When you were a child your mother likely worried about you catching chickenpox. You might have even suffered from them yourself, which led you to worry about your child getting them. While children now are better protected from this childhood malady, your elderly parent did not have such protection. That means that if she was like most children, she suffered the itchy bumps, bursting blisters, and crusting skin of chickenpox when she was young. She got through that illness, but now that you are on an elder care journey with her, it is important that you realize her encounter with the infection may not actually be over. This is because when a person gets chickenpox, the herpes zoster virus remains in the body. Though it stays dormant in many people, in some it will become active again, reemerging as a condition known as shingles.
Shingles is a condition that can be truly debilitating. Whereas chickenpox is usually characterized by itchy bumps and a fever, shingles tends to cause a blistering rash that most people describe as being severely painful. This rash can be so serious it can make a tremendous negative impact on the health, wellbeing, and quality of life. Understanding this condition and how it can impact your loved one can help you to feel more prepared to handle it should it arise.
Some things that you should know about shingles include:
- Nearly 30 percent of all people throughout the United States will suffer from shingles at some point in their lives. This accounts for approximately 1 million cases of the disease each year.
- Risk for developing shingles increases with age with seniors over the age of 60 at far greater risk of developing the illness than younger adults.
- The National Institute of Health estimates that seniors have a 50 percent chance of developing shingles by the age of 80.
- The painful rash that characterizes shingles can last for between 2 and 4 weeks.
- Even when the rash itself heals, the pain caused by the rash can persist for years due to the impact of the virus on the nerves.
- The chances that your parent will experience this lingering pain, referred to as post-herpetic neuralgia, increases with age.
- Shingles rashes that develop around the eyes can lead to vision problems and even loss of vision.
- The pain caused by the blistering rash can make it difficult or even impossible for your loved one to handle basic tasks throughout her daily life. She may face trouble dressing, bathing, cleaning, cooking, or even eating.
- It is common for people who suffer from this condition to also experience depression, anxiety, and loss of motivation when going through the rash. This is exacerbated if the rash is severe, covers a large portion of the body, is visible when she is going out in public, or lasts for a particularly long time.
If your parent had chickenpox when she was young, make sure that you talk to her doctor about what you can do to help protect her from this painful condition.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elder care services in Carefree, AZ, contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands Home Care at (480) 725-7002.
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