Manage the Holidays While Caring for Your Loved One with Dementia

We’re well into holiday season, and your to-do list probably feels like a mile long. You have gifts to buy (don’t forget your loved one’s incredible nurses and aides at Regency!), family dinners to plan, cards to send, and so much more.

The holiday season can sometimes feel frantic, but it’s also lots of fun. Is it as enjoyable for your loved one with dementia?

Whether or not your loved one lives with you, the hustle and bustle of this jolly season can be stressful. People with dementia need stability and routine, and any slight change can be very disorienting to them.

Here’s how you can help them weather the holiday season calmly—while keeping yourself sane:

Keep to routine

Staying on schedule is the best possible gift you can give your loved one with dementia during the holidays. If your loved one is an LTC resident, visit them at the same time you always do. This may be hard with all the extra errands you have to do, but try to keep to it as much as possible.

Include them in your preparations

Ask your loved one to help you decorate the table, bake cookies, taste test a recipe, or anything else they can do on their own. They’ll feel included and needed and part of the holiday cheer.

Reminisce with them

Many people feel nostalgic around the holidays, and people with dementia feel it even more. Listen to their stories of holidays past, and talk about some of your own favorite Christmas memories. Keep an eye out though, for blurring of past and present. If your loved one starts looking around for family members who have passed, or become anxious, change the subject to the current holiday.

Say “no” to nonessential tasks

The holidays are a time for giving, and if you can step outside your comfort zone to give a little more that is certainly great. However, you must remember that you’re a caregiver—and you can only give care when your own tank is filled up.

The holidays are for enjoying family time together, so remember to stop, enjoy the time, and take shortcuts in order to stay as present as possible.

How Singing Therapy May Reduce Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow movement. Onset of the disease usually starts after age 60, and there is no cure for the disease.

Currently, we treat Parkinson’s disease by managing symptoms. The available drugs can help reduce tremors, muscle stiffness, and slow movements. Patients of Parkinson’s disease can also benefit from the various therapies—physical, occupational, and speech—based on how the disease affects them.

New Study: Singing for Symptom Management

Seniors with parkinson's disease participating in therapeutic group singing session
Screen grab from a video of a therapeutic singing session led by Elizabeth Stegemöller

In a pilot study released early last month, Elizabeth Stegemöller of Iowa State University posits that singing can provide exponential benefits to seniors with Parkinson’s disease.

Stegemöller’s previous research indicated that group singing can improve respiratory control in people with the disease. This is because singing requires better muscle control in the mouth and throat, which strengthens the muscles in those areas.

This new study focused on a therapeutic singing group consisting of less than 20 people with Parkinson’s disease. Before and after each singing session, the researchers measured their vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. The participants also completed a questionnaire that rated things like their happiness, anxiety, and anger levels.

Promising Results

While the study sample was small and this is just preliminary data, the results show a noted drop in anxiety and sadness after each session. Other statistically significant improvements involve:

  • Upper extremity bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
  • Tremor
  • Walking ability

These are motor symptoms that sometimes see no improvement with medication, so these results are especially promising for seniors who don’t find relief with Parkinson’s drugs.

The exact reasons singing is so beneficial are unclear, but Stegemöller and her team are delving into that question now. One of the factors they’re looking at is oxytocin—the so-called love hormone. Oxytocin is released during bonding activities, which group singing facilitates.

Says Elizabeth “Birdie” Shirtcliff, another researcher on the team:

“Part of the reason cortisol is going down could be because the singing participants feel positive and less stress in the act of singing with others in the group. This suggests we can look at the bonding hormone, oxytocin.

“We’re also looking at heart rate and heart rate variability, which can tell us how calm and physiologically relaxed the individual is after singing.”

Whatever the exact physiological cause of the improvements, we at Regency Nursing hope to see more studies done on larger samples, to show definitively whether group singing should be added to the list of clinical interventions for Parkinson’s disease.

In the meantime, we’ve already unknowingly incorporated singing therapy into our range of activities, by bringing in talented musicians to entertain our residents. When we sing together as a group, we all feel the difference.

Compassionate Care From Passionate People – The Regency Formula!

Making our residents smile!I was conducting a tour with a colleague today at our beautiful Nursing & Rehab facility in Hazlet, NJ. The family is contemplating sending their ailing father from N.Y.C. for rehabilitation at our facility in New Jersey. They heard wonderful reviews regarding our quality of care and wanted to see it up close for themselves.

We are always excited for the opportunity to showcase our facility, because as much as we can describe the level of care we provide, it still pales in comparison with the real life illustration of that care in action when a family tours our facility!

The attention to detail and the devotion of our staff and nurses is reflected in the happy smiles of our patients and residents. I was therefore truly pleased when family member turned to me and remarked that he could actually discern the passion for their work evident on the faces of our staff!

To me, this thought sums up and quite succinctly, the quality of care that is the hallmark of every Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Center throughout New Jersey!

It is this type of “compassionate care from passionate people” that has earned us the highest 5 star ratings on every conceivable metric and has made us the envy of nursing facilities sate wide!