My great aunt lives in a rural community near Grand Haven, Michigan. We made it up to see her during the holidays and I’ve been worried about her since we left. Physically she seems to be doing well. She is managing her medications on her own, is able to safely drive herself to the grocery store and necessary appointments, and prepare her own meals. But she doesn’t really do much else.
It feels like she is very isolated and lonely. While she was happy having our family around for a few days, my fear is that she is depressed. I think she needs to be around people more. She was always a very social person. My husband and I aren’t sure what to do to help her.
Calista in Ann Arbor, Michigan
You are probably right to be concerned about your great aunt’s well-being. In recent years, isolation among older adults has been proven to contribute to a variety of issues ranging from earlier mortality to malnutrition. Being isolated and lonely can also put a senior loved one at greater risk for becoming the victim of a fraud, especially door-to-door home repair scams.
If you are confident your great aunt is safe driving, you might want to begin by encouraging her to become involved in volunteer work. There is an organization called Volunteer Match you might want to explore on her behalf. The site allows you to search for volunteer opportunities by zip code and interest. If your aunt is a nature lover or children, for example, you can look for organizations near her who are seeking volunteers.
Senior centers are another great avenue for older adults to connect with their peers. You can find the one closest to her by visiting Michigan Association of Senior Centers. Members have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of events each month including Valentine’s Day luncheons, tax preparation workshops, and Chair Yoga. Most are free or relatively inexpensive.
A move to an independent living community might be another avenue to explore. Residents have their own private apartment or cottage, but still have friendship and support nearby. It gives older adults the opportunity to enjoy life enrichment activities, wellness programs, and transportation services. All without the worries about home repairs or maintenance tasks!
I hope this gives you a few ideas for helping your great aunt become more active and engaged with life.
Our newest community, The Village of Appledorn West in Holland, is open! If you or an older loved one would like to tour our independent living apartments or learn more about our assisted living community that will open in the spring of 2015, please stop by or call us at (616) 846-4700
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Keeping the relationship between the older generation and the younger one strong is important. It helps kids develop healthy attitudes about aging and to appreciate the positive contributions older adults can play in their lives. For the senior generation, having children and young adults in their lives can elevate mood and decrease rates of depression. Finding ways to help foster those bonds can sometimes be challenging. Because of that, we have pulled together a list of ideas to help you get started.
Creating Meaningful Inter-generational Activities
The winter weather in Michigan may limit inter-generational activities to just those that can take place indoors. Here are a few suggestions:
- Wii Games: Invest in a Wii for your senior loved one to keep in their home. The two generations can use it to work out or play games together. You can even set up some Wii challenges among the three generations of your family.
- Puzzles: Purchase a puzzle that the two generations can work on over the winter. Store it on a small card table in a corner between visits. Puzzles are available for every age group and in a variety of sizes and themes. The time spent trying to assemble the puzzle will gives the two generations a chance for small talk and bonding.
- Magic Kit: Another fun project can be to learn how to perform a few magic tricks together. Most hobby and toy stores have magic kits and supplies you can purchase relatively inexpensively.
- Karaoke: Having a regular karaoke night might be another activity the two generations would enjoy. You can often find used ones at good prices on local community garage sale sites on Facebook.
- Game Night: Board games or card games are usually a hit with both generations. Depending upon the age of the children, they can play anything from Go Fish to Monopoly together. This Best Seller List might give you a few ideas for new winter games.
- Scrapbooking: This continues to be a favorite hobby for all generations. Scrapbooking is especially easy to do if your children or senior loved one has a smart phone with a camera. They can take pictures of their daily activities and outings to add to and decorate in their scrapbook.
- Watching Wild. If your senior loved one’s home has a window where they can see wildlife, another idea might be for them to volunteer for the Watch the Wild Volunteers of all ages track wildlife they see in their own backyard and submit it to Nature Abounds. The information is used to help detect changes in our eco-system.
Finally, never underestimate the fun of an old-fashioned movie marathon. Grandparents.com has a variety of reviews to make it easier to select DVDs that both generations will enjoy.
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Every year, the month of February is designated as Heart Month. The goal of Heart Month is to raise awareness about heart disease and the controllable risk factors behind it. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in Michigan. Across the state, 27% of the deaths in 2010 were due to cardiac-related diseases. Despite a higher percentage of adults with health insurance and a greater number of people who exercise regularly, Michigan ranks as the state with 10th highest heart disease death rate in the country. Smoking and obesity rates are both higher than the national averages and likely contribute to these frightening statistics.
With that in mind, we have assembled a list of things you can do to decrease your risk for heart disease.
Heart Health Plan for Adults in Michigan
Decreasing your risk for developing most types of cardiovascular diseases means adopting a heart healthy lifestyle. Here are nine tips for getting started:
- Start Small: One reason New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and exercise fail more often than they succeed is people try to change everything in their life all at once. Instead, focus on making smaller changes over a longer period of time. For example, start by giving up soda. Then two weeks later add walking three times a week to your schedule. Continue making healthy improvements every few weeks. You will be more likely to stick with your goals when you slowly but consistently make changes.
- Schedule a Physical Exam: If you don’t already do so, make a habit of scheduling a yearly physical with your primary care physician. Medicare will pay for one Wellness Visit each year, and so will most insurance companies. The appointment gives your physician the time they need to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and evaluate you for other risk factors.
- Eat Your Veggies. Your fruits, too. The advice from most health professionals is that adults should consume five to eight servings each day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a helpful tool you can use to determine just how many fruits and vegetables you should eat. The Nutrition for Everyone calculator uses your age and activity level to make their recommendation.
- Exercise: Set a goal of getting thirty minutes of exercise each day. It might help make it easier to reach that goal if you break exercise down in to two fifteen-minute workouts each day. Maybe ride your stationary exercise bike for fifteen minutes in the morning and then take a brisk fifteen minute walk in the evening. As is true with any new form of exercise, talk with your primary care physician before beginning.
- Pump Iron: Another important part of staying fit and preventing heart disease is to keep your muscles strong and healthy. The Go4Life initiative from the National Institutes of Health has videos and guides that can show you how to work strength training in to your weekly fitness program.
- Stop Smoking: It is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States including those from heart disease. gov was developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The site contains a variety of free tools and resources to help you kick the habit.
- Reduce Sodium Intake: Salt and sodium contribute to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Reducing your intake can help you cut your odds for heart disease. The CDC has a free publication Sodium Reduction Tips that can help you learn how to do that.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol can lead to an increase in blood pressure. The empty calories can also lead to malnutrition and weight gain.
- Develop Stress Management Skills: Stress contributes to high blood pressure and hypertension. Finding ways to better management it is an important part of living a healthy life. Hobbies such as yoga, swimming and gardening can all help. Meditating for even ten to fifteen minutes a day can teach you better breathing techniques that are proven to lower blood pressure and decrease heart rate.
To learn more about heart health, sign up to follow the Million Hearts Initiative. You will receive messages and tips all year long to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and decrease your risk for heart disease.
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If you are a Michigan caregiver for a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you might be struggling with a case of cabin fever or the winter blues. It is fairly common this time of year. Many caregivers hesitate to venture out because they fear taking their aging family member out in winter weather may cause them to experience a fall or catch the flu. It can make for long days and weeks.
Beating the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Blues This Winter
We’ve pulled together a few ideas that might help you shake off the winter blues:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: You first want to make sure your case of the blues isn’t something more serious like Seasonal Affective Disorder. Reading more about the symptoms of SAD may help you decide. If they sound a little too familiar, talk with your primary care physician. He or she will recommend the best approach for getting back on track.
- Exercise: The endorphins released in your body when you exercise are great for lifting spirits and elevating mood. If winter has you trapped indoors and unable to enjoy a walk outside, consider investing in a treadmill or an exercise bike. Health professionals recommend a combined total 30 minutes of daily exercise to help keep you mentally and physically fit.
- Practice Good Nutrition: When your eating habits are unhealthy, energy level can go up and down like a rollercoaster throughout the day. To help stabilize your blood sugars and your mood, stick to a diet rich in complex carbohydrates.
- Check Your Vitamin D: In climates winters are cold like those we have in Michigan, rates of vitamin D deficiency are higher. Because most of us don’t spend much time outdoors soaking up sunlight when it is cold, our bodies don’t produce much of this essential vitamin. A vitamin D deficiency can contribute to feelings of sadness and depression. Talk with your primary care physician about having yours checked and to get their advice on taking a supplement during the winter.
- Sleep: Don’t overlook the restorative benefits of sleep when your mood is low. You don’t want to hibernate and sleep too much, but you want to try to get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.
- Limit Alcohol: Limit your alcohol intake. Studies show alcohol only makes blue moods worse. Sticking with one or two glasses of alcohol each week might help you kick the blues this winter.
- Respite Care: Take advantage of respite services offered at local adult day centers and senior living communities. Use the time your senior loved is there to give yourself some “me” time. Schedule a pampering pedicure or a lunch date with friends.
We hope these tips help you overcome the caregiver blues this winter!
Heritage Senior Communities is pleased to announce that our newest community is open in Holland, Michigan. The Village at Appledorn West offers adults over the age of 55 one- and two-bedroom independent living apartments. The campus will also be home to an assisted living community that is projected to open in the spring of 2015.
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