Why vaccines are especially important for older people
The older you get, the harder it is for your body has fighting off infections and diseases. That’s why Dr. Gregory Poland, who heads up the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group, says it becomes more crucial to get vaccinated as you age.
“As you get older, your immune system gets weaker,” Dr. Poland says. “That’s why we see more severe infections in older people. It’s why they don’t do as well with [other] diseases.”
Dr. Poland says that’s why his team at Mayo Clinic looks for ways to tailor vaccines to better protect older people.
“There are three influenza vaccines, one shingles vaccine and one hepatitis B vaccine that have been designed around those issues and that work better than the standard vaccines in older people,” he said.
Dr. Poland says it’s important to remember that these vaccines won’t always prevent you from getting an illness, but they protect you from complications.
“So you might have had sniffles or fever,” he says. “You were home for a day or two from work, but you didn’t get hospitalized. You didn’t get pneumonia. You’re not on a ventilator. You’re not in ICU. And you didn’t die.”
He compares it to wearing a seat belt in a car. It won’t necessarily prevent you from getting in an accident, but it will probably save your life if you do.
Got bruises? What seniors need to know about bruising easily
Yet another unsightly bruise. You don’t recall bumping into anything, but lately you seem to be bruising frequently. Is this cause for concern?
Easy bruising is common with age. Although most bruises are harmless and go away without treatment, easy bruising can sometimes be a sign of a more serious problem.
Some people — especially women — are more prone to bruising than others. As you get older, your skin also becomes thinner and loses some of the protective fatty layer that helps cushion your blood vessels from injury.
Aspirin, anticoagulant medications, anti-platelet agents, other medications, and some dietary supplements, such as ginkgo, also can increase your bruising risk due to a blood-thinning effect or reducing your blood’s ability to clot.
If you experience increased bruising, don’t stop taking your medications.
Talk to your doctor about your concerns. Easy bruising sometimes indicates a serious underlying condition, such as a blood-clotting problem or a blood disease. Causes of bruising in seniors can include falls and even elder abuse.
Living wills are important to discuss with family and close friends
Family gatherings can be a perfect time for family to also consider talking about wills and living wills. Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Maisha Robinson said it’s as important as it is overlooked.
“It’s one of the best gifts you can give a loved one, so they can honor your wishes and preferences rather than trying to make them for you,” she said.
Dr. Robinson says, although it may be a delicate topic, it is important for families and friends to talk about what you’d like to have happen if you get sick and can’t make medical decisions for yourself. She also says that selecting a health care surrogate is important.