6 Flu Prevention Tips for the Elderly
Fever. Chills. Aches. Fatigue. The flu is a miserable experience no matter your age or health, but for adults 65 and older it can lead to more serious complications including bronchitis, pneumonia and death. Seniors are also at an increased risk of contracting the flu due to a weakening immune system. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older. So for the elderly, the flu is a very serious matter.
Prevention is key to avoid contracting the flu. Take these actions to help protect you and your senior loved ones this flu season:
- An annual flu shot is the most important step in preventing the flu in seniors. Get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your area (by October if possible). Seniors have two options for the flu vaccination: the regular dose flu shot and a newer high-dose flu shot designed for seniors over 65, which results in a stronger immune response. Both vaccines are covered by Medicare Part B with no copay, as long as they receive the shot from a Medicare provider.
- If your parent or loved one lives in close proximity to others such as at an assisted living community, find out the facility’s policies and practices to help prevent the spread of the disease. Enlivant, for example, encourages all residents to receive an annual flu shot and makes it easy for them to get vaccinated by arranging flu clinics at each community.
- For at risk populations like the elderly, it is important that everyone around them also get vaccinated, including family, caregivers and medical staff. If you are caring for a senior, you should be especially diligent in protecting yourself from the flu. Employees at Enlivant senior living communities are provided the flu shot free of charge.
- Practicing good hygiene is also very important to avoid catching or spreading the flu. Wash hands often and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after touching doorknobs and stair rails in public places. Avoid people who are sick and always cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- Boost your immune system by getting plenty of sleep, eating well (see the USDA’s My Plate which replaced the Food Pyramid), exercising regularly, managing stress levels and drinking lots of water. Continue this healthy living beyond flu season too!
- If you or a loved one does contract the flu, contact a medical professional immediately. A doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication, such as Tamiflu®, which can keep the flu virus from spreading inside the body and shorten the duration of symptoms.
By taking a few preventative measures during flu season, you can help ensure you and your loved ones have a happy and healthy winter and the holiday season.