Anxiety and Alzheimer’s: How to Help a Senior Who Is Struggling

Anxiety and Alzheimer’s: How to Help a Senior Who Is Struggling

Dear Donna:

My father was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about two years ago, although we suspected something was wrong far earlier. He’s recently begun staying with my husband and me while we try to come up with a long-term solution for keeping him safe.

One new behavior we are witnessing is anxiety. Or should I call it agitation? It’s obviously difficult for him to experience and for those of us who love him to watch. Is this common among people with Alzheimer’s? What could be causing it, and how can we help him?

Your suggestions would be much appreciated!


Crystal in Grand Haven, MI

Potential Causes and Treatment for Alzheimer’s Anxiety

Dear Crystal:

Thanks for sharing this question with us. Anxiety or agitation, whichever term you choose, is common among people who have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s tough for the person with the disease to live with and for family members to witness.

Potential causes of anxiety for people who have Alzheimer’s could include:

  • Change in surroundings: Whether it’s traveling on vacation or just waiting at the doctor’s office, even a simple change in environment can trigger agitation. Since you mentioned your father recently started staying with you, he may need more time to adjust. Do you have some of his familiar belongings surrounding him at your house, such as a comforter or throw? Utilize any familiar, comforting objects you have space for.
  • Busy or noisy environment: Because people with Alzheimer’s have trouble processing multiple things at a time, a chaotic environment could stress them out. If your kids are noisy, the doorbell is ringing, and the television is on, for example, it can be overwhelming. You might be so accustomed to it that you don’t even notice. By calming the background chaos, you might help soothe your father’s anxiety.
  • Extreme tiredness: People with Alzheimer’s disease often develop sleep problems, too. They might struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep. That can leave them feeling tired. If your dad isn’t sleeping well, it might be a good idea to talk with his physician. He might have sleep apnea or another condition that could be the underlying cause of both his sleep issues and his anxiety.
  • Lack of exercise: At any stage in life, becoming too sedentary can contribute to sleep problems, fatigue, and agitation. If your father is spending most of his time sitting, taking a few walks a day might be the key to helping resolve his anxiety. If you have a secure outdoor location to spend time in, that might help too.

I hope this information is helpful, Crystal, and that you find a way to decrease your father’s anxiety.

Kind regards,


Learn More about Dementia Care

Many of the Heritage Senior Communities have specialized memory care units for people with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. They are designed to provide a controlled, supportive environment that promotes success. Find a list of our Specialized Dementia Care Communities here, along with more information on what makes these programs so unique.

Leading Reasons Seniors Experience a Fall

Leading Reasons Seniors Experience a Fall

Dear Donna:

My mom had a bad fall at home a few days ago. While no serious harm was done, she is pretty bruised and sore. Her fall caught us off guard as it’s never happened before. I scheduled a physical with her primary care physician but want to be proactive in identifying potential problems in the meantime.

What are some warning signs that an older adult is at risk for a fall? What changes can we help her make at home?

My family and I would be grateful for any direction you can provide!


Kaye in Ann Arbor, MI

Identify Fall Risks for a Senior Loved One

Hi, Kaye:

I’m glad to hear your mother didn’t suffer any serious injuries when she fell, but I’m sure it must have been frightening for both of you! It’s good that you are taking this seriously. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among seniors, so anything you can do to lower your mother’s risk is essential.

Here are a few recommendations to help you try to identify your mother’s potential risks:

  • Conduct a home safety assessment: If your mother lives in an older home, it might not have been designed with senior safety in mind. Stairs, poor lighting, and difficult-to-access showers are a few potential hazards. One of the first steps you can take is to conduct a room-by-room evaluation of her house to identify problem spots. This information will help you.
  • Examine her nutrition: This one often catches people off guard. Poor nutrition can cause weakness and make seniors unsteady on their feet. Spend some time talking about her diet. Make sure she’s eating well and not skipping meals.
  • Review her medications: Medications can have side effects and interactions that increase the risk for a fall. Talk with your mom’s pharmacist by phone or in person to identify any potential problems. Don’t forget to tell them about any over-the-counter medications or homeopathic remedies she is taking.
  • Schedule a vision exam: Another reason seniors experience falls is poor vision. Sometimes older adults might not even realize their vision is worsening. A yearly eye exam helps identify issues early and gives the ophthalmologist an opportunity to intervene before small problems become big ones. If your mother hasn’t had one in more than a year, schedule a check-up.
  • Encourage regular exercise: Core strength is linked to good balance. That’s another vital component of a good fall prevention program. Walking, light weight lifting, and resistance band workouts can help improve strength and balance. As is true of any new form of exercise, talk with your mom’s physician before starting.

I hope this information is helpful to you, Kaye! Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

Kind regards,


Heritage Senior Communities Encourage Fitness

With 15 locations in Michigan and northern Indiana, Heritage Senior Communities is a leading provider of senior living in the Midwest. Part of our success comes from understanding the role wellness plays in residents’ lives. Call a Heritage community for more information today!

How to Protect Lung Health as You Age

How to Protect Lung Health as You Age

Much of the focus on successful aging is placed on a heart-smart lifestyle. Because heart disease claims almost 655,000 lives in the United States each year, it’s easy to understand why. But your heart isn’t the only organ that needs special attention as you grow older. Lung health can also impact how long and well you live.

With age, the lungs typically become weaker and less flexible. But lifestyle can play a role in how much change the lungs will undergo.

Get the Facts about Lung Disease

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, lung disease is the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. An estimated 235,000 Americans lose their lives to lung-related illnesses every year. A number of conditions are categorized as lung diseases, including lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pulmonary fibrosis.

While not all lung diseases are preventable, your lifestyle choices can affect many of these. The following tips can help protect lung health as you grow older:

  • Don’t smoke tobacco: Smoking is a major contributor to lung disease. While most people know the risks, kicking the habit can be tough. If you want to stop but haven’t been able to, schedule an appointment with your physician. There are newer medications and smoking cessation programs that might work for you, but some require a prescription.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke: You don’t have to be a smoker for your health to be negatively impacted by cigarette smoke. Living with a smoker or being otherwise exposed on a regular basis can be almost as dangerous. Research shows people exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for respiratory infections, asthma, and lung cancer. Unfortunately, secondhand smoke accounts for 41,000 deaths in this country every year.
  • Monitor air quality: Breathing harsh chemicals can also weaken the lungs. Protect yourself by avoiding household cleaners, lawn care products, and paints that contain strong chemicals. Opt for items with natural ingredients whenever possible. When you can’t avoid exposure, wear a mask or respirator.
  • Protect against infections: The risk for infections like the flu and pneumonia, which can be deadly for seniors, can decrease with the help of vaccines. Getting an annual flu shot in the fall is essential. As is speaking with your doctor for advice about pneumonia vaccines.
  • Exercise regularly: One of the best ways to keep your lungs healthy is routine exercise. Walking, cycling, swimming, chair yoga, and low-impact aerobic activities all build stronger lungs.

Exercise and Lung Health for Seniors

In general, experts suggest older adults get 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week. The key is to find fitness activities you enjoy and alternate them so you don’t become bored. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, a few forms of aerobic exercise to discuss with your primary care physician include:

  • Taking walks or hikes outdoors
  • Walking indoors on a treadmill
  • Cycling on a bicycle or recumbent bike
  • Swimming or taking a swim aerobics class

If you or your senior loved one has a mobility impairment or balance problem, exercises that can be performed from a seated position include:

Whatever form of fitness you choose, it should make your heart and lungs work hard. That allows them to process oxygen more efficiently.

As is true of any new form of exercise, check with your primary care physician before starting.

Live Well at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage, we utilize a unique Wellness Model that encourages residents to stay physically, mentally, and socially engaged. Learn more by calling the Heritage community nearest you today!

Beyond COVID-19: The Vaccines Seniors Might Need

Beyond COVID-19: The Vaccines Seniors Might Need

The coronavirus has generated a great deal of attention about vaccines over the last year and a half. Everything from the way clinical trials operate to how research is funded has been highlighted again and again in the media. Vaccines to prevent COVID-19 came to market quicker than expected, and the rollout is much improved in 2021. While these are important immunizations to discuss with your physician, there are many other health conditions for which a vaccine is available.

From a newer, two-part version of the shingles vaccine to the different types of pneumonia immunization, older adults can protect themselves from a variety of diseases. If you are a senior, this list might be useful for speaking with your primary care physician about which vaccines you need and when.

5 Vaccines Seniors Should Consider

  • The influenza shot: When an older adult develops the flu, it can be more than just an annoyance. Seniors account for half of all flu-related hospitalizations and an estimated 75 percent of all deaths. The vaccine is adjusted every year to protect against the flu strains predicted to be most prevalent for the upcoming season. Many myths surround the annual flu shot, so make sure the older adults in your life talk with their doctor if they have any concerns. Physicians generally suggest senior patients receive the flu shot in early October to have adequate time to build immunity.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine: Pneumonia can be another dangerous medical condition for seniors. According to the AARP, older adults should discuss two different pneumonia vaccines with their doctor. First, a dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), and one year later a dose of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). Those who are considered to be high risk might be encouraged to get one dose each of PCV13 and PPSV23 eight weeks apart even if they are under the age of 65.
  • Shingrix vaccine: Shingles causes a rash with skin blisters that can sometimes lead to permanent nerve damage. It can be extremely painful and difficult to resolve. The newest version of the shingles immunization is Shingrix. Seniors who opt for this vaccination will receive two doses of Shingrix two to six months apart. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this vaccine offers a much higher level of protection than those of the past. So, if you previously received a different type of shingles vaccine, you’ll still want to have both doses of Shingrix.
  • Tdap and Td booster: Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough) are all serious health conditions the Tdap vaccine protects against. Physicians generally suggest people have the Tdap vaccine once and then receive the Td booster every ten years. This is especially important for seniors who spend time around children under 12 months of age.
  • Hepatitis A or B: Depending upon your lifestyle and personal risk factors, your physician may also recommend a Hepatitis A or B vaccine. Hepatitis can be a serious health problem causing liver damage. Each of these vaccines is comprised of a series of shots given over a period of months.

Wellness Plan for Seniors

Immunizations are just one part of an overall wellness plan for older adults. Another important piece is to work with a primary care physician on a health screening schedule. This quick overview of the cancer screenings you should consider having and when. Make sure to discuss it with your primary care physician during your next Medicare Wellness Visit.

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