senior woman with the fluThe time of year for flu shots is here again! Every pharmacy and doctor’s office will be promoting the vaccination to prevent the spread of flu symptoms in schools, at the office and yes – in senior living facilities too. The flu is highly contagious and, if someone in a nursing home has the virus, the health of others is put in jeopardy.

If your aging loved one is in a state of declining health, what should you know about flu prevention?

Facts About the Virus

The flu can be a dangerous illness at any age, but especially for children and the elderly due to their weaker immune systems. When it is more difficult to fight off the virus, your loved one could be hospitalized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 200,000 people go to the hospital for the flu each year and about 36,000 of them die. For most, the flu is not serious and they are better within a week, but those over the age of 65 with a chronic condition can become very ill.

The Flu Vaccine

You may have heard that the flu shot is less effective for seniors, but it all depends on an older person’s state of health. If you are already not feeling well before flu season hits, talk with your doctor first. Otherwise, at age 65 and older you may be given a higher dose (senior flu shot) to ensure the vaccine works.

The CDC only recommends avoiding the flu shot if you have an egg allergy. Certain types of flu vaccine contain a small amount of egg protein.

Practice Good Hygiene

Unfortunately, people with the flu often become contagious to others before they even know they are sick. The flu spreads easily through coughing and sneezing, so anything a person touches could be carrying the virus. It can take up to five days to be knocked off your feet by the flu; in the meantime, the doorknobs and phones you have touched become contaminated.

Especially when living among a large group of people with different medical conditions, seniors should wash their hands and wipe down shared surfaces often.

Has the Staff Been Vaccinated?

One of the most critical ways to prevent the spread of influenza in a nursing facility is to make sure all staff members have gotten their flu shot. The strains change, so it is recommended that workers are vaccinated once a year. For seniors, they can receive the vaccine with no copay or deductible, paid by their Medicare benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Remember, there is no 100 percent guarantee that the flu vaccine will prevent a person from contracting the illness. Keep yourself in good health and your surrounding areas clean to help ward off the flu this season. Avon Health Center has a mandatory flu vaccine policy for its staff, to help protect residents and staff from the flu. To learn more about flu prevention for seniors at our facility, contact us today.