With the Flu season being one of the worst the United States has seen (all 50 states report widespread illness), it is extremely important that caregivers of adults over the age of 65 become aware of signs and symptoms that could mean flu.
In fact, one-third of all deaths in seniors over 65 result from infectious diseases, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Seniors are more susceptible to infection overall, but seniors with dementia or those who are in long-term care facilities may be at an even greater risk.
Weakened immunity in the elderly, along with other chronic conditions, increases the risk of developing severe complications from influenza, such as pneumonia. In fact, Influenza and pneumonia combined, add up to the sixth leading cause of death in America (AAFP). Because influenza is easily transmitted by coughing and sneezing, the risk of infection increases in a closed environment like a nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
With much of the population, cough, chills and fever are the common symptoms of influenza. However influenza may present different signs in older adults. Symptoms such as loss of appetite, decline in functioning, mental status changes, incontinence and falls, can be signs of an infection, according to the Infectious Disease Clinics of North America.
Caregivers as well as family members need to stay alert to these elusive signs, as well as any change in behavior to ward off infections or begin treatment early to lessen the severity.
If you do notice any changes in your patient or loved one, the sooner you can get them to the doctor for diagnosis, and possibly an antiviral medication to reduce symptoms, the better.
Keeping senior loved ones healthy is an ongoing process, but caregivers who stay alert and informed are already one step ahead.