Pneumonia is a debilitating infection of the lungs. The condition can range from mild to moderate to severe. The mortality rate is high in seniors who suffer from pneumonia. In fact, research has documented that a large majority of senior citizens affected with pneumonia die due to complications of the infection.
What is involved in this prevalent condition known as pneumonia, and how does the infection differ from the flu? Pneumonia occurs when an individual’s bronchial tubes are filled with pus, liquids and mucous. This buildup prevents the lungs from operating properly. An immediate consequence is that blood and bodily cells are depleted of oxygen. Fluid around the lungs can result, as well as sepsis (an infection of the bloodstream). Pneumonia can progress as a direct result of the flu, which is also a respiratory infection. Both pneumonia and the flu are contagious, so susceptible individuals, like seniors who often have weakened immune systems, should be conscientiously protected.
Identify Pneumonic Symptoms
Seniors who suffer from conditions like Alzheimer’s may not readily be able to express symptoms of an accompanying illness, like pneumonia. It is extremely important to be alert for signs of pneumonia in elderly individuals.
Common symptoms of pneumonia include feelings of lethargy, confusion, suddenly feeling worse after a recent bout of the flu, blue lips or fingernails (due to decreased blood oxygen levels), bloody or green sputum that erupts from coughs, chest pain, shortness of breath, chills and fever. Piercing pain when coughing and clammy skin are also indications of pneumonia. Symptoms vary between individuals, since the pneumonia virus can be varied and diverse.
Antibiotics are commonly prescribed by doctors to treat infections like pneumonia. If the infection is viral, patients receive an anti-viral medication. Oftentimes, to diagnose pneumonia, doctors take chest x-rays and perform blood tests.
Seniors who suffer from underlying conditions, in addition to pneumonia, may have to be hospitalized. In mild or moderate cases, individuals with pneumonia can be safely treated at home. It is important that pneumonic patients take their medicines exactly as prescribed. Any missed doses, even if the patient starts to feel better, can cause the pneumonia to return.
Due to pneumonia commonly being a result of the flu, care should especially be taken during winter months, when the cold season disperses viruses into the air much more frequently, leading to respiratory illnesses like the flu.
Prevent Pneumonia with Annual Flu Shots
Infections like the flu peak in the dead of winter, especially in January and February. It’s beneficial to know the flu season can linger well into April and May.
A simple, one-time yearly injection staves off the flu in many individuals, with seniors being no exception. Doctors recommend all seniors over the age of 65 get a flu shot and a pneumococcal vaccine. These precautions deter the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, say medical experts.
Doctors suggest heading to your doctor or pharmacy for a flu shot in mid-October. Being an early bird and getting a flu shot earlier, like in September, allows the vaccine to gradually diminish its protections against the flu by the time February or March hits—months when the flu virus is still rampant.
Family members who are in frequent contact with elderly individuals should also be vaccinated to prevent spreading the infection.
Practice Healthy Lifestyle Habits to Thwart Pneumonia
Seniors who practice healthy habits have a better immune system, one that can fight off pneumonia before it even strikes.
Elderly individuals should quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes weakens the immune system and affects the lungs. When the immune system does not function up to par, lung infections like pneumonia become increasingly difficult to overcome. Many smokers also take much longer to get over illnesses, like pneumonia.
Practice good oral hygiene, which includes brushing and flossing daily; at least twice a day is recommended. Tooth and gum infections have been known to cause pneumonia in individuals.
Daily exercise and nutritious meals also enhance one’s immune system. Seniors who are not confident in effective exercise regimens or healthy diets can benefit from a homecare aide trained to offer support with exercise, such as accompanying individuals on walks, and planning meals rich in vitamins and nutrients. Seniors who maintain a healthy weight through nutrition and exercise boost the effects of their immune system and prevent illnesses, like pneumonia. Washing one’s hands thoroughly and frequently also clears away bacteria that cause infestations of the common cold, flu and pneumonia.
If an aging loved one in your care becomes struck with a bout of pneumonia, extra help is available in the form of senior homecare centers. Compassionate aides from senior homecare facilities, like Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago, are available to assist with a wide range of daily, non-medical activities. Grooming and personal hygiene assistance is provided on a daily basis by attentive homecare aides. Additional personal help is offered in the form of pleasant companionship, transportation and light housekeeping.
Seniors benefit from homecare aides who assist them with daily exercise, like leisurely walks or trips to yoga classes. If an elderly individual has difficulty with cooking healthy meals, Assisting Hands Home Care aides are skilled in preparing nutritious meals every day to ensure your loved one receives the ideal amounts of nutrients to stay healthy. Remember that adequate exercise and nutrient-rich meals optimize an elderly individual’s immune system and help to prevent bouts of respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia or the flu.
If your loved one falls ill to a severe case of pneumonia, Assisting Hands Home Care offers live-in care to meet all the daily needs of the senior. Plus, 24 hour care is available if round-the-clock supervision becomes necessary.
Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago serves the Naperville communities with considerate care and compassion. Our aides are licensed, bonded and insured to offer maximum peace of mind while they care for your loved one.