The Spread of the Flu in Senior Communities

Phil Mitchell MD, MS
Medically reviewed by Phil Mitchell MD, MSSeptember 29th, 2020
Senior Community

It’s a widely known fact that adults over the age of 65 are at a much higher risk for serious complications related to the flu. If just one person in a senior community gets sick, the flu can rapidly spread through the whole group, causing untold illnesses and even deaths. There are ways to protect yourself and your friends and neighbors to keep an outbreak from becoming critical.

While it’s not possible to know the number of flu-related deaths in the U.S., it’s estimated that between 12,000 and 56,000 people have died annually from complications related to influenza. Additionally, more than 600,000 people sought treatment for the flu in emergency rooms last flu season, despite the CDC advising against it.



CDC recommends that all seniors get vaccinated each year, by the end of October if possible. Choose either the high-dose vaccine, specially formulated for those over 65, or the adjuvanted vaccine. Avoid the nasal spray vaccine, intradermal shot, or jet injector, as these are not recommended for seniors.

The pneumococcal vaccine is another important and related vaccine recommended for seniors. It will not protect against the flu itself, but may keep you from developing some of the more severe flu-related complications such as pneumonia, meningitis, and other infections. Since a good number of deaths related to flu result from pneumonia, this is a powerful and important step toward flu season health.


In addition to the vaccinations, there are practical, every day ways to help prevent illness and keep from spreading germs. The first thing to remember that a lack of sleep or poor diet can lead to a compromised immune system. Taking care of yourself every day is the first and most important step in maintaining health.

Next, be sure to wash your hands regularly, with soap and warm water. Often the flu is spread through the things we touch, so this simple act can make a big difference. Additionally, try not to touch your face any more than necessary, and only after washing your hands well. This way, if you do come into contact with the germs, you won’t spread it to the vulnerable mucus membranes in your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Finally, if you do contract the illness, avoid spreading it to other seniors in your community by isolating yourself as much as possible until you are no longer contagious. If you do have to leave your home or interact with others, it’s helpful to wear a medical mask so that you won’t accidentally pass on the bug to those you encounter.

A House Call for Diagnosis and Treatment

If you do become ill, it’s best to seek treatment early on. The medications to help alleviate the symptoms of the flu are best when started within 48 hours of the onset of your symptoms. Delays in diagnosis and treatment may result in prolonging the symptoms and complications of the flu.

However, many seniors don’t drive, and those that do may not feel safe behind the wheel when in the grips of illness. Additionally, going out to the ER risks exposing yourself to further contagions and exposing others to your germs. So what’s a person to do?


DispatchHealth Traveling Flu Crew is an excellent solution. If you are feeling flu-like symptoms, you can call DispatchHealth’s flu hotline (1-888-908-0553) to discuss your symptoms over the phone and request care. In less than two hours two qualified medical professionals, also known as the season’s “Traveling Flu Crew” are sent to your doorstep with all of the equipment and tools needed to treat complex cases. Each medical team consists of either a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, along with a DispatchHealth medical technician (DHMT) and also an on-call physician. Because they’re not rushed in an office setting, they have the time to really discuss your symptoms and medical history, as well as answer any questions you may have. And to provide a seamless care experience, immediately after the visit and with patient consent, providers share a detailed report to each patient’s living community, home health agency and/or primary care physician.

Best of all, a house call from DispatchHealth costs much less than a trip to the local emergency department. They’re an affordable alternative for seniors on a fixed income, and they even take Medicare and most other insurance plans.

In fact, the medical cost for a DispatchHealth visit is nearly one-tenth of the medical cost for an ER visit. On average, patients pay between $5–$50 depending on their specific insurance plan. If patients are uninsured, DispatchHealth accepts a flat fee of $375, which includes any medications administered and lab tests during the visit, as well as procedures performed.

So the next time you feel flu-like symptoms, or need immediate care for other common to complex illnesses and injuries, stay cozy on the couch and get medical care delivered.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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