How Can I Prepare My Mother for an Easier Transition to Assisted Living?

How Can I Prepare My Mother for an Easier Transition to Assisted Living?

Dear Donna,

My mother and I recently decided it would be best for her to move to an assisted living community. Her mobility has declined considerably, and we feel they will be able to help her with her everyday activities.

This is our first time going through this process. I want it to go as smoothly as possible, but I have no idea where to start.

How can I prepare my mother for an easier transition to assisted living? 

Carly in Saline, M

 

Making a Smooth Transition to Assisted Living

 

Dear Carly,

Many family members find it difficult to help their loved ones transition to an assisted living community. For most of them, it’s not something they’ve ever done, which makes it difficult to know where to begin.

Here are 5 things to do to make the transition to assisted living easier for your mother.

  1. Select a Realistic Move-In Date

The first thing you should do is help your mother select an official move-in date. Select a date that gives you plenty of time to pack, clean, and downsize as needed.

Having an official move-in date will give you a timeframe of exactly how long you have to prepare. From there, you can begin to plan when tasks need to be done to keep you on track.

  1. Get the Measurements of Your Mother’s New Space

Finding out how much space she has will help you determine how much she can keep. If possible, try to get a printed copy of the floor plan. This way, you can plan exactly where everything is going to go. On move-in day, you will be thankful you did this when you can tell the movers exactly where to put everything.

  1. Start Organizing Early

Organizing is often the most challenging and time-consuming task. For that reason, you want to start early.

The space your mother will be moving into is most likely going to be smaller than her current space. This will require her to downsize.

Don’t forget to organize important papers and documents. Here are a few documents you will want to gather:

  • Driver’s license
  • Care registration
  • Credit cards
  • Bank, retirement, and investment account information
  • Medicare and Social Security information
  1. Get Estimates From Moving Companies

After you settle on a date for the move to assisted living, start getting quotes from moving companies. Once you find a company you like, schedule your appointment immediately. Reputable moving companies often have pretty busy schedules!

  1. Schedule Dates for Utilities to be Turned Off or Transferred

A few weeks before her move-in date, help her start to tackle her home services. Call and schedule times for utility companies to disconnect her phone, cable, internet, electricity, gas, water, and any other recurring services. Have her mail, newspaper, and magazine subscriptions forwarded to her new home.

 

The Most Important Thing You Can Do Is Be There

 

The most important thing you can do to help a senior loved one transition to assisted living is to be there. Physically help them pack belongings, listen to their concerns, and talk them through their hesitations

Moving can be stressful for anyone. After all, it is a major life transition. Heritage Senior Communities, including our Linden Square Assisted Living location, provides support to make the transition to assisted living easier for seniors and their families. Contact us for more information.

Please let me know if I can answer any additional questions!

Sincerely,

Donna

5 Tips to Help You Better Cope With Caregiver Anxiety

5 Tips to Help You Better Cope With Caregiver Anxiety

Dear Donna,

My husband and I recently decided to move my mom into our home. She has advanced arthritis, so having her here allows us to help her with the tasks she has trouble with. 

Immediately after she moved in, we realized she needed a lot more help than we had anticipated. Her doctor advised her to avoid a few activities, such as heavy lifting and climbing stairs. But we often come home to find her doing at least one of her restricted activities. 

Since she moved in, I have been experiencing anxiety.

As I head home from work, my heart races. I immediately assume there’s going to be an emergency involving my mother. Even when she is safe, I still feel overwhelmed, and it takes me a while to calm down.

I’m afraid that my constant worrying is going to affect my performance at work and strain my relationship with my husband.

How can I better cope with my caregiver anxiety?

Sincerely,

Katherine Jones, Holland, MI

 

Dear Katherine,

Anxiety is a biological response that occurs when your body perceives a threat. This perceived threat triggers feelings of tension and worry, as well as physical changes like increased blood pressure and heart rate.

When you feel out of control, you can quickly begin feeling anxious. You may even get caught up in a cycle of feeling anxious about your anxiety.

 

Here are 5 tips to help you break the cycle and better cope with caregiver anxiety.

 

  1. Understand Your Anxiety

Before attempting to cope with your anxiety, take the time to learn what triggers it.

  • Are you afraid your mother will harm herself?
  • Are you afraid of losing her?
  • Do you think she is not taking her health seriously?

When you feel anxious, stop and ask yourself why. Do you notice a pattern?

 

  1. Do Not Expect to Eliminate Your Anxiety

A mistake people often make when dealing with anxiety is thinking that they will be able to eliminate it.

Anxiety is a biological response, so this assumption is unrealistic. It is more realistic to manage your symptoms.

The next time you feel anxious, acknowledge your symptoms. Take a deep breath and thank your body for the message. Remind yourself that you are anxious because you’re afraid your mom could be in danger, not because she is in danger.

 

  1. Put Your Health First

It may seem counterintuitive, but putting your health first is one of the simplest ways to relieve anxiety.

Here are a few ways you can be proactive about your health.

  • Get regular check-ups. Don’t wait until you are sick the make an appointment with your doctor.
  • Get enough sleep. Research suggests there is a strong correlation between sleep and anxiety. Those who don’t get enough sleep are 17 times more likely to have clinical anxiety than those with normal sleep habits. Aim to get 7–8 hours of sleep every night. Never sacrifice sleep—it is key to your well-being.
  • Exercise at least 3 times a week. Exercise can play a tremendous role in managing Yoga has been shown to alleviate anxiety and arthritis. You could even invite your mom to join you.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Being mindful about the foods you eat can significantly improve anxiety. Say no to sugar and other processed foods. They have been shown to aggravate symptoms of anxiety. Do your best to maintain your weight.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine have been shown to worsen feelings of anxiety. Limit them as much as possible.
  • Take time to relax. Relaxing can be anything from a trip to the spa or a 10-minute meditation

 

  1. Stay Connected

Healthy relationships are an excellent way for you to cope with anxiety. Here are a few ways you can stay connected.

  • Maintain relationships. Regardless of how busy you are, always make time for friends and family.
  • Join online or in-person caregiver support groups. This will give you a chance to talk about your challenges as a caregiver with those who are likely experiencing the same difficulties.
  • Volunteer. Helping others makes us feel good. Find a cause you are passionate about and volunteer. Not only will you be giving back, but you will also get a chance to meet like-minded people.

 

  1. Ask for Help When You Need It

Caregivers are often reluctant to ask for help, but it’s important to accept that no one can do this alone. Seek help from:

  • Medical professionals. There is a fine line between normal anxiety and anxiety that requires medical attention.

Don’t be ashamed if you need to seek help from a medical professional. Your doctor will be able to make recommendations specific to your personal needs.

  • Family members. Don’t be afraid to lean on your family. They will often be more than happy to help.
  • Respite Care. If you are concerned about your mom’s safety while you are away, it may be a good idea to consider respite care services.

Assisted Living: When You Need More Than Respite Care

Anxiety isn’t something you can get rid of overnight. For many caregivers, it is an emotion they have to work on regularly.

If you continue to struggle with caregiver anxiety despite your efforts, it may be time to ask your mom to consider an assisted living community.

Heritage Senior Communities provides quality care for seniors across Michigan. Our Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland provides both assisted living and respite care services. If your mom has any doubts, a short-term respite stay can be a great way for her to experience an assisted living community. Contact us today to schedule a tour.

I hope these tips help you better cope with your caregiver anxiety.

Kind Regards,

Donna

Dear Donna: How Do I Take Better Care of Myself as a Caregiver for My Dad?

Dear Donna: How Do I Take Better Care of Myself as a Caregiver for My Dad?

Dear Donna,

I’m the primary caregiver for my aging father, and I also work full-time. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping at night because I keep thinking of what I have to do the next day. Often I don’t even have time to eat.

If something happens to me, I’m not sure how he’d manage. I’d like to stay healthy, but I can’t seem to find the time. How can I take care of myself as well as my dad?

Sincerely,

Gina in Holland, MI

Caregivers Should Also Care for Themselves

Dear Gina,

Caregiving is an important but exhausting role, as you know. It is easy to get overwhelmed or feel guilty for taking time out for yourself. Unfortunately, caregivers who constantly put others’ needs first are likely to experience stress, burnout, and other health issues. Without proper self-care, you probably can’t give your dad the care that he needs.

How to Take Care of Yourself (and a Loved One)

  1. Be mindful of your own physical health

Although you may put your loved one’s health needs before your own, caring for yourself is even more important.

  • Make sure you are getting regular checkups.
  • Ask your healthcare provider for advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Make sure you are getting 7–8 hours of sleep each night. Follow good sleep hygiene.
  • Set aside time to prep healthy meals or snacks you can grab on the go.
  • Schedule time for yourself, including exercise, as you would any other appointment.
  1. Don’t try to do it alone

Whether you need help with caregiving duties or just moral support, it’s okay to ask.

Look for local support groups specifically for caregivers. Online forums or social media groups can help, too. Stay in touch with supportive friends and family.

For help with your dad, reach out to local community programs, such as home health aides or meal delivery services. Many senior communities offer respite care that lets caregivers take some time off.

If you have family members or friends willing and able to help, ask them in specific ways, such as driving your dad to an appointment or spending time with him on a Sunday afternoon.

  1. Practice mindful relaxation.

Even short periods of relaxation, as little as five minutes, can help reduce stress levels and increase your energy.

  • Consider taking a yoga class to help you stretch and relax your body.
  • Download a free app to help you practice deep breathing and mindfulness exercises.
  • You may want to set aside time to journal, which can help you process the thoughts and emotions that might otherwise keep you awake at night.

It is also important to not feel ashamed when you are tired or frustrated. There is nothing wrong with asking for help or for taking some time for yourself.

I hope this advice helps you stay healthy and minimize stress.

Best wishes,

Donna

Peace of Mind for Caregivers and Loved Ones

Heritage Senior Communities provides quality care throughout Michigan. Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland, for example, provides numerous opportunities to improve seniors’ quality of life and reduce caregiver stress. Contact us today to schedule a tour.

New Friends: Helping a Loved One Connect After a Move to Senior Living

New Friends: Helping a Loved One Connect After a Move to Senior Living

Dear Donna,

My dad recently moved in to an assisted living community after we decided that his house was too much for him to manage by himself. Although he’s glad to not worry about housekeeping or meals, it’s been a difficult transition.

He was pretty close with his old neighbors and is having a hard time getting to know people in his new community. What are some ways he can make new friends?

Thanks,

Steve from Saline, MI

Making Friends in a New Senior Residence

Dear Steve,

One of the major benefits of moving to a senior living community is the opportunity to get to know people and make new friends. Unfortunately, it takes a little time to settle in when an older adult is transitioning from their house to a senior community.

With a few small steps and friendly gestures, however, your dad can start to make new friends soon.

Tips for Making New Friends in Senior Living

  1. Smile and say hello.

Sometimes the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference. Rather than avoiding eye contact or small talk, encourage your dad to be warm and friendly in a way others respond to. Simply saying hello with a smile in the hallway or communal areas can be enough to start a conversation.

  1. Join others for meals.

Mealtimes provide an easy way to meet new people. If he’s been eating alone in his apartment instead of the dining room, encourage him to enjoy his meals with fellow residents instead. He might ask to join others at their table and introduce himself to start a conversation.

  1. Watch the calendar.

Most senior communities have event or holiday calendars with various activities for residents to enjoy. This may include group games, a religious service, or fitness activities. Your dad might watch the calendar for activities he enjoys or something new he’d like to try. Have him start by choosing one activity every week and planning to introduce himself to at least one new person there.

If he’s reluctant to go alone, join him for a few activities. Senior living communities welcome and encourage family involvement.

  1. Stay positive.

Sometimes we avoid new people because we are afraid of what they will think of us. If we assume that other people will not like us, that’s a good way to sabotage potential friendships. You can encourage your dad to avoid this attitude by being positive and open and assuming that others will like him and enjoy getting to know him.

  1. Invite people over.

Making new friends does not have to be complicated. Another simple way your dad can get connected is to invite neighbors into his home. This may include coffee, a snack, playing a game, or watching a movie or TV.

  1. Be patient.

Adjusting to a new community can be hard work, so be patient with your dad. Encourage him to be patient with himself and with his neighbors. Change is difficult for most of us, so give your Dad time to adjust and settle in.

Best wishes,

Donna

Building Community for Senior Loved Ones

Heritage Senior Communities, including our Linden Square Assisted Living location, provides support to residents in a comfortable, home-like setting that encourages community. Contact us for more information.

What Bathroom Safety Issues Should I Look for in My Mother’s Home?

What Bathroom Safety Issues Should I Look for in My Mother’s Home?

Dear Donna,

Our mom still lives in her own home and usually does just fine on her own. However, her bathroom has not been updated in years, and we’re worried about her slipping and falling in the shower. She also has arthritis that has made it more difficult to bathe.

Are there other safety issues we should look for in her bathroom? How can we reduce her safety risks and make her more comfortable?

Sincerely,

Janice Bauer, Holland, MI

Keeping Bathrooms Safe for Seniors

Dear Janice,

It’s understandable that you are concerned about your mom’s safety in the bathroom. Hospital emergency departments treat 2.8 million older adults every year for fall injuries. Many of these falls happen in the bathroom and are due to hazards like slippery floors.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to reduce your mom’s risk of falling in the bathroom, as well as other possible safety issues. Do a thorough safety check of her bathroom and determine which precautions are necessary.

Here are some things to look for when you’re checking your mom’s bathroom, including how you can make it safer for her.

Senior Bathroom Safety Issues to Look For

Floors:

  • Tubs or showers should have non-slip surfaces; add floor mats or non-skid appliques to avoid sliding on the tub floor.
  • Bathroom floors should have a textured surface or have non-skid carpet or rugs.
  • A bath bench can reduce the need to stand in the shower and can help with getting in and out of the tub.

Lighting:

  • Does the bathroom have sufficient, even lighting?
  • Light switches should be easily accessible near the door.
  • Make sure burned-out light bulbs are changed.

Doors:

  • Bathroom doors should open outward.
  • Doorways should be wide enough to accommodate any mobility devices, such as walkers.
  • Shower doors should be made of safety glass or plastic.

Fixtures:

  • Consider installing lever handles on sinks and showers, which can help seniors with arthritis and stiff joints.
  • If the shower head is difficult to reach, install a shower head attachment.
  • Consider a walk-in bathtub to make bathing easier.
  • If the toilet is too low, a higher toilet or a seat extender can make use easier.
  • Install grab bars near the shower and toilet; a tension pole is another option.
  • Towel racks and other shelving are not substitutes for grab bars, but they should still be installed sturdily.
  • Consider installing a telephone in the bathroom, reachable from the floor, if your mom falls and must call for help.

Miscellaneous:

  • Toiletries and towels should be easy to reach and should not require seniors to stretch and reach too far; keep items convenient with additional shelves or water-resistant baskets.
  • Do the outlets prevent electric shock?
  • Is there sufficient heat and ventilation?
  • Set hot water heater to 120 degrees F to avoid scalding.
  • Insulate any exposed water pipes or wiring.

I hope these tips help you create a safer bathroom for your mother!

Kind regards,

Donna

Offering Safe Senior Care

Family-owned Heritage Senior Communities focuses on providing quality senior housing and licensed assisted living. Contact us today to ask questions or schedule a tour at one of our locations, such as Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland.

How to Pay for Senior Living Communities

How to Pay for Senior Living Communities

Dear Donna,

My older parents are considering moving to a senior living community, and I am confused about the different options for paying. I thought our only option was to pay for it ourselves, but a friend just told me that her parents used other methods as well.

Can you tell me more about what kinds of funding senior living communities accept?

Sincerely,

Mary from Holland, MI

Financing a Move to a Senior Living Community

Mary,

Thanks for asking this question. How to pay for senior living is an important topic, and we appreciate the opportunity to address it. Considering the national average cost for assisted living is just below $4,000 a month, it’s good to know all the options you and your family have on your side.

To begin, assess the level of care your parents will want and need. Consider if your parents are searching for independent or assisted living, or if they would need to move into a memory care community. Based on their needs, you’ll find different ways to fund this next chapter in their lives.

Assisted Living

If either of your senior loved ones was in the military, he or she (and spouse) may be entitled to VA benefits to help pay for assisted living. Medicaid is also an option, though this varies by state. Some long-term care insurances can help, too.

Long-term care insurance is similar to health insurance and must be purchased through a private insurance company. If one company denies an applicant or the benefits aren’t what you were hoping for, keep applying to other companies! You may find just the right one for your family’s situation.

Memory Care

Memory care communities are specially designed for those seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The care offered at these communities can be funded using a family’s private funds, veterans’ benefits, long-term care insurance, or, depending on the state, Medicaid.

Independent Living

Independent living communities may participate in state or federal programs that subsidize housing, meaning they are able to offer fees at a sliding scale based on the senior’s income. There are organizations that can point you to a list of subsidized senior housing options in your area and their entrance fees.

In general, however, independent living is financed using the senior’s private resources often with help from family.

Financing Senior Living

There may be other options available to help you and your family finance a move to a senior living community. We encourage you to call us with questions and to schedule a tour of the Heritage Senior Community in your hometown.

I hope this information helps, Mary!

Kind regards,

Donna