Each year in the United States about nine out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than six out of 10 flu-related hospital stays occur in people over the age of 65. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long recommended that older adults receive an annual influenza immunization as the best way to help prevent the flu. Sadly, the CDC says immunization rates are still far below public health goals.
As we age, our immune system is less able to fight off infections and other diseases. As the immune system weakens, fewer antibodies are produced following a vaccination to help protect the body against infection. Antibodies are the soldiers of the immune system helping to respond and protect against infection when exposed to the virus. That’s why there is a new type of flu shot.
The traditional dose can be taken by anyone, while the higher dose flu (Fluzone High-Dose) vaccine designed specifically for the elderly population to address the age-related decline of the immune system. It contains four-times the amount of antigen — the part of the vaccine that stimulates your immune system to fight the flu — than is found in the traditional dose.
According the The John Hopkins White Papers medical journal, research has shown that the high-dose version is better at inducing immune responses. Unfortunately, getting a flu shot doesn’t necessarily prevent the elderly from getting the flu. But it does help mitigate the symptoms, and helps bolster the immune system to fight off the disease.
The CDC doesn’t recommend one shot over another at this time. However, many doctors believe that the high dose is a good idea for patients with lung disease, diabetes, COPD or heart disease who are at higher risk from the flu.
Happily, Medicare Part B covers all influenza vaccine options recommended for seniors with no copay, including the higher dose option.
The most important point is, whether you get the traditional or high dose, get vaccinated!
Angels for Life is happy to take our elderly patients for all types of immunizing shots, but most especially for flu shots!
As we age, our bodies are unable to process certain types of vitamins and supplements as well as when we were younger. In addition, some vitamins and supplement can react badly in combination with prescription medicines. So you should always consult a physician before adding vitamins and supplements to your diet — that rule goes for young and old alike!
According to Dr. Marie Savard, when she appeared on Good Morning America, seniors of both genders often have diets poor in Vitamin B12, folic acid, Vitamin D and calcium. So supplements are a great way to boost those levels. However, there are also great foods that you can add that will help as well.
Foods rich in Vitamin B12 and folic acid include eggs, liver, dried beans, lentils, split peas, almonds, nuts, wholegrain breads, sweet potatoes, bananas, oranges, cabbage, spinach and asparagus. Foods rich in Vitamin D include almost every type of fish, milk, shitake mushrooms and eggs. Foods rich in calcium include cheese, yogurt, milk, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, fortified orange juice, and enriched breads and grains.
Another concerns for seniors is degenerating eye health. The supplement lutein is present in multivitamins, but can be bolstered by diet as well. Lutein is found in green vegetables, especially spinach, kale and broccoli, as well as in egg yolks.
A common problem our caregivers at Angels for Life run into is that seniors have lost interest in preparing and cooking foods. Our licensed food handlers love to cook and prepare healthy, nutritious and tasty meals for our clients.
Mounting research shows that mental stimulation and play for the elderly is critical to their mental health. There is growing evidence which shows that mental exercise may do more than forestall dementia, it may actually repair the brain, as well. Research is just beginning to discover that the brain has stem cells, and that by stimulating them, new neurons can be generated. So the old saying about old age being a second childhood is actually true.
Playing chess, bridge, cards, musical instrument and games — the kind of things that challenge the mind — have been proven to ward off dementia. A study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, found that mentally active seniors reduced their risk of dementia by as much as 75 percent, compared to those who do not stimulate their minds.
However, it’s not just mental stimulation that helps — physical play can help as well. For instance, studies have shown that walking barefoot on a rough surface, like a cobblestone matt can sharpen mental acuity and reduce blood pressure. Playing on a swing set, teeter totter and other toys can help improve balance, coordination and speed — so sending the grandparents to the park with the grandkids and getting them to join the fun is a great idea.
Of course, combining mental stimulation with physical challenges is the best of both worlds. Strangely enough, scientists found that dancing was the best options. It combines physical skills with the mental challenge of remembering the steps and performing them well.