Fight the fluWe're all concerned about the flu this year. Since 90% of all flu-related deaths and more than 50% of hospitalizations are people age 65 and older, those who care for seniors are especially on alert.
Don't allow germs to get the jump on you
Visiting Angels, one of the nation's largest in-home senior care companies, is assembling Fight the Flu kits to help seniors protect themselves.
"This flu can be deadly for seniors because they can develop pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses, so families have to be especially vigilant with their elderly loved ones," says Larry Meigs, president and CEO of Visiting Angels. "Our kits and caregivers are especially helpful for people who don't live near their elderly loved ones and want someone to protect their seniors and watch over them if they get sick and need help recovering."
The Fight the Flu kits include:
* Paper towels -- encourage seniors to use paper towels in the bathroom instead of hand towels, which can harbor germs.
* A thermometer -- if seniors have a fever higher than 102 degrees, that could indicate they have the flu.
* Vitamin C or little boxes of orange juice -- helps build seniors' weaker immune systems.
* Pocket-size hand sanitizer, with aloe -- helps keep seniors' skin germ-free without drying out their sensitive skin.
* Pens -- seniors should always have their own pen handy; pens shared in public areas carry a ton of germs.
* Lysol spray -- reminder for seniors to spray doorknobs, handles and light switches, etc., at least once a week; viruses can live up to 48 hours on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.
* Hand soap -- recent studies show plain soap and water works just as well, if not better, than antibacterial soaps.
* Cold vs. Flu tip sheet (see below) -- This explains the difference between the cold and flu.
* Hand sanitizer wipes -- these are handy to have on-the-go, whether to clean hands or public surfaces. Don't rely on just baby wipes because they do not contain the proper ingredients to kill viruses and germs.
Seniors should also get the flu shot because it's free and covered by Medicare. People 65 and older have two flu shots available to choose from -- a regular dose vaccine and a newer higher dose flu vaccine that results in a stronger immune response. Seniors should talk to their doctors to see if they're a good fit for this vaccine.
Germy places to avoid
* Public restrooms -- especially the sink because bacteria can survive there the longest. (Source: University of Arizona study)
* The mall -- especially food court tables -- the rags used to "clean" can spread harmful bacteria; they can contain E. coli because they are not cleaned or changed regularly. (Source: Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University)
* Grocery stores -- this is where many people go when they are sick, whether to get some OJ, chicken noodle soup, or medicine. About 70%-80% of the shopping carts tested nationwide had E. coli, said Charles Gerba, Ph.D., University of Arizona
* Restaurants -- one of the dirtiest areas is the table top due to the "clean" rag used to wipe them down. (Source: Lifescript)
* Libraries -- some of the dirtiest areas are the books, computers and table tops, just from the many people who touch them each day. (Source: Lifescript)