Although the flu season in Canada runs from November-March, influenza peaked across the country last week, and more than 353 Canadians were hospitalized. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions remain above expected as the number of cases of influenza B continue to increase.
According to Statistics Canada, last year “the total number of adult deaths reported over the 2014-2015 season exceeded those in any previous influenza season.” Although this year has been a tough one, it hasn’t been as fatal as last year. “To date, 161 deaths have been reported from participating provinces and territories for the 2015-2016 influenza season.”
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It is important to note that seniors are most at risk for serious or fatal complications from the influenza virus.
Approximately 60% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older, and according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 90% of deaths that occur from influenza happen to seniors. Studies show that despite the risk that influenza poses, the number of seniors who opt to receive the flu shot is on the decline, especially in Ontario.
Professional caregivers working in hospitals, medical clinics, long-term care and retirement communities, as well as those who help seniors age in place, are the country’s on-the-ground defense against the flu.
In addition to getting the flu shot and practicing proper hygiene themselves, caregivers play an important role in encouraging seniors to get flu shots in assisted living. Caregivers can:
Many seniors don’t know or simply forget when flu season is approaching. Be strategic about when you remind them. If you know that the senior will be making a doctor’s appointment or visiting the doctor, then take advantage of the opportunity to remind them about getting the shot.
Some seniors don’t get the flu shot because getting around is inconvenient. Retirement communities often coordinate the flu vaccination for their residents, but not all seniors are in long-term care or retirement community. If you know a senior who is living at home, try to help them coordinate a ride so that they can get their shot early in the flu season.
Sometimes fear or misunderstanding motivates seniors to avoid getting their flu vaccine. If the senior you are caring for is afraid of getting the flu vaccine or thinks it won’t help to protect them against the flu, then provide them with some resources to help clarify how important the vaccine is to their health (some resources are below).
As a professional caregiver, you can encourage the seniors you care for to get the flu shot, but ultimately the decision is theirs. Respect their decision and try to understand their point of view.
Remember that if a senior you are caring for comes down with the flu, it’s important to keep a close eye on their symptoms, which can worsen quickly. Ensure they stay hydrated and watch for any difficulties breathing. If you are concerned that their symptoms are not improving or worsening, then seek medical attention immediately.
These caregiver resources may be helpful to you and your senior loved ones this flu season:
Have you or a senior you’re caring for received flu shots in assisted living this year? Which steps have you taken to prevent the flu? Share your stories with us in the comments below.