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 Do We Start the Search for Assisted Living?

How Do We Start the Search for Assisted Living?

Dear Donna:

My husband and I visited his mom in northern Michigan over the holidays. Even though we FaceTime with her each week, we weren’t prepared for how much her health has declined since we saw her last spring.

Mom’s house hadn’t been cleaned well in a while, and it was obvious she’s not opening her mail and paying bills timely. The biggest change, however, was in her appearance. She’s lost a significant amount of weight, and her hair looked unkempt and dirty.

We were so shocked we didn’t even know what to do or how to respond! On the flight back home, we researched types of senior care and it seems like Mom needs assisted living. In a few weeks we are going to visit some communities in Michigan and see what we can find.

The challenge is that we aren’t sure what to look for and how to get started. We want to find a community that is a good fit for Mom’s personality. Do you have any advice?

Sincerely,

Cindy

Searching for Assisted Living in Another State

Dear Cindy:

This is a question we hear often after the holiday season. Like you, adult children typically visit parents’ homes to celebrate. For those who haven’t been together in a while, the change in an aging parent can be startling.

When you first begin your search for assisted living for a loved one, it can feel overwhelming. A rule of thumb is to think about your mom’s unique personality while also being realistic about her personal needs. Be mindful of what matters most to your mom and what her health requires.

Keep these factors in mind when looking for an assisted living community:

  • Changing needs: As we grow older, our needs change. Sometimes seniors need temporary assistance while they recover from an injury or illness. Other times the natural progression of aging means the additional care required is permanent. If your mom only needs help with housekeeping and meals right now, it might be tempting to focus only on those in your search. But it’s also important to consider what happens when a senior’s health changes. Are higher levels of care available on the campus?
  • Caregiver experience: The experience and dedication of the team’s caregivers are directly linked to the quality of care the community provides. As you speak with different communities, ask about their caregivers. Find out how team members are recruited, what the screening and background check process is, and how often caregivers undergo additional training. Ask what the staff-to-resident ratio is and how long (on average) caregivers have been with the company. Continuity of care comes from tenured staff so it’s important to know the answer to this question.
  • Community’s personality: As you mentioned, it’s important to find a place that fits your mom’s personality. For example, does your mom prefer a casual environment or does she like getting dressed up for dinner? When you tour communities, keep an eye on how the residents are dressed, especially during mealtimes. Assisted living communities definitely have their own personalities.
  • Dining services: Your mom’s weight loss might be a sign she is struggling to prepare meals and get adequate nutrition. When you visit communities, ask for a copy of recent menus. Inquire about the number of choices residents have and how often the menu changes. Also find out if residents can select their own mealtimes and tablemates. Flexibility and variety are important. Many families find a senior’s nutrition improves fairly quickly once they have access to well-balanced meals every day.
  • Life enrichment: Opportunities to socialize and enjoy life enrichment activities are also important. Ask how often resident programs occur, including if they are scheduled on weekends and evenings. If your mom has favorite pastimes, are those offered already or can they be added? Are resident outings to local restaurants, shopping malls, and other destinations offered?

I hope this information is useful in your search, Cindy. Because Heritage has communities throughout Michigan, we hope you will call us and schedule a time to visit. We’d love to meet your family and show you around!

Kind regards,

Donna

How Can I Do a Fall Safety Check of My Dad’s House?

How Can I Do a Fall Safety Check of My Dad’s House?

Dear Donna:

My dad has had a few falls and a couple of close calls recently. While he hasn’t experienced any injuries, I know we have to figure out a better plan for keeping him safe. My biggest fear is he will fall and be unable to call for help. I live several hours away and can’t be there as often as I would like.

My husband and I will be spending a few weeks with my dad during the holidays. We are planning to try to come up with ways to improve his nutrition. I know that is part of the reason he’s falling.

I’m hoping you can offer some suggestions on a second concern. I want to conduct a safety assessment of my dad’s house. He was stubbornly resistant to our suggestion to hire a physical therapist to do that for us. He doesn’t want a stranger in his home. So, we’ll have to do this on our own.

I’ve already listed obvious tasks like packing up throw rugs and installing grab bars in his bathroom. What other fall hazards should we look for during our visit?

Sincerely,

Tina in Holly, MI

Fall Prevention and Home Safety Assessments

Dear Tina:
It sounds like you have reason to be concerned. Falls are the leading cause of serious injury in older adults. Once a senior experiences a fall, they are more likely to fall again. It’s good that you are taking steps to try to prevent your dad from falling again.

Because most falls happen in the bathroom, that’s a good place to start your assessment. Specifically, you’ll want to look for the following hazards and opportunities:

  • Is there a motion light or nightlight that illuminates the path your dad takes to and from the bathroom?
  • Are most-used personal care items stored in places he can easily reach? Step stools can be especially dangerous for people with balance problems.
  • Towel bars can be hazardous. Your dad might be tempted to use them to pull himself up or hold onto while getting in and out of the shower. Replace them with sturdy grab bars.
  • If your dad has trouble sitting down and standing back up, a raised toilet seat with attached grab bars is a good solution.
  • Does the floor present a fall risk? Slippery tiles and throw rugs aren’t a good combination.
  • Does one of the bathrooms have a step-free shower? Climbing back and forth over the edge of a tub is hazardous for a senior struggling with balance. You may also want to add a shower chair for your dad to rest on while showering.

While the bathroom is the place seniors fall most often, also make sure:

  • Stairways have even treads, a sturdy handrail, and good lighting
  • Furniture is arranged in a manner that allows for easy navigating
  • Pathways around favorite spots are free from clutter
  • Carpeting is free of holes, rips, or bunches
  • Extension cords are placed against walls rather than across floors
  • Exterior stairs have a strong handrail and good lighting
  • The sidewalk leading to the garage is in good shape
  • The garage door opener is working
  • Main pathways throughout the home are easy to maneuver and have good lighting

One final suggestion is to purchase a medical alert device. In the event your dad does have a fall, he can quickly call for help.

If you and your dad decide that he would benefit from the supportive environment offered by an assisted living community, I encourage you to consider Heritage. Call a community nearby to learn more and schedule a private tour at your convenience.

Kind regards,

Donna

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

Helping a Parent Cope with Loss

Helping a Parent Cope with Loss

Dear Donna:

My dad passed away earlier this year and my mom is struggling. They were married almost 60 years, and she is having a difficult time coping with this loss. I don’t know what to do to help her. She is just lost without him.

I believe part of the challenge is that we lost him unexpectedly. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away within two weeks. We had no time to prepare ourselves for what we were about to experience.

Do you have any suggestions? With the holidays upon us, I’m sure the situation is about to get worse.

Kind regards,

Allyson in Holly, MI

Supporting a Grieving Parent

Dear Allyson:
I’d like to begin by expressing my condolences on the loss of your dad. While I know your concern is for your mother, it’s important to honor your own feelings and grief, too. Losing a parent is difficult at any age.

Since you asked for ideas to support your mother, I’ve pulled together some suggestions. Here are a few ways to help your mother cope with her loss:

  • Accept that grieving is essential for healing: The grieving process is hard work. Anger, sorrow, fear, guilt, and disbelief are common emotions those who are mourning experience. Watching someone you love work through this isn’t easy. But it’s important to remind yourself it is a necessary part of the healing process. Support your mother, but also realize how vital it is to give her time to work through these difficult emotions.
  • Talk about your dad together: Even the closest family members struggle with what to say when someone has experienced such a significant loss. You might be hesitant to bring up your father’s name for fear of upsetting your mother. But if you talk about him, it will give her permission to do the same without worrying she’s upsetting you. Sharing favorite memories and photos can be healing for both of you.
  • Refrain from setting unrealistic goals: Another mistake people make after losing a loved one is to set goals for processing grief. There is no set time frame for feeling “better” or packing up a lost family member’s belongings. Try to refrain from setting artificial and often unrealistic timelines. Unless you must make a decision or complete a task due to a firm deadline, do things when the two of you are ready. That includes cleaning out a loved one’s closet, canceling a cell phone, or selling a car. You’ll know when the time feels right.
  • Connect with a support group: Surviving spouses and adult children often say it is helpful to discuss their feelings with people who have experienced a similar loss. An in-person or virtual bereavement support group may help the two of you feel comfortable and understood as you are grieving. Hospice agencies usually offer them at a variety of times and locations, including online. Most don’t require your loved one to have been a patient for you to join.

One final suggestion is to consider talking with a therapist if you feel like your own grief or your mom’s is becoming too much to bear. Sites like Grieving.com and Grief in Common are good ones to explore if you need to find an experienced therapist.

I hope this information is helpful, Allyson. I wish you and your mother the best.

Kind regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities

A family-owned senior living business for four generations, Heritage Senior Communities is experienced at helping older adults live their best quality of life. In our Michigan and Indiana communities, you will find experienced team members committed to the health and wellness of each resident we are privileged to serve. Call the community nearest you to schedule an in-person or virtual visit today!

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