7 Steps to Help Prevent Senior Falls

7 Steps to Help Prevent Senior Falls

According to the National Council on Aging, falling is the most common cause of injuries among people aged 65 and older. These injuries, such as hip fractures and concussions, may be severe and even life-threatening.

Besides injuries, falling risk can make older adults anxious and unwilling to be more active, limiting quality of life.

So what are some ways to prevent falls for your senior loved one?

7 Steps to Reduce the Risk for Senior Falls


  1. Remove tripping hazards.

Caregivers and their senior loved ones should perform a walkthrough of the home to look for risks that can be removed or repaired.

  • Clean up clutter to keep floor space open.
  • Move items such as plant pots, magazine racks, and power cords out of high-traffic areas.
  • Repair uneven floorboards or loose carpet.
  • Anchor rugs with double-sided tape.
  1. Improve home lighting.

Make sure there is adequate lighting in the home, especially at the top and bottom of staircases, on front porches and stoops, and inside the main door.

Also make sure there is lighting available when getting up in the middle of the night. Keep a flashlight by the bed and check the batteries regularly.

  1. Install handles and grab bars.

Make sure your loved one has something to hold on to when sitting, standing, and getting in or out of the shower. Be sure that bars and handles are installed where they will actually be used.

Handles can also help in other areas, such as hallways. Also, make sure that there are railings on both sides of staircases.

  1. Avoid clothing that can cause falls.

Seniors can help avoid falls by wearing comfortable, low-heeled shoes. They should be well-fitting with non-skid soles.

Wear clothing that is comfortable without being baggy. Make sure pants are hemmed and do not drag on the floor.

  1. Stay physically active to avoid falls.

While it sounds counterintuitive, staying physically active can help reduce your senior loved one’s risk of falling.

In particular, practicing tai chi or water aerobics can help improve balance, flexibility, and strength.

  1. Keep up with regular checkups.

Regular hearing and vision checks can help seniors avoid objects that could make them trip or lose their balance. Checkups can also help a loved one monitor or avoid other risk factors for falling, such as dizziness and joint pain.

  1. Discuss falling concerns with a physician.

If fear of falling is interfering with your senior loved one’s quality of life, discuss this with a physician. They may recommend referring your loved one to a physical therapist. They can also evaluate your loved one’s medications and adjust them if necessary since many medicines may carry side effects that increase fall risk.

Senior Falls May be Avoided

With enough precaution and monitoring, your senior loved one can continue to enjoy a high quality of life free of falls and the injuries they cause.

At Heritage Senior Communities, we strive to maintain healthy, safe residences that allow seniors to live full, active lives. Contact us to learn more, including details about our newer locations in Holland and Saline, Michigan.

How to Protect Your Older Loved One’s Identity During Tax Season

How to Protect Your Older Loved One’s Identity During Tax Season

Dear Donna,

I know that older adults are often the targets of financial fraud. How can I help protect my mother’s identity, especially during tax season?


Gina in Saline, Michigan

Protect Your Senior Loved One From Identity Theft This Tax Season

Dear Gina,

Tax season is stressful for everyone, especially older adults and their caregivers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, seniors are especially vulnerable to identity theft.

Because cognitive decline may impair an older adult’s ability to make financial decisions, caregivers should take special care to protect their loved ones.

How to Protect Senior Loved Ones During Tax Season

  1. Determine if your loved one needs to file.

Many seniors do not need to file federal tax returns if their gross income is under the IRS filing requirements. Gross income includes all income not exempt from tax, as well as Social Security benefits.

If your mom does need to file, determine how she should file (single or married, for example). If her husband passed away during the tax year and she has not remarried, your mom can file a joint return and receive deductions for the deceased spouse.

  1. Enlist the help of a trustworthy expert.

A licensed, educated accountant or financial advisor can assist with navigating tax laws and help you get the most out of your deductions. An appropriate advisor will explain the rules and their recommendations without pressuring you and will keep your information private.

  1. Secure personal and financial documents.

It may be a good idea to keep documents that are not often needed, such as wills, in a safe deposit box. If you keep important documents at home, lock them up when other people are visiting, and keep them out of sight in high-traffic areas. Shred unneeded documents, including receipts.

  1. Talk about common scams with your senior loved one.

Every year, the IRS publishes a “dirty dozen” list of common tax schemes. These include phone scams, in which criminals call people and impersonate IRS agents to demand payment or pose as fundraisers for fake charities.

Talk about these potential scams with your loved one and discuss how they should respond if they are targeted.

  1. Keep track of your loved one’s finances.

Caregivers can protect their loved ones by watching for unusual financial activity. Check bank balances for insufficient funds or unexplained withdrawals. Watch for unpaid bills, unusual attempts to send money, or suspicious signatures on checks.

Also watch for unexpected or suspicious changes to your loved one’s will or power of attorney, especially if your loved one cannot explain it or seems confused about the change.

  1. Consider an identity theft protection program.

The AARP Identity Theft Protection program offered through TrustedID is a program specially designed for seniors. From monitoring credit to identifying potential threats, you will likely find it to be helpful.

A Safe Environment for Senior Living

Heritage Senior Communities provide a safe, comfortable residence with numerous amenities for older adults. Contact us today to learn more, including details about our newer residences in Saline and Holland, Michigan.

Do Food Choices Impact Your Alzheimer’s Risk?

Do Food Choices Impact Your Alzheimer’s Risk?

Researchers have already found links between diet and health problems like cardiovascular disease and cancer. Now, evidence suggests that some food choices can influence a person’s risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The American Academy of Neurology and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine estimate that there could be 13.8 million people with Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2050.

How could dietary changes help efforts to prevent the growth of Alzheimer’s disease?

How Diet Might Impact Your Alzheimer’s Risk

The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet may help reduce Alzheimer’s risk, researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found. This diet combines Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the heart-friendly Mediterranean diet. Study results indicate that this combined diet may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

In the study, more than 900 people aged 58 to 98 filled out food questionnaires and received neurological testing. The volunteers who most closely followed the MIND diet had cognitive function similar to a person 7.5 years younger than themselves.

What Foods Make Up the MIND Diet?

Here are the major foods that this diet includes:

  • Plenty of whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat, or oatmeal) daily
  • Green leafy vegetables nearly every day
  • Other vegetables every day
  • Two servings of berries weekly
  • Limited red meat intake
  • Fish and poultry as the main source of meat
  • At least three servings of beans weekly
  • Five servings of nuts weekly
  • Olive oil as the primary cooking oil

The MIND diet encourages moderate alcohol consumption, limited to one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage daily.

Foods that should be consumed only rarely include sweets, pastries, cheese, red meat, butter, and anything fried.

Small, Incremental Dietary Changes to Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

The study found that even moderately following the MIND diet could have a positive impact on the risk of Alzheimer’s.

This means that the MIND diet does not require an “all or nothing” approach, or making many big changes all at once.

Instead, you might start by gradually making a few small changes to your eating habits.

  • If you tend to consume a lot of sweets, start cutting back.
  • Snack on fruit, nuts, and vegetables instead of chips or cookies. This will help increase consumption of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Use brown rice instead of white, and whole-wheat bread in sandwiches.
  • Exchange butter for olive oil.
  • Have salads for lunch, including a wide variety of vegetables.
  • Try turkey or veggie burgers instead of hamburgers.
  • Choose foods stir-fried in olive oil instead of fried foods.

Help Senior Loved Ones Follow a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

Although diet is an important part of good health, it is not a guarantee against Alzheimer’s. Keep your brain healthy with a combination of clean eating, physical exercise, social support, regular checkups, and learning.

Heritage Senior Communities provide healthy, balanced meal options that help seniors stay healthy. Contact us to learn more about our residences, including new locations in Saline and Holland, Michigan.

The Benefits of Pet Therapy for Adults with Dementia

The Benefits of Pet Therapy for Adults with Dementia

Animals can help people of all ages reduce stress and improve their overall quality of life, and adults with dementia are no exception.

Whether you’re looking for a pet or a trained service animal for a loved one with dementia, here’s what you should know.

What are the benefits of pet therapy for adults with dementia?

Advantages of Pets for People with Dementia

Playing with or caring for an animal has many advantages:

  • Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Increased levels of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Improved social skills
  • Increased mental stimulation, including memory recall in people with dementia

Caring for a pet, and even just an occasional visit with a service animal, also may help prevent feelings of isolation or lack of purpose. Depending on the type of interaction with the animal, pet therapy also could encourage physical activity, such as playing with a cat or throwing a ball for a dog.

Pet therapy can help caregivers as well. Friends and family who join in have also reported feeling better afterward.

How to Start Pet Therapy for an Adult with Dementia

Seniors who live independently or have only mild dementia might keep their own pet, although caregivers should discuss this with their loved one’s doctor. Dogs, cats, and rabbits are some of the most common types of animals used in pet therapy.

Depending on your senior loved one’s needs, a trained service dog may be helpful. The Daily Treat blog offers a list of organizations that provide service dogs based on the person’s needs.

If your loved one cannot keep a pet but you would like to find an organization to help provide pet therapy, the Alzheimer’s Association blog has a list of resources to help you get started.

Introducing Pets to Patients with Dementia

If you are a caregiver with a pet, your senior loved one can gain physical and mental benefits from your own furry friend.

Elder loved ones should only be introduced to calm, well-behaved, healthy animals. Your pet should be up-to-date on all shots and exams and free of parasites. If possible, make sure the pet has had a bathroom break before the visit to avoid unsanitary accidents.

If you want to bring a pet into a senior residence, be sure to check with an administrator regarding any rules about animals.

If meeting a living animal is impossible or impractical, your senior loved one may also get some of the same health benefits from a stuffed animal. While this seems counterintuitive, anecdotal evidence suggests that a stuffed animal can provide comfort to people with dementia, remind them of a former pet, and give them a new way to interact with caregivers.

Pet Therapy Has Many Benefits

If you are caring for an elder loved one with dementia, consider pet therapy to help them improve their memory, stress levels, and general wellbeing.

Heritage Senior Communities are pet friendly too! Contact us to learn more about our pet policies for residents.

5 Stress Remedies for Caregivers

5 Stress Remedies for Caregivers

Anyone who has ever been a caregiver knows that it is a stressful job. Women who are caregivers are especially likely to experience stress.

Symptoms of stress include mood swings, social withdrawal, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. And stress can lead to serious health risks, including high blood pressure and anxiety.

Here are a few natural stress-management techniques you can use to lower the amount of stress in your daily life.

5 Ways to Manage Caregiver Stress


  1. Get enough sleep at night.

The stress of caregiving may cause you to lie awake at night worrying about your loved one and your to-do list. Unfortunately, this only increases stress and fatigue.

For a good night’s sleep, it’s important to practice good “sleep hygiene.”

  • Go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon.
  • Limit screen time, such as using tablets or watching television, beginning a few hours before bed.
  • Get plenty of natural light during the day and keep your bedroom dark at night.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillows.

Many people find that journaling also helps with the anxious thoughts that keep them awake.

  1. Practice thoughtful stress management.

Meditation, controlled breathing, and mindfulness may reduce stress by helping you focus scattered thoughts. These activities also can reduce certain symptoms of stress, such as rapid heart rate and muscle tension.

Set aside time every day to practice slow, deep breathing. Concentrate on a single thing in the room, like a spot on the wall. You might also close your eyes and focus on a sensation in your body, such as your feet against the floor.

You can also try one of the many free apps that can help guide you through relaxation techniques.

  1. Incorporate exercise into your routine.

When you’re mentally and physically exhausted from caregiving, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. However, exercise can help reduce stress, improve mood, and even boost your energy.

Just about any type of exercise can help, whether it’s a walk around your neighborhood, a water aerobics class, bicycling, or yoga. If you do not exercise already, talk to your doctor about how to start. It’s important to start slow and gradually build up your fitness level.

  1. Build a social network.

We tend to isolate ourselves from others during difficult times, but it’s important to reach out for support. Not only can you ask others to help care for your loved one, but social contact itself can relieve stress.

Calling a relative or going out for coffee with a friend can distract you from the things that cause stress and give you the support you need. If you can laugh about something together, even better—laughter also helps reduce stress.

  1. Take advantage of respite care.

A short-term respite stay at a senior living community can provide a loved one with an opportunity for socialization, while also giving the caregiver a break. Most senior living communities welcome respite stays of a few days or a few weeks.

There is help for caregiver stress.

When managing the stress of caring for a loved one, it is important not to neglect your own needs. If you believe that stress is seriously affecting your health, talk about it with your physician. He or she can help you find other ways to manage stress and stay healthy.