Spotlight: The Birches

    With families living farther apart, the holidays have become a typical time for everyone to meet in person.

    These visits are an excellent time to observe if an aging loved one needs more help and can stay safe, active, and healthy at home.

    Here are some examples of what to look for this holiday season, with explanations from The Birches’ Memory Care Coordinator Armgard Kucas:  

    • Appearance. Check for noticeable changes in their looks, such as weight loss/gain, stained clothing, and other signs of poor general hygiene. “Pay attention to sudden changes; for example, if you’re loved one is very neat and suddenly is messy, then you know something is off.” 
    • Home Environment. Assess their living conditions while visiting with your parents or older family members. Does their home look clean and organized? Is the laundry lying around? Are home repairs unmanaged? Are medications appropriately taken? Are pots and pans burned? Is food spoiling in the refrigerator? 
    • Are they making unsafe choices? Are they suddenly making choices or taking risks that are uncharacteristic of their nature? “Dementia affects their thinking abilities. They cannot sequence or structure to complete tasks, like preparing meals or manage time effectively.”  
    • Interactions with others. Have you noticed their mood swings, new behaviors, trouble recalling memories, or loss of language and vocabulary? Is your loved one agitated because they’re in an unfamiliar setting or easily distracted? “If you’re all together at the dinner table and everyone is conversing, but you notice your loved one is just looking straight on, it’s because they can’t keep up anymore with the conversation.”   

    Armgard’s advice for families suspecting dementia comes from “Dementia with Dignity” by Judy Cornish:  

    • Keep their mood up. 
    • Keep them safe in their confusion.
    • Keep them safe in their care.  

    She recommends reading Cornish’s book and hopes to see you at The Birches’ monthly support group.  

    PHOTO CAP: Armgard Kucas is the memory care coordinator at The Birches and facilitator of its monthly caregiver support group. You can learn more memory care tips and caregiver resources from her and local dementia-care experts. To attend the next caregiver support group or for more info on Daybreak, our secure memory care neighborhood, call Carole or Pam at 215-240-4829 or visit   

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