How to Evaluate the Quality of a Memory Care Program

How to Evaluate the Quality of a Memory Care Program

Dear Donna:
My husband is the guardian for his great-uncle who has Alzheimer’s disease. Since his diagnosis a year ago, we’ve found ways to keep him safe in his own home. The time has come, however, to begin searching for an Alzheimer’s care community.

We aren’t sure what to look for or ask as we begin making appointments. Can you give us a few pointers? We are feeling a little overwhelmed.


Tina in Byron Center, MI


Tips for Evaluating a Memory Care Community


Dear Tina:

If you aren’t familiar with memory care, a term often used to describe Alzheimer’s care programs, the search can be intimidating. The sheer variety of options helps ensure an older adult gets the right type of care, but also makes the search confusing for families.

Here are a few questions to ask and factors to keep in mind as you and your husband begin contacting and visiting local memory care communities:

  • What is the community’s philosophy of care?

Each memory care community has a unique approach to care. Learning more about each community’s beliefs will help you decide which is a good fit for your uncle. Ask each community you are considering to describe their philosophy of care and what sets them apart from other local providers.

  • Will the team work hard to encourage his independence?

Research indicates doing too much for someone with Alzheimer’s can undermine their independence. It can also cause their disease to progress more quickly. By contrast, having systems in place to encourage residents to do as much as is safely possible might help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Finding a memory care community that knows how to successfully balance safety with independence is important. Be sure to ask how the team does this.

  • How does the community get to know new residents?

Because Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often impact verbal skills and memory, a senior who moves to a memory care community may struggle answering questions or telling caregivers and staff their unique life story.

Loved ones often cite feeling frustrated that their loved one is treated as a diagnosis, not an individual. This leads to a loss of dignity and self-worth that families find devastating.

Another question to ask when you call or visit memory care is how they will get to know your uncle and learn about his life and personal preferences.

  • Are life enrichment activities offered for memory care residents?

Activities and events can enhance quality of life for people with dementia if they work with the senior’s remaining abilities. Take time to ask about daily activities for residents in memory care as you are assessing potential communities. What types of programs are offered and how often? Who coordinates activities and what is their background? Getting answers to these questions will give you a good idea of how your uncle will spend his days.

  • How does the community help make this a smooth transition?

Because a change in environment can be stressful for an adult with dementia, you’ll benefit from a community with experienced team members. The staff can work with you on a plan for the days leading up to and after your uncle’s move. Before you make a final decision, ask each community how they help new residents make the smoothest transition possible.

I hope this information is helpful to you, Tina! I wish you and your husband the best of luck in your search for memory care for your uncle.

Kind regards,



Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities


At Heritage Senior Communities, we call our memory care program The Terrace. From specialized activities to dedicated dining, it’s designed to help adults with dementia enjoy their best quality of life. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Stay Connected with Friends While Caregiving

Stay Connected with Friends While Caregiving

A challenge shared by many caregivers is the loneliness the role often creates. As their loved ones’ need for assistance increases, many people find themselves cut off from friends when they need emotional support more than ever. This situation can easily result in caregiver depression.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 40-70% of caregivers meet the criteria for depression. Of those, 25% meet the criteria for major clinical depression. It’s a serious condition that typically requires medical intervention.

As a caregiver, how can you stay connected when you aren’t able to leave home very often?

Technology has made it easier to find a solution. Here are a few easy-to-use, inexpensive avenues to explore:


Stay Connected While Caregiving


  1. Use a video chat service to talk with family and friends.

Video chat services aren’t just for keeping in touch with faraway loved ones. For isolated caregivers, they can provide a way to talk face-to-face from across town or the country. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and others allow lonely caregivers to get emotional support, especially on difficult days. Most are easy to access from a smartphone or tablet device.

  1. Play games and hang out virtually.

During the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, many people sought new ways to spend time virtually with loved ones. Playing games across the miles is possible with the help of apps like Houseparty. Loved ones can challenge each other to games like Chips and Guac, Heads Up!, and Pictionary.

  1. Talk via social media channels like Facebook.

If you haven’t joined Facebook, now might be time. You can connect with family members through your regular News Feed or set up private groups. Another popular feature is Facebook Live, and it’s not just for businesses. If you can’t leave home, this could be a way to read bedtime stories to the grandkids. You can control and limit who sees your feed, providing you with privacy.

  1. Join an online caregiver support group.

As the number of family caregivers in the US (currently estimated to be about 40.4 million) continues to climb, avenues for support are growing too. One is online caregiver support groups. They are easier to find than ever before. These groups give caregivers an opportunity to connect with others who understand and share their struggles.

While in-person support groups are an option for some, caregivers who aren’t able to leave a senior loved one alone can join one online. The flexibility and convenience they offer is good for a busy caregiver’s schedule.


Is It Time for a Senior Living Community?


When a senior family member’s needs become tough to manage at home, it might be time to consider assisted living or memory care. I’m Here For A Family Member offers resources to help you learn more about each type of care. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Tick Prevention: How to Stay Safe Outdoors This Summer

Tick Prevention: How to Stay Safe Outdoors This Summer

As the threat of coronavirus lingers, many older adults continue to adhere to strict social distancing standards. Spending time outdoors is one way to safely enjoy summer. Strolls in local parks and gardening combine exercise with stress relief and improved mental health. But time spent outdoors in the Great Lakes region requires staying on guard for ticks, an arachnid linked to Lyme disease.

While some researchers attribute increasing incidences of the disease to growing numbers of ticks, others say it is due to improvements in diagnosing it. Diagnosis can be challenging because the symptoms of Lyme disease closely mimic many other health conditions.


Where Are Ticks Most Commonly Found?


While ticks are especially fond of wooded areas and tall grass, you can find them on almost any plants, grasses, trees, and shrubs in your yard. Even your flower garden can be a haven for these potentially dangerous insects. They patiently wait for the scent of carbon dioxide exhaled by passing animals (or humans!) and jump on to catch a ride.

As the deer population has increased in many areas of the Great Lakes, so has the number of ticks. They are known to “hitchhike” on deer because it is easier and faster for them to get around. Ticks can also be found in the feathers and fur of wild animals that call your yard home.

This is why it’s important to learn a few best practices for tick prevention.


5 Ways to Avoid Being Bitten by a Tick


  1. Check for ticks: Be vigilant about checking for ticks after spending time outdoors. Examine your clothing, body, and hair after coming indoors.
  2. Cover arms and legs: Wear long sleeves and long pants when you are outside. A lightweight, natural material like linen or cotton can help protect you from ticks while keeping you cool.
  3. Avoid wooded areas: During peak tick season, avoid walking near shrubs and tall grass. Paths where you may brush up against shrubs and tall grass can put you at higher risk for a tick bite.
  4. Wear insect repellent: Another way to ward off ticks is to apply and reapply insect repellent. Look for those containing DEET and permethrin. They are best at tick prevention.
  5. Shower after yard time: It will also help if you remove your clothes and throw them in the washer immediately when coming indoors. Then shower and wash your hair.

Finally, learn what symptoms might indicate a tick bite. Doing so will allow you to quickly seek medical intervention.


Common Symptoms of a Tick Bite


While it’s essential to know the symptoms, it’s also important to remember not all tick bites lead to Lyme disease. Most don’t end up being serious.

Signs of a tick bite include:

  • A red spot or rash on the skin, referred to as a bullseye
  • Itching or burning of the skin
  • Localized pain (not as common)

If you are in doubt, call your primary care physician for advice or to schedule an appointment—or virtual telehealth visit—to put your concerns to rest.

Another seasonal irritant many seniors struggle with is allergies. What Caregivers Should Know about Seniors and Allergy Medications is packed with good information to keep an older loved one safe this summer. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

3 Tips for Making a Senior’s Physician Appointment Easier

3 Tips for Making a Senior’s Physician Appointment Easier

Dear Donna:

Like many men his age, my dad isn’t so great about going to the doctor. It’s been especially difficult since my mother passed away. She could usually gain his cooperation more easily than I can.

My dad is 79 years old. Although he is in fairly good health, I know an annual physical is important. Do you have any ideas for making a senior’s physician appointments go more smoothly?

Any advice would be appreciated!

Meghan in Hudsonville, MI


Suggestions for Making Physician Visits Easier for a Senior


Dear Meghan:

First, know this is a question we regularly hear from our residents’ adult daughters. While I’m sure it’s frustrating for you, men are less likely to visit a physician than women. We do have a few tips that might improve your father’s cooperation.

In general, the key to a successful physician visit is getting organized and communicating well. Making preparations before your father’s physician appointment is essential. It can make the visit go more smoothly, which may make your dad more willing to schedule another visit.


Here are a couple of suggestions for pre-appointment preparations:


  • Keep a health journal: Documenting your dad’s daily health can help his primary care physician intervene in any potential problems early. Even if he seems healthy, write any unusual symptoms down on a calendar to spot trends. Some physicians also recommend documenting a senior’s diet, water intake, and sleep quality. A day or two before your dad’s appointment, review your notes and list your concerns. Having everything organized will make the appointment easier for your dad and the doctor.
  • Prioritize your questions: Feeling rushed at a physician visit might make you too intimidated to ask questions. However, it is important that you have answers. Prioritize your list ahead of time so you can quickly review it with the doctor. While they might be busy, physicians want to be proactive in preventing patient illnesses.
  • Organize medical information: Another important piece of coordinating a senior’s health care is to maintain a complete medical file. Organize your dad’s information so it is easy to retrieve what you need and stay on track with any necessary follow-up. Keep a list of his tests or bloodwork and the results. Maintain a medication list, including prescribing physicians.


One final tip is to explore medical record apps that make maintaining and updating your dad’s information easier. Some allow multiple logins, which can make it easier if you have siblings involved in his care. Apple’s Health Records or Healthspek are two to consider.


I hope this information makes maintaining a relationship with your dad’s physician easier for all of you! Call the community nearest you to learn more today!


Kind regards,