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Older Adult Mental Health

Mental health in older adults – a common problem commonly left untreated

As we age, our lives are filled with life changing experiences that can affect our mental health, like being diagnosed with a serious illness or coping with the loss of a loved one. Some people learn to live with these changes. For others it can be challenging and create feelings of isolation and depression.

Mental health is especially important for older adults as they experience a lower rate of help for mental health conditions. According to the World Health Organization, over 20 percent of adults aged 60 and over suffer from mental health issues—most commonly depression, dementia, and anxiety.

Mental health in older adults is often under-identified by both older adults and their health care providers. The stigma of mental health conditions can also make people reluctant to seek help when they need it.

It’s vital to close this gap in mental health care for older adults and to raise awareness. Here are several ways to recognize what affects mental health in older adults, common symptoms and issues, and how to get help when you need it.

Common life changes that affect senior mental health

Seniors can experience common mental health issues like depression and anxiety, but are also more likely to experience mental health issues more common later in life like declining cognitive abilities. Here is a list of common life changes that seniors experience and can affect their mental health.


Losing a family member or friend is one of the most difficult events someone can go through. As people age, they are more likely to experience the loss of a loved one. Everyone grieves differently. They may cry, be angry, isolate themselves or feel empty and drained.

Serious illness or injury

Whether it’s an illness or an injury, a serious diagnosis can put an older adult’s mental health at serious risk. Older people are more likely to receive such a diagnosis as they age like reduced mobility, chronic pain, and terminal illness. A person’s mental health has a direct impact on their physical health.

Financial changes

When someone retires they may experience a drop in their regular financial status and this can create stress in a person’s life. Seniors often have to live on a tighter budget and their daily lives might be disrupted. These major changes can cause a lot of complicated emotions which can lead to mental health issues.

Moving to a new home

After years of filling a home with memories and warmth it can be hard to leave. Stressors of leaving due to financial issues, retirement, or because of physical needs can all add up to affect an older adult’s mental health.

Elder abuse

Seniors can experience abuse through a person’s deliberate acts or negligence. This can take many forms such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Abuse can have an immediate and detrimental effect on a senior’s mental health and wellbeing.

The most common senior mental health issues and their symptoms


One of the most common mental health issues in seniors, depression is a persistently miserable mood or loss of interest in activities that once brought joy. Symptoms are wide-ranging, but can include apathy, difficulty getting out of bed, trouble sleeping, social isolation, and hopelessness. If left untreated, depression can lead to a poor diet and thoughts of suicide.


Commonly misattributed as a disease, dementia is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, and make decisions to the point where it interferes with an older adult’s ability to do everyday activities. Symptoms of dementia include cognitive and mental decline, confusion, personality changes, memory loss, and jumbled speech. People experiencing dementia are often unable to live alone as they can not before activities of daily living.


A common reaction to increased stress, anxiety is the feeling of fear, dread, or apprehension. It is often a normal emotion when faced with a major decision, test, or event, but can be an indicator of an underlying disease if feelings are all-consuming and interfere with daily living.

Bipolar disorder

Believed to be caused by a combination of genetics, environment, and brian structure, bipolar disorder, bipolar disorder can cause manic episodes of high energy that last days followed by depressive episodes of low energy and low motivation. Episodes can also be associated with suicidal thoughts.

Why mental illness in older adults goes untreated

Mental illness in older adults can go untreated for a number of reasons. People with mental health issues often don’t seek treatment due to stigma and fears of being treated differently leading to shame. Another reason older adults can go untreated for mental health illnesses is the misconception that depression and anxiety are regular signs of aging, when, in fact, they are just as serious for older adults. Ageism in healthcare can also lead to overtreatment and undertreatment of seniors.

How to get help for senior mental health issues

The mental health of older adults can be improved by promoting active and healthy lifestyles. At Five Star Senior Living communities offer residents a chance to meet other seniors, participate in enriching programs, and reimage aging. Plus, with our fitness and rehabilitation partner, Ageility, physical wellness can help support emotional wellbeing.

Five Star team members are always there to support your needs, both big and small. We offer the highest level of service so there’s always an activity to enjoy or an event to attend for a chance to find love and connection.

Discover a community today.

Passion-Led Work: Finding Purpose in Memory Care

Nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is projected to rise to 13 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s can help improve the quality of life for those with it and for those who may be undiagnosed. Read on to learn more about this disease, how memory care can help older adults with Alzheimer’s find joy and fulfillment, and to hear directly from some of the extraordinary leaders at Five Star Senior Living and Ageility who are working in our communities to relate, motivate, and appreciate memory care residents.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die resulting in memory loss, confusion, and cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a disease itself, but is an umbrella term for a group of thinking and social symptoms that interfere with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as using the phone, shopping, cooking, and taking medication. Symptoms can include memory loss, changes in mood and personality, poor judgment, and difficulty completing familiar tasks. Recognizing signs early on can help make a major difference in a person’s quality of life as the disease progresses.

It’s not known what exactly causes Alzheimer’s. However, experts believe it’s not one single cause, but rather a group of several factors that can affect people differently such as age, family history, diet, and alcohol consumption.

Memory Care

Even though Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, there’s a misconception that a person with the disease will have an unfulfilling life. At memory care communities, a person living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can live in a safe and warm environment with skilled team members and engaging activities to promote their wellbeing.

At Five Star Senior Living, a division of AlerisLife, our approach includes all of this and much more. We’re reimagining Alzheimer’s care with Bridge to Rediscovery (BTR), a Montessori-based approach to memory care that designs a lifestyle focused on each resident’s strengths and abilities.

Memory Care Leaders at AlerisLife

BTR director at the Palms of Fort Myers Heidi Hartsock has dedicated her career to enhancing the quality of life for people with dementia.

“Having quality programming has the potential to slow down the progression of dementia and it helps to keep people with their skills and abilities as long as possible,” she said. “I love being the person that brings joy to everybody.

Physical therapist and clinical specialist manager for Ageility Nicole Lavoie is using her skills to keep people moving.

“My big goal is to allow people to function at their best ability throughout the entire spectrum of the disease and the disease process,” she said. “We have a role in all of our disciples to achieve that so I’m on a mission to make that happen.”

Physical exercise for those with dementia is an exciting field of study for Nicole. Experts have studied how when people exercise their cognition improves. The thought was that when people exercised, their brains were stimulated by reading instructions of following an exercise program. Research now shows that physical exercise can slow the decline of memory, executive function, and all cognitive abilities.

“Physical exercise influences the hippocampus in the brain where memories are created and stored. Moving your body directly impacts your brain,” Nicole said, adding that exercising during middle age is especially important for your brain health later on in life.

Maria Lora, BTR director at The Forum at Tucson, began her career following a personal experience taking care of a loved one.

“It’s very heartwarming to be in somebody’s life and be there for them to help to assist. Some of them don’t have families so I like to be that person they can count on and hug,” she said. “Giving them love or a hug on a daily basis is very important for them.”

Caregiving has its challenges. It can be especially hard for caregivers if they are adult children taking care of a loved one. Caregiver fatigue, a mental or physical state of exhaustion, is very real.

Heidi says that caregivers should make sure they take care of themselves. Alzheimer’s is one of the hardest diseases to care for—it becomes worse as time goes on and each day poses new challenges.

“Be patient with yourself and be patient with your loved one,” she said. “It’s hard, but you’re not alone. Asking for help is important. It’s not selfish—you need to take care of yourself to take care of your loved one.”

Caregivers have lots of options available to them for support like the National Center on Caregiving, National Institute on Aging, and more.
There are ups and downs when you’re a caregiver. Alzheimer’s symptoms include behavioral changes which can be challenging for caregivers to handle, especially when that caregiver is a family member.

“Caregiver burnout is so real. It’s really hard to take care of somebody and understanding the disease can help,” Nicole said. “One thing you can do is breathe. Three deep breaths is all it takes for you and the person with the cognitive loss. It dramatically reduces whatever is their feeling at the moment.”

Deciding to move a loved one on to memory care is no easy decision. Many factors can play a role, but it’s important to remember to do what’s best for your loved one, which can sometimes mean letting someone else take care of them.

While there are nearly six million Americans living with the disease, it’s important to remember that dementia is not a normal part of aging.

“A lot of people think it might be normal, but it’s not,” Heidi said. “Forgetfulness is normal, but the confusion and everything that comes along with dementia is not normal.”

Our Mission

The decision to move a loved one to a memory care community is not an easy one, but we’re here to help and welcome your loved one as part of our family. Our skilled team members make it their mission to offer the best and most innovative approach to care.

Five Star Senior Living offers small and intimate memory care neighborhoods where your loved one can discover engaging activities and a renewed sense of purpose in a personalized environment that feels just like home sweet home.

We can help you find the right retirement community for your loved one to thrive at this new stage of life.

What is a Memory Care Facility?

A memory care facility is a place where those with conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s can receive personalized support from memory care specialists. The word “facility,” though, probably doesn’t bring up images of a place you’d want to spend much time in. More likely, it makes you think of a cold, clinical building that’s more like a hospital than a place where your loved one with dementia—or anyone for that matter—can find joy, peace and purpose. During your research, you may have also come across similar terms like “memory care centers” or “memory care homes” that offer little engagement in a nursing home-like setting.

The biggest thing to remember is that the best memory care is never provided in a place that feels like a facility. Truly good memory care comes from a place that feels like home with a community of residents and trained specialists that make you feel like family. That’s why if you’re looking for a place where your loved one with dementia can be happy and receive memory care personalized to their needs, start using the term memory care community instead.

What is a memory care community?

Unlike memory care facilities, memory care communities offer a warm, vibrant environment where your loved one with Alzheimer’s can find meaning and connection. Think of them more like safe, secure and intimate “neighborhoods” where everyone knows your name and everything you love and need is always close by.

There are few things that give a person purpose as much as being a part of a loving community. Community provides friends to lean on during the tough times, to celebrate with during the good times and, perhaps most importantly, to help you overcome feelings of loneliness common amongst older adults. For those with a dementia diagnosis, holding onto those connections in a place where they can receive personalized care is key to staying independent for as long as possible. This is where memory care communities come in.

“It’s really the difference between “home” and “not home,” says A.J. Cipperly, National Director of Memory Care at AlerisLife. “Home means different things to different people, but at its core, home is a place that is familiar, filled with people I know and care about; it’s a place where I have control and independence and find comfort. A memory care “community” brings those elements of home into the building so that it isn’t “home-like”, but it IS home.”

What’s the difference between a memory care community and an assisted living community?

Though memory care communities and assisted living communities offer similar services, there are several key differences to keep in mind when deciding which is best for your loved one—or when it’s the best time to move from assisted living to memory care. The big one to keep in mind is specialization. While both levels of care provide personalized services, memory care is far more specialized in the level of staff training, the living environment and dementia-friendly programming that addresses the complex emotional and mental needs that can accompany memory disorders.

What is it like to live in a memory care community?

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be devastating for many reasons, one of the biggest being that it may no longer be possible to live in the home you love. There are ways to make your home safer for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, but they can be costly and may not be feasible in the long term. Memory care communities, on the other hand, offer a controlled, homelike environment designed with the needs of residents with dementia in mind. Enclosed courtyards, circular hallways, butler-style dining, memory stations and contrasting colors are just some of the ways memory care communities ensure residents feel safe, happy and at home in a comfortable, familiar setting.

Every aspect of a memory care community is also designed to spur engagement and interaction, from activities tailored to your loved one’s passions to the care provided by memory care specialists. Residents are encouraged and supported to have a role in the neighborhood. For some, this may be daily watering of the plants or filling the bird feeders. For others, it may be helping set the tables for a meal or selecting the music that will be played during dinner. Helping hand out refreshments, sweeping up after a program, folding laundry—these are all things that residents may find purpose in as they have a meaningful role in the neighborhood.

How much does a memory care community cost?

The average memory care monthly rent is $6,935/month according to 2021 NIC statistics with costs varying by location. That number may seem high at first glance, but a closer look at the cost of memory care shows that it encompasses large living expenses usually paid for separately like rent, utilities, meals, home maintenance and transportation. It’s also far less expensive than the $10,562 average monthly cost of a nursing home and the $17,472 average monthly cost of a 24/7 home health aide.

Memory Care at Five Star Senior Living — Familiar. Safe. Comfortable.

In Five Star’s small and intimate memory care neighborhoods, your loved one can find peace of mind and a renewed sense of purpose in a specialized environment that feels just like home sweet home. Our award-winning Bridge to Rediscovery Alzheimer’s and dementia care program also provides personalized memory care based on your loved one’s specific abilities, preferences and passions. Find a memory care community near you to learn more about how a Five Star can help your loved one with dementia rediscover a meaningful life full of joy and laughter.

When to Move from Assisted Living to Memory Care

It can seem like just another one of those “senior moments” at first. Maybe your dad is starting to have more difficulty with familiar tasks at his assisted living community. A team member calls to tell you he hasn’t been participating in activities due to losing track of time and his way around the community. One of the harder to accept explanations is that your dad may be showing signs of dementia, leaving you and your family with a difficult choice: should he move from assisted living to memory care?

Dementia is a scary word that many associate with a loss of control and the ability to live a fulfilling life. It can be heartbreaking to watch a loved one struggle to recognize their grandchildren or recall that beloved family vacation. A dementia diagnosis, though, doesn’t mean your loved one still can’t find joy and purpose in life. It may just be a sign that it’s time to move them into a community with specialized care and a team that understands how to meet their growing needs with compassion and understanding. This is where memory care comes in.

What is Memory Care?

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia affect people differently. Over time, it can progress from new problems with words when speaking or writing to issues that affect your loved ones’ safety and quality of life. That’s why the team in a memory care community is made up of memory care specialists trained to help each memory care resident enjoy a life filled with dignity, purpose and moments of engagement.

Memory care isn’t just for helping residents be safe, it is for creating moments of joy by building on each resident’s personal narrative to help them feel successful and connected. Making your loved one feel at home—and offering plenty of opportunities for fun and belonging—are at the heart of a dedicated memory care community. Five Star Senior Living’s award-winning, innovative Bridge to Rediscovery program provides those moments of joy and stimulation, and so much more. Whatever your loved one’s passions and abilities, Bridge to Rediscovery tailors their surroundings and activities around them. Meeting all the resident’s needs is the mission, from basic tasks to helping them find a sense of purpose and connection.

How is Memory Care Different from an Assisted Living Community?

Assisted living and memory care communities offer some similar services, help with the activities of daily living, dining, programs and more. Memory care communities are designed to provide specialized care for residents with dementia. Memory care team members have additional training and experience caring for seniors with dementia who can sometimes express challenging behaviors.

At Five Star, we use the phrase relate, motivate and appreciate. Memory care should relate to each resident’s life experiences so they feel connected to the world around them. We motivate people by focusing on what they enjoy, and we appreciate by inviting participation and giving choices. Programs that include the five domains of wellness: cognitive, sensory, group, motor and purpose help individuals with dementia flourish. A variety of therapies such as music therapy, aroma therapy, art therapy, pet therapy and horticultural therapy are quite helpful to encourage those with memory conditions to engage in the world around them. The activities of daily living (ADLs) offered in assisted living—like bathing and grooming—are still available, but memory care goes the extra step to give your loved one the specialized attention they need to continue to live a healthy and enjoyable life in a safe, secured environment.

4 Ways to Know It’s Time to Move from Assisted Living to Memory Care

It’s not uncommon for people to be more forgetful as they age. That’s what makes dementia so difficult to spot. It can seem harmless at first—a slight disorientation to time and place or stumbling on certain words—before escalating. Those signs of dementia could mean it’s time to make the move to memory care. Here are four key things to watch out for that could signal that it’s time to transition.

  1. Regular Confusion: We all forget to do the dishes or take out the trash every now and then. If your loved one is frequently losing track of time, having trouble expressing themselves or wandering, memory care will be the best choice.
  2. Less Active in the Community: Was your dad once a pool shark in the billiards club, but hasn’t shown up in a while? Maybe he stops by the activity room every now and then but seems distant and disinterested in whatever is going on. Dementia might be making these activities more challenging, and they would benefit from gentler, more cognitively stimulating activities.
  3. Requiring More Help: Is your loved one experiencing difficulties with the daily activities and are they exhibiting a decline in their cognitive abilities and decision-making skills? For example, a parent who has always done a good job managing finances and now their bills are overdue.
  4. Wandering: Becoming lost or exit seeking behaviors can occur at all stages of dementia and there are a variety of causes. Wandering is a sign that your loved one requires a safe and controlled environment.

Your loved one deserves to live an engaging, purposeful life in a setting that is custom tailored to their strengths and abilities. And you deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your loved one lives where they are safe, and have a sense of purpose and belonging. A dementia diagnosis is difficult to grapple with, but you and your loved one don’t have to face it alone. Moving them into a memory care community can help them receive the specialized care they need to live a meaningful life full of joy and laughter.

If you think your loved one is showing signs of dementia and it might be time to move them from assisted living into memory care, find a memory care community near you and meet with the team there to discuss your questions.

Neurologists: Do Seniors with Alzheimer's Need One?

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia stemming from Alzheimer’s, understanding your options can be an emotional and difficult process. Though there is no cure, there are treatments available that can help reduce symptoms and help your loved one maintain their quality of life. While most experts agree that anyone with any form of dementia should see a specialist, there are several types to choose from. That can make it difficult to know what course of action to take.

One effective option is to visit neurologists specializing in dementia near you who can offer guidance. They can conduct a thorough neurological exam and recommend subsequent Alzheimer’s treatment. Combining a neurologist’s evaluation with the findings of other types of Alzheimer’s doctors near you—psychiatrists, psychologists and geriatricians—can help make the path to finding the best treatment for your loved one even clearer.

November is National Alzheimer’s Month. In recognition of the importance of the diagnosis and treatment of this disease, here’s what you need to know about the benefits of seeking a neurologist for your loved one with dementia.

Do seniors with Alzheimer’s need to see a neurologist?

The short answer to this question is “maybe”. Here are three important things to consider to help you make the best decision for your loved one.

#1: Your best choice may not be your family doctor

Although a preliminary diagnosis may begin with your primary care doctor, they’ll most likely refer you to a specialist. Some people express a preference to continue seeing their family doctor because it’s someone they know and trust. Others may feel disheartened by their diagnosis and question the use of seeing a specialist.

That’s an understandable concern, but misinformed. New research is published every month about findings in Alzheimer’s treatment. Although scientists haven’t yet found a cure, they have uncovered much that is helpful for people who have been diagnosed.

Dementia is a rapidly developing area of study, and it’s likely that the family doctor won’t be as up to date with the latest information. This may be especially true in the case of early onset Alzheimer’s, where symptoms and treatment are less well-known among most regular doctors.

Seeing a specialist will ensure your loved one benefits from the most recent therapies and medications.

#2: Not all dementia specialists are trained in neurology

A specialist may know more than the family doctor about the latest research in Alzheimer’s, but there are still several types to choose from. The family doctor may refer you to any of the following, based on your loved one’s unique set of circumstances:

  • Psychologist
  • Geriatrician
  • Geriatric psychiatrist
  • General neurologist
  • Behavioral neurologist

Note that not all the above are trained in neurology.

Psychologists and geriatricians are not required to earn certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Psychiatrists and neurologists must earn this certification by demonstrating a thorough knowledge of neurology, among other topics.

That’s why any of these professionals may offer help but only the last two—the neurologists—will have a high level of expertise about the inner workings of the brain.

Neurologists are trained to detect subtleties of the brain that cause memory problems. Only they can conduct a thorough neurological exam and recommend subsequent treatment for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

#3: Much of the promising research is in neurology

Since this disease is a brain disorder, it stands to reason that some of the most promising research findings come from the field of neurology. For example, in a recent study, neuroscientists found that a certain type of light therapy reversed the advance of Alzheimer’s in mice.

Only a neurologist is likely to know about research projects like this and how they might impact your loved one’s health. If you have questions about current research, a neurologist may be the best person to answer them.

Staying Informed with Five Star Senior Living

Here at Five Star Senior Living, we’re constantly working to stay current with scientific developments in Alzheimer’s diagnosis and treatment. Our memory care program is designed around sound principles of science, much of which involves the work of neurologists.

One example is our Bridge to Rediscovery Program, a type of Montessori-based dementia program offered exclusively at Five Star Senior Living communities. This program is designed to provide a safe, nurturing environment that offers seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease a place to flourish.

If you’d like to know more about our Bridge to Rediscovery program or to see one of our memory care neighborhoods, find a community near you and schedule a tour.

How Much Does Memory Care Cost?

Watching an aging loved one change before your eyes from dementia stemming from an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be heartbreaking. Wrestling with the question of how to give them the best care makes matters even more difficult. Should they stay at home or move into a memory care community? An online search pulls up a sea of information, but wading through it to find the real costs, and benefits, of memory care is a time-consuming task. We’re here to make it easier. Here’s what you need to know about the costs of memory care so you can make the best decision for your loved one.

A Closer Look at Memory Care Costs

Finding a memory care senior living community can make a world of difference in quality of life for those living with memory issues and brings tremendous peace of mind to their families and caregivers. With specialized supervision, on-demand medical care and enriching activities, memory care requires some financial planning as it is often paid out of pocket. This can feel overwhelming to families, especially if they don’t have long-term care insurance.

Like assisted living, Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans generally don’t cover memory care room and board, which drives costs up significantly. Barring things like veterans’ benefits and the possibility of Medicaid covering some costs of long-term care once assets are completely depleted, memory care costs can add up quickly.

The median cost of assisted living nationwide is $4,300 monthly, according to the 2020 Genworth Cost of Care Survey. It rises to $4,800 a month in New York ($5,991 in New York City) and $6,633 in Alaska, but falls as low as $3,800 in North Carolina. Memory care services can increase this baseline assisted living expense by varying amounts, depending on the area.

While these estimates for monthly memory care costs may seem high, at first glance, consider that in addition to specialized care, a memory care program encompasses living expenses that would normally be paid separately, including:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Heating and cooling
  • Home maintenance
  • Landscaping and snow removal costs
  • Well-balanced meals and healthy snacks
  • Entertainment and activities, such as adult education courses, a gym membership, and social events
  • Transportation services

Memory Care Costs in Comparison: Less Expensive than Aging in Place

When comparing the cost of memory care to hiring a home health aide to help an aging loved one with housekeeping and activities of daily living, memory care is the less costly option. Nationally, the median price of a home health aide is $5,824 per month for seven days a week, eight hours a day care. On average, that is $1,524 more than a memory care community. When increased to 24/7 home health aide coverage, this cost skyrockets to $17,472 per month.

Considering What’s Included in Memory Care Costs vs. Home Health Aide Services

When comparing memory care costs to hiring a home health aide, the savings goes far beyond the initial average price difference. While your loved one may not require 24/7 coverage, a senior living at home may still need care on evenings and weekends when you can’t be there. Depending on the aide’s duties, you might also need to pay someone else to drive them to doctor’s appointments and run errands while you are working. And don’t forget that these care costs are on top of your loved one’s regular housing and living expenses.

Since a home health aide typically doesn’t do handyman work or chores like mowing the lawn, they may also need to hire someone for home maintenance, landscaping and snow removal services. We can’t overlook the cost of home modifications. Creating senior-friendly bathrooms, adding better lighting and ramps are just a few of the costly expenses you may incur.

The Real Cost of Memory Care – Can You Afford Not to Take Advantage of the Benefits of a Memory Care Community?

As we add up all these costs, it’s much easier to put memory care costs into perspective and to see investing in memory care as a smart financial decision. In addition to seeing great value in memory care compared to aging in place, it can also be the best option for providing your aging loved one with opportunities for social enrichment, intellectual stimulation, and daily exercise that they may not get at home. In memory care, you can rest easy knowing your loved one is having all their needs met and can still find purpose, joy and connection despite their diagnosis. That’s because our team members know that memory care isn’t just for preserving memories, but also making new ones. We welcome your loved one to make them with us.

To learn more about memory care programs, call the Five Star Senior Living community nearest you. One of our team members will be happy to help answer questions and take you on a tour.

For These Residents with Dementia, the Bible Breaks Through

Maybe it’s ironic—or maybe it’s fitting—but it’s kind of amazing how many memorable things can happen in a memory care community, where residents are experiencing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Dan Hass can testify to that. Dan, who served as executive director of Overlook Green Senior Living, a Five Star assisted living and memory care community in Pittsburgh, PA, saw it happen time and time again in a weekly Bible study group he ran for Overlook Green residents.

There was the one night he handed his Bible to a resident, an elderly gentleman. The man, who happened to be a former pastor, had advanced dementia, a condition that had left him unable to speak coherently. Prior to that night, no one had heard this kindly resident utter a single sentence.

The man opened the Good Book—and began to read. “The Lord is my shepherd,” he began, reciting the famous first passage of Psalm 23. “I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” The man continued, finishing with, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Then a second memorable thing occurred. The man closed the Bible, looked up and began to preach in his preacher’s voice. He spoke of the Old Testament and the New, righteousness and holiness, the strength of faith and the need for humility and to remember that, as the 23rd psalm teaches, we never have to feel alone if we believe.

“As soon as he opened the Bible, he became a pastor again,” recalls Dan, marveling at the memory. “We don’t know exactly what dementia does to the brain, but something about studying the Bible seems to light a spark. It’s always amazing to see how someone’s faith can be recalled even in the midst of memory loss. All of those moments are unforgettable to me.”

Helping residents connect through faith

Dan began the Bible study group about five years ago as a way to connect with residents outside of his usual role running the community—and as a way to practice his faith. “I came to know the Lord about 12 years ago,” says Dan, who grew up Catholic. “That Five Star supported my starting the group says a lot about the company and its commitment to finding ways to help residents feel connected and letting team members ply their own creativity.”

As many as 10 residents have met every week for most of the past five years. The group Dan started is an example of how Five Star team members go beyond their professional roles to get to know residents personally, the better to meet their needs. In Dan’s experience, Bible study seems especially well suited to connecting with people who have dementia. “They’ve gone from a lifetime of activity to limited activity because of their dementia,” he says. “But God can still reach them.”

He recalls another resident, a woman who rarely communicated but who suddenly announced one night to the group, “I pray every night for all our residents and Five Star team members.” Another woman, whose dementia was advanced, could recite Psalm 23 word for word from memory, Dan says. He notes that another woman, who was nonverbal and seldom ventured outside her apartment, would come to Bible study accompanied by her son. Dan points to that as an example of an extra benefit of the group: that of connecting with families. “It means a lot to families when they see that this gives their loved ones such a lift,” he says.

“This is just what I needed”

Despite any limitations resulting from their dementia, the memory care residents who attend the Bible study group are not shy about expressing what their participation means to them. “A typical comment I hear is, “This is just what I needed tonight!” Dan says. He can understand how his group members feel, he adds. “There are some nights where I’ve had a long day and I think, ‘Where will I find the energy to lead the group tonight?’” But he has always found the residents inspiring and his fatigue falling away. “It energizes me,” Dan says. “It is so rewarding.”

Discover new connections

Are you or a loved one seeking a new community where the vibe is energizing? Find a Five Star Senior Living community near your desired location. We’d be happy to give you a tour!

How to Move a Parent with Dementia into Assisted Living

When a parent has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, adult children may struggle to keep them safe and engaged at home. It is a difficult condition to navigate, especially if family members work outside the home. From nutritional struggles to concerns about wandering, caring for a loved one with dementia can be all-consuming. It sometimes leads families to explore memory care assisted living programs in hopes of improving the senior’s quality of life and their safety.

A specialty dementia care program, like the Bridge to Rediscovery at Five Star, meets the  residents where they are – looking at their current abilities to create a lifestyle that supports engagement so that they  can enjoy their best quality of life. These programs also provide a secure environment that supports freedom while reducing the risk of wandering.

But for many adult children, the idea of moving a parent with memory loss to an assisted living community can create stress and anxiety. It can also lead loved ones to feel guilty about their inability to manage a parent’s care at home.

How can you help a senior loved one with dementia successfully transition to a new environment? We have some tips you might find useful.

4 Tips for Moving a Parent with Dementia

  1. Make it familiar: For people with memory loss, being surrounded by familiar things helps to decrease their stress and anxiety. This becomes more difficult to do as the dementia progresses, so it takes thoughtful planning. Think about the items your parent uses and touches most often. Maybe it’s a throw they cover up with in their favorite chair. Or it could be a cherished photo from their wedding day. Try to recreate their home environment in their new assisted living apartment or suite. Hang their bathrobe up in a place they immediately notice it. Cover their bed with a quilt or comforter they might recognize. Place family photos all around the apartment before they arrive. Whatever belongings signal “home” to your parent are important to incorporate into their new space. One of the signatures of Five Star’s Bridge to Rediscovery Memory Care program is the keepsake box that includes special mementos. Our community team will teach you how to create one for your loved one.
  2. Moving time matters: Adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia usually have good and bad times of day. While the disease can be unpredictable, it will help to schedule a move to coincide with their best time of day. For many seniors with dementia, morning is the easiest time, especially if they experience sundowner’s syndrome. If possible, have a relocation company or loved ones move belongings while you keep your parent occupied. Once the new apartment is settled, you can introduce them to their new residence. We have shadow boxes displaying our residents’ pictures and item of personal interest by the entrance to their residence to make it easy to locate and to give a reassuring feeling of belonging.
  3. Create a reminiscence board: When a senior has dementia, they may have difficulty with verbal skills. This makes it more challenging for the staff to get to know them. You can help by creating a reminiscence board or scrapbook with photos of family members along with names and descriptions. Share it with the team members  ahead of time so they can look it over before your parent’s arrival. Once they move in, you can keep it in a prominent place in the apartment to share with staff and visitors. Our Bridge to Rediscovery neighborhoods help the family to complete a detailed life narrative. We learn all about each individual’s story, their career, their hobbies, their like and dislikes and more. This helps make the transition much more comfortable for everyone.
  4. Music as therapy: Many people find the healing harmonies of music to be beneficial. This is true for adults with dementia, too. During this time of transition, play some of their favorite music softly in the background. This can help decrease the anxiety your loved one is likely feeling and unable to verbalize. Set up a small CD player with a few of their favorite musicians. Ask the care team to turn it on when you can’t be there.

When to Make a Transition to Dementia Care

Finally, if you are wondering how to tell if it is time for your parent to move to a memory care community, we have a resource that can help you decide. When to Transition a Loved One to Memory Care outlines signs and concerns that indicate a senior should make a move to dementia care assisted living.

Free Resources for Dementia Caregivers to Explore

Being a caregiver for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be both rewarding and challenging. It often leaves caregivers navigating a rollercoaster of emotions. Many wonder how well they are doing caring for their family member or friend. If you find yourself in this situation, learning more about your loved one’s disease might help.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of information online to help you gain confidence in your caregiving abilities.

Free Dementia Resources for Family Caregivers

  • Alzheimer’s Association: The Alzheimer’s Association is one of the foremost authorities on the disease worldwide. Their website is rich with information and tools designed for people with the disease and their caregivers. One popular feature is educational guides you can download at no cost. They cover a variety of topics, such as driving after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, treatment options, and care partner packets.
  • ALZConnected: Created by the Alzheimer’s Association, this resource helps caregivers remember they aren’t alone. Finding and connecting with those who share your path is easier with ALZConnected. The site is home to forums for adults with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia and their family caregivers. You’ll find advice and support for coping with some of the most physically and emotionally difficult aspects of this journey.
  • National Center on Caregiving: Created by the Family Caregiver Alliance, a leader in caregiving, this site hosts online support groups and chat forums. You’ll also find tools, information, and opportunities to learn more about advocating for people with dementia.
  • AFA Care Connection webinar series: The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) shares many great resources on their site, including a dementia caregiver webinar series. Past topics range from home safety to using cognitive behavioral therapy to help a senior with Alzheimer’s overcome insomnia. There is no cost to watch or use these tools.
  • National Institute on Aging: Another site to visit is the Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Dementias page at the National Institute on Aging. Here you will find resources on topics ranging from dementia basics to connecting with a clinical trial near you.
  • Community Resource Finder: Families are often unsure where to turn after a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Community Resource Finder, from AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association, makes finding support easier. You can search for local care options, medical services, and more for free.
  • Family Caregiver Toolbox: Created by the Caregiver Action Network, the Family Caregiver Toolbox has videos on caregiver topics, including some specifically for dementia. As is true of the resources listed above, there is no charge to use these tools.

Finally, we encourage you to bookmark and visit the Five Star Resource Center often. You’ll find articles and videos for seniors, caregivers, and even clinicians.


Addressing Sleep Issues Related to Dementia

If you are the caregiver for an older adult who has dementia, you might be having difficulty getting them to sleep. Family members often say it seems like their loved one can go for days without sleeping. It makes for what experts call a “36-hour day.” It can be exhausting for the caregiver and the senior.

While it isn’t always easy to pinpoint the cause of insomnia in a senior with dementia, there are some common issues. Here are a few to discuss with your loved one’s physician.

5 Causes of Sleep Problems in Seniors with Dementia

  1. Overly busy schedule late in the day

It can be hard for people with dementia to process too much information or an overly busy environment. When a senior’s afternoon and evening schedule is hectic, they might feel agitated and have trouble unwinding. This makes falling and staying asleep difficult.

A solution is to schedule activities and appointments early in the day. Keep the afternoon and evening quieter. Turn off the television and play soothing music instead. Take out magazines or old photos for the senior to look through. The goal should be to keep things peaceful and relaxing.

  1. Late afternoon naps

When the days and nights are mixed up, an adult with dementia might begin taking long naps in the afternoon. While they might feel refreshed afterwards, in the long run it will only worsen their insomnia.

Should the senior really need a nap, encourage them to lay down midday instead of later in the afternoon. It might help if you model napping with them to encourage your senior loved one to try to sleep.

  1. Other sleep disorders

Share the situation with the senior’s doctor to be sure there isn’t another problem preventing them from sleeping. Sometimes medical issues are responsible for sleep difficulties. It could be sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome.

The physician might be able to order an in-home sleep study in lieu of a clinic-based test. That eliminates concerns about an adult who has a memory impairment spending the night in a strange environment.

  1. Not having a routine

Adults with a memory impairment often do better when their days are structured and their routine stays the same. Researchers think this helps because it requires less short-term memory. For adults with memory loss, short-term memory is typically impacted early in the disease progression.

  1. Other lifestyle and environmental issues

If none of the tips listed above seem to help, there are a few more things to consider:

  • Is their bedroom too hot?
  • Is their bed uncomfortable?
  • Is a medication or side effect causing sleeplessness?
  • Do they have undiagnosed chronic or acute pain?
  • Are they consuming too much caffeine, especially later in the day?

If you’ve concluded that your senior loved one’s quality of life would be better in a memory care community, we hope you will consider Five Star Senior Living. With 260 communities in 33 states, you’ll likely find one near you. Call us at (853) 457-8271 to learn more!