Is It Safe for a Senior with Dementia to Garden?

Is It Safe for a Senior with Dementia to Garden?

Dear Donna,

My mom was diagnosed with early-stage dementia two years ago. She’s managed to live independently until this year. After much debate, she moved in with my family and me. We are modifying our home and would also like to make some changes to the yard.

Mom has always been a gardener and I’d like her to continue. Beyond fencing in our backyard, what should I know to keep her safe?


Staci in Traverse City, MI

Garden Safety and Seniors with Dementia

Dear Staci,

What a great question! With the right precautions, a senior with dementia can and should continue to enjoy gardening. Planting and caring for a garden offers a variety of mental, physical, and spiritual benefits for all ages.

Gardening provides a meaningful activity for families to do together. When a senior loved one has dementia, finding activities several generations can enjoy together isn’t always easy.

It also helps reduce stress, improve strength, build stamina, and prevent depression. For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the benefits are even greater. A few additional benefits of gardening for adults with dementia include:

  • Decreased stress, agitation, and anxiety
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Sense of accomplishment and success

While gardening might seem like a low-risk activity, there are a few safety risks to be aware of for seniors with dementia.

6 Garden Safety Tips for Seniors with Dementia

Use these tips to create a safe, secure gardening environment:

  1. Inspect garden tools: Some garden tools can have rough edges and points. You might not realize how sharp they are until you closely inspect them. Because dementia can also cause problems with manual dexterity, tools with rounded edges and larger handles are easier and safer.
  2. Monitor hydration: Seniors with dementia may forget to drink enough water on a hot, humid day. That can put them at increased risk for dehydration. Invest in an insulated water bottle your mom can take into the garden with her.
  3. Take sun safety precautions: Staying safe outdoors during the summer requires more than hydrating. Make sure your mom applies ample amounts of sunscreen and wears a hat to shield her face. Also, encourage her to garden in the morning or evening when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong.
  4. Designate places for rest breaks: Dementia can cause problems with mobility and balance. These can be especially pronounced outdoors in the garden. Strategically place chairs and benches throughout the garden to give your mom places to rest.
  5. Use container gardens: Raised garden beds and container gardens are a safe solution for a gardener with dementia. If your mom doesn’t have to bend over or stoop down to weed and plant, she is less likely to fall.
  6. Invest in a GPS device: The Alzheimer’s Association estimates six out of ten people with dementia will wander at some point. That’s a frightening statistic for loved ones. Invest in a GPS tracking watch or pendant that tracks her location in real time. Many use cellular technology, which works almost anywhere.

I hope this information is helpful, Staci!

Kind regards,


Memory Care for Adults with Dementia

At Heritage Senior Communities, memory care residents have opportunities to enjoy gardening, nature walks, bird-watching, and more. The best way to learn about memory care at Heritage Senior Communities is to take a private tour. Contact us today the community nearest you to schedule a time!

How to Help a Senior Avoid Common Heat-Related Illnesses

How to Help a Senior Avoid Common Heat-Related Illnesses

Spring and summer are seasons many people enjoy spending outdoors. Picnics, swimming, and family reunions are popular warm-weather activities. If you are an older adult, it’s essential to learn how to stay safe from heat-related illnesses. Seniors are more sensitive to heat and the health issues a hot, humid day can cause.

Sometimes a chronic health condition, such as heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), puts the senior at increased risk for dehydration or a heat stroke. Other times sun sensitivity is a medication side effect.

Aging causes another safety concern: fragile skin. As we grow older, our skin becomes thinner, making it more susceptible to sunburn and sun poisoning. It also takes less time for fragile skin to burn.

To help you stay safe while enjoying your spring and summer activities, we pulled together a few tips.


6 Summer Safety Tips for Seniors


  1. Sunscreen: Frequent application of a quality sunscreen is the best way to protect fragile skin from sunburn and sun poisoning. Apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50 every two to four hours while you are outdoors and encourage senior loved ones to do the same.
  2. Footwear: Fragile skin impacts the tops and bottoms of the feet too. While sandals and flip-flops might be cooler and more attractive in warm weather, they don’t offer much protection. From cuts and sunburns to falls, you need footwear with better coverage and support.
  3. Sunglasses: Sunglasses are more than just a fashion statement. They also play a key role in protecting eyes from the sun’s hot rays. Researchers say faithfully wearing a quality pair of sunglasses can help protect eyes from cancerous growths and cataracts, a condition that occurs more frequently with age. Make sure you and your senior loved one have sunglasses that block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays.
  4. Hat: The face and back of the neck are common places for skin cancer to develop. Wearing a hat with a brim that shields the face along with sunscreen doubles the protection.
  5. Bug spray: Insects are more than just pests when you are enjoying the great outdoors. Some are linked to serious health concerns, such as the West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Invest in a good bug spray and use it faithfully. Also check your clothes, hair, and body for signs of ticks when you come back inside.
  6. Hydration: Finally, stay hydrated. As we age, our bodies don’t adjust to changes in temperature and humidity as well as in younger days. This puts seniors at increased risk for dehydration. Medication side effects and health conditions like COPD and heart disease can make the problem worse. Drink water continuously when you are outside and consume foods with high water content. Popsicles, cucumber, salads, and berries are a few suggestions.

We hope these tips keep you and those closest to you safe this summer.

Tour a Heritage Community This Summer

If your summer plans include visiting senior living communities for a potential move, we hope you will keep Heritage Senior Communities in mind. With locations throughout Michigan and in Granger, Indiana, you are likely to find a community nearby! Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

7 Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Older Adults

7 Skin Cancer Prevention Tips for Older Adults

Before summer officially kicks off in the Great Lake State, it’s important to talk about skin safety. Skin cancers are among the top ten leading types of cancer in this country. Non-melanoma skin cancer tops the list with an estimated one million cases a year, and melanoma comes in seventh with an estimated 68,720 people diagnosed each year.

While some skin damage happens during adolescence, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Every new sunburn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Protecting yourself is essential.

Here’s what seniors should know about skin cancer prevention.


7 Ways to Protect Aging Skin


  1. Use sunscreen: Today’s seniors rarely used sunscreen when they were younger. As a result, many aren’t aware of how important it is. The reality is sunscreen is one of the best steps in skin cancer prevention. Apply sunscreen generously anytime you will be outdoors or riding in a car. Cover your entire body, including the backs of your ears, tops of your feet, and the back of your neck.
  2. Reapply: Don’t assume since you applied sunscreen before heading out that you won’t need to do it again. Check the label for specific directions. In general, the recommendation is to reapply at least every four hours. If you are swimming or sweating, you likely need to apply it more frequently.
  3. Practice car safety: Being in a car might make you feel protected from the sun. Unfortunately, UV rays can get you there too. Remember to apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses.
  4. Wear sunglasses: Like your skin, eyes are susceptible to UV damage. While it can be tempting to choose sunglasses for appearance, find some that meet UVA/UVB standards. In addition to offering protection from sun damage, routinely wearing quality sunglasses helps lower your risk of developing cataracts.
  5. Avoid peak sun: The sun’s rays are usually strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can lower your risk for skin cancer by arranging your schedule around those times. Run errands and do lawn care in the early morning. Take your daily walk in the evening. Small steps like these can help you stay safe.
  6. Inspect your skin: Make monthly head-to-toe skin checks a habit. Look for new growths and changes to old ones. Any growths that change shape, increase in size, or have irregular borders should be shown to your doctor.
  7. See a dermatologist: The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends scheduling an annual dermatologist appointment. They can do a thorough exam and identify small skin problems before they turn into major ones.


If you are looking for more outdoor summer safety tips, focus on hydration. 10 Hydrating Foods to Beat the Summer Heat will give you some ideas for pumping up your fluids beyond drinking water. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

How Can I Convince My Parents to Accept More Help?

How Can I Convince My Parents to Accept More Help?

Dear Donna,

My family and I live about 30 miles from my parents’ home in central Michigan. We try to visit and help with errands and household tasks every weekend. It’s not easy, especially in winter.

My mom gave up driving years ago. Over the past six months or so, my dad’s health has declined significantly. While he still drives to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store, I don’t think he should.

Now that the weather is warmer, I’d like to talk with them about moving to an assisted living community. We’ve never discussed the issue before and I’m nervous about doing so. However, I am worried something bad will happen to them if I don’t.

Do you have any suggestions for starting a conversation when parents need more help than adult children can provide?


Grace in Saginaw, MI

Starting a Conversation about Assisted Living

Dear Grace,

Beginning a conversation about moving with a senior can be daunting. Adult children may hesitate for fear of upsetting or insulting a loved one. The very idea of the difficult emotions that may arise could cause an adult child to delay the discussion.

In some cases, families wait too long. They could be forced to find a solution in the midst of a crisis. But it sounds as if you already understand the best time to begin talking to a parent about moving to assisted living.

I do have a few tips to help you prepare for and initiate the conversation about assisted living:

  1. Do your research.

Before you tackle a conversation about assisted living with your parent, do your homework. Make sure you understand what assisted living is and isn’t. Many senior living communities have great resources on their websites to help you learn more.

Research online, call a few that seem like good fits, and even visit some in person. Become familiar with the services and amenities of assisted living and why you think it’s a good solution. It will give you more confidence to start the discussion.

  1. Prepare to talk more than once.

Moving to an assisted living community is a big decision. While it can be the start of an exciting new chapter for your parents, agreeing to such a big change is intimidating.

When you begin this discussion with your parents, know it will not be a one-time talk. While your parents might realize a change is needed and agree to a quick move, that isn’t usually the case. Start slowly and give your parents time to adjust. They might not immediately see the benefits of giving up their home and moving to an assisted living community.

  1. Show empathy.

Try to look at the situation from your parents’ perspective. How you would feel if you were asked to give up your home and move to a new environment? Kind words and empathy can make a big difference.

Also keep in mind many seniors believe myths about senior housing, such as residents losing their independence and having a lot of rules to follow. Concerns like these may make them resistant to even considering a move.

When you are worried about your senior loved ones’ well-being, it’s easy to let your fears keep you from listening to theirs. Instead, try to get to the bottom of what might be holding them back.

They may be concerned about issues you aren’t aware of, including:

  • Loss of privacy and being forced to adapt to a rigid daily schedule
  • Fear about the expense of assisted living
  • Concerns that family and friends will forget about them

By keeping these things in mind, you will likely make the conversation go more smoothly.

I hope these tips help, Grace, and we hope you will keep the Heritage communities in mid-Michigan in mind for your parents! Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

Kind regards,