Older adults over the age of 65 are considered at “high-risk” and more vulnerable to the influenza virus. As we age, the immune system weakens, making a seemingly  ”routine” case of seasonal influenza a potential threat to seniors.

According to the CDC, Seniors account for 90% flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur with. The oldest old, or those over age 84, have the highest risk of dying of seasonal flu complications, with those over age 74 close behind. For seniors, the chance of death from flu surpasses the risk of dying in a car accident.

Those with multiple chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, are at even greater risk for flu-related complications. Adults with diabetes who develop the flu are three times more likely to die from the influenza virus.

Complications of Flu in Older Adults

What flu-related complications should seniors and caregivers watch for? Serious complications from influenza in older adults may include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Dehydration
  • Worsening of pre-existing chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, emphysema, congestive heart failure (CHF)
  • Severe aches and pains
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your physician immediately.

Flu Prevention for Seniors

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists people over the age of 50 as one of several groups recommended for an annual seasonal flu shot. Caregivers should also receive a vaccine due to the likelihood of transmitting or contracting when caring for an elderly person.

Since older adults are vulnerable to rapid changes in clinical status during flu season, be sure to keep close watch for abnormal patterns in behaviors or conditions that arise. Tracking a person’s eating or sleeping patterns, as well as special events such as shortness of breath can help caregivers recognize early signs of flu-related complication like pneumonia, enabling early intervention and better care.