5 Legal Documents Every Caregiver Should Have

5 Legal Documents Every Caregiver Should Have

Dear Donna,

As my parents age, I am starting to think more about their future. I want to help them enjoy the best quality of life as they grow older. To do so, I know I will have to work with their attorney on planning.

What legal documents should I have as a caregiver so I can make decisions on my parents’ behalf?

Jessica in Holland, MI

Legal Documents for Caregivers

Dear Jessica,

It’s great that you are preparing for your parents’ future. Many families wait until a crisis occurs before sorting out their loved one’s preferences. Not only can this make the process more stressful, but it can also affect a family’s ability to properly care for their loved ones. By preparing legal documents in advance, you can help prevent your family from having to make important decisions during stressful times. Here are 5 legal documents family caregivers should have.

5 Legal Documents Every Caregiver Should Have


  1. Living will: A living will, also referred to as an advance health care directive, is a document that allows people to record their wishes for end-of-life care. This document will be helpful if your parents become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for themselves. Although Michigan state laws do not consider living wills legally binding, having these documents is a great way to ensure their end-of-life preferences are met.
  2. Durable power of attorney for finances: A power of attorney is a person authorized to manage a person’s finances if they become incapacitated. A power of attorney has access to bank accounts, properties, and other assets. This document is helpful if you need to help your mom or dad pay bills or make important decisions about their finances.
  3. Health care proxy: A health care proxy, also referred to as a durable power of attorney for health care, is a document that authorizes someone to make health care decisions on another’s behalf. This document goes into effect only if they are unable to make decisions for themselves. A health care proxy includes decisions regarding health care providers and medical treatments. Proxies can even refuse treatments.
  4. Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders: DNR orders inform medical providers not to perform CPR if a patient’s heart stops beating. In Michigan, DNR orders are only valid when the person is home or at an assisted living community. If your mom or dad doesn’t want to be revived, their wishes should be documented in a DNR order.
  5. HIPAA authorization form: A HIPAA authorization form is another document that can be extremely useful to caregivers. While HIPAA rules usually allow medical professionals to give information to caregivers, obstacles still arise. A HIPAA authorization can prevent unnecessary complications and provide you with access to your loved one’s medical information.

Preparing Legal Documents

Having legal documents prepared in advance is one of the best ways to ensure you meet your parents’ wishes. At Heritage, we always recommend you seek advice from an elder law attorney when creating legal documents. They can help you understand state laws, review your documents, and walk you through the process of verifying that they will hold up in court.

I hope this encourages you and your parents to start preparing legal documents!




Heritage Senior Communities Offers Personalized Support

Heritage Senior Communities provides high quality care for seniors across Michigan. Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland, for example, offers personalized support with daily meals, laundry, and housekeeping. Contact us today to schedule a tour.

3 Signs It’s Time to Move to Assisted Living

3 Signs It’s Time to Move to Assisted Living

Dear Donna,

My mom used to be very sociable. She loved people and was the life of the party.

After she turned eighty, however, she completely stopped going out. We can barely convince her to attend a family birthday party. I think she should move to assisted living where she can be around more people her own age.

How can I tell if it’s time for my mom to move to assisted living?

Sharon from Saline, MI

How to Tell When It’s Time for a Move to Assisted Living

Dear Sharon,

Many adult children struggle to know when their aging parents need assistance. Although isolation is one sign your mom or dad can benefit from assisted living, it’s not the only determinant. Here are a few other ways to tell if a senior loved one can benefit from moving to an assisted living community.

3 Signs It’s Time to Move to Assisted Living

  1. High risk for falling

Falling is a leading cause of injury among adults over 65 years old. Some seniors are so afraid of falling they avoid leaving the house altogether. While this might make them feel safer, they are usually increasing their risk of an accident.

By not leaving the house, they reduce their movement. This can prevent them from moving the muscles needed to sustain their physical health and balance. Not only does this increase their risk of falling, but it also reduces their ability to recover from a fall.

If your loved one is at risk for falling, they might benefit from moving to a community where they can have access to a medical professional.

  1. Medical conditions

Nearly 80% of seniors have at least one chronic medical condition; 68% have two or more conditions. Older adults with medical conditions typically have a harder time managing their health independently, so they often require assistance.

A few instances when your mom’s or dad’s medical condition can make them good candidates for assisted living include:

  • Recovery from illness or injury
  • Trouble managing medications
  • Increasing or worsening chronic health conditions

Assisted living can benefit seniors with medical conditions by having someone available to monitor their health and help them manage their medications.

  1. Trouble preparing nutritious foods

Difficulty eating a healthy diet is another sign that your loved one may benefit from assisted living. There are many age-related changes that can make it difficult for seniors to eat healthily. For example, reduced mobility can make it hard to cook and grocery shop. This can cause them to forgo fresh foods in exchange for foods that are full of preservatives.

A healthy diet is crucial for seniors to maintain their health and avoid malnutrition. Here are a few signs that your loved one may have trouble getting enough nutrition:

  • Expired foods in the fridge
  • More “convenient meals” like frozen dinners and canned goods than fresh foods in their kitchen
  • Noticeable weight loss or weight gain

Assisted living can help because they have team members who are dedicated to providing nutrient-dense meals for residents each day.

The Process Happens Gradually

Determining whether your loved ones are ready to move to an assisted living community takes time and careful consideration. I hope this helps!



Heritage Senior Communities

If you are having trouble deciding if it’s time for your aging parents to move to an assisted living community, please feel free to contact us. Heritage Senior Communities, including our Linden Square Assisted Living Center, can help you determine if it’s a good fit.

5 Ways to Start the Conversation About Senior Living

5 Ways to Start the Conversation About Senior Living

Dear Donna,

Last year, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At first, our whole family chipped in to help, and we were able to work together as a team to provide care for him. Now, as things settle down and in to a routine, my siblings come around less and I’m mostly left to take care of my dad alone.

My mom tries to help, but she is overwhelmed, too. I’m afraid to talk to them about a senior living community. I don’t want to stress them out more. What should I do?


Carrie from Saline, MI

How to Initiate a Conversation about Senior Living with a Loved One

Dear Carrie,

It sounds like you are doing a great job caring for your dad! But there are many senior care options for you and your family to consider. It sounds like, as you said, the right option might be helping your parents transition to a senior living community. Beginning that conversation can be difficult for both the adult child and their older loved one.

Here are 5 pointers to help you:

  1. Listen

A good way for you to start the conversation is actually to just listen. Ask your parents what they like about living in their home. Use these points to make the transition more positive, and redirect the notion that they are losing an aspect of their life. In addition, ask them about their opinions or knowledge of senior communities. By doing your own research first, you can immediately address any misconceptions they have.

  1. Use positive language

If you want to paint a positive picture, use positive language. Be sure to use the word “community” and never “home” or “facility.” Talk about the opportunities they’ll have and the many ways this community will make their lives easier and more fun!

  1. It’s not all sewing and bingo

There are so many activities in a senior living community. From social gatherings to special outings, your senior loved ones will have something to do any time they want. And surrounded by their peers, they’ll be making new friends and might even try something they never knew about before. Most seniors actually say they wish they’d made this transition sooner!

  1. Keep the door open

Seniors often feel stress about this transition and are fearful that they will lose their independence. Let your senior loved ones know they don’t have to decide today—it can be an ongoing discussion. Reassure them that they will have a say. But it’s also important to remember that diseases do progress, sometimes rapidly. The conversation you were having a couple months ago will likely change as your parents age. Even if they don’t like the sound of a senior living community at first, it doesn’t mean they didn’t hear the positives. Revisiting the conversation can be helpful.

  1. Test the waters

Finally, it never hurts to take a tour of a nearby community. This is your opportunity to talk to staff and residents and to take an in-depth look at the daily details of living in a senior community. You can also let your loved ones know about short-term stays so that they can give it a try without committing!

As a bonus, May is National Parkinson’s Month, so there may even be events especially for seniors like your father. Check out the events at a Heritage Senior Community near you, and contact them for more information.

Kind regards,


How to Prevent a Parent from Becoming a Victim of Cyber Crime?

How to Prevent a Parent from Becoming a Victim of Cyber Crime?

Dear Donna,

My father is in his late seventies and has recently developed mobility problems. He’s at home alone a lot, but luckily he has the internet. He loves being online, emailing, sharing photos, and reading about politics.

He and his old friends, most of whom live outside of the state of Michigan now, communicate regularly online. They share links, forward emails, and suggest videos to one another. Most have also joined Facebook.

All this is great for him, but I worry that he’s going to click on a link and end up downloading a virus. Or worse, what if he receives one of those scam emails that trick people in to revealing personal information?

How can I make sure my dad is safe when he’s online?

I don’t want to offend his intelligence but at the same time, I’m not sure he’s aware of all the ways scammers are targeting seniors these days. How do I start a conversation that won’t offend him?


Roxanne in Dearborn

Learn More about Cyber Crime and Seniors

Dear Roxanne,

Thank you for your question. You’re right! Much of today’s cyber crime is aimed at older Americans. According to the FBI’s website, seniors are targeted for many reasons. Scammers of all kinds—not just the online type—see seniors as more trusting and less suspicious.

But that’s not the only reason scammers think older adults make good targets.

Why Scammers Target Seniors

According to the FBI, seniors are targeted because:

  • Scammers think seniors are too polite to say “no” or to hang up the phone or let an email go unanswered
  • Seniors are more likely to have something worth stealing: retirement money and a mortgage-free home
  • Older adults are also more likely to have good credit
  • Scammers prefer victims who don’t report fraud to the authorities and embarrassed seniors often fit the bill
  • Crooks believe the aging stereotypes and think seniors may not make good witnesses because of memory loss
  • Older Americans are very susceptible to products promising certain benefits, such as improved memory, anti-cancer, and younger skin to name a few

You likely need to have a discussion with your father about online safety. Point out these facts to him, mentioning that even though he may be wise in many ways, the internet is new territory for most people. Scammers are inventive and everyone gets fooled occasionally.

Crooks sometimes pose as government officials and contact people online to steal their personal information. Analysis of the victims of these scams shows that seniors are more susceptible to these types of cons than younger generations. If you want to steer the conversation to a more specific topic, this might be a good place to start.

I hope this advice was helpful, Roxanne! Good luck helping your father stay safe online.


Do You Have a Question for Donna?

If you’re a caregiver and there’s something on your mind, write to Donna! She answers questions relating to aging, senior living and caregiving each month. Your questions are welcome any time, and they may help someone else who is struggling with the same issue.

We can also answer questions about senior living by phone or in person. Contact us to schedule a tour of one of our communities at your convenience!

When to Bring Parents on an Assisted Living Tour

When to Bring Parents on an Assisted Living Tour

Dear Donna,

My parents asked me to help them find an assisted living community. Every time we have plans to visit a community, they come up with an excuse to not go.

I am happy to help them, but I am starting to think they don’t want to find a place. Should I take my parents with me on my first round of assisted living tours, or can I narrow down their options first and bring them on the second round of tours?

Alison from Saline, MI


When Should Your Parents Start Touring Assisted Living Communities?


Dear Alison,

Many children want to help their senior parents find a senior living community, but sometimes their loved ones don’t make it easy. Regardless of the reason, resistance on the part of a parent can make adult children wonder if it’s necessary to include them in the entire process.

Sometimes, it is more productive to narrow down your options before bringing a senior along for a tour. Other times, it’s better to include them in the entire process. Here are a few tips to help you decide which route to take.

Bringing Your Parents on All Assisted Living Tours

The main benefit of bringing your parents on every visit is that they can decide what they like and dislike about a community. This can greatly increase the chances they will pick one that is the best fit.

Including your parent also helps them maintain a sense of independence and control. That’s an important part of helping a senior feel empowered.

However, bringing your mom and dad with you on every tour can have a downside. Not every community will be a good fit and you will likely recognize those that obviously aren’t. By eliminating those choices, you help make the process a little less stressful.

If your parents are turned off by a community early, they might try to find something wrong with every community. For seniors that are resistant to moving, this can make the process much longer.

Here are a few cases when you might want to bring your parents on every visit:

  • They are excited about the move and want to be included.
  • They enjoy meeting the residents and engaging with the staff.
  • They can walk around the communities without tiring quickly.

Narrowing Down Your Options before Bringing Seniors on an Assisted Living Tour

Narrowing down to just two or three options before bringing your parents to visit the communities can be significantly quicker than bringing them on every visit. This is especially true if you know what questions to ask on an assisted living tour.

Conversely, narrowing down your options from the beginning may not allow you to get the best understanding of what your parents need from a community.

Here are a few scenarios where it makes sense to narrow down your options first:

  • They have mobility limitations that make it difficult to tour several communities.
  • They have a cognitive impairment that makes them unable to make decisions about their living arrangements.
  • They aren’t happy about moving and you need to find communities that are obviously a good fit.

I hope this helps, Alison.




Schedule a Tour with Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, including our Linden Square location in Saline, we encourage seniors and their families to visit with several communities before making a decision. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

What Is the Difference between Assisted Living and Independent Living?

What Is the Difference between Assisted Living and Independent Living?

Dear Donna,

I am trying to help my parents find a senior living community. I am not sure if I should be looking for an independent living community or an assisted living community.

Can you please explain the difference between independent living and assisted living?


Vanessa from Holland, MI


Understanding the Difference Between Independent Living and Assisted Living


Dear Vanessa,

It’s common to have trouble understanding the difference between independent living and assisted living. Having so many senior living options available can be overwhelming for families. However, it’s crucial to fully understand your options if you want to ensure you help your senior parents make the right decision.

In the simplest terms, independent living is for healthy seniors who want to maintain an active lifestyle. Assisted living is for seniors who need support to maintain their independence.

Amount of Assistance Needed

The primary difference between assisted living communities and independent living communities is the amount of care provided to their residents.

Assisted living communities usually have around-the-clock assistance available. Professional caregivers are available 24/7 to support seniors with everyday activities like preparing meals and managing medications. If your senior parents can’t spend more than a few days alone without jeopardizing their health or safety, then assisted living is likely for them.

Independent living communities, on the other hand, are more suitable for healthy seniors who don’t need much assistance. Many communities offer amenities that can significantly improve their quality of life. A few common services include meal plans, cleaning services, and maintenance.

Reasons for Moving

The reasons for moving are also different between seniors who choose assisted living versus those who select independent living.

Seniors who move to an assisted living community usually do so because they need some form of assistance to remain independent. A few common reasons seniors choose assisted living include:

  • Needing help with activities of daily living.
  • Having trouble maintaining their home.
  • Struggling to meet their nutritional requirements.
  • Having a health condition that requires supervision.
  • Wanting to give their families peace of mind that they are safe.

Seniors who choose independent living often move to have their desired lifestyle. A few common reasons seniors move to independent living communities include:

  • Being a part of a community with people who are their age and share similar interests.
  • Enjoying their retirement years without many of the responsibilities that come with home ownership.
  • Having easy access to the services and amenities offered at that particular community.

Financing Options Available

Another factor that varies between assisted living and independent living is the financing options available.

Because seniors usually choose assisted living for health and safety reasons, they are often able to find resources to lower their out-of-pocket expenses. A few common resources include long-term care insurance, employee benefits programs, VA benefits, and Medicaid.

The cost of independent living varies due to multiple factors including the type of housing, the amenities offered, and the services provided. Because it’s considered a choice to live there, it usually doesn’t qualify for any financial assistance.

I hope this helps you decide which senior living option is best for your parents.




Heritage Senior Communities Helps Families Understand Their Options

Heritage Senior Communities, including our Appledorn Assisted Living location, provide support to help families decide which senior living option is best for their loved ones. If you are an adult children or family member who is having trouble understanding the difference between assisted living and independent living, please feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to help!