Imagine you have a loved one in their golden years living with you – or that you work in an assisted living community – and they fall ill with the flu or another cold virus. It’s your job to make sure they stay healthy, safe, and comfortable while they recover from their illness. Here are some practical tips for taking care in cold and flu season.
Get a Flu Shot
This is one of your best defenses against catching something nasty. It’s especially important for aging loved ones who are more vulnerable to severe complications from influenza. If you are over 65 or have a chronic illness, it’s especially important to do so. But other aging loved ones should also consider getting vaccinated since research has shown that people in their 70s and 80s have been able to build immunity over time that can protect them from seasonal flu. Moreover, anyone who spends time with older adults should also get a vaccine. The effects of a contagious illness can be devastating for someone who already has problems breathing or digesting food. Getting shots isn’t just good for your health; it’s good for everyone else too!
Think again if you think that a hand sanitizer is just as good as washing your hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizers don’t kill cold and flu viruses, so germs can still be spread by touching other people or objects in your environment. Even if you use a hand sanitizer after washing your hands with soap and water, it doesn’t count as two layers of protection against germs! If you don’t have soap at home and are faced with a public restroom, carry hand wipes to clean up after yourself. The goal is to ensure that no one else touches whatever surface you touch before they wash their hands.
Studies have shown that regular exercise can help reduce symptoms of cold and flu. Additionally, studies have found that moderate exercise—such as brisk walking for 30 minutes a day at least five days a week—can improve respiratory functions and may even boost your immune system, so you’ll be better equipped to handle germs when they inevitably come knocking on your door. When trying to avoid getting sick, fresh air is key!
Many seniors will keep their phones on them at all times and may use them regularly. They also often tend to touch their face. Phones can be full of germs and bacteria, so don’t forget to wipe yours down before you hand it over for someone else to use. Ideally, disinfecting wipes should be used at least once a day, but any time your hands come into contact with something else – it’s a good idea to give your phone a quick wipe down too.
Avoid Crowds and Unnecessary Travel
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends staying away from places where people congregate, such as shopping malls, grocery stores, and theaters. We should try to limit unnecessary travel during cold and flu season. The more crowded public places are, the greater the chance of catching a cold or flu virus from someone nearby. When at home during cold and flu season, aging loved ones should keep their doors closed, when possible, to help prevent infections from coming in. If you do go out into public, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you return home to help prevent spreading any germs picked up during your time outside of your home.
A healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as lean meats, fish, beans, and whole grains. This is important for maintaining your energy levels which helps fight off infection.