Schools with only a third of the students sitting in chairs, offices sending notices to employees asking anyone with a fever or cough to please stay home, and hand sanitizer stations popping up everywhere; the signs are very visible this year that flu season has arrived.
Seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses are making big headlines. While everyone has the potential to catch either variety, senior citizens tend to suffer more from the complications of flu.
?It?s a good idea for everyone?including caretakers of senior citizens?to get the flu shot. And there are many other ways to help prevent the spread of viruses from one person to another,? said Richard Bitner with Visiting Angels, a senior home-care service.
?If you provide care, or even just frequently visit with a senior, pay attention to their living environment to make sure it is safe and protects your loved one from viruses. And make sure you take care of yourself as well, so you don?t pass on the germs.?
Seniors are more vulnerable because they spend time with grandchildren, get out and explore new activities and visit with friends and family.
The CDC recommends everyone over age 50 get a yearly flu vaccine because the flu can be more serious and even deadly for seniors. About 36,000 people die from flu complications annually, and of those deaths, 90 percent are age 65 or older.
In addition to getting both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following steps to help protect your health:
n If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone?unless you need to get medical care.
n Even if you aren?t sick, keep your home stocked with a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubbing solution and tissues, so that if you do start experiencing symptoms, you don?t need to go out and purchase supplies.
n Wash your hands every day with soap and water?or if this isn?t available, hand sanitizer.
n Avoid close contact with sick people.
When you are visiting a senior citizen in senior home care, make sure they have supplies on hand and are practicing good personal hygiene. Do they have a squirt bottle of soap next to every sink in their house? Do the counters and bathroom sinks get cleaned frequently? Are tissues available next to chairs in every room?
Remember, seniors may not pay attention to basic preventative measures when it comes to viruses. But by practicing good health habits yourself, you can help keep them from getting sick from the flu. For more information about flu prevention and seniors, go to visitingangels.com/library.asp.