Flu Shots and Alzheimer's disease

 

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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