FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | November 4, 2009
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Releases Top Flu Facts for Caregivers of People with Dementia in Light of Additional Care Issues, Complications
NEW YORK , NY —With the flu continuing to spread nationwide, imagine adding the virus into the mix when someone is already coping with a chronic illness like Alzheimer’s disease. In an effort to help families manage this situation, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) today released tips for caregivers of individuals with dementia who believe they or the people they are caring for have the flu.
The strategies take into consideration a person’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, which can pose additional care issues. AFA posted its top 20 flu facts on the caregiving section of its Web site, www.alzfdn.org.
“Families should minimize possible risk of exposure and prepare for the possibility that their loved ones could contract the virus,” said Richard E. Powers, M.D., chairman of AFA’s Medical Advisory Board and chief of the Bureau of Geriatric Psychiatry, Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.
“Vigilance and early aggressive treatment for the flu are the best plan of action. Good basic home nursing by the family may reduce the adverse impact,” he said.
While people 65 and older—the age group most affected by Alzheimer’s disease—are the least likely to be infected with 2009 H1N1 flu, those who do become infected are at greater risk of having serious complications from their illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .
Of utmost importance, Powers, who authored the fact sheet, said individuals need to think about both types of flu—seasonal and H1N1.
“Families should not become so fixated on the H1N1 that they ignore the seasonal flu. The seasonal flu can be equally dangerous in some circumstances if the person is not vaccinated,” he advised.
Among the strategies, caregivers should:
- Check their own 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.
- Remind the individual to drink fluid on a schedule to assure adequate intake.
- Keep in mind that some cold medicines that contain diphenhydramine or other decongestants may worsen a person's confusion.
- Be prepared that the individual may experience more behavioral problems.
- Not take someone to a day program if the flu is suspected or diagnosed.
In addition, Powers offered this advice to caregivers: “Maintain the same devotion and sense of humor towards this challenge like every other challenge in caring for a person with dementia.”
Caregivers also need to be prepared for other disruptions that may arise—even if they or their loved ones do not get sick themselves. For example, adult day programs or in-home services could be disrupted if professional caregivers get the flu.
Noted Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and chief executive officer: “Family caregivers would be well-served if they have back-up support systems to deal with the practical and emotional ramifications of situations that arise from the flu, as well as other issues that can come up at any time.”
AFA’s social services team is available to discuss behavioral challenges or other situations and to make referrals to local and national resources; for information, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484.
According to the CDC’s latest report, 48 states currently are reporting widespread influenza activity, with the 2009 HINI influenza accounting for almost all of the viruses identified so far. Its Web site, www.cdc.gov, lists specific at-risk groups given priority for the vaccine and the availability of the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines.
It is estimated that as many as 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which causes loss of memory and other intellectual functions. With age the greatest known risk factor, the incidence of the disease doubles every five years between 65 and 95.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of more than 1,200 member organizations nationwide that provide hands-on programs to meet the educational, emotional, practical and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, and their families. AFA’s services include a toll-free hot line, counseling, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine and professional training. For information, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
Contact: Carol Steinberg