Q: I am a volunteer with my church’s elder visitors program. We have numerous older parishioners who are no longer able to get out and attend Sunday services. One individual I frequently see expressed concern that she hasn’t gotten a flu vaccination as of yet. She is virtually homebound and has no idea of how to get a shot. Are there any resources to assist her?
A: The peak influenza season usually occurs between the months of December-February although someone may be exposed as early as October and as late as May. Older adults who have chronic medical conditions or have a weakened immune system are most at risk of developing complications if they get the flu in comparison to younger healthy adults. This is understandable considering as we age our immune system weakens making elders more susceptible to a serious outcome. It is reported approximately 70-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths are individuals 65 years of age or older and 50-70% of flu related hospitalizations for the same age group.
Medicare covers the cost of one flu vaccination per season if the doctor or other qualified health care provider accepts assignment for giving the shot. This generally refers to getting the shot at the doctor’s office or participating pharmacy. Medicare will not pay for a Medicare certified home health agency to make a home visit to give the vaccination if this is the only service being provided. If the Medicare certified home health agency is providing other services as prescribed by the physician and the doctor writes orders for the vaccination this is the exception to the rule. The doctor would be required to send in a prescription to a pharmacy and the nurse would need to pick up the vaccine to take on the home visit.
In select cities and towns a nurse may be available to make home visits to administer the shot. This is contingent on the supply of vaccine. The Age Information Department at Elder Services has compiled a list of the towns who may be able to respond to requests. Call 1-800-892-0890 to get the information.
We are aware there are individuals who are against being vaccinated and that is their personal choice. We would encourage anyone who does not get vaccinated to minimize contact with more vulnerable older adults during the flu season.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.