In this post, I want to share four notable 2014 developments related to better health for older adults. They all struck me as practical information that should be useful to those of you helping an aging person with health and wellbeing.
In no particular order, here are my four geriatrics health highlights from 2014:
1. Two Separate One-Time Pneumococcal Vaccines Now Recommended for Older Adults
For several years now, the CDC and other experts have recommended that all seniors aged 65 or older get a one-time pneumonococcal vaccine. The particular vaccine recommended for older adults was the “23 valent” type (which means it protects against 23 subtypes of pneumococcal bacteria), branded as Pneumovax. Another vaccine, a “13 valent” branded as Prevnar, was recommended for children and some adults with weakened immune systems.
In September 2014, the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) published its recommendation that all adults aged 65+ get both types of pneumococcal vaccination (Prevnar and Pneumovax). This recommendation was based on their review of scientific studies.
For the ACIP’s technical statement explaining this recommendation, see “Use of 13-Valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine and 23-Valent Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).” This document was obviously not written for the lay public, but it provides a lot of important detail for those who want to dig into the nitty-gritty. (You can find a basic CDC page on this topic here.)
I’ll admit that I’ve read the ACIP’s statement and I don’t yet feel I clearly understand just how much extra protection an older person should expect, if she has already been vaccinated with Pneumovax and now should get Prevnar. (I do tend to err on the side of following guidelines unless I have good reason to believe that the likely harms outweigh the proposed likely benefit.)
Key things you should know: Yes, there are now two one-time “pneumonia” vaccines that are recommended for older adults. You should also know that these are not supposed to be given at the same time. For more information on how to space out these vaccines, talk to your doctor or take a look at the ACIP document mentioned above.
2. Benzodiazepines Linked (Again) to Higher Alzheimer’s Risk
Benzodiazepines are sedatives/tranquilizers that are often prescribed to treat anxiety or insomnia. Commonly used benzos include lorazepam, alprazolam, and diazepam (Ativan, Xanax, and Valium respectively). [Read more…]