The autumn season has a lot to offer us: Pleasant temperate climate, a touch of fall color and the approaching holidays just around the corner. But there’s one big downside to autumn, and it hits our beloved elders especially hard. It’s the flu, and in addition to all the beauty of the fall, this is flu season – and now is the time to protect those we love the most.
How flu can endanger seniors
We all know how nasty a bout of the flu can be. But getting the flu is particularly risky for seniors, and especially for those over the age of 74. According to the United States Center for Disease Control, of the 200,000 people who will enter the hospital because of complications related to flu, more than half of them will be senior citizens. Even more frightening, the CDC’s statistics indicate that about 90 percent of the 36,000 people who will die due to those complications will be our elderly loved ones.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how a simple case of the flu can turn into such a deadly situation for your family’s dearest and eldest. The explanation isn’t really very complicated! As we age, our bodies produce less disease-preventing and disease-fighting antibodies. Having less ability to ward off and fight disease makes that “simple” flu into a far more difficult recovery for seniors.
In addition, many of our elderly suffer from other chronic conditions like diabetes or heart and lung problems. All these conditions can be adversely affected when an elderly person comes down with a case of the flu. A bad bout of the flu can easily turn into pneumonia, which becomes dangerous when combined with other chronic illnesses.
Taken all together, these factors make the prospect of the oncoming flu season more than a little bit scary for our best beloveds. Luckily, there are some very easy ways to protect your elderly family and friends.
Take these simple precautions
First and foremost, protect your elders by maximizing the benefits of the flu vaccine. Begin by making sure those beloved seniors get a flu every year – even if they are currently in excellent health. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have determined that just getting an annual flu shot will reduce the most serious risks to elderly folks by as much as 50 percent.
After your loved ones have gotten their annual flu vaccination, check into the requirements for any home health care workers with whom they have contact. Most, but not all home health care employers require annual flu shots for their workers. You’ll feel more secure knowing the situation – and you’ll be able to address potential problems before they occur. Then consider the possibility of getting a flu shot for yourself! It’s an easy fix that will keep you and your whole family healthier during the flu season.
Finally, help everyone in the family – but especially seniors – to practice good hygiene by following these common-sense rules:
- Remember to wash hands regularly, particularly after you’ve been in public places, used stair rails or handled door knobs.
- Of course, be sure everyone keeps their mouths covered while sneezing or coughing, and wash those hands afterwards!
- Keep children or other family members away from seniors if they show any signs of colds or flu – a child’s sniffly nose can easily turn into bronchitis or respiratory infection for a loving grandparent.
If, despite your precautions, your elder does become ill, take it seriously. Help them to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. Your family physician may also want to prescribe a medication to ease your senior’s symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.
We want you and your entire family to experience all the joys of autumn and the months that follow. And by taking these few simple precautions, you will! We wish you and all your best beloveds good health and happiness for many years to come.