Seniors and Shingles: Is Your Loved One at Risk?

Learn everything you need to know to protect seniors from shingles.

Back in the day, getting chickenpox as a child was a rite of passage. Parents would often even throw “chickenpox parties” – inviting the neighborhood kids over when one was contagious with the disease! The thinking was that since everyone was going to catch it anyway, why not get it over with?

Thankfully, we now have effective vaccines that allow for the prevention of chickenpox. But for those who were stricken with the disease at some point, the lingering effects can manifest later in life as shingles – a condition that can lead to significant pain and discomfort that can last for weeks. There are also a number of serious complications that can arise in older adults who develop shingles, including:

  • Blindness
  • Infection
  • Neuralgia (nerve pain)
  • Hearing loss
  • Encephalitis
  • Facial paralysis
  • And more

Although contagious, it’s important to note that it is the chickenpox virus that will be passed on from the person infected with shingles – not shingles itself.

Shingles typically displays as a rash of blisters that wrap around one side or the other of the upper body, with pain, burning, tingling, or numbness, sensitivity when touched, itching, and sometimes fatigue, headache, fever, and light sensitivity.

Additional risk factors, over and above being a senior, include taking certain prescription medications (prolonged use of steroids, for instance, as well as medications taken to ensure transplanted organs are not rejected), diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, and any other condition or treatment that leads to a weakened immune system.

There is a silver lining in all of this, however! Two types of shingles vaccines are available and recommended for everyone age 60 and older: Zostavax and Shingrix. Talk with a doctor to determine which is right for your senior loved one, but the basic differences include:

  • Zostavax: A live vaccine that provides protection for five years, given as a single injection.
  • Shingrix: Often preferred over Zostavax, Shingrix is a nonliving vaccine that provides protection beyond the five-year mark. Shingrix requires two injections given six months apart.

Although neither vaccine provides 100% protection, the risk of contracting the disease is reduced, and if a vaccinated senior does develop shingles, it’s typically less severe and of a shorter duration, with fewer complications.

For more information about shingles or any other concerns of aging, contact the experts in elderly care Scottsdale at Nightingale Homecare. Our nursing team is always on hand to help provide the resources seniors and their families need to optimize health and wellbeing, and our customized in-home care services ensure that older adults are living life to the fullest, each and every day.

Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to chat with our team in elderly care Scottsdale or to schedule a complimentary in-home consultation and discover a better quality of life for a senior you love!