Benefits of Support Groups

Benefits of Support Groups

When dealing with difficult things in life it can often feel as if we are alone, that we are the only ones experiencing a particular situation, or that no one understands. Finding people who have similar experiences and can understand what we are going through can become a life-line. Support groups are one way to find people with similar experiences, and provides the opportunity to share and discuss both personal challenges and celebrations.

Community groups are based on the core idea that talking about the things that are bothering you has the potential to help clarify them and put them into perspective.

Orchard Senior Living understands the benefits of support groups and is pleased to announce a new simultaneous support group both for people living with dementia and their care partners in the Atlanta area. The group will be facilitated by volunteer’s with experience supporting neurodegenerative change. The early onset dementia support group “You & Me” will begin on August 7th and take place every Wednesday morning from 9:45 – 11:00 am. (Additional Event Information)

5 Benefits Of Support Groups

1) Talk About Life Changes In A Non-judgmental Space

Support groups must provide a safe space for people to share their experiences without feeling judged. This allows each participant to feel validated and supported by the facilitator and the group. Feeling validated and free to share, in a setting that is supportive and open, can be the first step in moving forward into positive opportunities and reducing stress.

  • Facilitators will guide the conversation and provide resources
  • Non- judgmental gatherings allow open transformational sharing
  • Agreed to ground rules include confidentiality

2) Sharing Coping Strategies

A support group can provide new ideas for coping and compensatory strategies. A trained facilitator as well as group participant personal stories offer creative “tried and true” ideas.  Groups are a good place to process and practice new ways of doing things.

  • Having a place to share past experiences
  • Becoming aware of personal patterns
  • Learning to manage thoughts and emotion
  • A practice ground for “rewriting” your story
  • Exploring new skills that can create desired changes in life

3) Empowerment

We all want to live an empowered life. Support groups can help us identify our abilities and the right kind of support we need to be able to live a confident and content life.

  • Assists participants in discovering what they are still capable of doing
  • Identifying the right kind of support that someone may need or is willing to try
  • Connecting, encouraging, and inspiring one another
  • Celebrating achievements of the participants

4) Reduce Loneliness and Isolation

Loneliness and Isolation have been identified as a major concern for care partners and people living with dementia. The common perceptions of loss and limited abilities create experiences of separation and loss of relationships. Many people living with dementia become isolated because others do not know how to stay connected with them or because the person living with dementia does not want to feel judged. In each of these scenarios, people begin to step away from one another.

  • Knowing there are other people experiencing similar things
  • Forming a community
  • Feeling connected
  • Feeling understood

5) Coping With Grief and Loss

Helping cope with grief and loss of:

  • Independence or lifestyle
  • Abilities
  • Living situations
  • Changing relationships
  • Concerns for the future

Grief and loss are very real experiences for people living with dementia and their care partners. A support group is a good place for them to be able to process these feelings and move to a healthier and happier life. Orchard Senior Living understands this importance and is here to support our Atlanta area residents with a new simultaneous support group both for people living with dementia and their care partners. Learn more about this new program here.

Person Centered Care

Person-Centered Care

Person-centered care is the practice of caring for persons and their families in ways that are meaningful and valuable to the individual. It includes listening to, informing, involving and collaborating with people about their health care. The IOM (Institute of Medicine) defines patient-centered care as: “Providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”

Orchard at Brookhaven believes the tenants of person-centered care are foundational for a good experience in an assisted living and should be questioned when searching for a community. The Picker Institute and Harvard Medical School used a focus group to help create eight principals of person-centered care which include the following areas.

Respect For Patients’ Values, Preferences & Expressed Needs

Involve patients in decision-making, recognizing they are individuals with their own unique values and preferences. Treat patients with dignity, respect and sensitivity to his/her cultural values and autonomy.

  • Does the community gather comprehensive information of preferences of daily routines, social and professional history, values, interests, relationships, spiritual and or religious practices, hobbies and preferred leisure activities, etc..

Coordination & Integration Of Care

  • People that require assistance with living can often feel powerless and vulnerable. Therefore, the community must engage in proper coordination of support to help alleviate feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability.

Information & Education

Does the community provide on- going educational opportunities to families and residents and does the community keep an ongoing dialogue with the family regarding their loved one?

Physical Comfort

  • Does the community understand the physical needs of their residents and do they make adaptations to meet those needs?

Emotional Support & Alleviation Of Fear & Anxiety

  • Does the community understand the emotional needs of their residents and do they foster a culture of belonging and connection?

Involvement Of Family & Friends

  • Does the community have an open dialogue with family and do they help educate and support a family in ways of staying connected with their loved one?
  • Is the family an integral part of the plan for support and are they encouraged to be part of finding solutions and being proactive in their loved one’s support?

Continuity & Transition

  • What is the procedure for keeping continuity of staffing and programming?
  • How does the community handle transitions of support and how is the family and resident supported in this?

Access To Care

  • What is the medical staffing?
  • How accessible is medical staff and care?

Orchard at Brookhaven is proud to provide all of these described tenants and can guarantee a person-centered experience for residents and their extended family and friends. If you’re looking for a senior living facility in the Atlanta area that provides a person-centered experience please Contact Us to schedule a tour.

Challenging Situations & Dementia

Challenging Situations & Dementia Part 2

The changes that happen in neurocognitive disorders can create challenging situations for both the person and those who care for them. Frustrating situations are common and can cause loved ones to wonder why people do what they do. Below are four of the most common situations that can be difficult for caregivers.

Orchard at Brookhaven understands situations such at these and care partners are trained and skilled in supporting people when confronted with unexpected surprises. Orchard chooses to acknowledge persons are doing the best they can with what they have, at any moment, and we believe people are working to problem solve their own needs even if we are not able to always understand their motive.

#1 Wandering

Some people living with a neurocognitive change will wander. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 6 out of 10 people living with dementia will wander. Programs designed to assist in the monitoring and return of those who wander include MedicAlert® and Safe Return.®

Anyone who has trouble with memory is at risk for becoming lost even if they are in the early stages of a condition that causes dementia. This happens because people can get disoriented and confused about time and/or place.

The area in the brain that helps with wayfinding, navigating direction, and awareness of time (time of day, time of life, time of year) becomes affected by dementia and may no longer work as it used to.
Signs to look for that raise someone’s risk for potentially wandering or becoming lost include:

  • Returning from a regular walk or drive later than usual
  • Forgetting how to get to familiar places
  • Talking about fulfilling former obligations, such as going to work
  • Wanting to “go home,” even when they are already at home
  • Feelings of restlessness or physically pacing
  • Having difficulty locating familiar places inside their home
  • Looking for friends or family who live elsewhere
  • Acting as if they are doing a hobby or chore, but nothing gets accomplished
  • Becoming nervous or anxious in crowded areas, such as shopping malls or restaurants

#2 Paranoia

The medical dictionary defines paranoia as an unfounded or exaggerated distrust of others sometimes reaching delusional proportions. If a person is feeling paranoid, they will constantly suspect the motives of others around them and may believe certain individuals or others in general are, “Out to get them.”

Some probable causes of paranoia due to conditions of dementia include:

  • Attempting to fill in “story” for short term memory details that are no longer able to be remembered
  • Mistaking information that wasn’t comprehended accurately
  • Misidentifying people that I think I know or don’t know
  • Creating reasonable and rational conclusions to mistaken information or misidentified people
  • Forgetting where items have placed or hidden
  • Experiencing a generalized anxiety due to changes in cognitive ability

#3 Shadowing

Often, shadowing appears to be driven by the person’s anxiety and uncertainty. They may feel like their caregiver is the one safe and known aspect of their life; like a physical “life line” or “security blanket.” The minute a caregiver walks into a different ​room, or goes outside, or shuts a door to use the bathroom for example, the person with dementia may become afraid, unsure and upset.
Things that may help if you are someone’s lifeline:

  • Remember you provide a sense of safety and security
  • Provide a routine and structure for the day
  • Bring in other support people early on so it is normal to have other people around
  • Provide meaningful things to do that create give a sense of purpose and importance for a person throughout their day

#4 Sun-downing

Sun-downing is a symptom of many forms of dementia. It is also known as “late-day confusion.” If someone you care for has dementia, confusion and agitation may get worse in the late afternoon and evening often because a person is more tired and the brain is having difficulty with this transitional time of the day.
Reasons for sun-downing can include:

  • A feeling that I am supposed to go somewhere or change locations
  • A need for increased activity during the day
  • Observing or seeing other people leaving or ending work and going home
  • A change in diet –eating lighter evening meals can help
  • A need to reduce stress I might be experiencing throughout my day

The Orchard’s approach to care considers what is underneath behavioral expressions that can create challenging situations as described above. To find support or learn more about helpful approaches to these and other situations contact the staff of Orchard at Brookhaven.

Challenging Situations

Challenging Situations

There are many reasons why challenges occur when people are living with chronic health conditions or dementia. Body and brain change create frustrations that often present in behavior expressions that confuse or surprise us. Taking the time to assess what might be underneath a challenging situation can help.

The staff of Orchard at Brookhaven are both knowledgeable and trained with skills to minimize challenging situations and create more supportive environments. The following 7 factors are key considerations to use when working to problem solve an unexpected behavioral expression. Often there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

#1 Think About Who A Person Has Been Throughout Their Life

  • What type of personality do they have?
  • What are some of their personal preferences?
  • What family, friends, or kind of people do they feel most comfortable with?
  • Is the person an introvert or an extrovert?
  • Do they enjoy large group, small group, or one on one experiences?
  • Do they need alone time?
  • Do they really benefit from being around others?
  • What is their previous social history?
  • What is their professional history?
  • Are they early risers or do they prefer to stay up late?
  • What sort of activity do they like or dislike?
  • Do they enjoy music?
  • Do they enjoy animals?
  • Do they enjoy being outside?

Knowing who the person has been throughout their life is essential in supporting a person and discovering how to best meet their need.

#2 Remember The Body & Brain Are Changing

Part 2 of this blog will explore what could be happening suddenly, unknowingly, to a person’s physiology and causing unexpected change or challenges.

#3 Assessing The Living Space

  • Is a person set up for success in their living area?
  • Is it functional and safe at the same time?
  • Can they move around simply and safely?
  • Is there signage and is it easy to understand and follow?
  • Is the space adequate for multiple people?
  • Are the sound, light, surfaces or sitting areas, calming and supportive?
  • Are there unnecessary distractions?
  • Does the furniture and décor match the needs and abilities of the people living there?
  • Are there corridors or corners where someone may get lost or stuck?
  • Does the flow of space allow people to walk and move freely without getting terribly lost or confused?

#4 Review The Daily Routine & Planned Use Of Personal Time

  • Is there a flow or routine to a person’s day?
  • Are there opportunities for novel and new experiences?
  • Does the program offer lifestyle balance and allow a person to spend time in a variety of activities such as:
  • Rest and relaxation
  • Health and wellness
  • Leisure and fun
  • Productive and meaningful work/activities
  • Are there opportunities seven days a week and outside of 9-5 business hours?
  • How many support persons or staff members are participating?

#5 Care Partners & Family

  • Is continuing education provided for care partners or families who need to learn more?
  • Are there therapeutic support group opportunities for the person, family, or care partners?
  • What is the experience or skill level of those helping with a challenging situation?

#6 Healthcare & Wellness

  • What is the current status of the health condition?
  • Is a person in pain?
  • Are there taking new medications?
  • Are side effects developing due to long use of a medication or changing conditions?
  • Could vision, hearing, mouth or foot care be creating agitation or affecting quality of life?

#7 Type Of Dementia Or Changing Stage Of A Medical Condition’s Progression

  • Different conditions present different challenges.
  • Could there be something new developing?
  • Progression of a current condition can trigger new challenges.
  • Remember while diagnosis may be the same, experiences are always unique.
  • Solutions for one person may not work for another.

There are a lot of factors that come into play and need to be tuned into when someone is living with a chronic or progressive condition. There are senior living communities and professionals dedicated to problem solving and helping people thrive and have a wonderful quality of life no matter their health challenges or physical condition.

Orchard at Brookhaven is one such community. The executive director of Orchard is an aging and dementia specialist and has coached and trained front line professionals for over 10 years. The community development director serves residents and families as their personal advocate and has established unique affiliate partnerships to assure Orchard will provide ongoing support and education for community care partners, volunteers and families.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a challenging situation due to aging or a chronic condition such as dementia, Orchard can help. Schedule a complimentary consultation or contact the community for more information.

Coping With Grief

Grief & Loss

Do find yourself having difficulty concentrating, or finishing tasks? Are you experiencing profound sadness or mood swings?  Does it seem as if you are more forgetful or absent-minded?  Do you have trouble making decisions when you have always been very decisive?  If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing grief.

What is Grief

Grief is a natural process if reaction and adjustment to change and accompanies the experience of loss in our life. Two hallmarks of grief include:

  • Emotional shifts that are unpredictable
  • Individual – each person will react to grief in their own way and own time

Signs of Grief

Numbness – many people who experience an intense loss will report feeling numb. This numbness can feel as if you are walking around in a cloud, things feel blurry and unclear or muted which is the body’s way of trying to protect you. This feeling of numbness comes from being in shock, which is a normal defense mechanism to help you not become too overwhelmed.

Anxiety, fear or worry – comes from feeling helpless and unable to control, change or help the situation.

Sorrow– overwhelming sadness for the loss of the physical presence of a loved one. This will turn into acceptance when one moves through the grieving process, however, people can also feel worried or guilty when this intensity of the sadness begins to fade.

Anger – a feeling that most people feel due to the unfairness of the loss.

Regret – over circumstances of the loss, opportunities missed or not taken, conversations that we unspoken, experiences lost. Regret can also come in the form of being relief after a long illness.

Longing – an involuntary yearning for the opportunity to regain what we have lost.

Ambiguous Loss & Anticipatory Grief

Have you ever felt like giving up, like the job seems too big to overcome and you have run out of energy and strength to take another step?  Do you feel like you are going crazy and having unpredictable mood swings? Do you feel guilty about what you can or can’t do or what you are thinking and feeling? If so, you could be experiencing a kind of grief that we usually don’t think of but often go through. These feelings along with loving and or caring for someone living with dementia can be a sign of either ambiguous loss or anticipatory grief.

Anticipatory grief is the emotional pain and sadness that is felt far before the actual event of loss occurs.

Ambiguous loss comes from interacting with someone who is not fully present either socially or emotionally.

Complicated Grief

Finally, complicated grief are feelings of loss that are debilitating and don’t improve even after time passes. If this is what you are experiencing, finding support will be the key to helping you move through this and on to a sense of well-being.

Signs & Stages of Grief

  • Tearfulness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Fatigue
  • Emotional Numbness
  • Poor Concentration
  • Forgetfulness

The stages of grief are experienced differently by each person and there is no real set amount of time that it takes to move through these stages. People also can find themselves going back and forth between the stages. Grief is a normal process and will be unique to each person in how it is experienced and the length of time it takes.


  • Hoping that the person is not ill
  • Expecting the person will get better
  • Convincing yourself that the person hasn’t changed
  • Attempting to normalize challenging situations


  • Frustration with the person
  • Resenting the demands of caregiving
  • Resenting family members who can’t or won’t help
  • Feeling abandoned


  • Wondering if you did something to cause the illness
  • Feeling bad if you enjoy life, or feeling like a failure
  • Wishing the person would go away
  • Having unrealistic expectations of yourself…”I should have ….”


  • Feeling overwhelmed by loss
  • Crying frequently
  • Withdrawing from social events or needing more connection with others
  • Withholding your emotions or displaying them more openly


  • Learning to live in the moment & let go of the past
  • Finding personal meaning in caring for someone and realizing the person is doing the best they can
  • Embracing your grief instead of living in resistance

Finding support is always of upmost importance when dealing with change especially due to loss, whether it is sudden or from a long illness. Orchard at Brookhaven will provide support groups that include support for grief and loss in Atlanta. Our staff are committed to being a resource for the community of Brookhaven and surrounding communities. Please call if you are in need of support or looking for resources.

Tips For Caregivers Seeing Brain Change

Tips For Caregivers Seeing Brain Change

When someone finds themselves in the role of a caregiver, there are some key questions and things to consider when they start to see brain change.

What are my strengths and weaknesses as a caregiver?

Everyone has things that they are good at and things that they struggle with, and it is important to know the difference. When someone finds themselves in the role of a caregiver, it is important to take an honest look at strengths and struggles so that you can begin to look for help. Why is this important? Because your relationship with your loved one depends on it. When a caregiver tries to take care of all of the new responsibilities required of supporting someone living with brain change, it can be very difficult on the relationship. Identifying strengths and struggles will assist you in finding the right support for both you and the person living with brain change and can significantly help the relationship.

What caregiver support resources are available?

Finding resources both on the internet and in the community will be very important. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Alzheimer’s Association of Georiga
  • Georgia Department of Public Health
  • Dementia Action Alliance
  • For Atlanta area residences, Orchard at Brookhaven is a resource that will provide education, consultation and family support.

    How can I find local resources that will help me with this process?

    Aging Care is a website that helps identify resources by state so you can find support locally.

    Support options for caregivers

    The first step in finding support is to recognize strengths as well as areas where support will be needed. The second step is understanding that reaching out and asking for support is actually a strength and will help both the caregiver and the person with brain change.

    Check out care options. Here is a list of different options for care:

    • In Home Care
    • Day Care
    • Private Duty
    • Skilled Home Health
    • Hospice Care
    • Independent Living
    • Continuing Care Retirement Community
    • Assisted Living
    • Assisted Living with specialized dementia support
    • Skilled Nursing Facility

    Act before a crisis happens

    People living with dementia will go through several stages, because dementia is progressive, chronic and terminal. In all of the stages, the person will have definite strengths and abilities, and while these abilities do change and decline, there are always things that we can do to support the remaining abilities. If plans are not made before these changes occur, you will find yourself in a crisis.

    Know your thresholds

    Knowing your threshold; what you can tolerate and what you have trouble with will help you avert a crisis. If you know that you can support your loved one with daily routines, but helping them with daily care will be more difficult for you, then, it will be important to begin the process of finding good support before that time comes, therefore, when you need help, it will already be planned.

    There are many things to think about when someone is experiencing brain change, being proactive will be a tremendous help.