(NewsUSA) - It's the time of year everyone dreads: flu season.
Last season, more than 900,000 people were hospitalized due to the flu or flu complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People over the age of 65 are at greater risk for these complications, making up about 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and hospitalizations last year.
Experts say nearly half (48.5 percent) of senior hospitalizations could, in fact, be avoided if proper preventative steps are taken, according to research from Home Instead, Inc. Here are tips to avoid the dangers of the flu:
* Consider a flu vaccine for your loved one. If you choose to get the flu shot, the best time to get one is before flu season is in full swing. For the best protection, the vaccine should not be limited to just older adults. Caregivers and family members also need to stay healthy to protect older loved ones.
* Take daily preventative measures. It might sound simple, but washing your hands and avoiding those who are sick can go a long way. The CDC lists seven healthy habits to stop germs, including not touching your eyes, nose or mouth and sanitizing properly.
* Encourage physical activity for those who are able. Moderate exercise boosts the immune system and can reduce the risk of a cold, according to Harvard Health. Even in frigid winter temperatures, activities such as a walk at a community recreation center or simple strength training exercises at home, using household items and body weight, can boost immunity.
* Pay attention to the signs and symptoms. Frequently check in on loved ones. Pay close attention to symptoms and changes in their appearance or demeanor. Encourage regular doctor visits to help keep minor symptoms from turning into more serious issues. And it's important to know all symptoms of the flu and get treatment as soon as possible.
* Take extra precautions to prevent hospitalizations. Simple steps, such as acknowledging symptoms of illness when they first appear, reducing risks of falls around the home and maintaining a healthy diet can all have a substantial impact on protecting older adults from hospitalization and further infection.
For more information on staying healthy this flu season, including the "5 Ways to Prevent Senior Hospitalizations" guide, visit www.preventseniorhospitalizations.com, or find a Home Instead office near you at www.homeinstead.com/state.