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Why the Flu Shot is Especially Important This Year

Monday , August 31 , 2020

Why the Flu Shot is Especially Important This Year

This autumn, doctors and healthcare systems will be dealing with two circulating viruses: the novel coronavirus and influenza.

It’s fair to say that flu season is going to look a lot different as the country struggles to control a coronavirus pandemic that has already killed more than 191,000 people.

Many Americans are reluctant to visit a doctor’s office or even to walk into a pharmacy for fear of being exposed to germs – but by getting the flu shot, you can effectively help doctors take one problem off the table.

What is Influenza?

Although sometimes thought of as “just a bad cold,” the flu kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. every year. Often, the very young, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions are the most vulnerable.

Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue. In more serious cases, severe dehydration, chest pressure, and shortness of breath may occur.

When coupled with the effects of Covid-19, experts say the flu could be more dangerous than ever.

A Flu Vaccine is the Best Protection Against Flu 

The power of the flu vaccine is twofold.

According to the Henry Ford Health System, if enough young, healthy people get vaccinated, they can help protect high-risk groups through something called “herd immunity.” In layman’s terms, the more people that get the flu shot, the less likely the virus is to be transmitted to others.

For those that are high-risk themselves, the flu shot is even more important. The CDC says this is especially true for adults aged 65 and older, who account for most hospitalizations and deaths from the flu each year. Because of immune system changes as we age, older adults are far more likely to experience severe flu complications compared with a younger population – and a flu shot provides the best protection.

When Should I Get My Flu Shot?

Advertising has already begun and most pharmacies already have their flu vaccines in stock, however it’s not necessary to rush out and get your shot just yet. Generally, influenza viruses start circulating in mid- to late October, but don’t reach their peak until later in the winter.

Because it takes about two weeks to build up antibodies after receiving a vaccine, the CDC recommends that older adults get the shot by the end of October.

How Effective is the Flu Shot?

Flu vaccines are developed anew each year because influenza viruses mutate. Because of this, the flu shot ranges in effectiveness each year, depending on how well scientists matched the circulating strain. Last year’s shot, for example, was estimated to be about 45% effective in preventing the flu overall.

It isn’t yet know how effective this year’s flu vaccine will be, however with people practicing social distancing and wearing masks, flu cases are expected to be fewer overall.

It is important to note, as well, that even if you still get the flu, your illness is likely to be less lengthy and severe if you have received the vaccine beforehand.

Bottom Line

Flu shots help protect you against getting the flu and make you less likely to spread it to others. By staying healthy, you’ll help keep hospitals and medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Tips to Help Seniors Avoid Hospitalization

Monday , August 3 , 2020

Tips to Help Seniors Avoid Hospitalization

Hospitals are usually thought of as a safe place where people can go for help when they’re sick or injured. But for older adults, even a short hospital stay presents risks such as medical errors, medication mistakes, or falls.

Add in the Covid-19 pandemic, and the risks are even greater.

Luckily, there are several things you can do to help keep safe at home – and to help keep you or your older loved ones out of the hospital. Here are our top tips:

Ramp up Physical Activity

Many seniors tend to reduce their physical activity as they age, leading to increased fall risk, poor mobility, decreased immunity, and more. But the benefits of physical activity for older adults are well documented – just a small amount of daily exercise can lower the risk of many common physical and mental health issues. Try adding in a simple daily walk or some stretching and reap the benefits!

Reduce Your Fall Risk

A fall at home can quickly land you in the hospital, but there are several things you can do to help reduce the risk. In addition to physical exercise, try the following:

  • Reduce clutter
  • Repair or remove tripping hazards
  • Install grab bars and handrails
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing
  • Keep rooms and hallways well lit
  • Wear non-slip shoes
  • Move around carefully!

Eat Well

Vitamins and minerals play a big part in keeping our bodies strong and fit, and many common health issues can be avoided simply by practicing proper nutrition. Here are four nutrients you should take care to include in your diet, especially as you age:

  • Vitamin B12 plays a key role in brain and nervous system functions. It can be found in fish, eggs, poultry, meat, and milk.
  • Fiber helps keep you regular and lessens the risk of heart attacks and heart disease. Most fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, and whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas are a great source as well.
  • Potassium has many functions in the body, such as regulating water balance and aiding in muscle contraction. You can find it in beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, yogurt, and more.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D are important for maintaining bone density as we age. Calcium can be found in dairy products, dark leafy greens, and almonds. Pair it with a Vitamin D supplement for best results!

Keep Track of Medications

People aged 60 – 65 take an average of 15 prescription medications per year. Those over 80 take an average of 18. Not only are all these medications expensive, they can bring on adverse effects when not effectively managed. When you or an older loved on get a new medication, make sure to speak to the pharmacist about any side effects and how it might interact with an existing medication.

Stay in Touch with Friends

Loneliness can have a strong impact on both our mental and physical health. Socializing may seem difficult during the age of Covid-19, but it’s not impossible. Take part in social-distanced gatherings with friends or loved ones by taking a walk in the park or gathering on the lawn for a chat. Or consider utilizing technology for video chats, online book clubs, or even virtual game nights!

Ask People to Wash Their Hands

While we’re on the subject of Covid-19, let’s discuss cleanliness! If you must interact with others, make sure all people who come into your home wash or sanitize their hands as they enter and that they wear a mask. This includes medical professionals and home health aides!

Get Your Flu Shot

Flu season is quickly approaching and that means vaccines will soon be available. The CDC recommends that older adults get the shot in September or October for maximum effectiveness. It is recommended that seniors visit their doctor to first make sure they are healthy enough to receive the shot, and that they ask any regular visitors to their homes to receive the shot as well.

Don’t Ignore Symptoms

Many older adults end up in the hospital from illnesses that could have been easily handled at home with early diagnosis. Don’t ignore symptoms for fear of going to the doctor or because you think you can recover on your own. Many simple complaints, such as sore muscles or light headedness, can be signs of more serious issues.

ComForCare caregivers can help with companionship, disability support, grooming & hygiene, and much more. If you would like help living more comfortably at home, please reach out to speak with us about setting up a home care assessment today.

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Telemedicine: A Safer Option for Seniors

Monday , July 27 , 2020

Telemedicine: A Safer Option for Seniors

Providing care for your older loved one can be complex and challenging during the best of times. Supporting those same loved ones during the covid-19 pandemic requires extra precautions to keep them safe.

Research shows that adults aged 60 and older, especially those with preexisting conditions, such as heart or lung disease, are more likely to have a severe coronavirus infection than other groups.

Because of this, many older adults are choosing to forgo regular doctor appointments. For example, someone with diabetes may opt to postpone a regular follow-up visit to avoid potential exposure to coronavirus. But while covid-19 is dangerous, so is ignoring everyday medical needs.

What’s the solution? Telemedicine.

Telemedicine has become the norm for many people, both young and old, in the last few months. It’s a cost-effective healthcare solution that allows for independence in the aging population while still keeping them safe.

Keep reading for more information:

What is Telehealth?

A telehealth appointment is simply a regular doctor visit done over the phone or on a computer. The doctor’s office will provide your older loved one with a special phone number or link that they can use to connect with their physician privately, in a safe and secure environment.

Their doctor can address concerns, make suggestions, and even prescribe medication over the call.

The benefits are many. Besides the convenience of “seeing” a doctor from the comfort of their own home, telemedicine appointments don’t require any transportation, and they reduce exposure to covid-19 and other viruses.

Types of Telehealth 

There are three main types of telemedicine available for seniors. These are the options:

  • Synchronous telehealth involves real-time communication. A phone call or two-way video conferencing is used to communicate from afar.
  • Asynchronous telehealth is the a store-and-forward process, similar to email. Using a secure platform, the patient can share medical data with their doctor who will review it and respond later.
  • Remote patient monitoring allows for the tracking of vital signs using sensors, cameras, and other devices.

 Making the Most of a Visit

Just like in-person doctor visits, your older loved one should go to their telemedicine appointment prepared. Here are a few tips:

  • Make a list of the issues they want to address so nothing gets missed. This is especially important during telehealth visits, where people are more likely to lose their train of thought.
  • Keep track of symptoms and when they started/if they’ve changed. A brief record can help the doctor figure out what is causing symptoms.
  • Have any medical equipment that the doctor has prescribed on hand.
  • Take and share photos of obvious symptoms, such as bites, moles, or rashes.
  • Call from a quiet place so the doctor is able to hear and understand.
  • Don’t forget to address routine medical issues, like medication refills or paperwork required by the insurer.

Sometimes Face-to-Face is Best

Despite the ongoing pandemic, sometimes an office visit is the best option. For urgent or complex issues, such as dehydration from vomiting, the doctor’s office is still open for business.

Remember, an emergency is still an emergency: Sometimes the doctor needs to examine a patient and check vital signs to make an accurate diagnosis. Likewise, telemedicine doesn’t work for preventative procedures such as colonoscopies or mammograms.

Bottom line? In most instances, telemedicine offers a convenient and safe way to receive healthcare. When so much of regular life has been upended, it’s a great, stress-free way to connect with medical professionals.

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