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5 Common Infections In Seniors And How To Prevent Them

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By Author: Manoj Upadhyay
Total Articles: 20
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We all experience infections occasionally, and while they can be unpleasant, they are usually cleared by the body’s immune system within a week or so. For seniors, however, these common infections can be more difficult to cure and may lead to chronic health issues, hospitalization or even death. In addition, the changes caused by infection in the elderly are subtle, and nonspecific complaints may be the only indications. 
 
For elderly caregivers, it is important to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of these hard-to-spot infections.
When it comes to elderly care, immunity comes first, therefore, it is critical for caregivers to not only know what to look for, but also remain alert to any changes in the health of their senior loved one.
 
Before getting into prevention tips, let’s take a look at the common infections that senior citizens are at risk of.
 

Bacterial Pneumonia

 
More than half of seniors over the age of 65 are admitted to hospitals due to pneumonia at some point. In fact, older adults are at a much higher risk of developing pneumonia for several reasons. Changes in lung capacity and the immune system, as well as increased susceptibility due to other conditions such as cardiopulmonary disease or diabetes are often-cited factors. Symptoms such as coughing, chills and fever occur less frequently in older adults, so it’s important to look for other clues, such as confusion or delirium.
 

Influenza

 
Influenza and pneumonia together make a lethal combination. Older adults are at higher risk due to several factors, including weakened immune systems and other chronic illnesses which can increase their risk of severe complications due to influenza, such as pneumonia. Since influenza is transmitted fairly easily through coughing and sneezing. 
 

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

 
Urinary tract infections or UTIs are one of the most common infections in older adults. This is especially true for older adults with diabetes, as well as in those who need to use a catheter. Discomfort and pain are typical symptoms for younger adults, but in the elderly, these symptoms may not be present. It’s important to watch for sudden changes in behaviour, such as confusion or worsening of dementia or the onset of urinary incontinence, which are common warning signs for UTIs in seniors.
 

Gastrointestinal Infections

 
As we get older, changes in our digestion and our gastrointestinal functions can put seniors at risk for developing gastrointestinal infections. Infections of the gut including norovirus, Heliobacter pylori and Clostridium difficile, known as C-diff, can be very high-risk for elderly patients. Often contracted by seniors who are already hospitalized or in a nursing home and taking antibiotics, C-diff develops when the healthy microbes of the intestines are killed off by the drugs. A procedure known as faecal transplant therapy can help to save patients.
 

Skin Infections

 
Viral skin infections are common among the elderly as their skin takes longer to heal and it gets more difficult to fight off disease. MRSA, shingles, ulcers, cellulitis and bacterial foot infections are among the skin infections known to impact and cause complications in seniors. Even everyday wounds can turn into complications if they are not properly taken care of. As such, it's important to address injuries, cuts and wounds as they arise so that they can be treated, dressed and hopefully, heal faster. Caregivers should watch for any unusual or persistent itching, lesions or pain, and they should seek treatment if the older adult is experiencing discomfort.
 
Like we mentioned earlier, to help older adults prevent infections and illness, it’s important to keep their immune systems as strong as possible. Senior caregivers should make sure the appropriate preventive measures are followed.
 

Preparing Foods That Nourish the Body

 
Proper nutrition provides the body with the energy needed to fight off infections and maintain energy and strength. Older adults are encouraged to eat high nutrient foods such as berries, leafy greens, healthy fats, probiotic food products, lean proteins, vegetables, etc.
 

Work on Stress Management

 
Numerous studies have shown that stress can have a big impact on the body’s immune system. Constant stress and anxiety not only wear us down emotionally, it also takes a physical toll. Stress management might be a simple as taking the time to stare at a favourite piece of art, meditation, or just deep-breathing exercises.
 

Ensure Physical Activity

 
Exercise and physical activity are critical for maintaining health and ensuring the immune system is strong enough to fight off illnesses. Take your senior loved one for a nice walk in the park or encourage them to indulge in exercises like yoga or tai chi, which not only ensure physical well-being, but also mental and emotional well-being.
 
Caregiving is a time-consuming, overwhelming task and senior citizen care is something that can’t be neglected either. However, prioritizing the process can make things easier. For older adults, preventing common infections can help them lead longer, healthier and happier lives. Practicing good infection control methods such as proper hand washing or the use of hand-sanitizing gels whenever you are around an elderly person is essential.

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