October 1, 2019
Flu season can be especially hard on older adults. Use these tips to stay healthy and keep a senior loved one safe too.
Younger people often consider the flu to be more of an inconvenience than a serious health concern, which really isn’t the case. The influenza virus can be deadly, especially for older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors account for as much as 85 percent of flu-related deaths and up to 70 percent of hospitalizations.
While receiving the flu vaccine is one of the best ways to avoid being bitten by the bug, there are other steps seniors and caregivers can take to stay healthy.
Flu Prevention Tips for Seniors and Caregivers
1. Limit personal contact
The flu virus can pass from one person to another very easily. A handshake, a hug, or sharing the same drinking fountain can put you at risk for catching the virus. This is especially true for older adults or people with a chronic health condition that causes the immune system to weaken. One way to avoid the virus is by limiting personal contact during flu season. A big smile and warm greeting can convey your happiness about seeing someone without putting you at risk.
2. Wash your hands often
Developing good hand-washing hygiene can help you keep the flu at bay. The virus can linger on doorknobs, credit card readers, and other public locations. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water throughout the day. For times when you won’t have access to hot water and soap, keep a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse or pocket.
3. Avoid touching your face
A quick scratch on the side of your nose, pushing the hair off of your face, rubbing tired or irritated eyes; if you’ve been exposed to the influenza virus and have it on your hands, these often unconscious actions put you at risk of developing the flu. Most people don’t realize how many times they touch their face throughout the day. Try to make a conscious effort to keep your hands away from your face during flu season.
4. Sleep seven to nine hours every night
Sleep is an important—but often overlooked—component of a healthy lifestyle. Lack of sleep can cause the immune system to weaken. When this happens, the body has to struggle more to fight off viruses. Health professionals say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. If you are one of the many seniors who struggle with insomnia, talk to your doctor. There may be an underlying health condition that can be treated.
5. Commit to eating a healthy diet
A well-balanced diet is another must when it comes to keeping the immune system healthy and able to fight off viruses. A diet rich with vegetables, fruit, and lean protein is best. If you aren’t sure how to plan healthy menus, the online resource Choose MyPlate offers a variety of helpful tools.
On Guard for Flu Symptoms
Despite your best attempts at preventing the flu, you might find yourself or a senior loved one coming down with the flu. Call your physician immediately when the first flu symptoms appear. There are antiviral medications physicians can prescribe to help lessen the severity of symptoms and shorten the length of time you are sick. They must be started at the first sign of the flu to be effective, so don’t delay calling the doctor.
Live Well at Legacy Senior Living
At Legacy Senior Living communities throughout the southeast, healthy living is a focus every day. From nutritious meals to on-site wellness programs, we make it easier for residents to live their best quality of life. Call the Legacy community nearest you to learn more!