Why Seniors Are at Higher Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency in the Winter

Why Seniors Are at Higher Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency in the Winter

Growing up, most people heard that drinking milk was necessary to build strong, healthy bones. And it’s true. Milk contains calcium and vitamin D, which are linked to better bone health. What few people know, however, is vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods.

One way most of us get vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. When your bare skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, it synthesizes vitamin D from cholesterol. And it doesn’t take much sun for that process to occur.

While many people enjoy spending time outdoors in warmer months, winter is another story. In northern climates, it can be especially problematic. That’s why when the mercury drops, so do vitamin D levels. It can result in a serious vitamin D deficiency.

Health Problems Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency

Research shows a vitamin D deficiency has a negative impact on our health at every age, but especially as we grow older. Experts typically rank a deficiency in two categories:

  • Early-stage: The early signs of vitamin D deficiency are often tough to notice and may be overlooked or misdiagnosed. The most common include muscle and joint pain, mood swings, unexplained fatigue, and weakness.
  • Advanced: As the deficiency goes untreated, it can result in greater bone pain and possibly even bone fractures. The condition has also been linked to increased risk of heart and vascular disease, as well as some forms of cancer, including prostate, breast, and colon.

Vitamin D: How to Avoid a Deficiency This Winter

As we head into the heart of winter in Michigan and Indiana, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family elder from a vitamin D deficiency:

  • Make good food decisions: Cold winter weather might make you want to reach for comfort foods and sugary treats. While they might make you feel better in the short run, most aren’t high in vitamin D or calcium. Try to work canned salmon, milk, tuna, and mushrooms into your meals instead. Vitamin D enriched foods also help. A few to consume are yogurt, cereal, orange juice, and eggs.
  • Spend time outdoors: Getting a limited amount of sun exposure can also help. Check with your physician to see how much sunlight they suggest. A common recommendation is about 20 minutes of sun several times a week. If winter temps are too low to stay outdoors that long at one time, break it up over a few days.
  • Consider supplements: Nutritionists say it’s best to get essential vitamins and nutrients through your diet. But in the case of vitamin D, that’s not always possible. If you are concerned you or a senior loved one’s vitamin D levels are low, talk with a physician. They might order a simple blood test to check. If you are deficient, your doctor can decide if you need a prescription dose of vitamin D or if an over-the-counter supplement will suffice.

Healthy Diets Are a Priority at Heritage Senior Communities

Seniors, especially those who live alone, often struggle to stick with a well-balanced diet. Meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking can be a lot of work for one person. It’s one reason older adults find their nutrition quickly improves when they move to a senior living community. Better nutrition also boosts their health and energy levels.

At Heritage Senior Communities, our dining teams are committed to creating meals that are both delicious and nutritious. We invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more!

Care for the Caregiver: Convincing a Spouse It’s Time for a Change

Care for the Caregiver: Convincing a Spouse It’s Time for a Change

Dear Donna:

My wife and I have been married for over 50 years. Several years ago, I suffered a stroke. While I have recovered a lot of my abilities, I am not able to do nearly as much as I used to. Not only does my wife have to help me with personal care, but she’s now responsible for our home’s indoor and outdoor upkeep.

I’ve tried to convince my wife to slow down and ask for help. She’s not willing to do that nor is she interested in hiring a caregiver through a home care agency. I really think it’s time for us to move to a senior living community. It seems like a solution that would free her from some of her burdens and allow her to tend to her own well-being.

Any suggestions on what I can do? I’m afraid something will happen to my wife if she keeps up this pace.

Thanks in advance,

Steve in Saginaw, MI

Caring for the Reluctant Caregiver

Dear Steve:

Sounds as if you and your wife have been through some tough times together in recent years! It’s not unusual for a spouse to try to manage their partner’s care all alone. Many spouses are reluctant to ask for or accept help, often thinking no one will be as good a caregiver as they are. But you are right to be concerned about your wife’s health and well-being.

Family caregivers experience more incidences of health problems than their non-caregiving peers. Medical issues can range from back injuries and headaches to digestive disturbances and sleep problems. Since it sounds like you are trying to convince your wife that it’s time for a move, sharing the benefits of senior living communities with her may help change her mind.

I always remind family members that this is a process. It usually takes a series of conversations and community visits to help a reluctant spouse or parent accept the time for change has arrived. Remind your loved one of the advantages of a move. In a senior living community, you will be able to:

  • Enjoy your time together: With fewer chores and less household upkeep, you and your wife will have more time to enjoy each other’s
  • You can reconnect with favorite pastimes or tackle new ones together when you have more free time.
  • Protect your future: Find a kind way to remind your wife that by taking better care of herself, she protects both of your futures. Making time for routine health screenings is essential, as is staying physically fit. Opportunities to exercise, such as yoga, stretching classes, and walking groups, occur daily at senior living communities.
  • Eat wellbalanced meals: A healthy diet is an essential component to aging well. That’s true no matter what your circumstances. At senior living communities, residents enjoy nutritious meals every day. You’ll usually have a variety of menus to choose from. Instead of having to worry about preparing food, you and your wife can relax and chat at mealtimes.
  • Gain peace of mind: Some residents say a move to a senior living community is a gift they give their children. That’s true for spouses, as well. You will both gain peace of mind knowing your needs will be met and that you have quick access to help in the event of an emergency.

While these are just a few benefits you’ll gain by moving, they may be enough to change your wife’s perspective.

Please drop me a note if you have any additional questions I can answer!

Kind regards,


Heritage Senior Communities

A family-owned, fourth generation provider of senior living, Heritage Senior Communities has locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana. With a well-earned reputation for quality care, Heritage offers independent living, assisted living, and memory care.

How Do We Start the Search for Assisted Living?

How Do We Start the Search for Assisted Living?

Dear Donna:

My husband and I visited his mom in northern Michigan over the holidays. Even though we FaceTime with her each week, we weren’t prepared for how much her health has declined since we saw her last spring.

Mom’s house hadn’t been cleaned well in a while, and it was obvious she’s not opening her mail and paying bills timely. The biggest change, however, was in her appearance. She’s lost a significant amount of weight, and her hair looked unkempt and dirty.

We were so shocked we didn’t even know what to do or how to respond! On the flight back home, we researched types of senior care and it seems like Mom needs assisted living. In a few weeks we are going to visit some communities in Michigan and see what we can find.

The challenge is that we aren’t sure what to look for and how to get started. We want to find a community that is a good fit for Mom’s personality. Do you have any advice?



Searching for Assisted Living in Another State

Dear Cindy:

This is a question we hear often after the holiday season. Like you, adult children typically visit parents’ homes to celebrate. For those who haven’t been together in a while, the change in an aging parent can be startling.

When you first begin your search for assisted living for a loved one, it can feel overwhelming. A rule of thumb is to think about your mom’s unique personality while also being realistic about her personal needs. Be mindful of what matters most to your mom and what her health requires.

Keep these factors in mind when looking for an assisted living community:

  • Changing needs: As we grow older, our needs change. Sometimes seniors need temporary assistance while they recover from an injury or illness. Other times the natural progression of aging means the additional care required is permanent. If your mom only needs help with housekeeping and meals right now, it might be tempting to focus only on those in your search. But it’s also important to consider what happens when a senior’s health changes. Are higher levels of care available on the campus?
  • Caregiver experience: The experience and dedication of the team’s caregivers are directly linked to the quality of care the community provides. As you speak with different communities, ask about their caregivers. Find out how team members are recruited, what the screening and background check process is, and how often caregivers undergo additional training. Ask what the staff-to-resident ratio is and how long (on average) caregivers have been with the company. Continuity of care comes from tenured staff so it’s important to know the answer to this question.
  • Community’s personality: As you mentioned, it’s important to find a place that fits your mom’s personality. For example, does your mom prefer a casual environment or does she like getting dressed up for dinner? When you tour communities, keep an eye on how the residents are dressed, especially during mealtimes. Assisted living communities definitely have their own personalities.
  • Dining services: Your mom’s weight loss might be a sign she is struggling to prepare meals and get adequate nutrition. When you visit communities, ask for a copy of recent menus. Inquire about the number of choices residents have and how often the menu changes. Also find out if residents can select their own mealtimes and tablemates. Flexibility and variety are important. Many families find a senior’s nutrition improves fairly quickly once they have access to well-balanced meals every day.
  • Life enrichment: Opportunities to socialize and enjoy life enrichment activities are also important. Ask how often resident programs occur, including if they are scheduled on weekends and evenings. If your mom has favorite pastimes, are those offered already or can they be added? Are resident outings to local restaurants, shopping malls, and other destinations offered?

I hope this information is useful in your search, Cindy. Because Heritage has communities throughout Michigan, we hope you will call us and schedule a time to visit. We’d love to meet your family and show you around!

Kind regards,


New Year’s Resolutions: How to Start 2022 on a Healthy Note

New Year’s Resolutions: How to Start 2022 on a Healthy Note

As 2021 draws to a close, most of us are looking forward to a fresh start. While many people use this time to make New Year’s resolutions, few stick to them. Since 2021 was another turbulent year, making wellness the focus for the upcoming year is more important than ever.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Before you set any goals for 2022, it may be helpful to learn why so many people fail to stick with their resolutions. According to personal growth experts, there are many reasons people don’t meet their goals. Setting unrealistic resolutions, being impatient, and not having clear targets are a few leading reasons people give up. Resolutions rarely last more than a few weeks.

As you prepare to welcome 2022, remember to make your resolutions clear and attainable. Instead of listing “lose weight” or “exercise more” as goals, be more specific. How much weight do you want to lose each month? What is your overall weight loss goal? What kind of exercise will you engage in and how often? Setting specific, measurable objectives increases the likelihood of achieving your resolutions.

Think Holistically in 2022

While a well-balanced diet and regular exercise are important parts of your 2022 fitness plan, wellness involves much more than the body. It also means focusing on your mind and spirit.

Here are a few ways to get healthier in the new year:

  • Limit screen time: Whether it’s scrolling social media or binge-watching the latest Netflix series, too much screen time is linked to a sedentary lifestyle. It can also contribute to stress and depression. Between COVID-19 challenges and nonstop political news, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you stare at screens too long. Limit your daily screen activity by setting very specific goals, including what types of programs you’ll watch and how much time you’ll spend on social media. While staying connected is important, overconsumption is unhealthy.
  • Volunteer virtually: If you are limiting public interactions because of the coronavirus or winter weather, you can still donate your time and talent to a great cause. Nonprofit organizations have lost a lot of volunteers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have begun to create virtual volunteer jobs. Your local United Way agency might be able to help you find a virtual opportunity near you. Another option is to search an online volunteer network, like Volunteer Match. In addition to on-site volunteer jobs, they also maintain a database of agencies looking for remote support.
  • Learn to meditate: Living in the moment is a matter of discipline. It is also necessary for a healthy life. Meditation is one way to accomplish this, and it can be performed anywhere. It’s also a good way to manage chronic pain. A few resources to help you get started are Headspace and Calm.
  • Keep a gratitude journal: Before you go to sleep each night, write down 5–7 good things that happened to you during the day. Even simple joys such as playing catch with the dog or watching a cardinal at the bird feeder can help you develop a habit of focusing on the positive. During tumultuous times, journaling can help keep your mind and spirit on a healthy track.

Follow the Heritage Blog

If you found this article to be of interest, bookmark the Heritage Senior Communities Blog and visit often. We publish new articles every week on topics ranging from healthy living to caregiving and senior care. It’s a great way to stay on top of the latest news on aging with success!

Holiday Gifts for Adults with Dementia

Holiday Gifts for Adults with Dementia

As another year of uncertainty draws to a close, it’s important to spend time with loved ones. Quality time with others can do wonders for your mental health. While concerns about COVID-19 linger, the holidays might need to be celebrated a little differently again this year.

Fortunately, one favorite holiday tradition can easily be modified to accommodate a busy family caregiver’s schedule: gift giving. Online shopping can be a quick, safe solution that allows you to avoid large crowds and potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Gift Ideas for a Senior with Dementia

Caregivers, especially those caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, were primarily using online shopping long before the virus appeared. Last year’s holiday shopping season set records for online purchases. This trend shows no sign of slowing.

One new challenge this year is the backlog in shipping. From the U.S. Postal Service to UPS and Federal Express, expect your packages to take longer to arrive. So, our first piece of advice is to get your online orders in this week.

Here are a few suggestions on what to gift a loved one with dementia this holiday season:

  1. Comfortable clothing and shoes

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, people often have difficulty manipulating buttons and zippers. Easy-to-wear, comfortable clothes are a good gift idea that allows the senior to maintain a sense of independence. You’ll want to keep the following tips in mind as you select clothing for your loved one:

  • Avoid anything with small buttons, zippers, or ties. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have trouble manipulating them.
  • Items that pull on and off are best. A jogging suit, pants with elastic waistbands, and button-free tops are best.
  • Shoes can also be difficult for a senior struggling with coordination. Slip-on shoes and sneakers with Velcro are good options.

This online store caters to those with arthritis and other physical challenges that make dressing more difficult. You might find it useful.

  1. Arts and crafts projects

Arts and crafts projects boost the spirits, and not just for those with dementia. The very act of creating brings peace and contentment. Art is even used as therapy in settings such as hospice centers and hospitals.

Craft stores like Joann and Michaels offer online shipping options for most of their products. You’ll find arts and crafts projects ranging from stepping stone kits to bookmark-making supplies.

  1. Handmade fidget blanket

Restlessness and fidgeting caused by Alzheimer’s-related anxiety is common as the disease progresses. That’s why you will often see people with Alzheimer’s pulling at their clothes, rubbing their fingers together, scratching their skin, and even pacing around the room.

Another holiday gift idea to consider is a fidget blanket. These blankets have embellishments like ribbons to toy with, loops to pull on, and easy-sliding zippers. They give people with Alzheimer’s something to do with their hands when they can’t be still. Etsy has a variety of vendors offering fidget blankets at prices ranging from $30 to over $100 depending upon size and complexity.

  1. Gift of music

Music engages people at all stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Because the part of the brain that processes music is usually not damaged by the disease until later, people can often remember songs dating back to their childhood.

Other therapeutic benefits linked to music for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia include:

  • Bringing joy: An upbeat song can boost mood and lift the spirit. With a little prompting, the senior may even clap or dance in their chair.
  • Stimulating memory: Music allows people to reconnect with memories long forgotten. For someone with a memory impairment, that can be quite meaningful.
  • Soothing anxiety: Agitation and anxiety are common in adults with dementia. Peaceful music can help the senior relax and calm down.

As a holiday gift, you can create playlists for your loved one to enjoy. Depending upon the stage of your family member’s disease, you might even consider syncing their phone or device to a Sonos wireless speaker and enabling Alexa so they can request music on their own.

When Is Memory Care Necessary?

Because dementia can be a tough disease for families to manage at home, memory care is a popular solution. These specialized communities help seniors with memory loss live their best quality of life. Call the Heritage community nearest you today to learn more about specialized dementia care at our communities in Michigan and Indiana!