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What Older Adults Need to Know About the Covid-19 Vaccine

Monday , January 11 , 2021

What Older Adults Need to Know About the Covid-19 Vaccine

Older adults are among those most at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. That is why, now that vaccines against the virus are being distributed, seniors will be some of the first to receive them.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that people living in long-term care facilities, as well as those 65 and older, be included in Phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

While distribution will vary from state to state, here in New Jersey, all residents aged 65+ are eligible for vaccination beginning January 14.

As you get ready to receive the vaccine, you may have some questions. That’s understandable.

In this blog, we address some of the most common queries older adults have about the COVID-19 vaccine so you can feel more comfortable as you move forward with the process.

Keep reading to learn more:

Older Adults and COVID-19

According to the CDC, “risk of severe illness increases with age, with older adults at highest risk.” In the U.S., 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have been in adults aged 65 and higher, and those aged 85 and higher have a 630x greater chance of death.

One of the reasons older adults are so likely to become gravely ill is underlying medical conditions, such as COPD or diabetes. To mitigate risks, experts recommend that older adults continue with their regular treatment plan and have at a least a 30-day supply of any medications. Most importantly, they say that you SHOULD NOT avoid going to the hospital or doctor office out of fear of contracting COVID-19.

Vaccine Distribution

The CDC has recommended that states give vaccine priority to health care workers, long-term care residents, essential workers, adults with high-risk conditions, and those aged 65 and older (in that order).

Already, more than 9.3 million doses of vaccine have been administered across the U.S. – mostly to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Soon, the process will be opened to those aged 65 and older (some states, such as Florida, have already begun inoculating older adults).

It is estimated that about 50 million doses of vaccine should be available this month, followed by another 60 million doses in February and March. That’s enough vaccine for roughly 85 million people, and should be enough to immunize medical personnel, front line workers, and older adults.

Getting the Vaccine

There are two authorized vaccines in the United States (Pfizer and Moderna), and both require two shots to be effective. Vaccine doses are purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars and will be given to the American people at no cost, however vaccination providers may charge an “administration fee” for giving the shot. The fee may be covered by your insurance company or, if you are uninsured, by the Health Resources and Services Administration Provider Relief Fund.

Each state has its own plan for who will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine first. For more information on when you may be eligible, contact your state health department.

Is the Vaccine Safe For Older Adults?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been tested in adults aged 65 and older. Research shows that they are safe and effective at preventing illness due to COVID-19. Since it is known that older adults can become gravely ill from COVID-19 and are more likely to die from the infection, it is highly recommended that they receive the vaccine.

What are the Side Effects?

Based on what scientists have seen so far, there seem to be few side effects. Most often, recipients have noted symptoms such as:

  • Soreness at the site of injection
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Low-grade fever

Please note that if you are on chemotherapy to treat cancer or immunosuppressants (such as post-transplant), you may experience additional side effects and you should speak to your doctor before receiving your first dose.

Do I Still Need to Wear a Mask Post-Vaccine?

Yes. The CDC recommends that during the pandemic, people continue to wear a mask that covers their face and nose, even after receiving the vaccine. It is unknown whether vaccinated people can become carriers of the disease and spread it to other people, leaving the possibility that they could become silent spreaders of COVID-19.

Posted in: Health

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2020 in Review

Monday , January 4 , 2021

2020 in Review

“And now we welcome the New Year, full of things that have never been.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke

For years I’ve thought fondly of the quote from Rilke whenever January rolled around. The words “things that have never been” sound so full of promise. But this past year, much of what the new year brought us looked more like the evils swooshing out of Pandora’s box than things of wonder.

In 2020 we had to deal with world-wild pestilence and with civil strife. We’ve been denied comforts, such as the presence of friends and hugging loved ones. We’ve been denied joys, such as concerts, ball games, dancing, and travel. We’ve had to manage anxiety, fear, economic harm, and no end of the upheaval of our plans and routines.

It hasn’t been easy for anyone. But still, a new year has come around yet again, and, looking back, I do find a few things to be deeply grateful for.

Our quick-thinking, committed nursing staff!
In early spring, as soon as we realized what we were dealing with, our RNs put their heads together and devised ways of keeping everyone as safe as possible in a situation for which we’ve had no precedent or preparation. By the third week in March, they had created a system for daily reports from each employee documenting their temperature, any symptoms they might be experiencing, and any exposure they may have had.

They sent out letters to every client and caregiver outlining infection control protocols and our expectations concerning mask-wearing, hand-washing and distancing within the home care setting. They began using video calls with our home health aides to accomplish their annual skills assessments remotely.

Equally committed help from our office staff
By the end of March, we had driven all over Somerset and Middlesex Counties, delivering masks, instructions, and hand sanitizers to our clients and staff. We switched gears to have far fewer people in the office on any given day and added four Hepa air purifiers.

We learned ways to do parts of our hiring process remotely
Caring, brave home health aides and understanding clients
Running a business that requires closeness and physical contact during a pandemic is a challenge. Some clients and some caregivers understandably decided to take some time off. But many adapted and found new ways to work together as safely as possible. Many clients expressed to us how relieved they were that they could get the care they need in their homes’ relative safety.

Science!
No, health professionals, doctors, and scientists are not omniscient. They had much to learn about this new virus. But I’m profoundly grateful for the expertise and dedication they brought to the urgent task of finding ways to keep us safe. We humans can be pretty proud of what we have been able to accomplish.

At ComForCare we are in the process of working on getting as many staff as possible vaccinated so that we can begin to return to something closer to normal. As home care workers who interact with a vulnerable population, we can receive our vaccinations now, and I’m getting mine on January 7.

Understandably, some people have qualms about taking a new vaccine, but the cost-benefit trade-off is clear for me. As I get my vaccination, I won’t be thinking about possible side effects. I’ll be thinking about visiting clients with less fear of spreading infection, of being able to hug my daughter and mother-in-law, of being able to visit and laugh again with my brother and his family.

At the bottom of Pandora’s mythic box, hope was hiding. In 2021, hope might look a lot like a medical technician bearing a needle.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Posted in: Aging

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Is your elderly loved one at risk of being scammed?

Monday , December 21 , 2020

Is your elderly loved one at risk of being scammed?

The financial exploitation of aging adults is an increasingly large problem in the United States. In fact, The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) reports that one in twenty seniors have indicated some form of perceived financial abuse in the last year.

According to some experts, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is going to make things even worse.

Why does this happen? Scammers view the elderly as easy prey–especially now that social distancing measures have cut them off from family, friends, community centers, and other interactions with people who care for them.

To help protect yourself or a loved one from becoming the victim of a financial crime, it’s important to recognize the warning signs and know what to do if you spot them.

What is elder financial abuse?
As defined by the Older Americans Act of 2006, elder financial abuse is:

The fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets. 

In other words, it’s taking advantage of an elderly person for financial gain. Usually, it is in the context of a relationship where trust is expected, and it causes harm (both financial and emotional) to the older person involved.

Who is at risk?
According to 2017 study from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the people hit hardest by financial scams (for an average loss of $45,300) were ages 70 to 79, while people aged 80 and over suffered the second highest losses. All older adults can fall victim to financial abuse, however.

Scott Rahm, managing partner at RMO, LLP, says that these days “the economic strain of quarantine leads people to take advantage of others. It’s a perfect storm, with economic pressure on one side and economic opportunity on the other. Right now, these storm clouds are colliding.”

Issues that may leave your loved ones vulnerable include:

  • They may have mental disabilities or cognitive disorders
  • They are socially isolated
  • They may be unfamiliar with technology and not realize what they are granting access to or signing off on
  • They often have predictable financial patterns (for instance, they receive their Social Security check at the same time every month)
  • Perpetrators may assume that the elderly person will be too embarrassed to confront them or go to authorities

Who commits these crimes?
Typically, the perpetrator of financial crimes against the elderly is someone they know, such as a spouse or caretaker. They may feel as though what the elderly person has is “rightfully theirs” or that they are owed something.

Offenders can include:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Bankers or investment professionals
  • Health care workers
  • And more

How do you know if your loved one is being taken advantage of?
Just as physical abuse against elders has signs and clues, so does financial abuse. Just one indicator doesn’t mean that your older adult is being scammed, but if you notice several of the following, you might want to take a closer look:

  • Unexplained bank withdraws or transfers
  • Unpaid bills or utilities being disconnected due to nonpayment
  • Eviction notices
  • Lack of amenities the person could normally afford (food, clothing, outings, etc.)
  • Cancelled checks made out to an unfamiliar name
  • Forgeries on legal documents, including powers of attorney or last will and testaments
  • Loans or credit cards being opened in the older adult’s name
  • The elderly adult complains of missing belongings or cash

How is elder financial abuse carried out?
There are countless ways in which elder financial abuse is perpetrated. Here are some of the most common:

  • An acquaintance coerces the older adult into signing over power of attorney and then uses that designation to acquire money and assets
  • A caretaker who has access to a senior’s bank card or checks uses them to make purchases for themselves
  • Loved ones or friends may threaten to withhold care until they receive money
  • A scammer may tell the elderly adult that they won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they can’t claim the prize until they send in money to cover taxes
  • Thieves may pretend to be law enforcement, utilities workers, or building maintenance people in order to gain access to the senior’s home and steal physical belongings or cash
  • A perpetrator may claim to work for a charity foundation in order to collect donations
  • Scammers may pretend to be the elderly adult’s grandchild or other loved one and ask to borrow money due to an unexpected hardship

It happened to us: My husband’s stepfather was temporarily taken in by a smooth-talking guy who promised a wonderful investment opportunity. Luckily, he wizened up and didn’t send the money–but that didn’t stop the scammer from calling back several times and threatening to come to the house to collect his cash.

What to do if you suspect the financial abuse of an elder
These days, more than ever, it’s vital to check in our elderly loved ones. The earlier you spot the signs of financial abuse, the better. The first thing to do is discuss your concerns with your loved one but be patient: they are likely to be embarrassed about the situation. If the perpetrator is someone you know, ask them questions in a non-confrontational way–often just knowing that someone is on to them is enough to deter further activity.

If matters seem out of hand, contact the authorities. Medicare Advantage has a wonderful list of both state and national resources that can help if someone you know has fallen victim.

Tell us: have any older adults in your life been the victim of a financial scam?

Originally published February 2019, updated December 2020

Posted in: Aging

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