Should We Sell Our House Before or After Moving to Independent Living?

Should We Sell Our House Before or After Moving to Independent Living?

Dear Donna:

My husband and I are about to begin the search for an independent living community in Michigan. We are tired of home maintenance, repairs, and being tied down. Independent living seems like a solution that offers freedom and flexibility.

We are trying to figure out a timeline for everything. We will need to significantly downsize our belongs and sell our house. While we have savings and investments to help supplement our lifestyle for a while, the equity in our home is one of our biggest assets.

As we are working on our plan, we keep getting stuck on when to put our house up for sale. Should we start the process before we find an independent living community to move to or wait until after we’ve made our transition? Any advice would be much appreciated.


Alysha in Grand Haven, MI

When to Sell the House When You Are Downsizing to Senior Living

Dear Alysha:

This is a question we are asked quite often. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. But I can offer you a few suggestions on what you and your husband should consider.

  • How soon will you need the equity from the sale of your house?

Like you mentioned, a house is often a senior’s greatest financial asset. You’ll likely benefit from creating a budget that gives you an idea of when you will need the funds from the sale of your home to help pay your monthly fees.

Then consider the health of your local housing market. In a hot sellers’ market, it may be easy to move first and then sell. You won’t have to worry about when and if your house will sell.

Bridge loans are an option to consider if the market is slower. These allow you to use the equity you have in your house to finance a move to senior living. Many only require you to pay the interest on the loan until the house sells. Once your residence is sold, you can pay off the bridge loan. A variety of banks and lenders offer these programs.

  • Can you keep the house in show-ready condition?

If you’ve ever sold a house before you know how tough it can be to keep it show-ready at all times. You never know when a realtor is going to ask to bring a client by. A clean, clutter-free house generally suggests that the house is well maintained. However, the process of downsizing and packing isn’t usually tidy.

If your budget permits, you might find it less stressful to move, clean out the house, and then hire a staging company. Professional home stagers are experts at creating an environment that attracts buyers and closes deals more quickly. They’ll even bring in enough furniture and décor to help make the home look inviting.

  • Are you willing to accommodate showings at all hours?

Potential buyers might work and have busy family schedules. Or they may be visiting from out of town and have a tight timeline. This often results in requests for early-morning or late-evening showings. When you first list your house, you may even have multiple viewings in one day. While you can restrict access to certain days and times, it might cause you to miss out on a sale.

Also keep in mind that when a home is being shown to potential buyers, the real estate agent often asks the homeowners to be absent. It is important to consider whether these interruptions will pose a hardship.

I hope these tips help you and your husband decide what option is the best fit for your budget and future plans!

Kind regards,


Visit Independent Living at Heritage

We invite you to include a Heritage independent living community near you in your search. Call us today to schedule a tour!

Can Olfactory Enrichment Improve Memory Loss?

Can Olfactory Enrichment Improve Memory Loss?

Dear Donna:

My mom was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. At this point, we are trying to learn more about the disease and if there is anything we can do to slow the progression. We are also trying to plan for her current and future care needs. It feels like a lot.

I recently caught the very end of a radio interview about using different smells to treat Alzheimer’s. It also covered how the sense of smell may be linked to neurological conditions, like dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Are you aware of any credible research on this topic? I’m trying to explore every avenue I can.


Elise in Pittsford Township, MI

Can Smells Impact Alzheimer’s?

Dear Elise:

While it sounds like you are on the right track in understanding and preparing for your mom’s long-term needs, it is understandable that you are feeling overwhelmed. It can be so much for families.

You’ve asked a great question regarding how smells may impact Alzheimer’s. It’s an interesting topic, for sure. Researchers have long believed the loss of smell, whether caused by environmental factors, age, sinus problems, or something else, can increase a person’s risk for certain neurological conditions. Those range from Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s to schizophrenia.

The olfactory system, which is responsible for the sense of smell, is comprised of the nostrils, the ethmoid bone, the nasal cavity, and layers of tissue that line the nasal cavity. The olfactory system is also directly connected to the body’s limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for memory and emotion.

This proximity is one reason researchers are so interested in exploring the topic. One of the most recent studies is from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Its lead researcher is Dr. Michael Leon, Professor Emeritus of the Institute of Memory Impairment & Disorders at UCI. He has been studying memory loss for over three decades.

Leon believes aging and memory go hand-in-hand with a sense of smell. It’s thought that as the ability to smell is diminished or lost completely, the brain is at risk for a host of health problems. While his team’s study was too small to reach a solid conclusion, the preliminary findings are encouraging.

People who received olfactory enrichment in the form of seven different diffused essential oils showed significant improvements in verbal learning and memory. In fact, when using the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), the enrichment group showed a 226% difference in performance.

You can find and read the full study, “Overnight olfactory enrichment using an odorant diffuser improves memory and modifies the uncinate fasciculus in older adults,” online. It was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience on July 24, 2023.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have any more questions.

Kind regards,


Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Having a thoughtfully-designed, controlled environment helps adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia live their best quality of life. At Heritage Senior Communities, we offer specialized dementia care at our Michigan communities. Our person-centered approach to care includes dedicated programs, such as for dining services and life enrichment activities.

If you are searching for a memory care community for a Michigan loved one, we invite you to call the Heritage memory care community nearest you. One of our team members will be happy to arrange a tour and answer any questions you may have!

How to Make New Friends after Moving to a Senior Community

How to Make New Friends after Moving to a Senior Community

Dear Donna:

I’m planning to relocate to a senior living community this summer. While I live in Florida now, my search is taking me to the Holland, Michigan, area to be closer to my daughter and her family. It will make it easier for us to be more involved in one another’s lives.

I’ve been considering this move for a while and feel it’s a good decision. However, I’ve been a resident of Florida for almost 30 years. Nearly all of my friends are here, as are my doctors, my church, and my volunteer work. The idea of starting over is daunting. Do you have some ideas to make rebuilding my social circle easier? It might help me prepare for this next chapter in life.



Tips for Making New Friends after Moving to a Senior Living Community

Dear Elizabeth:

First, it sounds like you have much to look forward to, especially being closer to your grandkids! And Holland, Michigan, is such a lovely area of the country to call home. But I understand how intimidating it may seem. Preparing ahead of time, like you are doing, is a great idea. Just in case you aren’t sure how to start your search, these tips might be helpful.

As far as rebuilding your social circle after a move to a senior living community, I do have a few ideas that I hope will be useful.

  • Explore communities convenient to family.

Since you mentioned that you are just beginning your search for a senior community, my first suggestion is to carefully consider the location. While proximity to your daughter and her family shouldn’t be the top or only priority, it should be high on your list. That will make it easier for you to visit and help with the grandkids and for them to be involved in activities at your community.

  • Research the Holland area online.

Another tip is to spend time online researching the Holland area. You already have the advantage of your daughter living there, but exploring opportunities of interest to you is important. For example, since you mentioned that you are currently involved in volunteer work, you could look around online to see which organizations might be looking for help. It’s also a good way to look up churches, doctors, and more.

  • Get on newsletter and email lists.

Ask all of the senior living communities that you are seriously considering to put you on their lists to receive their newsletters and event information. While the distance will obviously prevent you from attending activities and programs, it will give you a chance to learn more about what happens each day. That will give you a head start once you move and are ready to participate in activities. If you do make personal visits to the communities before making a decision, which we always recommend, plan to attend an event or two when you are in town.

  • Be patient but also put yourself out there.

My last suggestion is to give yourself time to settle in, but to also take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. That might include enjoying a cup of coffee in a common area of the community with neighbors or joining a morning stretching class. If you are a little hesitant to attend activities and events on your own, ask the life enrichment team to introduce you to neighbors who might share your interests. You could also invite family members to join you for a program.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you, Elizabeth. And I’d like to encourage you to keep Heritage Senior Communities in the Holland area on your list. One of our team members will be happy to take you on a tour, answer any questions you might have, and invite you to one of our daily life enrichment activities.

Kind regards,


What Kinds of Senior Care Will the Veterans Benefits Pay For?

What Kinds of Senior Care Will the Veterans Benefits Pay For?

Dear Donna:

My mom is almost 80 years old and starting to require more help than our family can manage in her home. My husband, children, and I have been providing support to my mom every day for over two years now. She needs assistance with household tasks, transportation, meal preparation, and laundry. Some days, mom even needs a helping hand to take a shower and do her hair.

My father passed away several years ago, and he was a veteran. I’ve been told there is a special benefit that veterans and surviving spouses can qualify for, but I’m not familiar with it. While my mother and father were always good at managing their money, my mom lives on a fairly tight retirement budget.

We hope to find some financial assistance to help pay for in-home care for her while we search for an assisted living community. What types of care does this benefit cover and would my mom qualify?


Theresa in Williamsburg, MI

Learn More about the Aid and Attendance Benefit

Dear Theresa:

I’m glad you wrote to me about this benefit that helps qualifying veterans and surviving spouses connect with the senior care they need. It isn’t very well known, so it is frequently overlooked.

Let me start by saying it sounds as if your family is on the right track. People often use home care services as a short-term solution. It provides support that gives families time to look for an assisted living community that best meets their senior loved one’s needs.

In addition to assisted living communities and nursing care centers, home care services may be covered by the VA Aid and Attendance benefit. That’s because having professional caregivers visit the senior’s home to perform tasks such as bathing, grooming, meal preparation, laundry, and light housekeeping improves safety, health, and quality of life.

Requirements for Aid and Attendance Benefit

To qualify on the physical needs side of the benefit, the veteran or surviving spouse must meet at least one of the following physical requirements:

  • Need another person to assist with everyday tasks, such as grooming, meal preparation, bathing, and dressing.
  • Be bedridden or spend long periods of time in bed due to an illness or disability.
  • Be a patient in a nursing home due to a disability that led to the loss of physical or mental abilities.
  • Have limited eyesight, such as 5/200 with glasses or contacts or a concentric contraction of visual field to 5 or fewer degrees.

Answering how a veteran or surviving spouse qualifies to receive additional money through the Aid and Attendance benefit is a little tougher. There are income and net worth limits, dates of service requirements, as well as other factors. One of the Heritage team members can likely walk you through this part of the process.

I hope this information is useful to you, Theresa. I invite you to call one of our Heritage Senior Communities locations near your Michigan home. We’ll be happy to schedule an in-person meeting to answer your questions about this benefit and assisted living.

Kind regards,


Tips for Long Distance Caregivers

Tips for Long Distance Caregivers

Dear Donna:

I’m hoping you have some ideas that might help me care for my 83-year-old mother long distance, at least for a while. She lives alone in northern Michigan in the house my siblings and I grew up in. Until my dad passed away 6 months ago, it seemed like a safe and happy place for her to live. After his passing, I’ve become more concerned.

My mom has macular degeneration that is somewhat controlled with treatment. While she isn’t able to drive, she manages fairly well at home. The retina specialist she sees tells us that could change fairly quickly, however.

I don’t want to try to force her into moving to a senior living community so soon after losing my dad. However, I feel like we need a plan for managing her care now and once her vision worsens. My dad always handled tasks like filling her medication tray and driving her to the doctor for her treatments.

I live on the West Coast with my family but visit my mom every few months. It’s the time in between that concerns me. Do you have any tips for supporting a parent long distance? When will I know it’s time to be more forceful in encouraging her to move?



Caring Across the Miles: Tips For Long-Distance Caregivers

Dear Justine:

First, please accept my condolences on the loss of your father. I’m sure that is difficult on many levels, not the least of which is concern for your mother.

We often hear from adult children whose parents have been able to compensate for one another’s challenges and can live safely at home. Once one parent is on their own, however, the need for change becomes more pressing. A few factors I would encourage you to consider and plan for are:

  • Finding transportation: For many older adults, especially those in rural communities like northern Michigan, finding reliable transportation to and from appointments and errands is a challenge. If your mom doesn’t have a friend or family member who can help, contact your local agency on aging. Many maintain lists of either volunteers or professional services who assist seniors with transportation.
  • Investigating prescription packaging: Since you mentioned your dad always filled your mom’s pill box, I’m sure this is a worry for you now. You could try calling the pharmacies she uses to see if they offer packaging services. They are sometimes referred to as punch cards. Pharmacies pre-fill these in the order/time of day a dose should be taken. That helps prevent older adults from making dangerous mistakes with medication. If that isn’t an option, try a tech service like the MedMinder pill organizer.
  • Creating a local support system: Another suggestion is to try to assemble a local support team for your mom. This could include friends or family who are willing to check on her and could get to her quickly in the event of an emergency. If you don’t feel comfortable relying on them, consider hiring a geriatric care manager. These care management professionals can usually help with everything from overseeing people you hire to clean your mom’s house or mow the lawn to beginning the process of downsizing a senior’s home.
  • Utilizing video chat: Don’t underestimate how valuable video chatting with your mom every few days can be. It will allow you to see her face-to-face to assess how she is doing and even how her house looks. If she doesn’t already use a device like an iPad, it’s probably worth investing in one and helping her set up Zoom or Skype.
  • Trying home delivery services: Investigate which local stores and services are available to support independence. For example, many pharmacies will deliver to older adults at no additional cost. See if her favorite grocery store delivers or works with a service that does. If funds permit, maybe hire a personal chef who comes right to the home. Some will prepare meals for clients and stock their freezer.
  • Exploring vision support resources: Lastly, try to connect with an organization that advocates for and assists people with vision loss or a vision impairment. Most communities have nonprofit agencies that fill this role. They will likely be a good resource for assisting with your mom’s unique needs.

Assisted Living for Adults with Vision Loss

One final suggestion is to consider helping your mom transition to an assisted living community while she still has some of her vision. Though most people with macular degeneration don’t experience complete vision loss, it will be more challenging to move to a new environment with severe vision loss. Getting relocated and settled in before that happens is a definite advantage.

Other benefits of assisted living for adults with vision problems include transportation services, housekeeping and laundry, medication management, and healthy meals. We invite you to call one of our Heritage Senior Communities to learn more about how assisted living can help an older adult with vision loss remain more independent!

I hope this is helpful, Justine, and I wish you and your mom the best of luck!

Kind regards,


What Should I Ask on My First Call to an Assisted Living Community?

What Should I Ask on My First Call to an Assisted Living Community?

Dear Donna:

While my kids were home from college on holiday vacation, we visited my parents for the first time in over a year. I call and video chat with my parents several times a week, and they always tell me they are managing everything just fine. That’s why we were so shocked at what we found when we got to their house.

Both my mom and my dad have lost weight they didn’t need to lose. I checked their refrigerator and cupboards, and it’s obvious they are relying on frozen dinners and canned soups. Both parents are walking with canes they bought at the drugstore. My mom had bumps and bruises on her arms and legs, and my dad admitted that she’s had a few falls lately. That frightens me as I know how dangerous a fall can be for seniors.

The condition of their house was equally surprising. Their bedroom had a large pile of laundry waiting to be done. The floors badly needed to be vacuumed. The bathroom shower obviously hadn’t been cleaned in a while. My parents always kept their house and yard neat and tidy, so this was definitely not typical of them.

After a long discussion, they reluctantly told us keeping up the house has become a real struggle. They are both having a difficult time caring for their personal needs. My mom has been experiencing frequent falls and is afraid to get into the shower. While my dad is doing a little better physically than my mom, he seems to be having a tough time too. We all agreed it’s time for them to make a change. After some preliminary research online, it seems like assisted living might be a good solution.

My parents and I agreed that I would start calling assisted living communities near their house. We want to ask some initial questions to screen out places that don’t seem to be a good fit. I’ll fly back to town in a few weeks to take my parents to visit the assisted living communities that seem like good options. As I’m preparing my list of calls, I’m trying to figure out what to ask. I’m new to this process so I don’t really know how to get started.

Any suggestions?


Bonnie in Douglas, MI

Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Community

Dear Bonnie:

It sounds like you are on the right track! But the search for an assisted living community can be overwhelming, especially if you aren’t familiar with senior housing options. Call communities in the area of town your parents would like to live in to learn more about them.

I do have a few suggestions for questions you’ll want to ask:

  • Availability: Since it sounds as if there is some urgency to transition your parents to a safer environment, it’s a good idea to ask about availability. Some of the best assisted living communities are full and have a waitlist. If there is a waitlist, inquire about how long it is expected to be before something opens up and what the process is to get on the list. You may be required to make a deposit and fill out an application.
  • Affordability: If your parents are like most people, they’ll have a budget. Try to get an idea of how much they can afford to pay for assisted living each month before you start calling. Keep in mind, there might be options for financing care. For example, if one of them was a veteran, they might qualify for some financial assistance. Or if they purchased long-term care insurance, the policy may include assisted living coverage. Some assisted living expenses might even be tax-deductible.
  • Other questions: Finally, on your initial screening call, think about factors that may impact whether your parents would consider a particular community. For example, if your mom and dad have a pet, will they be welcome? Another one might be transportation. Since it sounds like you live far from your parents, finding an assisted living community that has a transportation team or can make arrangements for getting to and from appointments might be important.

Once you’ve narrowed your list, the next step is to schedule in-person visits and assemble questions to ask. “Important Questions to Ask on an Assisted Living Tour” will be a good resource to review when you are ready to move forward in the process.

Good luck with your search! Please keep the Heritage Senior Communities in your area in mind as you make your calls.

Kind regards,