When a Parent is Covering Up a Spouse’s Illness

Dear Donna:
My parents live about four hours away from us in Saginaw, Michigan. We try to get there to visit about every other month, but we have young children who are involved in sports and many other after school activities. It makes our schedule during the school year more than a little crazy!

Lately I’ve noticed that my mother is trying to discourage us from visiting. She says she knows how busy we are and that they are doing just fine on their own. But when we were there over the weekend, I felt like there was more going on than she let on.

At first I thought maybe she wasn’t feeling well. After a few hours, however, I realized there was something different with my dad. I heard him up during the night prowling around the house. The next day he seemed quiet and even a little confused.

When I questioned my mom about it, she denied there was anything wrong. She claimed he hadn’t been sleeping well because of a new medication so he was tired.

I think he has Alzheimer’s disease. My husband and I aren’t sure what to do next. Do you have any advice?


When a Spouse is Hiding a Partner’s Dementia

Dear Anna:
It sounds like you might be right to be a little concerned about your dad’s behavior, but I wouldn’t necessarily leap to the conclusion that he has Alzheimer’s.

If he is taking a new medication, it might be a side effect just like your mother indicated. Or it could even be another issue such as a vitamin B-12 deficiency or an infection of some kind. On the other hand, it could be something more serious like Alzheimer’s.

It isn’t uncommon for spouses of many years to hide one another’s symptoms from adult children. They do so in a variety of ways including:

  • Discouraging family visitors
  • Finishing a spouse’s sentences when they are struggling for words
  • Making excuses for unusual behaviors

A proper diagnosis is important no matter what the condition. If it is just an infection, a dose of antibiotics might return your father to his old self again. The same for a vitamin deficiency – correcting the problem might be fairly simple.

The best person to make the call is your dad’s primary care physician. If you sit down and explain to your mom that it might not be something serious, she may be less fearful and more cooperative in scheduling a physical exam for your father.

Best of luck to you and your parents, Anna! I hope your father’s doctor can help you get him back on a healthy track.



What to Know About Early Onset Alzheimer’s & Caregivers

Most of us associate Alzheimer’s disease with older adults. We assume their caregivers are aging spouses and adult daughters. But an increasing number of caregivers are much younger. In fact, researchers say that almost 1.4 million children and teens between the ages of eight and eighteen are caregivers.

Young Caregiver Statistics

According to the American Association of Youth Caregiving, 72% of young caregivers are providing care for a parent or grandparent who lives with a chronic illness or a disease like Alzheimer’s.

Early onset Alzheimer’s disease strikes adults in their 40s and 50s. This means their children are likely in their teens or even younger.

In recent years several movies shined the spotlight on this challenging issue.

  • The movie “Still Alice” won actress Julianne Moore an Academy Award for her performance as a linguistics professor at Columbia diagnosed with familial Alzheimer’s disease. She was just 50 years old.
  • The documentary Much Too Young follows young caregivers as they struggle to care for a loved one. It highlights the sadness they feel as they put their lives on hold. In some cases, their caregiver role requires them to drop out of high school. According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 22% of kids who drop out of high school drop-outs say caregiving is the reason.

Caring for Young Caregivers in Michigan

If a young Michigan caregiver you know is struggling to manage all of the demands of this role, you can help in several ways. A few suggestions include:

  1. Connect them with resources: A young caregiver may not understand there are resources for support in their own neighborhood. You can help connect them by calling organizations such as the Michigan Association of Agencies on Aging. Heritage Senior Communities throughout the state of Michigan have Memory care programs and respite services that might also be of help.
  2. Keep in touch: Caregiving is lonely work, especially for young people. Depression is quite common among Alzheimer’s caregivers. Stay in touch with the young caregiver in your life whether it is by phone, via Skype or with personal visits.
  3. Online support of peers: Another way you can help a young caregiver is to connect them with their peers. A teen caregiver might not realize there are other youth experiencing similar challenges. The American Association of Youth Caregiving, com and the Family Caregiving Alliance are all online support groups.

You can learn more about early onset Alzheimer’s disease by contacting the Michigan chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association that is nearest to you.

Common Summer Scams That Target Seniors

Summer typically means taking time to enjoy a vacation. One group of people you can be sure isn’t taking a vacation is the scam artists who prey on Michigan’s seniors. In fact, scams against older adults increase right along with the temperature.

Older Adults are Targets for Scams

Criminals believe seniors are an easy source of cash. They think older adults are more likely to be financially stable and less likely to report it if they fall victim to a scam because of embarrassment.

Older adults who have physical or mental impairments that affect their judgment or their ability to manage finances are especially vulnerable. Even those who are capable are often too trusting and polite to hang up the phone on a scammer or close the door on an in-person solicitation.

Michigan caregivers can help protect a senior loved one by knowing what scams they are most likely to fall victim to this summer.

Most Common Types of Summer Scams that Target Seniors

Here are a few of the most common summer scams:

  • Home Maintenance: A frequent summer scam occurs when someone comes to the door offering their services for home repairs in exchange for cash. They often claim to be offering special pricing because they are already in the area working on a neighbor’s home. Among the most common types of services they promote are paving and roofing. They often use high pressure tactics to intimidate seniors in to making a fast decision and turning over cash.
  • Fake Magazine Sales: A door-to-door salesperson —sometimes even children— knocks on the door offering low prices on magazine subscriptions. Some claim to be working to earn money for school tuition. The senior is required to pay up front but the magazine never arrives.
  • Door-to-Door Teams of Thieves: Working in teams of two, these summer scammers can rob a senior blind. While one person distracts the unsuspecting older adult with a sales pitch of some kind or even a religious offering, their partner sneaks into the home and cleans out a wallet, purse, jewelry box or other valuables.

Protecting Michigan Seniors from Crime

Here are a few steps Michigan caregivers can take to protect a family member:

  • Educate your Senior Loved One: Keep an eye on the local news and follow your community’s law enforcement agency on Facebook to stay up-to-date on scams targeting seniors. Then make time to share this information with your senior loved one. Knowledge is power when it comes to keeping our elders safe.
  • Reminder Notes: Post notes near your senior loved one’s telephone and front door reminding them never to give out sensitive information or make purchases without talking with you first. This may help keep them from falling victim to a crime.
  • Lock Up Valuables: Purchase a safe that your senor loved one can keep hidden in the home. This safety measure can help if a thief manages to talk their way in to a senior loved one’s home.

A final tip is to remember to take steps all year around to protect your loved one from falling victim to identify theft.  The Michigan Attorney General’s office has a variety of resources to help make that easier.

Let’s Keep in Touch

To receive updates on the latest news and information for family caregivers, we invite you to subscribe to the Heritage Senior Communities’ blog. We promise never to share your information and to only send you helpful resources that will assist you in your role as caregiver.


Finding an Assisted Living Community During a Crisis

Determining where a Michigan senior loved one should live when they need a little extra help is often something families do together. Making an informed decision usually means taking the time to explore all of the options from stand alone villas to assisted living apartments or suites.

But what happens if there is no time? If the older adult you love is hospitalized and their doctor says they aren’t safe returning to their home alone?

When a move to an assisted living community must be made amidst a crisis, the added stress it creates for families can be overwhelming. It’s why we pulled together a few tips to help you make this decision.

4 Tips for Finding an Assisted Living amidst a Crisis

  1. Establish a budget

For some families, this will be the first time they’ve discussed finances with a parent. But getting an idea about how much they can afford to pay each month is important. The median monthly cost for a one-bedroom assisted living apartment in Michigan was $3,250 in 2015. But some areas of the state are substantially higher.

  1. Investigate financial options

In your haste to find a senior living community, don’t overlook resources that might help you finance care. If your parent was a veteran or is the surviving spouse of a veteran, they may qualify for special benefits through the Veteran’s administration. Many long-term care insurance policies also include benefits for assisted living communities. The staff at the communities you visit can help you explore your options.

  1. Research from home

You can do some of your preliminary research from home or on your smartphone in your senior loved one’s hospital room. Conduct a Google search to see what communities are located in your desired area. Visit each of their websites and Facebook pages to learn more about them.

Let friends and colleagues know you are searching and ask if they have any recommendations. Your physician might also have suggestions.

Once you have a list together, begin by making personal calls to each of them. The Assisted Living Federation of America has a helpful assisted living visit checklist you can download to better understand what to look for and what to ask.

  1. Schedule Personal Visits

While it may seem difficult to do on a tight schedule, a personal visit is one of the most steps in making the right choice. Make sure you allow yourself enough time for a good tour of the community and to ask any questions you have. Be certain to ask for a copy of any contracts or documents you or your senior loved one would be required to sign. You will want to take your time reviewing them and even consider having an elder law attorney or trusted advisor peruse them as well.

Choosing an assisted living partner during a crisis is never easy. But with a methodical approach to exploring and learning more about each option, you will be able to make the best choice possible for your senior loved one.

Is a Sedentary Lifestyle Sitting as Dangerous as Smoking?

Is a Sedentary Lifestyle Sitting as Dangerous as Smoking?

Retirement years can be active ones. Freedom from daily work responsibilities means more time to relax and enjoy life. But for seniors who aren’t actively engaged with volunteer work, favorite hobbies or other pursuits, it is easy to fall in to a sedentary lifestyle. Recent studies have identified just how dangerous that can be for older adults.

The dangers of smoking have long been identified and documented. In fact, it is linked to 90% of lung cancer cases in this country. Smoking also contributes to other leading causes of death and disability including heart attack and stroke. But researchers now say a sedentary lifestyle might just be the new smoking.

What is just as important to know is that sitting too much can have dangerous consequences despite how much exercise you get each day.

Sedentary Lifestyle Dangers

Dr. James Levine from the Mayo Clinic has been studying the health effects of sitting for 15 years now. In one study, his team compared adults who spent 2 or less hours in front of a television or other screen each day with those who logged more than 4 hours.

They discovered that those who spent more time in front of screens were 50% more likely to die sooner and 125% more likely to experience a cardiac event than those who sat less. These statistics held true no matter what type or how much exercise the adult engaged in.

The Health Concerns of Sitting Too Much

Other health issues associated with sitting too much include:

  • Diabetes: Blood sugar is higher among people who spend more time sitting. This increases your risk for developing diabetes. It can also cause an existing case of the disease to worsen
  • Cancer: Sedentary seniors experience greater incidences of cancer, especially breast, colon and prostate cancers.
  • Depression: Spending more time on the couch puts you at higher risk for depression and other mental health conditions at any age.
  • Obesity: Metabolism slows by 20 – 50% when you sit too much. This increases the odds for obesity.

To learn more about the dangers of sitting too much, download Dr. Levine’s free guide “Sit Less. Stand More. Start Down.” It has resources to help you stay active.

If you are considering a move to a Michigan senior living community you will have the chance to participate in life enrichment programs, like those offered at the Heritage Senior Communities, every day. It will help you enjoy a longer, healthier life!