Nursing home residents are always at risk for pneumonia, and while younger people can generally fight off the infection, it’s one of the most common causes of death for elderly people who live in assisted-care facilities.
With a case of pneumonia, fluid fills one or both lungs, and then the blood flow to the infected portions decreases. Oxygen levels in the bloodstream can decline, and although the infection is localized to the lung, it has far-reaching effects.
An elderly person’s body could attempt to help the lungs by shutting down most of the blood flow to the GI tract, for example, so the whole body can be affected.
Why Elderly People Are More Susceptible to Pneumonia
People whose organs are aging and whose immune systems are compromised are already at greater risk of dying from pneumonia. Other conditions, such as heart disease or lung disease, can deplete the body’s resources for fighting infection.
More than 30 types of organisms can cause pneumonia. It’s no wonder that nursing home residents, who often live in close quarters with others, are very susceptible to the illness.
Pneumonia in the elderly is very serious, and it needs to be treated immediately.
Symptoms of Pneumonia in the Elderly
Even if your loved one doesn’t have a difficult time communicating, it’s best if you’re on the lookout for pneumonia symptoms each time you visit. Look for:
- General weakness
- Complaints of not feeling well, which can be non-specific
- Chest pain
- Green or yellow sputum
- Shortness of breath
Your loved one’s doctor can run a few simple diagnostic tests to determine whether he or she is suffering from pneumonia. Whether the doctor hears rattling sounds in your loved one’s lungs, takes a chest X-ray or CT scan, or sends samples of blood to a lab, it isn’t very difficult for a professional to diagnose the illness.
What to Do if You Suspect Pneumonia in a Nursing Home Resident
If you think your loved one has pneumonia, there’s nothing wrong with requesting tests. In fact, those tests could save his or her life.
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