Art Therapy for Older Adults

Art Therapy for Older Adults

Art Therapy is one avenue to try to give your loved one some enjoyment.

Participating in art therapy gives people of every age many benefits. They’re able to become more self-aware, improve their social skills, decrease anxiety and boost their self-esteem.  Utilizing art can enable nonverbal and minimally verbal seniors to communicate.  Most importantly, art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Art can provide the person with dementia — as well as caregivers — an opportunity for self-expression and enjoyment. To clarify, art is fun and easy therefore you should give it a try!

Planning an art activity for someone with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer’s, it is helpful to keep these tips in mind:

  • Keeping the project on an adult level. Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem childlike.
  • Building conversation into the project. Provide encouragement, discuss what the person is creating or reminiscence.
  • Helping the person begin the activity. If the person is painting, you may need to start the brush movement. Mostly, projects should only require basic instruction and assistance.
  • Use safe materials; avoiding toxic substances and sharp tools.
  • Allowing plenty of time, keeping in mind that the person doesn’t have to finish the project in one sitting.
Project Ideas

Many people living with dementia have trouble getting started. In my Mom’s case, her visual processing isn’t good and has a hard time determining inside and outside of lines. Additionally, she’s always afraid she’ll “do it wrong”. This is an avoidance statement so I had Erin give us some project suggestions for people in the later stages of the disease.

Tracing their hand, or tracing your hand and theirs touching is sweet. Adding lines, color or whatever you’d like can come next.  Leaf rubbings were another suggestion so I tried it with Mom. It was hard to see the leaves consequently I think the project was a bit difficult.  It might be easier now that we’re farther into the year. There weren’t a lot of leaves the day we went walking in the park. I’ll try again, however, I think Mom may be passed creating art.  Keeping an “art journal” with pretty pieces of nature is simple enough. It allows you to connect with nature & can house memories to look back on in the winter months. This is something I’m planning on doing with Mom since she’s not very comfortable actually creating art.

Building things out of boxes is a suggestion she had for men who aren’t into crafting. Keeping in mind that it’s the pleasure that’s important, don’t dismiss any art as too “girlie”. Letting each person decide for themselves is equally important.

In short, if you’re looking to help your person engage in joyful experiences, simple art projects might be just thing.

Erin Partridge & The Elder Care Alliance

Connecting Through Art Episode

Where Else To Find Fading Memories

Be sure to share this podcast with other caregivers! Thanks. You can find us on social media at the following links.  Facebook    Instagram    Twitter

Also, check out our new YouTube channel where you can see us in action!

Bonus – Alzheimer’s Cruise

Relax and learn on this unique Alzheimer’s cruise for caregivers & their families.


Why take an Alzheimer’s cruise? First of all, you learn to make positive shifts in your life while creating beautiful memories with your family. Taking the “Connecting Circles of Care & Building Bridges of Hope” cruise that’s what you’ll get. Sharing their stories with the cruisers is a huge line up of speakers speaking from all aspects of living with dementia.

Joining the inaugural sailing was past guest, Marianne Sciucco author of Blue Hydrangeas. (You can check out her episode here). She jumped online to fill in all of us on everything we can expect for next year’s cruise!

Speaker List

The cruise keynote speaker was Jeff Boroghoff. Jeff is living with and fighting the war on Alzheimer’s. Putting together the cruise was Lisa Marie Chirico, also a nursing home navigator coach. Speaking on “Resilience strategies & what she wish she’d know when she was a caregiver was her other contribution.

Additionally, there was Daniel J. Hutcherson, a financial gerontologist & 20 year Wall Street veteran. He spoke on “The Six Domains of Financial Exploitation: Protecting Your Money and Your Independence.” Certainly, a class everyone should take.

Holding down the job I’d like was Peter Maeck, a writer, photographer, speaker, and teacher. Peter taught a class on “Remembrance of Things Present: Making Peace with Dementia”.

Providing a class we all need was Christy Turner, Founder of Dementia Sherpa. Teaching everyone how to be the “Best Darn Dementia Care Partner You Can Be”. Even when you’re feeling worn out. For that reason, I’m going to see if I can get her as a guest for the show.

Continuing on was Gene Saunders, the founder & CEO of Project Lifesaver International. Informing  the attendees on how to “Protect Your Loved One and Provide the Family with Peace of Mind.”

Additionally, There Were Three More Speakers

Explaining how three daughters of dementia started AlzAuthors was co-founder Marianne Sciucco. AlzAuthors is a global community of writers sharing their dementia stories. Notably, they now have over 200 member authors.

Award-winning film producer & co-owner of Backfin Media Daphne Glover-Ferrier. She screened their film; “Spent – The Hidden Cost of Dementia.”  Finally, Loretta Anderson, an independent healthcare researcher, speaking on lifestyle interventions in Alzheimer’s disease and healthy brain aging.

Above all, cruising with AlzTropics will make your journey with dementia just a little bit easier. Certainly, you’ll want to add this to your bucket list.


Dementia Caregivers, Join Us in 2020!

Dementia Caregivers, Join Us in 2020 For Our New 7-Day Retreat Experience With Your Family

Nursinghomeology (Facebook)

AlzCruiseTropics (Twitter)

Where Else To Find Fading Memories

Be sure to share this podcast with other caregivers! Thanks. You can find us on social media at the following links.  Facebook    Instagram    Twitter

Also, check out our new YouTube channel where you can see us in action!

Forgetfulness or Lost Language?

Maybe it’s lost language not forgetting you.

Has Mom forgotten I’m her daughter?  Or, has she lost the language skills to define our relationship? Certainly, people with Alzheimer’s do tend to forget us. Even more interesting, I’ve never had an encounter where they are afraid of or indifferent to me.  This would seem to indicate that they haven’t truly forgotten me but that they can no longer communicate the same way.

Author & guest Elaine C. Pereira joined me on the podcast to talk about this theory. In preparation for our talk, I asked my sister if Mom remembers her. Surprisingly, she does. In contrast, I can’t remember the last time Mom used my name.

Theorizing on that disparity in Mom’s memory brought me to one conclusion. Because of my significant weight loss in the past 6 years, I do not think that I look like the person Mom remembers as Jennifer. In contrast, my sister hasn’t changed all that much in the past decade (she’s younger). Certainly, this lack of visual clue to our relationship could be a reason she thinks I’m her friend.

Pointing out that language is neurologically complicated, Elaine explained how caregivers can guide their loved ones through conversations. Asking, “do you remember” is setting them up for failure. Dodging an answer is one of Moms coping skills. When the neurologist asked questions she did everything she could not to have to answer.

Achieving Positive Communication

Learning how to guide our loved one through their lack of language skills, learning how to lower our expectations is what Elaine teaches.  Getting positive communication hinges on how well we set them up to have a conversation. It’s something I’ve been working on with my Mom but it’s still a work in progress.

Learning to communicate on an intuitive level is also something I’ve been working on. Stay tuned for personal episodes on how that turns out.

What’s Going on in Their Mind?

I Will Never Forget on Amazon

Where Else To Find Fading Memories

Be sure to share this podcast with other caregivers! Thanks. You can find us on social media at the following links.  Facebook    Instagram    Twitter

Also, check out our new YouTube channel where you can see us in action!

Thinking For Two – How Caregivers Cope

Two brains cycling

Caring for someone with memory loss requires thinking for two.

Thinking For Two

We’ve all heard the wives tale that a pregnant woman is eating for two.  Most people are probably unaware that people caring for someone with memory loss requires thinking for two.

After a visit with Mom, even a good one, I’m exhausted. Mentally, physically, I’m drained and it’s getting worse as she declines.

With most of my visits I try to take her out.  Giving her enjoyable moments is important even if she’s not going to remember them. She’ll remember that being with me is nice and that’s all I can ask these days.  It was on one on an outing  I realized I was thinking for her as well as myself.  

Mom is in the late stage of Alzheimer’s and she gets confused easily by shadows.  We see shadows as shadows but she sees them as something treacherous and tries to avoid them.  Because of this, walking anywhere takes triple the amount of planned time.

Thinking for her seems to help some. Noticing a spot that gives her hesitation I’ll explain “it’s just a shadows on the carpet”.  Pointing out something that she’ll find pretty, like a bird helps prevent her from watching her feet. I fear she’ll fall since she’s bent in half but telling her to stop has been pointless.  The overcast day we walked in the regional park made it clear that shadows are a safety concern for Mom. (Less shadows = less feet watching)

Thinking for Two Starts Intuitively

I believe that caregivers start thinking for their loved ones intuitively.  It’s likely one of the many reasons caregivers feel they’re also losing their minds.  Thinking for two is not how are brains are wired.  Parents of very young children do this but there is a huge difference.  

Babies cannot walk away, turn on the stove or any other manner of dangerous things. Toddlers do get into dicey situations, but adults still retain the feelings of being independent even when they are not.

Giving instructions to our parent or spouse generally doesn’t end well.  Just like verbally pushing a toddler to move faster, verbally pushing someone with Alzheimer’s is futile. It’s also generally counter-productive. The more we use words to attempt to get what we want, the more frustrated WE end up becoming.  

Unlike with the average toddler, a person living with Alzheimer’s gets worse over time. They can’t learn a particular path is an easy walk. Each walk on that path is new and each shadow a new obstacle to figure out.

Especially challenging for adult children caring for a parent is their lack of desire to please you. It’s not natural for them to want to please you. Constantly giving them instructions generally doesn’t yield the desired result.

Thinking for both of you then becomes a necessary default. As the caregiver we have to see the world through their eyes and anticipate what they may think or feel.  If they sense a situation is unsafe and we’re hurrying them along, it’s bound to get unnecessarily stressful.

Mental Exhaustion from Thinking for Two

It’s challenging, but being aware that you’re “thinking for two” allows you to take steps to lessen the mental exhaustion.  I mentally think through our outing before I take Mom out. Going to the same places makes this easier. Being aware of what challenges we might encounter gives us a chance to plan how we’ll handle them. There will always be surprises but by being prepared those surprises shouldn’t cause too many struggles.

Similar to dealing with a small child, keep in mind that some places are overly stimulating.  Spending as short a time as possible in them is ideal. I know that Mom has the potential for overwhelm when she tells me how big a place is to her. Or she complains about how loud a place is.

Go places during the “off” time. The supermarket just after work can be overwhelming for the average person. It’s better to handle that task earlier if possible. Better yet, take advantage of ordering online and picking up yourself. That’s actually something I should do to save me some time each week!

My “Solutions”

For me, my outings with Mom generally don’t have to be errands. I handle those before a visit so she & I can do something nice. We take drives to the hills, watch kids in the park. All enjoyable and easy outings that generally don’t require too much “thinking for two”.

If you’re caring for a spouse or a parent full time, there are things you can do to keep them calm.  Keep in mind that repetition can be a sign of insecurity.  They may be looking for something comfortable or familiar.  It’s hard to know when this is the case so watch for clues. Mom needs to have her purse with her so I make sure she has it.  I’d rather she clutch her purse than “worry” her fingers the entire drive.  Even when she forgets it in the car, I make sure to hand it to her. Otherwise, she may ask a dozen times if she has her purse.

One of my biggest challenges with Mom is her apathy when we go out. She can be quite engaging with other visitors, but with me, I get very little from her.  I’ve learned that being overwhelmed can cause apathy so I’m trying to ease into our outings. It takes longer to get going but if our visit is better I guess it’s worth the time.

More Useful Stuff

Another thing to keep in mind is this; as soon as you find a work-around to a particular issue, things will change. Understanding that you will always be wearing a detective hat might help you to feel more in control.  Talking to other caregivers, listening to supportive podcasts and reading books will also help.

Everyone’s journey with Alzheimer’s or dementia is different but sharing our journey may help the next person some. If you’re like me and have challenging situations that others haven’t, share them. One less mystery to solve will give that caregiver extra brain power to solve the next mystery.  Every caregiver needs as much brain power as they can muster.

For more helpful discussions, check out one of the 50+ podcast episodes. I talk to very informative guests who share what they learned on their journey as a caregiver!  You can find Fading Memories on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Spotify as well as other podcast players.

Where Else To Find Fading Memories

Be sure to share this podcast with other caregivers! Thanks. You can find us on social media at the following links.  Facebook    Instagram    Twitter

Also, check out our new YouTube channel where you can see us in action!

Medicare Demystified

Medicare Demystified via Boomer Benefits

Boomer Benefits is a specialist in Medicare. Let them help you with all your Medicare questions.

Needing to have Medicare demystified wasn’t something I thought possible.  I am not eligible for Medicare for 13.5 years but needed to learn what I could to care for Mom.

After my Dad died Mom had doctor bills that weren’t being paid. With her high coverage health insurance plus Medicare I was confused. The good folks at Medicare won’t talk to me without adding another layer of paperwork and bureaucracy to Moms trust . It’s called a Representative Payee; another person and bank account just to deal with Moms medicare. I’ve been advised by folks who know, not to add this headache to our lives.

Eventually the 3 bills got paid and we’ve managed to ensure Moms health care needs are handled without the added person. Unfortunately, I’ve been assuming things would be fine and continue as is.  Thankfully, this has been the case so far, but after talking to Danielle from Boomer Benefits, I learned many things about Moms medicare that I can and need to pay attention to.

There are 4 types of Medicare which can get confusing. Your best option is to find a Medicare specialist like Boomer Benefits. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and trouble. If learning about all the options available is how you like to spend your time then go for it! Active learning is good for your brain. For those of us who want to avoid our brains exploding, check out this episode.

Medicare Demystified

Generally, the different parts of Medicare help cover specific services. Most beneficiaries choose to receive their Parts A and B benefits through Original Medicare. This is the traditional fee-for-service program offered directly through the federal government. It is sometimes called Traditional Medicare or Fee-for-Service (FFS) Medicare. Under Original Medicare, the government pays directly for the health care services you receive. You can see any doctor and hospital that takes Medicare (and most do) anywhere in the country.

You have two ways to get your Medicare benefit. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) with a Medigap plan and Part D prescription drug plan.  Or Medicare Advantage with Part D. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, but you need to think through your health needs before you choose.

Medicare Advantage plans tend to cost less overall, but often have significant restrictions on where and how you get care. On the plus side, most include Part D prescription drug coverage, so you get your Medicare benefits in one convenient plan.

Medicare with Medigap & a Part D plan may cost more in monthly premiums, but you can use them wherever Medicare is accepted. If you travel a lot, or you want the freedom to see any doctor or specialist you want, this path may be best for you.

Other Medicare Issues To Know

Danielle and I discussed many of the decisions that are easy to overlook when working with Medicare. Highlighting those here will help you keep track of what you need to handle and when.

Letting your Part D Plan Automatically Renew Every Year

If you’re 65 or older, you likely depend on Medicare to pay the bulk of your health care costs. It’s tempting to think your part is done when you sign up, but sadly, it’s not that simple. Enrolling is only the first step in managing your Medicare benefits. Make a mistake and you could pay for it for years.

Here’s our list of some of the most common (and expensive) Medicare mistakes you can make.

Missing your Medicare Sign-up Period

If you’re already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits, you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare. If you’re not, however, it’s on you to enroll during your initial enrollment period to avoid unnecessary (and ongoing) premium penalties. This period includes your birthday month and the three months before and after.

However, not everyone takes Medicare when they turn 65. If you’re still working, you need to make sure you sign up when you leave your job. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need to enroll if you’ve got retiree health benefits after you quit.

If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, you’ll need to enroll in Medicare when you turn 65 even if you’re still on the job. That’s because Medicare is the primary payer for smaller companies; if you don’t enroll, your group plan may refuse to pay claims. Learn more about Medicare and Employer Coverage here.

Letting your Part D Plan Automatically Renew Every Year

Every year between October 15th and December 7th, you have the opportunity to review and/or switch Part D plans. Plan costs and coverages can change from year to year. If you aren’t paying attention, you could pay more than you should for your plan.

Take time during the annual open enrollment period to see what plans are available in your area. Compare the costs for medications you take regularly, as well as monthly premiums.

You can also switch Medicare Advantage plans during open enrollment. If you get your Part D with your Medicare Advantage plan, be sure to compare your plan options every year. Don’t let automatic renewal keep you in a plan that costs too much.

Assuming There’s Coverage for your Spouse

Medicare is not like employer group insurance—you can’t add your spouse and/or dependent children to your plan. If you’re working at 65 and your younger spouse is on your employer’s plan, you need to weigh the financial consequences of switching to Medicare.

Another point to remember concerning spouses—Medigap and Part D are individual plans. That is, you can’t add your spouse to your plan; he or she needs to buy a separate one. There’s also no spousal discount, so don’t feel that you both need to choose the same plan. Your spouse may have different health care needs, so you each need to choose the Medicare plan that works for you.

Picking the Wrong Medigap Plan

Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Part D prescription drug plans are guaranteed issue. That means that anyone can enroll regardless of health condition, and premiums are the same for everyone in the plan.

Not so with Medigap. If you don’t enroll in a Medigap plan during your initial enrollment period or a special enrollment period, you have to pass medical underwriting. During underwriting, the insurance company can use your medical history to decide whether or not to sell you a policy. They can also set premiums based on your health status.

Some states do allow you to switch to certain Medigap plans once a year without medical underwriting. These plans tend to be less generous than the most popular plans, however. And that option isn’t available in every state.

If you think you’ll want Medigap coverage, save yourself a lot of money and aggravation and sign up as soon as you’re eligible.

Thinking You Don’t Need Part B if you have COBRA or Retiree Health Coverage.

In the vast majority of cases, Medicare is the primary payer once you turn 65. If you left your job but still get health insurance through COBRA or as part of a corporate retiree plan, that plan pays second.

In other words, if you have health expenses, your group plan only pays what’s left after Medicare pays. If you don’t have Medicare, the other plan won’t pay at all.

To make matters worse, if you forgot to sign up during your initial enrollment period, you’ll have to wait until the general enrollment period, January 1st to March 31st, to apply. Coverage begins July 1st, meaning you could be without health coverage for a long time. Learn more about enrollment periods here.

Ignoring your ANOC

avoid medicare mistakesEvery fall, your Medicare plan will send you an annual notice of change (ANOC). It tells you what changes your plan is making for the following year that may affect your coverage. If you don’t read it, you may miss important information that could cost you big.

Watch for changes in coverage—will the plan still pay for services you need? Also look for changes in your provider network. If your current doctor leaves the plan, you’ll pay much more out-of-pocket if you continue to see him. Be sure to check pharmacy changes if you have a Part D plan.

Finally, look out for changes in costs like copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts. Even small changes can add up to big bucks over the course of a year.

Check out Boomer Benefits as soon as you finish this episode. You won’t be sorry.


All You Need to Know About Long Term Care Insurance

Where Else To Find Fading Memories

Be sure to share this podcast with other caregivers! Thanks. You can find us on social media at the following links.  Facebook    Instagram    Twitter

Also, check out our new YouTube channel where you can see us in action!