5 Things to Look for on an Assisted Tour

5 Things to Look for on an Assisted Tour

Dear Donna,

My mom has been living on her own for several years now. She recently gave up driving and now relies on my husband and me for transportation. Because our lives are already pretty hectic, she’s more isolated than I’d like for her to be.

We finally convinced her to at least consider moving to an assisted living community, and we’d like to take a tour of some local communities. What should we ask and look for on these tours?

Stacey Lawrence Holland, Michigan

Make the Most of Your Assisted Living Tour

Dear Stacey:

The move to an assisted living residence sounds like an ideal solution for your mom and your family. Taking time to visit and get to know local communities is the best way to make an informed decision. The key to making the most of your visit is asking the right questions.

5 Things to do When Touring Assisted Living Communities

Before you start the tour, consider what is important to your mother in a community. What type of lifestyle does she want to experience there? What amenities are most desirable? What is your family’s budget? The answers to these questions will help you narrow your search even before you take a tour.

Once you arrive at an assisted living community, there are plenty of other things to learn. Here are 5 things you should do during every tour.

  1. Observe the interactions between staff and residents.

Luxurious amenities are not as important as courteous, helpful, and trained staff. Watch how staff members treat and speak to those they care for. What you see is a good indicator of what your mom can expect. Also ask about the community’s hiring practices and training programs.

  1. Talk to residents.

An impromptu, friendly conversation with current residents may provide even more information than a tour with staff can. Ask if they have had any serious issues with the community, including thefts. Ask about the quality of meals and activities. You might even ask if they have a resident council. If they do, ask to speak to the resident in charge of it.

  1. Ask if there is a waiting list.

While it may be inconvenient, a waiting list is often a good sign. It means the community is in high demand and indicates financial stability. The possibility of a waiting list is also why it’s better to start the search for assisted living before a crisis occurs.

  1. Ask how the community bills for services and accepts payments.

Most assisted living communities assess level of care charges according to the amount of care and support each resident receives. The size and style of their apartment or suite also impacts monthly fees. Make sure you understand what to expect.

  1. Ask for a copy of the contract before you decide.

A community’s standard contract should include information on how it serves residents as they age and their needs increase. It should also note payment terms, and any costs associated with leaving the community. If possible, have a trusted attorney review the contract. He or she can explain the agreement and identify potential concerns.

Leading Provider of Assisted Living in Michigan

Heritage is proud to be recognized as one of the leading providers of assisted living care in the state of Michigan. Our family-owned business has been serving older adults in the Great Lake state for three generations.

In Western Michigan, we’re pleased to serve families in Holland at our Appledorn Assisted Living community. Call us today to schedule a private tour at your convenience.

5 Ways to Stay Active After a Parkinson’s Diagnosis

5 Ways to Stay Active After a Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Dear Donna,

Our mom was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Her physician says that exercise is essential to help her preserve her independence longer. Do you have any suggestions on how can we help her increase her level of daily activity?


The Jordan family, Saline, Michigan

How Can Seniors With Parkinson’s Stay Active?

Dear Jordan family,

You picked a great time to ask us this question! April is National Parkinson’s Month. This gives us the opportunity to talk more about a disease that affects the nervous system and movement skills, making it difficult to engage in everyday activities. This can be especially challenging for seniors who may already be experiencing other normal aging-related changes.

However, a Parkinson’s diagnosis does not mean your mom cannot stay active. Here are 5 activities that can help.

5 Activities for National Parkinson’s Month

  1. Gardening

Gentle activities like gardening are a great way for seniors to stay active.

You can also help modify this activity to make it easier for your mom. For example, you could help your mom set up a gardening bench or station that allows her to work while sitting instead of kneeling.

  1. Balloon volleyball

Balloon volleyball is a simple activity with numerous benefits. Catching and hitting a balloon before it floats to the ground can encourage physical movement and even stretching. The balloon’s movement is also unpredictable, creating the mental challenge of following its path as it floats to the ground.

Since it is a group activity, balloon volleyball also encourages socialization that can prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  1. Water aerobics

Parkinson’s can affect balance, but water activities are an easy way around that problem. A water aerobics class also provides an opportunity to get out of the house and socialize.

Many communities offer other group exercise activities targeted toward people with Parkinson’s, such as dance and stretch movements. Search for classes or groups that your mom can join. Look for events hosted by local hospitals, churches, or fitness centers.

  1. Painting

Painting and other artistic activities can be done alone or in a group. They usually do not involve moving the whole body, but these activities can help maintain fine motor skills and encourage well-being and personal expression.

Look for art classes or group events around your mom’s community. Be aware that many art classes charge a fee to cover the cost of supplies.

  1. Walks

Walking is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to increase physical activity. Your mom can take a walk nearly anywhere, such as a park, mall, museum, or even supermarket.

If balance is a concern, your mom can use a cane, walker, or walking stick to stay steady. Make sure she is able to stop and rest when needed.

It may be a good idea to talk to a doctor about your mom’s condition to help determine the best activities for her and how to perform them safely.

Worried About Staying Healthy and Active With Parkinson’s?

Heritage Senior Communities provides quality care for seniors across the state of Michigan. Our Linden Square residence in Saline, for example, continues to grow to meet the needs of the local community. Contact us today to schedule a tour.

How to Protect Your Older Loved One’s Identity During Tax Season

How to Protect Your Older Loved One’s Identity During Tax Season

Dear Donna,

I know that older adults are often the targets of financial fraud. How can I help protect my mother’s identity, especially during tax season?


Gina in Saline, Michigan

Protect Your Senior Loved One From Identity Theft This Tax Season

Dear Gina,

Tax season is stressful for everyone, especially older adults and their caregivers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, seniors are especially vulnerable to identity theft.

Because cognitive decline may impair an older adult’s ability to make financial decisions, caregivers should take special care to protect their loved ones.

How to Protect Senior Loved Ones During Tax Season

  1. Determine if your loved one needs to file.

Many seniors do not need to file federal tax returns if their gross income is under the IRS filing requirements. Gross income includes all income not exempt from tax, as well as Social Security benefits.

If your mom does need to file, determine how she should file (single or married, for example). If her husband passed away during the tax year and she has not remarried, your mom can file a joint return and receive deductions for the deceased spouse.

  1. Enlist the help of a trustworthy expert.

A licensed, educated accountant or financial advisor can assist with navigating tax laws and help you get the most out of your deductions. An appropriate advisor will explain the rules and their recommendations without pressuring you and will keep your information private.

  1. Secure personal and financial documents.

It may be a good idea to keep documents that are not often needed, such as wills, in a safe deposit box. If you keep important documents at home, lock them up when other people are visiting, and keep them out of sight in high-traffic areas. Shred unneeded documents, including receipts.

  1. Talk about common scams with your senior loved one.

Every year, the IRS publishes a “dirty dozen” list of common tax schemes. These include phone scams, in which criminals call people and impersonate IRS agents to demand payment or pose as fundraisers for fake charities.

Talk about these potential scams with your loved one and discuss how they should respond if they are targeted.

  1. Keep track of your loved one’s finances.

Caregivers can protect their loved ones by watching for unusual financial activity. Check bank balances for insufficient funds or unexplained withdrawals. Watch for unpaid bills, unusual attempts to send money, or suspicious signatures on checks.

Also watch for unexpected or suspicious changes to your loved one’s will or power of attorney, especially if your loved one cannot explain it or seems confused about the change.

  1. Consider an identity theft protection program.

The AARP Identity Theft Protection program offered through TrustedID is a program specially designed for seniors. From monitoring credit to identifying potential threats, you will likely find it to be helpful.

A Safe Environment for Senior Living

Heritage Senior Communities provide a safe, comfortable residence with numerous amenities for older adults. Contact us today to learn more, including details about our newer residences in Saline and Holland, Michigan.

How to Make Caregiving Easier for You and Your Loved One

How to Make Caregiving Easier for You and Your Loved One

Dear Donna,

I am my dad’s primary caregiver, but lately I have been struggling with the stress and to-do list of caregiving.

Do you have any advice that can help me while still respecting his personal needs?

Barbara in Grand Rapids

Tips for Making Caregiving a Little Easier

Dear Barbara,

Caregiving is a big job, and it certainly gets stressful. Fortunately, the right approach to your role can make things easier. Here are a few ways you can improve your caregiving while still preserving your loved one’s dignity.

  1. Let your loved one do what they can.

Reduce feelings of stress and burnout by letting your loved one do as much as possible. This not only reduces your workload but lets them preserve some independence.

Whenever possible, you should let an aging family member make their own choices, such as what to wear or when to eat.

If your elder loved one lives independently, look for changes you can make in their home to help them stay independent. For example, installing additional safety bars can help them get around.

Consult with your loved one about their wishes for housing, medical care, and other important choices. As a caregiver, seek to be your loved one’s advocate, not to take over their life.

If you are not sure about how much choice to give, talk to your loved one’s primary health provider. They may be able to provide more insight or suggestions.

  1. Get extra help before it’s needed.

Illness and other emergencies may prevent you from caring for your loved one. If that happens, do you know who to call? If not, it’s time to start asking other family, friends, and community resources for help. This will allow you to have a back-up plan in case of emergency.

Create a list of people and organizations you can reach out to. For example, ask other relatives to help out with regular tasks like lawn care or transportation. Search local groups for things like meal deliveries, home health visits, or social activities.

  1. Be patient and flexible with yourself and your loved one.

As a caregiver, you will make mistakes sometimes. When that happens, you can acknowledge them, learn from them, and forgive yourself. In your journey as a caregiver, you can get better at making decisions and understanding your loved one’s needs.

When you feel impatient with your loved one, remember what they are experiencing. Aging is a frightening and frustrating process, so be patient as you and your loved one face many changes. Things may not always go according to plan, and that is okay.

You can become a better caregiver.

Being a caregiver does not have to mean that you take over your loved one’s whole life. Respecting their wishes, asking for help, and learning patience can make you a better, more balanced caregiver.

If you need additional help with providing for your loved one’s needs, we are here for you. Contact Heritage Senior Communities to talk about how we can help you provide the best care for your loved one.

Holiday Fire Dangers and Seniors in Michigan

Holiday Fire Dangers and Seniors in Michigan

Dear Donna,

I have a great-aunt who really loves to decorate her house during the holidays. Before having everyone over on Christmas Eve, she spends hours decorating. Lately, I’ve heard that seniors are more likely to experience holiday house fires than other age groups, much of which seems to be caused by decorations.

My aunt really goes all out! I don’t want to spoil her fun or seem condescending, but I do want to keep her safe.

What can we do for her in terms of fire prevention without dampening her spirits?

Kind regards,

Chris in Saginaw

Holiday Fire Safety for Seniors in Michigan

Dear Chris,

Thanks for asking such a great question! Unfortunately, you’re right about older adults and their risk of house fires during the holidays. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, the rate of house fires goes up dramatically during major holidays. And people older than 65 are twice as likely to be the victim of a home fire during the holiday season as younger adults.

This doesn’t mean that your great-aunt can’t enjoy herself during the holidays. But it is important that she and the rest of your family understand the things that put her at risk so you can take the necessary precautions.

Let’s have a look at what those risks are and what you can do to reduce them.

Fire Risk Factors for Seniors during the Holidays

The sources of holiday home fires often include:

  • Burning candles
  • Damaged or defective holiday lights
  • Live Christmas trees that dry out
  • Electrical outlets and extension cords

The best way to broach this subject with your great-aunt is probably to share this information with her. Express your desire to help her have a joyous—but safe— holiday season. Then, offer to provide assistance in helping her reduce these risks so she can focus on staying merry.

Here are some ways to address the risk areas I mentioned above:

  • Invest in electrical candles that mimic natural flames
  • Only use high-quality indoor lights and make sure to inspect each bulb carefully for cracks or other damage
  • Purchase an artificial tree Christmas tree made of flame-retardant materials instead of a live one
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets with splitters, extension cords, or adapters
  • Design a detailed escape plan in case of a fire —one that takes any mobility problems into account

Thanks so much for the question, Chris. I hope this information is helpful and that you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season.



Do you have a senior care question?

Donna loves to help caregivers with questions about their senior loved ones. But if you have a number of questions or have one that needs answered immediately, please contact us. We’d be happy to answer any senior care questions you have or arrange an in-person meeting at one of our senior living communities.

Dear Donna: How Can I Help Prevent the “Winter Blues”?

Dear Donna: How Can I Help Prevent the “Winter Blues”?

Dear Donna:

My mom has always looked forward to the holiday season, but this year, she doesn’t seem to have her usual enthusiasm.

 She is sleeping more and is less interested in her favorite holiday activities. What can I do to help her prevent the winter blues?

Kelly in Traverse City


Take Steps to Prevent the Winter Blues


Dear Kelly,

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or the “winter blues,” is a common form of depression among people in colder climates. Symptoms include low energy, overeating, sleeping more, and less interest in social activities.

There are many ways to help your mother feel better this season.

Eat a balanced diet to improve mood.


Many people with SAD indulge in carbohydrates and other “comfort” foods. This can cause weight gain, blood sugar spikes, and cardiovascular risks.

Help your mom choose more vegetables, fruits, and lean protein, and avoid snacks with refined sugars or sodium. Look for sources of vitamin D, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help with symptoms of SAD.

Physical activity improves overall well-being.


Research shows that staying active can improve cardiovascular health, maintain weight, and keep blood sugar levels stable. Physical activity has also been found to improve mood and memory among seniors.

If your mom has trouble getting around, she can start small. Just walking around the house, lifting light weights, or doing easy stretches can help.

Fitness centers and YMCAs have many low-impact options like walking tracks, treadmills, or swimming pools. An active video game, such as Wii bowling, is another way to get moving.

Try light therapy to reduce the winter blues.


Many people experience SAD because limited exposure to natural daylight during winter months can cause sleep disruptions and changes in brain chemicals. Special “light boxes” that imitate outdoor light may help.


Do some research to determine which type of light box is best for you. You may wish to speak to your doctor, especially an eye doctor, before making a purchase.

Stay connected to stay happy this winter.


Even if your mom doesn’t feel like socializing – a common symptom of depression – a small get-together with friends or family can make a big difference.

Encourage her to have coffee with a neighbor or invite family members over for the holidays. Joining a local group, such as a book club, also can prevent feelings of isolation.


Talk to a health care professional about seasonal depression.


If your mom is showing symptoms of SAD, it can help to see a doctor.

A healthcare provider may order tests to rule out problems such as anemia or hypothyroidism. He or she can also help determine the best treatment and prescribe medication if necessary.

As a caregiver, help is available to you!


Overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caregiving? Heritage Senior Communities offers short-term options for seniors who need some type of assistance.

We provide a variety of lifestyle options that help our residents ward off the winter blues. Communal dining, physical activities, and medication assistance are just a few of the amenities we offer. Contact us today to learn more about our senior living options!


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