Vaccines for Palliative & Hospice Patients
Vaccines play a key role in preventing serious illness over the course of our lives. This remains true in our senior years – including when facing a chronic or terminal illness.
Most people began receiving vaccinations as children to prevent illnesses including diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, smallpox, tetanus, and whooping cough. Over the years, others were developed including vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and B, influenza, and chicken pox. Thanks to these vaccines, smallpox has been eradicated and polio is no longer in transmission in the United States.
Over time, the immunity from these vaccines can wear off and require a booster. Older adults and those with a compromised immune system also find themselves at a much higher risk for complications if they contract a vaccine-preventable illness. Even when receiving hospice or palliative care, certain vaccines may be beneficial in preventing additional illness.
Vaccines for Hospice Patients
The goal of hospice care is to give patients the highest possible quality of life for the remainder of their lives. There are two vaccines for hospice patients that can help with this.
The influenza vaccine can help hospice patients by preventing the flu from shortening their lives and providing great discomfort. There is no risk of contracting the flu from the influenza vaccine, but it can reduce the risk of flu-related complications and even death.
If a patient has a documented history of pneumonia, the hospice team may also recommend the pneumococcal vaccine. The vaccine will help protect the patient from 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause serious infections in adults and children including pneumonia, septicaemia, and meningitis. It can also help prevent ear infections and pneumonia caused by those bacteria.
Vaccines for Palliative Care Patients
In addition to the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, a palliative care patient’s primary physician may recommend a few more vaccinations that are common for adults. Here are a few vaccines for palliative patients that they may recommend.
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Commonly referred to as Tdap, this combination vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). Most adults will have received this vaccine, but the Tdap vaccination requires a booster every ten years to continue to provide adequate protection against tetanus and diphtheria.
The Zoster vaccine protects adults against shingles. Shingles is a common disease that presents with a painful rash and blisters. It can also cause fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach. It is recommended for adults age 50 and older if they have already had shingles or if they are not sure if they’ve had chickenpox. If you have never had chickenpox or received a chickenpox vaccine, your physician may recommend the varicella vaccine instead which is designed to prevent chickenpox.
In cases where your primary physician feels you are at an increased risk for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, or meningococcal disease, they may recommend additional vaccines for prevention. Hepatitis A is typically spread by contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B is a liver infection that is spread via blood or other body fluids. Meningococcal is very rare in the United States, but the vaccine may be recommended if your doctor believes you are at higher risk due to a complement component deficiency, travel, or if their spleen has been removed.
Speak to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about vaccination recommendations. They can provide more information about the benefits and possible side effects.
To learn more about the services Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care provides to patients, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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