Seniors are more susceptible to common infections due to underlying conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure that make it more difficult for the body to fight off immune system attacks. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, seniors under long-term care for some form of dementia are also at an increased risk of developing an infection. The following infections are considered most common among seniors.
Urinary Tract Infections
UTI is the most common bacterial infection affecting seniors (more common among women). Pain or discomfort isn’t always present when a senior has a UTI, so it’s important in-home caregivers know what to look for so treatment with antibiotics can start as soon as possible. Drinking more water during the day (with meals and in between meals) can help prevent UTIs. Symptoms specific to seniors include:
• Sudden confusion (or worsening dementia symptoms)
• Frequent urination
• Passage of small amounts of urine
The skin’s natural ability to heal decreases with age, making seniors more susceptible to skin infections. Any senior who’s ever had the chickenpox is at risk of developing the shingles virus (herpes zoster). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph infection common in seniors (associated with intravenous tubing, artificial joints, and invasive surgical procedures) that’s also hard to treat. Diabetic seniors are also prone to developing foot infections. New Hampshire senior home care professionals encourage seniors to practice good hygiene and consider preventative vaccines for shingles, which can reduce the risk of developing skin infections.
A weakened immunity combined with other conditions keeping the immune system busy makes the flu an especially formidable opponent for anyone 65 and older. Since the flu virus is highly transmittable, seniors in assisted living facilities or nursing homes are especially vulnerable–although risk is greatly reduced with annual flu shots that protect against the most common influenza strains.
A diminished lung capacity and an increasing susceptibility to cardiopulmonary disease coupled with conditions like diabetes makes seniors more likely to develop pneumonia, typically treated with antibiotics. Traditional symptoms like chills, fever, and persistent coughing are less common in seniors. Instead, caregivers should look for the following symptoms of pneumonia in older loved ones:
• Increased confusion
• General weakness
• Loss of energy
• Delirium (decreased awareness of the surrounding environment)
For more information on senior health and wellness, reach out to the dedicated staff at Home Care Assistance. As a leading provider of senior care, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and post-stroke care in New Hampshire, helping seniors maintain a high quality of living is our top priority. Give us a call at (603) 471-3004 to learn more about our care services.