It may still be warm enough for a few more summer picnics, but now is the ideal time for senior living communities to start planning educational outreach on the upcoming influenza season. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) kicked off its annual Flu + You campaign this week, offering updated educational materials and new technology for teaching seniors and their families about the risks associated with the flu and ways to protect older adults from infection.
The Flu + You website offers a toolkit for health professionals, including downloadable handouts, posters and brochures to post within the long-term care community or give to staff, residents and visitors.
The materials, which are updated each year, offer explanations of vaccination options, infographics, take-home leaflets and an FAQ section about the flu and vaccinations. Most resources are available in English and Spanish.
High-traffic areas such as dining rooms and lobbies are prime spots for brochures that provide education and promote influenza awareness. Placing educational posters in bathrooms also can help remind residents, staff and visitors of the importance of hand hygiene during flu season.
This year, the NCOA has added a web tool that senior living communities can add to their online media, allowing online visitors easy access to the most current information on the Flu + You site. The widget can be placed on a web page or electronic newsletter or posted on Twitter or Facebook.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the annual flu vaccine for people aged more than 65 years, because seniors are more susceptible to complications and hospitalizations from the flu. Advanced age and chronic diseases both contribute to weakened immune systems. The CDC estimates that 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations and 90 percent of flu-related deaths are among people aged 65 or more years.
People should get vaccinated as soon as the vaccines become available in case the flu activity begins early, the NCOA urges. The U.S. flu season tends to begin in late fall and peak in January or February, according to the CDC. The CDC reports on flu activity and updates its maps on a weekly basis.