My parents have lived in the same home for over five decades. It’s the house my siblings and I grew up in. Unfortunately, it’s no longer a safe place for them to live. There are so many things that I see as being downright dangerous for them. The laundry room is in their old basement, all the bedrooms are upstairs, and the bathroom tub isn’t easily accessible for showers. That’s in addition to both of them needing a helping hand with personal care.
All summer long, we’ve tried talking with our parents about moving to assisted living. However, my dad is convinced it’s a bad time to try to sell their house. And he doesn’t think assisted living communities have openings in the fall and winter.
Do you have any suggestions? The fear that something will happen to one of them in that old house is starting to keep me up at night.
Lisa in Holland, MI
Moving a Senior to Assisted Living
It sounds like you have good reason to worry about your parents! The reasons your dad is giving you for not moving are likely tied to a fear of change, but there may be other reasons. Since they’ve lived in that house for so long, it’s understandable that they would be reluctant to make a change.
First, anytime of year is a good time to move to an assisted living community. While snow and ice can make moving day a little trickier, most moving companies in Michigan and Indiana are accustomed to working around bad weather. I would also suggest talking with a few realtors about timing the sale of a house. Those we work with often say fall and winter can be good seasons for selling. Because fewer houses go on the market during colder months, sellers have a better chance of attracting serious buyers.
Next, it might be helpful to figure out the real reason your parents are putting off a move that could keep them safer and healthier. A few that we often hear from families are:
- The fear they will lose their privacy and independence. Some older adults aren’t aware that they’ll have their own suite or apartment, even in assisted living.
- Worries that assisted living communities aren’t affordable. Once they realize everything that is included, such as meals, transportation, and utilities, it’s easier to understand the value.
- Concerns that they’ll be forced to participate in activities during the day. While we encourage residents to socialize, it’s up to them to decide how many—or few—programs they attend.
- Inaccurate ideas about what senior living is. The nursing homes of the past were often dark and depressing. Some of today’s seniors mistakenly link that to modern senior living communities.
I hope this information is useful to you, Lisa. I’d like to extend an invitation to you and your parents to attend a special event at a Heritage community or join us for a meal. It’s a great way for them to see firsthand what assisted living has to offer!
My parents recently sold their home in another state and moved to Michigan to stay with my wife and me. The arrangement is temporary while we search for a senior living community for them.
I’m trying to get them on track with their health care and nutrition. They have never been very good about going to the doctor, but it got worse in the last few years. Their diet is also unhealthy. The first thing I need to do is find a doctor. They both need a complete physical and likely most of their health screenings, especially bloodwork.
Do you have any ideas for helping me locate a doctor for seniors? I prefer someone who has experience working with older adults. Any tips would be much appreciated.
Steve in Elk Rapids, MI
Finding a Doctor for a Senior Loved One
Your question is commonly asked by adult children! Unless an older adult is fortunate enough to have a longtime primary care physician, many find themselves needing to make a change. Because of the shortage of family practice doctors in many areas of the country, this task can be much tougher than in the past.
I do have some suggestions that might make your search easier:
- Investigate physicians in their insurance plan: Since you mentioned your parents moved to Michigan from another state, one factor to keep in mind is their insurance network. If they transitioned to a different Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll need to check to see which doctors are covered. For older adults who are on traditional Medicare, there will probably be more options. Medicare will create a list of doctors near you who accept new patients. You can find this list online or by calling Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227. (TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.)
- Ask for recommendations: You can read reviews on a variety of sites, such as Vitals, Healthgrades, and RateMDs. While they can provide some insight, nothing can replace personal referrals. Ask friends and colleagues involved in a parent’s care which physicians they like and dislike. Maybe ask for recommendations on Facebook, too.
- Talk with the hospital discharge planner or social worker: If you have a preferred hospital in your community, they might be able to point you in the right direction. While they likely can’t provide recommendations, many are aware of physicians who work with seniors. Those who work in emergency departments of the hospital sometimes keep a list of physicians who are accepting new patients.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, call the office to see if they offer meet and greet times for potential new patients. Even a few minutes of a physician’s time might give you an idea of whether they will be a good fit for your parents.
If you find yourself struggling to overcome your parents’ reluctance to see a doctor, we have a few tips. How Do I Get My Dad to See the Doctor Regularly has ideas you might find useful.
When a senior loved one begins to experience health issues or struggle with the activities of daily life, family members and friends often lend a hand. It’s usually with small tasks, such as running errands. As time passes, these duties often increase. Adult children can also be called upon to help with clinical tasks, such as wound care.
Providing support to someone whose health is declining can take a significant toll on physical and emotional well-being. While it might seem less expensive to have an older family member move into your home, many of the costs associated with caregiving aren’t obvious. Lost wages and benefits, an increase in household expenses, and wear and tear on the family car are a few.
If you are debating between having a senior move into your home or encouraging a transition to an assisted living community, here are some of the hidden costs of caregiving you should not overlook.
Don’t Overlook These Caregiving Expenses
- Lost wages, benefits, and career growth: One of the biggest expenses that people fail to consider is loss of income, both now and into the future. As the senior’s needs increase, family members are often forced to cut back on their work hours or give up working entirely for a while. The end result is lost wages and benefits related to their current job, but also missed opportunities for career growth. Caregivers who temporarily stop working might find it difficult to obtain a similar paying position when they are ready to return to work, too.
- Higher vehicle and gasoline expenses: Caregivers are often surprised at how often they find themselves behind the wheel. From doctor’s appointments to trips to the pharmacy, the extra mileage means more expenses. The extra costs for gas, oil changes, tires, and brakes can quickly add up. If the vehicle is leased, the impact can be even greater. You may exceed your mileage allotment and incur penalties.
- Greater household expenses and modification costs: When you add an additional person to your household, your home expenses will rise. From higher utilities to extra food costs, you’ll need to budget for this increase as well. Then there is the likelihood that your home may need to undergo some modifications to make it more senior-friendly. Ramps on exterior doors, grab bars in bedrooms and bathrooms, and a step-free shower are the most common.
- More medical bills for the caregiver: One more hidden cost of caregiving is increased medical expenses for the caregiver. The role is often physically and emotionally demanding. Adults who provide care are at higher risk for medical conditions, such as digestive issues, back pain, headaches, and anxiety, than their non-caregiving peers.
One final consideration is a different kind of cost: loss of personal time. While caregiving can be a labor of love, it is often a 24/7 responsibility. As a result, caregivers often experience a loss of privacy, personal space, and time to spend with their own children.
Visit Heritage Senior Living to Learn More
The best way to learn more about assisted living is with a personal visit. Before you decide to move a senior loved one into your home, we encourage you to tour a Heritage community near you. One of our experienced team members will be able to answer all of your questions and help you learn more about the benefits our communities offer.
When you are caring for a senior loved one at home, taking a vacation might not be feasible. That’s especially true when your family member has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia. The good news is you can take a vacation without leaving home. It’s called a staycation.
Here are a few tips for planning a staycation before winter makes its return to Michigan and Indiana.
Planning a Vacation at Home
If you aren’t familiar with the term, a staycation is simply a shorthand way of saying you’ll be taking time out to relax at home or to enjoy day trips. This trend became more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a good way to save money or to include a family elder for whom traveling isn’t safe.
Here are some tips for family caregivers who are planning a relaxing staycation this summer:
- Pick the dates: While it may be tricky if you’re including friends and family, set a date for your staycation. Putting it on the calendar might help you commit to taking a break and enjoying yourself.
- Consider extra help: If you’d like your staycation to be truly relaxing, consider utilizing respite services from an assisted living community or a local home care agency. Your senior loved one will get the care they need while you enjoy a break from those responsibilities. It will also give you a chance to enjoy more day trips.
- Set a budget: While a staycation is likely more budget friendly than a vacation, the costs can add up quickly. Before you start making arrangements, think about how much you can realistically spend. That will help you plan.
- Plan around your interests: Do you love going on garden tours or visiting unique nurseries and greenhouses? Or do you enjoy making art? Think about what your favorite hobbies are and look for opportunities to explore them close to home.
- Pamper at home: Another fun and relaxing idea is a spa day at home with a few friends. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose. You might want to hire a massage therapist or a professional nail technician to pamper you and your guests.
- Go day tripping: If you’d like to wander a little, pull out a map or find one online. Decide how far you are willing to drive and look for destinations you haven’t explored before. Sites like Viator and GetYourGuide can assist you in locating activities you’ve probably never heard of, such as haunted house tours and hot air balloon rides.
Respite Care Gives Caregivers a Break
Whether it’s a staycation at home or a true getaway, respite care allows family caregivers to take a break. Your family member can be a guest at one of our communities on a short-term basis and receive all of the benefits and services residents do. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!
My mom is in the early stages of dementia. One struggle I’m having is keeping her hydrated. As we head into summer, I’m worried she’ll end up sick. Some days she’ll drink water easily, but other times her glass will sit untouched all day. I just can’t figure it out.
Do you have any suggestions?
Chris in Traverse City, MI
Preventing Dehydration in a Senior with Dementia
You aren’t alone in this struggle! It’s fairly common in people with all types of dementia. You are correct to want to address it. As little as a two percent loss in body fluid can lead to mild dehydration. That can cause headaches, constipation, sluggishness, and fatigue.
Experts say there are a variety of reasons people with dementia don’t drink enough water:
- Forgetfulness: This classic symptom of dementia puts seniors at increased risk for dehydration. An older adult with memory loss may simply forget to drink water.
- Fear of water: Some adults with Alzheimer’s develop a fear of water. If that’s the type of dementia your mom has, it might be part of the issue. You might also notice her getting anxious and agitated with other water-related tasks, especially bathing and showering. Just the sound of water running can cause fear for some.
- Difficulty swallowing: The physical damage dementia causes to the brain can lead to problems swallowing, a condition known as dysphagia. An older person might avoid drinking because they are afraid of choking.
- Impaired abstract thought: As Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia progress, the person living with it may lose the ability to problem solve. While they might feel thirsty—though some also lose the ability to recognize thirst—they might not know what to do about it.
If any of these may be concerns for your mother, you can work on ways to help her stay hydrated.
Tips to Help a Senior with Dementia Stay Hydrated
Here are suggestions that might be helpful:
- Frequent prompts: If memory loss is the culprit, make sure to prompt your mom to drink frequently throughout the day. It often helps to keep a bottle of water with you and drink often to encourage her to model the behavior.
- Dark drinking glass: Some have found that using dark drinking glasses and bottles works for their loved one. Fill a few when the senior isn’t in the room to hear the water running and store them in the refrigerator.
- Foods that hydrate: Many fruits and vegetables have a high water content. It’s a great way to increase daily hydration. If you don’t already, incorporate leafy greens, celery, berries, melon, cucumber, tomatoes, and apples into her daily diet. Clear soup and bone broth are other good choices.
- Water enhancers: Use fruits and vegetables to make water look and taste more appealing. Lemon slices, cucumber, mint sprigs, strawberries, and blueberries are all good choices.
- Medication review: Schedule time to review your mom’s medications with her pharmacist. If she takes any that increase the risk for dehydration, talk with her primary care physician. They may be able to swap it.
Thanks for contacting me for suggestions! I hope that you find this information beneficial.
Learn More about Dementia Care at Heritage
It takes special training and thoughtful attention to detail to allow adults with all types of dementia to enjoy their best quality of life. Read more about the Heritage approach and where to find a community near you by visiting the Specialized Dementia Care page on our website.
I watched a segment on the news about June being Men’s Health Month. It made me realize that my dad hasn’t been to the doctor since my mom passed away almost two years ago. She was the one who always kept him on track. He’s always been terrible about scheduling physicals and preventive screenings.
I want to discuss it with him this weekend, but I’m anxious about it. Do you have any suggestions I can use to convince my dad it’s important to see the doctor even if he’s not feeling sick? I could use a little advice!
Kim in Midland, MI
Why It’s Important to See the Doctor on a Regular Basis
I wish I could tell you how often we hear this concern from women about the men in their lives! Cleveland Clinic actually surveyed men on this topic and found they would do just about anything not to see the doctor. In fact, only about half of the men they spoke with have an annual physical regularly.
The survey found that some men were conditioned from a young age not to discuss or complain about their health. Other reasons men cited for not seeing the doctor included not wanting to know if they had a medical issue, an unwillingness to change their lifestyle, and embarrassment. This information might give you some insight as to why your dad won’t see his doctor as often as he should. That may be helpful in overcoming his reluctance.
Another factor to consider is whether he’s comfortable with his current doctor. Maybe he is seeing a female physician and would prefer a male. A lack of experience with older adults is another reason a doctor may not connect with a senior. While a physician doesn’t necessarily need to be a geriatrician, finding someone who is knowledgeable and a good listener is vital. If the two of you decide it’s time for your dad to make a change, “4 Tips for Helping a Senior Find a Primary Care Doctor” has some good tips.
One last suggestion is to start with a virtual or telehealth appointment. Most physician offices started offering these during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s to meet and greet with a new doctor or check in with his current one, it’s worth calling to see if this is an option for a reluctant patient.
I hope this helps you! Best of luck speaking with your dad.
Summer Is a Great Time to Explore Senior Living
With communities across Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage Senior Communities has a rich tradition of caring for older adults. If you are an adult child helping care for an aging parent, planning now for future care needs is important. We extend an open invitation to you to visit one of our communities to learn more. Call the location nearest you to set up a time today!