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A Message From Angels

Editor’s Note

Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and nutrition in recent years, we are living longer than ever before. But this increase in life expectancy also brings an increase in the number of diseases, injuries and impairments that affect older adults. With this in mind, we at the local Visiting Angels office in Salem have created this series of articles to keep our older population and their families informed and to offer some practical advice for meeting the challenges faced by seniors and those who care for them.

Flu season is almost here. Although illnesses caused by the influenza virus generally peak between December and February, activity usually begins to increase in October. Many health care providers have already started urging their patients to come in for their flu shots, but ironically, the very place you would go hoping to prevent the illness may be the place where you actually catch it.

With the number of people visiting doctors’ offices and clinics this time of year increasing, the chances that one of those people will leave behind the flu virus also increases. health care-acquired infections can be particularly dangerous to young children and to the very old. Most health care providers do a good job of sanitizing their waiting rooms, but patients already carrying the flu can quickly spread it just by touching a door handle, a magazine or even the pen at the front desk.

According to figures provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 9 million and 35 million people get the flu each year. Of those, 140,000 to 710,000 will be hospitalized by the illness, and 12,000 to 56,000 will die from it. This is why the CDC recommends yearly flu vaccinations for those six months and older. While you should get your primary care physician’s recommendation before getting a flu shot, the vaccine may help keep a person from coming down with the flu. However, cleaning experts still encourage people to avoid “high-touch” surfaces as much as possible.

In a health care setting, a high-touch surface is anything or any area that multiple people are likely to touch during the time of their visit. Some of these surfaces may be harder to avoid than others, areas like the handles on a door or a chair’s armrests, which is why it can also be a good idea to wash your hands often with soap. Hand sanitizers are less effective but can also be used when soap and water is not available. With a little forethought, however, some high-touch surfaces are easy to avoid.

Magazines: While they may offer an easy diversion to pass the time while you’re waiting for the doctor to see you, don’t pick one up. Magazines are almost impossible to disinfect once they’ve been contaminated with germs.

Toys: It’s a good idea to take your own toys to prevent your child from picking up another child’s illness.

Restrooms: Unless cleaned often and thoroughly, restrooms can harbor countless pathogens. If you must use the restroom during your visit, touch as few surfaces as possible and wash your hands thoroughly. Use hand sanitizer if it’s available and if possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet after washing your hands and when turning the handle on the restroom door. That way you don’t pick up the germs of someone who hasn’t washed their hands as well as you have.

Ink pens: Think about how many times you use a pen during a visit to your health care provider, whether it’s filling out the paperwork needed to update your personal information or simply signing in at the front desk to let them know you’ve arrived for your appointment. Now think about how many other people, many of them possibly carrying the influenza virus, have touched that pen before you used it. By bringing your own pen to the appointment, you eliminate the possibility of picking up those germs.

Coffee pots: Many doctors put on a pot of coffee first thing in the morning as a courtesy to their patients in the waiting room, but as the day wears on, the coffee pot handle, as well as the cream and sugar containers, become contaminated as sick patient take advantage of the offer. It’s always a good idea to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately after pouring yourself a cup of coffee while visiting the doctor’s office.

Cleaning professionals also point out that you are less likely to come into contact with the germs that accumulate throughout the day by scheduling your appointment first thing in the morning, since most health care providers perform a deep clean at the end of the day.

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Information provided by Visiting Angels, America’s choice in home care. Visiting Angels non-medical home care services allow people to continue enjoying the independence of their daily routines and familiar surroundings. To set up an appointment for a no-obligation in-home assessment, call 330-332-1203.

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