5 Ways to Start the Conversation About Senior Living

5 Ways to Start the Conversation About Senior Living

Dear Donna,

Last year, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At first, our whole family chipped in to help, and we were able to work together as a team to provide care for him. Now, as things settle down and in to a routine, my siblings come around less and I’m mostly left to take care of my dad alone.

My mom tries to help, but she is overwhelmed, too. I’m afraid to talk to them about a senior living community. I don’t want to stress them out more. What should I do?


Carrie from Saline, MI

How to Initiate a Conversation about Senior Living with a Loved One

Dear Carrie,

It sounds like you are doing a great job caring for your dad! But there are many senior care options for you and your family to consider. It sounds like, as you said, the right option might be helping your parents transition to a senior living community. Beginning that conversation can be difficult for both the adult child and their older loved one.

Here are 5 pointers to help you:

  1. Listen

A good way for you to start the conversation is actually to just listen. Ask your parents what they like about living in their home. Use these points to make the transition more positive, and redirect the notion that they are losing an aspect of their life. In addition, ask them about their opinions or knowledge of senior communities. By doing your own research first, you can immediately address any misconceptions they have.

  1. Use positive language

If you want to paint a positive picture, use positive language. Be sure to use the word “community” and never “home” or “facility.” Talk about the opportunities they’ll have and the many ways this community will make their lives easier and more fun!

  1. It’s not all sewing and bingo

There are so many activities in a senior living community. From social gatherings to special outings, your senior loved ones will have something to do any time they want. And surrounded by their peers, they’ll be making new friends and might even try something they never knew about before. Most seniors actually say they wish they’d made this transition sooner!

  1. Keep the door open

Seniors often feel stress about this transition and are fearful that they will lose their independence. Let your senior loved ones know they don’t have to decide today—it can be an ongoing discussion. Reassure them that they will have a say. But it’s also important to remember that diseases do progress, sometimes rapidly. The conversation you were having a couple months ago will likely change as your parents age. Even if they don’t like the sound of a senior living community at first, it doesn’t mean they didn’t hear the positives. Revisiting the conversation can be helpful.

  1. Test the waters

Finally, it never hurts to take a tour of a nearby community. This is your opportunity to talk to staff and residents and to take an in-depth look at the daily details of living in a senior community. You can also let your loved ones know about short-term stays so that they can give it a try without committing!

As a bonus, May is National Parkinson’s Month, so there may even be events especially for seniors like your father. Check out the events at a Heritage Senior Community near you, and contact them for more information.

Kind regards,


Fire Prevention Tips Older Adults Should Know

Fire Prevention Tips Older Adults Should Know

When it comes to older adults and fire deaths, the statistics are alarming. They’re probably all the incentive most of us need to take steps to protect the older loved ones in our lives.

Here’s a brief rundown of the statistics that highlight fire hazards for seniors.

Fire Dangers and Older Adults

This is what we know about older adults and fires:

  • Although adults over the age of 65 represent less than 15 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for nearly 40 percent of all fire deaths in 2014.
  • This same group of older adults was over 2.5 times more likely to perish in a fire than the rest of the American population.
  • Worse still, persons over 85 were four times more likely to die in a fire than the general population.

These deaths are often quite preventable by taking a few precautions. Since October is Fire Prevention Month, we thought it was a good time to review fire safety for seniors.

Let’s first talk about fire prevention tips that older adults and their caregivers need to know. And address how you can help save lives in the event a fire occurs.

Fire Safety Tips Older Adults Should Know

Fire safety starts with education. Here’s what you should know:

  • Space heaters should be placed at least three feet from curtains, furniture, or any type of flammable material. Make sure heaters are turned off whenever you leave the house.
  • Be sure working smoke detectors are installed on every level of your older loved one’s home. At a minimum, there should be functioning smoke detectors in the kitchen, hallways, bedrooms, and other often used living areas. Just as important, smoke detectors should be tested at least twice a month.
  • Have an escape plan in case a fire occurs. For older adults, a fire escape plan must be designed around their abilities and limitations, including mobility aids like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. These devices should all be stored within easy reach at all times, especially during sleeping hours. Whenever possible, create an alternate escape plan just in case the main one is inaccessible.

Preventing Smoking-Related Fires

Smoking-related fires are the most common cause of fire deaths among both the general population and older adults. In fact, smokers are nearly seven times more likely to become victims of home fires than nonsmokers.

Five smoking safety rules seniors should never ignore include:

  • No smoking in bed or while lying down, ever
  • Use only large, heavy ashtrays and never leave them sitting on the arm of a chair or any other piece of furniture
  • Make sure that all cigarette butts are extinguished before disposing of them by wetting them thoroughly with water
  • Check between and under furniture cushions for smoldering butts before going to bed or leaving the house
  • Never smoke anywhere near an oxygen tank, not even in the same room

Preventing Electrical Fires

Electrical problems are another common cause of fires. These tips can help you identify potential hazards, such as:

  • Prevent appliances from overheating by making certain computers, stereo equipment and TVs have plenty of room for air to circulate
  • Never use or plug in an appliance that has a damaged cord
  • Keep all electrical cords where they can’t be walked on or damaged in any other way

Heritage Senior Communities Keeps You Informed

Part of our mission is to do all that we can to protect older adults from fires and other preventable tragedies. Hopefully, this information will help you and your family stay safe.

Please feel free to contact us any time for more information about senior living and to visit our blog frequently to stay updated on issues related to aging and caregiving.


Photo provided by www.freedigitalphotos.net

How to Prevent a Parent from Becoming a Victim of Cyber Crime?

How to Prevent a Parent from Becoming a Victim of Cyber Crime?

Dear Donna,

My father is in his late seventies and has recently developed mobility problems. He’s at home alone a lot, but luckily he has the internet. He loves being online, emailing, sharing photos, and reading about politics.

He and his old friends, most of whom live outside of the state of Michigan now, communicate regularly online. They share links, forward emails, and suggest videos to one another. Most have also joined Facebook.

All this is great for him, but I worry that he’s going to click on a link and end up downloading a virus. Or worse, what if he receives one of those scam emails that trick people in to revealing personal information?

How can I make sure my dad is safe when he’s online?

I don’t want to offend his intelligence but at the same time, I’m not sure he’s aware of all the ways scammers are targeting seniors these days. How do I start a conversation that won’t offend him?


Roxanne in Dearborn

Learn More about Cyber Crime and Seniors

Dear Roxanne,

Thank you for your question. You’re right! Much of today’s cyber crime is aimed at older Americans. According to the FBI’s website, seniors are targeted for many reasons. Scammers of all kinds—not just the online type—see seniors as more trusting and less suspicious.

But that’s not the only reason scammers think older adults make good targets.

Why Scammers Target Seniors

According to the FBI, seniors are targeted because:

  • Scammers think seniors are too polite to say “no” or to hang up the phone or let an email go unanswered
  • Seniors are more likely to have something worth stealing: retirement money and a mortgage-free home
  • Older adults are also more likely to have good credit
  • Scammers prefer victims who don’t report fraud to the authorities and embarrassed seniors often fit the bill
  • Crooks believe the aging stereotypes and think seniors may not make good witnesses because of memory loss
  • Older Americans are very susceptible to products promising certain benefits, such as improved memory, anti-cancer, and younger skin to name a few

You likely need to have a discussion with your father about online safety. Point out these facts to him, mentioning that even though he may be wise in many ways, the internet is new territory for most people. Scammers are inventive and everyone gets fooled occasionally.

Crooks sometimes pose as government officials and contact people online to steal their personal information. Analysis of the victims of these scams shows that seniors are more susceptible to these types of cons than younger generations. If you want to steer the conversation to a more specific topic, this might be a good place to start.

I hope this advice was helpful, Roxanne! Good luck helping your father stay safe online.


Do You Have a Question for Donna?

If you’re a caregiver and there’s something on your mind, write to Donna! She answers questions relating to aging, senior living and caregiving each month. Your questions are welcome any time, and they may help someone else who is struggling with the same issue.

We can also answer questions about senior living by phone or in person. Contact us to schedule a tour of one of our communities at your convenience!

Art as Therapy for Adults With Alzheimer’s

Art as Therapy for Adults With Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a tricky disease. We don’t know what causes it, and we can’t cure it. Not yet, at least. But in the meantime, we can help those with the disease cope. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, there are many options to help them continue to enjoy life.

Art Therapy for Adults With Alzheimer’s

One option that has been proven time and time again is art therapy. In this therapy, those with Alzheimer’s are typically given the tools to paint a picture and are assisted by trained and professional art therapists. While clay and pottery methods are also available, painting is the most popular.

Benefits of Art Therapy

Some of the proven benefits to art therapy include the following:

  1. Gives a new means of expression

Sometimes Alzheimer’s makes verbal communication difficult. Art makes it possible to express in a new way and to tell stories again. And it’s easy—much easier than learning a new language where there are rules. There are no rules with art. Participants become artists and have freedom to explore different techniques or even create their own.

  1. Decreases anxiety

Painting and other arts are known to help decrease stress and elevate the mood. Depression and anxiety can be difficult symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and creative arts restore joy and can help increase serotonin levels in the brain.

  1. Creates a feeling of accomplishment

Alzheimer’s is a challenging disease, one in which so much feels stolen from those who have it and their loved ones. Art isn’t something that is done right or wrong, and just doing it can be therapeutic. As a resident learns and tries new techniques, they can feel a sense of mastery and competency again.

  1. Reduces isolation

Typically, art therapy is done in a group setting at a memory care center. This way, those with similarities can be together doing something fun and non-competitive. Socializing is also a great way to decrease anxiety and increase quality of life.

  1. Stimulates the brain

Learning something new, expressing yourself, and creating art all stimulate the brain. While the brain may never go back to how it was before the disease, art therapy has been shown to ease frustration and renew enjoyment and quality of life.

What is most interesting about art therapy for Alzheimer’s is that some who participate seem to paint memories they seemingly forgot. The therapy can actually help bring forward dormant memories. This can be encouraging and often helps family members, too, reminding them that their loved one is still the same person. While art therapy will not cure the disease, reclaiming old memories and revisiting who you are is empowering for those with Alzheimer’s and their families.

Memory Care at Heritage

At Heritage Senior Communities, we have specialized memory care communities that are dedicated to enriching the lives of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Give us a call today to take a tour and learn more about how we can help you and your loved one.