Do Seniors Need Colonoscopies?

Do Seniors Need Colonoscopies?

Dear Donna:

My father is 81 years old. He last had a colonoscopy at 70. It’s always been tough getting him to comply with doctor’s orders, especially when it comes to this screening.

We have an appointment with his primary care doctor in two weeks. I suspect the topic will come up. At his age, how necessary is it to have this procedure again? While he’s fairly healthy, his age alone has me worried.

Do you know if older adults still need colonoscopies? Any information would be appreciated.


Stefanie in Saginaw, MI


Age and Colonoscopy: What to Consider


Dear Stefanie:

What a great question! It’s one residents at Heritage Senior Communities likely have too.

Colonoscopies are a preventive screening typically recommended for adults over the age of 50. Research shows colonoscopies save lives. Colon cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in this country. While most people know they should get one, not everyone follows through.

The unpleasantness of the prep combined with the perceived loss of dignity of the procedure are the leading reasons people put it off. For older adults, there are other concerns. The side effects of sedation and the risk of a bowel perforation are two.

Adults over the age of 65 are at 30% higher risk for perforation. For seniors, this can be life-threatening. If you are a senior or the adult child of one, here’s what to consider before scheduling a colonoscopy.


Colonoscopies and the Older Adult


  1. Age: In 2008, the United States Preventive Services Task Force published updated guidelines on colorectal cancer screening to include recommendations based on age. They recommend colorectal cancer screening using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy from age 50 through 75. After age 76, they recommend against a colonoscopy unless there are special circumstances.
  2. Last screening: Physicians also consider the date of last colonoscopy, especially for those between the age of 65 and 75. Because colon cancer typically grows slowly, seniors who have had clear colonoscopies might not be required to have another. The decision should be made on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Alternative screenings: Another suggestion is to talk with your father’s physician about alternatives to colonoscopy. There are several, such as a sigmoidoscopy or a fecal occult blood test. Cologuard, a newer, non-invasive colon cancer test, is covered by Medicare. Research shows it to be effective at detecting colon cancer, even in early stages.


While colonoscopy is likely to be considered the gold standard in colon cancer screenings for the foreseeable future, it’s essential to weigh the benefits against the risks with your father’s physician.

Hope this helps, Stefanie!

Kind regards,


Independence Day Safety for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Independence Day Safety for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Independence Day celebrates the birth of our nation. It’s typically filled with parades, picnics, and barbeques. For many, attending a community fireworks event or launching a few small firecrackers in the yard are a favorite part of their annual July 4th tradition.

While most people greatly enjoy these loud and lively festivities, they can cause fear and agitation for others. This is especially true for seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.

If you are planning an Independence Day celebration that includes an older adult with dementia, we have a few tips to help the day go more smoothly.


Dementia and Independence Day: 5 Tips for a Safe Celebration


  1. Let the senior help with preparations.

In the days before your party, find tasks your family member can do. It will make them feel like they are part of the celebration. Depending upon the stage of their Alzheimer’s, they might be able to help plant and water flowers in the yard, cover and set tables, or prepare food. Find safe ways to include the older adult.

  1. Consider the party time carefully.

Think about the times of day when your senior loved one is at their best. Is it possible to plan your July 4th festivities around tough hours of the day and night? For example, if your family member has Sundowner’s Syndrome, can you host your party earlier or later in the day?

  1. Create a peaceful place.

Make sure to have a safe place for your family member to rest if the celebration gets too loud or chaotic. If they don’t live with you, set up a space for them in a bedroom or den furthest from the party. Have soft music ready to play or noise-cancelling headphones they can wear.

  1. Plan alternative activities for the senior.

It might also be a good idea to have alternate activities for them to do if the party gets to be too much. A craft project, a basket of laundry to fold, or a family photo album can be good. You may want to ask people familiar to the senior to spend one-on-one time with them during this respite. It can be a positive experience for both.

  1. Alert guests ahead of time.

If some of your guests aren’t familiar with your senior loved one’s illness, send a quick text or email to explain the situation. While many adults have a vague understanding of Alzheimer’s and dementia, they might not be familiar with the challenges it creates.

We hope the tips above help your family enjoy a happy, healthy July 4th celebration!


Specialized Dementia Care in Michigan and Indiana


Adults with memory impairment benefit from specialized dementia care. At Heritage, we call it The Terrace. Using a person-centered approach, each resident gets the individual support needed to live their best quality of life. We invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more today!

How to Evaluate the Quality of a Memory Care Program

How to Evaluate the Quality of a Memory Care Program

Dear Donna:
My husband is the guardian for his great-uncle who has Alzheimer’s disease. Since his diagnosis a year ago, we’ve found ways to keep him safe in his own home. The time has come, however, to begin searching for an Alzheimer’s care community.

We aren’t sure what to look for or ask as we begin making appointments. Can you give us a few pointers? We are feeling a little overwhelmed.


Tina in Byron Center, MI


Tips for Evaluating a Memory Care Community


Dear Tina:

If you aren’t familiar with memory care, a term often used to describe Alzheimer’s care programs, the search can be intimidating. The sheer variety of options helps ensure an older adult gets the right type of care, but also makes the search confusing for families.

Here are a few questions to ask and factors to keep in mind as you and your husband begin contacting and visiting local memory care communities:

  • What is the community’s philosophy of care?

Each memory care community has a unique approach to care. Learning more about each community’s beliefs will help you decide which is a good fit for your uncle. Ask each community you are considering to describe their philosophy of care and what sets them apart from other local providers.

  • Will the team work hard to encourage his independence?

Research indicates doing too much for someone with Alzheimer’s can undermine their independence. It can also cause their disease to progress more quickly. By contrast, having systems in place to encourage residents to do as much as is safely possible might help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Finding a memory care community that knows how to successfully balance safety with independence is important. Be sure to ask how the team does this.

  • How does the community get to know new residents?

Because Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often impact verbal skills and memory, a senior who moves to a memory care community may struggle answering questions or telling caregivers and staff their unique life story.

Loved ones often cite feeling frustrated that their loved one is treated as a diagnosis, not an individual. This leads to a loss of dignity and self-worth that families find devastating.

Another question to ask when you call or visit memory care is how they will get to know your uncle and learn about his life and personal preferences.

  • Are life enrichment activities offered for memory care residents?

Activities and events can enhance quality of life for people with dementia if they work with the senior’s remaining abilities. Take time to ask about daily activities for residents in memory care as you are assessing potential communities. What types of programs are offered and how often? Who coordinates activities and what is their background? Getting answers to these questions will give you a good idea of how your uncle will spend his days.

  • How does the community help make this a smooth transition?

Because a change in environment can be stressful for an adult with dementia, you’ll benefit from a community with experienced team members. The staff can work with you on a plan for the days leading up to and after your uncle’s move. Before you make a final decision, ask each community how they help new residents make the smoothest transition possible.

I hope this information is helpful to you, Tina! I wish you and your husband the best of luck in your search for memory care for your uncle.

Kind regards,



Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities


At Heritage Senior Communities, we call our memory care program The Terrace. From specialized activities to dedicated dining, it’s designed to help adults with dementia enjoy their best quality of life. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Stay Connected with Friends While Caregiving

Stay Connected with Friends While Caregiving

A challenge shared by many caregivers is the loneliness the role often creates. As their loved ones’ need for assistance increases, many people find themselves cut off from friends when they need emotional support more than ever. This situation can easily result in caregiver depression.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 40-70% of caregivers meet the criteria for depression. Of those, 25% meet the criteria for major clinical depression. It’s a serious condition that typically requires medical intervention.

As a caregiver, how can you stay connected when you aren’t able to leave home very often?

Technology has made it easier to find a solution. Here are a few easy-to-use, inexpensive avenues to explore:


Stay Connected While Caregiving


  1. Use a video chat service to talk with family and friends.

Video chat services aren’t just for keeping in touch with faraway loved ones. For isolated caregivers, they can provide a way to talk face-to-face from across town or the country. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and others allow lonely caregivers to get emotional support, especially on difficult days. Most are easy to access from a smartphone or tablet device.

  1. Play games and hang out virtually.

During the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, many people sought new ways to spend time virtually with loved ones. Playing games across the miles is possible with the help of apps like Houseparty. Loved ones can challenge each other to games like Chips and Guac, Heads Up!, and Pictionary.

  1. Talk via social media channels like Facebook.

If you haven’t joined Facebook, now might be time. You can connect with family members through your regular News Feed or set up private groups. Another popular feature is Facebook Live, and it’s not just for businesses. If you can’t leave home, this could be a way to read bedtime stories to the grandkids. You can control and limit who sees your feed, providing you with privacy.

  1. Join an online caregiver support group.

As the number of family caregivers in the US (currently estimated to be about 40.4 million) continues to climb, avenues for support are growing too. One is online caregiver support groups. They are easier to find than ever before. These groups give caregivers an opportunity to connect with others who understand and share their struggles.

While in-person support groups are an option for some, caregivers who aren’t able to leave a senior loved one alone can join one online. The flexibility and convenience they offer is good for a busy caregiver’s schedule.


Is It Time for a Senior Living Community?


When a senior family member’s needs become tough to manage at home, it might be time to consider assisted living or memory care. I’m Here For A Family Member offers resources to help you learn more about each type of care. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Tick Prevention: How to Stay Safe Outdoors This Summer

Tick Prevention: How to Stay Safe Outdoors This Summer

As the threat of coronavirus lingers, many older adults continue to adhere to strict social distancing standards. Spending time outdoors is one way to safely enjoy summer. Strolls in local parks and gardening combine exercise with stress relief and improved mental health. But time spent outdoors in the Great Lakes region requires staying on guard for ticks, an arachnid linked to Lyme disease.

While some researchers attribute increasing incidences of the disease to growing numbers of ticks, others say it is due to improvements in diagnosing it. Diagnosis can be challenging because the symptoms of Lyme disease closely mimic many other health conditions.


Where Are Ticks Most Commonly Found?


While ticks are especially fond of wooded areas and tall grass, you can find them on almost any plants, grasses, trees, and shrubs in your yard. Even your flower garden can be a haven for these potentially dangerous insects. They patiently wait for the scent of carbon dioxide exhaled by passing animals (or humans!) and jump on to catch a ride.

As the deer population has increased in many areas of the Great Lakes, so has the number of ticks. They are known to “hitchhike” on deer because it is easier and faster for them to get around. Ticks can also be found in the feathers and fur of wild animals that call your yard home.

This is why it’s important to learn a few best practices for tick prevention.


5 Ways to Avoid Being Bitten by a Tick


  1. Check for ticks: Be vigilant about checking for ticks after spending time outdoors. Examine your clothing, body, and hair after coming indoors.
  2. Cover arms and legs: Wear long sleeves and long pants when you are outside. A lightweight, natural material like linen or cotton can help protect you from ticks while keeping you cool.
  3. Avoid wooded areas: During peak tick season, avoid walking near shrubs and tall grass. Paths where you may brush up against shrubs and tall grass can put you at higher risk for a tick bite.
  4. Wear insect repellent: Another way to ward off ticks is to apply and reapply insect repellent. Look for those containing DEET and permethrin. They are best at tick prevention.
  5. Shower after yard time: It will also help if you remove your clothes and throw them in the washer immediately when coming indoors. Then shower and wash your hair.

Finally, learn what symptoms might indicate a tick bite. Doing so will allow you to quickly seek medical intervention.


Common Symptoms of a Tick Bite


While it’s essential to know the symptoms, it’s also important to remember not all tick bites lead to Lyme disease. Most don’t end up being serious.

Signs of a tick bite include:

  • A red spot or rash on the skin, referred to as a bullseye
  • Itching or burning of the skin
  • Localized pain (not as common)

If you are in doubt, call your primary care physician for advice or to schedule an appointment—or virtual telehealth visit—to put your concerns to rest.

Another seasonal irritant many seniors struggle with is allergies. What Caregivers Should Know about Seniors and Allergy Medications is packed with good information to keep an older loved one safe this summer. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!