Should I get a flu shot? Cold and flu season has just begun, so it’s not too late to get your flu shot to avoid a serious illness this year. Many people do not think ahead about getting the flu shot until they hear of people who come down with the flu.
If you get your shot early, you’ll have a high degree of confidence that you won’t be one of them.
What is the flu?
The flu is not just a “bad cold.” There are many forms of the influenza virus, but all produce more serious symptoms than those of the common cold.
A cold usually starts with a sore throat, followed by upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. It comes on gradually and you may feel like you’re “coming down with something.” Cold symptoms make you feel under the weather, but rarely include aches and pains (besides a headache) and usually, there is no fever at all. Mild symptoms tend to be mostly gone within a week.
Influenza (flu), however, comes on suddenly, usually with little or no warning. You ache all over, have a splitting headache, high fever, upper respiratory symptoms, and exhaustion. You may also experience GI issues, such as diarrhea or vomiting. The flu is nasty.
What makes the flu particularly dangerous is the possibility of complications and secondary infections. In the 2018-2019 flu season, there were an estimated 29,000,000 symptomatic cases of flu, with 380,000 hospitalizations and 28,000 deaths due to influenza (per CDC).
The most common complications include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, ear infections, and sinusitis. Other complications may include muscle inflammation, central nervous system issues, inflammation of the heart or the sac around the heart, and exacerbation of existing health conditions.
Who is most at risk of complications?
Those who are most at risk of complications from the flu are people 65 years or older, those in nursing homes, and both adults and children with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, and those with compromised immune systems. In past flu seasons, 9 out of 10 adults hospitalized for flu had at least one underlying medical condition.
It’s never too late to get your flu vaccine, but the earlier you get it, the more confident you will be that you’ll make it through this season without catching the flu. Celebrate 2022’s National Influenza Vaccination Week by getting your flu shot and stay healthy this winter!
How to Talk to Your Children about Your Estate Planning
If you have adult children, the time is now to talk to them about your Estate Plan, including your Advance Healthcare Directive. While you may expect it to be an awkward conversation, the awkwardness often dissipates once you begin talking things out.
An advance healthcare directive is much like a will, and thus, healthcare planning is much like estate planning. Just as you don’t want to leave the distribution of your remaining assets to chance or leave the kids fighting over who gets what, you don’t want to leave your kids arguing over what medical care you should receive when you are unable to speak for yourself. Therefore, if you are creating an Estate Plan for your worldly goods, create an Advance Healthcare Directive for your health.
Talking about your plans and wishes before you are unable to do so – such as due to serious illness or mental decline – will take away much of the stress and the guesswork to try to figure out “what Mom or Dad would want.”
Having the conversation
Try not to go into the conversation feeling awkward. Rather, point out at the start that the discussion should in fact settle fears, avoid future conflict, and limit strain on the family.
Based on your own particular family dynamics, you may choose to talk to the kids separately or together, however, speaking to them all together at least once – perhaps at the onset – will allow you to give them the big overall picture of your plans.
At this group meeting, discuss whom you have chosen to take on various responsibilities and why. You will need, at the very least, an executor of your will and someone who will hold medical power of attorney to make medical decisions based upon your wishes, as defined in your Advance Healthcare Directive, also known as a “living will.”
While you will want to discuss the division of your assets during this meeting, your healthcare directive will probably need a good deal more explaining. In your directive, you will have defined what life-sustaining care you want, what procedures you want and don’t want, and your moral, religious, and ethical considerations to guide your medical power of attorney on any specific matters that are not clearly defined in your advance directive.
This discussion will undoubtedly generate a lot of emotion. Answer questions honestly. Explain your reasoning and the research you have done. Be willing to hear their ideas and suggestions, and be willing to make minor adjustments, if you think they have good points. However, if you have taken the time to research and consider your healthcare directives, you probably should not change them too extensively. These are your express wishes, after all.
Finally, offer to talk to each person individually. They may feel more comfortable speaking to you one-on-one about these serious and emotional decisions. Just keep in mind that planning ahead will benefit your loved ones in the long run.
If you have not yet completed your Advance Directive, BCHIP provides an Advance Healthcare Directive form to help you think ahead about what care you would like to receive and what decisions you would like made on your behalf.