08 Oct Flu Prevention in Senior Living
The cold and flu season is upon us again. That means senior living staff and their residents need to start taking extra precautions. Unfortunately, seniors and caregivers are two of the most likely groups of people to get sick.
Working in Senior Living, your interactions with residents, co-workers, and visitors, as well as your responsibilities, such as assisting residents with their activities of daily living, can put you at higher risk of contracting the flu. Elderly residents are much more likely to develop dangerous complications from the flu because of weakened immune systems. These complications are sometimes life-threatening. They range from sinus infections and pneumonia to swelling of the heart and organ failure.
We have compiled this list of flu prevention basics to provide caregivers with the knowledge they need to protect themselves, and the older people they care for, from this dangerous virus.
Cold and Flu Prevention Basics for Seniors and Caregivers
- Get the flu vaccine, getting a flu shot reduces the risk of getting the flu. It also reduces the severity of the illness and protects against complications – both especially important for seniors, and when you get a flu shot, you reduce the risk that you’ll get sick and infect your older adult.
- The best time to get a flu shot is from October through November, but it’s still useful to get one even if it’s later in the flu season.
- Wash or sanitize hands thoroughly and often, frequently washing hands with regular soap is an effective way to get rid of cold and flu germs.
- Plain soap is fine because rubbing the hands together for at least 20 seconds is what eliminates germs – long enough to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Make sure to clean under the nails, backs of hands, between fingers, and wrists.
- If you can’t get to soap and water often enough, use hand sanitizer to kill cold and flu germs. This may be a good option for older adults who can’t easily get up to wash their hands.
- Exercise regularly, moderate exercise boosts the immune system and could reduce risk of a cold by a third.
- Even though caregiving doesn’t leave a lot of time for exercise and older adults may not have a lot of endurance, any amount of regular exercise will still benefit the body and immune system.
- Avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth, we often touch our faces without thinking, which is a common way for cold and flu germs to enter the body. To reduce the risk of getting sick, minimize touching of the face.
- Clean the environment to eliminate germs
Try to keep the environment as germ-free as possible. That means using disinfectant when cleaning, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. When cleaning, pay special attention to germ hot spots like doorknobs, light switches, and kitchen and bathroom counters.
- And, make sure to disinfect cleaning sponges and rags (a breeding ground for germs) by changing them frequently, soaking in bleach, microwaving for 1 minute, or running through the dishwasher.
- In an outside workplace, wash your hands after touching communal office spaces and regularly disinfect your own work area.
- Sanitize your mobile devices
Something that many people forget is how dirty and germ-filled their mobile device is. Clean it regularly with sanitizing wipes or rubbing alcohol – being careful not to wet the electronics.
- Stay away from people who are sick
It might sound obvious, but it’s worth repeating: keep your distance from people who are sick.If you need to be around a sick person, limit your contact and avoid unnecessary touching like shaking hands or hugging.
- Avoid crowds and unnecessary travel
Try to avoid being in large groups of people, especially in poorly-ventilated spaces. That increases the chance of catching a cold or flu from an infected person.
- Drink plenty of liquids
Drinking plenty of liquids, especially plain water or hot tea, helps the nasal passages to stay moist and trap germs before they can spread into the body.
- Get added Vitamin C and protein through nutritious foods
Some studies have shown that a little extra Vitamin C (but not too much) can reduce the risk of getting sick.