The Emotional Side of De-Cluttering

We previously shared tips to help a Columbus area family who is helping a senior loved one de-clutter their home. We focused on how to get started and shared tips for making the process go more smoothly.

Now let’s tackle the emotional side of downsizing.

Listening and Sharing Memories as You De-Clutter a Senior’s Home

As you work your way through their house, below are a few suggestions to help you and your loved one.

The first reminder we always share with families is that what looks like clutter or “junk” to you, might really be something has special meaning to your loved one. An old movie ticket stub might be to their first date.. A worn out map could be from the first family vacation you all went on.

As you work your way through each drawer or closet, give them time to share the history and meaning behind their treasures. Encourage them to share their stories and take time to really listen to them. You might even want to video some of the conversations you have together so you can maintain precious family history.

Also give some thought to how you can preserve some of the items they cherishes most. You might want to create a memory box or two with smaller memorabilia that they can hang on the wall. Or you could put together a few scrapbooks they will be able to look through and enjoy for years to come.

If you aren’t quite sure how to save and store older photos, papers and cards, the National Archives has great resources to help on their website. You can review it to learn more about everything from preserving old letters to repair old photos.

We hope this helps you and your family find ways to enjoy what can sometimes be a difficult time.


Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Aging Loved One

Spring is the perfect time to take a proactive approach in helping your loved ones stay healthy and engaged with life. Clutter can have a negative impact on an adult’s mental and physical well-being.

On the physical side, clutter puts older adults at risk for illness or injury. Piles of newspapers and magazines, for example, can be both a fall hazard and a fire hazard. It can also lead to an infestation of bugs and rodents, and be a trigger for allergies and respiratory problems.

The emotional side of clutter can be complicated. Depending on how much clutter your loved one has in their home, they might need to seek help from a mental health professional to determine the reasons behind their behavior.

Clutter is known to create anxiety, agitation and depression. Getting rid of it can literally make a homeowner feel lighter and happier.

So how do you actually begin this process?

Tips to Get Your Senior Organized

  • Begin in the rooms your loved one uses least. This makes it easier to get started.

  • Round up boxes and extra trash bags. You will likely need a lot of them!

  • We encourage families to sort through things with four categories in mind: belongings your loved one wants and needs to keep, items other family members might enjoy having in their homes, items that can be donated to a local charity and items that need to be discarded.

  • Be patient with your loved one. Try to avoid rushing them when it comes time to make decisions on what can stay and what they need to get rid of.

  • If you can’t agree on what to do with things, create a special box for those items. Store them in the garage or basement. If your loved one hasn’t used them by the time you are ready to help them move to an assisted living community, they might be more inclined to get rid of them.

  • Once you have the clutter cleared away, you can begin the cleaning process. Keep in mind that cleaning products with strong chemicals can be tough for older adults, especially if they have respiratory conditions. Most grocery stores and discount stores sell green cleaning products that are chemical free.

  • Another resource you might find to be helpful is the FlyLady. She has a variety of resources for downsizing and de-cluttering you might find helpful.

  • One final tip is take time to enjoy each other’s company and to reminisce about the memories some of their belongings bring back.


Healthy Weight Gain Tips for Seniors

Have you or your loved one lost weight recently without trying? Here are some helpful tips for healthy senior weight gain, as well as a look at some of the underlying issues the sudden weight loss may indicate.

How to Help Older Adults Gain Weight in a Healthy Way

If you or your parent is struggling with unintended weight loss, there are a few things to try. Dieticians recommend these healthy weight gain tips:

  • Eat smaller meals but more frequently (perhaps five or six instead of the more typical three meals a day).
  • Eat foods with the right texture. Softer foods can help if your parent has dentures or issues swallowing.
  • Exercise regularly to increase appetite. Try these exercise ideas for older adults!
  • Eat high calorie, high protein foods.
  • Try nutritional supplements. However, it’s best to check with your parent’s physician first to see if they recommend this option and, if so, which ones they would suggest.
  • Share meals with your parent whenever possible to make them more enjoyable.
  • Cook meals ahead for your parent if they are cooking less for themselves.

Foods that Are Good For Healthy Weight Gain for Seniors

As mentioned above, eating foods that are high in calories and protein is a healthy way to gain weight. Here are some healthy weight gain foods for your senior parent:

  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Nuts
  • Whole milk
  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Bananas
  • Granola
  • Whole grain breads
  • Corn

Many experts also recommend adding foods with higher calorie counts to meals your parent enjoys. For example, registered dietitian Anne Myers-Wright recommends:

  • adding cheese to salads, soup and sandwiches
  • adding sour cream, butter and oils to meals, vegetables, bread and potatoes
  • adding cream or full-fat yogurt to desserts, fruit and cereals
  • adding creamy sauces and dressings at meals

Healthy Weight Gain Tip: Steer Clear of Fast Food

If you or your parent is looking to gain weight, fast food may cross their minds as a viable option. After all, it certainly falls into the “high calorie” category.

However, relying on fast food for weight gain is not good for their long-term health. Although a fast food meal every now and then won’t hurt, studies show that frequent consumption of fast foods increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

What Causes Weight Loss in Seniors?

Unintended weight loss is an issue many seniors in the United States face. In fact, medical experts say that “unintentional or involuntary weight loss is a common phenomenon among older adults, with an annual incidence of approximately 13%.”

There many potential reasons why your parent may be losing weight, including:

  • Illness
  • A flare-up of a chronic disease
  • Dementia or confusion
  • Constipation
  • Medication-related issues (some medications may come with side effects of decreased appetite or weight loss, or may cause taste disturbances)
  • Decreased desire or ability to cook
  • Chewing or swallowing issues
  • Reduced appetite
  • Depression

It’s very important to identify what’s at the root of your parent’s weight loss issue. If it’s something like decreased appetite or difficulty preparing meals, you can try the above tips to help your parent regain some of their lost weight.

However, you should consult with a doctor if the weight loss is rapid and unexplained. Your parent may have a medical condition that’s behind the sudden weight loss.

It may be time to consider assisted living or long-term care communities. If your parent is struggling to cook for themselves or is losing weight without trying to, it may be one of the common warning signs that a senior needs more help.

More Caregiver Tips for Your Senior Parent

If you’d like to learn more about how to stay safe and healthy, read our caregiver blog. It’s full of helpful, practical tips for adult children who are trying to figure out how best to care for their parent.


Communicating When Your Loved One Has Dementia

A person who has dementia may have difficulty finding the right words; they may repeat certain sounds, words, and phrases, seem confused, and be unable to adequately express themselves. This frustrating condition causes people to feel helpless, anxious, irritable, and depressed – a very difficult state to witness, especially when it attacks a person who is very important to you. Many family members of dementia patients feel as if their loved ones have become mere shadows of their former selves. Fortunately, between the confusion, there are good days and bad, and remarkable moments when the loved ones they remember shine through.

If you are facing the challenge of communicating with a parent who has dementia, these guidelines may be helpful:

Avoid Distractions

Communicate with your parent in an area that allows her to focus all of her mental energy on the conversation. Do not attempt to converse in crowded place, in front of the TV, or while the radio is playing.

Be Prepared

If your parent wears glasses, make sure they are on before you begin so that she can see you clearly. If she has hearing aids, make sure they are in and working. Do not approach your parent from behind, as it may startle her.

Be Positive

Create a positive mood by speaking to your parent with a calm tone and pleasant approach. Be careful to avoid sounding condescending or disrespectful. Use facial expressions, gestures, movements, and touch to convey your message and show affection. Avoid using childish terms such as diapers, bibs, and potty.

Be Clear and Specific

Speak in a clear, distinct voice and use using simple words and sentences. Say your parent’s name, your name and the names of anyone else who is present or is the subject of your conversation and avoid the use of pronouns.

Keep Conversations Simple

Instead of asking your parent open-ended questions, like “Tell me about the house you grew up in,” frame your questions in a simple form that will require a simple answer like “Did you grow up in an apartment or a house?” If conversation becomes difficult, a pen and paper can sometimes be helpful.

Focus on One Topic

To avoid confusion, isolate your conversation to one topic at a time. As the illness progresses you may have to initiate and guide your conversations.

Utilize Non-Verbal Cues

Put your parent at ease with a smile, reassuring touch, and friendly tone. Position yourself at her eye-level and maintain eye contact.

Use Repetition

After listening to your parent, repeat what you understood back to her. You may need to repeat yourself several times. And, at times, it may be better to wait a few minutes before trying again to communicate.

Ignore Inaccuracies

With dementia comes confusion and delusion. Disagreeing with your parent’s statements is not likely to change her mind. When you disagree with what she is saying, whether it is due to logic or opinion, it’s best to let it go.


Reminding your parent of the good times in her life is likely to have a soothing effect. While short-term memories fade fast with dementia, long-term memory often remains in-tact.

Be Patient

Stay calm and expect communicating with your parent to take time. Do not interrupt her or finish her sentences unless she asks you to help her. If the time comes that your parent is unable to respond verbally, don’t give up; continue talking to her to demonstrate that you still care.

Laugh it Up

Whenever possible, engage your parent with humor to reduce stress and lighten the mood.

What Matters Most?

It is very difficult to see your parent losing their ability to communicate. Try to be patient and understand that even if she cannot properly express herself, she may be able to respond to you and fully experience feelings and emotions. The core relationship that you seek to cherish is still present.

The MacIntosh Company has multiple Ohio locations that provide short-term post-hospital inpatient rehabilitation and skilled nursing orthopedic, as well as respite care. Long-term services include assisted living, intermediate care, and memory care for your convenience. If you would like to know more about the options available at a location near you, please contact us.

Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency

Older adults in central Ohio are at higher risk for a vitamin D deficiency during the winter than their friends in southern climates. That is because most of us spend less time outdoors during the winter. Less exposure to sunlight means the body has less opportunity to produce vitamin D naturally.

More and more studies are proving just how important vitamin D is for overall well-being. It helps with everything from bone health to preventing depression, cardiac diseases, and some forms of cancer.

Foods High in Vitamin D

One of the challenges for getting enough vitamin D during the dreary days of an Ohio winter is that it doesn’t occur naturally in many foods. Most foods high in vitamin D are enriched during production. A few good foods to work into your daily diet include:


  • Milk and dairy products
  • Fish and oysters
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggs
  • Pork

Increasing your intake of foods rich in calcium will help your body better absorb vitamin D. Those can include:

  • Almonds and sesame seeds width=
  • Kale, okra and spinach

Remember to check the labels on foods such as cereal and orange juice to see if they have been enriched with vitamin D and calcium. Opt for those brands that have been.

Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D

Understanding how much vitamin D you need can be tricky because the experts don’t always agree on a number. Here are the recommendations from two agencies involved in vitamin D research:

The U.S. Food & Nutrition Board sets their standards as:

  • 600 IU/day for children and adults
  • 800 IU/day for seniors

The Vitamin D Council advises:

  • 1,000 IU/day per 25 pounds for children
  • 5,000 IU/day for adults and seniors

Our best advice is to talk with your primary care physician or your senior loved one’s geriatrician for their recommendation.

Diagnosing a Vitamin D Deficiency

The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency can be quite vague. They typically include fatigue and muscle pain. Your physician can order a blood test to make that diagnosis. There are also tests you can take at home. It might be that you or your senior loved one will require prescription doses of vitamin D for a few months to build back up. Your physician will be the one to make that call.




Admission to a Senior Living Community

Dear Averi:

My aging father needs more help than I can provide for him. In my conversations with various continuing care retirement communities, I think that skilled nursing would probably be the best option. What do I need to do? Any advice would be helpful.



Dear Dora,

You have provided a great service by caring for your father until now. It is not uncommon for a family member to transition the care of a loved one to healthcare professionals to ensure that they receive proper care and support. First, you will need to find a center that provides the level of care that your father needs. Having him admitted involves the following steps:

Medical Records

The process begins with clinical information. Your father’s primary care physician can give him a physical and provide you with a copy of his medical history, medications, and notes from home healthcare service providers, if applicable.

Level of Care Evaluation

The center will review your father’s clinical information to determine whether his condition requires skilled nursing or long-term care.



If your father has recently been hospitalized for 3 or more nights, Medicare may cover the cost of skilled nursing.


Although Medicaid does not pay for skilled nursing care, it does cover room and board for long-term care if a Level of Care analysis is done before admission.

Managed-Care Insurance

Therapy notes need to be evaluated by the insurance company before his admission to a skilled nursing center can be approved. Like Medicare, most managed-care insurance companies will only pay if skilled care is necessary and will not cover long-term care expenses.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Each policy is different but many long-term care insurance policies help cover room and board for an older adult. We can help review your father’s policy to see if it covers long-term care.


If your mfather does not have insurance coverage for skilled nursing or rehab care, you will need to arrange for payment from private resources. A deposit check may be required at admission.

I know this transition can be difficult. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me directly. I will be glad to walk you through the process!


Averi Bruce
Admissions Director