Care for the Caregiver: Convincing a Spouse It’s Time for a Change

Care for the Caregiver: Convincing a Spouse It’s Time for a Change

Dear Donna:

My wife and I have been married for over 50 years. Several years ago, I suffered a stroke. While I have recovered a lot of my abilities, I am not able to do nearly as much as I used to. Not only does my wife have to help me with personal care, but she’s now responsible for our home’s indoor and outdoor upkeep.

I’ve tried to convince my wife to slow down and ask for help. She’s not willing to do that nor is she interested in hiring a caregiver through a home care agency. I really think it’s time for us to move to a senior living community. It seems like a solution that would free her from some of her burdens and allow her to tend to her own well-being.

Any suggestions on what I can do? I’m afraid something will happen to my wife if she keeps up this pace.

Thanks in advance,

Steve in Saginaw, MI

Caring for the Reluctant Caregiver

Dear Steve:

Sounds as if you and your wife have been through some tough times together in recent years! It’s not unusual for a spouse to try to manage their partner’s care all alone. Many spouses are reluctant to ask for or accept help, often thinking no one will be as good a caregiver as they are. But you are right to be concerned about your wife’s health and well-being.

Family caregivers experience more incidences of health problems than their non-caregiving peers. Medical issues can range from back injuries and headaches to digestive disturbances and sleep problems. Since it sounds like you are trying to convince your wife that it’s time for a move, sharing the benefits of senior living communities with her may help change her mind.

I always remind family members that this is a process. It usually takes a series of conversations and community visits to help a reluctant spouse or parent accept the time for change has arrived. Remind your loved one of the advantages of a move. In a senior living community, you will be able to:

  • Enjoy your time together: With fewer chores and less household upkeep, you and your wife will have more time to enjoy each other’s
  • You can reconnect with favorite pastimes or tackle new ones together when you have more free time.
  • Protect your future: Find a kind way to remind your wife that by taking better care of herself, she protects both of your futures. Making time for routine health screenings is essential, as is staying physically fit. Opportunities to exercise, such as yoga, stretching classes, and walking groups, occur daily at senior living communities.
  • Eat wellbalanced meals: A healthy diet is an essential component to aging well. That’s true no matter what your circumstances. At senior living communities, residents enjoy nutritious meals every day. You’ll usually have a variety of menus to choose from. Instead of having to worry about preparing food, you and your wife can relax and chat at mealtimes.
  • Gain peace of mind: Some residents say a move to a senior living community is a gift they give their children. That’s true for spouses, as well. You will both gain peace of mind knowing your needs will be met and that you have quick access to help in the event of an emergency.

While these are just a few benefits you’ll gain by moving, they may be enough to change your wife’s perspective.

Please drop me a note if you have any additional questions I can answer!

Kind regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities

A family-owned, fourth generation provider of senior living, Heritage Senior Communities has locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana. With a well-earned reputation for quality care, Heritage offers independent living, assisted living, and memory care.

How to Start a Conversation about Assisted Living with a Senior

How to Start a Conversation about Assisted Living with a Senior

Dear Donna:

I’m heading home over Christmas to visit my mom in Traverse City, Michigan. When I was there this summer, I decided it’s time to talk with her about moving to an assisted living community.

While I’m hoping she is receptive to the idea, just the thought of bringing it up with her gives me anxiety. Mom still lives in the house she and my dad bought shortly after they were married. I know the emotional attachment she has to it.

Do you have any suggestions for how to initiate this discussion?

Sincerely,

Stacey

Dear Stacey:

Your apprehension isn’t uncommon. We often hear from adult children who say they dreaded starting “the talk” so much they kept putting it off. Then a crisis occurred, and they were scrambling to research and visit senior care options. It’s an unfortunate situation as you are less likely to make an informed choice in the middle of a crisis.

The best time to explore assisted living communities is before a loved one needs to move. Not only will the transition be smoother, but they will also find their quality of life improves. From nutrition to life enrichment activities, assisted living has much to offer. I have some tips that will help you feel more confident beginning the conversation with your mom.

4 Tips for Talking to a Senior about Assisted Living

  1. Research your options.

Before you initiate this conversation, spend some time online learning more about the different types of senior living. With enough background information, you may be able to answer your mom’s basic questions. This includes pricing, as it’s usually one of the first concerns seniors express about assisted living. Once you have a few communities that seem like good choices for your mom, call each one for more details.

COVID-19 protocols may limit the number of visitors some assisted living communities are allowing. Fortunately, most offer virtual tours which give you a better understanding of the community. That should provide you with enough information to discuss the community with your mom.

  1. Show empathy.

It’s tough to really understand how difficult giving up the family home can be for your mom, but it does help if you try to put yourself in her shoes. Be kind and empathetic, even if the conversation isn’t going as smoothly as you’d hoped. Even if your mom is fearful of living alone, the very idea of making a change can be difficult.

Another issue to keep in mind is that many seniors believe myths about assisted living communities. These misperceptions may make them fearful of moving. A few additional concerns seniors say prevent them from considering assisted living include:

  • Being forced to participate in activities
  • Losing their privacy and independence
  • Running out of money and having to move again
  • Worrying that family and friends won’t visit often

Take time to listen to your mother’s concerns and give reassurance.

  1. Be patient and listen.

Before you start the discussion, understand and accept that it’s rare for an older adult to agree to move during the first conversation. A decision is usually made after a series of talks and visits to assisted living communities. By being patient and actively listening, you will be better able to identify and address your mom’s concerns.

An easy, non-threatening way to begin the talk is by asking your mom how she feels about living alone. Is she afraid at night? Is she struggling to manage necessary household responsibilities? Does she feel lonely? Also, ask if any of her friends have moved to assisted living. This will allow you to gauge her feelings about the issue and ease into the conversation.

  1. Watch your body language.

It’s easy to become frustrated when you are worried about a senior loved one’s health and safety. Being mindful of your body language can also help this talk go a little smoother.

If your mom doesn’t immediately agree to a move, it’s important not to get mad or be heavy handed in trying to convince her. While you may not verbalize your impatience, your tone and body language can give you away. Crossing your arms, using a sharp tone of voice, and avoiding eye contact are a few behaviors to be aware of if things don’t go like you hope.

Assisted Living at Heritage Senior Communities

I hope these suggestions help you and your mom work together to find a solution. Depending upon where your search for assisted living takes you, I’d also like to extend an open invitation to consider Heritage Senior Communities. With locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, you’ll likely find an assisted living community your mom will be happy to call home!

Kind regards,

Donna

Holiday Respite Services Help Busy Family Caregivers

Holiday Respite Services Help Busy Family Caregivers

The holidays are a hectic time of year for everyone, especially family caregivers. For some, the season’s festivities include traveling to a loved one’s house many miles away to celebrate. For others, it means hosting a gathering. When you are the primary caregiver for a senior loved one, however, the holiday season can be complicated. This is particularly true if the elder you are caregiving for can’t stay alone but isn’t up for traveling.

One solution to explore is respite care at a nearby assisted living community.

Short-Term Stays in Assisted Living Communities

Respite care is convenient when a caregiver needs a break. Health care professionals often recommend family caregivers use it regularly to protect their own health and well-being. But many also use it when they want to enjoy a getaway with their own family or travel for business.

Senior living communities welcome these short-term guests year-round. Some guests will come for a few days each month, while others might stay for a few weeks or longer. The community’s team members are experienced at helping respite visitors settle in and quickly feel comfortable.

Respite guests enjoy the same care, support services, and amenities as long-term residents. From well-balanced meals and healthy snacks to transportation services and medication assistance, it’s an environment designed to enhance quality of life for older adults.

Holiday Respite at an Assisted Living Community

While you might feel guilty at the idea of leaving a senior in an assisted living community during the holidays, take comfort in knowing they will still enjoy a festive atmosphere. Assisted living communities usually have an activities calendar filled with holiday events for residents to enjoy. They range from youth groups caroling on the lawn to cookie baking parties and family nights.

For family caregivers, knowing a loved one is relaxed and enjoying the festivities with peers brings peace of mind. It will allow you to make the most of the season, too.

Respite Guest Admission Criteria

Respite admission criteria varies widely by state and community. Some states have minimal admission criteria, while others require a complete physical, a chest X-ray, and more. Your senior loved one will likely have to show proof of vaccination for COVID-19 or a negative coronavirus test.

Make sure you ask each assisted living community you contact about their admission requirements for respite guests.

Holiday Respite Can Be a Trial Stay

Another huge benefit of respite care is older adults get to know the staff and other residents of an assisted living community in an unthreatening, welcoming way. If they’ve been on the fence about making a permanent move, this may help them decide.

Since respite care is often popular during the holidays, it is best to book your loved one’s stay as far in advance as you can. Call the Heritage Senior Community near you to learn more!

Is It Safe to Leave Town While a Loved One Is in Respite?

Is It Safe to Leave Town While a Loved One Is in Respite?

Dear Donna:

My father moved in with my husband and me due to concerns about his poor nutrition and weight loss. While his health has improved, he’s still unsteady on his feet. He’s just not safe alone.

We have an out-of-town wedding coming up that we would love to attend. I’ve started researching respite care at local assisted living communities for my dad to stay at while we are gone. I’m hoping it’s the right option.

Most of what I’ve read indicates respite gives caregivers a break. My concern is whether we can go out of town while my dad is at the assisted living community. It’s only a few hours’ drive, but I am wondering how the staff would handle it if dad had an emergency while we were away.

Any insight into respite care would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Laine in Ypsilanti, Michigan

Understanding Respite Care in Assisted Living

Dear Laine:

Great question! Respite is designed to give caregivers a break, and that includes going out of town. If an emergency were to occur, the staff at the assisted living community would follow well-established protocols. They’ll contact you immediately and keep you informed, just as they would the family of any long-term resident.

Respite guests also benefit from the same level of personal care and support as permanent residents, such as:

  • Furnished space: Respite guests have a fully furnished apartment or suite with safety features, like an emergency call system, grab bars, and handrails. You can also bring some of your dad’s favorite belongings to make it feel like home, such as photos or a favorite blanket.
  • Onsite caregivers 24/7: You’ll have peace of mind knowing caregivers are nearby day and night. Should your dad need a helping hand getting to the bathroom or taking his morning shower, staff will be close by.
  • Nutritious meals: Three well-balanced meals and healthy snacks are provided every day. Respite guests usually have their choice of meals and mealtimes.
  • Daily life enrichment activities: There are a variety of opportunities to participate in daily life enrichment programs and wellness activities. Some popular ones are art workshops, fitness programs, book clubs, and gardening.
  • Transportation: Another advantage of respite care is transportation services. If your dad needs to get to the dentist or attend another appointment, transportation can likely be arranged.
  • Medication assistance: Respite care also includes some form of medication management. As mistakes with medication are more common with age, this is an important service to take advantage of during a respite stay.
  • Laundry and housekeeping: Respite guests also benefit from laundry and housekeeping services. The frequency of both varies by community and resident need.

If you have more questions about respite care, call the nearest Heritage Senior Community. One of our experienced team members will be happy to help!

Kind regards,

Donna

How to Help a Parent with Medicare Open Enrollment

How to Help a Parent with Medicare Open Enrollment

Dear Donna:

My mother asked me to help her navigate the Medicare Open Enrollment period this year, which I am happy to do. The problem is I don’t know much about Medicare. I’m not yet eligible for the benefit, so I’m not sure where to start.

Can you offer any suggestions on what we should know and look for to ensure we make good choices?

Sincerely,

Laurie in Brighton, MI

Overview of Medicare Open Enrollment

Dear Laurie:

While Medicare provides recipients with many benefits, it can be tough to navigate at first! Once you’ve been through open enrollment a few times, it becomes easier.

The first thing to know is Medicare Open Enrollment takes place from October 15th to December 7th every year. During this time, Medicare recipients can make changes to their existing plan. While you aren’t required to make any changes, it’s important to check that your mom’s preferred doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies will continue to participate in Medicare for 2022.

Your mother should have received two important documents in the mail: “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) and “Annual Notice of Changes” (ANOC). These list any scheduled changes to your mother’s plan for the upcoming year. But these documents probably aren’t the only ones filling your mother’s mailbox.

Because more seniors are enrolling in Medicare Advantage plans, Advantage providers have significantly increased their marketing efforts. So, your mother is likely receiving packets of literature from these providers, too. Review those packets of information to explore other options for 2022. Make sure to read more about Medicare Advantage plans on the official Medicare website if you and your mom are considering enrolling her in one.

Tips for Medicare Open Enrollment

To make the most of Medicare Open Enrollment this fall, you should:

  • Start your review early: For most seniors, this is the one time of year they can make changes. Don’t wait until late November to get started only to discover that you have questions or concerns you need answered before your mom can re-enroll.
  • Utilize the four C’s: The National Council on Aging (NCOA) encourages Medicare recipients to keep the four C’s in mind as they are reviewing options. They are cost, coverage, convenience, and choice. Compare last year’s medical bills, provider locations, and any anticipated medications or services your mom might need in 2022 with the four C’s.
  • Review drug coverage: If your mother doesn’t take many prescription medications, it’s easy to overlook how expensive they can be. Should your mother have a change in health or require surgery, medication costs can quickly add up. That’s why it’s important to take time to explore your options. Also investigate Medicare Advantage plans if your current plan doesn’t cover prescriptions or has a high co-pay. Other plans may offer better coverage.

If you find this process confusing, you aren’t alone. The good news is Medicare has tools and team members that can help. The Medicare Finder Tool allows Medicare eligible seniors to search by zip code to find plans in their area. You can also review each plan’s quality score or star rating.

I hope this information helps, Laurie! Good luck finding your way through Medicare Open Enrollment.

Kind regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities Blog

If you found this article helpful, we invite you to bookmark our blog and stop back each week. We publish new information on topics ranging from hiring a contractor for a senior’s home to utilizing respite care.

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!