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Tips about staying healthy during this flu epidemic

Q.  My elderly mother has several chronic conditions although she doesn’t let this slow her down. She remains quite active in her church, local senior center and a card group. She got her flu shot in the fall and seems to think she shouldn’t have to take any further precautions. I know that several of her friends have been sick lately and this concerns me. She doesn’t always take my advice but she may pay attention if you provide some tips about staying healthy during this flu epidemic. 

A.  From coast to coast this year’s flu outbreak has hit epidemic proportions. Adults over the age of 65 are more at risk of flu-related complications and subsequent hospitalizations. The “high dose vaccine” and the “adjuvanted flu vaccine” are generally recommended for this age group. While getting vaccinated does not provide 100% protection it does (in most cases) lessen the impact of the illness if an older adult contracts the flu.

Your mother has taken the first step by getting vaccinated but she should not become complacent. No one is suggesting she should become anti-social or turn her into a germaphobe but there are areas she should be aware of. Flu droplets can travel up to 6 feet so it is important to avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing or showing other symptoms of the flu. Germs can be spread when a person touches a contaminated area…refrain from touching eyes, nose and mouth when spending time in public places. To provide additional protection carry a small package of antibacterial wipes and don’t hesitate to wipe down doorknobs, toilet handles and faucets. Frequent hand washing with hot water for a minimum of 15 seconds should become a common practice.

In addition to being aware of her surroundings your mother should pay further attention to getting sufficient sleep, eating nutrient rich food, increasing fluid intake, and managing stress. We have several more months of flu season…everyone should keep their guard up until the epidemic subsides.

Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff are available for no cost consultations in the home, office or community. For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to ageinfo@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., AgeInfo Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843.

Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.