The Gender Issue in Senior Living

The Gender Issue in Senior Living

Dear Donna:

My father lives in southwest Michigan. He’s been on his own for a few years now since my mother passed away. Dad had been the primary caregiver for my Mom for about six years before her death. Since he has been on his own, he doesn’t seem to be getting out much. When I try to talk with him about it, he gets a little annoyed with me. The best I’ve been able to determine is that he doesn’t like to drive any longer and that he doesn’t feel like he has much purpose in life. I know he misses my Mom, and caring for her kept him very busy.

When I talked with our family doctor about it (she is also my Dad’s doctor) she suggested he might be happier in an independent living community where there is a lot to do each day. Somehow he has the idea that these communities are mostly for widows after their husbands pass away. I guess I’m a little confused about independent living, too. How would my Dad really benefit from this type of move?

Kathy in Grand Haven, Michigan

Dear Kathy:

It’s unfortunately all too common to see the surviving spouse —especially if they have been a long-term caregiver — struggle to build a new life. As you probably know from watching your parents, caregiving is a full-time plus job. To go from being so busy to having whole days to fill can be a big adjustment.

Your father’s feelings about women and senior living are not without merit. Experts say the ratio of women to men in an assisted living community can be as high as 7:1. The simple fact is most women live longer than men. On average, women outlive men by 5 – 7 years. It is important to note, however, that most senior living communities realize men feel this way and are working hard to overcome that stereotype. They are incorporating more masculine décor, offering programs specifically directed at male residents and more.

Your family physician’s suggestion sounds like a good one to consider! If your father chose to move to an independent living community he would benefit from:

  • A full calendar of life enrichment activities to participate in each day
  • Neighbors who have experienced similar struggles and losses and understand what your father is going through
  • Transportation services to local shopping centers, community events, physician appointments and more
  • A hassle-free lifestyle that includes all maintenance and housekeeping
  • The option to purchase meal service at dinner time if he no longer wishes to cook for himself

I hope this helps give you a better understanding of independent living in Michigan, Kathy! I wish you and your Dad the best of luck as you make this decision.


Prepare to Shoo the Flu

Prepare to Shoo the Flu

Most people who develop the flu recover from the aches, cough and fever quickly. But older adults are more vulnerable to severe and sometimes deadly complications.

September is the time of year to help your Michigan senior loved ones prepare to fight the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people over the age of 65 account for 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations and 90 percent of flu-related deaths each year.

It is crucial that you act early to protect your loved ones from this serious illness.

Here’s what you need to know to prevent your aging loved one from getting bitten by the flu bug this year:

  • Get them vaccinated. According to the CDC, the flu shot is the best way to prevent high-risk populations from coming down with the virus. Getting the shot in October ensures they are protected through the peak season in January and February and on in to spring.

Though there is a slight chance that your vaccinated senior could contract the virus even if they receive their flu shot, the vaccine will reduce the severity of illness and the risk of complications.

Adults over the age of 65 may be given a standard flu shot or a higher-dose vaccine designed for those with compromised immunity. Talk with your loved one’s physician to determine which vaccine is best shot for them.

Vaccines can be given at physician’s offices, clinics, pharmacies and at your local health department. Visit the Michigan Flu Vaccine Finder to locate a clinic near you. The annual flu shot is covered by Medicare Part B, with no co-pay.

  • Roll up your sleeve, too. The flu is highly contagious, so it is important that everyone who spends any time with your loved one is also vaccinated to prevent transmitting the disease. The CDC recommends the annual flu shot or nasal vaccine for everyone over six months of age.
  • Limit your loved one’s contact with people who may have the flu. Don’t permit visits with anyone who has symptoms of illness. Remind visitors that the senior in your care cannot risk becoming sick.
  • Encourage healthy hygiene. Remind your senior loved one to wash their hands thoroughly throughout the day and to avoid touching their face, eyes, and nose. This will prevent the spread of infectious germs.
  • Take precautions when in public. Wipe down shopping cart handles with anti-bacterial wipes. Carry hand sanitizer and help elderly adults remember to use it frequently to kill germs they might pick up.
  • Bolster immunity. Make sure your aging parents eat a balanced diet, exercise and maintain strong social ties. All of these things help strengthen their immune system.

If your senior loved one develops flu symptoms, call his or her physician. If they have the flu, the doctor can prescribe an anti-viral influenza treatment that can help them combat the virus more quickly and avoid debilitating complications.

For more information about flu prevention, visit the US Department of Health and Human Services website.

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Getting the Right Type of Care After a Hospital Discharge

Getting the Right Type of Care After a Hospital Discharge

When your senior loved one is discharged from a Michigan hospital, they may have a long road to recovery ahead. Depending on the illness, injury or treatment, it could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months before your aging parent has regained their independence.

In order to heal, they will not only need assistance with healthcare, but also with everyday tasks like bathing, dressing and meal preparation. Your loved one may get this care temporarily in a rehabilitation center, but will also need extra help in their home or in a respite care at an assisted-living community

Being involved in their care before and after discharge can help ensure that they recuperate and return to their daily routine as soon as possible.

The first step

Recovery from a hospital occurs in several stages. If your aging parent is doing well, the hospital may discharge them directly into home care, where family will be responsible for supervising their recovery. Because this situation is not always best for the senior, many are transferred to a short-term rehabilitation center, where they can receive 24-hour skilled nursing services, as well physical, speech and occupational therapy. If the senior meets the criteria, Medicare will cover up to 100 days in one of these skilled nursing communities.

The discharge plan

As soon as your aging parent is admitted, the staff begins discharge planning. When a team of caregivers determines that your senior is healthy enough for release, they will call a meeting and provide options for the family to investigate and consider.

Use a Discharge Planning Checklist to help you prepare for the meeting. It will make it easier for you to have all the information discharge planners need to assess your senior loved one’s care and home environment.

If you aren’t certain if your senior loved one will be safe at home, be sure to share your concerns with the discharge team. They can share resources, offer support and possibly alter their plan. You can also appeal a Medicare discharge decision and request a reassessment.

What’s next?

Once a senior in your care is released from a hospital or rehab center, you will need to decide the best approach for making a full recovery. You will have several choices to consider:

1) Home care administered by family. This will require that you wear many hats as you take on a nursing role. You may need to administer medications, care for wounds, and oversee exercise, as well as bathing, dressing, meals and housecleaning. If your loved one lives alone, you may need to stay with them until they are in better health.

2) In-home care. You might consider hiring a visiting nurse or a private duty aide to lighten your load. A qualified caregiver can make recovery easier on your senior loved one and on you. If a physician orders skilled home health care, it will typically be covered by Medicare. Otherwise, your loved one will have to pay out of pocket.

3) In-home therapy or outpatient therapy. If your loved one needs therapy to build muscle strength, recover lost speech skills, or to re-learn ordinary tasks, a physician may order in-home therapy or outpatient therapy. With a physician’s order, both are usually covered by a senior’s Medicare.

4) Respite Care: You may want to consider a short-term stay at an assisted living community if your loved one is not ready to return home alone after a hospitalization. This allows them to live in a safe and comfortable home-like environment where they can get 24-assistance with care tasks. They can also receive therapy services through a skilled home health agency while they are recovering at an assisted living community.

If you are considering respite care for your recovering senior loved one in the Great Lakes State, call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you.

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Advocacy on Alzheimer’s Action Day

Advocacy on Alzheimer’s Action Day

Alzheimer’s caregivers know how financially crippling this disease can be for families. What they may not realize, however, is the heavy financial burden it is creating for the nation.

Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America, surpassing cancer and heart disease in Medicare and Medicaid spending. Caregiving resources, education and support also require funding. And as more baby boomers reach their 60s, expenses are expected to increase.

The Alzheimer’s Association is dedicated to raising awareness and lobbying Congress for federal dollars to expand programming and research. They are asking for help to raise awareness on Alzheimer’s Action Day, September 21.

What you need to know:

  • More than 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today. The Alzheimer’s Association projects that another 28 million baby boomers will be diagnosed with the disease by 2050.
  • An estimated 180,000 people in the Great Lakes State live with Alzheimer’s By 2050, experts believe that number will climb to 190,000.
  • About 450,000 seniors will die from the disease this year. That is one in three adults over the age of 65.
  • In 2015, the United States will spend $226 billion on Alzheimer’s and dementia care. That number will skyrocket to $1.2 trillion in the next 35 years.
  • Alzheimer’s is currently incurable and there is no treatment that prevents the horrific effects of the disease.
  • The National Institutes of Health was granted $586 million for Alzheimer’s research in 2015. An additional $52 million is proposed for the for fiscal year 2016 The Alzheimer’s Association says that research is still too low when compared to funding for other disease research.


How you can help on Alzheimer’s Action Day:

  • Wear purple all day. This is the official color representing Alzheimer’s awareness.
  • Encourage others to wear purple. Organize a “purple day” in your workplace or your child’s school.
  • Spread the word in social media. Educate others by posting facts about Alzheimer’s throughout the day on Facebook and Twitter. Add a purple filter to photos you post on Instagram.
  • Raise money and awareness. Sell purple carnations or forget-me-nots and donate the money to the Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association or to a dementia care facility.
  • Contact elected officials. Congress has added $147 million to Alzheimer’s research budgets since 2013, but the Alzheimer’s Association says much more is necessary to prevent and cure this devastating illness. Email Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and ask them to increase funding for Alzheimer’s treatment and research. Contact your Congressional district representative and do the same. Remind them that 170,000 Michigan residents over 65 have Alzheimer’s. By the year 2050, the number is expected to climb to 220,000.

How you can help every day

  • Participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. These fundraising walks are scheduled in Chelsea, Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon, Saginaw and Traverse City in September and October.
  • Volunteer as a Public Policy Advocate or Ambassador with The Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Volunteers are needed to send regular emails and letters or make phone calls to elected officials. They also might share family stories with members of Congress.

Alzheimer’s caregivers often feel powerless against this cruel disease. Raising awareness and funds to eliminate the illness is one way you can fight back and feel empowered.