Flu Prevention during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Flu Prevention during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Donna:

My grandmother is an active 92-year-old. Due to coronavirus concerns, she meets with friends and family outdoors, which I’ve heard is safer. However, I worry that she is still out and about a little too much.

As flu season approaches, I think the time has come for me to talk with her about prevention. While I love that she is so independent, I worry her risk for getting seriously ill will be even higher.

Do you have any tips I can share with my grandmother to help her avoid the seasonal flu?


Kaisey in Grand Haven, MI

Seasonal Flu Prevention in a Time of COVID-19

Dear Kaisey:

Sounds like your grandmother has been blessed with good health, and her active lifestyle probably helps. That said, you are right to be concerned about her safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts predict this flu season could be rough.

Here are a couple helpful tips to share with your grandmother about flu prevention:

  • Get the annual flu vaccine: Unless your grandmother’s physician advised her against the flu shot due to an allergy or other health concern, it’s one of the best prevention steps adults of all ages can take. The general recommendation is to get vaccinated in early- to mid-October to give the body time to build immunity. Advise your grandmother against waiting to see how bad the flu season gets, as some seniors are prone to do.
  • Practice healthy self-care: It’s important for you, your grandmother, and anyone else she regularly comes in contact with to take good care of yourselves. That can help each of you build immunity and avoid catching a bug and passing it to one another. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is a great start. Exercising for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week is vital, as is getting a good night’s sleep. Hydration also matters. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day and consuming foods high in water content (e.g., cucumber, melon, and leafy greens) can both prevent dehydration.

Many of us have heard these final suggestions repeatedly since the COVID-19 pandemic began last spring, but it’s good to revisit them:

  • Maintain physical distance: Physically distance from people in public. When flu season is peaking, avoid crowds as much as possible. If you must be in public, maintain a distance of 6 feet from others.
  • Wear a mask: While initially debated, mask wearing became essential as researchers learned more about the novel coronavirus. Doing so is a good prevention measure for both the seasonal flu and the coronavirus.
  • Practice good hygiene: Washing your hands for 20–30 seconds in warm, soapy water several times throughout the day is another must. For times when you don’t have access to soap and water, keep a small hand sanitizer in your pocket or purse. Make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol.

I hope these tips help, Kaisey! Wishing you and your grandmother good health and many more happy times together.

Kind regards,


Learn More About Flu Shots

At Heritage Senior Communities, we take the seasonal flu seriously. That includes creating informational resources for residents and their families to read. “Seniors, It’s Time to Get Your Flu Shot!” and “Flu Shot Questions from Alzheimer’s Caregivers in Michigan” are both useful articles to help you learn more.

Falls Prevention Awareness Day: Keeping Seniors Safe

Falls Prevention Awareness Day: Keeping Seniors Safe

Dear Donna:

My 78-year-old mother lost her balance on a small step and suffered a nasty fall. She wasn’t seriously injured, but was badly bruised. While my mom blamed the shoes she was wearing, I think there is more to it.

One change in her well-being my family and I have noticed recently is weight loss. I’m wondering if it might be linked to her fall. Do you have any fall prevention tips I can use to lower my mom’s risk? We know she might not be as lucky should she experience another fall.


Chris in Saline, MI

Fall Prevention Awareness Day

Dear Chris,

Sounds like a frightening experience for your mother and you! I’m glad she wasn’t more seriously injured. Many seniors who’ve experienced a bad fall worry it will happen again. It can create a great deal of anxiety, so I hope she’s coping with that challenge.

Your question about preventing falls is common, especially from worried adult children. Understandably so when you know how common and dangerous falls are for seniors:

  • Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors.
  • Every year, 1 in 4 adults over the age of 65 experiences a fall.
  • A senior is treated in a hospital emergency room for injuries related to a fall every 11 seconds. Every 19 minutes, one of those older adults loses their life.
  • People who fall once are more likely to do so again. Seniors often limit activity to prevent another fall. It can result in a lonely, isolated life.

These statistics are why September 22 is designated as Falls Prevention Awareness Day every year. It’s a day to inform the public about the dangers of falls, especially among our elders.

Here are a few suggestions to consider for your mom’s safety:

  • Visit the doctor: If your mother didn’t go to the emergency room after her fall, I would recommend a follow-up visit with her primary care physician. The doctor is the best person to render advice on possible causes.
  • Examine her diet: Unintended weight loss can be a sign of an underlying health concern. If her doctor determines she is healthy, it could be the result of a poor diet. That is fairly common, especially among seniors who live alone. You might need to come up with healthy meals you can cook and freeze or explore home-delivered meal programs.
  • Focus on hydration: Dehydration can also increase the risk for a fall. Check with her physician, but the general recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of water each day. Foods with high water content, like berries, melon, lettuce, and tomatoes, can also help.
  • Conduct a home safety audit: Most homes weren’t built with the safety needs of older adults in mind. Uneven stair treads, bad lighting, and poorly designed bathrooms can all contribute. Conducting a home safety assessment, or hiring a professional to do one for you, can identify potential hazards to address.
  • Build core strength: If your mother has been leading a fairly sedentary life, she might need some strength training. Her doctor might refer her for a few sessions of physical therapy. That will allow her to learn some exercises she can do at home to stay strong.
  • Check medication side effects: Another potential concern can be found in her medicine cabinet. Medications may be contributing to her unsteadiness. Some have side effects that include dizziness and dehydration. Each of those can put your mother at increased risk for a fall. Talk with her pharmacist if you have any questions.

I hope this information is helpful, Chris! I wish you all the best in creating a fall prevention plan for your mother.

Kind regards,


Heritage Senior Communities Is Here to Help

If you have any questions related to independent living, assisted living, or memory care, we encourage you to call the Heritage community nearest you. One of our experienced team members will be happy to help!

Keeping a Senior Outdoorsman Safe in the Summer

Keeping a Senior Outdoorsman Safe in the Summer

Dear Donna:

My father has always loved nature and spending time outdoors. At 92, he’s still an avid outdoorsman. While I don’t want to squelch his enthusiasm, his safety is a big concern.

Dad is living with my husband and me and routinely heads outside on his own to birdwatch or walk through our woods. Do you have any tips for helping him stay independent but safe?


Stephanie in Traverse City, Michigan


Summer Safety and Older Adults


Dear Stephanie:

Good for your Dad! It’s likely that your father’s commitment to nature and physical activity keep him going strong at 92. Research shows a sedentary lifestyle can lead to early mortality. Some even say it’s as bad as smoking. But your concern for your father’s safety is understandable.

Here are a few suggestions to keep him healthy while providing peace of mind:

  • Provide sunscreen: Most of your father’s generation grew up not wearing sunscreen, so it’s essential to remind him to apply it. Sprays might be easier for him to manage on his own. Review these tips with your dad to highlight how important sunscreen is.
  • Stay on guard for ticks: As every outdoorsman knows, ticks make their return to Michigan woods and fields during warm months. A quality bug spray might help repel ticks. Also help your dad check his hair, body, and clothing for ticks when he comes back inside.
  • Encourage hydration: As we all know, Michigan summers can be hot and humid, even as far north as Traverse City. Make it easy for your dad to stay hydrated by keeping reusable water bottles filled and chilled in the refrigerator. Your dad can grab one on his way out the door. If he doesn’t like water, try adding lemon or berries for flavor.
  • Invest in quality footwear: While good footwear is important at every age, older adults should make it a high priority. Weaker ankles and unsteadiness caused by medications can be worse on uneven ground. Falls are the leading cause of serious injury among seniors. Help your father find a pair of shoes with good ankle support and strong soles.

One final suggestion is purchasing an emergency alert device for your father. There are a variety on the market and many are very discreet. They look like a sports watch but allow the wearer to call for help with the touch of a button. Most work off cellular technology that allows an active older adult like your dad to remain safe on the go.

I hope this information helps, Stephanie! And that you and your dad enjoy the rest of the summer.

Kind regards,



Heritage Senior Communities


With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage Senior Communities has been family-owned for four generations. Each community operates on our uncompromising core values of honesty, quality, respect, teamwork, potential, and balance. We invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more!

3 Tips for Making a Senior’s Physician Appointment Easier

3 Tips for Making a Senior’s Physician Appointment Easier

Dear Donna:

Like many men his age, my dad isn’t so great about going to the doctor. It’s been especially difficult since my mother passed away. She could usually gain his cooperation more easily than I can.

My dad is 79 years old. Although he is in fairly good health, I know an annual physical is important. Do you have any ideas for making a senior’s physician appointments go more smoothly?

Any advice would be appreciated!

Meghan in Hudsonville, MI


Suggestions for Making Physician Visits Easier for a Senior


Dear Meghan:

First, know this is a question we regularly hear from our residents’ adult daughters. While I’m sure it’s frustrating for you, men are less likely to visit a physician than women. We do have a few tips that might improve your father’s cooperation.

In general, the key to a successful physician visit is getting organized and communicating well. Making preparations before your father’s physician appointment is essential. It can make the visit go more smoothly, which may make your dad more willing to schedule another visit.


Here are a couple of suggestions for pre-appointment preparations:


  • Keep a health journal: Documenting your dad’s daily health can help his primary care physician intervene in any potential problems early. Even if he seems healthy, write any unusual symptoms down on a calendar to spot trends. Some physicians also recommend documenting a senior’s diet, water intake, and sleep quality. A day or two before your dad’s appointment, review your notes and list your concerns. Having everything organized will make the appointment easier for your dad and the doctor.
  • Prioritize your questions: Feeling rushed at a physician visit might make you too intimidated to ask questions. However, it is important that you have answers. Prioritize your list ahead of time so you can quickly review it with the doctor. While they might be busy, physicians want to be proactive in preventing patient illnesses.
  • Organize medical information: Another important piece of coordinating a senior’s health care is to maintain a complete medical file. Organize your dad’s information so it is easy to retrieve what you need and stay on track with any necessary follow-up. Keep a list of his tests or bloodwork and the results. Maintain a medication list, including prescribing physicians.


One final tip is to explore medical record apps that make maintaining and updating your dad’s information easier. Some allow multiple logins, which can make it easier if you have siblings involved in his care. Apple’s Health Records or Healthspek are two to consider.


I hope this information makes maintaining a relationship with your dad’s physician easier for all of you! Call the community nearest you to learn more today!


Kind regards,


Is It Safe for a Senior with Dementia to Garden?

Is It Safe for a Senior with Dementia to Garden?

Dear Donna,

My mom was diagnosed with early-stage dementia two years ago. She’s managed to live independently until this year. After much debate, she moved in with my family and me. We are modifying our home and would also like to make some changes to the yard.

Mom has always been a gardener and I’d like her to continue. Beyond fencing in our backyard, what should I know to keep her safe?


Staci in Traverse City, MI

Garden Safety and Seniors with Dementia

Dear Staci,

What a great question! With the right precautions, a senior with dementia can and should continue to enjoy gardening. Planting and caring for a garden offers a variety of mental, physical, and spiritual benefits for all ages.

Gardening provides a meaningful activity for families to do together. When a senior loved one has dementia, finding activities several generations can enjoy together isn’t always easy.

It also helps reduce stress, improve strength, build stamina, and prevent depression. For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the benefits are even greater. A few additional benefits of gardening for adults with dementia include:

  • Decreased stress, agitation, and anxiety
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Sense of accomplishment and success

While gardening might seem like a low-risk activity, there are a few safety risks to be aware of for seniors with dementia.

6 Garden Safety Tips for Seniors with Dementia

Use these tips to create a safe, secure gardening environment:

  1. Inspect garden tools: Some garden tools can have rough edges and points. You might not realize how sharp they are until you closely inspect them. Because dementia can also cause problems with manual dexterity, tools with rounded edges and larger handles are easier and safer.
  2. Monitor hydration: Seniors with dementia may forget to drink enough water on a hot, humid day. That can put them at increased risk for dehydration. Invest in an insulated water bottle your mom can take into the garden with her.
  3. Take sun safety precautions: Staying safe outdoors during the summer requires more than hydrating. Make sure your mom applies ample amounts of sunscreen and wears a hat to shield her face. Also, encourage her to garden in the morning or evening when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong.
  4. Designate places for rest breaks: Dementia can cause problems with mobility and balance. These can be especially pronounced outdoors in the garden. Strategically place chairs and benches throughout the garden to give your mom places to rest.
  5. Use container gardens: Raised garden beds and container gardens are a safe solution for a gardener with dementia. If your mom doesn’t have to bend over or stoop down to weed and plant, she is less likely to fall.
  6. Invest in a GPS device: The Alzheimer’s Association estimates six out of ten people with dementia will wander at some point. That’s a frightening statistic for loved ones. Invest in a GPS tracking watch or pendant that tracks her location in real time. Many use cellular technology, which works almost anywhere.

I hope this information is helpful, Staci!

Kind regards,


Memory Care for Adults with Dementia

At Heritage Senior Communities, memory care residents have opportunities to enjoy gardening, nature walks, bird-watching, and more. The best way to learn about memory care at Heritage Senior Communities is to take a private tour. Contact us today the community nearest you to schedule a time!

How Can I Convince My Parents to Accept More Help?

How Can I Convince My Parents to Accept More Help?

Dear Donna,

My family and I live about 30 miles from my parents’ home in central Michigan. We try to visit and help with errands and household tasks every weekend. It’s not easy, especially in winter.

My mom gave up driving years ago. Over the past six months or so, my dad’s health has declined significantly. While he still drives to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store, I don’t think he should.

Now that the weather is warmer, I’d like to talk with them about moving to an assisted living community. We’ve never discussed the issue before and I’m nervous about doing so. However, I am worried something bad will happen to them if I don’t.

Do you have any suggestions for starting a conversation when parents need more help than adult children can provide?


Grace in Saginaw, MI

Starting a Conversation about Assisted Living

Dear Grace,

Beginning a conversation about moving with a senior can be daunting. Adult children may hesitate for fear of upsetting or insulting a loved one. The very idea of the difficult emotions that may arise could cause an adult child to delay the discussion.

In some cases, families wait too long. They could be forced to find a solution in the midst of a crisis. But it sounds as if you already understand the best time to begin talking to a parent about moving to assisted living.

I do have a few tips to help you prepare for and initiate the conversation about assisted living:

  1. Do your research.

Before you tackle a conversation about assisted living with your parent, do your homework. Make sure you understand what assisted living is and isn’t. Many senior living communities have great resources on their websites to help you learn more.

Research online, call a few that seem like good fits, and even visit some in person. Become familiar with the services and amenities of assisted living and why you think it’s a good solution. It will give you more confidence to start the discussion.

  1. Prepare to talk more than once.

Moving to an assisted living community is a big decision. While it can be the start of an exciting new chapter for your parents, agreeing to such a big change is intimidating.

When you begin this discussion with your parents, know it will not be a one-time talk. While your parents might realize a change is needed and agree to a quick move, that isn’t usually the case. Start slowly and give your parents time to adjust. They might not immediately see the benefits of giving up their home and moving to an assisted living community.

  1. Show empathy.

Try to look at the situation from your parents’ perspective. How you would feel if you were asked to give up your home and move to a new environment? Kind words and empathy can make a big difference.

Also keep in mind many seniors believe myths about senior housing, such as residents losing their independence and having a lot of rules to follow. Concerns like these may make them resistant to even considering a move.

When you are worried about your senior loved ones’ well-being, it’s easy to let your fears keep you from listening to theirs. Instead, try to get to the bottom of what might be holding them back.

They may be concerned about issues you aren’t aware of, including:

  • Loss of privacy and being forced to adapt to a rigid daily schedule
  • Fear about the expense of assisted living
  • Concerns that family and friends will forget about them

By keeping these things in mind, you will likely make the conversation go more smoothly.

I hope these tips help, Grace, and we hope you will keep the Heritage communities in mid-Michigan in mind for your parents! Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

Kind regards,