Flu and the Elderly

by Jessica Cervantez

As the flu continues to spread across the country, health experts say the holiday season may pose an increased danger to one group who are most at risk for getting the flu virus... elderly people. Health experts have some precautions for you and your family to take.

James Brewer's family visits him at Oak Manor Nursing Home almost every day. The only time they miss is when they are sick. But, the family doesn't want to put James or any other resident at his nursing home at risk.

"I had to stay away from him for a while, because I had pneumonia and then I got a sinus infection, but I'm better now," said Mae Johnson, whose brother-in-law is a resident at the nursing home.

"The elderly people don't need to be exposed to what I have, so I try to stay away," said Viola Garrett Reed, a resident's friend.

The nursing home also discourages visitors who are sick. Because the elderly are so susceptible to getting the flu, nursing homes take certain precautions to keep their residents healthy.

"Every resident here gets flu vaccines and we make sure we wash hands frequently. And if the residents continue to be sick we notify doctors," said Lynda Serpas, the infection control nurse at the nursing home.

James will be going home to visit his family on Christmas, but family members say even at home they must be careful.

"Everyone at home has had their flu shot. They are very careful," said Lavene Brewer, James' wife.

And health experts have their own advice for families during Christmas gatherings.

"Wash their hands. There will be a lot of hugging and kissing, and if they're sick... discourage it," said Serpas.

There are a few precautions you can take to prevent the spread of flu or any other illness to anyone, no matter what their age.

1. Health experts remind those who are or have recently been ill to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze, cough or blow your nose.

2. Use a tissue when possible.

3. Wash your hands frequently.

4. And stay home if you have a cough and fever.

Another thing to remember is that the very elderly can become confused and nervous at large and noisy gatherings. Be considerate of their comfort by allowing them time and a place to rest.