Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers

Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers

Every year, roughly one million cases of pneumonia are recorded in Americans over the age of 65. That’s one case for every fifty US seniors. While young children are considered the most at-risk group for pneumonia, elderly adults come in a close second. Seniors currently represent only 15% of the US population, yet they account for more than 30% of recorded pneumonia cases. Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers
Because seniors are at higher risk for pneumonia, it’s important that anyone caring for a senior learn about pneumonia and its dangers. Family caregivers and senior care professionals should have a basic understanding of what pneumonia is, how it’s contracted, and which people are at highest risk.
It’s also important that senior care providers learn what steps they can take to prevent pneumonia in the elderly. As with any other infectious condition, hygiene and safety can significantly lower seniors’ risk of developing dementia.

Pneumonia in Elderly Adults

Pneumonia is a respiratory infection, triggered when bacteria or a virus enters a person’s lungs. Once infected, lung tissue becomes swelled and inflamed, and fluid starts to build up inside the lung’s airways. The mix of inflammation and fluid limits the amount of air a person can hold in their lungs. This makes it more difficult to breathe, depriving the person of oxygen. In severe cases, oxygen levels become so low that the person’s life is threatened.
Most reported cases of pneumonia occur after a cold or a case of influenza, when a person’s respiratory system is at its most vulnerable. This makes it harder for the body to fight off the initial infection. Typically, pneumonia can be successfully treated with antibiotics and/or bedrest. Unfortunately, roughly 2% of all cases in the United States are fatal. Seniors are at an elevated risk of losing their life to pneumonia after contracting an infection.
The following factors put seniors at high risk of contracting pneumonia. Senior care providers should take extra pneumonia prevention measures when caring for elderly adults with these risk factors.

  • Existing respiratory condition (i.e., emphysema, bronchitis, other forms of COPD, asthma)
  • Compromised immune system
  • History of smoking
  • Long-term residence in area of high air pollution
  • Exposure to fumes, soot, dust, and/or airborne bacteria in agricultural or industrial setting

Protecting Seniors from Pneumonia

The most effective way to protect seniors against pneumonia is to prevent the transmission of pneumonia pathogens. To do this, you will need to safeguard against both airborne and contact transmissions of pneumonia pathogens.
In cases of airborne transmission, a person with a pneumonia pathogen will cough or sneeze. Another person will then breathe the airborne pathogen into their lungs. In cases of contact transmission, pneumonia pathogens are transmitted by touch from one person to another. This can occur when one person touches another person, or when a person touches a surface that is contaminated with pathogens. Once the bacteria or virus that causes pneumonia is on a person’s hands, it is easy for them to touch the area around their mouth or nose and then become infected.
To protect against the transmission of pneumonia, senior care providers should use the following strategies:

  • Quarantine yourself from elderly adults when you are sick with the cold or flu.
  • If you need to be around elderly adults when sick, wear a respiratory mask.
  • Encourage seniors to wear a respiratory mask if they are sick with the cold or flu.
  • Always cough and sneeze into the elbow or shoulder of your shirt.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially when near elderly adults.
  • Carry hand-sanitizing gel for situations where you can’t wash your hands quickly enough.
  • Use disinfectant wipes to sanitize frequently touched surfaces, like door knobs and light switches.

It is also important to encourage elderly adults to be vaccinated for pneumonia. Together, the PCV13 vaccine and the PPSV23 vaccine protect seniors against 40 different types of bacteria that cause pneumonia.
Finally, if you notice symptoms of pneumonia in an elderly adult, get them to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible. Symptoms of pneumonia in seniors include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Lack of strength or energy
  • Pus, fluid, or blood that comes up when coughing

Pneumonia Prevention and Senior Care Services

The above advice applies to both family caregivers and senior care professionals. If you have a loved one who is at risk for pneumonia and who is cared for by a professional caregiver, you should have full confidence in the caregiver’s ability to safeguard your loved one against infection. If you haven’t done so already, speak with them about infection control and pneumonia prevention strategies to ensure your loved one is protected.
Similarly, if you are thinking about hiring the services of a senior care agency, don’t feel afraid to ask about pneumonia prevention, especially if your loved one is considered at high risk of pneumonia. A qualified senior care company will match your loved one with specialized services and a knowledgeable caregiver to limit your loved one’s risk of infection. Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers
If you are searching for a senior care provider to help you care for a loved one who is at risk for pneumonia, we invite you to contact your local Visiting Angels. Call 800-365-4189 or use our online senior care locator to connect with your local office. Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers

Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers 

Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers Pneumonia Prevention Tips for Senior Care Providers

About the Author

Richard Bitner

Visiting Angels is a national, private duty network of senior care agencies. We are proud to be the nation’s leading provider of non-medical at home care services. With our elder care services, seniors can remain independent and live safely at home. Our senior care services include Social Care, Dementia Care, Alzheimer’s Care, End of Life Care, Companion Care, Private Duty Care, care to prevent hospital readmission, and so much more.

Compassionate, dignified at home senior care is close to home when you connect with your local Visiting Angels office by calling 800-365-4189.

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