While there are plenty of discussions about the importance of current immunizations for children, seniors also can benefit from regular vaccines from everything from seasonal flu shots to boosters. Regular vaccines are recommended by Above and Beyond Home Health Care.
There are plenty of reasons for this, but the main one is that seniors are considered to be at a high risk for their health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, seniors are actually similar to children in that their immune systems aren’t as strong as a healthy adult, and they’re more susceptible to illness and infection.
Weaker immune systems not only make it easier to catch something going around, but it can hang on longer, or combine with other illnesses, such as pneumonia following the flu, a combination which may require hospitalization or even be fatal. Other chronic medical conditions can further aggravate how hard a disease can affect someone.
Most modern vaccines can prevent someone from catching a particular illness. Or if they do so, the symptoms may not be as strong and they may recover sooner than someone without any vaccinations.
Likewise, vaccinations can reduce the risk of someone spreading an illness to others, especially someone with a family member or a person with a weaker system.
An ill senior probably won’t have to worry about missing work or calling in sick anymore, but they could still have a difficult time while their immune system is fighting back. All they may want to do is rest, so household tasks may pile up, and friends or family members who aren’t sick may not want to come by until their condition improves.
Even patients on hospice care can benefit from regular vaccines. Their immune systems may already be in weak shape, but being able to minimize the risk of catching certain preventable diseases can help their quality of life. At the same time, feeling physically and mentally worse fighting something preventable can make their limited time even more difficult.
Types of immunizations
There are a variety of available vaccines that can benefit seniors, including:
- Influenza. This respiratory illness is highly contagious, and people older than age 65 are considered to be at risk of developing flu-related complications. There’s a new flu shot each season that the CDC encourages all adults to receive. Because there are dozens of types of flu viruses in the world at any given year, a shot given in a previous year may no longer be effective. New shots are generally available each fall, which can be handy since cold weather can also aggravate health conditions. Higher doses are available for older patients. It also takes the body about two weeks to fully absorb the vaccine to defend against future flu exposures. The vaccine can be delivered by a nasal spray or hypodermic injection. It is available at no cost through Medicare Part B.
- Shingles. The “grown-up version” of chicken pox can cause rash, pain, and blistering. If you had the virus as a child it can still flare up if the immune system becomes weaker. The National Council on Aging says that one in three people over age 60 can have shingles. And many have other side effects with it, including fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Vaccines are available but they only last about five years, so if you’ve had it the past, consider having it again.
- Pneumococcal disease. This disease can cause infections and damage to the bloodstream and organs, including pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis. The disease can affect the brain and limbs and kills 18,000 adults over age 65 each year.
Seniors can also be immunized against Hepatitis B, another common virus that affects the liver and can cause death.
While a primary health provider will be the one to prescribe or perhaps even dispense certain vaccines in their office, home health care staff can assess your physical and mental health when they come for their appointments. If you’ve been fighting something specific, a nurse can also provide info on the disease and how it can progress. If you’ve been putting your energy into resting and recovering, you may likely see a decline in other tasks such as housekeeping or meal preparation. These homemaker services can offer assistance with non-medical needs, but still be just as valuable, even simple things like emptying the trash, organizing medical supplies, can go a long way to help a senior.
They can also provide pointers or a face mask to keep from infecting others in our home or outside if you need to travel somewhere.
In hospice situations, a nurse can discuss current immunizations with the patient to see if he or she wants to try these to improve or preserve their quality of life.
While some people may refuse vaccinations out of habit, such as people who were in better health when they were younger and avoided various shots, they’re now in an older, riskier age group, and could have other medical conditions. So the need to avoid contracting these illnesses and related complications should be a priority. For more information on immunizations, contact Above and Beyond Health Care and Hospice.