Why You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine Even During Hospice
Flu season is in full swing, typically beginning in the fall and continuing through spring, with National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) taking place this past December 2 through 8. You may know that the best way to prevent getting the flu is to get the flu shot or flu vaccine. However, if you have a loved one in hospice, you may be uncertain about whether they should get it. You may worry that the vaccine may actually give your loved one the flu due to their weakened immune system. Maybe you assume they don’t need one since they are already sick. Fact of the matter is, hospice patients need flu vaccines more than any other group, according to VeryWell. So, if you have a loved one in hospice in San Mateo or elsewhere, be sure to get them a flu shot this season. Here’s why.
The following groups of people should get annual flu shots:
- Children between six months and 18 years of age
- Adults over the age of 50
- Anyone who lives in a long-term care facility, such as a rehab facility, nursing home or assisted-living facility
- Anyone who has a weakened immune system
- Those in frequent contact with the general public, such as teachers, police officers and health care workers
- Pregnant women
- Anyone suffering from a chronic medical condition
- Caregivers, family members and friends of those who are at a high risk for the flu
Because hospice care patients are often over the age of 50 and have chronic medical conditions and weak immune systems, they are at a much higher risk for coming down with the flu. This sickness ranges from mild to severe and can be life-threatening. If an already-weakened immune system were to get hit with the flu virus, it likely wouldn’t be able to effectively fight the illness. This is why it’s vital for hospice patients and their caregivers to get the seasonal flu vaccine.
Flu Vaccine Benefits
There are many benefits of flu vaccination, according to the CDC. It can:
- Keep you from getting sick with the flu
- Reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalization for children, working-age adults, and older adults
- Prevent additional sickness in those with chronic health conditions
- Protect women during and after pregnancy
- Save the lives of children
- Reduce the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still fall sick
As a caregiver tending to your loved one in hospice, it’s especially important for you to get the flu vaccine. This will protect people around you, especially those who are more vulnerable to illness, such as the elderly, babies, toddlers, and those with chronic health conditions. You are also reducing your own chances of getting the flu, particularly if you are visiting a hospice care facility on a daily basis and coming into contact with many people, from other patients to staff to visitors.
Be on the lookout for the symptoms of flu. According to the Mayo Clinic, those are:
- Fever over 100.4 F
- Aching muscles
- Sore throat
- Dry, persistent cough
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nasal congestion
If you notice any of these symptoms in your loved one, bring it to the attention of staff members. Chances are, the hospice care team will be on top of this issue, especially in the winter, and will inform you of anything concerning. You should automatically be asked if you would like your loved one to have a flu shot. If you are not, don’t hesitate to bring it up.
Control the Spread of Infection
In addition to the flu vaccine, there are other ways to reduce the spread of infection, such as by:
- Washing your hands. Thorough, frequent hand washing is the best way to keep common infections at bay. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if you can’t get to a bathroom. Encourage everyone in the family and anyone who visits your loved one to first wash their hands before coming in the room.
- Containing coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Use a tissue or your inner elbow rather than your hands.
- Avoiding crowds. The flu spreads very quickly in public places, so avoid malls, daycares, schools, office buildings, and public transportation facilities. If you feel sick and have a fever, stay home for 24 hours after your fever breaks so you don’t infect others.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
To learn more about the flu vaccine for hospice patients, contact us at 888-978-1306. Our compassionate hospice services can be delivered in a variety of settings, from private homes and nursing homes to assisted living facilities and hospitals. Due to the public nature of many of these places and the contact with others that everyone encounters, we recommend that patients, healthcare workers and caregivers get the flu vaccine.