Trees are changing, there’s a nip in the air. Winter is just around the corner, and so is cold and flu season. For most of us, it’s an inconvenience. For the elderly, coming down with the flu can have serious consequences. Their immune systems aren’t as strong as they used to be, so they are more susceptible and affected more severely. Adults aged 65 and older have an increased risk of developing complications, being hospitalized, or dying from influenza.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that 71%-85% of cold and flu-related deaths in recent years have occurred in people over the age of 65. The agency also states that approximately 54%-70% of related hospitalizations occurred in the same age range.
Therefore, it is important to protect seniors from contracting the flu. How can you help?
- Wash your hands! This is the number one method of prevention at any age. Viruses live on surfaces that we touch all day long. These germs can spread to others if hands aren’t kept clean. Wash your hands all day long, and ask the same of others who visit.
- Keep sick ones away. If friends or relatives have a cold, or have been sick recently, it’s best if they don’t visit. However, it’s hard to keep away the grandchildren. If they do visit after a recent illness, have everyone wear masks as a preventative measure. If a potential visitor is employed in a public environment, ask them to avoid stopping by immediately after work; have them shower and change clothes before they visit.
- Get enough sleep. Make sure your elderly family member is getting enough sleep. Sleep and rest helps strengthen the immune system.
- Get a boost. Some over-the-counter vitamins and supplements are effective immune system boosters. Echinacea, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B12 are some of the most common supplements used for this purpose. However, they should never be administered without first consulting with a physician.
- Keep teeth clean. Good dental hygiene helps keep seniors healthy. Make sure they are brushing their teeth and flossing on a regular basis.
- Eat healthy. Eating a well-balanced diet during cold and flu season helps keep them healthy and boosts their immune system. Make sure they are getting the vitamin-enriched foods they need.
- Stay active. Walks and exercise help keep seniors healthy and keeps their immune system stronger. This will help them fight different illnesses. Something as simple as a walk or chair exercises can make a difference.
- Get a flu shot. All adults over 50 should get a flu shot to stay healthy throughout the year. This is a must for seniors (as long as there is no medical contraindication), and anyone who works with or cares for seniors.
Should the senior come down with the flu, it is important to seek a doctor’s advice immediately. This should not be treated the same as a young, healthy individual who has developed a simple head cold. Make sure they drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest, but you should never administer over-the counter medications without first conferring with a physician, as there might be medical contraindications or interactions with prescription drugs.
With a few common sense prevention techniques, you can keep your senior out of the doctor’s
office all season long.