Tips to have a successful holiday season

For some, the holidays are a favorite time of the year. The days are about experiences and people, family traditions, recalling old memories, and creating new ones. This changes for caregivers and people living with dementia, though.  Use these tips to help you stay connected with your loved one during the holiday season.

It is important to build on past traditions and memories.  Focus on activities that are meaningful to your loved one. Your family member may find comfort in singing holiday songs or looking through old photo albums.  Involving the person in holiday preparation is one way to engage and interact with someone living with dementia.  As the person’s abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate, or set the table. This could be as simple as having the person measure an ingredient or hand decorations to you as you put them up. Be careful with decoration choices. Blinking lights may confuse or scare a person with dementia, and decorations that look like food could be mistaken as edible.

You may need to adjust your expectations. It is imperative that you adjust festivities and times your loved one is involved in; you want to plan things based on his or her best time of the day.

There may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited. These changes can be hard to accept, so giving others a heads-up before they come home is important. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disease and not the person. If your loved one is experiencing a particular challenge, be sure to give an example of what that challenge is and how to redirect or assist the person. You may find it easier to share these changes in a letter or email that can be sent to multiple recipients. It’s helpful to include a picture of your loved one, if there have been some physical changes, as well.

Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and let others contribute if they offer. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing.

Be sure to plan time for breaks and rest. You also may want to consider breaking large gatherings into smaller visits of two or three people at a time to keep the person with Alzheimer’s (and you) from getting overtired. Choose the timing of your events carefully. If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, consider changing a holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch. If you do keep the celebration at night, keep the room well-lit and try to avoid any known triggers.

Finding the right gift for your loved one can be challenging. Please see the attached graph for some holiday gift ideas. Less is more, not only when looking to purchase gifts but also when planning your holiday celebrations.

Downsizing at any time for simpler living

Downsizing is a popular topic in the world of senior living—a move to a retirement community often involves sorting through decades of belongings and preparing to transition to a smaller space. There are countless consultants and organizations available to help older adults prepare for this overwhelming task.

But lately the downsizing trend is not limited only to those who are preparing for a major life change like a move to a retirement community. Simplified living has become a way of life for people of all ages. Removing unnecessary belongings can help relieve stress, cut down on cleaning, and allow for more time to focus on life experiences rather than tending to belongings.

In 2014, Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo released The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which quickly became a bestseller in a society that has become obsessed with “stuff.” In her book, Marie shares how to joyfully declutter your home and surround yourself with things that make you happy. Her purposeful approach to simple living promotes happiness and creating an intentional home space.

This trend shows us that we don’t have to wait for a major life transition to start the downsizing process. Eliminating clutter and being mindful of what we bring into our home can provide benefits for anyone.

The tips below can help you get started whether you’re looking to simplify certain areas or prepare for a big move.

  • Limit the amount of space you’re willing to give certain items. Only allowing yourself to keep enough books to fit on a bookshelf can make it easier to determine which ones are most important to you.
  • Keep additional clutter from entering your space. Opt out of catalogs, subscribe to paperless billing, and consider the usefulness of freebies and giveaway items before accepting them.
  • Follow the one-year rule. If you haven’t used something in the last year (or two), especially clothing, it’s unlikely that you will use it again at all.
  • Save digitally. If something holds sentimental value to you, take a photo of it to keep forever. Similarly, take time to digitize old photos and videos to free up physical storage space and keep your memories intact online.

Simplifying over time can help make a move all the more easier when the time comes. Create intention in your home!

Guest post: Reducing clutter

Our lives are filled with extraneous stuff that clogs our minds and space. To take back your life, begin by examining which kinds of clutter need to be cleared from your life:

Physical clutter—Symptoms: piles, stacks, and layered surfaces. Remedy: Purpose your space. Dig out and create a baseline you can maintain, and then assign a home to each category of items.

Time clutter—Symptoms: Out-of-control schedules, over-commitment, and lack of prioritization. Remedy: Discover your life’s purpose and priorities, and then align daily activities around that bigger picture.

Financial clutter—Symptoms: Overwhelm, fear, and resistance to tackle a project. Remedies: Invest in organizing your permanent filing system, establish a better flow of incoming paper, and create customized systems for recurrent tasks.

Relational clutter—Symptoms: Endless drama, neediness, anger at others, or unhealthy relationships. Remedy: Forgive yourself and others, and surround yourself with those who bring out the best you!

Emotional clutter—Symptoms: mental torment, circular thinking, stress, confusion, depression, and the like. Remedy: Pursue emotional healing. Trade in the lies and hurts of the past and present for truth.

Spiritual clutter—Symptoms: racing on the hamster wheel of life, harried days disconnected from our spiritual nature. Remedy: Align your spirit, soul, and body.

Pick one or several areas of life clutter and begin “clearing clogs” today!

Vicki Norris, president of Restoring Order®, is a nationally recognized organizing expert, author, and speaker. Her team of professional organizers serves home and business clients in Washington and Oregon. You can watch her organizing segments on KPTV’s Fox 12 More Good Day Oregon. Visit RestoringOrder.com for more information.

Exercise for adapting needs

As we get older, certain conditions, injuries, or simply the effects of time may keep us from moving the way we once did.

Aging bodies have different needs. The activities you may have once enjoyed as exercise may no longer be feasible. But learning to adapt to these changes can help keep exercise an important and effective part of your life.

Staying active is essential for maintaining or improving your well-being. In addition to reducing the risk of falls and cardiovascular conditions, physical activity helps release endorphins to relieve stress, boost self-esteem, and improve moods.

In September we celebrate Active Aging Week, and this year’s theme is “Explore the Possibilities”—a great reminder to think outside the box when it comes to your physical activities and find the options that work for you.

  • Focus on balance. Be sure to incorporate balance exercises like tai chi or Pilates into your routine for a low-impact workout with significant results.
  • Take a seat. Chair yoga and other seated exercises can still provide tremendous benefits and are ideal for those who are unable to stand for prolonged periods of time, or get down onto the floor.
  • Dive in! Aquatic exercise is easy on joints while helping to strengthen your core, legs, and back. Water-aerobics classes can also help enhance cardiovascular health.
  • Think outside the gym. It’s easy to incorporate walking and stretching into everyday life. A stroll through a mall or museum, a dance class, or spending time in the park with grandchildren are all ways to get moving without even feeling like you’re exercising.

No matter your abilities or strengths, the most effective type of exercise is one that you enjoy. To successfully incorporate workouts into your daily routine, consider which activities make you happy and which you’ll look forward to doing each day.

Catch them if you can

What’s the next adventure when you’ve already traveled to all seven continents, all 50 states, and have been to all Canadian provinces? Ask Fran and Ralph Brown!

The active couple moved to Bend, Oregon six years ago from the San Francisco area after visiting longtime friends and walking the River Trail. Ralph explains, “As we saw Touchmark, we asked, ‘What is that?’” After a tour on Saturday, they returned Sunday with friends and found their home.

Next month marks their 50th wedding anniversary. Ralph was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Fran was there on vacation. Ralph struck up a conversation with Fran (or vice versa!) at a swimming pool, and they went out for two-and-a-half weeks. Fran returned to Toronto, Canada; they reconnected in the San Francisco area at Christmas, got engaged, then Ralph departed for a nine-month deployment to the Far East.

On his return, they were married at Treasure Island in San Francisco and honeymooned on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Career in the service
Ralph grew up in San Francisco, served in the Navy for 30 years, and spent 12 years as a financial planner assisting military clients. He held a part-time job in Tiburon, California, at a small company managing a warehouse and driving a forklift. “I enjoyed that,” says Ralph. “Here at Touchmark, I have enjoyed being on the Resident Council and focusing on the buildings and grounds and providing input to management on behalf of the residents.”

Born in Toronto, Canada, Fran was a physical education and swim instructor. She went back to school to get a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. “I taught Jazz Aerobic Calisthenics classes in Key West, New York, and other areas for Navy wives even before Jazzercise® became popular.” In addition to her fitness activities, Fran now enjoys attending Bible study groups, hiking, scrapbooking, and participating
in community projects.

World travelers
As osprey and eagles soar outside their window, they share favorite places they’ve traveled. “I’ve been to Africa three times, and I love the animals and wildlife habitat,” says Fran. Ralph says he prefers Chile and Antarctica. “They’re beautiful, quiet places with lots of good adventures.”

Ralph adds they really enjoy sharing their travel experiences with the Touchmark community. “For our most recent presentation on Namibia, over 100 people showed up.”

So, what’s next for Ralph and Fran? Off to Iceland and Greenland next summer, which will be their 13th trip overseas, and they always love visiting their grandkids in Spokane and San Diego.

“We love Touchmark! With all of our travel, we really appreciate how we can up-and-go and not worry about security,” says Fran. “The staff are lively, fun, and interactive, from the front desk to housekeeping to maintenance.” Ralph adds, “They are responsive, engaging, friendly, and they always know your name. Last year Fran was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Throughout the entire experience, I was so thankful for the incredible support when coming home to Touchmark.”

Both enjoy meeting new people at social hours in the lodges and sharing meals with friends in the dining room. “The food is very good,” says Fran. “They give a balanced portion, their salad bar is very fresh, and you should really try the tasty salmon.”

Ralph likes attending Current Events on Thursdays, when a group gathers to discuss the past week of events and what’s going on in the world. “There’s so much to do at Touchmark whether it’s concerts, Scottish dancers, playing Jeopardy every Friday to challenge our brain, playing bocce ball outside, or walking on the beautiful River Trail right outside our front door.”

“We also enjoy the various health lectures, like the one recently on how music has such an impact on memory,” says Fran.

Whether traveling or engaging in Touchmark’s many Life Enrichment/Wellness offerings, the Browns savor their very full, active life!

Meet Edwin Ternes

Enjoying freedom and good days

c32a2819Life has been good for Edwin Ternes since making Touchmark his home in December 2014. “Every day is a good day here,” he says.

For most of his life, Edwin farmed the land originally homesteaded by his grandfather. After his wife passed away in 2000, Edwin found that his days were spent working the farm and watching television. His sons felt he would benefit from being more social, and in fall 2014, they approached him with an idea.

“They asked me if I would try Touchmark, and they offered to pay for one month’s rent.” That December, Edwin moved to Touchmark for a short-term stay. He loved the lifestyle and his active social life at Touchmark! He wasn’t sure, though, if he had the financial means to move permanently. But he was in for a surprise. “I had long-term care insurance. I didn’t know whether it would cover me, but it did!”

A social butterfly

The abundance of social opportunities has been a welcome change from Edwin’s solitary life on the farm. He visits with neighbors while having breakfast and supper in the dining room and keeps himself busy with card games and community-planned activities throughout the day. “I don’t spend a lot of time in my home other than when I’m sleeping,” he says.

“If I want to be alone here, I can, but I like how I just walk out of my door, and I can be with people and do things I like to do. I used to watch way more TV than I do now, because that was my only entertainment. Now I have things I enjoy more.”

Edwin has been impressed with the Touchmark team members and his new neighbors and friends.

“The people who work here are like one big happy family who work together to take care of the residents. You can tell they want to be here. There are a lot of different activities they do for us, and they take us to a lot of different places on the bus.”

Edwin says the residents are like family. “We play a lot of cards; there’s always someone around to play with.” When he’s not playing cards with his neighbors, Edwin can be found participating in the many community events. “I like the beanbag toss; there’s Wii bowling; we have social hours with a few drinks; and sometimes there’s music. I’m not great with dancing, but I do a little of that, too.” Whatever the activity, Edwin is always game when it comes to getting in on the action, whether he’s a pro or a novice.

A little help when needed

Edwin has welcomed the reduced stress that comes with living at Touchmark. “There were a lot of hard things I had to do on the farm. I spent many years sitting on the tractor when it was windy and 30 below. But when you live through hard times, you appreciate when things get better. Now, they do my laundry here. Once a week they clean my apartment. They help with putting my socks on and doing different things that are hard for me to do … You aren’t going to hear any complaints from me!”

When living alone, Edwin ate a diet of convenience rather than sound nutrition. Now he doesn’t have to worry about shopping or cooking as he enjoys nutritious chef-prepared meals twice daily. “I am eating healthier than I was living by myself.”

A very good year

“I’ve said to quite a few people that this was one of my better years in my life,” he says. “When you live on a farm, there are always a lot of worries about making it work. Now I’m free from all that.”

The new lifestyle, reduced stress, and nutritious diet have positively affected Edwin’s well-being. “This past year, I’ve had no health problems, and I didn’t have to work! What more can anybody ask for?”

Establishing orderly financial systems

This article is the second in a three-part series from professional organizer Vicki Norris on getting organized to help save money. Look for more posts from Vicki coming soon!

The number one request our professional organizing company receives is to help people deal with an overwhelming amount of paper. We all receive an onslaught of paper daily, and not managing it can adversely affect our finances. At best, financial disorder causes mistakes, late fees, overpaying, raised interest rates, and debt. At worst, chaos in our finances can destroy our credit simply due to inaction on paperwork stagnating on our desks.

To ensure your money stays in your pocket, put your finances in order. When you take the time to organize your finances and paperwork systems, you take back a long-lost sense of control.

Here are some planning and organizational steps I recommend:

  • Establish a budget (A cash system is a simple solution.)
  • Create a plan to pay off any debt
  • Set up a receipt-management system to track and categorize expenses
  • Establish a bill-paying system to eliminate late fees

As you organize your finances, you will begin recapturing money you have been losing. You’ll stop living wastefully and find yourself becoming more resourceful. And with all the money you’ll reclaim, you will have more funds for doing the things you love to do!

Vicki Norris, president of Restoring Order®, is a nationally recognized organizing expert, author, and speaker. Her team of professional organizers serves home and business clients in Washington and Oregon. You can watch her organizing segments on KPTV’s Fox 12 More Good Day Oregon. Visit RestoringOrder.com for more information.

Keep tabs on your health with today’s technology

Today’s technology has made many parts of our lives more convenient. In our phones and tablets, we can carry books, movies, games, notes, maps, and so much more. Some of these new innovations can even help us stay more in tune with our bodies and minds by monitoring our health and stimulating different aspects of our wellness.
The following apps and devices can help promote personal wellness for all ages:

  • Fitbit or other wearable technology: These small bands can track your steps, heart rate, calories, sleep quality, and overall activity level. They are a great motivational reminder to help you meet your fitness goals each day.
    Activity tracking apps: Monitoring your steps and exercise doesn’t necessarily require another piece of technology. Apps like Map My Run, Strava, and MyFitnessPal can also log workouts, calories, and overall health.
  • Luminosity and other brain games: Many of these games are free to download and are fun and stimulating ways to keep your brain active. They can also track your progress and potentially show any areas of decline.
  • Skype or Facetime: Social interaction is important for everyone, but especially for seniors, who are often prone to feelings of isolation. These video chatting tools can substitute face-to-face interactions with grandchildren and other loved ones when an in-person visit isn’t always practical.
  • Medication tracking apps: A daily pill box can still get the job done, but apps like Medisafe or Pill Monitor can provide visual reminders of which pills are needed as well as alarms to help you remember to take them at the same time each day.

While using apps and other technology can sometimes seem daunting for older adults, most are built to be intuitive and user-friendly. Determine which ones would be most helpful in your life and start embracing the power of technology!

Embracing the great outdoors

Summer is in full swing! With sunshine and warmer weather, it’s a great time to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.

Spending time outside provides a number of physical and mental benefits to people of all ages. Just a half hour each day can enhance wellness and state of mind. Benefits include:

  • Increased vitamin D levels—especially important for seniors
  • Enhanced attention levels by taking a break from everyday overstimulation
  • More restful sleep as a result of less time spent in artificial light
  • Strengthened immunity in the form of increased white blood cells

To take advantage of the beautiful weather and cultivate your physical wellness, consider taking some of your exercise routines outside. While strenuous exercise in high temperatures is not recommended for older adults, there are plenty of options to get you moving.

  • Take a walk through your neighborhood or on a trail.
  • Hit the pool. Cool off while getting exercise!
  • Bring your normal workout outside. Take your weights or yoga mat to your backyard and let the sounds of nature serve as a soundtrack to your routine.
  • Work in the garden. Beautify your yard, harvest a bounty, and get a workout while doing so!
  • Play around with grandchildren. A simple game of baseball or tag is a great way to connect with loved ones and get some physical activity.
  • If physical mobility is limited, even enjoying a meal or a conversation outside can provide great health and wellness benefits.

Choose an activity that interests you and take advantage of the power of nature!

Staying safe in the summer sun

The summer months are a time for fun and relaxation—getting outside, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying the natural beauty all around us. As we spend time outdoors this season, it’s important to take precautions to protect ourselves against the heat and sun.

Prolonged exposure to heat and sun can lead to sunburns, skin cancer, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. For older adults, these conditions can be even more dangerous. Consider the tips listed below before heading out for a day in the sun.

  • Stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you especially if you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time. Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day is recommended for adults.
  • Apply sunscreen regularly. Use a sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 and reapply every two hours. Wearing a thin long-sleeve shirt and a hat can further help keep the skin protected.
  • Don’t forget to protect your eyes and lips. These two areas can easily be overlooked after applying sunscreen and dressing properly. Look for a lip balm with SPF and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Be smart when exercising. It’s important to maintain your exercise routine when the weather warms up, but avoid strenuous activity outside, especially in the hottest time of the day. Take frequent breaks, drink plenty of water, and stay in the shade as much as you can.
  • Know the warning signs of heat-related conditions. Heat stroke can cause flushed skin, nausea and vomiting, headache, and fainting. Tell someone as soon as you notice any of these symptoms and quickly get out of the heat.

Following these simple precautions can keep you happy and healthy all summer long.