Caring for Flu in Nursing Homes

flu and old manWhen the flu arrives it spreads quickly and hits hard, particularly for the elderly population. As individuals age, the immune system begins to weaken through the natural process of aging. Unfortunately, the flu season can be deadly if not taken seriously or treated appropriately. 90% of flu related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older. If you have an elderly loved one residing in a nursing home, it’s crucial that you make sure that he or she is being cared for properly, particularly during flu season. The thrue caring for flu in nursing homes is very important. Be involved, don’t assume that your loved one is protected from influenza.

How the Flu is Treated in Nursing Homes

You can’t spend every moment watching over the care of your loved one living in a nursing home facility. You chose a nursing home you felt you could trust and could provide safe and competent care, but it’s important to know how the facility treats a flu outbreak. Due to the relatively small size of many facilities, an aggressive virus like influenza can spread quickly if proper preventative steps are not in place. Your loved one’s nursing home should have a plan of action and take the following steps, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Vaccination: Most influenza vaccines become available in September. Informed consent may be required (here’s where you can be of help). Additionally, all nursing home staff should also receive the vaccine to keep the chance of an influenza outbreak low.
  • Good Hygiene and Healthy Habits: As always, frequent hand washing should be a regular habit in the facility. Good nutrition and sleep should be encouraged. Additionally, all surfaces in the facility should be cleaned and disinfected often to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Know the Signs and Symptoms: All staff should be knowledgeable and able to recognize the difference between cold and influenza signs and symptoms such as fever, body aches, cough, and vomiting.
  • Proper Care During Outbreak: Whether a resident is undergoing testing for a suspected outbreak of influenza or an outbreak is confirmed, staff should follow implemented protocol to prevent the spread of influenza. Such steps include close monitoring, wearing a face mask (including on resident during transport), wearing gloves, keeping resident contained and away from non-infected residents.

If your loved one’s nursing home follows the proper steps before and during an influenza outbreak the incidence of death or complications can be substantially reduced or eliminated. Your loved one may be a victim of nursing home neglect if he or she resides in a place that does not have a plan in place during flu season.


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    • By Anatoliy Simeonov


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