Things You Should Know when a Loved One has Shingles

Posted: 8/6/2014 10:20 AM by Interim HealthCare
Shingles is a painful skin disease common in both men and women over the age of 50 caused by the varicella zoster virus. Another name for shingles is herpes zoster yet it is unrelated to the herpes virus. When providing senior care for a loved one with shingles, there are a few things you should know to help aid in their care.

The varicella virus is present for life in a person who has had the chicken pox. The virus remains dormant in the nerve root located on one side of the spinal cord. There is a 20 percent chance of developing varicella zoster if you had a history with chicken pox. In some people the virus remains dormant their entire life. In others, the disease becomes active due to illness, stress, or the aging process making the immune system weak. The severity depends on a person’s age and whether or not the immune system has been compromised.

Symptoms that senior home services should look for include:
  • Itching, burning, or numbness of the skin
  • Tingling sensation
  • Painful fluid-filled blisters
  • Rash
  • Chills, fever, headache, or upset stomach

There is a pattern with shingles. A person will experience tingling and burning of the skin for a few days. Then a red rash will appear usually on one side of the body, face, or neck. The rash then turns to blisters that will dry up and scab over within several days. Some people feel pain after the rash goes away. This is known as post-herpetic neuralgia or PHN pain. In most cases, shingles will last between 3 to 5 weeks.

You can’t catch shingles from someone who has it. However, you can catch the chicken pox from someone with shingles and in the blister stage. Although it is possible to get shingles more than once, typically people will only get shingles once.

Senior home services can help make life more comfortable for a person with shingles by:
  • Making sure the elder gets plenty of rest.
  • Preparing well-balanced, nutritious meals.
  • Promoting a stress-free environment.
  • Applying a cool washcloth to the blisters to dry them up and ease the pain.
  • Listening to the elder as they share their feelings and frustration.

Senior care for a loved one with shingles will require making sure the elder takes the medication prescribed by their physician. Offer encouragement as they deal with the pain. There is a shingles vaccine available. Seniors over the age of 60 should consult with their doctor about getting the vaccine.
If you or an aging loved one are considering home care services, contact Interim HealthCare today. G+