Pneumonia and Seniors

There are many benefits to getting older. However, there are also some factors you should be aware of in terms of health and wellness. As you age, your immune system becomes less reliable. Therefore, seniors are at a greater risk of infections, such as pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a respiratory infection characterized by inflammation in the tiny air sacs in your lungs. It can cause symptoms including shortness of breath and cough. For some groups, such as the elderly, pneumonia can be serious. Research indicates that around 1 million adults aged 65 and older in the United States are hospitalized each year with pneumonia.

Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of this illness, many seniors and their families still don’t know the facts about pneumonia. In this article, we’ll explain the causes of pneumonia, why seniors are more susceptible, and how to prevent it.

Why is Pneumonia Common in Seniors?

There are several reasons why pneumonia is common in seniors:

Body Changes

As you age, your body begins to change, including your lungs. Due to these changes, seniors are not able to effectively clear secretions. As a result, these secretions get into the bronchial tubes which leads to infection.

Weakened Immune System

As you age, your immune system struggles to fight off infection. In addition, some health issues can have an impact on your ability to fight infections.

Health Conditions

Health conditions such as HIV, chemotherapy, diabetes, COPD, Parkinson’s disease, bronchiectasis, and others can increase your risk of pneumonia. Surgeries may also expose you to infections that could cause pneumonia.

Signs of Pneumonia

Signs and symptoms of pneumonia include chest pain, green/yellow sputum that comes up when coughing, chills, fever, fatigue, and rapid worsening of cold/flu.

How is Pneumonia Treated?

Typically, your physician will do a chest x-ray and/or a blood test to determine if you have pneumonia. If the infection is bacterial, you will be given antibiotics. If the infection is viral, you will be given an anti-viral medication. In addition, you may be given pain medication, fluids, and oxygen.

 Reduce Pneumonia Risk in Seniors

You need to have a discussion with your physician regarding how to reduce your risk of developing pneumonia. However, some general tips include:

  • Vaccination: everyone 65+ should be getting an annual flu shot, as well as a one-time pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against pneumonia bacteria
  • Good Hygiene: use an alcohol-based sanitizer or wash your hands regularly
  • Stop smoking: if you smoke, you should take steps to quit because smoking has a negative impact on your overall health- but especially lung health
  • Healthy Lifestyle: you can improve your immune system and reduce your risk of pneumonia by following a healthy diet and exercise program

Let Gentle Shepherd Home Care Help

If you are in or near Colorado Springs and need senior care services, contact Gentle Shepherd Home Care. We are your premier, locally owned senior care provider. We can help you or your loved one as you recover from pneumonia or other illnesses.  You can trust the professionals at Gentle Shepherd Home Care to help whether you or a loved one are recovering from pneumonia or want to avoid it. We can remind you to take your medications, make sure that you get to your scheduled appointments, and help you follow your physician-recommended diet and exercise program. More than anything, we want to improve your overall quality of life.

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