Tips for Aging Individuals

It is the mission of the Aging Committee to serve as an accessible and reliable resource for individuals with developmental disabilities, caregivers and staff at Schenectady ARC who require aging-related information, training and/or referral services.

Understanding Alzheimer's I wish I’d seen this video a long time ago. It really helps to understand what’s going on. This simple, straightforward animated video explains Alzheimer’s disease in lucid, easy-to-follow terms.

Watch the VIDEO

Responding to a death - Although not a topic anyone wants to talk about, it is a reality of the job we do. Death is inevitable, so we should try to find ways to support each other and the individuals we serve through the situation. Individuals we serve grieve, just like you or I. Even if an the person doesn’t understand the concept of Death, they still experience the loss and the changes that occur as a result. Sometimes, caregivers want to protect them from being hurt and choose not to tell the person that someone they cared about has passed away. Unfortunately, this often backfires as the person is likely to find out in another way and it may not be at a time when there are supports available to help them through it. It is always best to share this information with the individual in a caring manner, in a place where they are comfortable and with supports in place to help them process the information. Staff also need to be afforded the opportunity to grieve. Whether they worked with the person currently or at some point in the past, this can be a very traumatic experience. At some point, a new consumer will likely move into the deceased person’s home or program room. Everyone should know that the new person isn’t “taking the place” of the deceased individual. Sometimes, a little time is needed before this transition happens. At other times, it may be easier to have someone new to focus attention on rather than seeing the deceased person’s space and being reminded of their death over and over. Transitional ceremonies can help to ease this transition for the individuals we serve. As always, if you have any questions or aging related concerns, please feel free to contact myself or any other member of the Aging Committee.
Create a memory board! -

With the colder weather here, this is a great indoor one-on-one activity for staff to do with the individuals. These are typically created following the passing of a friend or relative for display at the funeral or memorial service. However, after someone passes, there is often not much time to pull this together.

Instead, wouldn’t it be nice to create a memory board with the individual. They can participate in making it and can then hang it in their rooms, so they can enjoy looking at them.

Memory books/boards are often used with individuals with Alzheimer’s/Dementia, as well. It is a nice way to help them remember the past.

Obtaining photos: Isn’t it always fun to look at childhood pictures of yourself and your family!! Ask the individual’s family for copies of older photos of the individuals. With today’s technology, it is very easy to make copies of old photographs. For anyone who attends or has attended Maple Ridge or Princetown, there are significant photo libraries available there that can also be copied.

You can also include other items of importance to the individual throughout their lives (i.e. favorite sports team, animals, places, etc.).

Reminder: We are still collecting working digital cameras and scrapbooking supplies for use in this type of project. Please let me know if you have anything you would like to donate to the cause!

Brrrr! It’s getting cold! -

Did you know that, as people age, they are less able to regulate their own body temperature? As we get older, the fat under our skin is reduced, providing less insulation and allowing body heat to escape much quicker. So, an older person will typically feel cold before someone who is much younger does.

What should staff do?

• Keep the temperature in the house, room, vehicle, etc. at a comfortable setting for the older individual.
• Staff who are moving around and working may feel hot. The individual who is older and not as active, will be comfortable or possibly cold.
• Staff should come to work wearing layers. Then, if you get warm, you can take off a layer rather than turning the heat down.
• Feel the individual’s skin to see if it feels cool. If it does, offer them a sweater.
• Avoid sitting older individuals near windows/doors where there may be drafts.
• Bundle them up! When bringing individuals outside in the cold weather, make sure they are wearing coats that are buttoned, hats, mittens and possibly a lap blanket.
• Start the vehicle early enough for it to be warm when the individuals get in.

Eating safe as we age -

As the individuals we serve age, dining is frequently one of the areas most affected. In an effort to address concerns before they become safety issues, caregivers should be aware of the following:
Difficulty Chewing:
• The person may become fatigued/tired before the meal is completed.
o Check their teeth (is a dental problem making it painful for them to eat?)
o Ensure proper fit of dentures
o Offer smaller amounts of food more frequently
o Cut food into small pieces
o Contact the nurse and/or speech department with concerns.
• Increased coughing during or after meals
o Ensure that an appropriate amount of food is placed on the utensil
o Encourage sips of drink between bites
o Provide verbal reminders to finish chewing and swallowing before talking
o Provide suggestions to finish the meal with a drink
o Report concerns to the nurse and/or speech clinicians
Decreased Appetites:
• As we age, our ability to taste decreases
o Increase the flavor of food by adding spices and herbs, lemon juice, or meat sauces
Forgetting to eat:
• It is not uncommon for people with memory loss to forget to eat, even when they are seated at the table with food in front of them
o Provide reminders that it is mealtime
o Talk about the food on their plate
o Provide encouragement to take another bite/drink
Difficulty seeing the utensils and/or foods:
• If the food color is too close to the color of the plate or the plate is too close in color to the table, the individual may not realize there is food there to eat
o Using a white plate with a contrasting solid color placemat can help
o Avoid placemats or tablecloths with patterns
o Pointing out the utensils may be helpful
Difficulty Digesting:
• Upset stomach, increased gas
o Might need to keep track of the foods that are causing distress and avoid them
Unusually distracted:
• If the individual is having difficulty focusing on the meal and is continually distracted
o Reduce the distracting stimuli
o Turn down/off TV, music, etc.
o Speak quietly/reduce amount of talking at the table