Elderly Pneumonia: Early Prevention and Proper Care
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition or an infection of the lung. The common signs and symptoms include a varying severity and combination of productive or dry cough, pain on chest, fever, and difficulty in breathing, depending on the cause.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics:
- 9 percent of adults 65 years and over who had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination based on the data from the 2016 National Health Interview Survey.
- Number of visits to emergency departments with pneumonia as the primary hospital discharge diagnosis is 674,000 according to National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey
- Mortality Rate:
Number of deaths: 50,622
Deaths per 100,000 populations: 15.9
Common Symptoms of Pneumonia
When an elder is suffering from pneumonia, signs and symptoms may include:
- Pain in the chest when you breathe or cough
- Confusion or changes in mental awareness in adults age 65 and older
- Cough, which may produce phlegm
- Fever, sweating and shaking chills
- Lower than normal body temperature in adults older than age 65
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
The cause pneumonia may come from several germs. The air we breathe is the most common cause of the bacteria and viruses. To block these germs from infecting your lungs, your body usually restrains from entering. Even if your health is mainly good, it is unavoidable that sometimes these germs can gain control over your immune system.
For elders, the classification of pneumonia is according to the types of germs that cause it and where you got the infection.
During a hospital stay for another illness, some people can catch pneumonia. It can be serious case for hospital-acquired pneumonia because the bacteria causing it may be more resistant to antibiotics. There is also a possibility that the people who get it are already sick. Those people who are at high risk of this type of pneumonia are those who use on breathing machines (ventilators) and is often used in intensive care units.
A bacterial infection that transpires in people who live in long-term care facilities or who receive care in outpatient clinics for this type of pneumonia. This can be caused by bacteria that are more resistant to antibiotics for the health care-acquired pneumonia type.
The most common type of pneumonia is the Community-acquired pneumonia. These types of pneumonia transpire outside of hospitals or other healthcare facilities. It may be caused by bacteria, bacteria-like organisms, fungi and viruses.
The doctor will start by asking about your medical history and doing a physical exam, including listening to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for abnormal bubbling or crackling sounds that suggest pneumonia.
If the elder has a suspected pneumonia, the doctor may recommend the following tests: blood test, chest x-ray, sputum test, and pulse oximetry.
For the elder, it is most common for doctors to recommend additional test including:
- CT scan. If the elder’s pneumonia isn’t clearing as fast as expected, to get a more detailed image of your lungs, the doctor may recommend a chest CT scan.
- Pleural fluid culture. To help determine the type of infection, a fluid sample is taken by putting a needle between your ribs from the pleural area and analyzed.
Managing pneumonia requires treating the infection and at the same time, preventing further complications. The feeling of tiredness can persist for a month or more although most symptoms ease in a few days or weeks.
Specific treatments like antibiotics, cough medicine, and fever reducers/pain relievers will depend on the type and severity of your pneumonia and the comprehensive health.
Hospitalization for elder is commonly recommended for the following reasons:
- The elder is confused about time, people or places
- The elder’s kidney function has declined
- The elder’s systolic blood pressure is below 90 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or the diastolic blood pressure is 60 mm Hg or above
- The elder’s breathing is rapid (30 breaths or more a minute)
- The elder need breathing assistance
- The elder’s temperature is below normal
- The elder’s heart rate is below 50 or above 100
The elder may need to be placed on a breathing machine (ventilator) or if the symptoms are severe, and may be admitted to the intensive care unit.
These tips can help you recover more quickly and decrease your risk of complications:
- Don’t forget to take your medicine as prescribed. Follow the prescribed entire course of any medications from your doctor. There is a possibility that your lungs may continue to harbor bacteria that can multiply and cause your pneumonia to recur if you stop taking medication too soon.
- Get appropriate time of rest. Proper sleep and rest is one of the best ways to regain your energy and strength.
- Keep hydrated. Drink lots of water, to help the release of mucus in your lungs.
To aid the prevention pneumonia, consider to partake with the following:
- The practice of good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly and properly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to protect yourself against respiratory infections that sometimes lead to pneumonia.
- Do not smoke. Your lungs’ get damaged by smoking and it damages the natural defenses against respiratory infections.
- Keep your immune system strong. Get proper sleep, stretch those muscles even if you are an elder since physical and health fitness are programs provided by Health Care centers. Eat a healthy diet as well.