Preventing Pneumonia in the Elderly

By January 14, 2016Aging in Place

Pneumonia is a killer: it preys on the young and the old, the weak and the immunocompromised. It is one of the most common infectious diseases and one that causes more than 60 percent of seniors over the age of 65 to be admitted to the hospital. Pneumonia can originate from bacteria, viruses, and other causes. Regardless of the cause, pneumonia must be guarded against and caregivers of the elderly must be acutely aware of its signs and symptoms. How can pneumonia be prevented? Below are some steps that can help!

Get immunized!
The vaccine against bacterial pneumococcal pneumonia is a one-time vaccine that can prevent or reduce the severity of pneumonia. Your doctor may also suggest a booster vaccine after five years. It’s also a good idea to vaccinate seniors against other illnesses that can lead to pneumonia, particularly influenza. Flu shots are readily available through primary care physicians, local boards of health, local pharmacies and healthcare institutions.

Know the signs and symptoms of pneumonia in the elderly.

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Green or yellow sputum that comes up when coughing
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Have had a recent cold or flu and suddenly feel worse
  • There are challenges to diagnosing pneumonia in seniors because they may not suffer the classic symptoms listed above. There may be non-respiratory symptoms like weakness, confusion, delirium or dizziness. Those suffering with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease may not be able to communicate how they feel, impairing the accurate reporting of pneumonia symptoms. Also, it may be more difficult to notice pneumonia symptoms in seniors with preexisting conditions, so be alert to any changes in your loved one’s health and see a doctor if any unusual symptoms occur.

    Stay hygienic and wash, wash, wash your hands.

    Washing hands is the number one way to prevent the spread of disease and infection. When caring for the elderly, practice pristine hygiene habits. Wash hands carefully and continuously. Hand sanitizers are fine to use and in the absence of visible dirt on the hands, are just as effective as soap and water.

    Ordinary respiratory infections, colds and influenza can sometimes lead to pneumonia so the washing of hands helps to prevent the spread of these illnesses.
    Being rude is acceptable when trying to prevent an elderly loved one from contracting a cold or the flu! Make sure to help the elderly avoid others who are ill, whether it’s routine illnesses like colds, flu and respiratory infections, or more serious diseases like measles or chickenpox. All of these can lead to pneumonia. If the person who is ill wants to visit, say no and reschedule.

    Still smoking? Stop! Seniors shouldn’t be smoking for numerous health reasons. In addition, smoking is a major risk factor for pneumonia. Smoking reduces the ability of the lungs to fight infection, so it greatly increases an elderly person’s risk for getting pneumonia.

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    Author LivHOME

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