Caregiver Meal Planning: Hearty, Healthy Soups for Fall

Caregiver Meal Planning: Hearty, Healthy Soups for Fall

Finding the time for nutritious meal planning and preparation can be tough when you are a busy caregiver. Family caregivers who are caring for a senior loved one are notorious for skipping meals or grabbing something fast at a drive-thru. Good nutrition is essential for your health at every stage in life, especially when your days are hectic and stressful.

One easy menu item to consider this fall and winter is soup. Soups can be easy to make and freeze or cook in the crockpot while you’re busy with other tasks. The key is to choose wisely so you don’t end up with meals that are too high in sodium, fat, or calories.

Nutritious Soup Recipes for Busy Caregivers

Here are a few recipes to try out as cold weather arrives:

  • 5-Ingredient White Chicken Chili: This quick soup is a good source of protein. Make it extra nourishing by substituting part of the chicken stock for bone broth. Add some avocado slices as a topping to benefit from its healthy fats.
  • Mushroom Quinoa Soup: Protein-packed quinoa makes a tasty addition to almost any soup. Along with several kinds of mushrooms, you can also throw in vegetables like carrots, celery, and baby corn.
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Soup: Red bell pepper, butternut squash, goat cheese, and a bit of bacon are sure to make this hearty soup a new favorite. You can easily freeze it to serve on your busiest days.
  • Mushroom Barley Soup: This tasty soup is rich in fiber, selenium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. Each is good for your health. In addition, the fiber it contains will help you feel full longer and avoid overeating.
  • Thai Pumpkin Noodle Soup with Crunchy Chickpeas: As tasty as it is beautiful, this is sure to become a new favorite. It contains pumpkin, natural peanut butter, pomegranate arils, broccoli, and more.

Diet and Health

A nutritious diet can have many positive effects on your overall health. That’s true for older adults and family caregivers. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) says the following are just a few of the many benefits of eating healthfully:

  • Less money spent on medication
  • Fewer doctor visits
  • More energy and stamina
  • Better overall health

Planning and preparing foods that are as delicious as they are healthy can help you look and feel good, too.

Eat Well at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we recognize the important role nutrition plays in residents’ lives. Through our Heritage Hospitality program, residents can choose from a variety of delicious dishes at every meal. Each one is served up fresh in our formal dining room.

If you are searching for senior living for an older adult in your family, we invite you to call the Heritage community closest to you to learn more today!

Respite Care as an Assisted Living Trial

Respite Care as an Assisted Living Trial

Dear Donna:

We are hoping to move my mom to an assisted living community in Michigan this fall. Our goal is to find a place and get her settled before the weather is too bad. She has lived alone since my father passed away, and the last few winters have been challenging.

I am the closest family member to her home, but still over an hour away in good weather. A few bad storms last year caused my mom to be stuck indoors for several days. It was a bad experience for her and for the rest of the family.

My mom is very reluctant to consider moving, even though she’s somewhat fearful of living alone. Do communities ever allow seniors to do a test run before making a permanent move? It might be the only way we can get her to seriously consider moving to assisted living.


Shannon in Saginaw, MI

How to Try an Assisted Living Community Before Moving

Dear Shannon:

What a great question! Families don’t always realize there is an option to consider if a senior loved one is hesitant about moving to assisted living. Designed to give caregivers a break, respite care allows older adults to stay at a community for a few weeks or months. Some families even take advantage of respite programs regularly until the senior is ready to make a permanent move.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care was originally intended to offer support and peace of mind to family caregivers. When a spouse or adult child needs a break, assisted living community respite programs provide the senior with a safe place to stay. Depending on state regulations, respite guests can usually remain at an assisted living community for a few days or several months.

Despite the benefits of respite, few families are aware of or take advantage of it. According to a study by the National Alliance of Caregiving and AARP, only 12 percent of family caregivers utilize these services. Many times, guilt keeps families from taking a much-needed break. However, experts say routine use of respite services can make a family member a better caregiver because they have time to rest and take care of their own health.

What’s Included in Respite Services?

Respite guests enjoy the same support and amenities as long-term residents:

  • A furnished, private living space or suite
  • Well-balanced meals and snacks
  • 24/7 caregiver support
  • Medication management assistance
  • Community activities
  • Transportation services for local appointments
  • Emergency call systems to summon help, if needed

Your mom might feel more comfortable moving if she’s going to a community she is familiar with. The staff can also take extra steps to make her stay more meaningful. They can introduce her to residents with whom she shares common interests or get her involved in activities.

I hope this is helpful, Shannon! Please call the Heritage community nearest you to schedule a tour or to ask more questions.

Kind regards,


Respite Care at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we are proud to offer respite care and adult day services. Both are intended to provide support to the caregiver and the older adult. Both services are offered at each of our Michigan communities.

Anxiety and Alzheimer’s: How to Help a Senior Who Is Struggling

Anxiety and Alzheimer’s: How to Help a Senior Who Is Struggling

Dear Donna:

My father was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about two years ago, although we suspected something was wrong far earlier. He’s recently begun staying with my husband and me while we try to come up with a long-term solution for keeping him safe.

One new behavior we are witnessing is anxiety. Or should I call it agitation? It’s obviously difficult for him to experience and for those of us who love him to watch. Is this common among people with Alzheimer’s? What could be causing it, and how can we help him?

Your suggestions would be much appreciated!


Crystal in Grand Haven, MI

Potential Causes and Treatment for Alzheimer’s Anxiety

Dear Crystal:

Thanks for sharing this question with us. Anxiety or agitation, whichever term you choose, is common among people who have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s tough for the person with the disease to live with and for family members to witness.

Potential causes of anxiety for people who have Alzheimer’s could include:

  • Change in surroundings: Whether it’s traveling on vacation or just waiting at the doctor’s office, even a simple change in environment can trigger agitation. Since you mentioned your father recently started staying with you, he may need more time to adjust. Do you have some of his familiar belongings surrounding him at your house, such as a comforter or throw? Utilize any familiar, comforting objects you have space for.
  • Busy or noisy environment: Because people with Alzheimer’s have trouble processing multiple things at a time, a chaotic environment could stress them out. If your kids are noisy, the doorbell is ringing, and the television is on, for example, it can be overwhelming. You might be so accustomed to it that you don’t even notice. By calming the background chaos, you might help soothe your father’s anxiety.
  • Extreme tiredness: People with Alzheimer’s disease often develop sleep problems, too. They might struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep. That can leave them feeling tired. If your dad isn’t sleeping well, it might be a good idea to talk with his physician. He might have sleep apnea or another condition that could be the underlying cause of both his sleep issues and his anxiety.
  • Lack of exercise: At any stage in life, becoming too sedentary can contribute to sleep problems, fatigue, and agitation. If your father is spending most of his time sitting, taking a few walks a day might be the key to helping resolve his anxiety. If you have a secure outdoor location to spend time in, that might help too.

I hope this information is helpful, Crystal, and that you find a way to decrease your father’s anxiety.

Kind regards,


Learn More about Dementia Care

Many of the Heritage Senior Communities have specialized memory care units for people with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. They are designed to provide a controlled, supportive environment that promotes success. Find a list of our Specialized Dementia Care Communities here, along with more information on what makes these programs so unique.

Leading Reasons Seniors Experience a Fall

Leading Reasons Seniors Experience a Fall

Dear Donna:

My mom had a bad fall at home a few days ago. While no serious harm was done, she is pretty bruised and sore. Her fall caught us off guard as it’s never happened before. I scheduled a physical with her primary care physician but want to be proactive in identifying potential problems in the meantime.

What are some warning signs that an older adult is at risk for a fall? What changes can we help her make at home?

My family and I would be grateful for any direction you can provide!


Kaye in Ann Arbor, MI

Identify Fall Risks for a Senior Loved One

Hi, Kaye:

I’m glad to hear your mother didn’t suffer any serious injuries when she fell, but I’m sure it must have been frightening for both of you! It’s good that you are taking this seriously. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among seniors, so anything you can do to lower your mother’s risk is essential.

Here are a few recommendations to help you try to identify your mother’s potential risks:

  • Conduct a home safety assessment: If your mother lives in an older home, it might not have been designed with senior safety in mind. Stairs, poor lighting, and difficult-to-access showers are a few potential hazards. One of the first steps you can take is to conduct a room-by-room evaluation of her house to identify problem spots. This information will help you.
  • Examine her nutrition: This one often catches people off guard. Poor nutrition can cause weakness and make seniors unsteady on their feet. Spend some time talking about her diet. Make sure she’s eating well and not skipping meals.
  • Review her medications: Medications can have side effects and interactions that increase the risk for a fall. Talk with your mom’s pharmacist by phone or in person to identify any potential problems. Don’t forget to tell them about any over-the-counter medications or homeopathic remedies she is taking.
  • Schedule a vision exam: Another reason seniors experience falls is poor vision. Sometimes older adults might not even realize their vision is worsening. A yearly eye exam helps identify issues early and gives the ophthalmologist an opportunity to intervene before small problems become big ones. If your mother hasn’t had one in more than a year, schedule a check-up.
  • Encourage regular exercise: Core strength is linked to good balance. That’s another vital component of a good fall prevention program. Walking, light weight lifting, and resistance band workouts can help improve strength and balance. As is true of any new form of exercise, talk with your mom’s physician before starting.

I hope this information is helpful to you, Kaye! Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

Kind regards,


Heritage Senior Communities Encourage Fitness

With 15 locations in Michigan and northern Indiana, Heritage Senior Communities is a leading provider of senior living in the Midwest. Part of our success comes from understanding the role wellness plays in residents’ lives. Call a Heritage community for more information today!

How to Protect Lung Health as You Age

How to Protect Lung Health as You Age

Much of the focus on successful aging is placed on a heart-smart lifestyle. Because heart disease claims almost 655,000 lives in the United States each year, it’s easy to understand why. But your heart isn’t the only organ that needs special attention as you grow older. Lung health can also impact how long and well you live.

With age, the lungs typically become weaker and less flexible. But lifestyle can play a role in how much change the lungs will undergo.

Get the Facts about Lung Disease

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, lung disease is the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. An estimated 235,000 Americans lose their lives to lung-related illnesses every year. A number of conditions are categorized as lung diseases, including lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pulmonary fibrosis.

While not all lung diseases are preventable, your lifestyle choices can affect many of these. The following tips can help protect lung health as you grow older:

  • Don’t smoke tobacco: Smoking is a major contributor to lung disease. While most people know the risks, kicking the habit can be tough. If you want to stop but haven’t been able to, schedule an appointment with your physician. There are newer medications and smoking cessation programs that might work for you, but some require a prescription.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke: You don’t have to be a smoker for your health to be negatively impacted by cigarette smoke. Living with a smoker or being otherwise exposed on a regular basis can be almost as dangerous. Research shows people exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for respiratory infections, asthma, and lung cancer. Unfortunately, secondhand smoke accounts for 41,000 deaths in this country every year.
  • Monitor air quality: Breathing harsh chemicals can also weaken the lungs. Protect yourself by avoiding household cleaners, lawn care products, and paints that contain strong chemicals. Opt for items with natural ingredients whenever possible. When you can’t avoid exposure, wear a mask or respirator.
  • Protect against infections: The risk for infections like the flu and pneumonia, which can be deadly for seniors, can decrease with the help of vaccines. Getting an annual flu shot in the fall is essential. As is speaking with your doctor for advice about pneumonia vaccines.
  • Exercise regularly: One of the best ways to keep your lungs healthy is routine exercise. Walking, cycling, swimming, chair yoga, and low-impact aerobic activities all build stronger lungs.

Exercise and Lung Health for Seniors

In general, experts suggest older adults get 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week. The key is to find fitness activities you enjoy and alternate them so you don’t become bored. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, a few forms of aerobic exercise to discuss with your primary care physician include:

  • Taking walks or hikes outdoors
  • Walking indoors on a treadmill
  • Cycling on a bicycle or recumbent bike
  • Swimming or taking a swim aerobics class

If you or your senior loved one has a mobility impairment or balance problem, exercises that can be performed from a seated position include:

Whatever form of fitness you choose, it should make your heart and lungs work hard. That allows them to process oxygen more efficiently.

As is true of any new form of exercise, check with your primary care physician before starting.

Live Well at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage, we utilize a unique Wellness Model that encourages residents to stay physically, mentally, and socially engaged. Learn more by calling the Heritage community nearest you today!