Preventing Pneumonia in the Elderly: Why Seniors Are More Susceptible

March 8th, 2016 by John Wilson

One of the leading causes of hospitalization and death in this age group, pneumonia is a top health concern for seniors. Not only are seniors more susceptible to pneumonia, but often it isn’t detected as soon as it could be. That’s because symptoms can present differently in the elderly than they do in other age groups. Understanding these differences is an important part of developing a strategy for preventing pneumonia in the elderly and protecting their long-term health and well-being.

Symptoms to Watch for in Seniors

The traditional identifying symptoms of pneumonia, such as cough and fever, may be masked by preexisting respiratory conditions or may not present until later in the progression of the illness. Not recognizing symptoms that can appear in seniors before traditional pneumonia symptoms do can lead to the loss of valuable treatment time. Caregivers for seniors in assisted living in Oklahoma City watch carefully for signs of increased weakness and dizziness, symptoms that can be an early indication of pneumonia, as can unusual confusion and delirium. Pay close attention to changes in sleeping habits and temperament because these too can be associated with pneumonia.

Watch seniors living in OKC for signs of pneumonia.

Seniors living in OKC need to be watched for pneumonia.

Reasons for Increased Susceptibility

Decreased physical activity, poor lung conditions and overall frailty contribute to an inability to successfully clear lung secretions. Seniors dealing with chronic pain and those recovering from surgery are more vulnerable to pneumonia because, in addition to their limited mobility, they also tend to take shallower breaths that fail to remove secretions. That can result in moisture moving down into the bronchial tubes, which can cause infection. Seniors living in OKC who have weakened or disease compromised immune systems are less able to fight off dangerous infections like pneumonia.

Be Proactive in Prevention

Understanding the ways seniors are more vulnerable to contracting this illness offers valuable opportunities to be proactive in preventing pneumonia in the elderly. Vaccination against both pneumonia and the flu is important because the flu can easily lead to pneumonia, especially in aging individuals. Caregivers and family members of seniors with increased susceptibility to pneumonia may also want to consider vaccinations to reduce the potential of exposure to these illnesses. You should also limit time spent with caregivers, family and friends who have a cold or certain other communicable illness.

Guard against dental infections that can contribute to contracting pneumonia by paying extra attention to oral health and care. Good hand washing habits for caregivers and the elderly are important to the prevention of pneumonia, flu and many other illnesses. Prevent pneumonia by working to strengthen immune system function through eating a well-planned, nutrient-rich daily diet. Physical activity can help vulnerable seniors clear the lungs of the secretions that can lead to this ailment as well. Exercise can also help seniors sleep well, another means of helping the immune system function better. Encourage the elderly to dress appropriately for the weather to avoid getting too chilly or overheated. Avoiding temperature extremes reduces stress on the immune system.

Contact us for more information on how to prevent pneumonia in the elderly.

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