This flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst in decades - with the Centers for Disease Control already reporting widespread outbreaks in many states.
While anyone can get the flu, seniors are especially susceptible to the virus and are at greater risk for serious flu-related complications that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.
"The flu can be very dangerous for seniors, so we are concerned about this recent outbreak," said Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care franchise network. "We encourage seniors and their families to take extra precautions to protect themselves from the virus."
To fight the flu, senior care experts recommend the following:
Get a Flu Shot: Experts strongly encourage all seniors and those in frequent contact with seniors to get vaccinated if they haven't already done so. Medicare covers one vaccine per flu season.
Practice Good Hand Washing: Wash hands with soap frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Cover Coughs and Sneezes: Droplets from a sneeze or a cough can travel up to six feet. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of the tissue immediately. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands.
Stay In to Stay Well: If there's an outbreak in the area, avoid trips to crowded shopping centers or community events.
Avoid Contact: Those with flu-like symptoms, especially school-aged children, should avoid contact with senior loved ones. Enlist the help of friends, neighbors or professional Home Instead "CAREGivers" to take over caregiving responsibilities, if necessary.
Rest Well, Eat Well: Get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy foods. Experts also recommend a diet rich in vitamins C and D and plenty of exercise.
If senior loved ones begin to show symptoms of the flu, contact their health care provider immediately. Antiviral medications (like Tamiflu) are available to help make symptoms less severe. For more information about senior and caregiver well-being, visit www.caregiverstress.com.
About Home Instead Senior Care
Founded in 1994 in Omaha by Lori and Paul Hogan, the Home Instead Senior Care network is the world's largest provider of non-medical in-home care services for seniors, with more than 950 independently owned and operated franchises providing in excess of 45 million hours of care throughout the U.S., Canada, Japan, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Switzerland, Germany, South Korea, Finland, Austria, Italy, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands. Local Home Instead Senior Care offices employ more than 65,000 "CAREGivers" worldwide who provide basic support services - assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), personal care, medication reminders, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands, incidental transportation and shopping - which enable seniors to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible.