My 84-year-old father is starting to develop a few health issues. Nothing serious, but concerning enough that we’ve been spending more time at the doctor. While his physician is cordial, he always seems hurried. My dad doesn’t talk about his medical problems very easily, so it sometimes takes a few minutes for him to open up.
I suspect my dad’s physician is a better fit for younger adults than for seniors. How can I tell if it’s time to make a change? If it is, what steps can I take to find a physician who is comfortable working with seniors?
Any suggestions are appreciated!
Is It Time for a New Physician for a Senior Loved One?
What a great observation! It’s one we often hear from adult children. Not every primary care physician is comfortable caring for older patients, just as some aren’t at ease with younger children. Here’s some insight you might find helpful in making this decision.
First, mutual respect is essential in your father’s relationship with his primary care physician. While they are busy professionals, your father needs to feel like his doctor is listening to him. On the other hand, it sounds like your dad has been this doctor’s patient for a while. There is value in working with someone who knows his medical history.
Is there anything you can do to help your dad better communicate with his doctor? Do you make a list of concerns and review them ahead of time? Before you give up and find a new doctor, it’s worth trying to prepare more before appointments.
There are other issues to consider, too. Can you get an appointment easily? Is his doctor able to quickly make a diagnosis? Is the location of the office convenient? Is the physician part of a reputable provider network?
If you take an objective look at the situation and decide it is in your dad’s best interest to find a new physician, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Tips for Finding a New Physician
- Insurance: Research which physicians accept your father’s health insurance. While you might think all physicians accept Medicare, a growing number of doctors are declining to work with Medicare and Medicaid due to perceived low reimbursement rates.
- Referrals: Ask friends, family, and colleagues you trust for referrals. It’s a good way to gain insight on what it’s like to be a patient of any physician you are considering.
- Location: While a good doctor is worth driving farther for, a great distance can be tough if your dad needs to visit often.
- Reviews: While reviews for physicians are tough to come by, a few sites are worth investigating. Healthgrades and Vitals are two. Medicare’s Physician Compare tool is another.
- Appointment: Finally, schedule a new patient appointment with the doctor. These appointments are usually longer and will give you a good idea whether the doctor will be a good fit for your father.
I hope these tips are helpful to you and your father, Lisa! I’m sure this won’t be an easy decision to make.
Heritage Senior Communities
A fourth generation, family-owned company, Heritage Senior Communities has locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana. With options for care that include independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite, you’ll likely find a good solution for a senior loved one.
Winter can be a tough time of year for family caregivers, particularly those in colder climates like Michigan and Indiana. Cold, snowy days make it difficult to leave home. When you factor in the added worries associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, a caregiver might feel especially isolated. Those caring for a family member with dementia or another disease that impacts verbal skills may be exceptionally lonely.
These factors all put family caregivers at high risk for developing the winter blues. As we head into a season known for challenging weather, these tips may help ward off a case of the caregiver blues.
Blues Buster Tips for Family Caregivers
- Commit to a healthy diet.
Juggling the demands of caregiving along with your own responsibilities can take a toll on your overall wellness. A caregiver’s once-healthy diet may be sacrificed in the interest of saving time. Fast food and convenience foods might be quicker, but they can leave you tired and sluggish. These foods also contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
One of the few positives associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in grocery stores offering delivery services. There is also a wide variety of home meal services. If you aren’t able to fit grocery shopping and meal preparation into your busy schedule, take advantage of these services.
- Get daily exercise.
Caregivers sometimes think because they are busy all day, they get enough exercise. While the bustle of hectic days can feel like a workout, it’s probably not providing enough physical activity. Physical fitness activities increase energy, improve sleep, and beat stress. Each is vital for overall health.
Some caregivers find two or three shorter workouts easier to manage. Instead of trying to find 30 continuous minutes to exercise, work shorter fitness sessions into the day. Research shows it reaps the same health benefits as exercising for 30 straight minutes. Resistance bands, chair yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and 10-Minute Beginner Zumba are all activities you can do at home.
- Nurture the spirit.
Caregivers experience a range of emotions as they care for a senior loved one. From sadness to fear and guilt, it’s easy to second guess yourself. That can impact your mental health.
Activities such as meditation, journaling, or joining an online caregiver support group can nurture your spirit. In the midst of a dreary winter day or COVID-19 concerns, dedicating a few minutes a day to mental health is vital for caregivers.
- Enjoy a few laughs.
The old saying that laughter is the best medicine is true. It’s also something caregivers might not do very often. As you navigate your days this winter, look for opportunities to laugh. It will boost your mood, and likely help you beat the blues. Stream an old comedy in the evening, like The Office or Clueless. Invest in a joke book to read aloud with your loved one every morning.
Try looking at the difficult situations caregivers find themselves in from a different perspective. Humor can make tough tasks less emotionally taxing for you and the senior.
- See your doctor.
When you are focused on being the best caregiver possible, you may neglect your own health. Staying on track with physicals and routine health screenings is an important part of protecting your health. For example, a yearly physical might help identify a thyroid problem that may be causing you to feel blue.
If it’s been a while since your last physical, call your doctor to schedule an appointment. During your visit, make sure to inform them you are a caregiver under stress.
Follow the Heritage Blog
We hope this information aids caregivers this winter. If you find this article to be of interest, bookmark the Heritage Blog and visit often. We routinely share the latest news on aging, senior care, caregiving, Alzheimer’s, and more!
My great uncle lives alone in northern Michigan. Since his wife passed away, he’s been getting increasingly isolated. While I visit as often as possible, my home is almost three hours away. He’s finally decided he would be better off in a senior living community. We are going to start searching for potential options with a goal of moving in the spring.
A colleague told me his father qualified for special financial assistance because he is a veteran like my uncle. How can I learn more about this program? My uncle has always been careful with his money, but he could benefit from a little help paying for care.
Veterans Benefits for Senior Care
Thank you for asking this question! It provides me with an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite programs. Like you, many veterans and their families aren’t aware of it. Commonly referred to as the Aid and Attendance benefit, it was created to ensure that those who served our nation and their surviving spouses receive the care they need.
Your uncle must meet certain eligibility criteria, including having served 90 days of active-duty service. At least one day of that service must have been during a recognized period of war.
Other eligibility requirements veterans such as your uncle must meet include:
- Age or disability: To receive this benefit, a veteran must be at least 65 years old or be totally and permanently disabled. Seniors who live in a nursing home or receive skilled nursing care may be eligible, as can veterans who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
- Financial criteria: There are both income and asset thresholds for veterans applying for the Aid and Attendance benefit. The Veterans Administration will look at the veteran’s overall net worth when determining eligibility.
- Physical condition: The veteran and/or their surviving spouse must also meet one of these conditions to be eligible:
- Be bedridden
- Live in a nursing home due to mental or physical limitations
- Be blind or nearly blind
- Require the aid of another person to perform everyday living tasks (e.g., dressing, bathing, feeding, toileting)
While families might think the process is too complicated, it’s important to know it can make a significant difference to veterans who qualify. The financial rewards change every year or two, but can range from $14,761 a year for a surviving spouse to $27,194 for a veteran with a spouse or child.
You can learn more by visiting the Pension Benefits area of the US Department of Veterans Affairs online. The staff at Heritage Senior Communities will also be happy to help answer questions. Call the community nearest you today!
Best of luck in your search, Nicole!
2020 has been quite a year! From political drama to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are a nation struggling to manage stress. News reports show negative behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse, are on the rise. When you are caring for a loved one with declining health, the days can be even more tumultuous. Finding productive ways to manage caregiver stress is essential, especially when you are a caregiver.
As we head toward a new year, it’s a good time to learn more about caregiver stress and explore positive ways to reduce it.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more adults are stepping into the caregiver role. As the average age of our population continues to rise, the number of family caregivers climbs with it. In fact, nearly 39.8 million adults in this country are caregivers for a friend or family member. That equates to almost 16% of the adult population.
An unfortunate consequence is caregivers are more likely to suffer a medical crisis of their own. Oftentimes, it is because they miss the warning signs of burnout. If you are a caregiver, review these common signals that indicate you need to make changes:
- Overwhelming anxiety
- Unintended weight gain or loss
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Stomachaches or other digestive problems
- Change in personality or disposition
- Fatigue that doesn’t improve with quality sleep
- Quick to anger or tearfulness
- Backaches and headaches
- Developing or escalating unhealthy habits (i.e., smoking or drinking)
- Losing touch with family, friends, social groups, and favorite hobbies
If these symptoms describe your current situation, it’s likely time to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They can perform a physical examination to assess your physical and mental well-being and offer suggestions for getting healthy.
Preventing and Managing Caregiver Stress
If you haven’t reached the point of caregiver burnout but know you need to make changes, these tips can help.
- Practice mindfulness: Science shows meditation, yoga, or similar activities that focus on good breathing and mindfulness can help you manage stress and anxiety. Taking even ten minutes to perform chair yoga or meditate can help you maintain better health. Apps like Calm and 10% Happier make it easier to meditate or practice yoga on the go.
- Eat well: Eating healthy usually takes more time than relying on convenience or fast foods. For busy caregivers, preparing healthy meals often seems impossible. Even grocery shopping can be a challenge. A home-delivered meal service, like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, or Freshly, might be a solution. Another option is to sign up for a local grocery store’s home delivery program or a national service, like Shipt. These options will save you time and provide fresh, healthy foods on a regular basis.
- Exercise: When you are tired and busy, exercise might not be a priority. However, engaging in a regular fitness program can actually improve your energy level and promote better sleep. While physicians usually recommend thirty minutes of exercise a day, you can break it up into smaller blocks. For example, begin your day with ten minutes of Pilates or yoga, take a brisk, ten-minute walk at lunch, and finish the day with ten minutes of resistance bands or stretching.
- Say “no”: Setting realistic expectations is important for all of us, but especially for caregivers. Give yourself permission to say “no” to activities you don’t have time for right now. Whether it’s coordinating a fundraiser at your church or synagogue or organizing the class reunion, remind yourself it’s okay to say “no” and focus on your family.
- Talk about or journal your feelings: Getting your feelings out can help you work through difficulties. Some people find it helpful to join an online caregiver support group. Others say journaling before bed helps them work through the emotional and physical demands of the day.
- Explore assisted living: If caregiver stress is putting your own health at risk, it might be time to consider assisted living. These communities allow residents to enjoy their best quality of life. From medication management programs to an environment designed with safety in mind, it’s worth exploring.
Bookmark the Heritage Blog
If you are a caregiver looking for ways to manage this demanding role, we encourage you to bookmark and visit this blog often. It’s an easy way to stay on top of trends and new research on aging, dementia, caregiving, and senior living.
Winter can be a beautiful time of year in Michigan and Indiana. Snowy days spent inside by the fire are serene and peaceful. However, ice and snow can cause difficulties, especially for older adults.
Storms can knock out power. Icy roads might make it tough to get to the grocery store or pharmacy. That’s why it’s important for family caregivers to help their senior loved ones prepare for the months ahead. If you aren’t sure how and where to get started, we have a few useful tips.
Senior Safety: Preparing for Winter in the Midwest
- Create a snow removal plan.
Icy, snowy drives and walkways present a serious fall risk for older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are a leading cause of injury among seniors. Before the worst of winter’s fury is upon us, make sure your loved one has a plan to keep their driveway and sidewalks cleared. If you aren’t able to assist them and don’t know a reliable contractor, call the local agency on aging. They often maintain a list of trustworthy companies.
- Stock the pantry.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how essential it is to keep the pantry well stocked. Winter reinforces that need. Having a storm-ready pantry means your older loved one (and you!) can safely remain indoors when a winter storm is brewing. Pack a box of staples that should only be opened during an emergency. In addition to food and water, make sure it contains extra medication and any necessary medical supplies, flashlights, batteries, and food for pets.
- Inspect the furnace.
The danger of monoxide poisoning escalates in the winter. If you haven’t already checked the furnace, it’s not too late. Call a nearby furnace company to schedule an inspection. Make sure the house has a carbon monoxide detector in good working condition. Also test the smoke detectors. Fire prevention specialists recommend placing a smoke detector on every level of a home, as well as near bedrooms. Read Fire Prevention Tips Older Adults Should Know to learn more.
- Check vehicles.
If your senior loved one is still driving, review the condition of their car and confirm it is up to date with required maintenance. It’s easy to overlook simple tasks, such as an oil change, when you aren’t driving much. Make sure your family elder keeps a phone charger in the vehicle. Another good idea is to put together a bag with a flashlight, batteries, energy bars, bottled water, and a blanket or two. In the event your family member is stranded on the road in bad weather, they’ll have some supplies.
Finally, consider whether the senior is still a safe driver. For older adults who are nervous behind the wheel of a car, winter can be especially tough. Talking with an Older Driver about Hanging Up the Car Keys offers tips to initiate the conversation.
You might be surprised to discover that your loved one has become a reluctant driver, but isn’t sure what other option they have. In fact, transportation is one of the most utilized services offered by senior living communities. New residents may initially continue driving, but are soon willing to give up the expenses and worries associated with owning a car. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more about our transportation programs.
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!