Senior citizens are prone to a host of health conditions due to aging. Reports by the CDC tell us that pneumonia is one of the top five causes of death for people age 65 and older. That’s a strong reason to take the right precautions to prevent pneumonia in senior citizens. For the health and safety of your loved ones, read on to learn more about pneumonia, including the warning signs and how to prevent it.
Understanding Pneumonia in Elderly People
In simple terms, pneumonia is a condition of the lungs where the small air sacs in the lungs (called alveoli) become inflamed.
A variety of conditions can cause pneumonia. The following list shows the most common causes of pneumonia:
- Bacterial infection
- Autoimmune conditions
- Chemical exposure
In general, lung capacity decreases with age. That’s a primary reason why pneumonia affects people over the age of 65 so frequently. To complicate the issue even more, many seniors have other serious issues like heart disease or diabetes. Seniors that spend time with other ill seniors puts them at even greater risk of pneumonia.
Signs of Pneumonia in Elderly People Should be Taken Seriously
Pneumonia in elderly people is often treatable in the early stages. It’s important to recognize the early warning signs of pneumonia and get treatment before it becomes life-threatening.
In younger people, a heavy cough or alternating high temperature and chills can be indications of pneumonia. Seniors, on the other hand, don’t always have symptoms that are obvious.
The warning signs of pneumonia include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pains
Less obvious signs of pneumonia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
If you notice that a senior is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
How to Prevent Pneumonia in Senior Citizens
It’s possible to take some preventative steps to decrease the potential for pneumonia in senior citizens.
Here are 5 things that you can do right now:
- Be diligent about hygiene. Colds, flu, and respiratory tract infections spread quickly, especially during the winter months. All of them increase the potential for pneumonia. Good hygiene like washing your hands, covering your face when coughing or sneezing, and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces greatly reduces the risks associated with pneumonia. Seniors should also practice good dental hygiene because tooth and mouth infections increase the risk of pneumonia. As an extra precaution for pneumonia prevention, it’s a good idea to restrict visits from ill family members.
- Stay up to date and immunizations. A one-time vaccine can protect seniors from pneumonia that’s caused by bacteria. Your medical provider can tell you how to get the vaccine. It’s also a good idea to get an annual flu vaccine to protect against the flu and prevent complications with pneumonia. Caregivers and family members that spend time with seniors should also be up-to-date on vaccinations to prevent getting sick and passing it along to elderly people.
- Help seniors to quit smoking. People that smoke tobacco have a reduced capacity to fight off infections. Smoking increases the risks associated with pneumonia in senior citizens. Impress on seniors the health risks associated with smoking. Work with the senior’s physician to find the best solution to break smoking habits.
- Help seniors eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. As you strive to learn how to avoid pneumonia in seniors, it’s important for them to watch their diet and have a way to get mild exercise every day. The more they exercise, the greater lung capacity they will have, and they will be less likely to contract pneumonia. Take care to see that seniors drink plenty of water and get good rest at night. Good nutrition and keeping the body moving will help to keep their immune systems stronger and improve their health overall.
- Follow up to ensure that seniors get regular medical checkups. Seniors that have chronic health conditions should have regular checkups with their physician at least annually. Seniors that live with issues like diabetes, heart problems, or lung disease should see a physician more often. Encourage seniors to take their medications. Get assistance for those who can’t manage it on their own.
Now that you are armed with more information about how to prevent pneumonia in elderly people, you should be able to notice the warning signs of pneumonia. A qualified senior caregiver may be your best resource for keeping elderly people healthy and well. If you have any questions about our services, contact At Home Care Service at (760) 634-8090. Contact us today for an in-home consultation and we’d be happy to explain the full array of non-medical home care services that we offer.