My mom has always been very social. After my father passed away three years ago, she struggled without him. Just when she was getting back on her feet, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. Since then, she has been forced to remain mostly isolated.
While she recently received her first COVID-19 vaccine, we know it will take a few months until she can be out and about again. Our family members routinely check in with her using Zoom and Skype, but it’s just not enough. I’m trying to find something she can do from home that will help her feel connected and purposeful.
Do you have any suggestions? I’m sure you’ve probably heard this question before and have some ideas.
Krista in Saginaw, MI
Encouraging Virtual Volunteerism during National Volunteer Week
Your question is a timely one! National Volunteer Week begins on April 18. Research shows seniors who lend their time and talent to a cause close to their heart reap a variety of mental and physical health benefits. From fewer incidences of depression to less risk of heart disease, volunteering might be the perfect solution for your mother.
There are plenty of organizations looking for virtual volunteers. Since your mother seems comfortable using technology, there will be even more opportunities open to her. Here are a few suggestions for connecting.
First, contact the United Way agency nearest to your mother’s home. They might know of local nonprofits looking for remote volunteers. When the coronavirus is behind us, she might be able to lend her time to the organization in person.
If you don’t have any luck with that option, there are a variety of national organizations you can explore. Two with easy-to-navigate volunteer websites are:
- VolunteerMatch: This nonprofit organization has been matching volunteers with agencies in need since 1998. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, their number of virtual volunteer opportunities increased to over 600,000 nationwide! Your mom could choose to be an eBook Buddy to a child who needs help reading. She might also be interested in writing social media posts for a nonprofit animal rescue or anti-bullying organization. There are volunteer projects for every interest imaginable.
- Points of Light Foundation: A global leader in nonprofit development, Points of Light Foundation also works to inspire and expand volunteer communities. They, too, have expanded the number of virtual projects volunteers can connect with. You can search their database for both short-term and long-term tasks your mother might be interested in.
I hope this gives you and your mother some useful ideas, Krista!
Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan and Indiana
A family-owned senior living provider for four generations, Heritage Senior Communities has locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana. If you have questions about independent living, assisted living, or memory care, call the Heritage community nearest you to talk with one of our team members. We are always happy to help!
My 84-year-old father is starting to develop a few health issues. Nothing serious, but concerning enough that we’ve been spending more time at the doctor. While his physician is cordial, he always seems hurried. My dad doesn’t talk about his medical problems very easily, so it sometimes takes a few minutes for him to open up.
I suspect my dad’s physician is a better fit for younger adults than for seniors. How can I tell if it’s time to make a change? If it is, what steps can I take to find a physician who is comfortable working with seniors?
Any suggestions are appreciated!
Is It Time for a New Physician for a Senior Loved One?
What a great observation! It’s one we often hear from adult children. Not every primary care physician is comfortable caring for older patients, just as some aren’t at ease with younger children. Here’s some insight you might find helpful in making this decision.
First, mutual respect is essential in your father’s relationship with his primary care physician. While they are busy professionals, your father needs to feel like his doctor is listening to him. On the other hand, it sounds like your dad has been this doctor’s patient for a while. There is value in working with someone who knows his medical history.
Is there anything you can do to help your dad better communicate with his doctor? Do you make a list of concerns and review them ahead of time? Before you give up and find a new doctor, it’s worth trying to prepare more before appointments.
There are other issues to consider, too. Can you get an appointment easily? Is his doctor able to quickly make a diagnosis? Is the location of the office convenient? Is the physician part of a reputable provider network?
If you take an objective look at the situation and decide it is in your dad’s best interest to find a new physician, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Tips for Finding a New Physician
- Insurance: Research which physicians accept your father’s health insurance. While you might think all physicians accept Medicare, a growing number of doctors are declining to work with Medicare and Medicaid due to perceived low reimbursement rates.
- Referrals: Ask friends, family, and colleagues you trust for referrals. It’s a good way to gain insight on what it’s like to be a patient of any physician you are considering.
- Location: While a good doctor is worth driving farther for, a great distance can be tough if your dad needs to visit often.
- Reviews: While reviews for physicians are tough to come by, a few sites are worth investigating. Healthgrades and Vitals are two. Medicare’s Physician Compare tool is another.
- Appointment: Finally, schedule a new patient appointment with the doctor. These appointments are usually longer and will give you a good idea whether the doctor will be a good fit for your father.
I hope these tips are helpful to you and your father, Lisa! I’m sure this won’t be an easy decision to make.
Heritage Senior Communities
A fourth generation, family-owned company, Heritage Senior Communities has locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana. With options for care that include independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite, you’ll likely find a good solution for a senior loved one.
My 85-year-old dad is very independent. While I understand his age shouldn’t be the sole criteria in determining his health and well-being, one area I am concerned about is driving.
How can I tell if my dad is a safe driver? Are there steps I can take to make him less likely to experience an accident? I want to support his desire for independence as long as possible, but I also want to keep him safe.
Do you have any advice?
Thank you in advance,
Tips to Evaluate Older Driver Safety
You are correct in not relying on your father’s age to determine whether or not he is a safe driver. While age can play a role, it’s not the only factor to consider. Other signals can indicate it’s time for your dad to stop driving, and adaptive aids address some common senior issues.
- Be the passenger.
An easy and non-confrontational way to evaluate your father’s driving is to ride along as the passenger. Look for warning signs that can indicate a problem, including:
- Bumping into curbs while parking or turning
- Pausing too long at stop signs and red lights
- Inability to maintain their lane
- Repeated and unnecessary braking
- Tailgating cars in front of them
- Driving too fast or too slowly
- Evaluate the driver’s comfort level.
When an older driver thinks they have no other option than to keep driving, they might become afraid behind the wheel. Skittishness can affect their driving. A few things to look for are:
- Anger: Road rage can happen to older drivers too. It might be their way of coping with their anxiety and stress about driving.
- Anxiety: Does your dad seems nervous when he’s driving? Nerves can impact safety.
- Confusion: Adult children may panic and assume a parent is developing dementia if they seem confused while driving. While it may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, it could also be fear.
If your father exhibits any of these signs, it’s probably time to sit down and talk with him to determine how he feels about driving.
- Consider medical conditions.
Some medical conditions and medications can impact a senior’s ability to drive safely. If your dad takes any prescription or over-the-counter medicine, check the labels to see if there are any cautions about driving. If he takes more than a few types of medicine, call the pharmacist to see if there may be any potential interactions or adverse reactions.
Health issues most closely linked to driving safety among seniors include:
- Alzheimer’s disease: In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, the senior’s physician might say they are still safe to drive. As the disease advances, however, it’s common for adults with Alzheimer’s to get lost traveling to and from once-familiar places. Judgment may also be impaired, putting good driving decision-making abilities at risk.
- Decreased flexibility: One common age-related change is a loss of flexibility. People with arthritis are at especially high risk. This makes it more difficult to turn your head to look over your shoulder or slide in and out of the car.
- Slower reflexes: This also occurs with aging. For drivers, being slow to react can be especially problematic. It can result in the senior taking too long to respond to road hazards and having an accident.
- Vision loss: While some vision changes can be treated or corrected with glasses, others can’t. Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration make it difficult to spot road signs, traffic signals, and pedestrians.
Fortunately, there are a few tools that can make driving a little easier for seniors. Here are some driving aids you might consider for your father:
- Swivel seat: These devices make it easier to slide behind the wheel of a car. They usually cost less than $30 and can be purchased at auto parts stores and online retailers.
- Seat belt pull: The process of dragging the seat belt across the body and locking it is easier with a seat belt pull. This handle-like device gives an older driver up to 6 more inches of reach.
- Mirror adapters: A mirror adapter allows senior drivers to better view their surroundings. They are available for both the rearview and side mirrors.
- Pedal extender: While it’s an issue seniors joke about, research shows older adults often lose several inches in height as they age. A pedal extender is inexpensive and might help. They allow seniors to reach the car pedals without sitting too close to the steering wheel.
I hope this information is helpful, Vickie! Good luck talking with your father about driving.
I am a retiree living alone since my husband passed two years ago. Because I don’t drive much in the winter, I’m sticking close to home. The coronavirus is another reason.
My grandson helped me sign up for Facebook last spring and I’ve been using it a lot every day. I’ve noticed my anxiety has increased over the last eight or nine months. I’m sure the COVID-19 pandemic is a big reason for it, but my daughter also wants me to spend less time online. She thinks it is bad for my health.
While I probably could use it less, I am wondering if social media is good for me. For seniors like me, there are a lot of positives.
The Pros and Cons of Social Media
That’s an interesting question! I would say you and your daughter are both right. Social media can be an easy way for isolated older adults to feel connected to friends and family while waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to subside.
First, the benefits of being active on Facebook and other social channels often include:
- Engaging with loved ones near and far
- Exploring virtual events like watercolor painting workshops and knitting classes
- Reconnecting with friends you’ve lost touch with over the years
While social media has many advantages, there are definitely downsides. In recent years, the dark side of social media has become more obvious and may include:
- Spreading misinformation on essential topics, such as coronavirus prevention and vaccine safety
- Instigating family feuds about politics
- Contributing to a sedentary lifestyle, which researchers say can be as dangerous as smoking
Social Media-Related Stress
If you are struggling to decide which category your social media habits fall into—healthy or stressful—ask yourself these questions:
- How much time are you spending on Facebook each day?
Are you taking breaks to get up and move? Sitting too much can result in high blood pressure, weight gain, depression, diabetes, and more.
- Are you fighting with loved ones you would never disagree with in person?
Have any of your important relationships been damaged by issues that started on social media? People often feel freer to express their opinions on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. If you’ve seen your relationships suffer, you might need to cut back on your social media engagement.
- How do you feel after you log off for the day?
Social media can be a source of anxiety and stress. Facebook is often considered one of the worst platforms for both. Pay attention to how you feel before you log in to your account and again when you log off. Is there a positive or negative change? Use that as your guide in deciding if you need to cut back or even give up social media altogether.
I hope these suggestions help you make an informed choice, Renee!
Get to Know Heritage Senior Communities
A leading provider of senior living, Heritage Senior Communities is a fourth-generation family-owned company. With locations throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, older adults will likely find a community that meets their needs and interests. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!
My dad recently experienced a serious fall that caused him to be hospitalized for several days. Because of the coronavirus, my parents have been isolated in their northern Michigan home for months. While I bring food and supplies to them, we’ve been careful to maintain a physical distance.
Because I stayed with my mom when my dad was hospitalized, I got a true picture of how they’ve been managing on their own. It was a real eye opener. The house wasn’t the tidy place it’s always been. Their refrigerator was filled with expired foods, and it’s obvious my mom is struggling with her personal care needs.
I tried to talk with my parents about hiring a home care aide or moving to an assisted living community. The discussion didn’t go well. I can’t seem to convince them to accept more help, even from me.
Do you have any advice? I’m so worried about the outcome of living on their own if we wait any longer. It’s just so frustrating!
Communicating with a Parent Who Refuses Help
First, you aren’t alone in feeling worried and frustrated about aging parents! Nearly 80% of adult caregivers think their parents are stubborn, according to a study by Penn State University. It can lead to sleepless nights for adult children, and resentment on the part of parents.
I do have a few suggestions that may help foster cooperation and allow you to get to the core of your parents’ resistance:
- Watch your tone and body language: Express empathy with your parents instead of seeming to placate or appear insincere. Your tone and body language need to be positive and non-judgmental. Instead of telling a parent what to do, try sharing the importance of considering a change. Explain that accepting a little help now will allow them to maintain their independence longer.
- Dig for the underlying issue: Have you asked your parents why they won’t accept help? There are a variety of reasons older adults resist help. Sometimes they worry about losing their independence and identity. Most seniors see this as another part of life they need to handle.
Find out exactly what worries your parent about the potential change. Do they think moving to an assisted living community means losing their privacy, independence, or autonomy? Or are they concerned about finances? By expressing genuine concern, your parent may feel heard and understood. That’s an important first step.
- Use positive language: Language is as important as tone. The Mayo Clinic suggests caregivers replace frightening eldercare terminology with friendlier language. For instance, refer to a home care provider as a companion who can help with basic chores and personal care. Talk about assisted living as a community that provides just enough support to allow residents to remain independent.
- Enlist a trusted advisor: Sometimes aging parents might be more willing to listen to a trusted advisor who isn’t part of the family. It could be their clergy, doctor, or another health care professional such as a social worker. They may be able to persuade your aging loved one that accepting assistance is necessary for staying safe and healthy.
I hope these tips are helpful, Clare! If you have more questions or would like to arrange a virtual tour, please call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you!
Heritage Senior Communities Responds to COVID-19
We know prospective residents and their loved ones have concerns about how senior living providers are handling the coronavirus. We address this legitimate worry in detail on our website. Visit Coronavirus Precautions to learn more.
My great uncle lives alone in northern Michigan. Since his wife passed away, he’s been getting increasingly isolated. While I visit as often as possible, my home is almost three hours away. He’s finally decided he would be better off in a senior living community. We are going to start searching for potential options with a goal of moving in the spring.
A colleague told me his father qualified for special financial assistance because he is a veteran like my uncle. How can I learn more about this program? My uncle has always been careful with his money, but he could benefit from a little help paying for care.
Veterans Benefits for Senior Care
Thank you for asking this question! It provides me with an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite programs. Like you, many veterans and their families aren’t aware of it. Commonly referred to as the Aid and Attendance benefit, it was created to ensure that those who served our nation and their surviving spouses receive the care they need.
Your uncle must meet certain eligibility criteria, including having served 90 days of active-duty service. At least one day of that service must have been during a recognized period of war.
Other eligibility requirements veterans such as your uncle must meet include:
- Age or disability: To receive this benefit, a veteran must be at least 65 years old or be totally and permanently disabled. Seniors who live in a nursing home or receive skilled nursing care may be eligible, as can veterans who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
- Financial criteria: There are both income and asset thresholds for veterans applying for the Aid and Attendance benefit. The Veterans Administration will look at the veteran’s overall net worth when determining eligibility.
- Physical condition: The veteran and/or their surviving spouse must also meet one of these conditions to be eligible:
- Be bedridden
- Live in a nursing home due to mental or physical limitations
- Be blind or nearly blind
- Require the aid of another person to perform everyday living tasks (e.g., dressing, bathing, feeding, toileting)
While families might think the process is too complicated, it’s important to know it can make a significant difference to veterans who qualify. The financial rewards change every year or two, but can range from $14,761 a year for a surviving spouse to $27,194 for a veteran with a spouse or child.
You can learn more by visiting the Pension Benefits area of the US Department of Veterans Affairs online. The staff at Heritage Senior Communities will also be happy to help answer questions. Call the community nearest you today!
Best of luck in your search, Nicole!