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October 29, 2019

Pneumonia in Seniors: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

For US seniors, hospitalization for pneumonia has a greater risk of death compared to any of the other top 10 reasons for hospitalization.


As we age, our body’s natural defenses become less reliable. As a result, seniors are more susceptible to infection - including pneumonia.

Pneumonia is an infection that affects one or both lungs and can range from mild to severe. For some, pneumonia can be fatal. It is typically caused when bacteria, fungi, or viruses enter the lungs and cause inflammation.

Why Pneumonia is More Common in Seniors

  • Changes to the lungs as we age. Seniors can't always effectively clear secretions as well from their lungs. Those secretions can go down into bronchial tubes, causing the infection.
  • Weakened immune systems. A senior’s immune system has a harder time fighting off infection, especially if they’ve gone through chemotherapy, had an organ or bone marrow transplant, or have taken certain medications for an extended period of time.
  • Senior health conditions. Some conditions can put seniors at a higher risk. These include diabetes, Parkinson's disease, HIV, cystic fibrosis, asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Surgery can also expose seniors to infections

Signs of Pneumonia

Symptoms can include coughing, fever, chills, shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, fatigue, and the sudden worsening of a cold or the flu.

Pneumonia Treatments

Typically, a physician will do a chest X-ray and/or blood test to determine if a senior has pneumonia. In addition to medication, doctors may give the patient fluids, oxygen, pain relief and medical support. 

Reducing the Risk of Pneumonia in Seniors
 
Seniors should discuss pneumonia prevention with their physician to determine the best plan. Some options to help reduce the risk of pneumonia include:

  • Get vaccinated. All people over age 65 should get an annual flu shot, as well as a pneumococcal vaccine, a one-time shot that protects against the pneumococcus, or pneumonia bacteria. 
  • Take steps to quit smoking. Smoking negatively impacts health in many ways, and the lungs receive a significant amount of damage. Those who smoke are at a greater overall risk of pneumonia because the lungs’ defense mechanisms become compromised.
  • Practice a Healthy Lifestyle. Seniors should follow a physician-approved diet and exercise regimen. This will help bolster their immune system and reduce the risk of pneumonia.

 

Comfort Keepers® Can Help
 
Whether senior clients are recovering from pneumonia or looking to protect themselves, the trusted care team at Comfort Keepers® can help. Our caregivers remind clients to take medication, provide transportation to scheduled appointments, and support physician-prescribed exercise regimens and diets. Above all, our goal is to see that clients have the means to find the joy and happiness in each day, regardless of age or acuity.

To learn more about our in-home care services, contact your local Comfort Keepers office today.

 

References:

American Thoracic Society. “Top 20 Pneumonia Facts.” Web. 2018
Mayo Clinic. “Pneumonia -Symptoms and Causes”. Web.
Web MD. “What is Bacterial Pneumonia.” Web. 2016.
Aging.com. “What Causes Pneumonia in the Elderly?” Web. 2018.
American Lung Association. “Lung Health and Diseases: Learn About Pneumonia.” Web. 2018.
 Everyday Health. “Pneumonia 101: What You Need to Know.” Web. 2019.

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