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Home Care Expert Insights

In Conversation with Mary Crescenzo to Bring Her Insights on Supporting Dementia Older Adults

Supporting dementia older adults involves providing care and understanding for individuals. It includes creating a safe environment, offering companionship, and engaging in activities like art, music, and storytelling to promote connection and communication.

Caregivers are crucial in ensuring comfort, dignity, and a sense of belonging for older adults with dementia. Simple gestures, patience, and empathy are key in helping them navigate their daily lives while preserving their independence and well-being. This support fosters a better quality of life and helps older adults feel valued and respected despite their challenges with memory loss.

To shed some light on the same, we interviewed a home care industry expert to bring her perspective on dementia care to light.

Expert QA session with Mary Crescenzo

Who Did We Interview?

Mary Crescenzo, a pioneering advocate in Alzheimer’s/Dementia arts engagement and author of “The Planet Alzheimer’s Guide,” empowers caregivers through expert watercolor, music, and storytelling expert advice. As co-facilitator of “Arts & Dementia Panel,” she fosters connections via virtual gatherings.

A playwright, director, and Jazz singer, Mary’s diverse talents extend to literary markets and affiliations with Lifetime Arts, AlzAuthors, and SAG-AFTRA. Residing in Topanga, California, her work spans creative expression and caregiving support.

Let’s get started with knowing what our expert thinks of the home care industry:

Question 1: What, in your opinion, can caregivers do to support older adults with dementia?

The main thing is to treat those with dementia with respect and be in the moment with them. One way to support them is to utilize arts engagement with them, whether through music/singing, watercolor painting/drawing, movement/dance, poetry and storytelling, or a combination of these art forms. You, nor the person you care for need to be artists to be open to our innate need for self-expression and creativity. Connection and communication can happen through the arts, especially with persons with this disease. Try it and see what happens!

Question 2: Do dementia patients need to make certain lifestyle changes to minimize the impact?

Find a soothing activity during dusk hours to avoid sun-downing, which often results in confusion and stress. The benefits of any level of exercise, walking or working in a garden, good nutrition, and creative conversation – from the person’s perspective, should not be ignored but encouraged.

Question 3: How should family members and caregivers communicate with dementia patients?

One of the best ways is through arts engagement. Include a multi-generational approach. Children are especially happy to participate in an arts experience. There is no judgment here, no expectations, just simple fluid guidance and letting the person take the lead. Keep it open-ended. Process and interaction, not product, is the goal.

You will be surprised how communication blossoms because the arts provide joy and in-the-moment expression. If you are open to this, the person will be, although it may take a few tries. I wrote a how-to guide for caregivers, Planet Alzheimer’s Guide: 8 Ways the Arts Can Transform the Life of Your Loved One and Your Own, so caregivers can find ways to find light in the darkness of this disease through the arts.

Question 4: Do caregivers and family members need to take certain steps to make the elderly’s house dementia friendly?

Absolutely. Remove clutter, keep things simple, establish routines, and be sure there is no way for your loved one to unlock a door or window. A watchful eye in the kitchen and bathroom is important. Remove small area rugs that a person can easily slip on. Keep areas well-lit. With that said, do not isolate your loved one.

Question 5: What advice do you give caregivers dealing with dementia in older adults?

Take some time out for yourself, even five minutes a day. I have found out, as a professional arts practitioner working with arts engagement with persons living with dementia, that journaling and creative writing is the easiest, most accessible form of art to find a way to express your thoughts and feelings. My workshop, “Self-care Through Creative Writing for Caregivers: Respite, Relaxation, Rejuvenation, and Revelation,” has helped formal and family caregivers find the time they need to process the arduous but invaluable work they do.

Final Words

Supporting dementia older adults involves offering care, companionship, and engaging activities to help them feel safe, connected, and valued. By creating a nurturing environment, showing patience, and providing understanding, caregivers enhance the lives of older adults with memory loss. This support promotes their well-being, dignity, and independence, enabling them to navigate daily life with comfort and a sense of belonging.

Simple acts of kindness and empathy go a long way in making a positive difference in the lives of older adults living with dementia.

Want to contribute to our expert insights for the 'Home Care Q/A' series?

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Want to contribute to our expert insights for the 'Home Care Q/A' series?

Contact Us

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