Ambiguous Loss: Grieving a Loss That Isn’t Physical

aging_aloneWe all know the pain when a loved one passes away, but what about the ambiguous loss we feel when someone we love and provide care for suffers from dementia? Ambiguous loss refers to a loss that occurs without resolution or understanding. This type of loss often leaves a person searching for answers or closure, which in turn complicates and delays the grieving process, leading to unresolved grief.

There are two types of ambiguous loss, physical and psychological. With physical loss, the body of a loved one is no longer present. This type of loss can occur across generations in a family, such as victims of the holocaust or missing soldiers and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.  In the situation of psychological ambiguous loss, the body is physically present, but psychologically absent otherwise. This happens in examples such as dementia, stroke and other ways the brain, well-being and behavior of the individual is affected.

Ambiguous loss is unclear and has no resolution or closure. The loss is confusing and unpredictable. Dementia creates a feeling of ambiguous loss, causing much stress and burden on the family and caregiver.

Pauline Boss, Ph.D and researcher, suggests that ambiguous loss creates a complicated grief that goes on too long. The complication is the ambiguity and confusion of not knowing when the loss will be final. In the case of an individual with dementia, as the disease progresses to the next stage (forgetting names or dates, not able to drive anymore, etc.), the progression brings on more continuous loss. Boss refers to this as frozen grief.

With frozen grief there is no familiar ritual, only a deep on-going sadness and many unknowns. Loved ones and caregivers may feel they are in limbo with no resolution in sight. There is a feeling of hopelessness and being ‘stuck’ as well as an inability to get things done. Having to accept the loss and grieve someone who is still alive is very counter-intuitive, but it is important to grieve as you go. The losses will continue with each stage of progression of the dementia but it is important to recognize each loss as it happens and as you go along in the journey.

To learn more about this perspective of loss and grief that may resonate strongly with you and other dementia care partners, watch this informative webinar. In this webinar, Susy Favaro, LCSW, of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, describes what many dementia care partners feel when the person they know and love has significantly changed psychologically but still physically present.

At Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis, we understand the stress that family caregivers face and offer a wide-range of in-home care services, including respite care, personal care, 24-hour and live-in care and Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The loving and experienced CAREGivers at Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis offers friendly, responsive care for seniors right in your Minneapolis, Minnesota community, as well as support for the family.

Realizing the need to bring awareness of important topics that affect the seniors in our Minneapolis communities, such as prescription medication management, preventing senior hospitalizations, keeping seniors safe online, preventing wandering and the increased risk our seniors face when they continue to drive past a safe age, Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis will continue to provide resources and tips to help keep you informed. Our senior loved ones are one of society’s greatest resources – let’s make sure they receive the best care possible. To inquire about any of our senior services or becoming a Home Instead CAREGiver, call us at 763-544-5988 today.

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Get Mom (and Dad) Moving!

SeniorExerciseStudies show that staying physically and mentally active can be a challenge for seniors, but incorporating more movement into their daily routine can help prevent and even reverse the signs of frailty. According to a women’s study in 2009, researchers at Columbia and Johns Hopkins Universities discovered the important role mental & physical activity plays in the fight against frailty in seniors. Keeping an older adult’s mind, body and social life active can prevent or even reverse frailty.

WebMD states that frailty is more than just “slowing down.” Growing older typically means the body will get tired faster and overall move slower than before. But for some older adults their body becomes very weak and everyday activities are hard to do, this may be a health issue called frailty. A senior loved one may be frail if:

  • The person is experiencing weight loss without trying
  • The person feels constantly tired or weak and has very low energy

The benefits of routine physical activity for seniors are well-documented. Improved strength, more steady balance and decrease in risk of falling, to name a few positive effects an older adult will experience with regular exercise.

InHomeSeniorExerciseRegular exercise can keep older adults healthier and reduce the risk of falling by strengthening their legs and improving balance. Staying physically active during summertime in Minnesota is easy. Commit to a day and time each week with a fellow senior friend or loved one and take a walk to a local cafe, walk laps at a local mall when the weather isn’t perfect or pick a favorite Minneapolis or St. Paul metro area lake to walk around – we have over 10,000 to choose from! Another way to stay active is through the community you live in. Many communities that Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis serves offer various classes which are geared toward seniors, such as water aerobics, yoga, meditation, dance and many others. On the days where getting out of the house is not realistic, here are 6 Easy, At-Home Exercises to Reduce Senior Fall Risk.

It’s just as important to keep a senior’s mind from becoming frail as the body. Fun and simple activities that provide a challenge will help a senior’s mind stay active. Working on a daily crossword puzzle, playing card games, or changing up the routine in the grocery store will keep the mind sharp. For example, next time you are grocery shopping with your senior loved one, suggest walking a different route through the store. Even simple activities such as brushing their teeth with the opposite hand will help the brain re-think daily tasks. Click here for more activities and resource tools to keep your senior loved ones sharp as a tack.

We at Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis understand not all seniors have access to the same living environment and economic status and it may be harder for some to get out and be active. These social determinants of health can negatively affect an older adult’s participation in community wellness activities. Here are 5 Common Social Determinants That Can Impact Senior Exercise:

  • Unsafe neighborhood
  • Lack of financial resources
  • Poor literacy skills or primary language barriers
  • Lack of transportation
  • Cultural devaluation of exercise

Learn more about each of these common social determinants that may prevent your senior loved one from complying with an exercise plan and tips to overcome them.

According to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), 40 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are considered sedentary. This is a troubling number, but for those over the age of 64, that number jumps to 60 percent. Seniors and family caregivers, as well as doctors and other health care professionals see the positive effects of staying active, both mentally and physically, as we age. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis is committed to reversing these numbers and preventing frailty by helping the seniors in the Minneapolis metro area communities we serve become more active. Our in-home care services help people at any point within the aging process, is tailored to your unique situation, and adjust as your needs evolve.

We at Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis provide dependable, compassionate care at all levels, including specialty care for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Our dedicated CAREGivers will help restore peace, order and balance to your lives and help your loved ones remain at home. Contact us today to inquire about the senior services we offer by calling 763-634-8247.

Be a positive role model, be supportive and encourage your senior loved one to get moving!

Prevent Wandering, Part II

prevent-wandering-logo“Not all those who wander are lost”. This line taken from a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien has become famous in itself and seems appropriate when thinking of our senior loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease and their family. Wandering is one of the potential symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia and is a very serious issue that should not be taken lightly. This is the second Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis article focusing on the prevention of wandering, click here to find the first article in this series as well as many other articles related to senior safety and health.

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that may take those who are diagnosed with it to a different time and place. Wandering is very common as people can become confused about their location and wander or get lost while searching for something, at any stage of Alzheimer’s, even the very early stages of dementia. Typically, those who wander are trying to get to a familiar destination with a specific purpose in mind. To the person who is wandering, they are not lost at all, but instead on a mission.

Watch this touching video about a man with a special mission in mind.

Continuing their effort to bring awareness of important topics that affect the seniors in our Minneapolis communities, such as the risk of our seniors continuing to drive past a safe age and the Sunday Dinner Pledge, Home Instead Senior Care has introduced their latest public education program, Prevent Wandering. This program is full of valuable resources and tips to help family caregivers manage this common issue.

To a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, once familiar territory can suddenly feel foreign and the individual may walk away in search of the place they are looking for. There are many factors, such as fatigue or overstimulation, that can trigger a wandering episode. Taking proactive steps to safeguard the home and reduce the risk of wandering will help families be prepared if a wandering incident occurs.

Quick Tips to Reduce the Risk of Wandering:

  • Paint doors and door frames the same color as the walls to camouflage the exits
  • Use alarms to alert you when a loved one is on the move
  • Install doorknob safety covers
  • Create pathways to steer clear of wandering opportunities

missing_senior_networkTo help ease the stress and fear for families and the loved ones they care for, Home Instead Senior Care provides a free service called Missing Senior Network, which allows you to alert a personalized list of contacts if your loved one wanders or goes missing. This amazing service is part of the Prevent Wandering public education campaign and allows you to set up a private network including relatives, friends, and nearby businesses to help locate your senior loved one quickly when he or she wanders away. To learn more and sign up for the Missing Senior Network service, visit the website www.missingseniornetwork.com today! There are many other tips and services available, learn more about each one by visiting the helpful website www.helpforalzheimersfamilies.com where you can also find personal experience and tips from readers.

Learning of a loved one’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia is scary. Educating yourself and being prepared for the behaviors that can result will not only help the individual living with Alzheimer’s, but also help the family cope with the disease diagnosis and keep your senior loved ones safe in their home. There are many resources available for Alzheimer’s family caregivers. Learn more about these resources, such as the Home Instead Senior Care Alzheimer’s Friendly Business program, by visiting this resource page.

Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis provides services such as companionship, dementia and Alzheimer’s care, as well as support for the family caregivers, to ensure the protection of dignity of the aging senior receiving care. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis is a local business offering friendly, responsive care right in your Minneapolis, Minnesota community. To inquire about any of our senior services or becoming a CAREGiver, call us at 763-544-5988 today.

Prevent Wandering

prevent-wandering-logoDoes this scene sound familiar? Your 76-year old father leaves his Minnesota home one cold winter morning without telling anyone where he was going. After realizing he is missing and frantically searching, he is discovered by some concerned strangers who noticed he looked confused. Even though he’s been retired for 12 years, he thought he was on his way to work and was found approximately 10 miles from his home. We at Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis hear similar stories every day. Minor details may be different with each story, but overall the general theme is the same – the wandering senior has a purpose and intent when they start out, but get lost along the way.

Wandering is a very serious issue for those living with Alzheimer’s disease, or another form of dementia, and their loved ones. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that may take those who are diagnosed with it to a different time and place. Wandering is one of the potential symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. People can become confused about their location and wander or get lost while searching for something, at any stage of Alzheimer’s, even the very early stages of dementia. Many times those who wander are trying to get to a familiar destination with a specific purpose in mind, such as a former job.

Watch this touching video about a man on a mission.

In an effort to bring awareness of important topics that affect the seniors in our Minneapolis communities, such as prescription medication management and preventing senior hospitalizations, Home Instead Senior Care has introduced their latest public education program, Prevent Wandering. This program offers tips and valuable resources to help family caregivers manage this common issue for even the most prepared families.

The Alzheimer’s Association has identified five common triggers often found when individuals with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia tend to wander. Things such as fatigue or being disoriented are well known triggers, but there are other important factors to be aware of:

5 Common Triggers for Wandering:

  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Overstimulation
  • Fatigue, especially in the late afternoon and evening
  • Disorientation to place and time
  • Change in routine and unmet needs

Learn more about each one by visiting the helpful website www.helpforalzheimersfamilies.com.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people with dementia will wander and many will do so repeatedly. Any individual living with some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, is at risk of wandering. Having the disease itself is a top reason to watch for these signs.

6 Signs to Watch for When Caring for Someone with Dementia:

  • Trouble navigating familiar places – have you noticed Dad has trouble getting to and from places he has frequented for years?
  • Frequent talk about fulfilling non-existent obligations – does Mom tend to repeatedly talk about an appointment that doesn’t exist?
  • Agitation in the late afternoon or early evening hours – commonly referred to as “sundowning”, the individual becomes restless and agitated as fatigue sets in during the early evening hours.
  • A constant desire to go home when they’re already there – reassure your loved one he or she is safe and secure.
  • Unmet needs – needing to use the bathroom, but not able to remember where it is.

missing_senior_networkFor someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia as well as those who care for them, wandering can be a very scary issue. Also, research conducted by Home Instead Senior Care, reveals the stress that symptoms of dementia, such as wandering, can play on family caregivers. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis understands the stress that goes along with caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. To help ease the stress and fear for families, Home Instead provides a free service called Missing Senior Network which allows you to alert a personalized list of contacts if your loved one wanders or is missing. This amazing service, which is part of the Prevent Wandering public education campaign, allows you to set up a private network, including relatives, friends, and nearby businesses to help locate your family member quickly when he or she wanders away. Learn more and sign up for the Missing Senior Network service today!

Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis provides services such as companionship, dementia and Alzheimer’s care, and support for the family caregivers to ensure the protection of dignity of the aging senior receiving care. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis is a local business offering friendly, responsive care right in your Minneapolis, Minnesota community. To inquire about any of our senior services or becoming a CAREGiver, call us at 763-544-5988 today!

Let’s Talk About Driving, Part II

LetsTalkAboutDrivingLogoCaregivers say it’s one of the thorniest conversations they will have. A family scenario that is becoming more and more common is when the adult children feel it is time for their aging parents to give up the car keys, but Mom and Dad have no intention of doing so. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis’ latest public education program, Let’s Talk About Driving, takes a deeper look into the increased risk of our seniors when they continue to drive past a safe age, especially during Minnesota’s harsh winters. It also offers helpful resources and tips to help their caregivers manage this sensitive subject.

According to research conducted by AAA, fatal crash rates increase beginning at age 75, per mile driven, and increase sharply after age 80. This is largely due to the increased risk of injury and medical complications with seniors, not an increased tendency to get into crashes. AAA also reports that in 2014, approximately 5,709 senior drivers were killed and 221,000 were injured in traffic accidents. These facts and others show alarming trends when our senior loved ones are on the road past an age where their ability to drive safely is compromised. Most older adults recognize their driving limitations and avoid situations that may put them or others at risk, but not all are willing to give up the keys so easily and that is where family members and caregivers need to step in.

To understand what it means to give up driving, it’s important to also understand what the privilege of driving means to a person. The ability to drive offers independence, control, pride and freedom for many seniors, but when their keys are taken away they will feel frustrated, depressed, defensive and helpless. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis offers resources to help with this difficult transition, such as:

  • Be prepared with new options – there are several senior ride program options, stores and pharmacies that deliver, or find a carpool schedule
  • Make it fun – public transportation can be a whole new adventure when the city bus or an Uber ride are a senior’s new way of getting about town
  • Think outside the box – encourage new activities that don’t require transportation like gardening or walking

thumbnail-4-misconceptionsHome Instead Senior Care Minneapolis first offered advice on the sensitive subject of our senior’s continued ability to drive safely in last month’s blog article by discussing some warning signs that may help you know that seniors may be unsafe on the road.  Situations such as confusing the gas and brake pedals, difficulty staying within the lanes, and driving the wrong speed are just a few things to look for. Learn information on these and other important warning signs by visiting www.caregiverstress.com. While some seniors might not like the idea of giving up their driving privilege, others may consider it a relief and will welcome the idea.

4 Misconceptions About Giving up the Car

  1. Driving yourself is cheaper than paying for alternative transportation.
  2. Driving is more reliable; alternatives are less convenient.
  3. “I can’t give up the wheel. I’ve been driving my whole life!”
  4. “I won’t be able to go anywhere or see anyone!”

Read more about how to handle these typical senior responses.

The dedicated CAREGivers to our senior loved ones are often asked for assistance from the family members to help them navigate the often difficult conversation about this important issue. Home Instead’s CAREGivers can help by offering an objective voice when family members may disagree about a senior loved one’s driving future.

4 Ways to Help Families Navigate Senior Driving Concerns

  • Encourage families to learn the facts first and then decide the best course of action
  • Recommend the CarFit program
  • Discuss conversation starters and strategies for a talk with an older adult
  • Encourage families to put a plan in place before taking away the car keys

Using the above mentioned Let’s Talk About Driving program resources Home Instead Senior Care offers, as well as the Safe Driving Planner families and caregivers can help the seniors make this a smooth transition.

Five Vehicle Technologies for Keeping Seniors Safer on the Road

  1. Smart Headlights
  2. Emergency Response Systems
  3. Blind Spot Warning Systems
  4. Assistive Parking Systems
  5. Drowsy Driver Alerts:

Read more about these assistive technologies recommended by Hartford Funds and MIT AgeLab.

Proud to help bring awareness of important topics that affect the seniors in our Minneapolis, Minnesota communities, Home Instead Senior Care has launched many other informative public education programs such as:

Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis provides services such as transportation and supports the caregivers to ensure the protection of dignity of the aging senior receiving care. Unlike some senior transportation services that just offer door-to-door service, our professional CAREGivers make sure they get all the way inside, provide any assistance required at the destination and return them home safely. Companionship, dementia and Alzheimer’s care and other services are also available. Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis is a local business offering friendly, responsive care right in your Minneapolis, Minnesota community.

To inquire about senior services, call us at 763-544-5988. Also, visit www.letstalkaboutdriving.com for more helpful information and let’s begin talking!

Coping with Alzheimer’s or Dementia? Join Our $10,000 Family Reunion Contest

alzheimers contestIf you have a relative with Alzheimer’s disease, Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis would like to reach out to you. The challenges and emotional ups and downs involved in caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s are often quietly handled within the family. In this post, we’ll provide information on how you can share your Alzheimer’s story for a chance to win a family reunion package, as well as some special information on preserving memories of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Deadline is January 31st!

Every family’s story is unique and different. What’s yours?

Home Instead Senior Care Network is running a January contest. To enter, simply share a bit of your family story in essay or video form by January 31st. By sharing your story, you will be entered to win a family reunion!

Finalists will be chosen by a Judge’s Panel and notified by February 15th, 2012. Online voting will occur from March 28th through June 30th, 2012. And the family that wins the Grand Prize will be revealed (after the family reunion event) on November 15th, 2012.

Visit the contest page on the main Home Instead website for complete details.


How to Preserve Your Special Memories

Memory sharing for people experiencing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia can be a wonderful way to help your loved one engage with his or her meaningful past. It is important to find caring, non-stressful ways to help someone dealing with a decline in cognitive ability to share memories. Here are some tips to help you plan your memory sharing sessions:

1. Encourage memory sharing without putting your loved one on the spot.

In a group situation, such as a family get-together in Minneapolis or St. Paul, you can encourage your loved one to share a memory in a gentle way by asking a broad, open-ended question. And be patient for the answer. For example, you could ask if mom or dad has a special memory from one of your Minnesota family camping trips. But avoid more specific questions like, “Mom, do you remember what trip we took in 1989?”

dementia2. Share pictures and reminisce, without expectation.

Your loved one might enjoy looking at family photo albums, but may not recognize everyone in the pictures. Avoid quizzing him or her about photos of specific individuals. Instead, offer your own thoughts and allow your loved one to share thoughts and memories as they occur. For example, you might say, “Oh, I remember that day. You wore that pretty blue dress.” Allow time for your loved one to ponder and share too.

3. If recording, be patient and give your loved one time to reflect and share.

Recording video or audio is a great idea, but remember to leave plenty of time for the session together, and be okay with gaps and silence. With patience, you may be able to draw out some special memories. Remember that excess silence can be edited out later.

4. Make a list of general, open-ended questions, not specific dates and details.

Go into the memory sharing session without an expectation of recording an exact journalistic account of your loved one’s life. Bring a list of open ended questions with a goal to encourage your family member to talk about what he or she wants to remember and share.

5. Be conversational and invite thoughts to flow.

It’s important when speaking with someone experiencing mental decline to be conversational and ask a variety of questions, but without interrogating. It’s okay to probe a bit for more detail, but without putting the person on the spot or causing discomfort. Certain memories may surface with some gentle prodding in a light, conversational manner.

6. Be prepared to end the session at a natural stopping place.

Whether your memory sharing session is long or short will depend upon a number of factors on any given day, including how close it is to mealtime and whether your loved one is having a particularly good day. Be prepared to extend the session if the memories are flowing, or bring it to a close if your loved one seems fatigued, frustrated or eager to change the subject.
Did You Know? Our Staff is Specially Trained to Help People Living with Alzheimer’s

Our CARE approach (Changing Aging through Research and Education) can make a huge positive impact on the way people live with dementia. We utilize a unique CAREGiver training program to help our Home Instead CAREGivers provide the most caring, skilled support to families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

Our support services include:

  • Capturing Life’s Journey With this memory care service our CAREGiver will gather past stories and experiences; doing so provides comfort and customized care while honoring the senior’s special past.
  • Techniques to Manage Behavior – By giving simple choices and redirecting, our CAREGivers help your family member to live safely at home.
  • Encouraging Engagement – Our CAREGivers focus on your loved one’s mental, physical and social well-being. Engaging seniors throughout the day builds self-esteem, enhances physical strength and reduces behaviors that might put the senior at risk.
  • Supporting the Family – Home Instead CAREGivers are to work closely with your family and have open communication, which results in quality care for the senior.

Home Instead Minneapolis CAREGivers who are trained in the CARE program receive ongoing classroom training, which the Center of Aging Research Education Services (CARES) at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill helps to administer. Our trained team not only has a full understanding of what to expect and how to treat dementia clients with care, but they also have a passion and desire to work with these clients and ensure quality of life.