10 Dementia Gift Ideas

10 Dementia Gift Ideas

My Mom's Christmas Throw Blanket

My Mom’s Christmas Throw Blanket

When I brought my mom a Christmas gift from my brother and sister-in-law, she had no recognition on her face as she read the tag. My mom’s vascular dementia is stopping her from connecting her son’s written name with his face. That part of her brain is gone. So what do you do?

Does your mom or dad have dementia? Are they still at home or residing in an assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing community? My mom has had dementia for 12 years and has lived in skilled nursing care for 19 months. She cannot remember anything and only speaks clearly about 30 to 50 percent of the time.

My recommendation is to give a photo of yourself with your gift. Attach your photo directly to the gift. Your parent has a better chance of recognizing you in the photo than knowing who you are by reading a gift tag.

Here are 10 dementia gift ideas:

  1. A soft lap blanket – I gave my mom a small Christmas blanket and it was a homerun. Every time she sees it, she touches it and comments on the softness. My intention was giving a functional gift (keeping her warm) and an easy way for her to recognize the holiday season. It has really worked, because last night she talked about Christmas on her own.
  2. A manicure or hand massage – Hopefully this can be performed by you? It is a way to connect physically, so they can feel your presence and love. My mom loves having her nails done.
  3. A sweater – A nice red sweater or sweatshirt is always a hit. They like to feel the texture of different clothes. It keeps them warm. Their caregiver will dress them in the sweater and then keep reminding them that it is Christmas time. The red color seems to help the mood of the caregiver, which is always a bonus.
  4. Soft socks – If your mom or dad has swollen ankles, normal socks can feel binding. I get those soft stretchy socks you find in airports. They used to be easy for her to put on herself. Now she needs a caregiver to dress her.
  5. A holiday balloon – My mom used to read the paper daily to know the day and the year. Now, I put up seasonal balloons in her room, so she can know it is her birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.
  6. A small fake tree with ornaments – If your parent still lives at home, maybe you can decorate for them? If they live in assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing care a tree always feels like home. Many communities cannot legally allow a real tree because of licensing, so be sure to ask.
  7. A ham – If your parent still lives at home, this is an awesome gift. They can heat the ham or eat it cold. They can make numerous meals out of it including sandwiches or with scrambled eggs. Yum!
  8. Bring lunch to them or go out to eat – Everyone gets sick of their own cooking or the community’s cooking. Something different and special is always a hit. The best part is spending time dining with you.
  9. An animated animal – If your parent still lives at home with a pet, then bring a gift for Fido or Fluffy. But if your parent lives in an assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care community a fake moving pet is outstanding. My mom has several fake cats and they completely enamor her, make her smile and laugh out loud. Pets are wonderful.
  10. The very best gift you can give is an hour of your time. Nothing is more important than spending a little quality time together.

Gift giving needs to be adjusted to the level of care and to the severity of your parent’s dementia. Good luck and share your other gift tips in the comment section.

Diane Masson’s new guide book for seniors, “Your Senior Housing Options,” will be will be coming soon to Amazon.com. If you sign up for my weekly newsletter on the right side of this blog, you will be notified when my new book becomes available. Check out my new website: Tips2Seniors.com or please follow me on Facebook.

“Your Senior Housing Options,” is dedicated to my mother, whose stories are peppered throughout. Being her advocate for over ten years has taught me to be a better person. My mom has dementia, but I am truly blessed that she still calls me by name. Her smile and joy inspires me to see the positive side of life. It makes me want to reach out and help seniors and their families make better choices today so they can have more secure long-term care plans tomorrow.

Dementia Birthday Tip

Dementia Birthday Tip

Mother's 92nd Birthday

92 Years Young!

Mother's Birthday Balloon

Her Birthday Balloon and Sign

My mom is going to be 92 years young on Tuesday and she has had vascular dementia for around 11 years. She can’t remember what she had for breakfast, but she still knows my name. Last week when my husband and I went to see her at the Freedom Village Health Care Center she said, “What a surprise, I am happy to see you!” I was so astonished with her welcome. Usually it can take several minutes for her brain to adjust that we are there. We celebrated her birthday month that evening with a snack, gift and watching a movie together. She was 70% cognitively with us and shared some childhood memories.

This week, I was not so lucky. I arrived in the morning with a balloon and a gift from my brother. When I saw her, she was in an anxious mood. I braced myself for an unknown emotional roller coaster. The balloon scared her at first, which shocked me. Then she wanted to read it and soon she was laughing. She told me that it was not a good day, that she could not remember anything and it was all so confusing. I told her that I understood and that it would be okay. She calmed down and then asked what was in the package. I told her it was her birthday gift from my brother Paul. “Is it my birthday?” she asked. I laughed and showed her the sign that I had attached to the balloon. It said, Margie’s birthday is October 28th, she will be 92 years young.

I set the balloon next to her and everyone who walked by wished her a happy birthday. It was awesome. My first thought was that every care ambassador and nurse would read the sign and wish her a happy birthday 24-7 for a few days. My second thought was that my mom could read the sign and know that it was her birthday week. I helped her open the gift of a new sweater.   She loved the texture, because it was so soft. The card enamored her most and she kept looking at it and opening and closing it. With all the pictures on it, I realized that it was so busy that she could not focus on what my brother and sister-in-law had written inside. So I read it to her several times. She loved it.

When I saw her on my next visit, she was agitated with red spots on her checks. She was relieved to see my familiar face. After several minutes of my speaking soothing comments, she came back to me mentally. Then she asked if I had any food. I always bring food, because food can have a calming effect on her. I produced a banana from my purse and her eyes lit up. “For me?” she said. I laughed and said, “Yes!” I opened it and she said that she wanted to hold it. Sometimes she wants me to hold it and she breaks off part of the banana. I have learned to go with flow and to accept the not good days or moments that adjoin laughter and happier days.

Happy birthday month Mother!

Diane’s number one tip for those who have a loved one with dementia is to expect the unexpected. You may want to celebrate their birthday on the actual day, but that may not be a good day for your loved one with dementia. Be flexible and have a willingness to celebrate their special day on another day or just have a birthday month celebration for them and you are sure to hit one good day. Stay calm and be soothing to your loved one. Don’t ask someone with dementia a lot of questions, they can’t process them. Just let them talk to you about what is on their mind. They might want to talk about their childhood or the depression. Adapt to them and go with the flow.

Diane Masson’s new guide book for seniors, Selecting Senior Housing for Seniors in the Silver Tsunami,” will be will be coming soon to Amazon.com. If you sign up for my weekly newsletter on the right side of this blog, you will be notified when my new book becomes available. Check out my new website: Tips2Seniors.com or please follow me on Facebook.

As My Mom Declines Should I Give Up On Her Walking?

As My Mom Declines Should I Give Up On Her Walking?

My Mom With Bird

My Mom With Bird

My mom is 91 years old and has vascular dementia.  She has slowly declined over the last nine years.  Through my research, I can assume she is in one of the last two stages of dementia (there are seven).  My mom has been in skilled nursing care for the last 9½ months and needs 100% assistance.  The last thing that she could do on her own was feed herself.

Now she has dramatically declined in the last month and even needs assistance with eating.  She is still a good eater, but does not have the cognition to eat on her own.  It is too much work for her.  Her short-term memory seems like it has decreased to about one-second.

Antipsychotic medications have reduced the amount and the intensity of her delusions, anxiety, crying and irritability.  There have been medications added, increased and decreased in the last four months.  It has been a balancing act to try to improve the quality of her emotions and cognition without having her become lethargic.

Now my mom’s memory loss has affected her ability to walk.  At the last care conference meeting, we discussed the quality of her life and whether it is a good idea to try to make someone walk or not.  It takes constant encouragement to get her walking and she keeps trying to sit down. I have advocated for the caregivers to keep trying to walk her daily.  They never make her, but lots of encouragement can produce a walk to breakfast or lunch.  By dinnertime, my mom’s Sundowners Syndrome with anxiety and crying make it impossible to walk her.

My mother seems confused and miserable when she walks and just wants to sit down.  I want to try to decide in the next week, if I should just let advocacy regarding walking stop all together.  In my opinion walking seems so important because it gets her circulation going and her memory seems to clear up.  When the walking officially stops, the memory will for sure get worse.  Maybe I just need to accept my mom is in the final stage of dementia and have her enjoy what she can…like playing with the new bird at the community.

Please share your successes, failures or comment below to join the conversation and interact with other senior living professionals on what is currently being effective to increase occupancy on a nationwide basis.

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available at Amazon.com with a 5-star rating.  The book is required reading at George Mason University as a part of its marketing curriculum.  Within this book, the author developed a sales & marketing method with 12 keys to help senior living providers increase their occupancy.   Masson developed this expertise as a marketing consultant, sought-after blogger for senior housing and a regional marketing director of continuing care retirement communities in several markets.  She has also been a corporate director of sales and a mystery shopper for independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled care nursing communities in multiple states.  Currently, Masson is setting move-in records as the regional marketing director of two debt-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Southern California – Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet, California.  Interestingly, this career started when she was looking for a place for her own mom and helped her loved one transition through three levels of care.

© Marketing 2 Seniors| Diane Twohy Masson 2013 All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog post may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author, unless otherwise indicated for stand-alone materials. You may share this website and or it’s content by any of the following means: 1. Using any of the share icons at the bottom of each page. 2. Providing a back-link or the URL of the content you wish to disseminate. 3. You may quote extracts from the website with attribution to Diane Masson CASP and link http://www.marketing2seniors.net For any other mode of sharing, please contact the author Diane Masson.
Mean Mom, Nice Mom and Dementia

Mean Mom, Nice Mom and Dementia

Mean Mom, Nice Mom and Dementia

My Mom

My theory of 10 years is now officially broken.  I believed that if you had a mean parent they turned nice with dementia and if you had a nice parent they would turn mean with dementia.  My random sample was everyone that I have ever spoken to about this theory.

Well, the tables have turned and my mom has turned mean again.  Years ago, the ugly side of my mom was only exposed behind closed doors.  The mental abuse for years took a tool on all my siblings and I.  In fact, when they each turned 18, all of them moved to other states.  I stayed to protect my dad.  I figured if she took half her wrath out on me, he would only be subjected to it 50 percent of the time.

In college, psychology classes opened my eyes to mental illness and depression.  After my mean mom did not attend my graduation or marriage, I was done.  A wonderful counselor taught me how to deal with it.  When I spoke to my mom and she was mean, I would say, “I am sorry that this conversation is not going the way I hoped, I have to go now, bye.”  After I did this three times, my mom’s treatment of me turned around.  She has treated me well for 28 years.

Now, she is in the late stages of vascular dementia.  I got a call two days ago saying she is yelling and swearing at the staff.  Oh boy, my nice mom is gone.  Say hello, to sundowners syndrome and her living in the past of about 30 years ago.  Yesterday, I went to spend some quality time with her.  The mean look was on her face.  My mom harshly said, “Where have you been?  You have a lot of gaul showing up now.  Why haven’t you come to see me?  Everyone is stealing all my things.  The neighbors are selling off all my clothes.  You are just showing me defiance.  I am hungry, no one has fed me in days.”  Then she pointed to one of the staff and said, “See, she is crying.”  (No staff was crying.)

Little Diane, felt she was back in high school again.  I kept my head and tried to talk her off the ledge (so to speak).  She just continued ranting and repeating what she already had said.  She was visible agitated.  I handed her the banana I had brought and she relaxed by 50%.  Every time she repeated that she was hungry, I invited her to eat the banana.  She said, “I am not hungry, I will save it for later.”  My husband and I continued to talk to her in a calm and reassuring way and an invisible sundowners switch finally turned her back to my nice mom.

About a half hour later, I explained to her that she had memory loss.  I explained how I was helping her by having a doctor (podiatrist) trim her toenails this week and she screamed, “Don’t touch me, don’t cut my nails” at the top of her lungs.  She said, “I did?  Well one doctor hurt me a long time ago.”  I told her about another doctor who came to do an eye exam and now she has new glasses and can read again.  When she said that she could not understand the staff, I said, “Yes, your hearing is bad and we have an audiologist scheduled to come in and maybe get you a hearing aid.”  She loved the explanations, enjoyed me being there, holding her hand and feeling calmness.

Eventually, I said, “Mother I heard that you were yelling and swearing at the staff this week.”  She said, “I did?  I can’t remember.  I didn’t mean to.”  Then I said, “When I came in today, you were mean to me and yelled at me.”  My mom said, “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to, I don’t remember.”  Well, all was forgiven and I was so glad that I did not walk out earlier that day by reliving the harsh criticism and mental abuse of the past.

If your parent has turned mean, just remember it is the monster disease of dementia, sundowners syndrome or Alzheimer’s.  (I know it’s easier said that done.)  As my mom sundowners continues to progress, I may have to hold onto this apology forever.  She may not have the brain cells left in vascular dementia to be cognitive enough to apologize.

Her psychiatrist says the sundowners has progressed to the point of needing medications to help her.  I am very protective of my mom and don’t want to over medicate her, but my mom has been in her own daily mental torture for about three weeks.  My goal is to keep her comfortable and pain free.  If the medications can give her peace, I am now all for them.

Please share your successes, failures or comment below to join the conversation and interact with other senior living professionals on what is currently being effective to increase occupancy on a nationwide basis.

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available at Amazon.com with a 5-star rating.  The book is required reading at George Mason University as a part of its marketing curriculum.  Within this book, the author developed a sales & marketing method with 12 keys to help senior living providers increase their occupancy.   Masson developed this expertise as a marketing consultant, sought-after blogger for senior housing and a regional marketing director of continuing care retirement communities in several markets.  She has also been a corporate director of sales and a mystery shopper for independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled care nursing communities in multiple states.  Most recently Masson was recruited to consult for two debt-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Southern California – Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet, California.  Interestingly, this career started when she was looking for a place for her own mom and helped her loved one transition through three levels of care.

© Marketing 2 Seniors| Diane Twohy Masson 2013 All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog post may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author, unless otherwise indicated for stand-alone materials. You may share this website and or it’s content by any of the following means: 1. Using any of the share icons at the bottom of each page. 2. Providing a back-link or the URL of the content you wish to disseminate. 3. You may quote extracts from the website with attribution to Diane Masson CASP and link http://www.marketing2seniors.net For any other mode of sharing, please contact the author Diane Masson.
Advocating for Mom in Care Conferences

Advocating for Mom in Care Conferences

Skilled Nursing Care ConferencesAn adult child or power of attorney plays a crucial role at a care conference.  You can literally hold the pieces of the puzzle that an assisted living, skilled nursing care or memory care need in order to enhance the lifestyle of the resident.

No one alive knows my mom better than me.  She cannot always advocate on her own behalf, because she has vascular dementia.  If I asked her, “What would you rather have for dinner, prime rib or salmon?”  My mom would say, “Diane you know what I like, you decide.”  Even with her dementia, she knows that I will select her favorite choices from the past.

Recently, at my mom’s care conference in skilled nursing care a puzzle started to come together.  My mom was having episodes of greater confusion.  It might be three days in row and then she would be fine again.  Was my mom’s dementia getting worse or was it something else?  Would she need to start a new drug?

As we were brainstorming possibilities, I remembered how lack of sleep could intensive my mom’s dementia in the past.  We figured out that the bed alarm of some of her recent roommates was affecting her sleep.  When she experienced less sleep, then she would have episodes of greater delusion during the day.

It was an aha moment, so now they are going to focus on roommates who don’t need constant alarms going off.  Hopefully my mom will improve.  As a Boomer child, I have to be willing to accept that my mom’s dementia is getting worse, but maybe my advocacy can continue to help improve her quality of life for now.

Please share your success, failures or comment below to join the conversation and interact with other senior living professionals on what is currently being effective to increase occupancy on a nationwide basis.

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available at Amazon.com with a 5-star rating.  The book is required reading at George Mason University as a part of its marketing curriculum.  Within this book, the author developed a sales & marketing method with 12 keys to help senior living providers increase their occupancy.   Masson developed this expertise as a marketing consultant, sought-after blogger for senior housing and a regional marketing director of continuing care retirement communities in several markets.  She has also been a corporate director of sales and a mystery shopper for independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled care nursing communities in multiple states.  Most recently Masson was recruited to consult for two debt-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Southern California – Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet, California.  Interestingly, this career started when she was looking for a place for her own mom and helped her loved one transition through three levels of care.

© Marketing 2 Seniors| Diane Twohy Masson 2013 All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog post may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author, unless otherwise indicated for stand-alone materials. You may share this website and or it’s content by any of the following means: 1. Using any of the share icons at the bottom of each page. 2. Providing a back-link or the URL of the content you wish to disseminate. 3. You may quote extracts from the website with attribution to Diane Masson CASP and link http://www.marketing2seniors.net For any other mode of sharing, please contact the author Diane Masson.
Surprise Visit to my Mom’s Skilled Nursing Care

Surprise Visit to my Mom’s Skilled Nursing Care

Surprise Visit to my Mom's Skilled NursingI can’t stop thinking about my surprise visit with my mom yesterday.  I arrived Sunday afternoon about 2:30 PM to Freedom Village Healthcare Center in California.  She was not in her usual places – where was she?  A caregiver said, “Oh, your mom is down in the activity room.”  I said to my husband Chris, “We really need to pay more attention to the activity calendar, so we don’t visit during those times.  I want her to enjoy all the social times and I can visit her when nothing else is going on.”

We happened upon the activity calendar and all the activities were done for the day.  So what was she doing?  As we turned the corner, we saw my mom’s beaming face.  She was playing bingo.  The caregiver smiled at me and said, “Oh, do you want to take your mom?”  I said, “Absolutely not, let her enjoy herself.”  It was great to see pure joy – when she said, “Bingo!”

What was interesting to me was her interacting with the other residents and helping them play too.  My mom has severe vascular dementia.  When she speaks it is about 70% non-reality.  What a great activity to really stimulate her brain.  The caregiver said to me, “We decided to put on a bingo game for them, they like it and it gives them something to do.”

Well, bless those two caregivers who created an unscheduled resident activity to help with the resident’s quality of life.  This was a huge “Wow” for me and I can’t stop thinking about how happy my mom was.  For those of you who follow my blog, I moved my mom 1000 miles to be near me about three months ago.  This was the best day of my mom’s life here in California.

After each resident said bingo, the caregiver would call the resident by name and say, “You won a cookie.”  No cookies appeared.  I thought to myself, well the residents have dementia – they won’t remember the cookie promise.  To my utter surprise – cookies appeared at the end of the last game.  One cookie for each resident.  When the caregiver was handing out the last cookie, the resident said, “I don’t get one – I didn’t win.”  The caregiver said, “That’s okay, you are a winner for even being here.”  There are tears in my eyes writing this, because these staff went above and beyond!

As the afternoon progressed – my mom continued being animated and talking nonstop.  It did not matter that 60% was non-reality.  She was having a great time and I loved spending quality time with her.  Some people think people with dementia have nothing to offer in life, well, they are 100% wrong.

Please share your success, failures or comment below to join the conversation and interact with other senior living professionals on what is currently being effective to increase occupancy on a nationwide basis.

Diane Twohy Masson is the author of “Senior Housing Marketing – How to Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full,” available at Amazon.com with a 5-star rating.  The book is required reading at George Mason University as a part of its marketing curriculum.  Within this book, the author developed a sales & marketing method with 12 keys to help senior living providers increase their occupancy.   Masson developed this expertise as a marketing consultant, sought-after blogger for senior housing and a regional marketing director of continuing care retirement communities in several markets.  She has also been a corporate director of sales and a mystery shopper for independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled care nursing communities in multiple states.  Most recently Masson was recruited to consult for two debt-free Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Southern California – Freedom Village in Lake Forest and The Village in Hemet, California.  Interestingly, this career started when she was looking for a place for her own mom and helped her loved one transition through three levels of care.

© Marketing 2 Seniors| Diane Twohy Masson 2013 All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog post may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author, unless otherwise indicated for stand-alone materials. You may share this website and or it’s content by any of the following means: 1. Using any of the share icons at the bottom of each page. 2. Providing a back-link or the URL of the content you wish to disseminate. 3. You may quote extracts from the website with attribution to Diane Masson CASP and link http://www.marketing2seniors.net For any other mode of sharing, please contact the author Diane Masson.