As summer winds down, parents are busy shopping for school supplies, checking last year’s clothing to see what still fits, scheduling appointments for physical and dental exams, and, more often than not, subjecting them to vaccinations. But fall isn’t just the time for school kids to roll up their sleeves and grit their teeth for the dreaded shots; we need to care for seniors as well. This time of year, even adults should get in on the act, including seniors over age 60.
According to this report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults over the age of 60 should be up to date on a number of vaccinations, including:
- Influenza – every year
- Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis – every ten years
- Varicella (chickenpox) – two doses throughout one’s life
- Herpes zoster (shingles) – one dose after the age of 60
- Pneumococcal (PPSV23) – one dose after the age of 65
As one ages, the body’s natural immune system becomes weaker, which puts older adults at a higher risk for catching viruses such as the flu and pneumonia. In fact, pneumonia and the flu combine to make up the seventh leading cause of death for adults over the age of 65 in the United States. Appropriately vaccinating against these diseases can ward off, or at least reduce the severity of these viruses, which can save lives.
Both influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are safer than common misconceptions may indicate. The truth is, less than 1% of those vaccinated experience fever, muscle aches, or more significant local reactions. And, you cannot contract the flu from the traditional flu shot, which is made with a dead virus. In fact, the flu vaccine can be as much as 70 to 90 percent effective for healthy seniors. According to the National Network for Immunization Information, hospital patients who receive the pneumonia vaccine:
- Have a lower incidence of respiratory failure
- Have a lower incidence of kidney failure
- Have a lower incidence of heart attack
- Spend two fewer days in the hospital on average
- Are 40 to 70 percent less likely to die from complications from pneumococcal bacteremia than unvaccinated patients
For many seniors, it has been a very long time since they were last vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis. This vaccination, also called the DTaP, should be boosted with another shot every ten years.
Finally, even those who received the chickenpox vaccine as a child, and even if they never actually contracted the virus as a child, adults still need to get the shingles vaccine, as the virus can develop in a more painful and harmful way in later life. The risk of getting shingles goes up as you get older, with 50% of shingles cases happening in adults over the age of 60.
The CDC offers a free, downloadable Adult Immunization Scheduler so that older adults and their family members can keep track of the vaccinations that are needed as they age.
As a part of our home care for seniors, Best Senior Home Care can help to encourage and facilitate proper vaccinations. To learn more, contact us at 718-224-0905.