Experts say that older adults, people aged 65 and older, are at a greater risk of developing dangerous complications when they get the flu. The reason for this is partially due to the fact that as people age, their immune systems don’t work as well as they did when they were young. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 70 and 85 percent of deaths attributed to the flu occur in older adults.
There are several complications that may occur in older adults when they get the flu. The most dangerous one is pneumonia. It is especially dangerous if your aging relative already has a chronic condition. Other common complications that may occur are:
- Asthma flare ups.
- Heart problems.
- Ear infections.
Not only can complications crop up at the time your older family member has the flu, but experts say they can happen for quite some time afterward. Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who teaches preventive medicine and infectious disease, having the flu can cause an inflammatory response in the body that has lasting effects. Because of this, older adults who have had the flu are at a three to five time higher risk of having a heart attack in the two weeks to one month following the flu. They also have a two to three times greater risk of suffering a stroke.
Preventing the Flu
The good news about the flu is that it is preventable. There is a vaccine available that older adults should get every year. The reason the vaccination is annual is that it is reformulated each year to address the most common flu viruses for that season. Therefore, don’t assume your aging relative is protected this year if they had a shot last year.
The flu shot isn’t a 100 percent guarantee that the older adult won’t get the flu, but it does greatly reduce the chance. It can also make cases of the flu less serious and decrease the odds of developing complications. In addition to getting a flu shot, practicing good hygiene habits can further bolster your loved one’s protection. Remind them to wash their hands often and to use alcohol-based sanitizer when water and soap aren’t available.
Home care providers can also help to protect your older family member from the flu. A home care provider can drive the senior to the clinic for their flu shot. Senior care can also remind older adults to wash their hands often and make sure they have hand sanitizer with them when they leave the house. Finally, a senior care provider can help to keep the house clean and surfaces sanitized to prevent the spread of germs.
If you or an aging loved one is considering elderly care in Fairfax, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 982-0050.
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