While we usually associate children with vaccines, it turns out that the senior population can also benefit from new vaccines or boosters of common childhood vaccines. As a family caregiver in Scottsdale, it’s important to understand what vaccines are and know which ones are most important for your senior loved one’s health.
What are Vaccines?
Vaccines are dead or weakened viruses that trigger the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against the virus. In doing so, when an individual is exposed again the immune system is able to jump in and fight the virus before it can make the host sick. Most vaccines are given through an injection, though some are available in oral suspensions or nasal sprays.
Which Vaccines Should Seniors Get?
While there are hundreds of vaccines available, some are more important for seniors to get than others. The most important vaccines include:
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis Booster (Td/Tdap Booster) – Tetanus, or lockjaw as it is commonly known, is a disease that affects the nervous system and is caused by bacteria entering the body through a cut in the skin. Tetanus can be fatal, killing up to 20 percent of seniors that contract it. Diphtheria is a respiratory ailment also caused by a bacterial infection. It causes the airways to constrict, leading to a coma or even death. While getting a Td/Tdap vaccine is common in childhood, immunity eventually wears off, so it is recommended to get a booster every 10 years. Potential side effects are mild and include redness or swelling at the site of injection. Muscle pain, headache, and nausea are also possible.
Herpes Zoster (Shingles) – Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus as the chickenpox. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications and in extreme cases, death. Over 1 million people develop shingles every year and most of them are age 50 or older. The CDC recommends shingles vaccines for seniors aged 60 and over. Common side effects include redness and swelling at the injection site, though most people tolerate the vaccine quite well.
Influenza – Influenza, or the flu as it is commonly called, is highly contagious. Up to 20 percent of the population contracts the flu every year and a small portion of those individuals require hospitalization due to complications. In some cases, the flu can even be fatal. It is recommended young children and people over the age of 50 get the flu vaccine. It should be administered in October, before the official start of the flu season. Side effects of the flu vaccine include pain at the injection site, a sore throat or a low-grade fever. Side effects should subside within a few days.
Pneumococcal vaccine – The pneumococcal bacteria is responsible for causing pneumonia and it is one of the most fatal types of vaccine-preventable diseases in the elderly population. The bacteria is spread through coughing or sneezing and it is considered highly contagious. Risks include fever, swelling, and allergic reaction.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
Every vaccine comes with some amount of risk and doctors can help you and your senior loved one determine whether the risks outweigh the benefits. Individuals with certain health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney problems or weakened immune systems might not be eligible for certain vaccines. Speak with a doctor to determine the best course of action for your loved one.
Ensure your loved one stays happy, healthy and safe year-round with the help of a caregiver from Home Care Assistance in Scottsdale. Our expertly trained caregivers can transport your loved one to and from appointments, grocery shop, cook healthful meals, perform light housework, and provide mobility support. We offer 24/7 availability, and, because we know senior care needs can change in a moment, we never require long-term contracts. Speak with a qualified Care Manager today by calling (480) 448-6215. Our senior care experts can answer your questions, address any concerns, and schedule a complimentary in-home consultation.