Nobody enjoys catching a cold or coming down with the flu. The symptoms are miserable and an illness usually means that the patient has to miss work or school as a result. But there are steps that you can take to protect yourself naturally from cold and flu germs throughout the year so you can stay healthy and on top of your game.
Eat a healthy diet all year long and if you really want to boost your immune system and stave off those nasty germs, increase your intake of green tea. Green tea contains an antioxidant which reduces the risk of illnesses. Add some fresh garlic to your diet as the sulfur compounds will kill virus germs. Ginger contains antiviral compounds so steep it in tea to help keep flu and cold germs away.
Wash your hands frequently, especially if you are around people who are sniffling and sneezing. Your hands are usually your first point of contact with viruses so make sure you wash them with soap and water foregoing antibacterial washes. They do little to kill virus germs on your hands.
Try to keep your hands away from your face especially your eyes, nose and mouth. If you have germs on your hands and touch these parts of your face, the germs will have a quick entry point. If you are sharing a phone with others, wipe it down frequently. Do not share cups or utensils.
Use a humidifier in your home to keep your nasal passages from drying out. Change the water daily.
Get plenty of exercise throughout the year to boost your immune system which will fight germs naturally. If you feel a cold or flu symptoms creeping up on you, pop some zinc lozenges or use some zinc nasal gel as both have been known to reduce the length of cold and flu.
Doing these things doesn’t guarantee you will miss cold and flu season but they are certain steps to help fight off germs.
Getting a flu shot may not be a high priority when it comes to the tasks on a To-Do list for many individuals. Those aged 65 or older, though should make it a top priority annually. The number of influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths soars in seniors aged 65 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason for this is that our immune systems weaken as we age and this makes seniors more susceptible to the ravages of the flu.
It’s wise to get the flu shot early as many areas of the country can actually run short of the vaccine later in the season. Many people are afraid to get the flu vaccine but here are a few tips that help dispel the myths that surround the reasons some seniors refuse to get a flu shot:
- I’ve already missed the window for getting the shot, or catching the flu. This is untrue because as the CDC explains that it takes about two weeks following the vaccination to develop immunity so even if it gets a little later in the season.
- If I get the flu shot I’ll get the flu. Many people believe that getting a flu shot gives them the flu. The reality is that the virus in the flu shot are “dead” viruses and therefore cannot “give” you the flu. Some individuals do experience redness or swelling where the shot was given and may even experience a low grade fever or slight aches; while this is not typical, it does happen.
- I’ve already had the flu, I can’t get it again. This is not true because the flu that shows up every season is of a different strain. Having the flu doesn’t provide you immunity from catching it again.
- If I get the flu I’ll just get my doctor to prescribe antibiotics. This won’t work because antibiotics target bacteria-driven illnesses but the flu is a viral infection. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections.
- If I avoid the public, I’ll be safe. Many people think that the flu is spread through contact with coughing, sneezing people. This is true, but it’s also true that the virus can survive on surfaces for hours, sometimes days, and the most common way the virus is spread is through surface contact. Frequent hand washing is crucial to protecting yourself from catching the flu.
The flu shot is especially crucial for those seniors that are aging in place. A bout of the flu can mean you’re too ill to drive yourself to a doctor’s visit or stock up on groceries. Side effects from the flu are dehydration and that can lead to dizziness and slips or falls. Talk with your family or caregivers if you start to feel ill and if possible, have your home equipped with a medical alert device
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
as these devices could literally be a lifesaver if you fall ill.
You may feel safe at home, but trip and fall accidents in the home account for the major reasons that individuals aged 65 and older wind up in the emergency room. There are an estimated 2.3 million falls each year in the home and because of this, it’s important – especially if you’re determined to age in place – that your home is as free of these hazards as possible.
Here are seven steps you can take to ensure your home is as safe as it can be and it all beings with looking at the home with an eye toward safety:
- Check the stairs for trip and fall hazards. These hazards could be slippery steps, uneven stair rises, loose railings, loose carpeting or objects left on the stairs.
- Make certain the bathroom is well-lit, install a motion sensor light for night time bathroom trips. Using motion sensor lights in dark hallways or staircases is also a great idea to amp up the safety in the home.
- Pick up household clutter. This clutter could range from stacks of books or magazines to stray shoes or other objects that impede movement from one room or location to another. If you have visitors or grandchildren over to visit, check that all toys and other objects are back in their prior locations.
- Resist the urge to climb ladders or use footstools to reach objects on high shelves. If you have items that you use on a regular basis, move them to lower shelves or cupboards to prevent your having to climb to get them.
- If you have pets in the house, make sure you know where they are because they have a habit of getting underfoot and can inadvertently cause you to trip.
- Get in the habit of carrying a cell phone or cordless phone with you at all times. The reason for this is, if the phone rings and you’re not close to it, you may rush to answer it and not pay attention to items that could cause a trip or fall. If you live alone or have health or mobility problems, it’s wise to wear your medical alert device, no matter where you are in the house or when you’re out in the yard. Being able to push a button to summon help in the event of a medical emergency is much easier and more quickly accomplished than fumbling with a telephone.
- The footwear you don when you get up in the morning also has an impact on your overall safety. Wearing socks or other footwear that doesn’t provide a non skid surface is dangerous, especially if you have hardwood or linoleum floors. Conversely, don’t want to wear shoes with thick, rigid soles as that will give you too firm a “grip” on the floor and could lead to a trip or fall.
As you age, you need to look at your home with an eye toward making changes that will keep you safe and that may mean asking your family and friends for help and advice on upgrades to the home or simply a thorough clean up. Don’t forget to add safety amenities such as grab bars in the showers or a bathtub that allows you to simply open a door and step in rather than stepping over a ledge, if that isn’t an option you want to make certain the tub floor has not slip decals. Adapting your home to your changing needs and level of mobility and using an in home medical alert device could extend the amount of time you can age in place.
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Having a conversation with your aging parents about plans for their estate, whether
they’ve prepared a will and their plans for healthcare proxies and other “end of life” duties is not an easy one to have, but it is necessary.
There are at least five items you want to address with the seniors in your life and it’s better to have the discussions now so you’re not making major life decisions in the midst of a crisis.
Here are key items and tasks to take into consideration:
- If your parents have IRA’s or money in other accounts, who do they have designated as beneficiaries? If no decisions are made on the funds in these accounts, they will be divided up between those that listed on the beneficiary designation form; this means there should be both primary and alternative beneficiaries. It is not wise to name your estate as the beneficiary as this could negatively impact your heirs when it comes to income tax issues.
- How up-to-date are their wills and trusts? If your parents made a will years ago, there is a chance that items have changed and it should be reviewed with your lawyer and revamped if necessary.
- Is there a Roth IRA that needs to be converted? What this means is that if they want to leave money from a retirement asset to the heirs, the funds can be allocated to a better tax advantage for both your estate or surviving spouse and to your heirs. Talking with your accountant is the best way to determine the conversions appropriate for your particular financial situation.
- Is there a durable power of attorney in place? Don’t get confused with a health-care proxy and a power of attorney – they are two separate entities and should both be in place. The health care proxy authorizes the person named to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated; a durable power of attorney means you are designating a family member(s) to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters. This means they could access your bank accounts to pay bills and otherwise oversee your financial matters.
- If your parents moved from a different state in order to move in with you and your family, you need to make certain that all financial obligations in their prior home state have been addressed. This could also mean rewriting a will in their new home state and perhaps having to deal with income taxes in two states until the former state’s obligations have been cleared.
Spend some time as a family working out these details and make certain the seniors in your life are involved so they don’t feel as though they are being left out of the loop on these very important financial matters.
As we age, the amount of medication and the frequency with which we must take them increases. This can become an issue if your parents are becoming forgetful or if they’re simply overwhelmed with the amount of medications they must take. Determining a schedule for taking the medication – whether it needs to be taken in the morning or evening, with or without food – can become daunting and in some cases rather than figure it out, your parents may simply stop taking them or take them incorrectly. Taking the medications incorrectly or “doubling them up” rather than taking one pill every twelve hours, for example, could lead to dangerous drug interactions or simply cause the medication to not perform the task for which it was prescribed.
Today’s advances in medication means that we can live longer lives and in better health than in decades past. When you consider that today’s medications can not only treat but cure diseases that were unable to be treated in the past and you can see the myriad benefits that prescriptions provide. For your aging parents though, the prescriptions that are being given to help cure or treat an illness can also lead to confusion.
As a caregiver, it may become your task to make certain the medications are being taken at the appropriate times and in the appropriate manner to help prevent any medication related issues. It’s been shown that close to one quarter of nursing home admissions are due in part to the elderly adult’s inability to take his or her medication correctly.
Caregivers that are dealing with parents with Alzheimer’s disease are heavily involved in parceling out medications, but it may be a good idea for caregivers of all elderly parents to take control of the medication and its schedule. Using pill reminder boxes is a great way to help make it easier for your parents to take the medications at the correct times throughout the day.
To truly get a handle on the medications that your parent is taking it might be best to go with them to a doctor’s visit and find out for certain what the current list of medications are. The next stop should be to the pharmacist and, armed with the medication list, you can ask him or her the best way to take the medications, after that you can devise a plan for the medication for your aging relatives. Using one pharmacy for all prescriptions is the best way to avoid any potentially harmful interactions.
Some of the issues that may prevent your aging relatives from taking medications properly include:
- Dexterity issues. If there are no children or grandchildren in the home, consider using non childproof bottles.
- They simply may not remember to take the medications. This could be a matter of setting a timer, putting the pill bottles by the dinner table, any methods you can device that can help them remember to take the medicine.
- If they have vision problems, reading the labels on the bottles can lead to confusion and their not taking the medicine. Invest in a magnifying glass or use pill reminder containers.
- If your parent is having a hard time hearing the doctor or pharmacist, designate a family member to go to appointments with them and keep track of doctor’s orders.
- Do an annual review of the medications your parents are taking and determine whether they are still necessary (ask the doctor before stopping any medications) Also, if your parent has lost or gained a significant amount of weight the dosages may need to be adjusted, ask about this during the annual medicine review.
- Remember to tell their doctor about any over the counter medications your elderly relatives are taking.
It may seem, at times, that the medications your aging relatives take are a double-edged sword, but managed properly may allow them to live a longer, healthier, more vibrant life.
Read this new study by Pew Research, published at TheTakeaway.org website. If you haven’t shown a caregiver some love recently, do something special for them! When you read these stats, you begin to realize how hard caregiving really is.
“Examining the Lives of America’s Caregivers”
Caregiving is a vast responsibility that a growing proportion of the population is faced with. A new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center reveals that almost four in 10 or 39 percent of U.S. adults are caring for an adult or child with significant health issues, compared to a 30 percent of adults in 2010.
Data shows that unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the United States, and the aging population of those aged 65-years-old and older will more than double between the years 2000 and 2030, increasing to 71.5 million from 35.1 million in 2000.
With regards to specific demographics, 14 percent of family caregivers care for a special needs child with an estimated 16.8 million caring for special needs children under 18 years old. About 55 percent of these caregivers are caring for their own children, according to a report from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.
“Visiting Angels, a home care company serving southern Delaware, and LifeFone, a leading national provider of personal emergency response systems, have teamed up to help educate the community about the importance of using a medical alert system.” http://ow.ly/nmvBX
Recent heat waves pose as much of a health risk for your aging parents as do winter storms or hurricanes. It is not unheard of for people of all ages to succumb to extreme heat. There are many ways to keep yourself, and the elderly people in your life, safe and protected during a heat wave.
What are the dangers of a heat wave?
Heat waves can be dangerous for anyone of any age, but they are more dangerous for the elderly, babies and young children. As you age, your body is less able to regulate its temperature and the elderly may be more impacted by the effects of the heat than they realize. As the body’s temperature control centers are less sensitive, they may not “initiate the correct cooling mechanisms within the body when it becomes overheated” and this can lead to heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Medications can also lead to insensitivity to heat fluctuations.
Here are a few tips on how to cool off when the thermometer rises:
- Stay out of the sun.
- Close the curtains in the home to prevent the sun from heating up the interior.
- Run the air conditioner or fans throughout the house. Open windows slightly to create a cross breeze.
- Stay indoors and don’t plan on walking or exercising out of doors until the sun goes down and the temperatures drop.
- Dress in light colored and lightweight clothing.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Take a cool shower or place cool water compresses on your body to help cool it down.
Taking measures to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke is very important and can mean the difference between early intervention and a serious medical concern.