The elderly are particularly susceptible to flu symptoms. The elderly population who live in nursing homes is also particularly susceptible to contracting the virus. Unfortunately, the 2.5 million people living in 18,000 nursing homes, there is no vaccine or other medicine proven to prevent the flu. Moreover, the addition of new medication or vaccine can be harmful to an already weakened population.
Researchers at Arizona State University have determined the best way to prevent the flu is to prevent the introduction of the flu virus into the nursing home or long-term care facility. Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) are what the study suggests as the best preventative tools. In order to maximize the effectiveness of the NPI’s, the nursing home must have a prevention program in place before any resident contracts the flu.
The study suggests the following NPI’s are useful in flu prevention:
- Screening visitors and staff who leave and return to the facility. Did they come into contact with any sick people?
- Restricting visitors. If a visitor has come in contact with a sick person, they may be asked to make a telephone call or communicate through email
- Modified work schedules for employee. Studies have found that employees who spend time away from the facility may have less likelihood transferring disease
- Washing hands and using protective masks.
Lead study author, Miriam Nuno, states:
Facilities must eliminate disincentives. For example, employees sick themselves with flu or forced to care for afflicted family members must be paid for time away. A single act of non-cooperation can bring down and entire facility. In return, those employees who recover become immune, become fully available for further service and no longer represent a threat for introducing the virus.
As with all treatment provided in nursing homes, it is up to the nursing home owners and administrators to create guidelines for the benefit of the residents. It is ultimately the responsibility of each nursing home employee to implement the guidelines. If either the administrators or employees do not follow the guidelines, the nursing home residents will be adversely affected.