How the Food Pyramid is Different for Seniors

How the Food Pyramid is Different for Seniors

Life changes as you get older, and so do your nutritional needs. You may have noticed a slowdown in your metabolism. Maybe you’re less physically active than you once were. Or maybe food just doesn’t taste the same so your diet is changing.

Whatever the case, it’s important to recognize the unique nutritional requirements of older adults. They’re based upon the nutritional guidelines for younger adults, but modified for those who are over 70.

Nutritional Recommendations for Older Adults

  • Whole Grains. When shopping for cereals, bread, and rice, seniors or caregivers should gravitate toward products made from whole, enriched grains. Aim for a variety of grains, too. There are a lot of interesting and delicious products on the market these days, such as quinoa, wild rice, and whole-grain baked goods made with a variety of flours.
  • Fruit and Vegetables. Select bright-colored veggies like broccoli and deep-colored fruit like berries.
  • Low-fat protein sources. Stock up on dry beans, fish, eggs, and poultry. Nuts are good in moderation.
  • Low-fat/Non-fat dairy. Yogurt is also a good choice. It is usually rich in protein, calcium and other essentials.
  • Low Trans Fat. Steer clear of Trans fat which is linked to heart disease and other chronic health conditions. Instead, choose olive oil and plant-based spreads low in saturated and Trans fat.
  • Stay active. Walking is great for the heart and lungs. Housework, as you know, is also very physically demanding!
  • Even when you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to maintain your fluid intake. Water is the best option for health because it doesn’t contain sweeteners, caffeine or preservatives.


Special Focus on Supplements

Seniors should also speak with their primary care physician about incorporating supplements or fortified foods into their diet. In general, the most important nutrients here are vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B-12.

For seniors who live here in Michigan, vitamin D is important year around but especially in the winter. This essential vitamin does not occur naturally in foods so supplements are often necessary. The body can produce vitamin D in the sunshine, but in Michigan and northern Indiana the sun is not always in plentiful supply during some months of the year!

The Food Pyramid for Seniors

There’s no need to memorize all of these guidelines. The State of Michigan publishes a handy food guide reference for seniors. It’s easy to print it out so you can attach it to the front of your refrigerator for a quick consultation now and then. Called the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults, it was developed by scientists at Tuft University and recognizes the special nutritional needs of seniors.

Heritage Hospitality

Here at Heritage Senior Living, the basis for our dining program is built upon dietary and nutritional guidelines spelled out in the food pyramid for seniors. But that’s just the beginning.

Our dining program is anchored by sound nutrition, yet developed around the principles of fine hospitality. Residents have a choice in their dining preferences, with made-to-order breakfast, chef’s specials, and all meals served in a formal dining room. The result is an elevated dining experience we call ‘Heritage Hospitality’. Call us to find out more!

How Can Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed in Seniors?

How Can Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed in Seniors?

As loved ones age there are certain illnesses, like Alzheimer’s disease, that become concerns. Some of the worry comes from uncertainty about what the symptoms are, and how the disease is diagnosed.

Often, the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s are mistaken for the normal side effects of aging. This can make diagnosis harder. However, there are tests that a doctor can do to assess whether or not your senior loved one is developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Are you concerned a loved one has Alzheimer’s?

The early stages of Alzheimer’s are often very easy to miss. This is made harder by the fact that some seniors struggling with forgetfulness will hide symptoms from family members and friends. However, if a senior loved one seems to be having problems with their memory, or has unexplainable behavior changes, it’s very important to discuss this with a doctor.

Share your Concerns with a Doctor

If you’re worried that a senior loved one may have Alzheimer’s, set up an appointment with their primary care physician. Explain to the doctor the symptoms and changes you’ve noticed. In order to assess your loved one for Alzheimer’s, the doctor may do the following:

  • Review your loved one’s complete medical history
  • Ask questions about behavior and personality changes
  • Conduct a physical exam, often including blood and urine tests to help rule out other conditions
  • Do a neurological exam, which could include brain scans
  • Perform cognitive tests to see if there are issues with language, problem solving, or memory

As the Mayo Clinic points out, getting a prompt and accurate Alzheimer’s diagnosis is very important. Although there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, an earlier diagnosis is very helpful. It allows more time to plan for the future, and a better chance of trying out some of the newer medications that have been shown to slow the progression of the disease or reduce the impact of symptoms in some people.

Alzheimer’s has Several Stages

Although every person who develops Alzheimer’s has a slightly different experience, the symptoms tend to follow a similar sequence. Some experts, like the Alzheimer’s Association, use a simple three phase model to describe the progress of the disease:

Early Stage: Mild Alzheimer’s: There are changes that happen in the brain long before the first symptoms are visible. However, the early stages of Alzheimer’s usually show up as memory lapses. This could include:

  • Forgotten names
  • Trouble remembering newly learned details
  • Losing or misplacing valuables
  • Increasing trouble staying organized

Middle Stage: Moderate Alzheimer’s:  This is usually the longest stage of the disease, often lasting for years. During this stage people forget more information, including details about their own lives and personal history, and struggle more with daily activities. This usually includes:

  • Personality changes, including increased suspiciousness or delusions
  • Confusion about the time or date
  • Difficulty remembering personal information that they always knew before
  • Trouble with bowel and bladder control

Late Stage: Severe Alzheimer’s: The final stages are where people usually need help with almost every aspect of daily life and personal care. This may include:

  • Struggling with, or inability to perform daily tasks
  • Reduced physical abilities, like walking, or sitting upright
  • Losing the ability to respond to surroundings
  • Inability to carry on conversations

Being familiar with the different stages and the common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can help you be prepared.

If you want to know about the kind of care your senior loved one needs as the disease progresses, we would be happy to answer your questions about specialized memory care services.

Be Prepared to Answer Questions

When you go with your senior loved one to their doctor’s appointment, the doctor will want to know a lot of information. They will probably ask about health, memory and mood changes, and whether they happen at a certain time of day. They may also ask about recent medication changes, and past health concerns.

In order to be prepared, take some time to write down all of the details you can think of about your loved one’s medical history beforehand. This will help to make sure that nothing important is overlooked during the visit.

It’s important to keep in mind that having trouble with memory doesn’t mean your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. There are many other conditions and illnesses that have similar symptoms. Many of these are treatable. Ruling out other conditions is an important part of getting the right diagnosis. So don’t delay seeking professional help if you suspect there is a problem.

Dear Donna – My dad won’t drink water!

Dear Donna – My dad won’t drink water!

Dear Donna-

With the heat of a Michigan summer upon us, I am struggling with an issue I face every year. That is, my dad just won’t drink much water. I am his primary caregiver and we have this back and forth battle every summer.

When we are outdoors and I try to remind him to drink more water, his response is always the same: “But I’m just not thirsty!”

What can I do to prevent him from becoming dehydrated?

Kind Regards,



Preventing Dehydration in Seniors during Summer

Dear Kristina:

Like you, we’ve heard that question more times than we can count from adult children and family caregivers. Keeping seniors hydrated is a common theme among them.

If you’re trying to convince your father to drink water and you’re meeting with resistance, you’re not alone. In fact, that’s a very common excuse among older Americans.

It may be more than just an excuse, however. It might be the truth.

Reminding your father to drink water might not work if forgetfulness isn’t the problem. Since you’ve taken the time to write for help, I’ll assume you’ve told your father how important it is to drink water but it hasn’t done much good.

Let’s break this down and see where the problem lies. Then, we’ll list a few strategies for keeping your father hydrated, especially as summer comes into full swing.

Why Seniors Sometimes Don’t Drink Enough Water

In any situation where there’s friction between two people, it helps to consider the other point of view. From your father’s perspective, certain physiological changes related to the aging process could be playing a role in his behavior.

For instance, did you know that the aging changes in the way the body perceives hunger and thirst?

Researchers have long since discovered that, as people age, their desire to drink water seems to decline. That’s supported by scientific evidence, which shows that older adults’ brains respond differently to thirst. This may explain why keeping seniors hydrated can be challenging.

A study from the University of Texas Health Science Center showed that people in their 60s and 70s had different brain activations than people in their 20s when it comes to experiencing thirst.

That could explain why some older adults respond to dehydration by drinking even less water. The neurons in certain regions of the brain are simply sending the wrong signals.

So, when you father says he’s simply not thirsty, he may just be telling the truth. He doesn’t feel thirsty but the fact of the matter is, his body is plenty thirsty.

Strategies for Keeping Seniors Hydrated

A simple, frank discussion can have lasting, positive effects in your situation. It’s possible that when your dad understands the physiological changes you’ve just learned about, he’ll be able to override his senses and drink more water.

You can also make fluid intake a little more satisfying.  

Here are some techniques for keeping your dad hydrated this summer:

  • Prepare a pitcher of water to store in the fridge. Colder water is sometimes more appealing.
  • Try putting some flavor into the water: lemon wedges, lime packets, orange slices, or flavor packages from brands like Crystal Light, which offer flavor without the sugar.
  • Suggest that he drink eight ounces of water whenever he takes medication.
  • He might like hot water or decaffeinated tea flavored with honey.
  • Eating foods with a high water content —think cucumbers, lettuce, melon, berries and soups —- can help hydrate the body.


Consult a Physician

Considering your Dad’s perspective can help you understand the situation more fully. At the same time, however, it’s also important to rule out any health issues. If your father continues to avoid drinking water, talk to his doctor.

Some seniors don’t want to drink water — or any liquid, for that matter — because it means more trips to the bathroom. Decreased mobility and fear of falling in the bathroom may be factors here. Your dad’s doctor may be able to help with mobility issues.

You might feel frustrated with your dad, but try the tips I’ve just outlined. With more fluids in his body, he’ll be better off both physically and mentally. That’s an outcome that works for everyone!

Staying hydrated is small but important part of overall health for seniors. Here at Heritage Senior Communities, we’re concerned about every aspect of the health of our residents. It’s all part of the Heritage Difference.

If you’d like to learn more about our assisted living senior community, we’re always happy to talk or show our visitors around. Call us anytime!



How to Evaluate a Memory Care Program

How to Evaluate a Memory Care Program

The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease are known to cause memory problems. However, as the disease progresses, more symptoms develop. Your senior loved one may experience difficulty with routine daily tasks, communication skills, and appropriate social behavior.

A memory care community with specialized caregivers and a supportive environment may be a solution.

Coping with day-to-day living can be frustrating for someone in the intermediary and later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Living in a nurturing, specialized environment created for people with dementia may help manage your senior loved one’s symptoms.

A safe, controlled environment may also help them to live a more independent lifestyle.

Finding the right memory care program can feel overwhelming. There are many factors to consider, including types of treatment, staff, and the campus itself.

To evaluate memory care, you’ll need a guide. Here are the important criteria to consider when you’re touring the various communities near you.

Memory Care Basics

  1. First, you’ll want to see the community’s inspection reports. These are based on surveys completed by the state the community is located in. Reviewing it can help alert you to any issues the state regulators found concerning. Or it can put your mind at ease that the community is well run.
  2. Next, ask about the philosophy of care. Does the community promote independence among people with memory loss? That’s important to ask because some researchers say maintaining a sense of independence for as long as is safely possible may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
  3. What specialty programs are offered? Is there a separate life enrichment calendar with activities designed for people with memory loss? What about a supportive dining program?
  4. Plan to visit a variety of communities at different times of the day. Try to be there for a meal, too. Talk to staff and residents and even families if they are available.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Memory Care Program

People who have dementia require specialized care which often incorporates special programs and techniques based on their needs. Making each day purposeful is a common goal, so ask to see a copy of the activity calendar for the month.

Your senior loved one’s unique needs should be addressed in a comprehensive care plan that includes various activities and therapies. For example, some memory care programs have adopted a person-centered approach to care. This approach focuses on the individual and not just their disease.

Caregiving Staff

You’ll want to follow a full checklist of staff qualifications when it comes time to evaluate memory care programs. The Alzheimer’s Association maintains a very useful checklist on their website. It includes staff to resident ratio, training, and caring philosophy of the community staff.

The Community

When you visit, a community should leave you with the sense that staff and residents feel a mutual respect. Personal care should be carried out so that residents maintain their dignity. Residents should appear relaxed, well-kempt, and engaged.

Practical Matters

Finally, meals should be held at regular times and offer appetizing food in a pleasant environment. Nutrition is very often an issue for people who have dementia so ask how that is monitored.

Staff should be encouraging during meals. In later stages of the disease, caregivers likely need to provide hands-on assistance with eating.

Help is Available

This is by no means an exhaustive list for evaluating memory care programs. Finding the right community takes time and lots of research. But with patience, you will be able to find a caring environment for your senior loved one.

Heritage Senior Communities can help you with the decision-making process involving your senior loved one. Our communities throughout Michigan and Indiana have memory care programs we call “The Terrace”.

Staff members who work in The Terrace programs are dedicated to serving the special needs of the residents through a philosophy of ‘person-centered care’. Our aim is to provide a safe environment where your senior loved one can thrive and experience increased quality of life.

Call us at your convenience to find out about our Specialized Dementia Care or to schedule a tour of one of our communities near you.

Summer Scam Season is Heating up!

Summer Scam Season is Heating up!

If there’s one thing in life that never seems to change, it’s the prevalence of scammers out to trick us out of money. While it’s true that anyone can become the victim of fraud, summer scam season is often aimed directly at seniors.

For caregivers, a little knowledge can go a long way toward protecting senior loved ones from criminals.

Now is a good time to brief yourself on scams that heat up with the weather. And then share what you find with your loved one.

Summer Scam Season Revolves around Senior Homeowners

Scammers seem to come out of the woodwork when the weather gets warmer. One reason is because that’s when homeowners typically need services. Whether it’s fixing a leak in the attic, trimming trees and shrubs, or mowing the lawn, seniors often need help around the yard and house in the summer and early fall.

Although many seniors continue maintaining their yards well into their 70s and 80s, there does come a time when certain tasks are too much for them. There may even be safety risks at home.

The Unnecessary Repairs

Scammers prey on the idea that some seniors no longer feel comfortable climbing a ladder. The scam here is that a roofer or ‘fixit’ guy will show up and offer services. He’ll go up on the roof and declare a disaster site that needs to be repaired immediately. That may not be true.

There’s the first level of fraud, but the ‘scam’ doesn’t stop there.

The Magically Increasing Price Quote

Next, he may agree upon a repair price with the senior homeowner. When the job is complete, somehow that price has inflated to much more than the original agreement. Then, he uses intimidation to coerce the senior homeowner into paying the inflated price.

The Retainer Service that Melts Away

Another direction the roofing (or other contractor) scam can take is the retainer fraud. The contractor will show up, offering all kinds of home repair and maintenance services for a very reasonable retainer fee.

The catch is that the retainer fee must be paid up front for the entire length of the contract.

Your senior loved one pays six months’ worth of retainer fees up front and then guess what happens?

They never see the guy again.

The Vacation Rental Deposit Scam

Another favorite technique of scammers is the deposit scam. This type of fraud is aimed at vacation rental property owners of any age, but seniors who rent out properties are often more vulnerable. This is often because they are more likely to be trusting of people in general.

Here’s how it works: someone answers your senior loved one’s ad for a vacation rental. The scammer mails a check for the deposit and it’s cashed. The catch here is that the deposit is $1000 too much (or more).

‘No problem’, says the renter. ‘You can just return the difference to me’.

If your senior loved one complies, he’s just mailed a $1000 check to a complete stranger. The original deposit check, of course, turns out to be a bad check.

Every year, between 18 and 19 million dollars are lost to fake deposit check rental scams.

Always Be On the Lookout for Scams, no Matter What the Season

It’s certainly important to be aware of the tricks used during summer scam season. However, seniors and caregivers should stay on alert for scams and fraud all year long.

At Heritage Senior Living, we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to keep seniors aware and safe. It’s part of our commitment to providing excellent care and services. If you’d like to learn more about a Heritage community near you, call us! We’ll be happy to show you around.