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ESSENTIAL OILS AND ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

essential oils alzheimers care respite caregiver care giving

Let’s face it, essential oils are not a new phenomenon.

Their use can in fact be traced back for thousands of years and they have a rich history of application in various cultures and civilizations around the world, for medicinal, spiritual and cosmetic purposes.

A quick glance through the pages of history reveals that ancient Egyptians were amongst the first to use aromatic oils for spiritual, therapeutic and cosmetic purposes. Essential oils were also widely used in ancient China, around 3,000 years BC, with aromatic plants and oils revered for their healing properties, with texts from this period describing widespread medicinal use. Further, the ancient Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, has used essential oils for therapeutic purposes for thousands of years.

Ancient Greek phsyicians such as Hippocrates also documented the use of aromatic oils for medicinal purposes, and their use was widespread in the Roman Empire, with oils such as lavender, rosemary and chamomile highly valued and used in baths, massages and perfumes

Their use continued throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period and has endured into the nmodern era, with scientific study of essential oils commencing in the late 19th century, with the term “aromatherapy” coined by a French chemist in 1937, wheh he discovered the healing properties of lavender oil. 

Let’s be clear though – it’s not possible, nor would it be correct, in 2024 to claim that essential oils can cure medical conditions. However, there is a significant body of research that indicates that they can help with symptoms of certain medical conditions, when used in addition to mainstream medical care, not in place of it

Documented benefits of essential oils range from stress relief and mental clarity, to easing muscle aches and pains.

So what about potential benefits to someone living with Alzheimer’s disease? Well, there are not many studies that have specifically researched the benefits of essential oils for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease, but there are a number of studies that do suggest that the use of essential oils can improve symptoms such as insomnia, or anxiety, with few to no side effects.

The easiest way to use an essential oil is to place a few drops of the oil in an essential oil diffuser, together with water in the diffuser’s reservoir, and leave it on for 30 to 60 minutes. The mixture of oil and water is then diffused into the air and, when inhaled in this way, it stimulates the smell receptors, which carry positive (or negative) messages through the central nervous system to the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotions.

There are of course many different essential oils to choose from. Of them all, Lavender has been referred to as the mother of all oils, in part because it is usually well-received by almost everyone, from children to older adults, and because studies have shown that it can have a calming effect on people. There have been small studies that have shown that lavender can help improve behavior and also improve sleep in patients with dementia. There is also evidence that it can help with the management of agitation, which can sometimes manifest in someone living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

A few other oils and their potential benefits for Alzheime’rs are:

  • Lemon balm – studies have shown this oil as having potential benefits in reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Bergamot – it is an earthy scent, but can be uplifting and useful for helping people who are anxious or depressed, although the strong scent may not be to every individual’s personal taste
  • Ginger – has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of nauseas and upset stomach
  • Rosemary – rosemary oil can sometimes be used to help improve cognitive function and memory. While the evidence is not conclusive, some studies suggest that rosemary may have a positive effect on alertness and mental clarity.

CONCLUSIONS

  • While there is clearly a growing body of promising evidence, (and thousands of years of historical use), modern day research on essential oils and Alzheimer’s is still limited, and more rigorous clinical trials are needed 
  • Essential oils should not be used as a replacement for conventional treatments prescribed by healthcare professionals. They can, however, be considered as a helpful and complementary approach.
  • Essential oils clearly may offer some benefits for managing symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, particularly in terms of improving mood, reducing agitation, and enhancing sleep quality.

BEFORE YOU GO

  • If you have any comments or thoughts on this, feel free to email us at customerservice@amindtocare.com
  • If you’d like to dip a toe into the world of diffused essential oils, check out our new ultrasonic water-based essential oil diffuser here: 
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You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup!

caregiver self care self love respect nurse hard work

As a Caregiver, you must remember to also look after your own health and wellness – here are some helpful suggestions:

Understanding caregiver self-help

Caregiver self-help is about taking care of yourself while you care for others. It’s essential to prioritize your mental health to provide the best care possible. Here are some key points to understand about caregiver self-help:

  • Self-care is not selfish: Taking time for yourself allows you to recharge and be a better caregiver.
  • Setting boundaries is crucial: Learn to say no when you need t, and ask for help when necessary.
  • Seek support: Connect with other caregivers to share experiences and find emotional support.
  • Practice mindfulness: Stay present in the moment and manage stress through deep breathing or meditation.
    Remember, caring for yourself is essential when caring for others.

Importance of mental health for caregivers

Taking care of your mental health as a caregiver is crucial for providing the best possible care to your loved ones. Research shows that caregivers often face high levels of stress, anxiety, and burnout, which can impact their overall well-being. By prioritizing your mental health, you can reduce the negative effects of caregiving stress and maintain a healthy balance in your life. Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish; it is essential for being a strong and compassionate caregiver.

Effects of caregiving on mental health

Caregiving can impact your mental health in various ways. It can lead to stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. Research shows that caregivers are more likely to experience depression compared to non-caregivers. Additionally, caregivers may neglect their own well-being while prioritizing others, leading to burnout. It’s crucial to recognize these effects and prioritize self-care to maintain your mental well-being while caring for others.

Self-care strategies for caregivers

Taking care of yourself is crucial when you’re looking after others. Here are some simple self-care strategies for caregivers:

  • Prioritize your sleep: Make sure to get enough rest to recharge your energy.
  • Take short breaks: Find moments to relax and breathe throughout the day.
  • Stay connected: Reach out to friends or support groups for emotional support.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: Eating well can help you feel better both physically and mentally.
  • Ask for help when needed: Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks or seek assistance from others

Setting boundaries and managing stress

Setting boundaries is crucial when caregiving. It’s important to recognize your limits and communicate them effectively. Establish boundaries with the person you care for to avoid burnout and maintain your mental well-being. Additionally, managing stress is essential. Find ways to destress regularly, such as deep breathing, going for a walk, or practicing mindfulness. Prioritize self-care to ensure you can continue providing quality care to your loved one.

Building a support system

It’s important to have a support system in place while caring for others. Here are some ways to build a support system:

  • Reach out to family and friends: Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your loved ones. They might be more than willing to lend a hand or simply provide emotional support.
  • Join a caregiver support group: Connecting with others who are in a similar situation can be comforting. Support groups offer a space to share experiences, advice, and resources.
  • Consider professional help: Don’t be afraid to seek guidance from a therapist or counselor. Talking to a mental health professional can provide insight and coping strategies.
  • Take breaks and practice self-care: Remember to take time for yourself. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation to recharge your energy and maintain your well-being.

Incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques

When caring for others, it’s essential to take care of yourself too. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help you stay grounded and calm. Here are some ways to incorporate these practices into your daily routine:

  1. Mindful Breathing: Take a few moments to focus on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose, letting your belly rise, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this several times to center yourself.
  2. Body Scan: Close your eyes and mentally scan your body from head to toe, noticing any areas of tension or discomfort. Acknowledge these sensations without judgment, and try to release the tension as you breathe deeply.
  3. Guided Meditation: Listen to a guided meditation or visualization to help calm your mind and reduce stress. There are many apps and online resources available for free to guide you through relaxation exercises.

Remember, incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your caregiver routine can help you maintain your mental well-being while caring for others.

Balancing caregiving responsibilities and personal well-being

It’s crucial for caregivers to find a balance between taking care of their loved ones and looking after their own well-being. Here are some tips to help you maintain that balance:

  • Prioritize self-care: Make sure to schedule time for yourself, whether it’s for a hobby, exercise, relaxation, or socializing.
  • Set boundaries: Learn to say no when necessary and communicate your needs to others.
  • Seek support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or support groups for help and understanding.
  • Practice mindfulness: Engage in activities that help you stay present and reduce stress, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises.

By focusing on your own mental health and well-being, you’ll ultimately be able to provide better care for those you love.

Seeking professional help and resources

It’s okay to ask for help while you’re caring for someone else. Seeking professional help is an important step in making sure you can provide the best care for your loved one while also taking care of yourself. There are many resources available to support caregivers, such as support groups, counseling services, and respite care programs. Professional help can provide you with the tools and guidance you need to balance your caregiving responsibilities with self-care. Remember, taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others.

Empowering caregivers for sustainable support

Caregivers play a crucial role in providing support to loved ones, but it’s essential for them to prioritize their own well-being too. By taking care of your mental health, you’ll be better equipped to assist others in the long run. Here are some ways to empower caregivers for sustainable support:

  • Practice self-care regularly to prevent burnout
  • Set boundaries to maintain a healthy balance
  • Seek support from other caregivers or professionals when needed
  • Prioritize your own needs and well-being

Remember, taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s necessary for effective caregiving.

Lots more help, ideas and suggestions can be found in our 52-week Self-Help Guide for Carers “Caring for the Caregiver” available on Amazon at the link below

Caring for the Caregiver: A 52 week check in for self-reflection, cultivating gratitude, nurturing well-being, and mastering stress management on your compassionate caregiving journey.: Care, A Mind to: Amazon.com: Books

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Caregiver stress

Understanding caregiver stress

Taking care of a loved one can be rewarding but also challenging. Caregiver stress is common and can affect your physical and emotional health. Here are some key points to understand about caregiver stress:

  • Caregiver stress can result from the constant demands of caregiving, lack of time for yourself, financial strain, and worry about your loved one’s well-being.
  • It’s important to recognize the signs of caregiver stress, such as feeling overwhelmed, tired, anxious, or irritable.
  • Seeking support from family, friends, or support groups can help you cope with caregiver stress.
  • Remember to take care of yourself and prioritize your well-being while caring for others.

Man Holding Woman’s Hands

Signs and symptoms of caregiver stress

Caregiver stress can manifest in various signs and symptoms that are important to recognize. These can include feelings of anxiety, irritability, or sadness. You may also experience fatigue, difficulty sleeping, or changes in appetite. Physical symptoms like headaches or body aches are common. Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating may also be present. If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone you know who is a caregiver, it’s crucial to address them and seek support.

Impact of stress on caregivers

Taking care of a loved one can be emotionally and physically demanding. The stress that comes with caregiving can lead to a range of negative impacts on the caregiver’s well-being. Some common effects of stress on caregivers include:

  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Physical health issues such as high blood pressure and weakened immune system
  • Difficulty in maintaining work-life balance

It is essential for caregivers to prioritize self-care and seek support to manage the effects of stress effectively.

Coping strategies for caregiver stress

When caring for someone, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times. To manage caregiver stress, it’s important to prioritize your own well-being too. Here are some simple yet effective coping strategies:

  • Take breaks: Avoid burnout by taking short breaks throughout the day.
  • Seek support: Connect with other caregivers or join a support group for emotional support.
  • Practice self-care: Make time for activities you enjoy, like reading a book or going for a walk.
  • Set boundaries: Learn to say no and prioritize tasks to avoid spreading yourself too thin.
    Remember, taking care of yourself enables you to better care for others.

Importance of self-care for caregivers

Taking care of yourself is crucial when you are caring for others. Self-care for caregivers is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Here’s why:

  • Prioritizing your well-being enables you to better support those in your care.
  • Preventing burnout is essential for maintaining your physical and mental health.
  • Engaging in self-care activities helps reduce stress and improves your overall quality of life.

Remember, by looking after yourself, you can provide better care for your loved ones.

Seeking support as a caregiver

As a caregiver, it’s essential to seek support to help you cope with the stress that often comes with caregiving. Here are ways you can seek support:

  • Join a caregiver support group to connect with others who understand what you’re going through. The Alzheimer’s Association offers local support, as well as a 247 Help hotline: https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/caregiver-health
  • Talk to family and friends about your feelings and challenges as a caregiver.
  • Consider seeking professional help from a counselor or therapist to process your emotions and gain coping strategies.
  • Take breaks and prioritize self-care to recharge and prevent burnout.

Remember, seeking support is not a sign of weakness but a necessary step towards maintaining your well-being while caring for others.

Balancing responsibilities and self-care

It’s essential for caregivers to take care of themselves while looking after others. Balancing responsibilities and self-care is crucial to prevent burnout and maintain overall well-being. Here are a few tips to help you achieve this balance:

  • Set boundaries: Learn to say no when needed and prioritize tasks.
  • Delegate tasks: Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family members or friends.
  • Take breaks: Allow yourself some time to relax and recharge.
  • Practice self-care: Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
  • Seek support: Join caregiver support groups or seek professional help if needed.

Respite care options for caregivers

Many caregivers overlook themselves while caring for others, leading to burnout and high stress levels. Respite care offers a temporary break from caregiving duties, providing caregivers with time to recharge and take care of themselves. Some options for respite care include in-home care services, adult day centers, and short-term residential facilities. In-home care services allow a caregiver to have professional assistance in the comfort of their own home, providing flexibility and peace of mind. Adult day centers offer a supervised environment for the care recipient, allowing caregivers to have a break during the day. Short-term residential facilities provide temporary care for the care recipient, giving caregivers the opportunity to take longer breaks to focus on their well-being.

Setting boundaries and asking for help

It’s essential to set boundaries as a caregiver to prevent burnout. Establish specific times for self-care and communicate your needs to others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups for assistance. Remember that taking care of yourself allows you to better care for your loved one.

Conclusion: managing caregiver stress

It’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is crucial when you’re taking care of others. To manage caregiver stress better, make time for yourself to recharge, seek support from family and friends, and consider joining a caregiver support group. Remember that it’s okay to ask for help, and setting boundaries is essential to avoid burnout. Practicing self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or hobbies can also help alleviate stress. Prioritize your well-being to continue providing the best care for your loved one.

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The Top Stroke Recovery Activities to Stimulate Cognitive Function

Understanding stroke recovery activities

Stroke recovery activities are designed to help improve cognitive function and overall well-being after experiencing a stroke. Engaging in activities such as puzzles, word games, and memory exercises can help stimulate the brain and promote mental sharpness. Regular physical exercise, such as walking or swimming, also plays a crucial role in the recovery process by boosting blood flow to the brain and promoting neural connections. Additionally, participating in social activities and hobbies can enhance mood, motivation, and social interaction, which are important aspects of a successful recovery.

Exhausted overweight black woman resting on floor after training in gym

Importance of cognitive function stimulation

Stimulating cognitive function is crucial for stroke recovery. It helps improve memory, focus, and overall brain function. Activities that challenge the brain, such as puzzles, reading, and learning new skills, can aid in cognitive stimulation. Additionally, engaging in social interactions and physical exercise can also boost cognitive function. By actively working to stimulate the brain, individuals can enhance their recovery process and regain cognitive abilities more effectively.

Benefits of engaging in activities post-stroke

Engaging in activities after a stroke can help improve cognitive function, memory, and overall well-being. It can also enhance physical strength and coordination, leading to better mobility and independence. Some benefits include:

  • Improving memory and mental sharpness
  • Boosting mood and reducing feelings of depression
  • Stimulating brain plasticity and aiding in recovery
  • Enhancing social interaction and reducing feelings of isolation
  • Promoting physical wellness and faster rehabilitation

Top activities for cognitive function enhancement

Engaging in activities like puzzles, memory games, and storytelling helps stimulate cognitive function after a stroke. Physical activities such as walking, dancing, and yoga also play a significant role in improving cognitive abilities. Additionally, social interactions, attending support groups, and joining community classes can enhance cognitive function post-stroke.

Physical exercises to aid recovery

Physical exercises can play a vital role in stroke recovery by improving mobility, strength, and coordination. Some helpful activities include:

1. Walking: Helps to improve balance and stamina.
2. Arm exercises: Enhances strength and flexibility in the affected arm.
3. Leg exercises: Aids in improving leg strength and coordination.
4. Stretching exercises: Helps prevent muscle stiffness and improve range of motion.

Engaging in these physical exercises regularly can contribute to a more effective recovery process after a stroke.

Mental activities for cognitive stimulation

Engaging in mental activities like puzzles, games, and learning new skills can help stimulate your brain and support cognitive function after a stroke. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and brain teasers are excellent ways to challenge your mind. Reading, writing, and learning a new language are also beneficial activities. Memory games and jigsaw puzzles can strengthen your cognitive abilities. Remember, consistency is key when it comes to these activities for effective cognitive stimulation.

Social interactions for emotional well-being

Social interactions can significantly impact emotional well-being during stroke recovery. Connecting with family and friends can offer emotional support, reduce feelings of isolation, and boost mood. Engaging in social activities like group therapy, support groups, or simply spending time with loved ones can help alleviate stress and improve overall mental health. Research suggests that regular social interactions can enhance cognitive function and speed up the recovery process.

Incorporating hobbies and interests

Find hobbies and activities that challenge and engage your mind, like puzzles, reading, or painting. Physical activities such as gardening or light exercise can also help stimulate your brain. Consider joining a book club, taking up a new hobby, or learning a new skill to keep your mind active and engaged. These activities can help improve your cognitive function and keep your brain sharp.

Creating a structured routine for progress

Having a structured routine can help in your stroke recovery journey. Here are some activities to help stimulate your cognitive function:-

  1. Make a daily schedule and stick to it.
  2. Engage in brain-stimulating activities like puzzles, crosswords, or brain training apps.
  3. Incorporate physical exercise into your routine to promote overall brain health.
  4. Practice mindfulness or meditation to reduce stress and improve focus.
  5. Socialize with friends and family to keep your mind active and engaged.
  6. Follow-up with your healthcare provider regularly to monitor progress and make necessary adjustments to your routine.

Monitoring progress and adapting activities

When recovering from a stroke, it’s crucial to monitor your progress and adjust your activities accordingly. Keep track of how you are doing with your chosen activities and make changes whenever needed. Consult your healthcare provider regularly to ensure you are on the right track. It’s important to adapt activities to your current abilities and challenges. Stay flexible in your approach to optimize your cognitive function recovery.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE FOR CAREGIVERS

caregiver journal for wellness stress management

Anyone who has flown on a major airline is familiar with the safety instructions given before take-off, in fact frequent flyers might be able to recite them in their sleep. However, familiarity with an important principle does not make it any less important. In the event of a de-pressurization of the cabin, oxygen masks will appear and will need to be put on. The instructions always remind passengers that, should this happen, they must put their own mask on before they assist anyone else in putting on their mask. This may seem selfish, but it is rooted in stone cold common sense; put simply, if we ourselves are incapacitated in any way, it makes it much harder for us to offer meaningful assistance to anyone else.

And therein lies the gut-wrenching challenge for anyone caring for a loved one. And that applies to the estimated 40 million plus unpaid caregivers in the United States, doing their level best to care for someone they love. It is a role that few of us seek, but which many of us will find ourselves in; the love that binds us together will dictate that we do everything in our power to help those we love. They desperately need our help, so we give it without question to the utmost of our ability and often beyond that which we can physically, mentally or emotionally bear. Yes, caregivers are susceptible to various physical, mental and emotional challenges, and they can become ill due to the demands and stresses of their role. The caregiving responsibilities can be intense, often involving physical exertion, emotional strain, and prolonged periods of stress.

Some common health issues that caregivers may face include:

Physical Health Issues

Caregivers may experience physical health problems such as back pain, muscle strains, fatigue, and compromised immune function due to the physical demands of caregiving, including lifting, assisting with mobility, and performing other strenuous activities.

Mental Health Challenges

Caregiving can take a significant toll on mental health. Caregiving often involves high levels of stress, due to the emotional burden of providing care, especially in challenging circumstances, or for individuals with chronic conditions; all of this can contribute to mental health issues. Persistent stress can lead to burnout, a state of physical,
emotional, and mental exhaustion.

Sleep Disorders

The stress and demands of caregiving can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or other sleep disorders. Sleep deprivation can further contribute to physical and mental health problems.

Neglecting Personal Health Needs

Caregivers are likely prioritize the health needs of the person they are caring for over their own; as a result they can neglect regular check-ups, preventive care, and necessary medical attention for their own health concerns.

Impact on Relationships

The strain of caregiving can affect relationships with family and friends. Caregivers may find it challenging to balance caregiving duties with maintaining healthy relationships, leading to potential conflicts and stress. It’s crucial for caregivers to recognize these potential challenges and to prioritize their own self-care. Seeking support from family, friends, or support groups, taking breaks, practicing stress-reduction techniques, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are essential strategies to help caregivers safeguard their own health while fulfilling their caregiving responsibilities. Regular communication with healthcare professionals can also aid in addressing any emerging health concerns.

How to Sustain Quality Care

Firstly, understand just how important self-care for caregivers really is. A caregiver’s ability to provide effective care is directly linked to their own well-being. When caregivers are physically and emotionally exhausted, their capacity to offer quality care diminishes. Taking time for self-care helps maintain the energy and focus needed to provide optimal support. Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion resulting from the prolonged and overwhelming stress of caregiving. Regular self-care helps prevent burnout, allowing caregivers to continue providing care without compromising their own health. Caregivers who do find a way to practice self-care tend to be more resilient in the face of challenges.

By maintaining their physical and emotional well-being, they are better equipped to cope with stress and adapt to changing circumstances. Taking time for personal interests, hobbies, and relaxation contributes to a sense of fulfillment and happiness. This, in turn, enhances the overall quality of life for caregivers.

In summary, taking some time and space to care for oneself must never be seen as selfish, or a neglect of caring responsibilities; instead it must be seen as a critically important release mechanism to recharge batteries, re-center, take a breath and a little space, to ensure that they can continue to provide sustained, high-quality care to others.

Here’s a checklist put together by the National Institute on Aging for signs that you may be suffering from Caregiver stress: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/caregiving/taking-care-yourself-tips-caregivers


Feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or anxious Becoming easily angered or impatient
Feeling lonely or disconnected from others
Having trouble sleeping or not getting enough sleep
Feeling sad or hopeless, or losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
Having frequent headaches, pain, or other physical problems
Not having enough time to exercise or prepare healthy food for yourself
Skipping showers or other personal care tasks such as brushing your teeth
Misusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications


Is there anything you can do to help alleviate these challenges? Well, top of the list is to Ask for Help. This may seem obvious but often Carers are embarrassed to actually let people know that they are struggling. Family and friends are a great place to start – even if it is grabbing groceries for you when they are at the store, or popping in for a coffee, or to give you an hour off to take an hour off or run errands.

In addition, help is available from your doctor, or counselors, or from your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
( www.alz.org )

A Mind to Care also has a 52-week Journal, designed to help Caregivers with a weekly check in to help manage stress, find breathing space, re-center and find nurture and self confidence in the challenges they face, click here: https://www.amazon.com/Caring-Caregiver-self-reflection-cultivating-compassionate/dp/B0CNYXC2C2/

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Simon Gidney guest appearance on the Caregiver Dave Radio & Video-Cast

Simon Gidney was excited to be interviewed on Dave Nassaney’s syndicated radio show/video-cast and podcast Caregiver Dave, heard in all 50 states and 135 countries, and 27 global audio and video platforms.

You can see the videocast interview, or listen to the audio here:

A New Alzheimer’s Game & Activity Therapy System, “A Mind to Care.” Simon Gidney (youtube.com)

A New Alzheimer’s Game & Activity Therapy System, “A Mind to Care.” Simon Gidney 01/16 by Caregiver Dave | Caregiving (blogtalkradio.com)

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Should We Always Tell the Truth to Someone Living with Dementia?

dementia care tips lying and protecting emotional well being

Living with Someone with Dementia

Dementia is a devastating and progressive disease that causes a decline in cognitive function, memory loss, and behavioral changes. One of the most difficult challenges for caregivers and loved ones of people living with dementia is how to communicate with them effectively. One question that often arises is whether it is ever right to lie to a person living with dementia.

Is it Okay to Lie to Someone with Dementia?

Your initial response to the title of this blog post may have been, “Yes, we should always tell the truth,” and “No, we should never lie.” After all, lying is generally considered to be unpleasant, negative behavior, and most of us are taught from a young age that honesty is always the best policy. Many of us will be familiar with the famous quote from Sir Walter Scott in his great 19th century poem, Marmion, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

However, when one is grappling with the day-to-day real world challenges of caring for someone who is living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, carers often struggle with how to deal with or respond to situations or questions where the person they care for is being difficult, unresponsive, hostile or even seemingly absurd, or completely disconnected from reality.

Some might advocate that telling the truth is always the best course of action, no matter how painful it might be to the hearer.  However, when it comes to communicating with a person living with dementia, the issue can sometimes be more complex than a simple foregone conclusion.

People with dementia can often experience confusion, disorientation, and memory loss, which can lead to anxiety and distress. In some cases, telling the truth can actually exacerbate these feelings and make the situation worse.

Creative Lying and Therapeutic Deception

Imagine that a person with dementia is constantly asking about their spouse who passed away many years ago. Telling them the truth, that their spouse is no longer alive, may cause them to repeatedly experience the grief and sadness that flowed from that loss. This can be distressing not only for the person living with dementia but also for their caregivers and loved ones. In such cases, it may be more compassionate and beneficial to tell a “therapeutic lie” instead, such as saying that their spouse is out shopping or visiting a friend.

In other words, many carers believe that it is better to not challenge the absurdity, or reality disconnect in what is being spoken of, but rather to engage with the discussion and take it further, both to keep engagement and discussion going and to avoid the potential consequences of stress, agitation and upset.

Patti Davis, the daughter of US President Ronald Reagan, in her memoir “Floating in the Deep End,” coined the phrase “creative lying,” and how this would cause him to be less flustered when he was worried about missing what he believed to be an important obligation.” 

At a caregiver seminar that I attended in California, a young man who was caring full-time for his mother living with Alzheimer’s, addressed the group and shared that sometimes, usually towards the end of any given week, his mother would start to become difficult, unwilling to communicate with him and even hostile. She would refuse to take her medication. He prefaced what he was about to say with the words, “I apologize if some of you here are offended by this,” and then told the group that when his mother became difficult like this he would pop into the next room and put on a wig and a pair of clear-lens spectacles. He would then go back into the room where his mother was and would greet her by name and introduce himself as “Dr. Wilson” and say that he had come to remind her to take her medication. On every occasion, his mother greeted the “Doctor” warmly and happily took the medication.”

Interestingly, no one in the room full of professional and non-professional family caregivers offered any criticism of his actions at all, as he had clearly found a way to dissolve a difficult situation and achieve a successful conclusion, even though his actions were rooted in deception. 

I also heard a story once about a lady caring for her father who was living with dementia and how he became extremely agitated one day because a college had not sent him his certificate of achievement. This was impossible to resolve, as he had had no connection or involvement with the College in question and was certainly not due any kind of certificate. After a week of seeing her father become increasingly upset, agitated and angry about the failure of the certificate to arrive, his daughter created a Certificate of Achievement and presented her father with it when he enquired as to whether or not it had arrived. Once again, a piece of deliberate deception, but it diffused a difficult situation, dissolved agitation and removed stress.

Protect the Person with Dementia’s Emotional and Mental Well-being

However, it is essential to note that what we have referred to here as Therapeutic, or Creative lying, should only be used when it is necessary to protect the person’s emotional and mental well-being, to eliminate stress or agitation and maintain emotional equilibrium. The word “lying” itself seems so harsh, so absolute, yet we need to remember that, by selectively lying to the person they are caring for, a caregiver is actually supporting that person’s reality; lying to a person with dementia may be the right way to care for that specific person at that specific time because, depending upon the progression of the disease, they may be wholly unable to remember the truth, and repeatedly telling them they are wrong, or insisting on facts will simply cause them distress or pain. As the Alzheimer’s Association has stated, “it is important to put oneself in the shoes of your loved one, and acknowledge how frightening their situation must be.”

It must be noted that not everyone agrees that therapeutic or creative lying is ever the correct decision; they believe that distraction, or gently changing the subject, or rephrasing the question or issue can be just as effective at restoring calm or dissolving stress. This school of thought relies on a gentleness of response that soothes someone with dementia by essentially, avoiding or stepping around the problem or question that is causing anxiety. This approach does tend to assume that the person looking for their loved one, or worrying about a non-existent upcoming meeting, or waiting for a certificate in the mail, will either forget whatever is distressing them, or realize they were mistaken, or even eventually remember the correct facts and thereby peacefully move on.

A Complex and Sensitive Choice

In conclusion, the decision to lie or not to lie to a person with dementia is a complex and sensitive one and people may well have different and sincerely held views. But there does seem to be a significant body of real world evidence that suggests that therapeutic, or creative lying may sometimes be the best option to keep a person calm and maintain their emotional equilibrium. Ultimately, the decision to lie or not must be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the person with Alzheimer’s individual needs and circumstances.

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Agitation

Agitation: Common Dementia Symptom

Although it has perhaps not received the attention that it deserves, the issue of agitation is a common symptom in people living with dementia. It can be one of the most complex and stressful challenges to manage for caregivers.

It is estimated that more than half of people living with dementia may experience some degree of agitation at some point during the course of their illness and it is considered to be one of the core features of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Agitation can manifest in various ways including verbal or physical aggression, restlessness, wandering, pacing, gesturing, profanity, and refusal to cooperate with caregivers. The effects can have far-reaching impact on caregivers. It has been linked to accelerated disease progression, functional decline, and decreased quality of life and is also a significant cause of caregiver distress.

In severe cases, medication may be required, including antidepressants and anxiolytic drugs. But wherever possible, priority should be given to non-pharmacological treatments or interventions, subject, of course, to professional healthcare advice.

No two individuals are identical and clearly what works for one may not work for another . But perhaps there are simpler and easier areas that a caregiver can examine first, hopefully without needing recourse to medication.

Here are a few suggestions:

Alleviate Physical discomfort

Perhaps at the top of the list is physical discomfort caused by, for example, pain, hunger, or thirst; each of these may trigger agitation. Consequently caregivers should always be aware of the individual’s basic needs, and try to ensure that they are met promptly. In fact, pain management is particularly important, as people with dementia may not be able to effectively communicate the level of pain that they are experiencing.

Our mood pointer sheet can be a helpful tool for those who have difficulty with speech.

Be Aware of Medication Side Effects

The side effects of medication can also sometimes cause agitation; some medications, such as antipsychotics, can have serious side effects. It probably goes without saying that caregivers should always work closely with relevant healthcare professionals to manage medications effectively to ensure that they are necessary and appropriate.

Minimize Environmental Triggers

Agitation may also be triggered or exacerbated by environmental conditions such as loud noises, very bright lights, “loud,” or very bold colors in rooms, or even unfamiliar surroundings. To minimize this, caregivers should try where possible to create a calm and familiar environment that minimizes noise and other distractions. (See our blog post on Colors and Dementia)

Maintain Routines

It is also true that the use of structured routines, coupled with familiar activities can work to reduce agitation as well as improving the individual’s overall sense of well-being. Allied with this, unmet needs, such as boredom, social isolation, or a lack of any meaningful activities, can also potentially contribute to agitation for someone living with dementia.

To try and avoid this, caregivers should identify any particular interests and preferences that the individual they are caring for has, or had prior to contracting the condition, and come up with activities that speak to or resonate with those interests.

In one example is a gentleman who had been a CPA in his professional life. His son found that activities that involved sorting coins seemed to particularly hold his attention and provide enjoyment for him.

It is clear that social engagement can definitely improve the individual’s quality of life and reduce agitation. This was the inspiration behind the development of the A Mind to Care Game & Activity Kit .

Gentle Touch

Although people do behave and react in different ways, it is true that touch can also be an effective way to reduce agitation in certain individuals living with dementia. A gentle touch, such as hand holding can have a calming effect and also provide a sense of comfort, security and reassurance, and can alleviate feelings of anxiety, restlessness or agitation.

Touch can also provide gentle sensory input and promote a calming effect; activities that involve touch such as providing a soft blanket, or tactile objects, such as fidget boards, can help to engage the senses and help to reduce agitation.

It is important of course to approach touch with respect and sensitivity, always obtaining consent and considering individual preferences and comfort levels.

Music

There have been numerous studies that have confirmed the benefits of musical intervention in reducing agitation in people living with dementia. This can be either active, where the individual participates in singing, dancing, or playing a musical instrument, or it can be passive, where they listen to music.

There is plenty of evidence that music seems to have a unique ability to evoke emotions and trigger memories; even for people living with advanced dementia, music is able sometimes to tap into deep-rooted emotional responses and stimulate positive feelings, and these emotional connections can help to reduce agitation and anxiety.

For a moving example of the power of music take a look at this YouTube video showing Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett – The Lady Is A Tramp (One Last Time: Live At Radio City Music Hall, NY) HD – YouTube

Although agitation is a common dementia symptom, look for ways to prevent and minimize agitated behavior of the person living with dementia with these tips.

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Understanding the Benefits of Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for Dementia Patients

cognitive stimulation therapy

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is a non-pharmacological treatment for people living with dementia. It is a structured program that involves engaging in group activities and discussions designed to improve cognitive function, memory, and quality of life for people with dementia. CST is a person-centered therapy that focuses on the individual’s strengths, abilities, and interests. In this blog, we will discuss the benefits of CST for dementia patients.

Cognitive Stimulation Improves Cognitive Function

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy has been shown to be effective in improving cognitive function and sort-term memory in people with dementia.

The program is designed to stimulate the brain and encourage participants to engage in activities that require cognitive processing, such as memory games, puzzles, word games, and discussions.

Research has shown that CST can improve memory, attention, and language skills in people with dementia, which can help them to maintain their independence and improve their quality of life.

Reduces Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia

Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are common among people with dementia. These symptoms include agitation, aggression, anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. CST has been shown to reduce the severity of these symptoms, leading to improved well-being and quality of life for people with dementia. The program provides a structured and supportive environment that can help to reduce anxiety and increase socialization among participants.

CST Increases Socialization and Communication

Socialization and communication are important factors in improving the quality of life for people with dementia.

CST provides a structured environment that encourages socialization and communication among participants. Group discussions and activities provide opportunities for participants to interact with each other and engage in meaningful conversations. This can help to reduce social isolation and improve mood in people with dementia.

Supports Caregivers

CST is not just beneficial for people with dementia; it can also provide support for caregivers. Caregivers often experience high levels of stress and burnout, which can affect their ability to provide care for their loved ones.

CST provides a structured and supportive environment for people with dementia, which can help to reduce the burden on caregivers. In addition, caregivers can participate in the program, which can provide them with a much- needed break and support system.

In conclusion, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy is an effective non-pharmacological treatment for people living with dementia. It provides a structured and supportive environment that encourages socialization, communication, and cognitive stimulation. CST can improve cognitive function, reduce BPSD, and improve quality of life for people with dementia. It can also provide support for caregivers, which can help to reduce stress and burnout. If you are caring for someone with dementia, consider incorporating Cognitive Stimulation Therapy into their care plan.

A Mind to Care Game & Activity Therapy System provides CST Activities

The use of A Mind to Care Game & Activity system includes cognitive stimulation activities, such as word games, puzzles, ability to use pictures to discuss present or past events or other topics of interest, and more. Our game and activity therapy system may be a nice way to start with cognitive stimulation therapy with your loved one living with dementia.

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Adaptive Interaction and Nonverbal Communication in Dementia

Alzheimer's dementia communication cognitive non verbal

Adaptive Interaction and Dementia

Adaptive Interaction is a term that describes a method of communication that can help caregivers connect with people living with dementia who have lost the ability to communicate verbally. It is not difficult to learn and it can help to provide contact and engagement, even as the dementia advances.

A common effect of advancing dementia is that the ability to speak can be gradually diminished, until people retain little or no capacity for verbal communication, relying instead on sounds or movements. Despite this, research has shown that people living with advanced dementia do still retain the desire to communicate. (Ellis & Astell, 2006)

This is important, as often people who have lost the capacity for speech are regarded as being withdrawn and consequently shut off from the world around them. Being able to communicate without speech can reduce social isolation, improve quality of life and allow more opportunities for caregivers to engage with people living with advanced dementia.

Connection is Instinctive

Everyone is born with an instinctive desire to connect with other people. We see this in the way a baby will attempt to communicate, perhaps by smiling, crying, opening and closing their tiny hands, or making eye contact. As adults we recognize, enjoy, and respond to these actions, often encouraging them by imitating the sounds and gestures that the baby is making. By mirroring these actions we enable and encourage the baby to engage in social interaction, even before they are able to speak.

Social connection is something that we take for granted, but research indicates that it could also be a key skill that could help us to engage with people as they age and lose the ability to communicate verbally. The way we interact with babies may, in fact, hold the key to how we might communicate with people living with advanced dementia who have lost the capacity to speak.

Mirroring and Observation

Viewed through the lens of Adaptive Interaction, seemingly random actions by people living with advanced dementia, such as tapping, crying out, or repetitive bodily movements can be interpreted as possibly communicative, as opposed to random, or even problematic. It may be, in fact, that by copying, or mirroring the actions, and by paying attention to the mood of the person involved, the caregiver might find a way to communicate with someone unable to speak. More importantly, those individuals with dementia may once again, experience human connection and engagement with their loved ones.

The key principle of Adaptive Interaction is to view all behavior, such as sounds, movements and facial expressions, as potentially intentional attempts to communicate. This approach is primarily based on carefully looking for and observing actions such as sounds, movements, eye contact, gestures, etc., made by the nonverbal partner. These observations can then be used to try to develop an understanding of the ways in which the individual may be attempting to communicate. As these hypotheses are created, the observer can then experiment with reflecting back, or imitating (mirroring) these actions, which may develop into nonverbal conversations.

The actions in question can and will vary enormously from person to person. As mentioned above, examples may include tapping on a surface, touching hands, facial expressions, clapping, movement of feet, other bodily movements, smiling, or even crying out..

It is important to understand that Adaptive Interaction is not a panacea that will fit every person and every circumstance. Equally important for it to be beneficial, the caregiver must genuinely want to connect with the person involved, otherwise it could degenerate into simple mimicry, which would be harmful.

There is a lot of research and a lot of literature available on the subject of Adaptive Interaction and, for any caregivers struggling to communicate with someone who has lost the capacity to speak, it is potentially a valuable skill to investigate and learn.

If you need any assistance in connecting with additional information on the subject of Adaptive Interaction, contact us at customerservice@amindtocare.com and we will endeavor to connect you with material that will be helpful.