Practicing Self-Care as a Caregiver

Practicing Self-Care as a Caregiver

Dear Donna:

My aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. She was able to remain in her own home for a while, but she moved in with my husband and I almost two years ago. We are her only remaining family members and are happy to take care of her.

Shortly after my aunt came to live with us, I left my job. We felt like it wasn’t safe for her to stay alone, and it was the best decision at the time. It’s gotten tougher to keep up with her recently as she’s started to wander from home. My husband and I are both sleep deprived and tired. We need to figure out a better way to do this so we don’t put our own health at risk.

Do you have any suggestions for us that don’t involve moving my aunt somewhere else? We aren’t ready for that.

Gratefully,

Melissa in Grand Haven, MI

Care for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Dear Melissa:

We hear this question so often from family members who are caring for a loved one. It’s especially difficult when the senior has Alzheimer’s disease. The challenges of caregiving for someone with a memory impairment are unique and oftentimes demanding. For many caregivers, the role feels overwhelming when their family member begins wandering.

Because an estimated six in ten adults with Alzheimer’s will wander, it’s a situation many families find themselves in. Caregivers often say it feels like their loved one can go days without sleeping. Since it sounds like you might feel this way, I do have some advice on decreasing the risk for wandering. If you can first manage that difficult behavior, it might be easier to practice healthy self-care.

  • Structured days: People with memory loss often respond better to structured days. Experts recommend rising at the same time each morning, serving meals on a schedule, and having a consistent bedtime.
  • Meaningful activity: Boredom is believed to be a potential risk for wandering. If you plan productive, engaging activities for your aunt, she might feel more satisfied and be less likely to wander. Arts and craft projects, housework help, or moderate fitness activities are other good options.
  • Less evening stimulus: Try clustering your aunt’s outings and physical fitness to the early part of the day and wind down in the afternoon and evening. That may help promote sleep.
  • Helpful technology: If you don’t already have one, it might give you peace of mind to install a home security system with door sensors. You might sleep easier knowing an alarm will sound if your aunt tries to leave. Also consider providing her with a GPS tracking pendant or watch. In the event she does wander, you’ll be able to locate her quickly and easily.

It’s also important to take care of yourself while you are caring for your aunt. Family members often think self-care is a luxury they don’t have time for. Remind yourself that your aunt likely needs your help for a long time to come and protecting your own health is vital.

  • Connect with a support group: Whether it’s in person or online, support groups are a great outlet. Talking through your situation with peers who can relate will help. Other members might even recommend local caregiver resources you weren’t even aware of.
  • Eat healthy: Nutrition is a non-negotiable for your aunt, as well as for you and your husband. Fortunately, meal delivery services make that a little easier. Consider trying one for several meals a week and supplement with your own cooking in between. Cooking meals in batches and freezing them also makes mealtime easier.
  • Explore respite care options: Another recommendation is to explore local assisted living and memory care communities to see which ones offer respite. These short-term stays are designed to give caregivers a break. You could take advantage of this program once or twice a month to give you and your husband a break. Your aunt would receive the same care and support as a long-term resident of the community.

I hope these suggestions help make this time easier and healthier for your entire family!

Kind regards,

Donna

Respite Care at Heritage

With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage is a leading provider of care for adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. That includes respite services. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!

Gift Ideas for a Senior Dad on Father’s Day

Gift Ideas for a Senior Dad on Father’s Day

Dear Donna:

With Father’s Day getting closer, I’ve been searching for a unique gift for my dad. He’s a senior who’s been living on his own since my mom passed three years ago.

In the past, several generations of our family have planned an outing for dad. We’ve done everything from attending a Detroit Tigers game to chartering a fishing boat on Lake Michigan. With the lingering concerns about the coronavirus, we’ve decided against an excursion. Even though he’s fully vaccinated, my dad is still nervous about potentially being exposed to the virus.

Unlike me, my dad has always liked tinkering around with tech gadgets. So, I’m thinking of something along those lines. What tech products do seniors you work with seem to enjoy? Any suggestions are appreciated!

Sincerely,

Wendy in Saline, MI

Tech Gifts for a Senior Dad or Grandfather

Dear Wendy:

Senior dads can be tough to buy for under the best of circumstances! And I think your question could apply to any holiday we celebrate amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve all had to do a lot of adapting in the past year.

Since you mentioned your father likes gadgets and tech products, I do have some suggestions I’ve noticed are popular around our communities. Hopefully one of the following might give you an idea for your dad this year:

  • A drone of his own

This may be the ultimate Father’s Day gift for a dad of any age! Drone prices have decreased so they might make an affordable present for your father. The two of you could take it to a local park or lake to view wildlife. One caveat is to make sure you read about local laws and restrictions. While some drones are exempt from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, you’ll want to review the FAA’s Getting Started page before making a purchase.

  • Sanitizer for a smartphone

Since you mentioned your dad is understandably anxious about being exposed to COVID-19, another gift idea is a smartphone sanitizer. Cell phones can harbor viruses and bacteria of all kinds if they aren’t cleaned often. These small sanitizing units utilize UV-C bulbs to kill up to 99.9% of all germs. Some even have a built-in universal charger to make it easier to use.

  • Home weather station

While many believe it to be a cliché, it’s actually true that older adults tend to consume more weather-related media. In fact, seniors make up half the viewers of The Weather Channel. If your father falls into this category, he might like to receive his own home weather station. They are available with a range of features and at a variety of price points. Some even have large-print displays to make it easier on older eyes. This Popular Mechanics review of the top selling weather stations may help you find a quality product at an affordable price.

  • LED showerhead

Many people experience vision changes as they age. Some can contribute to falls, especially in the bathroom. As most adult children know, falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors. That’s why an LED showerhead attachment might make a useful gift. These gadgets provide enhanced lighting while a senior is showering or getting in and out of the tub. They are inexpensive and easy to install.

I hope these suggestions help, and that you and your dad have a safe, enjoyable Father’s Day!

Kind regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Heritage communities are making every effort to protect residents, staff, and visitors from the coronavirus. Our policies are based on a combination of CDC guidelines and information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services MI Safe Start Map. You can read more about it here!

Downsize to the Right Size Home

Downsize to the Right Size Home

Retirement begins a new chapter in life. It is a time when older adults typically enjoy more freedom and flexibility. One question that often arises soon after retiring is how necessary and practical it is to remain in the family home. While a lot of space may have served you well when you were raising kids, the maintenance and financial upkeep can put a crimp in retirement plans.

Sometimes a senior will move to a smaller home or a condominium. Others move to an apartment or villa that’s part of a retirement community. Wherever they choose to move to, most are surprised to find how much joy comes from rightsizing their lifestyle.

Rightsizing is a term aging professionals coined to refer to the process of aligning your goals for the future with your home space needs. For example, do you still need a big house? Or would a small home, where you are free from the burdens and financial demands of maintaining a large home, be better?

How to Scale Back Your Home during Retirement

The process usually begins with decluttering and rehoming items you no longer want or need. If you are considering moving to a smaller home or a senior living community in the months or years ahead, cleaning out your closets, basement, attic, and garage now helps ensure a smoother transition.

So, how can you get started? We have some useful suggestions:

  • Start with the easy stuff: Unless you are fastidiously organized, it will help to make a quick pass through every room to eliminate obvious clutter. Keep a trash bag and a box with you. Throw away items you don’t need and can’t give away. Pack items you want to donate in the box as you go. Remember, this isn’t a deep cleaning. It’s just a warm up lap around the house to get started.
  • Purge paper goods: Most of us accumulate a shocking amount of paper products around the house. The longer you’ve lived there, the worse it usually is. Old catalogs and magazines, outdated utility bills and credit card statements, and unneeded receipts are a few common types. Shred items with identifying personal information and recycle or dispose of everything else.
  • Prevent junk mail: Another battle many households face is keeping up with junk mail. In just a few days, it can really pile up. You can cut down on the amount you receive by signing up for the National Do Not Mail List. Though time-consuming, it also helps to email catalog companies directly and request they remove your name and address from their mailing list.
  • Clean closets: Closets often harbor clothing, shoes, and accessories that haven’t been worn in years. Apply the 12-month rule to every item in your closet. If you haven’t worn or used something in the last year, you probably won’t do so ever again. The only exception might be formal wear and seasonal accessories. Donate everything to a local shelter or nonprofit resale shop.
  • Pare down linens: Like clothing, linens can accumulate easily. Be honest with yourself about how many sets of sheets and towels you really need. The same holds true for old sets of curtains, blankets, tablecloths, and placemats.
  • Scale back holiday décor: Whether it is patriotic decorations, Thanksgiving décor, or Christmas ornaments, seasonal items often take up a lot of space. Many of us periodically buy new without getting rid of the old. This is another area where you need to sort through every box and be realistic about the future use of every item. Veterans’ centers, day care centers, preschools, and women’s shelters usually appreciate receiving these types of gently used donations.

One final tip is to frequently drop off donations to the charity of your choice. Waiting until you finish a room or two can easily result in items finding their way back into a closet or drawer.

Selling Your Home during Retirement

If you or a senior loved one has decided to sell your home, we have some tips to help make the process a little easier. How to Prepare a Senior’s Home to Sell covers topics ranging from starting early to making inexpensive updates to increase the selling price.

Should you have questions about senior living, we encourage you to call the Heritage community nearest you. We’ll be happy to help!

How to Convince a Senior Parent to Accept Help

How to Convince a Senior Parent to Accept Help

Dear Donna:

My parents are both almost 86 years old. They live alone in an older home with a considerable amount of property. Because they live over an hour away, it’s difficult for me to visit as often as they need.

They’ve managed fairly well on their own until recently. My dad has had a couple of bad falls. The last time he fell, my mom had to call a neighbor for help. I know the risk of serious injury is high for older adults and how important it is to try to prevent falls.

My husband and I have decided our first step will be convincing my parents to hire a home care agency to help. We are hoping if they get comfortable accepting assistance, they might be more willing to move to a senior living community in a few years.

Do you have any advice for talking with my parents? I’m not sure how to start this conversation.

Kind regards,

Colette in Midland, MI

Talking with Parents about Senior Care

Dear Colette:
It sounds like you’ve thought this through and are on the right track! But I know that doesn’t make it easier. Starting a conversation about senior care with a parent can make you feel uneasy. Adult children often delay bringing up the topic to avoid upsetting an elder they love.

In some cases, families don’t have a serious talk about the future until an accident or illness forces the discussion. If you wait until a crisis occurs, it will likely be even more stressful. A crisis may also force you to rush through the process of exploring your options. You are less likely to make an informed choice under duress.

A few tips to help you initiate a conversation about care are:

  • Do your homework: Talk with a few home care agencies and even two or three senior living communities. You’ll feel more confident having a conversation with your parents when you better understand senior care as a whole.
  • Be mindful: When you are frightened about a loved one’s safety, it’s easy to become forceful and seem unsympathetic. That will likely put your parents on the defensive, especially if they aren’t receptive to making this change. By demonstrating patience and empathy, you might be able to open the dialogue.
  • Talk often: Despite how much an adult child might want the conversation to be quick and easy, it usually isn’t. In most circumstances, it will take a series of discussions over a few weeks or months.
  • Start small: If your parents are resistant, it might help to start small and find some middle ground. Will your father agree to wear an emergency alert pendant or watch? Maybe they would agree to a few hours of assistance with chores that might be a little riskier for them, such as laundry, grocery shopping, and taking out the trash.
  • Enlist their physician: It may also help if your parents’ primary care physician can join the discussion. If it’s time for a physical or if your father needs follow-up from his fall, seek the doctor’s input. Their influence might be what your parents need to hear to agree to make some changes.

I hope this information is useful to you, Colette! Best of luck to you and your parents.

Sincerely,

Donna

About Heritage Senior Communities

For four generations, Heritage Senior Communities has been a family-owned and -operated company. We are dedicated to providing older adults with quality senior housing and licensed assisted living. With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, we are one of the Midwest’s most trusted names in senior living.

We encourage you to call the community nearest you if the need for independent living, assisted living, or memory care should arise!

7 Ways to Celebrate Grandmothers on Mother’s Day

7 Ways to Celebrate Grandmothers on Mother’s Day

Grandmothers play important roles in all of our lives. They are our confidante, our side kick on adventures, and some of the people who love us most in the world. Today we’re helping you plan a Mother’s Day gift that will really wow that extra-special lady—grandma!

Here are 7 ways to celebrate the grandmothers in your life this Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Grandma

  1. Custom puzzles

This is not just a fun activity. Putting together a puzzle can actually help reduce the risk of dementia as well as slow down its progression. This goes for most mind games and puzzles. For Mother’s Day, choose a favorite picture of the grandkids and upload it to a picture printing site. The puzzle can be shipped to you or directly to grandma as a sweet surprise.

  1. Give her a book

71% of seniors say that one of their favorite daily activities is reading, so what better gift than a book? If she has a favorite genre, there’s a clear choice. If not, you can give her a book written and illustrated by the grandkids. She’ll read it over and over again.

  1. Donate in her honor

What do you give the matriarch who has everything? Maybe give to someone less fortunate in her honor. If she’s an animal lover, make a donation to the local animal shelter. Or what about the local soup kitchen? Whatever her interests, there’s a charity you can donate to. And this doesn’t have to be a surprise. Tell grandma your plans and write down her interests or her favorite charities. You can pick one that you both support, or even her top three.

  1. Instead of flowers, succulents!

These plants are similar to a cactus and are the darlings of the flora family right now. Very trendy and easy to care for, succulents come in a variety of shapes and colors. Plan a terrarium party with the whole family—have everyone pick a glass container, soil, and succulents of their choosing.

Bring some seashells, small twigs, or other tiny objects to make decorating fun and expressive. You’ll all have fun as you create and get your daily dose of nature. And succulents just need a little bit of water once a week. Your grandma will appreciate this low-maintenance addition to her home.

  1. Homemade cards from the grandkids

Save some money and keep the kids occupied for the afternoon, all while creating something thoughtful for their grandmother. Supplies can be simple: colored papers, markers or crayons, scissors, glue, and anything the little ones want to decorate with. If their grandmother’s house is now in a senior living community, the kids can also make some extra cards for the other grandmas there, too.

  1. Mail a hug

If the grandmother in your family lives far away, mail her a hug! Yes, really—trace the outline of your kids’ hands on a piece of paper and cut them out. Then, cut a long piece of string and glue one end of the string to one hand and the other end to the other hand. This little project is quick, easy to mail, and can make even the longest of distances feel shorter.

  1. Plan an outing

While senior living communities plan abundant social events and special outings for their residents, it is still important for a senior’s family to stay involved and plan events specifically for their loved one. It might be a family outing to the movies or a special lunch outing for the whole family. You could also plan a picnic at a local park. Sunshine makes everyone happy.

Mother’s Day When a Senior Has Dementia

Keep in mind, if you’re visiting a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia that it is important to try to keep her schedule as consistent as possible. Plan your Mother’s Day celebration around her best and worst times of day.