Immunization Awareness Month – Plan Senior and Caregiver Vaccines

Oh no, it seems like it was only yesterday we went to get our annual seasonal flu shot.

We have almost flown through another year already!

The time has come to begin making plans to get one for this season — and to consider what other vaccines our senior loved ones and we may need.

We all know the problem that many experienced with vaccines last year which didn’t adequately protect us from contracting the flu. But let’s see what the experts say about how much protection we really got before we make a decision that could be a costly one this year.

As we observe national Immunization Awareness Month, a time for us to learn more about the importance of all immunizations no matter your age, it is a good opportunity to discuss the vaccines recommended for our senior loved ones and family caregivers.

Flu Shots

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants seniors (and family caregivers) to know that their health is their number one asset.

Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect your senior and yourself from the flu, which could be deadly and is each year.

Naturally, no one can predict what is in store for us all this flu season.

When will it peak, how long will it spread and how severe it will be are questions for which we don’t currently have answers.

Not only that but also which strains of flu viruses will affect us is a bit unknown. New virus strains can appear that were unexpected.

Flu season traditionally runs from October to May and it takes about two weeks to be protected after receiving the flu shot.

Don’t wait for the rush to get yours!

Spreading the Flu

How are we spreading the flu to each other?

Flu viruses spread primarily from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk.

Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose.

People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means you or your senior may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick.

Last year the flu virus that made many ill did what the CDC reported as genetic shifting or mutation from the strain that was anticipated to strike. That means that the strain of virus in the vaccine was not the one making people sick, a mutation was making many ill.

Experts felt that, despite the fact many contracted the ‘drifted’ version of the flu instead the strain for which they were vaccinated, the flu was milder due to the immune strengthening vaccinated people received. In other words, getting the flu shot helped our immune systems’ defenses since the flu people did get was not as severe.

After we received the flu shot, our bodies began to make antibodies that help us fight viruses in general, which is why we got some protection from last year’s flu strains.

The CDC admitted that last year’s flu shot was not as effective as desired but still helped many and it is still the number one defense against contracting the flu.

Getting influenza for our seniors can be a deadly event.

Prevention Tips

In addition to getting all the scheduled and recommended vaccines that we need, it is important for seniors and their caregivers to take precautions to keep our senior loved ones free from illness.

  1. Frequent handwashing to prevent the spread of germs for everyone in the household including your senior.
  2. Restrict visitors who may be ill and putting your senior at risk for contamination.
  3. Don’t visit others if you or your senior are ill.
  4. When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose. You can use a tissue or the elbow of your sleeve. Also avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose which can inadvertently spread germs.
  5. Keep the environment clean, especially frequently touched surfaces such as faucets, counters, door knobs, railings, phone, TV remote and other high touch spots.
  6. Get enough fluids and healthy foods in your daily diet.
  7. Get adequate sleep to recover.

These precautions are important to take year-round, but especially so during flu season.

Recommended Preventive Healthcare for Seniors

It is not only our annual flu shots that we should be sure to check off the healthcare list.

Our seniors, and us as caregivers, need to stay up to date on all recommend preventive care.

  • Pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine
  • Shingles (varicella) vaccine
  • Health screening: prostate, mammogram, colorectal exam
  • Annual preventive health exam including blood pressure, and physical exam
  • Dental care and treatment
  • Dilated eye exam, glaucoma check
  • Tetanus every ten years

Evidence Points to Flu Vaccine Safety

There is much controversy brewing about whether it is safe or not to get vaccinated. The evidence seems clear that getting a flu shot can protect us from the flu.

It will strengthen our immune systems and pay off benefits with other opportunistic viruses as well.

Another good part of getting our senior loved ones vaccinated is that Medicare covers the cost! You may find your insurance covers it as well.

You and your senior can get a flu shot from your doctor, pharmacist, health fair, health department or clinic. It is becoming quite easy to find a location.

The flu can be dangerous for our senior loved ones but for many it can be prevented, so let’s all get the shot!

Caregivers need to include themselves in all preventive health strategies so that they stay well in order to care for their senior loved ones and to avoid spreading illness to them!