Independent Living Enriches Life for Older Adults in Michigan

Independent Living Enriches Life for Older Adults in Michigan

Dear Donna:

I am trying to persuade my 80-year old mother who lives alone in Traverse City, Michigan to move to an independent living community. We live almost 6 hours away from her and worry about her safety in the cold and snowy northern Michigan winters. She is very active and involved in her community. She even spends 4 or 5 hours a week volunteering. My mother somehow has the idea the senior living is just “a bunch of old people playing bingo.” What can I do to help her get a true picture of independent living?

Tammy in Toledo


Dear Tammy:

The out-of-date stereotypes of “homes” are still alive in the minds of many older adults. While we do play Bingo, independent living communities have so much more to offer. Here are a couple of suggestions that might help:

  • You could start by talking with her about two of the main reasons older adults choose to move to independent living: to be free of the maintenance and upkeep of a home and for the life enrichment and socialization that happens every day. Most residents of an independent living community are a lot like your mother!
  • Have a few of your local senior living communities mail you their monthly activity calendar. You could share those with your mother so she could see the wide range of programs that are offered. For example, at The Village at Bay Ridge in Traverse City life enrichment programs include book clubs, trips to the casino, quilting and theater outings. If she finds an activity that sounds interesting, most communities would happily invite her to join them.
  • Visit a few communities without your mother along. You probably know her likes and dislikes well enough to determine if it might be a good fit. Then try to start with just having her visit for lunch and/or a tour. Agree ahead of time that she will be under no obligation to go again if she doesn’t like it.

I think once your mother can see for herself how active independent living residents really are, you will have a better chance at convincing her to make a move.

Good luck, Tammy!


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The Health Benefits – and Risks –  of a Daily Cup o’ Joe

The Health Benefits – and Risks – of a Daily Cup o’ Joe

If you are part of the 83% of Americans who drink coffee every day, you’ve probably wondered what the real facts about its risks and health benefits are. We hear conflicting reports almost daily. Older adults are often warned that the risks are even greater for them. According to the National Coffee Association, the average American coffee drinker chugs down three cups per day. How do you know what you can believe about your morning cup o’ joe? We took a look at the latest research from sources ranging from the Mayo Clinic to the Journal of Vascular Medicine

Here is what we found:

  • The risk between heart disease and coffee consumption occurs when you have a particular gene mutation that slows the breakdown of caffeine in your body. The Mayo Clinic experts warn that the gene mutation is a fairly common one.
  • If you are concerned about neurodegenerative disorders, some studies show coffee can decrease your risks. For Alzheimer’s disease and dementia coffee may reduce the risk by as much as 60%. It may also decrease the risk of Parkinson’s by 32% to 60%.
  • Newer research indicates that the high antioxidant levels in coffee may help protect you from type 2 diabetes and liver cancer.
  • If you are physically active or trying to lose weight, coffee consumption might help.  Because caffeine is a stimulant, coffee may help to improve physical performance and aide in burning more calories.
  • Consuming large amounts of unfiltered coffee can lead to moderate increases in bad cholesterol.
  • Heavy coffee consumption is linked to sleeplessness, agitation, and anxiety. All can contribute to or worsen hypertension.
  • Watch what you put in to your coffee. Sugars, creamers and high fructose flavorings can be an overlooked source of fat and calories, especially if you drink more than one cup of coffee a day.

So what is the bottom line on our friend Joe? As with most things, moderation seems to be the key. Two cups of coffee per day is generally believed to be the maximum for benefits.

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Flu Shot Questions from Alzheimer’s Caregivers in Michigan

Flu Shot Questions from Alzheimer’s Caregivers in Michigan

Flu season is making its way across Michigan again. Like the turning of the leaves, it is one thing we can count on returning every fall. For older adults and caregivers in Michigan, receiving the influenza vaccine is the best way to beat the bug. Because of our expertise in dementia care, families often turn to us with questions about the flu shot for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Q: Will Medicare or private health care insurance pay for the flu shot if my family member receives it in the Alzheimer’s care community where they live?

A: Medicare will pay for the vaccine. While private insurance coverage and co-pays vary by plan, most do pay for the flu shot. You may have to pay a deductible or co-pay. Check with your insurance provider to be sure.

Q: Will the vaccine cause my aging parent to get the flu?

A: Families often believe this myth and are especially concerned for a loved one who may already have a compromised immune system. The influenza vaccine does NOT cause the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “The viruses contained in flu shots are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection.”

Q: Who has priority in receiving a flu vaccine?

A: In years where the vaccine is predicted to be in short supply, this is always a concern for families who have an elderly loved one. The good news is that the vaccine for the 2013-2014 flu season doesn’t seem to be in short supply. But in years where it is, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) establishes the priorities for the vaccine. Among those who typically have priority are:

  • Children aged 4 months to 59 months
  • Adults over the age of 50
  • Those who live with a chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorder (including diabetes mellitus)
  • Residents of nursing homes
  • Healthcare personnel
  • Caregivers and those who live with a caregiver

Q: Does Medicare require an order from a physician for the flu shot?

A: No. Medicare does not require a physician order for the flu shot.

Q: Is there anyone who shouldn’t receive a vaccine?

A: Those who have had a previous adverse reaction to the influenza vaccine should not receive it. The CDC typically recommends that “people with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine.” If you are in doubt call your loved one’s primary care physician.


Are you a caregiver who regularly receives flu shot?

Has it prevented you from contracting the flu in years past?

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