Pittsburgh / Allison Park Senior Care Blog

5 Things to Know About Shingles in Seniors

By Amy Felman

Many family caregivers have a lot of misconceptions about the disease known as shingles, especially as it relates to their aging loved ones. Here are 5 important things to know about shingles and how that relates to taking care of an aging adult with the disease.

1. Shingles is caused by a virus.

When the virus known as varicella-zoster enters the body of a child, it triggers a chicken pox outbreak. Even though the chicken pox go away, the virus doesn’t leave the body. Over the decades, it sits dormant. When the body goes through stress, illness, or otherwise develops a weaker immune system, the virus reactivates, causing shingles. Not everyone will develop shingles, but anyone who had chicken pox as a child is at potential risk.

2. Shingles symptoms are quite serious.

Most people associate shingles with the chicken pox-like rash that develops on the body. It usually radiates from the spine along a nerve path, either around the waist or up over the shoulder and chest. Before the rash appears, seniors usually feel quite ill from fever, chills and stomach ache. The rash area can be itchy, irritated and very painful to even the slightest touch. As the blisters of the rash erupt, they crust over, causing more itching. Symptoms of shingles generally last from three to five weeks.

3. Treatment for shingles is quite limited.

There is no cure for shingles and there isn’t much doctors can do to eliminate symptoms. There are medications that can shorten the overall timeframe of the disease and reduce potential complications from shingles, so getting the aging adult to a doctor is a good idea. Standard pain relievers help with discomfort, and topical methods like cool compresses and anti-itch ointments can also provide relief. Shingles is not contagious, and seniors usually just recover at home with help from family caregivers and elder care providers.

4. Family caregivers and elder care providers need to adjust care methods.

When an aging adult has shingles, they are dealing with a lot of pain as well as feeling ill. Family caregivers and elder care providers need to adjust how they take care of the senior. For example, during baths or showers, even a little water on the rash area can be quite painful. Putting on clothing can also cause pain to seniors. Family caregivers and elder care providers should not grab or otherwise touch the affected area.

5. Shingles can cause complications.

There may be instances where shingles can create health issues for seniors, although the majority of cases do not. The most common is if the erupted blisters get infected, weakening the immune system even further. It’s possible for the shingles rash to reach the face and the eye, causing dangerous blisters there. Other rare but possible complications include encephalitis, temporary facial paralysis and hearing loss.

If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring elder care in Zelienople, PA, please call the caring staff at Home Helpers. Call today (412) 364-4663.