Five tips on how to talk to kids about dementia

This informative article comes from a website called The Conversation. It’s a great piece that summarizes how to talk to kids about dementia. How do they know how to talk to kids about dementia? I’m glad you asked 🙂

The author is Jess Baker, PhD, is a lecturer in psychiatry at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She was inspired by Alzheimer’s Australia’s national survey on dementia awareness that was published in September, 2014, and the result that dementia reported low awareness and understanding about dementia. She noticed that children’s attitudes and awareness about dementia have never been measured in Australia.

She decided to make some focus group studies and interviewed over 40 children. She also showed them short clips of people with dementia and asked them what they thought. These videos are part of a UNSW project that is taking action to create a more dementia-friendly society by educating the next generation, since breaking down stigma starts with education. One of the goals of the project is to use the information from the focus groups to create an online education program that fits in with Australia’s education program.

So, interested to know what she found?

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Wedding plans – include the “seasoned” family

I was digging around the Aalborg Kommune website today and wandered upon this little gem. It was under their page on weddings and receptions in the Municipality.

De gamle.
Det kunne også være en mulighed med en frokost sammen med et par af familiens gamle, der ikke har energien og kræfterne til aftenens festforløb. Her kan de være med fuld intensitet opleve brudeparret med mere kontakt end aftenen ville kunne give. Det kan være en yderst positiv oplevelse, for både brudepar som tiptip-per.
Er der mindre mobilitet, kan brudeparret køre omkring plejehjemmet og vise sig frem. Der er ikke noget der vækker gode minder som at se en nygift brud. Gommen følger gratis med.

English translation:

The elderly.
It could also be an option for a lunch together with a few of the family’s older members that do not have energy and strength for the night’s party program. Here, they can with full intensity experience bridal couple with more contact than the night would bring. It can be an extremely positive experience for both couples.
If there is less mobility, the bride and groom can go around the nursing home and show off. There is nothing that evokes fond memories like watching a newly married bride. The groom is included for free.

A very appropriate and thoughtful suggestion from Aalborg Kommune!!

Computer and Internet use in the US

This is a post from Telekin, a great company that started making computers specifically for older adults. If you want to find out more about them, their computers, and to purchase a Telekin, check out their website here.

Senior Computer and Internet Use

The Pew Research Center just released new data on internet and computer usage among older adults. In short, the numbers show that more seniors are adopting technologies, but still at a much slower pace than the rest of adult Americans.

The key overall statistic is that now 59% of Americans age 65 or older go online. In last year’s report that same number was 53%, which was the first time more than half of seniors went online. This increase in seniors logging on demonstrates the steady, if rather slow, trend for more and more older adults adopting new technologies. As I’ve written about before, the benefits of technology for seniors are numerous, so it is encouraging to see that more are actually capitalizing on those benefits.

Here are some of the other key findings:

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I wish I had known before I started caregiving….

This is a re-post from, and an excellent article where caregivers reflect back on what they wish they had known before caring for their aging parents.

By , senior editor
June 06, 2014

Looking Back on Caregiving

6 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Cared for My Parents

You’ve heard the expression “hindsight is 20/20,” and when it comes to family caregiving, it absolutely applies. Get any group of midlife adults together and you’ll hear caregiving “war stories” about what they’re facing when it comes to aging parents, and how completely unprepared they feel for what’s ahead.

“We are not prepared for this situation as a culture — there just isn’t enough information out there,” says Chicago-based Mary Kay Buysse, director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM), who has had many years of experience in helping older adults make changes to their living situations. “People are blindsided when suddenly there’s a crisis and Mom needs help and they’re completely in the dark as to what’s available and how to find it.”

To help you navigate this process with more insight, we’ve put together tips from experts and fellow caregivers on what they know now that they wish they’d known when they started the process of finding a safer situation for Mom and Dad. Having been there, done that, they have a wealth of wisdom to pass along to help you learn from their mistakes.

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Take Advantage of the Summer Weather

How Older Adults and Caregivers Can Take Advantage of the Summer Weather

This is a re-post from our friends at, offering ideas for getting outside and enjoying the summer weather together!

Enjoying a breezy spring day or the warm summer temperatures don’t have to be a distant memory for elders and caregivers. After being cooped up in the house for possibly months at a time, senior adults can breathe in the fresh air, even if they are experiencing mobility problems. It takes some advance planning and choosing an activity that won’t seem like a chore, but it’s worth getting out of the house, for you and your elderly parent.

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Caregiving at a Cookout

Caregiving at a Cookout:  Tips for a Good Time

This is a re-post from, a great website with plenty of ideas and resources for caregivers.

Almost everyone looks forward to gathering with family and friends for a backyard barbecue. But if you’ve been dreading going to one because of your responsibilities as a caregiver, never fear: Both you and your elderly loved one can have a fine time, if you plan ahead.

But first, make sure that your relative is in good enough health to attend a party where there will be heat, bugs, noise, smoke from the grill and possibly rambunctious children. Also, check with your hosts to ensure that they understand and can accommodate your loved one’s limitations. If not, find another caregiver to look after your relative while you attend alone; it’s important for you to socialize and recharge.

However, if your hosts are amenable and your loved one is up to it, don’t leave him or her behind. Joan Wright, a certified geriatric manager at NVNA and Hospice in Norwell, Mass., told AgingCare that you should remember that every elderly person was once young, mobile and eager to socialize. “Those desires are still there even if their physical capacity to fulfill them is not.”

Here are some tips from Ms. Wright and others to ensure that everyone has a good time:

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Garden and Grow Together

Gardening and Growing Together

This is a re-post from, and I hope it inspires you to get your hands a little dirtier 🙂

To grow a more meaningful and healthy connection with an elderly loved one, put on some rubber clogs and head out together to the garden.

At any age, gardening is one of the best activities we can do outdoors, several experts told It stimulates all of the senses; awakens our connection with nature and with each other; and rewards us with fresh flowers and juicy tomatoes. “It’s restorative, even if you have dementia,” says Dee McGuire, a horticultural therapist at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore.

Gardening is also an excellent way for aging bodies to get a moderate-intensity aerobic workout, shed calories and stay flexible, according to a Kansas State University study. That’s one reason why gardening remains popular with Americans well into their golden years. Indeed, about three-quarters of households age 55 or older participated in some form of lawn and garden activity in 2010, according to the National Gardening Association (NGA).

Still, there’s no question that bending, lifting, kneeling, squatting, weeding and pruning—not to mention dealing with sun, heat and bugs– all become more challenging as we grow older.

But there are ways to cope.

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10 Ideas for Outings

10 Ideas for Spring Outings

This is a re-post from, and I am happy to pass on some good ideas for your dementia adventures!

Many aging adults spend the bulk of their time just managing to get through the day. They take care of life’s basics but often don’t leave their home, assisted living center or nursing home, except for doctor appointments and an occasional holiday.

Families and friends might like to take a senior out for some fun but they don’t know how to go about it. Even seasoned caregivers can be stumped for ideas, so here are a few to get started:

  1. Take a Sunday drive. When I was young, driving around the community to check out home town activity was a Sunday afternoon ritual for many adults. While life is more complicated now, many elders still enjoy watching new construction or being shown how the town that they’ve lived in for decades is changing. For those who live near flood prone bodies of water, spring is a terrific time to take a drive to see how this year’s water levels compare to other years. A twist on this approach is to pick a prime time when cherry trees, crab apple trees or other ornamentals are at their peak and do a flower tour. Getting out of the car is optional, based on your elder’s abilities and wishes.
  2. Go to the zoo. Who doesn’t like baby animals? Spring is birth time for most species. Rent or borrow a wheelchair if one is needed for longer walks. Not only will your elders see baby animals, they will see young children reacting to the animals. As with everything suggested, watch your loved one for signs of fatigue, thirst, too much sun or other issues that could signal that it’s time to leave, perhaps with a promise to return at another time should they wish to do so.
  3. Go to a restaurant. When was the last time you took your elder to a restaurant that he or she has enjoyed over the years? Now that snow isn’t a problem, it’s easier to navigate such adventures. Keep in mind that going for a meal at off-peak times is a good idea. That usually means less stress for everyone. Also, elders who are hard of hearing won’t feel as isolated if there’s less background noise.
  4. Visit a Dairy Queen. One of my mom’s favorite treats was a hot fudge sundae from Dairy Queen. I’d often take her to get a sundae on the way home from a doctor visit or other necessary outing, but occasionally we’d go to Dairy Queen just for something to do. She preferred sitting in the car to eat, but I do suggest encouraging your loved ones to sit outside if the weather’s nice and they are able.
  5. Enjoy children at play. Watch children swim or play on playground equipment. Spring brings young children out in throngs. People who enjoy children often like hearing their laughter and watching the seeming innocence of this type of play.
  6. Spring programs. Take your elder to the spring programs that most schools sponsor. This is particularly nice if a grandchild or great-grandchild is involved, but that’s not necessary. If your elder doesn’t know any of the children, then I’d suggest focusing on the younger ones. They tend to be “cuter.” However, if grandchildren are involved, take your elder to watch them perform in their concerts, plays or other activities. You may have to arrange for a spouse or friend to be available to take Grandma home if she gets tired or uncomfortable. A twist on this idea is to attend one of the concerts in the park that many communities have during the spring and summer.
  7. Have a picnic. Whether you go to a park, stay in your own backyard or use the grounds of the nursing home, a picnic is often possible. If your loved one is able, going to a park would be nice, however many nursing homes have gorgeous grounds and nice areas with tables that accommodate wheel chairs. If all else fails—and I’m aware that this isn’t an outing but sometimes we have to punt—bring a picnic to your loved one in the care home.
  8. Check out the crops. If your elder has an agricultural background or is interested in wildflowers, try taking a country drive. My parents didn’t have any first-hand agricultural experience, but they still enjoyed driving in the country to see new crops being planted and wild flowers blooming. Tailor this outing to your area of the country and your elder’s preferences.
  9. Go fishing. A friend told me that his community sponsors events where elders are taken out on pontoons—wheelchairs and all—to fish. Volunteers are there to help with anything the elder can’t do. Just being out on the water and holding a rod can be a thrill for someone who has enjoyed fishing in the past. Again, this can be adjusted to accommodate other pastimes.
  10. Visit a friend. Many elders lose touch with their peers. Sickness, the death of a spouse and/or difficulty getting around can mean they haven’t seen a dear friend for months or even years. See if you can set up a lunch or just a visit with someone your loved one has enjoyed through the years. Perhaps you can take them both to a park or a restaurant.

Use these ideas as springboards. You know your loved one. What did his or she enjoy in their earlier, healthier days? Don’t be afraid to ask what they miss doing or what they’d like to do. They may not hear those questions very often these days.

If you get a shoulder shrug or an “I don’t know,” then be ready to say, “Sunday looks nice so we’ll go for a picnic.” You may get some resistance but if it seems like simple inertia, just say with a smile that it would make you very happy if they’d do this for you. If a loved one truly doesn’t want to be part of an activity, try whittling down your expectations and suggesting something less strenuous.

As mentioned above, during any of these activities monitor your loved one for dehydration and heat issues if the weather is warm, or chilliness if it’s cool. Older bodies don’t adjust to temperature changes as well as younger ones. Be prepared with sun hats and hooded windbreakers. Also, bring water to drink and watch for fatigue.

And remember, you are doing this for pleasure, so don’t overdo anything.

Me and my besties

In Denmark, grandparents are called bedsteforældre (best parents), and I liked to call Grandma and Grandpa my bedsties, mixing in some Danglish!

My grandparents have been one of the biggest inspirations for what I do. Not only was the intergenerational relationship with them important, but they fostered my admiration and enthusiasm for many aging and older adults. Some of my first friends were ones I made just hanging out in the nursing home in my free time. The same nursing home where they both worked and served the community for many years, as well as the nearest hospital in Viborg, South Dakota.

Me and my besties

Me with my grandparents (Lillian and Warren Kuhler), at a ceremony to honor my grandfather’s outstanding community service, May 1, 2011 in Wakonda, South Dakota. They have been a huge influence on my personal and professional life, exemplifying a devotion to their family, community, and the health and well-being of all.

They were married Valentine’s Day in 1945, after having met the previous year in the hospital (Grandpa needed his appendix out, Grandma was his nurse).

Grandma's nursing uniform, on display during Wakonda's 125th celebration (July, 2010)

Grandma’s nursing uniform, on display during Wakonda’s 125th celebration (July, 2010)

He had returned to his war service and mailed her an engagement ring.

Warren and Lillian at their new house in town (my parents moved into the farm where Grandpa grew up)

Warren and Lillian at their new house in town (1982, my parents moved into the farm where Grandpa grew up a few weeks before I was born)

I grew up in the same house that my mother, Grandpa Warren, his father, George all grew up in. It was the house that my great great grandfather, August Kühler) settled when he immigrated from Wesphalia (Prussia) region of Germany.

The Kuhler Family wagon for Wakonda's 125th birthday parade (July, 2010)

The Kuhler Family wagon for Wakonda’s 125th birthday parade (July, 2010)

Grandma and Grandpa were the Parade Marshals for Wakonda's 125 birthday celebration (July, 2010)

Grandma and Grandpa were the Parade Marshals for Wakonda’s 125 birthday celebration (July, 2010)

With Grandma, at her 90th Birthday Tea Party (on the farm), May, 2011

With Grandma, at her 90th Birthday Tea Party (on the farm), May, 2011. I am wearing one of her dresses from the 70s

Warren and Lillian's 68th Wedding Anniversary, Valentine's Day, 2013

Warren and Lillian’s 68th Wedding Anniversary with 68 red roses, Valentine’s Day, 2013

Unfortunately, they both passed away this time last year (April/May, 2013). Grandma died the day I submitted my PhD thesis on technologies to support dementia care, and Grandpa died a month later and was buried on his 91st birthday (the day after what would have been Grandma’s 92nd).

Over the past few years, Grandpa had several TIA strokes (mini-strokes) and was showing signs of dementia, as well as general physical aging. It’s one thing to work with other people with dementia and to study it, but it hits you square in the core when it is your own family.

One of the reasons I enjoy working with dementia, is that I get to see the person for who they are when I meet them for the first time – I don’t have an entire family history of what they “used” to be, and it gives a unique perspective to value an individual in their present state.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my grandparents – I am one lucky granddaughter to have enjoyed being so close with them for 31 years.