Is It Safe for a Senior with Dementia to Garden?

Is It Safe for a Senior with Dementia to Garden?

Dear Donna,

My mom was diagnosed with early-stage dementia two years ago. She’s managed to live independently until this year. After much debate, she moved in with my family and me. We are modifying our home and would also like to make some changes to the yard.

Mom has always been a gardener and I’d like her to continue. Beyond fencing in our backyard, what should I know to keep her safe?


Staci in Traverse City, MI

Garden Safety and Seniors with Dementia

Dear Staci,

What a great question! With the right precautions, a senior with dementia can and should continue to enjoy gardening. Planting and caring for a garden offers a variety of mental, physical, and spiritual benefits for all ages.

Gardening provides a meaningful activity for families to do together. When a senior loved one has dementia, finding activities several generations can enjoy together isn’t always easy.

It also helps reduce stress, improve strength, build stamina, and prevent depression. For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the benefits are even greater. A few additional benefits of gardening for adults with dementia include:

  • Decreased stress, agitation, and anxiety
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Sense of accomplishment and success

While gardening might seem like a low-risk activity, there are a few safety risks to be aware of for seniors with dementia.

6 Garden Safety Tips for Seniors with Dementia

Use these tips to create a safe, secure gardening environment:

  1. Inspect garden tools: Some garden tools can have rough edges and points. You might not realize how sharp they are until you closely inspect them. Because dementia can also cause problems with manual dexterity, tools with rounded edges and larger handles are easier and safer.
  2. Monitor hydration: Seniors with dementia may forget to drink enough water on a hot, humid day. That can put them at increased risk for dehydration. Invest in an insulated water bottle your mom can take into the garden with her.
  3. Take sun safety precautions: Staying safe outdoors during the summer requires more than hydrating. Make sure your mom applies ample amounts of sunscreen and wears a hat to shield her face. Also, encourage her to garden in the morning or evening when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong.
  4. Designate places for rest breaks: Dementia can cause problems with mobility and balance. These can be especially pronounced outdoors in the garden. Strategically place chairs and benches throughout the garden to give your mom places to rest.
  5. Use container gardens: Raised garden beds and container gardens are a safe solution for a gardener with dementia. If your mom doesn’t have to bend over or stoop down to weed and plant, she is less likely to fall.
  6. Invest in a GPS device: The Alzheimer’s Association estimates six out of ten people with dementia will wander at some point. That’s a frightening statistic for loved ones. Invest in a GPS tracking watch or pendant that tracks her location in real time. Many use cellular technology, which works almost anywhere.

I hope this information is helpful, Staci!

Kind regards,


Memory Care for Adults with Dementia

At Heritage Senior Communities, memory care residents have opportunities to enjoy gardening, nature walks, bird-watching, and more. The best way to learn about memory care at Heritage Senior Communities is to take a private tour. Contact us today the community nearest you to schedule a time!

How Can I Convince My Parents to Accept More Help?

How Can I Convince My Parents to Accept More Help?

Dear Donna,

My family and I live about 30 miles from my parents’ home in central Michigan. We try to visit and help with errands and household tasks every weekend. It’s not easy, especially in winter.

My mom gave up driving years ago. Over the past six months or so, my dad’s health has declined significantly. While he still drives to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store, I don’t think he should.

Now that the weather is warmer, I’d like to talk with them about moving to an assisted living community. We’ve never discussed the issue before and I’m nervous about doing so. However, I am worried something bad will happen to them if I don’t.

Do you have any suggestions for starting a conversation when parents need more help than adult children can provide?


Grace in Saginaw, MI

Starting a Conversation about Assisted Living

Dear Grace,

Beginning a conversation about moving with a senior can be daunting. Adult children may hesitate for fear of upsetting or insulting a loved one. The very idea of the difficult emotions that may arise could cause an adult child to delay the discussion.

In some cases, families wait too long. They could be forced to find a solution in the midst of a crisis. But it sounds as if you already understand the best time to begin talking to a parent about moving to assisted living.

I do have a few tips to help you prepare for and initiate the conversation about assisted living:

  1. Do your research.

Before you tackle a conversation about assisted living with your parent, do your homework. Make sure you understand what assisted living is and isn’t. Many senior living communities have great resources on their websites to help you learn more.

Research online, call a few that seem like good fits, and even visit some in person. Become familiar with the services and amenities of assisted living and why you think it’s a good solution. It will give you more confidence to start the discussion.

  1. Prepare to talk more than once.

Moving to an assisted living community is a big decision. While it can be the start of an exciting new chapter for your parents, agreeing to such a big change is intimidating.

When you begin this discussion with your parents, know it will not be a one-time talk. While your parents might realize a change is needed and agree to a quick move, that isn’t usually the case. Start slowly and give your parents time to adjust. They might not immediately see the benefits of giving up their home and moving to an assisted living community.

  1. Show empathy.

Try to look at the situation from your parents’ perspective. How you would feel if you were asked to give up your home and move to a new environment? Kind words and empathy can make a big difference.

Also keep in mind many seniors believe myths about senior housing, such as residents losing their independence and having a lot of rules to follow. Concerns like these may make them resistant to even considering a move.

When you are worried about your senior loved ones’ well-being, it’s easy to let your fears keep you from listening to theirs. Instead, try to get to the bottom of what might be holding them back.

They may be concerned about issues you aren’t aware of, including:

  • Loss of privacy and being forced to adapt to a rigid daily schedule
  • Fear about the expense of assisted living
  • Concerns that family and friends will forget about them

By keeping these things in mind, you will likely make the conversation go more smoothly.

I hope these tips help, Grace, and we hope you will keep the Heritage communities in mid-Michigan in mind for your parents! Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

Kind regards,



4 Tips for Traveling with Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s

4 Tips for Traveling with Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s

Dear Donna,

My dad is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Our family reunion is coming up, and we are nervous about traveling. It will be his first trip away from home since his diagnosis.

How can I keep my dad safe and comfortable while traveling? We all want very much for him to be able to attend.


Jan from Traverse City, MI

Traveling with a Senior Loved One Who Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Jan,

Traveling with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Often, it just requires a little extra planning. By understanding their stressors and using strategies to keep them at ease, caregivers can make traveling a positive experience for everyone involved. Here are a few tips for traveling with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

4 Alzheimer’s Travel Tips

  1. Plan ahead.

When traveling with a person with Alzheimer’s, understand it may take longer to get places and accomplish specific tasks. Leaving extra time for each activity can help you feel at ease if something goes wrong. You might even want to invest in a GPS bracelet or pendant, which can locate them quickly if they wander.

  1. Choose the right travel method.

Mode of transportation is one of the most important factors to consider when traveling with a loved one who has dementia. Try to pick a method they will find comfortable.

Familiar and relaxed modes of transportation, like a car or even a train, tend to be good choices. Trains can also be a good option because they allow you to sit together. Because you are not driving, you can focus on your loved one’s safety. By contrast, air travel can be quite stressful.

  1. Be mindful of when you travel.

Timing is another key factor. Sticking to a routine can help reduce anxiety in seniors with dementia. Try your best to maintain their schedule as closely as possible. For example, eat meals and go to bed at the usual time. Try to avoid traveling in the evening, especially if your loved one experiences sundowning. Travel during hours when they are in their best mood. This is usually in the morning or earlier part of the day.

  1. Have important documents handy.

It’s also helpful to have important documents ready in case of emergency. This includes a list of your loved one’s medications and dosages, their doctor’s name, and emergency contact information. Bullet cards summarizing their special needs to share with transportation and hotel personnel may also help.

Evaluate Your Loved One’s Abilities

Before planning a trip, evaluate your loved one’s ability to travel. Seniors in the early stages of the disease may have an easier time leaving home than those in later stages. If your loved one struggles with traveling, decide whether the trip is necessary. Is the event going to make them upset or cause them a great deal of discomfort? If so, it may be best to let them sit it out.

I hope these tips make traveling easier for you and your senior loved one with Alzheimer’s.



Respite Care in Michigan

If your senior loved one isn’t up for traveling, you may want to consider respite care services, such as those provided at Heritage Senior Communities. You can enjoy your trip knowing your loved one is safe. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a private tour.

4 Tips to Encourage Seniors to Take Care of Themselves

4 Tips to Encourage Seniors to Take Care of Themselves

Dear Donna,

My mom used to put a lot of effort into staying healthy. After she retired, she stopped taking care of herself. She seems to value convenience over health. It’s not uncommon for her to go days without exercising or wearing something other than pajamas.

How can I encourage my senior mom to take better care of herself? I’m not sure what has caused her to lose her life-long motivation.


Karen from Hudsonville, MI

Helping a Senior Loved One Care for Themselves

Dear Karen,

It’s not unusual for seniors, especially homebodies, to have difficulty getting motivated to take care of themselves. But self-care and personal hygiene are essential for health and wellness at any age.

Here are a few tips for caregivers to encourage senior loved ones to care for themselves.

4 Self-Care Tips for Seniors

  1. Diet

A nutrient-rich diet is essential for your overall health and wellness. Many seniors choose convenience over health for various reasons. Getting to the grocery store may be challenging due to driving limitations or distance. They may opt for fast food when they aren’t motivated to cook for one.

Regardless of the reason, nutrient-dense food is essential for health. Offer to cook fresh meals with your mom. If grocery shopping is a concern, invite her shop with you or offer to do her shopping.

  1. Sleep

It’s a common misconception that you need less sleep with age. Seniors need just as much sleep as younger adults. Encourage a good night’s sleep by offering to arrange your mom’s bedroom for successful rest. To promote good sleep hygiene, make sure the sheets are clean and the room is a comfortable temperature.

  1. Exercise

There are so many reasons to move your body. Exercise can reduce the risk of many chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. Physical activity can also improve muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination, which can reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.

When encouraging a senior loved one to work out, remember that starting an exercise routine can be challenging. One way to encourage your mother is to work out together. Even a 15-minute walk in the morning or an afternoon swim can make a world of difference.

  1. Socialize

Many people don’t realize how important it is to stay social throughout their lives. Feeling connected to others and having strong social ties can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Some studies even show remaining social can lead to a longer life. It can be challenging for seniors to stay social after retirement because they don’t have as many opportunities to make friends.

Help your mom by taking her to a local senior center, helping her find senior classes, or simply taking your mother to places where she can connect with others.

Be Mindful of Limitations

Some seniors may have mobility challenges or health conditions that limit their ability to perform certain activities of daily living. It’s important to approach your mother in a helpful, understanding way. Do your best to be considerate of her boundaries and offer assistance where you can.

I hope this helps you encourage your mother to take care of her health.



Heritage Senior Communities Supports Senior Health

If your senior loved one is struggling to care for themselves, they may benefit from moving to a senior living community where they have assistance. Many communities serve healthy meals and provide plenty of options to stay physically and socially active. Heritage Senior Communities also offers life enrichment programs that encourage personal growth and creativity. The best way to learn about how we support senior wellness is to visit one of our communities. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

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.