In light of the growing cases of the flu, this week's blog is dedicated to the prevention of illnesses such as the common cold as well as the flu. Older adults are especially prone to illness, and even the common cold can snowball into serious health consequences. Following the tips below will go a long way in keeping you healthy and active.
1. Keep those hands clean! It seems simple enough, yet there are many folks who do not follow through on this quite easy task. When and for how long should I wash my hands, you ask? Washing hands should not just be reserved as a post-toileting task. You should always wash after you have had contact with any object that someone has touched. This includes after you have visited banks, restaurants, grocery stores, laundromats, or even taking in your mail or garbage pails. Be vigilant in washing your hands pre and post cooking preparation. Use warm water (hot water tends to dry out skin) to work the soap into a later, scrubbing between your fingers and under your nails. In answering the question how long you should wash, you are finished when you have sung "Happy Birthday" twice. Thoroughly rinse and dry your hands. Applying a light hand cream will help prevent painful cracks of the skin. Keeping the skin in tact is key in keeping germs from entering the body. Use hand sanitizers sparingly, as these products can cause drying of the skin. **Note: When you are in a public restroom, use the paper towel you dried your hands with to turn off the faucet and turn the doorknob to exit.
2. Get extra rest and drink more fluids - Feeling less energetic, sore, or tired is your body's way of telling you that you need to slow down a bit. Do not feel guilty if you need to sleep in later in the morning, or take a small nap in the afternoon--your body will love you for it! Likewise, stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water (add a slice of lemon to jazz it up a bit), or a nice warm cup of decaffeinated herbal tea.
3. Stick to a well-rounded diet - A diet high in fruits, vegetables, fiber, and lean protein, while low in highly sugared foods and beverages should be followed as much as possible. To help ward off colds, pick foods high in Vitamin C such as broccoli, kale, kiwi, oranges, and cauliflower. **Note: People with kidney issues need to check with their health care providers to determine the correct amount of Vitamin C they should have in their diets.
4. Reduce stress levels - Too much stress makes us tired, weakens our immune systems, and ultimately makes us prone to all sorts of illnesses. Identify methods which will help you to reduce stress levels such as: meditation, pet therapy, engaging in light physical activity (after consulting with your health care provider), listening to peaceful music, or relaxing with a good book or magazine. Individuals that serve as caregivers to older adults are extremely vulnerable to the effects of stress. It is recommended that arrangements for respite care be made to allow caregivers some well-deserved time off so they can recharge their batteries.
5. Avoid sick people - Older adults benefit greatly when they socialize. However, it is not wise to arrange a visit with a friend or family member who has an active cold or illness. Instead, convey your get well wishes with a quick phone call or card. If you are computer savvy, keep in touch with an e-mail, Facebook, or Skype, until you can meet in person again.
6. Vaccinations - Keep up to date with your flu and pneumonia vaccinations. This is especially important for older adults who suffer from heart conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes. Speak to your health care provider to determine the best time for you to receive these vaccinations.
I hope that the above tips will help keep you healthy so you can continue to enjoy all life has to offer!