It’s the time of year when everyone seems to be sick, getting over being sick, or starting to show symptoms of illness. While the winter months are certainly more dangerous due to the increased prevalence of influenza and the common cold, seniors can be at an even more elevated risk of experiencing complications and ending up in the hospital. If you or your loved one live with a chronic respiratory condition, here are a few ways you can stay safe and healthy during this cold and flu season, and beyond.
Common Respiratory Conditions for Seniors
Just as with any body system, our respiratory system changes as we age. While chronic respiratory conditions are not a normal part of aging, small changes to the respiratory system and lung capacity can lead to an increased risk of acquiring a more serious condition. Here are a few conditions that affect the senior population:
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD
About 18% of adults over the age of 65 live with COPD, with smokers having an even higher rate of incidence. COPD can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, chronic coughing, and loss of appetite. The condition progresses over time, though symptoms might be worse during the winter months.
While asthma can affect anyone of any age, seniors can acquire the condition as they get older. People living with asthma might find strong smells and cold air trigger their condition.
The majority of people diagnosed with lung cancer are over the age of 65. Lung cancer can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, and coughing as well as the side effects that come from cancer treatment.
Older adults living with respiratory conditions should take extra care to avoid getting sick during cold and flu season. The common cold or something more serious, like influenza or COVID, could quickly lead to pneumonia or other complications.
Staying Healthy This Winter
If you or your loved one have a respiratory condition, you can adopt these tips so that you can reduce your risk of becoming ill:
- Good hand hygiene is the best way to break the chain of infection, and it’s easy to incorporate into your daily routines. Wash your hands frequently throughout the day, including when you arrive home after being out and about. Encourage visitors to wash their hands when they arrive at the home as well.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and make it your number-one choice for beverages throughout the winter months.
- Eat healthy foods. Your immune system can benefit from the food you eat, so be sure you are eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fiber. If you are preparing food for your loved one, make sure you incorporate fruits and vegetables in every dish.
- Consider vaccines. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about vaccines available that can reduce their risk of getting sick. There currently are vaccines for pneumonia, RSV, and COVID.
- Stay active. Getting up and moving is a key step in building a strong immune response as well as managing chronic respiratory conditions. Find time to move every day.
- Avoid those who are sick. Encourage family members to reschedule their visit with your senior loved one if they are ill or living with someone who is ill. A rescheduled visit is better than passing along germs!
If your loved one is struggling at home while living with their chronic respiratory condition, a little extra help can go a long way in increasing their energy, independence, and confidence. Contact us at CaringGivers to learn more about our home care services and how they can benefit your loved one.