Nobody likes getting a cold, and for the elderly, a cold can be a serious matter. For seniors, prevention is the key, so they and their caregivers should follow these tips to keep both parties healthy all winter long:
- Boost Your Immune System Sleeping well and eating well – including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables are crucial for maintaining good health. Managing stress levels and drinking lots of water are also key for building a healthy immune system to fight off colds and flu.
- Kids and Germs Grandparents love nothing more than to give their grandkids big hugs and kisses. Unfortunately, kids equal germs, so care should be taken around older family members to help minimize the possibility of kids passing germs to them. Likewise, adults who work with children should be careful when spending time with elderly family members to not pass germs along. This means frequent handwashing and covering mouths and noses when coughing and sneezing. If someone’s sick, they should keep their distance (see below).
- Wash Your Hands Even though it was mentioned above, it bears repeating. Your mother was right when she told you to wash your hands. Washing hands, often, throughout the day will eliminate many germs. It is the single most helpful tip for preventing the spread of illness.
- Watch What You Touch Individuals touch their faces an average of 3.6 times per hour and touch common objects such as tables, remotes, phones, and doorknobs 3.3 times per hour. This is one of the most common ways germs are transmitted person-to-person. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, as much as possible, to prevent germs from being transmitted by contact.
- Keep Your Distance Sometimes, it’s a good thing to be a little anti-social during cold and flu season. Keeping some distance between yourself and individuals who are ill is an effective step in avoiding a cold. Seniors should consider keeping their distance in cars and elevators or in areas where large groups of people congregate, such as malls.
- B12 Shots B12 shots can help strengthen seniors’ immune systems. An older adult should consider monthly B12 shots. Elderly adults can see many benefits from the shots beyond better immune systems.
Should seniors and caregivers get a flu shot?
The short answer is “yes.” The risk for serious illness or even death from influenza – commonly called “the flu” — is very high in the elderly population. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur in people 65 years and older. Certain chronic conditions and weakened immune systems make people 65 years and older more susceptible to contracting the flu. These are some of the reasons why the CDC has recommended flu shots for health care workers since 1981.
Caregivers and other health care workers who are working with at-risk populations have a responsibility to get immunized. In addition, people 65 years and older, people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, asthma as well as pregnant women and young children are all at high risk to contract the flu and become seriously ill. When a caregiver gets immunized they not only decrease their risk of getting the flu, but also reduce the spread of the disease in their community.