Caused by the same virus as chickenpox, shingles is a disease that affects millions of seniors each year. Painful and long lasting, but not harmful to the health, shingles is an unusual condition that eventually goes away on its own. In the meantime, however, aging adults will need lots of extra care from family caregivers and elder care providers for the weeks when shingles are their top concern.
Here are 5 common questions about shingles in aging adults and how to provide care for them:
1. What causes shingles in seniors?
Shingles is caused by a virus that first appears in the body in youth, manifesting as chicken pox. That virus remains dormant in the body until something reactivates it, such as age, a weak immune system, high stress, sickness or intensive medical treatment like radiation therapy. Seniors frequently develop shingles because they meet many of those risk factors
2. What are the symptoms of shingles?
The virus attacks the nerves along the spinal cord and radiates along nerve paths. At first the aging adult may experience skin sensitivity and pain emanating from the back along the torso and even up to the shoulders and neck. They may also have a fever, chills, headaches, stomach aches and digestive issues. After a few days, the skin rash develops and blisters form. This phase is extremely itchy and often painful. The blisters crust over and heal up over about five weeks.
3. How do doctors treat shingles?
When family caregivers and elder care providers believe the elderly adult may have shingles, they should make an appointment right away to rule out anything else. The doctor may give the aging adult some medicine to ease the symptoms. However, most of the time shingles is allowed to run its course, much like chicken pox. Rarely, seniors may experience complications from shingles or the blisters can become infected.
4. How can family caregivers help seniors with shingles?
Family caregivers and elder care providers need to be on hand to help seniors treat the symptoms of shingles and keep them feeling as comfortable as possible. Shingles can be extremely painful and can leave aging adults feeling quite sick, especially the first week. Family caregivers and elderly care providers should dress aging adults in loose-fitting clothes that don’t rub on the blisters. Cool compresses and anti-itch ointments may also help. When bathing or showering, family caregivers and elder care providers should avoid the blistered areas.
5. How often do seniors get shingles?
Not every person who has ever had the chickenpox will develop shingles. That means some people will carry the virus all their lives and never experience the discomfort of the condition. The majority of seniors who do get shingles only do so once, as the virus returns to dormancy. In rare cases, some people develop shingles more than once. In other words, once family caregivers and elder care providers help aging adults through a bout of shingles, it will soon become a distant memory.
If You Or An Aging Loved One Are Considering Hiring Elder Care in St. Petersburg, FL, Please Contact The Caring Staff At Assisting Hands Home Care Today! 727-748-4211.
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