If Your Elder Gets the Flu

March 4, 2010 at 8:06 pm Leave a comment

No, I didn’t get a flu shot. Now I wish I had. I can’t imagine if I were 85 and had other conditions what this would be like. The flu is dangerous for our elders. It can lead to pneumonia and it can be fatal. But even when caregivers are prepared, our elders can still get the flu. What you do could save their lives.

The CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) reports that more than 200,000 people will be hospitalized this year due to the flu–36,000 will die.

How to avoid the flu:

  • Flu shots–at the beginning of the flu season is wise
  • Avoiding highly contagious areas during the height of flu season–doctor’s offices, grocery stores, day cares, etc.
  • Not only washing your hands for at least 30 seconds (sing happy birthday) but also wiping down highly contagious surfaces such as phones, remote controls, and door knobs.

Flu Symptoms:

Cough (can be a dry cough or with yellow green phlegm, aches, chills, fever, headache, and sometimes diarrehea or nausea.

The problem with the flu is that it opens the gate for other illnesses and because the body’s immune system is already under attack. The flu can lead to sinus and ear infections,  respiratory infections such as bronchitis  and pneumonia, to name a few.

Dr. W. Paul McKinney, associate dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Louisville, explains that viral pneumonia is of particular concern. In our elders we also have to be aware of congestive heart failure, chronic lung disease, or renal failure as well as something as simple as dehydration that can be dangerous for our elders. 

If your elder does get the flu:

  • Go on high alert. Don’t miss a symptom. This is the time as a caregiver when you’ve got to be on your game. Consider wearing a mask and glove and wash your hands like crazy. Make sure they cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.  You might want to quarantine them to one area of the house to try to keep the germs contained.
  • Ask your doctor if they should take a flu inhibitor–several brands are available that will diminish the symptoms.
  • See the doctor. While a healthy adult may just have to endure the flu, an elder should be checked for secondary symptoms and monitored closely.
  • Disclose all medications and allergies.
  • Push the liquids.
  • Have a back up person in case you get sick.
  • Don’t forget to be encouraging and thoughtful–your elder feels horrible (trust me, I know) and might be scared. Placing a candle on their dinner tray, rubbing their feet, or tucking them in at night lets them know you care.

Being a care advocate means being ready–and although you might not be able to prevent your elder from contracting the flu, you can do all you can to protect them during the flu season.

Entry filed under: caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , .

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Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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