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.

Why the Holidays Are a Good Time to Tour Assisted Living Communities?

Why the Holidays Are a Good Time to Tour Assisted Living Communities?

Dear Donna,

My siblings are visiting from out of town for the holidays. Our parents have both been struggling with health issues, and I think they would benefit from an environment that is a little more supportive.

I want my siblings to help me explore assisted living communities for our parents, but I am unsure about the timing. Are the holidays a good time to tour senior living communities?


Leanne from Saline, MI

Exploring Senior Living Communities during the Holidays

Dear Leanne,

The holidays are a common time for families to realize their aging loved ones need assistance. Family members visiting from out of town will see changes in a senior loved one’s health as more significant than those who see them every day. Visiting senior living communities during the holidays has some benefits.

4 Reasons to Tour Assisted Living Communities during the Holidays

  1. The family is together.

For many, the holiday season is the only time the entire family is together. Family members visiting from out of town can see changes in your loved one’s health for themselves. They can also offer a fresh perspective on what to look for in an assisted living community and help you come up with questions to ask on the assisted living tour.

  1. There are more activities.

Many senior living communities have more family activities during the holidays than at any other time of year. Events are a great chance to meet the residents and their families in a social setting. You can use this opportunity to ask them about their experience with the community.

  1. The mood is festive.

The holidays tend to put people in a good mood, so it’s an excellent time to meet the staff and residents in a community. Your loved one may also be more open-minded about exploring assisted living options. The festive atmosphere is a bonus, as it creates a warm and welcoming environment. Each of these factors can make the tour more enjoyable for seniors and families.

  1. You can beat the rush.

When families decide it’s time to start touring senior living communities, they usually put it off until after the holidays. For this reason, January can be a busy time for the communities. By starting the process during the season, you can beat the rush. Some communities even offer move-in specials. Discounted monthly rent, a free month of rent, or an application fee waiver are common promotions in December. Also, by starting early, your senior loved one may have more choices in terms of living space.

Touring Senior Living Communities

Visiting assisted living communities can be overwhelming. The process requires a lot of thought and careful consideration. By going during the holidays, seniors and their families can have a more enjoyable experience.

I hope this convinces you to tour senior living communities this holiday season!



Heritage Senior Communities

If you are having trouble deciding whether it is time to start exploring senior living options, we can help. The staff at Heritage Senior Communities, including our Linden Square Assisted Living Center, has years of experience assisting seniors and their families. Contact us today to learn more.



4 Holiday Gifts to Pamper a Family Caregiver

4 Holiday Gifts to Pamper a Family Caregiver

Dear Donna,

My sister is our mother’s primary caregiver. She does a great job and regardless of how exhausted she is, she rarely complains. The holidays are coming up, and I would like to show her how much I appreciate everything she does.

Do you have any gift ideas for a weary caregiver? I’m looking for something special.

Sarah from Holland, MI

Pampering a Family Caregiver during the Holidays

Dear Sarah,

Family caregivers are busy and often pressure themselves to take care of others. It’s not uncommon for them to put their loved one’s needs ahead of their own. Unfortunately, when their needs are on the back burner too long, they can experience caregiver overload.

Caregiver overload, also referred to as caregiver burnout, occurs when they become physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. Many times, the best holiday gift ideas for Michigan caregivers give them a break from caregiving duties. By providing opportunities to relax and recharge, you can help prevent caregiver overload.

Here are a few gift ideas to pamper a family caregiver in your life.

4 Holiday Gifts for Caregivers

  1. Give them a break from cooking.

Many caregivers spend a lot of time preparing meals. It might be helpful to give them a break from cooking. There are a variety of ways you can do this:

  • Offer to cook their favorite meal.
  • Give them a gift card to a restaurant they enjoy.
  • Send food to their house using a meal delivery service.
  1. Spoil them with spa treatments.

Spa treatments, such as facials, massages, and hair appointments, can be wonderful gifts for caregivers. They provide an opportunity to have someone else take care of their needs for a change. You can even give them the spa treatment at home. For example, rejuvenating face masks, bath bombs, and essential oils make excellent gifts.

  1. Send flowers to their house.

Flowers are a timeless way to show appreciation. Caregivers will be delighted to receive a colorful arrangement. To really brighten up their day, include a personalized message.

  1. Relieve them from their caregiving duties.

One of the best gifts a caregiver can receive is a break. Even just a few hours of relief can help. If you can’t personally take over their responsibilities, consider paid respite care. These services, which can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, can be provided in the senior’s home or at a senior living community, like Heritage Senior Communities.

Making Caregivers Feel Appreciated

Caregivers give so much of their time to others. The holiday season is a terrific time to give back and acknowledge their hard work. Regardless of what you give the caregiver in your life, they will appreciate knowing their efforts don’t go unnoticed.

I hope this helps you find the perfect gift for your sister!



Heritage Senior Communities

If you are interested in learning more about respite care or any of our other senior living options at Heritage Senior Communities, feel free to reach out to our staff. Each of our communities, including our Appledorn location, offers several options for seniors and their families. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.