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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