4 Tips for Traveling with Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s

4 Tips for Traveling with Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s

Dear Donna,

My dad is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Our family reunion is coming up, and we are nervous about traveling. It will be his first trip away from home since his diagnosis.

How can I keep my dad safe and comfortable while traveling? We all want very much for him to be able to attend.


Jan from Traverse City, MI

Traveling with a Senior Loved One Who Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Jan,

Traveling with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Often, it just requires a little extra planning. By understanding their stressors and using strategies to keep them at ease, caregivers can make traveling a positive experience for everyone involved. Here are a few tips for traveling with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

4 Alzheimer’s Travel Tips

  1. Plan ahead.

When traveling with a person with Alzheimer’s, understand it may take longer to get places and accomplish specific tasks. Leaving extra time for each activity can help you feel at ease if something goes wrong. You might even want to invest in a GPS bracelet or pendant, which can locate them quickly if they wander.

  1. Choose the right travel method.

Mode of transportation is one of the most important factors to consider when traveling with a loved one who has dementia. Try to pick a method they will find comfortable.

Familiar and relaxed modes of transportation, like a car or even a train, tend to be good choices. Trains can also be a good option because they allow you to sit together. Because you are not driving, you can focus on your loved one’s safety. By contrast, air travel can be quite stressful.

  1. Be mindful of when you travel.

Timing is another key factor. Sticking to a routine can help reduce anxiety in seniors with dementia. Try your best to maintain their schedule as closely as possible. For example, eat meals and go to bed at the usual time. Try to avoid traveling in the evening, especially if your loved one experiences sundowning. Travel during hours when they are in their best mood. This is usually in the morning or earlier part of the day.

  1. Have important documents handy.

It’s also helpful to have important documents ready in case of emergency. This includes a list of your loved one’s medications and dosages, their doctor’s name, and emergency contact information. Bullet cards summarizing their special needs to share with transportation and hotel personnel may also help.

Evaluate Your Loved One’s Abilities

Before planning a trip, evaluate your loved one’s ability to travel. Seniors in the early stages of the disease may have an easier time leaving home than those in later stages. If your loved one struggles with traveling, decide whether the trip is necessary. Is the event going to make them upset or cause them a great deal of discomfort? If so, it may be best to let them sit it out.

I hope these tips make traveling easier for you and your senior loved one with Alzheimer’s.



Respite Care in Michigan

If your senior loved one isn’t up for traveling, you may want to consider respite care services, such as those provided at Heritage Senior Communities. You can enjoy your trip knowing your loved one is safe. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a private tour.

5 Purposeful Activities for Seniors with Dementia

5 Purposeful Activities for Seniors with Dementia

It’s not uncommon for seniors to lose their sense of purpose after they receive a dementia diagnosis. But feeling useful is essential to overall health and wellness. Research has linked living purposefully to a longer life span, better sleep quality, and improved brain health.

Many caregivers want to help their loved one stay engaged but are unsure where to start. They struggle to come up with meaningful activities that support independence.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Emotions

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect a person’s memory. As the disease progresses, a person may increasingly struggle to remember certain life events. While they may not be able to recall specific details of an event, they can still remember the associated emotions. Here are a few tips for caregivers who want to help their loved ones with dementia enjoy purposeful days.

Helping a Senior with Dementia Enjoy Purposeful Days

  1. Play music that triggers positive feelings.

Music is a wonderful way to uplift a person with dementia. Try playing music from their childhood or special times in their life. For example, play a song from their wedding. Your loved one might not remember where the song is from, but they will feel happy while they listen.

  1. Sort through old photographs.

Looking at photographs is another excellent activity for seniors with dementia. Take time to sit with your loved one and sort through old pictures. These can be images from their childhood or significant life events. A photograph can trigger the emotions they felt when the photo was taken, even if they don’t remember the circumstances.

  1. Explore local art classes.

Art is increasingly used to help seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown art can strengthen the brain, improve focus, and reduce stress. Check if your local community center offers any painting or drawing classes for seniors.

  1. Try gardening.

Many people like to garden, but it can be particularly enjoyable for those with dementia. Plants give them something to care for, which can help them feel needed.

  1. Let them help with chores.

Chores can help seniors with dementia feel like they are contributing. This can improve their self-esteem. Activities that involve repetition, like folding or sorting papers, can even be enjoyable.

Emotions Last after a Memory Is Lost

It’s helpful for caregivers to remember feelings linger even after a memory is lost. This includes emotions experienced after visiting with a loved one, exercising, or completing a task that makes them feel needed. Each interaction can positively impact the rest of their day.

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan

Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care for adults with memory impairment. Our thoughtfully designed communities feature plenty of activities to enhance our residents’ self-esteem and provide purposeful days. We invite you to schedule a private tour today.

What Caregivers Should Know about Seniors and Allergy Medications

What Caregivers Should Know about Seniors and Allergy Medications

When people think about spring, flowers and greenery often come to mind. But spring is also a popular time for allergies. Unfortunately, many allergy medications can harm a senior’s health or negatively interact with their prescriptions.

Here’s what caregivers should know about seniors and allergy medications so they can help keep their loved ones safe.

Understanding Seasonal Allergies

Allergies occur when something the body recognizes as an invader triggers an immune response. In spring, common invaders are pollen, grass, or mold. The symptoms of seasonal allergies can be mild, such as itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose, or a rash. They can also be more intense, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, or even swelling in the throat.

Issues with Antihistamines

Many people use antihistamines to treat allergies. Two common antihistamines found in allergy medications are chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine.

  • Chlorpheniramine is in medications like Chlor-Trimeton and Chlor-Tabs. It is also commonly found in drugs labeled for nighttime use.
  • Diphenhydramine is the main ingredient in Benadryl.

Chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine are anticholinergics, meaning they block the action of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that helps control functions like learning and memory. The brain’s ability to use acetylcholine declines with age and taking medications with these ingredients further reduces its action.

In addition to their harmful effects on the brain, these medications can also cause unfavorable side effects, including confusion, drowsiness, urine retention, dizziness, and dry mouth and eyes. Anticholinergics can also interact negatively with certain prescription medications used to manage chronic medical conditions, like blood pressure.

Caregivers should know that medications aren’t the only option for treating allergies. Natural remedies may help protect senior loved ones against pollen and other allergens.

Natural Allergy Remedies

  • Limit exposure to pollen: One way to protect senior loved ones is to limit their exposure to pollen. Pollen counts tend to be highest between 5 and 10 am, especially when it’s warm and dry or windy. It’s usually a good idea to avoid going outside during these times and keep home and car windows closed. If your loved one does go out, change their clothes to minimize contact.
  • Stay clean: To keep allergies at bay, take a bath or shower each night to wash any pollen from the hair and body. This can also help avoid bringing allergens to bed.
  • Wash bedding: Wash your loved one’s sheets, pillows, and blankets with soap and warm water at least once per week to keep them pollen-free.
  • Use a HEPA filter: HEPA filters are another tool for reducing symptoms of allergies. They work by trapping pollutants. Try putting one in your loved one’s bedroom.
  • Try a Neti pot: This small device that looks like a teapot works by cleansing the nasal passages. Add a sterile saline solution to the Neti pot. Tilt your head to the side and place the spout in your top nostril and let the liquid drain through the bottom nostril. Just be careful your loved one doesn’t use the pot too frequently.

Consult with a Doctor

If your loved one is having trouble managing their allergies, they should consult with their doctor before taking an OTC allergy medication. A medical professional can recommend an alternative drug that won’t affect their brain function or interfere with their current medications.

Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities provides senior living options, including assisted living, independent living, specialized dementia care, and respite care throughout Michigan. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

4 Tips to Encourage Seniors to Take Care of Themselves

4 Tips to Encourage Seniors to Take Care of Themselves

Dear Donna,

My mom used to put a lot of effort into staying healthy. After she retired, she stopped taking care of herself. She seems to value convenience over health. It’s not uncommon for her to go days without exercising or wearing something other than pajamas.

How can I encourage my senior mom to take better care of herself? I’m not sure what has caused her to lose her life-long motivation.


Karen from Hudsonville, MI

Helping a Senior Loved One Care for Themselves

Dear Karen,

It’s not unusual for seniors, especially homebodies, to have difficulty getting motivated to take care of themselves. But self-care and personal hygiene are essential for health and wellness at any age.

Here are a few tips for caregivers to encourage senior loved ones to care for themselves.

4 Self-Care Tips for Seniors

  1. Diet

A nutrient-rich diet is essential for your overall health and wellness. Many seniors choose convenience over health for various reasons. Getting to the grocery store may be challenging due to driving limitations or distance. They may opt for fast food when they aren’t motivated to cook for one.

Regardless of the reason, nutrient-dense food is essential for health. Offer to cook fresh meals with your mom. If grocery shopping is a concern, invite her shop with you or offer to do her shopping.

  1. Sleep

It’s a common misconception that you need less sleep with age. Seniors need just as much sleep as younger adults. Encourage a good night’s sleep by offering to arrange your mom’s bedroom for successful rest. To promote good sleep hygiene, make sure the sheets are clean and the room is a comfortable temperature.

  1. Exercise

There are so many reasons to move your body. Exercise can reduce the risk of many chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. Physical activity can also improve muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination, which can reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.

When encouraging a senior loved one to work out, remember that starting an exercise routine can be challenging. One way to encourage your mother is to work out together. Even a 15-minute walk in the morning or an afternoon swim can make a world of difference.

  1. Socialize

Many people don’t realize how important it is to stay social throughout their lives. Feeling connected to others and having strong social ties can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Some studies even show remaining social can lead to a longer life. It can be challenging for seniors to stay social after retirement because they don’t have as many opportunities to make friends.

Help your mom by taking her to a local senior center, helping her find senior classes, or simply taking your mother to places where she can connect with others.

Be Mindful of Limitations

Some seniors may have mobility challenges or health conditions that limit their ability to perform certain activities of daily living. It’s important to approach your mother in a helpful, understanding way. Do your best to be considerate of her boundaries and offer assistance where you can.

I hope this helps you encourage your mother to take care of her health.



Heritage Senior Communities Supports Senior Health

If your senior loved one is struggling to care for themselves, they may benefit from moving to a senior living community where they have assistance. Many communities serve healthy meals and provide plenty of options to stay physically and socially active. Heritage Senior Communities also offers life enrichment programs that encourage personal growth and creativity. The best way to learn about how we support senior wellness is to visit one of our communities. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.