Vaccines for Seniors and Medicare

The year is coming to an end, but flu and pneumonia season is not over, so I want to talk about vaccines, because you still have time.

I continue to work as a Staff RN (bedside nursing) at a local hospital and I have already cared for several patients with pneumonia, some even bilateral or both lungs, and there has been a confirmed case of death by flu for 2017.

The immune system weakens with age, this is an issue that occurs to all aging people, no matter background or culture.

It is also important to know, that with chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, and kidney disease, adding pneumonia and flu, makes the treatment plan complicated and requires longer recovery time. This essentially occurs because the body has to work harder to not only sustain the body as it manages the chronic conditions, it too has to work to fight the infection from the pneumonia and flu. Lastly, with having chronic conditions, it more likely for you to get pneumonia or flu as well, because your body is in essence “weaker” because it is using its energy and resources to maintain your body with your conditions.

I have listed and will discuss 4 of the most common and beneficial vaccines for seniors.

Influenza Vaccine (Flu Vaccine)
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can be severe and life-threatening.
You should get a flu shot annually. For older adults, it’s best that you get your vaccine as early in the season as possible to prevent getting the flu from your spouse, caregiver, or friend. In the U.S., flu season typically peaks between November and March. The flu vaccine is once a year and free because of the Medicare Part B benefit.

Pneumococcal Vaccine (pneumonia vaccine)
Pneumonia can be viral (virus) or from bacteria. If you have had a cold or flu, it is easier for you to get pneumonia, because your lungs are still trying to recover from the flu or cold, and the bacteria or virus from the pneumonia enters. Pneumonia is an infection that aggravates the air sacs in one or both lungs. The infection can become so bad that it begins to invade your bloodstream and affect other organs.
The vaccine is actually two shots given about a year apart. The pneumococcal vaccine is a cost-free benefit covered by Medicare Part B.

Shingles Vaccine
Shingles is the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, it shows up on your body as a painful rash with blisters.  Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox, but can be passed on when the infected person’s blisters begin to scab. Once healed, long-term pain can still linger.
Shingles is reactivated due to age-related weakening of the immune system, it causes a trigger in the inactive chickenpox virus. Whether you remember having chickenpox as a child or not, you should still talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.  Medicare coverage for the shingle vaccine varies depending on whether you have Medicare traditional or a Medicare plan, you will either be responsible for a co-payment (fixed dollar amount) or coinsurance (percentage of the vaccine’s cost).

Hepatitis B Vaccine (Hep B vaccine)
Hep B is a contagious virus that infects the liver. Acute hep B, which usually lasts a few weeks, often mimics symptoms similar to the flu, like fever and nausea. Chronic hep B is long-term, often has no symptoms at all, and can cause liver damage or death.
Hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three or four injections received over six months. Most Americans are vaccinated against hepatitis B as infants.
Medicare Part B covers the cost of the hep B vaccine if a doctor determines that you are at high or medium risk of contracting the hep B virus.

Getting these vaccines are an important part of healthy aging, and they also help ensure your health.
If your primary care doctor offers these vaccines, take the vaccine from the office, so that a record can be kept, to prevent issues with double billing and forgetting you ever had the vaccine.
Always remember to try to remain in your insurance network, for most affordable cost.
Talk to your doctor today, to discuss what vaccines are good for you and what time is good for you. There are many vaccines beneficial to the aging person, I decided to cover 4 that I see as a RN and Certified Care Manager, every day, that patients are missing and causing serious problems to their health.

Wash your hands! Cover your cough and sneeze!

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