ONE simple act of love for our ageing parents is to help prevent them from catching the flu or influenza.
Influenza is a potentially devastating disease capable of robbing our ageing parents of their freedom and causing much physical suffering, emotional stress, and financial strain both to them and us.
A runny nose, sore throat, body ache and fever are common symptoms of the flu. Yet, many people think they have a cold, instead.
This confusion could prove deadly to our parents. The cold is generally harmless but the flu can kill.
Institute of Respiratory Medicine director Dr Nurhayati Mohd Marzuki said the lungs and immune system weaken with age, making it harder for older people to fight infections, like the flu.
“As a result, they are likely to be hospitalised for severe flu, and are also at high risk of developing life-threatening complications that may damage the lungs, heart, muscles, and nervous system.”
Dr Nurhayati said there was more bad news for older people, especially the millions of Malaysians who are living with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.
“Influenza can worsen chronic diseases even when those conditions are well controlled. Many people will also be shocked to know that the flu can trigger a stroke, heart attack, diabetic emergencies, and respiratory failure.
“It can be difficult to recognise influenza in elderly patients. Some may present atypical (uncommon) signs and symptoms. Chronic diseases or some other viral respiratory tract infection may also lead doctors to miss the presence of influenza, ” she said.
According to Dr Tan Maw Pin, a professor in geriatric medicine, having them vaccinated to prevent the potentially disabling consequences of catching the flu is of vital importance.
However, she feels that the matter needs to be approached sensitively.
“For starters, many older adults do not realise the importance of flu vaccination for themselves; they think that vaccination is only for children. Many are also not convinced about its safety and effectiveness.
Instead, they prefer to listen to their friends who spread “fake news”.
This is why some people wrongly believe the vaccine may give them the flu, while others think the vaccine cannot effectively protect them. These are untrue.
“Then, there is also the matter of having to pay for flu vaccination. Some older people are able and happy to do so. However, there are many who would rather not spend on it, especially if money is tight.
“As caring children, let’s take the initiative and offer to give our parents the flu shot they need every year, ” she said.
“Loving and protecting our parents starts by giving them information in a way that is acceptable to them in a manner that they can understand.
“Then, tell them that their act of love would be to accept the flu vaccine so that they can remain healthy, independent, and keep contributing to society by imparting their wisdom and experience, ” added Dr Tan.
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