4 Ways to Manage Caregiver Stress during the Holidays

4 Ways to Manage Caregiver Stress during the Holidays

The holidays can be a challenging time for Michigan’s family caregivers. Seasonal festivities such as shopping for gifts, wrapping presents, decorating the house and hosting parties are activities most of us look forward to all year. But for already overwhelmed family caregivers, the additional demands on their schedule can lead to burnout.

Not surprisingly, almost half of all caregivers say the holidays are just too much. If you find yourself struggling, these tips might be of help.

Managing Caregiver Stress during the Holidays

  1. Ask for and Accept Help: This can be difficult for family caregivers to do. Many see caregiving as a duty and they don’t want to ask for help. Remind yourself that if you suffer a health crisis of your own, as many caregivers do, you won’t be able to care for your loved one at all. Ask a friend who is going out shopping to pick up a few things for you. Talk to the staff at your church or synagogue to see if there are volunteers available to assist struggling caregivers. Enlist the support of an in-home caregiver from a home care agency. Or take advantage of respite services at a senior living community near your Michigan home.
  2. Be Realistic: Pinterest, Instagram and other social media channels have given most of us unrealistic expectations of what the holidays should look like. It’s important to step back and set more realistic expectations for the season. It might mean using gift bags to “wrap” presents in or purchasing gift cards online instead of shopping for the perfect present.
  3. Connect with Fellow Caregivers Online: Creating a support system of fellow caregivers who can relate to and sympathize with your struggles is another great way to manage stress. In addition to the emotional support, you will likely be able to pick up some tips from support group members on how to juggle all of the responsibilities you have. A few highly regarded online support groups and forums include ALZ Connected and the Family Caregiver Alliance.
  4. Exercise: While the very idea of adding one more thing to your schedule might seem unrealistic, exercise can actually give you a mental and physical boost. And researchers now know that breaking your 30 minutes of daily exercise up in to segments (i.e. 2- fifteen minute walks or a fifteen minute walk combined with fifteen minutes on a stationary bike) have the same health benefits as 30 minutes of continuous exercise.

Our final holiday survival tip for family caregivers is to give yourself permission to say “no.” When someone asks you to bring a casserole to the church fundraiser or help wrap gifts for a local shelter, you might feel guilty about not pitching in. Remind yourself that it is okay to just take care of you and your family this year.


Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net


Tips for Traveling with an Elder Loved One

Tips for Traveling with an Elder Loved One

The holidays are a time when many families plan a vacation together. If often includes three generations of loved ones. With careful and thoughtful planning, inter-generational getaways can allow busy families time to create long-lasting memories.

What can you do to make the trip more enjoyable for everyone?

Here are a few suggestions.

4 Tips for Planning an Intergenerational Vacation

  1. Research before Booking: The first step in planning your holiday getaway is to take time to research options. From the destination to the hotel and method of transportation, the details are important. Consider a hotel suite where your senior loved one has a quiet place to retreat to away from the sometimes noisy younger generation. If your loved one isn’t safe staying alone in the hotel, call the concierge at places you are considering staying to see if they can make arrangements for a respite caregiver. The concierge may have someone available or be able to help you enlist the support of a local home care agency.
  2. Be Considerate in Expectations: While your elders might not want to slow you down or cause you to incur additional expenses, sometimes it is necessary. For example, booking direct flights might be a little more expensive. But it is often the best way of traveling with both the older and the younger generations. If you are driving, be reasonable about how long you can all be in the car each day and plan rest breaks to stretch your legs. Also, remember to make special accommodations for both the younger and the elder generation at the attractions you visit. For example, all the walking at Disneyland or a national park can be tough on little legs and older knees. Call ahead or check the website to see if you can reserve a wheelchair and/or a stroller.
  3. Prepare a Medical File: No one likes to think the worst will happen during vacation. But planning ahead in case an older loved one has a medical emergency away from home is important. You can use an app like CareZone or MyMedical to make it easier. Both allow you to safely store medical information such as a medication list, medical history, and physician contact information. You can use your smart phone to quickly access it in the event of an emergency.
  4. Communication Shortcuts: Traveling with a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia brings unique challenges. One of which can be communicating when their verbal skills are lost. It might help to create small cards that quickly explain your loved one’s situation. Then use them to hand to TSA agents during the screening process, flight attendants and others. It can help with communication while protecting your family member’s dignity.

Respite Care in Michigan

If your senior loved one isn’t up for a holiday trip this year, a respite stay at one of our Michigan senior living communities might be the solution.

Your family member can stay with us and enjoy all of the benefits and support our residents receive. You can relax and spend time with your own family knowing the older adult you love is safe and happy with us!

Recognizing Older Driver Awareness Week

One question we often hear from adult children across the state of Michigan is how they can tell if an aging parent is still safe behind the wheel of their car. The older a parent is, the more families wonder how they will know when it is time to encourage their senior loved one to hang up their keys for good.

National Older Driver Awareness Week 2016 is December 5th through 9th. We are joining our voice with other aging services providers across the country to share important information on older drivers and the unique challenges they face.

Does Aging Impact a Senior’s Ability to Drive Safely?

Part of the challenge in assessing a senior’s driving ability is that it can’t be determined solely by their age. While we all have some similar aging experiences, everyone ages differently. Your 82 year old father may be a much better driver than a 70 year old who lives with multiple chronic health problems.

Here’s what Michigan families should know about aging issues that can affect driving:

  • Medication Side Effects: Some medications commonly used by older adults can cause drowsiness. A few of the worst offenders are pain medications, sleeping pills, antidepressants, and over-the-counter cough medicine.
  • Flexibility: While many older adults are active and fit, they can still suffer from a loss of flexibility. This makes it difficult to turn and look over their shoulder to back out of a parking space or merge on to the freeway.
  • Vision: Since 90% of decisions made while driving are based on visual information, vision impairments can make driving much more difficult. In general, the aging eye requires more light than a younger eye. This often makes driving at night unsafe for senior drivers.
  • Reaction Time: Reacting to an emergency when you are behind the wheel of a car requires sensing, deciding and acting often within a matter of seconds. Age lengthens the time it takes the brain to react. It can put older adults at higher risk for an accident.

Overcoming Age-Related Driving Issues

In some cases, there are steps seniors can take to stay safer behind the wheel of their car:

  • Make sure your senior loved one has a yearly vision exam. This makes it easier to spot and address potential problems early.
  • Read medication labels. If your loved one takes any medication that warns of drowsiness or comes with the caution “Do not operate heavy machinery,” remind them to leave the driving to you or another family member.
  • Encourage your senior driver to leave more distance between them and the car ahead of them, so they have more time to react to unexpected issues on the road.
  • Remind your parent to minimize driving distractions, such as listening to the radio or talking on a cell phone.
  • If traffic moves too fast on main highways and freeways, advise your older family member to take side roads instead. It also helps to schedule appointments and run errands during slower traffic times.

Our final tip is to encourage your aging loved one to take a class to refresh their driving skills. These courses will provide changes in traffic laws and offer other safe driving tips for seniors.

Being a good driver means being aware of and accepting changing abilities. These simple adjustments can help you keep the older drivers in your life safe.

Holiday Gifts for a Michigan Family Caregiver

Anyone who has watched a family caregiver struggle to manage all of their roles and responsibilities knows just how exhausting the job can be. It often leaves people worn out and stressed out.

Caregiving can also have an impact on the caregiver’s own family finances. It isn’t uncommon for them to have to cut back on their hours at work. This loss of income can be especially difficult because family caregivers incur additional expenses related to caring for their loved one.

The holidays can be a great time to show the caregiver in your life that you are thinking of them.

2016 Gift Guide for Michigan Family Caregivers

Here are a few suggestions for holiday gifts for the family caregiver you love:

  1. Maid Service: A great holiday gift for the caregiver in your life might be maid service. Because they are so busy caring for everyone else, their own home may be neglected. Whether you buy them a one day deep cleaning package or a monthly cleaning, it will no doubt be appreciated.
  2. Home Delivered Meals: Healthy, home delivered meals are probably a caregivers dream. If there isn’t a local option near the caregiver’s home, a variety of national meal services are available. Hello Fresh and Blue Apron are just a few.
  3. Day of Pampering: Time and money are often in short supply for a family caregiver. This is why they might really enjoy spending time being pampered with a friend. Whether it is at one of Michigan’s Spa Resorts or just a few hours at a local salon, the caregiver will benefit from a little bit of rest and relaxation. You might need to explore respite care services so your friend doesn’t have to worry about their loved one when they are taking a break.
  4. Gift of Time. For caregivers, there are never enough hours in the day. A gift idea they will truly appreciate is a coupon book full of vouchers they can use when they need a helping hand. Having a coupon to trade in might make it easier for them to ask for help. Create coupons for things like picking up prescriptions, preparing a home cooked meal, dropping their kids off at volleyball practice or picking up a few groceries. The gift of time is sure to be a hit with a family caregiver.

The bottom line is the best holiday gifts for caregivers are usually those that allow them time to slow down and enjoy themselves!


Warning Signs a Michigan Senior Has Alzheimer’s

Warning Signs a Michigan Senior Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Donna:

I am heading home to mid-Michigan to visit my mom for the holidays. When I was there this summer, I was a little concerned that she might be developing Alzheimer’s disease. I saw small changes in her that have kept me wondering and worrying. Especially with regard to her memory. She has gotten to be so forgetful!

How do I know if these are normal signs of aging or something more serious?

Kind Regards,


Is This Normal Aging or Something More?

Dear Tim:

What a great question! Small memory lapses happen to all of us. As we age, they may happen more frequently. It often leads families to become concerned that it is an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Although memory loss isn’t always an issue for seniors, it often is. But there are signs that can indicate the problem is more serious than just age-related forgetfulness.

Signs of Memory Loss Related to Alzheimer’s Disease

First, it’s important to understand that there is a difference between forgetting where you put your keys and forgetting how to drive your car to the grocery store. If your mom is struggling to perform activities she’s done countless times before, it’s time to speak to a doctor about her symptoms.

Here are other common signs of Alzheimer’s-related memory loss:

  • Feeling disoriented, even in familiar places, can be a concern
  • Repeating words or sharing the same stories during the a conversation
  • Unable to keep up with the flow of conversation
  • Using the wrong words or garbling words (Note: this can also be a sign a person is having a stroke)
  • Forgetting how to behave in social situations
  • Making poor decisions or having lapses in judgment

Another common sign of Alzheimer’s is being unable to remember something you’ve forgotten later. So if your mom not only forgot to go to her doctor’s appointment, but forgot she even had an appointment, it might be a warning sign of something more than normal aging.

While Alzheimer’s is irreversible, getting your mom to her physician early in the process may allow for interventions that can help slow the progression of the disease.

I hope this information is helpful, Tina! If you have more questions about Alzheimer’s, please feel free to call the Heritage Senior Community nearest to your mom’s home in Michigan. Our team will be happy to help!



Does Muscle Mass Help You Live a Longer Life?

Does Muscle Mass Help You Live a Longer Life?

Body mass index (BMI) has long been used to determine a person’s overall fitness. Physicians and health professionals compare a person’s weight to their height to calculate a body fat score. But this method has more than a few critics. The most obvious criticism is that that BMI fails to differentiate between muscle and fat.

This means a very fit person with considerable muscle mass might end up with a high BMI score or that a thin person with little muscle mass might be determined to be fit when they aren’t.

Because newer research revealed just how important muscle mass is to longer life, experts are re-thinking BMI.

A UCLA study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that people with higher amounts of muscle mass are at decreased risk for metabolic syndrome. This in turn lowers a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

Tips for Pumping Up Muscle Mass during Retirement Years

Age-related muscle loss is called Sarcopenia. The condition is common in older adults who might not be as active as they were in younger years. Doctors liken it to Osteoporosis of the muscles. It can begin as early as age 30.

The good news is there are steps you and your senior loved one can take to improve muscle mass.

  • Healthy Exercise: Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to talk about which senior-friendly forms of exercise they recommend. It might help to research your options before the appointment so you have an idea of some that interest you. The goal should be to create a program that combines range of motion, flexibility, cardio, and strength training. A few types to consider are Chair Yoga, water aerobics, Pilates, bike riding, walking and modified weight training.
  • Focus on Nutrition: Many people are unaware of the role nutrition plays in building muscle mass. Diet is just as important as exercise when it comes to healthy muscles. The Harvard Medical School recommends older adults consume 7 grams of protein each day for every 20 pounds of body weight.
  • Get Moving: Sitting too much can lead to a loss of muscle mass. And a sedentary lifestyle can’t be overcome by an increased amount of exercise. Researchers now call sitting the “new smoking” because it is so dangerous for your long-term health. Stand when you talk on the phone instead of sitting. Take frequent breaks to move around if you are at your computer all day. Remember that it is important not just to exercise each day, but to keep moving.

Online Fitness Programs for Seniors

Several organizations have online fitness programs for seniors that make it easier to incorporate exercise and good nutrition in to your everyday life:

  • AARP Healthy Living: AARP has a wide range of resources designed to help older adults live healthier lives. You can find everything from reviews on fitness products to videos on weight training for seniors.
  • Go4Life: The National Institute on Aging created this free senior fitness program. It combines online resources like guides and checklists with DVDs you can order at no cost.  

Visit a Heritage Senior Community Near You

Wellness is an important part of what we do at the Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan. We invite you to schedule a tour at your convenience to learn how good nutrition, life enrichment and physical activity are a part of our residents’ everyday lives.