Helping a Parent Winterize the House

Dear Donna:

My husband and I will be visiting my parents in Saginaw, Michigan next month. We only live a few hours away but our work hours and kids school activities make it difficult for us to make the trip as often as we would like.

I know the time is getting close for us to talk with my parents about moving to a senior living community. But we are trying to hold off on making that decision until next spring.

Because my Dad is struggling to keep up with some of the seasonal tasks he’s always used to perform, my husband and I are going to try to get some things done around the house for them.

We want to make sure we don’t forget anything that should be done to winterize their house. Do you have a list of suggestions we can use?



Preparing a Senior for Winter in Michigan

Dear Sierra:

Early fall is a great time to start preparing a senior’s loved one’s home for the often brutal Michigan winters. Storms can blow up quickly in the Great Lake State so it’s good to be ready.

Here are a few tips to help:

  • Have the furnace inspected:  From carbon monoxide to fires, problems with the furnace can be deadly. It’s why you should engage the services of a heating professional to inspect the furnace before your parents use it for the first time. Maybe you can schedule the appointment for one of the days you will be visiting so you can make sure everything goes well.
  • Check the alarms: Every home should have a working smoke detector on each level of the house and a carbon monoxide detector. Test these during your visit to see if the batteries are dead or if the unit itself needs to be replaced.
  • Inspect doors and windows: Take time to look for places around windows and doors where warm air is escaping and cold air might be able to creep in. Identify any potential spots where weather stripping or caulk might need to be replaced before the cold winds blow.
  • Turn off outdoor water sources: Don’t overlook turning off the water to outdoor spigots and draining hoses. This helps prevent pipes from bursting and causing a real mess for your parents.
  • Winterize the car: If your parents are still driving, also make sure their car is ready for winter. Are windshield wiper blades in good shape? Do tires need to be replaced? Is an ice scraper in the car? Are their fluids full? Also help your parents to pack a supply bag to keep in the car in case of an emergency.

Our final tip is to sit down with your parents to make sure they have a plan in place to keep their sidewalks and driveway free from snow and ice. If they need help finding a reputable company or need assistance paying for it, check with their local Michigan Agency on Aging. They may have resources available.

I hope this information is helpful, Sierra! Good luck getting your parents ready for winter.

Best Regards,


5 Bathroom Safety Tips for Michigan Seniors

If you are the adult child of a senior who lives alone, safety is probably an on-going concern. For older adults, the bathroom can be especially dangerous. More accidents take place in the bathroom than any other room in a senior’s home.

From slippery flooring to poor lighting, it’s important to learn how to create a safer bathroom for a senior you love.

5 Tips for a Senior-Friendly Bathroom

Here’s what adult children and family caregivers can do to create a senior-friendly bathroom:

  1. Raised Toilet Seat: 85% of injuries in adults age 85 and older happen near the toilet. Make this area safer by taking down towel bars your loved one might be using to pull themselves up and around. Towel bars aren’t designed to support this type of pressure and may come loose causing your loved one to fall. Replace them with sturdy grab bars on both sides of the toilet. It also helps to install a raised toilet seat so the older adult is less likely to lose their balance transferring on to and off of the toilet.
  2. Install Good Lighting: Another safety feature you can easily add to your senior loved one’s bathroom is improved lighting. Good lighting helps older adults better distinguish objects around them. This helps the older adult avoid running in to things or tripping over objects.
  3. Step-free Shower: Seniors are also at higher risk for a fall when they are climbing in to and out of the bathtub. Even stepping over the side of it to take a shower can be dangerous. Have their current bathroom modified to create a step-free shower with grab bars on both sides. Purchasing a sturdy tub chair from a medical supply company can also help keep your loved one safer.
  4. Easy to Reach Supplies: Work with your senior loved one to store the supplies they use most often in easy-to-access locations. Try to avoid storing items in spots that require them to climb up on a step stool or get down on the floor to reach them. For people with strength or balance problems, these are activities that can increase the odds for a fall.

Our final suggestion is to purchase a medical alert pendant or bracelet your family member. While they aren’t always popular with seniors, they can be life-saving. And many newer models are smaller and less obvious than older ones.

Consider a Michigan Senior Living Community

If you are concerned that a Michigan senior you love is at risk for a fall, a senior living community might be an ideal solution. Heritage Seniors Communities are designed to help older adults stay active and healthy. We invite you to call the community nearest you to schedule a private tour.


Conducting a Safety Assessment of a Michigan Senior’s Home

When an aging parent lives alone, it isn’t uncommon for their adult children to spend a great deal of time wondering and worrying about their safety. This is especially true if the senior lives in an older home. Houses built many years ago typically weren’t designed with seniors in mind.

Older houses often have stairs to climb up and down, a laundry room located in the basement, and bathrooms with tubs instead of walk-in showers.

Conducting a safety assessment of your aging parent’s house is one of the best ways to identify potential hazards and come up with a plan to fix them before a crisis occurs.

Conducting a Safety Assessment of a Senior Loved One’s Home

Here are a few items to make sure you don’t overlook when you are assessing an aging loved one’s home for safety:

  1. Bathroom Hazards: More accidents occur in the bathroom than any other room in the house. Start by removing any towel bars your parent might be using or tempted to use to pull themselves up with. Towel bars are not safe or designed for this purpose. They can break away from the wall causing the senior to fall. Replace the towel bars with sturdy grab bars near the tub and toilet. It also helps minimize their risk for an accident if you reorganize the bathroom so the items used most frequently are stored within easy reach. Your goal should be to prevent your loved one from climbing on a stool or getting down on the floor to find supplies. It might also be necessary to renovate one bathroom to accommodate a step-free shower stall.
  2. Flooring Assessment: An often overlooked hazard in a senior’s house is the flooring. Older carpeting is more likely to have rips and wrinkles which create fall hazards. Thresholds between rooms can also be a concern. Make sure the flooring in every room is level and in good repair to prevent your loved one from tripping.
  3. Good Attention to Lighting: Vision problems are more common as we age. It’s one reason why good lighting is so important. Walk through your family member’s home room by room to evaluate their lighting. Pay close attention to lights at the top and bottom of stairways, in long hallways and in the rooms used most often.
  4. Fire Safety: Seniors are much more likely to be injured or lose their life in a fire. Many times it’s because their smoke detector doesn’t work or they have hearing loss and can’t hear the smoke alarms go off. Fire prevention experts say you should test smoke alarms each month and change the batteries twice a year. If you don’t live near your loved one, call their local fire department. Some offer this service at no charge to older adults. You might also want to invest in smoke detectors that vibrate and/or turn on a strobe light in the event of a fire.
  5. Exterior Assessment: Don’t forget to look for potential risks outside your loved one’s home and in their garage. Be sure the railings on outside stairs are in good shape and strong enough to hold the senior’s weight when they pull against it. Look for cracks in walkways and stairways. Also make sure there is a motion-activated light to illuminate the garage and path the senior takes after dark.

The Facts About Falls and Seniors

The statistics on falls among older adults are alarming. One in three adults over the age of 65 experiences a fall each year. These falls are the leading cause of disability among seniors. It’s why paying close attention to your loved one’s environment is so important.

If you think it’s time for the aging parent or senior family member in your life to consider a move to a safer location, Heritage Senior Communities invites you to stop by for a tour at your convenience.

5 Ways Caregivers Can Avoid the Flu

5 Ways Caregivers Can Avoid the Flu

Family caregivers face new challenges every day. One many don’t often think about is flu prevention. For adult children who are caregivers for an aging parent, learning how to prevent being bitten by the bug is vital. Since younger, healthier adults may be able to fight off the virus easily, they may not even realize they have been exposed. This makes it easy for you to unknowingly pass the flu on to your senior loved one.

The Stats on Seniors and Flu

For older adults, influenza can be especially dangerous. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us:

  • Up to 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths are people 65 years and older
  • As many as 70% of all flu-related hospitalizations are people in this same age group

These are startling statistics for seniors and their family caregivers. But there are steps you can take to try to keep your aging parent healthy this winter.

5 Steps Caregivers Can Take to Shoo the Flu

  1. Get Your Flu Shot: Even if you are young and healthy, experts advise those who are caring for older adults or frequently around other vulnerable populations to get the vaccine. Most health care professionals say early October is best time to be vaccinated.  It takes about two weeks for protection from the shot to kick in, and flu season usually begins in late October or early November.
  2. Be Cautious in Public Places: Because the virus can live on things for as long as two hours, it’s important to exercise caution when you are out in public. This is especially true if your aging loved one is with you. Avoid large groups whenever possible. And try not to use public restrooms and drinking fountains if you can help it.
  3. Frequent Hand Washing: Most of us don’t realize how many times each day we touch our mouth or nose. If you’ve been exposed to the virus and have it on your hands when you touch your face, you increase the likelihood of contracting the flu and passing it on to your senior family member. Use good hand washing practices to wash your hands frequently.
  4. Rest and Eat Right: Keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet and getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. When your immune system is strong, you are better able to fight off the virus and avoid getting sick.
  5. Manage Stress: For busy family caregivers, stress is often a part of everyday life. But stress can have a negative effect on your health. It may leave you weary and tired. Both can lead to a weakened immune system. Exercise, aromatherapy and meditation are a few of the best ways to beat stress. If you just aren’t able to manage your caregiving anxiety, talk with your physician. They will likely have advice to help. Also consider taking advantage of respite care at a senior living community.

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4 Ways to Help Seniors with Alzheimer’s Stay Hydrated

4 Ways to Help Seniors with Alzheimer’s Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can be a fairly common health problem for seniors with Alzheimer’s. Forgetfulness is one reason people with the disease become dehydrated. Other causes range from side effects of medications to a decreased sense of thirst that often happens as we grow older.

Hydration is important at any age. Fluid intake impacts everything from kidney function to heart health. The good news is that there are steps caregivers can take to help a senior with Alzheimer’s disease stay well-hydrated.

5 Ways to Prevent Dehydration for Seniors with Alzheimer’s

1. Offer water and foods with high water content throughout the day

People with Alzheimer’s disease often suffer from a loss of verbal communication skills. This makes it tough for both of you. Instead of waiting for them to signal you that they are thirsty, offer them water and foods that have a high water content frequently. You can add lemons or other fruit to the water to make it look more appealing.

2. Set a good example for your loved one to mimic

Make drinking water and/or herbal tea (its caffeine free!) a shared ritual. Take breaks throughout the day to sit down and drink a glass of either one with your loved one. Or make a fruit cup with melons and berries that help pump up fluid levels for each of you to enjoy as an afternoon or mid-morning snack.

3. Plan menus that promote hydration

If your senior loved one was never a big water drinker, it may be a challenge to get them to drink enough each day. To help them stay hydrated, plan menus that include foods known to have a high water content. They range from cucumbers and leafy green vegetables to tomatoes, celery and melons.

4. Make it easy for your family member to drink water

When you can’t be with your loved one, make sure it is easy for them to drink water. Fill several water bottles and keep them in the refrigerator. You might even want to order bottles that have an infuser built in so you can add fruit. Then make reminder calls to your family member to encourage them to drink while you are away.

5. Investigate their medications’ side effects

It isn’t uncommon for older adults to take medications that contribute to dehydration. Diuretics and blood pressure pills are two examples. Some over-the-counter medications, like antihistamines, may also be a problem. Review your loved one’s medications to see if any of them are known to cause dehydration.

Dehydration Can Mimic Alzheimer’s Disease

Since the signs of dehydration can mimic common symptoms of dementia, it may be necessary to monitor the fluid intake and urine output of a senior with Alzheimer’s. Talk with your loved one’s primary care physician to learn more.

Heritage Senior Communities are a leading provider of specialized dementia care in Michigan. Call the community nearest you to schedule a visit today!