One of the best ways to help a loved one transition to assisted living may be by reflecting back on your own memories. What was it like to be ill or immobilized by an injury? What was it like to leave your kids when you dropped them off at kindergarten on the first day? How did you feel moving away from friends or family?
Your answers may help increase empathy for the transition that your Mom or Dad is about to make. Keeping your experiences in mind and following these suggestions can make the transition go a little more smoothly.
Supporting a Senior’s Transition to Assisted Living
Tour the senior living community
Visiting the new community may sound obvious, but it is vital to have sufficient opportunities to see what the community is really like, experience how the caregivers interact with residents and develop familiarity with the place. During the visits, encourage Mom or Dad to ask questions, voice concerns to you, and make some connections with staff and residents.
Once you’ve decided on a community, visit it a few more times with your senior loved one. Participate in activities and events. Stay for lunch or dinner. It can help make the new community feel more like home.
No matter how much we like the new place, moving may create a feeling of loss. Adjustment takes time, and most people feel sad, angry or depressed at various stages after they’ve made a big move. That happens to eight-year-olds as well as eighty-year-olds.
Love and listening, support and faith, humor and reminiscing can go a long way to providing comfort at those times. Exercising kindness and compassion may help to reduce the fear.
Consider reasoning and logic
Remember why the decision to move was made. Write it down and post it for yourself and your loved one. Refer to it when you need to remind yourself why you are doing this.
It might feel like the wrong decision when the emotions of moving day take over, but “this too shall pass.” Try to focus your mind on how senior living communities improve the quality of life for older adults.
Create a tiny escape clause
If possible, provide a minor “out”, so the older person doesn’t feel trapped. For example, “Mom, if this doesn’t work, maybe we can make some adjustments. But let’s really give this an A+ honest effort. This is our best choice.”
If possible, help the senior make the move before putting their house up for sale. It can take some of the stress and fear out of the equation if you do.
Get the family involved
Contact family and friends who may be willing visit your loved one at the new community. Consider setting up a schedule for the first few weeks. This helps ensure a steady stream of friendly faces during the toughest days of the transition.
Establish some routines
Activities that build familiarity can be helpful to reduce transition stress. Suggest to your loved one that they start a routine, such as eating in the dining area or taking a walk at the same time each day. That will make it easier for staff and residents to see them and develop relationships.
Make it personal
Who am I now? Who was I? Who do I want to be?
Finding those answers are important to our identity and self-confidence at any stage of life. So as much as possible, help your parent identify their unique qualities and potential contributions, even though they may have limitations now.
Also, provide your Mom or Dad with items that remind them of different stages of their life. Familiar personal possessions and furnishings may be more comforting than buying all new furniture for the move.
Advocate for your loved one
Sometimes it’s little rules or small problems that can seem like a very big deal to a senior who recently relocated. Although the staff may be busy, most people want new residents to feel comfortable and at home in their new surroundings. Don’t be concerned about speaking up and acting as your loved one’s advocate. Resolving those issues can help to make an aging loved one feel safe and secure.
Trust your intuition
Intuition is that gut feeling that tells you something is wrong. Listen to it. Ask questions of yourself and respond in writing to generate deeper answers. Talk about it with others. The problem could be an old fear rearing its head or it could be a something that requires immediate action. Most of our parents tried to heed those feelings when they raised us. Now it’s our turn.
Visit Heritage Senior Communities to Learn More
At Heritage Senior Communities, we welcome you and your loved one to visit us. Our team will help provide support to make the transition comfortable for your mom or dad. Call us and schedule a time!
My mom has Alzheimer’s and watching her slowly slip away is so awful.
It also makes me worry that I will develop this awful disease. I’ve read some researchers think there may be genetic links to some forms of the disease.
While I know there is nothing I can do about my family history, I wonder if there are any steps I can take that may help me prevent Alzheimer’s?
I would appreciate any insight!
Stacey in Grand Blanc, Michigan
Can Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?
Alzheimer’s is definitely a devastating disease a senior and those who love them. It is understandable that you would be concerned about developing the disease yourself.
Researchers are still struggling to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Although there is no proven method of preventing the disease, there are steps you can do that may help reduce your risk
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Research has shown that seniors following the MIND diet have lowered their risk for reduced brain functioning by 35 percent. Even people who were so-so about maintaining the diet were 18 percent less likely to have reduced brain function.
The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet with a few tweaks. The diet is pretty simple: eat lots of green vegetables and fruit, particularly berries. Include whole grains, nuts, poultry, and fish.
Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are especially good for preventing Alzheimer’s because they contain omega-3 fats.
Dairy products, in moderation, are OK if they are low in fat. Olive oil is on the diet, but red meat, sugar and salt should be limited. Also, limit alcohol intake.
Smoking cigarettes is not recommended on this diet.
Anyone who puts effort into following the MIND diet will likely see a payoff. It can include a better functioning heart, healthy blood vessels, and optimal blood pressure—all of which are factors that decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Exercise For Your Life
For years, studies have shown that exercise can benefit the brain and delay the start of Alzheimer’s. People who are less active have a higher risk of developing this disease.
Exercise helps to keep the blood flowing and increases the chemicals that protect the brain. The key is to exercise several times a week for 30 minutes or an hour. In a relatively short time you will feel the benefits of exercise: sharper thinking, improved memory, and better decision making.
Reduce Stress Daily For Your Memory And Mood
In a study looking at how stress impacted the brains of mice, researchers found that stressed mice had high amounts of a protein called beta-amyloids in their brains. These proteins cause memory problems.
Other research has linked these beta-amyloids to Alzheimer’s. Avoiding stress may be one way to keep your brain healthy.
But, let’s face it, stress in life is unavoidable. So it’s especially important when you are a caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s that you find ways to de-stress.
- Take advantage of community support through online resources or phone help lines.
- Use relaxation techniques: breathing exercises, visualization and muscle relaxation.
- Take time to express yourself. Self-expression through music, art, writing, private dance or movement can all help.
- Find ways to leave your problems behind for a little while. That might be by taking a walk, going to a movie or watching funny videos of babies or pets. There are days when just a long shower or an early bedtime can be a big help.
- Use positive affirmations and self-encouragement to reduce stress.
- If you have faith, use it to find peace and comfort while you are caring for your loved one and taking steps to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
When The Stress Gets Too Much
Finally, it might help you to consider using respite care at the Heritage Senior Communities. Short-term breaks can do a lot to restore balance, energy, joy and hope.
My very best wishes to you and your family, Stacey.
Alzheimer’s Action Day on September 21st provides a chance for early stage patients, caregivers, and others to share stories that help to increase awareness and end the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease. It can also be a turning point for people who choose to become a community advocate.
Advocating for Adults with Alzheimer’s
Why should I advocate for the disease that I dislike and prefer not to think about?
A number of benefits can result from advocating for Alzheimer’s disease—whether you’re an early stage patient, a family member or friend.
- Establishing connections with other people, resources, and support systems
- Reducing the loneliness factor that is so common with the disease
- Providing opportunities to share your insights, experience and hope
- Enabling you to contribute to medical research
How can I fit community advocacy into my schedule?
- Start simple and set small goals. Caring for a loved one can take a huge amount of time and emotional energy, so set small goals. Even one hour a week might help you feel as if you are contributing.
- Reframe your viewpoint. Change your it’s-a-drain attitude to it’s-a-gain Your support and advocacy may actually recharge your batteries because you will be having meaningful conversations with other adults who have similar concerns and problems.
How can I start advocating in my community?
There are several steps you can take to become an advocate.
- Begin by talking about Alzheimer’s with coworkers, friends, church members, and others. That may provide a sense of satisfaction and social purpose.
- Read the facts and statistics about the disease. This will help you speak comfortably and knowledgably about the issues.
- Get involved with the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. You’ll meet people, find camaraderie, be inspired, and have an opportunity to participate in activities that increase empathy, self-esteem and self-care. All of this may help to heal some of the emotional wounds caused by Alzheimer’s.
- Use social media to connect with people from the comfort of your home.
- Brainstorm ways to increase attention about Alzheimer’s and other memory problems. Consider arranging a presentation at the local library or organizing regular meetings at a coffee shop.
- Connect with local politicians and learn about their position on medical research funding for Alzheimer’s. Encourage them to back bills and laws that increase financial support for the disease.
- Invite health care providers who specialize in Alzheimer’s to speak at local events and chamber meetings. Broaden the topic of the meeting to include other memory disorders and provide tip sheets, brain-healthy menus, and resource lists.
- Create newsworthy articles for your local media. Include your personal story along with seasonal topics, such as holiday planning or Alzheimer’s-friendly activities.
- Engage the help of business faculty members at a local college or SCORE counselors to solidify or strengthen your community action plans.
- Identify assets and financial resources for your advocacy work.
At Heritage Senior Communities, our staff members receive specialty training to help them provide the best possible care for residents with Alzheimer’s. Each team member in our memory care is an expert and an advocate.
Ask about having one of our dementia care experts speak at your local advocacy meeting or for resources that you can share with the other families.
Whether it’s autumn, winter or spring, no one has to explain the likely cause of these symptoms: chills, fever, body aches, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, cough, vomiting and diarrhea. It’s probably the flu. And as we head in to flu season, it’s important for family caregivers and their senior loved ones to schedule an appointment to get the vaccine.
Best Time for a Flu Vaccine
The best time for a flu shot is before influenza season actually starts. Most health care professionals advise receiving the vaccine in mid-October. That gives the body time to build up immunity before the bug starts making the rounds.
If you are a caregiver, you might find yourself wondering if and why you need a flu shot. Especially if you are healthy.
Here’s what to consider.
Why Caregivers Need Flu Shots
Caregivers who have strong immune systems still have many reasons to get the shot.
- Your immune system may be compromised unexpectedly in the middle of flu season. Increased stress, health concerns or lack of sleep can impact your ability to fend off sickness.
- You may have only a mild reaction to the flu, but you may still expose your loved one to it.
- You may unknowingly be a carrier of the flu virus because symptoms don’t always appear immediately.
Seniors and Flu Shots
Older adults would be wise to get the flu shot for the same reasons, plus these:
- For people who are 65 years and older, there’s a higher risk for hospitalization and complications such as pneumonia.
- Older adults may have a weakened immune systems caused by pre-existing health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and even some neurological conditions.
- Visits from grandkids, neighbors and friends may provide an unwelcome opportunity for the flu to spread. That’s because a person may feel perfectly healthy, yet be contagious. People with the flu are most contagious on the day before symptoms appear. They won’t even suspect that they are going to get sick the next day.
Clearing Up Misconceptions about the Flu Shot
Here are a two of the common misconceptions people have about the flu shot:
- The shot will give me the flu. This persistent myth keeps older adults from being vaccinated. According to the CDC, the flu shot contains an inactivated virus. You cannot get the flu from it!
- The flu shot is less effect on seniors. While this might be true in some cases, even limited protection is better than no protection. Experts also say that if a senior does develop the flu after receiving their shot, the symptoms may be much less severe.
Side Effects from the Flu Vaccine
OK, so you’ve decided to get the flu shot. Now you want to know what the side effects could be.
In general, side effects from receiving a flu vaccine are very minimal. They might include headache, low-grade fever, muscle aches, pain around the injection site, and a general feeling of malaise.
Happily, you can expect any side effects to go away a lot faster than the flu.
Live a Healthy Life at Heritage Senior Living Communities
At Heritage Senior Living Communities, we make flu shots available to our residents and employees. It’s just another way that we provide excellent care for our older adults.
In addition, you’ll find enrichment activities, exercise classes and community support—all of which have been shown to help to build the immune system. Don’t wait another season. Call us to schedule a visit soon!
I am searching for an assisted living community for my mother and I know it’s important to visit and take tours. However, I don’t just want to see the building and grounds. I want to be sure I come away from the tour having learned what I need to know.
The problem is I’m not sure what that is! How should I prepare? What questions should I ask? Help!!
-Sheila in Saginaw
Questions Families Must Ask on an Assisted Living Tour
You are definitely on the right track in wanting to ask good questions during your assisted living tour! Sounds like you just need a few questions to get going.
Assisted living tours are the best way for caregivers and their senior loved ones to get a feel for a particular community. Seeing the living spaces in person is important. But the real insight you’ll gain from your visit comes from the people you will meet.
Only from talking to the people who live and work at an assisted living community can you get a true sense of whether or not it is a good fit for a senior.
Questions to Ask When You’re On an Assisted Living Tour
You’re there to get a true picture of what it’s like to live in an assisted living community, so here are the three of the most important questions to ask.
- What services are available?
Some assisted living centers are stand-alone communities while others are part of a continuum of care. The additional levels of care at the community might include memory care, respite care, and independent living. Some families prefer this continuum of services so if their senior loved one’s needs change down the road, they won’t have to move again.
- What programs and activities are available?
Assisted living isn’t just about getting help with the tasks of daily living. It’s also about living a healthy lifestyle filled with enriching activities, programs, and events. So it is important to ask what sort of life enrichment activities and wellness programs there are each day. Also ask about special events and outings to local restaurants, parks and other attractions.
Another dimension to wellness is whether staff encourages residents to participate in programs and activities. You’ll want to talk to staff directly to learn more about the community’s wellness model and whether it includes personalized attention to case management.
- What staff members are on-site throughout the day (and night)?
The staff-to-resident ratio can vary from community to community, so this is an important area to investigate. Also, you’ll want to ask how many nurses are on hand at any given moment, and how often a doctor visits the community.
Don’t forget to ask about staff training and turnover, too. It’s usually a very strong indicator of the quality of care and services residents receive. If the staff is always coming and going, it’s going to be hard for them to get to know your senior loved one and their needs.
More Questions and a Checklist for Your Assisted Living Tour
The AARP maintains a comprehensive checklist for caregivers and their senior loved ones to use when they’re visiting assisted living communities. I’d recommend printing it out and using it before and during your tour.
Visit and Experience Heritage Senior Communities
At Heritage Senior Communities, we love visitors! We always encourage families to come for a tour, meet our staff and stay for lunch if you can.
There are Heritage Senior Communities located across the state of Michigan and in northern Indiana. Each offers a range of services, including assisted living care, independent senior living, dementia care, and short-term respite stays. Visit us online to find a Heritage community near you and schedule a tour.
I hope this helps, Sheila!