Autumn View Edition 1, 2016
A message from the Chair
In a recently released report by the Canadian Cancer Society, it was stated that critically ill patients are falling through the cracks because of our piecemeal system of senior care. It is imperative that governments act now to put palliative care at the top of the list for immediate attention.
The Health Ministers’ Conference at the end of January will be the first time in over ten years that the Federal government and the Provincial governments are going to sit down and hopefully hammer out a new vision for health care in this country. This new perspective must result in a better job being done of caring for the weakest and most vulnerable of patients.
The Federal Health Minister herself has acknowledged that palliative care is in many cases, inadequate and that in some areas as little as 15 per cent of Canadians have access to the proper care, when it is required. This is certainly far from acceptable and is reflective of the need for more effort and money to be directed in this area.
During the election campaign, the Liberal party promised a three billion dollar expenditure over several years for support in family care, palliative care, and home care. Let’s hope that this federal promise and our provincial government will step up and answer the call.
Ed Faulknor, Chair
OPSEU Retired Members Division
Headlines right now are scary!
Here’s an explainer to help you stay calm...
The stock market is cyclical. It builds up, peaks, then falls – and then the process starts over again.
Right now, we’re in the falling part of the cycle, and all three major equity markets (the NASDAQ, S&P500 and Dow Jones) are in what’s called a correction, defined as a 10% drop from a recent peak. Stock market corrections have historically happened every 18 months. The last time we had a correction was August 2015, but that was the first in nearly four years, an unusually long gap.
Corrections happen because investors have been too optimistic about a certain stock or group of stocks, and they keep buying, pushing prices up. As that happens, an investment’s price becomes disproportionately high compared to its actual worth. Some people realize this, and get out before their fellow investors. When other investors see that, they become highly sensitive and if they hear the slightest bad news, they’ll leave the market, too. That causes prices to fall, or correct.
Why is a correction happening again?
Chinese stock markets have been extremely volatile in recent months, rising to record highs and then plummeting on worries about policy changes, slowing economic growth and a weaker Yuan. While North American investors aren’t exposed to those stock markets directly, China is a global powerhouse, so weakness there concerns investors everywhere.
Those concerns have had an outsized effect on prices of oil and other commodities because China is such a big consumer. Couple that with too much oil on the markets, which means oil at its lowest price in 12 years, and you’ve got a recipe for investor panic.
Here are 4 things that help make sense of the current market turmoil.
1. Our top dogs are cautiously optimistic.
Our country’s top economist, Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz, has said he anticipated this mess. Why does that matter?
The Bank of Canada is responsible for two things: monitoring Canada’s economic climate and setting the country’s interest rates, which it does eight times per year (including today). These decisions impact the value of the loonie and the country’s debt levels since they affect how much it costs to borrow money.
Today, the bank said it expected rough markets in Canada and low oil prices, but its analysis shows that global growth will improve this year.
And, provided you don’t work in the oil or resource sectors, you will likely keep your job, says Poloz. As a result, you and your fellow Canadians will continue to spend money, buoying our economy.
Plus, you may remember Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to kickstart our economy by building and improving public infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. Poloz predicts that action will help boost Canada’s markets.
2. Still, it’s time for canada to change…
PM Trudeau wants Canada to leave its resource-dependent economy behind. “My predecessor wanted you to know Canada for its resources. I want you to know Canadians for our resourcefulness,” he told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, today.
But pivoting will be difficult.
A fifth of our economy is reliant on oil and other natural resources. They directly contributed 15% of Canada’s GDP, and 900,000 jobs in 2014, says Statistics Canada. The sector added another 5% to GDP and 900,000 jobs through indirect impact, as workers use their wages to buy homes, cars, go out for dinner, and send money home to unemployed relatives in other provinces.
Bank of Canada governor Poloz says the drop in oil prices over the past year or so has taken $50 billion out of the country’s national income, or $1,500 per person. And it’s not just low oil prices punishing the economy. Prices for other commodities are at rock-bottom, too. Canada is the world’s top potash producer, and Potash Corp. has had to lay off hundreds of well-paid workers because it can’t afford to keep all its facilities open during low prices.
That’s why Trudeau and other political leaders want our economy to diversify. The training programs, business incentives and other work needed to get that done, however, will take years.
How does the bank of Canada make interest rate decisions?
To gauge the economy’s health, the Bank considers indicators such as employment data, GDP growth and how key commodities are faring. And, over the last 12 months, the Bank’s biggest concerns have been dipping oil prices and slow global growth. As a result, it’s cut interest rates twice, which has led to our current overnight rate of 0.5%, which is at a historic low.
3. ...Especially because this could get worse
There are signs that America — Canada’s largest trading partner — is faltering. The U.S. economy has been expanding for 79 months, when the average is 58.4. Some economic observers say the U.S. stock market is behaving similarly to how it did at the beginning of the financial crisis. Also troubling are signs that America’s manufacturing output has been falling. And last fall, experts said they didn’t think America’s economy would grow as much as expected in the final months of the year. In fact, at least one analyst thinks the country is already in recession.
In Europe, things aren’t looking great either. The rate of inflation (the cost of buying goods and services) is much lower than policymakers want – coming in at 0.2% in December 2015, instead of a healthy 2%. That points to less consumer demand in another of Canada’s largest trading partners.
4. Fortunately, all this bad news means opportunity.
As mentioned earlier, we’re in the falling part of the stock market cycle. It’s scary to see prices dropping, but don’t panic – if you don’t need your invested money now, there’s no reason to pull it out. That’s because you’d be selling at a time when your investments are low. Worse, once you feel comfortable enough to get back in, things will likely have recovered, and you’ll be buying high.
Selling now would go against the fundamental adage of making money: buy low, sell high. Instead, think of current market turmoil as an opportunity. If you’re not retiring for another 25 years, that means you have 25 years to make up today’s losses, ride out more bumps and earn returns. That also means that you’ll have a chance to buy good, stable companies while their prices are low compared to their true values. Many investors find that automating their investments (e.g., having them deducted on bi-weekly paycheques) can take the emotion out of the decision.
Lots of people sold after the 2008 crash, which meant they weren’t invested when the markets recovered the following year, and didn’t get a chance to make up their losses. Don’t make that mistake.
This article was submitted by Leony de Graaf, Financial Advisor: www.dgfs.ca 1-800-775-7047
Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefit amounts effective January 1, 2016
Employment and Social Development Canada today announced the benefit amounts for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) effective January 1, 2016.
CPP benefits will increase by 1.2 per cent for those already receiving CPP benefits. For 2016, the maximum CPP retirement benefit for new recipients age 65 will be $1,092.50 per month, an increase of $330 for the year compared to the 2015 maximum CPP retirement benefit.
The new CPP rates will be in effect until December 31, 2016. CPP benefits are revised once a year, in January, based on changes over the 12-month period (November 2014 to October 2015) in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is the cost-of-living measure used by Statistics Canada.
OAS benefits, which consist of the basic OAS pension, the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and the Allowances, will increase by 0.1 percent for the first quarter of 2016 (January to March). As of January 1, 2016, the basic OAS pension will increase from $569.95 to $570.52 per month.
OAS benefits are also based on the CPI, but are reviewed quarterly (in January, April, July and October) and revised as required to reflect increases in the cost of living as measured by the CPI. Although OAS and CPP benefits are not indexed at the same time, they are both adjusted with the cost of living over a given year.
- The Old Age Security (OAS) program and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) enhance the quality of life of Canadian seniors by providing a modest base upon which to build additional income for retirement.
- The OAS program is funded through general tax revenues and provides a basic monthly income for Canadian seniors. For 2014–15, $44.1 billion in OAS benefits were provided to 5.6 million individuals.
- The CPP (or the Quebec Pension Plan in Quebec) is funded through contributions by Canadian workers, their employers and the self-employed and through investment earnings on the Plan’s funds. In addition to retirement benefits, the Plan provides disability, death, survivor and children’s benefits.
“I would like to reiterate the government’s commitment to improve the income security of seniors, which includes increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors who live alone, indexing Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement payments to a new senior’s price index, and cancelling the increase in the age of eligibility, from 65 to 67 years, for Old Age Security.”
—The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
This article was taken from the website of the Government of Canada.
Liberal Election Promises
Lower taxes for middle class
The Liberals stated that their first priority will be to cut the tax rate from 22 per cent to 20.5 per cent for the middle income tax bracket, which includes Canadians with taxable annual income between $44,701 and $89,401. This rate change would be effective January 1, 2016.
Tax on the wealthiest one per cent
The Liberals promised to introduce a new tax bracket of 33 per cent for individuals earning more than $200,000 annually. The current top federal bracket of 29 per cent affects individuals making taxable income over $138,586. For these high income earners, that means their total combined federal/provincial marginal tax rate will exceed 50 per cent in more than half the provinces.
The Liberals projected that this new tax bracket would bring in approximately $3.4 billion by 2016/17; The Liberals said they will increase enforcement resources for the Canada Revenue Agency “to ensure tax liabilities are collected.”
The Liberals have promised to roll back to $5,500 the TFSA annual dollar limit, which was increased to $10,000 earlier in 2015 by the Conservative government. The roll back will take effect in 2016 and would return to the previous program rules.
The Liberals will cancel income splitting and in so doing, save the government $2 billion annually. This does not apply to the Seniors income-splitting program; it will continue unchanged.
Income splitting is said to benefit only 15 per cent of Canadian households and provides no advantage to single parents or to couples whose incomes are similar. It also doesn’t help those who don’t have kids or who have kids who are over the age of 18.
Watching Roommates Die
By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press, October 28, 2015
London’s Parkwood Hospital places some palliative-care patients in crowded wards where they spend their final days watching roommates die, a situation a leading advocate for seniors calls “institutionalized elder abuse.”
“I can’t believe this,” said Susan Eng of the Canadian Association for Retired Persons. “It’s appalling . . . It’s this kind of thing that frightens the hell out of people.”
A lack of privacy for dying patients and their families was one of a number of problems flagged by experts hired by the hospital to produce a report three years ago that wasn’t made public. The Free Press recently obtained it from another source.
Dr. Jose Pereira and Dr. Robin Fainsinger, who led palliative care in Ottawa and Edmonton, questioned why Parkwood places eight palliative patients in rooms with four beds each, calling the practice a “significant source of distress for patients, families, staff and referral sources.” “It is very difficult, and one could argue inappropriate, to have four terminally-ill patients in the same room with limited privacy and limited space for family members to visit,” they wrote. “Patients who are at the end of life are also subjected to witnessing the deaths of their roommates; sometimes multiple deaths are witnessed.” Asked by The Free Press about the report, those who oversee Parkwood at St. Joseph’s Health Care defended their record in a statement placed on the home page of its website that revealed plans to replace wards with private rooms in the spring.“It is people who provide care, not facilities,” St. Joseph’s chief executive Gillian Kernaghan wrote. “Whatever the need, our staff, physicians and volunteers act with the greatest skill, sensitivity and compassion. This is health care at its finest. This is what St. Joseph’s is all about.”
The Free Press asked why it will take hospital officials four years to replace eight ward beds with private rooms. St. Joseph’s spokesperson Kathy Burrill replied Parkwood is part of a wider network that needed reform, so changes at Parkwood had to wait until the entire network was ready. “We needed to consider how to move forward as a whole,” she said. In the meantime, Parkwood staff try to find privacy, an official wrote: Whenever possible, a dying patient is moved to a private room. Families and patients can use a private lounge and meeting rooms.
Asked if the delay has been too long, Burrill said that was a “reasonable question” but one better directed to those who oversee regional health-care spending, the Southwest Local Health Integration Network. But the network’s senior director said local hospitals were driving changes in their facilities. “I can’t speak to the timeline hospitals used,” Kelly Gillis said.
Dying with Dignity Canada chief executive Wendy Morris said patients and their families deserve better: “The report nailed it . . . That just doesn’t meet the definition of quality care.” The lack of privacy robs families of the chance to reconcile with dying loved ones, creating troubles that may endure after death, she said.
Eng rejects the justification hospitals use for the delay. Hospital officials should have changed an “inhumane” practice even before experts pointed it out. “It’s institutionalized elder abuse . . . You’ve made their last few hours really awful,” she said.
Asked about such concerns, Burrill wrote, “We do not speak to other organizations through the media.”
In her message to the community, Kernaghan writes that ward beds will be replaced but defends the status quo, including a quote from the wife of a patient who preferred it when he was moved from a private room to a ward bed, and citing a survey that found 92.8 per cent of patients and family rated overall care as very good or excellent.
The hospital foundation will launch a fundraising drive in November that includes a target of $500,000 to replace eight ward beds with private rooms; the hospital will also give $250,000. “We’re really excited about it,” Burrill said.
This article came from the CARP Newsletter and was originally taken from an article in the London Free Press.
OFL: Historic Jail Sentence Sends Strong Message to Ontario Employers
January 11, 2016
(TORONTO, ON) ─ Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Chris Buckley called today’s jail sentence for Metron Construction Project Manager Vadim Kazenelson an historic decision that will send a strong message to every employer in the province. Ontario Court Judge, the Honourable Ian MacDonnell, sentenced Kazenelson to three and a half years in jail for each of four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count causing bodily harm, following the tragic collapse of a swing stage at a Toronto high-rise on December 24, 2009. The sentences will be served concurrently.
“I hope this verdict sends shivers down the spine of employers across Ontario. The message from this Ontario court echoes the campaign of the Ontario Federation of Labour: if you kill a worker, you will go to jail,” said Buckley. “No prison term or financial penalty can bring back the workers who died or undo the pain felt by their families, but this sentence has the power to prevent other workers from suffering a similar fate.”
The OFL launched its “Kill a Worker, Go to Jail” campaign immediately following the Metron tragedy in 2009 to demand jail time for bosses whose criminal negligence results in a worker’s death. The campaign paid off in 2012 when Metron Construction received Ontario’s first criminal conviction since the Criminal Code of Canada was amended in response to the 1992 Westray Mine Disaster. While the company was fined over a million dollars, the company’s sole owner and director, Joel Swartz, escaped criminal conviction altogether. In June 2015, an Ontario Superior Court found the Metron Project Manager, Vadim Kazenelson, guilty of five counts of criminal negligence. At today’s sentencing hearing, Judge MacDonnell made clear that his decision to apply a significant term of imprisonment was meant to denounce the Metron manager’s failure to prevent “manifestly dangerous conditions” and carry a strong message of general deterrence to other employers in the province.
“This jail sentence is an historic verdict and marks the first time an Ontario employer will face criminal consequences for negligence causing the death of a worker,” said Buckley. “It means that employers can’t chalk up a worker’s life as the cost of doing business. The OFL won’t stop campaigning until the employers who put workers lives at risk to earn another buck find themselves doing hard time in jail.”
This article was taken from the Ontario Federation of Labour website.
An old fellow fell in love with a lady. He got down on his knees and told her there were two things he would like to ask her. She replied, “OK.” He said, “will you marry me?” She replied, “Yes,” then asked what his second question was. He replied, “Will you help me up?”
NUPGE Battles Privatization
2016 is barely underway, but brace yourselves: this is shaping up to be a crucial year in the struggle against privatization.
As Champions for Change, you know from first-hand experience that privatization is one of the forces driving up income inequality because it can be so corrosive to quality public services.
But the privateers are putting on a massive push to win over the hearts and minds of your friends and neighbours. Just take a look at this recent article in The Toronto Star London homelessness program puts roofs over heads and profits into pockets.
They’ve slapped a fancy new name on privatization — "social impact bonds" — but it’s still the same old concept. Public money is used to fund private profits.
While the bankers, accounting firms, wealthy investors and austerity politicians laugh all the way to the bank, we’re left with a bigger bill for inferior services. More people fall through the cracks. Income inequality rises. We all suffer.
"Social impact bond" isn’t the only euphemism dreamed up in corporate boardrooms. Bay Street is also gushing over schemes like “asset recycling” and “social enterprise.” Here where I am in Ontario, the Liberal government is in the midst of the largest privatization in Canadian history — the sell-off of the public electricity network. But the premier and her cabinet steadfastly refuse to use the “p-word.” They’re not privatizing Hydro One. They’re “broadening its ownership.”
The privateers’ reluctance to use the word “privatization” tells me this is a struggle we can win.
It won’t be easy, but we have some new tools to help. During NUPGE’s last Convention in 2013, delegates overwhelmingly approved what we’re calling the “twin-track strategy” to save our public services. I’m happy to report that it’s well underway.
The first track involves bargaining anti-privatization language into as many of our collective agreements as possible. Negotiators from almost every one of our 11 Components have now been trained on this, and it’s looking like we’ll soon have a couple of breakthroughs. As a Champion, you can support the first track by encouraging your sisters and brothers on bargaining committees to put privatization language on the table.
But where we’ll really need your energy and expertise is on the second track, the legislative track, which aims to pass laws in every province that will require a rigorous, open and truly independent review of any privatization proposal.
Winning public support will be crucial and I’m confident that together we’ll be able to do just that.
Stay tuned. More details will follow soon.
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
This letter was sent to all Champion for Change members in NUPGE and is worth sharing with all of you.
In Canada, a Worker is a Worker is a Worker
The country’s largest labour organization says it’s time for everyone who works in any of Canada’s provinces, territories, cities and towns – whether they work in a home, a factory, or a field – to be treated equally, including thousands of migrant workers who may (or may not) call Canada home.
“Working people who bring their skills and their labour to help us build our economy, our communities and our homes deserve fair and equal treatment under the law,” said CLC Executive Vice-President Marie Clarke Walker, adding that migrant workers coming to Canada should receive landed permanent resident status upon arrival, putting them on the pathway to citizenship, should they choose.
It’s been said, and often repeated, that Canada is a land of immigrants. The country’s reputation as a place of opportunity and welcome was something that made Canadians proud. But that has changed in recent years.
For today’s migrant workers, Canada can be as cold and inhospitable as its winters. Many work at precarious jobs, without the protection of basic health and safety laws and other labour protections most Canadians take for granted. Their rights change from province to province. Federal laws, like the “four in, four out” rule brought in by the Conservative government foster exploitation at the hands of employers.
Labour Councils and provincial Federations of Labour already work tirelessly with local organizations, employer groups and provincial governments to give migrant workers the same protections and equal treatment enjoyed by all Canadian workers, but Walker says the federal government also has a role.
“That’s why we have asked for, and offered to help the new federal government with a review of previous legislative changes designed to foster low-wage, precarious jobs and to create barriers to the equal opportunity that every worker who comes to our country deserves,” she said.
However, Walker says there are changes the federal government can make right away, such as repealing the four-in-four-out rule and providing immediate access to open work permits so migrant workers can no longer be tied to a single employer. Language testing requirements for Provincial Nominee Programs should also be relaxed.
The CLC and unions are also working together with organizations like the Canadian Council for Refugees to organize a gathering of migrant worker groups from across the country this spring to discuss common problems and forge a common approach to solutions.
“In recent weeks, it’s been said and often repeated, that ‘Canada is back’. If this is truly the case, then it is time to put the welcome mat back at our door for workers and their families,” said Walker.
This article was taken from the Canadian Labour Congress web site.
OPSEU Retiree: John Opper
John Opper began his career in education as a teacher, later serving as a vice-principal and principal. After 12 years with the Board of Education he was appointed as a staff member at the Stratford Teacher’s College. He accepted a position with the Ministry of Education in London in 1969 serving as a Curriculum Services Officer and Education Officer until his retirement on March 31, 1989.
Brother Opper became President of Local 104 in 1976 and held that position for five years. During this period he served on three Scientific and Professional category negotiating teams, chairing two of them. He also served on one central bargaining team for Working Conditions and Benefits.
In 1982 he was elected to the OPSEU Executive Board. His re-election in 1984 and 1986 included the role of Region 1 Vice-President, a position he held until he retired. In 1994, John received an Honorary Lifetime Membership at our Convention.
Retirement did not mean an end to his involvement in OPSEU. At the next Retired Member’s Division election in 1991, he became the Region 1 chair and held this position until 2012 when he stepped aside to be vice-chair.
As a member of the provincial executive of the Retirees Division he played a major role in the production of Autumn View. While referring to negotiations in 2002, and the loss of several benefits, John mentioned that a senior retiree challenged the decision and after several years this led to a class action lawsuit. The Retired Members Executive, with assistance from the campaign department, provided a kit for all OPSEU retirees to continue the challenge. Members were encouraged to write letters and sign petitions. These efforts led to an out of court settlement and remuneration for retirees.
His professional life left little time for volunteering and pursuing his love of music, but this is something he enjoys in retirement. He was a trustee of the OPSSU pension plan, a member of the Board of Governors of a private school in London, and is a director of the board of a non-profit housing project for physically challenged and rent-geared-to-income tenants. Three months after retirement, he joined a semi-professional choir, performing in concerts in southern Ontario. He also had the opportunity to be part of four European tours visiting eleven countries with concerts in seventeen cities and towns. The choir also allowed his wife Norine to share this time with him assisting in fundraising initiatives.
Working for the government, and his involvement with OPSEU, meant being away from home often, but he always received the support and encouragement from Norine and their 2 children. Their son Paul, and his wife Cheryl, work for the province and are OPSEU members. Daughter Christine, and her husband Mark, both work in the private sector. Their daughter Tatiana earned a golf scholarship to a university in Michigan and is currently studying Political Science/Pre-law. She is certainly a great joy for her grandparents.
For the past 40 years, John’s involvement in OPSEU, his commitment to the members and his work on their behalf, provided him with many satisfactions and long-time friendships.
What's new: 2016 pension run/pension payment schedule
Completed Option Documents and supporting documents must be received by the Plan at least 2 business days prior to the pension run dates before 3:00 p.m.
Deadline for documents (DD)
Pension Run Date (PRD)
Pension Payment date (PPD)
DD Wednesday January 13, 2016, PRD Friday January 15, PPD February 1
DD Wednesday February 10, 2016, PRD Friday February 12, PPD March 1
DD Monday March 14, 2016, PRD Wednesday March 16, PPD April 1
DD Tuesday April 12, 2016, PRD Thursday April 14, PPD April 29
DD Thursday May 12, 2016, PRD Monday May 16, PPD June 1
DD Monday June 13, 2016, PRD Wednesday June 15, PPD June 30
DD Tuesday July 12, 2016, PRD Thursday July 14, PPD July 29
DD Monday August 15, 2016, PRD Wednesday August 17, PPD September 1
DD Tuesday September 13, 2016, PRD Thursday September 15, PPD September 30
DD Thursday October 13, 2016, PRD Monday October 17, PPD November 1
DD Monday November 14, 2016, PRD Wednesday November 16, PPD December 1
DD TBD, PRD TBD, PPD January 1, 2017
The CAAT Plan inflation protection rate for 2016 is .96 per cent.
People are always asking me when I’m going to retire. Why should I? I’ve got it two ways. I’m still making movies, and I’m a senior citizen, so I can see myself at half price.
- George Burns
Senior Personal Ads
Male, 1932, high mileage, good condition, some hair, many new parts including hip, knee, cornea, valves. Not in running condition but walks well.
Recent widow who has just buried fourth husband looking for someone to round out a six-unit plot. Dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath not a problem.
The Old Days
Grandpa was telling his young grandson what life was like when he was a boy.
“In the winter we’d ice skate on our pond. In the summer we could swim in the pond, and pick berries in the woods. We’d swing on an old tire my dad hung from a tree on a rope. And we had a pony we rode all over the farm.”
The little boy was amazed, and sat silently for a minute. Finally he said, “Granddad, I wish I'd gotten to know you a lot sooner!”
Fact Sheet – Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
What is shingles?
Shingles is the name commonly used for herpes zoster, an infection that shows up as a painful skin rash with blisters, usually on part of one side of the body (left or right), often in a strip. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus.
How do people get shingles?
People get shingles when the virus that causes chicken pox, varicella zoster, is reactivated in their body. The varicella zoster virus doesn’t leave the body, even after a person has recovered from chicken pox. It can flare up again, causing shingles, often many years after a person has had chicken pox. The virus tends to reactivate when a person’s immune system is weakened because of another health problem.
What are the symptoms of shingles?
People with shingles often experience pain, tingling or itching and then a painful rash. The rash can occur anywhere on the body, although it is usually in one strip on the right or left side of the body. The rash consists of groups of small, fluid-filled blisters that dry, scab over, and heal (like chickenpox) in a few weeks. Healing is usually complete, but some people may be left with scars.
What are the risks associated with shingles?
Some people experience pain around the rash site for a month or more—pain that is severe enough to interfere with daily activities.
Scratching the rash can also cause a secondary infection if harmful bacteria get into the sores.
Shingles on the face can involve the eyes, which is serious because it can cause scarring and blindness.
The occurrence and severity of shingles and its complications increase with age.
How do I know if I have shingles?
A doctor can diagnose shingles by examining the rash and, if necessary, taking a sample of the fluid from one of the blisters.
Who is most at risk of getting shingles?
Although any person who has had chickenpox can get shingles, most people who do so are older than 50 or have a weakened immune system. For example, a person might be susceptible if they have cancer, take medicines that weaken their immune system, or have HIV or AIDS, even if they are younger than 50.
How do I protect myself from shingles?
The best protection from shingles is vaccination. People can still get shingles after receiving the varicella vaccine but they are 4 to 12 times less likely to do so than if they haven’t been immunized. The vaccine is recommended for most people 60 and older.
Some people should not receive the vaccine; for example, those with certain allergies or who are taking certain medications. A health professional can advise who should not be vaccinated due to contraindications to the vaccine.
People between 50 and 59 years can request the vaccine from their health professional.
What is the treatment for shingles?
Shingles is often treated with antiviral medication to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms. This medication works best if taken in the first three days after the rash appears. A doctor might also prescribe additional medication for pain and swelling.
Herpes Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine
- Recommended for persons without contraindications 60 years of age and older, and may be used in adults 50 years of age and older.
- May be administered to individuals 50 years of age and older with a prior history of HZ disease with at least one year recommended following the last episode of HZ.
- In general, should not be given to individuals with primary or acquired immune deficiency but may be administered to individuals on low dose immunosuppression; consultation with a medical expert is advised in some instances.
- HZ vaccine is a live vaccine that contains the same components as the univalent varicella vaccine, VARIVAX® III (Merck Canada Inc.), but with an approximately 14-fold or higher virus concentration.
Travellers who are 60 years of age and older make up an increasingly large proportion of Canadian travellers.
If you are an older traveller, you may have medical conditions that are important to consider before and during travel. It is important to consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic to discuss your travel plans, preferably six weeks before you travel.
- Be sure your routine vaccines and adult boosters recommended in Canada, such as the pneumococcal vaccine, are up-to-date.
- The protection you received from vaccines when you were younger decreases over time. This could increase your risk of getting some diseases. Discuss your immunization history with your health care provider before you travel.
- Visit a health care provider to find out if any other vaccines are required or recommended for your destination.
- With increasing age, you may not develop a strong immunity after receiving a vaccine or may not develop immunity as quickly. If possible, get vaccinated well in advance of travel so that you have enough time to develop immunity.
- Older travellers have a higher risk of developing blood clots known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Risk factors (for example, cancer, congestive heart failure, or recent surgery) can also put you at greater risk of developing blood clots.
- The risk of DVT can be reduced by getting up and walking around occasionally, exercising and stretching your legs while seated and selecting an aisle seat when possible. Your health care provider may recommend additional ways to reduce your risk such as wearing compression stockings and/or taking preventative medication.
- Older travellers may feel the effects of jet lag more than younger travellers.
- Jet lag can develop after crossing multiple time zones. Symptoms of jet lag can include difficulty falling asleep at night, waking up earlier than usual, feeling irritable and tired.
- You can minimize the symptoms of jet lag by:
- getting more exposure to sunlight
- eating at your usual mealtime in the new time zone, getting some exercise, drinking lots of water and staying well hydrated; it is important to limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Even if you can drive safely in a familiar environment, it can be difficult to safely adapt to different driving conditions such as driving on the left side of the road, unfamiliar routes, poor road conditions, or a different vehicle. Consider safer transportation options other than driving.
- Remember to wear a seat belt, even when it is not required by law in the country you are in.
Environmental and recreational risks
- Older travellers are generally at less risk of altitude sickness than younger travellers.
- Being in good physical shape and ascending to high altitudes slowly can help your body adapt.
- If you have heart or lung disease or diabetes, the health care professional may discuss other ways to help reduce the effects of altitude sickness.
- Older people are at a higher risk of non-exercise-related heat stroke due to decreased sweat production and the use of certain medications.
- Protect yourself from the heat.
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stroke (confusion, dizziness, headache, nausea). Seek medical attention if you think you are developing heat stroke.
- Take some time to get use to the heat before engaging in any vigorous physical activity.
- Older people also have a decreased ability to tolerate cold temperatures. Protect yourself from the cold.
- Be aware of the early signs and symptoms of hypothermia (shivering, feeling tired, confusion, slow and shallow breathing) and frost bite (numbness or tingling, stinging or pain, and pale or waxy skin). Seek medical attention if you think you are developing hypothermia or frost bite.
- Older people are more vulnerable to falls and are more likely to suffer serious injury if they fall.
- Pathways and stairs may be uneven or poorly lit. Travellers with limited mobility or impaired balance might consider using a walking aid (for example, a cane or a walker) to prevent falls.
- To prevent travellers’ diarrhea, practise safe food and water precautions and wash your hands frequently.
- If you get travellers’ diarrhea, drink enough oral rehydration solution or other fluids to maintain pale-coloured urine.
- Complications from travellers’ diarrhea are a particular concern in older travellers with underlying medical conditions. Ask your health care provider if there are any extra precautions you should take.
- Seek medical attention if the diarrhea is bloody accompanied by a high fever, jaundice (yellow skin) or persistent vomiting, or if the dehydration does not improve despite the use of oral rehydration solutions.
Travelling with medication and medical supplies
- Bring more than enough medication to last your entire trip in case you are away for longer than expected.
- Leave medications in their original containers.
- Carry a copy of the original prescription and a note from your health care provider explaining what the medication is for.
- If you wear glasses or contact lenses, bring an extra pair or the prescription.
- Do not buy medication outside of Canada unless you have been advised to do so by a health care professional. Be aware of counterfeit medications or those that may not meet Canadian standards.
- Before departing, contact the foreign government office accredited to Canada of the country you plan to visit to make sure the medications or medical supplies you intend to bring are allowed into the country.
- If you need to use needles or syringes, carry a medical certificate explaining that the needles or syringes are for medical use.
- Consult What You Can Bring on a Plane to check what you can and cannot pack in your carry-on luggage.
- Consult Travelling with medication and Travelling with a medical device for more tips.
- Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
- Pack a travel health kit.
- Obtain travel health insurance.
Additional information is available on www.publichealth.gc.ca.