Tech Talk Perspectives from Aging in America 2018

We didn’t know what to expect in this, our first time covering Aging in America (AiA18), the nation’s largest event addressing issues, opportunities, and challenges of aging — except a lot of people who care about older adults.

Saying the 3,000 people here “care” is an understatement!

There are people here from around the US and beyond, representing service organizations, government agencies, academia, business, and many here as individuals to share their perspectives and learn from others.

We’ve still got half the conference ahead and are planning an article wrapping it up afterward, but are both excited and concerned about some of what we’ve heard on technology for older adults and caregivers at AiA18 and wanted to share some of it with you in a mid-conference update.

Technology Talk at Aging in America

One of the great things about Aging in America is the diversity of perspectives on so many issues related to older adults and technology is no different.

The biggest focus on tech so far came in the opening general session in a panel discussion that left us shaking our heads at the overall picture painted of technology, despite having a panel with representatives from GreatCall, Samsung, IBM Watson, and CDW Healthcare.

The panel featured a blunt-speaking, 70-something senior whose perspective and experience with technology was consistent with a number of other seniors but certainly not representative of all seniors — or even a majority of those from and about whom we have heard.

The tone for the session was set by a video in which a senior was depicted overcoming the health and safety monitoring technology clearly imposed on him by pushy family members against his will.

One point of the session, which the tech industry panelists handled well, included the need to not just design tech for seniors, but with seniors from the start of the process. There were also clear and valid lessons for family caregivers in how not to approach technology with senior loved ones.

While there were important points made in the session and we really like the discussion by the tech panelists, the depictions of technology and family caregivers left us wondering what we would hear in other tech-related sessions to come in AiA18.

As with other topics at Aging in America 2018 so far, though, we have found a broad range of views on technology – – all expressed with the needs and interests of older adults in mind, which is the point.

Aging, Technology, and Quality of Life Session

One of our favorite sessions so far was presented by Ginna Baik of CDW Healthcare and Shelia Cotten, a Michigan State University Professor. They discussed some real world research studies on technology and older adults in a session that had a much different tone from the opening general session yesterday.

Confirmed in the session was something we have seen firsthand and heard from others, that the top reason older adults use tech is to stay connected with their families. Unrelated to that, we received a cross-country FaceTime call from our grandson just before the session, but I digress.

While it was clear Ginna and Shelia merely scratched the surface of what they could have discussed with us — and the appreciative audience would have listened much longer — we were able to learn about quantification of benefits to seniors of technology.

One eye-opening research finding reported was that older adults who were internet users were 33% less likely to be depressed, which we often discuss is a real concern for seniors who live independently.

It was reassuring to hear what we have learned through anecdotal evidence reinforced by research studies.

Wide Range of Technology at AiA18

These two sessions stand out the most in our minds so far but are only a sampling of the tech discussions and exhibits we will encounter during our week at Aging in America. We look forward to bringing more to you over the coming weeks, including interviews with some in our coming reintroduction of the Senior Care Corner Show.

Because each senior’s needs and situations, technology-related and otherwise, are as individual as the seniors themselves, we are enjoying the wide range of views we are hearing on tech and other issues impacting older adults. It’s gratifying to see so many people speaking out and hearing their varied perspectives on issues important to the lives, health, and happiness of older adults.

Stay tuned for more!

Digital Games Benefit Seniors — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Many of us who are boomers grew up playing video games, starting with the first pong game as preteens. We then advanced to become pinball wizards and Pac-Man fiends in high school.

After we conquered the galaxy, we moved onto the worlds of Mario and Sonic (maybe even Pokemon?), often joining in with our own kids.

Usually our parents asked us why we were wasting our time sitting on the couch in front of our favorite games instead of going outside in the sunshine.

Today the game industry has made its way onto our mobile devices and into the mainstream — and seniors have come aboard with us. Digital games are affordable and entertaining!

Seniors have found out what we always knew — games are great fun as well as mentally stimulating.

Seniors have started their own crazes playing games. Gaming consoles have found their way into homes, senior centers, and even nursing homes across the country, where seniors are finding the benefits of playtime, while games on smartphones and tablets mean the fun goes wherever the seniors go.

Benefits of Digital Games for Seniors

There are many ways seniors can benefit from the use of digital games on their mobile devices. These are just a few.

  • Building and maintaining relationships — and creating memories — with family members of all ages, especially younger generations. Many digital games provide opportunities to connect and play with those at a distance.
  • Research links game playing with improved cognitive skills and memory as the brain is challenged, especially with the more complex games (crossword, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, memory).
  • Increasing opportunities for socialization as they play games with friends, neighbors, and even those at a distance on the web.
  • Building familiarity and comfort with the mobile devices and digital technologies that can mean so much more than game playing to seniors, especially those living independently.

In other words, there are many reasons to encourage and help our senior loved ones to play games on their mobile devices.

Tips for Choosing Digital Games with Seniors

As with mobile devices themselves and other technology, the approach we take with games and our senior loved ones is important if we want them to have fun and realize the other benefits games can provide.

  • Start with games in the online stores (App Store, Google Play, etc) the senior already enjoys playing solo through traditional means, such as solitaire, mahjong or casino favorites, such as slots or blackjack. This can build familiarity with playing on a touch screen, including the gestures needed to play the game, without the senior having to demonstrate to others.
  • Suggest games your senior loved one already plays with others as board games — such as backgammon, cribbage, or even monopoly — or card games — such as hearts, gin rummy, or poker — so they can play (and socialize) with friends and neighbors.
  • Demonstrate, if the senior is not already familiar, how to navigate through the app marketplace on their mobile device, find games they might enjoy (or other apps they might find useful), and load the app on their device.
  • Verify the apps chosen don’t come with a fee that must be paid later or limited capabilities that may frustrate users just as they start to enjoy the games.
  • Ensure, by reading the app descriptions and reviews (both in the app marketplace and online), chosen apps will not collect and use personal data on your senior that you and they are not comfortable being used. Explain the importance of this to your senior loved one and show them how to do the same themselves with apps they may want to try in the future.
  • Play the chosen game(s) with them a while so they learn what needs to be done and has the opportunity to ask questions while you are with them. You might just find yourself having fun and creating new memories with your senior loved one!

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that there is no one approach that is best for all seniors. Like you, your senior loved one is a unique individual. Helping them realize the benefits of digital games — and technology in general — means taking the approach that is right for them (and you).


Blockchain: Why it Will be Important to Seniors & Family Caregivers

Rushing to the hospital with your grandmother, who has fallen ill while visiting you far from her home, you realize you don’t have her medical records — she has three doctors back home — and don’t know what to tell the ER staff about her chronic conditions.

Your father suffers a fatal stroke, leaving behind your mother with no knowledge of their finances. As in many families, finances were not something discussed with the children, so family caregivers are at a loss to help mom.

You apply for a mortgage to buy a new home and learn someone has opened up credit cards in your name and failed to pay the bills, destroying your credit and preventing you from buying the home your family needs.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could access our health, financial, and other records wherever we are, confident they are secure and private?

Just a fantasy? Maybe it is today, but (hopefully) not in the future.

Blockchain might just be the answer.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a term often heard associated with virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, but it is much bigger — and may be much more important to our lives in the future — than the currencies.

Leaving out the techno-speak, as much as possible at least, a blockchain is a listing of transaction records that, in theory at least, offers security that is absolute and thus can be trusted.

One of the most important features of a blockchain is that it is stored on a widely-distributed network of computers rather than being controlled by any individual, government, or business entity.

As new records are added to a blockchain, the authenticity of the records is verified. Once a record is added, it becomes part of the historical record of the chain and can’t be removed or modified.

If you want to learn more about blockchain, an internet search will provide everything you could hope to learn and much more.

Our goal in this article is to explain why family caregivers may want to become acquainted with the term and follow its development into applications that benefit their lives and those of the senior loved ones for whom they care.

What Makes Blockchain Important to Know?

Blockchain has been called, among many things, “the Internet on steroids” and “Web 3.0,” both of which hint at the potential that is seen for the technology. What really makes it important to family caregivers, though, is the capabilities it could provide us and our senior loved ones.

We could focus on grandma’s needs — and our driving — on that trip to the hospital if we were confident we could access all of her health records securely through a blockchain, which would also provide the healthcare team access to the records they needed to evaluate and treat her.

We could spend our time meeting mom’s needs and those of the rest of the family (including our own) after dad’s sudden loss if we knew all of their financial records were readily available to us through the blockchain so nothing would be missed.

As for that new home we want to buy, getting our mortgage would be a lot easier if the security offered by blockchain had prevented the identify theft in the first place. It might also make it quicker to buy that home, with lower fees, with all property records stored on blockchain, making title searches quicker and more certain.

Those examples merely scratch the surface of what blockchain could mean to all of us.

As our lives, health, homes, cars, and more rely on connections to the web and the rest of the world, the security of those connections is a major concern — and rightfully so, as the seemingly daily stories of hacks, data breaches, and misuse of our information demonstrate.

So Why Not Blockchain Now?

If blockchain technology can do so many important things for us, why aren’t we using it already? There are two big reasons:

  1. Blockchain technology is not yet ready to handle the needs of the world, and
  2. Many in our world are not yet ready to give up doing the things blockchain can do for us.

Blockchain Not Yet Ready

Blockchain technology is still young, even for today’s lightning fast world, and has not been developed to the point where it can handle the volumes of data our everyday life will demand it handle. It’s not just the ability to handle volumes of information either, but to do so quickly.

So far at least, gaining the security promised by blockchain means each update — each link added to the chain, so to speak — equals delays for which most of us don’t want to wait, especially with lives and our privacy on the line.

While there is every reason to think, or at least hope, blockchain technology will develop the scale and applications to handle our needs, it won’t happen quickly. As with many new technologies, it will take time to train the number of developers essential to do the needed programming.

Yes, we are in a hurry to get it done, but our safety, privacy, and security depend on getting it done right!

Many Not Ready for Blockchain

Even if blockchain were ready for prime time, there are many people and organizations not yet ready for it. It’s not difficult to understand why, either.

If blockchain is going to decentralize our records and other data, wresting it from the control of those who hold that data now won’t be easy. That control, after all, is the source of power and profit for many.

If all of our health records are part of a blockchain to which we hold a secure key, what does that mean to the healthcare providers, insurance companies, and government agencies that hold the key to it today?

Take that same question and apply it to all of the centralized systems in place today and it’s easy to see why a transition to blockchain won’t be done quickly or painlessly.

As Blockchain Develops . . .

As with other technologies, family caregivers (and the loved ones for whom we care) will realize the greatest benefits from blockchain if we are ready to take advantage of it when it becomes available.

That means paying attention to the development of the technology and, maybe, educating ourselves so we become more familiar as it develops.

For our part, Senior Care Corner® will be following it’s progress and reporting to you along the way.

We’ll also be hoping blockchain — or another technology if not it — is eventually the answer and not just a fantasy!


Life Expectancy Drops as a Result of Pain Killers — For Seniors Too!

It has become expected that Americans will live a long life.

Becoming a centenarian isn’t as unusual as it once was. In fact, it is expected that there are over 70,000 people in the US that are 100 years old or more!

While the number of those living to 100 is still low, this number has been on the rise since 2000.

Adults are taking better care of themselves by improving their health habits such as smoking cessation, getting and staying more active and eating better.

Why then is the overall life expectancy rate dropping?

Life Expectancy News

In 1900 you were considered lucky to live to be 50 years old.

In 2015 that number has increased dramatically. The average life expectancy then was 78.8 years. Our life expectancy has actually increased by about three months a year during the 20th century – until now.

It is interesting – perhaps not surprising – that if you live in Hawaii, your life expectancy is 80 years which is the longest of all states. The shortest life expectancy is found in people living in Washington, DC at 72 years.

Americans’ life expectancy has been on the increase since 1970 but we have seen a change in these numbers recently. Average life expectancy is now 78.6 years. Many experts are linking this change to the opioid crisis.

Opioid Crisis Overdosing Deaths

The news is full of the tales of the current crisis involving pain killing opioids, especially fentanyl and heroin.

In 2016, drug overdoses became the number one killer of people under 50.

Recently, the National Center for Health Statistics for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dangers released their report that the average life expectancy has actually dropped to 78.6 years showing the second straight drop in two years.

In 2016, they found that more than 63,000 people died of causes linked to drug use, which is contributing to a drop in our average life expectancy. While the numbers are largely people between the age of 25-44, older adults are also falling victim to drug overdoses.

It is true that older adults still die more often from chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, but there are many elderly who rely on pain killers to relieve their chronic pain. In fact, drug use rose in all age groups, not just among the young.

It’s alarming to learn that the rate of hepatitis C is also on the rise related to the increasing frequency of drug injections of heroin.

Risks of Opioids in Our Senior Loved Ones

Seniors are at greater risk from opioids themselves than from an opioid addiction, which could cause accidental deaths.

More often seniors will fall victim to other health risks when taking opioids including

  • breathing complications
  • confusion
  • drug interaction problems
  • increased risk of falls

The benefits from taking opioid pain relievers for our senior loved ones may outweigh the risks, however.

Benefits of Opioid Use for Senior Loved Ones

More than half of our seniors have chronic pain that worsens as they age.

As a result, many rely on prescription pain relievers to allow them to be independent and complete their daily tasks.

Many couldn’t continue to age in place without the help of their pain medication which improves their physical function.

However, older adults aren’t immune to abuse of opioids or combining this with alcohol abuse.

Tips to Reduce Pain Without Drugs

Family caregivers can help their senior loved ones reduce and potentially avoid substance abuse issues from taking opioids to help with pain relief by using some of these other options.

  1. Non-opioid pain relievers, including NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen
  2. Steroids can relieve pain from inflammation
  3. Exercise – muscle strengthening, core building
  4. Physical therapy
  5. Yoga
  6. Acupuncture
  7. Anti-inflammatory diet
  8. Biofeedback
  9. Chiropractic care and treatment
  10. Relaxation training and meditation
  11. Warmth and/or ice to affected area
  12. Warm bath — soothing/relaxing or water therapy
  13. Weight loss to relieve stress on joints
  14. Talk to doctor about the latest alternate therapies for particular conditions

Our seniors have a right to lead an independent life if that is their choice, free of pain without the pitfall of becoming a victim to pain killer abuse.

Trying alternative ways to treat chronic pain instead of relying on another pill may not be easy for some seniors but could be worth the effort.


Digital Therapeutics — What Does it Mean? Should Your Senior be Using it?

Technology is the part of everyone’s life including our senior loved ones.

They may not have been early adopters or seek to use technology in the way younger adults have, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t using it to their benefit.

Are they using digital therapeutics? Do they (and you) even know what it is all about?

Digital therapeutics (DTx for short) is a health process and treatment option that utilizes digital, and often online, health technologies to treat a medical or psychological condition.

Digital therapeutics is considered a subset of digital health.

Digital Therapeutics & Chronic Disease

DTx is used for the prevention and management of a wide variety of diseases and conditions including type II diabetes, congestive heart failure, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, asthma, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and several others.

Because seniors’ rate of chronic disease surpasses the younger population, DTx seems like an ideal solution to help them manage chronic disease and improve their quality of life.

While prevention is a goal of DTx, for many of our seniors the primary benefits will come from disease management and avoidance of emergency health crises.

What Can DTx Manage?

DTx for chronic disease management uses a variety of digital devices, such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet. It can be achieved using an app or a software program.

Devices that stand alone, have peripheral components or sensors, or work in collaboration with other technology are essential for delivering digital therapeutics.

These are some of the chronic diseases that are currently being targeted by DTx applications and may be useful for senior loved ones.

  1. Diabetes/Pre-Diabetes
  2. Chronic and Acute Pain Control
  3. Stroke
  4. Cardiovascular disease
  5. Medication adherence
  6. Smoking cessation
  7. Neuromuscular control and physical therapy
  8. Nutrition choices
  9. Weight loss
  10. COPD/Asthma
  11. Anxiety/PTSD
  12. Insomnia

Engaging Digital Therapeutics

Family caregivers and seniors will need to engage DTx in order to gain the benefits it promises. Both will need to interact with it, modify their behaviors as a result, maintain adherence to health treatments, and as time goes on may be able to replace certain therapies being used including drugs.

DTx will increase the level of accountability caregivers and seniors have and encourage them to become more in control of their health. Whether they follow their plan is more evident when they are being remotely monitored. Consequently, their health outcomes will improve.

However, other members of the healthcare team must also adopt it in order for our seniors to use it. Healthcare professionals are aware of the solutions that DTx will provide as there are currently so many useful applications already approved by regulatory agencies.

Adoption Low Among Healthcare Providers

While many healthcare providers are willing to use DTx applications, the current rate of adoption is relatively low. There are some obstacles for providers including reimbursement, clinical evidence of benefits which is coming but lagging at the current time, and continued knowledge gaps.

Most providers want to add DTx in combination with current therapies as they need more trust in the process and benefits for them to use as a sole intervention or as an alternative to drug therapy.

At the present time, digital therapeutics is primarily a function of monitoring vital signs, data and adherence to the treatment plan. But the potential for it to benefit seniors is powerful.

As healthcare providers begin to rely more on testimony of the usefulness of DTx until the scientific research can be completed, more will initiate it with the aging patients. Payers will likely hold their reimbursement until more robust science-based evidence is available.

Education of both providers and users is paramount to the adoption of DTx but the devices and apps must be user-friendly too.

Results of Research

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) recently published a report “Assessing the Landscape for Digital Therapeutics.” Their findings show how much further this technology needs to come before our senior loved ones will reap the rewards of adoption.

The number of doctors who have “heard of” digital therapeutics, according to their survey is surprisingly low — with neurologists at 37% (example: pain control) and endocrinologists at 57% (example: diabetic monitoring). Those surveyed who are using some form of DTx is also relatively low – for neurologists it is 30% and endocrinologists 43%, but never used is 70% and 57% respectively.

They propose this definition of DTx in order to make it clear to consumers, healthcare providers, payers and industry insiders:

Digital therapeutics harness the power of technology to impact health by enhancing traditional medical practices, encouraging behavior change and, in some instances, serving as a direct, stand-alone therapy for a health condition.

Digital therapeutics are validated by clinical evidence to demonstrate an effect on health outcomes for specific treatment pathways, as well as primary and secondary disease prevention.

Making Digital Therapeutics a Reality

Experts agree that as the aging population gets more tech savvy using smartphones and apps, DTx will be more widely accepted by caregivers and seniors as a path to wellness as well as healthcare providers.

There is little question that digital therapeutics has tremendous potential to help family caregivers and their senior loved ones control and improve their health by putting them in the drivers’s seat.

The healthcare providers, payor entities, regulatory bodies, and manufacturers will need to facilitate how best to fully implement digital therapeutics to help seniors remain healthy using secure, effective applications.

We must overcome approval, reimbursement, and awareness for these systems and devices to benefit our senior loved ones.

Technology and the willingness to learn isn’t the obstacle anymore, as many thought in the recent past. Putting the necessary applications into the hands of caregivers and seniors and enabling providers to use it so that health can be managed is now in need of a push to make DTx a reality for more seniors.


10 Tips for Successful Communication with Loved Ones with Dementia

Family caregivers are challenged everyday when caring for their senior with dementia – frustration, anger, tears, and refusals.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading form of dementia, affecting as many as 5.5 million people in the United States alone.

Day to day caring can often be difficult when the progressive neurological disease worsens over time.

It has been said it’s our reaction to a person with dementia that needs to change in order to be the best caregiver possible and that caregivers need to stop expecting their senior to change. The senior with dementia is not the person they once were and won’t revert back to someone they used to be if we push them harder or wish it to be true.

Caregivers will get better results and improve the quality of their family life if they change their expectations and began communicating differently.

Better Communication for Caregivers

Here are some tips for family caregivers to better communicate with their loved ones who have dementia. These practical solutions will help you change the way you react and interact with a senior with dementia.

When family caregivers begin practicing these steps, they can reduce caregiving stress and avoid the arguments that all too often accompany families dealing with dementia.

10 Absolutes of Communicating through Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. Never argue, instead agree

Enter their reality by agreeing no matter what they might say. “The sky is green.” “OK. Maybe tomorrow it will be blue.” You will not win an argument against the sky is blue or that the food is too salty (when it isn’t) or that someone took his slippers (when they are at the foot of the bed).

Go with the flow.

Tell therapeutic lies if you need to in order to agree and not argue. “Yes, I see the sky is green.” Therapeutic lies may not come naturally to you but honing your skills at this great tool in your toolbox will definitely help you navigate daily challenges.

  1. Never reason, instead divert

Similar to arguing with a person with dementia, trying to reason with them about a particular idea they hold strongly will not end in happiness for either of you.

You won’t be able to talk them out of their belief, no matter how long you debate. It is best to change the subject or divert their attention onto something else.

They will rapidly forget what they held fast to and you can both move on to other things. Example: “I need to go home, will you take me home now?” Instead of “Mom, you are home” you should try “I understand you want to go home. How about we get you cleaned up first with a warm shower and some clean clothes before I take you home? Won’t that feel better to go home in a fresh outfit?”

After a shower it is time for a snack – – and then they may forget about going home.

  1. Never shame, instead distract

When you and your senior are completing a task and he/she seems to be having trouble following the steps necessary to complete it, don’t say “hurry up, can’t you go any faster, what’s wrong with you, you know how to do it!”. Instead model what they are trying to do. Untie and retie your shoe, for example. Talk through each step and have them mimic you.

If this is too difficult for them, it is best to no longer expect them to tie their shoe. Perhaps it is time to use only slip-on shoes. Otherwise, you tie their shoe for them and give them something to distract them from their shoes while you put them on, such as folding their sweater so they will be ready once you are done with their shoes.

  1. Never lecture, instead reassure

It is hard for family caregivers to remain calm all the time. We are tired, stressed, sad, and dejected sometimes when dealing with our senior with dementia.

Lecturing them or telling them what to do in no uncertain terms won’t help them. Reassuring them that you can do it together or they can do it or they will be safe or that you love them is important for them to hear.

They may not remember that you love them and are there to help them every day without constant reminders. Sometimes reassurance comes in the form of a hug, a smile, or a gentle touch — not just our words.

  1. Never say “remember,” instead reminisce

They don’t remember – remember? Asking them if they remember where they lived or what year they were born will make them frustrated or sad or depressed that they can’t remember.

It is better to say “When we visited your parents home in New Jersey, we picked those same yellow flowers. You and your mom used to love picking flowers together just like we do.”

Share their stories with them and let them fill in any details they do remember. If they make up some details, that is OK too because they are engaging with you and being in the moment matters.

  1. Never say “I told you,” instead repeat

People with dementia will have difficulty remembering directions or the steps to complete a task. Sequencing is a cognitive function lost early in the disease process.

Being unable to remember how to brush their teeth is frustrating for them. If they can’t remember the steps to brush their teeth even after you have reminded them it is time but don’t seem to be getting it done, using your words to badger instead of support them will only frustrate them more and may end in aggressive behavior.

Give one step at a time in the most basic directions. “Pick up the toothbrush. Put a dab of toothpaste on the brush like this. How about a little water on the paste now? Let’s just put a drop on it under the faucet. OK, now put the brush in your mouth and rub your teeth. That’s right – up and down, touch all your teeth not just the front. All done? OK spit out the paste and we’ll get a drink. Don’t forget to rinse off the brush. Put it back here in the glass so we can use it later. Doesn’t your mouth feel good?”

Having to give them this much verbal cuing for a daily task will definitely take more time from your day as you allow them to stay independent, but meaningful activity will help them and you in the long run.

  1. Never say “you can’t,” instead do what they can

Being negative isn’t productive and they will resist you all the more. Give them all the opportunities to be successful doing tasks that you can including setting them up with all the pieces no matter the activity.

Role modeling the task, giving verbal cues, keeping everything in their reach and praising their efforts will make these daily tasks easier.

  1. Never demand, instead ask or model

Show them the way. Don’t push them into doing something they no longer are capable of doing.

Abilities to complete tasks, remembering steps, making their hands move just right and even being able to stand long enough to finish something is lost as dementia and functional status declines.

  1. Never condescend, instead encourage

Positive reinforcement and a loving tone will lead to more success than berating them out of your own frustration. Encourage, don’t discourage.

Sometimes our body language or facial expressions do all the talking. Be aware of what your body is saying too so you don’t get resistance.

  1. Never force, instead reinforce

People with advancing dementia have trouble making decisions. It is best not to try to force them to come up with what they want without giving them a simple choice.

For instance, when deciding what is for lunch. Don’t just say “what do you want for lunch today” and get angry when they have no idea or they become frustrated and refuse to eat anything. It is better to say, “we will have lunch in 20 minutes. Would you like a turkey sandwich or a tuna sandwich today”?

They will be much more likely to answer that simple question and remain calm enough to actually eat it. You can prepare all the rest of the items without their input. Perhaps they can set the table with napkins while you do the sandwich making.

Praise their response to reinforce what you want from them. “That is a great choice, we both love tuna on toast. Thanks!”

Plan for Things to Take More Time

Admittedly this approach will take you more time and you will need to plan accordingly. You won’t be leaving the house in 5 minutes anymore or finishing a meal in 15 minutes. Everything will probably take longer for you both.

That is OK because what you are trying to do is facilitate their ability to do as much for themselves as they can while reducing frustration and aggressive behavior. Try to remember the adage “it isn’t them, it’s the disease”.

Caring for a person with dementia will bring new challenges each day. How you approach each new challenge will determine your success and keep you from being overwhelmed.

Understanding that you can handle the situation, communicate more clearly and have a better relationship with your senior with dementia will make your caregiving experience a little easier.

Most of us don’t choose to be caregivers, it is often thrust upon us. How you react is in your control!