Practicing Self-Care as a Caregiver

Practicing Self-Care as a Caregiver

Dear Donna:

My aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. She was able to remain in her own home for a while, but she moved in with my husband and I almost two years ago. We are her only remaining family members and are happy to take care of her.

Shortly after my aunt came to live with us, I left my job. We felt like it wasn’t safe for her to stay alone, and it was the best decision at the time. It’s gotten tougher to keep up with her recently as she’s started to wander from home. My husband and I are both sleep deprived and tired. We need to figure out a better way to do this so we don’t put our own health at risk.

Do you have any suggestions for us that don’t involve moving my aunt somewhere else? We aren’t ready for that.

Gratefully,

Melissa in Grand Haven, MI

Care for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Dear Melissa:

We hear this question so often from family members who are caring for a loved one. It’s especially difficult when the senior has Alzheimer’s disease. The challenges of caregiving for someone with a memory impairment are unique and oftentimes demanding. For many caregivers, the role feels overwhelming when their family member begins wandering.

Because an estimated six in ten adults with Alzheimer’s will wander, it’s a situation many families find themselves in. Caregivers often say it feels like their loved one can go days without sleeping. Since it sounds like you might feel this way, I do have some advice on decreasing the risk for wandering. If you can first manage that difficult behavior, it might be easier to practice healthy self-care.

  • Structured days: People with memory loss often respond better to structured days. Experts recommend rising at the same time each morning, serving meals on a schedule, and having a consistent bedtime.
  • Meaningful activity: Boredom is believed to be a potential risk for wandering. If you plan productive, engaging activities for your aunt, she might feel more satisfied and be less likely to wander. Arts and craft projects, housework help, or moderate fitness activities are other good options.
  • Less evening stimulus: Try clustering your aunt’s outings and physical fitness to the early part of the day and wind down in the afternoon and evening. That may help promote sleep.
  • Helpful technology: If you don’t already have one, it might give you peace of mind to install a home security system with door sensors. You might sleep easier knowing an alarm will sound if your aunt tries to leave. Also consider providing her with a GPS tracking pendant or watch. In the event she does wander, you’ll be able to locate her quickly and easily.

It’s also important to take care of yourself while you are caring for your aunt. Family members often think self-care is a luxury they don’t have time for. Remind yourself that your aunt likely needs your help for a long time to come and protecting your own health is vital.

  • Connect with a support group: Whether it’s in person or online, support groups are a great outlet. Talking through your situation with peers who can relate will help. Other members might even recommend local caregiver resources you weren’t even aware of.
  • Eat healthy: Nutrition is a non-negotiable for your aunt, as well as for you and your husband. Fortunately, meal delivery services make that a little easier. Consider trying one for several meals a week and supplement with your own cooking in between. Cooking meals in batches and freezing them also makes mealtime easier.
  • Explore respite care options: Another recommendation is to explore local assisted living and memory care communities to see which ones offer respite. These short-term stays are designed to give caregivers a break. You could take advantage of this program once or twice a month to give you and your husband a break. Your aunt would receive the same care and support as a long-term resident of the community.

I hope these suggestions help make this time easier and healthier for your entire family!

Kind regards,

Donna

Respite Care at Heritage

With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage is a leading provider of care for adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. That includes respite services. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!

How to Convince a Senior Parent to Accept Help

How to Convince a Senior Parent to Accept Help

Dear Donna:

My parents are both almost 86 years old. They live alone in an older home with a considerable amount of property. Because they live over an hour away, it’s difficult for me to visit as often as they need.

They’ve managed fairly well on their own until recently. My dad has had a couple of bad falls. The last time he fell, my mom had to call a neighbor for help. I know the risk of serious injury is high for older adults and how important it is to try to prevent falls.

My husband and I have decided our first step will be convincing my parents to hire a home care agency to help. We are hoping if they get comfortable accepting assistance, they might be more willing to move to a senior living community in a few years.

Do you have any advice for talking with my parents? I’m not sure how to start this conversation.

Kind regards,

Colette in Midland, MI

Talking with Parents about Senior Care

Dear Colette:
It sounds like you’ve thought this through and are on the right track! But I know that doesn’t make it easier. Starting a conversation about senior care with a parent can make you feel uneasy. Adult children often delay bringing up the topic to avoid upsetting an elder they love.

In some cases, families don’t have a serious talk about the future until an accident or illness forces the discussion. If you wait until a crisis occurs, it will likely be even more stressful. A crisis may also force you to rush through the process of exploring your options. You are less likely to make an informed choice under duress.

A few tips to help you initiate a conversation about care are:

  • Do your homework: Talk with a few home care agencies and even two or three senior living communities. You’ll feel more confident having a conversation with your parents when you better understand senior care as a whole.
  • Be mindful: When you are frightened about a loved one’s safety, it’s easy to become forceful and seem unsympathetic. That will likely put your parents on the defensive, especially if they aren’t receptive to making this change. By demonstrating patience and empathy, you might be able to open the dialogue.
  • Talk often: Despite how much an adult child might want the conversation to be quick and easy, it usually isn’t. In most circumstances, it will take a series of discussions over a few weeks or months.
  • Start small: If your parents are resistant, it might help to start small and find some middle ground. Will your father agree to wear an emergency alert pendant or watch? Maybe they would agree to a few hours of assistance with chores that might be a little riskier for them, such as laundry, grocery shopping, and taking out the trash.
  • Enlist their physician: It may also help if your parents’ primary care physician can join the discussion. If it’s time for a physical or if your father needs follow-up from his fall, seek the doctor’s input. Their influence might be what your parents need to hear to agree to make some changes.

I hope this information is useful to you, Colette! Best of luck to you and your parents.

Sincerely,

Donna

About Heritage Senior Communities

For four generations, Heritage Senior Communities has been a family-owned and -operated company. We are dedicated to providing older adults with quality senior housing and licensed assisted living. With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, we are one of the Midwest’s most trusted names in senior living.

We encourage you to call the community nearest you if the need for independent living, assisted living, or memory care should arise!

How to Create a Family Cookbook in Honor of Mother’s Day

How to Create a Family Cookbook in Honor of Mother’s Day

If you are looking for a meaningful Mother’s Day gift a senior loved one and the entire family will appreciate, consider creating a family cookbook. Several generations can work together to create a permanent keepsake to treasure. It can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Tips for Developing a Family Cookbook

  • Gather recipes: Reach out to family and friends who you would like to include in the cookbook. Would you like to limit it to multiple recipes from your immediate family? Or are you hoping to have fewer recipes but from a broader network of loved ones? The first step in creating your cookbook is determining how many recipes it will include.
  • Consider your budget: Determine how much you will have to spend on the project. Will you be financing it entirely on your own, or are other family members able to pitch in? Even if funds are limited, you’ll still be able to create a cookbook. It will just be a simple version.

Once you’ve determined your cookbook’s scope and budget, you can explore your options. There are a variety of online resources that allow you to add photos, recipes, embellishments, and more to your personal cookbook. Some helpful websites are:

  • Shutterfly: This site makes it easy to develop cookbooks in a variety of sizes. You can also opt for softcover or hardcover books. Prices begin at under $10 a book.
  • Heritage Cookbook: Another budget-friendly option, Heritage allows you to create cookbooks in a variety of formats. They range from plastic coil or wire bound to softcover and hardcover. Each book can hold about 60 recipes. A minimum order of four is required with a starting price of $11.25 a book.
  • Create My Cookbook: From gifts to fundraisers, this site allows you to put together your own cookbook. They even have an ebook option. You can buy books individually or in bulk.
  • Snapfish: You can easily create a softbound or hardbound cookbook for under $13 using this online program. It’s available in two different sizes with up to 150 pages.

Whatever platform you decide to utilize, the result will be a family heirloom you’ll all treasure for years.

If you are looking for other gift ideas to honor the senior women in your life on Mother’s Day, we have some you might want to consider. Mother’s Day Gifts Ideas for Grandma has suggestions for splurge and sentimental gifts, as well as those to support wellness and life-long learning.

Learn More about Heritage Senior Communities

If you or a senior loved one is interested in senior living in Michigan or Indiana, we invite you to consider Heritage. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Does My Dad Need a New Doctor?

Does My Dad Need a New Doctor?

Dear Donna:

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!

Sincerely,

Lisa

Is It Time for a New Physician for a Senior Loved One?

Dear Lisa:

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Location: While a good doctor is worth driving farther for, a great distance can be tough if your dad needs to visit often.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Kind regards,

Donna

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.

5 Tips for Beating the Caregiver Blues This Winter

5 Tips for Beating the Caregiver Blues This Winter

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

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.

Best,

Nicole

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,

Donna