The Relationship Between Catching the Flu and Losing Your Independence


It’s all too easy to put off getting the flu shot and to think that you won’t get the flu, or that if you do, it won’t be that bad. But every year, an average of 12,000 Canadians are hospitalized because of influenza complications, and about 3,500 die as a result. These hospitalizations and deaths occur disproportionately in older adults and others at high risk, like those with medical conditions like heart diseases, diabetes and lung conditions. Because older adults are also more likely to have one or more medical conditions, they are at increased risk of influenza complications. Looking at data spanning the 2010-15 flu seasons in Ontario, in those adults 65 years and older who were hospitalized for the flu, over 65% had an underlying condition.

A single hospitalization can have a devastating impact on an older adult’s ability to fully recover. Functional declines such as loss of muscle strength and loss of independence can occur very quickly during a hospital stay. Prolonged hospital stays can lead to a “cascade of dependency” where immobility leads to poor outcomes, including significant loss of ability to carry out activities of daily living. In some cases, this requires older adults to move to a long-term care home.

But surviving the flu doesn’t mean patients will go home unscathed. Studies have found that as many as one-third of older adults leave hospitals with a reduced ability to carry out their activities of daily living such as eating and dressing. Why choose to go through this traumatic event when you can better protect yourself with the flu shot? Maintain your independence and maximize your quality of life.Getting the flu shot is the best option for preventing the flu.

Vaccination does not protect 100% of individuals and does not reduce the risk of complications such as hospitalization once a person gets influenza.