Seniors: Be on Guard This Cold and Flu Season

The Center for Disease Control reports that each year more than 200,000 people across North America will be hospitalized due to seasonal flu and its complications such as pneumonia—and 36,000 of them will die. Seniors make up the majority of these numbers. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that everyone be vaccinated for the seasonal flu virus as well as H1N1.

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among those age 75 and older. Once cold weather comes, seniors should be aware of their increased risk for falls. Snow and ice is a danger for anyone who ventures outdoors in winter, but it is especially unsafe for older adults for a variety of reasons.

Not all senior citizens are lucky enough to spend the winter in sunny locales like Florida or Arizona. Many seniors from northern climates stay put for the winter, doing their best to cope with the harsh weather. If you’re one of those seniors, you may be finding that getting through the cold is a bit more challenging than it used to be.

Avoid senior injuries when shoveling snow. Many people, especially seniors, can underestimate the time, strength and stamina it takes to shovel snow. Injuries can run the gamut in severity and can range from strained backs and broken bones, to serious cuts and even fatal heart attacks.

As the end of the holidays approaches, many people feel relief knowing the hustle and bustle is nearly done. Yet the day after decorations are packed away and the leftovers are in the freezer, surprisingly that relief can be replaced with feelings of depression, especially for seniors. Older adults are more likely to have difficulty with both pre- and post-holiday blues if they are more isolated from family and friends.

Seniors are at a greater risk of drug interactions than the general population as they typically take more medications. Taken in certain combinations, drugs can interfere or interact with one another, altering their effectiveness in controlling symptoms and improving health. In some cases the results can be life-threatening.

Family and professional caregivers can bring joy to a senior’s holiday season – and make him or her more active and involved in the season – with little more than the gift of time and some materials for crafts and decorations.

Winter—for many, a season of cold winds, ice, snow and isolation—is an especially important time for family, friends, neighbors and caregivers to keep a caring eye on seniors to make sure they are safe, doing well and have what they need.

Shopping for seniors who have everything—or who are working on downsizing—may be difficult. But there are plenty of holiday gifts that take up little or no space, yet are big on uplifting a senior’s spirits.

Observing family holiday traditions—like gathering around the Christmas tree to sing favorite carols or lighting a Menorah—can go a long way to adding joy and comfort to a senior’s family holiday celebration.

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