While getting the flu is never pleasant, it can be especially devastating for seniors. According to the Center for Disease Control, half of all confirmed flu cases in the U.S. are people 65 or older. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases states that about 24,000 adults die from the flu each year; 90% of these deaths occur in people over 65.
As we age, our immunity to illnesses weakens. Persons in their 70s and 80s are less resistant to the flu than those in their 60s. They also may suffer from chronic conditions like congestive heart failure that already pose significant health difficulties. If the flu is contracted, complications like pneumonia can arise with this heightened susceptibility to other infections and diseases.
Vaccination for the flu (or influenza) is the best way for seniors to prevent catching the virus. This should be done each and every flu season…not only because immunity does not last more than a few months, but because new strains of the flu are identified each flu season. Beyond the regular flu vaccine, a higher dose version (Fluzone High-dose) is recommended for older adults. In addition, people can now opt for a vaccine that guards against four strains of the virus rather than the traditional vaccine that protects against three strains.
Although the flu is highly contagious, there are some important precautions that can be taken to minimize exposure:
- Wipe doorknobs, phones, shopping cart handles and other surfaces where people may touch their hands after touching their mouths, noses or eyes.
- Try to avoid coming into contact with people who feel sick (symptoms such as fever, chills, sore throat, etc.) or are sick. Unfortunately it often takes several days before a person actually becomes sick. Seniors who live in group settings may have a harder time with this. Those who live in their own homes may be less likely to be exposed to the flu. If there are children around, be cautious because they don’t always cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing. Even wearing a protective mask can be helpful.
- Stay indoors if possible when it’s cold outside…or at least dress warmly. Cold air can lower immunity.
- Continue taking medications and vitamins for unrelated conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Try to avoid emotional circumstances that can lower immunity like depression or stress. Frequent exercise and eating right can help boost stamina, especially for elderly persons who are caregivers for others.
- Seniors who experience flu symptoms (but have not been vaccinated) can receive medications like Tamiflu within the first 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. It’s important to get medical attention immediately so the symptoms do not worsen.
Home Care Assistance is ready to help make this flu season go smoothly for the seniors in your life with our comprehensive in home care services. We can address senior care needs such as taking them for vaccinations, making sure medications are taken and other concerns. Let us handle all the details. Call us today or visit www.homecareassistancefortworth.com.