Immunization against certain disease and illnesses is usually associated with young children and young adults. However, as we age, there are changes to the immune system that caregivers of older adults should be aware of:
- 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.
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 about vaccines that are appropriate for you or the person you’re caring for if you’re both over the age of 50.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada recommends the following vaccinations for older adults:
- Tetanus booster every 10 years
- Influenza vaccine: this is given yearly to prevent you from contracting the flu and spreading it to others
- Pneumococcal vaccine for all adults 65 and over
- Herpes zoster (shingles from the chicken pox virus) vaccine: one dose for people ages 60 and older
- Hepatitis A and B vaccines
Caregiver immunization is important but another easy way for caregivers to stay healthy, and prevent the spread of communicable diseases to the person you’re taking care of, is 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, 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 ImmunizeCA APP to keep track of vaccinations for the whole family. The ImmunizeCA app will also send you the latest information on vaccinations and disease outbreaks in your area.
If you don’t know what vaccinations you or the person in your care may have already had, try contacting the doctor 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 out to employees as part of their requirements for employment.
For more information about vaccines and the importance of immunizations for older adults you can contact the following websites.
Immunize Canada is a Canadian government website that provides all of the information you need to keep up to date on which vaccinations are right for your family, and provides information on the safety of these vaccines.
The College of Family Physicians of Canada also provides downloadable PDFs for the types of vaccines required for those persons over the age of 50.