Peak flu season doesn’t take hold until between December and February, but it’s still important to get vaccinated early. This is especially true for seniors. Seniors over the age of 70 are at higher risk of contracting the flu, especially those with chronic conditions. To help seniors at home prepare for the oncoming flu season, Allcare Home Health Agency, Inc. has compiled some helpful information for caregivers and family members:
Anyone, regardless of age, will find the flu to be a not-so-pleasant experience. However, the elderly often find it much more challenging. Seniors, particularly those above the age of 65, are more likely to have life-threatening complications from the flu than younger, healthier adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Importance of Protecting Seniors
The influenza virus infects the nasal passages, the pharynx, and, occasionally, the lungs, causing a contagious respiratory disease known as seasonal influenza. It can range from mild to severe sickness and can be life-threatening for susceptible individuals.
Because of their impaired immune function, seniors are also more susceptible to flu-related complications such as:
- Respiratory problems
- Aggravation of chronic illnesses
- Recurrent symptoms with fever or worsening cough
- Cognitive dissonance
Research shows that older adults who catch the flu could also be at increased risk for a heart attack. In fact, studies show that 70-85 percent of people who die from the flu each year are 65 and older.
Contracting the Flu
Almost all cases of influenza are transferred from person to person by droplets in the air released while coughing, sneezing, or even during casual conversation. Surface flu transmission is less prevalent but still possible if infected hands are subsequently used to touch various body parts such as the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Protection Against the Flu
The good news is that there are certain home care measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of elderly loved ones or clients contracting the flu. Some safety precautions for the elderly are as follows:
- Get Vaccinated!
Seniors can reduce the risk of catching the flu with an annual flu vaccine. The vaccinations can be received at a physician’s office or local pharmacy. People aged 65 and over are advised to get the “high dose vaccine” for the best protection against the deadly flu because it stimulates a more robust immune response and contains four times as much antigen. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October.
- Practice Proper Hygiene
For caregivers providing home healthcare, one of the easiest and most efficient ways of reducing the risk of transmission is regular handwashing. Also, when you sneeze, cover the sneeze with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
- Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle helps to lower the risk of getting the flu. Fruits and vegetables packed with vitamin C, such as oranges, tangerines, broccoli, and bell peppers, should be provided daily. Nutrient-rich vegetables like dark leafy greens should also be served. Drinking plenty of water, engaging in regular physical activity such as walking, and getting plenty of rest along with an annual flu vaccine are the best ways to protect against the flu.
- Avoid Contact With People Who Are Sick
Avoiding contact with persons who could be infected with the flu is essential. Caregivers should monitor their patients and call the doctor immediately if they develop symptoms!
As they say….prevention is better than cure!
Allcare Home Health Agency, Inc. offers both non-medical and skilled services. Call (919) 301-0236 to schedule an in-home assessment.