The flu is an awful sickness for anyone regardless of age, but it is especially dangerous for the aging population.

The oldest members of your family are at risk because as you age, you begin to lose the ability to cough adequately. This means even though there may be build up in the lungs because of the flu, an individual won’t cough to remove it, and in result, they get pneumonia.

October marks the start of flu season. The spread of the strain continues through May and generally peaks in February. There are steps you or a loved one should take to prevent getting the illness.


1.   Get the flu shot.

The first defense against getting the flu is making your annual vaccination a priority. The flu strain changes year after year, so each new vaccine is designed to fight against the most common types.

You should have the flu shot administered before the end of October, and it will be effective for the entire season for the virus.

Your primary physician can offer a flu shot. Check other agencies (like CVS, Walgreens or another pharmacy) and local health clinics for free or affordable opportunities to get vaccinated.


2.   Have close family members and caregivers get the flu shot.

It’s not enough to just have an older family member receive the vaccination. Instead, close family, friends and caregivers should receive the vaccination as well to utilize herd immunity.

If a someone close to an elderly family is sick but not yet displaying symptoms, it is possible to pass the virus even if the loved one is vaccinated. For the best chance at preventing the spread of the flu, everyone should take the time to get the shot.


3.   Don’t visit friends or family who have the flu.

If a family member does come down with the illness, it’s best to stay away if possible. While a parent can’t avoid a young child, it is possible to put off an outing or a visitation because of the flu when it comes to seeing other family members who are not in the household.

It’s better to reschedule rather than catch the flu and be vulnerable to flu complications. It’s certainly hard to say no to participating in a birthday party or attending an event you have looked forward to, but sometimes you have to avoid doing what you want to do to prevent major problems.


4.   Practice good health habits.

Eat extra vegetables, take regular walks, keep consistent with medications and vitamins. All of these healthy habits will keep your immune system strong and ready to fight off any bug threatening to put you in bed for several weeks.

Consider using a daily pill divider to make sure you don’t miss any of your dosages of vitamins or other types of medication necessary to manage your health. Take the dog on an extra walk every day or make additional efforts to play outside with the grandkids. Make sure you get out of the house to do things you love to keep your spirits high.


5.   Take precautions in crowded spaces.

When you are out in public, take a few extra precautions. Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer and wet wipes nearby so you can wash down door knobs or grocery cart handles. Cover your sneezes with your elbow, and try not to touch your face frequently. These little changes could make a big difference on whether or not you get sick during flu season.


6.   See your doctor pronto if you start showing flu-like symptoms.

If you do start feeling like you have the flu, don’t delay seeing your doctor. It’s easy to write off the first few days as just a cold, but there are antivirals that can help in the first 48 hours.

If you know you have the flu, you can start getting extra sleep and fluids to weaken the symptoms. The doctor might also need to check your current medications and make sure they don’t cause problems with flu or cold medicines.


7.   Don’t share the illness if you do get sick

Even after every precaution and vaccination, you could find yourself fighting the flu. If you do have the virus, it’s best to stay home and get plenty of rest and water. Don’t go to crowded places or spend time with anyone who isn’t absolutely necessary.

If you have a significant other, consider limiting physical contact by quarantining yourself in a different room. Put hand sanitizer outside the door, so they can immediately kill germs after leaving your bedside. After you are better, take the time to clean the house with disinfecting cleaners. Pay special attention to the room and the bathroom used by the sick loved one.

Feel better fast and go to the doctor if you suspect you are having any flu-related complications or dehydration.

Helping a sick loved one is difficult, and even more so when they are dealing with a terminal illness. You shouldn’t have to do the work alone. McCortney Home Hospice is ready to answer your questions and provide you with quality hospice service when it’s time. Call us at (405) 360-2400 or learn more by reading our FAQs.