Vacation time! That time that you’ve been excited and waiting for all year. But when vacation time finally arrives you feel hesitant to leave because you are concerned about your elderly parents or your in-laws. This month on July 24th marks International Self-Care Day (ISD). Self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health.” So, going on a summer holiday break counts as self-care!
It hardly counts as a vacation when you have your cell phone and your laptop at the cottage in case of an emergency. Family caregivers may be the most deserving of respite care but they are often the last ones to actually book time off and go on vacation. The mental break away from everyday stress and demand is desperately needed, but there never seems to be a good time to go on vacation.
Good self-care is key to improved mood, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved relationships with others! What family caregivers really need is peace of mind. They need to feel reassured that their loved ones are in good hands and will be well cared for.
Here at Warm Embrace Elder Care, we’ve assisted many clients during an adult child’s holiday, and the client falls in love with the caregivers so much that the client is disappointed when the holiday is over! To think, families have delayed holidays and felt immense guilt over leaving for vacation, and yet their loved one benefits from the holiday as much as they do.
Vacation time doesn’t have to be associated with guilt. Instead, it can be an exciting opportunity for everyone involved—family receive the much-needed mental break of being on vacation, and elderly relatives enjoy a new friendly visitor, someone who hasn’t yet heard all the great stories!
If you or someone you know is over-due for a vacation due to concern about leaving elderly relatives, be reassured that there are options! For more information, call us at Warm Embrace Elder Care and we’d be happy to help. Everyone needs a break now and then.
June is Seniors’ month, and it’s the perfect time to recognize and appreciate seniors! Seniors prove that aging doesn’t need to prevent anyone from leading fulfilling lives, instead they outline that aging enhances life experiences.
Every day seniors are breaking the mold by leading fulfilling lives! So, let’s put to rest those negative stereotypes when it comes to aging. Instead, we should all celebrate and appreciate the contributions that seniors are making in our communities.
Seniors are an important part of our community because they contribute their wisdom, friendship and experiences. As a community, it is our responsibility to ensure that we create an environment where all citizens are valued and respected throughout the life process.
How do we create that environment?
The key to creating this environment is prioritizing intergenerational opportunities, between the young and the old. When we create intergenerational opportunities, we are creating this space where seniors have the ability to pass along their wisdom and advice to generations. This environment then breaks down barriers between generations and puts to rest negative stereotypes that surround aging. When those barriers are removed, open and honest conversations are shared between different generations. When founded upon mutual respect, intergenerational learning can be deeply impactful for everyone involved!
Why is celebrating our Seniors so important?
When we celebrate our seniors, we are affirming that their contributions are ever so important to the fabric of our communities. Without our seniors’ accomplishments, our communities would not be what they are today!
This June, in honour of Seniors’ month, make an effort to spend time with someone who is from a different generation than you—or maybe even two or three generations! Pause, and truly listen, and learn from each other and you will reap the rewards of intergenerational sharing.
Here at Warm Embrace Elder Care, we want to thank all of the wonderful seniors that we see on a daily basis. We are continually learning from you and are enlightened by your viewpoints. It is an honour to serve you!
Nurses Week is celebrated every year in May. This year let's go above and beyond to show our appreciation to our local nurses. During this time, our nurses are our frontline heroes. They are putting in long hours at hospitals, clinics, retirement homes, long term care homes, etc. They are working to keep you and I safe during these times, and that's why we – as the community – should express our appreciation.
Let's work together to celebrate our nurses! Here are 6 ways you can celebrate Nurses Week!
1. Write a heartfelt card
You can write encouraging thank you cards to nurses at your local hospital and long term care homes.
2. Mail a grocery store gift card
Why not leave a little present inside the card? You can pre-order grocery store gift cards online or the next time you're at the grocery store, pick up a couple of gift cards.
3. Bake or cook a homemade meal
If you know a nurse personally, make him/her a warm home cooked meal or some delicious baked goods. It'll be one less task they'll to do once they're home from a long workday.
4. Donate Personal Protective Equipment
If you're crafty, sew masks for nurses and if you're not, you can always donate to an organization that's distributing PPE. Keep it local and donate to local organizations and businesses.
5. Join a community celebration
You can join an organized parade to celebrate nurses at the local hospital.
If you live on a busy street, start a poster campaign with your neighbours! Create large posters that say "Thank you!" and display them on your porch, lawn or bay window. As frontline workers drive-by they can read your poster.
6. Praise their hard work on social media
Post an appreciation post on your personal social media account! If you are looking for social media content like and share our material from our Facebook page.
Let's work together to show our frontline heroes how much we appreciate their hard work. Let's go beyond words of appreciation, let's take action. Comment and share on how you are going to celebrate Nurses Week!
This year Mother's Day may look and feel different but that doesn't mean it is cancelled! You can still make Mother's Day special for your mom, mother-in-law, grandmother, or friend. This Sunday celebrate Mother's Day with some creativity.
Here are 6 ways you can celebrate Mother's Day this year.
1. Buy your mom flowers
You can't go wrong with flowers! You can buy a lovely bouquet of spring flowers or even a potted plant for your mom. Make sure to write a heartfelt card to make it even more special! To be extra safe during these times, make sure to leave the flowers by the front door and give your mom a call to tell her that a special delivery is waiting for her.
2. Bake or cook your mom's favourite dish
Encourage your mom to take a break from cooking onMother's Day by cooking her favourite dish. You can leave a nice homecooked meal at her front door, or you can leave her favourite baked goods. If you aren't much of a cook that is okay! Why not support a local restaurant or business? You can put in the order for your mom and ask them to deliver the dish directly to your mom. It's the perfect day to spoil your mom!
3. Make a homemade gift
Remember that quilt or sewing project that you never quite finished? Or that scrapbook that needs some final stickers? This is the perfect time to finish it up for your mom! Get your kids or grandkids involved by having them make homemade drawings or cards.
4. Schedule a safe social-distancing visit
It's about social distancing, not social isolating. You can still visit your mom from a safe distance. Perhaps behind a window or screen door, in the garage, or outside in the yard. If she is hard of hearing, speak loud and clear or why not make a fun poster for her that says "Happy Mother's Day" in a large bolded font.
5. Plan a fun creative surprise
Get your whole family involved and plan a surprise from a safe distance for your mom. If you’re a musical family, surprise her with live music and song. If you’re poetic and theatrical, write her a heartfelt poem and/or perform a play just for her. If you're crafty, make some fun posters or banners to brighten up your mom's day. I am sure your mom will appreciate your effort and love!
6.Tea time on a video call
If your mom is tech-savvy, schedule a video call to have a special tea time chat. Take this time to reconnect with your mom by reminiscing on childhood memories and on happy lighthearted memories. Most importantly don't forget to tell her how much you love her and appreciate her! Words of kindness and appreciation can go a long way!
Your mom is probably feeling isolated during these times so don't cancel Mother's Day this year! Instead, make it extra special for her. Comment below and share with us how you're going to celebrate your mom. We hope you have a lovely Mother's Day!
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the special mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers out there!
The holidays are over now, and here we are, at the start of a fresh new year. Did you make a list of New Year’s Resolutions? Have you ever noticed how self-centred our resolutions tend to be? Most resolutions focus on losing weight, exercising more, or watching less TV. These are certainly healthy suggestions that are great for self-improvement but they are rather self-centred.
What if this year, resolutions centred around helping someone else? We often think to volunteer over the holiday season. For instance, cooking at a soup kitchen or singing at a nursing home, but then we wait until the following December before volunteering again. This year, we can resolve to assist others starting in January!
There are 24 hours in a day, why not take a couple minutes from your day to help someone else? You just might make their day!
We all know at least one senior – a family member, a neighbour, a fellow church member – who might be feeling alone. You can start with a simple act of kindness, such as placing one phone call per week to someone who might be lonely or make a personal weekly visit to someone who is shut-in. You can always send a card by mail – the good old-fashioned way!
If you want to go above and beyond - winter is the perfect time to reach out to seniors and to offer any assistance that you can. You can assist with shovelling snow and/or salting their driveway and walkway, you can offer to run errands during snowy days, or you can cook an extra-large dinner one evening and take leftovers to someone who has difficulty cooking.
The more you look for ways to bless other people, the more you will be blessed yourself. Resolutions focused on giving will make such a difference to the recipient, that you’ll be inspired to actually adhere to your resolution. Setting just one resolution this year—to bless at least one person per week—has the potential to multiply and reach many people. You will find it so rewarding that you are bound to successfully achieve your resolution!
We at Warm Embrace Elder Care wish you a very blessed 2020 and we hope you find joy in reaching out to bless others in this upcoming year.
Do you ever find the holidays overwhelming? There are lights and music, decorations and crowds, shopping and cooking, parties and dinners, rich food and alcohol, late nights and busy days— sometimes it feels like you need a holiday to recover from the Christmas season!
If we feel overwhelmed during this season—and we are cognitively well, our brain is fully working—then imagine how overwhelming the holidays may be for someone who has dementia. Someone with dementia may not remember what “Christmas” or “the holidays” mean because they become abstract terms.
Here are some holiday tips to help a loved one with dementia through the holidays!
Beware of Decorations
You see an impressively life-like St. Nicholas welcoming people to your front hallway, but what does your loved one with dementia see? Is she concerned about “the man in the hallway who isn’t having dinner?” Life-like or oversized decorations can be confusing or even scary to someone with dementia. Consider from their perspective how the decorations could be misinterpreted.
Flashing lights draw a mixed response. Some people with dementia are mesmerized by flashing lights; others become alarmed or agitated. Keep consistent bright lighting in all rooms. Dark rooms with candlelight or just the tree lights may be fearful for someone with dementia.
Remove all ornaments that are not edible but look like real food. Fake gingerbread men or houses, fake candy canes or apple ornaments should all be avoided. Someone with dementia may not realize that it is just an ornament and may attempt to eat the decoration.
Have a Quiet Room
You want to include your loved one who has dementia, but you also need to provide a space where they can retreat and have some peace and quiet. People with dementia typically interact best in small groups or one-on-one. If a loved one with dementia is attending a large family gathering, set up a separate room—well lit with comfortable furniture—and recommend that family take turns visiting that person, one at a time. This allows for quality interaction in a way that best matches your loved one’s needs.
Routine is often the first casualty of the holiday season. We stay up late at night, we don’t eat meals at the usual time and we often stray from our usual, healthy diet. Remember how you felt last January after eating heavily and having your routine interrupted? Now imagine someone with dementia. The person with dementia cannot rationalize why they feel different, all they know is that something doesn’t feel right.
As much as possible, keep routine familiar and consistent. Try to maintain regular meal times (even if that means eating separately from the party), and try to limit intake of rich, sugary foods or excessive alcohol. Respect nap times and bedtimes—sleep is as important as ever! By maintaining routine as much as possible, your loved one may be able to better handle the surprises that come with the season
If family members live at a distance, they may be visiting for the first time since the last holiday season. Your loved one may have changed significantly since last holiday season. Advise family and friends in advance so that they know what to expect. Request their assistance in making the holidays easier for your loved one, and outline exactly what you need them to do. Here are some suggestions:
Please do not ask “do you know who I am?” this causes undue stress. While she may not be able to name you, grandma knows you are an important person whom she loves.
Please be aware of the fact that mom now needs to take some time away from the crowd. She finds noise and groups over-whelming. We will have a Quiet Room set up and we invite you to visit mom one at a time in the quiet room.
Please do not encourage alcohol consumption by saying “it’s only one drink!". Dad is now on a medication that does not react well to alcohol and he will not enjoy the event as much when he is trying to process the alcohol.
Set Realistic Expectations
Set realistic expectations for your loved one by limiting the number of events they attend. No more than one event or activity in a given day; only a few in a week with recovery time between events. Step back and try to asses what is realistic for your loved one. Maybe a dinner with 50 people will not be a successful event, but attending a hymn sing would better match your loved one’s preferences and current abilities.
Your loved one will not be able to suddenly do more or handle more because it is the holiday season. If anything, their coping abilities may be taxed and they may become agitated or stressed more easily than usual. Be realistic when scheduling the season.
Select the Top Priority
What is more important—that your loved one attend every event and every tradition is followed in detail, or that your loved one has a merry Christmas feeling loved and happy?
If the top priority is your loved one having a wonderful Christmas season, then focus on the elements that create that sense of joy, peace, and love for them. If you really analyze it, you’ll realize it has nothing to do with decorations or traditions. It has everything to do with family and interaction.
If you are stressed because of holiday prep, your loved one will feel that stress and not enjoy the season. A person with dementia would rather have you slow down, match their pace, and be patient than present a tray with 15 varieties of home-baked cookies that stressed you out!
Your loved one with dementia might enjoy singing a few familiar Christmas carols (because the words of those favourite tunes tend to stick), rather than feel the pressure of keeping up with an animated conversation at a cocktail event.
What will make your loved one smile? When will they seem most at peace? What will have them feeling safe, secure, and loved? Aim to focus on those elements and your loved one will have a truly blessed Christmas.
The holiday season has busy and joyful energy to it. It often feels like there’s a buzz in the air where everyone is rushing somewhere or hurrying to do something.
Many people with dementia are sensitive to the energy and emotional state of those around them. They will often pick up on this energy of hurrying and they may want to help.They’ll want to join in the activity and be part of the buzz of energy.
Human nature desires a sense of purpose.
We want to feel productive and we want to provide meaningful contributions. This sense of wanting to contribute and be helpful and productive is not impacted by many forms of dementia, so people very much want to be involved and be helpful. When someone with dementia can sense that everyone else around them is hurrying to complete tasks, they will want to join in and assist too.
If someone’s functioning level has been impacted, it may be difficult for them to contribute in the ways they did previously. In the past, your father may have gone to select a Christmas tree and cut it down himself, then tie it to the roof rack, drive home, and set the tree up. That may no longer be possible for him to do entirely on his own. Perhaps he doesn’t drive anymore; perhaps his physical strength or sense of direction is impaired.
Even though he cannot complete the task in full, is there a way that he can still be involved in the process? Can he be part of the trip to select the tree? Can he manage some of the cutting? Or hold the tree steady while a grandson saws away? Continuing to involve him in the process will be important to his sense of self-esteem and his need to feel productive.
Many forms of dementia interfere with the brain’s ability to sequence an activity.
Many tasks are actually a series of separate, smaller tasks that must be done in a particular order. Baking, for example, involves many separate tasks that are all sequenced in the right order. Perhaps your mother-in-law baked countless cookies and squares during the holiday season. Now, she makes toast and tea, but not much more. Expecting that she can bake a dozen varieties of cookies is not reasonable, but involving her in a few favourite recipes will help her to shine.
When approaching a complex task like baking, break down each step into a separate task. If there are any tasks that can be a stand-alone job, get your mother-in-law to be in charge of that step. Maybe the walnuts need to be crushed for one recipe. You can get your mother-in-law set up crushing walnuts. It may be faster to do it yourself or tempting to use the electric food processor, but the purpose isn’t to be fast and efficient.
The purpose is to involve your mother-in-law in the traditions that she founded. It’s pretty likely that she didn’t have an electric food processor when she first started baking that recipe. Breaking the walnuts by hand is likely a familiar task from years gone by and something which she can feel successful contributing.
All too often, someone with dementia will say “what can I do?” or perhaps “I don’t know what to do…” and well-meaning family members will respond “you don’t have to do anything! You just relax and sit over here.” In some cases, if someone is overstimulated and needs a break, that might be the kindest option. But in most instances, the person with dementia is genuinely reaching out and wanting to feel productive by contributing something meaningful to all that is going on around them. By finding a task that matches their ability level, you are helping to meet that fundamental human need for productivity.
Remember that the task might not be about doing. It might be more about being—being close to you, being part of the action, being a contributing family member. If many tasks are just too difficult or overwhelming, perhaps they can be involved in a being type of way.
Maybe the dog is overly excited by all of the activity and you can ask your father to hold the dog on his lap and pet the dog to keep him calm. He is being a comfort to the dog…or perhaps the dog is a comfort to him, but either way, they are both content.
Perhaps you’re wrapping presents and the roll of tape keeps disappearing under all the wrapping paper and boxes. Your mother-in-law might like to be the keeper of the tape as you’re wrapping. She’s right there with you and she’s involved in her own way. You may even get to chuckle about how you lose the tape and she’s keeping you on track.
It may take more effort on your part, and it will definitely take more time and some creativity to find tasks that match ability levels and provide meaningful contributions, but the rewards will almost certainly be worth it!
Are you hosting any holiday gatherings where you have invited elderly relatives who have health conditions? You have probably already thought about accessibility accommodations such as helping them into your home and ensuring they have access to a bathroom. Those elements are very important and should not be overlooked.
Another element that should not be overlooked is how to make the overall
environment more manageable for your elderly loved ones, especially when there are health conditions to consider.
If someone has a chronic illness such as CHF or COPD, they may fatigue very quickly and need an opportunity to rest.
If someone has edema in their feet or legs (swelling) they may need a chance to sit with their legs elevated.
A stroke survivor may find the environment overstimulating and may need relief.
Someone with dementia may need some peace and quiet and a break from the noisy environment.
Hearing aids may blur the sounds into a din so that individual voices are difficult to discern, and someone with hearing loss may need an auditory break.
To help facilitate these needs and more, you can create a Quiet Zone for your holiday gathering.
Part of the beauty of a Quiet Zone is that it can meet the needs of so many different health conditions. It is one solution that actually meets numerous needs simultaneously. It may even be appealing to younger family members too!
A Quiet Zone is a space dedicated to quieter interaction and less stimulation. Ideally, the Quiet Zone would be a separate room, but if that’s not possible, then a nook or area that can be allocated as the Quiet Zone.
The Quiet Zone should be less stimulating than the environment of the main event. If there are Christmas carols blasting on repeat in the dining room, the Quiet Zone does not have any music. If the Christmas tree in the living room has blinking lights and a miniature train set zooming past, the Quiet Room has steady, ambient lighting that isn’t distracting.
While the main event likely includes loud chatter, many people speaking at once, laughing, and loud voices to be heard over the din, the Quiet Zone is where people can have one-on-one conversations that can be more easily heard and understood. For relatives of any age, the chance to step away from the noise and engage in a more in-depth one-on-one conversation might be a welcome relief.
Someone who tires easily in a crowded room of people might appreciate the relief of settling into the Quiet Room. Other guests can then take turns, one at a time, visiting within the Quiet Room. This way, everyone is supported to be part of the family gathering, but they can participate in a way that matches their individual needs. Having a space to retreat may allow people to reserve their physical and mental energy to join the group for dinner.
The Quiet Room makes it possible to have a quick cat-nap if needed. Giving the brain an extra boost of sleep can make the difference between enjoying the rest of the event, and just feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated. Family members who are stroke survivors or who have dementia will particularly appreciate the opportunity to have a power nap.
When the brain has been impacted by stroke or dementia, part of the brain may not be working the way it once did. The remaining parts of the brain are functioning on overdrive to compensate for the losses. Those over-active brain areas tire easily and benefit enormously from rest. A Quiet Room creates the space and permission to invite such guests to rest their brains when they need it most.
This holiday season, consider creating a Quiet Room for large family gatherings. The Quiet Room will be a retreat space to ensure that all your guests find the event manageable and can enjoy it fully.
Most of us can agree that the holiday season often ends up feeling frenzied and hectic. We’re fully aware of which season it is, we’re mentally prepared for the change in routine and all the additional activities and events that come with the season, and even still, we seem surprised each season that it’s frenzied and hectic.
Imagine how much more this feeling is magnified for those who have dementia.
The frenzied holiday season feeling may have different causes for you versus your loved one who has dementia, but it is important to acknowledge that the stress is still present regardless. For you, the stress may come from trying to fit too much into too little time—shopping, wrapping presents, decorating, baking, cooking traditional meals, attending extra events, etc.
You might think that someone with dementia is exempt from all this stress, and indeed, they may be blissfully unaware of some of those holiday elements. They may not have a shopping list to attend to, and they may not be worried about decorating or baking, but the holiday season can be stressful in other ways.
For someone with dementia, the ability to preplan and mentally prepare is inhibited. They are not able to reassure themselves that “this is December, and this month tends to be hectic, but it’s just temporary.”
When someone with Alzheimer’s has very limited short term memory, they will not be able to remember your explanation that the change in routine is due to the holiday season. For example, the day program they typically attend two days weekly is cancelled for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Not attending day program for a few weeks will feel disorienting. They will need constant reminders of why and how the routine has changed.
Keeping track of events and holiday gatherings may be challenging or impossible. Looking at a calendar and interpreting what is happening today versus tomorrow versus next week is quite abstract and becomes difficult when someone’s brain is impacted by dementia. A calendar is of limited use when someone has trouble remembering which day it is today. Someone with dementia may not be able to keep track of additional holiday gatherings and events.
Familiar environments suddenly look different now that decorations, trees and blinking lights have been added. For some people, decorations will feel comforting and bring memories of holiday seasons of the past. For others, the sudden change in their familiar environment may feel disorienting.
Likewise, large gatherings can have a disorienting effect. Even when it’s gatherings of family and friends, large groups can be overwhelming for some people. Too many of these gatherings over a short time period can increase someone’s stress level.
People with dementia are often highly sensitive to the emotions of others around them.
If you are highly stressed or feeling frenzied, they will pick up on that emotion and respond to it. If the context is not entirely clear to the person with dementia, they may even conclude that you are stressed or frenzied because of them.
While your loved one may not be keeping track of the shopping list and cooking for the family gathering, they are still experiencing the holiday frenzy, just differently than you are. Be aware of what may be contributing to their stress or disorientation and try to reduce those factors as much as possible. Since you do have the ability to pre-plan, you can mentally prepare yourself for the holiday season knowing that your loved one may have stronger or different reactions than usual because of disrupted routine or change to their environment. Just being prepared for different behaviours, reactions, or functioning levels can make a huge difference.
For more tips on how to support someone with dementia through the holiday season, please click here.
I know an elderly gentleman who is a veteran and whose story stood out to me. His medals are proudly displayed in a showcase on the wall in his home; hung below the showcase is a framed photo of him in uniform.
He is both proud and dismissive of his service. He is proud in the sense that he still smiles fondly when remembering his comrades, and his identity is closely linked to his military service. He is dismissive in the way that he doesn't feel he was any different than any other young man who readily volunteered for service. He felt it was his duty, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
As a young man, recently married his beautiful new bride, he heard about recruitment for the Korean War. He discussed it with his wife, and of course, she didn’t want her new husband heading off to war. As he tells the story, the call of duty meant he couldn’t forsake his country; he felt he was married first to the military, and secondly to his wife.
He enlisted for service and then had to break the news to his wife. To ease the announcement, he invited one of his comrades over for dinner and waited until dessert was served to benignly ask his buddy, “so, how long do you think it will take us to get to Korea?”
As you might imagine, his new wife was less than impressed! She eventually came around though and understood her husband’s devotion. His loyalty has served her well too; the same devotion he showed to his country, he has shown to his wife and family ever since. He is a true man of valour.
It is to gentlemen—and women—such as him that we owe our thanks and appreciation as we reflect on Remembrance Day. From everyone here at Warm Embrace, we express our deepest gratitude for the sacrifices of veterans who have served and continue to serve our country. It is our absolute honour and privilege to care for such distinguished veterans in their hour of need.