The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine. However, there are certain people for whom getting a flu vaccine is even more important than it is for others. One of those groups is caregivers to the elderly.
If you’re on the fence about getting a flu vaccine this year, knowing more may help you to make an informed decision.
Flu Vaccine Basics
The flu vaccine is administered using an injection, usually given in the arm. It is an annual vaccination because it is reformulated each year to protect against the viruses scientists believe will be most prevalent that season.
There are many different variations of flu shots available. They are delivered in different methods and recommended based on age and other factors. Your doctor will be able to determine which vaccine is best for you. Be sure to inform the doctor that you are a caregiver to an older adult as it may make a difference in the type of vaccine you receive.
Reasons Caregivers Need the Vaccine
Older adults are more susceptible to the flu virus because of weakened immune systems and chronic illnesses. They are also more likely to develop dangerous complications. Although your aging relative may get the vaccine themselves, when you get the vaccine, you offer them a double layer of protection. Caregivers usually come into contact with other people and surfaces where they might come in contact with the flu virus. By getting the vaccine, they decrease their chances of getting the flu and bringing it to the senior.
Another way that getting the flu vaccine is helpful to caregivers is that it prevents them from getting ill and having to take time off of work and caregiver duties. Caregivers themselves can be more susceptible to the flu, too, because they often don’t take very good care of their own health.
Research shows that caregivers:
- Spend less time on their own health than people who are not caregivers.
- Who are older and take care of their spouses are at higher risk of dying than other people their age.
- Who are part of the sandwich generation are at greater risk for illness.
While the flu vaccine is not a 100 percent guarantee that caregivers will not get the flu, even if they do, symptoms are usually more mild and the illness lasts a shorter time. Taking care of your own health in addition to getting the vaccine can help you to protect your aging relative even better.