Dear Donna:

My mother is 81 years old and lives alone in her home near Holland, Michigan. Over the past year she has been in and out of the emergency room more times than I can even count! The issues have ranged from being dehydrated to several falls to a bad case of the flu.

We are struggling to convince our mother to take better care of herself. My sister or I deliver homemade, frozen meals and a big salad to her once a week. She would only need to heat up the dinners in the microwave and put the salad in a bowl at meal time. But she just won’t do it. Most days she lives on peanut butter toast, cereal and lunchmeat.

We really think the time has come to insist that she move to a safer type of senior housing. I think if she just ate better many of her problems would resolve on their own. I know she doesn’t want to keep going to the emergency room. All the trips back and forth have really worn her out.

Can an assisted living community help us get her back on a healthier track? I really don’t think she needs to be in a nursing home.

Anna in Kalamazoo

Dear Anna:

It sounds like your family has had a very difficult year! The situation is unfortunately all too common. For many seniors, maintaining good nutrition is a real challenge. In some cases it is because the older adult doesn’t have transportation to and from the grocery store or they have a health condition that makes preparing meals difficult.

Poor nutrition in seniors can create many of the circumstances you described. It can lead to a weakened immune system and put her at higher risk for the flu bug that landed her in the house, as well as muscle weakness that may have contributed to her falls.

The good news is an assisted living community may be an ideal solution! Your mother would receive three well-balanced meals each day and the opportunity to enjoy them restaurant-style in the community’s dining room. The social aspect of spending meal times with her peers might encourage her to eat more, too. She would also have the opportunity to participate in fitness and life enrichment programs that may help her improve her overall wellness.

It might be a good idea for you to visit a few assisted living communities in the Grand Haven and Holland areas on your own first. Once you have an idea about what each of them offers and which ones might be a good fit for your mother, you could return again with her.

Best of luck to you and your family, Anna! I hope your mother can get settled in an assisted living community soon and begin to get her health back on track.