Tools to Support Michigan’s Senior Gardeners

Tools to Support Michigan’s Senior Gardeners

If gardening has been a pastime for many years, you’ve likely reaped the health benefits it offers. Improvement in the pain of arthritis, reduced stress, and increased flexibility are just a few. Unfortunately, gardening can become a little more challenging as the years go by. Aging sometimes puts older adults at greater risk for a fall or for a heat-related illness. If you or a Michigan senior you love enjoys gardening but is struggling to do the things they used to, these tips and tools may be of help.

Here are a few tips to make it easier to keep your garden growing without jeopardizing your health:

  1. The warm up. Gardening is hard work. Bending, lifting, and pulling weeds is a real physical work out. Be sure you take time to warm up your muscles and joints before heading out in to the garden.
  2. Raised flower beds. Safely getting up and down from the ground to plant flowers and pull weeds is often a struggle for older gardeners. One solution can be to have raised beds built in the yard. Height can be adapted to what feels easiest for you or the senior gardener you love.
  3. Time out chairs. Strategically placing benches, garden stools and chairs throughout the yard can allow you to take frequent, quick rests. That is important in avoiding both a heat illness and a fall.
  4. Use a wagon. Wheel barrows are a lot of work when you get older. They often require gardeners to lift the load they are trying to transport to get the wheels rolling. Instead of a wheel barrow, consider buying a wagon with large wheels. It puts less stress on your neck and back.
  5. Adapted garden tools. The Arthritis Foundation has a list of Handy Garden Tools that earn high marks for their ease-of-use. The list includes long-handled garden tools, water caddies and more.
  6. Paint the handles. If you live with a vision impairment, one tip that can make gardening easier is to paint the handles of all of your garden tools a neon or vivid color. It will make it easier to find where you laid them in the grass.

Finally, remember to use good judgment to stay safe in the summer heat. That includes gardening in the early morning or evening hours and avoiding the mid-day sun. Also be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat, and keep a bottle of water with you.

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Moving a Senior to a Michigan Memory Care Community

Moving a Senior to a Michigan Memory Care Community

When a senior loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, families are often confronted with the difficult task of moving them to a memory care assisted living community. After they learn more about these specialty programs, most families understand their senior loved one will be better off in such an environment. Memory care programs offer safety, security and the support seniors with Alzheimer’s disease need to maintain their abilities. But the very idea of helping their loved one make the transition from home to a senior living community often creates high anxiety for family caregivers. If you and your family are facing this transition, these tips can help.

Helping a Senior Loved One Make a Successful Move to Memory Care Assisted Living

  1. Bring their favorite belongings. Familiar possessions help decrease the anxiety most people feel when moving to a new home. This is doubly so for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease. Before your loved one actually makes the move, develop a plan for recreating their home environment. It should include favorite belongings such as their comfy chair, the blanket they use while watching TV, and family photos. The items that indicate this is “home” will help make it easier for them to settle in.
  2. Plan to move on their schedule. If at all possible, arrange for the actual move to take place during their best time of day. As a caregiver, you likely know when that is. If they are at their worst in the early evening, plan to arrive at the assisted living early in the day. That will give you time to get them comfortably settled before their anxiety and agitation peak.
  3. Create a reminiscence board. Before the move takes place, make photo copies of your loved one and the people and life events that are important to them. Glue them all on a foam poster board. Label everything on the board. It will be something they can keep in their room and will also help staff identify who all of the family members are. The history presented on the board will make it easier for staff to find things to talk about with your loved one and to get to know them quicker.
  4. The power of music. Many people living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia benefit from music therapy. It has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety. It might help to bring a small CD player and some of their favorite music on CDs when they move. Talk with the staff to see if they can use it when your loved one is anxious.

We hope these tips help make your senior loved one’s move more manageable. If you are a Michigan caregiver who has been through this process with a senior you love, please share any advice you can offer in the comments below.


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Meditation for Michigan Caregivers

Meditation for Michigan Caregivers

If you’ve been noticing that meditation seems to have gone mainstream over the past few years, you are right. Corporate CEOs, professional athletes, physicians, and television personalities are all confessing to using meditation to help improve their performance by reducing stress. It is being touted as the best stress buster out there. For Michigan caregivers, there is ample reason to learn more about meditation. In fact, a study from UCLA released earlier this year showed meditation is better for helping calm caregivers than even a relaxation CD. It can also help to keep the blues –another common struggle for caregivers – away.

Equally important is what meditation did to help increase telomerase activity and cellular aging. It sounds a bit technical but the short version is that telomerase is an enzyme commonly associated with stress-related health risks and diseases. The more telomerase activity is present, the longer the immune cells last. The study showed that the group practicing meditation had a 43% improvement in telomerase activity, while a relaxation group that had just 3.7%.

The Caregiver Meditation Study at UCLA

The study consisted of:

  • 49 family caregivers between the ages 45 and 91
  • 36 were adult children and 13 were spouses
  • The group was divided in two
  • The meditation group learned a 12-minute Kirtan Kriya yoga practice
  • The relaxation group listened to instrumental music on a CD in a quiet place
  • Each group practiced either meditation or relaxation listening at the same time every day for eight weeks

The results of the project showed 65% of the meditation group had a 50% improvement on a depression scale versus just 31% for the relaxation CD group. 52% of the meditation group also had a 50% improvement in mental health and cognitive function compared with to 19% for the relaxation CD group.

Places for Caregivers to Learn Meditation Online

One of the challenges for busy caregivers is not having enough hours in the day to attend a meditation class. Fortunately, there are many sites where caregivers to learn how to meditate online at a time that is best for them. A few of those sites include:

The bottom line is that caregiving creates stress. Finding ways to manage it is important to keeping caregivers healthy. Meditation is proving to be one way to accomplish that.


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Can Assisted Living Keep Seniors Out of the ER?

Can Assisted Living Keep Seniors Out of the ER?

Dear Donna:

My 88-year old mother lives near Grand Haven, Michigan. I live with my family in Saline, Michigan. In the past six months she has ended up in the emergency department of the hospital seven different times for problems ranging from falls to mismanaging her medication. It is difficult to get to her quickly when I live so far away. These frequent emergencies are causing real problems for me at work. My boss was sympathetic at first, but it has happened too many times. I’m concerned I could lose my job over this. With two kids in college, we can’t afford for me to be without it.

One of my colleagues suggested I look at nursing homes for my mother, but our HR Director told me she recently moved her father to assisted living after he was falling repeatedly at home. She said they have been able to help him significantly reduce the number of falls he has and his overall health has improved.

My question for you is can an assisted living community really help reduce trips to the ER?

Jamie in Saline, Michigan

Dear Jamie:

Your situation is one that is common among for the sandwich generation. It is a tough spot to be in! To answer your question, “yes” assisted living can help support the activities of daily living and provide a safer, more secure environment.

In your mother’s case, the two things you mentioned were a history of falls and problems managing her medications. Those are two areas an assisted living partner can help you better manage.

First, let’s talk about medication management. It is one of the number one reasons adult children explore senior living for an aging parent. At home, it is easy to miss a dosage or to accidentally take double doses of a medication. Assisted living communities have medication management programs in place. They will ensure your mother takes the right dose at the right time.

Next we move on to the issue of falls. Seniors can experience a fall for many reasons or for a combination of reasons. Mismanaging and forgetting to take important medications like blood pressure is one. Poor nutrition that leads to decreased muscle mass and weakness is another. The physical layout of older homes isn’t always a good fit for seniors. Poorly lit hallways, too many stairs, uneven floors, and bathrooms without grab bars are just a few of the problems that can contribute to falls. Residents in an assisted living community benefit from having well-balanced meals, in-house, age-appropriate exercise programs, and an environment designed to support safety.

I hope this information helps, Jamie! Please call the Heritage Senior Community closest to you or your mother if you have any more questions!



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