Category / Alzheimers Dementia

Get by with a little help from Presbyterian SeniorCare Network

November 26, 2018

Get by with a little help from Presbyterian SeniorCare Network
Alzheimer’s support services are available across our Network

Alzheimer's disease is life-changing for both those who are diagnosed and those close to them. Having a helping hand when you need it is key to keeping yourself, and your loved one living with dementia, healthy and happy. When you need a little help or an ear to listen, support services are available.

Support groups

Often times, caregivers say they are looking for support from people who "really understand because they've been there." An Alzheimer's Support Group offers just that – a place for caregivers, family and friends of persons with dementia to meet and develop a support system.

Support groups offer a place to:

  • Exchange information on caregiving problems and solutions
  • Talk through challenges and ways of coping
  • Share feelings, needs and concerns

Presbyterian SeniorCare Network, in affiliation with the Alzheimer’s Association, holds support group meetings in various locations:

We hope you'll join us! 

Pet Therapy Brings Smiles!

November 21, 2018

When the pets visit, our residents light up and smile from ear to ear! Who doesn’t love doggie kisses, soft fur and a few barks? Pet therapy happens about once a week at Woodside Place of Oakmont, and the residents sure look forward to it.

We have many pets that visit Woodside Place, but some of our furry friends are registered therapy dogs. As soon as one of our therapy dogs enter the building, the residents begin interacting; approaching the dogs to pet them and talk to them. Residents who are quiet often begin speaking, sharing stories of a pet they once had. And let’s not forget our team members—they love pet interactions as well. Visits have helped start conversation and create special bonds and good memories.

Also, the pet therapy sessions have physical and therapeutic benefits for our residents. If a resident needs more exercise in their day, they will get it by walking a dog; we’ve found that residents are much more willing to move around if they are walking with a furry friend! 

If a resident needs help with fine motor movements, we give the resident a small brush and have them brush a dog.

Plus, therapy animals offer stress relief! Residents enjoy relaxing in their favorite chair with an animal on their lap to pet.

Pet therapy has had a positive impact on the residents and team members at Woodside Place, and we look forward to having more pets visit in the future.

Committing to Memory

November 21, 2018

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Is it time for you to talk to your doctor about Alzheimer’s?

If there’s one thing that worries seniors, it’s the prospect of developing signs of dementia. These fears prompt many to visit websites that claim to provide online tests for Alzheimer’s disease.

While these Internet tests may do a good job of presenting their material in an understandable and usable way, research reveals them to be ineffective for diagnosing Alzheimer’s. According to a study presented at a recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, online Alzheimer tests are inaccurate, unscientific and unethical.  Don’t waste your time or money on online tests that may only make you more anxious about your memory issues!

A battery of tests and expert interpretation are required to make an accurate diagnosis. If you have concerns about your memory, it may be time to talk to your doctor about Alzheimer’s testing. Your doctor can tell you for sure whether your memory issues are related to Alzheimer’s or dementia.  And if you do have Alzheimer’s, there may be medications that can slow the progression of the disease. 

For more information about Alzheimer’s, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website  or tap into our additional Senior Experience here.  

Are you a Caregiver? Take time to caring for yourself!

November 20, 2018

Caring for a loved one with dementia can include helping with chores, medication, bathing and grooming. As the disease progresses, your loved one relies on you even more. This hard work can take a toll on care partners.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about three out of four people report feeling concerned about maintaining their own health, and their work and social lives are usually also affected. Being an effective care partner for your loved one means also taking better care of yourself.

Fortunately, there are national and community resources available to find support and advice:

Excellence in Dementia Care

November 19, 2018

As a leader in dementia care for more than 25 years, Presbyterian SeniorCare Network is recognized as a Dementia Care Center of Excellence. In 1991, we set the standard when we introduced our cutting-edge residential community, Woodside Place of Oakmont, which has been replicated more than 100 times nationally and internationally. From Woodside Place, we developed the Woodside model and philosophy of care—standards and best practices that solidify the specialized expertise and commitment to excellence in dementia care that we have across our Network.

Recognizing that a majority of older adults may experience some level of cognitive impairment over time, our organization invests consistently in training and education for all of our team members. In fact, each team member at every level of our organization is certified in dementia care through the National Alzheimer’s Association at the time of hire. Additional in-depth training is provided annually for team members who provide direct care for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. We have more than 70 team members who are certified dementia care practitioners that our front-line team members can call upon for even greater support and expertise.

We continue to explore new ways to enhance the lives of persons living with dementia. We have spearheaded a unique collaboration to demonstrate the therapeutic benefits and positive outcomes that can be achieved through rehabilitation therapies for persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. A world-renowned gerontology expert and one of our trusted advisors, Steven Zarit, PhD, will be overseeing this research project, which will be a joint effort between our Rehabilitation Center of Excellence and our Dementia Care Center of Excellence.

Woodside Place: The Capstone of a Tradition of Innovation

November 16, 2018

Presbyterian SeniorCare Network has had many pioneering moments in the 27 years since it established Woodside Place of Oakmont, a groundbreaking new model of dementia care.  Not only was Woodside Place one of the nation’s first residential care communities designed specifically to meet the needs of older adults living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, but it was the foundation of the person-centered culture and care model that is part of the fabric of Presbyterian SeniorCare Network today.

When the original leadership team visited a unique residential Alzheimer’s facility in England in the late 1980s, they returned to the United States even more determined to create a compassionate environment that would be in complete contrast with the regimented institutional models prevalent at the time. With grant support from several local foundations, we enlisted the help of Pittsburgh dementia expert Judith Saxton, PhD.

“Dr. Saxton became a trusted adviser right from the start and her input was invaluable to our programming, design and evaluation of the original resident population,” says Jim Pieffer, senior vice president of Presbyterian SeniorCare Network and a member of the leadership team that made the trip to England 30 years ago. “We were really breaking new ground in dementia care, so we relied heavily on Dr. Saxton’s expertise.”

Dr. Saxton had made a name for herself in the cognitive disorders of aging field while on staff at the University of Pittsburgh and later at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC). Her career-defining achievement occurred while working with us on the design of Woodside Place.  Dr. Saxton developed the Severe Impairment Battery (SIB), a group of tests that made it possible to evaluate dementia patients as their skills declined. It was significant not only in its use as an evaluation tool in the clinical setting, but also as a pharmaceutical measurement in the development of one of the earliest drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Francois Boller, MD, PhD, former director of the ADRC and Dr. Saxton’s supervisor and collaborator, “Judy led a team that devised a battery of tests for people who are much more severely impaired. Until then, there was no way of quantifying people with severe dementia. Her test was very simple. You talk to the person, see if the person pays attention to you, and show them some simple items, such as a cup, a knife. You see if the person can use them, can recognize colors. The beauty is that it is universal—every culture has these items—so the test can be used in any country. The SIB test has been translated into many languages and is still in use today worldwide.”

The SIB test also was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the Woodside Place model and confirmed that the model truly was improving the quality of care for the residents. “She also created a tool that allowed us to measure residents’ strengths as well as their limitations, because it was important for Woodside Place staff to know each resident’s capabilities and focus on preserving them as much as possible,” says Anna Scott, who was the original dementia services coordinator at Woodside Place. “It allowed us to give families some positive news and not just report their family member’s decline.”

We are grateful for the groundbreaking work that created Woodside Place.  It spawned a new person-centered care model, which set the standard for dementia care. In 2016, for the 25th anniversary of Woodside Place, we honored Dr. Saxton with the Samuel K. McCune Award for Distinguished Service.  Dr. Saxton has now retired from the University of Pittsburgh but continues to be involved in aging research as a consultant to a number of dementia studies around the world.

Enhancing Worship and Services for All

November 15, 2018

Worship and faith in our dementia communities is strong; just because memories are fading, that doesn’t mean that our residents cannot engage in worship.

At our Oakmont campus, Reverend Susan Blank, director of pastoral care, adapts worship for our residents living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Susan says, “Many of the residents find the hymns familiar, and because music is one of the last things our residents living with dementia are able to hold onto, we do a lot of singing. For those who still like to follow along, I have created a color-coded hymnbook. Rather than asking them to turn to a certain page number, which is often difficult, I ask them to turn to the yellow page or the green page. Colors are easier, which makes worship more fulfilling.”

Read on to learn about Susan’s first-hand experience about how worship – and hymn – can enrich the aging experience. 

No Name, No Voice, But Always Full of Purpose
A reflection submitted by Reverend Susan Blank, director of pastoral care, Oakmont campus

I had a resident living with dementia who was no longer verbal. But when he attended my worship services at Woodside Place of Oakmont, he always greeted me with a huge smile and sparkling eyes. His smile and his eyes spoke eloquently. When we sang favorite hymns, he would mouth the words. He enjoyed worship, and my work was made richer by knowing him.

Upon his death, I was asked to officiate at his funeral. As I talked with his family in preparation, I found that this man was an opera fan, and had even appeared on stage as a supernumerary (someone who appears in crowd scenes or small non-speaking or -singing parts.) In order for the opera to be believable, the supernumerary must perform well, but has no name and no voice!

This is quite a metaphor for what sometimes happens in the late stages of dementia: the person loses so much, even their voice, so we sometimes have difficulty recognizing the person they once were. But this was a man of faith, and through our faith, we are known by name and called the beloved child of God. Through our faith, our voice is heard, and we are blessed.

God tells us, “I have called you by name, and you are mine.” This became the message as we honored the life of this dear man. It was a comfort to me, as it was to the family and friends gathered that day.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: What’s the Difference?

November 14, 2018

The Difference:

Truth is, the human mind is a notoriously complex organ that controls our thinking, language, memories and more. When a person’s cognitive abilities begin to decline, there are several different (or combinations of) disorders that may be the cause, including:

  • Dementia: This is a general term for memory loss caused by physical changes in the brain that affect memory, language, problem solving and other abilities, and interfere with daily life.
  • Alzheimer’s: The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that accounts for 60-80 percent of cases. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s.
  • Vascular Dementia: Impaired judgement, decision making and motor function are often early symptoms. Brain changes of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s commonly coexist.
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB): When Lewy bodies (abnormal brain neurons) develop in the brain’s cortex, initial symptoms can be hallucinations, imbalance and sometimes, memory impairment. DLB and Alzheimer’s may also coexist.
  • Other Types of Dementia: These include frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Unfortunately, most types of dementia are progressive, meaning they advance through various, worsening stages.

The Journey Ahead

No matter what stage of dementia your loved one is in, you may feel anxious about the future. It’s important to remember that every individual— and every journey—is different. Be prepared and remember to take time to enjoy life, too!

SOURCE: Alzheimer's Association

Memory Cafés: Keeping Seniors with Dementia Out in the Community

November 13, 2018

As a faith-based nonprofit organization, we are mindful of our responsibility to serve not only the residents and families of our care communities, but the community at large. By offering outreach services, programs and initiatives that help to enrich the communities we serve, we exemplify the philosophy of being person-centered that is at the core of our Network.

Sharing a good idea

Presbyterian SeniorCare Network is participating in a good idea and expanding it to serve even more older adults with dementia in Erie, Pennsylvania, through the opening of its Memory Café.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Erie opened the area’s first Memory Café in 2014 with support from the Alzheimer’s Association’s Erie office. Held every first and third Thursday, the program has gained in popularity and draws 10 to 12 seniors and their care partners each session.

Seeing that the outings were approaching capacity, Janice Mullen, social services director and dementia coordinator of Manchester Commons, one of our Erie campuses, approached the Alzheimer’s Association to see if another Café site would help serve the community. “The answer was a resounding ‘yes,’” says Debbie Wisinski, constituent services coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Dementia can be so isolating for both the senior and the family,” Debbie says. “The Memory Cafés encourage healthy lives because they enable seniors to engage socially and be out in the community rather than just sitting inside their homes with the shades pulled.”

Memory Cafés were modeled after a concept that started in the U.K. Held at a neutral site, the Cafés offer support for seniors with dementia by engaging them and their care partners in music, games, exercises, crafts, pet therapy and other activities to stimulate the mind and the body.

Laurie Francis, a private caregiver for an 87-year-old woman living with dementia, attends the Cafés and says they have been helpful. “She was very active all her life and involved in the community when her memory issues began,” Laurie says. “The Memory Cafés keep her meeting new people, interacting socially and forming friendships. She always comes home happy afterward.”

“The Memory Cafés provide a safe haven where nobody is judged and where people can socialize with other folks just like them without stigma,” says Janice. “We get people talking to one another to stimulate bonding and memory as a mental exercise. Our goal is to provide a sense of well-being and create moments of joy in the experience.”

Presbyterian SeniorCare Network offers these Memory Cafés:

  • Erie: Wayside Presbyterian Church, 1208 Asbury Road, 2nd and 4th Tuesday, 10 a.m.
  • Oakmont: Somma Pizza, 380 Route 909, 2nd Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.
  • Washington: Eat’n Park, 320 Oak Spring Road, 3rd Saturday, 10 a.m.

Visit for more info.

6 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

November 9, 2018

Some believe that severe memory loss is a normal part of aging. This is not true. How can you tell the difference between age-related changes and Alzheimer’s disease? Here are six early signs to watch for—and what may just be age-related changes.

  1. Forgetfulness: Is recently learned information, such as today’s weather forecast, more frequently forgotten? Do you or a loved one forget important dates, locations or ask the same questions repeatedly? Age-Related: Sometimes forgetting dates or appointments but remembering them later.
  2. Problem Solving Challenges: Is following a plan or working with numbers more difficult? Is it often harder to make decisions or concentrate on doing familiar, everyday tasks, like driving to work? Age-Related: Making occasional planning or mathematical errors.
  3. Confusion with Time or Place: Do you or a loved one permanently lose track of the date or even forget where you are or how you got there? Age-Related: Losing track of the day of the week but remembering it soon.
  4. Vision Issues: Has judging distance, reading or recognizing color become an issue? Age-Related: Other visual changes, such as those related to cataracts.
  5. Trouble with Words: Is it harder to carry on conversations or find the right words for common topics when speaking or writing? Age-Related: Occasionally searching for the rights words.
  6. Personality Changes: Have you or a loved one started to avoid social activities or hobbies? Do you sometimes feel confused, suspicious, depressed or fearful? Age-Related: Sometimes avoiding social situations or wanting to do things your own way.

SOURCE: Alzheimer's Association


Return Home
Learn More Contact Us Today
Respect Experience Read More