When the Caregiver, YOU, gets the Flu!

So, I’ve been sick with the flu.  It absolutely stinks…for me and for those who are counting on me to care for them!  It’s certainly a problem.

When the Flu Hits

How many of you are finding yourselves in the same lovely situation as me?  I have the flu.  I’m caring for someone in their 90’s and another in their  80’s.  They are at high risk for getting much sicker if they should catch the flu, and that has me very worried.  Especially, when the person they could be exposed to is me!  I couldn’t live with myself if they got extremely sick and, yet, they are depending on me to be there to help them.

What’s a Family Caregiver to Do?

I want to share a handful of tips and rules to follow, when you, the caregiver, comes down with the flu.  These things might seem like basics, thinking you’ve heard them 1,000 times before.  But, knowing that the elderly and those who are already weakened by chronic illnesses could potentially die from complications of the flu, I think it’s important to lay them out there again as a reminder.  Oh, and I’ve added a few new ideas that may be helpful to you.

Tips for the Family Caregiver – Preventing the Spread of Your Flu to the Ones for Whom You are Caring

  • Stay Away — First, if you can, find someone else who’s healthy to fill in for you while you are sick.  This is the best prevention possible.  The CDC is reporting flu of epidemic proportions across the country, and is telling everyone to stay at home and do not go near others until you’ve been without a fever for 24 hours without the aid of having taken medications to lower your fever. 
  • They Live with Me/I Live with Them —  this is a much tougher situation, but it can be managed.
    • Make Your Own Separate “Sick Room” – if you can, isolate yourself to a bedroom and bathroom that only YOU use.  Do not share this space with anyone healthy.  Use separate towels, drinking glasses and keep everything you touch away from the healthy ones.
    • Keep the Germs to Yourself –  Tips Below:
      • Dispose of any tissues you use in your separate area, in a garbage can there.
      • Use an alcohol based hand sanitizer before and after you touch any common objects in a shared area
      • Wear a disposable face mask when you leave your “sick room”.
      • Germs spread the closer you are near someone.  The CDC recommends staying at least 6 feet away from others who are healthy, to avoid them catching your germs.
      • Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing.  If you use tissues, dispose of them in your room.  If you cover your nose/mouth with your hands, immediately sanitize them.  And, if you cough or sneeze into your arm and shirt sleeve, be sure to remove that shirt and put on a clean one before you go out of your room to care for anyone else.
      • Clean any surface you touch, using a cleaner that kills germs.  I’ve even put latex gloves on to avoid my hands touching and spreading germs.  Keep a box in your room.  Dispose of your gloves in your separate “sick room”.
      • After you eat, immediately place your dishes in the dishwasher.  Don’t leave them out for others to touch.  If you don’t have a dishwasher, then wash them right away with warm water and soap.
      • Try, try, try to NOT touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when you are around others.  This is where you can really do some damage, by touching these areas that contain the germs you don’t want to spread.
      • Monitor your fever regularly using a thermometer.  Do not come into close contact with others and consider yourself “well” until you’ve been without a fever for at least 24 hours, after you last took any medication to lower your fever.
    • Take Care of YOU!  — that means to rest, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, treat your cough, sore throat and fever with over-the-counter medications from the store.  And, if the fever gets higher and your cough gets worse, get to your doctor.  You may need something stronger to knock out the virus and prevent it from becoming much more serious.

Is it Getting Worse?  Could it be Spiraling into an Urgent or Emergency Situation?

I want to share the “Warning Signs” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC (below).

Know the emergency warning signs.

There are “emergency warning signs” that should signal anyone to seek medical care urgently. Seek care if the sick person has ANY of the signs below.

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

• Sudden dizziness

• Confusion

• Severe or persistent vomiting

• Flu–like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

I hope that these tips and information are helpful to you.  Most importantly, I pray that you are not one of the unlucky ones who’s come down with the flu, like I did.  But, if you have, know that you can manage through this and avoid spreading your germs, if you follow these simple rules.

Take care and be well!

 

2 Replies to “When the Caregiver, YOU, gets the Flu!”

  1. Went through something similar in December and knew the right things to do. I was luckily not blowing, sneezing but had bronchitis. The hard part is not only when you are a caregiver, but suddenly realize the “friends” you have are not close by or able to help or don’t offer. I was easily able to self isolate, and the elders were able to fend for themselves…but I needed someone to get stuff for ME. I lost my appetite and was so weak…my friend did go to the store for me…but let’s just say she failed in some ways in the mission. ANd she didn’t especially care LOL. My lesson learned is that next time I won’t fool around and will just call a shopping service. It would be worth it.
    I indulged in lots of prepared foods from the grocery, and figured my eating a tablespoon of anything was better than nothing at all. It really opened my eyes to what we need in the future, and as someone who works at an office on aging, I try to make that point.

    1. Robin, you put it so very well. And, given your role at an office on aging, I know you are going to help many with the lessons from this situation. Thanks so much for sharing.

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