The same virus that causes chickenpox in children, varicella zoster, can lay dormant in the body for many decades before manifesting in a painful skin eruption known as shingles. Shingles is quite common in aging adults and can significantly affect their quality of life when it is present. Family caregivers must do all they can to make their aging loved one comfortable and do what they can to help their aging loved one out.
What are the Symptoms of Shingles?
When a child gets the chicken pox, that virus stays in the body until something triggers it to reactivate. Often, shingles are linked to a weakened immune system, caused by anything from stress or a severe cold to cancer treatments. An elderly adults health diminishes with age and other factors like chronic illness, disease, injury and simple age-related issues.
The symptoms of shingles easy to spot in elderly adults. The virus causes inflammation and skin irritation along nerve paths in the body, generally on one side of the spinal cord. The breakout can circle from the lower back to the abdomen, from the upper back around to the chest, and even into the face and arms. Within a few days of the initial pain, the skin erupts in a red rash and then painful blisters that are very sensitive to touch.
The shingles rash is itchy and painful and is usually accompanied by other symptoms that include a fever, chills, headache and fatigue. While shingles itself isnt contagious, a person who has never had chicken pox can develop that from someone who has shingles. The good news is that people usually only develop shingles once in their lives.
Caring for Seniors with Shingles
While shingles doesnt usually cause many health complications, there are some things that family caregivers and elder care providers should know as they help the aging adult out with daily tasks. Shingles is quite painful, and seniors may need some basic pain relievers to help them cope. The itchy blisters make it difficult to shower or bathe, and even clothing can irritate the areas. Family caregivers and elder care providers can use a cool washcloth to soothe the skin and minimize the pain.
Shingles blisters in seniors may also become infected, so they should always be kept clean, dry and covered. Family caregivers and elder care providers should also try to take the elderly persons mind off the itching and pain. Things like reading books, watching television, socializing with friends and enjoying hobbies are often good distractions. Stress also should do everything they can to minimize the elderly persons discomfort.
Fortunately, shingles is one health issue that doesnt usually have a long-lasting impact on the elderly persons overall health and wellness. However, due to the severity of the rash and the nerve pain that accompanies an outbreak, its good for family caregivers and elder care providers to learn how to take care of aging adults with shingles.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elder care in Edina, MN, and the surrounding areas, please contact the friendly staff at CareBuilders at Home Minnesota. Call today 612-260-2273.