Flu season begins in early October, so it’s time for yearly flu shots. If you’re caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, don’t forget he or she will need a shot, as well.

Why Get Vaccinated?

Believe it or not, people still die from the flu, especially those who are age 65 and over. And as a caregiver, you’re putting both you and your loved one at risk if you don’t get vaccinated yourself.

Why You Can’t Get Sick From a Flu Shot

It’s hard to believe this myth still exists after all these years, but it seems like everyone has a story about how they got a flu shot, then got the flu the next day. It doesn’t work that way. First of all, you can’t get sick from a flu shot because it’s made from a virus that’s been “inactivated,” which means it can’t transmit infection.

Secondly, it takes a few days for flu symptoms to start after you’ve caught the virus. So if you get the flu the day after your shot, you already had it before you were vaccinated. Also, it can take up two two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective. So if you get the flu within two weeks of getting your flu shot, you weren’t yet fully protected. So you would have gotten sick without the shot.

Is it Too Early in the Season (or Too Late) for a Flu Shot?

If you’re thinking it may be a bit early for flu shots, you might be surprised. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s okay to get a flu shot as soon as the vaccine comes out. It’s best to get it by the end of October. But flu season last throughout most of the winter, so if you accidentally miss the October deadline, go ahead and get one anyway.

Call Your Doctor Today

Your doctor’s office is a good place to get your flu shot. But if you’re in a rush, there are lots of places in the Kansas City area (e.g., Walgreen’s, CVS) where you can just drop in and get one.

Alzheimer’s disease is a life-changing illness. So if you, or a loved one, have been recently diagnosed, you’re probably wondering what to do next. Here are some idea that can help move you in the right direction.

Get information. Knowing what you’re up against can go a long way toward helping you manage your disease. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Heart of America Chapter is a good place to find accurate information you can use to read up on Alzheimer’s.

Get regular medical care. See your doctor regularly, and ask for a referral to a memory clinic (there are clinics in Kansas City and in Overland Park).

Gather support. Take note of the people you already have in your life who will be willing to help as your disease progresses. If you’re not sure, ask. Support groups can also be helpful, as many people find comfort in talking to others who can relate to what they’re going through. Fortunately, there are lots of Alzheimer’s support groups in the Kansas City area. Also, you’ll want to develop a relationship with a home health agency that can help you later with things like personal care (e.g., bathing), meal preparation, house cleaning, transportation, and more.

Update your living will. If you don’t have a living will, the time to sign one is now. It will let healthcare workers know what type of medical care you want (or don’t want) in the event you should become unable to make decisions for yourself. You’ll also want to sign a healthcare power of attorney, which will allow you to choose someone now to make healthcare decisions for you if you become unable. Your doctor should be able to help you obtain the necessary paperwork for both documents.

Do some financial planning. A financial power of attorney is also a good idea. It’s used to assign someone to handle your finances if you become unable. You may also want to go ahead and update your will. And you’ll want to consider ways to cover your healthcare costs.

Think about safety. Have a home care agency that specializes in Alzheimer’s conduct a safety check on your home. And read the National Institute on Aging’s home safety guide for people with Alzheimer’s.

Stay healthy. A healthy diet has been shown to improve brain health; and scientists believe aerobic exercise may reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Adjust your work hours. If you’re beginning to have trouble doing your job, see if you can reduce your work hours or switch to a position that isn’t so demanding. You might also want to ask your human resources department about family medical leave or disability benefits. And check with your local Social Security office about applying for Social Security Disability.

Consider a clinical trial. The University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center is currently enrolling people in research studies with the hope of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. These clinical trials may offer treatment methods that are not yet available to others.

Keep having fun. Continue to do the things you enjoy for as long as you’re able.

Although Alzheimer’s disease will certainly change your life, a little preparation will help things go more smoothly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year, hundreds of thousands of U.S. adults who are over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or taken advantage of financially. Many are abused in their own homes; others are abused while living with family members or in residential facilities. The abuse often goes unreported because the person may feel ashamed, fear backlash from reporting the abuse, or just be unable to communicate effectively due to Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia.

Here’s where you can help. Watch for warning signs if you know someone who could be a potential target. While watching for clues, keep in mind that elder abuse can go beyond the physical. It can also include emotional abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, financial abuse, or abandonment.

Here are some possible warning signs of elder abuse or neglect:

  • Unusual bruises or bleeding
  • Physical injuries (e.g., breaks, sprains, burns, welts)
  • Anxiety, agitation, depression, withdrawal
  • Poor hygiene
  • Bed sores
  • Drug overdose
  • Sudden change in finances

Of course, not everyone will exhibit all of these warning signs. But if you notice any of them and believe you’re seeing indications of possible elder abuse, it’s important to report the abuse as soon as possible to prevent any further damage to the victim’s health or well-being.

Here are the phone numbers for Kansas:

  • Domestic/community abuse:
    Kansas Department for Children and Families Adult Protective Services
  • Nursing home, hospital, home health agency, etc. abuse or neglect:
    Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services

Here’s the number for Missouri:

  • Missouri Department of Health and Human Services
    Adult Abuse & Neglect Hotline

3 Heart-Healthy Fall Recipes for Seniors

Fall is in full swing and we’re all craving warm, hearty foods. Treat your favorite Kansas City senior to a fall meal that’s both seasonal and heart-healthy. Here are three of our favorite recipes:

  1. There’s nothing quite as comforting as a warm homemade stew. Featuring healthy ingredients like sweet potatoes, carrots and peas, this Slow Cooker Harvest Beef Stew from the American Heart Association is perfect for a chilly fall evening.
  2. Fall wouldn’t be complete without a bevy of pumpkin-inspired food and drink. We love this easy-to-prepare Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce recipe from Mayo Clinic.
  3. Perfect for preparing ahead of time, this Chicken, Mushroom and Wild Rice Casserole from Eating Well will provide several days’ worth of heart-healthy dinners for your aging loved one.



Safe-proofing a Home for Seniors

With a growing number of seniors remaining in their homes until later in life, there is a strong need to adjust certain household features. Reduce the risk of injury and provide your aging loved one with a safe and comfortable home by following these four simple steps:

  1. Safe-proof the stairs: Falls are the leading cause of in-home injuries among seniors (source) and staircases are one of the most dangerous areas of the home. Plus, certain elderly conditions, like arthritis, can make it extremely difficult to move up and down the stairs smoothly.
  • What you can do:
    • Tighten existing handrails so he or she has something sturdy to hold.
    • Install additional handrails where needed.
    • Remove loose carpeting or rugs to reduce tripping.
    • On hard-surface floors our outdoor staircases, place anti-slip tape on each step.
    • If he or she has truly limited mobility, consider investing in a chair lift.
  1. Reduce the risk for fires or burns: Reaction times, low vision and forgetfulness can all play a part in increased risk of unattended kitchen fires.
  • What you can do:
    • Install automatic turn-off devices in stove and oven.
    • Reduce clutter on countertops.
    • Have a working fire extinguisher easily accessible and make sure he or she knows how to use it.
  1. Make bath time easier: Simple hygiene tasks become more difficult in old age, especially taking a bath or shower. Wet, slippery floors and hard surfaces mixed with limited mobility can lead to an increased risk for injury. In fact, 80% of senior falls happen in the bathroom (source).
  • What you can do:
    • Invest in an adjustable bath bench, which is designed to aid seniors in safely transferring in and out of the tub. Amazon, Walmart and other retailers offer dozens of options. Find the fit that’s right for your loved one, based on his or her mobility.
    • Rework the bathroom to have a walk-in shower versus a step-in shower, which will preserve balance and reduce the risk of tripping or falling.
    • Add anti-slip tape or slip-resistant mats to the bottom of senior baths and/or showers.
    • For added safety around the toilet, tub or shower, install handrails to support your loved one as they maneuver around the bathroom. A variety of handrails and grab bars can be found at your local hardware store.
  1. Install a home security system: Living independently is important to many aging seniors, and a home security system is one of the best ways to give you peace-of-mind.
  • What you can do:
    • Make sure the security system provides all the basic safety features that will prevent burglaries, robberies or fires. These include window and door sensors, motion sensors, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide monitors and video surveillance,
    • Look for a company that includes a built-in medical alert system. Most will allow your loved one to request medical help at the push of a button in a time of emergency. Some systems will even detect falls and will call for help immediately.
    • Consider adding remote control access, which would allow your loved one or his or her caregiver to monitor the security system, thermostat and other features, even when he or she is away from home.