Pneumonia vaccine; age-related forgetfulness

Created date

January 24th, 2020

Q: What types of pneumonia does the pneumonia vaccine prevent and how often do I need it?

A: Pneumonia accounts for well over one million hospitalizations and 50,000 to 100,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, making it one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and worldwide. Vaccination plays an import role in pneumonia prevention. There are currently two pneumonia vaccines. These are the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV 23), known more commonly as Pneumovax, and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), better known as Prevnar. Pneumococcal refers to the bacteria streptococcus pneumoniae, the most common cause of community-acquired pneumonia. The numbers 23 (Pneumovax) and 13 (Prevnar) refer to the number of streptococcal bacterial types covered by each vaccine. 

Current adult vaccination guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) direct that each vaccine be given once to patients 65 and older. For those adults age 65 and older who have never received a pneumonia vaccine previously, the CDC recommendation is for the Prevnar 13 vaccine to be given first followed after an interval of at least one year by the Pneumovax. An important side note: pneumonia is a common complication of influenza infection, especially in older adults, and one more critical reason to have an annual influenza vaccination.


Q: Is forgetfulness a normal part of aging?

A: About 40% of patients over the age of 65 have trouble with memory loss.

There are different types of memory loss, ranging from what we see with normal aging to the more severe and disabling decline seen in dementia. Normal age-related memory loss is characterized by misplacing things, occasionally forgetting names, or more frequently needing written reminders for events or appointments. Judgment and decision-making are not affected. 

An intermediate level of memory loss known as mild cognitive impairment affects about 10% of people over 65. It is characterized by difficulty finding words in conversation, becoming more easily distracted and losing focus, and increased difficulty with completing complex tasks such as paying bills or understanding written or verbal instructions. About 15% of these people will progress to dementia. Dementia is the most serious and potentially disabling condition associated with memory loss and affects nearly six million Americans. In addition to significant memory loss, these patients also suffer from impaired reasoning and judgment. They are more prone to confusion and disorientation. Behavior and personality are also adversely affected. Memory testing can help in diagnosing memory disorders.

Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living-managed communities all over the U.S. Dr. Dunn received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., and his medical degree from Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa. He completed his residency at University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kans., and previously practiced at Olathe Health System, Inc. Dunn is board-certified in internal medicine. He joined Tallgrass Creek in November 2017.