The news cycle is full of warnings about the flu and recommendations to protect yourself by being immunized. It is especially important for those caring for loved ones with chronic illnesses to avoid the flu virus. Caregivers may themselves experience compromised immune systems due to lack of rest and stress. If they contract the flu, they may not be able to care for their loved one or will risk exposing them to the virus.

Flu vaccine is an important first line protection. However, hygiene is also a critical preventative. Frequent and thorough handwashing is essential to preventing illness. Avoid kissing, handshakes and sharing drinks or food with those who are infected. Also avoid touching surfaces including sinks, countertops and doorknobs that may have been contaminated by someone with the virus. Utensils, dishes, clothing, towels and other items may also be contaminated and can indirectly spread infection.

Caregivers are their loved ones should be attuned to flu symptoms that indicate emergency medical care may be needed. According to the Centers for Disease Control,  the following symptoms merit emergency attention:

  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe vomiting
  • Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
  • High fever that persists for more than three days
  • Flu symptoms that improve but then return with severe cough and fever

Hospice care can provide respite care for patients if a caregiver is ill and unable to provide care for their loved one. It is one of the important ways hospice care helps support caregivers while also caring for patients. For additional information about caregiver support and hospice services click here.