My parents recently sold their home in another state and moved to Michigan to stay with my wife and me. The arrangement is temporary while we search for a senior living community for them.
I’m trying to get them on track with their health care and nutrition. They have never been very good about going to the doctor, but it got worse in the last few years. Their diet is also unhealthy. The first thing I need to do is find a doctor. They both need a complete physical and likely most of their health screenings, especially bloodwork.
Do you have any ideas for helping me locate a doctor for seniors? I prefer someone who has experience working with older adults. Any tips would be much appreciated.
Steve in Elk Rapids, MI
Finding a Doctor for a Senior Loved One
Your question is commonly asked by adult children! Unless an older adult is fortunate enough to have a longtime primary care physician, many find themselves needing to make a change. Because of the shortage of family practice doctors in many areas of the country, this task can be much tougher than in the past.
I do have some suggestions that might make your search easier:
- Investigate physicians in their insurance plan: Since you mentioned your parents moved to Michigan from another state, one factor to keep in mind is their insurance network. If they transitioned to a different Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll need to check to see which doctors are covered. For older adults who are on traditional Medicare, there will probably be more options. Medicare will create a list of doctors near you who accept new patients. You can find this list online or by calling Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227. (TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.)
- Ask for recommendations: You can read reviews on a variety of sites, such as Vitals, Healthgrades, and RateMDs. While they can provide some insight, nothing can replace personal referrals. Ask friends and colleagues involved in a parent’s care which physicians they like and dislike. Maybe ask for recommendations on Facebook, too.
- Talk with the hospital discharge planner or social worker: If you have a preferred hospital in your community, they might be able to point you in the right direction. While they likely can’t provide recommendations, many are aware of physicians who work with seniors. Those who work in emergency departments of the hospital sometimes keep a list of physicians who are accepting new patients.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, call the office to see if they offer meet and greet times for potential new patients. Even a few minutes of a physician’s time might give you an idea of whether they will be a good fit for your parents.
If you find yourself struggling to overcome your parents’ reluctance to see a doctor, we have a few tips. How Do I Get My Dad to See the Doctor Regularly has ideas you might find useful.
When a senior loved one begins to experience health issues or struggle with the activities of daily life, family members and friends often lend a hand. It’s usually with small tasks, such as running errands. As time passes, these duties often increase. Adult children can also be called upon to help with clinical tasks, such as wound care.
Providing support to someone whose health is declining can take a significant toll on physical and emotional well-being. While it might seem less expensive to have an older family member move into your home, many of the costs associated with caregiving aren’t obvious. Lost wages and benefits, an increase in household expenses, and wear and tear on the family car are a few.
If you are debating between having a senior move into your home or encouraging a transition to an assisted living community, here are some of the hidden costs of caregiving you should not overlook.
Don’t Overlook These Caregiving Expenses
- Lost wages, benefits, and career growth: One of the biggest expenses that people fail to consider is loss of income, both now and into the future. As the senior’s needs increase, family members are often forced to cut back on their work hours or give up working entirely for a while. The end result is lost wages and benefits related to their current job, but also missed opportunities for career growth. Caregivers who temporarily stop working might find it difficult to obtain a similar paying position when they are ready to return to work, too.
- Higher vehicle and gasoline expenses: Caregivers are often surprised at how often they find themselves behind the wheel. From doctor’s appointments to trips to the pharmacy, the extra mileage means more expenses. The extra costs for gas, oil changes, tires, and brakes can quickly add up. If the vehicle is leased, the impact can be even greater. You may exceed your mileage allotment and incur penalties.
- Greater household expenses and modification costs: When you add an additional person to your household, your home expenses will rise. From higher utilities to extra food costs, you’ll need to budget for this increase as well. Then there is the likelihood that your home may need to undergo some modifications to make it more senior-friendly. Ramps on exterior doors, grab bars in bedrooms and bathrooms, and a step-free shower are the most common.
- More medical bills for the caregiver: One more hidden cost of caregiving is increased medical expenses for the caregiver. The role is often physically and emotionally demanding. Adults who provide care are at higher risk for medical conditions, such as digestive issues, back pain, headaches, and anxiety, than their non-caregiving peers.
One final consideration is a different kind of cost: loss of personal time. While caregiving can be a labor of love, it is often a 24/7 responsibility. As a result, caregivers often experience a loss of privacy, personal space, and time to spend with their own children.
Visit Heritage Senior Living to Learn More
The best way to learn more about assisted living is with a personal visit. Before you decide to move a senior loved one into your home, we encourage you to tour a Heritage community near you. One of our experienced team members will be able to answer all of your questions and help you learn more about the benefits our communities offer.
My 76-year-old father moved in with my family earlier this spring. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s just over a year ago and isn’t safe living alone any longer. I’m slowly learning how to work around the changes the disease has caused and to improve his health and quality of life.
I’ve come up with some activities that allow him to feel productive despite his Alzheimer’s, such as helping me around the house and in the garden. When he was living alone, he skipped a lot of meals and lost a considerable amount of weight. While I’ve found ways to encourage him to eat, I’m still struggling to get him to drink water.
Dad’s doctor told me he was dehydrated during his last appointment and that I need to encourage him to drink often throughout the day. I think the underlying issue is my dad seems to be afraid of water. Does that happen with Alzheimer’s? My husband helps him with his showers and said it’s becoming increasingly difficult.
Do you have any advice for us?
Kristie in Sutton’s Bay, MI
Water, Hydration, and Alzheimer’s Disease
What a great observation! It is fairly common for a person with Alzheimer’s to develop a fear of water. Water-related tasks, such as filling a glass of water or showering, can result in anxiety and agitation. Just the sound of water running can cause fear. But it’s obviously very important that your dad stays hydrated, which can be even more difficult during the summer.
Here are a few suggestions that might be helpful:
- Be mindful when you fill his water glass: If your dad has developed a phobia about water, it might help to fill his water glass when he isn’t within hearing range. Add lemon, cucumber, or berries to the glass for a bit of a distraction. Using a dark-colored glass might also be helpful in disguising the water.
- Provide frequent reminders: Since people with memory loss may forget to drink water, prompting them to drink throughout the day might help. Don’t wait for your dad to say he is thirsty. Just tell him it’s time for a drink. It might help if you drink water while encouraging him to do so.
- Serve foods that hydrate: Also remember that many fruits and vegetables have a high water content. This makes it easier for adults with Alzheimer’s to increase hydration. Leafy greens, melon, berries, tomatoes, celery, cauliflower, and cucumber are just a few. Soup and broth are other good choices.
- Review his medications: Some medications have a diuretic effect that can increase the risk for dehydration. Talk with your dad’s pharmacist to determine if any of his prescriptions or over-the-counter medications might be an issue. If you find one that is, ask his primary care doctor for advice on how much fluid he should be taking in to compensate for it. There might even be another medication that can be substituted.
I hope a few of these tips are helpful to you, Kristie! Best wishes to you and your dad.
Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities
If someone you love has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, our Specialized Dementia Care program might be a solution. From person-centered care to guided social interactions, the program is designed to allow people with dementia to live their best quality of life. Call the closest Heritage community on this list to learn more!
When you are caring for a senior loved one at home, taking a vacation might not be feasible. That’s especially true when your family member has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia. The good news is you can take a vacation without leaving home. It’s called a staycation.
Here are a few tips for planning a staycation before winter makes its return to Michigan and Indiana.
Planning a Vacation at Home
If you aren’t familiar with the term, a staycation is simply a shorthand way of saying you’ll be taking time out to relax at home or to enjoy day trips. This trend became more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a good way to save money or to include a family elder for whom traveling isn’t safe.
Here are some tips for family caregivers who are planning a relaxing staycation this summer:
- Pick the dates: While it may be tricky if you’re including friends and family, set a date for your staycation. Putting it on the calendar might help you commit to taking a break and enjoying yourself.
- Consider extra help: If you’d like your staycation to be truly relaxing, consider utilizing respite services from an assisted living community or a local home care agency. Your senior loved one will get the care they need while you enjoy a break from those responsibilities. It will also give you a chance to enjoy more day trips.
- Set a budget: While a staycation is likely more budget friendly than a vacation, the costs can add up quickly. Before you start making arrangements, think about how much you can realistically spend. That will help you plan.
- Plan around your interests: Do you love going on garden tours or visiting unique nurseries and greenhouses? Or do you enjoy making art? Think about what your favorite hobbies are and look for opportunities to explore them close to home.
- Pamper at home: Another fun and relaxing idea is a spa day at home with a few friends. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose. You might want to hire a massage therapist or a professional nail technician to pamper you and your guests.
- Go day tripping: If you’d like to wander a little, pull out a map or find one online. Decide how far you are willing to drive and look for destinations you haven’t explored before. Sites like Viator and GetYourGuide can assist you in locating activities you’ve probably never heard of, such as haunted house tours and hot air balloon rides.
Respite Care Gives Caregivers a Break
Whether it’s a staycation at home or a true getaway, respite care allows family caregivers to take a break. Your family member can be a guest at one of our communities on a short-term basis and receive all of the benefits and services residents do. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!