How to connect with elderly loved ones during COVID-19

Keeping in contact with loved ones in aged care during the coronavirus

Connecting with elderly loved ones during coronavirus

In times like these, our days might feel a bit more stressed and anxious. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything on the news and get swept into a rabbit hole of COVID-19 news and speculation.

So, it is important to stop, take a breath and connect with the people we hold dear. Our friends and family are an essential support network that we can rely on.

But with aged care, this situation becomes more difficult. Older Australians are more at risk and need a high level of risk management and care. Physical contact is now being limited to stop the spread of coronavirus. Twilight Aged Care, and other aged care facilities around Australia, are locking down our homes to protect vulnerable residents from the risk of coronavirus.

So, this means we will have to connect with elderly loved ones in new ways. Luckily, there are some simple alternatives and tips for doing this.

Common alternatives to visiting:

  • Skyping or Facetiming relatives is a wonderful way to keep in contact without any risks to health. Both Skype and Facebook are free applications that are easy to use, and some aged care facilities (Twilight Aged Care included) are organizing to keep families in contact with each other through these digital services. If you would prefer to use another application, contact our home and we will accommodate the request.
  • Calling or texting is also an acceptable way to message your loved one and make sure that they are feeling alright in these trying times. This is also a method that isn’t affected by a poor internet signal (from everyone in the area working from home at once!)

Digital tips for talking to loved ones in aged care:

  • Time this like a regular visit. Set aside the time you would usually allot when visiting them in aged care.
  • Follow the usual pattern of conversation that you would use when chatting. If you usually start chatting by talking about what you had for lunch, start this one the same way. Your loved one may have become accustomed to this style of conversation. Keeping patterns will prevent confusion (especially for residents who have trouble conversing) and will create a comfortable feeling of familiarity
  • Fill people in on recent events. Call or Skype in after family events and during birthdays. It’s the little things that make us feel included and less isolated
  • Talking to loved ones with dementia is complicated even in an ordinary situation, we have some advice for that here.

Getting in contact:

People who want to get in contact, schedule weekly online chats, or explore communication options with relatives and friends at Twilight Aged Care can do so here. Call the our home to get in contact with our Concierge.

  • Glades Bay Gardens ph. 9817 0722
  • Glengarry ph. 9969 0907
  • Horton House ph. 8886 2100
  • Hunters Hill ph. 9816 1239

Our new Concierge will work directly with friends and families to assist you with your technology needs. If you wish to discuss this further, please speak with our Facility Managers.

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Talking to a Loved One With Dementia

A lot happens to our loved ones after being diagnosed with dementia.  
Difficulties in tasks and communicating trickles into every aspect of their lives, including the ability to hold ordinary, every-day conversations. You might find it harder to communicate to your loved ones, who can lose focus partway through talking to you or become confused easily. Even normal chatter can be impacted. This is a heartbreaking thing to experience. Especially since conversations are an important part of preserving our relationships with people.  

Yet there are tips to help create a positive conversational experience. This is a short guide to help you have engaging and encouraging conversations with those living with dementia. Giving them a more active role in the conversation, and socially stimulating people; an essential part of slowing the symptoms of dementia.  

People with dementia may not realize they are hungry

1. Before Talking.   

Before even engaging with someone who is living with dementia – look at the room. Take note if there is anything distracting in the area, like a television or a radio turned on. Objects that will make too much noise. Turn these off or remove them from the area. 

Consider the time as well. Ask yourself if you have enough time to spare for the conversation. Is it near lunchtime? And if so, would the person you’re about to talk to be hungry or thirsty without realising it? This could make them irritable or tired when you talk to them and spoil any attempts at conversing. If either one is lacking, maybe it would be best to have a shorter conversation.  

2. Correct body language

Ensuring that your body language is engaged and direct is important. Physically turn so you are facing them and maintain direct eye contact – this will all make sure that you look like you are giving them your full attention. Sometimes, if they are distracted, a light touch on the shoulder can get their attention. However, only do this if you are familiar with them and confident that this physical contact will not be confronting.  

Make sure that you have a light and happy facial expression. Smiling will help reassure and calm the person you are talking to, especially if they become frustrated during the conversation.  

3. Tips for talking with someone with dementia 

Using objects can help communicate with people living with dementia

One-on-one conversations are usually best when talking to a loved one with dementia. This will ensure that you have a greater chance of capturing their attention and ensuring that the conversation is manageable and understandable with time to respond. 

If you have a group conversation instead, the discussion may become complicated and hard for them to follow. Don’t put too much pressure on them to keep up with the conversation topics and ensure that you engage them every now and again. 

Talk about the things that you know they are interested in. Talk about their hobbies, and stories about their younger years – this can help to bring back happy memories and create a more engaging and cheerful conversation. Ask them the story about a photo in the room or a treasured object, the visual cue can help them orientate the chat and stimulate a pleasant memory.  

Using non-verbal cues like pointing or acting out ideas can help get conversation points across and simplify talking points. If you are prepared, you could bring along a photo album to stimulate conversation or a familiar toy from earlier years. However, common objects in the room can serve a similar purpose.  

Speak clearly and slowly, with pauses at the end of sentences so that your loved one can fully process what you are saying. Do not raise your voice or yell at them if you think they are being slow to respond, sometimes they may need time to think about a reply. 

Using closed-ended questions is also better for engagement. For example, asking someone, “would you like a cheese sandwich for lunch?” is better than asking, “what do you want for lunch?”. The simpler version of the question makes it easier to engage with a person living with dementia who may find the latter question too open-ended and complex.  

4. Things to avoid doing

Avoid using the discussion as a test of how far spread their dementia is. This will put pressure on the performance of the conversation and create tension that they will be able to feel. This is a chat and not an interrogation. 

Realise that there will be good and bad days when talking to a loved one with dementia. Sometimes they not be very responsive or engaged with the conversation, and there is nothing you can do about that.  

Stick to one idea at a time when talking, and if you are discussing a complex topic, talk about it in smaller segments. Maybe try using the names of places and people instead of pronouns like “he” and “she” to clarify things better. Avoid using slang or turns of phrase. People who are living with dementia tend to regard these are literal and become confused. 

It is also important that you refrain from correcting them if they get a fact or remember something wrong. Instead, use this to engage with them. For example, instead of saying “You stopped working at the hospital years ago, remember?” engage and say, “Tell me more about your work”. Correcting them may result in your loved one becoming further confused or frustrated with the conversation, and the aim is to retain a light and encouraging talk. 

If you want more information on communicating with someone living with dementia, Alzheimer’s Society is a great source.

Knowing when your home isn’t for you: Lola talks about ‘Downsizing’

Lola Voss found downsizing to an independent living unit greatly increased her independence.

No one would believe that Lola is 90 years old. She has great energy and a lively, welcoming personality.

Which is why being diagnosed with macular degeneration was such a disruption to her lifestyle. Her fading eyesight meant that she had trouble living by herself, reading phone books and following recipes. She also found that maintaining her four-bedroom house was getting harder and harder.

In this time of difficulty Lola left her home and moved into the independent living units which are part of Twilight’s Hunters Hill Village. These are self-contained full size apartments operated by Twilight Aged Care that allow residents a free and easy style of living.

Lola Voss’s move to Hunters Hill is part of a growing trend of older Australians ‘downsizing’. Where people are finding their houses are too large to maintain or do not suit their lifestyle anymore, they move ‘down’ into smaller and more manageable homes without the maintenance. With Sydney’s expensive property market, selling and downsizing is a financially viable option. According to Real Estate View Australia, there is a “growing trend seeing Australians aged 50-59 selling their large, family sized homes to move into smaller, more luxurious dwellings in more desirable areas”.

Lola says that moving to a smaller home was not a financial decision, but an aspirational choice. She feels more independent in her new home. The apartment does not need the vast amount of upkeep that her four-bedroom home required and now she has more time to do what she wants. She can cook for herself, go shopping with her daughter-in-law, and relax listening to Talkback radio.

“Twilight really looks after you”, Lola says. It is easy for her to arrange for the on-site kitchen to provide a meal when she feels tired. There are personal alarms available for immediate attention. Staffs often do routine checks on the condition of the unit, making sure that appliances are functional, and residents are comfortable. And there is more to look forward to as Hunters Hill Village is building a new cafe on its grounds. This will give Lola the opportunity to grab a coffee in the morning and have a community space on her doorstep to meet with friends and family.

If you have friends, family or neighbours that want to know more about the Hunters Hill Village Retirement Living have questions or would like to arrange a tour, please call Helene Francois on 0404 805 865.

Twilight’s Traditional Brandy Custard

Is the Christmas season over? Yes.

Does that mean we have to stop eating delicious, custard-covered food? Absolutely not!

This recipe is perfect for those wanting to keep the Christmas spirit going for that little bit longer.

It’s a resident favourite from the Twilight kitchen and is often prepared by Ramina, one of the chefs who works in each of our four homes. It’s a treat you can enjoy all year round.

Ingredients

  • 185 thickened cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour
  • 60ml brandy

Let’s get started!

Method

  • Step 1

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a gentle simmer. Remove from heat.

  • Step 2

Use a balloon whisk to whisk together egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl until pale and creamy. Gradually whisk in milk mixture. Return to pan.

  • Step 3

Place over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens and coats back of spoon. Make sure that it does not boil or else it will curdle the mixture. Remove from heat. Stir in the brandy. Serve warm on top of your favourite pudding.

The elderly and sexuality: Keeping it sexy.

Sexuality is a crucial part of ageing.

There are a lot of stereotypes about the elderly being beyond sexuality and the need to feel attractive. But this could not be further from the truth.

Sexuality is a large part of who we are as people, and this doesn’t stop as we get older.

Reinforcing someone’s sexuality in their later years is very important. It is crucial to give women the option to feel pretty, and men to feel handsome. Make sure that they feel seductive and desirable. And allow them to become the silver foxes and vixens that they truly are.

However, in carer situations, the ability for older people to express themselves in these ways become limited. It is up to carers and family members to acknowledge the elderly as people who should have the opportunity to have a sexual identity.

WHY BEING SEXY IS IMPORTANT

Sexuality is critical for people to retain a positive sense of identity and self-value. It is a basic human need to feel good about ourselves. It is important to look and feel glamorous – to be a little bit sensuous.

Many elderly people are single. Some with partners who have passed on, and a large percentage of those entering aged care who do not have a partner. Many older Australians are seeking a romantic interest within their local community or care facility.

So a nice hair cut now and then, or a good shave, shows that they are still out there and looking for love. Ensure people have the option to put on nice jewelry. Buy a tailored outfit. Go shopping. Let them choose their own clothing for an expression of style.

Simple activities like this allow the elderly a better quality of life, a better sense of personal identity and healthier interpersonal relationships.

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEXUALITY

As odd as it sounds, it is important to talk to older people about their sex life and sexuality. Having an open communication about their wants and needs will help you address anything troubling them or look at things that they could be missing. It shows that you are respecting them. Recognise sex and sexuality as something meaningful and important in their lives.


Ensure the elderly have means to show their sexuality.

Discuss it with other people – like friends and family – to normalise the conversation and create a greater awareness.

Some quick tips for talking with residents about sexiness and their sex lives:

  • Start on general topics and process gently to specific subjects of sexuality
  • Use open ended questions which encourage responses
  • Be non-judgmental
  • Respect responses
  • Be receptive to clues

Yes. We do have to acknowledge that it will be a little strange at first. But starting these conversations like these will have a big impact on their everyday lives.

The ability for the elderly to present themselves sexually in their day-to-day life is an essential part of people’s identity but is often ignored.

If you want to read more about this topic, then I would recommend the following by HelloCare and Mental Health.org.

Fundraiser Run by Residents a Huge Success!

One attendee is very excited to have won a raffle prize given away on the night.

Twilight Aged Cares own residents were behind the success of the company’s 2nd Annual Art Exhibition and Cocktail Party. The exhibition displayed a large collection of works include oil paintings and smaller watercolours that were auctioned off silently during the night. Gregory and Carr kindly donated the raffle prizes on the night. All of the proceeds from the evening went to support creative programs and art therapy held for those living in the residential homes. The exhibition itself solely featured art from the Twilight community, including those living at Hunters Hill and Horton House. The residents hosted and organised the event, and raised $3,730 – the most successful art auction yet!

Liz Matthews, a resident at Glades Bay Gardens and one of the Art Committee members, spoke on the evening. Liz said that she, “always looked forward to it every morning”. The morning art therapy program provides a place of self-expression for the residents as well as providing an opportunity to challenge them cognitively and technically.

The Twilight Art Committee pictured here in all their glory!

Numerous members of the local community attended the night, as well as friends and families of the residents. It created a great community atmosphere with volunteers from local schools and as well as students from the University of NSW coming in and supporting the event.

So many fabulous art pieces on display in the exhibition

According to Julianne Walker, Twilight’s volunteer and project coordinator, the annual art exhibition brought the Twilight family together. The exhibition was the combined efforts of all the Twilight homes, so it provided a “sense of community” for everyone involved.

Select artworks from the exhibition are now proudly decorating the homes in a permanent in-house collection.

We look forward to seeing where this exhibition will go in 2020!

The Importance of Nutrition for Older Australians

A look into how nutrition for older Australians guarantees better health in aged care and how to promote this.

This article will talk about:

  • 1. Nutrition & Dementia
  • 2. Nutrition & Dignity
  • 3. Nutrition & Mental Health
  • 4. Nutrition & Weight Loss + Injury Prevention
  • BONUS! Quick Summary
Nutrition in aged care is an essential part of ensuring a healthy mind and body for older Australians.

Eating right is a fundamental part of our health, and it becomes even more important so as we grow older. It takes up a large portion of our day and has a huge influence on our physical and mental health.

So, here are the ways in which food can affect the lives of older Australians and ways to promote it.

1. Nutrition & Dementia

As they say – healthy body, healthy mind!

General health is becoming a critical part of tackling dementia, and that includes what people are eating as well.

Avoiding fatty or sugary foods that cause high cholesterol levels or blood pressure is very important to maintaining a healthy heart and mind and reducing the chances of strokes and heart attacks that can deteriorate brain health.

Older Australians with dementia or other diagnoses can also be at risk of becoming malnourished. It is vital to be aware of issues that may occur when looking after them. People living with dementia at home can often forget mealtimes, and what they have eaten before. They can develop problems chewing or swallowing their food and even be unable to recognise food and drinks they are given. These factors can lead to further deterioration of health and mental functioning.

However, aged care facilities are able to recognise the extra care needed to support residents with dementia.

  • There plenty of training programs – like Dementia training Australian – available to educate staff and carers about what they should expect and know to watch out for.

2. Nutrition & Dignity

Food (while being delicious and nutritious!) presents an opportunity to promote the dignity and independence of older Australians.

Older Australians in carer situations can suffer loss of independence during meal times with carers scheduling strict eating times, serving food that people need assistance eating or simply cooking something they do not like.

However, food provides opportunities for celebration and socialization that contributes to a lot to how we live our lives. There are plenty of ways to do this for residents in carer situations.

  • Make mealtimes more warm and casual by allowing people the time and space they want during their meals.
  • Creating a friendly eating environment means that people are likely to sit for longer and eat more. This will help avoid issues like malnourishment
  • Do not restrict food to set meal times, and have food available at all times. Small snacks like fruit, muesli bars, and yoghurt should be made accessible for whenever people are hungry (and avoid older residents becoming irritable and ‘hangry’).
  • Promote independence at mealtimes by providing finger food for those who are struggling with cutlery. This will give people the ability to feed themselves instead of needing their carers to assist them. It is important that people have the option to do things for themselves for as long as possible

Use these times to ensure dignity and choice so mealtimes can become empowering for those involved.

Good nutrition and simple food choices can be empowering for older Australians in aged care and care situations.

3. Nutrition & Mental Health

Malnourishment can often lead to lower energy levels in older Australians, causing less engagement with daily activities and social interaction. All of this can affect overall mental health, including links to anxiety and depression.

 However, the solution can be as simple as having a nice meal with friends and family.

  • Have special ‘food events’ at home that spice up routine meal plans. This can be for a birthday or even national food-themed nights and is an excellent way to encourage eating. It establishes a festival mood and creates a more enthusiastic kitchen.
  • Buffet food is an exciting way to offer people freedom of choice with what they want to eat.

4. Nutrition & Weight Loss + Injury Prevention

It is very common for older Australians to lose weight when aging in a carer situation. Unfortunately, there is a cultural belief that this weight loss is normal – or even desired – for older Australians.

However, once an older person becomes malnourished it becomes more difficult for them to recover to a state of health.

Malnourishment can severally impact the everyday lives of residents. It increases the risks of falls, pressure ulcers, and even delirium. It slows down the healing process for injury recovery. And it can further degrade the lifestyle of residents already living with disabilities and dementia.

There needs to be an overall culture change when caring for the aged in order to tackle the issue.

  • Watch and become familiar with the amounts people in your care are eating and see if this is enough to ensure their health. Pay attention to make sure that they are receiving proper nutrition and food intake.
  • Consult the older person, other members of family or dieticians. Decide the best approach to take together and create a strategy that works for everyone involved.

At no point should anyone be ‘force-feed’ or pressured to eat more. It is vital that you make sure to always respect the independence of residents.

This creates a non-invasive way to approach the issue and steer behaviour towards more beneficial ones, not just tackling the issue superficially, but getting the support of family and friends for a better solution.

Promoting nutrition within aged care will involve a culture change within the kitchen.

BONUS! Quick Summary

For those who are time-poor (or skim reading), here is a quick summary of what carers can do to promote nutrition.

  • Talk to the person, ask them what type of food they want to eat and when they want to eat it. This will help establish their independence and exercise their freedom of choice which will improve their lifestyle as a whole.
  • Talk to friends and families, this is a good way of establishing what their old eating habits were like and detecting any major changes.
  • Consult dieticians, sometimes a professional voice is best when it comes to health. This is especially true if there are any dietary requirements or if injury recovery is involved.
  • Include buffet food, this does not have to be an everyday thing, but an occasion buffet selection allows older persons ultimate freedom in the food they are eating.
  • Make meals more social, by making mealtimes more friendly and engaging people are more likely to sit for longer and eat more. Consider having carers, family or friends join and sit with the person to build relationships and create a friendly eating environment.
  • Include finger foods, for those living with dementia and other cognitive disabilities, this is a way to retain independence when tools like knives and forks can’t be used
  • Celebrate birthdays and festivals with food, a nice way to ensure that food becomes something fun for older Australians and those cooking. Party occasions also are a nice way to diversify food menus and mix up routine menus.

If you want any more information, there are some great tips for promoting health and dignity with food from the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

Join the Community Art Exhibition Fighting Dementia

With over half of the residential aged care population living with dementia, Twilight Aged Care is fighting back and building support for cognitive therapy with their 2019 Art Exhibition.

The 2019 Art Exhibition and Cocktail Party will be featuring canvas paintings from aged care residents from across the Twilight Aged Care homes, some of whom themselves, are living with dementia. The event aims to raise donations and display the artistic prowess of the North Sydney Residents.

The event will include catering, raffles, and live music on the night, with a chance to talk to the artists and purchase paintings.

This is the 2nd Annual Exhibition following the success of last year’s art show. Artworks this year will be more diverse in style and size and include large scale oil paintings, watercolours, smaller acrylic pieces, and even gold leaf.

Julianne Walker, the volunteer coordinator, and event organiser, says that community support for the art program is very important. These events help show support for older Australians and aged care residents living with dementia.

Julianne says, “Art Therapy sessions have countless benefits for older Australians. It allows the expression of complex thoughts and emotions, helps alleviate anxiety and depression, improves motor skills and cognitive functioning, and reduces social isolation”.

Dementia is currently the single largest cause of disability for Australian’s over 65 years old, and is a serious threat to the older Australian population, a large majority of this who live in aged care. Art therapy participants are technically stimulated during the program, which helps in slowing down the symptoms of dementia and cognitive decline.

The exhibition is being held on the 29th of October at 16 Punt Rd, Gladesville 6 pm-8 pm.