Talking to Parents About Assisted Living

Getting a Parent Into Assisted Living: Having the Conversation and Taking the Next Steps

The holidays are often a time when families get together, and for those with aging parents, it can begin a conversation about how mom or dad is doing. If a loved one is struggling to get around and meet their basic needs, it can open the door to a discussion about the need for additional care, or even a move to assisted living.

Talking to your loved one about assisted living or other care can be a difficult and highly emotional topic for everyone involved. Empathy is essential when approaching the conversation and realize that in many cases, getting a reluctant parent into an assisted living community will be a longer process than you intended.

To help ease the process, we’ve outlined some of the considerations for having that discussion, and the next steps you can take to help make the transition as seamless as possible.

Step 1: Assess the Situation

Your first step is to understand if your loved one is ready for assisted living. Get a clear picture of your parent’s health and ability to take care of themselves; in some cases, an in-home nurse may be sufficient in bridging a gap in care and help keep them in their home. Family members and in-home helpers can also provide non-medical care such as housework, meal preparation, hygiene tasks, or running errands.

Seniors are often reluctant to leave their homes; there sometimes comes the point when moving is a necessary next step in keeping your aging parents safe and healthy. Signs that someone may need assisted living include serious or frequent injury, difficulty performing everyday tasks, or worsening memory loss.

When assessing your loved one’s situation, consult their caretakers (including medical professionals) to evaluate whether a move is necessary. All family members involved in the process, such as siblings, should be aware of the situation and be on the same page moving forward.

Step 2: Have the Conversation

If you’ve made your assessments and still believe assisted living is a good idea, it’s time to bring up the topic with your loved one. Many articles recommend taking it slow and not pushing too hard — it can take multiple conversations for someone to come around, and the person should feel like they are playing an active part in deciding their future.

In some cases, a parent may outright refuse to consider assisted living. It is often very little you can do in this situation, and it may take a health scare to change their mind about living alone.

This article goes into greater detail about some of the ways you can bring up the conversation and convince your parents to move to assisted living.

Step 3: Consider Your Options

Once you’ve agreed your parent can no longer live independently, it’s time to consider your options in terms of care. You will need to review your parent’s finances to see what they can afford; in some cases, you may need additional assistance to cover the cost. In Michigan, for example, eligible adults “can receive Medicaid-covered services like those provided by nursing homes but can stay in their own home or another residential setting,” through the MI Choice Waiver Program.

Choosing the community right for you depends on what is within budget. Take some time to understand how you will approach budgeting for care. Be sure to include your parents in this conversation and explore all of the options, including insurance policies they may have obtained and programs they may use. Once clear, review these items as well:

  • What type of community interests them?
  • What type of amenities are required?
  • Do they require a certain level of privacy or bedroom size?
  • What type of environment would make them feel most at home?

Be sensitive to their needs and the fact that this can be a stressful and emotional time. With your list of criteria and budget in mind, you can then research local assisted living communities and create a shortlist of options you can tour. Your parent should accompany you on these tours if possible. Visiting communities with you helps them feel like a part of the process and also helps them to feel as if they have more control over the situation.

These tours will help you narrow your selection and pick the best option for your parent. Be sure to check the list of needs and wants against each facility and ask to chat with residents or staff to get a feel for the community. You should also verify the quality of care by checking assisted living records and reports to make sure there are no violations or other red flags.

Step 4: Make the Move

Even if you’ve found the perfect community, moving can be a challenging time. Your loved one has to deal with the emotions of leaving their home and adapting to a new environment. Throw coordination of the logistics of moving in, and it can begin to feel overwhelming.

To make this process as smooth as possible, talk to the community to find out what (if any) furniture is provided, and get room dimensions beforehand. Once you have an idea of how much space you’re working with, you and your loved one can decide which possessions to bring with them, while also making a plan for the items and clothing left behind.

With the logistics nailed down, you can focus on supporting your parent emotionally as they make the transition to assisted living. Having family and friends on hand to visit can go a long way in easing the stress of change — some communities even offer their transitional support services.

Want to learn more about assisted living? Find frequently asked questions about assisted living here.

Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

Winter Safety Tips for Seniors

Winter can be a dangerous time. Power outages, hazardous road conditions, and extreme cold can threaten the health of even the heartiest people, and seniors can be especially susceptible to the hazards of winter. The key to keeping you and your loved ones safe throughout the winter months is to be prepared and limit your exposure to these risks. Here are some winter safety tips for you or your loved one to keep in mind.

Know How to Prevent Potential Hazards in the Home

Extreme cold can create many potential hazards in your loved one’s home. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to prepare for these issues and keep the house’s inhabitants safe.

Carbon Monoxide

According to The National Weather Service, “Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States.”

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, the National Weather Service emphasizes that you should never run generators indoors or use a gas oven to heat your home; all heating devices should be used as intended, by following the manufacturer’s instructions. You should also buy and install a carbon monoxide detector so everyone will know if a leak has occurred.

 

Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes can burst and create a mess (and expensive repair bill) for seniors. Make sure your loved one knows how to prevent and safely thaw frozen pipes before winter hits:

  • Prevention: Let the faucet drip to keep water moving. Set the thermostat above 55 F and keep cabinet doors open so warm air can circulate.
  • Treatment: Run the water and warm the frozen pipe with an “an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, or a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water.” High heat from tools like a blowtorch can damage the pipes or start a fire and should not be used.

 

Limited Food Supplies and Contact

Preserved food, marinated fermented and pickled vegetables

Cold temperatures and icy conditions can make it difficult to travel. Make sure the house is well-stocked with food for the winter, including non-perishables that can be eaten if the power goes out. You should also have a plan to check on elderly relatives and friends; if you don’t live nearby, see if a neighbor can help.

 

Heating Hazards

thermostatic valve on radiator close up

Heat sources can be potential fire hazards when used incorrectly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using space heaters with “automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements,” and keeping them at least three feet away from flammable materials like drapes and furniture. All heating elements should be vented properly (if applicable) and power cords should be kept safely out of the way.

Limit Exposure to the Outdoors

Staying out too long in the cold can lead to hypothermia or frostbite, and icy conditions can increase the risk of falling — especially for seniors. Older adults should limit their exposure to the outdoors in cold temperatures and make sure their sidewalks are kept shoveled and salted when venturing out.

When doing snow removal, older adults should also be mindful of their activity level and any health conditions they may have. According to The National Safety Council, “Sudden exertion, like moving hundreds of pounds of snow after being sedentary for several months, can put a big strain on the heart,” and warns that cold weather can “increase heart rate and blood pressure,” even in healthy people.

The American Heart Association has a list of tips for shoveling snow more safely.

Travel Safely

Adverse weather conditions can make traveling dangerous; according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 21% of vehicle crashes that occur every year are weather-related.

Seniors should weigh the risks carefully before venturing out in adverse conditions and be prepared. To make sure their car is ready for winter, have the engine coolant and antifreeze levels checked, as well as the pressure and tread depth of the tires.

Each car should also have a winter car emergency kit, which includes supplies like an ice scraper, portable shovel, blanket, flashlight, battery booster cables, and a first-aid kit. Make sure your loved one knows what to do if their car gets stuck in the snow, or they need to flag down help.

Be Prepared This Winter

The cold weather months can be a dangerous time for seniors. Make sure you know the risks and help your loved one stay safe by preparing properly for winter.

Senior Activities Near Me: Things to Do in Washtenaw County

Activities for Seniors in Washtenaw County, Michigan

Staying active and preventing loneliness as we age is important in keeping us healthy both mentally and physically, but finding new activities to join can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. According to the National Institute on Aging, “several research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults and have suggested that social isolation may have significant adverse effects for older adults.”

As a top provider of senior housing in Washtenaw County, Vibrant Life Senior Living, Superior Township is connected to local communities and the many resources they offer the 55+ population. We’ve compiled this helpful list of senior activities near us for you or your loved one to explore!

Senior Woman in Art Class in Washtenaw County

Activities in Ypsilanti, MI

Located roughly 10 miles east of Ann Arbor and 5 miles from Superior Township, Ypsilanti is home to Eastern Michigan University and entertainment for all ages. Here are some good options for senior activities:

Taking a Class at Ypsilanti Senior/Community Center

The Ypsilanti Senior/Community Center offers a wide range of programs for seniors, including knitting, euchre, art, and bingo. For those looking to stay active, the Center also offers gentle fitness classes and line dancing.

There is no membership fee at The Ypsilanti Senior/Community Center, but donations are welcomed and some programs come with a small cost.

Swimming at Rutherford Pool

Swimming is a low-impact exercise with many health benefits for seniors, including improved flexibility, heart health, and muscle tone. The Rutherford Pool in Ypsilanti offers many opportunities for seniors to swim throughout the day, as well as water exercise classes that are open to all ages and abilities. Find the schedule here.

Seniors (55+) can pay a daily entrance fee of $3, or buy a $12 punch card (your fifth entrance is free). Season passes are also available for $75.

Visiting Museums

History lovers will find plenty of places to visit in Ypsilanti. The city is home to multiple museums, including:

Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum

Located in historic Depot Town, the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum‘s featured automotive stories include Chevrolet Corvair, Tucker, Hudson, Kaiser-Frazer, and General Motors Hydra-matic. Special events are typically held throughout the spring and summer, and visitors to the museum can enjoy nearby restaurants and shops all year long.

Admission is $5, and free parking is available.

Michigan Firehouse Museum

The Michigan Firehouse Museum is also located in Depot Town and encompasses over 26,000 square feet of “historic artifacts including tools, equipment, memorabilia and the largest collection of fire truck bells in the country.” Admission for adults is $5.

Yankee Air Museum

The Yankee Air Museum is located at Willow Run Airport and offers fun for the whole family with exhibits on aviation, aerospace, and the science of flight. Thunder Over Michigan, part of a major air show tour, is also held here in the summer. Admission to the museum is free to members, and seniors 60+ pay $8.

Activities in Ann Arbor, MI

Known for its food and art, Ann Arbor is a great place to go when you need something to do! The city is a roughly 20 minute drive from Superior Township, and is home to a number of businesses offering activities tailored specifically to seniors. Here are some options to explore:

Retired Senior Woman Attending Art Class In Community Centre

 

Taking Classes at the Ann Arbor Senior Center

Similar to The Ypsilanti Senior/Community Center, the Ann Arbor Senior Center offers a number of programs and services to the community. Activities include bridge and social games, fitness classes, and informational workshops. The cost of classes vary, and members receive a discount. A yearlong membership is $25.

Exploring The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Michigan

Adult learners ages 50+ can explore a large catalog of events at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, including lecture series, small group learning, and informal activities around town. Prices vary.

Continuing Lifelong Learning at Elderwise

Elderwise is another lifelong learning option in Ann Arbor, offering single and multi-session courses, as well as tours and field trips. According to their website, the $40 membership fee covers the 12 months between September 1 and August 31 the following year, although you do not have to be a member to take classes. Paid membership entitles you to a discount on class registration fees.

Senior coiuple in sports center in Washtenaw County

Activities in Canton, MI

A fifteen to twenty-minute drive from Superior Township and Ypsilanti, Canton’s beautiful golf courses, community resources, restaurants, and premier theater make it the perfect place for seniors of every lifestyle. Activities for seniors include:

Taking a Class at The Canton Club 55+

Club 55+ is a senior adult program run as part of the Summit on the Park Community Center, and gives seniors plenty of opportunities to meet new people and stay active:

  • Enjoy camaraderie at a social club
  • Learn something new (or pick up a new hobby) with art, music, and other fun classes
  • Get active with fitness classes like karate, dance, or aquatics

You can visit their website to see a calendar of current events and information about memberships.

Golfing

Both of Canton’s golf courses offer senior golf leagues:

  • Pheasant Run Golf Club’s senior league (56+) consists of two-player teams competing for weekly prizes on 9 holes.
  • Fellows Creek Golf Club’s senior league (55+) is a 16-week league where all skill levels are welcome.

Enjoy a Show at The Village Theater at Cherry Hill

The Village Theater at Cherry Hill is “a 400-seat, premiere performing / visual arts and education center” offering a wide variety of shows, including comedy acts, dance recitals, and musicals.

Staying Active as You Age

At Vibrant Life Senior Living, we understand the importance of continuing to stay active and social as we age, and emphasize the importance of living a vibrant life at our senior living communities. We hope you found this list helpful — please let us know if you have any questions!

Jazz Age(ing): The Joy of Jazz Music in a Senior Living Community

I sat at the keyboard, hands touching the keys but not yet actually pressing them down, thinking about the first notes I would play. These were essential notes, as they would set the tone for the many notes to follow, just like the first words and sentence of an essay sets the tone for the rest of the piece. You would think that once I had picked the song to play, I would know what notes the corresponding notes of that song would be, but that is not the case. I’m a jazz musician, and therefore, every time I play a song, it is different. 

My left hand started to play a familiar, bluesy bass line. I moved into a rollicking kind of rhythm, “bam ba baam ba, bam ba baam ba,” accenting the third beat of the riff, a sound any audience would recognize as sort of a boogie-woogie, bluesy bass line. I started it in the key of C, and then moved it up to the F, and then up to the G, which is part of the simple, typical blues progression. Most people will recognize this as the blues, even if they don’t know it intellectually, because they have heard it a thousand times before in their lives.

The audience responded, moving their heads up and down and tapping their feet. I eventually added my right hand with chords, and now they really recognized the pattern. They started moving their bodies even more. This was a great audience. They were so appreciative of the music and really felt it. When I started adding some cool blues licks they were right there with me, oohing and ahhing.  

After I finished the melody, I started soloing over the form of the tune, as jazz musicians do. I started playing a different song, a short, simple one, then left some space. Space is good. It leaves the brain some room to appreciate the next phase.  

Getting into the rhythm Vibrant Life Senior Living

However,  I was surprised to hear the space taken up by another musician. I looked around instinctively, although I knew no one else was on the stage with me. In a second, I realized the sound was coming from the audience.

“Ba ba de ba do ba de dom!,” the sound said, echoing one of my riffs. I played the same riff on the keys. “Ba ba de ba deedala de dom!,” the sounds said, echoing the first riff, but adding a few more notes. I repeated that riff on the keyboard. We kept doing this. Now the musician from the audience was leading me, and I was following him! 

We kept this up for a while, and I looked up to see who was jamming away, scat singing to my tune. It was a man off in his own world, moving his head up and down, beating his left leg on the ground like a drummer, and singing like he was in a jazz jam session on 54rd street in New York City in the 1950s. 

Except we weren’t in New York City in the 1950s; we were in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the year 2019. And we weren’t in a blues or jazz club. We were in an assisted living community called Vibrant Life Senior Living. The audience’s average age was 85 years old, and some of them had dementia

But I didn’t care, and neither did they. I was playing, and the crowd was enjoying the music.

The guy jamming with me was an 87-year-old guy named Bob. Bob is a former music teacher, and he is a Musician with a capital M. He plays all sorts of instruments and has a mandolin and guitar in his room, as well as other percussion instruments. We’ve talked about music, and when I talk to him, Bob speaks, acts, and thinks like a musician. It doesn’t matter that he struggles to walk, and sometimes struggles to get the words out. It doesn’t matter that his fingers sometimes don’t work that well, and he can have a hard time playing his mandolin. When I go to his room, we talk tunes and musical styles, and about other musicians, and anecdotes about audiences and joke about what musicians joke about, just like I’m talking to my music buddies my age. We are part of a club, the musician club, and I know he knows what he’s talking about just like he knows I know what I’m talking about.  

Because we were in such a familiar setting, I felt comfortable just stopping the tune mid-stream.  “Ok, hold on here,” I said. “This is too good. Bob, come on up here on our stage with me. If you’re gonna be a part of the band, scat singing like that, you may as well join me here up on the stage.”  

I got up and went over to Bob, who was in his wheelchair. I rolled him over next to the keyboard, and then maneuvered the mic-stand, so the mic was right at his mouth. “Bob, let’s keep doing what we were doing, but this time, sing into the mic. You’ll be my sax player.” 

Group Of Seniors Standing By Piano And Singing Together

Bob was all for it, so I started the tune up again. I started riffing away, leaving some space, and Bob began to riff as well, scat singing into the microphone. He was getting into it, emphasizing every other beat of the riff. And the audience was getting into it, too. They started banging on the tables with their hands and stomping the ground with their feet. They had become my rhythm section – they all just became drummers! I kept playing and singing, and Bob kept scatting away, really sounding like a saxophonist, and my drummers kept pounding the beat for another five or ten minutes. Bob ended with a flourish, and I got up off the keyboard and led my audience/rhythm section to a big finish like a conductor with his orchestra.  

When it was over, there was silence.  We all realized that we had just experienced something magical. For a few minutes, we weren’t in an assisted living community any longer. For a few minutes, they weren’t “residents” any longer.  For a few delicious moments, we were all transported, all of us just people, all of us just musicians, riding on the magical wave of jazz. For a few delightful minutes, “saxophonist” Bob didn’t feel any pain, didn’t feel trapped inside his own body, and instead was jamming away being a real musician, as he had been for the past fifty years of his life. And for a few special moments, all of my “audience/drummers” forgot where they were, both in place and time and instead as the sounds of jazz flowed through the air, we were all in a late night jazz club on 54th street in New York City. 

 


Author Bio

Dean-Solden-Vibrant-Life-Senior-Living

Author Dean Solden is the founder and co-owner of Vibrant Life Senior Living and has been a leader in the senior health care business for the past thirty years. He also is a professional musician (DeanSoldenmusic.com), writer, speaker, and playwright. He can be contacted at deansolden@gmail.com.

Dean Solden joins Shelley Irwin and a panel of distinguished guests on WGVU’s Family Health Matters

WGVU Family Health Matters Season 19 Episode 5 Dean Solden in Panel Discussion regarding Alzheimer's and DementiaDean Solden joins Shelley Irwin and a panel of distinguished guests on WGVU’s Family Health Matters to discuss important Alzheimers and Dementia topics, including:

  • When should I look at assisted living for my Mom or Dad?
  • What trends do professionals see in Dementia care?
  • How can I recognize Alzheimers or Dementia?
  • How do Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities spend their days with the people who live there?
  • What does it mean to care for the caregiver?

5 Steps to Finding the Right Assisted Living Community

Finding an assisted living community for a loved one can be a daunting task. You want to find the right place for your family member to live, but there are so many factors to consider it can be hard to know where to begin your search. Looking online is a great place to start, but even then it’s difficult to narrow down your options.

To help simplify this process, we’ve compiled a list of steps to finding assisted living online, and what you should look for:

Step #1: Cutting Through the Online Clutter

When you start your online search you’ll likely begin with a local search online, like “assisted living Bedford Township.” Your list of results will include ads, local listings, and organic results.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that the first couple ads are likely not for assisted living communities. Instead, these companies like A Place For Mom and Caring.com act as brokers for many assisted living options around the country. We recommend not wasting your time calling them because they primarily provide you with the same list of communities in your area that you would find with a google search for Assisted Living or Mental Care. You can easily find these yourself. Just scroll down past the advertisements for the local listings.

Step #2: Choosing Quality of Life

Once you’ve found your assisted living websites you can begin evaluating the different communities available in your area. Look at the website as if you were taking a tour of the community. What are they emphasizing? Virtually everyone will discuss their quality of care, but you should go deeper than that and also consider the quality of life your family member will have through life enrichment activities and programs, relationship building, and other . Look at a community’s amenities, programming, and mission statement to get a better understanding of their values and approach to care.

Step #3: Narrow Your Options: Memory Care and Assisted Living

Understanding assisted living gets a little confusing when your loved one needs supervision of care because of their cognitive or memory problems (dementia), rather than their need for physical care. Many people think that if Mom or Dad have dementia and can no longer live at home they need a nursing home, but that is no longer true. Many assisted living communities now offer memory care, usually located in a specialized wing or building.

Assisted living is usually a much more pleasant and residential environment than a nursing home, which can look and feel institutional. You can often have your own room, and some communities offer different levels of memory care to accommodate the different behaviors and potential problems associated with early, mid-stage and later stage dementia.

To narrow your search, determine what level of memory care your family member might need and plan accordingly. Not all assisted living communities may have the services you need, so this can be a way to narrow down your options even further.

Step #4: Assisted Living Tours: Evaluating Off-Line

You’ve picked your top contenders for assisted living communities, but don’t call them yet. Make a surprise visit after business hours or on the weekend, when the administrator and marketing team are likely gone. This will give you a more “real” look at residents, staff engagement, and the community as a whole. If you like what you see you can make an appointment for a tour during business hours and get the full sales pitch.

Step #5: Making The Choice

Ultimately, the assisted living community you choose will depend on a variety of factors like price, quality of care, and location. Taking the time to thoroughly vet each community online and paying an unannounced visit will help give you a better idea of what the community is really like and make the right choice for your loved one.

For more information on assisted living, memory care and nursing homes, you can contact Dean Solden at Deansolden.vibrantlife@gmail.com.

Vibrant Life Senior Living, Superior Township’s first “Sneak Preview” Open House

Our construction sneak-peak open house for Vibrant Life Senior Living, Superior Township was a fun night for everyone. This was our first opportunity to reach out to the community. From other professionals in the senior healthcare industry to website marketers and musicians, the event brought all walks of life together to introduce Vibrant Life Superior to the community, talk about how we can solve a major issue in the senior living industry, and showcase our facility.

Solving more than one problem with Assisted Living

Dean Solden, the co-owner and developer of Vibrant Life Senior Living, Superior Township. took a few minutes to discuss the purpose of the facility with the guests. “Assisted living communities exist because they solve a problem. We provide 24-hour supervision and physical and cognitive care to those seniors who cannot live at home anymore,” said Dean. “However, in doing so, the industry has created another problem. We segregate our seniors, and as a result, we reduce the opportunities for meaningful relationships and stimulation activity, which is a prime ingredient for depression. At Vibrant Life, we have innovative solutions which address this problem, reduce depression, and ultimately create a wonderful environment for the people who live and work here, allowing them to enjoy their lives, to thrive, not just survive.”

Modern facilities and cutting-edge care

This is exactly what Vibrant Life is attempting to create with the new 72 unit assisted living and memory care facility.  By taking a property that has fallen into disrepair, in a growing section of Western Washtenaw County, Dean and his team are hoping to implement new practices in the industry.

 

Creating opportunities in Assisted Living and Memory Care

Over 60 community members took a tour of the new Vibrant Life.  Some people were interested in finding a place for their loved one, some were looking for employment, others were just neighbors interested in seeing the progress being made.  As the jazz band played, community members enjoyed a picnic style summer spread of hot dogs, assorted fruit, and potato salad, all prepared by Vibrant Life Superior’s head chef, Tiffani Gordon.
Dean also spoke about some of the other innovative things that Vibrant Life will be implanting.

  1. At Vibrant Life, we will have two levels of assisted living and three levels of memory care.  “We pride ourselves on our different levels of care. Not only do we aid people who have physical needs, but we have a special lodge for people with early cognitive needs.  Most other communities don’t have the sensitivity to those with early cognitive needs. We also have a lodge for those with moderate to severe cognitive needs, and then one lodge for later stage memory issues.  “By creating these separate lodges, we offer almost “custom” care. People are with people who are like them, which makes a better quality of life for all the residents, staff and families.”
  2. “No more going to the nursing home for Rehab. At Vibrant Life, we will have our own out-patient Rehab where people can get their Rehab while enjoying their life in one of our beautiful Lodges.  This is a game-changer.”
  3. “Our own in-house neurologist. This is amazing.  We will have our own neurologist, who will follow all our memory care residents. This is unheard of in the industry.
  4. “We have a relationship with the University of Michigan School of Social Work. We will be a field placement for the Master’s level students who will help counsel and support the people who live and work at Vibrant Life as well as their families.  This fits perfectly with our mission.”

A rainy day did not dilute the energy as community members networked with one another and shared ideas with staff about how this Vibrant Life Senior Living can be the best-assisted living and memory care it can be.