6 Ways Assisted Living Supports Independence among Older Adults

6 Ways Assisted Living Supports Independence among Older Adults

Assisted living is often considered an ideal solution for older adults who need a helping hand to remain independent. It’s a level of senior care that blends support with amenities in an environment that allows for resident privacy. Seniors who move to an assisted living community still feel in charge of their own life.

How does assisted living support independence? Here are a few ways these communities benefit seniors striving to maintain their independence.

Assisted Living Supports Senior Independence

  • Thoughtfully designed environment: Each resident has a private apartment or suite. The layout and features are designed with the unique needs of older adults in mind. In Heritage assisted living communities, seniors will find barrier-free accessibility, grab bars in bathrooms, and emergency call systems. You’ll find more senior-friendly features throughout the community, such as handrails along hallways. It’s a thoughtful approach designed to lower the risk of falling.
  • Caregivers available 24/7: One challenge families face when a senior loved one tries to age in place in their private home is the unpredictably of needs. For example, family members may not be available overnight to help an older adult to and from the bathroom. It is also difficult for working adults to remind their senior parents to take their medications throughout the day and night. In an assisted living community, caregivers are on-site around the clock to support resident needs.
  • Transportation services for residents: Another struggle older adults often encounter is transportation. Some may continue driving despite no longer feeling safe doing so simply because they don’t feel they have other options. Seniors may also feel like they are burdening their adult children with continued transportation requests. That’s why the transportation services provided by assisted living communities are so popular. In addition to regularly scheduled group outings to local restaurants and shopping malls, staff can arrange transportation for residents’ doctor’s appointments and other errands.
  • Maintenance-free lifestyle: Another convenience that promotes independence is having household chores and maintenance tasks covered. Everything from snow removal to appliance repair is handled by the community’s staff. In most communities, housekeeping and laundry services are included in the monthly fee or available as an add-on service. No more worries for seniors about asking adult children or grandchildren for help or trying to track down a contractor.
  • Wellness made easy: When a senior is struggling at home, their diet often suffers. It becomes easier to rely on convenience meals and processed foods. However, most are high in sodium and fat. That can lead to poor nutrition, which puts older adults at higher risk for illness and falls. In an assisted living community, well-balanced meals and healthy snacks are standard. Most dining services teams can also accommodate special diets, such as low-sodium or gluten-free. With Heritage Hospitality, residents have a choice of menus at every meal.
  • Medication management: Finally, the caregivers at an assisted living community help residents stay on track with their medicine. It’s another area that can be difficult as health needs require older adults to take multiple over-the-counter and prescription medications. Depending upon the community and state regulations, staff can help by providing reminders or even assisting seniors in taking their medication.

Schedule a Tour of a Heritage Community Today

The best way to learn about assisted living and its benefits is to tour a community in person. If your search includes Michigan or Indiana, we invite you to consider Heritage. View our list of communities and schedule a visit to a location that interests you!

10 Tips for Downsizing and Moving a Senior Loved One

10 Tips for Downsizing and Moving a Senior Loved One

Many seniors choose to downsize their homes during their retirement years. Downsizing might mean moving into an independent senior living community in Michigan or relocating from a larger house to a smaller one. Either way, downsizing one’s home and belongings can be a challenging process.

Here are some tips that can help your senior loved one as they downsize and prepare for a move.

10 Tips to Help a Michigan Senior Downsize

1. Get rid of clutter

World-renowned organization expert and author Marie Kondo says if your belongings don’t “spark joy,” then it’s time to say goodbye to them. Encourage your loved one to start making lists of what belongings they will keep and what will need to find a new home.

2. Sell or donate unwanted items

It’s tempting to throw away things that your loved one no longer wants or needs, but there’s probably someone else who can use them. The Internet makes it easy to sell things online, and anything that doesn’t sell can likely be donated. Many charities will even arrange to pick up the unwanted items, making the process of downsizing a bit easier.

3. Start packing sooner rather than later

Unfortunately, houses can’t pack up themselves. Unless the move is being completed in the midst of an emergency, try to take time to carefully go through belongings. This will help you decide what goes and what stays—without breaking or misplacing anything of importance to your senior loved one.

4. Secure prized possessions

There are certain things your family member won’t be willing to give up, whether because of sentimental reasons or monetary value. Consider moving anything that fits either of those categories to a secure location so that it is not lost or accidentally discarded during the move.

5. Think about life in the new place

Remember, when downsizing from a house to a condo or apartment, certain chores like shoveling snow in the winter and yard work in the spring will be eliminated. Encourage your loved one to have a yard sale to clear out that garage or storage shed. Then watch how quickly someone will snap up an unwanted lawn mower or snow blower at a good price!

6. Stay organized

Downsizing and preparing for a move can be a long process. Your loved one might have to put some items in storage for a while. Be sure to label boxes clearly and create a master list of what is in each box. When moving day comes, it will make it much easier to find everything.

7. Consider the layout of the new home

As your loved one downsizes his or her belongings, remind them to keep the new home’s layout in mind. Will it hold all of his or her current furniture? What is the storage space like? Creating a floor plan of the new home will help in deciding which things will fit and which ones won’t.

8. Try not to buy anything new – for now

This, of course, doesn’t apply to food and basic living necessities, but it does refer to things like furniture, appliances, and home décor. Encourage your loved one to save any shopping sprees until he or she is settled into the new place so as not to add to the packing duties.

9. Take a trip down memory lane

Packing for a move often means going through old photos and belongings that may evoke powerful memories. Allow your loved one some time to reflect on the past, particularly if the memories are happy ones.

10. Focus on what matters most

As a retiree, your loved one now has more time to focus on hobbies and other interests. Keep this in mind as you help them downsize. What might seem like a box of dusty old books to you may be a source of great joy to your loved one. Remember to keep their interests in mind—not yours—when packing for the big move.

Your senior loved one might be leaving behind some wonderful memories in their old home. It may be necessary to remind your family member that new adventures await them!


Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net


What Does “Aging in Place” Mean?

Dear Donna,

My mother is 82 years old and living at home. We have recently begun discussing assisted living and other senior living community options in case she needs them in the future. Mom is currently in good health, and she has stated that she would very much prefer to stay in the same house she has lived in for the past 50 years.

I want to make sure she is both happy and comfortable when it comes to her future living arrangements. I’ve heard of the phrase “aging in place.” Can you explain what that means, and whether it might be an option for my mother?


Debra in Dearborn

Is Aging in Place a Viable Option

Dear Debra,

I’m glad that you and your mother are being proactive about her future needs. It’s always a good idea to start early when exploring senior living options in Michigan—even if though your mom’s goal is to remain living in her own home.

The Centers for Disease Control define the term “aging in place” as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

Many seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes during their retirement years, as the familiar environment provides a great deal of comfort to them. This could very well be a viable option for your mother, provided you give some thought to a few important issues.

Is her house senior friendly?

You mentioned that your mom is in good health, which can make it much easier for her to stay in her current location. However, it’s important to consider that there might come a day when she is not as healthy or as mobile as she is now. If she lives in large, multi-story home, it will make moving around much harder than if she were in a single-level home or perhaps an apartment or condo. This is why many seniors opt to downsize their homes during their retirement years, choosing smaller layouts that allow for better accessibility.

If your mother doesn’t like the idea of giving up her home, then take a realistic look at her current residence. It might be possible to make some home renovations that will make living in the same space both easier and safer for your mother, such as installing a shower instead of a tub in the bathroom for more accessible bathing.

Do family members live nearby?

Aging in place becomes a much more viable option when your loved one has a support network nearby. If you or other family members live in the area, then it might be possible for you to take turns checking in on your mom on a regular basis.

If family doesn’t live nearby, you may be able to enlist the support of an in-home care aide to visit your mother for regular wellness checks. It might also be a good idea to hire a housekeeping service to help with keeping your mother’s home clean and organized.

Additionally, a local church or nonprofit organization might have volunteers willing to help out with things like shoveling snow or running errands.

What type of budget does your mother have?

Keep in mind that the expenses associated with providing all of these services can add up to be more than it would cost for your mother to move to a senior living community. So it’s important that you have an open and honest discussion about finances when you are creating a plan for the future.

Aging in place can be a good option for seniors, provided there is enough support in place to make staying at home a convenience rather than a burden. I hope this information is helpful, Debra! Good luck to you and your mom.




9 Natural Remedies for Controlling Blood Pressure

If a Michigan senior loved one’s physician has told them their blood pressure is creeping up, you are probably looking for natural ways to help them manage it. Taking proactive steps now might mean they are able to avoid taking medication for high blood pressure down the road.

Because lifestyle plays such an important role in controlling blood pressure, it is possible to avoid or reduce the need for medication by making some changes.

9 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure without Medication

  1. Weight Management: First on the list is getting to and maintaining a healthy weight. We all know it can be tough, especially for older adults who might not be as active. But what seniors and their family caregivers should know is that a weight loss of just 10 pounds can reduce your blood pressure.
  2. Commit to a Healthy Diet: The DASH eating plan is gaining in popularity with physicians trying to help patients manage their blood pressure naturally. DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a method of eating that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. DASH puts the emphasis on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products. Research shows the DASH plan can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg.
  3. Limit Alcohol Intake: People aren’t always aware the role alcohol consumption can play in driving up blood pressure. Drinking alcohol can increase blood pressure while also reducing the effectiveness of blood pressure medications. Limit your alcohol consumption to no more than one drink for women and men over the age of 65, and two drinks for men younger than 65.
  4. Avoid Caffeine: Drinking caffeinated beverages may cause an increase in blood pressure. But it’s not the case for everyone. To see if caffeine might be raising your senior loved one’s blood pressure, take their blood pressure before they consume something with caffeine in it. Wait 30 minutes and take it again. If their blood pressure increased by 5-10 points, they may be sensitive to caffeine. Limiting their intake may help control their blood pressure.
  5. Tobacco and Secondhand Smoke: We all know by now that smoking contributes to lung cancer and heart disease. What many people don’t realize is that smoking can raise your blood pressure by as much as 10 mm Hg for a full hour after you smoke. So smoking all day long might mean your blood pressure stays high throughout the day. Even breathing in secondhand smoke can contribute to high blood pressure.
  6. Exercise: Getting 30-60 minutes of physical exercise most days of the week can help to reduce your blood pressure. And the good news is your senior loved one will see results within a few weeks. Talk with your aging family member’s physician for recommendations and advice on beginning a new exercise program.
  7. Restrict Sodium: One sneaky contributor to high blood pressure can be foods with hidden sodium. Reading food labels to determine serving sizes and sodium will help. As will avoiding fast foods and processed foods. Your loved one’s physician can tell you how much salt and sodium they should be eating each day.
  8. Reduce Stress: Most of us know stress isn’t good for us. It can contribute to high blood pressure and cardiac disease. Learning how to better manage stress can help reduce blood pressure. Walking, swimming, yoga and meditation are all good stress busters.

Finally, one tool you might find helpful in exploring ways to manage an older loved one’s risk is the High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator.  It takes many factors in to account ranging from gender to lifestyle to determine a person’s risk. Then it calculates how lifestyle changes can positively impact blood pressure.

Can Tai Chi Be an Effective Treatment for Arthritis?

Can Tai Chi Be an Effective Treatment for Arthritis?

Many younger adults think arthritis is a chronic but not very serious condition older adults live with. The truth is it can be a debilitating disease for people of all ages. This degenerative disease is caused by abnormal wearing down of the cartilage that cushions joints in the body. The pain it inflicts on damaged joints can be quite severe.

While there are prescription medications that can help, the side effects of these drugs aren’t clear. It may make seniors reluctant to take them, especially on a longer term basis.

Newer research that is garnering more attention for its effectiveness at treating the symptoms of arthritis is the ancient Chinese exercise known as Tai chi. Because a Michigan winter can be tough for people with arthritis, we thought the older adults who read our blog would be interested in learning more.

What is Tai Chi?

Many people have heard of Tai chi or noticed people practicing it in a local park, but aren’t quite sure what it is. This ancient Chinese practice is a graceful form of exercise and stretching. It uses a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner. Deep breathing is an important element of Tai chi.

Each movement flows seamlessly in to the next one without pause. This keeps the body in constant motion. People new to this form of exercise are surprised at how much strength and stamina they can build from faithfully practicing it.

Tai Chi as a Treatment for Arthritis Pain and Symptoms

Because Tai chi is low impact, it puts little stress on muscles and joints. This is why it is considered to safe for people of all ages and fitness levels, including those who live with osteoarthritis.

Researchers at Tufts Medical Center in Boston looked at the role Tai Chi can play in treating the pain and symptoms of arthritis. Their study was made up of 40 adults age 55 and older who reported knee problems due to osteoarthritis. Participants were divided into two groups:

  • One group practiced Yang-style tai chi
  • The control group received wellness education and completed stretching exercises.

After 12 weeks, the group that practiced Tai chi reported a significant improvement in knee pain and increased function when compared to the control group.

How to Begin Practicing Tai Chi

As is true of any new form of exercise, the first step is to speak with your physician to gain their insight and approval. Once they’ve given you the green light to get started, there are a variety of options.

  • Call the Michigan senior center nearest you or your local fitness center. Many offer classes on a regular basis.
  • The Arthritis Foundation has a list of Tai chi DVDs that you can order. They range from spine stretches to shoulder and neck exercises.
  • Search a platform like You Tube or Vimeo for free videos you can watch and learn. This might be a good way for a beginner to get started without spending any money.

Wellness programs like Tai chi are a part of daily life at Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan. We extend an open invitation for you to visit us and learn more about our commitment to keeping the older adults who call our communities “home,” healthy and thriving.


Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Robotic Pets: Can They be Beneficial for People with Alzheimer’s?

Dear Donna:

My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago. The past year or so he has really suffered from agitation. We’ve struggled to find ways to help him calm down.

One thing that we found helps is my daughter’s cat. When the cat sits with him and he is petting her, he seems more content. Of course the cat isn’t always willing to sit still with dad!

I’ve noticed ads and infomercials for stuffed animals that look very life-like. But I think the more realistic ones are a little on the expensive side. We thought before we purchase one we would see what an Alzheimer’s expert like you has to say about this idea.

Do you think a robotic pet would have the same result as a real one?

Kindest Regards,


Pets to Help Soothe Agitation in People with Alzheimer’s

Dear Carole:
What an interesting question! And a good observation.

Pets have definitely been proven to be effective therapists. They are used in hospitals, nursing homes and even in hospice. For people with Alzheimer’s, they have a calming effect. They can also lift the spirit. Just the act of stroking a pet’s fur can help to decrease agitation. Research also shows it can aide in lowering blood pressure.

Furry friends are a common sight in nursing homes and assisted living communities that specialize in Alzheimer’s care. Now that technology has created such life-like pets, they are increasing in popularity too.

While many families have found them to be a helpful tool in improving the quality of life for a senior with Alzheimer’s, others believe there is an ethical issue in using them. Namely, they believe it compromises a senior’s dignity. That is a dilemma you will need to discuss with your family.

Here are two resources you might find helpful in learning more:

  • Joy for All Companion Pets: This organization has both cats and dogs that look and seem like the real thing. Made by Hasbro, they are used in nursing homes and senior living centers.
  • Paro: This is another robotic pet used in senior care. It looks like a seal and can interact and learn a senior’s behaviors. This one has been around longer and falls under the category of being a true robot. And at a price tag that is fairly significant. But you might benefit from reading some of the research on their site.

I hope this helps, Carole!