Today, we’re taking a bit of detour from our usual aging in place blog post to talk about a medical imperative, one that’s particularly important for those of us over the age of 65. A few days ago, we saw in the news that last year’s flu season was the most dangerous in years. And the spike in infections was primarily due to a significant drop in people getting flu shots. The sobering truth is that over 80,000 people died from the flu last year and 9 out of 10 fatalities involved seniors. That’s simply unacceptable. We care about our clients and want to do our part to make sure that there’s no repeat of last year’s unfortunate statistics.
Here’s what you need to know. People over the age of 65 are at far higher risk of severe complications from the flu than younger adults, so it’s critically important that they receive the flu vaccine each year.
There are three types of flu shots for seniors. The regular is the vaccine given out generally. If you’re under 65, this vaccine is administered through a nasal spray or the traditional injection. If you’re over 65, only the injection will do.
A “high dose” vaccine is also available that’s specially prepared for those of us over 65. It contains 4 times the punch of a regular shot and does a much better job of protecting against flu infection than the standard dose. Older adults who received this vaccine showed a 24% drop in flu cases over those receiving the regular vaccine. High dose vaccines are a recent development, and you should be sure to speak to your doctor about its benefits.
An even newer vaccine, called the adjuvanted flu vaccine, is also available. It’s more effective than the “high dose,” with a 63% reduction in flu infections. Again, this is something to discuss with your physician.
What’s the cost of the vaccine? If you’re a Medicare beneficiary, the flu shot will be covered by Part B. The price is also an included benefit if you’ve got coverage under the Affordable Care Act; there are no copays or coinsurance.
The flu can strike at any time, but the “flu season,” when activity begins to increase, starts in October and can stretch into May. So the time for action is now. Get yourself vaccinated and also take some common sense preventative measures like covering coughs, washing your hands frequently and, of course, staying away from people with the flu.
Think you may have the flu. If you have symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, body and headache, call your doctor ASAP. Prompt treatment with antiviral drugs like Tamiflu can both shorten the course of the illness, significantly reduce the discomfort and prevent the more serious complications that can afflict people 65 years and older.
We’re Aging in Place builders, designers, and planners, not doctors who dispense medical advice. Our information comes straight from the Centers for Disease Control, and we hope it serves to spur action on your part to get that flu shot. As we said at the top, Aging in Place is all about good health; and avoiding the flu is a positive step in that direction. We recommend you talk with your health care provider.