The Dementia Caretaker’s Dilemma: Sleeplessness and Our Family’s Solution
By Lisa M. Cini
We all know how miserable life can be without a good night’s sleep. Sleep is especially important when there’s a lack of sunshine. Given how much time we spend inside during the winter (up to 90% of our day some studies say), we could all use more sunshine and/or shuteye. Sunshine kicks off our circadian rhythm which is what sets our body clock to enable us to sleep well at night. When we don’t have enough sun or sleep, we can feel depressed, anxious, excessively tired or irritable. I’m sure your family can elaborate on that the last one if you’ve ever been really sleep deprived.
The reality in my house right now is this – a colicky baby, only 100 times worse. How is that possible you say? Well, the 5’6”, 135 lb. sleepless woman I’m speaking of can’t hear very well and has dementia. My normally beautiful and pleasant 96-year-old grandmother lives with me, and right now, she isn’t sleeping.
Our house, in which lives myself, my husband, two kids, my parents, and my grandmother has become like the Russian sleep experiment in the 1940’s where they see how long you can stay awake before going crazy. Its 11pm and my grandmother been up for almost 62 hours. She thinks we are lying to her about her grandsons, who are in actuality my brothers; she keeps telling me that something is horribly wrong with them and pleads with me to tell her. I’m worn out, my husband is exhausted, my parents are teetering on sleep deprived and my beautiful, kind, classy grandmother has become a mean, paranoid, delusional night walker.
This isn’t the typical sundowning episode that causes many people’s dementia symptoms to worsen with decreased light in the afternoon or evening. This is new, 3-day night walking event is the third since Thanksgiving.
Things run pretty smooth and my mother is the primary caregiver for my grandmother.
Before these episodes began, things ran pretty smoothly with my mother as the primary caregiver for my grandmother. However, in the last few months, things have become sad and extremely challenging for everyone in our house. I never imagined that I would consider sending my grandmother to a memory care home, especially one in the price range we could afford; but, during this third incident, the thought more than just crossed my mind.
I keep thinking of my grandma and reminding myself how wonderful she has always been to all of us. It’s particularly tough to witness what seems like some evil that has taken over her body. At this point I’ll do just about anything to get my grandmother or our lives back.
Enter, the MIRACLE. Recently, I attended a futurist tech conference in LA and was introduced to a gadget that helped our family go from being an Agatha Christy novel with people scheming how to get rid of grandma (to put your mind at ease, no murder was ever spoken about), to being a story of divine intervention, where the clouds of confusion, paranoia and irritation were lifted and best of all, we all returned to sleeping 8 hours per night.
This fairy-tale gadget looks like an Ipod with ear buds. Instead of music though, light is pulsed for 12 minutes into the ear and reaches the skull. This kicks off the circadian cycle and resets the body clock promoting a normal sleep schedule.
The research behind this miracle device is so solid physicians have begun using it to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), jet lag and elite athletes with chronic sleep issues. While all those uses are impressive, nothing is more so than the fact that since we started using the device, my grandmother has slept through the night, every night!! This little light device has taken our lives from miserable to magical.
If you would like to learn more about how to sleep better or help someone you love to sleep better click here. My hope is that no one will ever have to experience what our family did this holiday and I’d bet you don’t have to with use of this simple tech gadget that can change life for the better.
5 Reasons for Older Adults to Update Their Tech Skills
Learning new technologies can be daunting, and at times may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. But as members of the Baby Boomer generation reach retirement age, there are plenty of good reasons to make sure they’re up to date on the latest technology.
The good news? It doesn’t have to be difficult. Scott Moody, who’s been developing technology specifically designed for seniors with the company he founded, K4Connect, disputes the common perception that older adults are uncomfortable with technology, and says he has the data to back it up.
“What they don't like is tech designed for 25-year-olds with bigger fonts,” Moody said. “I actually find that the premise that older adults don't like technology is the fault of the people designing the technology.”
K4Connect’s first product is a comprehensive software platform for senior living communities that allows community residents to turn on lights, adjust the heat in their apartment, lock doors, track their health and communicate with neighbors.
The platform integrates other technologies that would be difficult for older adults to install and learn individually, but collectively can be even more useful for them than for younger folks, Moody says.
Tech for independent living
Moody points out that a lot of products currently available might be marketed toward younger people, but could be even more useful for older adults and seniors. For example, a wireless doorbell and lock may be appealing for a younger, healthier person who just doesn’t want to get off the couch, but for an older adult with mobility issues, it could be crucial.
“That really provides utility, it's not just a matter of convenience,” Moody says. This type of technology could lower the risk of a fall or injury, for example. “The whole bevy of home automation products really provides a lot of demonstrable value to the people we serve,” he says.
Many of these kinds of “smart home” products don’t even represent a high-tech upgrade, and are easily available at hardware stores and drug stores.
Other convenience-centered technology solutions could be crucial to seniors as well. Delivery services like Instacart and Postmates may be appealing to people who don’t feel like going grocery shopping, but a boon for seniors who find it difficult or exhausting.
Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft can allow seniors to run errands even when they find driving difficult, and some designed specifically for seniors have even cropped up recently.
Many older adults, particularly those with mobility issues, tend to become increasingly isolated from friends and family with age. Learning technology can offer way to stay connected even if they’re unable to leave the house as much, Moody says.
But, he points out, some of the prominent social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter aren’t necessarily useful for this kind of connection. “We're not trying to keep the older adults’ faces glued to the information all the time,” Moody said. “Digital connection fosters personal connection.”
For example, Moody says, in senior living communities, internal communication tools can help residents stay connected with each other on a local level. Also, if friends and family are unable to visit often, they can keep in touch via communication tools like video calls, so they’re not already up to date on what’s happening with their loved one when they are able to show up.
Such strong social engagements can help keep people happier and healthier. An active social life is important for happiness and “your happiness plays directly to your health,” Moody says.
Lisa Cini, the owner of Mosaic Design Studio, which designs senior living community interiors, points out that technology can also be useful in tracking health data, which is great for younger people trying to keep track of their exercise, but even more important later in life.
Apps for smart phones and connected watches that track baseline health data have become more popular in recent years, which can help seniors keep an eye on their health data or give them a nudge to stay in shape, Cini said.
“The main device I recommend is an FDA-approved EKG monitor that pairs with your smart phone to give you insights on heart health – this is a literal lifesaver in that it can predict an impending heart attack,” she says.
Another new device available is a sugar monitor, which can be helpful for making better dietary choices, particularly for those who may have a chronic condition like diabetes that necessitates strict diet.
Qi'Anne Knox, who tutors through the Varsity Tutors platform, says that with a little help, older adults can start whole new careers in technology. The Varsity Learning platform is an interactive application that allows enrollees to share work with tutors and chat over video.
Knox says she tutored one Baby Boomer named Mark, who left the U.S. Marine Corps after 17 years to pursue a new position as an engineer with AT&T. But he found himself at a technical disadvantage in his new job and lacked the skills, particularly computer programming skills, that would be necessary to advance.
He was a quick study, Knox says. “Mark was amazed by the things he could accomplish with technology and truly enjoyed learning new skills,” she said. “With every assignment, Mark became more confident in his work and was excited to share it with others.”
While she doesn’t think that everyone needs to learn computer programming in their work, keeping up on tech skills is important to compete in today’s work environment. Knox emphasizes the importance of mastering operating systems and basic professional software like Microsoft Office.
Continuing education doesn’t have to be about professional advancement, though. In fact, lifelong learning in itself can be hugely beneficial for older adults: keeping their minds active can help them stay healthy.
Furthermore, knowledge of the world can help keep older adults more confident and functional with age, Cini points out.
“I highly recommend podcasts and blogs as an easy means of checking in on the latest and greatest or learning about a particular topic that you encountered and found confusing,” she says.
Senior tech, at your service?
As the growing shortage of personnel to work in nursing homes and home care becomes more real, the new mantra of the longevity economy is that technology will be an acceptable substitute. Is there a solution that fits the needs and preferences across all our current age cohorts; Boomers, the Silent Generation and the remaining Greatest Generation? Never before in history have there been three generations over 60 alive and still kicking it. The cloak of AI wizardry is supposed to cover the needs of all seniors staying in their own homes as well as those in assisted living and skilled care. Especially for the boomer generation the beat is supposed to go on one new technology addition at a time. Listening to the patronizing approach of these entrepreneurs can become very annoying.
In my research for the week, I ran across a quote I would like to dissect. “Technology is the new assisted living,” says Lisa Cini. Cini, has been designing assisted living facilities for some 25 years. Her book is coming out this week: BOOM: The Baby Boomers Guide to Leveraging Technology. The book is advertised as how to save 40,000 to 120,000 dollars a year by tech-ing up instead of moving to assisted living.
It would seem she is a bit cross wise of herself as the main part of her resume is designing spaces for senior living, long-term care, and health care institutions. I guess there is only so much market for those luxury lofts with headed bidets. I am sure that the price point of these ideal senior spaces are already way off most people’s financial radar. And there is of course, a retail website that has all the usual suspects like pill organizers and amplification for the phone and basic assistive devices. The products on the website did help with my constant quest for t show me something I do not already know about. More later after I read and review the book.
So back to the question can technology well thought out and well placed keep people at home longer? Of course. If you are more tech oriented to start with, you can grow gently into even more sophisticated devices. If you reject technology and do not want to struggle with learning it you will be at an even bigger disadvantage. If having are okay with remote doctor visits, and you do not balk at having alarms and monitoring devices and your idea of a companion is 5 lbs of fur and wiring that purrs, then you have all that to look forward to.
Something is missing here. Get older, add tech, end up being monitored by your closest concerned relation from a distance or be dependent on the kindness and reliability of a local contracted service. Eighty percent of those over 60 are actually still living in their homes now and the surveys show eighty to ninety percent are hoping to stay at home. Add to that fact the demographics pointing to more than 46% of people over the age of 75 living alone in another decade. Yes, hopefully advancing technology will help us stay connected, feel safer and not get lost in the deadly wilderness of social isolation. But we will need more than sensors that tell what is going wrong or an artificial voice to tell us to keep our appointments.
AGING IN PLACE THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
Why and how technology is helping more people stay in their homes longer and age in place.
"Technology is the new assisted living," says Lisa Cini.
Cini, who has been designing assisted living facilities for some 25 years, is also the author of the forthcoming book, BOOM: The Baby Boomers Guide to Leveraging Technology, and founder of the retail website, Best Living Tech.
Through her firm, Mosaic Design Studio, Cini's mission is to create comfortable and functional spaces for senior living, long-term care, and health care institutions across the country.
But Cini acknowledges that most people would much prefer to age in place—living in their own home.
Indeed, according to Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging In Place Technology Watch, 80 percent of older adults today do live in their own homes, with one-third of those 65 and over and more than 46 percent of those 75 and older living alone.
The desire for independence and the sense of well-being that comes from living in familiar surroundings are driving forces in wanting to age in place, but safety and security issues are significant causes for concern, both for older adults and their family members.
To allay those fears and meet the needs of seniors and their caregivers, investment in the mature market is increasing, especially in the field of technology. The recent Consumer Electronics Show, sponsored by the Consumer Technology Association, featured senior-friendly technology, including
• Watches that offer a professionally-monitored personal emergency response system
• Wireless earbuds that evaluate the user's hearing
• Artificial intelligence platforms with such features as motion- and fall-detection
• Robots that can schedule and coordinate activities, such as family get-togethers, medical appointments and social activities
• Home security cameras with facial recognition software, so homeowners can create a gallery of trusted
• The Sleep Number 360™ smart bed from Sleep Number Corporation (NASDAQ:
SNBR), which gives a glimpse into the future of health and wellness by doing everything from identifying and warning of a heart
attack to detecting sleep apnea. The bed's biometric sleep tracking technology and comprehensive sleep database are laying the foundation for an effortless sleep and health platform.
“We envision a future where higher quality sleep transforms consumers' health and wellness," said Shelly Ibach, Sleep Number president and chief executive officer. “Sleep Number's 360 smart bed's robust SleepIQ technology platform integrates sleep science, sophisticated biometrics, and artificial intelligence to provide effortless adjustability and tangible improvements to their health."
Apps for caregivers can provide well-being updates, help manage care, and send alerts if the sensor picks up on changes in activity or eating patterns.
Innovation in senior-living technology is not stopping there. Research institutions like the MIT AgeLab and the Oregon Center for Aging & Technology are challenging technology developers and entrepreneurs to develop solutions and products that will transform the landscape of senior care.
Home monitoring devices and software, for example, will be able to relay your vital signs to your doctor. Skype will no longer just be a convenient way to see the grandkids, but will connect patients to their health care professional, helping them avoid an expensive or inconvenient office visit.
"Technology is giving us the confidence and security to remain in our homes as we age, which is what most of us want to do," says Cini.
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How to DESIGN for Health, Independence, & Successful Aging w. Lisa Cini
How to DESIGN for Health, Independence, & Successful Aging
Ever wonder the WHY behind some of the spaces we inhabit? Wonder HOW those spaces can influence our quality of life?
Meet Lisa Cini, a Transformational Living Expert. She's helped create many facilities, building, and spaces with the goal of improving the quality of life of others. She has an amazing perspective that I know you will enjoy!
• http://www.bestlivingtech.com/ (Use the coupon code: "rehab10")
143: Lisa Cini – Designing for More than One Generation
Too often the elderly are shifted off to be someone else’s responsibility when they can no longer live on their own. Nursing homes, assisted living and memory care are popping up all over and frequent the news for abuses and lack of care. Not all are bad yet how do you decide the best course of action when a loved one can no longer be on their own?
My guest on this episode designs multigenerational spaces for families that choose to take care of three or more generations at home. She also designs spaces for facilities that care for the elderly, restaurants, sports teams and more. My favorite part– her four generation family is her test bed.
If you want to learn how to make multi-generational living work for your own loved ones, you will not want to miss this episode. Lisa shares successes, perils, pitfalls and a few things anyone can do to begin making a house work when you have older members in your home.
Lisa M. Cini is the Founder, President and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio. A global commercial design, project management and procurement company, Mosaic’s mission is to “Improve Quality of Life By Design.”
Lisa has the ability to take the complex and make it simple, as well as repeatable. By harnessing this ability, the award winning company has expanded 149% over the past three years.
Under Lisa’s leadership, Mosaic has dedicated itself to meeting clients’ needs, while upholding their mission, vision and values. She has helped a diverse clientele has meet with success on far-reaching projects, and among them are: The top global senior living operators, The United States Air Force, The United States Navy, the National Hockey League, Coopers Hawk Winery and The OhioHealth Hospital System.
Combining her business savvy with her wide-ranging creativity has brought Lisa into the publishing world. Her newest book, Hive: The Simple Guide to Multigenerational Living How Our Family Makes it Work is Lisa’s personal account of how her family has designed a home in which 4-
Generations live together and lead productive, happy and healthy lives, even as the eldest member of the family struggles with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. She just launched www.BestLivingTech.com in which she curates the best products to Embrace Living as we age. Think Sharper Image meets AARP!
Lisa is also the author of 2016’s THE FUTURE IS HERE: Senior Living Reimagined, as well as many articles. She has received numerous awards, which span multiple industries. A sought-after speaker, Lisa has been featured on radio and TV; recently, she appeared on Today in America with Terry Bradshaw.
This spring Lisa will release her 3rd book BOOM The Baby Boomers Guide to Leveraging Technology, so that You Can Preserve Your Independent Lifestyle & Thrive pre-release has already made #1 on Amazon Kindle in 4 countries!
Lisa is regarded as the leading Alzheimer’s and long-term care design expert in the nation, and has been recognized for her contributions in the field. Though appreciative of the recognition for her work, Lisa is most gratified by helping people who are struggling with Alzheimer’s, find ways to cope as individuals, as families, and as communities.
Lisa Cini has an enduring passion to learn from the best and create change where she sees the need, and when she’s applied this passion to the field of interior design, she has helped redefine it.
A resident of Columbus, Ohio, Lisa supports her community through her dedication to volunteer work. She believes that we are all here to add value to this world using our God-given talents and treasures.
Mother’s Day Gifts Guide 4! Such an appreciation of beauty and values! Such an ethical and responsible person!
Sharper Image meets AARP For boomer moms, mom in laws, grandmas and great grandmas:
Lisa Cini, award-winning, designer and founder of BestLivingTech: think Sharper Image meets AARP, searches the world for the best products to embrace living as we age and brings them all together for boomers. Here are her top picks for boomer moms, mom in laws, grandmas and great grandmas:
Companion cats, tabby and silver with white mitts and companion pup made by Hasbro, bring Joy, comfort, and companionship and fun for your elder loved ones. With realistic fur, purrs and meows – and sensors that respond to petting and hugs with familiar, cat-like actions – Companion Pets deliver a soothing, joyful experience that inspires smiles, laughter and fond memories for people of all ages.
Simple LCD screens clearly display time, date, etc. with no abbreviations. Helps differentiate between day and night. Unique clocks are designed to help people living with Dementia or Early Stage Alzheimer’s, who often lose the ability to distinguish between days of the week and cycles of the day. It displays the Day of the Week along with either MORNING, AFTERNOON, EVENING or NIGHT.
Lisa helps baby boomers age at home, rather than in a home. Her 3 books are:
BOOM: The Baby Boomers Guide to Leveraging Technology, so that you can Preserve Your Independent Lifestyle & Thrive, The Future is Here: Senior Living Reimagined, Hive: The Simple Guide to Multigenerational Living is based on her social experiment of living in a 4-generation household and the positive impact design can have in a home for seniors with dementia.
Successful Multigenerational Living
Most of have heard our parents talk about the days when Grandma and Grandpa lived upstairs and young adults didn’t leave home until they married – some bringing their spouse back home again. In the post-war baby boom, it became fashionable to move away from the “old neighborhood” into the new houses being built in the suburbs. This left older people aging alone in cities while young people built their families in pretty neighborhoods with big yards and brand new schools.
Culturally, not a lot had changed since then – young people left home earlier, older people were aging in their own homes – until the financial crisis and recession of 2008. Then, for the first time in decades, the numbers of families living multi-generationally began to rise. And that continues. Each generation is adapting to life stage changes, like launching careers later for young people, taking care of older family members for people at middle age, and the desire to age in one’s own home for elders.
Lisa M. Cini wrote the book Hive: The Simple Guide to Multigenerational Living – How Our Family Makes It Work, in 2017, to describe her family’s journey to creating their own “hive.” So much more than a how-to, Cini takes us on the journey of conceiving, planning, building, and “doing life” as a four-generation family. She is an award-winning designer, with more than 25 years of experience designing for senior living. Still, she honestly admits she had much to learn in this process of designing their home, especially as her grandmother developed dementia early in the process.
The Simple Guide is full of practical tips for making this lifestyle work – from designing spaces to figuring out how to control the home’s thermostat to keep everyone happy. It is also filled with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, like her city-bred husband’s decision to become a bee-keeper (a successful experiment) and then bringing home baby chicks to live in the guest suite.
Even vacations are family affairs, as the Cini’s traveled to Japan together when grandmother was 86. One of the trip highlights – the bidet seats on all of the toilets! When the multigenerational experiment was designed, Cini decided to put these toilet seats in all of the bathrooms. While the reasons were practical – allowing her grandmother older the dignity of taking care of her toileting and relieving her mom of that responsibility – the chapter is filled with anecdotes.
“I remember with absolute clarity (and delight) the first time my father, a combination of Robert De Niro and Archie Bunker, used his bidet seat. Since he did not exactly read the manual from cover to cover, he went in and a moment later came out screaming he had a ‘G.D. tornado up his A.’. . .I can honestly say, I am not sure why the setting ‘Vortex’ should ever be on one of these bidet toilet seats, but my father was the lucky one to try it out.”
Even if this lifestyle isn’t for your family, it is a glimpse into the future for many of us.
The humanity and intelligence in the pages of this guide provide beautiful, profound lessons of how to live fully at every age. My favorite – “Overuse I love you.”
About Lisa M. Cini – Lisa is an award-winning, an internationally recognized designer with twenty-five years of experience developing interiors for senior living communities. Her previous work, The Future is Here: Senior Living Reimagined is about technology that will change senior living. Her firm, Mosaic Design Studio, is the leading provider of design services for senior living and healthcare.
Mosaic Design Studio recognized for achieving Accredited Engaged Organization
Technology should serve you as you age in place
Check out the latest interview in The Beacon Newspaper to hear the latest from Lisa, one of the nation’s experts on designing functional and comfortable spaces for senior living.
Full article can be found here.
BOOM to Launch Today!
So excited for BOOM to launch today! Please help me out and pre-purchase the kindle version for 99 Cents.
Click here to check out BOOM!
What's Hot: Trends in the Pipeline for 2018
Fantastic interview with Lisa Cini on trends for the new year. Read more to find out what is coming up in 2018.
Full of Life at Vista Springs
Mosaic Design Studio has been featured in Properties Magazine, the leading Real Estate, Construction, and Architectural publication in Northeastern Ohio.
Check out the article and why Mosaic is the leading edge in senior living.
Life in the Hive: A Multigenerational Experiment at Home
Below is a can’t-miss article about Lisa sharing her life, her family and designing a home with every detail and family member in mind. Continue reading for an insightful journey through a life in the hive.
Neuroplasticity and its impact on senior living