4 Tips for Helping a Senior Find a Primary Care Doctor

4 Tips for Helping a Senior Find a Primary Care Doctor

Dear Donna,

My mom’s doctor announced he is retiring soon. He has been her primary care doctor for over 30 years, so she is nervous about finding a new one. I want to help, but I am unsure where to start. How do you help an older loved one find a primary care doctor?


Jen from Norton Shores, MI

Helping Senior Loved Ones Find a Primary Care Doctor

Dear Jen,

Choosing a new doctor can be difficult for anyone. In addition to verifying their credentials and experience, you need to find out if they are taking new patients. You also want your loved one to feel comfortable talking with their doctor about their health. Consider factors like bedside manner and communication skills. Here are a few tips for helping your loved one find a new primary care doctor.

4 Tips for Finding a New Doctor

  1. Ask friends and neighbors

Many people find success in a doctor recommended by someone they know. Have your senior loved one ask their friends for a referral. Also, encourage them to explain what they like about their doctor because their needs can be different. For example, someone might recommend a quick and efficient doctor, while your loved one might prefer more time and attention. If you don’t have luck with friends and family, you might want to check with your local senior center. They are often great resources for local referrals.

  1. Read online reviews

In addition to recommendations from friends and family, you can look online for guidance. There are many sites where patients can review their experience with a doctor. Even a quick Google search can give you the average rating of a specific doctor. Some websites, such as Zocdoc, will provide you with additional information, like wait time and bedside manner.

  1. Check their health plan list

Before making an appointment with a new doctor, make sure they accept your loved one’s insurance. You can find out by calling the doctor’s office or the insurance company. Their health plan list is also an excellent place to start if you don’t have referrals. You can look at the list of doctors provided by the insurance plan and then research their reputation online. If your loved one has Medicare, you can reach out to them or visit their website to access a list of local doctors who are accepting new patients.

  1. Consider convenience

When looking for a new doctor, consider accessibility. The doctor’s office should be easy for your loved one to get to, and the hours should work with their schedule. Also, find out how easy it is to schedule an appointment. Is the doctor booked far in advance? What is the average wait time? Consider all these factors before you decide.

Explore Your Options

Helping a senior loved one find a new primary care doctor can be difficult, especially if they have had the same one for a long time. But their doctor plays an important role in keeping them healthy. Meet with a few doctors until you find one you are confident can meet your loved one’s needs.

I hope this helps you find a doctor for your mom!



Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities is designed with senior wellness in mind. From independent living to assisted living and memory care, Heritage Senior Communities has a senior living solution to meet your or your loved one’s needs. Contact the community nearest you to schedule a private tour.

6 Tips to Assess a Senior’s Bathroom for Safety

6 Tips to Assess a Senior’s Bathroom for Safety

Dear Donna,

My dad’s 90th birthday is coming up. He lives alone, and I am a little concerned about his safety. His mobility has decreased over the years, and I am worried about him falling. I heard a lot of falls that happen in the home occur in the bathroom.

For his birthday, I am thinking about helping my dad make a few adjustments to his bathroom to make it safer. How do I assess a senior’s bathroom for safety?


Joyce from Holland, MI

Assessing a Senior’s Bathroom for Safety

Dear Joyce,

It’s understandable why you might worry about a senior loved one who lives alone. Falls are a leading cause of injury for seniors. One in four American seniors falls every year and up to 80 percent of falls in the home happen in the bathroom. Fortunately, many falls are preventable. Here are a few tips to help you assess a senior’s bathroom to reduce their risk of falling.

6 Tips for Preventing Falls in the Bathroom

  1. Keep floor surfaces slip-free.

Floor tiles, bathtubs, and the shower platform can become slippery when wet. Keeping them slip-resistant is an essential step in preventing accidents. Here are a few tips to keep bathroom surfaces safe:

  • Place non-skid mats or non-slip strips on the bathtub and shower floors.
  • Use slip-free rugs to step on when exiting the bath or shower.
  • Replace the floor with a slip-resistant material like rubber or non-slip vinyl.
  1. Be mindful of where you store items.

The constant need to reach and bend down to access items can increase the risk of an accident. Keep your loved one’s most-used items in easy-to-reach places. These include toilet paper, towels, and soap.

  1. Replace towel bars with grab bars.

Grab bars can be particularly helpful for seniors with balance or mobility challenges. These are most helpful near the shower and toilet.

  1. Invest in a barrier-free shower.

A raised entrance to the tub or shower is another tripping hazard. Walk-in bathtubs and showers are easier to get in and out of. Consider installing one to reduce your loved one’s chances of falling.

  1. Install a raised toilet seat.

Seniors with reduced strength or mobility may struggle to get on and off a low toilet. Installing a higher toilet seat or adding a seat extender to their existing toilet is a simple way to make their experience more comfortable.

  1. Ensure there is adequate lighting.

Proper lighting is vital throughout the entire home, but especially in areas your loved one commonly visits after dark. To keep your loved one safe, make sure they can easily access light switches as they enter the bathroom. Night-lights can also be useful in areas like this. You can even plug in night-lights that turn on automatically to ensure optimal safety.

Most Falls Are Preventable

Up to half of the falls that occur among seniors are due to environmental conditions, like poor lighting, slippery floors, and uneven surfaces. This suggests that although common, falling is often preventable. Hopefully, by using these tips, you can make your loved one’s bathroom safer and prevent them from falling.



Heritage Senior Communities Puts Senior Safety First

If your loved one is at risk of falling or you are concerned about their safety, you may want to explore senior living options. Many communities, including Heritage Senior Communities, are designed with safety in mind. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

How Caregivers Can Help Seniors Eat Healthier

How Caregivers Can Help Seniors Eat Healthier

Dear Donna,

My dad is 70 years old, and I am concerned about his diet. He has arthritis, so it’s difficult for him to cook. He usually opts for fast food because the drive-through is convenient. When he does make it to the grocery store, he purchases processed and frozen foods high in sodium. How can I help my senior dad eat better?


Kim from Grand Haven, MI

How Nutrition Changes with Age

Dear Kim,

It’s great that you are trying to help your dad eat healthier. Mobility constraints are a common reason seniors choose convenience foods over healthy options. However, a diet rich in nutrients is essential for older adults to maintain their health.

Nutrition needs can change with age for various reasons, including:

  • Slowed metabolism: People usually become less active with age. This slows metabolism, so they require less food.
  • Decreased nutrition absorption: Although seniors often require less food, their nutrient requirements increase. Unfortunately, their bodies absorb and use nutrients less effectively, making it more important to make good choices.
  • Change in appetite: Many seniors’ appetites change. This shift can be caused by certain medications or a decrease in their senses of smell and taste.

Consider Frozen Foods

Frozen foods can be a great way for seniors to eat healthy, so long as they are choosing the right foods. Take time to make sure your loved one knows how to read nutrition labels on frozen meals. They should look for items with less than 300–400 calories and between 8 and 25 grams of fat, depending on their diet. Also, make sure meals have less than 800 milligrams of sodium. A few senior-friendly options include:

  • Amy’s Asian Noodle Stir-Fry
  • Trader Joe’s Tandoor Chef Chicken Tandoori with Spinach
  • Healthy Choice Cajun Style Chicken & Shrimp
  • Lean Cuisine Salmon with Basil

Try Meal Delivery Services

If grocery shopping is an issue and no one is available to help, your loved one may benefit from a home delivery meal service. Meal delivery services bring fully cooked meals straight to your doorstep. You store them in the fridge and microwave them when you are ready to eat.

Silver Cuisine, for example, makes meals specifically for adults over 65. Your loved one can choose a meal plan that meets their dietary needs. A few options include heart-healthy, low-sodium, and Mediterranean meal plans.

Consider Meals on Wheels Programs

If you are unable to help your loved one meet their nutrition requirements, then you may want to see if your community has a Meals on Wheels program. Meals on Wheels is dedicated to providing seniors with the nutrition they need to avoid food insecurity and remain independent. Through this program, volunteers deliver well-rounded meals to the home. To learn more about this program or locate your local organization, visit the Meals on Wheels website.

Nutrition Is Important

A healthy diet is essential for all ages, including seniors. Meeting nutrition requirements is necessary for older adults to stay healthy and independent. Those who eat healthily often report stronger immune health, higher energy levels, better cognitive functioning, and an easier time managing chronic conditions.

I hope this helps your dad eat better.



Heritage Senior Communities Supports a Healthy Diet

If you are concerned about your aging loved one’s ability to eat healthily, you may want to consider senior living. Most communities, including Heritage Senior Communities, provide meals designed for the unique needs of older adults. Many communities also offer options to accommodate specialty diets, like low-sodium or sugar-free meals.

Contact us today to learn more about how we help our residents eat healthily.


3 Virtual Caregiving Tips for Faraway Adult Children

3 Virtual Caregiving Tips for Faraway Adult Children

Dear Donna,

I am the primary caregiver for my 70-year-old mother. She is reasonably healthy, but she has some trouble with mobility. I don’t think she needs around-the-clock assistance, but I worry about her being alone. Unfortunately, I live 60 miles away, so I can’t check on her as often as I would like.

Do you have any caregiving tips for faraway adult children?


Miranda from Grand Haven, MI

Caring for an Aging Parent Who Lives Far Away

Dear Miranda,

Caring for an aging parent can be difficult for anyone, but distance creates unique challenges. By not being present physically, many caregivers struggle to understand and meet their loved ones’ needs. Some caregivers also feel guilty they can’t be with their loved ones more often.

Fortunately, there are many tools and resources available to caregivers who provide care remotely. By knowing some options, caregivers who live far away can better care for their loved ones. Here are a few virtual caregiving tips for faraway adult children.

3 Virtual Caregiving Tips

  1. Take advantage of technology.

Advances in technology have made it easier than ever to stay in touch with friends and family members around the world. Many of these tools can help caregivers stay updated on how their senior loved ones are doing. Video chat, for example, allows you to have a face-to-face conversation.

In addition to fostering a deeper connection, video calls also give you a chance to look for signs that your loved one might need some assistance. For example, you can take note if they’ve lost or gained weight. This can mean they are struggling to eat healthy.

You might also catch a glimpse of their living environment. If your loved one’s space looks messy, it might indicate they are having trouble maintaining the home. By seeing these signs early, you can take preventative measures to keep them safe. Echo Show and GrandPad are two senior-friendly video calling devices.

  1. Have an emergency plan.

Regardless of how cautious you are, accidents happen. It’s important to have a plan in case an emergency occurs and you can’t get to your loved one quickly. One key component is your support system. Keep a list of people who can help your loved one. This might include local family members or friendly neighbors.

You might also want to consult with nearby assisted living communities or home care companies. You can arrange for them to care for your loved one if needed.

  1. Consult with a senior care manager.

Senior care managers are trained specialists who help families through the process of caring for aging loved ones. They can be called a variety of names, including “geriatric care manager” or “elder care manager.” Regardless of what you call them, their purpose is to decrease family members’ stress and increase the senior’s quality of life.

Senior care managers can help with anything from supporting family caregivers with legal and financial matters to evaluating seniors’ safety. They can also help manage doctors’ appointments.

These care professionals can be particularly helpful to long-distance caregivers because they act as an unbiased and professional set of eyes. Caregivers can take comfort in knowing specialists have their loved one’s best interests at heart.

Caring for a Senior Loved One Isn’t Always Easy

Caring for an aging parent is rarely easy, and the job can become more challenging as distance increases. With proper planning, you can find a way to ensure your senior loved one gets the care they deserve.

I hope these tips make it easier for you to care for your aging parent from far away.



Senior Living at Heritage Senior Communities

If you are struggling to care for your loved one at a distance, you may want to explore local senior living options. Heritage Senior Communities offers a variety of living options for seniors, including Specialized Dementia, Assisted Living, and Independent Senior Living. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

5 Ways Caregivers Can Beat the Winter Blues

5 Ways Caregivers Can Beat the Winter Blues

Dear Donna,

I am the primary caregiver for my 91-year-old mother. During the winter, weather conditions in Michigan make it unsafe for her to leave the house, so we spend most of our days indoors. I often become depressed and isolated during this time of year. How can I avoid the winter blues when caregiving keeps me at home?


Laura from Traverse City, MI


5 Tips to Avoid the Winter Blues

Dear Laura,

I’m sorry to hear you are feeling depressed. It may help to know you are not alone. The winter blues, also called cabin fever, are common during this time. It can often be attributed to shorter days and less sun exposure. Those who spend most of their time indoors, like many caregivers, may have difficulty sleeping, reduced interest in socializing, and less motivation. These feelings can make it challenging to fulfill caregiving duties. Here are a few ways caregivers can avoid the winter blues.

5 Tips to Beat Winter Blues

  1. Exercise every day.

Regular physical activity can alleviate sadness. Exercise reduces stress hormones and increases feel-good hormones. By working out daily, caregivers can boost their mood and energy levels. There are plenty of exercises you can perform at home with little to no equipment. You can even find exercises that you and your loved one can do together.

  1. Try light therapy.

Light therapy, or phototherapy, is commonly used to treat the winter blues. This method involves sitting by a lightbox immediately after waking. The lightbox mimics natural light, which triggers your brain to stop producing melatonin. This tells your body it’s time to be awake and alert.

  1. Check for vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency rates are higher in areas like Michigan, where the winter is cold. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to sadness and depression. If you feel down during the winter, have your vitamin D levels tested by your doctor. If you are deficient, they may be able to prescribe a supplement that can help.

  1. Stay connected to others.

Maintaining a healthy social life is essential for your overall health and happiness. Many caregivers struggle to feel connected to others, especially when they can’t leave the house as often as they’d like. Today, you can keep in touch without having to go anywhere. Calling or texting loved ones, joining an online chat group, or connecting on social media are great options.

  1. Talk to your doctor.

If you are unable to improve winter blues, talk to your doctor. You may have a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Common symptoms of SAD include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sudden loss of interest

A doctor will be able to develop a plan to help manage your symptoms.

Caring for Yourself

It is difficult to care for others when you don’t take time to care for yourself. Going too long without tending to your needs can affect your health. If your caregiving role is preventing you from leaving your house, you may want to consider respite care. Respite care gives caregivers short-term relief from their caregiving duties. It can be especially helpful for those concerned about leaving their loved ones unattended.

Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities offers short-term or respite care for seniors and families throughout Michigan. If you are interested in learning more about respite care or any of our senior living options, contact us to schedule a private tour.

The Importance of Life Enrichment Programs at a Senior Living Community

The Importance of Life Enrichment Programs at a Senior Living Community

Dear Donna,

I am helping my parents find a senior living community. Some of the places we are exploring mention life enrichment programs. We already have a lot to consider, including price, location, and services. These programs seem more like a perk, so I am not sure we need to spend much time assessing them.

Can you please explain what life enrichment programs are, and why they are important for senior living communities?


Jan from Grand Haven, MI

The Importance of Life Enrichment Programs

Dear Jan,

It’s great that you are helping your parents find a senior living community. There is so much families should know about assisted living in Michigan that the process can be overwhelming. However, a community’s life enrichment programs shouldn’t be overlooked.

Life enrichment programs are the plans and activities offered at a community that support residents’ physical, social, emotional, and cognitive well-being. In addition to fostering personal growth and creativity, these programs are designed to keep seniors engaged and active in the community.

Although they might seem like perks, they are much more than that. Having activities that suit your loved one’s lifestyle and interests is essential to their overall quality of life. Here are a few reasons you should look closely at life enrichment programs during your senior living search.

3 Reasons Senior Living Communities Need Life Enrichment Programs

  1. Keep seniors active

An active lifestyle is essential to healthy aging. Staying active can help seniors manage chronic medical conditions, maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints, and prolong independence. Unfortunately, many seniors struggle to remain active after retirement. Life enrichment programs that include physical activity can keep seniors moving.

  1. Foster social connection

Strong relationships are important at any age. Feeling connected to others can reduce stress and anxiety, lower the risk of depression, and lead to a longer life. It also provides a sense of belonging, which contributes to self-esteem. It can be challenging for seniors to stay socially active, especially after retirement when they don’t have as many opportunities to meet people. Life enrichment programs with a social focus, such as those in a group setting, can help seniors make friends.

  1. Preserve cognitive health

Many senior enrichment programs include activities that promote cognitive health. Keeping the mind active improves memory and reasoning abilities, and gives an overall sense of achievement. By participating in life enrichment programs, seniors can preserve and sometimes improve their brain health. Reading, puzzles, and board games are all examples of life enrichment activities that stimulate the mind.

Senior Living Is about Living Your Best Life

Senior living isn’t just about finding a place to live; it’s about living your best life. Life enrichment programs help seniors become involved in enjoyable activities every day. An effective program doesn’t just offer a calendar full of activities. It includes those that benefit a senior’s quality of life.

When exploring senior living communities for your senior loved ones, be sure to ask about their activities and wellness programs.

I hope this gives you more insight into the benefits of life enrichment programs!



Heritage Senior Communities’ Unique Wellness Model

At Heritage Senior Communities, we believe in supporting every aspect of a senior’s wellness while helping them maintain their independence. Our unique Wellness Model focuses on encouraging our residents to stay mentally, physically, and emotionally engaged, in addition to staying healthy.

We invite you to schedule a tour at your local community to learn how our programs positively affect our residents’ everyday lives. Contact us today to learn more.