My mother will soon celebrate her 88th birthday. Believe it or not, she still lives alone in her home near Grand Haven, Michigan. We are a few hours away but visit her often.
So far we have been able to help her maintain her independence with the use of a private home care aide. I think it might be time for something different now though.
While I think the aide can help her with bathing and dressing just fine, two things I’m most concerned about are that she is alone all night long and also that she is stuck in her house the majority of the time. She has difficulty navigating the steps on the front of her house and getting in and out of the car safely. Between her aide and myself, we do all of her errands and shopping. I think she feels very isolated, but we are afraid she will fall and hurt herself if we try to take her along with us.
I’m a little confused about what an assisted living community can offer that is different from the home care she already uses. Can you help clarify things for me?
Alison in Ann Arbor
Thank you for your note! We talk with families visiting our senior living communities across Michigan about this very issue every day. For many adult children, enlisting the services of a home care aide can be a good short-term solution. But when a parent needs a little more care or around the clock supervision, the cost of in-home care can quickly add up.
Here are a few of the benefits an assisted living community can offer residents:
- The privacy of their own apartment or suite in an environment designed to support elder safety. Grab bars, handrails, step-free showers and emergency call systems are standard.
- On-site life enrichment programs to help promote socialization and companionship.
- Caregivers on-site and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Three well-balanced meals and snacks each day.
- Support with personal care needs such as bathing, dressing, and grooming.
- Medication management assistance.
- Housekeeping, laundry and maintenance services to allow for worry-free apartment living.
- Transportation services provided in an accessible bus.
As you can see, assisted living is a balance of independence and support.
We invite you to call us or stop in for a tour so you can learn more about assisted living as a solution for your mother!
Caring for an aging loved one requires you to sacrifice a lot of your own time. To make room in an already tight schedule to help a senior loved one with daily tasks, caregivers often move socializing to the bottom of their priority list.
Skipping a group meeting, cancelling a lunch date or passing on a cookout might seem like the best way to reduce the stress of trying to fit too much into the day. It can, however, have the opposite effect.
According to The Caregivers Handbook, being separated from others while devoting extra time and energy to a senior loved one causes caregivers to feel lonely, depressed and stressed. This isolation can also lead to resentment that strains relationships and makes caregiving a negative experience.
Maintaining strong connections with friends and family is crucial to your wellbeing. Make time for socializing in your daily routine. Like exercise, regular social activities are necessary for good health.
Tips for Getting Help When You Are a Caregiver
Taking a break from caregiving is usually possible only if you have someone to take over your aging parent’s care while you slip away. Here are a few tips for Michigan caregivers to consider:
- Enlist family and friends to cover for you while you attend a social event. Don’t be afraid to ask or to accept a previous offer of help.
- Hire an in-home caregiver. Aides can help with bathing and dressing, meal preparation, medications and simply offer companionship to your loved one.
- Consider respite care in an assisted living community. This is perfect for a weekend getaway, a visit with out-of-town relatives, or for a longer vacation.
A few other ideas to allow you to fit socializing into your time-strapped schedule, feel connected to the outside world and improve your relationship with your senior loved one include:
- Try to schedule at least one social engagement a week. This might be having dinner with a friend, going to a movie or attending a sporting event.
- Make a social phone call every day. Touching base with a supportive friend or loved one is a small gesture that relieves a large amount of stress.
- Plan for date nights. Spouses are often the first people neglected when their partner is a caregiver. Even a simple walk in the park together can help you feel less isolated and more in touch with the most important person in your life.
- Take field trips. If your senior loved one is able, take him or her with you to a craft show, festival, church meeting or barbeque. Connecting with others is good for them, too!
- Extend an invitation. Encourage friends and loved ones to visit you and the older adult in your care.
- Connect with other caregivers in Michigan. Join a support group to meet regularly with others who share similar experiences. These are also great resources to learn how to better care for aging loved ones. Contact the Michigan Area Office on Aging to locate support groups in your county.
- Join online support groups. The World Wide Web is home to many caregiver communities where you can talk with others who are facing similar challenges. Some discussion groups are general, like the AARP Caregiver Community. Others are ailment specific, like the Alzheimer’s Association Connected Caregiver Forum .
Staying connected can help caregivers remain healthy, happy and positive about their role in their senior loved one’s life.
If you are interested in learning more about respite care for your senior loved one, please call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which focuses on promoting vaccinations to prevent serious illness and to save lives. Many mistakenly believe that immunizations are only necessary for infants and young children. But vaccines are not just for kids. Seniors in Michigan needs their shots, too.
As we grow older, our immune system weakens, putting each of us at a greater risk of life-threatening diseases that are often times preventable with a simple vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that as many as 70,000 adults lose their life each year from vaccine-preventable illnesses. It is vital that you know which vaccines are recommended for your Michigan senior loved one to ensure they are protected.
Immunizations for seniors over age 65
The CDC recommends an annual flu shot and several one-time vaccinations for your senior loved one.
- Influenza or flu vaccine: This annual shot is a must for older adults. The flu can be deadly to people of all ages, but kills more seniors than any other group. Almost 90% of flu-related deaths are in adults over the age of 65. Seniors also account for more than 50% of hospitalizations for the influenza virus.
This important vaccine reduces the likelihood that an older adult in your care will contract the flu virus. If they do, the symptoms are less likely to be severe and less likely to require a costly hospital stay.
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends your senior get the influenza vaccine in October or November to ensure they are protected through the peak season.
- Pneumonia vaccine: Pneumonia is responsible for almost 50,000 deaths in older adults each year. It is also the leading cause of hospitalization in Americans over the age of 65. This one-time vaccination, covered by Medicare, can protect against 23 different strains of bacterial pneumonia.
The Pneumovax immunization also helps to prevent infections of the bloodstream and bacterial meningitis.
Recently, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that seniors also receive an additional dose of a new pneumonia vaccine that prevents 11 more types of this life-threatening disease. Prevnar13 is not yet covered by Medicare and costs up to $150.
- Shingles vaccine: Seniors over 60 are more prone to shingles, a painful and long-lasting skin rash caused by the chicken pox virus. The one-time Zostavax vaccine lowers the risk of contracting this infection by 50%. If your senior loved one does come down with shingles, the shot reduces the severity of the rash and the level of pain.
The shingles vaccine can be given even after an outbreak, preventing further infection.
Vaccines for special circumstances
Additional vaccinations may be required based on medical need.
- Tdap: This vaccine is the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster for adults who may or may not have been given the DTP vaccine when they were younger. The one-time shot was added to the CDC’s recommended vaccinations list after a recent outbreak of whooping cough, or pertussis, which is deadly in infants.
- Hepatitis A and B: Physicians often administer these vaccines to seniors in assisted living communities and nursing homes, where an outbreak may occur.
To track vaccines for a loved one in your care, you may want to use a Vaccine Administration Record.
Vaccinations are an important part of your senior loved one’s health and well-being. Check with their health care provider to make sure they are protected. For more information about vaccinating a senior loved one, visit US Department of Health and Human Services Senior Vaccine Schedule.
When a senior loved one in Michigan forgets a name, has trouble managing their finances or repeats themselves in a conversation, you might immediately worry that they have Alzheimer’s Disease. You might also dismiss these as a normal part of the aging process.
While these issues may seem minor, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends that older adults with noticeable decline in memory and reasoning see a doctor for a complete evaluation.
Though Alzheimer’s is incurable, early diagnosis can make a difference. Prompt detection means that your aging parent can start treatments that alleviate the worst symptoms of the disease. Knowing your loved one has Alzheimer’s also allows you both to plan ahead and make important decisions about future care.
If you suspect Alzheimer’s, keep track of your loved one’s behavior by monitoring these symptoms:
1) Significant memory loss: Of course, some forgetfulness is common in older adults. But when memory loss affects daily life, Alzheimer’s may be the cause. Are there times when your aging parent cannot provide the date or identify the season? Make note of instances when your senior loved one forgot an important event, has consistent difficulty recalling names and finishing sentences, or repeatedly asks the same questions.
2) Declining ability to think and reason: You may notice that your aging parent is not able to balance a checkbook, read assembly instructions or do puzzles that they once enjoyed. A senior loved one with Alzheimer’s might also be overly generous with charitable donations or make exorbitant purchases.
3) Increased difficulty with routine tasks: Look for instances when your loved one forgets how to start the coffee maker, plug in a lamp or dial the telephone. Be aware that they may attempt to hide these situations to avoid embarrassment.
4) Misplaced belongings: We all lose our car keys or have trouble locating our cell phone from time to time. But an older adult with Alzheimer’s might do this more frequently, and even place items in unusual places. They might place a remote control in the freezer or putting the car keys in a bathroom cabinet.
5) Poor hygiene: Do you notice that your loved one isn’t bathing regularly, stops brushing their teeth and shaving? Does he skip meals, but eat heartily when food is put in front of him? Forgetting these routine tasks is a common sign of Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia.
6) Withdrawal from social activities and conversations: If your aging parent declines party invitations or wants to go home shortly after their arrival, they may have Alzheimer’s. Social situations may make them uncomfortable because they experience difficulty engaging in conversations.
7) Increased isolation: People with Alzheimer’s often retreat from family gatherings because of over stimulation. You may also notice that your senior loved one is no longer interested in television programs or movies and seems more comfortable sitting alone in a quiet room.
8) Personality changes: Alzheimer’s disease can cause significant mood swings and shifts in personalities. Be sure to tell the doctor if your aging parent is more angry, upset or fearful than usual.
For more information about early detection of Alzheimer’s Disease, visit the Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.