As we age, our immune systems become taxed much more quickly than when we were young. Also, as we age, we are often surrounded by grandchildren and as any parent can tell you, children bring with them germs and illnesses that they may be able to easily fight off, but may prove to be problematic for an aging loved one.
If you’ve made the decision to move your aging parents into the family home, be aware that they will be exposed to many more germs and viruses than they would if they were aging in place. Also, if your children are school age, they will also bring home more germs than if they were younger than school age. What can you do to make certain your elderly relatives don’t get ill? There are several steps that can be taken and it doesn’t mean you will have to separate everyone until an illness passes.
Here are some steps to take to keep your aging relatives healthy while dealing with sick children:
- The importance of hand washing cannot be minimized, especially when there are elderly in the house. The flu, fevers, sore throats, coughs and colds are germ-borne but can be minimized by washing the germs away. Make certain your elderly parents wash their hands after they’re in contact with your children and make certain your children wash their hands before they give Grandma a hug.
- Creating a barrier between a sick child and an elderly relative can be as simple as slipping on a bathrobe or sweater. If your relatives will be caring for your child, have them get in the habit of donning an additional layer of clothing and then taking it off when they’re done.
- Having tissues on hand is critical. If your child is sick and you have elderly parents in the home, consider having separate boxes of tissues for each. Also, if your child is old enough, have him wipe his own nose as a way to limit your relatives’ exposure to germs.
- Depending on the type of illness your children have, your relatives may want to wear a mask if they’re going to be in the same room. The level of your parent’s health and their ability to fight off an illness is a major consideration if you feel you need to take this step. Disposable masks are available at all pharmacies and can greatly limit the risk of exposure to germs and viruses. Be aware, though that the masks may be frightening to your younger children.
- Limited exposure to germs may help to build up an immunity, but as a caregiver, you need to keep everyone as healthy as possible especially because your senior relative will have a harder time fighting off a “bug.”
It is easy to co-exist with both your growing family and your aging relatives, even in the face of seasonal illnesses, you just need to have a plan in place.