertainment are among the many activities on its monthly activity calendar.

Alvernia Manor’s healthcare staff ensures resident’s medications are dispensed, vitals taken and daily health monitored.  Fresh meals are prepared daily and all housekeeping needs attended to.  All this adds up to no more worries for you. In addition, Adult Day Services or Short Term Stay are other available option.  Loved ones receive the care and recreation they need in a safe environment while caregivers go to work or get a much needed break. Come see for yourself all Alvernia Manor offers.  To find out more about this “Hidden Gem” call 630.257.7721.

Cedarhurst is more than a place to live – it’s a place to call home. Now offering two locations to serve the Naperville/Woodridge and Yorkville areas! These brand-new communities feature a state-of-the-art wellness center with out-patient Physical, Occupational and Speech therapy that is open to the public, a variety of floor plans, and quality care by expertly trained staff.

Cedarhurst of Naperville/Woodridge is conveniently located at the corner of Route 53 and 75th street. Bordering the Forest Preserve, this three-story community boasts scenic and calming views.  A senior living community with 85 assisted living apartments and 24 residences equipped for memory care services, Cedarhurst of Naperville/Woodridge is specifically designed with the best interests of each person in mind.

Cedarhurst of Yorkville, located at the intersection of Route 34 and Cannonball Trail, is equipped with 53 assisted living apartments and 20 memory care residences. These apartments come in a variety of floor plans featuring patios and balconies that offer privacy and scenic views. This new modern community will open early 2019 but is currently taking reservations!

Each resident at Cedarhurst receives an individualized care plan created around his or her preferences, needs & desires. A unique memory care approach is utilized to offer peace of mind in a safe, secure home-like setting. Both communities offer chef-prepared meals with flexible dining hours, housekeeping, maintenance and a robust activity and life-enrichment schedule.

Call or visit today to schedule your personal tour and learn more about these brand-new communities! Call Cedarhurst of Naperville/Woodridge at (630) 835-0787 or Cedarhurst of Yorkville at (630) 225-8158. We look forward to meeting you!

Foot & Ankle Wellness Center…
We offer a complete line of podiatric services to keep your feet healthy. Conveniently located at Seven Bridges. Sr Jennifer Fuehrer and Dr. Leonard E Vekkos. 3540 Sevem Bridges Dr. Suite 290, Woodridge. 630-852-8522/

2) How to Find the Best Possible Care for Your Loved One

Five Key Questions to Ask When Choosing a Nursing Home

Placing a loved one in a long-term care facility is a heartbreaking decision, and unfortunately it’s one that sometimes must be made quickly as symptoms take a turn for the worse and a patient can no longer be cared for at home. The process of selecting a facility can be overwhelming and stressful for adult children who want to ensure their parents receive the best possible care. How can people who’ve never faced this decision before evaluate the available options and make an informed choice?

Long-term care facilities are licensed, regulated, inspected and/or certified by a number of agencies at the state and federal level, including the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. maintains information on all Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes in the country. Searching by your zip code will allow you to review ratings on staffing levels, health inspections and quality measures for facilities in your area.

But information obtained during these inspections is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to assessing the quality of care at a facility. Patient advocates encourage potential residents and their family members to visit facilities in person before making a decision. Here are some questions to investigate on your visit:

How does this facility ensure it delivers person-centered care?
Person-centered care treats a resident as more than just a diagnosis. That means care providers are actually supposed to know the unique individual they are caring for, and that interactions with the resident are informed by respect for his or her values, beliefs, and abilities, past and present. Care providers use effective and empathic communication, and build and nurture authentic, caring relationships that treat everyone with dignity and respect. They create a supportive community for individuals, family, and staff that provides opportunities for engagement, autonomy, joy, comfort, and meaning, even in the midst of the losses that accompany illness. Person-centered care doesn’t happen by accident. Facility staff should be able to demonstrate how they’ve embraced this value.

How does this facility foster and protect self-determination?
Current regulations call for making the resident the center of control for decision-making about aspects of his or her medical care and daily life. This means that, to the extent possible, the resident participates in care planning, makes decisions about requesting or refusing particular treatments, and selects companions and activities that reflect his or her interests. Does this facility allow residents to choose their roommates? Does it provide transportation to community activities outside the facility? In general, what are the policies and practices the facility has adopted that ensure the resident participates in decisions that affect him or her?

Does this facility have special characteristics or service limitations that might affect the quality of care now or down the road?
Facilities are required to provide potential residents with written notice of any special characteristics or service limitations that might affect care. This could be limitations of the physical space that make life difficult for people with certain kinds of physical disabilities, or a religious affiliation that influences the approach to end-of-life care. What happens when the patient needs psychiatric or dental care? Unexpected discharge or transfer is hard on elderly people in fragile health, so you want to understand exactly what a facility can—and can’t—provide before committing to it.

Is this facility well-staffed, and how well are the nurses and support care staff trained and compensated for their work?
Whether facility owners cut staff to increase profits at the top, or they simply cannot find enough qualified personnel to do this demanding and important work, the outcome is the same: understaffed residential facilities. The risk of injury, neglect, and abuse is much higher in facilities without the proper patient-to-staff ratios. These figures for every facility in the U.S. are available through the database and provide a good guideline for assessing whether a facility will be safe. In addition, be sure to inquire on your visit about special training staff has received to keep them up to date on current research and best practices in elder care, and note whether their compensation is in line with or above average.

Does this facility include an arbitration clause in its admission contract?
Arbitration clauses are often included as one small part of a multipart agreement in the admission contract, and residents or family members often sign on without understanding that they may be waiving their right to a jury trial or other rights under state law. If a facility routinely includes this clause, a potential resident may refuse to sign it or strike it out of multipart forms. Request detailed information on this issue and, if you are still unsure, seek legal advice before signing any documents.

Nothing can completely assuage the anxiety and confusion adult children experience when they must seek residential care for their parents. But excellent facilities do exist, and you can arm yourself with information on up-to-date standards and practices that will help you find a safe and nurturing environment for your loved one.

By Steven M. Levin

3) Older Driver Safety Awareness

As baby boomers enter the over 65 age bracket at an alarming rate (10,000 each day), the concern for older drivers’ safety and independence is greater now than at any time in our history. Adults 65 and older make up more than 16% of all licensed drivers, nationwide. By 2040, it is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will be 70 or older.

With increasing age come changes in physical, mental and sensory abilities that can challenge a person’s continued ability to drive safely. But there are a variety of safe travel options for people of all ages. The real need is a broader awareness of the solutions, rather than a narrow focus on the problem.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) believes that occupational therapy practitioners have the skills to evaluate a person’s overall ability to operate a vehicle safely and provide rehabilitation, if necessary. Many are specially trained in the full scope of driving rehabilitation. Occupational therapy practitioners work with older adults as well as their families and caregivers, offering individualized assessment. They can identify individuals’ unique challenges and find strategies that will help them live life to its fullest by keeping them active, healthy, and safe in their communities.

AOTA’s Older Driver  Safety Awareness

Week, December 3–7, 2018, aims to promote understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation to ensuring older adults remain active in the community—shopping, working or volunteering—with the confidence that transportation will not be the barrier to strand them at home.

Throughout the week, AOTA will bring attention to a different aspect of older driver safety at:

Monday: “Anticipating Changes That Can Affect Driving”

Whether we want to admit it or not, aging is inevitable. The ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional, and cognitive health. Although changes are a part of normal aging, they occur individually and at different rates and times. Just as one plans for retirement, it’s important to plan for transportation needs.

Tuesday: “Family Conversations”

AOTA’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is intentionally held each year in December because this is the time of year when families often come together for the holidays. One of the first steps in addressing older driver safety is having a nonthreatening conversation with our loved ones..

Wednesday: “Screening and Evaluations With an Occupational Therapist”

An older driver may decide that it is time to get a check-up on his or her driving fitness. The services described as “Driving fitness evaluations” may seem confusing, as they range from self-assessments (useful education tools to help identify potential challenges) to a professional comprehensive driving evaluation from an occupational therapy driving rehabilitation specialist. It is important for older drivers and their family members to understand the driving service they are getting, so they can act on the results in a meaningful way.

Thursday: “Interventions That Can Empower Drivers and Families”

Driving intervention is based on a plan that is drawn up between the client and therapist. The goal of intervention is to explore ways for individuals to drive safely for as long as possible.

Friday: “Staying Engaged in the Community With or Without a Car”

When an older driver discovers the need to make adjustments to drive safely or can no longer do so, families and friends can help him or her take these changes in stride. But to do so, the older driver and the family need to know about resources for independent community mobility before driving cessation occurs.

4) Benefits from Low-Impact Workouts

By Christopher W. Grayson, M.D

Activity is vital at any life stage. It helps children develop correctly, keeps adults healthy and reduces the impact of old age in seniors. Elders that stay active can enjoy various benefits to their well-being, even from low-impact workouts.

Still, it isn’t always easy to keep motivated to work out, especially during these hot summer days. To avoid loss of motivation, seniors should always keep in mind how beneficial exercise can be for them. Let’s have a look at how seniors can genuinely benefit from low-impact workouts, as well as what the best low-impact workouts are.

Better Physical Health

Regular activity prevents or lowers the risk of many illnesses, and keeps your body strong and healthy. Working out improves our immune system, which is especially crucial for elders since they are more vulnerable to diseases. But low-impact workouts don’t only keep diseases at bay. They also reduce the risk of falling by improving strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Even the most basic low-impact exercise like walking can help, as long as it’s done regularly.

Better Mental Health

Whichever form of exercise you choose, it’s sure to produce endorphins. Activities in nature will further increase the impact of the “feel good” hormone, ensuring you’ll feel satisfied and happy afterward. Nature walks or hikes, cycling, and yoga can serve you well in reducing bad moods and improve your overall mental health. Exercise has an exceptionally positive impact on insomnia and other sleeping problems, which are common in seniors.

More Social Engagement

One of the best things about exercise is that it doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Like-minded seniors can get together for walks or hiking. Having company usually improves accountability as well, so you’ll be more motivated to keep up with your workout habits. Another right way to stay active while enjoying company, is signing up for dancing or a fitness class. By maintaining social ties, you’ll keep loneliness at bay as well.

Improved Brain Function

According to multiple studies, physical activity also has a positive influence on our cognitive function. Exercise improves and fine-tunes our motor skills, which in turn keeps our mind sharp. Active seniors are in less of a risk from dementia, regardless of whether they’ve always been active or not. What matters is that you stay physically active.

Best Low-Impact Exercises

Sometimes seniors can find the idea of exercise intimidating due to fear of falling or injury. It is precisely why low-impact workouts are recommended as they are relatively easy compared to full-blown workout routines. Walking is the easiest one to get into but provides a full-body workout. The same goes for swimming, which is considered to be one of the safest solutions for exercising when joint health is in question. Stretching and yoga are great for building flexibility and balance or maintaining them in old age. Alternatively, you might want to take up cycling, dancing or tai chi.

Ultimately, staying active is one of the best ways to ensure a good quality of life even if you’re well into your senior years

Christopher W. Grayson, M.D. can be reached for more info at the Florida Orthopaedic Institute.

5) Discounts Seniors Didn’t Know They Could Get

Senior discounts are probably one of the best parts about growing old. Despite being retired and being able to do whatever you want, you also get, like, 10% off everything just because you’re a senior citizen. Sometimes even more than 10% off! And it affects everything from restaurants, to hotels, to shopping for a new outfit.

Did we mention you can also get a senior discount at places like national parks, too? Everyone is hopping on the senior discount bandwagon, and you need to take advantage of this as soon as possible! Here are some senior discounts you probably didn’t know about.

  1. Kohl’s Who doesn’t love Kohl’s? Well, you’re about to love it even more. Customers aged 60 and up will receive an additional 15% off their purchase on Wednesdays.
  2. Dunkin’ Donuts If you swear by your cup of Joe from Dunkin’ every morning, you’ll love this little deal going on. Show proof of your senior citizenship by way of your AARP card and you’ll receive a free donut with your purchase of a large coffee.
  3. Applebee’s Senior citizens aged 55 and up can receive 15% off their bill at select Applebee’s locations. Be sure to ask your server for more details to see if you’re dining at a qualifying location!
  4. American Airlines Planning on air travel anytime soon? When you fly by American Airlines if you are 65 or older, you receive special discounts. Select the “seniors” category when booking your flight to ensure you’re granted senior privileges.
  5. Expedia Book your next hotel through Expedia if you’re an AARP member. You’ll receive some awesome deals on not only flights and hotels, but also no booking fees on your next trip!
  6. AMC Theatres Thinking about hitting up the movie theater soon? Some AMC Theatre locations offer a 30% discount to senior citizens that are 55 and up on their movie tickets on Tuesdays!
  7. Amtrak Travelers who use Amtrak at age 62 and up will receive a 15% off discount on the lowest available rail fare.
  8. Walgreens Walgreens offers 20% off discounts to senior citizens on the first Tuesday of each month who are also Walgreens Balance Rewards cardholders who are 55 and up.
  9. Dress Barn Looking for a new dress, ladies? Be sure to stop at Dress Barn if you’re 55 or older to score 15% off your whole purchase.
  10. Boston Market Seniors who are 65 and up receive 10% off their whole meal at Boston Market.
  11. Carnival Cruises Book your next cruise with Carnival Cruises is you’re 55 and up! Senior citizens receive special discounts, such as low-priced cruise options and deals on travel plans.
  12. National Parks Seniors who are 62 or older can acquire a lifetime senior pass for all National Parks for just $10. The pass allows free entry to any and all National Parks in addition to a 50% off discount on a number of service fees.
  13. Salvation Army Thrift Stores Looking to support the Salvation Army and get a good deal? Seniors who are 55 and up can receive up to 50% off their purchase.
  14. Holiday Inn As one of the most popular and well-known hotels in the country, they obviously have some sweet senior discounts. Hotel guests that are 62 or older can receive anywhere from 20-40% off their stay.
  15. Supercuts Need a touching up on your hair? Supercuts offers an $8 off haircuts deal for seniors who are 60 and up.
  16. National Rent-A-Car Need to rent a car for any reason? Be sure to check out National Rent-A-Car for up to 30% off your rental if you’re an AARP member.
  17. Hallmark Hallmark offers a 10% discount on one day of the week, which varies by location.
  18. McDonald’s If you’re age 55 and up, you qualify for a discount on your McDonald’s coffee every single day!
  19. HARP The Home Affordable Refinance Plan (HARP) can help homeowners who were born before 1985 and want to save on their mortgage rate by reducing their monthly payments. It’s a great way to save!
  20. Home Alarm Systems Installing a home alarm system can actually help senior homeowners save money by giving a 10-20% off discount on their homeowners’ insurance for a high-quality alarm system.
  21. Auto Insurance If you’re a senior citizen currently paying more than $50 a month for car insurance and you’ve had no accidents or tickets, you may be qualified to receive a quote for a lower auto insurance rate. Just contact any major car insurance company and let them know you’re a senior citizen and looking for the best (and lowest) offers.
  22. Medical Insurance Seniors might be able to get some extra benefits from their insurance company, including a senior discount card that you can show when paying for prescriptions. Be sure to check in with your insurance company for vision, dental, hearing or prescription drug coverage benefits.
  23. Life Insurance Similar to what senior citizens can do with their car insurance rates, with life insurance you can search for the best life insurance quotes possible to get the cheapest rates. This way you can acquire the best life insurance policy to fit your needs and budget.

Be sure to spread the news about these awesome senior discounts! Learn more at 

6) Dealing With Matters After Loss

Will you have the responsibility for a parent or for anyone who is the financial or household manager of a relationship? If so, will that information be passed on when it’s needed?

A good friend of mine knew that her husband was dying, but she was totally unprepared for her own emotional reactions, which influenced her ability to function. A successful businesswoman in her own right, she was paralyzed when it came to the simple task of going to the bank and opening a checking account for the estate. Everyday tasks became formidable: Food shopping and going to the cleaners became major events. She even was challenged to go out of the house.

Her story is not unusual.

According to a Harvard Medical School publication, “Up to 50% of widows and widowers have symptoms typical of major depression during the first few months after a spouse’s death … A recent review noted that 15% of people are depressed at the one-year mark.”

A written record of important information will give survivors and executors the confidence to face the future in an organized manner, and to help navigate through many unknowns.

What should be recorded?

  • Desired funeral arrangements including if a prepaid plan exists or not, anatomical gifts, the reception, calling hours, the obituary, appointing a house manager, what happens at the funeral home and with clergy
  • Whom to call and when upon death
  • Where to get money to pay bills; how to transfer money from investments to a checkbook; who should handle this in the future
  • Investment accounts, reports and advisors
  • Legal papers and evaluations you might need later
  • Location of paid and unpaid bills – especially taxes
  • Financial information including sources of income, assets and current and recurring bills
  • Professionals to meet with – attorney, accountant and any other professional advisors
  • Information about checking, credit and ATM card accounts – which to cancel and/or transfer to another name and which not to and why
  • Lease data for car and phones
  • Whom to call for insurance that is carried for life, auto, medical and possibly long-term care and personal liability
  • Medical data – the names and phone numbers of doctors and medications
  • Whom to contact for home and appliance repairs – contact numbers and records of appliance models and serial numbers
  • Information on your house – the location of important papers such as house purchase, deed, alarm code, the location of emergency shutoffs and who has keys to the house
  • And while computer and software passwords are obviously important, so are the answers to security questions and how to get help for both your hardware and software problems

My Family Record Book, by Harris N. Rosen will prompt you through these issues – and many more. The book, available on Amazon, also addresses downsizing, where and how to get rid of stuff. (Thoughtful Holiday/Christmas Gift)

7) Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

By Constance Vincent, Ph.D.

My hat is off to all caregivers, but especially to those who take care of the 75 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s disease who live at home. Certainly for the person with AD, being surrounded by loved ones, photos and other memorabilia prevents the disorientation and loneliness of an unfamiliar environment.

For the caregiver, this situation can go on for 10 to 15 years. So it’s no wonder that caregivers are at risk for physical illness, social isolation and financial problems. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 40 percent of family caregivers become depressed and many find relief only when the wandering off, agitation and bathroom accidents become so bad that institutional care is their last hope.

If I had only one piece of advice to offer, it is this: The person you are caring for is no longer the same parent or spouse or even adult you once knew. You are dealing with someone whose brain damage is such that he or she is really only a child now—an older child at first, but eventually a toddler and finally a baby. Set aside your expectations of what the person could once do. That was the past. Your loved one is in a different reality now. For his or her sake and yours, meet this special person in his or her reality because he or she cannot get back to yours.

There are times, I know, when talking to a person with Alzheimer’s is like going to a foreign country. Maybe you talk louder than usual and use more words to make yourself understood. Forget it. Those reactions are the exact opposite of what you should do. If you recall, you never could reason with your toddlers.

So what did you do? You talked slower. Used simple words and short sentences. Made eye contact and got their attention. Offered brief explanations and repeated instructions exactly. Established a daily routine. Took them by the hand and re-directed them to the next activity. Distracted instead of argued. Smiled and gave hugs or compliments. Offered small rewards consistently for behavior you encouraged.

Like a toddler, persons with AD are full of unpredictable emotions that can rise quickly to the surface. Listen and respond to the feelings behind their words. Think how frightened they are. They cannot remember any new information. Period. So they repeat the same things again and again. They are slow to comprehend. They don’t interpret their body symptoms very well and don’t know when they’re hungry or need a bathroom. Perhaps they don’t even recognize you or know your name.

Naturally you get frustrated and upset. It’s hard to smile and to stay relaxed and calm. But find some release for your stress. Call a friend. Scream into a pillow. Leave the room if necessary. Because when you can be cheerful and go with the flow again, you will lighten the mood for everyone. Be flexible. Do what you can and let the rest go. The goal is to change yourself, not the individual with Alzheimer’s.

Logic doesn’t work with people who have Alzheimer’s, but fun might. One idea is playing music, specifically their favorite music that they listened to when they were in their early 20s. Music, especially through earphones, arouses memory, boosts cognition and lowers the need for psychotropic drugs. Some people who have not talked for years have even begun to remember—and sing—the lyrics.

Finally, caregivers need to self-care with enough sleep, exercise, good food, plenty of fluids and medical check-ups. We all need time to relax with slow deep breathing, meditation, prayer and activities like yoga. Caregivers need FUN—help from others, time for themselves and a social network they can enjoy. It’s not being selfish. You’re only a good caregiver if you can care for yourself as well.

Constance L. Vincent Ph.D. is the author of “Not Going Gently: A Psychologist Fights Back Against Alzheimer’s for Her Mother. . .and Perhaps Herself.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login