ACCESS to 'The Basics - A Guide for the New Caregiver"

The BEST (usually FREE) Holiday Gift for You & a Senior – But Act Soon!

It may be hard to find the perfect gift for a senior (and for yourself). 

What would you think if we could suggest a gift that is (usually) free, could improve your own wellness, and potentially save a senior from serious illness or death – but needs to be acted upon soon? 

Too good to be true?

What if we told you it was a simple flu shot?

Yup, that’s it. 

The holidays are wonderful time for catching up – but they are also a great time to share illnesses with others.  Of special note are those who are incredibly vulnerable to infections – pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and those with chronic illness. Will you be spending time with anyone in those groups? 

Being sick over the holiday season is no fun.  Not only do you feel lousy, miss out on the festivities, need to self isolate, and you can put others at risk.  If you are travelling, you may end up being ill far from home. 

Being in an emergency department over the holidays, either to care for yourself or someone else who is ill is even less fun. Over the holiday season, many doctors’ offices and clinics are closed. This means that for most emergency departments it is THE busiest time of the year. Expect wait times to be long and conditions overcrowded. Since it is often the height of cold and flu season, you may also be exposed to many ‘bugs’ while you wait to be seen. 

So, why is it important to get a vaccine?

Let’s quickly talk about vaccines. Vaccines prevent illnesses.  Broadly speaking, there are routine vaccines that everyone should get (e.g., tetanus), seasonal vaccines (e.g., flu vaccine) and those required for travel. 

There are controversies out there, but let’s be frank. Vaccines prevent illnesses. Not all illnesses are trivial. The reason vaccines were developed was because they can help to prevent highly transmissible diseases that cause serious illness and death especially to those at greatest risk (e.g., pregnant women, those with chronic illness and the elderly). While getting a vaccine is ultimately your choice, be mindful that your choice to not be vaccinated can impact others, especially those who are at increased risk of serious illness and death. 

What is the flu?

While flu seasons vary, every year millions of people get sick and hundreds of thousand will get sick.  During the 2017-2018 flu season, 80,000 people died of flu-related illnesses in the United States.    

In the Northern Hemisphere, flu season typically starts between November and March.  (In the Southern Hemisphere it is April to September.)

Antibiotics do not treat the flu; there is limited treatment with anti-virals available if you get the flu. (Over the counter medications do not prevent or treat the flu but may help some symptoms.)  Some people may need anti-viral medications, based on current guidelines.  Studies show that flu-related antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 48 hours of getting sick.  However, starting them later may still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk condition or is very sick. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking these, and any medications.

What are flu-like symptoms?

Flu-like illnesses include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people, especially children, may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may also be infected with flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.  If you have a mild case of the flu, you may shed virus, and infect other people even though you are not feeling particularly unwell.  You may also infect other people before you have symptoms.  

How can you prevent getting sick?

Make sure you protect yourself and others from illness by getting a flu vaccine. But you should act soon. Vaccines, in general, take 2 weeks to become effective (but it is not too late!).

Get your own flu vaccine – it is usually free!  Make sure that seniors’ (and any other vulnerable groups) get theirs (and any other vaccines that may need to be updated.)

 What else can you do?

  • Maintain a healthy routine – even over the party season. Exercise, sleep, eat well, and use alcohol in moderation.
  • Be aware of food-borne illnesses. Food that is sitting out too long or has been casually shared may put you at risk of a stomach bug.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu virus.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Note that not every virus is killed by the hand sanitizer (in particular, viruses that cause stomach upset).
  • When you are out or travelling – make sure you wash your hands - well and frequently!  Use disposable wipes to clean surfaces that you are in contact with when travelling, for example, tray tables, seat belts and arm rests.  Vehicles often have a quick turnaround and it may be difficult for crews to be able to clean all surfaces well. 

What should you do if you are feeling sick?

Stay away from others – stay at home or self-isolate. 

Don’t spread your germs to work colleagues or social contacts.  You do NOT want to be responsible for making someone else unwell or seriously ill. Gone are the days when it was a badge of honour to show up at work or a party with a high fever, coughing or with ‘stomach flu”. 

  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick – stay home. Yes, you heard it.  Take the opportunity to get some much-needed rest – read a book, binge watch some shows, listen to music, sleep!
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.

What are the 5 best way to prevent the illness over the holiday season?

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Stay away from those who are sick. Stay away from others if you are sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently and well.
  • Take care of your health.
  • Know your doctor’s office or the senior’s doctor’s office hours over holidays. Ensure that prescriptions and routine medications are available for the duration of the holiday period. 

 As usual, if you are unwell or have a health emergency, seek medical attention promptly.

Help make this season a healthy one!

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