Nobody likes getting the flu, but its effects upon the elderly can be quite serious, or even fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year in the U.S. there are more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths resulting from the flu. Many of those fatalities occur in persons aged 65-and-over. If you’re currently caring for an elderly parent who lives alone those flu statistics are certainly of concern. Fortunately, there are several reliable actions you can take to help keep them protected.
Why Does the Flu Hit Seniors Harder?
From October through March every year, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population catches the flu. Many are younger people whose bodies are strong enough to shake off its effects within a week or two. However, the average senior’s immune system is weaker. Many older adults also don’t drink enough daily fluids to keep foreign invaders flushed from their bodies. Chronic medical conditions commonly found in the elderly, like lung disease, congestive heart failure and diabetes can also intensify flu symptoms, further placing their health at risk.
How is the Flu Virus Spread?
Seasonal flu is highly contagious, as the virus quickly spreads in moisture droplets that people pass along through coughing or sneezing. Those drops can end up on objects like door knobs, eating utensils and shopping cart handles, where they are unknowingly transmitted hand-to-mouth (or nose) to the next victim. Potential victims sometimes don’t even know they’ve been around someone with the flu, as a virus carrier can be contagious without feeling sick. If you suspect that your elderly parent has been exposed to the flu, look for these signs:
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are also possible, but not always. Once your loved one presents with these flu symptoms, it’s wise to quickly take them to the doctor.
Flu Prevention Tips for Seniors
If your mom or dad lives in an area that’s prone to cold winters, or they have one or more of the medical conditions mentioned above, they are at a higher risk for catching the flu. Their first line of defense every fall should be getting a flu shot, which is annually effective in roughly 70 to 90 percent of the population that’s vaccinated. In fact, the CDC now recommends that anyone over the age of 50 get an annual flu vaccination, along with children between the ages of 2 and 5. That means that over 200 million Americans representing about two-thirds of our country’s total population are typically placed at higher risk to catch the flu whenever October rolls around.
In addition to a flu shot, there are several other ways to prepare a senior’s body so that it will be more resistant to the flu virus in the event they’re exposed to it, including:
- Exercising on a regular basis
- Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Staying hydrated with plenty of water and other fluids
- Frequent hand-washing with soap and water
If you are serving as a caregiver for an aging parent, and suspect that you’re coming down with the flu, always cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and immediately wash your hands afterwards. As an added precaution, it might be best to find a respite caregiver to fill in for a week or two until you are sure you’re no longer contagious.
In-Home Flu Prevention for Southeastern Massachusetts Seniors
Keeping an elderly at-home parent in Southeastern Massachusetts protected against the flu can seem overwhelming at times. When you need a break or live too far away, call Cranberry Home Care, and we’ll promptly provide your loved one with the in-home flu prevention assistance they need to keep them aging in place right where they want to be. As a family owned and operated agency, we fully understand the importance of protecting seniors from the flu, and take every possible precaution to ensure your loved one’s health and wellbeing.
While in the home, our highly trained and thoroughly screened aides can also perform duties like light housework, personal hygiene, meal preparation, medication reminders, transportation and companionship; all delivered in an affordable and flexible package to put your mind at-ease. To schedule a FREE in-home consultation, or to learn more now about why families in the Middleboro, MA, area are placing their trust in the senior home healthcare services at Cranberry Home Care, please visit: www.cranberryhomecare.com!