Protect Mom From Falling in the Home

Falls in the home are one of the leading causes of injury in older adults, with one in four Americans age 65 and older experiencing a painful fall each year.

Women are especially susceptible to falling. According to The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, senior women are 50% more likely than men of the same age to trip or stumble when multitasking.

This Mother’s Day, consider going beyond the typical presents of flowers and chocolates to give your mom the ultimate gift: the tools and support she needs to navigate her home with confidence and ease and safely age in place.

The Painful Consequences of Falling at Home

In Florida, there are nearly twice as many women age 60 and older who live alone, compared to men of the same age. This puts them more at risk of not receiving immediate help should they fall in their home.

Even with immediate assistance, the consequences of a fall can be serious.

  • One out of five falls results in a critical injury, including head trauma or broken bones.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.
  • Most traumatic brain injuries are the result of a fall. These can be very serious, especially if your mom is taking medications like blood thinners.

If a fall doesn’t result in a serious injury, your mom may develop a fear of falling after taking a painful tumble. This fear may lead her to become less active, resulting in muscle weakness that can increase her risk of falling in the future.

Protecting Mom From Falls at Home

There are three steps you can take today to help your mom feel safer and more confident in her Florida home.

  1. Make an appointment with her doctor. Less than half of the millions of older Americans who experience a fall each year tell their doctor. If you worry that your mom’s sense of stability or balance has decreased, have an honest conversation with her healthcare provider. He or she may be able to prevent future falls by evaluating the prescriptions and over-the-counter supplements your mom is taking and, if needed, running blood tests and other diagnostics. It’s also important that older adults get their eyes checked at least once a year.
  2. Suggest an exercise outing. Tai chi is a gentle, low-impact way to strengthen the muscles in the legs, which can help improve balance. These classes are offered in many Florida gyms, community centers and YMCAs. If you’re local, consider tagging along. It’s a great way to spend quality time together while reducing stress and improving your stability.
  3. Fall-proof her home. Make Mom’s home safer by installing grab bars and railings in spots like the bathtub and stairway. Offer to rearrange furniture or move items that can easily be tripped over, and help Mom pick out new, brighter light bulbs to use in dim rooms and spaces. Experts also recommend removing throw rugs that can cause Mom to trip and fall.

If Mom is still experiencing falls at home, it may be time to consider professional caregivers to help you both feel more confident and secure. Falling is one of the telltale signs that your mom may need the robust care offered by a Florida assisted living community to continue maintaining her independence and quality of life.

When it’s time for that conversation, rest assured that there are more options for assisted living in Florida than ever before. You and your mom have a choice in how she will receive the care and support she needs.

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

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A Practical Guide For Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors


Few people thrust into the role of caregiver have received any formal training on the confusing behaviors that can attend the onset of memory loss. Relying on experts in the field, our guide is a short yet comprehensive primer in managing symptoms and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

DOWNLOAD OUR GUIDE TODAY


The Difference Dementia Certification Makes in Florida

Florida has strict requirements for those who work directly with people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s. But there are some Florida memory care communities that see the state’s extensive training requirements as merely the starting point for providing the highest level of care.

In honor of National Nurses Week, today we salute the Florida caregiver communities that go above and beyond to help their residents — and the people who love them — feel more secure, comfortable and empowered.

Florida Dementia Care Options

In addition to the high training standards for providing dementia care in Florida, some specialized communities, including Serenades by Sonata, provide training on Teepa Snow’s acclaimed Positive Approach™ to Care, which has attained the highest national certification for the treatment of dementia.

Credentials offered by the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners recognizes the highest national standards in Alzheimer’s and dementia education and is founded in research.

The Difference a Dementia Certification Makes

After completing the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners’ rigorous training, nurses and caregivers have a deeper understanding of how dementia affects the brain.

Compared to those who only undergo the required Florida dementia care training, they’re more empowered to ensure every resident receives the highest, most compassionate level of care. They also realize that each resident has unique needs based on the parts of their brain that have been impacted by the disease.

If a resident demonstrates undesired behavior caused by dementia, these knowledgeable nurses and caregivers don’t react or take the actions personally. Instead, they understand that dementia can damage the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes — which control behavior and personality — and respond to the resident’s distress with more compassion and efficacy.

If a resident refuses to speak, Certified Dementia Practitioners understand that the parts of the brain associated with speech have likely been compromised. They’re aware that this can cause a sense of embarrassment about being unable to find the right words to say. Professional caregivers with extensive dementia training are empowered to interact with the resident in the kindest and most empathetic way to ease their stress and discomfort.

Certified Dementia Practitioners are also knowledgeable of how the disease continues to change the brain as symptoms advance. This allows them to be proactive in helping each resident remain independent for as long as possible.

“This training gives caregivers a deeper awareness of what’s happening to each resident to provide a more detailed and personalized level of care,” said Julie Fernandez, CALA, CDP, CADDCT, CPT, the director of team development and training at Sonata Senior Living.

Better Dementia Care for Florida Families

Residents aren’t the only ones who may benefit from this research-based approach to specialized memory care for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia in Florida.

When your loved one is in the care of a Certified Dementia Practitioner at a memory care community, the needs of the family are addressed with the same level of expertise and empathy.

Certified caregivers take the time to share their deep knowledge of the brain to explain why symptoms of memory loss and confusion persist. They share tips on how to interact with your loved one in the most effective manner to ensure each visit is as meaningful and positive as possible. They’re also there to remind you that you’re doing everything right.

When you are caring for someone with dementia, each day may bring a completely new set of challenges due to the unpredictability of the disease. Certified dementia care experts have developed a practical guide for managing the negative symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia at home to help Florida families and those in their care arm themselves with essential knowledge and support that professional caregivers use in everyday practice.

“Often, families think they’re doing something wrong or they feel powerless to watch how the condition is changing their loved one,” said Fernandez. “When they speak with someone who has a deep knowledge of dementia and Alzheimer’s, the guilt starts to dissolve. It also opens their eyes. They see Mom’s still Mom, she’s just different now, and they learn to adjust their expectations and actions to have more meaningful interactions.”

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

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A Practical Guide For Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors


Few people thrust into the role of caregiver have received any formal training on the confusing behaviors that can attend the onset of memory loss. Relying on experts in the field, our guide is a short yet comprehensive primer in managing symptoms and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

DOWNLOAD OUR GUIDE TODAY


Parkinson’s Diagnosis in Florida: 7 Important Questions to Ask the Doctor

A Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can often blindside a family, especially because symptoms can vary widely and a definitive test for the disease doesn’t exist.

“There are other syndromes with similar or overlapping symptoms, and about 35% of Parkinson’s patients never even experience tremors,” said Anissa Mitchell, LCSW, Advisory Board Chair for the Parkinson Association of Central Florida.

If you or your loved one has received a diagnosis, it’s important to ask the doctor the right questions to ensure the next best steps.

Since it’s such an individualized disease, no two Parkinson’s diagnoses are the same. So while the answers to these questions will vary by person, let’s review what to ask and what to keep in mind when you get those answers.

1. Should I start medication?

Whether someone should start taking medication will depend on their particular situation and their doctor’s advice, of course. However, a general rule of thumb is:

If symptoms are interfering with quality of life and activities of daily living, it’s probably time to consider medication.

Some patients delay taking medication because they fear its effectiveness will eventually wear off. This is a myth. The medicine doesn’t stop working simply from taking it for too long. The reality is that dosage must be increased over time to continue seeing benefits since Parkinson’s is a progressive chronic disease.

“Sinemet, a combination of levodopa and carbidopa, is a commonly prescribed medication,” said Mitchell, whose mother lives with Parkinson’s. “It’s important that the drug be taken on an empty stomach or with a non-protein food source because protein will compete with the medication for absorption in the body. That’s something not everyone is aware of, but it’s important to note if you or your loved one is prescribed it.”

2. What should I do in the event of a bad reaction?

If the doctor does prescribe medication, it’s critical to understand next steps if that medicine triggers a reaction before your next scheduled appointment. Some questions to ask:

  • If I call the office, can I reach you directly? If not, who do I talk to?
  • What if I notice a reaction after office hours?
  • Should I stop taking the medication right away?
  • Do I need to wean off the medicine gradually?

Of course, how certain people react to certain medication varies, but it’s important to have a plan in place so you’re prepared if a negative reaction occurs.

3. How else can I manage symptoms and improve quality of life aside from medicine?

There are several non-pharmacological ways to help manage Parkinson’s disease depending on a person’s abilities and pre-existing conditions.

A key to proactively managing quality of life is physical activity.

Ask the doctor the best exercise to be doing given your or your loved one’s symptoms. Also ask what types of physical activity are safe and which are unsafe. There’s a reason an active lifestyle is central to a quality assisted living community, especially in Florida.

Another major factor is eating a healthy and balanced diet. Constipation is a common early symptom of the disease, and it can become troublesome over time.

“A high-fiber diet is typically advised for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s,” said Mitchell. “Specifically, we see the Mediterranean diet recommended often, but it’s critical to ask your doctor what’s best for you or your loved one’s particular situation.”

4. What symptoms should I look out for that you, as my doctor, would want to know about?

Again, because every Parkinson’s diagnosis is different, symptoms can vary — and it’s difficult to predict what may come next. However, you should ask the doctor if there are particular symptoms or red flags they would want to know about right away.

Generally, some major symptoms worth noting include:

  • New or worsening pain or rigidity
  • Increased depression and/or anxiety
  • Changes in thinking or memory loss
  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleeping habits
  • Hallucinations or hearing things that aren’t there
  • Abnormal obsessive behaviors (compulsive shopping, unusual sexual behavior, etc.)

5. Should I be evaluated for therapy?

Physical therapy, occupational therapy and/or speech therapy may be appropriate for certain Parkinson’s diagnoses.

Some people may experience swallowing issues or vocal changes as a prominent symptom early on, but they may write it off as something unrelated. That’s where a speech therapist can help.

Physical therapy can also be a proactive approach to strengthen weaker muscles and help mitigate changes that have already started to occur. Occupational therapists can help with self-care tasks and other activities of daily living, including assisting with adaptive equipment, as needed.

There has been significant success with LSVT programs in people with Parkinson’s, so therapy is definitely a worthwhile consideration. Some larger neurology centers in Florida have therapists on staff, but if your doctor’s office doesn’t, ask if they would recommend a referral to therapy as a next step.

6. Where can I get more information and support?

Doctors often don’t have time for extensive patient education, so a crucial next question is: “What are reliable resources where I can learn about my disease?”

Like any chronic disease, knowledge is power — both for the patient and their caregiver(s).

Someone with Parkinson’s may only see their doctor every few months, so it’s important for them and their caregivers to understand the disease, what to look for and how to communicate changes to the doctor. Ask your doctor for recommendations to classes, organizations and support groups in your community.

“It’s not just about education. Social support is vital, too,” said Mitchell. “This tends to be an isolating disease, because symptoms can make the person feel self-conscious, they may have trouble speaking, and they often suffer from anxiety and depression. All of this can lead them to withdraw socially. Support groups can help combat this negative cycle.”

There’s a positive difference in those with Parkinson’s who engage socially — both with their existing social network and others living with the disease — because they don’t have to explain themselves, they’re accepted, and they can learn from each other.

7. Are there opportunities to get involved in research or a clinical trial?

Participating in a clinical trial or other research-based treatment could not only help a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s feel better, but it could also contribute to better treatment or even a future cure. Plus, not all clinical trials are medication-based. A lot of the research being conducted right now is focused on early stages of the disease, before patients get heavily involved with medications.

Caregivers must be involved from the very beginning

Those who receive a Parkinson’s diagnosis may initially be hesitant to involve their partner, child or another family member or friend because they may think, “This is my problem to handle, and I don’t want to drag them into it.”

But it’s so important to have that caregiver engaged from the onset so that they can understand how the disease will affect them, learn the medications and know what the doctor is recommending. This Parkinson’s Awareness Month, consider how you can educate, support and encourage your loved one and others living with and affected by Parkinson’s disease in your community.

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

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A Practical Guide For Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors


Few people thrust into the role of caregiver have received any formal training on the confusing behaviors that can attend the onset of memory loss. Relying on experts in the field, our guide is a short yet comprehensive primer in managing symptoms and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

DOWNLOAD OUR GUIDE TODAY


Volunteer Opportunities and Ideas for Seniors in Florida

One of the joys of retirement is the opportunity to volunteer your time and give back to the community. If you’re an older adult in Florida who wants to make a difference, there are a number of ways you can get involved.

Volunteering ideas for older adults and retirees

There are numerous ways to get plugged in and start volunteering in your community. Organizations like Volunteer Florida and VolunteerMatch can help you discover specific opportunities near you.

Another great resource is the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) through Senior Corps, one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for older adults.

According to the organization’s website, “RSVP volunteers choose how, where, and how often they want to serve, with commitments ranging from a few hours to 40 hours per week.” If you’re interested, you can contact their Florida office directly.

Here are some other ideas to consider:

  • Becoming a foster grandparent — Senior Corps also offers a Foster Grandparents program. Volunteers serve as role models, mentors and friends to children in their community with exceptional needs.
  • Dog walking — Your local Humane Society or animal shelter is likely in need of volunteers to walk their dogs. This is a great option for staying active and enjoying the outdoors while giving back!
  • Providing a hot meal — Homeless shelters and food banks get a lot of attention around the holidays, but they need help year-round. Whether it’s cooking, serving a meal or organizing supplies, there are plenty of opportunities to serve the homeless in your community, from the Orlando area to Broward County to Palm Beach County and beyond.
  • Schools — Some schools are open to volunteers helping with play time, reading and other activities. This could also be a great option if you have a group looking to volunteer together. At Sonata West, a senior living community in Winter Garden, Florida, residents regularly volunteer at a local preschool to craft and read books with the students.
  • Museums — Many museums are free to the public and all of them rely on private donors and volunteers. Check with your local art, science and history museums to see if they’re accepting volunteers. Zoos often need help, too!
  • National parks — If you live near one of Florida’s national parks, you could volunteer your time in a variety of ways from behind-the-scenes to front-line positions.
  • Hospitals — Many Florida hospitals accept volunteers, including “cuddlers” who cradle babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). You may also be able to volunteer in administrative roles or to provide companionship to patients undergoing treatment.
  • Volunteer from home — There are ways to volunteer “virtually” without ever leaving the house! For example, you can sew and knit blankets for organizations like Warm Up America and Binky Patrol, or send letters of encouragement to people undergoing cancer treatment through Chemo Angels.

The benefits of community service: 4 reasons to volunteer in retirement

Not only is community service a way to help others, but it’s good for you, too! There are numerous benefits to volunteering:

  1. It keeps you active — Volunteering can get you outdoors, promote mobility and encourage daily activity that keeps you moving. Even if it’s just walking around the library or museum, this added light exercise can help you stay healthy as you age.
  2. Improved happiness — According to the National Institute on Aging, studies have shown that volunteering decreases depression and improves overall happiness. “The researchers found it improved the volunteers’ cognitive and physical health” and “researchers think [volunteering] might also have long-term benefits, lowering the older adults’ risk of developing disability, dependency, and dementia in later life.”
  3. Reduced dementia risk — Volunteer activities can keep your brain sharp and foster creativity. According to a recent University of Calgary research study, older adults who volunteer consistently reduce their risk of dementia. “We found that the people who did volunteer work for at least one hour a week on a regular basis were 2.44 times less likely to develop dementia than the seniors who didn’t volunteer,” said the study’s lead professor.
  4. Mentor and learn from younger generations — Community service goes beyond the tangible work you do. It’s an opportunity to share your experiences with younger generations (and perhaps change their misconceptions about yours). At the same time, it’s also an opportunity for you to learn from them.

Volunteering truly is a win-win. Don’t miss out one of the greatest joys of retirement: sharing your time, experience, skills and passion with others. When you volunteer, you receive more than what you invest.

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

5 Tips on Moving your Loved One to a Senior Living Community in Florida


There’s no place like home, right? For many seniors, this is absolutely the case.

Even when you know — and they know themselves — that the time has come to move to senior living. But that doesn’t make it any easier to leave.

DOWNLOAD OUR TIPSHEET TODAY

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Stress and Dementia: How Music Reduces Anxiety

When it comes to relaxing and reducing stress, music is one of the most powerful tools available. A major key to reducing anxiety, particularly in someone with a dementia like Alzheimer’s, is redirecting their attention away from stressful triggers.

Music can transport our minds, evoke memories and literally block out distractions in the world around us. This can be helpful for anyone looking to manage stress, but especially in a loved one living with dementia.

How music can physiologically affect your body

The ability for music to reduce stress isn’t just psychological. Some studies have shown that listening to music can lower:

  • Pulse
  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Cortisol (stress hormone) levels

In people with dementia, music can serve as a distraction, allowing them to tune out triggers and be more comfortable in their surroundings.

What type of music reduces stress and anxiety?

If you care for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the best music to get them to relax is something slow and quiet. Classical music is great for this, but not everyone is a classical music fan — or if they are, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to listen to it all the time. Slow ballads and soft acoustic tunes may be great options as well.

In terms of reducing stress in general, the best music is:

  • Enjoyable
  • Familiar
  • Calming

And that can vary from person to person. According to the experts at Serenades by Sonata, a specialized memory care community in Florida, the default idea of playing music from the 1940s and 1950s is becoming outdated.

“Many of our residents are now in their 60s and 70s and grew up in a different generation. They enjoy music from artists like Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Jimmy Buffett and Pearl Jam,” said Julie Fernandez, certified dementia care expert at Sonata Senior Living. “It’s all about catering to the individual and what they’ve always enjoyed. They didn’t become a different person just because they were diagnosed with dementia.”

Sometimes the best option isn’t even music at all. Recorded nature sounds such as rainforest noises, birds chirping or a babbling creek can be a relaxing way to unwind and manage anxious episodes.

Best practices for incorporating music into dementia caregiving

Easy Access

Encouraging independence is key when it comes to caring for someone with a dementia like Alzheimer’s — that includes everything from mealtime to music listening.

Create an environment where your loved one has easy access to on-demand music to manage their stress.

At Serenades by Sonata, soft music is always playing in the background and residents have access to SIMPL™Music Players. These special devices, created especially for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, are easy to operate: you simply lift the lid to begin playing music. There are no knobs to turn or tiny buttons to adjust, and it comes preloaded with music or you can add your own MP3 files.

Headphones

In addition to music playing through speakers, personal headphones are a great option for managing stressful situations in those with dementia since they can block out triggers and “cancel” ambient noise.

Over-the-ear headphones are recommended, as opposed to ear buds, since they tend to be more comfortable and better isolate noise. Plus, wireless headphones eliminate the temptation for your loved one to tangle and unplug cords that may get in the way.

Music Volume

Use common sense when adjusting music volume for someone with dementia. Background music intended to relax should be soft and calming, not overwhelming. Look for any behaviors from your loved one that may indicate they find the music too loud, and take note of the ideal volume setting for them.

Regardless of the setting, music is a powerful tool for managing stress in both people with dementia and their caregivers. Take advantage of its benefits!

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

5 Tips on Moving your Loved One to a Senior Living Community in Florida


There’s no place like home, right? For many seniors, this is absolutely the case.

Even when you know — and they know themselves — that the time has come to move to senior living. But that doesn’t make it any easier to leave.

DOWNLOAD OUR TIPSHEET TODAY

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Reducing Stress and Anxiety in People with Dementia

Stress and dementia: How they’re related

Being diagnosed with a dementia like Alzheimer’s can obviously create a lot of stress, but did you know chronic anxiety can also be a contributing cause of dementia?

In short, chronic stress impacts the immune system. When the immune system is weak, you’re more susceptible to infections. Severe and prolonged infections create chemical changes in the brain, which, over time, can contribute to dementia.

That’s why managing stress is so important for both those with dementia and their caregivers. If your loved one is living with a dementia like Alzheimer’s, there are ways you can help manage their stress.

Signs and triggers of stress with dementia

When someone with dementia is experiencing stress, it will typically manifest through some sort of outward behavior. As a caregiver, look for signals that your loved one is anxious or stressed, such as:

  • Pacing
  • Lashing out
  • Refusing to eat or overeating
  • Major changes in personality
  • Shutting down or ignoring you
  • Physically hiding

The next step is identifying the trigger(s) causing the behavior. These can include:

  • Hunger or thirst
  • Uncomfortable clothing
  • Room temperature that is too hot or too cold
  • Too much noise
  • A new environment
  • People they don’t recognize
  • Too many people around them
  • Need to use the bathroom

These triggers can also fluctuate. For example, something that bothers them during the day may not bother them at night, and this week’s trigger may not be an issue next week. Of course, avoiding these triggers is a proactive way to prevent stressful situations, but what else can you do to reduce stress in your loved one?

Tips for managing anxiety in someone with dementia

The key to addressing behaviors related to stress and anxiety in someone with a dementia like Alzheimer’s is distraction or redirection. If your loved one is anxious or irritable, redirecting their attention and re-engaging them with another activity will help get them out of that rut.

Here are some simple ways to reduce their stress and get them focused on something else:

1. Physical activity

Engaging in light exercise is a great way to “work out” stress, especially outdoors in a place like Florida. Activities such as walking, gardening, swimming or dancing are all helpful outlets. Plus, this physical activity can also help them sleep better at night.

2. Music

A great way to redirect attention is listening to music. Not only can music improve the mood of someone with dementia, but listening through headphones can help them block out triggers or stimuli that may be causing stress.

3. Hobbies

Is there an activity or hobby your loved one enjoyed before their diagnosis? That may be a good first step to manage their anxiety, but recognize that there’s a fine line between that activity being helpful and making the situation worse.

The solution? Take baby steps. For example, if cooking was a favorite activity, start by giving them small tasks — such as getting out the measuring cups — and judge how they handle it.

Often times, people with dementia can become frustrated (and more stressed) when they can’t do something they used to enjoy. That’s why it’s crucial to start slow and adapt to their feelings and abilities.

4. Games

Board games and playing cards can also be a double-edged sword. While they can serve as stress-relieving distractions, it’s important to choose games that aren’t highly structured and don’t have many rules. Simple games like matching card games or certain types of bingo are good options.

At Serenades by Sonata, a specialized memory care community in Florida, checkers games are openly available to residents, and they’re free to interact with them as they please. They don’t actually play by the rules, but just being able to pick up the pieces and move them around is comforting and fosters independence.

5. Simple household tasks

Many people with dementia simply have a need to touch, fidget and keep their hands busy. Plus, helping around the house can help them feel independent. Options include:

  • Folding towels or baby clothes
  • Sweeping the floors
  • Wiping down countertops
  • Dusting
  • Vacuuming

These activities are another great form of distraction that can help manage anxiety, but remember to set them up for success by giving them tasks they can accomplish — not ones that are too challenging.

National Stress Awareness Month

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to consider the best ways to manage your loved one’s stress — and yours.

Determining the best stress-reducing activities for someone with dementia is often a process of elimination, requiring (sometimes difficult) trial and error. This is easier for a professional care partner, because unlike a family member, they won’t take aggressive behaviors personally.

A professional memory care center can also offer other amenities that help manage stress. The experts at Serenades by Sonata in Florida allow residents total access to secured outdoor areas, since locked doors are a major source of frustration for those with dementia.

Residents also have the freedom to move around and pick up decor and knick knacks, which is a source of comfort.

At the end of the day, managing stress is about creating that comfortable environment for your loved one. That looks different for everyone, but the first step is paying attention to what they need.

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

5 Tips on Moving your Loved One to a Senior Living Community in Florida


There’s no place like home, right? For many seniors, this is absolutely the case.

Even when you know — and they know themselves — that the time has come to move to senior living. But that doesn’t make it any easier to leave.

DOWNLOAD OUR TIPSHEET TODAY

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How to Increase Appetite and Reduce Weight Loss from Dementia

If you care for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you’re likely familiar with the struggles of meal time. Encouraging eating and preventing weight loss is a common challenge for people with dementias, but there are ways you can help.

Let’s look at several strategies you can apply before, during and outside of meal times.


BEFORE MEAL TIME

Leverage the aroma of food

The sense of smell is powerful. Not only is it closely connected to memory and emotion, but the scent of food can stimulate the gastric juices that make us feel hungry.

Slow cooking with a bread machine or crockpot creates strong aromas that can fill your home and stimulate your loved one’s appetite. By preparing dinner early, you’ll allow time for them to get hungry before meal time.

For example, the experts at Serenades by Sonata, a specialized memory care community in Florida, serve meals “family style” out of cooking pots. Not only does this feel more like home, but it allows residents to better see, smell and experience the cooking aspect of meal time.

Wash hands with scented towels

Another easy at-home strategy is to use essential oils to increase appetite. To wash hands before a meal, scent a warm washcloth with an oil such as:

    • Bergamot
    • Ginger
    • Oregano
    • Peppermint
    • Tangerine

These fragrances can reduce nausea and stimulate gastric juices.


DURING MEAL TIME

Properly position the plate

Vision loss is a normal part of aging, but it’s often compounded by the symptoms of dementias like Alzheimer’s, which can affect field of vision.

People with dementia tend to be forward-focused, so they may not see a plate of food directly below them. Caregivers may assume the person is not hungry and pull the food away, which can contribute to a weight loss spiral.

If you’ve experienced this with your loved one, try moving the plate further in front of them or to one side, instead of placing it directly below them on the table.

Create a contrast between the food and plate

Worsening eyesight can also make it difficult for your loved one to see the food on their plate. For example, turkey and mashed potatoes can blend in on a white plate, but creating contrast with a colored plate or placemat can help the food stand out.

Don’t overcrowd the plate

Stick to smaller portions when serving food to your loved one. Those with dementia can easily become overwhelmed and distracted, so it may sometimes be best to serve one item at a time.

It can also be a generational thing: Many older people may not want to waste food, so they figure if they can’t eat everything on their plate, they won’t touch any of it.

Limit distractions

Distractions can easily derail meal time and disrupt a routine for someone with dementia. Create a quiet, well-lit environment and avoid noisy activities such as watching television or washing dishes. You may need to close blinds to limit outside distractions, but remember to keep lights on to improve visibility and prevent sundowning.

Encourage independent eating and finger foods

Some might think it’s messy or child-like, but being able to feed yourself with your hands is far more dignified than someone else feeding you.

It’s easy to turn many conventional meals into finger foods that your loved one can feed themselves. Here are a few examples used by the experienced Serenades by Sonata staff, who care for those with dementias, such as Alzheimer’s, in Florida:

    • Pour soup or thinned oatmeal into a mug for a drinkable meal that doesn’t require a spoon
    • Roll up scrambled eggs into a tortilla for a breakfast or snack wrap
    • Spread peanut butter or jelly onto toast and cut into bite-sized pieces
    • Prepare kebabs of meat and/or vegetables with crackers

The Serenades by Sonata communities in Florida are also pioneering a “grind dining” program, where the ingredients of a traditional meal — including proteins, grains, vegetables and seasonings — are ground together, re-shaped and cooked into finger foods like patties, meatballs, dumplings or savory pastries.

Finger foods are also great if your loved one has trouble sitting still at meal time; they can take their food to-go! Give your loved one the freedom to be more independent with their eating. The occasional mess is worth it compared to the alternative of them not eating.


OUTSIDE OF MEAL TIME

Make snacks available

Ensure your loved one has easy access to snacks around the house. Sometimes just seeing a bowl of fruit or pretzels can stimulate their appetite. This can also foster independent feeding and reinforce the connection between feelings of hunger and the act of eating. It never hurts to offer snacks throughout the day, even if it’s not meal time.

Balance food intake with activity level

If your loved one is having a more sedentary day, food doesn’t have to be as much of a focus compared to a more active day.

The key to preventing weight loss is to ensure they’re eating more calories than they are burning.

If they are not sleeping well at night, their metabolism is likely more active. You may not see it, but time spent awake is time spent burning calories. When your loved one is awake and active, regularly offer them food.

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

A Practical Guide For Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors


Few people thrust into the role of caregiver have received any formal training on the confusing behaviors that can attend the onset of memory loss. Relying on experts in the field, our guide is a short yet comprehensive primer in managing symptoms and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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COPD in Florida: Does Climate Matter?

Does Florida’s Climate Matter For Those With COPD?

Finding the perfect place to call home is easy for some, but a challenge for people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

According to the Lung Institute, Florida is ranked as one of the best places to live if you have COPD. Factors such as low pollution, sprawling metropolitan areas and Florida’s Clean Air Act make Florida’s air some of the cleanest you’ll find!

How does Florida’s climate affect those living with chronic lung disease?

1 – Temperature

Finding a place with a temperate climate is key when you are living with COPD. It’s no secret Florida is hot during the summer and can worsen symptoms of COPD. On the flip side, you don’t have to worry about the extremely low temperatures that many other parts of the United States face during the winter. Frigid temperatures can cause COPD flare-ups, and the daily chores associated with extreme cold, like shoveling snow and running errands, can be tough for those with COPD.

Assisted living communities in Florida recommend staying indoors when the mercury rises to take full advantage of air conditioning. Though the heat can be extreme in the summer, there is a silver lining. In warm temperatures, you don’t need to wear as many layers, reducing lung constriction. Plus, the long, mild winters in Florida allow ample opportunity to open the windows and enjoy the fresh air!

2 – Humidity

Humidity is the accumulation of water vapor in the air. People with COPD often describe the air as feeling “heavy” on humid days. Humidity can cause a couple of issues for those with respiratory disease. First, the water vapor tends to have an adverse effect on overall pulmonary function. Secondly, the moisture promotes mold growth, which is not good for anyone.

People living with COPD in Florida can manage humidity levels using a dehumidifier, which makes a huge difference on very humid days. Some also recommend restricting outdoor activities to the morning or night.

Despite the humidity, Florida is often praised for its overall air quality, which makes it an excellent choice to live – particularly during the fall and winter seasons – while managing a chronic disease like COPD.

3 – Allergens

If you’re living with COPD, it’s wise to look for locations with low levels of airborne allergens and short allergy seasons. For those who suffer from seasonal respiratory symptoms such as a stuffy nose or congestion, being in a low allergen area is ideal.

If you are planning a move, it’s crucial to investigate the pollen counts in the region.

Several cities in Florida scored better than average on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2018 Spring Allergy Capitals™ report, which compares 100 American cities!

4 – Pollution

Breathing clean air is vital for those with COPD. Airborne pollution makes it hard for people with COPD to breathe because oxygen gets replaced by pollutants. Not only does this make breathing harder, but it can irritate delicate lung tissue and trigger allergic reactions.

If you’re living with COPD, you’ll want to live in an area with low concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, particulates, ozone, and sulfur, all of which are known to exacerbate the symptoms of COPD.

In Florida, ozone pollution is declining despite the national trend! According to the American Lung Association’s 2018 State of the Air Report, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, Gainesville, Lake City, Homosassa Springs, Lakeland, Winter Haven, North Port, Sarasota, Orlando, Deltona, Daytona Beach, Palm Bay, Melbourne, Titusville, Pensacola, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater ranked as some of the cleanest cities in the nation for short-term particle pollution along with zero unhealthy air days!

Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, Homosassa Springs, Lakeland, Winter Haven, North Port, Sarasota, Orlando, Deltona, Daytona Beach, Palm Bay, Melbourne, and Titusville are also ranked among the cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution.

5 – Altitude

Another climate characteristic to consider is altitude. The thin air you’ll find at high altitudes makes it difficult to get the oxygen you need. Lower elevations such as those you find in Florida make breathing easier when you have COPD.

Overall, Florida shines when it comes to providing a good quality of life for those with COPD.


Sources:

  1. Lung Institute: https://bit.ly/2C422ci
  2. Everyday Health: https://bit.ly/2ELdP15
  3. AAFA.org: https://bit.ly/2TwZMnR
  4. Lung Institute: https://bit.ly/2EN8dTS
  5. Lung.org: https://bit.ly/2Ugib5j

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

5 Tips on Moving your Loved One to a Senior Living Community in Florida


There’s no place like home, right? For many seniors, this is absolutely the case.

Even when you know — and they know themselves — that the time has come to move to senior living. But that doesn’t make it any easier to leave.

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Why Brain Boosting Exercise Really Works!

Brain-boosting exercises have become popular lately, particularly among older adults hoping to prevent age-related memory loss.

That’s why we did some digging to see which, if any, cognitive training interventions actually work.

What are Brain-Boosting Exercises?

Brain-boosting exercises can take many forms. From smartphone apps and computer games to learning a new skill, basically any new experience that ties your physical senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste – to an emotional response can stimulate the connections between different areas of your brain causing nerve cells to produce more nutrients. These experiences make nerve cells stronger, which plays a vital part in resisting the effects of aging.

If you’re an older adult concerned about cognitive decline, senior living communities in Florida are renowned for keeping active seniors engaged in activities that stimulate the mind and body, including neurobic exercises designed to improve memory.

The Science Behind Brain Exercise

There are literally hundreds of brain-boosting activities claiming significant results. In fact, scientists did a study to see if any programs on the market have any real cognitive benefits. The findings, published in Neuropsychology Review, showed several have potential to enhance brain health! In particular, when exercises are focused on improving the brain’s processing speed, they can result in healthier brain aging.

Your brain is the ultimate problem solver. As your mind works to put the pieces together, it goes through neuroplastic changes. The brain actually changes as it figures things out, and new neuropathways are formed. The new neuropathways help you process information beyond what the original exercise focused on, simultaneously increasing function in more than one area of your brain.

Brain-Boosting Exercises That Really Work

We could all benefit from a sharper, more accurate memory, and brain-boosting exercises that generate neuroplastic changes are the best type to see the results you want.

Digital applications like BrainHQ and Cognifit focus on improving the brain’s processing speed, which is why, scientists explain, they are so effective.

If digital exercise isn’t your cup of tea, there are other more organic ways to exercise your brain and form new neuropathways.

Learn a new skill

Doing the same activities over and over won’t stimulate your brain. If you’ve always wanted to try a new hobby, go for it. The possibilities are endless: from learning a new instrument to learning a new language, it’s never too late to learn a new skill.

Put pen to paper

Some of the best brain exercises are those that force you to make mind-to-hand connections such as crossword puzzles and word search games. If you’re looking for some, you’ll find the Brain Awareness Week website has several to choose from, including this free puzzle packet!

Explore new places

From airboat tours in the Everglades National Park to learning about the cosmos at the Kennedy Space Center to sampling peach wine, there are so many activities in Florida that you won’t have to look hard to find your next adventure.

Draw a map

Can you draw a map of your city from memory? Try it out. Be specific and draw the signs, street lights, traffic lights, and landmarks along the way. Once your map is complete, get out and see how you did. Tapping into these little details will boost brain health.

Exercise your body

Numerous studies show that the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex (the parts of the brain that control memory and thinking) have greater volume in people who exercise. Commit to a brisk, hour-long walk twice a week, for example, to support brain health.

Eat well

Eating a well-balanced diet is essential for all aspects of health, and our brains thrive when we eat healthy food.

So which ones work the best? The latest science points to activities that help form new neuropathways in the brain. Virtually any activity that challenges the brain to rewire will have a positive effect.


Sources:

    1. https://bit.ly/2kHdKn1
    2. https://bit.ly/2Q2hhau
    3. https://bit.ly/2vRxUhC
    4. https://bit.ly/2vhZx4H

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

A Practical Guide For Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors


Few people thrust into the role of caregiver have received any formal training on the confusing behaviors that can attend the onset of memory loss. Relying on experts in the field, our guide is a short yet comprehensive primer in managing symptoms and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

DOWNLOAD OUR GUIDE TODAY

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Poor Sleep and Dementia: 7 Ways You Can Help

Trouble with sleeping is one of the more challenging aspects of many types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, both for your diagnosed loved one and for you as their caregiver. If they’re not sleeping well, neither are you.

Not only can lack of sleep worsen the mood and behavior of someone with dementia, but it can take a toll on those around them as well. Your loved one may wake up frequently, wander or yell out in the middle of the night — and these restless nights can lead them to nap even more during the day, contributing to the cycle.

What can you do to help them (and you) get a more restful night’s sleep?

1 – Increase natural light exposure

Daylight helps regulate our biological clock, or circadian rhythm, so exposure to sunlight can help your loved one feel more awake during the day and prepared for bed at night. Keep blinds open and lights on throughout the day, and let them enjoy time outside as much as possible.

2 – Limit caffeine

Stimulants like caffeine don’t do our bodies any favors when it comes to relaxing and falling asleep. Reduce or eliminate coffee and tea consumption, especially in the afternoon, and stick to water and juices.

3 – Encourage light exercise

Regular daytime activity can help people with dementia sleep better at night. According to the Cleveland Clinic, water exercise is a great option since it is easier on joints and requires less balance. Some light exercise ideas include:

      • Walking
      • Swimming
      • Water aerobics
      • Gardening
      • Tai Chi
      • Yoga

To encourage winding down in the evening, your loved one should not exercise later than four hours before bedtime.

4 – Get on a schedule

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s may not be able to learn new behaviors, but they can recognize routines, according to Serenades by Sonata, a purpose-built memory care community in Florida.

As much as possible, try to maintain a regular wake time and bedtime, and keep a consistent meal schedule. Routines can also reinforce memories and behaviors, so stick to routines they had before the dementia.

Remember: While a schedule may be helpful, it’s not a guarantee. Something may work today, but it may not work tomorrow, so it’s important to be realistic and not set yourself up for disappointment.

That said, increased napping is a natural part of aging. While you may struggle to keep your loved one awake all day so that they’ll sleep better at night, they may eventually not understand why you want them to do that.

As their dementia progresses, they may fall asleep anytime and anywhere — and allowing them to get some sleep when they can is better than forcing them to stay awake for the sake of a schedule.

5 – Create a bedroom environment that promotes sleep

Whether it’s meal time or bedtime, people with dementia benefit from a relaxing environment free of distractions.

Take a look around their bedroom and ask:

      • Is the room a comfortable temperature?
      • Is it dark enough at night? Are blackout curtains needed?
      • Are there distracting noises such as a squeaky fan, clunky air conditioner or loud clock?

Your loved one may benefit from a soothing object like a weighted blanket, particular pillow or soft toy to cuddle. Diffusing essential oils such as lavender may also create a sleep-inducing environment.

When it’s time to wind down for bed, avoid stressful, exciting and/or frustrating activities such as watching TV, working puzzles or even reading.

While these bedtime strategies may not work all the time or for everyone, they are worth considering.

6 – Supplements and medication

Low doses of a melatonin supplement can help promote sleep and better regulate your loved one’s sleep cycle. Melatonin is generally safe to take daily, but always check with a doctor before introducing a supplement.

Depending on the progression of the Alzheimer’s and severity of the sleep disturbances, medication may be a helpful solution. Don’t be afraid of this option. Medication may not always work, but consider consulting a geriatrician to see if it’s a right fit.

7 – Self-care: The care you forget to give

Perhaps the most important aspect of being an effective caregiver is remembering to care for yourself. As Alzheimer’s progresses, many caregivers begin to experience more health-related issues of their own due to lack of sleep and neglecting self-care.

It’s critical to have a support system, especially in the early stages of your loved one’s dementia. It’s hard to predict what behavior changes are ahead — some people with advanced Alzheimer’s can be awake for up to 72 hours before crashing and sleeping for days. You can’t manage that alone.

Plus, your loved one may not react well to a “stranger” visiting as their dementia progresses. Even if it’s a family member or old friend, they may not recognize them, which could trigger agitation or confusion. That’s all the more reason to establish a support system and introduce helpers earlier in the process.

National Sleep Awareness Week

National Sleep Awareness Week is March 3 – 10. This year, consider a professional care partner who can provide you with a break so that you can better care for yourself and your loved one. Finding an excellent memory care community in Florida is easy, and there’s no shame in seeking specialized help for your parent, partner or family member.

For more information on Sonata’s senior living communities, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

A Practical Guide For Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors


Few people thrust into the role of caregiver have received any formal training on the confusing behaviors that can attend the onset of memory loss. Relying on experts in the field, our guide is a short yet comprehensive primer in managing symptoms and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

DOWNLOAD OUR GUIDE TODAY

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