December 1-7th is National Influenza Vaccination Week – a time set aside by the CDC to highlight the importance of being vaccinated against the flu. In typical years, flu season runs between October and March. While the CDC recommends that people get vaccinated before flu season begins, National Influenza Vaccination Week reminds us that it’s never too late for a flu shot. Seniors, who are at heightened risk of developing severe complications from the flu, should get their shots ASAP.
Influenza Puts Seniors at Risk
Statistics show that seniors account for the majority of flu hospitalizations. This is due in large part to our immune system weakening with age. According to the CDC:
“In recent years, for example, it’s estimated that between about 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older and between 50 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in this age group.”
Senior flu deaths have been unusually high in recent years. During the winter of 2017, for example, an estimated 80,000 seniors died from the flu. This was the highest number of flu-related deaths in at least 40 years.
It’s not that the flu itself is particularly deadly. Most people recover from the disease within two weeks. Instead, an influenza infection can lead to other more serious complications – especially within vulnerable groups. These complications can include pneumonia, as well as sinus and ear infections. The flu can also cause “inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) tissues, and multi-organ failure.” In extreme cases, flu-related infections of the respiratory system can trigger sepsis, which is the body’s life-threatening response to infections. Flu can also make chronic conditions worse. That means seniors with existing heart, respiratory, or other ailments could experience worsening symptoms in conjunction with the disease.
Vaccinations Protect Seniors
Fortunately, the flu vaccine is an effective protection measure against the flu. Seniors benefit from flu shots in many ways, including:
- Prevents You From Getting Sick: While the 2017-2018 season was particularly deadly for seniors, the vaccine prevented millions of people from coming down with the disease. According to the CDC, during 2017-2018, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.1 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 109,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 8,000 influenza-associated deaths.
- Reduces the Risk of Flu-Associated Hospitalizations: “In recent years, flu vaccines have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among older adults on average by about 40%,” according to CDC research.
- Protects People with Chronic Health Conditions: According to the CDC, Flu vaccinations help reduce hospitalizations for people with heart disease, COPD, and diabetes.
Seniors shouldn’t ignore the real risks that come with the flu. Those risks, combined with the vaccine’s proven benefits, means seniors shouldn’t wait to get this potentially life-saving treatment.
Types of Influenza Vaccinations
Seniors should receive a flu shot rather than the nasal spray vaccine. Seniors can choose between two different versions of the vaccine:
- High Dose Flu Vaccine: This version of the vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen as normal vaccines. According to the CDC, people who received this vaccine had 24% fewer influenza illnesses compared with people who received the standard vaccine.
- Adjuvanted Flu Vaccine: This version of the vaccine contains the MF59 adjuvant additive that triggers an increased immune response.
The CDC also recommends that seniors stay up-to-date on their pneumococcal vaccines to help prevent flu-related complications like pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections. In all instances, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider to determine which vaccines you need most.
Don’t Ignore Your Health
During the busy holiday season, it’s easy to overlook a flu vaccination. Some seniors might believe they’re healthy enough to forego vaccination altogether. But when it comes to the flu, there’s no acceptable level of risk for seniors. So, during National Influenza Vaccination Week, use this handy flu vaccine locator and get your vaccination. Then you can go on to enjoy a healthy, happy, and flu-free new year.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.