Online Support for Michigan Caregivers

Online Support for Michigan Caregivers

Family caregivers have a stressful and demanding role. Largely made up of women who work at least part-time and who care for children of their own, the demands on their time are often impossible to manage. While a support group seems like the obvious choice to helping them to better cope, finding the time to attend a meeting may create even more stress. Online caregiver support groups can be a solution.

Why are support groups helpful to caregivers and what sites offer online forums?

The Mayo Clinic tackled the first of these two questions. They found that:

  • Sharing feelings with those who are walking their same path is by far the biggest advantage. The moral support and understanding peer groups offer can help relieve guilt, fear and anxiety that often accompany caregiving.
  • Online support groups offer the advantage of anonymity. It gives caregivers an outlet for talking honestly about their feelings. If a caregiver is feeling guilty for snapping at a loved one with dementia when they ask the same question over and over and over, they will no doubt find people in the group who have had that experience.
  • Online communities allow participants to join in when they can. That is a huge advantage for overwhelmed caregivers. They can jump online at midnight after their loved one has fallen asleep or over lunch at their desk.

How can a caregiver find an online support groups?

There are a variety of organizations that help to connect family caregivers with an online support group that meets their unique needs. Here are just a few to consider:

If you are Michigan caregiver and you prefer an in-person support group, we invite you to contact the Heritage Senior Community nearest you for more information.

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Advice to Help New Caregivers Get Organized

Advice to Help New Caregivers Get Organized

Dear Donna:

I recently returned home to Michigan from New York to help care for my parents. While I live close to them, we’re not in the same house. They both have different health concerns and need someone to oversee their care and household tasks.

My employer allows me to work remotely, but I still put in a lot of hours each week. I’m really struggling to get organized. Do you have any suggestions to help a new caregiver like me? I’m really overwhelmed.


Chris in Grand Haven, MI

Organizational Tips for New Family Caregivers

Dear Chris:

Assuming the role of family caregiver is a big undertaking. When you factor in your relocation and busy job, it’s easy to see why you are struggling. Here are some suggestions I hope will be beneficial:

  • Accept that you will need help.

Adult children often believe they should be able to manage their aging parents’ support on their own. Very rarely is this realistic. As you take on this new role, recognize that you will need to ask for and accept help. That support might come in many forms.

It could be asking a friend or family member to stay with your parents for an hour or two while you relax and see a movie or have your hair done. You could also ask a friend to pick up a few groceries or drop off dinner to your parents.

  • Organize caregiving details.

Many adult children say they feel an extraordinary amount of stress when they first step into the caregiving role. They may worry they won’t do a good job or fear they will overlook important appointments or tasks. Getting organized can help relieve some of that anxiety.

Begin by blocking out time to set up a system. Sort and organize your parents’ important health care paperwork and legal documents. If you need to, ask a friend or family member to sit with your parents so you can have this uninterrupted time.

Organize their paperwork in a binder by topic or date (e.g., test results, medication list, and physician contact information). Also check to see if their health care provider has an online portal your parents can access. Taking time to review visit summaries, test results, and other notes can give you a better picture of what’s been happening.

Next, add your parents’ appointments and follow-up tasks to your personal calendar. If there are household tasks that need to be completed, place those on your calendar, too. This helps to avoid double-booking yourself or missing something. Not having to rely on your memory can alleviate some of your stress. Apps like My Medical can make tracking and organizing easier.

  • Establish and stick to a routine.

This step may take some time, but having a routine can make caregiving more manageable. Try to cluster errands and appointments on one or two days each week. This will allow you to have uninterrupted blocks of time to work and handle your own needs.

It also requires fewer arrangements for a friend or family member to stay with your loved one. For example, if both parents have dentist appointments, schedule them concurrently. That allows you to make one trip instead of two.

  • Connect with a caregiver support group.

Caregivers face unique challenges that others may not understand. It can be very isolating. Having a group of peers who understand and can empathize is usually beneficial to a caregiver’s emotional and physical well-being. Support group members may have specific ideas for juggling work with a caregiving schedule.

Peers can also commiserate with you about the emotional side of caregiving. For example, if you are feeling guilty, resentful, angry, or sad, you’ll likely find people who’ve experienced those emotions too. You can even connect with a support caregiver group online, if that is easier on your schedule.

  • Practice good self-care.

Finally, follow the oxygen mask advice flight attendants share during their pre-flight safety talk: help yourself before helping others. Caregivers must make good self-care a priority. If you don’t, you’re more likely to experience a medical crisis of your own.

Respite services at assisted living communities may make that possible for you. Your parents can spend a week or so at a community while you take a vacation or just some time off.

I hope this information is helpful to you, Chris!

Kind regards,


Coping with a Sense of Loss When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

Coping with a Sense of Loss When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Donna:

My dad and I have been my mom’s primary caregivers since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over three years ago. None of us were familiar with the disease or the unique challenges it would present. It’s been a real learning curve.

My dad and I are struggling to cope with a profound sense of loss, even though my mom is still with us. It seems like every day there is another change in Mom or something else she’s no longer able to do for herself. It’s so tough to witness this decline.

Do you have any suggestions for my dad and me? We want to be strong for my mom, but it’s getting more and more difficult.


Alysha in Midland, MI

Tips for Coping When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Alysha:

When a person has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, their family and friends all feel the impact of the diagnosis. Alzheimer’s is frequently referred to as the long goodbye because the disease slowly robs a person of their verbal skills, memory, and independence. Like you and your dad, loved ones of people with Alzheimer’s often say they feel a deep sense of sadness, helplessness, and frustration as the disease progresses.

While the physical demands of caregiving can cause loved ones to feel exhausted, the mental toll can be equally trying. These ideas might be helpful to you and your dad:

  • Join a caregiver support group: Caring for someone you love when they have Alzheimer’s is different than caring for those with other types of life-limiting illnesses. Connecting with peers in a similar situation might be beneficial. The understanding and shared experience may bring you and your dad a sense of comfort. Some people might feel more comfortable joining a virtual support group than an in-person meeting. The Alzheimer’s Association has some virtual support group ideas for you to consider.
  • Live in the moment: Of all the suggestions listed, this one might be the most beneficial but also the most difficult to carry out. Instead of focusing on what your mom has lost, try to live in the present. Meet your mom where she is in this journey, which can be different every day.
  • Take a break: When you are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, the days can be hectic and stressful. Try to take time for yourself on a regular basis, even if it’s just to have lunch with a friend or take a quick walk.
  • Learn to meditate: Many people find that meditation helps bring them inner peace during difficult times. If you haven’t tried it yet, there are a variety of options online for beginners. Watch Beginner’s Guide to Meditation and Guided Meditation for Seniors, Older Adults to get started.
  • Try music therapy: Music offers therapeutic value to people of all ages. For people with dementia and their loved ones, it can be a way to connect after communication skills are impaired. Playing happy music might be a way for the three of you to enjoy your time together.

I hope some of these suggestions are useful to you and your dad, Alysha. I’m wishing your family all the best.

Kind regards,


Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

When a senior has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, specialized care can help them live their best quality of life. From our person-centered approach to care to an environment that promotes independence, Heritage Senior Communities are leaders in the field of dementia care. Call the community nearest you to learn more and schedule a personal visit soon!

Coping with Family Caregiver Fear and Guilt

Coping with Family Caregiver Fear and Guilt

Dear Donna:

My great-aunt had a bad fall a few months ago that left her with some pretty significant injuries. She’s recently been discharged from a rehabilitation center and is staying with me. I am her only relative and love her dearly. The role of caregiver is brand new to me, and I find myself struggling.

I worry that I’m overlooking things and not caring for her properly. If I leave her in the care of my husband for even short periods of time, like to run a quick errand, I feel guilty.

My aunt will likely be sharing our home permanently, so I know I have to find ways to better cope with caregiving. Do you have any advice for how to do that?


Janet in Grand Haven, MI

Coping Tips for Family Caregivers

Dear Janet:

My first suggestion is to be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your feelings are okay to have. When it comes to caring for a loved one, most of us are too hard on ourselves. Family members have a rollercoaster of emotions even after years of caregiving experience. Fear, guilt, and sadness about the future are common.

As a caregiver, you are witnessing a person who has been a big part of your life struggle. That isn’t easy. Being unable to predict exactly what they’ll need from you can be anxiety-inducing, too. Then there is the guilt. When a family member believes they’ve made a mistake or have taken a little time to themselves, the guilt can be overwhelming.

Here are a few tips for managing the rollercoaster of difficult emotions family caregivers experience every day:

  • Join a caregiver support group.

Caregiver support groups are a great avenue for learning how to manage difficult emotions. They allow you to connect with peers in person or online. Not only will you learn from other group members’ experiences, but you will also discover you aren’t alone in this struggle.

Online caregiver support groups are often a good option when time is an issue or it isn’t safe to leave a family member unattended. Some caregivers find it easier to share their true feelings because of the anonymity of an online group.

In-person groups are good for those who want face-to-face interaction with fellow family caregivers. Check local senior centers, assisted living communities, and churches to find one near you.

  • Connect with information and resources.

Part of the fear family caregivers have stems from not having any formal training. Many take on the role like you did, after a loved one experienced a health crisis. The uncertainty you feel is legitimate and understandable.

It might be helpful to find resources that help you self-educate, such as articles on the Heritage Senior Communities blog. AARP Caregiver Resource Center is another helpful option to explore. You may also want to call your local agency on aging to ask about family caregiver workshops. If they don’t offer them, they might know of a nearby organization that does.

  • Take advantage of respite services.

Respite care is a program designed to give caregivers relief on a short-term basis. It can be a lifesaver for people who don’t have friends or family with whom to share caregiving duties. Most respite services can be utilized for a few days or up to a month, depending upon the senior living community.

Respite guests in a senior living community benefit from receiving the same care and support as long-term residents. They also enjoy healthy meals, housekeeping services, and a variety of daily life enrichment activities.

  • Ask for help.

This last suggestion is important: give yourself permission to ask for and accept help. You can’t do it all. Trying to do so can lead to chronic stress and caregiver burnout. Whether it’s asking a friend to pick up a few groceries for you or investigating a friendly visitor program at your church or synagogue, allowing others to support your family through this time is necessary and okay.

I hope this information brings you some peace of mind and confidence, Janet. Please let me know if you would like more information on respite care at any of the Heritage Senior Communities or call the location nearest you!

Kind regards,


What Will My Role Be After My Dad Moves to Assisted Living?

What Will My Role Be After My Dad Moves to Assisted Living?

Dear Donna:

After much thought and many conversations, my dad has decided to move to an assisted living community. For almost four years, my husband and I have been trying to help him remain in his own home. However, this past year has been a real challenge. He’s experiencing some balance issues that his doctor thinks are linked to poor nutrition and being too sedentary.

Our hope is that being surrounded by his peers with opportunities to socialize will help spark his enthusiasm for life again. Not to mention being able to enjoy well-balanced meals that he doesn’t have to cook or even warm up!

While I believe this is the right decision for my dad’s mental and physical well-being, I’m struggling with what my new role in his life will be. I’ve become accustomed to seeing him every day or so, stocking his freezer with meals, taking him to doctor’s appointments, and generally caring for his well-being. It’s been a lot for me to take on, and I feel guilty that I haven’t been able to give my dad the care he needs.

Do you have any advice for me as my dad makes this transition?


Nicole in Hudsonville, MI

Navigating an Aging Parent’s Move to Assisted Living

Dear Nicole:

Caregiving for a loved one can be both rewarding and demanding. As an aging adult’s need for care and support increases, families often realize the senior would enjoy a better quality of life in an assisted living community. It’s a transition that helps ensure the older person is happy, healthy, and safe. It also allows loved ones to find better balance in their own lives.

While caregivers usually know this is a good solution for everyone involved, they often feel bad about their inability to care for their loved one at home. Sound familiar? I have a few suggestions I hope you will find helpful.

  • Redirect negative thoughts.

When you find guilt or negative thoughts creeping in, try to redirect your attention. Take the dog for a walk or pull out the dust cloth and do a little cleaning. Listen to some uplifting music while you exercise. Many people find 15 minutes of yoga or meditation works well at focusing the mind on the good. The idea is to train your brain to replace guilt with something positive. Allow yourself to accept that you are doing what’s best for your dad and your family.

  • Believe in your decision.

When you believe you’ve made an informed decision, it will be easier to relax and help your dad prepare for the move. That means being thoughtful in your research, asking good questions, and visiting every community you are considering in person several times, if possible. Review the article “Questions to Ask on the First Call to Assisted Living” to make sure you know what to ask the staff at each community.

  • Volunteer at the community.

Once your dad selects and moves into an assisted living community, give yourself some time to find better balance in life. Then, talk with your dad to see how he would feel about your getting involved at the community. Most assisted living communities utilize volunteers in a variety of roles ranging from helping out with activities to arranging flowers on dining room tables.

  • Join a caregiver support group.

No one understands these types of difficult feelings better than fellow family caregivers. Joining a support group will allow you to connect with people who are in situations similar to yours. Many assisted living communities and senior centers offer in-person support groups. You could also consider an online caregiver forum, like those hosted by the Family Caregiver Alliance.

I hope this information is helpful, Nicole! Sending my best wishes for this transition to you and your dad.

Kind regards,