Alzheimer's Foundation of America


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Education and Care

Flu Facts
Suggestions to Caregivers Who Believe They Might Have the Flu or Persons with Dementia Who Might Have the Flu

  1. Watch for signs of the flu, especially evidence of fever, cough, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

  2. People need two flu vaccinations this year--one for seasonal flu and one for H1N1 swine flu.

  3. Persons with chronic health problems like diabetes or lung disease should take the shot rather than the nasal spray vaccine for the H1N1 vaccination.

  4. Check your temperature and the temperature of the person with dementia on a regular basis but remember that persons with dementia may have less fever rise than other individuals.

  5. Contact your primary care doctor if you think you or the individiual with dementia has the flu.

  6. Monitor the amount of food and fluids the person you are caring for consumes.

  7. Wear a mask and try to keep a mask on the person with dementia if either of you get the flu.

  8. If you become sick, try to get someone else to provide care until your fever is gone for 24 hours after you stop taking fever medicine.

  9. Wash your hands often and avoid spreading the infection as best as possible.

  10. Monitor how often the person with dementia drinks fluid and urinates to avoid dehydration.

  11. Remind the  individual with dementia to drink fluid on a schedule to assure adequate oral fluid intake.

  12. Use Tylenol or aspirin if cleared by your doctor. Remember that the person you are caring for may forget to ask for the medication.

  13. Always follow the instructions on the fever medicine bottle and instructions provided by your doctor.

  14. Be prepared that the individual with dementia may experience more behavioral problems during the flu; consider contacting your family network to enlist support.

  15. Some cold medicines that contain diphenhydramine or other decongestants may worsen a person's confusion.

  16. Antibiotics like penicillin do not work for the flu. Consult your doctor about a Tamiflu prescription, which may reduce the severity of the flu symptoms.

  17. Do not take someone to a day program if you think that the person has the flu.

  18. Watch for other health problems, especially in people with diabetes, asthma, chronic lung disease or obstructive pulmonary disease, or individuals receiving immune suppressing drugs such as steroids.

  19. Healthy older persons are often sick for about one week and suffer chronic fatigue that may last for several weeks. Develop a caregiver backup plan for yourself in the event that you also become ill.

  20. Maintain the same devotion and sense of humor towards this challenge like you have towards every other challenge in caring for a person with dementia.

These educational suggestions should be discussed and approved by your primary care doctor.

©Richard E. Powers, M.D.

For more information, connect with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s licensed social workers. Click here or call 866.232.8484. Real People. Real Care.