Some older adults just don’t want to get the flu shot. Here are some things you can try:
Ask them to clarify what their concerns are. It’s important to start by listening, in order to understand what an older person believes about the flu and the flu shot.
Provide information to dispel myths and misunderstandings. Sometimes all people need is a little of the right kind of information.
Point out that it can benefit an older person’s family members and neighbors. Getting a flu shot can reduce the risk that we pass the flu on to another person. People are sometimes more willing to take action to protect others than to protect their own health.
Make sure they know they won’t have to pay for the flu shot.
Offer to go together to get your flu shots. Sometimes it helps to make it a family outing, or just to be there with them for support.
There are also some older adults for whom it’s hard to get a flu shot, such as people who are homebound or have very limited transportation options. If this is your situation, the main thing to do is encourage flu shots for family and others coming to the house. For older adults who don’t get out much, their main source of exposure to influenza will be from those who come to them.
Above all, don’t panic if your older loved one can’t or won’t get a flu shot.
Although I’ve just written a post encouraging flu vaccination for older adults, the truth is this: most years, the chance of getting very sick or dying from influenza are small. (Last year was worse than usual; this year will probably be "usual"). Being vaccinated certainly helps make this chance smaller. But not every older person is interested in doing everything possible to reduce the danger of illness. Vaccination is important from a public health perspective, but most people survive flu season whether or not they’ve been vaccinated.
Personally, I think it’s worth getting vaccinated because there’s a small chance that you’ll avoid the misery of having influenza. And, there’s maybe an even better chance that you’ll help reduce the spread of influenza to people around you.
The downsides of getting a flu shot are small. You’ll have to get to a place where they are offering the flu shot. The needle poke will hurt for a moment. Your arm might be sore for a day or so. And then that’s it! You’ll have done your part to protect yourself and others.
Questions about influenza vaccination for older people? Comments? Post them below!
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.