Are There Senior Care Benefits for Veterans?

Are There Senior Care Benefits for Veterans?

Dear Donna:

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

Dear Nicole:
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!

Kind regards,


6 Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

6 Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Creating a Winter Safety Plan for a Senior Loved One

Creating a Winter Safety Plan for a Senior Loved One

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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!

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!

How to Help a Senior Parent Make New Friends

How to Help a Senior Parent Make New Friends

Dear Donna:

My mother is in the process of selling her home in Florida and relocating to Michigan to live with me. While she is excited to make the move, I know it won’t be easy for her. She has a lot of friends in her active living community. Moving will mean starting over.

How can I help her meet people her own age once she arrives? Any ideas would be appreciated.

Thank you for your help!

Steven in Saginaw, Michigan


Making Friends During Retirement


Dear Steven:

Maintaining a close circle of friends is essential at every age. From encouraging healthy habits to lending a friendly ear on difficult days, friends play a role in our quality of life.

Like your mother, older adults often move during retirement. Rebuilding their social circle might feel intimidating. Here are a few tips you can share with your mom after she’s settled in:

  • Volunteer for a nonprofit: One avenue to help your mom meet like-minded people is to volunteer. Help her choose an organization that matches her interests and talents. Her local United Way might be a good place to start searching for a volunteer opportunity.
  • Enroll in a class: Another way your mom can meet new people while also giving her brain a workout is a class. Parks, libraries, art museums, bakeries, and community colleges often offer workshops and classes. Some might give older adults a discount.
  • Connect with a fitness group: Friends often influence your health, for better or worse. Helping your mom find a group of fitness-conscious seniors to spend time with may keep her healthier and
  • Find a hobby-related club: Connecting over common interests is a great way to grow a friendship. If your mom is a gardener, for example, explore local garden clubs together. Think about her favorite pastimes and research them before she arrives.
  • Explore spiritual organizations: It’s common for older adults to take a greater interest in spiritual activities. Your mom might appreciate it if you help her find a church or synagogue. It will allow her to nurture her spirit and meet new people.
  • Join a senior center: Most cities and counties have senior centers. These nonprofit organizations host programs and activities for members every day. Getting involved will allow her to quickly expand her social network after the move.

With a little effort, your mom will likely find a host of ways to make the transition to Michigan go smoothly. Best of luck to both of you, Steven!

Kind regards,



Make New Friends at Heritage Senior Communities


Senior living communities are a great way for older adults to stay actively engaged in life. Formal and informal opportunities for connecting and staying active abound. Call the Heritage community nearest you and ask for a copy of a resident activity calendar. You’ll find activities for every hobby and interest!