Flu season is upon us once again and medical professionals everywhere are encouraging their patients to take care of themselves and take action to boost their immune systems in order to have the healthiest Fall and Winter possible. Though influenza is uncomfortable for all people, seniors and those with other healthcare concerns, as well as their caretakers, are at a higher risk for serious complications from the flu than the general populations. For those in long-term care facilities, illness can spread quickly, making it all the more important to protect yourself and those around you. Good hygiene that includes frequent handwashing, covering your mouth when you sneeze, and disposing of dirty tissues is critical at all times, but especially during flu season. The most effective defense against the flu, though, is the flu shot, which is readily available for free or at very low cost to seniors. If you are not fully decided on whether to get your flu shot this year, consider these reasons to get your flu shot by the end of October so that you are fully protected by the time it is most prevalent.
Risk factors: Though age alone does not determine one’s risk for catching the flu, seniors and their caretakers are susceptible for many reasons. The overall strength of your immune system determines how well your body fights off illness, and it is common knowledge that this is an area that weakens over time. Coexisting illnesses also make a body more vulnerable, as does stress. Caring for a vulnerable person means sharing germs even when you are careful, so all members of skilled nursing care teams and those they care for should get proper protection.
Impacts Of Flu On Seniors: Not everyone who skips out on the flu shot will get ill, but for older adults who do get the flu, symptoms are likely to be severe or even fatal. As much as 85% of flu-related deaths happen in those over the age of 65. Residents of long-term care facilities may be vulnerable to getting the flu because of close living quarters and impaired cognitive function that may impact memory and personal care habits.
Severity Of Symptoms: It is true that even with the flu vaccine, you may still get the flu, but this is not a reason to avoid getting the shot. The biggest concern about seniors contracting the flu lies in the side effects and severity of their symptoms. Individuals who get the flu after receiving a flu shot experience much less severe symptoms than those who were unvaccinated. In fact, getting a flu shot cuts your chances of hospitalization from the flu in half!
Complications From The Flu: Another concern about influenza, especially for seniors in skilled nursing care facilities, is complications that arise from the flu. Many older patients with compromised respiratory symptoms can contract pneumonia and other conditions that are often fatal, even if the flu itself is treated.
Low Complications From Flu Shot: There are many myths about the dangers of the flu shot, but most of those risks are overexaggerated and unsubstantiated. The flu shot does not cause the flu, it just may result in side effects that are similar to flu symptoms, but much less severe. There are also claims that the flu shot is not very effective in seniors, but any reduction in risk levels provides for better outcomes.
Accessibility and Affordability: The flu shot is readily available all over the place. From drug stores to physicians’ offices and local flu clinics, it is very easy to find a skilled professional to administer a flu shot. Most insurance coverage pays for flu shots and there are programs to help mitigate the costs for the small percentage of adults who may not be covered. Long-term care facilities prioritize the flu shot for residents, employees, and family members.
Learn more about how Princeton Health Care Center protects our residents and keeps them healthy during flu season and beyond.