Vaccines are important throughout life, not just childhood, but they are especially important for seniors who face a greater risk of disease because of age-related changes to their immune systems. Home Care Assistance, a leading senior care agency in New Hampshire, highlights some of the most important immunizations seniors need to reduce the risk of hospitalization, disabling complications, and mortality.
It’s recommended all seniors get an annual flu shot in the fall or winter. Influenza hits seniors especially hard. Of the 20,000 people who die in the United States from influenza every year, nearly 90 percent are seniors. A special high-dose flu vaccine is recommended, and in-home caregivers are also advised to get a flu shot to reduce the risk of passing the virus to loved ones.
Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox. About 30 percent of people eventually develop shingles at some point, and the risk of shingles increases with age. The CDC recommends seniors over 60 get the shingles vaccine as the condition can lead to an excruciating rash as well as complications like weight loss, vision problems, hearing loss, and even chronic pain. Vaccination is the only way to reduce the risk of shingles, and the Zoster shot can be given at the same time as a flu vaccine.
Many doctors are advising seniors to get the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine given the resurgence the measles virus has made in the United States. The vaccine is recommended for seniors who received the inactivated vaccine in the 1960s, those who did not get the vaccine as a child, and those with no record of receiving an MMR vaccine.
Tetanus, or lockjaw, is a serious bacterial infection that causes muscle spasms and can lead to severe health issues and causes death in nearly 10 percent of cases. All adults are recommended to get a Td booster shot for tetanus and diphtheria every ten years, but about half of seniors are not immunized against tetanus. Along with the Td shot, a new vaccine called Tdap includes a booster against pertussis and whooping cough. Doctors warn that more seniors are contracting whooping cough, perhaps due to faded immunity.
Every year, pneumococcal disease kills about 18,000 seniors in the United States and thousands more are hospitalized due to complications. Pneumococcal disease can lead to pneumonia, meningitis, and infections of the blood. The PCV13 vaccine protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria as well as pneumonia and it’s recommended for all adults over 65. The vaccine can be received at the same time as a flu shot.
Side effects of vaccinations tend to be mild and include headache and soreness at the injection site. While many seniors may avoid vaccinations over concerns about side effects, people over 65 are at a higher risk of complications from the diseases than vaccinations.
For more information about protecting senior health year round, reach out to Home Care Assistance. We’re a trusted provider of Alzheimer’s and dementia care in New Hampshire and help seniors of all physical and mental abilities maintain safety and wellbeing in the comfort of home. Call a friendly Care Manager today at (603) 471-3004 and schedule a free in-home consultation.