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National Immunization Awareness Month - Has Your Mom Had Her Shingles Vaccine Yet?

During August's National Immunization Awareness Month, it's a good time to talk to your mom's doctor. She should have her measles/mumps/rubella, diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis, pneumonia, and flu vaccines up to date.

There's one other that's highly recommended. The zoster vaccine helps protect against shingles. If she hasn't had it or hasn't had it updated recently, it's time to address that.

What Is Shingles?

If you've had the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster), you're at risk for developing shingles later in life. Shingles is simply a reactivation of the chicken pox virus. Instead of forming the itchy bumps, it can cause a blistery rash on the torso. Not everyone gets that rash. Instead, it's best known for causing pain, headaches, and fatigue. The pain can be severe.

Things to Know About the Shingles Vaccine

The first shingles vaccine came out in 2006. If your mom had this vaccine, she should talk to her doctor about the newer one. Shingrix came out in 2017 and is the vaccine doctors prefer. It's recommended for any healthy adult age 50 or older.

Shingrix requires two doses that are given a few months apart. This protection is over 90 percent effective in the first two years and 85 percent after that. Zostavax is only 51 to 67 percent effective, which is why Shingrix is preferred.

What Happens if Your Mom Gets Shingles?

If your mom gets shingles, whether she's had the vaccine or not, she will need support around the house. The pain can be extreme and have her wanting to stay in bed and not move.

Make sure she's supported by having someone to help her. Family or professional caregivers should be available to get her beverages, remind her when she last had a pain reliever, and cook her meals and snacks. When the pain is bad, she may need help getting in and out of bed or off a sofa. She may need someone to support her as she gets in and out of the shower, too.

You may be too busy with work to find time to drive your mom to the doctor or help her at home You can make sure she gets her vaccinations up to date by hiring caregivers to assist her with appointment scheduling, transportation, and other daily activities.

Caregivers are happy to take her grocery shopping, to medical appointments, or to the pharmacy to get a needed vaccine. Discuss these and other helpful senior care services with a specialist.