How to Evaluate Memory Care Programs

How to Evaluate Memory Care Programs

When a senior loved one’s dementia requires care and support that family members can’t safely provide at home, a memory care community might be the best solution. From a secure environment to dedicated dining and life enrichment activities, they are designed to help adults with dementia enjoy their best quality of life.

If you are unfamiliar with assisted living or memory care, it might be tough to figure out where to start. Making an informed decision requires asking the right questions and focusing on the core factors of quality care.

As you search for memory care communities, here are some tips for avoiding the most common mistakes.

Avoiding Mistakes in the Search for Memory Care

Mistake #1: Failing to tour the community

While online research and speaking with the community’s team by phone can help you narrow down your choices, you need to see the community in person. If local memory care communities are restricting visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ask them to arrange a virtual tour instead. That will at least give you an opportunity to look around and get a feel for the community.

Mistake #2: Making location the top priority

While it’s important for you to visit and check on your senior loved one easily, location shouldn’t be your top priority. Memory care is a unique program and finding a quality community might require you to travel a little farther. From community safety to caregiver qualifications, dining program, and life enrichment activities, there are other criteria of equal or greater importance.

Mistake #3: Failing to ask the right questions about caregivers

Dementia care is unlike other types of senior living. Team members who work with adults who have Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia need specialized training. Make sure you ask about what type of training dementia caregivers undergo and how often they attend continuing education programs.

Also ask what the ratio of residents to caregivers is and how long the average staff member has been on board. Both play a vital role in the quality and continuity of care.

Mistake #4: Not checking surveys, reviews, and references

Memory care communities typically fall under the umbrella of assisted living. As such, they are licensed at the state level. Each state sets their own rules and regulations for providers to follow. Surveys are routinely conducted to evaluate the community’s compliance. Most states publish survey results on the Department of Aging or Department of Health and Human Services website.

Be sure to read online reviews and seek input from your friends and colleagues. Feedback from someone you know and trust who has experience with the community is invaluable.

Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage communities we call our specialized dementia care unit The Terrace. In a thoughtfully designed environment, we use a person-centered approach to meet the care needs of each resident. Visit the Specialized Memory Care section of our website for more details and a list of our dementia communities throughout Michigan!

Insomnia and Aging: How to Get a Good Night’s Rest

Insomnia and Aging: How to Get a Good Night’s Rest

A good night’s sleep can be hard to come by even during the best of times, especially for older adults. Insomnia and aging seem to go hand-in-hand. Some seniors may have difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Research shows that from sleep apnea to restless leg syndrome, as much as 30% of the population suffers from insomnia. As concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic linger, some seniors are also experiencing anxiety that may disrupt sleep or cause insomnia.

When it comes to solving sleep issues, people may simply give up on getting a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, it’s not something you should just try to live with. There are many negative health consequences associated with a lack of quality sleep, including:

  • Weakened immune system that puts you at higher risk for colds and viruses
  • Poor nutrition, which often contributes to unintended weight gain and greater incidences of diabetes
  • Change in disposition (quick to anger or easily tearful) because the body doesn’t have enough time to refresh itself
  • Sedentary lifestyle, which is believed to be as dangerous as smoking
  • Increased chance of experiencing falls, which are a leading cause of disability

6 Ways to Beat Insomnia as You Age

  1. Exercise every day: When you feel tired, you are more likely to develop bad habits that lead to a sedentary lifestyle. And a lack of exercise is linked to poor sleep. It’s something of a vicious cycle. By staying active throughout the day, you’ll likely sleep better at night. Walking, chair yoga, swimming, and gardening benefit the body, mind, and spirit.
  2. Limit caffeine: Being overcaffeinated is another cycle that is easy to fall into when you are tired. While caffeinated beverages might give you a temporary pop of energy, more than a cup or two a day actually exacerbates sleep problems. Limiting your intake of candy, tea, soda, and even hot cocoa may improve sleep quality.
  3. Create a sleep space: Creating a dark, peaceful sleep environment might also help you beat insomnia. Turn off the television, smart phone, and other devices at least one hour before bedtime. Turn down the thermostat. If you can’t relax when it’s too quiet, try using a white noise machine or a fan.
  4. Be consistent: Sleep specialists often suggest a strict sleep schedule. Have set times to wake up and go to bed. An irregular sleep schedule interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythms. If you have to, set an alarm so you rise at a similar time each day, including on weekends.
  5. Skip the alcohol: People often think a glass or two of wine at bedtime will help them relax and unwind, making it easier to sleep. In reality, alcohol disrupts melatonin in the body. That can wreak havoc on your sleep/wake cycles. It also worsens snoring and sleep apnea, both of which contribute to poor sleep.
  6. See your doctor: Despite your best efforts at overcoming insomnia, sleep may remain elusive. Sometimes an undiagnosed medical condition is the cause. You may want to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They might be able to figure out what the problem is or refer you to a specialist for a sleep study.

Sleep is just one factor that contributes to a healthy lifestyle for older adults. To stay updated on the latest news on wellness and aging, we encourage you to bookmark our blog, The Senior Community Lifestyle, and visit often. We talk about issues ranging from nutrition and exercise to friendships and volunteering!

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines

As the number of adults in this country who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine continues to climb, concerns about its safety and effectiveness linger. From cost to side effects, people still have many questions.

To help you and a senior loved one make an informed decision about getting vaccinated, we pulled together some commonly asked questions. We share answers from public health experts.

5 Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccines

  1. Since the vaccines were approved so quickly, are they safe?

The first two vaccines, developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, were indeed rolled out quickly. But both met the criteria for receiving an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

Simply put, that means each vaccine went through a three-phase clinical trial and at least half of the phase three participants were followed for two months or more after the trial’s completion. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has more information on their website. Visit Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines Explained to learn more.

  1. How much will I have to pay for the vaccine?

Unlike other recommended vaccines, this one is available at no cost. According to the CDC, that’s because the COVID-19 vaccine doses were purchased using taxpayer money.

Vaccine providers, however, may charge an administration fee for giving a patient the shot. According to the CDC, a vaccine clinic host organization “can be reimbursed for this by the patient’s public or private insurance company or, for uninsured patients, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund. No one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the vaccine administration fee.”

  1. Does the vaccine use a live virus to build immunity?

This is a myth that keeps people from getting vaccines. No, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a live virus. While you may experience minor side effects for a day or two after being vaccinated, it is usually means the body is building immunity.

The most common side effects include some swelling and redness at the injection site, fever and chills, or fatigue. These symptoms last for a few hours or up to a few days. Some people have experienced severe allergic reactions.

  1. Do you need the vaccine if you had the coronavirus?

Because the science isn’t clear yet on how long natural immunity lasts after a person has had the coronavirus, the general recommendation is yes. You should still be vaccinated unless your primary care physician advises against it.

Researchers seem to believe the body’s natural immunity varies from person to person and may not last more than a few months. As we learn more about COVID-19, this recommendation may change.

  1. Do you still need to wear a mask after being vaccinated?

Yes, you will still need to wear a mask. While the vaccine offers you protection, experts don’t know if you can still transmit it to others if you are exposed. This is another area of ongoing research and recommendations from the CDC may change as scientists learn more.

Learn More about COVID-19

The CDC has a dedicated COVID-19 resource center on their website. You will find guidelines on topics ranging from whether you need to quarantine to where to find vaccine clinics in your area.

Residents and staff at Heritage Senior Communities were fortunate to begin receiving their vaccines in January and February. Visit our Facebook page to see how excited our residents were to be vaccinated and why. From wanting to see a new great-grandchild to being able to volunteer at the community again, you’ll see a lot of smiling faces as vaccines are administered!

How to Find a Virtual Volunteer Project

How to Find a Virtual Volunteer Project

Dear Donna:

My mom has always been very social. After my father passed away three years ago, she struggled without him. Just when she was getting back on her feet, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. Since then, she has been forced to remain mostly isolated.

While she recently received her first COVID-19 vaccine, we know it will take a few months until she can be out and about again. Our family members routinely check in with her using Zoom and Skype, but it’s just not enough. I’m trying to find something she can do from home that will help her feel connected and purposeful.

Do you have any suggestions? I’m sure you’ve probably heard this question before and have some ideas.

Kind regards,

Krista in Saginaw, MI

Encouraging Virtual Volunteerism during National Volunteer Week

Dear Krista:

Your question is a timely one! National Volunteer Week begins on April 18. Research shows seniors who lend their time and talent to a cause close to their heart reap a variety of mental and physical health benefits. From fewer incidences of depression to less risk of heart disease, volunteering might be the perfect solution for your mother.

There are plenty of organizations looking for virtual volunteers. Since your mother seems comfortable using technology, there will be even more opportunities open to her. Here are a few suggestions for connecting.

First, contact the United Way agency nearest to your mother’s home. They might know of local nonprofits looking for remote volunteers. When the coronavirus is behind us, she might be able to lend her time to the organization in person.

If you don’t have any luck with that option, there are a variety of national organizations you can explore. Two with easy-to-navigate volunteer websites are:

  • VolunteerMatch: This nonprofit organization has been matching volunteers with agencies in need since 1998. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, their number of virtual volunteer opportunities increased to over 600,000 nationwide! Your mom could choose to be an eBook Buddy to a child who needs help reading. She might also be interested in writing social media posts for a nonprofit animal rescue or anti-bullying organization. There are volunteer projects for every interest imaginable.
  • Points of Light Foundation: A global leader in nonprofit development, Points of Light Foundation also works to inspire and expand volunteer communities. They, too, have expanded the number of virtual projects volunteers can connect with. You can search their database for both short-term and long-term tasks your mother might be interested in.

I hope this gives you and your mother some useful ideas, Krista!



Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan and Indiana

A family-owned senior living provider for four generations, Heritage Senior Communities has locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana. If you have questions about independent living, assisted living, or memory care, call the Heritage community nearest you to talk with one of our team members. We are always happy to help!