More people than ever are becoming family caregivers. Being the caregiver for a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease can be both rewarding and exhausting. While it is often a labor of love, managing the complex needs of an older adult with memory loss is stressful. Add in a global pandemic and it’s easy to understand why caregivers may be feeling drained.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 16 million family members are caregivers for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s. That adds up to more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care a year. It can impact everything from mental health to work schedules.
What It’s Like to Care for a Senior with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s caregivers often juggle a host of physical challenges and emotions. They range from chronic fatigue to guilt, sadness, and loneliness. Caregivers often miss out on family gatherings and quality time with friends because their senior loved one isn’t safe to stay alone.
Watching someone you love slowly lose their health and dignity is difficult to process. It is often called “the long goodbye” and can result in depression among caregivers. But that isn’t the only health issue family caregivers encounter. They also experience health problems such as:
- Digestive issues
- Sleep disorders
- Back problems
- High blood pressure
- Vitamin deficiency
- Unintended weight gain or loss
This is why it’s important to practice healthy self-care when you are tending to the needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Self-Care for Alzheimer’s Caregivers
- Don’t skip gatherings: Even if you have to do so virtually, participate in family and friend gatherings. While the COVID-19 pandemic is making this tougher for everyone, apps like Zoom and Skype are the next best thing to being in person. Ask your loved ones to bring you in virtually during their get togethers, even if only for a short period of time. It will give your spirit a boost.
- Eat a well-balanced diet: When your to-do list is long, it’s easy to rely on foods from convenience stores and fast food restaurants. These can be high in carbs, unhealthy fats, and sodium, none of which is good for you. They contribute to health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, while also leaving you feeling fatigued. If you haven’t tried it already, consider a meal delivery service such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. Ingredients and recipes will be delivered to your doorstep each week. That cuts down on shopping, prepping, and cooking time while allowing you and your family to eat well.
- Exercise: While exercise might seem like a luxury to an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it’s a must for maintaining mental and physical health. It also helps beat stress, improve sleep, and build a stronger immune system. If you can’t work out for 30 continuous minutes during the day, break it up into 10– or 15–minute blocks of time. You’ll reap the same benefits as a longer workout.
- Accept help: Caregivers often resist asking for or accepting help, feeling it is their duty to care for their family member. Letting others help is important to your long-term ability to provide care. If you don’t have a friend or family member who can pitch in, consider respite care at a memory care community. Depending upon current COVID-19 restrictions in the area, a senior can be a guest of an assisted living or memory care community for a few days or weeks. That gives family members a chance to rest and recharge.
Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities
Heritage Senior Communities have a well-deserved reputation for excellence in specialized dementia care. From person-centered care to thoughtfully prepared meals, we invite you to call a community near you to learn more today!
My brother and I recently started looking for an assisted living community for our parents. Over the past few months, it’s become clear that remaining in their home is no longer an option.
Both parents have had falls inside and outside their house. Luckily, they haven’t been seriously injured. Their 60-year-old home just wasn’t built with senior safety in mind. They’ve also given up driving and don’t like depending on us for transportation.
A neighbor told me her dad was a veteran and qualified for some help through the Veteran’s Administration. Is this a program that residents in assisted living who are veterans can utilize? I’m not sure how to learn more about it.
Cynthia in Grand Blanc, MI
The Aid and Attendance Benefit for Veterans
I’m glad you asked this question! It gives us an opportunity to talk about the Aid and Attendance benefits for veterans and their surviving spouses. The benefit can make financing care much more affordable for qualifying seniors. We have many residents at Heritage Senior Communities who utilize this program.
The Aid and Attendance benefit provides financial support to veterans and their spouses or the surviving spouses of deceased veterans. Veterans 65 or older who served at least 90 days of active military service, of which at least one day was during an acknowledged period of war, may be eligible. This benefit also applies to veterans’ surviving spouses.
There are additional factors to know about this program:
- Your parents must have demonstrated need for assistance. The Veteran’s Administration will assess a variety of issues, including how well the seniors are able to perform daily activities and if one or both of them have a disability.
- The veteran must have been honorably discharged from service.
- The veteran doesn’t have to have been injured during their service to qualify for financial assistance.
- Applicants must already be receiving a VA pension or must be eligible to apply.
A veteran must have served least 90 days of active military service. At least one day of that service needs to have been during an acknowledged period of war. Here are the wars and conflicts that meet the period of war requirement set by the Veteran’s Administration:
- World War I (April 6, 1917–November 11, 1918)
- World War II (December 7, 1941–December 31, 1946)
- Korean conflict (June 27, 1950–January 31, 1955)
- Vietnam era (November 1, 1955–May 7, 1975 for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period; otherwise, August 5, 1964–May 7, 1975)
- Gulf War (August 2, 1990–a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)
Finally, the Veteran’s Administration will evaluate the family’s yearly income and net worth to determine if they qualify and how much financial assistance they will receive. This is based on income and asset guidelines that are adjusted each year by Congress.
I know this can be an overwhelming amount of information to process! If you don’t have a financial advisor familiar with this program, I encourage you to call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you for more information!
My 92-year-old mom has been living alone in the home she’s been in for decades. Until recently, she’s been fine doing so with the help of an in-home caregiver. Lately, however, it seems like her quality of life is declining.
Because I live four hours away, I can’t visit every week, especially during winter. While her caregiver does a great job tending to her physical needs, my mom is isolated and lonely. During my holiday visit, I tried to talk to Mom about moving to a senior living community. It seems like that would give her an opportunity to participate in activities and make new friends.
Before I could begin the discussion, my mom got upset. Though I believe she doesn’t feel safe on her own, she seems afraid of moving to senior living. I dropped the subject and am looking for advice on how to identify what might be holding her back. Can you help?
Wendy in Holland, MI
Why a Senior Might Resist Moving
What a good observation. Sometimes adult children become frustrated with a parent who won’t consider moving because they don’t understand how tough the decision can be. And an aging parent might not be willing or able to identify just what is making them so resistant. By understanding some of the common fears older adults have about moving, you might be better able to help your mother make an informed decision.
Here are a few reasons seniors cite for not wanting to move to a senior living community:
- Giving up the family home: This generation of older adults often live in their homes for decades, just like your mother. She likely has many happy memories attached to her house. Selling it and moving anywhere may seem like she is leaving a piece of the family behind.
- Fear of change: Many people fear making a change at any stage in life. But for older adults, change often seems even more difficult. As you talk with your mom about moving, try to keep this in mind and move slowly.
- Believing the myths: There are a variety of myths and misperceptions about senior living communities. Many are based on the old, institutional style nursing homes that were so common when this generation of older adults was young. They don’t understand how vibrant today’s senior communities are.
- Perceived losses: Your mom may resist moving because she fears losing aspects of her home life. Loss of freedom, privacy, and independence rank high on the list of concerns for many seniors.
- Running out of money: Many people believe senior living communities are expensive and only for the rich. An older adult might worry that they will run out of money if they move. In reality, senior living communities can be an affordable solution as many of the older adult’s current home expenses are included in the base fee.
I hope this helps as you try to come up with a solution that will improve your mom’s quality of life. Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
Consider Heritage Senior Communities
With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, you’ll find a variety of options from which to choose. Whether it’s the resort area of Traverse City or a community in southeast Michigan’s popular Saline, we extend an open invitation to you to tour a Heritage community today!
After a winter that left many people self-isolating at home to try to avoid COVID-19 exposure, spring is finally on the horizon. If you are a senior with a love of gardening, one way to continue safely enjoying this hobby is container gardening. Digging in the dirt has a variety of health benefits, especially for older adults.
Health Benefits for Older Gardeners
Gardening is good for the body, mind, and spirit. It’s linked to lower blood pressure, better core strength, and reduced stress. That’s on top of having fresh vegetables and herbs to cook with and flowers to bring indoors all season long.
For older adults who’ve experienced a fall or those with a mobility challenge, planting a garden in containers, window boxes, and raised beds can be a safe solution. It’s a way to enjoy nature without having to bend over, stoop, and kneel.
Tips for Container Garden Success
A few suggestions for growing your herbs, vegetables, and flowers in containers this summer include:
- Focus on favorite plants: Look for ideas on Pinterest or gardening sites like Proven Winners. It will help you identify the types of flowers you enjoy most and design attractive container gardens. Be mindful of how much sunlight your designated space receives each day. Does your porch or raised bed area receive full sun, part sun and part shade, or mostly shade? Your container garden’s ability to thrive depends on matching the plants to the sun coverage your garden receives.
- Choose containers wisely: Another factor is the pot you will plant in. If you use a metal container placed in full sun, the roots may overheat. A chemically treated wood pot might result in those chemicals leeching into the soil your herbs or vegetables grow in. Plants that need deep roots should be planted in a tall container. The opposite is also true. If you plan to grow flowers in a hanging basket, choose plants that stay small and have a shallow root system.
- Invest in good potting soil: Healthy soil is the foundation for a thriving container garden. An organic material that holds water is best for pots or raised beds. Your local garden center may carry a regional blend, which ensures the soil you use is appropriate for where you live. If you don’t have any luck, home improvement stores sell prepackaged potting soil specifically designed for container gardens.
- Ensure proper drainage: Another essential is good drainage for your container garden. It protects the roots from rotting. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, you can usually add a few with a drill or awl. Once you have drainage holes, place a small piece of screen over the holes to keep the dirt from washing away. If it’s not possible to drill or punch drainage holes, cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of stone or gravel.
One final tip is to remember that container gardens require more frequent watering than in-ground gardens. If dragging a hose or watering can around the yard is difficult for you, try to place your containers near a water source.
Summer Safety for Senior Gardeners
Remember to be safe when gardening outdoors in warm months. Stay hydrated, especially on hot, humid days. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Also wear a hat that shields your neck and face. Finally, garden early in the morning or later in the evening so you avoid the hottest times of day.
Gardening is just one of the many activities residents at Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan and Indiana enjoy. Call the community nearest you to learn more about the healthy lifestyle you can enjoy when you make a move this spring or summer!