PRR – Additional Needs – Disease Outbreaks
Common infections like influenza and UTI’s can happen to anyone, but for adults over the age of 65, weakened immune systems can make it more difficult to fight off infections leading to chronic poor health, ongoing discomfort and a higher risk of hospitalization. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, infectious diseases account for 1/3 of all deaths in people 65 years and older. Since older adults lose heat much quicker, winter in particular, can put them at higher risk of heart attacks, kidney problems, liver damage, and infectious diseases. Early diagnosis, proper treatment, and most importantly, preventative measures such as vaccinations are imperative.
The best way to prevent infections is through good hygiene and a healthy lifestyle- both of which can help boost your immune system. This includes daily exercise, which can help strengthen the heart and increase blood flow, as well as a balanced nutritious diet. Many infections among seniors are transmitted by contact so it’s important to constantly wash your hands or keep antibacterial sanitizers and products close by for convenience. Many seniors are under the care of a family member or caregiver, so it’s important for your caregiver to be up to date with your immunization records, daily diet and activity, as well as overall mental health.
Below are just a few preventative tips and measures you can easily take, or have your caregiver help you out with:
-Stay up to date with all of your vaccines, especially influenza, pneumonia, and shingles.
-Depending on risk factors and health and family history it is also important to schedule health screenings for common hereditary diseases like prostate cancer, hepatitis C, breast cancer, etc.
-Try to fit in at least two routine wellness checkups with your doctor to establish a vaccination schedule as well as check up on any changes in your body. Seniors are entitled to one free wellness visit a year with no copay or deductible through Medicare Part B.
-Stay properly hydrated. Older women should drink around 11.5 cups (2.7L) of fluids a day, while elderly men should consume roughly 15.5 cups (3.7L).
-Try to avoid smoking or being around second-hand smoke. Smoking harms the lungs’ ability to defend against infection, greatly increasing the individual’s likelihood of getting the disease
-Work on stress management. Many infections are stress-induced due to the fact that stress significantly weakens the immune system leaving the body vulnerable to viral infections.
- The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) provides grants to the states to support a range of programs such as the Caregiver Respite Care program which provides trained caregivers for seniors who are unable to invest in a personal caretaker.Typically respite care occurs in the family home, but can occur in adult day care centers or overnight residential facilities.
2. Click here to locate a free clinic near you that can provide adult vaccinations or get a prescription.
A viral infection typically lasts around two weeks, but different infections and varying pre-existing ailments can change the severity and duration of common viruses.
Upon diagnosis of an infectious disease, immediately contact a health professional to get treatment as soon as possible. While infections such as UTIs or flus can seem trivial, infections, particularly among seniors, can interfere with pre-existing ailments and lead to fatal heart attacks and respiratory collapse.
In the event of an infectious disease outbreak, make sure to take precautions to prevent further spreading the infection and affecting the people around you. Make sure to cover any coughs or sneezes with a tissue or arm and dispose of used tissues immediately. If possible, invest in a face mask. Constantly wash your hands and wash down all frequently touched surfaces with a cleaning cloth dampened by detergent, or with a large alcohol wipe. Avoid sharing cups, glasses, and eating utensils with the people around you.
Make sure to take extra time letting your body rest by sleeping and layering on more clothes. Seniors are vulnerable to the cold especially in the case of an already weakened immune system, so staying warm is crucial and can help prevent you from catching additional diseases.
Depending on the severity and type of infection, the recovery period can vary but it’s important to know what specific infection you have in order to take the proper steps to recover and heal.
Maintaining a positive mental state, getting sufficient sleep, and eating a balanced and nutritional diet however, are universal treatments for all viral infections and can significantly help quicken the recovery period. Consult with your doctor for further guidance and make sure to schedule a follow-up checkup after roughly two weeks, or when you start feeling better. Certain viral infectious diseases will require additional care or isolation from the public in order to maintain the safety and health of the public.