Staying Healthy in Common Facilities

Staying healthy while living in a common facility can be a challenge. New England winters can be long and harsh and warding off colds and flu may seem difficult and unrealistic. Of particular concern, the common flu is one of the most highly contagious illnesses, and it’s even easier to spread during the cold months when people spend more time indoors close to one another.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year more than 200,000 people will be hospitalized because of the flu. The common flu is spread by the “respiratory drops” expelled from the mouth when coughing and sneezing. (Not a pretty thought.) If individuals touch something with the flu virus on it – like doorknobs or telephones, stair rails, or counter tops, and then touch their mouths or noses, they can catch the flu.

Influenza is a pretty severe illness, so it is especially important to take all the precautions we can to avoid getting sick in the first place. Individuals who are in an assisted living community or a nursing home are particularly susceptible to the colds and flu that others may contract. Seniors in their seventies and eighties are at higher risk from the flu because people’s immunity to illnesses declines as they age.

Once someone contracts the flu, the only treatment is to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Some doctors prescribe an antiviral medication which can shorten the duration of symptoms.

Doctors recommend that adults, especially those over age 50 get a flu vaccination. An otherwise healthy adult can be “out of commission” by the flu for a full week, but senior citizens are at risk of becoming much sicker. Once they have contracted the influenza virus, they are more at risk of developing complications, like pneumonia or other respiratory disorders.

Ways to Keep Yourself Healthy This Winter

  • Be sure to get a flu shot every year, early in the season if possible.
  • Ask family members to also get flu shots so they don’t become ill and infect you when visiting.
  • Practice good hygiene by washing hands frequently, especially after touching surfaces that are often touched by others, such as stair rails and elevator buttons.
  • Always cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and immediately wash your hands.
  • Stay away from those in the community who are ill.
  • Always dispose of tissues in waste baskets.
  • Be sure the community or nursing home has procedures in place to inform visitors, medical staff, and residents about proper respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette. Signs should be posted and hand cleaning supplies made available throughout the facility. Face masks should be available for visitors with a cough or cold.
  • When you think about it, this advice is essentially what our mothers told us time and again when growing up. Cover your mouth when you cough! And … wash your hands! It seems she was right, as usual.

    Let Us Help

    If you have questions regarding these or other concerns for the Aurum Network, contact us or call 978-282-9551. To locate a community within the Aurum Network, use our facility locator tool.

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