Most people who develop the flu recover from the aches, cough and fever quickly. But older adults are more vulnerable to severe and sometimes deadly complications.
September is the time of year to help your Michigan senior loved ones prepare to fight the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people over the age of 65 account for 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations and 90 percent of flu-related deaths each year.
It is crucial that you act early to protect your loved ones from this serious illness.
Here’s what you need to know to prevent your aging loved one from getting bitten by the flu bug this year:
- Get them vaccinated. According to the CDC, the flu shot is the best way to prevent high-risk populations from coming down with the virus. Getting the shot in October ensures they are protected through the peak season in January and February and on in to spring.
Though there is a slight chance that your vaccinated senior could contract the virus even if they receive their flu shot, the vaccine will reduce the severity of illness and the risk of complications.
Adults over the age of 65 may be given a standard flu shot or a higher-dose vaccine designed for those with compromised immunity. Talk with your loved one’s physician to determine which vaccine is best shot for them.
Vaccines can be given at physician’s offices, clinics, pharmacies and at your local health department. Visit the Michigan Flu Vaccine Finder to locate a clinic near you. The annual flu shot is covered by Medicare Part B, with no co-pay.
- Roll up your sleeve, too. The flu is highly contagious, so it is important that everyone who spends any time with your loved one is also vaccinated to prevent transmitting the disease. The CDC recommends the annual flu shot or nasal vaccine for everyone over six months of age.
- Limit your loved one’s contact with people who may have the flu. Don’t permit visits with anyone who has symptoms of illness. Remind visitors that the senior in your care cannot risk becoming sick.
- Encourage healthy hygiene. Remind your senior loved one to wash their hands thoroughly throughout the day and to avoid touching their face, eyes, and nose. This will prevent the spread of infectious germs.
- Take precautions when in public. Wipe down shopping cart handles with anti-bacterial wipes. Carry hand sanitizer and help elderly adults remember to use it frequently to kill germs they might pick up.
- Bolster immunity. Make sure your aging parents eat a balanced diet, exercise and maintain strong social ties. All of these things help strengthen their immune system.
If your senior loved one develops flu symptoms, call his or her physician. If they have the flu, the doctor can prescribe an anti-viral influenza treatment that can help them combat the virus more quickly and avoid debilitating complications.
For more information about flu prevention, visit the US Department of Health and Human Services website.