How Is Assisted Living Different than Home Care?

How Is Assisted Living Different than Home Care?

Dear Donna:

My parents are both older and have been struggling to stay in their own home. I live several hours away from them on the opposite side of Michigan. In addition to having a family of my own, I work full-time outside my home. It makes it tough to be there as often as my parents need me.

I’ve just begun to research options for senior care and it’s a little confusing. My parents live in the house they bought together over 40 years ago. They raised their family there and have so many fond memories attached to their home. However, it’s not very senior friendly. It has old bathrooms and lots of stairs to navigate. I find myself worrying that one of them will suffer a fall.

It seems like home care could be an option, but assisted living might be a better choice. Can you please help me understand the differences between these two types of senior care? Any advice would be much appreciated.


Theresa in Grand Rapids, MI

Comparing Home Care with Assisted Living


Dear Theresa:

This is a struggle we frequently hear from adult children. Their aging parents are unable to maintain their independence, and loved ones aren’t sure where to turn for help. The senior care industry has so many options available, it can be overwhelming. As you described, debating between enlisting the services of a home care agency or relocating to an assisted living community is common.

While both choices have similarities, there are distinct differences to better understand before making any decisions.

Home Care Basics

Home care, also referred to as in-home care or private duty care, brings services and support to people in their own house. It sometimes allows seniors to age in place, at least for a while. Depending on the older person’s situation, these professional caregivers help with anything from bathing and grooming to light housekeeping and meal preparation.

This type of senior care might be good for those who live independently and only need minimal to moderate assistance. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Home care assists seniors with routine tasks, such as morning showers and meal prep. It does not help with tasks that occur at random times, like nighttime trips to and from the bathroom.
  • Care is generally nonmedical in nature and doesn’t require a licensed nurse.
  • While it can be cost effective, home care is meant for seniors who need only a few hours of support each day, not for extended periods of time.
  • The older adult should live in a safe, senior-friendly home that doesn’t present fall risks.

Some families find home care is a good temporary solution while they search for an assisted living community. It helps keep senior loved ones safe so the family has time to make an informed decision for the future.

Understanding Assisted Living

Assisted living is often described as the best of both worlds: residents have their own apartment or suite, but caregivers are on-site around the clock. It’s a solution that allows older adults to maintain a greater sense of independence.

This type of senior housing can be ideal for people who:

  • Have mobility problems that put them at higher risk for a fall.
  • No longer drive a car and don’t have access to reliable transportation services.
  • Aren’t willing or able to plan menus, go grocery shopping, or prepare well-balanced meals.
  • Live with chronic medical conditions or are at risk for health issues linked to isolation, such as depression or cardiac disease.
  • Have difficulty managing their medications, including taking the right dosage at the proper time.
  • Are seeking an environment that makes it easier to make friends and stay actively engaged with life.

You might find the article “6 Ways Assisted Living Supports Independence among Older Adults” to be helpful in learning more.

If you have any more questions or would like to visit a Heritage Senior Community for a personal tour, please call us today! One of our experienced team members will be happy to help.

Kind regards,


Coping with Family Caregiver Fear and Guilt

Coping with Family Caregiver Fear and Guilt

Dear Donna:

My great-aunt had a bad fall a few months ago that left her with some pretty significant injuries. She’s recently been discharged from a rehabilitation center and is staying with me. I am her only relative and love her dearly. The role of caregiver is brand new to me, and I find myself struggling.

I worry that I’m overlooking things and not caring for her properly. If I leave her in the care of my husband for even short periods of time, like to run a quick errand, I feel guilty.

My aunt will likely be sharing our home permanently, so I know I have to find ways to better cope with caregiving. Do you have any advice for how to do that?


Janet in Grand Haven, MI

Coping Tips for Family Caregivers

Dear Janet:

My first suggestion is to be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your feelings are okay to have. When it comes to caring for a loved one, most of us are too hard on ourselves. Family members have a rollercoaster of emotions even after years of caregiving experience. Fear, guilt, and sadness about the future are common.

As a caregiver, you are witnessing a person who has been a big part of your life struggle. That isn’t easy. Being unable to predict exactly what they’ll need from you can be anxiety-inducing, too. Then there is the guilt. When a family member believes they’ve made a mistake or have taken a little time to themselves, the guilt can be overwhelming.

Here are a few tips for managing the rollercoaster of difficult emotions family caregivers experience every day:

  • Join a caregiver support group.

Caregiver support groups are a great avenue for learning how to manage difficult emotions. They allow you to connect with peers in person or online. Not only will you learn from other group members’ experiences, but you will also discover you aren’t alone in this struggle.

Online caregiver support groups are often a good option when time is an issue or it isn’t safe to leave a family member unattended. Some caregivers find it easier to share their true feelings because of the anonymity of an online group.

In-person groups are good for those who want face-to-face interaction with fellow family caregivers. Check local senior centers, assisted living communities, and churches to find one near you.

  • Connect with information and resources.

Part of the fear family caregivers have stems from not having any formal training. Many take on the role like you did, after a loved one experienced a health crisis. The uncertainty you feel is legitimate and understandable.

It might be helpful to find resources that help you self-educate, such as articles on the Heritage Senior Communities blog. AARP Caregiver Resource Center is another helpful option to explore. You may also want to call your local agency on aging to ask about family caregiver workshops. If they don’t offer them, they might know of a nearby organization that does.

  • Take advantage of respite services.

Respite care is a program designed to give caregivers relief on a short-term basis. It can be a lifesaver for people who don’t have friends or family with whom to share caregiving duties. Most respite services can be utilized for a few days or up to a month, depending upon the senior living community.

Respite guests in a senior living community benefit from receiving the same care and support as long-term residents. They also enjoy healthy meals, housekeeping services, and a variety of daily life enrichment activities.

  • Ask for help.

This last suggestion is important: give yourself permission to ask for and accept help. You can’t do it all. Trying to do so can lead to chronic stress and caregiver burnout. Whether it’s asking a friend to pick up a few groceries for you or investigating a friendly visitor program at your church or synagogue, allowing others to support your family through this time is necessary and okay.

I hope this information brings you some peace of mind and confidence, Janet. Please let me know if you would like more information on respite care at any of the Heritage Senior Communities or call the location nearest you!

Kind regards,


Important Questions to Ask on an Assisted Living Tour

Important Questions to Ask on an Assisted Living Tour

If you are searching for an assisted living community for a senior in the family, an important part of the process is taking a tour. Plan to visit once or twice so you can meet some of the staff and residents and get a firsthand look at community life.

Before you schedule your first tours, create a list of questions to ask. You’ll also need to pack a notebook and pen to document answers and observations. As much as you might think you’ll remember, it’s easy to confuse assisted living communities when you are visiting several.

Creating a List of Questions to Ask on a Visit to Assisted Living

Having a set of questions to ask on your assisted living tour will also help you stay focused on what is important. This list will give you a good foundation on which to add your own questions:

  • How many team members are on duty for each shift? What are their responsibilities?
  • How many residents are assigned to each caregiver? What other duties do caregivers have during their shift?
  • What is the staff turnover rate for caregivers and other direct care workers?
  • What happens when a resident’s care needs change?
  • How often do caregivers check on an assisted living resident?
  • When was the community’s most recent state survey and what were the results?
  • What types of wellness programs (e.g., blood pressure checks) are offered?
  • Does the community create a written care plan detailing how your loved one will be cared for? How often is it updated? Does family have input?
  • What protocols are in place to ensure that each resident receives the appropriate medications at the right time and in the correct dosage?
  • What is the process for filling and refilling prescriptions? Are residents required to use a particular pharmacy?
  • How are over-the-counter medications handled? Can residents purchase and store them independently?
  • Does a nurse or physician review the medication management program on a regular basis?
  • How are fees structured? Are care charges included in the base rent?
  • Beyond care and board, what expenses should a resident expect each month?
  • How often are life enrichment activities offered?
  • Are residents given the opportunity to go on outings to shopping centers, local restaurants, and more?

Questions Specific to Memory Care Programs

Is your loved one in the early stages of dementia or do you want to learn more about memory care neighborhoods just in case? You will need to ask some specific questions, including:

  • Is there special training for staff about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? How long is the training?
  • How is staff trained to manage sundowning and wandering, both common in adults with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia?
  • Is there a separate, secure area of the community for residents with a memory impairment?
  • If yes, are there dedicated dining and life enrichment programs?
  • Are rooms in the memory care area private or shared?
  • Does the community offer a secure outdoor area for residents who have dementia?

You’ll no doubt have questions specific to your senior loved one. However, the questions outlined above will give you a solid foundation on how to objectively assess an assisted living community.

Visit a Heritage Senior Community to Learn More

With memory care, independent living, and assisted living communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, families are sure to find a Heritage location to meet their needs. Call us today with any questions or to schedule your family’s private tour!

Defining Senior Living Terms for Family Members

Defining Senior Living Terms for Family Members

Many families are beginning the search for a senior living solution for a loved one online. It allows them to self-educate and gain valuable insight before calling a community. While it is convenient, it has its own challenges. One is the often-confusing language and unfamiliar senior living terms and acronyms.

Phrases like aging in place and activities of daily living are unfamiliar to people who haven’t been through this process before. It can leave families feeling uncertain. This glossary of senior living terms can make your search a little easier.

Glossary of Senior Living Terms

  1. Activities of daily living (ADL): This term describes the basic types of activities seniors often need assistance with—showering, grooming, dressing, eating, toileting, continence care, and walking/transferring. It’s often used to determine what type of care is best for an older adult and their monthly fees.
  2. Adult day program: It can be unsafe for a senior with Alzheimer’s or other health conditions to be left home alone. This creates a challenge for family caregivers who work outside the home. Adult day programs can be a solution. They offer structured support and life enrichment activities to clients. They also provide seniors an avenue for socializing. Some adult day centers offer transportation services to and from the center, which makes it easier for an adult child who works. Clients are usually served meals and snacks at the center and get assistance with personal care. Depending on state licensing, some are also able to assist with medication management.
  3. Aging in place: This phrase is used in many different settings. It generally refers to a senior’s desire to remain in whatever setting they call home for as long as possible. It might mean staying in their private residence with the assistance of a home care agency as their needs for care increase. It could also apply to a resident of an independent living community who wishes to remain in their apartment or villa instead of transitioning to another type of housing.
  4. Ambulatory: Another term you’ll hear in senior living, especially when determining what level of care an older adult requires, is ambulatory. If an older adult is able to get around on their own or with minimal assistance, they are considered to be ambulatory. By contrast, those who struggle with mobility and require assistance are often referred to as nonambulatory. Communities use residents’ ability to ambulate as a guide for staffing.
  5. Assisted living community: Many consider these communities an ideal blend of independence and assistance. Residents have a private apartment, suite, or villa. They also have the peace of mind that comes from knowing a variety of services and amenities are always nearby. These services usually include personal care support, medication management, three daily meals, life enrichment and wellness activities, emergency call systems, transportation, and housekeeping.
  6. Independent living community: With less focus on care and more on freedom and lifestyle, an independent living community allows residents to thrive during retirement. Most household tasks, maintenance, and repairs are provided, giving residents more time to enjoy themselves. Wellness and life enrichment activities are offered every day. Some communities also offer meal plans and transportation services to independent living residents.
  7. Life plan community: Also known as a continuing care retirement community or CCRC, this housing option offers all levels of care in one location. That usually includes independent living, assisted living, and a nursing home. Many life plan communities also offer memory care, home care, and hospice.
  8. Medication management: Making mistakes with medication is a common reason older adults find themselves in an emergency room. It’s why medication management is one of the most popular services in assisted living and specialized dementia care communities, as well as nursing homes. Depending on state regulations, a community may offer medication reminders or hands-on assistance taking medicine.
  9. Respite services: A short-term stay at a senior living community is a solution designed for family caregivers who need a break. Caregivers can rest from the physical and emotional demands of caregiving or take a vacation. At an assisted living or memory care community, respite guests generally stay for a week or two. Depending upon state laws, an older adult might be a respite guest for up to a month before they must be formally admitted to the community.
  10. Specialized dementia care: This type of senior living helps adults with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia live their best quality of life. They are designed with both safety and life enrichment in mind. These areas of an assisted living community or nursing home are secure to prevent residents with memory loss from wandering away. Team members who work in dementia care programs receive specialized training to master best practices for communicating with and supporting residents.

Call Heritage Senior Communities to Learn More

As a fourth generation, family-owned senior living company, we understand just how overwhelmed families sometimes feel as they begin the search for a community for a loved one. Our experienced team can help make things easier. We invite you to call the Heritage community nearest you with questions or to schedule a private tour!

What Will My Role Be After My Dad Moves to Assisted Living?

What Will My Role Be After My Dad Moves to Assisted Living?

Dear Donna:

After much thought and many conversations, my dad has decided to move to an assisted living community. For almost four years, my husband and I have been trying to help him remain in his own home. However, this past year has been a real challenge. He’s experiencing some balance issues that his doctor thinks are linked to poor nutrition and being too sedentary.

Our hope is that being surrounded by his peers with opportunities to socialize will help spark his enthusiasm for life again. Not to mention being able to enjoy well-balanced meals that he doesn’t have to cook or even warm up!

While I believe this is the right decision for my dad’s mental and physical well-being, I’m struggling with what my new role in his life will be. I’ve become accustomed to seeing him every day or so, stocking his freezer with meals, taking him to doctor’s appointments, and generally caring for his well-being. It’s been a lot for me to take on, and I feel guilty that I haven’t been able to give my dad the care he needs.

Do you have any advice for me as my dad makes this transition?


Nicole in Hudsonville, MI

Navigating an Aging Parent’s Move to Assisted Living

Dear Nicole:

Caregiving for a loved one can be both rewarding and demanding. As an aging adult’s need for care and support increases, families often realize the senior would enjoy a better quality of life in an assisted living community. It’s a transition that helps ensure the older person is happy, healthy, and safe. It also allows loved ones to find better balance in their own lives.

While caregivers usually know this is a good solution for everyone involved, they often feel bad about their inability to care for their loved one at home. Sound familiar? I have a few suggestions I hope you will find helpful.

  • Redirect negative thoughts.

When you find guilt or negative thoughts creeping in, try to redirect your attention. Take the dog for a walk or pull out the dust cloth and do a little cleaning. Listen to some uplifting music while you exercise. Many people find 15 minutes of yoga or meditation works well at focusing the mind on the good. The idea is to train your brain to replace guilt with something positive. Allow yourself to accept that you are doing what’s best for your dad and your family.

  • Believe in your decision.

When you believe you’ve made an informed decision, it will be easier to relax and help your dad prepare for the move. That means being thoughtful in your research, asking good questions, and visiting every community you are considering in person several times, if possible. Review the article “Questions to Ask on the First Call to Assisted Living” to make sure you know what to ask the staff at each community.

  • Volunteer at the community.

Once your dad selects and moves into an assisted living community, give yourself some time to find better balance in life. Then, talk with your dad to see how he would feel about your getting involved at the community. Most assisted living communities utilize volunteers in a variety of roles ranging from helping out with activities to arranging flowers on dining room tables.

  • Join a caregiver support group.

No one understands these types of difficult feelings better than fellow family caregivers. Joining a support group will allow you to connect with people who are in situations similar to yours. Many assisted living communities and senior centers offer in-person support groups. You could also consider an online caregiver forum, like those hosted by the Family Caregiver Alliance.

I hope this information is helpful, Nicole! Sending my best wishes for this transition to you and your dad.

Kind regards,


How Senior Living Communities Are Different Than You Think

How Senior Living Communities Are Different Than You Think

Where you live greatly impacts how well you live as you grow older. Research shows that environment plays an important role in healthy aging. Everything from physical activity, socialization, and nutrition is affected by the place you choose to call home during retirement.

One way to make the most of your retirement years is moving to a senior living community. From well-balanced meals to on-site fitness programs and life-enriching activities, the benefits of community living are numerous. These communities allow older adults to stay connected and engaged in ways living at home alone often can’t.

Unfortunately, misconceptions associated with senior communities can make older adults a little skeptical. They can even convince a senior to remain at home, despite being lonely or fearful about living alone. If you or a loved one are considering moving but aren’t sure it’s the right decision, this information will help you better understand senior living.

Busting the Myths About Senior Living Communities

  1. Residents are lonely.

This myth couldn’t be further from the truth! Even a short visit to a Heritage Senior Community will quickly dispel this idea. From informal gatherings in common areas and gardens to delicious meals with neighbors in the dining room, residents can be as involved as they choose.

  1. Communities are depressing.

This misperception might be linked to nursing homes of the past, which often resembled hospitals. Senior living communities, however, are usually warm, inviting places. First-time visitors often remark how lovely the communities and grounds are. Most are also a hub of activity with residents and families gathering for programs, special events, group outings, fitness programs, and more. It creates a vibrant environment for residents, staff, and visitors.

  1. It’s too expensive.

Another often-repeated myth is senior living is only for the wealthy, and it’s less expensive to stay at home. Older adults who live in a mortgage-free home are more likely to think this. However, with utilities, taxes, lawn care, and housekeeping often included in a community’s fees, you’ll find there isn’t much difference. This is especially true when a senior’s needs increase and they need to employ in-home caregivers. The average cost of home health care was $27 per hour in 2021.

  1. The food is awful.

This is another myth that couldn’t be less accurate. In many senior living communities, the food is fabulous! Most communities employ or consult with both chefs and nutritionists to plan menus that appeal to a variety of palates and dietary needs. Residents have their choice of menu options and mealtimes. An added perk is the socialization that occurs when residents gather in the dining room. Seniors who make a move to a community often find their health improves because they are enjoying more well-balanced, healthy meals.

Schedule a Visit to Heritage Today

The best way to dispel the myths you or a family elder might have about senior living is to visit a community in person. You can join us for a meal or participate in one of our many activities and programs. Call the community of your choice to set up a time!