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7 Common Flu Myths Debunked

Myths about the flu are everywhere. Is what you hear true, or is there too much misinformation floating around? Debunk the seven most common myths about influenza.7 Common Flu Myths Debunked

Myth #1: Getting Vaccinated Can Give You the Flu

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Disease, there is no way that the vaccine can make you sick. Vaccines only contain a weakened or inactivated form of the virus, which cannot infect you. The truth is that people often mistake the side effects of the vaccine for the illness itself. Side effects of inoculation may feel like mild symptoms of the flu, but soreness around the injection site is typically the only symptom people experience. Keep in mind that flu season (which generally lasts from October to March) coincides with a time of year when bugs causing colds and other respiratory illnesses are in the air. It is possible to get the vaccine and then get sick with a completely unrelated cold virus within a few days.

Myth #2: There Is No Treatment for the Flu

There are three FDA-approved antiviral drugs that are highly effective against the flu. Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is available in pill and liquid form, Relenza (zanamivir) comes in powder form, which is inhaled, and Rapivab (peramivir) is administered intravenously. While these antiviral medications do not cure the viral infection, they can minimize symptoms, reduce the amount of time you are sick by one or two days and make you less contagious to others. Furthermore, treatment can prevent complications of the flu, like pneumonia, which can be especially dangerous for older individuals. It’s best to take these drugs within 48 hours of getting sick, so do not hesitate to make a doctor’s appointment if you or a loved one have symptoms of the flu.

Myth #3: Antibiotics Can Fight the Flu

Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Since influenza is a virus, antibiotics have no effect. Furthermore, overuse and misuse of antibiotics can result in reduced effectiveness against the bacteria they are actually intended to kill and even “superbugs” that are entirely resistant to these treatments.

Myth #4: You Can’t Get the Flu More Than Once During Flu Season

You can certainly contract the flu more than once a year, because there are many different strains of the influenza virus. There are two main types of flu, Type A and Type B, and there are also different subtypes of each. It is possible that you could get infected with one strain and then another during a given season, especially if you have a compromised immune system.

Myth #5: If You’re Young and Healthy, You Don’t Need to Get the Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated each season. Healthy adults are just as susceptible to the virus as other demographics. If you are caring for an aging loved one, simply getting them vaccinated only provides some protection. You and other family members should also get the vaccine to avoid endangering their health.

Myth #6: Cold Weather Causes the Flu

The influenza virus is spread year-round. Contrary to popular belief, going outside during winter without a hat on does not directly increase your risk of getting sick. Influenza peaks in fall and winter for a few different reasons. Scientists speculate that the flu virus thrives in cooler, low-humidity environments. Of course, during the colder months, people tend to spend more time cooped up indoors, making it easier for the virus to spread from person to person. Furthermore, less time spent outside means that most people experience drops in vitamin D during winter that can weaken the immune system. All of these factors contribute to the timing of flu season, which is the same throughout the whole country, even in warmer states like Florida.

Myth #7: If You Haven’t Gotten a Flu Shot by November, It’s Too Late

Flu season often peaks between December and February, but the timing can vary. Some years heightened flu activity has lasted until May. No matter how late it is, if you have not been vaccinated yet, go get it done. You could spare yourself and your family a great deal of misery.

The Facts: How to Avoid Spreading the Flu

Influenza spreads from person to person, often through the air, and you can pass on the infection even before you begin feeling symptoms. An infected individual is also contagious for several days after the onset of symptoms. Infection can stem from a contagious person near you coughing, sneezing or talking, or even from touching a surface that the virus is on, like a telephone or doorknob.

To avoid contracting and spreading the virus, use the following tips:

  • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This is especially important after you touch a sick person, common surfaces, used tissues or laundry.
  • Individuals with the flu should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing to avoid spreading the virus to others.
  • Immediately throw away tissues and other disposable items used by an infected person.
  • Once diagnosed, talk to a healthcare provider about taking antiviral medication to prevent the virus from spreading to other family members, coworkers or friends.
  • Keep surfaces like bedside tables, bathroom surfaces, doorknobs and children’s toys clean by regularly wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
  • Do not share eating utensils, dishes or cups with a sick person. These items do not need to be cleaned separately, but they should not be shared without washing thoroughly first.
  • Wash linens (such as bed sheets and towels) by using household laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Use a basket to transport laundry prior to washing to prevent contaminating yourself.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to minimize the likelihood of contracting the flu and other viral infections.

Source AgingCare  Marlo Sollitto

Why Does My Elderly Loved One Sleep All Day?

As people age, they tend to sleep more lightly than when they were younger and often wake up during the night from achy joints or the need to use the restroom. Many seniors compensate for this lost sleep by catching a restorative nap during the day. That’s normal.

Daytime sleeping only becomes a problem when an elder spends most of their time dozing in bed or their favorite chair instead of engaging in life. If you want your elder to stay awake more during the day and sleep better at night, you will need to discover the underlying reason(s) why they are napping excessively. In some cases, you may need a doctor’s help to narrow down the cause and recommend treatments. Knowing what to look for can give you a jumpstart on improving a loved one’s sleep schedule.

Common Reasons Why Seniors Sleep So Much

Boredom in the Elderly

As people age, they may suffer from chronic health conditions and age-related changes that affect their ability to do the things they enjoy. When options for outings, activities and entertainment are limited, it can deal a serious blow to an elder’s quality of life. They aren’t working anymore, they may struggle with reading or puzzles because of poor eyesight, and eventually they get tired of watching TV. In these cases, elders may not be clinically depressed or even all that tired. Instead, their fatigue stems from the fact that they are incredibly bored. With no schedule to keep and not much going on in their lives, they slide into the habit of napping throughout most of the day.

Medication Side Effects and Interactions

The average senior in the U.S. takes several different medications each day. All medications have side effects, so it should come as no surprise that taking multiple drugs can produce interactions that magnify these effects. In addition, older individuals metabolize medications differently than their younger counterparts, meaning that they are even more susceptible to adverse effects like drowsiness and dizziness.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications for conditions like anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, nausea and allergies can all cause excessive sleepiness. Atypical (second generation) antipsychotics are notoriously hard on most elderly patients as well. If your loved one is on one of these medications, discuss the side effects and alternative medication options with their physician. You may even find that there are some medications in their regimen that could be reduced to smaller dosages or discontinued completely. Sometimes simply altering the timing of a senior’s medications can improve their alertness during the day.

Depression and Sleep

Many elders become sad and lose interest in life, but depression is in no way a normal part of aging. Most people are familiar with the basic signs of depression, but for older individuals, the red flags can be a little different. Sleep issues and fatigue can often indicate that a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder. If you notice these symptoms in a loved one, do your best to talk with them about how they are feeling and make an appointment with their physician.

If a loved one is already on antidepressant medication or begins antidepressant therapy, keep in mind that finding the correct medication usually takes some trial and error. Again, sleepiness is a common side effect of these prescription drugs, so be sure to communicate with the doctor about any adverse effects to ensure your loved one finds the right medication.

Dementia and Difficulty Sleeping

Many seniors with dementia experience a wide array of sleep problems, especially in the later stages of the disease. As the brain deteriorates, issues arise with circadian rhythms and temporal awareness, making it difficult for dementia patients to sleep through the night and keep a normal schedule. In some cases, sleeping during the day is the only way that patients can make up for the shuteye they lose at night.

The resulting odd schedules can be frustrating for caregivers, but sleep deprivation can also exacerbate the symptoms of dementia, like sundowning. While there aren’t many foolproof methods for helping a loved one sleep through the night and stay awake during the day, sleeping pills typically aren’t advisable. The best methods for encouraging good sleep habits include using engaging activities during the daytime, scheduling brief naps as needed during the day, and sticking to a set sleep schedule as best as you can. A solid routine can be very helpful for helping a loved one stay oriented and managing behaviors and symptoms of dementia.

Excessive Sleep in the Elderly

In some instances, excessive sleeping in individuals with one or more serious medical conditions can indicate that their health has taken a downturn. This may not necessarily mean that death is near, but it certainly is cause for contacting the doctor to see if a specific treatment should be altered, added or removed. If a loved one is spending a great deal of time asleep, it is important to devise ways to ensure they still get the nutrition, personal care and medications they need. Otherwise, complications like dehydration, malnutrition and pressure ulcers can arise. In the most severe cases, the doctor may recommend an assessment for a different level of care, such as skilled nursing or hospice.

The Importance of Staying Active

In addition to being vigilant about an aging loved one’s medications and health, it is also important to encourage them to participate in life as fully as they can. Providing plenty of opportunities for social interaction, mental stimulation and physical activity is key to a high quality of life. But, for many family caregivers, seeing to all these needs in addition to their hands-on responsibilities and personal schedules is nearly impossible. Seeking out respite care that doubles as a source of stimulation for a loved one is a common solution for many families.

In-home care and adult day care are two such options. Both professional in-home caregivers and adult day care staff can help set and maintain daily routines, provide engaging activities and outings, and broaden a senior’s social circle. Assisted living and nursing home care can also offer these benefits in a residential setting. When elders spend more time engaged in life during the day, it reduces boredom, minimizes depressive symptoms and typically leads to better quality sleep at night.

Your goal is to determine why your loved one is so fatigued and how you can boost their spirits and energy level. The problems and solutions above may not apply to every senior, so don’t try to solve the problem alone. Communicate with your loved one as best you can and ask for help from physicians, friends and other caregivers. By doing so, you’ll get the support and reassurance you need, and you may find a workable solution.

Source: AgingCare by Carol Bradley Bursack