The American Thoracic Society reports that approximately a million adults in the United States are hospitalized due to pneumonia each year. Also, out of the 50,000 people who die from this respiratory condition annually, most are 65 and older, which is why we’re going to focus on what you need to know about pneumonia, how it could affect an older loved one you’re caring for, and what can be done to prevent it.
How Do Older Adults Get Pneumonia?
The bacteria and viruses normally associated with pneumonia are usually transmitted through the air, although it’s also possible for seniors to “catch” it from someone else who already has it. Pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common type of pneumonia, is also the form of this lung-related ailment that’s especially threatening to seniors. Additionally, older adults can get pneumonia while in the hospital or recovering from an illness at home. Contributing factors specific to seniors include:
• Age-related immune system changes
• Heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions
• Having the flu or another lung-related condition
• The inability to forcefully cough to remove excess germs due to age-related frailty or other health issues
If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a Cedar Falls home care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.
Why Is Pneumonia So Dangerous for Seniors?
Pneumonia acquired in the hospital tends to be especially life-threatening for older adults since it’s easier to develop serious lung infections when already living with another illness or recovering from surgery. It’s also a dangerous condition for seniors because of the symptoms associated with it, some of which may include:
• Difficulty breathing
• Chest and/or rib pain
• A reduced body temperature
• Fever and chills
• Coughing fits that produce phlegm
• Increased weakness and fatigue
There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional at-home care. You can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep your loved one safe and comfortable while aging in place.
How Can It Be Treated and Prevented?
The key to successfully treating pneumonia is to detect symptoms as soon as possible in your loved one. A positive diagnosis is usually made with a blood test and a chest X-ray or CT scan. Many older adults recover at home, but it’s not unusual to develop symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization. If you’re providing home care for your loved one when he or she has pneumonia, he or she may respond well to treatment that involves:
• Rest, healthy food, and an abundance of water and other beneficial fluids
• Medication to relieve pain, fever, and other potentially serious symptoms
• Antiviral medications if the pneumonia is viral
• Antibiotics if the pneumonia is bacterial
Make sure your loved one takes medication for pneumonia as directed for the full time recommended. This is especially important with antibiotics. It’s equally important to watch for symptoms that return once it appears your loved one has recovered. To reduce the risk of a potentially fatal outcome with pneumonia, encourage your loved one to:
• Frequently wash his or her hands
• Receive the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine
• Stay away from other family members and friends who have a serious cold or the flu
• Keep the home clean to minimize germ exposure
• Practice good oral hygiene since infections related to pneumonia often begin in the mouth
• Eat healthy to keep the immune system strong
Being overwhelmed with caregiving duties can affect your immunity and put you at risk for pneumonia as well. Family caregivers need to care for their own wellbeing. If you’re caring for an aging loved one and are feeling overwhelmed, consider hiring a professional caregiver to provide respite care. Cedar Falls families who want to prevent burnout can turn to Home Care Assistance. One of our professional caregivers can assist your loved one at home while you take a nap, go to work, run errands, or go on vacation. To learn more about our premier in-home respite care, call one of our dedicated Care Managers today at 319-260-2222.