Cold and flu season is here. People over 65 years old are more likely to have serious health consequences when they contract the flu (or even a cold). In fact, it’s estimated that more than 75% of deaths related to the flu, occur in people 65 and older. This year now also has the concerns related around COVID-19 as well as the lack of hospital beds to care for those who do come down with serious complications from colds, the flu or COVID-19.
Here are some tips to help your parent stay healthy this season.
Get the flu shot.
The best way to combat this year’s flu strain is with the flu shot. And while you can get the flu shot starting anytime in the fall before flu season, if your parent hasn’t gotten his flu shot yet, he can still do that. Your senior care provider can bring him to your local pharmacy or clinic to quickly get the shot. It’s usually free and some retailers even offer an incentive for getting the shot. When offered, your parent should request to receive the high-dose flu shot, which has four times the amount of antigen than the regular flu vaccine.
Wash or sanitize hands often (and thoroughly).
Flu and cold viruses can live on surfaces for long periods of time, so it’s still important for your parent to wash his hands often, especially after going out in public, and touching high-touch areas such as doorknobs and shopping cart handles. Hands should be washed for a minimum of 20 seconds, making sure to get in every nook and cranny, including under the fingernails. When soap isn’t available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is a good substitute for your parent.
Keep hands off the face.
The little habits of rubbing his eyes or scratching his nose, can transfer germs from your parent’s hands to his face, giving the germs better access to enter the body. Gentle reminders from you or your senior care provider can help your parent break the habit of touching his face.
Clean high-touch surfaces often.
Having your senior care provider daily clean all high-touch services in your parent’s home will reduce the risk of someone visiting that was carrying germs that may make your parent sick. Places such as doorknobs, light switches, counters and even your parent’s phone should be regularly sanitized.
Maintain a healthy diet.
Keeping your parent’s body strong and making sure he’s having enough germ-fighting vitamins like Vitamin C will give his body the resources it’ll need to fight any germs that enter his system. If medication administration is one of the tasks your senior care provider assists with, have her add a Vitamin C supplement to your parent’s daily regime.
Drink plenty of fluids.
Having your parent stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, will help his body fight off any germs or viruses that may be present. Remember that being inside in a heated home and drinking caffeinated beverages will contribute to dehydration so encourage him to drink plenty of water or hot tea (non-caffeinated) in the winter.
Even with the best intentions, your parent may still get a seasonal cold or the flu, but following these guidelines will lessen that likelihood as well as provide him a better chance to recover from whatever germs he may come in contact with.