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Author Archives: Care Haven Homes

6 Ways to Stay Connected With Seniors When You Can’t Visit

Stay connected with seniors when you can't visit: infographic

The social distancing that keeps our residents safe may be hard on you. Separation leaves some people feeling lonely, anxious or out-of-touch. So, we’ve mustered our creativity to help families stay connected with the seniors they can’t visit.

The following infographic provides a summary of our suggestions. Scroll down for more details.

Stay connected with seniors when you can't visit: infographic

We offer more details and ideas below.

While we’ve tailored our suggestions to meet Care Haven’s safety guidelines, they may be useful to others with at-risk friends or family members. Feel free to share!

1. Visit Virtually

EVERYBODY has a phone these days. Many of us access FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or other apps as well, in order to enjoy each others’ smiling faces.

Our residents and other older adults appreciate either an old-fashioned phone call or a video chat. Just be sure to arrange this ahead of time, so our caregivers can prepare Mom or Dad for your family visit. (Just email our Activities Director, Marie Rogers, at

Please keep your conversations light and upbeat. Furthermore, it’s better to make frequent short calls than try to hold your loved one’s attention for a long stretch.

2. Between Virtual Visits, Stay In Touch With Seniors The Old-Fashioned Way

Older adults learned to stay connected between visits through the fine art of letter writing. Let’s face it: we all love getting cards and notes via snail mail.

Don’t be intimidated, staring at that empty sheet of paper. A short note — even a postcard — will do. Just include

  1. A salutation (“Dear ____,”)
  2. 3 or 4 sentences
  3. The closing (“Love,”)
  4. Most important, your signature — legible, with an identifier to help if a caregiver needs to read it (Your granddaughter Joan — Your son Jon — Your old friend June — George, your friend from church — Gina, your neighbor from Brookside)

Feel free to add a heart, smiley face or doodle, too. You can even write several notes or cards at the same time and then mail them days or a week apart.

Snail mail: that’s all it takes to stay connected with seniors when you can’t visit.

Speaking of mail, we appreciate it when you send all correspondence to our office, where we can sanitize it before redelivery.

3. Share Your Family’s Artistic Talents

When you can’t visit older adults, enlist both young and old in a creative effort to stay in touch.

  • Remember the preschool masterpiece proudly displayed on the refrigerator? Grandma or Grandpa still has a place of honor for small drawings or uplifting messages from the family.
  • Don’t stop at the visual arts. You can email a video of a vocal solo, piano piece or those first steps and cartwheels. Again, please keep it short — there’s always a replay button for anyone who wants more.
  • At a loss for ideas? Stick to something seasonal. For instance, during April, most people love pictures of birds and flowers, while in December they’d welcome a favorite carol.

4. Care Packages Keep You In Touch When You Can’t Visit Your Favorite Senior

If your loved one could make up a new verse to “My Favorite Things,” what would they include? Consider items that comfort, pamper or amuse them. (We stock our homes with plenty of tasty treats, so please don’t send food items.)

You could send an adult coloring book, a puzzle, a favorite magazine or a compact coffee table book. Make it a small parcel — think “SURPRISE!” rather than “storage.” After all, just as an older adult appreciates brief but frequent visits, they enjoy staying connected with a series of notes and small packages when you can’t visit.

Please do us a favor and sanitize everything in your package before sending it to our office. We’ll do the same before we deliver it. (If you’re considering something like a small tube of lotion, please send only sealed, unopened items at this time.)

5. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words (Which Is Many, Many Visits!)

Have you tried out photo sites like ShutterflyMpixCVS or Walgreen’s? Many are running specials as people shelter in place.

Consider creating an album filled with pictures of family members or recalling special memories. Take the opportunity to scan and upload treasured wedding photos or vacation pictures, thereby preserving a digital copy. (You can always use them later in other albums as well!)

Our caregivers appreciate it if you also add text to photo books, identifying both people and places. Then we can help your loved one share their memories.

6. Help Seniors Safely Connect When You Can’t Visit

Most of our residents are eagerly share their good fortune with others. (Perhaps on past visits you’ve noticed Mom proudly move your garden bouquet to the living room for all to see.)

She’d still welcome flowers, but you could send the DVD of a classic film or a favorite soundtrack CD instead. The large TV rooms in our homes safely accommodate a special screening.

Have Questions Or Need More Suggestions To Keep Connected With Seniors When You Can’t Visit?

We’re here to help. Just email our Activities Director, Marie Rogers, at


105 Birthday Candles for Valentine’s Day

best dementia care

Beulah, who lives in our Fontana home, is Care Haven Homes’ oldest resident. Last Valentine’s Day, we were privileged to help celebrate her 105th birthday.

The whole county got behind us! The Best Times magazine ran a feature on the birthday girl. The Johnson County Board of Commissioners issued a Certificate of Special Commendation; Chairman Ed Eilert and Commissioner Jason Osterhaus presented it at Beulah’s party.

From the article:

Beulah Montgomery Janssen was born just in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day 1913.


Elsewhere, suffragettes marched. Woodrow Wilson practiced his inaugural address. Henry Ford tinkered with the first moving assembly line. Fellow newborns Rosa Parks, Jimmy Hoffa and Mary Leakey napped.


Leakey would go on to discover the earliest human footprints. Most footprints young Beulah saw blew away. She came of age in north central Kansas during what she called “the Dirty Thirties:” the Dust Bowl Era.


Beulah Montgomery was born in a farmhouse near Covert, Kansas – now a ghost town. . . .

READ Beulah’s story, from her ornery youth, to a courting as a “flirty hasher,” to family life without indoor plumbing on the farms and oilfields of northwestern Kansas. See page 10 of The Best Times’ March-April 2018 issue for the rest of the story.

Party Highlights

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Care Haven Opens 6th Alzheimer’s Care Home

Welcomes First Residents to Specially Remodeled Overland Park House

Care Haven Expands Alzheimer's Care with Sixth Home

Prairie Village, KS, January 19, 2017: Care Haven Homes, LLC (“Care Haven”) has opened its sixth Alzheimer’s care home, near I-435 and Roe Boulevard. The house is designed to create a safe, comforting community for up to eight people living with dementia.

Locally owned Care Haven opened its first Alzheimer’s care home in 2005. According to Neil Barnett, company founder, it had just five beds. With the opening of its sixth home, Care Haven’s houses are licensed to care for a total of 49 residents.

“I began learning about Alzheimer’s when my grandmother was diagnosed,” said Barnett. “That was more than 40 years ago. I discovered first hand that dementia is more than memory loss. Its physical, psychological, emotional and behavioral challenges demand special, round-the-clock care. Extra training, compassion and staffing are critical. Flexible routines, personal attention and a calm, secure environment are key. I’m pleased we can offer all that to the growing number of families looking for care.”

The demand for dementia care is increasing, locally and nationally. Barnett cited recent statistics from The Alzheimer’s Association1, 2 :

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia.
  • 5.4 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease (51,000 Kansans).
  • Every 66 seconds, another American develops the disease.
  • The chance of receiving a diagnosis increases with age. 1 in 9 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s – 1 in 3 people age 85 and older.
  • By 2050, a record number of Americans will reach the age range at greatest risk for Alzheimer’s. As baby boomers grow older, the number of people in the United States with the disease may nearly triple.

Care Haven’s sixth home is in one of Overland Park’s quiet residential neighborhoods. The company acquired the ranch-style house in late 2015. Extensive remodeling took nearly a year to complete. The house features eight private bedrooms. Residents share a family-style setting, assisted by professional caregiving and nursing staffs.

About the Company: Care Haven operates four Alzheimer’s care homes in Overland Park, KS and two in Leawood, KS. Its headquarters are in Prairie Village, KS. The company has 65 employees. Neil Barnett has been Care Haven’s Owner/Operator since its founding, in 2004. Barnett is a Certified Dementia Practitioner.

# # #

For more information, contact:
Neil Barnett, Owner/Operator, Care Haven Homes
(913) 643-0111

About Home Plus: Each Care Haven home operates as a “Home Plus,” licensed by The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. A Home Plus cares for up to 12 residents who need help managing all areas of everyday life.3 Twenty licensed Home Plus facilities currently provide memory care in Johnson County, KS.4

About remodeling a house for use as an Alzheimer’s care home:

Overview of different senior living options:

Links to Sources of Background Information:

1 “What is Dementia?”” Alzheimer’s Association, 2017. Web. 8 Jan 2017.

2 “2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia. Chicago: Alzheimer’s Association, 2016:12(4). Web. 8 Jan 2017.

3 Kansas Survey, Certification and Credentialing Commission. Statutes and Regulations for Licensure and Operation of Home Plus Facilities. Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, 2013. Web. 8 Jan 2017.

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Kansas Adult Care Provider Directory: Home Plus Providers. Web. 8 Jan 2017.,P901_SOURCE:XX5,P

Best Holiday Gifts for People with Alzheimer’s

care haven homes

Tips from 12 Caregiving Pros

(plus bonus tips for family caregiver gifts)

Shiny red satin ribbon on white backgroundFamilies always ask us what Mom or Dad would most enjoy as a holiday gift.

We have our favorites. For this post, we sought the advice of other seasoned caregivers, too. Here are the gifts we suggest for people with Alzheimer’s. (You’ll find most also are great for other older adults.)


The Best Gifts for People with Alzheimer’s Appeal to their Senses

Our experts all recommend gifts that look, taste, smell, sound or feel good.

Most people love the aroma of fresh-baked cookies or the relief of soothing lotion.

Someone with Alzheimer’s is especially sensitive to stimulation. A favorite song, fragrance or fabric stirs more memories and feelings than conversation.

Think of your loved ones’ happiest days. Were they spent resting on a soft picnic blanket, or bundled in Grandma’s afghan? Smiling with grandchildren? Sucking on a butterscotch candy, or sipping a favorite tea? What music and scents wafted through the air?

Bring back these sensations to brighten a long, grey day.


From Expert #1: Deonisia Hernandez
House Manager & Caregiver
Care Haven Homes’ Broadmoor house

People of all ages love lots of little holiday surprises. Bring a small treat every time you visit. Share favorite candies or cookies. Give a mini bottle of lotion, and then massage Mom’s hands. Leave her with a new tube of lip balm, non-skid slipper socks or a pair of warm gloves.

(“Nonskid” is essential. If socks are too bulky to wear with shoes, be sure they have a gripping surface on the bottom of the foot.)


Enjoying a feline friendship

From Expert #2: Sharon Springer
Activities Assistant
Care Haven Homes

Make Mom and Dad FEEL good. Give soft, flannel pillowcases and fuzzy blankets.

It’s a great time for fun flavors, too. Give a holiday pack of Lifesavers or flavored lip balm. Don’t forget that crowd favorite: the popcorn gift tin.

(But don’t leave a big basket of fruit, jellies or other “spoilables” in your loved ones’ room. Bring just enough for the two of you to share during your visit. OR plan to share with other residents and caregivers. OR ask a caregiver to store the “leftovers.”)


From Expert #3: Teresa Borger
Community Liaison
Spectrum Home Health

Create a calendar filled with family pictures from your loved one’s past. Hang it in their personal space, in clear view. There are lots of scrapbooking products and online services from which to choose. Look for a seasonal special.

Hint: If you don’t complete your calendar in time, make it a New Year’s gift. Ask friends and family to bring photos to seasonal gatherings. Have them scan and send high-resolution copies of their favorites. Once you’ve fulfilled your holiday obligations, use your “down time” to finish.

(We’ll add a special request here: Please fill in birthdays, anniversaries and other important family milestones or events. These make great conversation starters for caregivers and visitors.)


The Best Gifts for People with Alzheimer’s Keep Them Smiling

Be careful as you stir memories and emotions. Not all are happy. Do your best to make Mom and Dad feel good right now. Distract them from unhappy thoughts by introducing pleasant new sights, smells, tastes and sounds.


From Expert #4: Karen Clond, LMSW
Dementia Care Specialist
Heart of America Alzheimer’s Association

I’m a huge fan of an amaryllis bulb in a pot. Watch it grow and flower during the dreary winter months. (You can force other spring bulbs to bloom, but the amaryllis gives a fantastic show.)


From Expert #5: Linda Harmon
Jeanne’s Place

A soft stuffed animal is very comforting. I once worked with a cat lover who no longer had a pet. Her family’s gift of a FurReal kitty, which purred and moved its head, was a huge hit. Mom spent much of her day calmly petting her feline friend!

While that cat lover wasn’t a bird lover, many people are. Consider buying and installing a bird feeder just outside a window. (If Mom is living in a home other than yours, be sure to consult with her caregivers first – bird seed can be hard on grass and landscaping. Please volunteer to take charge of refilling the feeder, too!)

I’d also suggest a digital photo frame loaded with lots of pictures of family and friends, set to change images every several seconds.


From Expert #6: Michael Fleming
Son of a former Care Haven Homes resident

You can’t go wrong with warm, non-skid socks and full slippers for Mom or Dad.  Give long sleeve mock turtlenecks to the ladies and flannel shirts to Dad!


(Mike shows he’s an expert when he specifies “full slippers.” Avoid any mule-style, backless slippers. They might slip off while Mom or Dad walks, causing a fall.)


From Expert #7: Jane Knapp
Daughter of a former Care Haven Homes resident

Dad loved the cuddly blanket Jeannine recommended – sheepskin on one side and velveteen on the other. He enjoyed getting new pajamas, too.

He appreciated the way specially designed clothes, like shirts and pants for the wheelchair-bound, made life more comfortable. We even found a winter cape that was fantastic for outings.

Dad loved popcorn, diet soda pop and cookies. He was thrilled to get a new video or a personalized calendar with pictures of his kids and grandkids.

The absolute best gift anyone can give is time. Your loved one appreciates that more than anything else. I often saw sullen residents turn joyful with the arrival of a family member.


The Best Gifts for People with Alzheimer’s Create Special Moments

Jane makes a good point. Winter days often seem long and lonely. Things get interesting as soon as visitors appear.

Give your loved one 20 to 60 minutes of your undivided attention. Pledge to stay calm and relaxed, no matter what happens. Join them in their moment, just as they are today.


From Expert #8: Deborah Garnett, RN, PhD
Daughter of a current Care Haven Homes resident

Keep it small and simple. Instead of a big Christmas gift, I “treat” Mom to fun times spent with family.

There are so many ways to give the gift of a better visit:

  • I buy small craft projects, games or jigsaw puzzles and keep them in the car. If Mom is in the mood, we dash out to retrieve one and spend a fun visit working together. (On the other hand, if she’s not interested, we leave everything in the car, thus keeping her house uncluttered.)
  • I keep a digital photo album of Mom and different family members on my phone. I also keep a photo collage in her room, which we occasionally take down for a closer look. Here’s a special tip: Mom is more engaged when we’re looking at pictures that include her, too!
  • Bright flowers are always a hit. Mom enjoys arranging them in a vase and putting them on a table in the living room to share.
  • She also loves it when I bring a bag of small candy bars. Again, she loves having something to share, delighting in doling out one or two to each of the other residents.


Among the best holiday gifts for people with Alzheimer's: visit by a silly elf!

Our Employee Photo Contest Honorable Mention: Silly Elf! (photo credit: Deonisia Hernandez)

More Tips for a Better Visit

Whatever present you bring, deliver it with the gift of a quiet visit. Go by yourself or in a group of two or three. Prepare to leave whenever your loved one seems tired, overwhelmed or agitated.

Be sure everyone is healthy. DON’T bring the “gift” of a cold or flu to seniors, whose immune systems are much weaker than yours.

DO consider sharing a toddler’s infectious giggles and smiles with Mom or Dad. Many older adults love seeing babies and young children. Stay awhile if your little one is happily engaged. Bring your visit to a close as soon as she – or Mom – is ready for a nap.

(You’ll find more tips in the articles linked at the bottom of this post.)


Occasionally Consider Becoming a Tour Director

From Expert #9: Caroll Oliver
Patient Care Coordinator
Great Lakes Caring

Take Mom or Dad on a fun outing. For example, I take my mom to lunch. Then we get a manicure or pedicure together.


From Expert #10: Nori Nakamura
Musical Journey

Spending time together is a beautiful thing. Take your loved one to a restaurant or Christmas concert, or for a car ride to see Christmas lights. They may not remember the details later, but the positive mood you create lasts long after the event.

(Just be careful while you’re out and about. Check out our 5 winter safety tips, so everyone returns home safe and sound.)


Above All, Bring Joy

From Expert #11: Caroline Dawson
Agewise Advocacy & Consulting

During this over-stimulating season, comfort is one of the best gifts you can give your loved ones. Over-stimulated leads to OVERWHELMED, and they need your help to avoid growing tired, agitated and confused.

Give yourself permission to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Aim to spend time together in calm one-on-one moments or small group gatherings, rather than in an overwhelming celebration. Adjust your expectations – and those of family and friends.

  • Are old neighbors asking to visit? Tell them what dates and time work best – even if that means waiting for the new year. Or invite them – one or two at a time – to share an hour looking over favorite photo albums.
  • Do family members insist on giving big presents? Try to avoid a big, noisy exchange. Suggest gifts or gift certificates that will bring Mom joy in the new year: coffees, teas, sweets, manicures or movies, to be enjoyed at home or during special outings. (And assure them you’ll remind Mom of their generosity every time you bring out their decadent chocolates!)
  • Does the loss of a particular tradition seem too much to bear? Preserve it by passing it on! Teach your children, nieces and nephews to bake Mom’s cookies or carve a roast like Dad. Go ahead and buy tickets to the Messiah or the Nutcracker, and treat a friend to the experience. Spread the joy!


The Best Gifts for People with Alzheimer’s Support, Stimulate & Engage

Alzheimer’s is a journey. As you plan gifts, visits or outings, prepare to meet your loved one wherever the road has taken them. Use the past as a guide, but look for clues that they may need or prefer something new.


From Expert #12: Jeanne Reeder
Board Member
Jeanne’s Place

For people  in the early stages of dementia:

Give anything that enhances or jogs their memory

  • Pocket-sized calendar, diary or notebook
  • White erase board (maybe several – one for each room)
  • Calendar with family members’ pictures and names (see Expert 3’s suggestions above)

Help with everyday tasks

  • Memory phone with pictures accompanying name and contact information
  • Clock with the date and time in large type (a much-loved gift that helps caregivers, too)
  • Night lights that come on automatically at dusk

Keep them engaged (see Expert 8 above, too)

  • Outings to movies, museums, plays or sporting events
  • iPod personalized with their favorite music
  • DVDs of favorite TV shows (e.g., Gunsmoke, I Love Lucy, Golden Girls), musicals or music videos

Concentrate on stimulating the senses as your loved one moves to the middle or late stages (See Experts 1, 2, 6 and 7 above for ideas)

Keep them connected to friends and family

We’ll add one of our favorite holiday suggestions here, for anyone with dementia – but especially for those in the early stages. Help Mom and Dad share their most valuable gifts: talents, recipes, traditions, family history. Show your respect and delight as these treasures are being passed on to you. For example, when you look at old photos together, listen as Mom names the stranger no one else remembers – and tells their story. Thank her for passing on these memories.


Jeanne’s Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget A Gift for the Family Caregiver!

A family caregiver values time, respite and companionship – on their terms.

Deliver a meal once a month. Stay to visit while you share it.

Give a gift certificate for professional services – or a homemade coupon if you’re willing and able – to

  • Help with house cleaning, lawn care or snow removal
  • Provide respite care

Consider gift certificates that help the caregiver enjoy their respite

  • For entertainment, like restaurants, concerts or movies
  • For personal services, like a day at the spa, or a massage, manicure and pedicure
  • For splurging on their favorite sort of shopping trip: to a craft store, bookstore or boutique

Support them no matter how they choose to spend their time off: perusing an art gallery, catching up on their knitting, enjoying a cup of coffee, attending a support group meeting.

Don’t forget: even little splurges brighten a family caregiver’s difficult days. A box of special teas says you’re thinking of her as she sips her afternoon cup. A luxurious hand cream brings welcome relief to chapped hands as she washes them yet again. Flameless candles add ambiance without raising any safety concerns.


Make It A Season – Not a Day – of Giving

Among the best holiday gifts for people with Alzheimer's: A quiet moment listening to Christmas music

Our Employee Photo Contest Winner: Holiday Season – finding joy in a quiet moment (photo credit: Deonisia Hernandez)

To sum up, don’t stress over dates and deadlines this season. People with Alzheimer’s – and their family caregivers – needn’t be tightly tethered to the holiday calendar.

Something Nori Nakamura said bears repeating. Your loved one

“may not remember the details later, but the positive mood you create lasts long after. . . .”

Don’t worry about presenting the perfect gift on the date you’ve always celebrated. Choose the day you can relax and enjoy together. Ask your loved one’s caregivers if they’re most content and alert at a particular time of day. Check for the quiet times, when other residents and activities won’t distract.

Then, as Caroline Dawson suggests,

“Spread the Joy!”

Enjoy simply being together. When you leave, know that you’ve given Mom or Dad a sense that all is well. That’s a comforting feeling that will last for days to come.

Resources from other sites, to help with this season’s visits

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