Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

COVID-19 vaccine: What caregivers should know

As more and more Americans gain access to the COVID-19 vaccine, many caregivers have unique questions about how it can help them and their loved one living with serious illness.

The vaccine is recommended especially for adults 65 and older, because this group has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to weakened immune systems and other health vulnerabilities. That is why seniors, along with residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care settings, are joined by front-line healthcare workers as the first groups eligible to receive the vaccine nationally. (This includes JourneyCare staff that may be providing care for your loved one!)

Common questions about the vaccine have been answered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). But caregivers of people living with serious illness – including those receiving hospice and palliative care – have specialized concerns. Below, JourneyCare offers expert answers about how the vaccine can help keep caregivers and their loved ones safe.

Should people receiving hospice and palliative care get the COVID-19 vaccine (Is it safe)?

According to both the CDC and IDPH, the vaccine is safe, including for those receiving hospice and palliative care. By helping prevent these patients from contracting COVID-19, the vaccine helps prevent additional pain and symptoms that could compound with their current condition, along with possible death from the virus. It also adds protection for caregivers, family and loved ones who might spend time with those receiving hospice and palliative care.

The CDC reports that side effects reported in clinical trials for the current vaccines offered from Pfizer and Moderna brands were mild and temporary, including fever, chills, tiredness and headache, as well as pain or swelling at the injection site. Symptoms reported typically went away on their own within a week. It is important to note, however, that both brands of vaccines consist of a two-part dose over the course of three to four weeks. So, if your loved one is in hospice care, please talk to their doctor to help determine if the vaccine is appropriate for their individual situation.

What if I don’t want my loved one to be vaccinated?

Every healthcare situation is different, and it’s a good idea to talk to your loved one’s doctor to determine benefits and risks. You can only consent or dissent vaccination for your loved one if you are legally appointed to make medical decisions on their behalf.

If you are in this role and choose to forego a vaccine for your loved one, it is critical to continue current COVID-19 precautions. Continue reading this article to learn these precautions – and an easy way to remember them.

As a caregiver in close contact with someone receiving hospice or palliative care, should I get vaccinated?

If you choose to be vaccinated, you will provide a valuable layer of protection from the virus for both yourself, your loved one and any clinicians you both see regularly.

My loved one has been vaccinated. Is it safe for them to have visitors?

As experts in hospice and palliative care, we understand the emotional need to spend time with loved ones living with serious illness, and JourneyCare allows limited visitation in our four inpatient hospice CareCenters. But even with vaccination, it is critical to continue the same precautions to achieve maximum safety, especially as new strains of the virus emerge. Remember the three Ws:

  • Wash your hands. Use soap and water to wash hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand rubs when this is not an option.
  • Watch your distance. Maintain a social distance of six feet or more when visiting in person.
  • Wear your mask. Masks should completely cover the nose and mouth and be worn when in the same room with others.

Hospice and palliative care patients may require additional PPE that can include face shields, gloves and more. Speak with your loved one’s clinical team to determine the best equipment to keep both of you safe.