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!

Sincerely,

Donna

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!

5 Ways to Prevent Loneliness in Seniors

5 Ways to Prevent Loneliness in Seniors

Loneliness and isolation are more common as we grow older. A decreasing social circle, being out of the workforce, and mobility challenges are just a few contributing factors. Research is clear about the health risks linked to senior isolation. Some experts go as far as to liken these dangers to those associated with smoking and obesity.

Socially isolated older adults are at higher risk for:

  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Premature death

So, what can you do to prevent spending too much time alone? We have a few suggestions.

Combatting Isolation in Older Adults

  • Explore transportation options: If you only drive for necessary outings and avoid asking loved ones for rides, you might be spending more time at home. A couple of avenues to explore are ride-sharing services and senior transportation companies. Check with your local senior center or agency on aging to see if they are aware of any local options. Many maintain lists of reliable transportation providers who cater to older adults.
  • Volunteer your time: Another way to prevent isolation as you grow older is to volunteer for a local nonprofit organization. You’ll likely find a variety of opportunities close to home. Some may even offer transportation to and from their office. Check with your favorite organizations to see if they need volunteers or call the closest United Way office for suggestions. If in-person volunteering isn’t possible, you’ll likely still benefit from connecting with a virtual project. This article can help you find one.
  • Adopt a senior pet: Depending upon your situation and budget, you might find adopting an older dog or cat can help boost the spirit and prevent loneliness. Check with a local animal shelter to see what older animals are looking for a forever home. Younger adults and families with young children typically don’t rescue senior pets. That means older animals often spend longer amounts of time in shelters.
  • Explore senior centers and clubs: It’s common for older adults to find their social circle decreasing over the years. One way to remedy that is by joining or participating in senior groups and organizations. If you aren’t aware of any in your neighborhood, start by searching online for senior centers and senior fitness clubs. For those who belong to a religious institution, call and ask if they have any retiree groups.
  • Consider moving to senior living: One more solution to combat isolation and its associated health risks is moving to a senior living community. These communities are designed to promote connection and healthy aging. You’ll benefit from shared meals, daily life enrichment activities, and outings to nearby shopping centers, restaurants, and other popular destinations. Residents also find the daily informal gatherings that take place around the community to be a great way to develop new friendships.

Visit a Heritage Community This Summer

Summer is a great season to start your search for a senior living community. It will give you an opportunity to tour the community and take a stroll around the campus. Call the location nearest you to set up a time!

How to Make New Friends after Moving to a Senior Community

How to Make New Friends after Moving to a Senior Community

Dear Donna:

I’m planning to relocate to a senior living community this summer. While I live in Florida now, my search is taking me to the Holland, Michigan, area to be closer to my daughter and her family. It will make it easier for us to be more involved in one another’s lives.

I’ve been considering this move for a while and feel it’s a good decision. However, I’ve been a resident of Florida for almost 30 years. Nearly all of my friends are here, as are my doctors, my church, and my volunteer work. The idea of starting over is daunting. Do you have some ideas to make rebuilding my social circle easier? It might help me prepare for this next chapter in life.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

Tips for Making New Friends after Moving to a Senior Living Community

Dear Elizabeth:

First, it sounds like you have much to look forward to, especially being closer to your grandkids! And Holland, Michigan, is such a lovely area of the country to call home. But I understand how intimidating it may seem. Preparing ahead of time, like you are doing, is a great idea. Just in case you aren’t sure how to start your search, these tips might be helpful.

As far as rebuilding your social circle after a move to a senior living community, I do have a few ideas that I hope will be useful.

  • Explore communities convenient to family.

Since you mentioned that you are just beginning your search for a senior community, my first suggestion is to carefully consider the location. While proximity to your daughter and her family shouldn’t be the top or only priority, it should be high on your list. That will make it easier for you to visit and help with the grandkids and for them to be involved in activities at your community.

  • Research the Holland area online.

Another tip is to spend time online researching the Holland area. You already have the advantage of your daughter living there, but exploring opportunities of interest to you is important. For example, since you mentioned that you are currently involved in volunteer work, you could look around online to see which organizations might be looking for help. It’s also a good way to look up churches, doctors, and more.

  • Get on newsletter and email lists.

Ask all of the senior living communities that you are seriously considering to put you on their lists to receive their newsletters and event information. While the distance will obviously prevent you from attending activities and programs, it will give you a chance to learn more about what happens each day. That will give you a head start once you move and are ready to participate in activities. If you do make personal visits to the communities before making a decision, which we always recommend, plan to attend an event or two when you are in town.

  • Be patient but also put yourself out there.

My last suggestion is to give yourself time to settle in, but to also take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. That might include enjoying a cup of coffee in a common area of the community with neighbors or joining a morning stretching class. If you are a little hesitant to attend activities and events on your own, ask the life enrichment team to introduce you to neighbors who might share your interests. You could also invite family members to join you for a program.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you, Elizabeth. And I’d like to encourage you to keep Heritage Senior Communities in the Holland area on your list. One of our team members will be happy to take you on a tour, answer any questions you might have, and invite you to one of our daily life enrichment activities.

Kind regards,

Donna

Tips for Long Distance Caregivers

Tips for Long Distance Caregivers

Dear Donna:

I’m hoping you have some ideas that might help me care for my 83-year-old mother long distance, at least for a while. She lives alone in northern Michigan in the house my siblings and I grew up in. Until my dad passed away 6 months ago, it seemed like a safe and happy place for her to live. After his passing, I’ve become more concerned.

My mom has macular degeneration that is somewhat controlled with treatment. While she isn’t able to drive, she manages fairly well at home. The retina specialist she sees tells us that could change fairly quickly, however.

I don’t want to try to force her into moving to a senior living community so soon after losing my dad. However, I feel like we need a plan for managing her care now and once her vision worsens. My dad always handled tasks like filling her medication tray and driving her to the doctor for her treatments.

I live on the West Coast with my family but visit my mom every few months. It’s the time in between that concerns me. Do you have any tips for supporting a parent long distance? When will I know it’s time to be more forceful in encouraging her to move?

Sincerely,

Justine

Caring Across the Miles: Tips For Long-Distance Caregivers

Dear Justine:

First, please accept my condolences on the loss of your father. I’m sure that is difficult on many levels, not the least of which is concern for your mother.

We often hear from adult children whose parents have been able to compensate for one another’s challenges and can live safely at home. Once one parent is on their own, however, the need for change becomes more pressing. A few factors I would encourage you to consider and plan for are:

  • Finding transportation: For many older adults, especially those in rural communities like northern Michigan, finding reliable transportation to and from appointments and errands is a challenge. If your mom doesn’t have a friend or family member who can help, contact your local agency on aging. Many maintain lists of either volunteers or professional services who assist seniors with transportation.
  • Investigating prescription packaging: Since you mentioned your dad always filled your mom’s pill box, I’m sure this is a worry for you now. You could try calling the pharmacies she uses to see if they offer packaging services. They are sometimes referred to as punch cards. Pharmacies pre-fill these in the order/time of day a dose should be taken. That helps prevent older adults from making dangerous mistakes with medication. If that isn’t an option, try a tech service like the MedMinder pill organizer.
  • Creating a local support system: Another suggestion is to try to assemble a local support team for your mom. This could include friends or family who are willing to check on her and could get to her quickly in the event of an emergency. If you don’t feel comfortable relying on them, consider hiring a geriatric care manager. These care management professionals can usually help with everything from overseeing people you hire to clean your mom’s house or mow the lawn to beginning the process of downsizing a senior’s home.
  • Utilizing video chat: Don’t underestimate how valuable video chatting with your mom every few days can be. It will allow you to see her face-to-face to assess how she is doing and even how her house looks. If she doesn’t already use a device like an iPad, it’s probably worth investing in one and helping her set up Zoom or Skype.
  • Trying home delivery services: Investigate which local stores and services are available to support independence. For example, many pharmacies will deliver to older adults at no additional cost. See if her favorite grocery store delivers or works with a service that does. If funds permit, maybe hire a personal chef who comes right to the home. Some will prepare meals for clients and stock their freezer.
  • Exploring vision support resources: Lastly, try to connect with an organization that advocates for and assists people with vision loss or a vision impairment. Most communities have nonprofit agencies that fill this role. They will likely be a good resource for assisting with your mom’s unique needs.

Assisted Living for Adults with Vision Loss

One final suggestion is to consider helping your mom transition to an assisted living community while she still has some of her vision. Though most people with macular degeneration don’t experience complete vision loss, it will be more challenging to move to a new environment with severe vision loss. Getting relocated and settled in before that happens is a definite advantage.

Other benefits of assisted living for adults with vision problems include transportation services, housekeeping and laundry, medication management, and healthy meals. We invite you to call one of our Heritage Senior Communities to learn more about how assisted living can help an older adult with vision loss remain more independent!

I hope this is helpful, Justine, and I wish you and your mom the best of luck!

Kind regards,

Donna

What to Know about the Risk Factors for Heart Disease

What to Know about the Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four deaths in this country is linked to a cardiovascular-related condition. While some problems are due to genetic risk factors, others are related to the choices you make every day.

From exercise and movement to alcohol and smoking, here are some lifestyle tips that can help you keep your heart healthy.

Lifestyle Choices and Heart Disease

  • Keep moving: Regular exercise plays an important role in heart health. Staying active throughout the day is equally important. That means reducing the amount of time you spend sitting. Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle can be almost as dangerous for your health as smoking.
  • Manage stress: Unfortunately, stress is a part of everyday life for most people. How well you manage it, however, can impact your heart’s health. Finding positive ways to keep stress under control is important. Try exploring stress-reducing hobbies, such as Pilates, gardening, journaling, meditation, swimming, walking, and yoga.
  • Watch your diet: Much has been written about the heart health benefits of a Mediterranean style of eating and the DASH Diet. Both focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins. Research shows that people who adopt these types of diets tend to live longer, healthier lives.
  • Limit sodium intake: From our restaurants to our reliance on processed foods, Western diets are notoriously high in sodium. Bottom line? Most Americans consume too much salt. Reducing your intake can help lower your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease.
  • Monitor your cholesterol: High cholesterol is one of the biggest contributors to developing heart disease. While family history does factor into your cholesterol levels, so does lifestyle. It’s important to work with your primary care physician to have your cholesterol checked on a regular basis and to develop a plan for controlling it if necessary.
  • Quit smoking: Most of us think of lung cancer when it comes to the risks of smoking. But experts say tobacco use is also a cause of heart disease and strokes. Secondhand smoke is deadly too. If you are a smoker or live with one, ask your doctor about cessation programs with high success rates. Even if you’ve been unsuccessful in attempts to quit in the past, your heart’s health is worth another try.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: This one catches many people unaware. Alcohol consumption damages your health in many ways. When it comes to your cardiovascular system, alcohol consumption increases blood pressure while adding empty calories to your diet.
  • Stay connected: Socializing is another way to improve your overall well-being. Seniors who live more engaged lives tend to be healthier. Whether it is volunteering, taking classes at a local community college, or spending time with friends, staying connected with the world around you is important.

Start by making a few small changes at a time and sticking with them. For example, give up two unhealthy foods a week while increasing your level of physical activity.

One more suggestion is to find a heart health buddy who shares your commitment to making changes. You can offer moral support to each other to stay on track.

Live Well during Retirement at a Heritage Community

From a wide range of daily activities to healthy menus, Heritage communities make it easier to live your best life. Contact a community near you to set up a private tour and learn more today!