Community Blog

Pneumonia Symptoms in Aging Adults

By Amy Felman

There are several reasons why aging adults are more susceptible to developing pneumonia than younger adults. One of the biggest reasons is that their immune system is not as robust and cannot fight off viruses and bacteria as well as it once did. Another reason is that seniors are often already struggling with health issues that make it hard for them to tolerate the lung infection as well. Pneumonia, a lung infection, is much more dangerous in aging adults and can lead to serious health problems and even death.

Watch for these pneumonia symptoms in your senior loved one so you can get them the help they need as soon as possible.

Causes and Symptoms of Pneumonia in Seniors

Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses or any number of triggers. When the lungs become infected, the tiny air sacs grow inflamed and fill up with fluid. As a result, the person experiences breathing problems and a diminished amount of oxygen getting into the bloodstream. They can also become dehydrated and start to vomit.

Symptoms of pneumonia include coughing, chest pain, fever, chills, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and confusion. The condition weakens the body and puts stress on other organs. Elderly adults don’t have quite as robust an immune system as they once did. A strong immune system is needed to fight off the illness. In other words, any time an elderly person shows signs of an upper respiratory illness, pneumonia can develop.

Treatment for Pneumonia in the Elderly

Because of the complications associated with pneumonia in elderly adults, most doctors would prefer that they stay in the hospital for a few days for observation. Depending on the cause of the pneumonia, seniors may get antibiotics or antiviral medicine as well. They may take other medicine for fever and coughs and should take in lots of fluids. Seniors are usually monitored around the clock to ensure their symptoms don’t worsen.

Some of the complications that can arise in seniors from pneumonia include acute respiratory distress syndrome, bacteremia, dehydration, lung abscess and pleural effusion or when fluid builds up around the lungs. For elderly adults that already struggle with heart conditions or lung problems, pneumonia can turn deadly.

Preventing Pneumonia in Elderly Adults

The best way for family members and elder care assistants to help an elderly person to avoid pneumonia is to wash their hands. Because the diseases that cause pneumonia are generally transmitted by touch or airborne particles, practicing good hygiene can keep the risk of respiratory infections low. Other ways to promote prevention include pneumonia vaccines, flu shots and a healthy diet.

If an elderly person is struggling with a respiratory illness of any kind, they should be taken to see a doctor. Pneumonia can develop quickly and affect an aging adult’s body in different ways than family members might expect. It’s always better to be safe than sorry to be sure the elderly person is getting the best treatment for pneumonia right away.

If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring elder care in Gibsonia, PA, please call the caring staff at Home Helpers. Call today (412) 364-4663.