Pneumonia in Elderly
As we all age, we become more susceptible to disease and infection. Our bodies, and our immune systems, no longer function as strongly as when we were young.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be serious in older adults. According to the CDC, nearly 150,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S. with pneumonia each year. Adults 65 and older are more susceptible to pneumonia than younger people are. Seniors with pneumonia are also at increased risk for hospitalization, complications, and death.
Pneumonia in elderly adults can often be serious and progress quickly. In fact, pneumonia is the second leading cause for hospitalization of Medicare beneficiaries, and most of the people who die from pneumonia each year are elderly adults. The death rate among elderly adults with severe pneumonia is as high as 20%.
Sometimes, symptoms of pneumonia may be different in seniors. Elderly adults with pneumonia may have a low-grade fever or even a normal temperature. However, they may be less alert, show signs of confusion, or experience changes in mental awareness. If you suspect your aging loved one has pneumonia, see a doctor promptly.
Pneumonia can affect one or both lungs. When it affects both lungs, it’s called double pneumonia. The symptoms of double pneumonia aren’t different or more severe. The severity of the infection depends on age, overall health, and what caused the infection.
Researchers and doctors believe pneumonia in elderly has to do with the normal aging process, which weakens the immune system and decreases lung function. Older adults may also have other underlying health conditions that can make the infection more severe, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease. Pneumonia causes inflammation in the air sacs in the lungs (called alveoli). The alveoli may fill with fluid or pus, making it difficult for oxygen to flow through the bloodstream.
Be cognizant of the following signs and symptoms of pneumonia:
* Productive cough with phlegm
* Shortness of breath
* Chest pain when breathing or coughing
* High fever
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
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