How to Explain Alzheimer’s to Grandkids

How to Explain Alzheimer’s to Grandkids

Dear Donna:

My wife of 55 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. In the early days, her symptoms weren’t very noticeable and we didn’t have to explain the problem to our grandchildren.

As the disease has progressed, however, it’s obvious there is something wrong. Despite being young, the kids definitely see changes. I think sometimes my wife’s behavior even hurts their feelings.

My son and his wife think the time has come to explain the disease to the grandkids. We are struggling to figure out how to do that. Do you have any suggestions?


Tim in Midland, MI

5 Tips for Explaining Alzheimer’s to Younger Children

Dear Tim:

By its very nature, Alzheimer’s can be difficult for younger people to understand. It’s common for families to have trouble figuring out how to explain the disease.

Fortunately, we have a few tips for tackling this conversation that other families have found useful:

  1. Alzheimer’s is a disease: Start by explaining that their grandma has an illness that makes it hard for her to remember things. She has good days and bad days. On bad days, grandma may act a little strangely and possibly not even remember their names.
  2. They’ve done nothing wrong: Take time to reassure your grandchildren that they haven’t done anything wrong. Sometimes kids think something they did caused a senior’s behavior. Explain that the changes they see in their grandma are caused by her illness.
  3. It’s not contagious: Be sure to explain that Alzheimer’s disease isn’t contagious; you can’t catch it like a cold or the flu. That might alleviate any worries your grandchildren have that someone else they love will get Alzheimer’s, too.
  4. Create an activities list: Before the talk, put together a list of activities the kids can still do with their grandmother. Include simple tasks, like filling the bird feeder, and long-term projects, such as painting a birdhouse together. Reassure the children they can continue to enjoy time with their grandma.
  5. Helpful videos to watch: The Alzheimer’s Association created several video series you can watch with your grandkids. Both are from the perspective of kids trying to help other kids. You can find Kids Look at Alzheimer’s and Teens Look at Alzheimer’s on YouTube.

I hope these tips help you feel better prepared for this conversation, Tim!

Kind regards,


Memory Care at Heritage

Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can be difficult for families to safely manage at home. Many find a memory care program to be the best solution. With memory care communities throughout Michigan, Heritage Senior Communities are highly regarded for their commitment to quality care. We invite you to call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more!

Coping with Emotions When a Senior Moves to Assisted Living

Coping with Emotions When a Senior Moves to Assisted Living

When an aging parent is no longer safe living alone, adult children often experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Guilt, resentment, stress, fear, and doubt are just a few. It can be a difficult transition for both the senior and their family.

While most people say planning before a crisis occurs is essential, the majority of families don’t prepare. Adult children may find themselves struggling to juggle a parent’s sudden medical crisis with worries about where they will live after leaving the hospital. Families often become heated when everyone has a different idea about what is best.


An Emergency Plan for Changing Needs


If your senior loved one is resistant to planning for their future care, a less threatening approach may be to suggest creating an emergency plan together. Reinforce the idea that you may never have to use it, but it is better to be prepared.

An important part of planning ahead will be learning what types of senior care are available. There are great resources online that can help you understand the different types of care, including home care, assisted living care, and a nursing home. If you know your options before you need them, you will be more confident you are making an informed decision.


Coping with Difficult Emotions


As families investigate senior living options for a parent or other family elder, they often struggle with the idea that their loved one is getting older. It might be the first time an adult child has admitted to themselves that a parent is getting frail and needs help.

Accepting this change is a major life event for most of us. Psychiatrists use the term “anticipatory grief” to explain this feeling of loss. Adult children may begin to realize their role in a parent’s life has come full circle. They are now the decision maker and guardian of their parent’s best interests.

For family members who have been fulfilling the role of caregiver, this transition can cause guilt, fear, and worry. It isn’t easy to turn a loved one’s care over to someone else, especially when it requires them to leave their home.


Tips for a Smooth Transition


Try to remind yourself you’ve researched and made the most informed choice you can. Here are some suggestions to help you find your way:

  • Make it look like home: Work with staff at the assisted living community to determine what furniture and belongings will fit in your parent’s new apartment before moving day. Having your loved one’s favorite things surrounding them will help them feel more at home.
  • Move before selling: If possible, try to make the move to the assisted living community before the house goes up for sale. That will help avoid the stress of being forced to downsize, pack, and move in a hurry when the house sells. It will also prevent the senior from having to leave the house during often inconvenient realtor showings.
  • Hire an expert: If the very idea of downsizing the senior’s home and packing up overwhelms you, consider hiring a senior move manager. These professionals are accustomed to working with families dealing with the details and emotions of this transition.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself or your family members. These will be emotional days for everyone. Accept that there will be tearful times and stressful days. You’ll need to be kind to and patient with one another.


Heritage Senior Communities Is Here to Help!


If your search for assisted living includes Michigan or Indiana, we hope you will consider Heritage Senior Communities. A family-owned business, we have been serving seniors for four generations. Call the Heritage community nearest you with any questions you have about assisted living!

Are Probiotics Worth the Expense?

Are Probiotics Worth the Expense?

As worries about the coronavirus continue, many people are exploring ways to build their immune system. Because seniors are at higher risk for contracting the virus, it is vital for them to live as healthy as possible. One product often hyped as an immunity builder is probiotic supplements.

Probiotics are billed as a simple way to rebalance good and bad bacteria in the gut. Research seems to indicate a healthy gut lowers your risk for disease and health problems. But are they worth the expense? Are there less-expensive options that yield the same results?

Unfortunately, health care researchers disagree on their effectiveness. Some say they work, and others say the same benefits can be achieved through diet.

Consumers also seem to be split. But the industry itself is booming. Data published in the Nutrition Business Journal showed Americans spent an estimated $1.8 billion on probiotic products in 2016, up from $425 million in 2008. When asked, those using probiotics say they help with everything from lowering cholesterol to reducing inflammation.

While taking a supplement might be easier, quality probiotics often come with a high price tag. The good news is probiotics naturally occur in some foods. By working them into your diet, you and your senior loved one might be able to pump up your immune system.

Foods That Improve Gut Health

If you would like to try improving your gut health without supplements, a few foods to try include:

  • Kefir
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Soft cheeses (i.e., Gouda, cheddar, and mozzarella)
  • Green olives
  • Greek yogurt
  • Sourdough bread

Boosting the Immune System

In addition to COVID-19 worries, we are inching closer to the traditional flu season. It’s one more reason older adults need to take every possible measure to boost their immunity.

  1. Is your senior loved one up to date on recommended vaccines?

Talk with your doctor to see if you are in compliance with the vaccinations recommended by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Two of the most pressing include:

  • Influenza: Early fall is the best time to get your annual flu shot. Most experts advise seniors get vaccinated in early October to be protected against early flu outbreaks.
  • Pneumonia: In most cases, you will only need to receive the pneumonia vaccine once in your lifetime. If you received it when you were under 55, however, your physician may want you to repeat the shot in later years.

In addition, talk with the doctor about shingles and Tdap vaccines.

  1. Does your older family member eat well and drink water?

A healthy diet rich with lean protein, fruit, and vegetables is essential. Nutritionists often encourage people to plan menus with produce in all colors of the rainbow. That helps ensure you consume necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Drinking eight glasses of water a day is another must. If a senior you care for doesn’t like water, try adding lemon or berries. You can also encourage them to eat foods with high water content, such as melon, cucumber, leafy greens, and celery.

  1. Is the senior getting enough quality sleep?

When you don’t sleep or aren’t getting good sleep, the body can become run down. That makes people more susceptible to illness. Unfortunately, insomnia and other sleep disorders are common among older adults.

If your senior loved one isn’t a good sleeper, their physician may need to order a sleep study. It can help identify problems and ways to correct them.

  1. Does your family elder exercise?

From chair yoga to walking, there are plenty of exercises for seniors to enjoy indoors. If you are self-isolating due to COVID-19, ask your doctor which types and durations of exercise are best.

Programs like Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging and SilverSneakers On-Demand make it easier to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle from the privacy of your own home. Go4Life is free for seniors, and SilverSneakers is a membership program many insurance companies help finance.

Follow Our Blog

We hope you found this blog helpful in your pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. The Senior Community Lifestyle blog is updated at least once each week. We tackle topics ranging from giving up driving to moving a loved one who has dementia. Bookmark this site and stop back often for the latest news.

Falls Prevention Awareness Day: Keeping Seniors Safe

Falls Prevention Awareness Day: Keeping Seniors Safe

Dear Donna:

My 78-year-old mother lost her balance on a small step and suffered a nasty fall. She wasn’t seriously injured, but was badly bruised. While my mom blamed the shoes she was wearing, I think there is more to it.

One change in her well-being my family and I have noticed recently is weight loss. I’m wondering if it might be linked to her fall. Do you have any fall prevention tips I can use to lower my mom’s risk? We know she might not be as lucky should she experience another fall.


Chris in Saline, MI


Fall Prevention Awareness Day


Dear Chris,

Sounds like a frightening experience for your mother and you! I’m glad she wasn’t more seriously injured. Many seniors who’ve experienced a bad fall worry it will happen again. It can create a great deal of anxiety, so I hope she’s coping with that challenge.

Your question about preventing falls is common, especially from worried adult children. Understandably so when you know how common and dangerous falls are for seniors:

  • Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors.
  • Every year, 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 experiences a fall.
  • A senior is treated in a hospital emergency room for injuries related to a fall every 11 seconds. Every 19 minutes, one of those older adults loses their life.
  • People who fall once are more likely to do so again. Seniors often limit activity to prevent another fall. It can result in a lonely, isolated life.

These statistics are why September 22 is designated as Falls Prevention Awareness Day every year. It’s a day to inform the public about the dangers of falls, especially among our elders.

Here are a few suggestions to consider for your mom’s safety:

  • Visit the doctor: If your mother didn’t go to the emergency room after her fall, I would recommend a follow-up visit with her primary care physician. The doctor is the best person to render advice on possible causes.
  • Examine her diet: Unintended weight loss can be a sign of an underlying health concern. If her doctor determines she is healthy, it could be the result of a poor diet. That is fairly common, especially among seniors who live alone. You might need to come up with healthy meals you can cook and freeze or explore home-delivered meal programs.
  • Focus on hydration: Dehydration can also increase the risk for a fall. Check with her physician, but the general recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water each day. Foods with high water content, like berries, melon, lettuce, and tomatoes, can also help.
  • Conduct a home safety audit: Most homes weren’t built with the safety needs of older adults in mind. Uneven stair treads, bad lighting, and poorly designed bathrooms can all contribute. Conducting a home safety assessment, or hiring a professional to do one for you, can identify potential hazards to address.
  • Build core strength: If your mother has been leading a fairly sedentary life, she might need some strength training. Her doctor might refer her for a few sessions of physical therapy. That will allow her to learn some exercises she can do at home to stay strong.
  • Check medication side effects: Another potential concern can be found in her medicine cabinet. Medications may be contributing to her unsteadiness. Some have side effects that include dizziness and dehydration. Each of those can put your mother at increased risk for a fall. Talk with her pharmacist if you have any questions.

I hope this information is helpful, Chris! I wish you all the best in creating a fall prevention plan for your mother.

Kind regards,


Heritage Senior Communities Is Here to Help

If you have any questions related to independent living, assisted living, or memory care, we encourage you to call the Heritage community nearest you. One of our experienced team members will be happy to help!