Caregiver Meal Planning: Hearty, Healthy Soups for Fall

Caregiver Meal Planning: Hearty, Healthy Soups for Fall

Finding the time for nutritious meal planning and preparation can be tough when you are a busy caregiver. Family caregivers who are caring for a senior loved one are notorious for skipping meals or grabbing something fast at a drive-thru. Good nutrition is essential for your health at every stage in life, especially when your days are hectic and stressful.

One easy menu item to consider this fall and winter is soup. Soups can be easy to make and freeze or cook in the crockpot while you’re busy with other tasks. The key is to choose wisely so you don’t end up with meals that are too high in sodium, fat, or calories.

Nutritious Soup Recipes for Busy Caregivers

Here are a few recipes to try out as cold weather arrives:

  • 5-Ingredient White Chicken Chili: This quick soup is a good source of protein. Make it extra nourishing by substituting part of the chicken stock for bone broth. Add some avocado slices as a topping to benefit from its healthy fats.
  • Mushroom Quinoa Soup: Protein-packed quinoa makes a tasty addition to almost any soup. Along with several kinds of mushrooms, you can also throw in vegetables like carrots, celery, and baby corn.
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Soup: Red bell pepper, butternut squash, goat cheese, and a bit of bacon are sure to make this hearty soup a new favorite. You can easily freeze it to serve on your busiest days.
  • Mushroom Barley Soup: This tasty soup is rich in fiber, selenium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. Each is good for your health. In addition, the fiber it contains will help you feel full longer and avoid overeating.
  • Thai Pumpkin Noodle Soup with Crunchy Chickpeas: As tasty as it is beautiful, this is sure to become a new favorite. It contains pumpkin, natural peanut butter, pomegranate arils, broccoli, and more.

Diet and Health

A nutritious diet can have many positive effects on your overall health. That’s true for older adults and family caregivers. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) says the following are just a few of the many benefits of eating healthfully:

  • Less money spent on medication
  • Fewer doctor visits
  • More energy and stamina
  • Better overall health

Planning and preparing foods that are as delicious as they are healthy can help you look and feel good, too.

Eat Well at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we recognize the important role nutrition plays in residents’ lives. Through our Heritage Hospitality program, residents can choose from a variety of delicious dishes at every meal. Each one is served up fresh in our formal dining room.

If you are searching for senior living for an older adult in your family, we invite you to call the Heritage community closest to you to learn more today!

Beyond COVID-19: The Vaccines Seniors Might Need

Beyond COVID-19: The Vaccines Seniors Might Need

The coronavirus has generated a great deal of attention about vaccines over the last year and a half. Everything from the way clinical trials operate to how research is funded has been highlighted again and again in the media. Vaccines to prevent COVID-19 came to market quicker than expected, and the rollout is much improved in 2021. While these are important immunizations to discuss with your physician, there are many other health conditions for which a vaccine is available.

From a newer, two-part version of the shingles vaccine to the different types of pneumonia immunization, older adults can protect themselves from a variety of diseases. If you are a senior, this list might be useful for speaking with your primary care physician about which vaccines you need and when.

5 Vaccines Seniors Should Consider

  • The influenza shot: When an older adult develops the flu, it can be more than just an annoyance. Seniors account for half of all flu-related hospitalizations and an estimated 75 percent of all deaths. The vaccine is adjusted every year to protect against the flu strains predicted to be most prevalent for the upcoming season. Many myths surround the annual flu shot, so make sure the older adults in your life talk with their doctor if they have any concerns. Physicians generally suggest senior patients receive the flu shot in early October to have adequate time to build immunity.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine: Pneumonia can be another dangerous medical condition for seniors. According to the AARP, older adults should discuss two different pneumonia vaccines with their doctor. First, a dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), and one year later a dose of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). Those who are considered to be high risk might be encouraged to get one dose each of PCV13 and PPSV23 eight weeks apart even if they are under the age of 65.
  • Shingrix vaccine: Shingles causes a rash with skin blisters that can sometimes lead to permanent nerve damage. It can be extremely painful and difficult to resolve. The newest version of the shingles immunization is Shingrix. Seniors who opt for this vaccination will receive two doses of Shingrix two to six months apart. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this vaccine offers a much higher level of protection than those of the past. So, if you previously received a different type of shingles vaccine, you’ll still want to have both doses of Shingrix.
  • Tdap and Td booster: Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough) are all serious health conditions the Tdap vaccine protects against. Physicians generally suggest people have the Tdap vaccine once and then receive the Td booster every ten years. This is especially important for seniors who spend time around children under 12 months of age.
  • Hepatitis A or B: Depending upon your lifestyle and personal risk factors, your physician may also recommend a Hepatitis A or B vaccine. Hepatitis can be a serious health problem causing liver damage. Each of these vaccines is comprised of a series of shots given over a period of months.

Wellness Plan for Seniors

Immunizations are just one part of an overall wellness plan for older adults. Another important piece is to work with a primary care physician on a health screening schedule. This quick overview of the cancer screenings you should consider having and when. Make sure to discuss it with your primary care physician during your next Medicare Wellness Visit.

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How Respite Allows Caregivers to Take a Vacation

How Respite Allows Caregivers to Take a Vacation

June, July, and August are traditionally busy vacation months for families because the kids are out of school. From road trips to visits to faraway grandparents and beach getaways, it’s something everyone looks forward to all year. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic kept people home last summer. “Staycations” became more popular than ever as people planned creative getaways in their own backyards.

As coronavirus restrictions ease, many families are gearing up for long-awaited summer vacations. A challenge some face is what to do about a senior loved one who isn’t able to travel. Adult children who’ve taken on the role of caregiver for an aging parent might think a vacation isn’t in the cards for them.

Unpaid Family Caregivers

More people find themselves in the role of an unpaid family caregiver. They play a crucial role in the health and well-being of loved ones. The AARP estimates that one in five adults, or 53 million people, are unpaid family caregivers. It’s a rewarding but often exhausting role.

Family caregivers are often required to be “on call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even if their senior loved one doesn’t live with them. It’s a physically and emotionally demanding situation that can take a toll on the caregiver’s health. That’s why it’s necessary to take regular breaks, including vacations with family and close friends.

Respite care is one solution caregivers can consider. It can bridge the gap in supporting the senior so family members can relax and enjoy a vacation.

Respite Care Allows Family Caregivers to Take a Vacation

Respite care is a short-term solution designed to give a family caregiver a break. A caregiver can utilize respite at a senior living community for a short period of time to take care of personal needs or for a long getaway. Many communities allow respite guests to stay for a month at a time as often as they would like.

Respite residents receive the same level of personal care and support as the community’s permanent residents. At most communities, respite guests will enjoy:

  • A private, furnished apartment or suite with safety features that generally include an emergency call system, grab bars in the bathroom, and handrails in hallways
  • Assistance with personal care needs, such as bathing, grooming, and dressing
  • Three healthy meals a day from a restaurant-style menu
  • Medication oversight, including reminders and assistance at dosage time
  • Diverse calendar of daily life enrichment activities and fitness programs
  • Transportation to physician appointments and outings to local restaurants, shopping centers, and other popular destinations
  • Weekly laundry and housekeeping services, as well as any maintenance and repair work that might arise

Learn More About Respite Care for Caregivers

If your family could benefit from respite care, call a few local senior living communities. Ask to schedule an in-person or virtual tour. It’s the best way to determine if respite care and the community are a good fit for your senior loved one. For families in Michigan and Indiana, we invite you to call the Heritage Senior Living community nearest you to learn more!

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.


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,


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.



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!