How to Cure Dementia’s Fidgety Hands: Fun Gifts for the Holidays

fidget ball helps people with dementiaMaybe it was for me, but I thought about him as well. I didn’t want to hand him child’s toys, even when in this stage of dementia.

At 79, when his body and mind were compromised by dementia, I’d visit with him and we played all sorts of activities and games. When it was time for me to go home, I hated leaving him with nothing to keep his hands busy. Handing him something that looked like a child’s toy felt like an insult to him and well, it just made me feel sad. So, I present five (not childlike) tactile fidget gift ideas for your senior with dementia. The benefit? To help them stay busy and feel calm. 

Five gratifying and useful dementia-friendly gift ideas
  1. These sculpture-like metallic tangles twist around in endless combinations and are light and easy to manage. 
  2. For animal lovers, these realistic looking, battery-powered cats and dogs move, respond to touch and even purr, but without the care required by a real pet. They aren’t inexpensive, but are a lot less than a real pet would cost.
  3. This slide fidget widget shows up as a handsome and smooth wooden form that fits easily in one’s hand and has beads that slide back and forth on a secure band. 
  4. Introducing a sensory activity combined with an “I Spy” game. There are 20+ small items mixed in with poly pellets in this napkin-size cloth bag.  These sensory bags come in all sorts of fabric choices. 
  5. Like the tangle mentioned above, this wooden art ball fidget toy can be twisted and formed. Its larger size makes it easier to manage. It comes in two sizes and either a natural wood finish or in black/white. 

Note: We recommend these products because we think they’re good and we wanted to save you time. Some of them may earn us a bit when you click on the link. 

May you find joy in loving one another well, despite dementia! 

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is co-founder and president of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform, she’s probably creating books, sewing, or vacuuming, or cooking while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor. 

Impatient with Repeated Questions? 7 Strategies to Respond with Patience

“What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do now?”

Being repeatedly asked the same question by anyone, whether they are 2 or 70, is frustrating. When it means they are fading cognitively, feelings of grief get mixed into the dynamic. 

How can you respond and save your own sanity? Here are 7 practical tips:

  1. Give yourself permission to be sad about your senior’s mental decline and mourn the fact that they are no longer who they once were. It’s okay to be sad about that. It’s normal and actually loving. 
  2. Remember that your senior is asking repeated questions because of damage to their brain cells, whether it’s because of a stroke, a form of dementia, a traumatic brain injury or something else they are now cognitively disabled. They wouldn’t choose to be confused and aren’t trying to annoy you. 
  3. Look for a reason behind the questions. Are they trying to communicate something else altogether? Does the behavior happen at a particular time of the day or around particular people?
  4. Think about how they are feeling, not what they are doing or saying and respond to their emotion, not their behavior.
  5. Refocus their energy on a new activity, even if it’s just a fidget type gadget that keeps their hands busy. 
  6. When responding to them, do your best to keep your voice calm and don’t try to argue or use logic. The latter response will likely escalate their confusion by adding anxiety.
  7. Restate what they are saying and answer their question as best you can with simple explanations. Consider using visual tools like calendars, clocks or photographs to help them remember. 

This video from UCLA Health offers insights and practical tips for managing repetitive questions.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the co-founder of Ways & Wane. She walkedclosely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, sewing, or vacuuming, or cooking while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor. 


Sticker Shock: The cost of caring

Sticker Shock:
The cost of caring

In-home care, assisted living, walkers, prescription copays—it adds up

check, cost of nursing home

The Alzheimer’s Association estimated end-of-life care costs in 2016 were between $217,820 and $341,651. 

1 in 4 adults ages 45 years old or older are financially unprepared for long-term care expenses,
2015 – AARP

Surprising costs add stress to an emotionally charged situation when your senior’s health is faltering. 

Do you want a rough idea how much care costs in your area? Estimate the cost using this online calculator. When we researched options for my father, this calculator was pretty accurate for where we live in California.

cost of nursing home screenshotThere were three key “aging sticker shocks” that surprised us: 

  • uncovered costs of some prescription drugs, 
  • nursing home stays with limited Medicare and/or supplemental insurance coverage, 
  • In-home care, assisted living and memory care not covered by Medicare.

For the estimated 7 million Boomers who provide long distance care, actual out of pocket expenses amount to almost $5,000 per month. For caregivers who have, or are considering leaving the workforce to care for an ailing parent, the costs are even greater—over $650,000 in forfeited salaries, benefits and pensions.

Understand your options and develop back-up plans before it is necessary to help your senior make a long-term care decision. 

Here are three steps to systematically evaluate their current financial situation: 

  1. Review your senior’s finances. If they are reluctant to discuss details, this article by Cameron Huddleston presents good strategies. Identify all sources of income and expenses for Your Person by filling out this Asset Calculator. Even though the results are for California, if you are interested in qualifying for Medicaid now or in the future, it will tell you which assets are Medicaid-exempt.
  2. Find and review insurance policies, including life, medical, home, car, etc.
  3. Find a financial professional to advise you on managing Your Person’s assets.  The Senate Committee on Aging recommends looking for someone with a financial gerontology certification; however the Securities and Exchange Commission does not specifically endorse any financial advisor titles, like elder specialist. Your employer may offer financial counseling services.

Once you have a detailed picture of what care might cost and the assets available, you’ll need to find creative ways to pay for that care. Look for another article in the future about surprising sources for funding long-term care.

May you find peace in loving one another well!

Debbie McDonald is the Founder of Ways & Wane, an online platform that helps you help your aging parent. She lives in Northern California with her husband.



Need to Vent? Want Encouragement?

The Four Best Senior Caregiving Support Facebook Groups

“I am so physically and emotionally exhausted but how do I find someone to give me some respite so I can get away for a few days?”

“Does anyone have recommendations for a personal emergency response system? I’m afraid of my mom falling when I’m not there.”

“I’m definitely in a bad place this afternoon. Forgive me Lord. Just need to vent my frustration. Thank you all❤.”

These are just a few of the posts by active group members in these private Facebook support groups. Filled with caregivers, you will be surrounded by caregiving support. While there are many other caregiving support groups, these are a few Facebook groups that have active posting and strong, positive moderation.

Just ask to “join”, answer a few qualifying questions and you won’t feel so alone.

  1. The Caregiver Space Community
    This group has over 6,000 members who post their questions and give lots of advice (usually over 20 comments per post).
  1. Working Daughter
    This is a space (3,600 members) for women who are balancing caring for an aging parent with their career and the rest of their life. Join us for community, support, encouragement. Share your questions and your best advice.
  1. Caring for Elderly Parents
    This large group (14,800 members) is very interactive with posts asking for recommendations and explaining their own struggles.
  1. Ways & Wane Community
    This small but mighty community means you will have lots of response from the moderators, who will give you personalized answers, free downloads and helpful templates.

Find more support tools and answers to your long-term care questions with this free Care Package Lite tool. It is full of curated links and templates to help you uncover answers to your burning issues.

Now may you find peace at all times in every way as you help your senior in their waning phase of life.