Dear Donna – Can I Do Anything to Prevent Alzheimer’s?

Dear Donna – Can I Do Anything to Prevent Alzheimer’s?

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?

Dear Stacey:

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: How to Become an Advocate in Your Local Community

Alzheimer’s Action Day: How to Become an Advocate in Your Local Community

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.


Seniors, It’s Time to Get Your Flu Shot!

Seniors, It’s Time to Get Your Flu Shot!

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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!

What questions Should I ask on My Assisted Living Tour?

What questions Should I ask on My Assisted Living Tour?

Dear Donna:

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

Dear Sheila,

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

Kind Regards,



What to Consider Before Moving a Parent in with You

What to Consider Before Moving a Parent in with You

The news these days is full of stories about boomerang kids who leave the nest but then return home to live with parents. Just as headline-worthy is the opposite of that trend: parents moving in with their adult children.

When an older parent moves in with their adult child, a whole new family dynamic is created. It’s a wonderful opportunity for grandkids to get to know their grandparents and for everyone to build closer bonds. It can also save the caregiver a lot of time and energy not having to drive so much to check in on parents.

Considerations to Ponder Before Making the Change

There’s a flipside to everything, of course. And there are definitely some things to consider before moving a parent in with you.

Here are some of the most common issues experienced by people who’ve already traveled down this road.

Space Requirements

Your home may work for you now but if your mother or father moves in, your space needs will change dramatically. There are a variety of solutions to this problem, including adding a master suite.

The average cost of a mid-range master suite addition in Michigan was $115,810 in 2016. Obviously, this expense must be carefully considered by you and your spouse. A parent may –or may not— be able to help with the cost of remodeling, so it’s a solution the whole family should discuss together.

Some homes are simply too small to accommodate one more adult. A family might end up moving to a larger home.

Safety Concerns

Even if you have space for your aging parent in your home, you may need to make a few modifications. Bathrooms are a prime area of focus when a parent moves in. At the very least, safety features like grab bars and a non-step shower should be installed. Some older adults will need modified toilets. You’ll want to complete a safety audit of your home in order to determine exactly what upgrades you’ll need to make.

Privacy Issues

You should also consider privacy when making a decision.

Here’s where the master suite comes in again. Sometimes called ‘in-law suites’, these usually include a bedroom, bathroom, sitting area, and sometimes an efficiency or full kitchen. This allows your senior loved one to maintain privacy and independence and to feel that they aren’t placing too much of a burden on you and your family.

Daily Living

Finally, think about how your days will go with a parent now living with you.

  • Will you divide chores?
  • Will you eat together?
  • Who controls the TV?
  • What about pets?
  • Will you socialize together?
  • Will you take vacations together?
  • How will you manage bills?
  • What if you need to go away?
  • What will your parent(s) do all day?
  • How will you handle special dietary needs?
  • Will they hire a home care aide while you’re at work?
  • What happens if they start telling your kids what to do?

Short-Term Respite at Heritage Senior Living Communities

Respite care can help when your family wants some private time or if you will be taking a vacation. Your senior loved one can stay at an assisted living community on a short-term basis.

Call or stop by one of our Michigan and Indiana communities for a tour and to have all of your questions about respite care and assisted living answered!