What’s Happening inside Senior Communities During the Virus Crisis

By Dean Solden

During this Coronavirus Crisis, I’ve read and heard a lot about how difficult it has been for seniors, especially over 60, or 65, or 75 – but I haven’t read or heard about what it’s actually like inside a senior living community while this is all going on.  Well, I run senior living communities and I can tell you exactly what’s going on.

The first thing I can tell you is this – up to this point, the people who live with us in our senior communities at Vibrant Life Senior Living have been amazing.  They barely blinked when it was announced a few weeks ago that their families couldn’t come and visit them for fear of spreading the virus.  (There is always that one annoying relative).

And they haven’t been that upset about the virus itself.

Maybe they are not paying that much attention to it, or maybe this is one place where having just a little bit of dementia is a little protective.  We are not blasting the TV with Coronavirus news every minute and that may be helpful.  They are just not focusing on it as much as the rest of us are.

In this last week we keep getting notices from the many agencies that sends us such things – CDC, CMS, AHCA, our state, our licensing board, our trade associations – they have mandated us to restrict group activities and group dining.  As a result of that, our residents are starting to get a bit edgy.  They used to enjoy their routine of coming to the dining room three times a day and sitting at the same table with the same people.  They looked forward to being served by one of our staff members, with their wonderful smiles, and enjoying the little banter and jokes they have with them.  They liked gearing up and getting out of their room for some of their favorite activities during the day between meals. And they especially love the music.  Now two to three weeks into this ongoing situation, they are starting to get a little stir crazy. But for the most part, we haven’t seen as much depression as one would think.

Now the staff is a different matter, and I’ll talk about that in more detail another time.  I can tell you this – they are getting a little scared.  Here in Ann Arbor Michigan, we are just seeing and feeling the effects of the virus first hand.  The first few weeks we had a few scares – some staff got sick – but they all tested negative, when we could get them a test.  Unless they are showing virus symptoms, their doctors won’t test them.  Now people they know are starting to get tested positive, and that is scary.  We managers do all we can to reassure them, and also let them know they are our modern-day heroes. Their children and grandchildren will talk about them for years to come.  I truly am in awe of our staff – the people who work at Vibrant Life.

Some of the family members, however, are taking this hard.  Especially the ones who used to come everyday and visit and sit with their loved ones, and even give us a hand.  For many of you,  devoted spouses and friends, daughters, and sons, coming to our senior community every day has been a big part of your life.  You feel this as much, if not more, than our residents.  We truly feel for you and with you.

To counterbalance the lessening of activities and the loss of the visitors, we have been doing a lot of videoconferencing.  For the last few years, since the advent of Skype and Facetime, I’ve been wanting to do this, but it just never took off. Well, now it has.  Adding Zoom to the mix, we now have many families video-chatting almost every day.  We have people performing at home and sending in videos.  The “people who live here” love it!  They don’t always understand how they can see their loved one on a tablet in front of them, and they especially don’t get how they can see them on their phone – isn’t that for talking not seeing? But they are getting the hang of it.  They truly get immense pleasure from these video calls.  So, please, if you have been doing this –  keep doing it!

I don’t know what it is – maybe the people who live here have just gone through so much in their lives, from World War II to the Korean War, from the Vietnam War to 9-11,  or even just remembering their parents going through the depression –  but they are strong.  This is a different kind of crisis for them – this isn’t about food or shelter or money.  They still have their routines, they still have three meals a day, their naps, take their medications, banter with the staff, and watch their favorite programs.  And so far, they aren’t thinking too much about getting the virus, and the results it could have.

Yes, there have been inconveniences, they don’t get their visitors, and spending so much time in their room can get a little stir-crazy, and they don’t have their favorite entertainers coming in. But they are chugging through.  Maybe it’s because it’s just been a few weeks, and after you’ve lived for eighty or ninety years or more,  a few weeks is just a speck of time.  But I’ll tell you this, the people who live at Vibrant Life communities may be frail, but they’ve got steel in their veins.  Out of all of us, administration, staff, families and themselves, they have been the rock.  We don’t just have their back, they have ours.

About the author: Dean Solden is the founder and co-owner of Vibrant Life Senior Living, which has four communities throughout the state of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, and outside of Lansing and Toledo.  He is also  professional jazz musician and writer and loves the “people who live” and the “people who work” at Vibrant Life Communities.

Important Nutrition for Seniors for a Vibrant Life

Nutrition for seniors tends to change as we age and our lifestyles start to slow down. In order to live a fully vibrant life it is really important to keep track of what we need to stay energized and feeling our best.

A healthy diet fortifies our immune system and feeds our brain. We also know that a poor diet lacking in nutrition, vitamins and minerals can have long lasting negative effects on our mental, emotional, and physical health. We want to give ourselves the best possible tools to continue enjoying our lives. 

Nutrition for seniors is very similar to proper nutrition at any age, with a few additional considerations. 

Have you noticed that as your parents (or yourself) are getting older they don’t need to eat as much to feel full? This is common but if we are eating less, it is still important to ensure we are getting the required nutrition, vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. 

The staff at Vibrant Life includes nutritionists and a wonderful kitchen crew at each facility. Not only do we concentrate on our residents’ nutrition, but we want them to enjoy food and life. We can make favorite dishes, family recipes, and serve happy memories in our dining rooms.

Age-related changes can affect how your body processes food, which influences your dietary needs and affects your appetite. Certain medications can also play a role. The following is a list of the main things to consider for proper nutrition for seniors. 

Metabolism and Appetite

Yep, everything tends to slow down as we age. This isn’t a bad thing, it is a natural process. However, sometimes medication or our mental health can affect our appetite as well.

As our metabolism slows our digestive system also changes. This can effect our appetite and in some cases our likes and dislikes may change when it comes to certain foods.

Medications can cause side effects such as a lack of appetite or stomach upset, which can lead to poor nutrition. It is really important to be aware of which medications may be affecting you this way. If you have any concerns, talk to you doctors.

Your Emotional Health

Seniors who feel depressed or lonely often lose interest in eating. On the other hand, emotional issues may cause some people to eat more and gain unwanted pounds. It is really important that loved ones recognize the signs of either under or over eating and talk with the seniors in their lives and their doctors. Staying on top of nutrition health will go a long way to ensuring a healthy and enjoyable life.

Nutrition for Seniors: Tips for a Healthy Diet

As you make food choices to improve your nutrition, keep the following in mind:

  • Stay hydrated. It is important to drink a lot of water and non-caffeinated beverages. Eating foods with high water content (like soups, cucumbers, grapes, and melons) is also very beneficial.
  • Fiber.  Your daily diet should include a variety of high-fiber foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains. These foods help with constipation and provide essential vitamins, minerals,and nutrients that important for healthy aging.
  • Healthy fats. Choose healthy fats found in seeds, nuts, avocados, fatty fish, and vegetable oils. Try to avoid saturated fats and trans fats.
  • Protein. Lean protein like beans, eggs, chicken and fish, lean meats, and nuts provide us with energy.
  • Whole grains. Brown rice, whole grain cereals, and whole wheat bread help your digestion and protect your heart.
  • Calcium. Calcium is our friend in protecting our bones. The best source of calcium-rich foods are low-fat dairy products. Often, seniors are advised to take a calcium supplement (usually paired with vitamin D) to help you get the additional what you need.
  • B12. As we age our bodies’ ability to absorb B12 decreases. Therefore it is really important that we include foods like cereals, that are fortified with vitamin B12. Getting more through diet and supplements will ensure that you meet your requirements.

Note: B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak. For more information visit The National Institutes of Health.

Learn More

You can learn more about our assisted living or memory care services on our website, or contact us for more information.

Call (734)847-3217 to schedule a virtual tour. 

Schedule a Visit

When Is It Time for Assisted Living?

Deciding on the best time for assisted living is just as hard as deciphering the Difference Between Assisted Living and a Nursing Home.

These two decisions are crucial to the aging process. Choosing wisely will ensure that you or your loved one will continue to have a vibrant life after the transition to a care facility.

It is hard to know when the right time for assisted living is. Many people wait longer than necessary. Often it is a catastrophic event, like a fall or broken bones, that drives the decision.  In order to ensure the senior gets the right amount and type of care at the right time, we’ve compiled a list of things to consider. This list includes both physical and mental capabilities. Hopefully, this will help you make your decisions easier.

The staff at all four Vibrant Life locations throughout Michigan are well versed and trained to help you. Please do not hesitate to call one of our locations to speak to someone directly.

Call Today: (734)847-3217   Temperance 

Call Today: (734)484-4740 Superior (Ann Arbor/Canton)

Call Today: (989)288-6561    Durand/Owosso

Call Today: (269)372-6100   New Friends Kalamazoo

Physical Signs That it is Time for Assisted Living

The following questions relate to someone’s ability to physically live alone and take care of themselves.

#1. Has your loved one fallen recently? 

This is often the first time family members consider assisted living. If your loved one is serious hurt and requires surgery and/or physical therapy they first will usually go to a “Rehab” for rehabilitation.  This rehab can be from 20-100 days, but is usually around 20 days.  Your Medicare benefit pays 100% of the rehab up to day 20, and approximately 85% from day 21 to day 100.  You might not realize it but most most of these “rehabs” are usually nursing homes.

Did you know you can now do “Rehab” in assisted Living?  In our Vibrant Life Senior Living, Superior Township location (Ann Arbor/Canton) you can have your Medicare Rehab done right in our own community.  You can skip the Nursing Home!  Call us for more information.

I there has been a fall you need to ask yourself:

“How likely are they to fall again?”

“How long could it be until help arrives?”

“Do we just need to get a medical alert system?”

#2. Can my loved one get around in their own home?

Is your loved one still able to get up and down the stairs? Can they navigate the threshold on doors to get in and out of the house? You may need to renovate or adapt the home or transition to assisted living.

#3. Is my loved one eating and bathing properly? 

Often the first signs that someone needs more assistance is a decrease in a person’s ability to perform their own activities of daily living (ADL).  The six main ADL’s are:

  • dressing
  • bathing
  • toileting/personal care
  • ambulating (walking)
  • eating
  • taking medications

In other words, if they start to need help cooking for themselves, cleaning the house, and basic hygiene (bathing, brushing teeth, combing hair, changing clothes, etc.) If one or more of these areas of their life is being neglected it is a sign that they need more help with daily tasks of living.

Note: if your loved one also has any pets, you will need to also assess how the pets are being taken care of as well.

#4. Does my loved one have chronic health problems that are going to continue to get worse? 

Once your loved one develops a health issue that will continue to worsen, as is common as we age, it may be easier for everyone if the move to assisted living happens sooner than later. The term “Aging in Place” is used in senior care to mean that as the person’s health care needs increase, the facility they reside in is equipped to provide more care. This is common in memory care facilities that generally have different levels of care depending on the progression of dementia.

Note: Most Vibrant Life Communities have three different levels of memory care or support – early, moderate and later stages.  This is unique in the industry.  We have found that people can stay more vibrant, and the staff and families are happier when a person requiring help with memory care is living in a community with people like them, rather than being at a different stage of memory support.

#5. Does it take longer for my loved one to recover from illness or injury? 

Unfortunately, this is a natural part of getting older.  This is a sign of a weakened immune system and often indicates that they’ll need more care soon.

#6.  Does my loved one remember to take all their medication as prescribed? 

If your family member lives alone and/or is having trouble remembering to take their medication, this is a sign that more help is needed. If they are skipping medication due to a financial concern, a medicare supplemental insurance program could help.

#7. How is my loved one’s driving?

As we get older it is very important that we are realistic about our ability to drive. This is such a hard topic to broach because driving means freedom to most people. No one wants to give up their freedom. However, if your loved one has been in an accident, even if it was a minor fender bender, or if they are involved in more than one traffic incident, it is time to assess their driving.

When someone is impaired enough to no longer be able to drive it is a good time to also determine if they should be living alone. This is a good indicator that changes in other areas of their life are most likely needed.

Cognitive Signs That it is Time for Assisted Living

The following list of questions will help you determine if your loved one is struggling with dementia or other cognitive issues that may require more care than their current situation.

#1. Has my loved one’s personality changed? 

When people start to experience dementia or memory loss they can become angry. Often, this is their way of hiding how scared they are of the changes that are happening to them. Aggressive behavior can also be associated with confusion and dementia.

If your loved one has topped participating in social activities they used to enjoy, ask them why. If they have stopped leaving the house regularly they may be scared to drive or worried they will forget something.  Depression can also set in when we start to worry about our memory. These are all signs that someone may need more support and care.

#2. Has your loved one gotten lost lately? 

This could be while driving or out walking, or forgetting where they are. It is scary and upsetting when this starts to happen and can be an indication that memory loss and dementia have started or progressed.  If this happens, you should think seriously about in home care, or assisted living or memory care.  Your loved one’s life could be in danger.

#3. Does my loved one seem happy? 

This may be an easier question to start with. If you notice your loved one generally seems unhappy, or not as happy as they once were, it is time for an honest conversation. Depression can be the cause but also a sign of more going on, as listed above. Staying in tune with elderly people’s general state of happiness can often help you recognize early on when something isn’t right or their situation requires a change.

The Wrap Up: When is it time for assisted living?

Realizing your loved one needs full-time care can be hard. These signs will help you be aware sooner that more care is needed. This allows you to make informed decisions in a timely manner before a major incident happens.

Vibrant Life Senior Living founder and owner, Dean Solden, expresses it this way: “In my thirty years in the senior living business, I talk to people about their loved ones every day.  The most important piece of advice I can give someone is this: if you are thinking of having Mom or Dad relocate to an assisted living or memory care community, do it 60-90 days earlier than you think they need it!  Most people make the mistake of waiting too long.  I cannot tell you how many times people contact us and are ‘thinking’ of having Mom or Dad move into Vibrant Life, but they keep waiting. And sure enough, Mom or Dad falls or has an accident, and then they need surgery on their knee or hip, and THEN they come to us.  Now they’ve suffered a double trauma.  They have to deal with being more physically compromised than before, AND they have to deal with the stress of moving to a new home.  Please, move to the new home FIRST, before an incident happens.  One stressful incident at a time is enough.  Two is too much. It will save you many months and years of suffering, and make it much easier on your Mom or Dad.” 

Talk to your loved one about their housing options. You may need to involve their doctor and a financial advisor in the conversations so that you both understand all the senior living choices available and what level of care makes sense.

Learn More

You can learn more about our assisted living or memory care services on our website, or contact us for more information.

Come in for a visit to learn more. Call (734)847-3217 or send us a note:

Schedule a Visit