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

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

Dear Donna:

Since I retired a few years ago, I’ve developed insomnia. While I know many people have difficulty sleeping well as they get older, it’s new for me. I’ve read sleep issues can contribute to health problems, so I know I need to beat this.

Do you have any suggestions? The fatigue is really catching up with me this winter, and the timing is bad. I’m downsizing my house so I can start exploring independent living communities in Michigan to move to next summer. It’s hard work and I need more sleep so I can get things done!


Debbie in West Branch, MI

Tips for Seniors Trying to Beat Insomnia

Dear Debbie:

Thanks for writing to me! First, know that sleep challenges become more common with age. Research shows as much as 30 percent of the population suffers from insomnia. But for older adults, the number soars to as high as 50 percent! Some seniors express difficulty falling asleep and others say it’s tough to stay asleep. As you mentioned, the lack of rest can take a toll on your health.

  • Eat right and exercise: When you are tired from a lack of sleep, bad habits are more likely to slip in. Eating unhealthy comfort foods, sitting too much, and exercising too little are a few. It’s a vicious circle. Try to work on making better food choices and getting regular exercise. Start small, such as taking a 10-minute walk each morning and limiting how much time you spend watching television or on social media.
  • Find healthy stress busters: You mentioned you are preparing for a move to an independent living community this spring. Even when you are excited about a move, change can be tough. Try to explore a few ways to naturally manage daily stress. Some suggestions might be meditation, chair yoga, or journaling.
  • Develop sleep rituals: The lack of structure retirement often brings is another potential cause of insomnia. You might be able to overcome it by developing a sleep routine and rituals. Turn off your television and other devices at least one hour before bedtime to give your brain an opportunity to rest. Creating a dark, peaceful sleep environment helps too. If you can’t sleep when it’s too quiet, try using a white noise machine or a fan. Finally, go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Limit caffeine: Another common cycle that develops among seniors who have sleep problems is consuming too much caffeine. The energy boost it provides can be hard to resist when you are feeling weary. While caffeine does help in the short term, it can contribute to insomnia. Try to limit caffeine intake to the morning. Also, take time to learn about hidden sources of caffeine in your diet. Some examples include candy, supplements, protein bars, ice cream, and pain relievers.

If you try these ideas and still can’t get a good night’s sleep, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. You might have a condition like sleep apnea that requires medical intervention.

Kind regards,


What to Ask during Your First Call to an Assisted Living Community

What to Ask during Your First Call to an Assisted Living Community

Dear Donna:

My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few months ago. Fortunately, his primary care doctor spotted the symptoms early and proactively referred Dad to a neurologist. While we know there is no cure for the disease, we are working with the physician to try to slow the progression.

Since my mom passed away three years ago, my dad has been living alone. He’s decided that instead of moving in with my family or my brother’s, he would like to move to an assisted living community as soon as possible. Though it isn’t what I wanted for him, it is his preference.

I’ve been researching assisted living communities close to our home. There are so many choices! Before I visit communities in person, I think I should make some phone calls and narrow down the list. Because this is all so new to me, I’m not sure what questions I should be asking. Do you have any suggestions?


Mary in Midland, MI

Creating a List of Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Community

Dear Mary:

It sounds like your father has put together a thoughtful plan for his future. There are many benefits to moving to an assisted living community sooner rather than later, such as:

  • Having a chance to get to know the community’s staff and residents
  • Participating in on-site wellness programs
  • Getting peace of mind from knowing he’ll have access to care when his needs change
  • Becoming familiar with the community early in his diagnosis

I understand the search process can feel overwhelming, and that’s true even for people who’ve been through this before. The best way to make an informed decision is by visiting potential communities in person a few times.

As you narrow your list to those communities you want to schedule appointments at, knowing which questions to ask is important. These are a few I would recommend:

  • Does the community have any current openings in assisted living? If not, how long is the waitlist?
  • Is there a dedicated memory care program for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia?
  • Does the memory care program have a waitlist?
  • How does the community help ensure a resident makes a smooth transition from traditional assisted living to memory care?
  • What are the monthly fees for assisted living and for memory care?
  • In addition to the monthly fees, what extra expenses is your dad likely to incur?
  • Is there a dedicated dining room for the memory care program?
  • Does the community have consistent staffing in the memory care program? Do team members who work in this area receive specialized training?
  • How will the community decide when it’s time for your dad to transition from assisted living to memory care?

I hope this information helps make your calls more productive!

Also, I’d like to invite you to put Edgewood Assisted Living Center on your list. It’s our Heritage community located in Saginaw, which is close to your Midland home. We offer assisted living, memory care, and respite services for older adults. Call us to arrange a tour at your convenience!

Kind regards,


How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age in this country has climbed by 3.4 years since 2000. As our population grows older, it only stands to reason that age-related medical issues are on the rise, too. One is Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 million people currently live with the disease. That number is projected to soar to 13 million by 2050.

While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, early interventions may help slow the progression of the disease. These interventions make it important for an older adult to be evaluated early if Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is suspected.

Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s extend beyond the memory loss commonly associated with the disease. Other warning signs that might indicate a problem include:

  • Developing changes in personality or disposition
  • Struggling with insomnia or other chronic sleep problems
  • Becoming lost in once familiar places
  • Forgetting appointments or important dates
  • Having trouble performing tasks that require abstract thought
  • Experiencing difficulty with written or verbal communication skills
  • Misplacing commonly used items, such as car keys and glasses

If a senior loved one is experiencing more than one of these changes, it might be time to schedule a physical with their primary care physician. It might not be Alzheimer’s disease at all. The changes could be the result of conditions that mimic dementia, like an infection or vitamin deficiency.

Methods to Diagnose Alzheimer’s

After a senior’s doctor has ruled out other potential medical conditions, they might start to consider Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Many people are surprised to learn that a test to diagnose this disease does not exist. Instead, diagnosis is a process of identifying symptoms and eliminating other potential causes. The process of testing for Alzheimer’s includes:

  • Taking a medical history: If your parent hasn’t been to the doctor in a while, they’ll likely want an updated medical history. They will probably ask questions about health conditions that run in the family, as well as lifestyle choices. Diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, and exercise are a few they’ll want to learn more about. It’s also helpful if you write down the concerning changes you noticed in your family member. Think about how long ago you first noticed symptoms and if they seem to be getting worse.
  • Performing a physical exam: The senior’s doctor or medical assistant will take their blood pressure, temperature, and pulse. They might check reflexes, too. The physician will also assess the older adult’s memory and problem-solving skills with a series of questions or problems to solve. These evaluate memory, reasoning, judgment, attention span, and language skills.
  • Ordering blood tests: To rule out a thyroid disorder, an infection, or vitamin deficiencies, the doctor will order blood work. They might also order a urine test. Because a number of conditions mimic Alzheimer’s, it’s important to eliminate them before moving on with other testing.
  • Screening for depression: Depression is another illness that can present like Alzheimer’s, especially among older people. So much so that it is sometimes referred to as pseudodementia. The physician may conduct a depression screening or refer the older adult to a mental health expert.
  • Arranging for brain imaging tests: Brain scans will be ordered. These can show if the brain is shrinking while also looking for other potential causes of the troubling symptoms. A brain aneurysm, tumor, fluid, or stroke are just a few issues that can be detected with imaging.
  • Ordering a spinal tap: In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved biomarker tests for Alzheimer’s disease that have been used with success in Europe. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is collected through a spinal tap and then sent to the lab for evaluation.

Based on their findings, the primary care doctor will determine if the reported symptoms are linked to some form of dementia or if there is another underlying medical issue.

Experts in Dementia Care

While a diagnosis of dementia is difficult to hear, there are options that allow a senior to live a better quality of life. Some families find in-home care to be a helpful short-term solution. Others find a move to an assisted living community that also offers memory care is a better solution.

Heritage Senior Communities offer levels of care for adults at all stages of dementia. We encourage you to call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Living a Purpose-Filled Life during Retirement

Living a Purpose-Filled Life during Retirement

A happy, thriving retirement is something people dream about for many years. We envision days filled with activities of our own choosing, such as sleeping in, traveling, and reconnecting with favorite hobbies from the past. But what happens a few months after you retire?

According to research, a lack of purpose can increase an older person’s risk for health conditions like heart disease and depression by as much as 40 percent. That’s a pretty compelling case for creating meaningful days after retiring.

Ways to Live a Purpose-Driven Retirement

What steps can you take to bring purpose to your life when you’ve left the working world behind and your children are grown and gone? Here are some ideas you might want to explore:

  • Volunteer: Lending your time and talent to a cause you believe in can make you feel more productive. Just knowing someone is counting on you can lead to more meaningful days. You can choose a full-time position or volunteer for just a few hours a week. Are children your passion? Or maybe you enjoy nature. Reach out to organizations that serve those groups to see if they need volunteers. Another way to connect with a nonprofit agency is to call your local United Way for advice or utilize a website, like VolunteerMatch.
  • Pursue hobbies: The days can be hectic when you are juggling raising a family with the demands of the working world. It can lead people to make their own hobbies and special interests a low priority. Once you’ve retired, reflect on what you loved as a child or young adult. Maybe you liked singing in your church choir or taking photos. Did you have dreams that time didn’t allow you to pursue, such as learning to speak a foreign language or play a musical instrument? Now is the time to prioritize these interests. Life enrichment programming is one of the most common reasons older adults choose to move to senior living communities like Heritage.
  • Stay active: Aging well requires prioritizing self-care. Committing to a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated are both important. So is exercising regularly and incorporating light weight training, stretching, and cardiovascular activity into your fitness routine. Also, getting 8 hours of quality sleep each night is essential. Talk with your primary care physician for more advice if you have questions.

Build a Relationship with a Primary Care Doctor You Trust

Finally, schedule a yearly appointment with your primary care physician. It’s the best way to keep a preventable medical crisis from disrupting your retirement dreams. If you feel as if your doctor isn’t willing to answer your questions or spend quality time with you, it may be a sign that they aren’t comfortable working with seniors. “4 Tips for Helping a Senior Find a Primary Care Doctor” is a good article to help you or an aging loved one with the search.