Seniors are particularly susceptible to illnesses because their immune systems often becomes weaker with age. Therefore, it’s important to look out for your parent or loved ones during flu season. This season typically lasts from November through April, in part because we spend so much time indoors, and germs remain in stagnant air.
To help prevent getting the flu:
■Make sure your loved one gets a flu vaccination: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best time to get a flu vaccination is from October through November. (Each year, a new flu shot is needed because the predominant flu viruses can change each year.) In particular, seniors (over 65) and residents of nursing homes or assisted living centers should get a flu vaccine. There even is a vaccine specifically designed for people 65 or older this year for better flu protection.
■Make sure they wash their hands often so that colds and flu aren’t passed through coughing, sneezing, and areas that have been contaminated. Liquid soap is a better product for germ control rather than bar soap or hand sanitizer.
■Limit exposure to infected people: If you have family or friends that have been ill, try to keep them away from your senior loved ones.
■Advise them to keep up with proactive self-care such as eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep (to keep their immune system healthy).
■Open windows, when weather permits (its even worth bundling up a bit), to circulate fresh air.
If your loved one has already contracted the flu, here are some additional tips we recommend:
■Limit exposing other people as much as possible, to reduce spreading the virus.
■Have lots of tissues handy for sneezing or coughing to avoid spreading germs through hands. Throw tissues away immediately, then wash hands.
■Take care of their bodies: be sure they stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.
■Be careful with medications: Read medicine labels carefully, check with their doctor before administering a new cough /cold medicine (and check again, if any conditions have changed since the last time they took them), and check side effects.
■Frequently clean surfaces such as door knobs, counters and hand rails. Avoid cloth towels where germs may reside, and instead use paper.
■Monitor symptoms: Complications can land seniors in the hospital, so make sure that symptoms do not worsen (high fever, shortness of breath, chest pain). If they do, contact their doctor.
Remember that prevention is the best method, so do your best to help protect your parent or loved one from the flu!