Many seniors benefit from having a routine. (This is especially true if they are a little forgetful or are challenged by a form of dementia.) So we offer lots of consistency in daily/weekly activities. For many Bel Air residents, this creates feelings of confidence and security. It’s not boring, it’s comforting. At the same time, we create special events and celebrate holidays that build anticipation, inject change, involve family members and add spontaneity. For example, we hosted a Senior Prom. Here are photos of me crowning King Reece and dancing with Queen Annie.
Contributed By: Volunteer Debbie of Harford County Public Schools
It is important to be as physically active as possible, for the body and the mind. I “invite” residents to join me on a walk and encourage them to stand up and stretch. When music is playing, we just have to dance. The more fun the process, the more participation. In their “Dementia Series” In-Service, Bel Air Assisted Living trains their caregivers about creating an active environment, along with the benefits of physical activity and it’s impact on cognition.
Many of our residents take pride in their appearance and I do whatever I can to help them achieve those goals. For example, Residents Kitty, Kay and Diana like having their nails done…and being pampered. They typically choose nail polish colors to correspond with the season – brighter, more vibrant colors in spring/summer, darker and deeper pigments for autumn/winter. In addition to the ladies feeling good about themselves, there’s lots of girl talk. Fun. Plus, I learn more about how they are feeling and look for changes in their well-being.
FYI: For our male residents, a hand massage is a great alternative.
We make holidays as cheerful as we can for our seniors. For those who wish to reminisce, we are happy to listen and to help them revive precious memories. For those with limitations, we ask for their advice while decorating so they are still an important part of the process. For those who follow traditions, we talk about the meals, music and rituals that are special to them, then do our best to provide them. For those who have feelings of loss or loneliness, we find a way to allow them to have fun through us. Often, we supply the energy and the involvement, and add fun. All our residents have to do is come along for the ride.
Music is a very useful tool for those providing care to a senior (playing, singing and/or listening). It can reduce anxiety and decrease stress. It can boost mood and improve mind frame. It can be used to help people to sleep. A familiar tune has the ability to encourage more cognitive activity in a person with Alzheimer’s disease. I pick music I feel the person will find enjoyable. I recommend adjusting the volume so as not to startle, yet make sure it is loud enough to be easily heard by those with a hearing impairment. Interruptions to the music can be a detriment, so I don’t recommend radio. Our residents really enjoy live music activities. They sing along, clap and tap their feet. On this occasion, Skip Morton performed songs by Neil Diamond, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Elvis.e
We realize that changing one’s home can be an uneasy process. To adjust to change, we help new residents develop a comfort zone as soon as possible. Our new resident, Mr. Roberts, enjoys playing cards. So we deal. The game provides an interactive environment in which to make new friends, an opportunity to be competitive and challenged, and is just plain fun. It creates a great opportunity for the staff to get better acquainted with him, as well. We play and chat, getting to know his likes, dislikes, needs and desires. Not only is there these social benefits in playing cards, but also a physical benefit that helps hand-eye coordination. Welcome Mr. Roberts!
Girl Scout troop #904 visits with our residents regularly and are natural caregivers. When conducting activities, they are creative and they look to enjoy the activity themselves. This makes them very successful. On this day, they decided to read to individuals. In addition to being interesting and fun for our residents, it is mentally stimulating. The listener focuses, then envisions characters and scenes. (If it is a story the listener knows, long term memories are accessed.) They also played Bingo. And they sat with residents and asked them questions. This makes a senior feel valued. And it is also accesses long term memories. Thank you to the Girl Scouts for your thoughtfulness, expertise and community service.
Our elders want to be heard and respected for what they have to say. So I believe it is important to take the time to have two-way conversations. Sometimes I have to get things started, but often our residents want to talk about their past, their family and about current events. Above, our resident really enjoyed interesting conversation while welcoming the coming of spring on the front porch. I know he appreciated my genuine interest which included me asking where he went to high school. Exchanges such as this build self-esteem and bring back fond memories. And for me, I learn so much and am so grateful that our residents share their fabulous stories and experiences with me.
Traditions and holidays are such an important part of life. They contribute to a sense of comfort and create a feeling of belonging. They encourage people to share memories, promote communication and lead to enjoyment. I like to maximize these advantages by building up to an event and creating anticipation. To prepare for Mother’s Day, we did flower arrangements and talked about our families. Leading up to Easter, we colored eggs and made candles. For the Kentucky Derby, we created Derby Hats in arts and crafts that added interest and made race day more fun.
I find innovative ways to keep our residents moving. Here’s dancing with a twist. (Pun intended.) You don’t need a partner. Just grab a chair and boogie. For music on this day, we danced to Walking on Sunshine, and Shake, Rattle, and Roll. Ms. Diana, Ms. Shirley, and Ms. Evelyn exercised their legs, and had fun moving their arms to the beat. FYI: The ladies still had energy to burn so after our seated dance, we had fun getting even more exercise playing basketball!
There is something about being close to animals that seems to change humans…for the better. In fact, research has found that animals can help reduce stress, and lower blood pressure. At the same time, they often increase social interaction and physical activity. So we are thrilled when Pets on Wheels come by to visit. On this morning, Bugsy put smiles on our faces. But he’s not the only one with that magic touch. Matthew (yes, his name is Matthew), a Golden Retriever with a gorgeous coat, came to visit after dinner, took to Miss Diana, and visa versa. (Thank you so much to Monika/Bugsy and Melissa/Matthew of Pets On Wheels.)
I would like to build on Caregiver Tip #5 – Music Soothes, And Much More – and the benefits of making music a vital part of caregiving. Combining listening, singing and movement activates multiple areas of the brain. Music can evoke emotion. Emotion can awaken memories and lead to movement, such as keeping the beat. When listening with a group, music can lead to social engagement and the sharing of memories. “I remember when I first heard…” When seniors dance to the music, in addition to being valuable exercise, it can improve balance and coordination. Even more important, it can lead to touch, hugs and kisses – important elements in feeling wanted and appreciated, and often in short supply to seniors living on their own. So bring on the familiar tunes and help escort those in your care down memory lane.
There are many compassionate people in any community that are willing to help family caregivers if you know who to ask and how to ask. The who is often neighbors, charitable groups, schools and community organizations. The how is to be specific in the type of help and time commitment you are looking for. We have found it is much easier to attract a volunteer when you say “I am hoping to have someone come by who can play an instrument, has an hour to spare on Tuesday and feels comfortable around the elderly.” It pays off for us. We are thrilled when Noel (a local high school freshman) graciously comes by to play piano and then lead the group in balloon volleyball.
A major challenge for caregivers is to keep things interesting, stimulating and fun…for everyone including themselves. This takes imagination and planning. I have found that having themes helps a lot. Whenever possible, I like to coordinate activities to a sense of time or an event. And I often coordinate with Chef Amanda to tie in meals and treats. On this day, we enjoyed celebrating fall, it’s apple season! We made a 3-D apple craft to bring out creativity and utilize hand-eye coordination. Then Chef Amanda served up a theme-oriented reward. Oh yeah, baked apples with cinnamon, butter and sugar. In the mood for a la mode? We topped the treat with vanilla ice cream. This made for a day of sweet fun.
Many seniors were veterans of the U.S. armed services and/or related to veterans. In their younger days, they lived through World War II, the Korean conflict and the Viet Nam War. Veteran’s Day typically has deep felt, personal meaning for them. We suggest striving to help them remember and honor those who were close to them and sacrificed for us all. This year, our arts and crafts group painted red poppies to display throughout Bel Air Assisted Living. These flowers are the national emblem of remembrance. To learn more about the interesting and sad origins of this emblem, click on “The WWI Origins of the Poppy as a Remembrance Symbol.” (A History.com article.)
Whether you’re coming from Fallston, Forest Hill, Jarrettsville, Abingdon, or Churchville or anywhere else in the Baltimore area, Bel Air Assisted Living is ready to show you why you can count on us to provide you with a personalized senior living experience.
Bel Air Assisted Living is ready to show you why you can count on us to provide you with a personalized senior living experience.