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Need to Know

Flu Prevention for the Elderly

Senior home care, despite popular opinion, is not easy.

It is important to know the best methods for taking care of your loved ones from home ── the haven they trust and feel safe in. Among the many subjects to be aware of when taking care of a family member or relative, flu prevention is an essential topic to be informed about in order to be effectively prepared for this regular illness.

The flu, more formally known as Influenza, affects people every year, most times more than once during the 12 month period.

It can be helpful to know and understand the symptoms and facts about the flu to try and prevent the spreading of germs. We have all had the unfortunate opportunity of standing in a crowded bus or train, where the person next to us is loudly unwell. They make this clear by not only aggressively cleaning out their nasal cavity every 10 minutes but also by the coughs they try so hard to detain that find their way out anyway, sometimes accompanied by a shower of contagious saliva. This is not pretty, but it can be, with just a few precautionary methods.

Isolation is the first step in preventing the spread of the flu.

Doctors recommend that patients who are suddenly showing symptoms of the flu ─ runny nose, dehydration, coughing, sneezing, muscle aches ─ be separated from those who are not sick, providing the sick individual with a private space to get well sooner and not infect others in the process. This space, however, must meet certain qualifications to ensure a speedy recovery. The room must have a door that can be shut, windows that can open and close, windows that provide refreshing sunlight, a trashcan that is accessible to the sick person, and most importantly, a bathroom in close proximity to the bed or couch they rest on, ideally separate from the bathroom used by others living under the same roof.

Still, however, the person cannot take care of themselves entirely.

Identifying one person to care for the sick individual will reduce the number of people exposed to the disease, thereby limiting the spread of it. As long as everyone in the household is aware of the assigned home caregiver, no one else should have exposure to the contamination. This main caregiver should be prepared to wear a face mask whenever in contact with the patient, monitor the patient regularly, recognize and treat the patient’s symptoms, keep the person hydrated, and be able to call for medical help when necessary. Upon completing these tasks regularly, the main caregiver should also remember to wash their hands after each and every encounter with the sick individual, further confirming their own safety.

To say, “wash your hands at least 3-4 times a day” is an understatement.

It is crucial that the main caregiver, along with everyone else, washes his/her hands immediately after coming into contact with a sick person. This includes being exposed to coughing, sneezing, nose blowing, touching the patient’s items and pets, and handling contaminated clothes, tissues, or garbage. It is also important to wash your hands before AND after when it comes to using the bathroom, changing diapers, eating, cooking, serving food, treating a cut or wound, and putting on and removing protective equipment, such as a face mask.

Last, but not least, disinfecting all shared aspects of your home is a key preventive method when dealing with the influenza virus.

By taking the initiative to sterilize table tops and counters and disinfect doorknobs, remote controls, sinks, handlebars, and railings, you are taking a simple and easy precautionary measure that could kill all the unnecessary germs around the house. It is also important to understand the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. Whereas the former term alludes to the removal of visible dirt, the latter applies to the elimination of germs, a valuable method to prevent the disease from spreading.

One can only understand and appreciate these precautionary measures’ efficiency when trying them themselves. While it requires patience and a bit of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, it has been proven helpful for countless people when the flu hits us as the weather and seasons change so drastically.

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