How Serious is Shingles in Elderly Adults?

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How Serious is Shingles in Elderly Adults?



Shingles, caused by the same virus as the one that triggers chickenpox in children, is a temporary condition that can cause extreme pain and illness and is usually associated with a blistering rash on the torso. While it usually doesn’t cause any long-term complications, shingles is a serious disease and should be treated by a doctor. Family caregivers need to take extra precautions when caring for an aging relative who has developed shingles.

Interesting Facts About Shingles

As they learn more about shingles in elderly adults, family caregivers are in a better position to help their elderly loved ones.

Here are some important facts about shingles that family caregivers may not know:

  • Shingles is caused by the same virus that triggers chickenpox in children.
  • The virus, known as varicella-zoster, remains dormant in the body after chicken pox and when it is reactivated, it causes shingles in adults.
  • Most shingles cases appear in adults over the age of 50 and it is quite common in seniors.
  • Not everyone who had chickenpox will develop shingles—medical studies show it to be just one in five people.
  • Most seniors who develop shingles only do so one time and then the virus goes dormant again, however there are a few rare cases of a recurring shingles development.
  • Shingles is not contagious to others, unless the person has never had chickenpox before.

Symptoms and Treatment for Shingles in Seniors

While there’s no way to predict who will develop shingles, medical experts have linked shingles outbreaks with weakness in the immune system, stress, age and medical treatments like radiation or chemotherapy. Symptoms include a general feeling of sickness with a fever, chills, headache, and stomach upset. After a few days, the aging adult will develop a rash on one side of the body, generally on the torso. In some cases, the rash can move up the shoulder and neck to the face. The rash quickly turns in to chicken pox-like blisters that erupt.

There is no cure for shingles and doctors simply recommend allowing it to run the course. There are medications that may help with the discomfort and pain, and some that may shorten the timeframe or reduce the risk of complications. Shingles usually last from three to five weeks, and during that tie, the elderly adult is usually in extreme discomfort.

Caring for Elderly Adults with Shingles

Family caregivers and elder care providers need to be extremely careful in assisting an elderly adult with shingles. They will be very sensitive to touch, from water, clothes and even a helping hand. Topical ointments may help with itching and pain, as will cool compresses. Seniors may feel more fatigued than usual, due to the disease and also from many nights of uncomfortable sleep. It’s a good idea for family caregivers and elder care providers to help seniors keep their minds off their pain and discomfort by conversation, entertainment and activities. Family caregivers and elder care providers will likely need to modify their routines in how they care for the elderly adult to deal with the symptoms of shingles.

if you or an aging loved one are considering elder care in Parker, CO, please contact the caring staff at SYNERGY HomeCare today at 303-953-9924.

Greg Rodolph

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