Shining the Spotlight on Home Fires and Seniors

Shining the Spotlight on Home Fires and Seniors

Home fires are a concern for people across the U.S., especially older adults. According to the National Fire Protection Association, one home fire is reported every 85 seconds. While home fires can happen anytime, they generally occur more during cooler weather. Because of this, we observe National Fire Prevention Week every October.

This awareness campaign is designed to prevent home fires and save lives. It also serves as a reminder to review your emergency preparedness plan with every member of the family. If you are the adult child of or caregiver for a senior, take time to help them do the same.

Understanding how to prevent home fires is particularly important for seniors, especially those who live alone. From vision loss to mobility challenges, older adults may have trouble evacuating quickly in the event of a fire. The good news is many fires can be prevented by following a few solid safety tips.

Home Fire Safety Tips for Seniors

It’s a good idea to do a room by room fire safety assessment a few times a year. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Kitchen Safety
  • Don’t leave the kitchen while food is cooking on the stovetop, even for a short time. If you must leave the room, set a timer that can be heard throughout the home.
  • If you are worried that a senior loved may neglect to turn off burners or forget they have something cooking, consider having an automatic shut-off device installed. These turn the stove off if movement hasn’t been detected in a pre-determined amount of time. CookStop is one with good reviews.
  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting tops while cooking. Billowy sleeves may drop against a burner and ignite. Instead, opt for short or close-fitting sleeves.
  • Don’t hang towels or curtains too close to the burners on a stove. Like loose-fitting sleeves, they can pose a fire hazard.
  1. In the Bedroom
  • Find a place to store essential items by the bedside and help family elders do the same. Include anything they’ll need to reach quickly if they need to escape. A cell phone, eyeglasses, and assistive devices such as a cane or walker are a few.
  • Keep the bedroom door closed while sleeping. This improves chances of escaping if there’s a fire in another area of the home.
  • Never smoke in bed or if you are feeling drowsy.
  • Turn off and unplug space heaters before going to bed.
  1. Around the House
  • Every level of the home should have a smoke alarm. This guide from the National Fire Protection Association will help you learn more about installing and routinely testing smoke alarms.
  • Make sure all furniture, curtains, and other flammable items are kept at least three feet away from any heat source, especially space heaters.

Have an Escape Plan

Map out at least two evacuation routes to follow in the event of a fire. Practice them regularly. The goal is familiarizing everyone in the home with both routes so they know how to quickly use one when under stress.

If you or an older family member has a mobility impairment or vision or hearing loss that might make escaping more difficult, contact your local fire department. They may have programs to track households where residents have special needs.

Fire Safety at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, resident safety is one of our leading priorities. That includes smoke detectors and a sprinkler system. You can learn more by calling the Heritage community nearest you today!

Food Choices That Help Manage Cholesterol

Food Choices That Help Manage Cholesterol

If you or a senior you are the caregiver for has high cholesterol, you aren’t alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 102 million adults in this country have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL. This elevated level is considered unhealthy. Of them, 35 million have cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, increasing their risk for heart disease and stroke.

To help manage it, the doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering drug called a statin. For many people, the side effects of this class of drugs are tough to manage. They include skin rash, muscle pain, nausea, diarrhea, sleep problems, and an inflamed liver.

While statin concerns can be troublesome, it’s important to know how dangerous high cholesterol can be. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among older adults, and stroke is a leading cause of disability. High cholesterol increases the chances for both.

Is it possible to lower your cholesterol without taking medication?

For some adults, the answer is yes. Lifestyle plays a key role.

Using Diet and Exercise to Lower Cholesterol

A heart-healthy diet combined with exercise might lower your cholesterol without medication like a statin. But do you know what foods make up a heart-smart diet? Or what forms of exercise are senior-friendly?

Researchers are finding new evidence every year that the lifestyle of people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea might be a solution. Residents of these areas tend to enjoy longer lives with fewer incidences of heart disease, dementia, and some types of autoimmune diseases.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

If you love the tastes of Spain, Italy, and Greece, you’re in luck. Olives, nuts, garlic, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocados form the backbone of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. Residents consume fewer servings of meat and greater amounts of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, fish, and lean protein.

People that live along the Mediterranean Sea also adhere to a lifestyle that promotes natural forms of exercise. Instead of working out in a fitness club, they swim, garden, walk their dog, and more. Instead of driving, many bike or walk to work. The sedentary lifestyle common in Western cultures is rare here.

What else can you do to maintain healthy cholesterol?

It is also important to note there are few smokers in Mediterranean zones. Despite the proven risks, the CDC estimates that 13% of the US population are smokers. Not only does smoking increase your risk for many forms of cancer, it also impacts cholesterol.

Smoking increases bad cholesterol (HDL) and decreases good cholesterol (LDL). If you are a smoker, it’s just one more reason to quit. Talk with your physician for advice on which smoking cessation programs have the best outcomes.

Live Well at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Whether you are searching for independent living, assisted living, or memory care, well-balanced meals and senior-friendly fitness activities are part of daily life. Call the community nearest you to learn more!

Flu Prevention during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Flu Prevention during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Donna:

My grandmother is an active 92-year-old. Due to coronavirus concerns, she meets with friends and family outdoors, which I’ve heard is safer. However, I worry that she is still out and about a little too much.

As flu season approaches, I think the time has come for me to talk with her about prevention. While I love that she is so independent, I worry her risk for getting seriously ill will be even higher.

Do you have any tips I can share with my grandmother to help her avoid the seasonal flu?


Kaisey in Grand Haven, MI

Seasonal Flu Prevention in a Time of COVID-19

Dear Kaisey:

Sounds like your grandmother has been blessed with good health, and her active lifestyle probably helps. That said, you are right to be concerned about her safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts predict this flu season could be rough.

Here are a couple helpful tips to share with your grandmother about flu prevention:

  • Get the annual flu vaccine: Unless your grandmother’s physician advised her against the flu shot due to an allergy or other health concern, it’s one of the best prevention steps adults of all ages can take. The general recommendation is to get vaccinated in early- to mid-October to give the body time to build immunity. Advise your grandmother against waiting to see how bad the flu season gets, as some seniors are prone to do.
  • Practice healthy self-care: It’s important for you, your grandmother, and anyone else she regularly comes in contact with to take good care of yourselves. That can help each of you build immunity and avoid catching a bug and passing it to one another. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is a great start. Exercising for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week is vital, as is getting a good night’s sleep. Hydration also matters. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day and consuming foods high in water content (e.g., cucumber, melon, and leafy greens) can both prevent dehydration.

Many of us have heard these final suggestions repeatedly since the COVID-19 pandemic began last spring, but it’s good to revisit them:

  • Maintain physical distance: Physically distance from people in public. When flu season is peaking, avoid crowds as much as possible. If you must be in public, maintain a distance of 6 feet from others.
  • Wear a mask: While initially debated, mask wearing became essential as researchers learned more about the novel coronavirus. Doing so is a good prevention measure for both the seasonal flu and the coronavirus.
  • Practice good hygiene: Washing your hands for 20–30 seconds in warm, soapy water several times throughout the day is another must. For times when you don’t have access to soap and water, keep a small hand sanitizer in your pocket or purse. Make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol.

I hope these tips help, Kaisey! Wishing you and your grandmother good health and many more happy times together.

Kind regards,


Learn More About Flu Shots

At Heritage Senior Communities, we take the seasonal flu seriously. That includes creating informational resources for residents and their families to read. “Seniors, It’s Time to Get Your Flu Shot!” and “Flu Shot Questions from Alzheimer’s Caregivers in Michigan” are both useful articles to help you learn more.

How to Explain Alzheimer’s to Grandkids

How to Explain Alzheimer’s to Grandkids

Dear Donna:

My wife of 55 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. In the early days, her symptoms weren’t very noticeable and we didn’t have to explain the problem to our grandchildren.

As the disease has progressed, however, it’s obvious there is something wrong. Despite being young, the kids definitely see changes. I think sometimes my wife’s behavior even hurts their feelings.

My son and his wife think the time has come to explain the disease to the grandkids. We are struggling to figure out how to do that. Do you have any suggestions?


Tim in Midland, MI

5 Tips for Explaining Alzheimer’s to Younger Children

Dear Tim:

By its very nature, Alzheimer’s can be difficult for younger people to understand. It’s common for families to have trouble figuring out how to explain the disease.

Fortunately, we have a few tips for tackling this conversation that other families have found useful:

  1. Alzheimer’s is a disease: Start by explaining that their grandma has an illness that makes it hard for her to remember things. She has good days and bad days. On bad days, grandma may act a little strangely and possibly not even remember their names.
  2. They’ve done nothing wrong: Take time to reassure your grandchildren that they haven’t done anything wrong. Sometimes kids think something they did caused a senior’s behavior. Explain that the changes they see in their grandma are caused by her illness.
  3. It’s not contagious: Be sure to explain that Alzheimer’s disease isn’t contagious; you can’t catch it like a cold or the flu. That might alleviate any worries your grandchildren have that someone else they love will get Alzheimer’s, too.
  4. Create an activities list: Before the talk, put together a list of activities the kids can still do with their grandmother. Include simple tasks, like filling the bird feeder, and long-term projects, such as painting a birdhouse together. Reassure the children they can continue to enjoy time with their grandma.
  5. Helpful videos to watch: The Alzheimer’s Association created several video series you can watch with your grandkids. Both are from the perspective of kids trying to help other kids. You can find Kids Look at Alzheimer’s and Teens Look at Alzheimer’s on YouTube.

I hope these tips help you feel better prepared for this conversation, Tim!

Kind regards,


Memory Care at Heritage

Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can be difficult for families to safely manage at home. Many find a memory care program to be the best solution. With memory care communities throughout Michigan, Heritage Senior Communities are highly regarded for their commitment to quality care. We invite you to call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more!

Coping with Emotions When a Senior Moves to Assisted Living

Coping with Emotions When a Senior Moves to Assisted Living

When an aging parent is no longer safe living alone, adult children often experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Guilt, resentment, stress, fear, and doubt are just a few. It can be a difficult transition for both the senior and their family.

While most people say planning before a crisis occurs is essential, the majority of families don’t prepare. Adult children may find themselves struggling to juggle a parent’s sudden medical crisis with worries about where they will live after leaving the hospital. Families often become heated when everyone has a different idea about what is best.


An Emergency Plan for Changing Needs

If your senior loved one is resistant to planning for their future care, a less threatening approach may be to suggest creating an emergency plan together. Reinforce the idea that you may never have to use it, but it is better to be prepared.

An important part of planning ahead will be learning what types of senior care are available. There are great resources online that can help you understand the different types of care, including home care, assisted living care, and a nursing home. If you know your options before you need them, you will be more confident you are making an informed decision.


Coping with Difficult Emotions

As families investigate senior living options for a parent or other family elder, they often struggle with the idea that their loved one is getting older. It might be the first time an adult child has admitted to themselves that a parent is getting frail and needs help.

Accepting this change is a major life event for most of us. Psychiatrists use the term “anticipatory grief” to explain this feeling of loss. Adult children may begin to realize their role in a parent’s life has come full circle. They are now the decision maker and guardian of their parent’s best interests.

For family members who have been fulfilling the role of caregiver, this transition can cause guilt, fear, and worry. It isn’t easy to turn a loved one’s care over to someone else, especially when it requires them to leave their home.


Tips for a Smooth Transition

Try to remind yourself you’ve researched and made the most informed choice you can. Here are some suggestions to help you find your way:

  • Make it look like home: Work with staff at the assisted living community to determine what furniture and belongings will fit in your parent’s new apartment before moving day. Having your loved one’s favorite things surrounding them will help them feel more at home.
  • Move before selling: If possible, try to make the move to the assisted living community before the house goes up for sale. That will help avoid the stress of being forced to downsize, pack, and move in a hurry when the house sells. It will also prevent the senior from having to leave the house during often inconvenient realtor showings.
  • Hire an expert: If the very idea of downsizing the senior’s home and packing up overwhelms you, consider hiring a senior move manager. These professionals are accustomed to working with families dealing with the details and emotions of this transition.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself or your family members. These will be emotional days for everyone. Accept that there will be tearful times and stressful days. You’ll need to be kind to and patient with one another.


Heritage Senior Communities Is Here to Help!

If your search for assisted living includes Michigan or Indiana, we hope you will consider Heritage Senior Communities. A family-owned business, we have been serving seniors for four generations. Call the Heritage community nearest you with any questions you have about assisted living!