Caring for Seniors with Shingles

senior shingles

Shingles (the same virus that causes the chicken pox) is a painful skin disease that occurs when the chicken pox virus reactivates. It is common among the senior population. In fact, 50 percent of people will have shingles by their 80th birthday, and it is estimated that 1 million cases of shingles occur in the United States each year. While the shingles vaccine can reduce your chances of getting shingles, it does not eliminate the chances completely.

Symptoms that nurses caring for seniors should be on the lookout for are: itching, burning or numbness of the skin; tingling sensation; a rash; painful fluid-filled blisters; and chills, fever, upset stomach and/or headache.


For patients suffering from the symptoms of shingles, there are many things you can do to help them feel more comfortable. Chicago Methodist Senior Services offers the following guidelines to help your patients deal with shingles a little easier:

  • Keep your fingernails clean and short
  • Use anti-itch medicines
  • Use pain medication with physician’s approval
  • Take daily baths
  • Keep all sore clean
  • Use wet and cool compresses on sores/blisters

Other things nurses and other senior healthcare professionals can do to help seniors suffering from shingles include: preparing nutritious meals, being there to listen to the seniors sharing their feelings about the symptoms, and encouraging them to get enough rest and sleep.