With the onset of fall comes the decision whether to get a flu shot vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved vaccines for the 2008-2009 flu season. The flu shot vaccines are designed to protect against strains of flu virus expected to be in circulation this fall and winter.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when the match between flu vaccine and circulating strains of flu virus is close, a flu shot is between 70 and 90 percent effective in warding off illness in healthy people under age 65. For older adults who don’t live in nursing homes and for people with chronic medical conditions, the flu vaccine is 30 to 70 percent effective in preventing hospitalization for flu or pneumonia. Among nursing home residents, a flu shot is 50 to 60 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and pneumonia, and 80 percent effective in preventing death from influenza.
In some cases, people who get a flu shot can still get the flu, but they may get a much less severe form of the illness and, most important, they’ll have a decreased risk of flu-related complications — especially pneumonia, heart attack, stroke and death — to which older adults are especially vulnerable. You need annual flu protection because the influenza virus changes from year to year. The flu vaccine you got last year wasn’t designed to fight the virus strains in circulation this flu season.
Influenza viruses mutate so quickly that they can render one season’s vaccine ineffective by the next season. A CDC advisory committee meets early in the year to estimate which strains of influenza virus will be most prevalent during the upcoming flu season, and manufacturers produce vaccine based on those recommendations. Most people who want to reduce the risk of getting influenza can get a flu shot. The CDC recommends the flu vaccine each year if you:
• Are age 6 months up to 19 years.
• Are pregnant.
• Are 50 years old or older.
• Have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or heart, kidney or lung disease.
• Have a weakened immune system such as from medications or HIV infection.
• Are a resident of a nursing home or other long term care facility.
• Are a child care worker or health care worker or live with or care for someone at high risk of complications from the flu.
Don’t get a flu shot if you:
• Have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past.
• Are allergic to chicken eggs.
• Developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious autoimmune disease affecting the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, within six weeks of receiving the vaccine in the past. People who have experienced Guillain-Barre after the flu vaccine are at higher risk than are others of developing it again.
• Have a fever. Wait until your symptoms improve before getting vaccinated.
If you’re over age 65, the vaccine doesn’t offer as much protection as it would to someone younger because older adults produce fewer antibodies in response to the virus. Still, the vaccine offers more protection than does skipping the shot altogether. More important, the flu vaccine decreases the risk of flu-related complications — especially pneumonia, heart attack, stroke and death — to which older adults are especially vulnerable.
Good hygiene remains your primary defense against contagious illnesses:
• Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible.
• Avoid crowds when the flu is most prevalent in your area.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Antivirals help to prevent the flu or reduce the severity and duration of the illness by a day or two. Antiviral medications are best taken within 48 hours of the onset of your symptoms and are available only by prescription. Ask your doctor about getting a rapid flu test that can verify within a few hours whether you have the flu. There are two antivirals for treating the flu virus Zanamivir (Relenza) and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Each of these drugs can cause side effects, including lightheadedness, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty breathing. They can also lead to the development of antiviral-resistant viruses.
People with the flu, particularly children, who take Tamiflu may be at increased risk of self-injury and confusion. The FDA recommends that individuals with the flu who take Tamiflu be closely monitored for signs of unusual behavior. In July 2007, the FDA approved two lower dose versions of Tamiflu for children. Still, discuss possible side effects with your doctor before starting any antiviral medication.
Your best bet for treating flu symptoms remains the tried and true: Rest; get plenty of fluids; take acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) for aches and pains.
It’s also important to eat healthy and get some daily activity to help keep your immune system strong and your recovery short.
The Silver Foxes Den along with San Juan Basin Health will be offering flu vaccines on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 11 a.m. in the Den. You must have your Medicare Card with you or the cost is $25. No appointment is necessary.
Senior special events
Free cardio screening. Friday, Oct. 3, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Joanna (JoJo) Jensen, community health worker with SJBH, will provide free cardiovascular screenings which include blood pressure, height/weight/BMI (body mass index), glucose, and cholesterol testing, as well as a computerized analysis of each individual’s overall cardiac risk. The process takes 20-25 minutes per client, including the questionnaire on health behaviors and access to medical care. You do not need to fast, and will get your results immediately. Anyone identified as being moderate or high risk for cardiovascular disease is offered a referral to local medical providers for follow up.
Archuleta Seniors, Inc. elections. Your local council on aging, Archuleta Seniors, Inc. (ASI), will be holding their annual election of board members and officers on Monday, Oct. 6. Voting will be from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the lounge. Officers are elected annually and board members serve two-year terms. You must be an ASI member to be eligible to vote. The membership fee is $5 and is valid through Dec. 31. The bylaws of the organization do not allow proxy votes or absentee ballots.
Meditation for Healing. On Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Sarah Barbara hosts the weekly Meditation for Healing program and will teach you how to meditate and reap the healing benefits of the practice. This program is free.
Dance For Health. Wednesdays at 10 a.m. Karma Raley, the dance instructor, enjoys sharing her love of dance and blends basic ballet and modern jazz with yoga awareness to create a full body routine which makes it possible to work out to the degree you want and/or need to. Wear loose comfortable clothing and bring a mat or towel. This program is free.
Fred Harman Art Museum tour. The folks at the Fred Harman Art Museum are looking forward to a visit from the Silver Foxes on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 1:15 p.m. Most of you probably read the Red Ryder and Little Beaver comic strip that runs in The PREVIEW each week. Many of you may not know that the comic strip actually ran for 25 years — 1938 to 1963 — in 750 newspapers on three continents. And that the creator of Red Ryder and Little Beaver, Fred Harman, grew up in Pagosa Springs. The staff looks forward to sharing stories of Fred Harman, and showing you around his last home here in Pagosa. The cost is $1 (a $4 savings) Reserve by Tuesday, Oct. 7.
Sutherlands Farm pumpkin patch tour/lunch. Sutherland Farms is a family owned working produce farm. There’s a retail market on the farm that offers fresh picked produce as well as locally produced items such as honey, cider, jams, pickles and all natural beef. Upon arriving at Sutherlands, you will take a hayride tour of the farm, pumpkin patch included, wander their corn maze, see their miniature farm animals, and have lunch at the Purple Cow Kafé. This trip is on Thursday, Oct. 9, at 9:30 a.m., and the cost is $5. Reserve your place by Tuesday, Oct. 7.
Cooking for one or two. On Friday, Oct. 10, lunch will include a short nutrition presentation by our dietitian, Mikel Love. She will bring with her lots of information about cooking healthy and nutritious food for one or two people. She will also cover some great tips on how to save money on your food budget. After lunch everyone is welcome to join Mikel for a cooking demonstration and class. We will cook up some good food, talk about minimizing food waste, and review some tips for cooking meals in small quantities. Limited space for this class, sign up by Wednesday, Oct. 8.
The Geezers. Are you a Geezer? For stimulating conversation and an opportunity to meet and greet members of the Silver Foxes Den, drop by for coffee on Friday mornings at 9 a.m.
Silver Foxes Den piano
If you love to play the piano, and miss having an audience, we have a very lonely piano at the Silver Foxes Cultural Center waiting for your fingers to tickle its ivories. Drop by any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday between 10:30 a.m. and noon and bring the joy of toe-tapping to our local seniors. For more information, call 264-2167.
Are you baffled by the many decisions you are faced with regarding your Medicare these days? The decisions you need to make as you approach your 65th birthday can be overwhelming.
Keeping up with the information you need regarding Part A (hospitalization), Part B (physicians visits), Part C (Medicare Advantage Plans) and Part D (prescription drugs) can be a full time job.
Did you know lower income individuals may be entitled to a discount in some areas of the Medicare program?
The State Health Insurance Assistance Program, through the State of Colorado Division of Insurance, or SHIP, helps beneficiaries identify and understand programs and plans, including Medicare prescription drug coverage, Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare supplemental insurance policies, Medicare Savings Programs, long-term care insurance and financing, and other public and private health insurance coverage options.
SHIP also assists eligible participants in enrolling in these programs and plans; all services are provided free of charge.
Open enrollment for Part D, prescription drug program begins Nov. 15.
All participants previously enrolled in a drug program are strongly encouraged to have their plan rescreened by meeting with a counselor to review plans, since many plans do change each year. Make sure you get what’s best for you.
SHIP-trained counselors, as well as representatives of Veteran Services and the Department of Human Services, will host a presentation on Medicare and “What you need to know” on Thursday, Oct. 16, at 10 a.m. in the South Conference Room of the community center and again on Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the dining room of The Den, located at the north end of the community center.
Bring your questions and we’ll help you through the tangled web. You may also make an appointment with a counselor for individual counseling by calling 264-2167.
Archuleta Seniors Inc.
This is one of the best deals in Pagosa. Help out seniors and save money at local businesses with our discount card. Seniors Inc. is selling annual memberships for folks 55 and older at The Den for $5 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also, the ASI board would like for folks to know that the computers at the Silver Foxes Den are now up and available for your use.
As part of the Archuleta County Emergency Plan, the Silver Foxes Den Senior Center is creating a list of people of all ages who may need assistance in the event of an emergency such as a blizzard, power outage, flood, etc. Folks on oxygen or an electric dependent health system should be on the list as well as anyone with a disability, which could make it difficult for them to evacuate. If you think you may be in need of assistance during an emergency, contact Kat at 264-2167. Don’t delay, be prepared today.
Friday, Oct. 3 — 9 a.m. Geezers; 11:15 a.m. Gym Walk; 9 a.m. cardio screenings.
Monday, Oct. 6 — 8:45 a.m. Tai Chi, 10 a.m. Tai Chi; 10:30 a.m. ASI board elections; 11:15 a.m. Gym Walk; 1 p.m. Canasta.
Tuesday, Oct. 7 — 11 a.m. blood pressure check and flu vaccinations; 11:15 a.m. Gym walk; 1 p.m. Meditation for Healing; deadline for Fred Harman Museum and Sutherlands tours.
Wednesday, Oct. 8 — 10 a.m. Dance 4 Health; 1:15 p.m. Fred Harman Art Museum.
Thursday, Oct. 9 — Closed.
Friday, Oct. 10 — 9 a.m. Geezers; 11:15 Gym Walk; 1 p.m. Cooking for 1 or 2.
Suggested donation $3 for ages 60-plus and kids 12 and under; all others $5. Our meal program is partially funded through the Older Americans Act, United Way, Archuleta County, Town of Pagosa Springs and other contributions and grants. These funds help support the cost of the meal which is approximately $6. Menu subject to change. The salad bar opens at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served at noon.
Friday, Oct. 3 — Spaghetti and meat sauce, tossed salad, seasoned green beans, orange, garlic bread stick.
Monday, Oct. 6 — Ham and beans, cut broccoli, parslied carrots, orange juice, cornbread.
Tuesday, Oct. 7 — Bratwurst, sauerkraut, pickled beets, sliced peaches.
Wednesday, Oct. 8 — Chicken salad sandwich, orange juice, fresh fruit.
Thursday, Oct. 9 — Closed.
Friday, Oct. 10 — Salisbury steak, masher and gravy, veggie medley, seasoned greens, fresh fruit, whole wheat bread.