August is National Immunization Awareness Month, an annual observance meant to highlight the importance of vaccinations for people of all ages.
However, vaccines are particularly important for older adults because as you age, your immune system weakens, and it can be more difficult to fight off infections. The older you get, the more likely you are to get diseases like the flu, pneumonia and shingles.
Certain immunizations can help keep seniors from getting and spreading serious diseases that could result in poor health, medical bills and the inability to care for themselves.
The Importance of Immunizations
Vaccines are not just for children. There are important immunizations for seniors as well.
Getting vaccinated can help keep your older loved one, your family and your community healthy.
In fact, some seniors may need one or more vaccines, even if they received them as a child or as a younger adult. Immunity to certain diseases can wear off over time, and as people get older, they are at an increased risk of contracting various illnesses. Some may also be at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to age, lifestyle, travel or health conditions.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following vaccines for seniors to prevent:
All adults need a seasonal flu vaccine every year. It is particularly important for people with chronic health conditions and older adults. More than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years of age and older. The CDC has established that the flu and pneumonia combined rank seventh on the list of leading causes of death among seniors 65 and older.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
The shingles vaccine can significantly reduce the chances of getting shingles, a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. About half of the estimated 1 million Americans who get shingles every year are 60 and older. Therefore, the CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone 60 and older.
Diphtheria and Tetanus
Although rare in the U.S. today, both diphtheria and tetanus are serious diseases caused by bacteria. Diphtheria spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Tetanus-causing bacteria enters the body through cuts, scratches or wounds. Adults should get a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years to protect against both diseases.
Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
Because pertussis may feel like a regular cold at first, an adult may not know they have it and then pass it on to someone in their family. Adult pertussis immunity wears off, putting infants at increased risk. Seniors, especially those who have close contact with infants, should receive a Tdap vaccine booster to protect against pertussis.
Pneumococcal disease (Pneumonia)
Pneumococcal vaccines are essential because they protect against pneumococcal disease, including infections in the lungs and bloodstream. Each year in the United States, this disease kills thousands of adults, including 18,000 adults 65 and older. Thousands more end up in the hospital. The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is by getting vaccinated.
Recommended Vaccines for Older Adults
Immunization Awareness Month was established to encourage people—young and old—to make sure they are up to date on the various vaccines recommended for them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that all adults need immunizations to keep them from getting and spreading serious diseases that could result in poor health, missed work and not being able to care for family or themselves.
Older adults may need one or more vaccines, even if they received them as a child or as a younger adult. Immunity to some diseases can wear off over time, and as people age, they are at an increased risk of contracting various illnesses.
All adults need:
- A seasonal flu vaccine every year. The flu vaccine is specifically important for people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women and older adults. The CDC estimates that since 2010, flu-related hospitalizations in the United States have ranged from 140,000 to 710,000 and flu-related deaths have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000.
- The Tdap vaccine once if they did not receive it as an adolescent. This protects against pertussis (whooping cough). Adults also should get a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years.
Adults 60 years and older should also get:
- The shingles vaccine, which protects against shingles and the complications from the disease. This is recommended for healthy adults 60 years and older.
- Pneumococcal vaccines, which protect against pneumococcal disease, including infections in the lungs and bloodstream. This is recommended for all adults over 65 years old and for adults younger than 65 who have certain chronic health conditions. About 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia every year, leading to as many as 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths.
Talk with your senior loved one’s doctor or other healthcare professional to know which vaccines are recommended for them.
How FirstLight Home Care Services Can Help Ensure Immunization Compliance With In-Home Care
FirstLight Home Care understands how important immunizations are to the health and well-being of your senior family members. Our caregivers can help seniors during Immunization Awareness Month by:
- Assisting them before, during and after the vaccination appointment
- Providing transportation to and from the appointment
- Filling prescriptions on the way home
- Providing companionship to ensure there are no negative side effects from the vaccine(s)
- Reminding them to follow post-visit care plans provided by their doctor
FirstLight Home Care In-Home Care Services
Flu season will be here before we know it and individuals should get a flu vaccine before it begins spreading. CDC recommends that people get the vaccine by the end of October. Remember, it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. Find out more about how to get vaccinated.
Contact FirstLight Home Care today to learn more about how our in-home care team can provide a stress-free solution to getting seniors immunized.