Immunization against certain diseases and illnesses is usually associated with young children and young adults. However, as we age, there are changes to the immune system that family caregivers of older adults should be aware of:
Vaccine immunizations not only prevent an individual from contracting an illness, they also prevent illnesses like the flu, or hepatitis A and B from spreading to others.
- The immune system is slower to respond, and takes longer to fight off the flu and other communicable viruses and illnesses.
- These changes result in less resistance to common illnesses such as chicken pox, which may reoccur as shingles as we get older.
Vaccine immunizations not only prevent an individual from contracting an illness, they also prevent illnesses like the flu, or hepatitis A and B from spreading to others who are more vulnerable because of chronic disease and/or frailty.
The importance of immunization in older adults cannot be understated. Speak with your family doctor or nurse practitioner about vaccines that are appropriate for you or the person you’re caring for.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada recommends the following vaccinations for older adults:
- Tetanus booster every 10 years
- Influenza vaccine: every year to prevent getting the flu and spreading it to others
- Pneumococcal vaccine for all adults age 65 and over
- Herpes zoster (shingles from the chicken pox virus) vaccine: for all adults ages 60 and older
- Hepatitis A and B vaccines
- Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine once in adulthood
It is important to keep good immunization records. This should be done for the person in your care as well as for yourself, and anyone else living in the same home (e.g. your children, spouse/partner, etc.). See our Elizz article on organizing medical information.
Ask your doctor for a yellow booklet in which to keep track of your immunizations or download the CANImmunize App (formerly called ImmunizeCA) to keep track of immunizations for the whole family. The CANImmunize app will also send you the latest information on vaccinations and disease outbreaks in your area.
If you don’t know what immunizations you or the person in your care may have already had, try contacting the doctor's office to see if they have the immunization records on file. The local public health office where you were immunized as a child may also have a registry of the childhood immunizations that were given out in the area.
Some employers, like hospitals or the military, also keep track of immunizations that were given to employees as part of their requirements for employment.
For more information about vaccines and the importance of immunizations for older adults you can visit the following websites.
Immunize Canada is a Canadian government website that provides all of the information you need to keep up to date on.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada also provides downloadable PDFs with information about immunizations recommended to people over the age of 50.