When you are caring for a senior loved one at home, taking a vacation might not be feasible. That’s especially true when your family member has Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia. The good news is you can take a vacation without leaving home. It’s called a staycation.
Here are a few tips for planning a staycation before winter makes its return to Michigan and Indiana.
Planning a Vacation at Home
If you aren’t familiar with the term, a staycation is simply a shorthand way of saying you’ll be taking time out to relax at home or to enjoy day trips. This trend became more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a good way to save money or to include a family elder for whom traveling isn’t safe.
Here are some tips for family caregivers who are planning a relaxing staycation this summer:
- Pick the dates: While it may be tricky if you’re including friends and family, set a date for your staycation. Putting it on the calendar might help you commit to taking a break and enjoying yourself.
- Consider extra help: If you’d like your staycation to be truly relaxing, consider utilizing respite services from an assisted living community or a local home care agency. Your senior loved one will get the care they need while you enjoy a break from those responsibilities. It will also give you a chance to enjoy more day trips.
- Set a budget: While a staycation is likely more budget friendly than a vacation, the costs can add up quickly. Before you start making arrangements, think about how much you can realistically spend. That will help you plan.
- Plan around your interests: Do you love going on garden tours or visiting unique nurseries and greenhouses? Or do you enjoy making art? Think about what your favorite hobbies are and look for opportunities to explore them close to home.
- Pamper at home: Another fun and relaxing idea is a spa day at home with a few friends. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose. You might want to hire a massage therapist or a professional nail technician to pamper you and your guests.
- Go day tripping: If you’d like to wander a little, pull out a map or find one online. Decide how far you are willing to drive and look for destinations you haven’t explored before. Sites like Viator and GetYourGuide can assist you in locating activities you’ve probably never heard of, such as haunted house tours and hot air balloon rides.
Respite Care Gives Caregivers a Break
Whether it’s a staycation at home or a true getaway, respite care allows family caregivers to take a break. Your family member can be a guest at one of our communities on a short-term basis and receive all of the benefits and services residents do. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!
My mom is in the early stages of dementia. One struggle I’m having is keeping her hydrated. As we head into summer, I’m worried she’ll end up sick. Some days she’ll drink water easily, but other times her glass will sit untouched all day. I just can’t figure it out.
Do you have any suggestions?
Chris in Traverse City, MI
Preventing Dehydration in a Senior with Dementia
You aren’t alone in this struggle! It’s fairly common in people with all types of dementia. You are correct to want to address it. As little as a two percent loss in body fluid can lead to mild dehydration. That can cause headaches, constipation, sluggishness, and fatigue.
Experts say there are a variety of reasons people with dementia don’t drink enough water:
- Forgetfulness: This classic symptom of dementia puts seniors at increased risk for dehydration. An older adult with memory loss may simply forget to drink water.
- Fear of water: Some adults with Alzheimer’s develop a fear of water. If that’s the type of dementia your mom has, it might be part of the issue. You might also notice her getting anxious and agitated with other water-related tasks, especially bathing and showering. Just the sound of water running can cause fear for some.
- Difficulty swallowing: The physical damage dementia causes to the brain can lead to problems swallowing, a condition known as dysphagia. An older person might avoid drinking because they are afraid of choking.
- Impaired abstract thought: As Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia progress, the person living with it may lose the ability to problem solve. While they might feel thirsty—though some also lose the ability to recognize thirst—they might not know what to do about it.
If any of these may be concerns for your mother, you can work on ways to help her stay hydrated.
Tips to Help a Senior with Dementia Stay Hydrated
Here are suggestions that might be helpful:
- Frequent prompts: If memory loss is the culprit, make sure to prompt your mom to drink frequently throughout the day. It often helps to keep a bottle of water with you and drink often to encourage her to model the behavior.
- Dark drinking glass: Some have found that using dark drinking glasses and bottles works for their loved one. Fill a few when the senior isn’t in the room to hear the water running and store them in the refrigerator.
- Foods that hydrate: Many fruits and vegetables have a high water content. It’s a great way to increase daily hydration. If you don’t already, incorporate leafy greens, celery, berries, melon, cucumber, tomatoes, and apples into her daily diet. Clear soup and bone broth are other good choices.
- Water enhancers: Use fruits and vegetables to make water look and taste more appealing. Lemon slices, cucumber, mint sprigs, strawberries, and blueberries are all good choices.
- Medication review: Schedule time to review your mom’s medications with her pharmacist. If she takes any that increase the risk for dehydration, talk with her primary care physician. They may be able to swap it.
Thanks for contacting me for suggestions! I hope that you find this information beneficial.
Learn More about Dementia Care at Heritage
It takes special training and thoughtful attention to detail to allow adults with all types of dementia to enjoy their best quality of life. Read more about the Heritage approach and where to find a community near you by visiting the Specialized Dementia Care page on our website.
I watched a segment on the news about June being Men’s Health Month. It made me realize that my dad hasn’t been to the doctor since my mom passed away almost two years ago. She was the one who always kept him on track. He’s always been terrible about scheduling physicals and preventive screenings.
I want to discuss it with him this weekend, but I’m anxious about it. Do you have any suggestions I can use to convince my dad it’s important to see the doctor even if he’s not feeling sick? I could use a little advice!
Kim in Midland, MI
Why It’s Important to See the Doctor on a Regular Basis
I wish I could tell you how often we hear this concern from women about the men in their lives! Cleveland Clinic actually surveyed men on this topic and found they would do just about anything not to see the doctor. In fact, only about half of the men they spoke with have an annual physical regularly.
The survey found that some men were conditioned from a young age not to discuss or complain about their health. Other reasons men cited for not seeing the doctor included not wanting to know if they had a medical issue, an unwillingness to change their lifestyle, and embarrassment. This information might give you some insight as to why your dad won’t see his doctor as often as he should. That may be helpful in overcoming his reluctance.
Another factor to consider is whether he’s comfortable with his current doctor. Maybe he is seeing a female physician and would prefer a male. A lack of experience with older adults is another reason a doctor may not connect with a senior. While a physician doesn’t necessarily need to be a geriatrician, finding someone who is knowledgeable and a good listener is vital. If the two of you decide it’s time for your dad to make a change, “4 Tips for Helping a Senior Find a Primary Care Doctor” has some good tips.
One last suggestion is to start with a virtual or telehealth appointment. Most physician offices started offering these during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s to meet and greet with a new doctor or check in with his current one, it’s worth calling to see if this is an option for a reluctant patient.
I hope this helps you! Best of luck speaking with your dad.
Summer Is a Great Time to Explore Senior Living
With communities across Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage Senior Communities has a rich tradition of caring for older adults. If you are an adult child helping care for an aging parent, planning now for future care needs is important. We extend an open invitation to you to visit one of our communities to learn more. Call the location nearest you to set up a time today!
My career keeps me on the go and includes frequent moves to new cities. It’s always been fun for my parents to visit me and explore new destinations. In recent years, however, they’ve both slowed down quite a bit. Neither one is comfortable traveling far from their Michigan home anymore, and they both have chronic health conditions.
I’m struggling to help keep them safe and healthy from a distance. Do you have any suggestions for long-distance caregivers? Any advice would be much appreciated!
Offering Support to Aging Parents Long-Distance
In today’s transient society, this is a dilemma many families face. It’s common for adult children to be separated from aging parents by many miles. One advantage today’s long-distance caregivers have over those of the past is technology.
There are products and apps that can meet virtually any caregiving challenge, such as:
- Organizing information: Since you mentioned your parents have chronic health conditions, staying organized can be tough. Fortunately, apps like Caring Village and CareZone can help. Both digitally store medication lists, medical history, physician contact information, and more. You can also share access with friends and other family members who help your parents. That will make it easier to keep everyone in the loop.
- Managing medications: Mistakes with medication are a common reason seniors end up seeking treatment in a hospital emergency department. It can be a constant source of worry for loved ones, especially those who aren’t close enough to personally monitor compliance. Technology can help lower the risk for errors. For example, MedMinder is a medication management tool with many safety features. One option long-distance caregivers appreciate is receiving text alerts whenever a parent’s medication dose is missed.
- Assessing needs virtually: One form of technology many families grew accustomed to during the COVID-19 pandemic is video chat. Most used Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime to stay connected. As a long-distance caregiver, you can use video chat to enjoy a conversation with your parents while visually assessing how they are doing. Unintentional weight gain or loss, flushed cheeks, or a disheveled appearance can be early signs that something is wrong.
- Calling for help: Another tip is to invest in an emergency call alert system that each of your parents wears or keeps in a pocket at all times. In the event they experience a fall or other emergency, help can be summoned with the push of a button. Because many of these devices operate off of wireless technology, they can work wherever a senior is.
Create a Back-Up Care Plan
Another suggestion for long-distance caregivers is to create a back-up care plan. While your parents might be able to work together to handle tasks around the home now, emergencies occur. It’s a good idea to schedule a trip home so you can tour assisted living communities, talk with home care agencies, and meet with their doctor. Create a list of care providers that you like and could call if one of your parents needs more assistance.
With senior living communities all across Michigan, we hope you will put Heritage on your list of places to visit when you are in town!
My dad has been living alone for almost six years now. Until about two years ago, he was strong, active, and independent. Then he had a bad fall and his health has declined significantly. Because his house was built decades ago, it’s not a very supportive environment for a senior. I worry he will fall again.
After speaking with his nurse practitioner about options, it’s become obvious that he needs to move to an assisted living community. I know his nutrition and overall well-being will improve. However, I don’t know how to start this discussion with my dad.
Do you have any suggestions?
Tips to Start a Conversation about Assisted Living with a Parent
Great question! Adult children and even grandchildren frequently ask us for this advice. Loved ones want to ensure their family member has the care and support needed without hurting their feelings or pride.
A few tips that might be useful for having a productive discussion with your dad include:
- Using kind language: Try not to use forceful phrases like “you have to” or “you need to.” Instead, tell your parent that you are worried about them or that you are concerned about their health and safety. It will help them to be a part of the process rather than feel they are being forced into something. Your tone of voice matters, as does your body language.
- Bringing up assisted living indirectly: You can share stories about a friend whose parent has recently moved to an assisted living community. Talk about how they are thriving and how well it’s working out. By planting a seed and waiting a few days, your dad might have time to think about it in a positive way.
- Sharing your own fears: Telling a parent that it’s hard for you to see them struggle with age-related health issues is a great way to begin the conversation. So is sharing your worry that your dad will experience another fall when he is alone. You can then ease into discussing options like home care and assisted living. Don’t forget to highlight the many benefits of assisted living communities, such as healthy meals, activities, and access to caregivers around the clock.
Managing a Parent’s Resistance to Care
Just because you are ready to begin the conversation about assisted living with your dad doesn’t mean he is ready to listen. It’s not uncommon for older adults to become defensive when it comes to decisions about future care needs. Even when their health is declining, they still want to feel independent. Keep this in mind and don’t try to rush your dad unless you feel like his well-being is in danger.
I hope this helps, Kate! If you would like to visit one of our communities before you have this talk, one of our experienced team members will be happy to show you around and answer all of your questions.
You’ve likely heard that as we grow older, we require less sleep. Some people believe it’s why many seniors get up so darn early. But sleep experts disagree. Adults need between seven and nine hours of quality sleep each night no matter their age.
What does change, however, is the prevalence of insomnia and other sleep disorders. Research shows that as many as 50% of people over the age of 60 suffer from a sleep disorder. A senior might struggle to get a good night’s rest and give up trying. They eventually settle for a short night of less-than-ideal sleep. This may be the origin of the myth that older adults need less sleep.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a condition that causes people to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Sleep occurs in several stages, starting with a light, dreamless slumber. It continues on to periods of active dreaming, known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. As we age, these patterns often change. The amount of time you spend in each sleep stage can be disrupted. It can cause seniors to wake up frequently throughout the night or to awaken and be unable to fall back asleep.
A few common signs of insomnia are:
- Difficulty getting to sleep
- Poor quality, non-restful sleep
- Waking up at least three times throughout the night
Why Seniors Often Experience Trouble Sleeping
Sleep disorders in seniors can be the result of a variety of medical issues, some of which can be treated. For example, certain health conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, anxiety, depression, or sleep apnea can make quality sleep tougher to come by. Another factor might be chronic pain. Illnesses such as osteoarthritis or an autoimmune disease often cause persistent pain that makes a good night’s rest more challenging.
Environment might play a role, too. If a senior’s bedroom is too bright, warm, or noisy, it can interfere with rest. Then there is the possibility that poor sleep is a side effect of a medication. Beta blockers—a class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and angina—are prescribed for many seniors and can increase the risk for insomnia.
Finally, a lack of exercise is another possibility. Too much sitting can make you feel tired and sluggish, but that doesn’t translate to good quality sleep. According to the National Library of Medicine, a lack of exercise is associated with insomnia at every age.
Ways to Beat Insomnia and Get a Good Night’s Rest
If you just aren’t able to consistently sleep well, a few suggestions include:
- Sticking with a routine: Routines provide structure. That helps both the mind and body. Try going to bed at night and getting up in the morning at the same time every day. Turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before heading to bed. Engaging in soothing activities that help you unwind, such as reading or taking a warm bath, might also work.
- Creating a peaceful environment: The bedroom should be a calm and peaceful place. It’s important to have a good mattress and soft sheets. Another tip for creating a relaxing sleep environment is to turn the thermostat down a bit overnight.
- Working out in the morning: While exercise is important and aids in promoting good sleep, it can raise your body’s core temperature and boost adrenaline. Try to work out in the morning or at least three hours before bedtime.
- Avoiding late-day naps: If you can avoid taking a daily nap altogether, that’s best. However, if you have to nap, do so earlier in the day. That helps prevent daytime shut-eye from interfering with your ability to fall asleep.
- Limiting stimulants: Caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants should be consumed in moderation and avoided completely later in the day. While they may not prevent you from falling asleep, they often cause people to wake up in the night and be unable to return to sleep.
- Clearing your mind: Try to deal with the worries of your day before getting into bed. Quiet the mind and focus on peaceful thoughts. Meditation, journaling, stretching, and other activities that promote emotional resilience can be beneficial.
If your best efforts at getting a good night’s rest don’t yield results, it’s likely time to see the doctor. They might be able to figure out the root cause or schedule an overnight sleep study.
Follow the Heritage Blog
With articles ranging from caregiving to healthy aging posted each week, the Heritage Blog is designed to keep older adults and their families informed. We encourage you to bookmark this page and visit often!