Medication Management Tips and Tools for Caregivers

Medication Management Tips and Tools for Caregivers

Sticking to a medication schedule or keeping a loved one on track can be tough, especially when you are the caregiver for a senior who doesn’t live with you. Because older adults often take multiple medicines each day, it’s easy to see how mistakes happen. Researchers say 41% of seniors take 5 or more medications every day! Between dosages, times, and refills, it’s a lot to organize.

Some of the most common issues seniors encounter when it comes to managing their medication schedule include:

  • Difficulty ordering medication refills
  • Trouble getting to and from the pharmacy
  • Problems reading small print on medication labels
  • Struggles with tough-to-open bottles
  • Remembering which medication to take and when

These difficulties can add up to big trouble for older adults. In fact, medication errors are one of the leading reasons so many of our seniors end up in a hospital emergency room. According to the National Academy of Medicine, mistakes with medication send 770,000 adults a year to the hospital. Some forget to take a dose on time, while others might accidentally take too much.

If you or a senior in your life is struggling with medication management, here are a few tips and tools you may find useful.

Ways to Organize a Senior Loved One’s Medications

  • Pharmacy blister packs: Talk with your local pharmacist or the mail order pharmacy your insurance uses to see if they can set up punch cards or blister packs. These simple packaging solutions separate medications by day and time of dosage. When it’s time to take a medication, the user only has to push the pill through a foil or paper covering on the back of the pack. No more struggling to get the lid off pill bottles!
  • Reminder calls or alerts: If you or an older family member often forgets to take medications, set up a recurring smart phone alert as a reminder. You can call or text them when you get the alert. There are also services, like Medication Call Reminder and Sage Minder, that offer automated phone calls at dosage times.
  • Medication apps: Smart phone users can also explore medication apps that provide a reminder. Dosecast and Medisafe Medication Management are two apps that can remind an individual when it’s time to take their pills.
  • Electronic pill dispensers: Another solution to explore is electronic pill dispensers. These comprehensive products utilize wireless technology to sound an alert and open when it’s time to take a medication. They can open just the compartment containing the necessary pill. For safety, the system can text or call a contact person if a senior misses a dose.

Finally, remember to dispose of medications that are no longer needed. People tend to hang on to medications in case they might need them again in the future. It’s usually best to get rid of anything not currently prescribed for the senior to prevent a dangerous mix-up or the medicine falling into the wrong hands. This article will help you figure out the best way to dispose of old medications.

Medication Management at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, medication management is one of our most utilized services. Our professional caregivers handle all of the details, including dispensing medicines at the appropriate time. Call the Heritage location nearest you to learn more!

Does Regular Exercise Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Does Regular Exercise Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Dear Donna:

My mother recently passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. It was such a tough period for her and everyone who loved her. She lived with my husband and me for 3 years before she moved to one of the wonderful Heritage dementia care communities. During her illness, I often wondered if there is anything I can do to prevent getting this disease. It was so difficult to watch her decline.

I’ve read articles that say Alzheimer’s might actually be a form of diabetes, but that the research is still inconclusive. Other information I’ve read says smoking might contribute to the disease. Then there are those that say exercise—both mental and physical—might be the key. My diet is pretty healthy and I’ve never been a smoker, but I’d like to know more about exercise.

Do you know of any credible research that shows a link between Alzheimer’s prevention and exercise?


Chris in Saginaw, MI

Lifestyle Factors and Alzheimer’s Prevention

Dear Chris:

First, my condolences on the loss of your mother. Alzheimer’s is a tough disease that impacts the entire family. After witnessing what your mother went through, it’s understandable that you would be concerned about your own risk.

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. We commonly associate it with helping to prevent or manage medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and even depression. But there is research that seems to indicate physical activity might play a role in preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

It’s important to remember, however, that brain health is a complicated topic. While much of the science related to Alzheimer’s is not definitive, there is evidence that links cognitive health with an individual’s overall wellness. According to Harvard Medical School, practicing a healthy lifestyle might be one way to protect yourself. Researchers from the Alzheimer’s Research Foundation agree.

Since you mentioned exercise specifically, I’m sharing a few tips researchers think might impact brain health. If you haven’t been engaging in physical activity lately, it’s always a good idea to talk with your primary care physician before getting started.

  • Combine cardio with strength training: Create an exercise regimen that incorporates both moderate aerobic activity with strength training. This combination not only helps protect brain health, but also reduces your risk for falls and increases flexibility and endurance. (As the years go by, we are all at higher risk of falling unless we stay active.)
  • Aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week: Set a goal to engage in physical activities at least 150 minutes each week. Many find exercising 30 minutes 5 days a week a realistic schedule. And it doesn’t need to be 30 continuous minutes. You can break it up if you need to. You might want to jump-start the day with 15 minutes of aerobic activity in the morning, and then wind down with 15 minutes of yoga or Pilates towards the evening.
  • Track your progress every day: Finally, hold yourself accountable. At the end of each day, document what type of physical activity you engaged in and for how long. It might help to find a workout buddy or two to help you stay motivated.

This article has more information about how to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 50% with regular exercise.

I hope this information is useful, Chris!

Kind regards,


Is It Time for Assisted Living?

Is It Time for Assisted Living?

Dear Donna:

My 91-year-old great-aunt lives nearby. She has outlived her husband and her daughter. While she seems very spry for her age, I do worry about her living alone. My wife and I convinced her to give up driving several years ago after she experienced a few fender benders. We have been her primary sources of transportation since then.

Recently, I’ve noticed some changes that leave me wondering if it might be time for her to move to an assisted living community. I think she might be receptive to the idea, but I’m not sure how to tell if this is the right choice. Do you have any suggestions?

Steven in Saginaw, MI

Common Signs a Senior Needs Assisted Living

Dear Steven:

When a family member first notices physical or behavioral changes in a senior loved one, it’s natural to wonder if it’s normal aging or a red flag for something more serious. One factor to keep in mind is your aunt’s generation is known for being independent and reluctant to admit when help is needed. Asking for help or admitting she might need to make a change may not be easy for her.

So, how can you objectively assess if she needs to transition to an assisted living community? While many signs may be subtle, here are some common red flags that indicate a senior loved one needs help:

  • Lack of housekeeping: Is her once-tidy house beginning to look a little rough? Are dirty dishes piled up in the sink? Is the kitchen trash overflowing? Is spoiled food in the refrigerator? Does the home just look messy in general? Odors are another clue a senior is struggling.
  • Change in personal appearance: A change in an older adult’s personal appearance can be another warning sign. Clues to look for include disheveled hair, body odor, and clothing that isn’t clean or is inappropriate for the season.
  • Lack of interest: Other worrisome behavioral changes include withdrawing from favorite activities, skipping church services, or losing interest in friends and family. It might be a sign of depression. Isolated seniors are at increased risk for it.
  • Evidence of falls: While research shows falls are the leading cause of disability in older adults, many believe the numbers are much higher. That’s because older adults don’t always inform loved ones when they suffer a fall. Look for scratches or bruises, especially on your aunt’s arms and legs. Another sign might be if she sticks close to her favorite chair and isn’t up and about as much as usual.
  • Unintended change in weight: A noticeable and unintentional change in weight can signal potential problems. She might be having difficulty preparing healthy meals. Or it could be a host of other problems, such poor appetite from a medication she takes, ill-fitting dentures, or depression. Weight change is an important issue that should be discussed, possibly even with her physician.
  • Mismanaging finances: Keeping household finances on track can be tough at any age. If your aunt is paying some bills twice while neglecting others entirely or seems to be spending more money than usual, there may be something wrong. She may have fallen victim to a financial scam or identity theft.

While these are some of the most common signs a senior might need assisted living, it’s important not to overlook the many benefits communities offer. They range from making new friends to having dedicated caregivers to provide support around the clock.

If you have questions about assisted living or would like to set up a personal tour, we invite you to call the Heritage location nearest you.

Kind regards,


Creating Engaging Activities for a Senior with Dementia

Creating Engaging Activities for a Senior with Dementia

Being the family caregiver for a spouse or parent who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can present many new challenges. From safety and security to quality of life, loved ones often struggle for solutions. One is figuring out how to help the older adult live their most meaningful life.

If you are new to caregiving or just looking for some new ideas, we hope this information will be useful.

What to Remember When Planning Activities

As you begin creating a list of activities a loved one with dementia might enjoy, keep a few safety tips in mind:

  • Exercise caution in public places: Large crowds can increase agitation for people with Alzheimer’s. They can also put you and your loved one at greater risk for being separated. You might want to invest in a GPS tracking watch or device just in case the worst happens and your family member wanders from you.
  • Consider best and worst times: Most caregivers get to know when their loved one is usually at their best and when they struggle most. Working around those times can help. For example, restricting activities to the early hours of the day can help prevent evening wandering and agitation if your family member experiences Sundowner’s syndrome.
  • Plan snack and hydration breaks: People with Alzheimer’s sometimes fail to recognize thirst and hunger. It can increase their risk for dehydration, especially on hot days. Keep water with you on outings and remind your senior loved one to drink frequently. The same is true of snacks and meals. Pack a lunch with foods you know your family member can easily consume.

Activities to Enjoy with Loved One with Dementia All Year Round

Keep this list in a convenient spot so you can refer to it easily when you need a new suggestion:

  • Take photos of your garden or a nearby botanical garden and create a collage.
  • Plan a kitchen herb garden or a container garden in an easy-to-access spot.
  • Buy fresh produce at an indoor farm store or farmer’s market, weather permitting.
  • Make homemade ice cream, frozen fruit pops, or smoothies.
  • Blow bubbles with a grandchild.
  • Hang an attachable bird feeder on a window to enjoy feathered friends.
  • Pick a pumpkin at the pumpkin patch and paint a fun face on it.
  • Enjoy a nature walk or drive along the shore of a river or lake.
  • Deadhead flowers in the garden or do a little weeding.
  • Feed the ducks at a local park.
  • Rake leaves and bag them up to compost.
  • Water or feed plants in the garden.
  • Watch family videos or look through old family photos.
  • Take the dog for a long walk in the morning.
  • Go bird-watching and try to capture photos of the different types you see.
  • Listen to old music while you have a dance party in the living room.
  • Visit a fruit farm and pick fresh blueberries or strawberries.
  • Enjoy the aromatherapy that comes from baking an apple pie, cookies, or bread.
  • Arrange fresh flowers in a vase or place them in a press to make notecards.
  • Purchase craft kits or supplies from a local hobby store to use when you need an activity in a hurry.

We hope this gives you some fun ideas to help make a loved one with dementia feel more productive!

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Natural Ways to Beat the Caregiver Blues

Natural Ways to Beat the Caregiver Blues

Caregiving for a senior loved one can come with many rewards. It may give family members who’ve drifted apart the opportunity to reconnect and reminisce. There’s also the warm feeling that comes from lending support to someone who cared for and nurtured you. But there are also difficult realities caregivers encounter.

Depression associated with witnessing the decline of a loved one’s health can be serious. So can isolation family caregivers often experience, especially those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The following tips might help you find holistic ways to beat the caregiver blues.

Steps Caregivers Can Take to Protect Mental Health

  • Eat a healthy diet: It’s tempting to load up on comfort foods and sugary treats when you are feeling down and lonely. While that often provides a short pop of energy, it makes the situation worse over time. Researchers have found a strong link between diet and depression. People who eat healthy foods are less likely to suffer from depression than those who consume a diet high in processed foods and sugar. By contrast, a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean protein helps people enjoy a better overall wellness.
  • Get regular exercise: Don’t mistake the hustle and bustle of hectic caregiver days for exercise. Unfortunately, the tasks associated with the business of caring for a loved one don’t usually equate to physical fitness activities. By engaging in 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, you’ll likely see your mental health improve. Researchers say that’s because working out releases endorphins that improve mood as well as the quality and duration of sleep.
  • Make sleep a priority: Sleep problems are all too common among family caregivers. Some family caregivers have trouble falling asleep while others can’t stay Stress, worry, and fatigue are often the underlying causes. Regardless of why, sleep deprivation can worsen depression. If you just can’t get a good night’s rest no matter what you try, talk with your primary care physician. They may need to order a sleep study or check for other health conditions that may be the culprit.
  • Visit with loved ones remotely: Socializing is essential to feeling connected and supported. Yet, caregivers often feel guilty making fun a priority when there are so many tasks they think they should be doing. Spending even a few hours a week with friends and family can restore the spirit and make you feel less alone. If you can’t visit in person, use a video chat platform to connect virtually. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people have become familiar with video chat programs like Skype and Zoom.
  • Take time off: To be a good caregiver, it’s essential that spouses and adult children take time for themselves on a regular basis. Book a massage, have lunch with a friend, work on an art project, or watch a comedy to unwind. If you don’t have someone close to you who can help, explore respite care at a local assisted living community or adult day programs. Both of these short-term solutions will keep your senior loved one safe while you take time to yourself.

Plan for the Future by Visiting a Heritage Community

One final suggestion for caregivers is to create a care plan for the future. While no one likes to think the worst will happen, there might come a time when a senior loved one will need more or different care than families can provide. That’s why it’s a good idea to explore local senior care options.

For four generations, family-owned Heritage Senior Communities has long been recognized as an industry leader. Call the community nearest you to set up a personal visit to learn more today!