Tips for Seniors
The Elderly and Flu Season
Seasonal (or common) flu is one of the most highly contagious illnesses. It is spread by “respiratory drops”—coughing and sneezing. Someone may touch something with the flu virus on it—such as door knobs, telephones or shopping cart handles—then unwittingly touch their mouth or nose. Flu season typically runs from October through the end of February, but some years it can run into March and April as well. It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts influenza each year.
Getting the flu can be a nasty experience, no matter what your age or general health, and each year flu shots are a major public health initiative. But, because of the risks to the elderly, senior flu prevention is especially important.
While otherwise healthy adults can be laid low by the flu for a full week, senior citizens are at risk for becoming much sicker. The elderly are more vulnerable, once they get the flu, to develop complications. Because the flu is really a pretty severe illness, they may not have as much of what we call ‘physiological reserve’ as a younger adult. So, seniors will feel very sick from a case of the flu and that puts them at greater risk for complications. Seniors in their 70's and 80's are at higher risk from the flu than seniors in their sixties, because of declining immunity to illnesses as they age.
It’s not enough to simply stay away from other people who feel sick. People may be contagious one day before they develop any symptoms, and for up to five days after becoming sick. A big concern is people don’t realize they have the virus before they actually feel sick.
- Runny or Stuffy Nose
- Sore throat
- Extreme Fatigue
- Muscle Aches
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- Diarrhea (sometimes present, but rarely prominent)
During flu season, practicing good hygiene can help people avoid catching or spreading the flu. People taking care of the elderly especially should also follow these senior flu prevention tips.
Flu Prevention Tips
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. (especially after touching door knobs and stair rails in public places)
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. (especially after touching door knobs and stair rails in public places. Germs spread this way)
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu–like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Source:CDC, A Place for Mom
Make changes in your home - HOME SAFETY:
- Remove safety hazards-An important step in fall prevention is to remove any items that can cause you to trip or slip while walking such as furniture, electrical or phone cords and rugs.
- Make sure carpet is secured to floor and stairs. Rugs should be removed or secured with double-sided tape
- Avoid wet floors and clean up spills right away
- Avoid going out on ice or snow alone.
- Improve lighting
- Make sure there is good lighting with light switches at the top and bottom of stairs and each end of hallway
- Put night lights and light switches close to bed
- Install handrails and grab bars
- Have handrails on both sides of stairs and make sure they are secure.
- Mount grab bars near toilets and inside and outside of your tub and shower
- Move items to make easier to reach
- Don't stand on a chair to reach something that's too high. Use a "reacher" instead. Reachers are special grabbing tools that can be purchased at medical supply stores. If using a step stool, make sure it is stable with a handrail on top.
Utilizing these simple steps can help to insure safety and prevention of falls and fractures!