Cold and Flu Season: How to Keep Your Elderly Loved One—and Yourself—Healthy This Year

Cold and Flu Season: How to Keep Your Elderly Loved One—and Yourself—Healthy This Year

Taking the right precautions to stay healthy and protected during peak sickness season is important for everyone, but it’s especially crucial for seniors.

“For people over 65, especially those with chronic health conditions, even a seemingly minor cold can turn into a serious health condition, including pneumonia, an acute infection of the lungs that claims the lives of thousands of older Americans. every year. ” Explain Dr Scott Kaisergeriatrician and director of Geriatric Cognitive Health at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

“As we age, our immune system loses some of its effectiveness. Because of this, older people are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza and other circulating respiratory viruses, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and [COVID-19]Explain erica suskya certified infection control professional who has a master’s degree in medical microbiology.

Fortunately, it’s possible for seniors and caregivers to take precautions to stay healthy even when viruses are at peak circulation. Here are some key tips for seniors to stay healthy, safe and secure this cold and flu season.

“Older adults may lose protection from a flu shot more quickly. At the same time, it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to start working. Mid to late October may be the optimal time to get your shot.”

— SCOTT KAISER, MD, GERIATRICIAN AT PROVIDENCE SAINT JOHN’S HEALTH CENTER IN SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA

How to keep older adults healthy during cold and flu season

1. Prioritize vaccination

Seniors and those who spend time with them should schedule a flu shot and stay up to date with their drivers of COVID-19. “Getting regular flu and COVID-19 booster shots will help prevent a person from getting a serious infection or passing it on to their most vulnerable loved ones,” Susky explains.

Yes, it is still possible to get COVID-19 or the flu, even if you are vaccinated. However, Susky says getting vaccinated will still help prevent serious infection, which is important for older people with compromised immune systems.

“Because older adults may lose protection from a flu shot more quickly. At the same time, it takes about two weeks for the flu shot to start working. [so] mid to late October may be the optimal time to get a flu shot,” says Kaiser. He emphasizes that getting a flu shot is important no matter when.

2. Wash your hands

You’ve heard it over and over again, but it’s true: Washing your hands thoroughly and regularly can stop the spread of cold, flu, and COVID-19 viruses. Susky stresses that it is especially important to wash your hands before touching your face, which will prevent the accidental introduction of some viruses that can survive on surfaces for many hours.

“In contrast, people should also wash their hands after eating or blowing their nose,” says Susky, stopping the possible spread if they have a viral infection.

Kaiser recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if you find yourself without access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol.

3. Avoid crowded indoor spaces

As much as possible, seniors should do their best to avoid places that will be overcrowded during cold and flu season. “Indoor spaces have fewer air exchanges to remove virus particles from the air,” explains Susky. Crowded spaces increase the risk of coming into contact with a potentially infectious person.

If older adults can’t avoid being in a crowded indoor space, wearing a mask is advisable, according to Susky, as this will prevent transmission. She recommends medical grade masks for seniors.

4. Keep a healthy routine

Both Susky and Kaiser stress the importance of habits such as maintain a healthy dietstay well hydrated (that means consumer about 15.5 cups of fluid a day for men and about 11.5 cups of fluid a day for women), exercise regularly and get adequate sleep to help keep the immune system strong and functioning. Although it may seem like old-fashioned advice, Kaiser says it can prove invaluable in keeping your immune system strong and functioning well during cold and flu season.

How caregivers can stay healthy during cold and flu season

When it’s your job to take care of others, it’s also important to prioritize your own health. Keeping up to date on vaccinations, washing hands properly, and adopting a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep schedule are also important for caregivers. Here are some tips for self-care during cold and flu season.

1. Familiarize yourself with the signs of burnout

watch out it can become more demanding during the winter months, especially if you suddenly have a house full of kids for the winter break or if you’re under holiday stress yourself. Constant stress can compromise the immune system, so it is especially important to identify and manage it. signs of older caregiver burnout may include:

  • Lack of interest in work.
  • Difficulty to sleep.
  • Get sick often.
  • Irritability and mood swings.
  • Overeating or not eating enough.
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety.

2. Ask for help

Depending on your situation, support may be difficult to come by. However, if you know you need a break from your caregiving duties so you can take care of yourself, communicate those needs to those around you and accept help. respite care can be a useful option for family caregivers who need a few extra hours in their day to care for themselves.

3. Take short breaks

The hardest part of prioritizing self-care as a caregiver can be finding the time to do it and feeling guilty when you do. Small breaks throughout the day give caregivers the mental space to recharge without having to find hours of time to do so. Set timer reminders on your phone to take five minutes to sit outside, breathe, and enjoy the scenery. Consider trying short meditations from apps like Head space either Calm to reset and recharge.

4. Make a contingency plan

Despite these best efforts, you may still get sick, in which case it is important to know who will step in and provide care. Making these arrangements early in the season will make the transition less stressful and allow you to rest and recover.

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