An Adult Daughter Juggling the “Caregiver Sandwich” in Holland Michigan

An Adult Daughter Juggling the “Caregiver Sandwich” in Holland Michigan

Dear Donna:

My 91 year old mother suffers from advanced diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Both make it difficult for her to care for herself. But she insists on staying in her home in Holland, Michigan instead of moving to senior living. She has lived there for almost 60 years. The problem is that my brother just won’t help with her care. We both live equal distances from her, but he won’t even take her to doctor’s appointments. I love my mother and want to care for her. That isn’t the issue. But I have a busy job and two children still living at home. There just aren’t enough hours in my day to be her only caregiver! I am getting more and more resentful of my brother. I am afraid I will say something I really regret if he doesn’t start helping.

-Melissa in Muskegon, Michigan

Dear Melissa:

You are a classic example of someone trying to survive the “sandwich”. A term we use to describe the generation sandwiched between aging parents’ needs and those of their own children. In your case, you have the added stress of a sibling who won’t help. In almost every family we work with across the state of Michigan, one child bears the primary responsibility of caregiving. Most of the time it is the adult daughter or daughter-in-law.

I have a few ideas for you to try:

  • Ask your brother to meet you to talk about your mother.  Have the meeting in a neutral place. Somewhere that you can talk without interruption.
  • Prepare a list of activities you do for your mother and things you know need to be done but you haven’t had time to do. Even little things like picking up prescriptions should be on the list.
  • Really give some thought beforehand to what he could do to help. Maybe lawn care or household repairs? What jobs will he be most likely to do on a routine basis?
  • Sit down with your brother and share your concerns and your list with him in a respectful way. This may be difficult to do given how much resentment you are feeling towards him. Just remember, your goal is to get him to agree to help without forever damaging your relationship.
  • Listen to what he has to say. You may find that fear is keeping him from helping your mother. Maybe you can arrange to meet at your mother’s house together to work on projects for her. Easing him in to caregiver responsibilities may give him time to adapt to the changes in your mother that have frightened him away.
  • Try to divide up the task list and talk about dates and deadlines. Leaving the meeting with a definite plan will help.
  • If all else fails, you have two options. You can hire a family mediator to help resolve your differences. Or you can accept that he won’t help and move on without him. That will be hard to do, but continuing to live with resentment will put your own health at risk.

Best of luck, Melissa! Please feel free to call one of the Heritage Senior Communities in Holland  if you have any questions or need more advice on senior living.


Brain Pacemaker for Alzheimer’s Disease

Brain Pacemaker for Alzheimer’s Disease

Can a Pacemaker in the Brain Slow the Progression of Alzheimer’s?

Almost 180,000 people in Michigan live with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. By 2025, The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that number will climb to 190,000 people.

That is why families and caregivers in Michigan and across the country are closely following the promising new trials at The Johns Hopkins University and Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University. Over the past seven months, researchers at both medical universities have been conducting pacemaker trials on patients living with Alzheimer’s disease. Early results look encouraging.

The studies started in December of 2012 when surgeons at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine implanted pacemakers in the brain of two people with Alzheimer’s Disease. They expect forty more patients at Johns Hopkins and four other medical centers will undergo the same procedure by the end of the year.

The Johns Hopkins trial is focused on examining the effects deep electric simulation of the brain can have on the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The study is based on an earlier and smaller trial in Canada. Patients there showed increased glucose metabolism after a similar study. Glucose metabolism is considered an indicator of neuronal activity. It decreases with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at The Ohio State University are approaching their testing a little differently. While The Johns Hopkins trial targets the part of the brain responsible for memory, the trial at The Ohio State targets the area of the brain that controls behavior and cognition. Both groups are hoping to see how pacemakers in the brain can treat this disease.

Stay Updated on the Pacemaker Trials

We encourage families that have a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to sign up to follow our blog. We’ll be sure to share the latest findings from both trials,” explains Eileen Drexler, the Alzheimer’s and dementia expert for Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan.

You can learn more about The Johns Hopkins trial from this video. . You can also watch this interview from The Wexner Medical Center to see the story of one of their patient’s progress firsthand.

Do you or a loved one live with Alzheimer’s disease?

Would you consider participating in an Alzheimer’s trial?

Dear Donna: Dad is Lonely

Dear Donna: Dad is Lonely

Dear Donna:

I’m concerned about my 83 year old father. He lives alone in his home in Grand Haven, Michigan since my mother died two years ago. I live in Saline, Michigan with my own family. Because of the distance and our kids busy school schedules, we only make it up to see him about every six weeks. I talk to him on the phone every day. He always says he is “fine” and that he doesn’t need anything. But during the last few visits with him, he hasn’t seemed like himself. He has lost a noticeable amount weight and seems much quieter than he’s ever been. I know he misses my Mom. They were married for 64 years. How can I tell if this is grief or depression or something else entirely?

-Christina in Saline, Michigan

Dear Christina:

Long distance caregiving for an aging parent brings unique challenges. It is an issue that adult children across Michigan struggle with every day. And your question is a common one among our elderly. Separating grief from depression or another illness can be difficult. They can all exhibit similar symptoms. And two years isn’t an unreasonable amount of time to grieve for someone you were married to for 64 years. Wow! What a milestone.

To help you better understand what may be wrong with your father, I recommend you consider a few things:

  • Does your father still drive? If not, does he have friends and family close by that help him stay connected to the community? For example, if church was always an important part of your parents Sunday routine, is he still able to go? Socialization can help someone who is lonely and alone for the first time in their life. Many of the residents of our independent living apartments move to a community for that very reason.
  • You are right to be worried about weight loss. It can be a warning sign of depression or an illness, but it can also mean your father isn’t able to get to the grocery store or prepare meals on his own. Can you tell if the later might be the issue from your visits with him? Poke around in his refrigerator and see what you find. Are there healthy foods? Do you see foods with expired date labels? Ask him what is does for meals each day.
  • How is his appearance? Does it look as if he is able to maintain his own personal care? Do you see bruises or other evidence he has experienced a fall or two? If he has fallen and not told you about it, he may be fearful of falling again and may avoid using the bathtub or the stairs or other areas of the house he thinks are hazardous.
  •  What is the condition of his house? Are bills piling up? Does the house look dirty? At 83 years of age, it may be too much for him to keep up with it all and that could be wearing him down.
  • How long has it been since he has been to see his primary care physician? They can be a good resource for family caregivers and a great place to start if you are trying to get to the bottom of what is wrong. Try to schedule a check-up for a day and time you can go with him. If that isn’t possible, you may want to consider calling the office ahead of time to share your concerns with the doctor.

I would also like to recommend one resource that I think might help you in your caregiver role. The Family Caregiver Alliance. They are a part of the National Center on Caregiving. They have online support groups that you may find helpful.

Good luck, Christina! Please keep us posted on how your father is doing.



Chair Yoga for Michigan Seniors

Yoga and Pilates are two forms of exercise that receive a lot of media attention. From Hollywood starlets toting Pilates mats around town to informal groups practicing yoga in Michigan’s parks, it seems as if the most fit people participate in one or the other. The benefits of both are well documented. Each helps to build core strength, balance and overall flexibility. But for many older adults, the idea of joining any form of exercise that requires them to lie on a mat on the ground or floor may not hold much appeal. Those living with osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s disease or any other physical impairment, may think it just isn’t possible for them to participate.

But finding a form of exercise that helps to improve core strength and flexibility is increasingly more important as we age. Falls remain one of the leading causes of injuries and fatalities in the aging population. And a lack of flexibility and core strength are leading causes of falls.

Chair Yoga can be a solution. It is yoga modified so it can be performed in a seated position, allowing older adults or those with physical limitations to realize the benefits of yoga:

  • Stronger core
  • Increased flexibility, mobility and balance
  • Improved feeling of well-being
  • Better breathing and increased oxygen intake
  • Improved relaxation response to stress
  • Weight loss and weight control

For seniors, yoga has also been shown to help manage the chronic pain and symptoms that accompany health conditions such as:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Cardiac disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Once you check with your family physician to obtain their approval to try chair yoga, there are a few different ways you can get started. Here are a few resources you might find helpful:

  • Many senior centers across the state of Michigan offer chair yoga or similar exercise programs. You can use this search directory to find a Michigan senior center  near you.
  • Yoga for the Heart – Sitting Fit Anytime.

Do you participate in a chair yoga class at an assisted

living community or senior center in Michigan? Let us know how it is going!

Fall Prevention: Top 5 Tips for Michigan Seniors

Fall Prevention: Top 5 Tips for Michigan Seniors

Dear Donna:

My father keeps falling. I live three hours away and have had to drop everything three times this month to race to his house after he had a fall. He says it is just a normal part of aging. I think there is more to it. What can we do? I will lose my job if this keeps up!

-Suzanne in Bay City, Michigan

Dear Suzanne:

The teams at Heritage Senior Communities hear stories similar to yours from families we work with across Michigan every day. We know the role of long-distance caregiver is a tough one. Especially if you work and have your own family.

And, you are right. While our senior population does experience more falls, they are not a typical part of the aging process.

There are a few things we can recommend you try to help keep your father safe at home:

  1. Consider having a physical or occupational therapist do an evaluation of his home environment. They can look at potential hazards that may be increasing his risk for falls. That includes throw rugs, places where grab bars should be installed, stairway safety, lighting and more.
  2. Has your father had a vision test lately? Many times poor vision and falls go hand in hand. It may be time for a new prescription for his glasses. Or he may be suffering from cataracts that are impairing his vision. It is best to have it checked out.
  3. Does your father take any prescription medications? The side effects of some medicines can cause an unsteady gait. Or it could be the interaction between two medications that is impacting his balance. Your father’s pharmacist is a good resource for helping you make this determination.
  4. Poor nutrition can also lead to falls. Is your father eating a well-balanced diet? If he no longer drives or suffers from a disease like Parkinson’s or arthritis, it may be difficult for him to prepare healthy meals. Your local Area Office on Aging will have recommendations on meal delivery programs that might help.
  5. Strength and flexibility are what help us maintain good posture and balance. If your father has a sedentary lifestyle, you might want to talk with his family physician about strength training and flexibility exercises. He might recommend chair yoga, Tai Chi or another form of no impact exercise to help him regain his strength and flexibility.

If you would like to assess his home on your own, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a great Home Fall Prevention checklist that can help.

I hope these tips help, Suzanne! Best of luck to you and your father.