3 Facts Older Adults and Caregivers Need to Know About the Flu Vaccine

Older adults run a much greater risk of serious complications from the flu (influenza) than healthy, younger adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 90 percent of flu-related deaths and 60 percent of hospitalizations happen to people age 65 and older. Immune systems weaken with age and many older adults have underlying conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, that increase vulnerability. One vaccine, Fluzone High-Dose, gives adults over age 65 better protection from the virus. 

Caregivers must also be vigilant against the flu. You don’t want to risk infecting anyone, and you also need to stay healthy in order to provide care. The chronic stress that often accompanies caregiving may lower your resistance and make you more susceptible to illness.

Eating a proper diet, frequent hand washing, and plenty of rest are important steps to staying healthy. But the best way to avoid the flu is to get an annual flu shot. The influenza vaccine is:

Safe

For most folks, the flu is much more potentially dangerous than the shot. Unless you are allergic to eggs, side effects are fairly uncommon and usually mild. And, no, the flu shot cannot give you the flu! 

Effective

While the shot does not guarantee you won’t get the flu, it’s still the best way to prevent it. And even if you do get the flu after getting a shot, there’s a good chance it will be milder.

Convenient

Medicare and many private insurance plans cover annual flu shots. You can get the vaccine at many locations, including your local drug store and your doctor’s office. 

Flu season peaks in February and lasts until May and it takes about two weeks to develop immunity. Try to get vaccinated in October or early November for the most protection.