Flu Shots and Alzheimer’s

Flu Shots and Alzheimer’s

Dear Donna:

My 82-year old father is in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Lately, he has become a little more difficult to manage. He is especially difficult to handle when I have to take him to the doctor. Fortunately, he goes to a geriatrician who is very understanding of and knowledgeable about Alzheimer’s disease.

In past years I have always taken my dad with me to the pharmacy flu shot clinic for his yearly vaccine. I’m on the fence this year about whether he should have a flu shot or not. He goes to an adult day center a few days a week and they are offering it there, but I’m just not sure he really needs it. He had a flu shot at the end of flu season last year, and I’m trying to decide if it’s worth the struggle it will likely be to get him to cooperate this year.

Gretchen in Grand Haven, Michigan

Dear Gretchen:

I’m sure you know that these behaviors are not uncommon for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Family caregivers often feel understandably embarrassed when they are trying to cope with a senior loved one’s behavior in public. Having a primary care physician who specializes in gerontology like your fathers can really help.

As far as flu shots, I recommend you talk with your father’s physician for the final word but I think she or he will likely advise you that your father should receive the vaccine. Even though he had it later in last year’s flu season, he will need a new vaccine to protect him from this year’s strains of the flu. He is probably at greater risk for complications of flu and will likely be at higher risk for contracting the virus if he goes to an adult day center a few days a week. It might be beneficial to have him get the flu shot at his geriatrician’s office instead of the adult day center if you think they are better equipped to handle his behaviors.

Finally, you might be interested in this story we shared with readers during last year’s flu season. Flu Shot Questions from Alzheimer’s Caregivers in Michigan addressed some of the questions we commonly receive about the flu from family members who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

I hope this information helps, Gretchen!



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Documenting the Family Tree

Documenting the Family Tree

In our hustle and bustle world it is sometimes easy to only look forward in life. We are so busy worrying about our “To-Do List” for the day that we forget how important it is to preserve our family history. This week, we thought we would share a few ideas to help adult children in Michigan work with family elders to record their family’s legacy. This can also be a great project to involve grandchildren in, especially those with strong technology skills.

Interviewing Family Elders

One way to document your roots is to video interview the eldest members of the family. Here are a few tips to make that easier:

  • Many cameras and smart phones have video features. Have someone with a steady hand document a variety of family members asking their elders questions about their childhood and the family’s roots.
  • Avoid asking yes or no questions. Open-ended questions usually elicit the best responses. Your senior loved ones may be a little more anxious at first, but after a few questions they will likely open up and forget about the camera.
  • Try to involve of variety of family members to both ask and answer questions.
  • Be sure to save each interview as it is recorded so you don’t risk losing it if the project takes a while to complete.

Here are some sample questions to ask during family interviews:

  • What’s your earliest childhood memory?
  • Where did you live when you were born? What was your home like?
  • How did your parents meet?
  • Where did your father work?
  • Did your mother work?
  • What chores did you have around the house?
  • How did your family celebrate holidays when you were a child?
  • Who was your childhood best friend?
  • How did you meet your spouse? Who introduced you?
  • How did you learn to drive?
  • What was your first job? How did you spend your first paycheck?
  • Where did you get married? What was the wedding like?
  • What was your school like?
  • Did you get to play sports or be involved in after school activities?
  • What were your favorite school subjects?
  • Who were your friends?
  • What was your favorite job and why?
  • Who are some of your heroes?
  • Do you remember the day President Kennedy was shot?
  • What days in history do you remember the most?
  • How old were you when you got your first television?
  • Were you an Elvis fan? How about The Beatles?

Finally, ask senior loved ones what they want future generations of the family to know. Is there any one thing they think is really important?

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Celebrating Michigan Grandparents

Celebrating Michigan Grandparents

As the population across the state of Michigan ages, there are more grandparents alive today than ever before. In fact the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by the year 20130, one in every five people in this country will be over the age of 65. For the first time in history, people over the age of 65 will outnumber children under age five.

Grandparents Play Key Roles in Grandchildren’s Lives

This shift in demographics means more and more families are enjoying intergenerational connections and relationships. Where in past generations children often lost their grandparents in their earliest years, today’s younger generation often has both grandparents and great-grandparents to enjoy. That allows grandparents to play more pivotal roles in their grandchildren’s lives.

Intergenerational Activities to Use to Celebrate Grandparents

Grandparents Day is an officially-recognized national holiday celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Celebrating grandparents and “grand friends” can help to further build bonds.

If you are trying to come up with ideas to help your parents and your children enjoy National Grandparent’s Day together, we have a few suggestions to help you get started. These are organizations dedicated to helping build stronger families ties across the generations.

  • The Legacy Project has a site full of activities grandparents and grandchildren of all ages can enjoy together. Projects range from scrapbooks to handprint flowers and butterflies.
  • American Grandparents Association is another resource devoted to celebrating the generations. They have activities and projects your family can enjoy all year long.
  • Ways to Celebrate Grandparents on Grandparents Day is a quick read with some easy-to-do suggestions for activities including creating a family tree.
  • Activity Village also has helpful resources for Grandparents Day. Their site includes printables, coloring pages, and crafting ideas.
  • The Holiday Zone is another site with printables, poems, puzzles, songs, plays and more.

Do you have any ideas to share for celebrating the family elders?

We’d love to hear them in the Comments below!

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Best Pets for Older Adults in Michigan

Best Pets for Older Adults in Michigan

By now we’ve all read about the therapeutic value a furry friend can bring to older adults and those living with chronic illnesses. Organizations like ReCHAI have demonstrated just how much pets can do to help reduce stress, promote mobility and reduce loneliness in older adults.

So what kinds of pet should you consider for the Michigan senior you love?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Dogs can help your loved one get up and moving. They promote mobility and also help to improve social interaction. After a few laps around the neighborhood, a dog will likely have made a few new friends. Studies have shown have a dog to care for and walk can also help decrease blood pressure and rates of depression. While a puppy might be a little too high energy for an older adult, your local shelter will likely have more middle-aged dogs looking for a good home.
  • Cats are ideal companions for older adults who live in apartments or condos with more limited space. They typically need less care and can adapt to a smaller environment.
  • Birds aren’t always thought of as pets for seniors. If you visit an assisted living community or a dementia care residence, however, you may find yourself reconsidering that idea. Many have aviaries for residents to interact with every day. Watching and listening to birds has been found to reduce for seniors and those living with dementia.
  • Fish can also be great pets for helping to reduce anxiety. Just kicking back and watching fish swim around can be very relaxing. They are also low maintenance and less expensive to feed and maintain than other types of pets.

Choosing the Right Pet for a Senior

There are a few additional things to consider in your search for a pet for a Michigan senior loved one. They include:

  • Be sure to take in to account all of the costs of a pet from food expenses to veterinary care and grooming.
  • How much care a pet requires is an important consideration. Can your aging loved one safely walk a dog in the ice and snow?
  • Depending upon where your senior loved one lives, space and association restrictions need to be consider.

Finally, consider talking with a veterinarian in your area to see what suggestions they have. They likely see older adults and their pets every day and can offer advice.

Related Stories:

Dogs for Depression: How Pets Benefit Older Adults

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