Do You Really Need a Flu Shot Every Year?

Do You Really Need a Flu Shot Every Year?

While the spotlight continues to focus on COVID-19 and new variants, it’s important not to forget that flu season is upon us. A question that comes up every flu season is whether you need an influenza vaccine (flu shot) every year. Some people believe it isn’t really necessary because the virus is so similar from year to year. The experts say, however, that’s a bad assumption.

In reality, strains of the flu virus differ each year. Some years the difference is especially significant. Because of that, the vaccine is designed to protect against what are believed to be the most common strains for the upcoming flu season.

Leading Flu Risks for Seniors

While younger adults might be better able to fight the flu, seniors may not. For older adults, a serious case of influenza can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. While the flu is no fun for anyone, the risks are often greater for seniors.

  • Flu-related complications: People aged 65 and older are at a higher risk than younger people for serious health complications related to the flu. Pneumonia, for example, is one of the most dangerous. Older adults account for 85% of flu-related deaths and almost 70% of influenza-related hospital admissions every year.
  • Exacerbating pre-existing conditions: Seniors are more likely to have a weakened immune system because of pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The flu further exacerbates these illnesses.

One of the best ways a senior can guard against influenza is by having an annual vaccine. So, yes, getting a flu shot every year is a good idea. For some, false information associated with vaccines might deter them from getting it. Here are two of the most common misperceptions about the flu shot.

Busting Two Common Myths about the Annual Flu Vaccine

  • The flu vaccine gives you the flu to build up immunity.

An older adult who really needs the vaccine might resist getting it because they believe it will make them sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu shots build immunity by administering either an inactivated virus or a single strain of the flu. This produces an immune response in the body that protects you from the flu without getting sick.

  • Flu shots hurt and can have painful side effects.

For most people, the shot itself causes very little discomfort. Relaxing your arm as you receive the vaccine also helps minimize pain. Make sure to move your arm around afterward to prevent stiffness. Side effects are usually fairly minimal, too. Common ones include pain at the injection site, a minor headache, and muscle aches.

What Is the Best Month to Receive a Flu Vaccine?

Your primary care physician is probably the best person to answer this question. They know your personal medical history and risk factors. But health experts generally agree that getting your flu shot in mid-October is best. That gives the body time to build up immunity before the virus begins to make its rounds.

The influenza vaccine isn’t the only way you can prevent being bitten by the flu bug. This article, “Prepare to Shoo the Flu,” offers more useful tips to stay safe and healthy.

Want to find a senior living community near you? Explore our Heritage Senior Living Communities or contact us today.

Why Consider Memory Care for a Senior with Dementia

Why Consider Memory Care for a Senior with Dementia

Dear Donna:

I have been my uncle’s guardian for over a year now. He has Alzheimer’s disease and was starting to make some serious financial missteps. His electricity was turned off for failure to pay, but he also had significant credit with the gas company for repeatedly paying the same bill. Worst of all, he was the victim of a door-to-door scam that cost him a big chunk of his savings.

We set up systems so I can help manage his finances without causing his dignity to suffer. However, he is no longer safe at home alone due to the progression of his disease. I’m his only remaining family and am struggling to figure out how to keep him safe and improve his quality of life.

My uncle’s primary care doctor suggested I consider a memory care program. While I’m sure he would be safer, the idea of him feeling abandoned is tough to bear. Why is memory care a good solution for a family member?


Steve in Grand Haven, MI

Ways Memory Care Programs Benefit Seniors with Alzheimer’s

Dear Steve:

It’s great to see that you are concerned not just about your uncle’s safety, but his quality of life, too. The unique challenges Alzheimer’s creates can make it more difficult for families to keep a loved one healthy and engaged with life. That’s where the support of experienced, professional caregivers can help.

A few benefits of memory care for adults with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia include:

  • Specialized caregivers: Seniors who have dementia have unique needs. That’s why caregivers who work with memory care residents undergo additional training. They learn best practices for communication, behavior modification, and early detection of potential problems. Team members in a memory care program also learn how to deescalate situations and manage tough behaviors, such as wandering and aggression.
  • Care planning: While a senior can still maintain a relationship with their preferred physicians, memory care programs also have a physician who works in conjunction with staff to create care plans for each resident. These plans help ensure seniors live their best quality of life, despite their disease.
  • Dedicated dining: Mealtimes can be a challenge when a senior has dementia. A loss of hand-eye coordination makes manipulating utensils tough for many. Vision changes create difficulty distinguishing food on the plate. A busy or cluttered dining space might cause restlessness and an inability to focus on eating. That might result in poor nutrition and weight loss. Memory care dining programs work around these challenges to create healthy meals.
  • Quality of life: The daily life enrichment activities and recreation therapy programs offered in memory care allow residents to feel productive. Common activities include art classes, visits from pets, music therapy, and low-impact fitness activities. Many memory care programs also have secure outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy nature walks, bird watching, or gardening in raised beds.
  • Family support: Alzheimer’s is often referred to as the “long goodbye” because the disease slowly robs a senior loved one of their abilities. Families watch helplessly as their loved one’s health declines. Memory care communities often host support group meetings and other activities to help families throughout this journey.

I hope this list gives you a better idea of the ways older adults benefit from a move to a memory care community. Wishing you and your uncle the best of luck. Please contact me or one of the Heritage Senior Communities near your home if have any additional questions!

Kind regards,


Caregiver Meal Planning: Hearty, Healthy Soups for Fall

Caregiver Meal Planning: Hearty, Healthy Soups for Fall

Finding the time for nutritious meal planning and preparation can be tough when you are a busy caregiver. Family caregivers who are caring for a senior loved one are notorious for skipping meals or grabbing something fast at a drive-thru. Good nutrition is essential for your health at every stage in life, especially when your days are hectic and stressful.

One easy menu item to consider this fall and winter is soup. Soups can be easy to make and freeze or cook in the crockpot while you’re busy with other tasks. The key is to choose wisely so you don’t end up with meals that are too high in sodium, fat, or calories.

Nutritious Soup Recipes for Busy Caregivers

Here are a few recipes to try out as cold weather arrives:

  • 5-Ingredient White Chicken Chili: This quick soup is a good source of protein. Make it extra nourishing by substituting part of the chicken stock for bone broth. Add some avocado slices as a topping to benefit from its healthy fats.
  • Mushroom Quinoa Soup: Protein-packed quinoa makes a tasty addition to almost any soup. Along with several kinds of mushrooms, you can also throw in vegetables like carrots, celery, and baby corn.
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Soup: Red bell pepper, butternut squash, goat cheese, and a bit of bacon are sure to make this hearty soup a new favorite. You can easily freeze it to serve on your busiest days.
  • Mushroom Barley Soup: This tasty soup is rich in fiber, selenium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. Each is good for your health. In addition, the fiber it contains will help you feel full longer and avoid overeating.
  • Thai Pumpkin Noodle Soup with Crunchy Chickpeas: As tasty as it is beautiful, this is sure to become a new favorite. It contains pumpkin, natural peanut butter, pomegranate arils, broccoli, and more.

Diet and Health

A nutritious diet can have many positive effects on your overall health. That’s true for older adults and family caregivers. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) says the following are just a few of the many benefits of eating healthfully:

  • Less money spent on medication
  • Fewer doctor visits
  • More energy and stamina
  • Better overall health

Planning and preparing foods that are as delicious as they are healthy can help you look and feel good, too.

Eat Well at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we recognize the important role nutrition plays in residents’ lives. Through our Heritage Hospitality program, residents can choose from a variety of delicious dishes at every meal. Each one is served up fresh in our formal dining room.

If you are searching for senior living for an older adult in your family, we invite you to call the Heritage community closest to you to learn more today!

Respite Care as an Assisted Living Trial

Respite Care as an Assisted Living Trial

Dear Donna:

We are hoping to move my mom to an assisted living community in Michigan this fall. Our goal is to find a place and get her settled before the weather is too bad. She has lived alone since my father passed away, and the last few winters have been challenging.

I am the closest family member to her home, but still over an hour away in good weather. A few bad storms last year caused my mom to be stuck indoors for several days. It was a bad experience for her and for the rest of the family.

My mom is very reluctant to consider moving, even though she’s somewhat fearful of living alone. Do communities ever allow seniors to do a test run before making a permanent move? It might be the only way we can get her to seriously consider moving to assisted living.


Shannon in Saginaw, MI

How to Try an Assisted Living Community Before Moving

Dear Shannon:

What a great question! Families don’t always realize there is an option to consider if a senior loved one is hesitant about moving to assisted living. Designed to give caregivers a break, respite care allows older adults to stay at a community for a few weeks or months. Some families even take advantage of respite programs regularly until the senior is ready to make a permanent move.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care was originally intended to offer support and peace of mind to family caregivers. When a spouse or adult child needs a break, assisted living community respite programs provide the senior with a safe place to stay. Depending on state regulations, respite guests can usually remain at an assisted living community for a few days or several months.

Despite the benefits of respite, few families are aware of or take advantage of it. According to a study by the National Alliance of Caregiving and AARP, only 12 percent of family caregivers utilize these services. Many times, guilt keeps families from taking a much-needed break. However, experts say routine use of respite services can make a family member a better caregiver because they have time to rest and take care of their own health.

What’s Included in Respite Services?

Respite guests enjoy the same support and amenities as long-term residents:

  • A furnished, private living space or suite
  • Well-balanced meals and snacks
  • 24/7 caregiver support
  • Medication management assistance
  • Community activities
  • Transportation services for local appointments
  • Emergency call systems to summon help, if needed

Your mom might feel more comfortable moving if she’s going to a community she is familiar with. The staff can also take extra steps to make her stay more meaningful. They can introduce her to residents with whom she shares common interests or get her involved in activities.

I hope this is helpful, Shannon! Please call the Heritage community nearest you to schedule a tour or to ask more questions.

Kind regards,


Respite Care at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities, we are proud to offer respite care and adult day services. Both are intended to provide support to the caregiver and the older adult. Both services are offered at each of our Michigan communities.