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placeholder February 18, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
Health care agency helps clients beat the flu

Clients of Visiting Angels, a company that provides in-home care, are receiving something extra from their caregivers during this flu season.

During their scheduled visits, caregivers are bringing baskets — dubbed "Fight The Flu Kits" — to the clients. The baskets contain items that can help reduce the risk of picking up germs at home and in public.

"This flu can be deadly for seniors because they can develop pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses, so families have to be especially vigilant with their elderly loved ones," said Larry Meigs, president and CEO of Visiting Angels, which has more than 440 agencies throughout the United States.

"Our flu kits help seniors protect themselves from the flu. Our caregivers run errands so seniors don't go out and get exposed to the virus especially in high exposure areas such as the grocery store or the mall. Plus, we help sanitize the seniors' homes to keep them as germ-free as possible. Our kits and caregivers are especially helpful for people who don't live near their elderly loved ones and want someone to protect their seniors and watch over them if they get sick and need help recovering."

Most items in the kits, including hand-sanitizer wipes, paper towels and small boxes of orange juice, can be purchased in retail stores.

"Often seniors don't think of themselves as elderly, ignore health warnings and resent loved ones 'telling them what to do,'" Meigs said. "Our caregivers can help nudge a senior to get protection from the flu and to get the help they need if they get the virus."

Chris Wheaton, Visiting Angels director with offices in Fremont and Sunnyvale, said the kits, which cost just under $30, have been well received. "Most of the response so far has been from family members thanking us for doing that," Wheaton said.

In addition to providing the kits, Wheaton said some of the clients are using their services to sanitize homes and running errands for the seniors. Keeping people at risk for the flu out of pharmacy lines can be especially helpful, he said.

Courtesy photo

Fighting the flu

"Fight The Flu Kits" by Visiting Angels include the following items; most are available in stores:

• Paper towels. Encourage seniors to use paper towels in the bathroom instead of hand towels, which can harbor germs.

• The Medisim TempleTouch thermometer. If seniors have a fever higher than 102 degrees, that could indicate they have the flu.

• Vitamin C or little boxes of orange juice help build seniors' weaker immune systems.

• Pocket-size hand sanitizer, with aloe. Keeps seniors' skin germ-free without drying out their sensitive skin.

• Pens. Seniors should always have their own writing instrument handy; pens shared in public areas carry a ton of germs.

• Lysol spray. Remind seniors to spray doorknobs, handles and light switches at least once a week. Viruses can live up to 48 hours on plastic and stainless steel surfaces.

• Hand soap. Recent studies show plain soap and water works just as well, if not better, than antibacterial soaps.

• Hand sanitizer wipes. These are handy to have on-the-go, whether to clean hands or public surfaces. Don't rely on just baby wipes because they do not contain the proper ingredients to kill viruses and germs.

Germy places to avoid

• Public restrooms — especially the sink because bacteria can survive there the longest.

• The mall — especially food court tables — the rags used to "clean" can spread harmful bacteria.

• Grocery stores — this is where many people go when they are sick — also a study showed 70 percent to 80 percent of grocery cart handles tested nationwide had dangerous E. coli bacteria.

• Restaurants — one of the dirtiest areas is the tabletop due to the "clean" rag used to wipe them down.

• Libraries — some of the dirtiest areas are the books, computers and table tops, just from the many people who touch them each day.

Source: Visiting Angels Home Care

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